Overwhelmed - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-21-2017, 06:07 AM Thread Starter
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Question Overwhelmed

After 2 years of not having a tank (my previous tank was a reef tank), i decided i wanted to set up a tropical aquarium. Inspired by aquascapers all over the internet, i quickly decided on a planted natural aquarium.

I initially wanted to go for a fluval edge, but the small opening at the top made me reconsider. I have large hands and a small opening definitely limits hardscaping options. After reviewing the options i have here in Australia, i decided to just buy a "regular" tank and set up the filter/heater etc myself.

However, this has proven harder than i thought it would be. There is so much choice. I feel completely overwhelmed, even though i've been doing research for 3 weeks straight.

I'm planning on getting a 15-20 gallon tank, rectangular, something along the lines of the 60P ADA tank. I'd like to make it a community tank, with a few shrimp, tetra's, a snail or 2 and some cory's. In terms of plants, i'd like to get some monte carlo for the floor, java moss on a few pieces of wood, some smaller plants (not sure what yet) at the front and a few larger ones in the back.

I'm looking at what my options are for filters especially. What flow rate should i be aiming at? What are good brands? Since it will be a planted aquarium, what kind of substrate should i be looking at? Should i try my hands at supplements? Is CO2 a must? If so, what type should i be looking at?

There is so much information out there, and i'm determined to do it correctly. However, i feel like i could definitely use a helping hand, sifting through all this information.

Thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-21-2017, 06:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DutchOzzie View Post
After 2 years of not having a tank (my previous tank was a reef tank), i decided i wanted to set up a tropical aquarium. Inspired by aquascapers all over the internet, i quickly decided on a planted natural aquarium.

I initially wanted to go for a fluval edge, but the small opening at the top made me reconsider. I have large hands and a small opening definitely limits hardscaping options. After reviewing the options i have here in Australia, i decided to just buy a "regular" tank and set up the filter/heater etc myself.

However, this has proven harder than i thought it would be. There is so much choice. I feel completely overwhelmed, even though i've been doing research for 3 weeks straight.

I'm planning on getting a 15-20 gallon tank, rectangular, something along the lines of the 60P ADA tank. I'd like to make it a community tank, with a few shrimp, tetra's, a snail or 2 and some cory's. In terms of plants, i'd like to get some monte carlo for the floor, java moss on a few pieces of wood, some smaller plants (not sure what yet) at the front and a few larger ones in the back.

I'm looking at what my options are for filters especially. What flow rate should i be aiming at? What are good brands? Since it will be a planted aquarium, what kind of substrate should i be looking at? Should i try my hands at supplements? Is CO2 a must? If so, what type should i be looking at?

There is so much information out there, and i'm determined to do it correctly. However, i feel like i could definitely use a helping hand, sifting through all this information.

Thanks in advance!
Hi

Regarding flow rate, the rule of thumb is at least 10x the litres of your tank. That why you'll get sufficient filtering.

Have you thought about what lights your going for yet? This is a major part to a planted aquarium as a balance is key so you don't get overrun with algae and get lush plant growth.

Regards to substrate, there's alot of options for you. You can have a dirt tank capped with gravel. Or you can spend alot more and go for brand name planted substrate. It all really depends on your budget?

Co2 isn't a must tbh as plants with grow under most lights but will just grow alot slower without co2.


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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 01:21 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by jsankey88 View Post
Hi

Regarding flow rate, the rule of thumb is at least 10x the litres of your tank. That why you'll get sufficient filtering.

Have you thought about what lights your going for yet? This is a major part to a planted aquarium as a balance is key so you don't get overrun with algae and get lush plant growth.

Regards to substrate, there's alot of options for you. You can have a dirt tank capped with gravel. Or you can spend alot more and go for brand name planted substrate. It all really depends on your budget?

Co2 isn't a must tbh as plants with grow under most lights but will just grow alot slower without co2.


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Thanks for the info!

Haven't thought about lights yet, good point! Assuming i'm going with a 60x30x36 (centimeters) tank, what kind of light should i be looking at?

I have a pretty big budget, i'd rather do things right than skimp and run into trouble later. What advantages are there for planted substrate?
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 01:25 AM
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As for the filter I would HIGHLY recommend using a Fluval hang-on-back filter. Fluval will forever be one of my favorite brands due to the silence of the filters, and the versatility. You can use pretty much any kind of filter media as long as it fits inside the filter

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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 04:49 AM
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I feel like you're asking the right questions, just out of order. I'd start by asking yourself what "tech" level of tank you'd like. That will determine your equipment needs as well as what plants you can grow. For reference, "high" tech usually involves high light, CO2, and fertilizers. "Medium" tech is a little variable, but I'd call it high tech without CO2. "Low" tech gets into the low-medium light category, generally no added ferts, and maybe some fancy substrate. Or you can go ultra-low-tech (Walstad or El Natural style) which is basically some dirt, a light and not much else.

Pretty much all plants grow better with CO2 but many of them don't need it. Typical carpet plants - like your Monte Carlo - can be difficult to carpet without CO2. They'll grow, but it might not be the carpet you're looking for. Some plants, especially red ones, require high light and nutrient levels for optimal growth. If those types of plants are what you're looking for, I'd strongly consider a high-tech setup. Otherwise, from what I've read here it's easier to increase your tech level than it is to drop down.

Your tech level will determine your light. This is because the more nutrients (ferts and CO2) you pump into the system, the more light the plants need to keep up with it and out-compete the algae. There are many name-brand lights that are beefy enough for all tech levels of tank (I made my own lights so hopefully someone will chime in with suggestions). However, ordinary household lighting works just fine if you have undemanding plants - T5 shop lights are a popular and effective option; some people (myself included) even use desk lamps over smaller tanks. The trick is really to aim for having too much light, since it's easy to shorten your day length or move the light further from the tank but it's a pain to squeeze more juice out of an undersized fixture. Best piece of advice I have is to put the thing on a timer. Light is one of the most versatile tools you have in waging the algae war and keeping your lighting cycle consistent is a first, huge step toward victory. Also you don't have to remember to turn the light on and off which is nice just in itself.

Filtration is a touchy subject, but the first piece of advice I have is to treat filtration and flow as completely separate concepts. Yes a filter provides flow, but that's largely a byproduct of its primary duty, which is to be a place for beneficial bacteria to grow. To that end any and all surfaces in your aquarium will host those beneficial bacteria (which is how us Walstad folks get by with so little) and it's unlikely, especially in your stocking scenario, that you will overwhelm your filtration capacity. So I would go with a type of filter that suits your needs. Example, if you have under-tank space and hate looking at equipment, go canister. If you want easy service go HOB. If you want to be a rebel and filter your tank for $7 get a sponge. And yes I'm 100% serious on that last one, sponge filters and their cousins are amazing. After that decision is made you can consider flow - the goal of which is to provide enough circulation to move solid wastes into your filter so they can be removed during filter cleaning. Generally speaking if your filter "doesn't provide enough filtration" (read: there are dead spots in the tank circulation where mulm accumulates) you need more flow, not more filtration capacity. Powerheads are a great way to do this, though there are others.

Substrate can be interesting, and I'm afraid I don't really know enough about it to help all that much. Generally speaking there are three approaches: First, planted tank substrate. Pros are that it's complete and easy. Cons are it's expensive and eventually runs out of nutrients. Second, inert substrate. This can mean gravel, sand, or any other substrate that provides no nutrients to plants. Pros are it's cheap and easy to find and can be turned into pseudo-plant substrate by adding fertilizers (either into the substrate or the water column). Cons are obviously that you need to add all the nutrients yourself. Third is dirt capped with some other type of substrate. Pros are you get the benefit of planted tank substrate without the cost. Cons are it's messy, makes replanting almost impossible and poses a unique set of challenges.

Finally, I have some general advice for you:
1. Get a lid! Not only will it cut down on evaporation but you'll never find dead fish on the floor.
2. If you keep shrimp that you want to breed in your tank, put an intake sponge on the filter. Otherwise the filter eats your shrimp babies.
3. Post pictures! People love pictures. Even if you think your aquascape sucks post pictures. You might get some advice on how to pretty it up, or maybe it's actually awesome and you just don't know it.
4. Planting tongs. You don't have to buy a fancy aquascaping kit, the reptile feeding tongs from the pet store work just fine. Believe me, it's a heck of a lot easier to stuff little plant roots into substrate with tongs than your fingers. Also great for not having to go elbow-deep into your tank all the time.
5. Take things slow and be prepared to adjust. The balance in a planted tank changes as your plants establish themselves. Often new tanks will experience an algae bloom (diatoms especially) that sorts itself out once the plants start taking up excess nutrients.
6. If you have to change things, do it one variable at a time. That way you know exactly what you had too much or too little of for next time.

PS Sorry for the wall of text! Hope you find it helpful.
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Last edited by BigMek; 08-22-2017 at 05:05 AM. Reason: More about lights, extra thoughts
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 05:44 AM
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I can't really help with the planted tank setup (re: lights, ferts, CO2, etc), but I just wanted to say a few things....


You mentioned getting shrimp. Generally speaking, you have a planted tank or a shrimp tank. It's a balancing act to get both. The same can be said for a community tank or a shrimp tank. If not done correctly, the fish will stress out the shrimp, the shrimp wont breed, and the shrimp may die quickly (they generally only live 1-2 years, unless you get some larger shrimp that may live for 6+ years)


I mention this because shrimp like stability. High tech tanks and potentially medium tech tanks generally aren't that stable when you throw in ferts, large water changes and CO2. Well, generally speaking, CO2 and shrimp don't mix. Yes, it's possible, but again, it can be a balancing act to get the right amount.


Water too warm, too frequent of water changes, too quick of water changes, a diet too high in animal protein - all things that could potentially result in stress, if not death, of the shrimp.


Shrimp can also be more sensitive to water parameters than fish. That is, they may prefer a certain water hardness (GH and KH levels), a certain TDS range, a certain pH, etc. Put shrimp that prefer higher pH in lower pH parameters and they might not thrive. Likewise, put shrimp that prefer lower pH in higher pH parameters, and they may not thrive.


A buffering substrate with high CEC would be your best bet for growing healthy plants, however, this requires going with RO/DI water remineralized with GH only minerals. This will naturally lower the pH of the tank, so the low pH shrimp would be happiest.

If you used inert substrate such as sand, and dosed the water column and/or used "shrimp safe" root tabs instead, then you may be able to keep some higher pH shrimp.



I'm not trying to discourage you by any means on getting shrimp, I just want you to do more research into shrimp care so if you do choose to add shrimp to the tank, you will have the best chance of success with them. Nothings worse than getting some shrimp, putting them into a tank and expecting them to survive as well as fish would, only for them to slowly (or quickly) die off due to some incorrect water parameters.


It's a *lot* to take in. I've never really been a fish person, so I've never gotten into fish... but I've seen several people sell off their fish collections and get into strictly shrimp, or only keeping a small amount of fish. Some of these die-hard fish keepers say it's like learning all over again in the hobby! You will need a liquid GH and KH test kits (if you don't have them already) and a TDS meter. TDS calibration solution to ensure the TDS meter is calibrated. (something you should be somewhat familiar with doing coming from a reef tank setup - that is, calibrating a tool to "accurately" measure water parameters)


A 20 long tank would be great for a planted shrimp tank, if you can manage to set it up right!
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 10:06 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you folks so much for all the information!
I think i'm going to focus on the tank first, then when its up and running i'll decide what fits in the tank.
I'll likely start with medium tech tank with planted substrate. maybe find a carpet plant that does better without co2 than monte carlo.
I can upgrade to a co2 diffuser when i feel i have a mostly stable tank.

What are good (read, hardy) beginner plants? Also, in my reef aquarium, i had a "cleanup crew". Should i get one for this aquarium too? Snails seem like an easy option?
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 11:37 AM
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As a fellow beginner at the planted tank I was advised by one of our local guys (long time keeper of plants and considered the *go to* guy locally) that Anubias, Cryptocorynes and even Bucephalandra (you will often see them called Buce for short) are good for starters on a low tech set up, if you are going for High Tech then I think that is a whole different story, and I bow to those with more knowledge on the LED light and CO2 aspect.

There are those that love snails and those that do not, I am one of the latter group. I leave that to those with more experience

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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-25-2017, 09:58 PM
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There are many way you can go, but if you were inspired by aquascapes you saw on the Internet then I would go with co2 from the getgo. Most likely they are using pressurized co2. Once you buy the equipment there's really no cost involved in having it. Whether you have a low, medium or high light setup every plant will grow fuller and faster which helps keep algae away. It makes growing plants just that much easier.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-28-2017, 07:18 PM
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If you are overwhelmed, then don't worry about the CO2 for now. Plants can do just fine without it. It just optimizes the color and growth, but not essential. Get good lights though, and filter (recommend Eheim filters) Then, once you get the tank rolling and are familiar with the setup, you can start thinking about whether or not adding CO2.


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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-28-2017, 09:59 PM
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If you are overwhelmed, then don't worry about the CO2 for now. Plants can do just fine without it. .
don't agree with that. I think your missing the point. Plants grow slower without it. Many plants will wither and die without it. Less uptake means more algae or you are limited by light intensity and therefore the plants you can grow. Which makes it that much more difficult to decide. Co2 will make growing any plant easier and you are more likely to have algae-free water which for many is the biggest obstacle in planted aquaria.

Again if you were inspired by aquascapes your saw online, your's will never achieve the same lushness without co2.

The worst thing you could do is start a tank and then acquire things after problems have already started.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-29-2017, 04:27 PM
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don't agree with that. I think your missing the point. Plants grow slower without it. Many plants will wither and die without it. Less uptake means more algae or you are limited by light intensity and therefore the plants you can grow. Which makes it that much more difficult to decide. Co2 will make growing any plant easier and you are more likely to have algae-free water which for many is the biggest obstacle in planted aquaria.

Again if you were inspired by aquascapes your saw online, your's will never achieve the same lushness without co2.

The worst thing you could do is start a tank and then acquire things after problems have already started.
I know, but I think it's just difficult to research about every little detail right from the start when someone doesn't have any experience about planted tanks. I have had my tank without CO2 for the most part (except when I tried a DIY for a short period of time) and all the plants do fine, given I have a good water flow and ferts and also maybe because my tank is small, so gas exchange is easier. I believe most plants do ok without CO2 systems because there is still CO2 in the water, except for maybe some really demanding plants out there which would still not be recommended for someone who does not have any experience regardless of them having a high tech tank or not. Of course the plants will not be at their best colors and such, but those details of information can be acquired along the way.


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