Substrate and lighting idea
I am from India and I am planning on doing some upgrades to my aquarium. I am cash strapped, so the work i will do will be DIY.
I have been maintaining a 30 gallon freshwater tank for than many years now. When i got it, i got a huge load of coral sand with it. However, I havent had issues with the sand as the fishes are fine with it. I used an undergravel filter. However, the best we can get here is dropping an airstone into the tube. I had plants that gew well in pots. I used to have it in the porch where there was plenty of sunlight. The major disadvantage of keeping it outside was the algae. After 3 weeks or so everything including the coral sand was covered in algae.
Recently I moved it indoors and I made my own hood for the tank (quite proud of that :D ). I installed a 20w fluorescent light. I put plants in pots. Most of them die quickly, excepting the cabomba which hasnt died, but hasnt grown much either. I tried stimulating their growth by adding co2 tablets, but they havent helped much. My tank is quite bare at the moment. I am planning on some changes over the next couple of days.
I am thinking of making a good environment for plants and hence for fishes by focusing on two areas.
My tank is 45cms high. I read in a book that for such depths the 20w is inadequate. I am thinking of adding a 25watt equivalent LED bulb. This wont increase my energy consumption by much. I am also thinking of sticking aluminum foil on the underside of the hood and the backside glass to increase the light into the tank. Is this a good idea.
I am thinking of this combination for the floor bed of the tank.
Top -> Down:
Garden soil + Manure
Anything glaringly wrong with this?
I know the coral sand will increase the hardness of the water but i think it should be ok for the tetras, angels and gold fish i have in mind.
Smaller grain material like sand and soil, will end up underneath plate for under gravel filter.
Were it me,,I would either use all fine gravel,or go without the undergravel filter.
Goldfish would welcome the hard water that coral sand produces, But Angelfish and tetra's prefer softer to neutral hardness pH.
30 gal is in my view a bit small for Angelfish except when juvenile and also small for goldfisn depending on type.Some get quite large.
To prevent the garden soil from falling beneath the undergravel filter, I am thinking of putting a layer of coral sand beneath the soil and above the undergravel filter.
In my current setup, the coral sand is over the filter and it doesnt fall through it.
I am also thinking of getting some tiny shrimps to help clean up the algae that will form with bright lighting. Are shrimps a good idea for this tank setup?
Hello I am worried about your coral sand. You do not need a lot to have an important modification of your water parameters, you would be better without it.
What is the purpose of using the coral sand anyway, it makes no sense to me.
Angelfish, tetras, like soft water. Goldfishes are for external basin, they have no place with angelfishes and tetras, they will likely stress the angels, and when they get big (a goldfish can really grow big 1 even 2 feet), they could eat the tetras.
Shrimp can help a lot, but would get eaten by most of the fish you list.
Shrimp are best in a tank with small fish. The smallest of Tetras such as Embers, Dwarf Rasboras, Rainbows like Threadfins and so on. These are really better fish for that tank size, too. I sure would not put Goldfish in a 30 gallon except for a month or so while they are in quarantine. They can grow over a foot (30 cm) long in 2-3 years, 6" (15 cm) the first year. Angelfish are OK in 30 gallons, but when they pair up to breed that small a tank becomes all their territory, and they are likely to chase away or kill all the other fish in the tank. Angels can be predatory, too, eating fish like small tetras (Neon Tetras and smaller). You would end up with just 2 fish in the tank: The mated pair of Angels. And no shrimp.
I understand being on a budget, so if aluminum foil is the best you can do, it is better than some materials, but if you can paint the inside of the hood with a flat white paint that is one of the better reflectors. A clean, smooth paint job, perhaps a couple of coats, sanded between coats would be much better. Aluminum foil tends to go on with wrinkles, and is really not as good a reflector as you might think. There is the added problem that it can carry electricity. If there is any flaw in the wiring you could get shocked.
If the coral sand is going to stay, then I would look into fish that prefer somewhat harder water. Small fish that are compatible with shrimp: Asian Rummynose, Sawbwa resplendens is a good choice. The smaller live bearers like Guppies are usually shrimp-safe, too.
I do not see that it will be very effective when you put the denser material over the coral sand. The whole point of a UGF is that the water flows freely through it.
I have seen a way that this could work:
Section off the floor of the tank so that the front 1/4 is separate from the rest of the tank.
Put the UGF system here. Plates, coral sand or gravel. The rest of the tank has plant substrate.
Run the up-tubes to the back corners under the plant substrate, then up. The air bubbler would go in these the same as you have them now.
Maintenance is easy, since the only part that needs a deep vacuum is right in the front.
I don't much care for undergravel filters, but if all you have is an air pump, it's pretty much either that or a sponge filter. (I'd recommend the sponge filter)
As to the undergravel filter, you really can't use anything but gravel/coarse sand. Anything finer will form a nearly impermeable layer, preventing water from flowing through (and rendering the UGF useless in the process)
If you are set on using a UGF, you might want to look at one of the calcined-clay type substrates (ones like flourite) since they are gravel-like in grain size. If you want something cheap, some sort of kitty-litter, or oil absorbent. I don't know what you have available over there, you may have to test a bit to find something that works well.
Another method that can work with a gravel substrate is to get some of those pots made of compressed peat fibers (see pic). put a mix of soil/sand/clay/whatever in the pot, plant the plant rootball in the pot, and then bury the whole thing in the gravel. It will provide a pocket of high nutrient, high CEC substrate right near the plants roots, but keep it contained so it doesn't muck up the tank, and you can still use an UGF.
As to the light, the cheapest/easiest would probably be to just install a couple incandescent sockets, and then put in some daylight spectrum compact flourescents.
Thank you for your replies.
micheljq -- I got the coral sand along with the tank when i bought it second hand from a friend. Since they didnt seem to affect the fishes, I didnt change it.
In my tank, I currently have 3 "hockey stick tetras", 2 "Bleeding heart tetras" and 4 other tetras i dont know the name of. A 4" long gold, two 2" long pot bellied gold, 4 angels, 4 pink zebras, one sword fish and one 7" cat fish who thinks he is 3"es long. I got the angels and the pot-bellied gold recently. All other fishes have been with me for a year.
Although, i would love tetras, i would like some variety and i went for what i then thought to be relatively peaceful species suitable for a tank with tetras. I have a couple of 3feet high cement pots in the garden with water lilies in which I could put the angels and gold fish in case they became big for the tank or start giving trouble. Maybe the reason the goldfish hasnt grown or the fishes are not fighting/eating each other is because of the near depressing lack of plants and lighting conditions. Maybe I should keep it that way :D
Any other ideas for fish I could put with tetras? (mollies and guppies?) Oh, I was also thinking of adding one betta (siamese fighter fish) to the tank.
Diana -- I will scrap the shrimp idea then. I did think about painting the underside of the hood white, but then i thought that the aluminum foil would be better. I will paint it white. It can be done cheaply, will last longer and wont electrocute me :D
"Run the up-tubes to the back corners under the plant substrate, then up." I didnt understand this part. Could explain this to me a bit more please. Also, i dont know what up-tubes are.
Will covering the plant soil/substrate with gravel prevent the water from getting cloudy.
lochaber -- I read somewhere that undergravel filters are good because they help in breaking down the harmful chemicals in the water because they feed the bacteria in the gravel/substrate. If sponge filters would do a good job with a full plant substrate bottom, i wouldnt mind spending some cash on that.
I would like to try some/partial plant substrate bottom so that the plants are more free to grow. If this doesnt work, I could fall back to just potting rows of pots with plants in them. I think i would have to re-pot every couple of months to replenish the soil nutrients.
LED lights should be in the daylight spectrum, right?
Thanks again everyone for taking the time out to answer my queries. I appreciate it.
I am planning on going to a fish farm in a couple of days. I am forming a shopping list in my head. (Item #1. All kinds of tetras available :D ). Your suggestions would be welcome.
I am going to set the floor bed of my aquarium tomorrow. I would really like to know this before I proceed.
I think (I can't say for certain) that what Diana is referring to is to effectively reduce the UGF to just the front part of the tank. Most of the typical UGFs I have seen are basically plates that sit ~1/2"-1" above the bottom of the tank, and in the back corners, have round fittings that a (typically clear) tube fits into, and this tube has an opening near the top. Then airline w/ airstones are put down the tube. The bubbles are contained with in the tube, and as they float upwards, they carry some of the water with them, creating a current. The water flowing up the tube with the bubbles comes from underneat the UGF plate, which in turn is replaced by water circulating through the gravel.
If you have a modular UGF (a bunch of squares/rectangles that snap together, or similar), you could just do one row in the front, and then rig up the tubes with an elbow so the go towards the back of the tank along the bottom, and then up the corners. If it's a single piece, you could try laying a piece of plastic over the back part (blocking all the holes so sediment doesn't fall in, and then putting your plant substrate on top of that, and just using the front part for filtration.
Anyways, I think sometimes people over-complicate the idea of biological filtration. Basically all you need is something with surface area for bacteria to grow on (gravel in a UGF, sponge in a sponge filter, Lava rock/pot scrubbers in a wet dry, etc.) that has oxygenated water flowing through it.
While you can't entirely neglect filtration, having your tank well stocked with growing plants will reduce the need for it, since the plants will directly take up a lot of the compounds the filter would be breaking down (ammonia, nitrate, some maybe some nitrites).
And as to the lights, I've coated the inside of a hood before with aluminum tape (I think it's used for ductwork, it's slightly heaver then aluminum foil, and adhesive), but a good white paint will probably be better since the effectiveness of something like aluminum/mylar as a reflector is very dependent on the shape, where as white tends to scatter the light more, so is probably a better option for most hoods.
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