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Old 07-01-2014, 04:46 PM   #1
Jennalyn
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Beginner seeking opinions


First post on the forum! ^_^ I'm getting ready to start my first planted tank. It's also my first "properly researched" tank in general. I've absorbed a lot of great advice from this forum and a few other sources, but I'd appreciate any personalized feedback or advice before I really get going.

I plan for the tank to house a betta and probably a Nerite snail as well. I don't have either yet so there's not a rush-rush-rush. My brother's friend's mom is big into freshwater aquariums and she offered to give me some filter media for seeding on Saturday.

My basic goals in-order are (1) happy fishy, (2) hardy, living plants, (3) relatively minimal maintenance after set-up, (4) pretty tank.

Tank: Deep Blue 5-gallon
Light: 8w T5 Daylight bulb (included with hood)
Heater: Hydor 25w
Filter: AquaTop PFE-1
Substrate: Seachem Fluorite
Hardscape: Mopani wood & quartz/slate
Conditioner: Prime
Grow-Plants-Grow: Flourish Comprehensive, Root Tabs, Excel
Testing: API Freshwater Master Test Kit

My plants arrive on Wednesday, purchased from a seller on another forum. He's sending Java Fern, Parva Swords, Ludwigia Arcuata x Repens, and Guppy Grass.

The heater, fertilizer, and testing kit will arrive by Thursday along with a few other supplies. I have the rest of the above-mentioned now. The flourite has been rinsed and rinsed and rinsed again. I've boiled the mopani for a few hours two nights running now and I'm okay with whatever leeching remains. I'm thinking I'll get the tank, substrate, filter, and hardscape set up tonight with a nice dosing of Prime. I don't have any way to test my beginning water conditions yet, so all of that begins Thursday night.

Does anyone have any "make sure you don't forget to" or "it would be helpful if you" sort of advice? While I'm not a Murderer Of Plants, I've never really made an effort to grow them before in or out of water.

I've also been having trouble finding pure ammonia, so I'm thinking I may use leftover fish food as my ammonia source. I know that it will contribute to added waste, so is this a poor decision/should I search more or will this be alright to get things started?
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Old 07-01-2014, 04:48 PM   #2
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And for fun, here's a quick shot of the tank right after I attached the background. All of the gold swirls are metallic. Hooray for Mod Podge!
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Old 07-01-2014, 08:44 PM   #3
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Nice looking background. I'm going to tag along as I'm starting my first tank as well. Good luck.
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Old 07-01-2014, 09:18 PM   #4
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Thanks very much! I know there's a lot of accumulated experience on this forum, so I look forward to benefiting from their knowledge.
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Old 07-01-2014, 11:13 PM   #5
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Welcome!

I would say be sure to clean the wood. I know the wood is packaged specifically for aquarium use and not just driftwood someone picked up, but I would recommend boiling it in a big pot for a bit, maybe 30 minutes or so, in order to remove some tannins and sterilize the wood. I've also always gotten the white fuzz on my wood after about a week in the tank, but I've heard that can be avoided if you boil the wood, then let it completely dry out before putting it in your aquarium. Never tried it, so I don't know about that. Regardless, you should boil the wood before putting it in. I also remember it says it will sink immediately, but I found that to be false, haha. So you may need to weigh it down with one of those pieces of slate until it's fully water logged.

Not sure if you're looking for advice on scaping, but some basic tips for a nice looking tank are to slope the substrate, lower in the front, higher in the back. This gives some added depth. Another tip would be to place your hardscape materials off-center, it will look more natural to have it that way. What are you thinking for your hardscape? Any pics of the wood and quartz/slate?

For the substrate, be sure to give yourself at least a couple inches depth. It's tough to get stems planted if it's much more shallow than that.

For the plants, the fern will look nice attached to the wood, most likely. Is that "parva sword" actually cryptocoryne parva? Or is it an amazon sword? Swords get big...really big. Mine outgrew my 20" tall tank, just fyi. If it is indeed crypt parva, put a root tab right underneath that one, crypts feed directly from their roots. The stem plants you got will also benefit a lot from putting a tab right underneath them.

You should be able to find pure ammonia at a supermarket of some kind in the cleaning supplies. Just be sure it doesn't have fragrances or anything else added to it. I believe fish food will also work, but I've never done it.

You may need to fiddle with the light a bit, between on-time and height above the tank. Just have to see how your plants respond and if you start seeing lots of algae. Keep in mind algae is a perfectly natural thing, a little is normal, you just don't want to let it take over your tank, haha.

Don't hesitate to ask more questions, I've found people on here to be quite helpful, even with simple little things.

Best of luck!
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Old 07-02-2014, 02:27 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChemGuyEthan View Post
I would say be sure to clean the wood. I know the wood is packaged specifically for aquarium use and not just driftwood someone picked up, but I would recommend boiling it in a big pot for a bit, maybe 30 minutes or so, in order to remove some tannins and sterilize the wood. I've also always gotten the white fuzz on my wood after about a week in the tank, but I've heard that can be avoided if you boil the wood, then let it completely dry out before putting it in your aquarium. Never tried it, so I don't know about that. Regardless, you should boil the wood before putting it in. I also remember it says it will sink immediately, but I found that to be false, haha. So you may need to weigh it down with one of those pieces of slate until it's fully water logged.
I've actually boiled the wood for two nights running to sterilize it and release tannins. Here's hoping it works! I've seen pics of the white fuzz and I'm not overly fond, but if it happens then it happens. Thankfully, my hunk of wood is quite solid and happy to stay submerged in water.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChemGuyEthan View Post
Not sure if you're looking for advice on scaping, but some basic tips for a nice looking tank are to slope the substrate, lower in the front, higher in the back. This gives some added depth. Another tip would be to place your hardscape materials off-center, it will look more natural to have it that way. What are you thinking for your hardscape? Any pics of the wood and quartz/slate?
I just got things settled in tonight for my first look at the wood and rock in the tank and I've attached a pic. Did a little sloping, but I have a feeling I'll do more once I put the plants in tomorrow night. The slate bits are mostly to attach some of the plants' roots - the quartz-striped rock is the big 'un.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChemGuyEthan View Post
For the plants, the fern will look nice attached to the wood, most likely. Is that "parva sword" actually cryptocoryne parva? Or is it an amazon sword? Swords get big...really big. Mine outgrew my 20" tall tank, just fyi. If it is indeed crypt parva, put a root tab right underneath that one, crypts feed directly from their roots. The stem plants you got will also benefit a lot from putting a tab right underneath them.
I'm not quiiiiite sure which plant he meant by the "parva sword" - I thought I knew, but now I'm not so sure. He said that they stayed smaller so would be suitable for my tank, but we'll see! Do you have a preferred method to attach plants to the wood?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChemGuyEthan View Post
You may need to fiddle with the light a bit, between on-time and height above the tank. Just have to see how your plants respond and if you start seeing lots of algae. Keep in mind algae is a perfectly natural thing, a little is normal, you just don't want to let it take over your tank, haha.
I meant to pick up one of the light timers while I was at Petsmart today but unfortunately forgot. I'll have to nab one tomorrow. Thank you for the reminder!

When the tank is actually stocked, I'll be filling it up near the top. The lower level currently lets me fiddle without too much consequence and I'll be taking some out tomorrow anyway when I begin planting. I look forward to the flourite cloudiness fading.
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Old 07-02-2014, 06:03 AM   #7
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Nice, I think it is already looking pretty good!

I like that piece of wood! Is it actually one big piece or is it two? I think eventually you could look into getting some moss on that bad boy too, java moss is easy and undemanding. It can sometimes be a magnet for algae and detritus though...which is unfortunate and requires a little more attention while cleaning the tank.

I'm not sure how I feel about the quartz rock on its side like that... Will it stand very well more vertically? Might help show off the nice stripes on the rock better. Since you only have two things in there, they might also look good paired together instead of separate... not sure though. The wood may also look good facing the way it is, but on the right side of the tank instead of the left, so it points up and out the right side.

The important part is that you're happy with your tank, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt. Play around with the layout until it looks just how you want. I think it's off to a great start!

The fern, or any plant you want to attach to wood or a rock, can be tied on with fishing line or 100% cotton thread. The cotton thread is nice cause usually by the time it has broken down the plant has attached itself to the wood or rock. Fishing line will have to be cut off and removed after a while if the plant doesn't cover it up. Moss will grow over fishing line and hide it, but the fern might not.

If the plant looks like this: http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/my...ocoryne_parva_ then it will definitely stay low. I have some in my tank and it stays less than two inches tall, so it'll be good in the front/middle.

Timer for the light is very helpful. Saves you having to remember to turn it on/off every day, haha.

Eventually, you may want to look into getting a couple plant maintenance tools, such as big tweezers or scissors. Nice, sharp scissors are a must once your plants have really grown in and need trimmed back.

I'm excited to see what this looks like with some plants in it!
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Old 07-02-2014, 11:47 AM   #8
Jennalyn
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The wood is actually one honkin' big piece with a lot of interest for its size. I saw it in the LFS in their giant mopani bin and it just spoke to me.

Cotton thread, woot! I'm a quilter - that is one supply I have a TON of.

I started playing with layout this morning based on your recommendations to get a look at how it changes... which is quite a lot depending on where that wood is! (As the water becomes steadily murkier with every move, hah.)

My first layout. The nifty advantage to having the rock like this is that it forms a cute little overhang-cave sort of thing, which I think a betta would have fun with.



Flipping the rock up on its side shows off the stripe of quartz beautifully, however, and I like how it looks overall taking up more vertical space in the tank. Hmmm...



I played around with flipping the wood over and really didn't like the result. Its height appeals to me and, while this creates a neat little swim-through, I don't like how low it sits overall compared to standing up.



Set it on the other side as you suggested trying. It makes a nice little pocket against the right side, but I'm not sure whether I like the look of the sawed-off side sitting exposed. An advantage to having it on the right was disguising that line.



Tried turning the rock around to the back as well, but the most beautiful part of the stripe is hidden and that's such a shame. Definitely not.



Aaaand now the water's a mess, but oh well! That was very entertaining. What do those of you with a more discerning eye thing? Other variations I should try? Does the wood look better on the right or the left? Rock standing or overhang? Of these five, I think I'm preferring the second pic at the moment (wood on left side, rock standing).
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Old 07-02-2014, 02:46 PM   #9
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I think my vote is for the second picture as well.

I too like the rock vertical with the big white stripe visible. And I didn't even notice the wood was sawed off on that one side until you moved it, so you're right, it looks better on the left, haha.

Maybe someone else will chime in and give some more opinions.
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Old 07-02-2014, 03:29 PM   #10
Jennalyn
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I just received word that my plants arrived, so I had someone bring them out of the hot MD sun. And now I have to get through a long day of work before I can go home and play. Le sigh. Looking forward to it!
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Old 07-02-2014, 05:09 PM   #11
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Hey Jennifer! Lol, I was browsing through the forums and saw your name and said, "Wait, that can't be her, can it?" Lawl.

Just to clarify, the swords I sent are called Tropica or Parva swords. The scientific name is Echionodorus Parviflorus. Best of luck and let me know how the plants go!
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Old 07-02-2014, 05:11 PM   #12
Jennalyn
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Ah, that's so funny! Yep it's me. I love forums in general, so I figured being on one betta-specific and one plant-specific would maximize my chances to absorb useful information and keep the flora/fauna alive. Thanks very much for clarifying the species! I really can't wait to get them all in the tank.
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