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Old 04-22-2013, 06:15 PM   #1
Pengo0809
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Converting to a planted tank


Hi Everyone! I'm brand new here and hoping that someone will be nice enough to help me with my newbie questions. I'm getting a little overwhelmed with the information out there!

I have a 75g tank which has been up and running for a year now successfully, currently housing 9 columbian tetras, 3 bolivian rams, and 6 cory cats. Parameters are consistently 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, 0 nitrates (steady after even 2 weeks of no water change). My pH is ridiculously high at 8.0. KH is 2, and GH is 8 (143ppm I think). I'm not new to aquariums in general. I had a handful of plants in my tank until now, but this didn't work out. In sum, I used Easy Carbo once a day with a weekly iron supplement, eventually got a huge algae bloom that wiped all the plants out although I think generally speaking some of my plants weren't doing too well to begin with. It's now nicely cleaned up and I'm ready for try #2. And to actually do this the right way. So here we go!

1. Lights. I have WAY too much (hello algae bloom...). I originally wanted a reef tank, and my lights could easily provide enough for a 100g marine reef. I will be setting the marine tank up over the next few months (hopefully!) so at some point I will change the lights on my freshwater tank, thinking T5HO. Does this sound like a good plan? Or should I look at still lower strength lights? Anything to beware of / specifically pay attention to? Anything I can do in the interim to keep my problems to a minimum?

2. pH. I was reading that many plants will not survive an 8.0 pH because CO2 won't stay in a form that the plants can consume at this pH. I've been on another freshwater forum where the general - and very strong - consensus was to stick with the pH and don't do anything to change it lest it result in disaster. But can I have a (successful) planted tank with this pH? (Frankly, it's not very good for the fish either.) And if the consensus here is that it would be better to lower it, what's the best way? RO water? pH stabilizer?

3. CO2. Now I'm starting to get into the things I don't know too much about. Given my parameters, any suggestions would be welcome.

4. Ferts. Ok, so let's talk about ferts. What ferts do plants need? Exactly what minerals and nutrients will I need to add, and what exactly should their healthy level be in my tank? I'd like to be able to monitor this, ideally, if not cost prohibitive, so any suggestions on that would be great as well.

5. Filters. I have 2 filters running, an Aqueon for 75g (or something along those lines for the gallon) with carbon cartridges and an AquaClear for 55g, with no carbon. Probably way overkill for a planted tank.

6. Substrate. If I remember correctly (...) I have Fluorite on bottom, with gravel on top. This is a year old, with no additional fertilizers.

So if you've managed to read it to here (thank you!!) do you have any tips for what are the best things I can do to convert this tank to a planted one, and things I should specifically pay attention to? I want to do this right - and I'm also using this as my experiment for how I do with some more advanced fishkeeping before I dive into a marine reef. So please do go into details that may be a little more "technical" if necessary.
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Old 04-23-2013, 06:37 AM   #2
Darkblade48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pengo0809 View Post
1. Lights. I have WAY too much (hello algae bloom...). I originally wanted a reef tank, and my lights could easily provide enough for a 100g marine reef. I will be setting the marine tank up over the next few months (hopefully!) so at some point I will change the lights on my freshwater tank, thinking T5HO. Does this sound like a good plan? Or should I look at still lower strength lights? Anything to beware of / specifically pay attention to? Anything I can do in the interim to keep my problems to a minimum?
Having excessive light does not cause algae, directly. Having high light, with insufficient CO2 and/or fertilizers, however, is a recipe for disaster.

You did not mention what lights you are currently using, but if they are emitting a lot of light, you would have needed to be injecting CO2 and dosing fertilizers. Your zero level of nitrates indicates you were not, which would have been a likely culprit for algae.

If you are switching lights, be aware that with high light, comes high maintenance (fertilizers, CO2, general plant maintenance such as replanting and pruning).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pengo0809 View Post
2. pH. I was reading that many plants will not survive an 8.0 pH because CO2 won't stay in a form that the plants can consume at this pH. I've been on another freshwater forum where the general - and very strong - consensus was to stick with the pH and don't do anything to change it lest it result in disaster. But can I have a (successful) planted tank with this pH? (Frankly, it's not very good for the fish either.) And if the consensus here is that it would be better to lower it, what's the best way? RO water? pH stabilizer?
Your pH is fine. CO2 will naturally bring down the pH as well.

The pH is probably fine for your fish, as most are now captive bred and adapted to local water conditions. As mentioned, if you want to lower it, using CO2 is a good way. RO water is also possible. I would avoid any kind of pH stabilizer product, as it will lead to wild pH swings that will ultimately be more harmful for your livestock.

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Originally Posted by Pengo0809 View Post
3. CO2. Now I'm starting to get into the things I don't know too much about. Given my parameters, any suggestions would be welcome.
With an aquarium as large as yours, I would suggest that you look into investing in a pressurized CO2 setup. There are various commercial products that are available, but if you are handy, I would strongly suggest you try DIYing a setup yourself.

For more information regarding pressurized CO2, please take a look at my Primer to Pressurized CO2 (linked in my signature below).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pengo0809 View Post
4. Ferts. Ok, so let's talk about ferts. What ferts do plants need? Exactly what minerals and nutrients will I need to add, and what exactly should their healthy level be in my tank? I'd like to be able to monitor this, ideally, if not cost prohibitive, so any suggestions on that would be great as well.
Plants need a variety of nutrients (both macronutrients and micronutrients). The macronutrients that are provided are generally nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Micronutrients, such as iron, boron, manganese, etc are generally provided in the form of a trace mix (such as CSM+B).

Nitrates should be ~10 ppm (though this number can be as low as 5 ppm or as high as 20-30 ppm).
Phosphates are generally kept around 1-2 ppm, but again, this can be higher (high phosphates does not necessarily mean algae problems).
Potassium is generally not measured for, since it is provided in excess.

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Originally Posted by Pengo0809 View Post
6. Substrate. If I remember correctly (...) I have Fluorite on bottom, with gravel on top. This is a year old, with no additional fertilizers.
This is fine. The Flourite on the bottom has a high cation exchange capability (CEC) so it will be good once you start dosing fertilizers.
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Old 04-23-2013, 02:28 PM   #3
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You did not mention what lights you are currently using, but if they are emitting a lot of light, you would have needed to be injecting CO2 and dosing fertilizers. Your zero level of nitrates indicates you were not, which would have been a likely culprit for algae.
Metal halide, 2 250w bulbs. It has space for a 3rd bulb which I took out. It also has actinics which I don't use. I came across it used and selling for a ridiculously low price a year ago. It was one of the best purchases I've made for a tank, just not suitable for this one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkblade48 View Post
If you are switching lights, be aware that with high light, comes high maintenance (fertilizers, CO2, general plant maintenance such as replanting and pruning).
Do you have recommendations for a quality medium strength light?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkblade48 View Post
With an aquarium as large as yours, I would suggest that you look into investing in a pressurized CO2 setup. There are various commercial products that are available, but if you are handy, I would strongly suggest you try DIYing a setup yourself.

For more information regarding pressurized CO2, please take a look at my Primer to Pressurized CO2 (linked in my signature below).
I did actually read through your Pressurized CO2 thread yesterday after posting. It was fantastic (thank you for all the work that went into collecting that much info and especially for presenting it in layman's terms!) I have a fear, and this may be completely stupid and unfounded, but I'm really scared of a CO2 tank exploding in my house. I have little kids, so I have some irrational fears like that. I just don't think I would feel comfortable doing this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkblade48 View Post
Plants need a variety of nutrients (both macronutrients and micronutrients). The macronutrients that are provided are generally nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Micronutrients, such as iron, boron, manganese, etc are generally provided in the form of a trace mix (such as CSM+B).

Nitrates should be ~10 ppm (though this number can be as low as 5 ppm or as high as 20-30 ppm).
Phosphates are generally kept around 1-2 ppm, but again, this can be higher (high phosphates does not necessarily mean algae problems).
Potassium is generally not measured for, since it is provided in excess.
I just ordered the PPS Pro (after reading up on the differences between that and EI and thinking about my own long term plans). So I think I'll be set with this. Thanks for the parameter estimates I'm currently at 0 phosphates as well, so I know I'll have to start keeping an eye on it.

Thank you for all of your detailed responses, this was very helpful! I have my fingers crossed that all will go well - once I solve my light situation.
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