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crazymittens 07-25-2012 01:27 AM

Newbie, could someone please sign off on my choices?
Greetings everyone, newb here. I am looking for someone with some experience to say 'sounds okay to me' regarding my plant/fish/substrate choices.

Project goals
My goals are to build a heavily planted tank that is low-light/low-tech and ideally low maintenance. The tank is a 30 gallon, no idea what pump/filter/lights yet - I pick it up this weekend. Questions will follow...

* MTS methodology as per AaronT's article (1")
* Black Diamond 20/40 blasting grit (1-2" cap)
* Driftwood & rocks (undecided)
* DSM to help plants get established - 2 weeks

* Amazon sword (midground -> background)
* Java moss (tied to rocks/driftwood)
* Java fern (background)
* Anubias Nana (foreground -> midground)

After the 2-week DSM stage, tank will be flooded, then monitored for 2-3 weeks to let it cycle.

* Red cherry shrimp - will be breeding them; they are for algae control
* Snails of some sort - also to help with algae
After one month, to let shrimp get established:
* School of either tetra/danio/barb (10+) - looking at one of Congo tetra/cherry barb/zebra or pearl danio (one species to start, no more)

  1. How many plants would equate to 'heavily planted' in a 30G tank?
  2. Am I waiting too long for all these stages?
  3. Is there a downside to only one species of fish?

Sorry for the huge first post...any comments/suggestions welcome.

I have been documenting my research here, if anyone needs more info:

Wasserpest 07-26-2012 08:38 PM

Welcome to the Planted Tank! Always nice to see someone do a lot of research before filling the tank!

1) Don't know how to answer that question... I mean there are tiny and huge plants, and they all constantly grow. So... 14? :wink:

2) Not at all, I would at least double the DSM phase to get some appreciable growth.

3) None at all. Personally I would put Congos in a larger tank, but the others sound good.

CatB 07-26-2012 09:25 PM

any anubias also needs to be tied to something or at least rested on top of the substrate, if you bury it the rhizomes rot, same as java fern.

crazymittens 07-26-2012 09:42 PM

Thanks, Wasserpest, appreciate the input. Good to know about the Congos, too.

CatB, yes, I recall seeing that on dustinsfishtanks' YouTube channel, good reminder, though! Didn't know about Java fern, thanks.

Are three species enough, or should I be looking at 5-6 different plant species?

CatB 07-26-2012 09:45 PM


Originally Posted by crazymittens (Post 1958140)
Thanks, Wasserpest, appreciate the input. Good to know about the Congos, too.

CatB, yes, I recall seeing that on dustinsfishtanks' YouTube channel, good reminder, though! Didn't know about Java fern, thanks.

Are three species enough, or should I be looking at 5-6 different plant species?

any number of species is "enough," if you want your tank heavily planted you can have less of a larger number of species, or more of a smaller number. really just a personal decision thing. also, pretty much any fish, perhaps especially tetras will be inclined to eat shrimp babies, but RCS breed quickly in good conditions and if you leave a month for them to get settled like you've planned, you should be okay... just a warning c:

crazymittens 07-26-2012 09:54 PM

Well, I suppose eating the shrimp that reproduce easily is better than the plants that need more work. Thanks for the heads-up.

I still need to figure out my water pH/hardness levels before I make the final decision on fish. I had really wanted a nice school of neon tetras, but they max out around pH7.0-7.5, so probably won't work.

Besides the other fish I mentioned, any suggestions for first-time fish to live with RCS? I like blue. :) (already thought of the blue rainbowfish - tank's too small)

Hoppy 07-26-2012 10:41 PM

I wouldn't do a dry start with those plants. The primary reason for doing a dry start is the difficulty in planting and keeping planted the very tiny plantlets involved with HC, glosso, and other carpet plants. None of the plants you mention are hard to start in water.

I would try for about a half inch of MTS, rather than one inch. I think you will have fewer problems with gas bubbles in the substrate with the thinner layer. 2-2 1/2 inches of substrate is enough anyway.

I would not use Amazon swords at all in that size tank. They will quickly grow to completely fill the whole tank if you have adequate light and fertilizing. Then they are a chore to remove because of their massive root system. Instead I would try some Ludwigias or Hygrophilas, because they grow fast and look great in a low light tank.

Starting with low light is much better than trying to use high light - the plants you mention are low light plants too. This greatly reduces the algae problems you will face, and it lets everything happen much slower, so you have time to correct any problems before they become really big problems. Look at the charts in the first post in and try for a light that will give you 20-30 micromols of PAR at the distance you will have from the substrate to the light.

Last, to make this more fun, and to give you big rewards in how well the fish do, start a DIY CO2 system like this:

Wasserpest 07-26-2012 10:53 PM

Very good points Hoppy. Totally missed the plant choices <> DSM. Sorry.

crazymittens 07-26-2012 11:04 PM


- Okay, that's what I had thought, but wasn't sure.
- Yeah, I had read that 1" was fine if doing DSM (more time to off-gas), I will reconsider.
- Thanks for the warning on Amazons. The only reason I chose these plants: hardiness
- Haha, maybe someone on the GTA Aquarium forum has a PAR meter, but definitely something I've considered.
- Hm, I thought CO2 was only a benefit to plants, and if anything, a detriment to fish?

I am still left with the question of what 'heavily planted' means practically-speaking, but I think I've come up with a workaround...I will have a spare tank (10G), so will do MTS and then whatever plants are leftover from the 30 will go into that, and then I can supplement as needed.

Knowing that my two main plant choices are rhizome-based, should I reconsider something that plants direct into the substrate?

Hoppy 07-27-2012 03:11 AM

MTS is primarily a substrate that provides nutrients to the plants by way of their roots. That suggests that plants that are started with the roots in the substrate might be desirable for your tank. Java ferns do send roots down around whatever they start growing on, into the substrate, as does Anubias nana, so they take advantage of the MTS too. So, the real advantages of Ludwigia or Hydrophila is their rapid growth, and how nice they look. Another similar plant family is Rotala - not all varieties but many of them. This may be just my prejudice working because I like those plants.

Dave-H 07-27-2012 03:18 AM

I'm not sure you'll need MTS or DSM at all with those plants! If you want to grow the plants you mentioned, and are going for a low light low tech setup, they will probably grow just fine on their own!

deleted_user_17 07-27-2012 09:44 AM


Originally Posted by crazymittens (Post 1958163)
Besides the other fish I mentioned, any suggestions for first-time fish to live with RCS? I like blue. :) (already thought of the blue rainbowfish - tank's too small)

Hi crazymittens :)

Just to reiterate/expand on what CatB said, have a look at this thread which is about what fish and shrimp go together. None really, apart from ottos.

I got my first red cherries a month ago and they are awesome, always up to something and fascinating to watch, they love algae too.

Oh and in case you didn't know, you can superglue your moss onto the wood. IME it's much easier and makes your moss go further. Just make sure the superglue ingredients contains cyanoacrylate and it will be safe for your aquarium.

All the best with your new set up :)

crazymittens 07-27-2012 11:32 AM

Cool, so my plan of having one tank dedicated for shrimp breeding was not a flawed one (it will sit on my desk). I'll still keep the cherries in the main tank, but now I know not to expect population growth. :)

Yeah I'd read that superglue is okay. I'll pick some up if the black cotton thread we already have doesn't work. (wife's sewing kit)

Dave-h, I still want to go MTS as a long-term solution. And I may decide to add different plants down the road that require better substrate. Besides, the hard-to-find ingredients for MTS are already on the way!

Picking up the blasting media, clay, and dirt today, as well as going to my LFS(s?) and asking about sourcing the fish/plants/shrimp.

Thanks for all the input guys, very excited! I will update my tank thingy as stuff happens.

sunyang730 07-27-2012 12:05 PM

You might not want to have fish in there if you are breeding shrimp. I will suggest Fluval shrimp substrate. Never use the black diamond before, but I got good experience with Fluval Shrimp substrate growing HC. LOL I won't recommend DSM. Personally I just hate them. They give you white stuff and plant might melt alway after you flood it. So if you have a good substrate to hold it down, then just flood it and let it cycle.

Hope this helps.

raven_wilde 07-27-2012 03:07 PM

Have you thought of keeping a species of microrasbora or some Celestial Pearl Danios? I keep schools of them in my 30 gal and their small size makes the tank look GIGANTIC.

Also they will pretty much leave your cherry shrimp babies alone because their mouths are so small... heck, if everyone is happy enough you can pretty much have self sustaining breeding colonies of both fish and shrimp.

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