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Old 04-02-2013, 12:21 AM   #1
thedojo
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First Planted (Low-tech) Tank


Hey guys, I am planning on starting a Low-tech planted tank. A little background on myself, I have been keeping fish for roughly 8 years and have kept everything from peaceful communities, aggressive cichlid communities, FOWLR, and eventually a full blown nano-reef. After realizing how expensive the saltwater stuff was, I got out after about two years. Seeing some of the tanks on ADA got me interested in planted tanks, and the thought of having such a nice looking tank with such little maintenance seems really appealing to me.

Here's what I plan on working with:
Tank: 15 gallon (24"x12x12)
Light: Coralife 67k 24 watt C4 bulb (is this enough?)
Substrate: I am looking for a dirt substrate that will not require a lot of sifting or waiting like MGOCPM does. I really do not want to spend a lot of time sifting through dirt and what not.
For my substrate cap, I am looking for something black or dark brown. Again, open to suggestions.
Plant stocking: Still not sure. I am going to go to my LFS tomorrow or wednesday to see what they have, and then decide from there.
Fish: Small school of tetras or rasboras and a school of corys. Maybe I will eventually add a centerpiece fish, but I am in no rush.

So, here are my questions:
1. Will my lighting (single 24w 67k Coralife T5 be enough. 24" bulb)
2. What type of dirt is easiest to work with? I dont really want to spend a lot of time prepping the dirt.
3. What is a good substrate cap that is black or dark brown? Eco-Complete?
4. Any other tips for someone new to planted tanks? I have been lurking for a while, but any advice helps.

Thanks, and Im excited to getting this tank set up!
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Old 04-02-2013, 04:21 AM   #2
bpb
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MGOCPM doesnt require THAT much sifting. I would think for your tank that could be done in under an hour at most. Dirt is gonna need sifting though. No way around it. Not alot of retailers bag up dirt that is the fine grained variety we use. Sticks and filler are what sell lol.

If an hour is still too much, just go with all eco complete or fluorite and use root tabs until the substrate gets loaded with ferts over time (or spend the $$ and get ADA) substrate).

Others are way smarter than me about lighting, but I think that your light should be adequate.
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Old 04-02-2013, 04:23 AM   #3
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Alright cool. Any tips on sifting the soil? Do you do it by hand, or do you use some sort of strainer?
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Old 04-02-2013, 04:35 AM   #4
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Well. My experience is in mineralized topsoil. Very fine grains. For miracle grow, a popular method seems to be this...

Empty the bag in a bucket. Fill it with water. Stir it up real well. Let it soak for a day. Stir it up. Net the stuff that still floats. Empty. Refill. Net the floaters until you don't have any more. Use the remainder as your dirt. It's messy. Will take some effort but can be done in one sitting on a tank that small
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Old 04-02-2013, 01:17 PM   #5
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Or you can use a noodle strainer.
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Old 04-02-2013, 01:18 PM   #6
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I think you sift top soil (not MGOPM) if you are making MTS.

If you are using MGOPM, just dump in and cap.
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Old 04-02-2013, 01:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 10gallonplanted View Post
Or you can use a noodle strainer.
+1 the strainer is what I use. Works wonderfully for removing sticks and stones. For large jobs, you could even build a shaker screen out of window screen.

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Old 04-02-2013, 02:42 PM   #8
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I would recommend just using Eco-Complete for the entire tank. Far easier and I personally dislike ever capping soil as it eventually becomes a mess for everyone I have seen. I personally use a simple watts per gallon rule (PAR method is better, but lacking a meter is useless) 15 gallons/24 watts = 1.6 watts per gallon. Decent for lower light plants and possibly some tougher stems. Just use some root tabs and you'll be fine. I think you'll be far happier and the tank will be far easier to maintain in the long term.
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Old 04-02-2013, 05:50 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mnemenoi View Post
I would recommend just using Eco-Complete for the entire tank. Far easier and I personally dislike ever capping soil as it eventually becomes a mess for everyone I have seen. I personally use a simple watts per gallon rule (PAR method is better, but lacking a meter is useless) 15 gallons/24 watts = 1.6 watts per gallon. Decent for lower light plants and possibly some tougher stems. Just use some root tabs and you'll be fine. I think you'll be far happier and the tank will be far easier to maintain in the long term.
If I decide to use Eco-Complete, do I have to add anything to the substrate? Would it be as low maintenance as a dirt tank?
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Old 04-02-2013, 07:05 PM   #10
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You'll definitely need to use root tabs if you're using Eco complete alone. It's actually not a bad way to go. I had awesome success using API root tabs and plain gravel. They really helped super charge growth. You'll need to continually add them every 6 months or so because they will dissolve and deplete over time but its an easy way to go. I would put one tab in a paper towel and hit it with a hammer to break it into smaller pieces and I'd just jam one down into the dirt every couple inches in a grid pattern. Hope that helps
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Old 04-02-2013, 09:27 PM   #11
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Alright, just got back from Home Depot, here's what I picked up:

1. Miracle-Gro Organic Potting Mix
2. Aggregate Paving Sand
3. An extra bucket

My total was around $14. So, that takes care of the substrate.

Next steps:
1. Filter out the large particulates from the dirt.
2. Wash the sand.
3. Put in soil and cap with sand.
4. Add hardscape. I am still torn between rocks or driftwood.

Then it's time to buy my plants. I am looking for moderately low light (1.5 WPG) fast growing plants. Any suggestions or direction on where I should look would be appreciated.

Questions:
1. If I am planning on sloping the substrate, should I slope the dirt as well, or should I only slope the sand?
2. What are some low light fast growing plants?
3. Are floating plants necessary? If so, what is a way I can incorporate them into my tank without tak.ing away from the aquascape.
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Old 04-15-2013, 05:05 PM   #12
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Hey guys, heres an update. I got the tank all planted with some watersprite, some swords, and some other plants. I got a little bit of everything to see what would grow best under my tanks conditions. However, there's a problem. I had a single t5 bulb running in a 4 bulb hood, and it burned out. It is only producing about half the light it should be, and the bulb looks wavy like its about to die. The bulb was brand new and was on a switch on the fixture that controlled two bulbs. The switch would turn on the single bulb and also supply power to an empty ballast where another bulb could have been. Could this have been why the bulb burned out?

What are some other lighting suggestions for a 15 gallon tank that I can get maybe at walmart or something?
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Old 04-15-2013, 05:35 PM   #13
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Yeah, running only one bulb in a two bulb fixture seems like a bad idea.

My light recently broke. It is still under warranty, so its being replaced by the company, but I have to wait for it to arrive. In the meantime, I bought a pack of Ecosmart daylight CFL bulbs (they're 14 watt, 5000k, but 6700k would be better) for less than $10 and set up some desk lamps over my tank to hold my plants over in the meantime. If I were going to do it long term, I would have picked up some clamp lights (less than $10 apiece at Home Depot) and used those over my tank. I would think that for a 15, you could just use 2.

Cheap and effective.
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Old 04-15-2013, 08:37 PM   #14
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Alright, just got back from home depot and bought two 5.5" clamp lights and two 26 watt 65k bulbs. I installed them on my tank, and they are very bright. Should I go back and buy the 13 watt bulbs, or are the 26 watt bulbs ok?

I also bought 4 tiger barbs for the tank. Ill upload pictures shortly.
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Old 04-15-2013, 09:15 PM   #15
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Also, If I decide to stick with the 26w CFL's, how long should my photoperiod be?
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