Low Tech Planted Tropheus Tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-16-2019, 03:49 PM Thread Starter
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Low Tech Planted Tropheus Tank

Hi All,

Started a tropheus tank for a while with hardscape only, after a year and a half or so got inspired by planted aquariums and now I'm taking a stab at adding plants to the tank =) A general rule for keeping tropheus is to keep things simple and stable so I've opted to start with low tech and easy plants so I don't change the water parameters too much or if the fish decide to nip at the plants. Anyway here's a start to my planted journey with Tropheus!

Here's the start of the tank day 1 with fry
Aug 4th 2017


Tropheus graze and eat algae in the wild so I turned up the lights to stimulate algae growth for them
April 2nd 2018


Here's the tank today with plants! Tried to add a mix of different varieties of Java ferns/Anubias to get some layers with different leaf sizes. Everything is just wedged into place for now as I want to see if the plants can grow/survive in my current water parameters before I make too many adjustments.
July 11th 2019


Aug 9th 2019


I think I can add a few different species here and there to add some interest. But still doing research for now =) Hope you like it!

Last edited by Duboisi; 08-18-2019 at 01:49 AM. Reason: Adding progress FTS
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post #2 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-22-2019, 05:07 AM
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That is a beautiful setup! The algae covered wood and rocks don't look half bad actually but it looks amazing with plants as well. I also tend to wedge my plants into every corner that's free without any real plan but I think the current plant placement looks fantastic already.
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post #3 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-22-2019, 05:21 AM
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Love it!
The wood has lots of character and really like the combination of the dark wood, light tan substrate, and window film background. I actually prefer the second picture where wood and rock has algae growth. In the third picture, however, it looks like you lost this algae. Maybe just temporarily?
Its always good to see aquarists that stretch the "no plants with cichlids" mantra and prove that it can be done. It definitely can be done if put in some time exploring options and pick the right plants for the cichlids kept.
Took a lot of trial and error with my geophagus to do this; but, finally found the plants that worked.
Thanks for sharing. Keep us posted on the progress.

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post #4 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-22-2019, 06:28 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by chicken.nublet View Post
That is a beautiful setup! The algae covered wood and rocks don't look half bad actually but it looks amazing with plants as well. I also tend to wedge my plants into every corner that's free without any real plan but I think the current plant placement looks fantastic already.
Thank you! Yes, I'm enjoying the scape currently but I think there's room for improvement =) I'm thinking to add to some smaller leaf plants to give a better illusion of a bigger tank and also add some more layers to look at!

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Love it!
The wood has lots of character and really like the combination of the dark wood, light tan substrate, and window film background. I actually prefer the second picture where wood and rock has algae growth. In the third picture, however, it looks like you lost this algae. Maybe just temporarily?
Its always good to see aquarists that stretch the "no plants with cichlids" mantra and prove that it can be done. It definitely can be done if put in some time exploring options and pick the right plants for the cichlids kept.
Took a lot of trial and error with my geophagus to do this; but, finally found the plants that worked.
Thanks for sharing. Keep us posted on the progress.
I do enjoy the algae look also but it was becoming a little bit of a pain to maintain the glass and especially the sand. Looks great on the wood and rocks but once it's on the sand it looks like the aquarium is unkept and dirty.

The tank is starting to get some diatoms after adding plants. Is this normal? Didn't really notice much prior to adding the plants and the tank has been set up for 1.5 years already. I am dosing 1/2 recommended dosage of Tropica Premium Fertiliser for micro and potassium. (Not sure if I even need it yet since all I have are going to be slow growing plants)


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post #5 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-24-2019, 04:41 PM Thread Starter
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Seems like one of the Bucephalandra didn't make it to the transition. However it's weird that the 'rot' seems to be rubbing onto the anubias nearby.


The other buce seems like it's just about to start it's melt too.


I do have a third one that seems to be doing okay in the shade. This is making me wonder if it's due to too much lighting.


After some googling it seems like too much light could be a possibility since only the plants directly under the light are suffering. (I don't know exactly what par rating my lights give as I just have some cheap LED lights that says 40watts. Anyway, I have used some electrical tape to block out a row of LEDs which is drastically lowering the light so I'm experimenting to see if this helps since I do only plan to stock easy/slow growing/low light plants.

Also here's a photo from the side just for fun. Also finally cleaned my lily pipes after seeing the eye-sore in the previous FTS
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post #6 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-26-2019, 01:06 AM
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Seems like one of the Bucephalandra didn't make it to the transition. However it's weird that the 'rot' seems to be rubbing onto the anubias nearby.
I have experienced something similar not too long ago. A bunch of my bucephalandra, anubias and java fern were very badly affected and I had to get rid of quite a bit of my plants. Not sure what was happening there to be honest.

I think bucephalandra should do ok under high light. You are dosing very lightly so I would wager a guess that there aren't enough nutrients in the water column for them. I'm dosing the Tropica specialised for my tank at a slightly higher dose than Tropica's recommendation, and Tropica's ferts are quite lean if I'm not wrong. My tank is also very similar to yours in terms of plant selection. In any case since you've already reduced the lighting intensity maybe there's no need to increase the fertiliser dosage.

Good luck!


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Last edited by chicken.nublet; 07-26-2019 at 01:20 AM. Reason: ,
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post #7 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-26-2019, 03:54 PM
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I'm glad to see someone doing plants with Tropheus! I have a 57 reef ready tank that I planned to set up with Tropheus a year ago and also be planted. Perhaps try some Val. My plan was Val with Anubias and Java fern.

Bump: What size is the tank?

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post #8 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-26-2019, 06:23 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by chicken.nublet View Post
I have experienced something similar not too long ago. A bunch of my bucephalandra, anubias and java fern were very badly affected and I had to get rid of quite a bit of my plants. Not sure what was happening there to be honest.

I think bucephalandra should do ok under high light. You are dosing very lightly so I would wager a guess that there aren't enough nutrients in the water column for them. I'm dosing the Tropica specialised for my tank at a slightly higher dose than Tropica's recommendation, and Tropica's ferts are quite lean if I'm not wrong. My tank is also very similar to yours in terms of plant selection. In any case since you've already reduced the lighting intensity maybe there's no need to increase the fertiliser dosage.

Good luck!
Yeah I've trimmed out all the questionable leaves, so far the rest are fine and getting new growth. Figured I'd see what happens if I lower the light for a few weeks. Learning as I go with plants so far =)

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Originally Posted by reddhawkk View Post
I'm glad to see someone doing plants with Tropheus! I have a 57 reef ready tank that I planned to set up with Tropheus a year ago and also be planted. Perhaps try some Val. My plan was Val with Anubias and Java fern.

Bump: What size is the tank?
Yes! I love Tropheus and also planted tanks, so why not both! =) Please do! There needs to be more Tropheus love in this forum. All those plants you listed will be fine with Tropheus too!

Tank size is 48x18x18 approx 65 US gallons/250litres


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post #9 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-27-2019, 05:26 PM Thread Starter
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The tank is still a work in progress. Today I've switched out most of the larger leaf plants to smaller ones to give a better sense/illusion of scale.

A pic of "before" just for quick comparison


Experimenting with some Hygrophilia Pinnatifida, although searching online seems liek this one can be a bit finicky especially coming from emersed growth. Also added a pot of Trident Fern to see the difference compared to the current narrow leaf java fern (Trident fern on bottom)


Finally sprinkled a few more Bucephalandras around replacing the larger Anubias leaves. - I trimmed the flower after this pic so the plant spends more energy adapting to my water instead.


Overall pretty happy with the progress! I think I can still add something in the backgrounds. Maybe some bolbitis heudelotii or something.
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post #10 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-28-2019, 04:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Duboisi View Post
The tank is still a work in progress. Today I've switched out most of the larger leaf plants to smaller ones to give a better sense/illusion of scale.

A pic of "before" just for quick comparison


Experimenting with some Hygrophilia Pinnatifida, although searching online seems liek this one can be a bit finicky especially coming from emersed growth. Also added a pot of Trident Fern to see the difference compared to the current narrow leaf java fern (Trident fern on bottom)


Finally sprinkled a few more Bucephalandras around replacing the larger Anubias leaves. - I trimmed the flower after this pic so the plant spends more energy adapting to my water instead.


Overall pretty happy with the progress! I think I can still add something in the backgrounds. Maybe some bolbitis heudelotii or something.
Hmm, for some reason your pictures aren't showing up for me. Sounds like a pretty good plant selection but I think hygro pinnatifida prefers higher light, I didn't have much success with it myself but I hope they do well for you.

Based on your first picture it looks like you have a lot of anubias golds in there, perhaps you could try some other varieties? I really love coffeefolia because of the dark colour and crazy texture. Angustifolia has an nice, long foliage. Pangolino is expensive but is a gorgeous little plant. I would really like to have more varieties of anubias myself but some varieties are just so expensive.


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post #11 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-30-2019, 01:37 PM Thread Starter
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Hmm, for some reason your pictures aren't showing up for me. Sounds like a pretty good plant selection but I think hygro pinnatifida prefers higher light, I didn't have much success with it myself but I hope they do well for you.

Based on your first picture it looks like you have a lot of anubias golds in there, perhaps you could try some other varieties? I really love coffeefolia because of the dark colour and crazy texture. Angustifolia has an nice, long foliage. Pangolino is expensive but is a gorgeous little plant. I would really like to have more varieties of anubias myself but some varieties are just so expensive.
Yes I've read the same, but also some success stories here and there. Anyway, It seems like hygrophila pinnatifida is a difficult one. Although might be a blessing in disguise. It's starting to have some black dots (is this what you call pin holes?) I've read that hygrophila pinnatifida can be an early indicator for potassium deficiency and I haven't dosed any Potassium yet.


Added some Bolbitis in the background so I grabbed my slr for a quick FTS


And while I have my camera here's a pic of some buce


Although seems like another buce is melting, could it be the potassium also? the rhizomes look brown rather than green and it looks pretty dead rather than just melting the leaves for new growth. Another possibility is high temp? It gets really hot in the summer here (31 celcius/88 F) and I've read that buce prefers cooler waters? Anyway still learning as I go, so I appreciate any tips.


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post #12 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-30-2019, 05:05 PM
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Have you had any of the cichlids jump out due to the open top?

180 g. low tech w/ wild South American cichlids, corydoras eques, and African Congo riverine tetras.
60 g. low tech w/ F1 Alenquer discus pair and wild Altum Angels
30 g. low tech - Breeding tank
30 g. low-tech Shrimp tank - wild-type neocaradina and Caridina cf. babaulti "Zebra"
9 gallon Shrimp tank- Caridina cantonensis ("Golden Bee's"). *Tank still at cycling stage.

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post #13 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-31-2019, 04:42 AM
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Although seems like another buce is melting, could it be the potassium also? the rhizomes look brown rather than green and it looks pretty dead rather than just melting the leaves for new growth. Another possibility is high temp? It gets really hot in the summer here (31 celcius/88 F) and I've read that buce prefers cooler waters? Anyway still learning as I go, so I appreciate any tips.
I believe plants in general will do better in slightly cooler temperatures. It gets really hot in Singapore as well but doesn't seem to affect room temperature much. How warm is your water?


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post #14 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-31-2019, 09:52 AM Thread Starter
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Have you had any of the cichlids jump out due to the open top?
Yep, lost two from jumping (over the last 2 years). ever since lowering my water level I haven't any problems yet [knock on wood]

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I believe plants in general will do better in slightly cooler temperatures. It gets really hot in Singapore as well but doesn't seem to affect room temperature much. How warm is your water?
This tank is in the office and when I leave it can creep up to 30c+ 86f+ on the hot days.

Just for record and sake of a journal, I started dosing Potassium yesterday to around 7 or 8ppm. Will monitor the next few weeks to see how the buce is doing. Anubias and Ferns seems to be doing fine with new growth. I do intend to add more plants as it seems like most plants are doing ok for now. That and the more plant biomass the better? heh heh


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post #15 of 36 (permalink) Old 07-31-2019, 12:32 PM
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I have similar plants as yours: buce, java fern and anubia. I use superglue to attach to rock. I don't think you have too much light, just out of balance nutrients. Fish food is rich in nitrogen and phosphate, but lack potassium, bio available iron, and some micro nutrients. So you need to supplement with potassium, chelated iron and micro nutrients or else your plants will not do well.

Diatom is normal in newly planted tank and will go away on its own after settling down. A school of bristlenose plecos will help.
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