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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-09-2012, 06:40 PM Thread Starter
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Beginners low-tech nano

Hello everyone. Been lurking for a while and I've finally decided to set up a planted FW tank. FYI I'm actually a reef guy (nano-reef), though I've had aquariums in some form or another for the last 18 years or so. So really the title is technically wrong. I'm not a beginner, though this is my first planted tank. Recently I had to take down my reef tank in order to re-do my floor. So while that's down I figured I would start with a simple low-tech nano.

One thing I like about the planted tanks is their simplicity, especially in the visual regard. The iwagumi style has always fascinated me, even though I don't know much about how to actually set one up. I think the saltwater hobby is also starting to realize that some of these same design principles look good with reefs too. The trouble is finding the right fish to give scale to the whole thing.

So here's my plan. I would appreciate any feedback!

Tank: 3/4g glass rimless with curved front corners (bought at meijer for $25)
Filter: Cascade mini internal filter (it's really really small, so maybe an HOB or canister is in my future, just not yet)
Heater: 50W - If I get a HOB filter I may get a smaller heater and put it in there. I'm thinking 72-75 degrees?
Lighting: No clue... I've got a few T5 HO fixtures, but they would like like 6 of these tanks... So I'm inclined to run some DIY LEDs. I'm thinking in the 4,000k - 5,500k range, 3-5 CREE xp-g LEDs w/out optics @ 700ma. Until I get that built though, would a cool white 10w CFL in an aluminum reflector work okay?

Substrate: I'm lost on this one... From what I gather I can goto the hardware store, get some osmocote and sprinkle that down 1-2 tbsp, then over that I was going to either put down Seachem Flourite, Caribsea eco-complete, or Caribsea floramax. It looks like they're all about the same price, $20 or so for 15lbs or so. I'm sorta leaning toward the fluorite. I like the fact that after an initial thorough rinse it shouldn't cloud the water too bad when the substrate is disturbed.

For livestock:
1 male betta
4 tiny fish. I like the galaxy rasbora/celestial pearl danio, the ember tetra, and I like neon tetras also but if I can go with something a little less "the norm" that would be nice.
A cherry shrimp would be cool too, if compatible with my livestock.

For plants:
Some sort of short ground cover in the front, I was thinking java moss tied to some thin slate, trimmed to 1-2cm
Some hair grass in the back trimmed to about 8cm
1 or 2 anubias - petite nana maybe? Something slow growing and leafy, but won't grow too big too fast.

Some rocks. I don't know enough about those yet except to say I want some cool ones. Can you put polished granite into a FW planted? Slate would also look cool. I'm thinking 3 pieces cut/broken into a cool shape sticking up right next to each other in the middle of the tank.

I want to keep this low-tech. So no Co2. I was thinking of dosing some of the "excel" which people seem to have good results with, as well as some type of liquid fertilizer as needed. I'm assuming that with a good substrate and liquid fertilizer I won't need root spikes given the plants above?

Anyways, looking forward to setting this thing up asap. Would I be fine to just start this one up with water right away? I've read a little bit about the dry start method, but how can I know if that will work best for my setup? Finally, I've had my filter running in another tank for about 2 weeks now, so I'm planning on using that to establish the nitrogen cycle vs. bacteria in a bottle or going through a regular "cycle".

Last edited by ajmckay; 08-14-2012 at 03:03 PM. Reason: new info
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-09-2012, 07:15 PM
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First off, welcome to the planted tank.

Second off - sounds good. I love build threads where lots is thought out before hand.

I like your idea for an LED can really tune it to your needs. A lot of people use too much light, especially when it comes to small tanks, or low tech tanks.

Another thing - I have used excel with good results as well. The stuff is great.

However nothing comes close to pressurized co2 as far as stability, and bang for your buck. I had a friend that had BBA all over everything in his tank. Added co2 and it was gone within a month.

Id ditch the internal filter. You have a really small tank, and space is at a premium. It will also be visually detracting.

You can add literally any inert rock to a tank...and I think that polished granite would be in that category.

Ive never done dry start - but high temps and humidity I think are the norm (high as in higher than your 72-75. I run most of my tanks 75-78.

Set up all my tanks with water and I think it works fine. A word to the wise though might be to plant everything at just helps to make sure that plants are all in there pulling nutrients right away. Leaves less of a chance for algae to get established.

Have fun - this sounds like it will be cool!

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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-09-2012, 07:44 PM
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-10-2012, 03:55 AM Thread Starter
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Well I don't have any livestock yet, but here are some pics of the tank (note that the tank isn't the one in the picture on the packaging):

First impression: Overall the tanks seemed well put together. The ones that they had there had nice silicone lines, and the glass is even and optically free of distortion. The side panels surround the bottom (in other words the bottom sits inside the side panels) which presents a nice and clean appearance. The panels also seem to fit together really well and the glass edges are all nice and smooth, even with a polished appearance. The only things I did notice was that it seemed like someone returned one and they put it back on the shelf with smudges and stuff all over it. I didn't buy that one.

The dimensions of the 3.4g are 11-11/16" long, 7-3/8" wide, and 10-1/4" tall.

Also I found out the filter is a Cascade 170, so it's a whole 5" x 2" x 3"...

Still, I do think I'll swap it out for a HOB filter sometime soon... I think having a little more flow would be good, as well as a place to stick my heater.

Last edited by ajmckay; 08-10-2012 at 03:57 AM. Reason: more info
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-10-2012, 03:59 AM
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It's. Pretty little tank --glass for $25!?!
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-10-2012, 04:36 AM
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I have the same tank that I keep RCS in. I bought it under the name 'finnex 4g'.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-10-2012, 04:20 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Specgrrl, I think the regular price was $31, but it was on sale for $28 and I had a $3 off coupon so I ended up only paying $25.

So, any opinions on which substrate I should get?
Also, is there a particular kind of osmocote that I need (or is it even needed at all)?


For lighting should I go with 3200K, 4500K, or 6000K?

Last edited by ajmckay; 08-10-2012 at 04:28 PM. Reason: more info
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-10-2012, 05:02 PM
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-10-2012, 05:03 PM
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you can also use 4100k
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-12-2012, 05:49 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks menos for the suggestions. I think I'm going with 6500k LEDs. probably Cree XT-E. Overall I think the color temp will look nice and complement the colors in the tank, as well as provide a good photosynthetic spectrum (as far as I understand it).

Now as for the scape, I'm thinking of taking some pieces of slate that have some really neat colors and patterns and breaking them up to get a jagged appearance. I'm not sure if i can get it as jagged as in the drawing, but maybe close.

Then I'll have 3 pieces of slate, roughly the same size (or maybe not the same size?!) staggered in the center of the tank. I'll have a slight sloping of the substrate with some grasses in the back, behind the slate. In the front I'll have some formations of java moss or a similar type of moss/ground cover. I don't want it to cover the entire front though. On one side I'll have more of a broad leaf plant, like maybe the petite nana.

Anyways, let me know what you think!

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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-15-2012, 04:25 AM Thread Starter
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So, any thoughts on the 'scape? In particular I'm interested in the use of space, and while the 3 stones may not be completely random, I think they do fill an aesthetic role.

What about the slate? The pieces I have are interesting, with textures and colors such as yellow, orange, red, shades of gray, brown, etc.. Are they safe for use in an aquarium assuming mineral deposits are the cause for the coloration?

With regard to the substrate, I'm inclined to use Flourite, however, I am hearing a lot of good things about the caribsea eco-complete. It seems to have a nice granule size, and good nutrient content. The only thing I'm not sure of is whether the black substrate with the grey slate won't have enough contrast.

Final question for this post: Will "dwarf hair grass" grow to and be manageable at 5-6" long?
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-15-2012, 02:38 PM
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Scape: Think you should get different sizes to the stone. Scapes are more interesting when things are not all the same height/angle. Three is a good number. I would google some aquascape images to get an idea of you how you can angle the rocks or play with the heights in a way that's aesthetically pleasing.

Slate: Slate can increase the pH of the water... You can test your tap water pH to see what it's at then let the slate sit in a bucket of water for a day or two and then test the water to see if the pH has increased. This test will be a good indicator of what pH you'll be working with with the slate in the tank. Slate should be fine for aquarium use. Just make sure to rinse well before putting it in the tank.

Substrate: Ah, I don't know... I actually haven't done much research on substrates yet. Just starting out in the planted tank world myself. I bought EcoComplete for my tanks. There's actually a bit of red to the substrate as well. Black tinged with red. Definitely not as much red as Flourite. I've heard that you'll need to rinse the Flourite before putting it in (and it can cause cloudy water for a while) whereas you can just drop in the EcoComplete.

Dwarf grass: What do you mean by manageable?
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-15-2012, 03:40 PM
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Personally I don't think having 3 upright pieces of slate is a good idea.....

The Fraternity of Dirt #97Just because its dirt doesn't make it low tech

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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-16-2012, 01:01 AM
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Dude I love the drawing!!!!

I like the 3 slate idea too, but maybe have two pointed up and one of the sides be pointing sideways?

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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-17-2012, 05:18 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the comments! Jemm, I wasn't aware that slate could mess with the pH. I'll do this test and hope it doesn't affect too much. As for substrate I am leaning somewhat towards the Eco complete, though I want to see the fluorite in person before I choose for sure. Hopefully one of my lfs's have a tank with it that I can see. Would you say that the Eco complete slopes well? I plan on having the substrate slope up to the back around the slate.

As for the # of slate pieces, I think 3 is good, but I agree that they may look best in different sizes and/or not all pointing the same direction. I like your idea rasbora of having one on it's side. I suppose that could be interpreted as if it fell, or it could also be the natural formation possibly.

Lately I've been trying to work through frank's journals and how to's and one of the things he suggests is to visualize everything first. It feels funny, but I'm going to try that and make sure that the layout I drew, or some variant of it is really the fit one for my first tank. I'm also giving a lot of thought to possibly introducing only one species of plant, likely hair grass or maybe riccia so that I can thoroughly learn and master the care of that plant before I go and try to learn everything all at once.

I'm also getting more of an impression that a co2 system could be very beneficial to my tank, even though it's so small. So I'll be doing some reading on co2 systems, including a simple DIY setup which I hear works pretty well for nano tanks.
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