Beginner high-tech low-maintenance 75g tank (new to this) - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-02-2015, 05:01 PM Thread Starter
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Beginner high-tech low-maintenance 75g tank (new to this)

So here is the 75g tank from this shopping list link a few weeks back.

My girlfriend and I decided on the parts, plants, etc and set it all up around 10 days ago. I will try to here just post about the things we thought about and experience we collect during the process. I will include the parts we ordered and plants we planted. The whole thing cost us around $1900 so far, around $1000 more of what we wanted to spend.

We spent days researching things, and what we noticed is that there are a lot of different views and approaches on this whole tank story. What we also noted is that it is kind of hard to find the basics for somebody with no clue. So this thread here is also intended to be helpful for people with no idea anything, as we currently have, so maybe they can learn something from our mistakes.
I am sure a lot of people look at these threats that are not members of the forum, so they might be able to learn something from what we screw up.

As a disclaimer: For everything below, note that there are likely many generalizations, mistakes and things we just don't understand. So feel free to correct where appropriate. This a journal from some people with no clue. It is not a guide. I am sure all of you know more than us, and we can just do what you tell us and it will be a great tank. But then we can just pay somebody to set it up for us. We want to mess around a little, and see how things work. So if we do stuff against what you told us, it is because of that. And I don't post this here to get told how little I know and how many mistakes I made, but to just get people that are new to this think about the different parts and not just follow a manual. I think it is more fun that way and maybe some agree and decide to want a tank themselves.

So here the experience.

The options were a dirty tank (throw in some soil, low light, grow big leaved plants and let the tank find its on path. Kind of the Natural approach) or a high tech plant (control over everything, where the goal is to grow many different plants and grow them at higher speed, which allow you to shape landscapes. Kind of the industrial/designer approach).

We saw all those aquascapes and thought that would be pretty nice. We got a tax return, so we thought might as well spend some more money on the tank instead of on the beers.

So we went with the high tech approach.

Initially we looked around online, forum posts from here and other webpages, went to fish stores and asked for advice. Pretty much everybody says something different. Here the different approaches we heard:

The internet wants everything perfect and they are all chemists. Check C02 levels, get high end substrate, use heavy fertilization. Only then it is a good tank.
Some fish store people tell you really need to do certain other things (cycle the water with nothing for a few days, add bacteria concentrates to the filter, not to add fish for weeks).
Other fish store owners tell you to use gravel for substrate, add a few drops of random fertilizers a week, don't bother about diffusers or CO2 reactors to dissolve your CO2, just stick some plants in the tank, crank up CO2 until the leaves form O2 bubbles and you did it all right.

So there are kind of different views and we decided to just go with something in between.

Investigating further, it seem that to get that kind of high growth rates people were looking for high concentrations of fertilizer were used (as in the Estimated Index approach). The idea is to make sure everything is there in abundance for the plants to grow as quick as they can (given high lights and CO2). So that means changing half the water each week to wash out the left over nutrients and waste and start again with the next dose. The opposite is the low tech plant, where you leave things the way they are but you won't see much changes in your tank for months due to the slow growth rates.

We wanted nice plants, but not need to do 10 hours of work each week changing water and cutting plants, as we are not there every weekend. So we went kind of with an in between approach. We use CO2 injection which adds CO2 to the water from a gas tank, high power lights, but the less abundant PPS fertilizer system. Here, you add fertilizer every day, but around only as much as the plants will use. So there is no need to wash out the excess fertilizers every week, but the growth will not be as good as using higher concentration systems as the Estimated Index, because the amount of fertilizers is kind of just a guess and you likely are using too little.

That would work well for us, we do not want extreme growth rates, as less growth means less trimming. So we try to get to a point where plants grow to an extent that you see changes weekly, but not as much as needing trimming weekly.

So with this approach, all we aim at doing in terms of maintenance is to cut plants every other week, fill up some water that evaporated, check all the systems, but that is about it.

With that goal in mind, we went with CO2 injection, high power lights and PPS fertilization.

Now some picture. For the tank, we called local fish stores and asked for quotes. We spend $200 on the 75g tank and $100 on the metal stand.

We bought some driftwood, lava rocks and some stones I forget the name of from the Local Fish stores. We checked online and they said there is no need to boil that type of wood (I assume it is spider wood) and stone, just throw it right in. We noted it does not sink in the bath tub, so we tied it to some bolts to weigh it down for now.

The next thing of course (as with probably everybody starting out), is the though the thing is going to fall through the floor. We could not find any case where a tank crashed through the floor because of the heavy weight (800 pounds or so), so we were not too bothered. We were worried about the hardwood though and the sharp ends of the stand, so we put it on some 2x4s from the hardware store.

Then, the gut told us that over time and with water from condensation at the bottom of the leg, the legs might either dig into the 2x4s or split it, which then could warp the stand and the thing to fall over. So we abandoned the idea and just got some metal plates from the hardware store and some carpet pieces to use straight below the legs to spread the weight.

The guy at the fish store said just gravel should work fine. So we added gravel as a substrate around the other parts (driftwood, stones, etc)

Then we bought the plants (we spend $250 on them, they are not as cheap was we thought). The people from that fish store said gravel won't work and we need real substrate, $30 for 5lb. We thought we would need 40 or so pounds, and we were not willing to spend another $200 on substrate. People online then said all that is needed for the smaller plants for the front of the tank are small grains for the roots to hold on, so some kind of sand would supply that. So we went out to buy some black sand. We added root tabs to supply some nutrients to the roots, as some research we did indicated that a few of the larger plants depend on that, whereas some smaller ones just need to hold on to something and take most out of the water.

So here the mixed substrate and root tabs

Next we set up the filter. We got the SunSun HW 304B External filter, and as advised in the previous threat, we used 20ppi and 30ppi foam as well as EHEIM Substrat Pro Biological Filter Media for the bacteria to grow. Here how we added it to the filter trays (bottom is white foam that came with filter, second is 20ppi foam cut into cubes, third is 30ppi in cubes, and then on top we put the Filter Media. We hooked up the tubing and put the inlet and spray bar in the tank.

We filled the whole tank with water using the Aqueon Aquarium Water-Changer, which you just hook up to your kitchen faucet, check the temperature and then run the hose into the tank and turn it on. We added Seachem Prime Water treatment right into the tank.

Then we put in the plants.

The light on top is the Finnex Ray 2 LED light, we took it mainly because it draws less power per month than the other high power lights. You can just place it on top of the tank (the tank frame was too wide for those clamps though). We have it connected to a digital timer.
In the middle in the back you can see the heater in the tank (EHEIM-Jager-Aquarium-Thermostat-Heater 300W).

Here is the setup from the pump. We have the spray bar on the left side of the tank moving water down and to the right of the tank. The inlet is going down until around 1 inch above the substrate. You can also see the surface skimmer that is a second inlet into the pump and cleans the stuff of the surface. The clear tube is from the dosing pump for the fertilizer.

Here the right side of the tank. We have a 10lbs CO2 tank (we got it full for $125 from a welding supply store. The fish store wanted $270, the home brew store $180). The regulator we bought was Premium AQUATEK CO2 Regulator with Integrated COOL TOUCH Solenoid. The way it works is that the 700psi pressure from the CO2 tank gets tuned down to around 20psi using the regulator. Following the regulator is a needle valve that lets you fine tune the CO2. You need very low pressure, and most valves are not made for that, so tuning that in is kind of tricky. After that is a tube into the tank into the bubble checker, which just ejects CO2 into a small water compartment and you count the bubbles, so you can monitor the amount of CO2 going in. This does not mean how much CO2 will be in the water, as that depends on how you dissolve the CO2. A CO2 reactor works better than a diffusor (which we have), so you need less CO2 out of the bottle for the same amount of CO2 in the water.

We set the bubbles to 40 per minute for now and see how that goes. The bubbles leave the diffusor (at the end of the last black tube) and the bubbles then get sucked into the powerhead above and get chopped up and moves around the water. This might help to diffuse CO2, so we are fine with opening the CO2 tank less for the same amount in the water, so we save some money.
The powerhead is set to blow water up along the surface. So our water flow is, if you stand in front of the tank counter clockwise through the tank.
You can also see in the background the clear tube that pumps in the second fertilizer solution.

Here the stuff below the tank. On the left is the SunSun filter, on the right is the CO2 tank with the regulator.
In the middle is the dosing pump. We bought if off amazon (Jebao Programmable Auto Dosing Pump DP-4) and you can set it to pump stuff into the tank at set times. We set it to pump the required 7ml of fertilizer into the tank one hour before the lights go on each day. The left liquid gets pumped into the left side of the tank, the right into the right.

What happened is though that we stuck the tubes into the tank, and after one day there was a siphoning of water down that tube into one of the fertilizer bottles and the floor. It probably did not clamp the tube correctly or so (it was only the left), we moved the tubes out of the tank (just above the water now) and added check valves to the tubes at the end.

The last hardware piece is the night light. We bought a few LED strips (SUPERNIGHT (TM) 16.4FT 5M SMD 5050 Waterproof 300LEDs RGB Color Changing Flexible LED Strip Light if you want to know) from amazon and a 12V $7 wall plug power supply and then just connected the wires and plugged the power into another timer. So now the lights turn on right after the main lights go off for another hour.

So this is the setup. We also got test kits and for the day of setup we had:
temp 75, GH 3, KH 3 (the master kit didn't arrive that day). Lights are on 9 hours.

List of plants:
3x Staurogyne Repens
1x Moss
1x Java Fern mat
4x Cardinal Plants
2x Anubias petite
2x Water Hyssop
2x Rotala Indica
4x Ulvaceus
5x Chain Sword
4x Amazon Sword

I will try to update regularly to let you guys know what happens in this endeavor.
Thanks for reading, I know it is a lot and you all know better, but then, it is for people that don't, like us two weeks ago.

Fee free to comment to explain some more and give us some hints on what we can improve.
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 03-02-2015, 09:16 PM Thread Starter
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One week later

Here from yesterday (8 days later).

First thing to note there was a oily film on the tank, probably from the driftwood. I think it took some light away and the problem was the surface skimmer was set too high, it stuck half an inch out of the water, so nothing got skimmed. Lowering it sucked that oil off.

Next is there is some gooey slime stuck to all the driftwood, according to the internet, it is bacterial bloom (?), which is growth of bacteria out of the driftwood. We didn't boil it, so that might have helped, but apparently it is also not a problem and will clear itself.

Here the whole tank one week later. You can see that everything grew a little, but the Ulvaceus really grew a lot.

Next thing is we had no clue how to trim it. We thought of just chopping of a few inches from the top, but then apparently with these bulb plants you can't do that, so you need to take of the whole leave at the stem. There are also growth cones that grow up to flower, which need to be cut off if we don't want it go dormant and fall apart. It took a while to find that out..

Then here the pygmy Chain Sword. We don't know if it looks good or not.

Does anybody know about a book that has these kind of information, stuff like how to trim plants, plant them, what to look for? We don't even know how the runners look like or form. Some of that very basic stuff is kind of tricky to find.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 04-19-2015, 01:36 PM
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Great thread! I'm a relative noob looking to do a high tech 50g and have similar questions.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 04-19-2015, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by newtothis View Post
Here from yesterday (8 days later).

Does anybody know about a book that has these kind of information, stuff like how to trim plants, plant them, what to look for? We don't even know how the runners look like or form. Some of that very basic stuff is kind of tricky to find.
While I'm sure there are books on the topic, I've found the website to be invaluable for this. It has most plants, their names and requirements, propagation methods, etc. Even has scientific drawings and scape examples for each.

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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 04-19-2015, 04:56 PM
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the tank is lookin great!

my 20 gallon journal:
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my 8 gallon journal:
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my 35 gallon journal:
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-24-2015, 02:22 PM
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Any updates? Not new to planted tanks but I'm researching starting a high tech 75 but don't want crazy growth either.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-24-2015, 02:46 PM
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It's funny, after doing hours of research I bought almost the exact same equipment as you when I set up my 75 gallon planted tank a few months ago. I have the same SunSun 304B filter, Jebao Autodosing pump, and Finnex Ray2 light.

Things that I did differently:

1) I bought an inline Hydor heater because it removes unsightly equipment from the tank.

2) I bought some generic glass lily pipes because they look a lot nicer than the stock inlet and outlet tubes on the SunSun filter, at least when they are clean. I don't ever clean mine, so they don't look as nice as they could, but they blend in to a planted tank pretty well when they are covered in algae :p

3) I recently added a Fluval Fresh and Planted 2.0 LED light as well as the Ray2 that I had originally. I have heard plenty of people say that a single Ray2 provides enough light for a 75 gallon, but I never really achieved any pearling. Now with both lights installed my plants pearl like crazy and the tank is lit much more evenly from the front to the back.
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