Beginner, switching from fake to live, need advice please
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Old 06-25-2011, 01:45 PM   #1
MartinBlank
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Beginner, switching from fake to live, need advice please


So I have a 75 gallon that has been running for about a year now with fake plants. I want to make the switch to live plants, but after doing research I am having some concerns about the feasibility. The goal was a low tech / low light set up.

Substrate is pool filter sand
I have upgraded my lighting to a dual strip t5 giving me around 1.44 watts per gallon, 6500k on 11 hours. In the basement so no sunlight. No algae issues.
Dosing liquid ferts (flourish) once per week.


Here was the plant list I was targeting:

Java Moss - Vesicularia dubyana
Dwarf Anubias - Anubias Nana
Giant Anubias - Anubias barteri
Dwarf Sagittaria - Sagittaria subulata
Cryptocoryne spiralis
Java Fern - Microsorum pteropus
Amazon Sword - Echinodorus amazonicus
Water Wisteria - Hygrophila difformis
Anacharis - Egeria densa

Everything seemed full steam ahead but in further researching my water supply (more for fish reasons but anyway) I have some... concerns.

The pH straight out of the tap is 7.6 or so. But after sitting out 24 hours it rises to 8.2-8.3 range.
The kH is literally off the scale of my API Gh / kH test kit
The gH is basically nil (I have a water softener), I don't really have a feasible source of unsoftened water when it comes to water changes for a 75 gallon.

So, is this a barren wasteland for plants? It seems I want the gH up at least a bit (using Equilibirum perhaps?). I don't want to try and mess with the pH (I am sticking to livebearers and hardier fish that can handle the high pH)....

So far I am in my trial period of an Amazon sword and 3 java ferns. I am noticing one of the Java Ferns getting dark spots on the leaves (like little black spots on the tops of the leaves, not bottom).

Am I basically doomed with that water? Or are there reasonably simple things I can do that will make things a bit happier for plants in my tank but not affect the fish? I really would prefer to keep things simple though...

What are the things you think I need to do to have a good low light / low tech system going? Also are any of my plants basically going to be impossible in my setup?

Thanks so much!
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Old 06-25-2011, 03:42 PM   #2
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Your water parameters are nearly the same ss where I am. Ph 8.2, gh 0 deg, kh 25 deg, I, and other forum members in town successfully keep an assortment of plants in those parameters, including just about everything on your list. The only thing I haven't personally seen is the crypt spiralis. You will need some sort of nutrient under your sand but otherwise you're good to go. You can add a bit of calcium carbonate to bump up your gh, and that is fairly easy to find. Someone else may chime in on that though, I think that may raise your ph even higher. Most fish can adapt to the low 8 area but much higher than that is pushing it.
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Old 06-25-2011, 05:21 PM   #3
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If that is T5HO lighing (probably is) at that intensity you will most likely need to add CO2 and a more comprehensive fertilizing program, to meet the demands of the plants.

Check out the sticky in the lighting forum by Hoppy to see how your lighting would rank ie. high, medium, low.

Generally speaking your lighting levels will determine the other requirments you will need to meet. The more light intensity the more your plants will require nutrients and carbon.
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Old 06-25-2011, 05:27 PM   #4
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sorry I should also add that your water parameters are a little crazy. But you could do much to improve them. You could add peat to the filter to lower pH. You could mix your H2O with RO/DI water. You could use products such as Equilibrium or a GH booster.

Truthfully though most plants will do ok in a wide range of parameters. I believe yours will generally do fine if you meet all their other needs.
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Old 06-25-2011, 05:39 PM   #5
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Just curious but how lasting of an effect would peat have on ph? If I added alot of peat to lower the ph, but something to boost gh, would that lead to wide swings in ph over time? Isn't stable but too high better than a fluctuating ph trying to lower it?
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Old 06-25-2011, 06:17 PM   #6
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I cannot tell you exact calculations for the affect of peat on ph. I can tell you that if you do routine maintenance on your filter and by replacing the peat granular about ever 3-4 months your ph will be lowered noticeably. I have been keeping a tray of fresh peat in my Fluval 405 for some time while dosing the EI method with pressurized CO2 and have never had an unusual swing in any of my tank parameters. On the other hand you have to be careful how much peat you actually use. I wouldn't use it to try and lower ph by a really substantial amount as this could lead to major swings when you do water changes and you will also be adding tannins to your water.
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Old 06-25-2011, 08:28 PM   #7
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Well, like I said I want to keep things as simple as possible. I would probably be willing to do Equilibrium, though would like to keep my additives to a minimum. I definitely don't want to go get a RO set

I looked at the sticky in the lighting forum and according to the chart, with my tank 24 inches deep, and the light 4 inches above the top of the tank (it is actually less than that, but anyway) that 2 bulbs of T5HO would be considered medium light. Why do you think I will need CO2 and a more comprehensive fertilization program? I was specifically targeting low need plants to try and avoid. Again the goal is low tech / low light / low maintenance. Are you thinking I have to much light and might suffer from algae?

I would really prefer to avoid CO2, so will try and get along without it. We will see. Perhaps Flourish Excel?

It is reassuring that other folks are growing plans in similar water. I plan on basically getting 1 of each plant and putting them in, and then buying more of what does well.

Thanks all very mc
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Old 06-26-2011, 04:45 PM   #8
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At medium light you may be fine. I am still learning quite a bit myself. I have been at this hoby hard now for about 6 months - reading everything I can and there is endless learning that can be done. One of the things I have noticed repeatedly is that newbies (myself included) over estimate the lighting and the affect light has on the plants nutrient requirements, Which lead to unhealthy plants and algae outbreaks.

You could be fine with what you are planning here. But IMO you should at least beef up the amount of flourish you add. Double the recommended dose at very least. You need to add root tabs for sure! Your swords will need this as they will get nothing from the sand and feed mainly through their roots. A home made CO2 kit is quite easy to do, inexpensive and would do fine on a tank this size - your plants will be happier too. If you're still not interested in doing CO2 this way then you may want consider buying and dosing Excel. Excel will provide some carbon to your plants while it will also battle against algae. Excel is not really good for fish, but it rarely (if ever) harms them within recomended doses.

Any way as you go along and run into issues you can always search out help hear. There are some very knowlegable people here. Search the threads and you will likely find any of the answers you will need as you are starting out.

Good luck!
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Old 06-26-2011, 05:44 PM   #9
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You've been given some very good advice here.
You do have medium light which should be fine with what you're trying to do, using Excel, Flourish C.S., and root tab ferts - the sole suggestion I have is to reduce your lighting period from 11 hours to 8 or 9, to lessen the potential for algal growth.
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Old 06-27-2011, 02:35 AM   #10
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I definitely appreciate all the feed back. If I see the first sign of algae I will definitely narrow my lighting window. I will also get some root tabs for the swords and other rooted plants.

And CO2 isn't 100% out of the question either. It isn't so much a matter of cost, more the fear of "complications".. I switched from HoB filters to canister a couple months ago and think "why didn't I do this ages ago??" and I have a feeling that in the end a CO2 system may end up being a similar situation. I do realize, though, that if I screw up the CO2 I could kill all my fish.. which makes me a tad nervous

Anyway.. for now I will get one of each kind of plant, boost the Flourish, get some root tabs, and keep an eye out for algae...

Thanks a lot everybody. I appreciate it!
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Old 06-27-2011, 03:23 AM   #11
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In my experience, if you want easy, put good root tabs in your substrate, get a little paintball C02 system, and buy some dry ferts. This is what I did in my 75g. I have 2 high tech tanks and 2 low tech tanks. The high tech tanks are much easier in my experience and you don't have to wait 6 months for noticable growth. Algae is also easier to control. I use a paintball setup on my 46g and my 75g. I spent about $100 total for both setups including 4 20oz bottles. I refill them about once every 2 months roughly. It's $3 per tank and the Sports Authority is 10 minutes from my house. Hassle free.
My low-tech tanks are a chore and I may upgrade my 29g soon. The 20g is a shrimp tank and the shrimp are thriving so I'm not messing with it.
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Old 06-27-2011, 12:46 PM   #12
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I have an 80 gallon low tech, low light, tank with three 32 watt T8 bulbs on for eight hours a day (down from ten). I would highly recommend starting with eight hours and maybe boost it to ten after a few months.
I would suggest buying as many plant's as I could cram in the tank.
Plant's such as those you mentioned and maybe some vallisneria as well.
The more plant's, the less algae will be able to thrive.
Perhaps an outside faucet maybe not hooked up to water softener would allow you to increase gh without buffer?(usually these softener's are only hooked to drinking supply)
Plant's do grow slower without CO2 injection but it doesn't take six months to observe growth in my expierience.
I use dry macro nutrient's and trace nutrient's once a week or two, and I'm not constantly up to my elbows pruning,trimming,plant's to prevent them from getting out of hand and or blocking light to lower leaves ,stems.
I too may go for the gas at some point but am pleased with the low maint ,(once a month or two water changes) and slow but steady growth, with no noticable algae.
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Old 06-27-2011, 03:00 PM   #13
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Yes the only faucets that appear to avoid the softener are the outside ones. But the water from that is frigidly cold, and living in MN would be completely unavailable during the winter. I don't have the capacity to warm 20 gallon of water up to 78 degrees.

Would Equilibrium make a noticeable difference? Recommended? Or will the plants be able to make it without it? Is that where the recommendation for double-triple ferts is coming from?
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Old 06-27-2011, 03:53 PM   #14
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Were it me,, I would try it without Equilibrium and maybe dose the flourish comprehensive? twice a week +root tabs. (once a month)
Excel would get expensive for 75 gallon tank with suggested daily or every other day dosing.(for me anyway)
I might also have a read (google) "Tom Barr's Non CO2 method" this info proved invaluable to me.
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Old 06-28-2011, 05:35 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MartinBlank View Post
And CO2 isn't 100% out of the question either. It isn't so much a matter of cost, more the fear of "complications"..
I feel the same way about Co2. I found adding mulch, like reptile coconut or peat moss can add Co2 to the substrate. Besides DIY Co2 is recommended for 29g tanks and lower.

Quote:
Originally Posted by roadmaster View Post
Excel would get expensive for 75 gallon tank with suggested daily or every other day dosing.
An alternative is MetriCide Plus (@ 3.4%). A quart $15 on Ebay.

Last edited by Hilde; 07-07-2011 at 04:12 PM.. Reason: add info on excel
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