awrieger's plant adventures (56K warning) - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 268 (permalink) Old 06-09-2005, 05:14 AM Thread Starter
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awrieger's plant adventures (56K warning)

Hi there. I thought I'd journal my progress!

Where to start? It's been years since I've had tropicals, having changed over to goldfish many years ago. Goldfish are very difficult to keep as they grow large and consume a lot of food so it's hard to keep their tanks clean and the fish healthy. So I alway sopted for minimal decor and bare bottoms.

But that's a bit boring for both me and the fish, so about six months ago I thought I'd add some plants. To keep the 'ease of cleaning' aspect, I opted to plant in pots (actually plain glass jars). Here's the first effort around xmas time:

The tank's approx 35 gallons, and I also added CO2 diffusion (cylinder plus JBL pH controller). Lights are 3 x 30 watt Gro-Lux fluoro tubes which makes it around 2.57 watts/gal.

Fertiliser was standard off-the-shelf AquaMaster Plant Food at 28 drops a day as per the instructions on the label. Here's how it looked about 3 weeks later in January, Rearranged it a bit (easy to do with pots) and added one or two new plants, and plants generally seems to be growing very well, maybe too well:

The jars had JBL Aquabasis Plus as a base with plain 2-3mm gravel on top:

The tank might look a bit crowded from front on, but there was actually quite a decent bit of space for the fish, which was another benefit. Instead of having to barge between the plants, they could swim about 'below ground level' so to speak without disturbing the plants themselves.

FOOTNOTE. The aeration caused my tiny JBL bottle of CO2 to expire pretty quickly, so in the four weeks it took me to finally get around to finding a gas supplier and get a huge 10kg bottle of CO2, all this healthy growth was undone, so I basically had to start again!
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post #2 of 268 (permalink) Old 06-09-2005, 05:29 AM Thread Starter
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So, second attempt, and a change of personnel in the tank. Much larger fish! Am I a glutton for punishent? Some of the original plants survived, and I added some new ones. This time more as an experiment to see which would survive the larger fish.

It didn't take long to learn that soft Val in the back (not even sure if it is Val, seems more fragile so I suspect it's Blyxa), the Lotus and the Limnophila Aromatica are targets for destruction.

Anyway, the rest grew okay and I started accumulating runners and cuttings of the destroyed ones in another tank with smaller fish in preparation of doing a 'proper' planted tank experiment. Here's Bumpy inspecting rows of them:

But I didn't want to use the JBL Aquabasis, so I had to find some decent substrate. Another member on here from Perth, Duck, helped me out with selling me some Eco-Complete. Just did a quick test in a few jars to see how it looked and see if it could hold the plants against the fish's rough and tumble:

I really like the black look of Eco-Complete. To give you an idea of the size of the Black Oranda (she's called Sox), the mid-size jar behind her is a standard mustard jar, and the larger ones further back are standard drinking glasses.

I've concluded this substrate is only going to hold deep-rooted plants against the battering from goldfish if they have to push between the plants. Or else I need to leave wide paths for the fish!

Last edited by awrieger; 06-09-2005 at 09:43 AM.
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post #3 of 268 (permalink) Old 06-09-2005, 05:42 AM Thread Starter
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Sooo.. time to do a 'proper' planted tank now! Instead of a goldfish tank, I thought I'd experiment with my smaller 19 gallon hospital tank as tropical tank to see if I get this 'plant thing' right.

So here it is on the floor last week, with all the required jars moved into it to acclimitise to the CO2 and the new light. 2 x 55 watts = a whopping 5.73 watts/gallon! Too much??

Okay, so yesterday I bit the bullet and set it up on my desk. Put the Eco-Complete in, transplanted all the plants from the jars, went and bought lots of zebra danios and silver tip tetras and chucked them in.

So this is it the next morning, today. My first proper planted tank, ta da!

The substrate looks really deep. I just followed the instructions which said 3". Maybe it just looks deep because the tank's not so big.

Anyway, because it's on my desk, it's viewable from two sides. Here's the opposite view from my chair.

PS. That reddish ghostly blob almost dead centre is a 12" albino Oscar on the other side of the room.
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post #4 of 268 (permalink) Old 06-09-2005, 05:50 AM Thread Starter
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I really like this Limnophilia sessilliflora. It's so nice and green and fluffy!

Okay, here's the plant breakdown. I've just realised they're all going to grow HUGE! Well, hopefully... that means I'm doing it right..

On the left side of the tank:

And on the right:

So there we go. It's not the most imaginative layout, flat bottom and all. But if this tank goes okay (ie I can control algae etc and keep it clean), I'll be setting up the two aquascaped larger goldfish planted tanks which I'd like to post here step by step. But see how this tank goes first!

PS. Technical stuff: I've pumped up the KH to 10 and the pH is approx 7 to keep the CO2 up around 30ppm. I don't have a controller on this tank, so it's guesswork with bubbles. Um, what else.. oh yeah, I trasferred some media from an existing canister filter so cycling shouldn't be an issue. Ferts are K2SO4, Iron Chelate, AZOO Plant Nutrients and Flourish Excel. That's it I think.
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post #5 of 268 (permalink) Old 06-09-2005, 08:58 AM
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I like the last tank.
Those goldfish are huge.

You can always add but never take.

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post #6 of 268 (permalink) Old 06-10-2005, 03:33 AM
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hey awrieger so you decided to get on a plant forum(I'm on GFP too ave08)
Is that black oranda a Gunn fish? I'm happy you didn't use pots again. Should be nice when it grows in bu i'd toss some small foreground plant in.
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post #7 of 268 (permalink) Old 06-10-2005, 04:56 PM Thread Starter
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Hey Dave. Fancy meeting a plant person like you on a plant forum!

For those interested, Dave helped me out with my CO2 back around the first pic in this thread stage. I was increasing the KH, but then buffering it back down again to the desired pH *before* any CO2. D'oh!! I obviously didn't know much about the pH / CO2 relation. Not only that, the sodium biphosphate buffer I was using was sending the PO4 levels off the chart!

Nope, she's not a Gunn fish, but she looks very similar to one you've probably seen up for auction recently, so maybe he's getting his fish from the same breeders in HK or China that the people I'm getting mine from here are getting theirs from. They could've been siblings, but ended up on either side of the world!

I'm not too fussed about the actual 'aquascaping' aspect (ie adding foreground plants) right at the moment as it's really just for me to learn and get to know the ins and outs of this plant-growing caper. Most especially the fertiliser stuff and algae control aspects. And also learn what's involved in keeping a tank like this as clean as possible.
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post #8 of 268 (permalink) Old 06-10-2005, 05:14 PM
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Are you running an airstone? If you are then you're outgassing most of the CO2 that you inject into the tank. A little bit of surface ripple is OK, but any surface agitation (bubbles and splashing) will cause you to lose a bunch of CO2. How high a bubble rate do you need to keep your CO2 in the 30ppm range?


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post #9 of 268 (permalink) Old 06-10-2005, 06:16 PM Thread Starter
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Yep! I love seeing bubbles coming out of pots! So much, I'm quite prepared to sacrifice CO2 gas to compensate for it.

Apart from that, the air bubbles actually serve a legitimate purpose to ensure water flow through the pot the marble queen is planted in so there's no stagnation there.

I don't actually have a CO2 bubble counter, so I just adjusted the regulator until I got it levelled out to pH 7 (or close enough). But my guess looking at them through the diffuser would be about 3, maybe 4 bubbles per second. Maybe more.

But the aeration's actually not the main cause of CO2 loss though. The filter outflow pipe is below the surface but I've aimed it slighly upwards, and it's that rippling which is the major culprit. But again, I'm prepared to sacrifice CO2 gas to ensure sufficient and healthy oxygen levels at all times for the fish, and as I don't fancy adjusting the filter outflow twice a day, it'll stay like that 24/7.

As it's set up now, it's maintaining a steady and reasonably healthy dissolved oxygen level of 6.2 ppm at night even with all the plants and wee little fishies' O2 consumption.
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post #10 of 268 (permalink) Old 06-10-2005, 09:04 PM
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Very nice journal you just jump started with all the pics. Looks like you've got a pretty good handle on things. My only thought would be that IF you start having major algae/balance issues on the new tank, you might want to remove one of the 55w bulbs until the tank gets going more vigorously. But if you don't have any issues, then 5+ WPG must be just fine!!

Good work!
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post #11 of 268 (permalink) Old 06-11-2005, 09:00 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks, Brian! And thanks for the suggestion about the light too.

Speaking of algae issues, yesterday (the second day) I noticed a fine green layer of algae developing all over the glass and I'm like "Nooooooo! Waaahh! So soon?!?", but today on the third day it was gone.

I can still see the fine dusty spots where it all was, but it's no longer green and it appears to be now deceased before it even got a chance to get going. So I think there's definitely something to this high lights malarky. I won't say it's high nutrients because the NO3 is only testing at 1ppm so that's a definite deficiency, yet the algae still died off.

It can't possibly be an allele or a toxin because it happened just too fast. It takes days or weeks for an algicide to break down algae cells (believe me, I've tried lots of them!). And the tank's only been up for three days, so not long enough for an allele to accumulate. Something that kills thousands of blooming algae cells literally overnight can only be an oxidiser like a UV, Ozone or Hydrogen Peroxide. But no UV on this tank, or O3 either. Along with the strong light and high CO2, I'm also full-dosing Flourish Excel daily, so my belief that it's strong light + liquid C + O2 in H2O = H2O2 that's doing it has been strengthened!

Speaking of strong lights, I've just worked out that now with a 3" substrate, the water volume is only 15.5 gallons, not the original 19. So that makes the light a massive 7.09 watts per gallon!! Is that how it works? Do you include the substrate when calculating volume?

So I guess I can switch one of the 55w tubes off (they have separate switches so I don't have to actually remove a bulb) and I should still have a decent 3.56 watts/gal. Which I think might be better because with the strong lights on it now, the Sessiflora on the left has already reached the surface after only three days! 6" in just three days. 2" a day is just too fast!!! Looky:

Brian, I guess the tank's already growing vigorously from day one! I'll admit that using all already established and growing plants has given me a running start instead of using plants newly-bought from the store. None of this waiting for plants to establish or emersed leaves to drop off nonsense!

The Sunset Hygro on the right is also zooming up as is the Aromatica at right back. The Bacopa too. So I think I really need to slow the growth down, or forget about stem plants! Don't want to be pruning heavily every few days...

I'll keep the high light for a while longer though as I want to confirm what the situation with algae is.

I have to add the Sessiliflora growth looks a whole lot better in lower light and low CO2 conditions. You can see it in the tank-on-the-floor pic where I'd just moved it in and it's all nice and bushy and branching. But in the high light, it just gets all stalky and doesn't branch at all as it shoots up.

Anyway, as I mentioned already, the nitrates are only 1ppm. I don't know if it's so low because the plants are gobbling it all up or not. I'm feeding the fish like crazy but it doesn't seem to get any higher than that (yet). So as an experiment, I just swapped out 50% of the water with some from a goldie tank with 10ppm nitrate. So I'll test again tomorrow to see how much there is tomorrow.


Temp - 27.3 C
pH - 7.03 (how cool is that, just using adjustments to the regulator? )
NH4 - 0 ppm
NO2 - 0.05 ppm
NO3 - 1 ppm
KH - 9 deg
CO2 - 27 ppm
O2 (night) - 6.2 ppm
O2 (day) - 8.2 ppm

So at full blast the plants are only adding 2 ppm to the Dissolved Oxygen content during the day, which means a full 75% of O2 is being provided by the air through surface exchange. And the plants *are* producing O2 - here's the large Anubia leaf in the centre of the tank.

Last edited by awrieger; 06-11-2005 at 12:35 PM.
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post #12 of 268 (permalink) Old 06-11-2005, 09:57 AM
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Hey awrieger,
I am wondering about your JBL co2 setup. Is it the proflora co2 set vario range?
I if it is, did you encounter any difficulties in getting a larger co2 tank to fit? And lastly, if live in Sydney, where did you get the co2 refilled?
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post #13 of 268 (permalink) Old 06-11-2005, 12:19 PM Thread Starter
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Hi VW. You're right, it was a JBL Proflora CO2 Set vario 500 Profi 1. I bought the JBL pH controller and solenoid separately. Which actually makes it a complete vario 3 set, but they only had the vario 1 set, so they sold them to me separately but at the same price as the set.

The 500g little bottle didn't last me long and I only got it re-filled once. I bought the whole setup from Strictly Aquariums (who seem to be a JBL franchise) on the proviso they would 'sometime soon' be getting a re-fill service. But they never did, and the only place I could find who could refill it was St George Aquariums (cost $9). It was all very difficult and not worth it considering how frequently I realised I would have to refill it.

So I ended up renting a 10kg cylinder from Supagas (deposit, monthly rental and delivery direct to your door whenever you need a replacement) and lo and behold, the JBL regulator didn't fit! (Another proviso of me buying it, Strictly Aquariums swearing it would fit onto standard cylinders if I ever wanted to expand, but nooooo...). The JBL regulator's seal is only a fraction of a millimetre too big, a hair's breath, oh so near yet oh so far... but it just didn't fit.

So to answer you question, YES, it was very difficult to fit to a larger cylinder. Impossible in fact!

Maybe it'd fit on a BOC cylinder, but I already had the Supagas one, so I ordered a Tunze regulator from instead of wasting more time (my plants were all withering!). They were really good. Said if the JBL solenoid didn't fit onto it, just send it back for a refund. But it all fit together. The Tunze regulator fit the cylinder and the JBL solenoid fit the Tunze. So now I'm not actually using anything from the JBL vario set 1 except the diffuser, seeing as I purchased the pH controller separately.

I've since bought a second Tunze regulator which I am now using on this test tank (along with a second CO2 cylinder).

If I were to do it all over again, I'd definitely go Tunze for the whole setup right from the outset. Mostly because of the lower initial cost, but also the lower expandability costs as well. I wouldn't have to get a separate cylinder and regulator for each tank. I believe their solenoid attaches mid-tube instead of directly on the regulator like JBL, so you can run more than one tank (complete with individual pH controllers) off a single cylinder if you use a manifold to disperse several tubes off the regulator.

Sorry for the long reply. I hope it helps though!
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post #14 of 268 (permalink) Old 06-12-2005, 07:06 AM
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Wow! Thankyou! You have answered all my questions for co2. I have been searching for ages to find someone who refills co2 cylinders. Further I know the St. George Aquarium place as well as Strictly Aquariums! How large and heavy are the 10kg cylinder? (ie when full)
Problem is that my tank is in my bedroom and I am a bit concerned for the saftey, with regards to the cylinder. If it leaks co2 while im asleep or launches itself across the room!
I was almost about to buy the JBL set up, but the cylinder size seems safer in my situation, however I don't know how often it would require refilling. I only have a 10 gallon (or 25 litres in Australia :b) tank.
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post #15 of 268 (permalink) Old 06-12-2005, 08:00 AM Thread Starter
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A 10kg CO2 cylinder funnily enough doesn't weigh 10kg. It weighs 13kg empty and 24kg full, so the gas itself would be 11kg. So no chance of it flying anywhere! It's 70cm high (including the tap) and 20cm wide, so it'll be pretty big and noticeable if you have it sitting in your room.

For your immediate purposes though, I'd say a 10kg is overdoing it and the JBL cylinder would suit your needs much better, especially if you can get to St George Aquariums for refills. And it'll look much better too (not all scuffed and scratched like the industrial bottles). Mine didn't last long simply because I had it on a 135 litre tank with heavy aeration so was wasting most of it and used it up pretty fast. But I still got a good few weeks out of it, so yours should last you at least a couple of months between refills.

The only thing is that if you plan on expanding to much larger tanks and larger CO2 cylinders in the future you can't use the JBL regulator. But that's okay, you can always keep the JBL unit as a back-up. In fact, I might just do that myself next time I ever visit St George again. Get it filled and just keep it as an emergency reserve in case my big ones run out over a long weekend or something!

PS. I've had no problems at all with leaks with either the Tunze or JBL regulator, or even any tube connections coming loose etc, so you should feel pretty safe.
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