Thought I'd start this thread because with this aquarium I pretty much went against all of my instincts and the results have turned out good. Maybe someone else can use this for inspiration for a new tank.
I've had several planted tanks over the past 10 years or so. Almost all have been high-tech, high-light, using substrates from the ADA system to Eco-Complete and Flourite. Over that time I've moved frequently so I have had a chance to do a number of restarts and try different things. The consistent part has been that I've used the EI method and had reasonable results when I had the time to devote to the water changes and such.
Equipment & Startup
Having finished my basement theater with an in-wall 75 gallon aquarium, I needed to get something started -- not much uglier than an empty aquarium in a wall.
I decided to give something different a try and give the Mineralized Topsoil a go, targeting minimal water changes and less maintenance. My concern obviously was that my light would be relatively high compared to what I was seeing in general. At the time, I had a 6x54 Tek T5 light, which I could turn two lights off ... giving me 4x54. I went with this on a 7 hour light cycle to start.
My other equipment:
- Eheim Pro II Thermofilter
- Eheim 2213 Filter (secondary circulation)
- Coralife UV (on 2213)
- In-line CO2 atomizer
- Hydor powerhead
I started it in mid-September with some cuttings sent from one of my aquarium buddies in my old locale. Cuttings were mostly blyxa, ludwigia, dwarf hairgrass, rotala and some anubias. This is how it looked:
Growth was slow and steady. I was really impressed with the tank startup. While hesitant about not fertilizing or doing regular water changes, things were going well. Other than a diatom phase, I had zero serious algae other than a small area of clado on the driftwood that I clearly didn't bleach out. Scraped it off and kept an eye on it and things were fine. This is how things looked after a month or so:
It is stocked with 8 German Blue Rams, 20 cherry shrimp, 20 amano shrimp, approximately 20 blue tetras, three julii cories and four otos -- not an exceptionally high load, but not tiny either.
Water changes are at about 10 gallons every two weeks, taken out while doing cutting and maintenance on the tank.
Like the idiot I am, while doing some maintenance I managed to dip the edge of my Tek into the water, frying a ballast. This was around mid-October. I still had two lights functional but clearly that wasn't enough. A local friend of mine had a couple of metal halides from his reef tank that he wasn't using, so we rigged those up until I fixed the ballast
So we're now at ... 250w each, giving me 2x250 or 500w. 6500k bulbs. Same seven hour light cycle.
I figured I'd end up with algae soup as I'd never run that high on a tank, but figured I'd see what happened since the experiment had been going so well.
I was shocked. The tank just took off with that much light on it, and still no algae problems. The plants began to get nice red colors, and overall appeared more healthy than I've ever had under my 6x54 T5.
Growth was still manageable, less than 6x54 T5 under EI, but the plants seemed hardier even if they didn't grow as fast. In the past the bottoms of the stem plants rarely stayed very healthy, with the metal halide though, the bottom of the stems stayed in great condition so there was little need to replant.
Here is what it looked like as of early December after two months of 500 watts of metal halide 7 hours a day and 2 bubbles per second of CO2:
Not bad. Healthy and the lowest maintenance tank I've ever had, bar none. There might be something to this MTS thing after all.
I'll keep this thread updated and answer if there are any questions -- but if you're on the fence about MTS and have high light, I'd suggest giving it a go if you're looking for low(er) maintenance. If I was growing plants for sale where I needed fast growth, I would no doubt stick with EI, but for a display tank, this is working very well.