29 Gallon Fully Planted planning --first tank ever, lots of questions - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-19-2015, 10:12 PM Thread Starter
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29 Gallon Fully Planted planning --first tank ever, lots of questions

I recently bought a 29 gallon aquarium on sale at petco during the '$1/gallon' sale. It's my first try at keeping fish and I thought 'oh, hey, what a bargain, I'll take it home, add some pretty rocks, maybe a plant or two and a few fish and it'll be awesome.'

Well, I started researching how to cycle a tank so I wouldn't murder my fish, then wondered if you could cycle a tank with the plants planted and here I am two weeks later going 'I am going to fully plant this and it shall be GLORIOUS! AND THEN FILL IT WITH TEENY TINY FISHES!'

And of course every single thing that I uncover, I find another thing that I go OH MAN A NEW THING TO RESEARCH AND DEBATE!

So I guess I'll just post my plan and debates and hope someone weighs in?

Planned setup:
29 gallon tank (30inLx18inDx12inW)
light (debate: Fluval Fresh and Plant with added ramping timer or Current Satellite Pro?)
SunSun Canister filter
Black substrate (debate: Floramax, dirted (topped with floramax?) or some kind of black sand?)

Aquascaping plans:
Carpet front half of tank in HC (dwarf baby tears, right?) with 'dry start' method.
Taller plants in back half, still determining these.
Slope from front to back.
Driftwood to imitate tree roots in one back third, with rocks under
Java moss or something of that nature on rocks/driftwood

Tank inhabitants (Definitely up for debate. Planning one species every month once tank with live plants and donor filter media has cycled for a couple weeks, do not want to massively overstock!):
Endler's Livebearers (so cute!) 5-10
Galaxy rasbora 5-10
Golden dwarf barb 5-10
Betta (for crowd control of the livebearers)
Shrimps of some kind

I'm really debating the lights a lot. Do I save up for the Satellite Pro or go for the marginally less expensive Fluval ones? Two different LFS have given me suggestions and neither of them agrees with the other.

I'm debating pressurized CO2 vs Flourish Excel for starting, with plans to do CO2 gas in the future? I don't have the patience for DIY yeast CO2, I know that. Will my HC die off if I don't have CO2 gas, if I do a 'dry start' with lots of root tabs and with Excel dosing?

Is the betta the worst idea ever? Both LFS recommend an open-top tank if I want plants to grow well so the glass won't diffuse the light and I worry both about the betta being a bad match for small, fast fish (though both LFS say it won't be) and about the betta jumping out.

Black sand vs floramax vs dirted with a black substrate cap? Is one of these significantly better for a beginner?

Do you see other problems with my setup? Are there any tips I should have? I'm literally reading everything I can and I feel like every single thing I read gives me a thousand more questions and I'll end up never putting this together if I keep up this way!

Thanks for any input you have.
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-19-2015, 11:01 PM
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Oh man. Too much for me to comment on quickly but great start.

For lights, both of your listed options will require pressurized co2, excel and diy just won't cut it for the amount par those fixtures put out. A standard satellite+(not the +pro) would be fine for excel but not sure the HC will do too well with either of those. I'm leaving towards the fluval myself over the +pro as its cheaper and if they ever get the WiFi controller out it'll be awesome.

For substrate, I *really* prefer sand, so much easier to plant in and imo, looks nicer. Cheap option is black diamond blasting sand from tractor supply. I haven't tried dirt yet on the bottom but understand its worth the effort if you have the time(and patience) to mineralize it and whatnot.

The betta can be hit or miss, depends on the betta. Some are fine in a community tank and others just can't handle the stress. In those instances they either harass everyone in and need to be removed, or everyone else harasses them and they don't make it. I would say if you try it, be ready to rehome him in case there are issues. I tried it myself with a male betta and it didn't work out, but I have a pretty female and she's totally fine in the community tank, loves it.

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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-20-2015, 02:01 AM Thread Starter
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Oh man. Too much for me to comment on quickly but great start.

For lights, both of your listed options will require pressurized co2, excel and diy just won't cut it for the amount par those fixtures put out. A standard satellite+(not the +pro) would be fine for excel but not sure the HC will do too well with either of those. I'm leaving towards the fluval myself over the +pro as its cheaper and if they ever get the WiFi controller out it'll be awesome.

For substrate, I *really* prefer sand, so much easier to plant in and imo, looks nicer. Cheap option is black diamond blasting sand from tractor supply. I haven't tried dirt yet on the bottom but understand its worth the effort if you have the time(and patience) to mineralize it and whatnot.

The betta can be hit or miss, depends on the betta. Some are fine in a community tank and others just can't handle the stress. In those instances they either harass everyone in and need to be removed, or everyone else harasses them and they don't make it. I would say if you try it, be ready to rehome him in case there are issues. I tried it myself with a male betta and it didn't work out, but I have a pretty female and she's totally fine in the community tank, loves it.

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LFS are basically telling me that if I want to carpet the tank with anything, I MUST have one of those two lamps with an 18 inch deep tank because nothing else will sufficiently penetrate the water for any low-height plants. Is this true? I really love the dwarf baby tears so much. They're basically my favourites and if I have to save up longer to start the tank and pressurize the CO2 input, then I will. If not, then I'll get a less powerful light. I mean, realistically, I'm doing this because I like the way a planted tank looks. The fish will just give movement and be adorable. It's like living sculpture.

And I've got a backup plan for a betta if he needs rehoming--he'll be my last fish, for sure--because I'm planning to set up a nano tank for my partner's desk after I get the planting done for this tank. She wants a betta in it, so if I bring him in about the time I'm setting up a nano planted tank for her desk, then I'll have a backup home for him.
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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-20-2015, 02:14 AM
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Oh I hear ya, got sucked in like 7 years and haven't looked back lol.

I agree either of those lights are what you need for a carpet, but you gotta have co2 in order to do it. Co2art makes some great quality, relatively inexpensive regulators. Can get a whole setup minus the co2 tank for like $150. Dual stage is what you want. Can always get a cga320 to paintball adapter to use it on paintball tank if you don't wanna drop the 50-70 on a real co2 tank but the real tanks save ya money in the long run, up to you ^^. Just don't go with an ASA on/off valve set up.

Only other things I would say you need is some dry fertilizers. nilocg sells them on here. greenleafaquariums, and bobstropicalplants are the only other places I'd recommend to get them. I wouldn't bother with seachem or other liquid ferts as you're mainly paying for water with them.

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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-20-2015, 02:27 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the tips. I've been pretty focussed on the hardware and haven't looked that hard at the fertilizers. I also haven't yet looked at how you monitor a pressurized CO2 system's levels--I do know I like lily pipes a lot though also CO2 reactors look super cool even if they aren't as pretty as lily pipes. I'm pretty confused by what a 'bubble counter' is or how it works.

My partner thought we were sinking maybe a hundred bucks, total, into a tank for me to play with when the tank sale came on. Oops? I can't wait until we have a house so I can have bigger tanks to play with. A TANK FOR EVERY ROOM BWAHAHAHA!

Bump: Thanks for the tips. I've been pretty focussed on the hardware and haven't looked that hard at the fertilizers. I also haven't yet looked at how you monitor a pressurized CO2 system's levels--I do know I like lily pipes a lot though also CO2 reactors look super cool even if they aren't as pretty as lily pipes. I'm pretty confused by what a 'bubble counter' is or how it works.

My partner thought we were sinking maybe a hundred bucks, total, into a tank for me to play with when the tank sale came on. Oops? I can't wait until we have a house so I can have bigger tanks to play with. A TANK FOR EVERY ROOM BWAHAHAHA!
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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-20-2015, 03:22 AM
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Well yes/no and have you thought about...
Yes those are a couple of the lights that have both enough power AND color. Not
familiar/w the Fluval, but the Satallite has RGB bulbs along/w white ones that you
control the color level of.
But no the Finnex Planted+ has all the power you could want for carpet plants in that depth at half the cost. But no factory option for a dimmer and only red bulbs in addition to white ones. Doesn't mean you can't add your own dimmer though.
BML is an option that hasn't been brought up. Optional dimmer is necessary for your size tank and brings the cost to a little under $220.
Then, have you thought about a T5HO light fixture ? Cheaper, but 24" bulbs are mostly what is available in that size fixture. Not the best option, but then the BML only has two 12" light strips in their 30" model also. Same/w the 20" one, it only has one 12" strip.
A low tech set up/w a 29g can cost under the amount you are going to spend just on the light for the high tech set up. Something to think about. Mostly just for the sake of
carpet plants you will be over $500 by the time you get a good, but not elite CO2 system and a light. You will of course get faster growth from your plants in it.
It will provide an ever changing appearance that requires at least an every other week trimming. Plant choice can manipulate that to some extent.
A dirt sub would work better/w the carpet plants. It doesn't last forever, but a couple of years is expected.
If you like a challenge then the high tech likely will work as a first tank.
If it just frustrates you then try the low tech first.

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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-20-2015, 03:33 AM Thread Starter
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We're okay with the cost of equipment over time--I'll probably be in the research and equipment collection stage for a solid six months or so before I even get the first batch of plants. I'm really not a fan of fluorescent style bulbs--I find them hard on my eyes and really prefer LED lighting. I'm even in the process of changing over all my apartment lighting to LED from CFLs. What's BML?

How often am I likely to have to restart, then, if a dirt sub would work better but last a couple of years? Or does that require a full restart or just some magical technique I haven't found yet to refresh it? I do love a challenge and I'm a total nerd, I just want to make sure I get off to the right start and don't make stupid mistakes at the beginning.
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-20-2015, 03:56 AM
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+1 to everything Raymond said.

A 29 gallon tank was also my first tank, I started low tech and worked my way up. Think I've spent a couple grand on that tank in the last 7 years or so, so don't feel bad lol. Cant really do lowtech with hc/carpet tho. Not to get those super nice iwagumi style carpet setups...

The finnex lights are a great choice like Raymond mentioned, its what I recently got for my tanks. They do extend almost the full length of the fixture size. The planted+ 24/7 is only a few dollars difference compared to just the planted+ and has a dimmer and color control like the satellite+/+pro. Par is basically the same. The 24/7 mode on it however I could only use with pressurized co2, even on the 29gal, but it has the ability to run low/mid/high light when not in 24/7 mode and just use a timer.

All this(for high-tech at least) is expensive, but cheaper if you know what you want from the start rather than go a different direction and then rebuy all new things later down the road for the same tank like I did.. Just need a good deal of patience, some work/maintenance, and a *lot* of reading.

Usually for co2 you generally monitor it with a drop checker that sits inside the tank. Small thing that you fill with water that has a kh of 4 (also known as 4dkh fluid) and a couple drops of ph regent. The color starts out blue, as you pump co2 into the tank it'll change colors due to the gas entering the drop checker and lowering the ph of the fluid. You want it to get to a lime greenish color, not quite yellow but not green. That means you should have enough co2 in the water. The bubble counter goes on the co2 line from the regulator and has tank water in it, you can count how many bubbles come out of it as the co2 goes through it. Between that, the drop checker, and how you're fish are acting, you can guage where you need to keep the co2 at. Once you're experienced you may not need the drop checker, I always use the bubble counter tho.

The reactor goes in line with your canister filter, so you can still use lily pipes if you want. I wouldn't bother spending top dollar on those lily pipes tho, they break easily regardless of the brand.

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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-20-2015, 04:01 AM
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http://www.buildmyled.com/dutch-planted-6300k/
They also will customize one for you. Go to the main page/home.
Plants in a pot are the same as in a tank. They will eventually use up the nutrients.
I don't do dirt(yet) so I can only say that I read about some just adding ferts to the sub in the way of root tabs/Osmocote+ capsules after it looses it's nutrients as an alternative to starting over. Seems to be loved by most who use it, but often there is
a new thread about the problems associated/w it. Stirs up mess when you move plants.
Keep that to a minimum by very slowly pulling out the plant. More issues/w gravel
than/w sand for the cap. Using to little/thin of a layer for the cap etc.
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...php?t=107303#2
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=107312
http://www.substratesource.com/?p=products&c=s
Something other than white sand...cheap also...
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=908993

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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-20-2015, 04:03 AM Thread Starter
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Yeah, I know the reactor goes in-line with the filter, but man, the lily pipes are just so PRETTY. I wouldn't pay top dollar for anything blown glass that's not decorative. I might just satisfy my lily pipe love with glass inflow or outflow, even though I have a braced tank. We'll see. There's just so much cool stuff!

Bump: Oh my gosh and I just found steel inflow and outflow pipes. SO PRETTY.

Bump: Raymond S: Thanks for the BML link. I'll look at that!
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post #11 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-21-2015, 01:00 AM
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Every tank that I love uses the Current Freshwater LED +. They change the color from a warm orange to blue.

My favorite substrate is Scott's Hyponex potting soil capped with river sand. The river sand is a light brown thus never looks dirty. I get a 50lb of the river sand from a local landscaper co.
If I have red plants I put some laterite in the dirt.

Here is a cheap Co2 paintball system. Another option is to get Aqueteck Co2 regulator mini on Amazon. Long thread on paintball system here.
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post #12 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-27-2015, 06:53 PM Thread Starter
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So AQAdvisor says that Betta aren't advised for tanks with shrimp or with rasbora or endlers and says I need to do more research. I can't figure out why--they don't have vastly different needs as temp is less than half a degree, PH is less than .25 points apart, etc. I mean it's not totally ideal, but fish can acclimate if it's not vastly outside of their ideal, from what I understand, and it's not wailing because of those numbers, it's talking about those fish.

Am I right in thinking this is because, without appropriate territories set up in the tank and large amounts of plants to let smaller fish and shrimp and fry and stuff hide from the betta and without everyone being well-fed, the betta will potentially eat the other fish and shrimp and fry? Because I actually want a betta or other fish of that carnivorous nature specifically for crowd control of species that may breed rapidly.
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post #13 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-27-2015, 07:20 PM
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So AQAdvisor says that Betta aren't advised for tanks with shrimp or with rasbora or endlers and says I need to do more research. I can't figure out why--they don't have vastly different needs as temp is less than half a degree, PH is less than .25 points apart, etc. I mean it's not totally ideal, but fish can acclimate if it's not vastly outside of their ideal, from what I understand, and it's not wailing because of those numbers, it's talking about those fish.

Am I right in thinking this is because, without appropriate territories set up in the tank and large amounts of plants to let smaller fish and shrimp and fry and stuff hide from the betta and without everyone being well-fed, the betta will potentially eat the other fish and shrimp and fry? Because I actually want a betta or other fish of that carnivorous nature specifically for crowd control of species that may breed rapidly.
Betta's can be aggressive towards tank mates, depends on the Betta. Some do OK with tank mates, others are like me, better off living alone


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post #14 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-27-2015, 10:47 PM
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Betta's are great if you have other, established tanks you can move stuff around in if it doesn't work. Otherwise, me, personally; I wouldn't gamble with a Betta as a general 'community tank'. I've had some odd combos that weren't supposed to work, but did; but always had alternatives and other places for fish to go. Some bettas really struggle with water current (whereas other community fish love it), and some can be very aggressive. Their long fins are even sometimes targets for things like neon tetras and the like. While not super common, it's not UNcommon for other community fish to stress and nip the betta to death! OR, for the betta to do the same to them!

They make incredible fish ESPECIALLY when placed in a good, quality aquarium. Often folks with dump a Betta in a little bowl and because it doesn't die right away, they figure that's okay. Survival and Thrival are two different things.

Betta's do best with timid fish like Cory/Otto catfish (who will stay at the bottom and won't come near the Betta). I've had luck with them and mystery snails too provided the Betta doesn't pay too much attention to the snail and nip antennas.

If you're okay with a "wet pet" tank, with a Betta as a centerpiece and a handful of other quiet fish hiding at the bottom; as opposed to a large community tank; a Betta can be a very rewarding fish. I've found Betta's to adapt to any water condition with ease but sometimes their fins curl a bit at the end in high pH water. Cutting water flow to as little as possible is helpful too. I achieved this by cutting up small soda bottles and turning them into diverters taped over filter outputs. Me; PERSONALLY, after years of trying to chase solutions to my hard, high pH water; I figured out that in my case, just letting the fish adapt or getting fish that naturally preferred those water conditions (like African Cichlids), was a better, healthier option than trying to modify water. It's been my experience that fish better adapt to water conditions that differ from what's natural for them, than they do to swinging, fluctuating water that's being messed with. Your mileage may vary.

Good luck! My very first aquarium, many moons ago now, was a 10g Betta tank. My wife wanted a Betta (then, girlfriend); and me being the nerdy perfectionist that I am I, like you, started researching the heck out of things (instead of getting her a shiny bowl and a Betta). Settled on a 10g aquarium with HOB filters and heat, and a little red veiltail mail Betta and a few Otto cats, after going through a fishless cycle. Was an awesome and rewarding tank.
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post #15 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-27-2015, 11:29 PM
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Betta's do best with timid fish like Cory/Otto catfish (who will stay at the bottom and won't come near the Betta).
I had 1 Betta that harnessed my Cory's. I had 1 that was in a 20g long tank with many guppies. The 1 that replaced him when he died ate all of the guppies up.

I have found to get a docile Betta stare at it in the cup. If it stares back and flare up it is aggressive.

They seem to struggle dealing with heavy current.
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