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Silent Running 09-13-2004 04:15 AM

Reef Tank Conversion - Concerns and Questions
Hi everyone,

Iím very seriously considering converting my 100 gallon acrylic (60L x 18W x 20H) tank from a full blown reef tank to a planted tank. Iíve had aquariums (both fresh and salt) from the time I was a kid (many years ago :D), so Iíve got the basics down. Iíve got several initial questions about making the move.

I think one of the most important things to consider when making this switch is my reasoning behind it, so please bare with me. Please let me know if my thinking is on target or mis-guided. Iím making the switch because: a) Iím tired of ďchasingĒ a reef tank and all of the expensive equipment and livestock required to keep it in optimal condition; b) Iíd like a tank that is lower maintenance (please tell me if Iíve lost my marbles here); c) lower cost of setup, operation and components; d) The sheer beauty of a planted tank is stunning Ė I know this part sounds shallow, but my tank is in my living room and I really need to make sure that if I make the switch, Iím able to setup something that will easily compare with the beauty of my reef tank and that it would be something that Iíd be able to pull off. Thatís my reasoning in a nutshell I suppose.

Hereís what Iím considering for setup:

Filtration: Eheim 2028 canister filter.

CO2 tank (from calcium reactor) feeding a CO2 reactor

Lighting: Iíll be scaling back the lighting (from 500 watts MH and 280 watts VHO actinic) to 3 or 4 48Ē (110 watt) VHO tubes (or possibly using NO GE Daylight Ultra driven by an IceCap 660).

Substrate: 2 Ė 3Ē Flourite substrate with layer of sand on top.

How do you address chloramine and other possible tap water chemistry issues when using a python for water changes?

What options are available for automating the fertilization process?

Sorry for the long post and multiple questions, I just want to make sure I know what Iím getting myself into before making the leap. Iím sure Iíll be back with more questions as well :D


Rex Grigg 09-13-2004 12:28 PM

IMHO don't go over 3 wpg for lighting. You should be able to grow most anything you want at that light level in that size tank.

You really can't do a good planted tank "on the cheap". Planted tanks are expensive. But you do already have most of the equipment. So that does help a tremendous amount.

I would either go with Flourite or Eco-Complete as the substrate. If you put sand over the Flourite the Flourite is going to end up on top unless the grain size of the two substrates is similar. I have mixed Flourite with fine gravel/coarse sand in a 50/50 mix based on depth and had very good luck with it. But I was careful to keep the grain sizes similar. In another tank which started out life as a fish tank I mixed in the Flourite with the existing small LFS rock. Well the Flourite is now a base layer and the Roan River gravel is all I see. And it's a pain trying to plant new plants is the seemingly coarse substrate. The larger substrate is always going to end up on top.

IMHO there are no good methods for automating the fertilization process. You can add nutrients on a nilly willy basis without causing problems. By automating the process you will either end up with too much or too little of any or all of your nutrients. A worst case scenario would be a 100 gallon algae display tank.

When filling my tanks via the Python process I treat the entire tank volume with Seachem Prime just as the directions on the bottle state. As for tap water chemistry.... I mix up a couple of gallons of very hard water and slowly pour it into the tank while it's filling.

malkore 09-13-2004 03:47 PM

a high tech planted tank is only slightly less work than a reef, so keep that in mind :)

GulfCoastAquarian 09-13-2004 04:06 PM


Originally Posted by malkore
a high tech planted tank is only slightly less work than a reef, so keep that in mind :)

I have to disagree. While you might have to do some frequent testing at the beginning, once a Planted Tank is established and dosages are worked out, you'll only need to do periodical testing to verify nutrient uptake is constant.
With my reef tank, I had to test at least once a week, and dose almost daily. With my planted tank, I test every week or two and dose once a week.

Reef tanks are far more sensitive to change, and unfortunately, also far more prone to alterations in parameters. With a well set-up calcium reactor and a working sand bed, a reef tank might get fairly close to a well set-up planted tank, but never the same.

Silent Running 09-14-2004 03:39 AM

Hey, thanks for the insight folks!

I'll go with either 2 or 3 of the 48" VHO driven tubes then. I'm curious to see how the GE Daylight Ultras will look off of a VHO ballast. I may have to set that up in the next day or two just to run a test...

Good point about the sand as well. I've found the same thing when mixing sand sizes in my salt water setups.

Sounds like I've got my work cut out for me regarding researching the appropriate fert regimen.

I guess the work (i.e., time dedicated) to maintenance is the least of the concerns that I have regarding the switch. My main beef with my reef tank is that every time I turn around, I need to spend another couple hundred bucks on something that stops working right. :mad: The lighting alone, with two $80 MH bulbs and two $25 VHO tubes is enought to nearly break my laid-off-guy's aquarium budget. :D

Thanks again for the responses!

IUnknown 09-14-2004 02:37 PM

Once things balance out you could do something like this,
Just more money you don't really need to spend. You can design a planted tank however you want to. Low light/ low maintenance.

aychamo 09-14-2004 03:19 PM

What's the calcium reactor for the CO2? I would have just used pressurized, I think.

oldfarmhouse 09-14-2004 03:28 PM

The best advice anyone can give is to bookmark this site and read.

malkore 09-14-2004 03:31 PM

calcium reactor is for a reef tank, not planted.
I dunno tho Gulf..I find I have to dose ferts and prune plants several times a week. Reef tank takes lots of testing, but if it stays stable it's easy. the planted tank seems to need more hands-on work.

either way, I like em both!

Ibn 09-14-2004 04:37 PM

I think that you should be fine with what you're planning to do. I did the same thing awhile back and it's been very rewarding so far.

While a reef tank requires a substantial investment, the planted tank can be set up with less expense (especially with the equipment that you already have). As for maintenance, I'd have to say they're pretty close. In a reef tank, once things have settled and you're in the rhythm of things, it's pretty easy. Everything becomes automated to a degree (calcium reactor, lighting, dosing), and you just have to deal with the usual maintenance (removing coralline from the glass/acrylic, moving corals around, water changes, fragging, etc.).

In a planted tank, you have to deal with similar issues with regards to maintenance (removing algae from the glass/acrylic, water changes, pruning, redoing the aquascape occasionally). It's automated to a degree also, with CO2 setup, lighting, dosing (autodoser, which I'm sure you're familiar with).

LaserJock 09-14-2004 05:18 PM

Silent Running:

Plants and livestock for freshwater are MUCH less expensive. The most I paid for a fish was $15 (red rainbow). For plants $8 is steep. I sell some of my prunings too.

Silent Running 09-16-2004 06:26 PM

Cool, do you go to GSAS meetings? Which local shops do you like best?

Mothi 09-16-2004 06:44 PM

Years ago I had a planted 150g community tank and it was cheaper and easier to upkeep than my nano reefs I have now. The set-up for anything is what costs the most money. But you already have most of the equipment. As far as maintance, on my 150g planted tank, all I remember doing is monthly pruning and filter cleaning. I never did any water changes (I was lazy) and don't recall how frequently I dosed the tank with fertz. Of course I had to feed the fish twice a day, but that is easy. Only problem was the plants grew fast and I couldn't count all the fish I had... I don't recall what lighting I had, but replacing the bulb never broke my bank. I never dosed co2 back then neither since I didn't know about it. There are many plants that are easy to care for... so the work depends on the difficulty of the plants or their sensitivity.

Silent Running 09-16-2004 10:00 PM

Thanks again for all the great info and links everyone! I'm getting really excited about making the move!

co2 10-03-2004 01:57 AM

I have a 50 gal reef and a 50 gal planted... I and I am seriously considering converting the reef into another planted tank. Like you Silent Running, they are both in my living room, so they have to look good. It's not really maintenance that is the issue... it's just the fact that I feel that planted tanks are more "natural". I think that the plants and animals that we put into planted tanks are happier and more "at home" than those in reefs. There is less electricity involved and it just seems more "right". They are very "refreshing" looking if that makes any sense. I think that the pruning of plants actually makes planted tanks more maintenance intensive(especially since you had a Ca reactor and didn't have to dose Ca each day), definately more than a soft coral reef. If you are into SPS corals though, there is definately less stress and potential for catostrophic failures if you go with plants.

As far as your setup, have you considered Eco Complete instead of Flourite? It is completely black, and it seems like people regret the red color of Flourite after a while. If you mix Flourite with gravel you will still see it after a while once you start pulling plants out. You also don't have to wash it at all. I am not sure what advantage it has over normal gravel chemically, but it seems to give great results. I have yet to hear anything bad about it other than the price, and I think it is about the same price as Flourite. Just my $.02...

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