Setting Up A Low Tech / Low Light / High CEC Substrate Planted Tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-21-2019, 07:06 PM Thread Starter
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Setting Up A Low Tech / Low Light / High CEC Substrate Planted Tank

Hi All,

Just before I became ‘buried’ with the AGA convention (Aquatic Gardeners Association / aquatic-gardeners.org ) one the our forum members sent me a PM asked me how I set up my planted tanks. Rather than just provide the information to one person I decided (now that the dust has settled) to do a post so all have the opportunity to see how I am currently doing my planted tanks.

My 10 gallon tank had been set up for over a year, the previous inhabitants had moved on, and all that was in the tank were a Corydoras and an Otocinclus. I picked up some Melanotaenia lacustris (Turquoise / Lake Kutubu Ranbowfish) fry at the AGA convention and they needed a home so on Sunday I moved the fish out of the 10 gallon and did a complete teardown and reset. Here is how I did it.

After I cleaned the tank, the filter, the glass top, and the heater I was ready to start.



First I added a handful of 1/4 inch red lava stone which contain a lot of iron. If I were using Osmocote tabs or mineralized soil I would add that now as well.



Next I opened a new bag of Safe-t-sorb (calcined clay / Tractor Supply - 40# @ $6.49) which I am using for the substrate and put about 3” into my fish bucket.



I took it to the kitchen sink, filled the bucked half way, and rinsed the substrate stirring it with my hands. After two rinses the water coming out of the bucket still looks like chocolate milk. BTW, clay substrates will never rinse clean like gravel. Then I took the substrate to the clean, empty 10 gallon tank and started adding the Safe-t-sorb substrate. I like about 1-1/2 inches of substrate in my tanks so it is easy to plant without stems or plants floating to the surface. It took about 3 buckets of substrate to fill the tank. I sloped the substrate slightly higher in back than the front so detritus would move to the front where I could see it and siphon it out more easily.



Next I installed the hardscape, in this case it is Seiryu Stone (aka Ying Stone) that I treated with muriatic acid to darken the stones and make them look more weathered. I also installed the heater (unplugged) at this time so I would not have to deal with it later.



Now it was time to fill the tank. Remember how the rinse water from the substrate looked like chocolate milk? Do you want your tank to look like that after filling? If not here is how to avoid that problem. Take a piece of wax paper and lay it on the substrate of the empty tank. On top of the wax paper, in the middle, place a saucer. Add the water slowly being careful to hit the saucer. As it fills it should look like this.



After filling this is how it looks; cloudy but certainly not ‘milky’.



Next I installed the Aquaclear 20 HOB filter. In the filter I have ceramic rings and one (1) sponge - nothing else; no charcoal (which removes fertilizers) and no additives. I use Seachem Prime to remove chlorine and chloramines that are added to local water supplies. It was time to call it an evening, this is what the tank looked like after the filter had been running for about 2 hours.



Part Two will be posted later.

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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-26-2019, 04:17 AM Thread Starter
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Hi All,

Continuing from Post #1 above, here is Part 2 of my 10 gallon low tech, low light, high CEC journal.

Just before I went to bed, I took some water samples of the tank and did readings on pH, dKH, and dGH; these were the results:
pH – 6.2
dKH – 3.0
dGH – 3.0 (53.7 ppm)

The next morning I came downstairs, turned on the light, and this is what the tank looked like. Not bad if I say so myself. The water is still a little ‘brown’ but the tank had cleared substantially.



I again took some readings and these are the results:
pH – 6.2
dKH – 1.0
dGH – 3.0 (53.7 ppm)

Since I know that planting the tank will disturb the substrate and stir up ‘dust’ I decided that I would go ahead and start planting the tank then rather than wait until it cleared. I didn’t order, or purchase, any plants for this tank. I am just using plants that were in the tank before I cleaned it and some plants from my other tanks. After planting this is what I looked like.



I added a few small Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Bronze’ on the left in front of the stone and some Nymphaea micrantha ‘Gefleckt’ plantlets behind the rock. In the center are 4 stems of Pogostemon erectus that were not doing well in my 45 gallon. Just to the right of the Pogostemon erectus are 3 stems of Rotala ‘Vietnam’ (aka ‘H’ra) that also were not doing well in my 45 gallon. Tucked in with the Pogostemon and Rotala is some short, red stems of Ludwigia arcuata. Next is a small Nymphoides hydrophylla (aka sp. ‘Taiwan’) and lastly on the right in the back is Ceratopteris cornuta (aka Broadleaf Watersprite). In front of the rock on the right is some tissue culture Ranunculus inundatus that I foolishly allowed to almost dry completely before planting. Also, barely visible in the pictures are six plants of the red variant of Helanthium tenellum (previously Echinodorus tenellus red / Pygmy Chain Sword).

I added a few small Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Bronze’ on the left in front of the stone and some Nymphaea micrantha ‘Gefleckt’ plantlets behind the rock.


In the center are 4 stems of Pogostemon erectus that were not doing well in my 45 gallon. Just to the right of the Pogostemon erectus are 3 stems of Rotala ‘Vietnam’ (aka ‘H’ra) that also were not doing well in my 45 gallon.


Next is a small Nymphoides hydrophylla (aka sp. ‘Taiwan’) and lastly on the right in the back is Ceratopteris cornuta (aka Broadleaf Watersprite). In front of the rock on the right is some tissue culture Ranunculus inundatus that I foolishly allowed to almost dry completely before planting.


Tucked in with the Pogostemon and Rotala is some short, red stems of Ludwigia arcuata.


I installed the glass top and put the light back in place and called it a day.

Roy_________
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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 05:03 AM Thread Starter
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Hi All,

Just adding a couple more pictures of the low tech tank.

This photo was taken 5/19 a little less than 1 week after set-up.


An this photo was taken today (6/10) about 4 weeks after set-up.

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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 02:40 PM
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Looking spiffy, Roy! Is there a plan behind leaving so much open substrate in the front and middle?

I've never regretted over engineering a system, but often regretted under engineering one.
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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-13-2019, 03:36 AM Thread Starter
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Hi @Phil Edwards,

Not currently. I did not set this tank up as an 'aquascape' but as a grow-out tank for some Mel. lacustris (Turquoise Rainbowfish) fry that I got at the AGA Convention. I am also using the tank as an 'experiment' of using a high CEC substrate with minimal EI dosing, very low dKH, and substrate feeding with Osmocote Plus tabs as suggested by Vin Kutty in his AGA Convention presentation this year. If you haven't reviewed it yet I encourage you do so; very thought provoking. See my post below for some results so far.

************************************************** ************************************************** ************************************************** *********************************************

Hi All,

I always try to be patient and allow my plants to adjust when I make changes; here is an example of what I mean.

Below is a picture of Pogostemon erectus. It was suffering in my 45 gallon with CO2 and EI dosing. It had stunted leaves and extremely slow growth. The tank parameters were: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]

So I moved it to the tank in this thread with low tech, low light, high no CO2 tank and with tank parameters of: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected] (20 ppm Ca & 9.6 ppm Mg); dose Excel 3X per week. I dose low EI with [email protected] however I have added six (6) Osmocote Plus tabs to the substrate.

Can you see the difference in growth over the last four (4) weeks? Notice how the leaves on the lower half of the stems are stunted and curled downward? What changed? I have also seen similar results with my Rotala 'Vietnam' which was in the same 45 gallon tank as the Pogostemon erectus. Is it the low dKH coupled with root feeding as suggested by Vin Kutty in his presentation at the AGA Convention last month? Obviously something improved!

Pogostemon erectus


Rotala 'Vietnam'
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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-13-2019, 10:31 AM
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Roy,

I did get a chance to see Vin's talk and enjoyed it very much. I'm actually trying out something similar to what you're doing in my main display. It's a bit higher light, has CO2, and Aquasolum rather than calcined clay, but the premise is the same. Aside from Ca, Mg, and K additions, the main source of nutrients is Osmocote in the substrate. I'm even going so far as to fill the media chamber with Matrix to (eventually) strip the water of NO3 and PO4. We'll see how that works over time. It's been a bit of a rough start, but things are starting to perk up. I'm really interested in seeing how your P. erectus progresses as it's been a bit of a tricky one for me.
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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-13-2019, 11:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seattle_Aquarist View Post

Not currently. I did not set this tank up as an 'aquascape' but as a grow-out tank for some Mel. lacustris (Turquoise Rainbowfish) fry that I got at the AGA Convention. I am also using the tank as an 'experiment' of using a high CEC substrate with minimal EI dosing, very low dKH, and substrate feeding with Osmocote Plus tabs as suggested by Vin Kutty in his AGA Convention presentation this year.
Out of curiosity and possibly some context, is there are reason Osmocote Plus was suggested specifically or was it for root tabs in general?

I would think that a high CEC substrate would hold more nutrients from a root tab regardless of what is used due to said substrate acting more like soil in terrestrial plants, although not exactly. Then again, I could very well be talking out of my butt, so there's that. LOL
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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-13-2019, 05:02 PM Thread Starter
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Out of curiosity and possibly some context, is there are reason Osmocote Plus was suggested specifically or was it for root tabs in general?

I would think that a high CEC substrate would hold more nutrients from a root tab regardless of what is used due to said substrate acting more like soil in terrestrial plants, although not exactly. Then again, I could very well be talking out of my butt, so there's that. LOL
Hi @Smooch,

Good question, Vin Kutty did specifically mention Osmocote Plus. Likely because it contains macro-nutrients along with micro-nutrients. There are a lot of root tabs out there, some do not contain all of the macro-nutrients or the micro-nutrients.

You are correct, most calcined clay products contain an abundance of micro-nutrients (although no nitrogen or phosphorus). Because a little over half of the nitrogen in Osmocote Plus is in the form of "ammoniacal nitrogen" (aka ammonia) I used calcined clay as the substrate to hopefully "hold" the ammonia in the substrate and minimize its migration to the water column. Other than a brief increase of ammonia (to 1.0 ppm) that lasted until about 14 days after the set-up (which I attribute in part to a lack of an established nitrogen cycle in the new tank) the ammonia level has maintained 0.1 ppm or less for the last couple of weeks.
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Roy,

I did get a chance to see Vin's talk and enjoyed it very much. I'm actually trying out something similar to what you're doing in my main display. It's a bit higher light, has CO2, and Aquasolum rather than calcined clay, but the premise is the same. Aside from Ca, Mg, and K additions, the main source of nutrients is Osmocote in the substrate. I'm even going so far as to fill the media chamber with Matrix to (eventually) strip the water of NO3 and PO4. We'll see how that works over time. It's been a bit of a rough start, but things are starting to perk up. I'm really interested in seeing how your P. erectus progresses as it's been a bit of a tricky one for me.

I would love the cliffnotes of Vin's talk as I couldn't attend.

My own experience with P. Erectus and R. Rotundifolia tells me it doesn't need root tabs at all and only lean water column ferts and doesn't require aquasoil. IMO aquasoil complicates things when doing lean dosing as you can't control/know how much it captures, retains, or provides to plants.

These were algae ridden unhealthy stunted stems about 2 - 3 inches high before(Under Thrive(EI) and Tropica Aquasoil) that I planted into inert coarse gravel into a tiny crowded space at the back of my new tank as an experiment 3 - 4 weeks ago. Now some stems are at or near the top of my 14 inch tank. Ferts were only 1ml Tropica Specialized daily.

They are both starting to color up to yellow/orange at the tops as they are getting higher light intensity.

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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-14-2019, 12:19 AM Thread Starter
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I would love the cliffnotes of Vin's talk as I couldn't attend.

My own experience with P. Erectus and R. Rotundifolia tells me it doesn't need root tabs at all and only lean water column ferts and doesn't require aquasoil. IMO aquasoil complicates things when doing lean dosing as you can't control/know how much it captures, retains, or provides to plants.

These were algae ridden unhealthy stunted stems about 2 - 3 inches high before(Under Thrive(EI) and Tropica Aquasoil) that I planted into inert coarse gravel into a tiny crowded space at the back of my new tank as an experiment 3 - 4 weeks ago. Now some stems are at or near the top of my 14 inch tank. Ferts were only 1ml Tropica Specialized daily.

They are both starting to color up to yellow/orange at the tops as they are getting higher light intensity.
Hi @cl3537,

I joined the AGA over a year ago. For members there streaming videos of the presentations done at the conventions going back to 2000. Great presentations from some of the 'giants' of our hobby including Amano, Ole Pedersen, Tom Barr, Karen Randall, and many, many more. The $22 fee to join AGA is worth it just for access to all of the videos of the convention presentations.
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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-14-2019, 12:47 AM
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Hi @cl3537,

I joined the AGA over a year ago. For members there streaming videos of the presentations done at the conventions going back to 2000. Great presentations from some of the 'giants' of our hobby including Amano, Ole Pedersen, Tom Barr, Karen Randall, and many, many more. The $22 fee to join AGA is worth it just for access to all of the videos of the convention presentations.
I would be happy to join, I just did, but I was under the impression even if I do I will only have limited access to the content of past years. Is that true? Maybe you just don't get back issues of the magazine but the online content goes all the way back (I hope).


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post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-14-2019, 01:47 AM Thread Starter
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Hi @cl3537,

The magazine issues go back to 1986 however the earliest editions (that were not digital) have 'gaps' with missing issues; videos go back to when the conventions started in 2000.
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Hi @cl3537,

The magazine issues go back to 1986 however the earliest editions (that were not digital) have 'gaps' with missing issues; videos go back to when the conventions started in 2000.

Well I did join and got my login, but I don't have access to anything after 2017. In addition it seems I will have to pay again for the 2019 streaming when it is available to see Vin and Dennis's talks.


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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old 06-15-2019, 02:33 PM
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Well I did join and got my login, but I don't have access to anything after 2017. In addition it seems I will have to pay again for the 2019 streaming when it is available to see Vin and Dennis's talks.

That is a bit disappointing and misleading, I joined for the sole purpose of seeing these talks(I don't need a print magazine particularly) and it seems the content is not online yet and even for members when it is these presentations will be behind a pay wall.
In the past the most recent convention talks have been made available via DVD to help offset the costs of the convention as the AGA runs on a fairly slim budget.

I've never regretted over engineering a system, but often regretted under engineering one.
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Thanks for starting this thread, Roy. Will be interested to see how it goes for you.

Does anyone know of anybody trying this approach, but with hard water? Not having access to Vin's talk, I don't even know if this would be feasible. But I've started a new tank with STS substrate and want to go low/lower tech with Osmocote root tabs & minimal water column dosing. Would be interesting to know if anyone else out there has tried this, and what their results were.
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