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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-07-2015, 06:26 PM Thread Starter
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New Nano Adventure - Need a Mentor

I am beginning my foray into the world of live plants in my tank. I'm already an aquarium hobbyist, but now it's time to step up. I just purchased a Marineland Contour 3G for my desk at work. I haven't made any decisions yet on livestock, though I'm thinking the tiniest fish I can find - fancy guppies, or tetras or I'm open to suggestions. But it's the plants I really need guidance on.

For now, the lighting is going to be fairly low, since the LED that comes with the Contour isn't great. I am in love with this idea:



or this one, but maybe not so centered (golden ratio and all):



Can anyone point me in the right directions? I've ordered the Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants by Peter Hiscock, but first hand advice is extremely valuable to me from a working application. So - advice on substrate with an integrated filter (which I've never used before either), whether I need fertilizers, are CO2 tabs a good or bad idea, what's a good low light ground cover, what's not going to overrun my tank and need lots of pruning (remember it's a tank at my work, so not much time to cultivate too often), what kind of livestock will stay away from my plants, what's everyone's thoughts on shrimp and do they need any special care? Or who's got great resources they can share?

Also, I'm in the South Jersey area (true South Jersey, not Philly - so like Atlantic City, Ocean City area) and could use recommendations on store locations. There's one in Egg Harbor, but I was scared to death of how sick and diseased his fish were the last time I visited, so I've never gone back.

Thanks for any help!
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-07-2015, 10:23 PM
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"your tank is only as good as your hardscape"

- me
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-07-2015, 10:39 PM
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Keep in mind that both the pictures you posted have a high plant content. Plants cost money, and require "food". You have low light, and no CO2 system, so this means you'll need very little fertilizer too, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't consider using any.

I've never heard of CO2 TABS personally, but if you're going to use them I would imagine they would dissolve more than just CO2 into your water column. While shrimp are great, and can require next to no feeding (and have nearly microscopic poop, so little clean up required) they do require fairly good water parameters which means a TDS between 100-200 preferably. One of my two shrimp hides all day and never shows himself unless my water has very little dissolved solids. This is often measured with a $20 device called a TDS meter. My tap is pretty high quality and comes with about 90-100 TDS, but your water could be completely different, it varies greatly, sometimes even suburb to suburb. You MIGHT find out what your TDS is supposed to be if you can find water stats for your area. Try googling your town name and the terms water quality report. Even then, this data may be off.

I'd recommend fish over shrimp for this reason. However, if you prefer shrimp you could consider topping off the tank using bottled water. It's small enough that this shouldn't be TOO expensive to do.

Most of what you have in those pictures are forms of moss, some of which look terrestrial to me (meaning they don't naturally thrive in submerged conditions) but I'm no expert.
Some mosses do great with little work, and no CO2, but if you want that kind of plant density you'll have to buy a lot of plants at the get go (more$$$) or you'll need to start the tank without fish/invertebrates and use some form of co2 (see flourish excel for one option) to help the plants you've put in there "fill out" their space. You would need more light too, to match your CO2 level.

Ultimately this isn't the easiest hobby in the world, so don't expect it to work flawlessly the first time, just like anything else, you'll run into troubles and need help adjusting things. That's why the forums are here.

Lastly, just to give you an idea. I've had my 10gallon for about 5 months or so now, and I've only very recently gotten my light level, fert level, and co2 level (ambient, I don't use any artificial CO2) to balance out so that my tank isn't constantly crawling in algae. If you'd like a nice simple guide for low maintenance tanks check here: http://www.sudeepmandal.com/hobbies/...ed-tank-guide/

That site is where I got most of my information. I didn't plant very heavily (which he says you need to do) so I had to cut back my Fert dosing, and how much I fed my fish in order to balance things better. Only now am I starting to see growth. So over 5 months my amazon sword (way too big for this tank in the near future I'm sure) has doubled in size, and my micro-sword has finally begun to grow,albeit very, very slowly. If I wanted a nice "lawn" effect like in your second picture it'd take me another 5 years at the current rate I would think.

All that being said, that doesn't mean don't try it, it means do your research and be willing to adjust when things fail. There is no fan of this hobby who hasn't had to work through the kinks to get what they wanted, fairly safe to say that's true.

Bump: PS: here is a rather helpful list of "easy" plants that won't require as much work to keep. They aren't exactly what you're looking for, but if you want things low-maintenance then you'll need to find the plants that match that. Good luck!
http://tropica.com/en/plants/?tabIndex=1&alias=Easy
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-08-2015, 02:42 AM Thread Starter
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@Blacktetra- thank you for those really helpful suggestions! I know this is a hobby, and I'm looking to spend both time and yes, even money (though maybe gradually rather than all at once) to indulge it. I know I'll probably screw up over and over till I get it just the way I like it, which may be different than other hobbyists. I was thinking of establishing just the initial planted tank in my home, no livestock, where I could tend to it more closely, then bring it to work once things stabilized, and let the beauty begin to fill in and spread. Your comments are all really insightful and extremely helpful, so again, thank you for that!
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-08-2015, 05:12 AM
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You're very welcome, I appreciate the thanks.
Having it at home then transfering it would probably be for the best, though keep in mind that the lighting at home and in the office are likely different, so if/when you move, don't forget to keep an eye on things.

I'll summarize what I've learned the hard way most recently:

Light, CO2 and ferts are a triangle, if they aren't in balance, you'll have algae or other problems.

If you don't have a very heavily planted tank with a relatively low amount of bio-load (living critters) then you'll get ammonia, and said ammonia will cause algae.

I'm recovering from a pretty bad bout of algae from the above mentioned reasons. I just finished recovering from the first (too much light for my CO2 level, and too much ferts as well) when I got bashed a second time because I decided "hey, why not feed once a day instead of every 2? Fish poop is like fertilizer, and that's good, right?"
Wrong, more fish food meant more fish poop, meant more ammonia. The annoying but exciting thing, is that now that I finally have my tank dialed in, I'll be starting over with a larger tank, more plants, and hopefully either a nerite snail or otocinclus catfish to help remove the algae after said mistakes. live and learn!
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-09-2015, 05:38 AM
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When you are starting, since you will be going low tech, don't try to rush anything. Tanks go through algae stages, which often solve themselves as the tank matures, such as bga, diatoms, and a few others. High tech tanks tend to fly through these due to faster absorption of nutrients and growth which means faster plant growth and less nutrients for algae.

Regarding the pics,
Pic 1: can be replicated with mostly low tech, you can find those mosses and they are easy to grow... but tend to have an adjustment period before really filling in. The ground cover looks like utricularia graminifolia and another plant that I cant quite see. The mosses on the wood are (or look like/similar to) Fissidens, willow, maybe some mini pelia, and the top could be any number of things... but could possibly be another variant of Fissidens (again could be any number of things).

Pic 2: 100% high tech setup, but the plants themselves are not that hard to grow (except the ground cover). The tall plants in the background are Jungle Vals, and the moss looking plant the is the main focal point is Riccia, which can be a floater in a low tech tank, but will die if tied to a rock like in this picture. The plants at the base of the hardscape (the rocks which are petrified wood) before the ground cover are Blyxa japonica which I have had success with in a low tech tank, but I also had it heavily stocked and well established so probably not the best example.

Don't be afraid to look for older tanks on the site to find more inspiration and don't be afraid to use the search tool to find more specific help.

Sorry if this is overwhelming... but try to take some of it in
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 08-07-2015, 02:58 PM Thread Starter
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So I have a question. My S. Repens is putting out roots along the stalks of each plant. How can I guide it to carpet instead of growing up? I've read that it's possible, I just can't figure out how to do it without injuring the plant. My first experience with the planting tweezers and forceps was a very rough one. Tore up a bunch of roots attempting to put them into the substrate. But eventually got a good spacing going on.

Here's the images and info on my first attempt effort! Took forever to get a small enough piece of Spiderwood (super thanks to rocknartcreation on ebay - he was incredibly amazing for finding the piece for me and handling a small shipping mixup.) Sorry for the glare and spotty glass. I'll try and get better pics.


https://www.flickr.com/photos/301476...posted-public/


https://www.flickr.com/photos/301476...posted-public/

(I keep trying to embed the pictures but they show as being broken images)

Those are two Anubis - one in the upper right and one by the base of the "tree." Aegagropila linnaei (Marimo moss) on the tree. And S. Repens on the ground. I have a Fluval mini CO2 system with ceramic diffuser ring (I plan to replace that awful tube with a black one). And even though the lighting that came with the tank (it's a Marineland Contour) is kinda awful, the plants seem to LOOOVE the CO2.
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