75g salt to fresh conversion/build. Advice welcomed!
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Old 07-24-2013, 02:48 AM   #1
Snakeblitz33
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75g salt to fresh conversion/build. Advice welcomed!


Hello readers,

I'm converting my reef tank into a freshwater planted aquarium. A reef tank is too stressful for me to maintain while I'm still in college. I was thinking that I should probably convert over to a planted tank since I still want to keep my room divider and get my "fish fix."

Here's a list of all the equipment that I have available to me. Please go through it and tell me what I should keep and what I need to take off.

20g long sump
Photon 48 LED light (whites and blues, can be adjusted appropriately. 205w of 3w bridgelux LEDs. More then capable of growing plants.)
CO2 bottle and regulator (it was for the Calcium reactor...)
various powerheads
400w heater
Apex Jr. controller with pH probe, temp, etc. (very high tech for a planted tank?)
LED light for growing macroalgae.
Lifeguard Aquatics Quiet One 4000 sump pump (I realize this is probably WAY overrated for a planted tank.)
Two little fishies carbon reactor.

Questions to get started.

1. I bought Black Diamond Abrasive grit. #30 - medium grain as a substrate. Should I layer my substrate... ? from bottom up - pea gravel, laterite, Black Diamond and then cap with black Flourite?

2. I want to use driftwood that I find in my local streams and bayous. What kind of curing, scrubbing, cleaning needs to be done before use?

3. I like HC (dwarf baby tears). Does anyone recommend the dry start method (DSM?) still? I was thinking that since this is a peninsular tank, meaning three sides are viewable, I would do a centerpiece driftwood and plant some of the larger plants around it and dwarf baby tears on the front and sides.

4. Can someone recommend to me a list of things that I should have on hand or buy?

5. I have an RO/DI unit at home since I have had so many reef tanks over the years. Can I top the tank off and do water changes with RO/DI water, or will that affect anything? I just don't trust the water in my local area.

6. Is this hobby as addicting as reefkeeping? One thing that I am noticing is that there is a significant price difference between the plants that you all keep and the corals that I used to keep. I know dropping between $50 to $125 a coral is average, while $100 would probably fill a tank up with plants?
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Old 07-24-2013, 02:52 AM   #2
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This is an old pic of the reef tank,... it's been updated quite a bit, but this was the only full system shot that I have on photobucket right now. This tank will be the one that I am converting to a planted aquarium.

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Old 07-24-2013, 03:17 AM   #3
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Well, we keep weeds... Hah.. so they can be pretty cheap. You don't list a specific location, but you might be able to find some neat stuff in your local ponds and streams..

It is addicting.. you'd be hard pressed to find people on this forum who only keep a single tank. Lots of breeders and store owners frequent this forum.

You can top off with r/o, keeps parameters consistant.

Driftwood: check it with your finger nails... Its gotta be hard wood... Boil.. scrub... Soak...

Substrate: I'd just go with a dirted tank capped with blasting grit or safetsorb..

Dry start: (+1)

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Old 07-24-2013, 03:37 AM   #4
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Thanks for the reply! I really appreciate it!

Yeah, I am seeing that this hobby is quite a bit cheaper than reefkeeping. I think, by looking at all the amazing pictures around here, that it can be just as pretty as a nice reef tank... and a lot less maintenance.

I am actually a former fish store owner myself. I've had hundreds of tanks, but they were mainly saltwater. I have had and maintained a few freshwater fish tanks over the years as well, but never maintained a heavily planted and well established tank.

I'll keep topping off with RO water... but is it obvious that I should get a python hose and do water changes from the faucet to add trace elements into the water in a natural balance?

My father and I are actually going on the bayou in a couple of days to try to find some driftwood. Is hardness the only thing I should be looking for, or are there other requirements? I saw someone put their driftwood in a dishwasher to wash it?! That's a neat idea. How long should driftwood soak before putting it in the tank?

Dirted tank? What does that mean? Adding mineralize top soil? or that organic miracle grow stuff that is discussed elsewhere? I guess I could do dirt and cap it with the blasting grit.... Should the black diamond be on top, or should it be capped with something like flourite?

I know some of these questions have probably been asked a million times, but I am thankful there are still people out there who want to help an individual. Thanks again.
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Old 07-24-2013, 03:51 AM   #5
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Either organic potting soil or mineralized. I don't gravel vac, the plants feed off the mulm and it can add a little cation exchange capacity. However, all the minerals from tap can be very good for the tanks ecology.

Some people mix soil and cap, like grit, in a roughly 50/50 ratio. The next step would be to top that with an inch or so of cap, be it safetsorb, blasting grit, flourite, pool filter sand or even pea gravel... Otherwise just and inch or two of dirt, topped with an inch or two of sand/gravel. Check out the substrate subforum and site-search anything that pops.

What I usually look for in wood is character first, obviously, then you want to check for rot and soft spots, they can contribute to waste build up. Deader stuff will obviously have leached out more sap and tannins. I boil everything I'm capable of boiling, it helps pull out tannins and sanitizes as well as helps waterlog it.. the dishwasher idea is neat, but I think there's a bit more work that will still have to be done after the rinse cycle...
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Old 07-24-2013, 04:05 AM   #6
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Cool. I'll check around the substrate forum to see if I can glean some information on "dirting" a tank.

so... from bottom up... 2" of miracle grow organic substrate, 2" of blasting grit, and a top cap of whatever color, basically, that I want. I definitely want it to be brown or black, since the biotope I am looking at creating is brown/black dirt substrate.

I guess a lot of aquascape planning will have to go into this adventure.

I'll check for those qualities when I go collecting driftwood. Good idea to boil the sticks. I will have to do that then. Thanks for the idea!
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Old 07-24-2013, 04:09 PM   #7
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Ill be picking up some miracle grow stuff in the next couple days.

I have to set up my ten gallon salt tank first.
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Old 07-25-2013, 04:13 AM   #8
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So, I have been doing more research lately.

I have a sump on the tank that I want to set up as a freshwater planted tank. The problem that I am finding now is that this may strip the water of available CO2?

Can someone advise me on a sump system for the tank? The tank is drilled with a drain hole, I can turn it into a closed loop system with CO2 injection on a timer?
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Old 07-25-2013, 04:29 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Snakeblitz33 View Post
So, I have been doing more research lately.

I have a sump on the tank that I want to set up as a freshwater planted tank. The problem that I am finding now is that this may strip the water of available CO2?

Can someone advise me on a sump system for the tank? The tank is drilled with a drain hole, I can turn it into a closed loop system with CO2 injection on a timer?
Many people on here use sumps or wet/dry filters including myself. It may cause you to use a little more co2 but you will also have increased o2 levels which is a good thing. Do some searching on here to see others that have sump setups.

How to you plan to diffuse your co2?
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Old 07-25-2013, 01:46 PM   #10
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I havent even thought about it. Im starting out low tech and then once the plants establish then inject co2. Since i have the materials already i figured it wouldnt really be a big deal.

I think my return pump is way too big for a planted tank. I might replace it with a smaller pump. What size would yall recommend? Ie how many gph?

Ill keep the sump and fill it with media. Thanks!

Would some kind of bubble tower be good for co2 diffusion?
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Old 07-25-2013, 05:59 PM   #11
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Im looking at commercial diffusers right now. Seems like its something that i could build myself almost.

Any more thoughts on the gph of the sump pump?

I am collecting my driftwood today and buying some miracle grow organic tomorrow. 2" of it, right?

Im interested to know peoples thoughts on a fish list? I know very little about freshwater fish besides cichlids. How many fish can i put in a 75g tank?
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Old 07-26-2013, 01:35 PM   #12
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I collected some cypress driftwood down by the riverside. Going to scrub it all clean with a wire brush and clean it off with a hot water rinse. Thinking about boiling it, but that requires $22 of propane. I guess a long soak in my extra 40g tank will help too.

I still have to read some on that miracle grow dirted tank. How to cure it. How to dirt thr tank etc. i know it shouldnt be more than 2". I will figure it out.

This weekend i should have time to break down the reef tank and possibly set up the ten gallon. Maybe next weekend or the next i will have some time to clean evetything up and get it ready for a planted tank.
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Old 07-26-2013, 02:19 PM   #13
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Snakeblitz,

You're in luck, the hardware you have is all very well suited for keeping a planted tank. Honestly, I wouldn't change much of anything except to make the lighting more suitable for plants. You're not going to need to run most of the external reactors, like phosban and such...and definitely not the skimmer. The good news is they make great CO2 reactors.

Lots of people debate the choice of canister vs. sump and in the end it really comes down to personal preference. I personally dislike the maintenance on canisters and, since your tank's already set up for a sump, I'd be inclined to keep it as-is. You will want to find a way to get some mechanical filtration going in there. That can easily be accomplished by making a rack of some sort to hold landscaping lava rock you can find a home improvement stores or garden centers. Some PVC and eggcrate will accomplish this nicely. Cut out the first glass pane you've got and move it up so there's a couple inches of room for water to flow underneath it and up through the lava rock. Add a sponge along the intake side of the baffle and voila, good mechanical and biological filtration.

Another mod you might want to consider is getting a piece of glass cut to cover the whole sump and use flexible tubing leading to a bulkhead through the top pane for your downdraft instead of the hard pipe. This way you'll be able to seal the sump to reduce gas loss. You might need to put a stub of PVC on the other side of the bulkhead depending on water level. Just like a reef, you want the outlet under the water's surface (but not too far under). The threaded portion of the bulkhead might be enough though. I had a system similar to yours (90g) with a homemade 20g sump and it was quite efficient CO2-wise.

How many gph is your pump putting out right now? If you modded the impeller to be a needle-wheel, what would the output be? One thing you can do, and I'd suggest doing, is T-ing off the return line and using your pump to power a CO2 reactor. If you have it feed directly into the sump you can blow as much water through it as you want to reduce flow into the tank to what you want it to be. Think closed loop with the sump as the tank. If it were my system, I'd run that line to output near the tank downdraft. That way you don't have to buy a new pump and will get good reduction in microbubbles from the CO2.

Now, let's talk substrate. If you're going to go the soil route, I'd mix 50/50 turface and whatever soil mix you choose. I found in my research that adding turface encourages root growth by keeping the soil from getting too compacted and providing surface area for fine roots to attach to. You can go with whatever cap you want, but I would suggest something that's not too fine. Grain size smaller than 2mm really is too fine. You want there to be some space in the cap for oxygenated water to diffuse into it. This will create an area in the cap for nasty reduced chemicals to oxidize to insoluble or non-toxic forms.

ABSOLUTELY USE CO2 FROM THE START. Plant heavily too. By heavily I mean fill as much of that tank with plants as you can. If it's a thick jungle of stems that you can barely see through at first, excellent. Anticipate spending $200 or more filling your tank if you go through regular retail or hobby channels. If you still have access to wholesale you can do it for about $100. If there's a local hobby club nearby or you an find someone online wanting to send you a massive load of clippings you've hit the jackpot.

That's probably enough for now. I'm happy to answer any other questions you've got.

Welcome to TPT and the aquatic gardening hobby!
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Old 07-26-2013, 05:43 PM   #14
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Hi, thank you for posting. Wow, lots of ideas! I wanted to get into freshwater planted tanks because i thought it would be much cheaper than a reef tank. I dont truly want to have to buy or remodel anything unless it is absolutely necessary to spend the money. A co2 reactor is absolutely required??

About the substrate, i am going to use miracle grow organic as the base layer with a few root tabs and cap it with the blasting sand that i already purchased. Im going to attach the driftwood i collected to eggcrate via zip ties into the shape i like.

Im following a guide i read online of how to cycle a freshwater tank properly. Just want to do it right. Ill be adding a lot of mechanical filtration to the sump and maybe even the lava rock you suggested to the middle section. I dont have to cut anything out, because i know what your talking about and it is already structured that way.

I collected my driftwood yesterday and today if i can find some propane, ill be boiling select pieces.
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Old 07-26-2013, 06:47 PM   #15
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Snakeblitz,

If you've already got the CO2 then you're much better off using it; especially with the amount of light you've got. Think of your lighting as the accelerator in a car. The higher the light the faster the plants are going to want to grow. If they're limited by CO2 then they won't be able to grow as fast and you'll start to get imbalances in your tank which will lead to algae. The only thing a soil subtrate is good at, and it does it well, is provide a source of nutrients to the plants' roots which they can easily take up. I'll say it again; CO2 will help you out tremendously and will provide major benefits to your tank vs. not using it.

I don't think you'll have to buy any new hardware; it looks like everything you have can be modified for planted use. What's the clear chamber next do your downdraft pipe? It looks to me to be some sort of media reactor with a pump attached, is that true? If so, that'll make an ideal CO2 reactor.

Would you please take a close up photo of your sump and plumbing? That'll give me a clearer idea of what you've got going on and how we can modify it to suit your needs.

As for buying plants, trust me when I say that you're much much much better off forking out the cash to fill the tank chock full of plants right from the start. If feel your pain; I've set up tanks ranging from 75g to 225g in the past and it can hurt a bit seeing the $$ leave your account. I'm in the process of setting up a 300g that'll need 18 square feet,,or 36 cubic feet, of plants to fill entirely. That's why I suggested finding local hobbyists or checking out the for sale subforum here for cheap plants to cram into the tank while it gets established.

In this regard planted tanks are a lot like reefs. It may only take a little while for the filter to cycle, but it takes months for the system to really establish. Just like you wouldn't want to have a FOWLR with only a little live rock to start (with plans to add more later) you don't want to start a planted tank with just a couple plants. Don't skimp in the beginning and you'll save yourself a lot of heartache in the long term. The good news is plants are a lot cheaper than coral and rock. Once you've got a handle on how your system behaves and have a feel for fertilization and maintenance it's a simple matter of swapping out one species for another until you've got it looking the way you want.
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