My planted 55g - starting from scratch
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Old 05-14-2012, 11:33 PM   #1
Walleye
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My planted 55g - starting from scratch


Hi everybody! My name is Paul and I am from the Twin Cities of Minnesota.

I have had many aquariums throughout my life, all of them freshwater, and several of them have been planted. My most recent tank was this 55g, planted using laterite and gravel, DIY CO2, HOB power filters, and some hobbled-together lights. It was a great tank for about a year and then it crashed... hard. Lost pretty much everything in just a few days. That was about 12 years ago.

I never got that tank going again. Too many other things going on in my life. But it has been sitting in the basement all this time. So, last week I finally decided to set it up again. I have more time to take care of it and more $$ to get it set up right.

I have spent the week cleaning it and moving it to the living room. I am only re-using the tank and the stand... everything else will be new. So far, I have purchased some substrate from the LFS and ordered a canister filter from [Ebay Link Removed]

I have been reading tons on this site and I figured I should join, share my progress, and get some advice.

Here is my current setup:

Tank: 55 gallon AllGlass
Lights: none
Filtration: Marineland C-360 canister
CO2: none - but will be getting pressurized system
Substrate: laterite + 45 lbs FloraMax + 50 lbs play sand

Fish: probably some gourami... right now I am thinking about paradise gouramis. And then some ottos, yoyo loaches, kuhli loaches for bottom work. And maybe some Celestial Pearl Danios or possibly swordtails to fill it out.

Plants: not really sure yet. Some moss on my driftwood. Some glosso or some kind of grass for alot of short stuff. Probably some crypts and maybe some micro chain swords. Need some ideas for some background plants.


I will probably order a light setup within a few days. I am leaning towards a T5 fixture... trying to decide if I should get one with 4 bulbs or if 2 or 3 would be fine.

I have some driftwood being shipped and I want to figure out my hardscape before I add the substrate. I was watching some Amano videos and I see that he focuses on the hardscape first, so I am going to try that.

I could use some advice on cycling the tank. I want to add some of the plants before I fill it with water. Should I have CO2 immediately also? Should I add fish after a certain period of time, or could someone point me towards some info on how I should be testing to determine when it has cycled?

So, here is my tank so far! No water yet! Only the bags of substrate. Might be a week or two before I get everything I need to get it going!
Feel free to give me some advice!

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Old 05-14-2012, 11:56 PM   #2
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You won't need 50lbs of playsand for the tank, you'll probably use about 1/2 the bag to get the desired look. I have 2 different 55 gallon setups going, first one is my acrylic MTS setup where I used enough playsand to have a 1/2" cap on the soil, and in my other 55 gallon I have kitty litter/flourite/eco-complete mix capped with 1/2" of playsand.

You really don't need anymore depth of the playsand, max would be about 1" of playsand, because if you pack the tank with too much playsand it can stall the plants growth because of too much playsand.



As for background plants, I go with Amazon Swords in each of the back corners of the tank, then some Jungle Vals along the rest of the background, then I place medium sized plants in front of them, then fish the front of the tank with micro swords or dwarf sagittaria.



As for lighting, I have a 48" Aqueon dual bulb T5 on my acrylic tank, and a 48" T8 - 4x32w lighting fixture on my other 55 gallon tank.
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Old 05-15-2012, 02:07 AM   #3
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The play sand came from HD for $3.50 for the 50 lb bag. I'll only use what I need to. Thanks for the info on not going too deep with the sand layer, I will keep that in mind.

I am thinking of 4 light T5 fixture. I got a good deal on my filter so I think I will invest the leftover into a good light. Anything to be aware of when evaluating these fixtures? Any brand recommendations or warnings?
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Old 05-15-2012, 04:54 AM   #4
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I was looking at this light for my 75g I've seen it in person and its a very solid light.
http://www.marinedepot.com/Sunlight_...FIT54U-vi.html

You can wait till the end of the tank cycle to get Co2.

If you want to add plants before adding water then your looking at doing the dry start method.
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Old 05-15-2012, 06:56 AM   #5
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Decided to go with the Current USA Nova Extreme T5HO 2x54. If I need more lights, I can add another one later.

Thanks Quesenek, I will research the dry start method
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Old 05-15-2012, 03:16 PM   #6
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Sand will work its way down to the bottom of the tank and the floramax upwards. not sure if you wanted it to look all mixed up but that is what will happen.

As far as cycling, adding planys right away will be fine. If you have another tank try seeding tye substrate and filter media with established gravel or sponges or whatever is in the other tank. You can cycle with feeder guppies or goldfish or gouramis, something that can take rough water conditions. I keep extra media bags in tanks so If I start up a new tank I can have a pretty much instant cycle.
Takes about 3-4 weeks I would say if starting from scratch. Adding cheap fish helps because they carry beneficial bacteria needed to cycle the tank in the digestive system and thus their excrement.

Oh just read you want to go dry start method, never done it but no you wouldnt need co2 right away for that

Go with a four bulb fixture if you can afford, as long it has options to run less bulbs it will be better, plus you can always raise your light up. More bulbs equals more color options.
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Old 05-16-2012, 02:35 AM   #7
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kwheeler91, of course I don't want the sand and floramax to mix too much, but I have been worried about it. Do you have any advice to minimize the mixing and to keep the sand on top?

I don't have any other tanks, so this one will be starting up from scratch. I still need to learn about the dry start method, but I am expecting to have none or few fish for the next month or so.

My Marineland C-360 canister filter showed up today. I am going to work on getting it set up tonight. Is a shelf of activated carbon considered good or bad for a planted tank? I thought I had read somewhere that carbon would filter out things that the plants like... but I can't remember for sure.

Thanks for the advice and tips so far!
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Old 05-19-2012, 04:26 AM   #8
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Progress is going to be slower than I expected.... I have a lot of interesting driftwood, but it is all floaters. I am currently soaking them in a bucket, but they have not water-logged yet.

One of my other passions is kayak camping in the boundary waters of northern MN. I think I have an opportunity to head up their in a few weeks. I might try to hunt down some driftwood along the north shore of Lake Superior and I want to do some rock collecting from somewhere along the edge of the boundary waters. I think I will have a more sentimental attachment to my hardscape if I gather if myself rather than buy it at the LFS.

So, I am going to soak the driftwood for up to a few weeks until I get back from this camping trip. If my wood has not water-logged by then, I will have to use some rocks to weigh it down.

In the meantime, I have my filter ready to go and have been collecting various other little bits and pieces for the aquarium. I have researched the DSM and will be starting that way... thanks for the advice

Might be a while before I have any more interesting pics
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Old 06-08-2012, 09:52 PM   #9
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This project is officially DEAD!
The 55 gallon was pretty dirty - it was rode hard and put away wet... (as they say). I used a razor blade to clean off hunks of old grime (probably algae) and mucho elbow grease, but it still looked bad.

I was never a big fan of the 55 gal dimensions front-to-back... which is only 12 inches. I had always longed for a 75 gal with its fat 18 inch front-to-back.

And so, this morning I ran up to a LFS and purchased a shiny new 75 gallon with a stand. I will be starting a new tank journal for it soon.

The 55 will likely become a quarantine or breeding or plant farming tank.

Thanks for reading/following this thread and watch for a new thread on the 75!
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