Want to start a 20 gallon planted tank. Am I on the right track?
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Old 03-09-2013, 08:42 PM   #1
blueshark
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Want to start a 20 gallon planted tank. Am I on the right track?


Hi guys,

This is my first post here. I've always been interested in aquariums, and want to start a planted tank. I currently have a 10 gallon that has been running for several years. I am currently running the aquarium low-tech, but the java fern I have in there has been thriving for years and has basically overtaken the tank. Anyhow, I would like to upgrade to a 20 gallon high and want to see if I'm on the right track. I am planning on planting low-maintenance plants like the java fern, vallisneria, water sprite, and the like. As for the fauna, I plan to stock the tank pretty lightly. 7-8 small schooling tetras, 3-4 smaller cories, and a blue ram or betta.

For the substrate, I plan on using Eco-Complete. I realize that there aren't necessarily any nutrients in it (it has a high CEC, which is apparently an important property for substrate if I want to grow rooted plants), but I plan on dosing some liquid fertilizers and using root tabs if necessary. Based on what I've read, eco-complete seems to be a good no-fuss, low maintenance substrate. Would two 20 lb bags of the stuff be enough to cover the bottom of a 20 gallon high?

For CO2, I'm thinking of getting away with not adding much beyond Flourish Excel depending on my lighting situation (see below). I could easily set up a DIY system though if necessary.

Lighting seems to be a little more complicated, and this is where I could use the most help. I want my tank to be a low-medium light tank, and based on my research, I seem to have three options for lighting: t5no, t5ho, and LED lights. I've been eyeing the Finnex Fugeray 24, but at $75, it is a bit on the pricey side. The t5 fixtures are less expensive, but I've read that bulbs go out pretty quickly and I don't want to have to deal with replacing them so often if they are expensive.

I have some questions about t5 lighting. I am looking at this model:
Amazon.com: Zoo Med AquaSun T5-HO Double Light Linear Fluorescent Hood, 24-Inch: Pet Supplies Amazon.com: Zoo Med AquaSun T5-HO Double Light Linear Fluorescent Hood, 24-Inch: Pet Supplies
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Based on what I've read, the double t5ho would be too much for a low to medium light tank. If I just used one bulb instead of two, would that give me sufficient lighting?

I am also open to buying a t5no fixture. Does anyone have recommendations for one? I've read that the Coralife ones are unreliable, and having used a Coralife fixture for my 10 gallon at some point, I would have to agree.

Lastly, could I buy t5 bulbs that would work for an aquarium at let's say, Home Depot, fairly inexpensively? I would like to keep costs down, and was wondering if these bulbs can be obtained inexpensively?

Thanks for your help!
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Old 03-09-2013, 08:52 PM   #2
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Sounds like you have a pretty solid plan so far. I'm using eco-complete in my 30 gal and it hasn't given me any fuss at all and I like how it looks. If you want to keep things low-tech, just adding Excel should work well. As far as ferts go, root tabs should be sufficient unless you are anticipating some sort of deficiency in your plants (if your water is lacking in some nutrients) or if you want to add iron to make red plants stand out.

Lighting is probably one of the most confusing subjects for many people, so you're not alone! I think LED lights would give you too much light like you mentioned, so T5HO or T5NO would work. I would suggest one T5HO bulb. I'm not experienced with T5NO so maybe someone else can comment on those. A good idea to keep in mind when buying bulbs is that plants utilize th blue and red portions of the visible light spectrum (which is where roseatte bulbs come in). The cheapest option I have found for T5 bulbs is online, usually through Aquatraders.com.
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Old 03-09-2013, 09:59 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ashnic05 View Post
Sounds like you have a pretty solid plan so far. I'm using eco-complete in my 30 gal and it hasn't given me any fuss at all and I like how it looks. If you want to keep things low-tech, just adding Excel should work well. As far as ferts go, root tabs should be sufficient unless you are anticipating some sort of deficiency in your plants (if your water is lacking in some nutrients) or if you want to add iron to make red plants stand out.

Lighting is probably one of the most confusing subjects for many people, so you're not alone! I think LED lights would give you too much light like you mentioned, so T5HO or T5NO would work. I would suggest one T5HO bulb. I'm not experienced with T5NO so maybe someone else can comment on those. A good idea to keep in mind when buying bulbs is that plants utilize th blue and red portions of the visible light spectrum (which is where roseatte bulbs come in). The cheapest option I have found for T5 bulbs is online, usually through Aquatraders.com.
Thanks for your suggestions! I browsed through the aquatraders website and found a t5ho 2x 24 inch setup for $40, which seems to be a great deal. I looked up reviews and people seem to be happy with it, so I think I will end up going with that lighting setup.
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Old 03-10-2013, 12:50 AM   #4
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I'm also using Eco-Complete and I'm happy with it. 3 bags gave me about a 3" deep bed in my 36 gallon, so I think 2 bags would probably be enough for your 20.
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Old 03-10-2013, 12:56 AM   #5
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Regarding buying T5s at home depot, They might not carry T5s yet... Check your Home depot first,

n regarding CO2, u can use Excel, but certain plants dont do well with excel dosing, example Jungle Vals.
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Old 03-10-2013, 01:17 AM   #6
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Thanks for the additional input.

Do you guys think I can use Safe-T-Sorb instead of Eco complete? It's a lot cheaper and supposedly does the same thing. Would the safe t sorb as the sole substrate be okay if I dosed liquid ferts and used root tabs?
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Old 03-10-2013, 01:50 AM   #7
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Default Re: Want to start a 20 gallon planted tank. Am I on the right track?

Pool filter sand and play sand are even cheaper alternatives. Ferns and anubias should be attached to driftwood or stones. Water sprite could care less. Everything else on your list be ok with root tabs every 3 months or so.

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Old 03-10-2013, 08:21 AM   #8
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So I have another concern now. I live in the SF bay area, and according to the water parameter data, the tap water here is very soft, yet has a high pH. The alkalinity is 49 ppm (2.74 dKH) and the hardness is 57 ppm (3.19 dGH), while the pH is 8.6. As I understand it, the alkalinity acts as a buffer against pH changes. Is alkalinity at 2.74 dKH and hardness at 3.19 dGH too low? Could I grow plants in this type of water? Will fish even thrive in this soft/high pH water?

Last edited by blueshark; 03-10-2013 at 09:42 PM.. Reason: punctuation
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Old 03-10-2013, 09:43 PM   #9
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Was wondering if there are other areas of the country with water with similar parameters, and if it would be okay to use the water straight from the tap without treatment beyond conditioners to remove chlorine and chloramine.
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Old 03-10-2013, 11:32 PM   #10
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Default Want to start a 20 gallon planted tank. Am I on the right track?

I have a 20 gallon high and just put in Eco complete yesterday and yes two bags is enough, it allows you to get the substrate a little higher in the back than in the front for the larger background plants, it works perfect and also give a natural look to your tank.

I currently have a Betta community tank with 8 neon tetra 6 black neon tetra a betta and a snail and some shrimp. I am also low tech and amazon swords to well for me I do use root tabs to supplement their roots and such. Let me know if you have any questions as me and you are similar with setups.

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Old 03-11-2013, 01:13 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TECKSPEED View Post
I have a 20 gallon high and just put in Eco complete yesterday and yes two bags is enough, it allows you to get the substrate a little higher in the back than in the front for the larger background plants, it works perfect and also give a natural look to your tank.

I currently have a Betta community tank with 8 neon tetra 6 black neon tetra a betta and a snail and some shrimp. I am also low tech and amazon swords to well for me I do use root tabs to supplement their roots and such. Let me know if you have any questions as me and you are similar with setups.

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What lighting are you using? Are you injecting CO2, using Flourish Excel, or any other CO2 source? Any liquid fertilizers?
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Old 03-11-2013, 01:14 AM   #12
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Default Want to start a 20 gallon planted tank. Am I on the right track?

The stock light that comes with the tank right now I'm dosing API leaf zone as follows and API co2 booster with root tabs


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Old 03-11-2013, 05:35 PM   #13
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Default Re: Want to start a 20 gallon planted tank. Am I on the right track?

I am sort of thinking along all the same lines as you with a 20 gallon long tank idea ... Eco-complete and some tetras and a ram. Smile.

It was recommended at my pet store I get the Aquatic Life dual t5-ho for the setup (for me would be a 30” but it has 24 inch bulbs).

Not sure if it is overkill or not. Am new.
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Old 03-12-2013, 06:59 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thornomad View Post
I am sort of thinking along all the same lines as you with a 20 gallon long tank idea ... Eco-complete and some tetras and a ram. Smile.

It was recommended at my pet store I get the Aquatic Life dual t5-ho for the setup (for me would be a 30” but it has 24 inch bulbs).

Not sure if it is overkill or not. Am new.
Dual t5-ho lights are probably too much for a 20 gallon long since it's pretty shallow. I would probably use only one of the bulbs and if you feel that your plants could use more light, attach the second bulb.
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