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Old 10-16-2010, 10:01 PM   #1
Jeff B
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Looking for new low tech planted tank advice


Hello,

I used to run a lot of freshwater fish tanks up until about nine years ago. Since then, due to health reasons etc., I have not had any aquariums in operation. In the next few months I will have a situation and location suitable to set one up again. I have not ran an aquarium with live plants in it before but have been doing plenty of reading in the last few months to bring myself up to speed. This is my first post on this forum but I have been reading many of the threads here and other information elsewhere to try to educate myself on the different needs of a planted tank from the fish only ones I used to have.

Even though I will be putting live plants in this tank I want to keep it fairly low-tech. I want to have live plants because they look natural and just plain better but I don't want to constantly have to be gardening, pruning, replanting etc. I should be able to have things set up so that I can do water changes, and basic maintenance by myself but due to some physical limitations and reduced hand dexterity I may need some assistance to do some of the more intensive aquascaping type work so I would like to minimize how much and how often that is needed after the initial setup of the tank. From what I have read (some examples: http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/content.php?sid=2977 , http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/content.php?sid=3196) this should be possible if I use the right plants and levels of lighting to keep growth rates moderate. Adding CO2 does not really appeal to me either because I don’t things to grow that fast or to deal with the extra equipment.

I really like the look of Kara’s tank in this thread: http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/low-tech-forum/107073-karas-low-tech-planted-5-footer.html

I was hoping that if I could post my proposed setup details here in this thread that maybe if there were any glaring problems or omissions in my plans then some of you could point them out to me and I can make the appropriate changes to my plans before I start purchasing and assembling everything.

My aquarium will be a 65 gallon Miracles tank, 36” wide x 18” deep x 24” tall. It will be built into a wall of cabinets. They will be 18” of clear space in the cabinet above the aquarium for lights etc. and an open section of cabinet to the right of the aquarium for filters and equipment.

On the right end I will be running an Aquaclear 70 and an Aquaclear 50 (total ~500 gph), both will have Filter-Max III pre-filters on their intake tubes and for media I will be using one Aquaclear sponge in each filter and fill the rest up with media bags full of Seachem Matrix. These filters have to be on the right side of the aquarium for me to reach them.

I will be putting a 36”double florescent fixture above the tank. It will be suspended from the top inside of the cabinet so I will be able to adjust the distance that it is above the tank easily. I am thinking of using Hagen Glo T5 High Output 36" Double Light Fixture - With 2-Lifeglo II 39 Watt T5 High Output Bulbs (http://www.petsandponds.com/en/aquarium-supplies/c5813/c293075/index.html).

I am not sure if this will be too much light though. I plan on putting the lights on a timer to run for about four hours in the morning when I am around to see it turning off for the middle of the day and turning on again for several hours in the early evening. Hopefully this will reduce the chances of having too much algae growth (if I am understanding the strategy correctly) but still allow me to enjoy seeing the tank when I am around it. I will have a glass top on the tank and be able to vary the height of the light fixture from right above the water to at least a foot above it.

I will be using eco-complete (about 3” deep) for substrate and will be using driftwood and probably some river rock type stone for hardscape.

Plants will be things like Java fern, cryptocornes, Java moss or other recommended lower care and slower growing species that I will not have to mow down or prune every week or more. This is an area that I am totally new to and still trying to read up more on.

Fauna will include fairly peaceful species like small Tetras (lemon etc.), cory cats (probably Pandas), Oto cats, red cherry shrimp in maybe a few nerite snails if I can find some (never had any of these last three) and maybe one or two larger individuals like a dwarf gourami or something like that that has a little more personality for some interest. However, it is difficult to think of which species would suit this role that will not decide one day to get into spawning condition and beat up or eat some of the more peaceful members of the tank or the shrimp (so no pair of kribensis, even though I think they are great).

I plan on doing about a 20% water change every week and doing alternate filter cleaning and maintenance as needed. I have heard from employees at more than one local fish store that the water out of the tap here is supposed to be fairly good after getting rid of the chlorine and chloramines (I will be using Prime). Local water plant websites says: "The potable water is considered to be "medium" hard. The water hardness value is about 120 mg/L or about 7.02 grains per gallon as calcium carbonate. Chlorine and ammonia are added to the filtered water to bring the combined chlorine residual to approximately 1.3 mg/L.” I still need to buy a Master test kit to measure things myself though.

So that is what I am thinking so far. If anyone has any comments or suggestions to contribute they would be greatly appreciated.

Jeff
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Old 10-17-2010, 01:20 AM   #2
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If you use that 2 bulb Hagen Glo fixture, you will need to suspend it about 10 inches above the top of the tank, to keep the light intensity low enough for a non-CO2 tank. Or, you could use a single bulb Hagen Glo fixture 2-3 inches above the top of the tank, but that will allow tall plants to shade the lower plants, and it will make all of the plants try to grow towards the center of the tank or wherever the fixture sits.

If you really want to do regular big water changes, be sure to also dose Excel. Otherwise, the fluctuating amount of CO2 in the water will help algae get started growing. You don't need to do those water changes though. You can just top off the water as needed.

This type of tank will work best if you use substrate fertilizing, along with whatever the plants can get from the fish waste. An easy way to do that is to use a layer of ADA Aquasoil under the EC, an inch or so thick. But, you can also sprinkle a very thin layer of Osmocote fertilizer under the EC.

Good luck with the tank - I'm starting to think about switching to non-CO2, low light, low maintenance tanks too.
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Old 10-17-2010, 02:01 AM   #3
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Sounds like a good plan. I like the low tech set ups im kinda lazy with my tanks lol.
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Old 10-17-2010, 09:09 PM   #4
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I didn't realize water changes could get algae to start growing...thats interesting
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Old 10-17-2010, 09:46 PM   #5
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Thanks for the feedback,

I have 18” above the tank inside the cabinet so suspending a light higher is easy and should spread the light across the tank better. The higher the lights are above the tank the easier it will be for me to work in it without having to move them as well.

This made me think that maybe two single Hagen Glo T5’s would probably work better if I hang them high enough. They could be wider apart to spread out the light over the tank and be put on separate timers if I want to have them turn on and off sequentially to ease the tank inhabitants awake and asleep less abruptly.

The lights come with either “Life-Glo II” or “Power-Glo” bulbs (http://www.petsandponds.com/en/aquar...075/index.html). Am I correct in thinking that I should use 2 Life-Glo bulbs in this setup, or would there be some benefit to using one of each?

Not doing water changes just seems wrong to a fish guy like me but if the plants are cleaning the water as well I can see the logic. No changes would increase water hardness and concentrations of some other undesirable parameters over time though. Would you not have to be constantly testing ammonia, nitrates etc. to make sure they are not building up?

I could dose Excel if it needs it, as long as I am not dumping tons in. I am not sure if I can get ADA products very easily around here. Would a layer under the EC not eventually mix with it and look messy? I am a bit wary of too much fertilizing. If my plants grow too fast it would be more work than I am looking for. I don’t plan on trying to have any carpeting plants. What about just using root tabs or other type fertilizers to just spot fertilize any individual plants that look like they need it?
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Old 10-18-2010, 04:23 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff B View Post
This made me think that maybe two single Hagen Glo T5’s would probably work better if I hang them high enough. They could be wider apart to spread out the light over the tank and be put on separate timers if I want to have them turn on and off sequentially to ease the tank inhabitants awake and asleep less abruptly.
That sounds like a good plan to me.

Quote:
The lights come with either “Life-Glo II” or “Power-Glo” bulbs (http://www.petsandponds.com/en/aquar...075/index.html). Am I correct in thinking that I should use 2 Life-Glo bulbs in this setup, or would there be some benefit to using one of each?
The difference is mostly aesthetic, but personally I'd get one of each since I prefer that look. Mixing a pink with a white bulb is my own favorite combo.

Quote:
Not doing water changes just seems wrong to a fish guy like me but if the plants are cleaning the water as well I can see the logic. No changes would increase water hardness and concentrations of some other undesirable parameters over time though. Would you not have to be constantly testing ammonia, nitrates etc. to make sure they are not building up?
I personally do about 30% once a month or once every other month on my 90gal. I aim to keep my nitrates < 10ppm. But you can experiement and see what works for you. I highly recommend a Python or Aqueon water changer (or DIY one) that hooks up to your sink, those things REALLY help with water changes on big tanks!

Quote:
I am a bit wary of too much fertilizing. If my plants grow too fast it would be more work than I am looking for. I don’t plan on trying to have any carpeting plants. What about just using root tabs or other type fertilizers to just spot fertilize any individual plants that look like they need it?
Stick with plants like Anubias, Java ferns, Crypts, swords, and go easy on stem plants; this will really help keep pruning and maintenance to a minimum.
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Old 10-19-2010, 07:07 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by lauraleellbp View Post
That sounds like a good plan to me.

The difference is mostly aesthetic, but personally I'd get one of each since I prefer that look. Mixing a pink with a white bulb is my own favorite combo.

Thanks,
I may get one of each type of bulb then, one to emphasize plant growth and one to emphasize fish colors, with both of them overlapping in their jobs a bit.
Quote:
Originally Posted by lauraleellbp View Post
I personally do about 30% once a month or once every other month on my 90gal. I aim to keep my nitrates < 10ppm. But you can experiement and see what works for you. I highly recommend a Python or Aqueon water changer (or DIY one) that hooks up to your sink, those things REALLY help with water changes on big tanks!

I plan to rig up some tools to assist me with the water changes. My aquarium will be very close to a sink and other plumbing, which is why I am putting it where it I am. Do you dose Excel or other fertilizers on a day-to-day basis or just after doing a large water change to restore your CO2 balance?
Quote:
Originally Posted by lauraleellbp View Post
Stick with plants like Anubias, Java ferns, Crypts, swords, and go easy on stem plants; this will really help keep pruning and maintenance to a minimum.
I am thinking along those lines as well. Most of the time I read that Java moss is easy to grow but every once in a while I see it classified as "difficult". I am hoping to have some grow attached to driftwood and a coconut shell or two so hopefully I can get that to work out okay.
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Old 10-20-2010, 02:59 AM   #8
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Quote:
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Thanks,
Do you dose Excel or other fertilizers on a day-to-day basis or just after doing a large water change to restore your CO2 balance?


Nope, I don't dose anything in my tanks. I only use Excel once in a blue moon as an algaecide.


Quote:
Most of the time I read that Java moss is easy to grow but every once in a while I see it classified as "difficult". I am hoping to have some grow attached to driftwood and a coconut shell or two so hopefully I can get that to work out okay.
LOL @ Java moss as "difficult." Only thing about it I've ever found difficult is getting RID of it... Check out other mosses, as well. Java is actually one of my least favorite mosses. I really like Fissidens, Xmas, and Flame moss much better.
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Old 10-21-2010, 06:53 PM   #9
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I checked out some of those other mosses. They do look nicer. I will have to see what is available when I am setting up the tank. I just looked at your 29 gal thread. I really like the look of the long skinny java fern. I did not realize it got so long/tall. Is that a specific strain, or did it just grow out like that?

I am trying to decide whether to just go to my local fish store to buy plants or to buy them from a mail/internet order place like http://www.aquariumplants.com/. Locally has the advantage of simply going out and buying them and being home in an hour, but my choices will be dictated by what is in stock that day. If I buy online then I will have more selection, but may have the plants arrive on a day different than when I have help to plant them.

If I just had a 10 gal tank filled with water to hold them in for a few days until I could plant them would newly bought plants stay alive? Or are they going to melt and then melt again when I put them in the main tank from putting them through too many changes?

I find that I do not yet know all the Latin names for most plants and the internet selling sites, like the one listed above, will often use the same generic picture for several different strains or species or give conflicting characteristics for sizes or requirements. Can anyone recommend a good website to use as a guide for choosing which plants to buy and what their sizes, care, lighting and other requirements are? I suppose that since I don’t know exactly which plants I want then I won’t be devastated if I get the wrong cultivar of Cryptocoryne wendtii, but I don’t want to accidentally order plants that are not going to suit my set up.

Does anyone know of any Canadian based mail order plant and/or livestock suppliers they would recommend? I kno that aquariumplants.com claims easy ordering to Canada but I would prefer not dealing with the extra taxes, exchange rates etc. that shipping across the border often adds.

Also, do most people “dip” their plants before they put them in their main tanks, like it is specified here: http://www.aquariumplants.com/Articles.asp?ID=111. I don’t really want uninvited sails in my tank but I also don’t like the thought of handling bleach or pink staining potassium permanganate in my house either.
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Old 10-25-2010, 12:48 AM   #10
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Check out the swap n shop, there's a Canadian sub-forum at the top. You'll almost always get more and better quality plants from another hobbyist.

I also know that Ontario has some good, active aquarium societies, soyou might search some of those up and see if any are within driving distance. Most aquarium societies have regular auctions and swap-meets, which would be a fantastic place to get plants and livestock.
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Old 10-26-2010, 05:08 PM   #11
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Ok thanks, I will check the swap n shop from time to time. Once I am set up I may check out the local aquarium society meetings.

For my start up when I want to get a bunch of plants at once I may purchase online or check the lfs. Unfortunately the one local store I wanted to do business with closed so I will probably have to go to one of the chain stores in my area that is run by a shark in a captain’s hat. I think the one closer to my house does not have as good a reputation, and smells like neglected tanks, as one that is further away so I will have to decide if the travel time is worth the as yet unconfirmed difference in quality.

If I could find a single pet store that refused to keep bettas in tiny cups of blue water, and preferably anything smaller than 1 gallon, then they would instantly win my loyalty.
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Old 10-10-2011, 06:52 PM   #12
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Started journal for this tank here: http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/ta...-low-tech.html
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Old 10-11-2011, 01:49 AM   #13
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Started journal for this tank here: http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/ta...-low-tech.html
LoL.

I was preparing to reply to the original post and then I noticed the date and scrolled to the bottom of the thread to see who had 'bumped' it.

I will go check out the journal thread - hopefully things went well for you.
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