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Saxtonhill 01-14-2013 09:23 AM

20G tank and learning about live plants
(edit on January 19, 2014....Hi everyone...this is a rather long rambling thread of my first real attempts at trying to grow live plants. I made a lot of mistakes and grew a lot of algae in this first year...and have been having some fun too. If you are a beginner coming to this thread, I don't have much helpful advise as I am still very much a beginner myself. This Planted Tank forum has a lot of advanced read and study and don;t be afraid to make mistakes, ask questions and most of all, have fun and take your time and don't give up! Best Regards, Cathy). :)

Hi...I'm re-learning about live plants and I'm open to suggestions! :icon_smil Below are some photos of my meager attempts...not finished putting in plants...need something low tech and smallish to go in the left foreground. And something longer to go in the right background behind rocks to hide the heater...

It's not as good as most of the beautiful scapes on this forum...but please critique away...I'm here to learn! :)

In preparation for doing a low tech aquascape in a new 60 gallon, I'm trying to learn about the process first...especially how to maintain and keep the live plants as I have had such disasters in the past. I've kept fish with plastic plants and rocks for years...time to re-try live plants!

I thought I would start with a smaller tank and take the small steps there by adding plats. I researched on this forum for easy low light plants. Four weeks ago, I added Java fern, anubias barteri and the smaller anbias nana and also a clump of anarchais. Yesterday, I tried tying some Java fern with black cotton thread onto a small flat stone. The Java moss doesn't look to happy to me...kind of flat looking...will it 'puff up' in a few days?

Here is my beginner's attempt and organizing some data...not sure if I am using the correct terms yet...

20 gallon tank (older cycled tank converted to tropicsls 4 weeks ago)
temperature 79 degrees
Seachem tabs
substrate is natural gravel...some smaller some larger (I didn;t know about soil and Eco-complete until a few weeks ago...the 60G will have substrate specifically for plants)
rocks...river stone, slate, peacock rock (??? that's what the LFS called it... )

Lighting...T8 15w NO Daylight 8000k (it came with the canopy) white reflector
Marina heater
Topfin 20 (the old filter...kept it cycling to keep the bio-bacteria...)

Aenius cory cats
black neon tetras

I am going top purchase an API water testing kit in the next few days...embarressed to admit this :redface: :hihi: ...probably should have purchased this first!

below are some eggs that my aenius cory cats laid on an anubia leaf. (Sorry about the poor quality of the photo...I don't have a good camera right now)

Thanks for looking and for your patience!!!!


Saxtonhill 01-14-2013 11:57 AM

The tall anubias on the right foreground to be leaning towards the light source...which makes me think they need more light. They came from the LFS tall...and in the last week, one has grown a new leaf

I have the present lighting on about 12 hours a day. On Hoppy's PAR chart, this T8 bulb seems to fall into the higher side of the low rating...and my anubia's are the PAR chart and my plants are telling me I need more light, I think. The bulb needs to be replaced anyway as it is about two years old. I've begun to notice in the past week that the bulb doesn't light evenly.

Maybe I should replace the entire canopy and get one with 2 flourescent bulbs? I think that would light the entire tank more evenly. When I went to the LFS (actually several) all I can find are more T8s in the 18 inch size with daylight ratings...some posters on the forum have suggested going to a hardware store to look at light I will investigate that next weekend...

Also, I think I need more balance in my composition...vary up the shapes and textures, as I've got a lot of verticles going on...maybe dwarf saggitaria in the foreground? Or something short with a more horizontal habit? And some more smaller anubias nana on the rocks at diagonal center? (Just thinking out loud...)

Can anyone tell me about the fissidens mosses? I think one is called Phoenix moss?

Anyway...lots to think about and I do have a habit of rambling...LOL...trying to sort out all the information...

Saxtonhill 01-15-2013 08:58 AM

Hoppy's PAR thread is under Lighting, and is one of the stickies under Lighting Articles and FAQ" and then, "Lighting with Par instead of Watts"

The charts really I have a lot to learn!

Saxtonhill 01-19-2013 12:41 PM

Just snipped off some baby plantlets with roots from some of the Java Fern leaves. Tied them onto small stones and put them back in the tank. Will see if they'll grow. :)

The anacharis was not happy. Took that out and put back into cooler water in the goldfish tank.

Kosch 01-19-2013 07:06 PM

I am by no means an expert, but that looks really good! I'm guessing you will definitely want more light. I had a 5g and just used a couple of CFL spiral bulbs from Home Depot and it did quite well.

I never seem to have luck with Java fern myself, no idea why, but your java moss should fluff itself back up especially if you add more light. Even a clip on lamp with a daylight CFL would help a lot.



Zolek 01-19-2013 09:23 PM

In my experience anubias does not "lean". They simply grow with the leaves perpendicular to the incoming light, and once grown leaves stay completely put. If your light is small and in the middle then anubias on the edge might grow a little leaning towards the center.

In the past I grew a tank a lot like yours. Java Fern, Anubias, no ferts, 25% water change/wk under an 18W T8. Growth was extremely slow, but also virtually flawless (0 leaf algae, 0 leaf defects, etc). If you are happy with a slow growth rate (think 1 leaf/mo on the anubias), then this is actually a really good way to go. Also I would drop the temp to 77-78, 79 is pretty much topping it out for black neons, and you don't have anything that really needs warm water.

Saxtonhill 01-20-2013 11:18 AM

Zolek and Kosch thanks so much for the input about the lighting, plant growth and temperature :)

I don't mind the slow growth...actually I am so thrilled that after a month I still have live plants and that the anubias all produced a new leaf! Zolek, I find your comment interesting (and confidence building) that one leaf a month is about right for an anubia in this kind of set up.
And you both are quite right, I've got to do something about that insufficient lighting. Kosch...I am going to look at CFL spiral bulbs and also 18 inch fluorescent daylight tubes at Home Depot today. I am also thinking I need to get 2 bulbs in the reflector hood...or maybe go with a clip on light (there is a book case next to the tank)...will have to think, research and investigate :) Java Ferns are covered with brown specks and are producing lots of daughter or baby plantlets on the leaves. The larger leaves appear to be browning or dying off at the stems, yet at the base of the root mat (above gravel and rooted between the large rocks) I have all kinds of new leaves starting to sprout. Does the Java Fern have a growth cycle which goes something like this....grows larger leaves, then produces daughter plants on the leaves...then the larger leaves drop off into the current, leaving younger newer leaves to grow up from the root mat to take the place of the leaves that dropped off?

Zolek 01-20-2013 06:17 PM

Java fern doesn't have a cycle like that, in general it just grows bigger and bigger leaves over time. However, when conditions change a lot java fern often goes into a sort of panic mode where it produces lots of daughters as the leaves die or become damage due to the changed conditions. If you have new growth things should be fine, but expect to clip the leaves once they brown completely as they look like ass and never fall off naturally (java fern is tough even dead!).

Saxtonhill 01-22-2013 10:54 AM

That's interesting about the Java Fern. I've got some browning leaves with lots of daughter plants. And at the roots, lots of green new growth. When I bought the plants they had a few brown specks...hardly there is much more in 4 weeks...maybe flaws in lighting and water conditions?

I measured the distance from my present bulb (T8 8000K Daylight NO 15W 18 inches in a reflector at tank top about 1 inch from water level) to the substrate and it varies from 12 to 15 inches.

Went all over on Sunday afternoon looking for daylight T8 bulbs 15W at 6500K or 6700K...all sold out at the hardware stores except one that was broken :( Also looked at CFL bulbs but the boxes listed lumens instead of I am confused here. It seems that the dimmer bulbs had high lumens than brighter bulbs? Really confused as to what a lumen is...

Question: can I put 2 T8 6500K 15W bulbs on my 20 gallon (and get more even lighting obviously) but at 12-15 inches from the substrate is this going to be enough light for Java Ferns and Anubias and hopefully some Dwarf Saggitarias? I think I am still in the low light PAR range? (If PAR is intensity of light reaching through out the tank width and is also influenced by the depth?) And 6500K versus 8000K is describing the color intensity of the the color spectrum at 6500 is better for plants?

Maybe I just hang a couple of CFL lights in reflectors from the ceiling?

I found it odd that in the hardware stores there were so called aquarium bulbs marketed as good for plants that were T8 15W and only 3000K? I stayed away from those...

Just trying to much to learn! :)

Saxtonhill 01-28-2013 11:06 AM

Trimmed the Java fern and moved to a more central and background location. I put the daughter plants on small stones and in another tank to root. I ordered some anubias (nanas, coffiefolia and frazeri) and Christmas moss...somewhat nervously awaiting their arrival later in the week. The lighting is now 2 T8 fluorescent 8000K (replaced the original with new bulb) and one 6500K.

The aenius cory cats spawned again this morning! (and I wish that I had scraped off the calcium calculus last December on the glass before re-filling the tank...doesn't look good in the photos...the tank itself is very old...)

Saxtonhill 01-31-2013 11:56 PM

The shipment of plants arrived...floating them for now and leaving the pots on for a few days until I can arrange them on the weekend. Very nervous about the falling temperatures today, but the plants seem OK.

alipper 02-01-2013 12:32 AM

Nice setup. Where abouts in New England?

Saxtonhill 02-01-2013 10:31 AM

Extreme eastern NY

Hawkian 02-02-2013 02:31 AM


Originally Posted by Zolek (Post 2296969)
Java fern doesn't have a cycle like that, in general it just grows bigger and bigger leaves over time. However, when conditions change a lot java fern often goes into a sort of panic mode where it produces lots of daughters as the leaves die or become damage due to the changed conditions. If you have new growth things should be fine, but expect to clip the leaves once they brown completely as they look like ass and never fall off naturally (java fern is tough even dead!).

Yes that's how it went for me too. When you buy Java Fern you usually get stray leaves. You;ll have to leave them in your tank for a few weeks/months for them to adapt to the water conditions and sprout new plantlets on their leaves. Once those have grown to about an inch of two, cut them off the main leaf (which should look pretty bad by now) and try and anchor them to a piece of driftwood or a rock. It's very easy to do but you have to be patient with java fern. It will not die but it will make you wait to see results.

Saxtonhill 02-03-2013 12:28 PM

daughter plants starting to grow on a java Fern leaf...

Hawkian, thanks for your observations! :) That is exactly what is happening in my tanks with the Java Fern. It's actually really interesting to see...

Here are some of the Java Fern baby plants which I attached to small stones...this is in the 30gallon tank

Well...the new anubias are planted in the 20 gallon tank. (I put the vals in the 30 gallon because of their height). When the plants were floating, I observed that the black neons swam in and around them and seemed much happier with some cover over the top of the water. I have ordered a small manzanita branch and will research into some floating plants...or order some more corkscrew vals that will bend over some of the water surface and give the black neons more can kind of see how they want to swim around low in the plants in the photo below...

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