Just getting started - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-07-2019, 01:23 AM Thread Starter
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Just getting started

Hey everyone, I’m looking to start a planted tank, I currently have a 20 gallon long and I’ve been watching many videos on YouTube about substrate but they are no help sadly.. I have heard about layering substrate, so what substrate should I get and how should I layer it. I want to grow carpeting plants and some other nice looking plants lol . I’m going to eventually buy a Co2 system (paintball tank with a diffuser) and good lighting. So could anyone please tell me what substrate I should get and good beginner plants. Also I want to have a angel fish as my centerpiece fish so what else should I stock my tank with? And lastly how can cycle the tank once I have everything planted , I don’t want to kill any fish 😞. Thanks !
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-07-2019, 02:01 AM
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Originally Posted by MikeysFish View Post
Hey everyone, Iím looking to start a planted tank, I currently have a 20 gallon long and Iíve been watching many videos on YouTube about substrate but they are no help sadly.. I have heard about layering substrate, so what substrate should I get and how should I layer it. I want to grow carpeting plants and some other nice looking plants lol . Iím going to eventually buy a Co2 system (paintball tank with a diffuser) and good lighting. So could anyone please tell me what substrate I should get and good beginner plants. Also I want to have a angel fish as my centerpiece fish so what else should I stock my tank with? And lastly how can cycle the tank once I have everything planted , I donít want to kill any fish 😞. Thanks !
I have used Seachem fluorite substrate with a gravel cap. The gravel cap should have been smaller for easier planting and not a big catch for detritus. I'm now changing to a dirted tank with a smaller gravel cap. I bought soil from Dustin's fish tanks and listened to his webinar on substrate. I hope this helps.

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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-07-2019, 03:15 PM
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We all had to start somewhere, so no harm there!
But one point to keep in mind is that everything has a "learning curve" so keeping it simple at the start is often better as it lets us get the main points down, like how to keep fish alive, before we get so involved that we can't see straight!
One way to keep it simple is to NOT layer the first tank. Two reasons is that it is harder to start and also when we start we are much more likely to want to move plants around. When we move plants, the layers tend to get mixed as we dig, so if they wind up mixed, why bother? Mixed types of substrate are also prone to giving problems with ammonia and various changes as they get started. New folks just need to keep things steady and let the fish and plants grow for a while. Plants are not as hard to grow as it may seem but we do need to give them the basics, like goood water! Hard to do when the sub keeps changing the water. I still use lots of cheap, simple, pool filter sand but it normally gets all kinds of other stuff mixed in over time. I never buy special "dirt".
So I recommend going simple and it is also cheaper, then a few years later, you may want to do different things and you can just mix the other types in with the sand without having to totally start over.
If you feel it is right and you want plants growing in dirt, pull the sand back, fill a spot with dirt and plants and cover it with sand!
But you do not need special dirt, etc. of any sort for plants to grow. Many do not get the nutrients from dirt but through the leaves, so give them good water, some form of food like dry ferts and they will grow, while you are keeping it simple.
An angel might go nice with something like cory catfish of whatever color you like as they come in several types, kinds. Maybe some bristlenose catfish? Avoid anything too small (NO neon tetra) that is looks like food , nor too big so that it wants the whole tank.
Keep it simple, keep it fun until you really want/need a bigger challenge. Right now, just keeping fish and plants alive may be enough for the first six months or so?
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Last edited by PlantedRich; 07-07-2019 at 03:18 PM. Reason: add/correct
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-07-2019, 10:36 PM
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Substrate choices are near endless. This can get really confusing for someone new to keeping plants. Things to keep in mind is that it pretty much all works for growing plants so no matter what you decide, its probably going to work out.

I would say the number 1 consideration for substrate if you are new should be aesthetics. Do you like how the substrate looks? The second thing would be simplicity of use as PlantedRich says. Pool filter sand is popular, cheap, and looks very natural because... its just sand, and its hard to get more natural then that. Other options include any commercial substrate for plants. Also if you want a dark substrate black diamond blasting sand sold from tractor supply if you are in the USA is also popular because its black, and very cheap.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-09-2019, 03:42 PM
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Welcome to the obsession! I think a 20g long is a little short for an angelfish as it grows. You'll run out of height quickly as it grows.

I've used dirt w/cap, crushed black lava, sand, gravel, montmorillonite clay, etc.

Pick the color you want and run with it. If you're going sand, don't get the really fine sand as it will compact. Go with larger grain size. Look at sandpaper, 20-40 grit will give you a good idea of grain size.

Soilmaster Red infield conditioner - fired montmorillonite clay - screened with 1/8" screen for the bigger pieces only. (Great for amazonian tanks due to color, high CEC, no breakdown or dust)
Saf-T-Sorb - dark gray with molted colors - montmorillonite clay - also screened, slowly breaks down, so expect dirt when replanting, good CEC, good color, but some awesome tanks use it. (SeattleAquarist tanks)
Black Diamond Blasting Sand (BDBS or black coal slag) - 20-40 grit, black, inexpensive, works good, doesn't compact, but it's sharp and folks have mixed reviews with substrate fish varieties.
Eco-Complete/Flora-Max - SUPER EASY. Works great. Easy for planting and moving plants around.
Gravels - pea gravels, or CaribSea GemStone Creek, Rio Grande, etc. Grow plants fine, easy planting.
Black sand - black fine grain - compacts heavily, good for fish, but limited success growing plants that were root feeders. (java ferns, anubias, etc are not an issue, just my experience I'm sure someone else has a different opinion)
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-09-2019, 03:51 PM
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Welcome to The Planted Tank!! I agree with grizzly that a 20 long is to short for a 8 inch tall fish. You should check this thread out about co2 injections. I learned a lot from it.

Bump: Carpeting plants need co2 so you would have to start out with it or plant them after you get it.

Bump:

Bump: I recommend fine gravel for plants so they can get their roots in the gaps between gravel.

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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-17-2019, 01:44 PM
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Id Figure id piggy back on this post since I too am setting up my First tank. 29Gal (30w x 12L x 18H) how many Inches of Dirt and how many inches of Gravel should I be using. Ive been told 1/2 inch dirt and 1 1/2 gravel but i would think it be the other way around.
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-17-2019, 07:20 PM
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Id Figure id piggy back on this post since I too am setting up my First tank. 29Gal (30w x 12L x 18H) how many Inches of Dirt and how many inches of Gravel should I be using. Ive been told 1/2 inch dirt and 1 1/2 gravel but i would think it be the other way around.
No real guide for what works best for all plants, so I might also throw in that natural looking will vary but for me, I'm used to looking at creeks, lakes, and things where the bottom is never a single item of a single color but almost always a mix of sizes types and colors. That make me lean toward a mix of different things. It also makes it much easier to deal with when I want to change up in some way. If I want darker, I simply mix in more of some dark type, whether that is darker gravel or even just more of the simple dirt from the yard. I find my plants tend to all do better when I feed them so I worry very little about what the sub does for them and just do some ferts so that I know for sure that food is there. I just use the sub as a way to hide the bottom and make the plants stand up and look at the rest as details that don't matter much beyond ease of living with it.
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-17-2019, 09:20 PM
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Originally Posted by BarrickMacready View Post
Id Figure id piggy back on this post since I too am setting up my First tank. 29Gal (30w x 12L x 18H) how many Inches of Dirt and how many inches of Gravel should I be using. Ive been told 1/2 inch dirt and 1 1/2 gravel but i would think it be the other way around.
IMHO that is correct ratio, no more than 1Ē of actual soil with a 1.5Ē cap of sandy gravel, sand should be no smaller than about 1mm and up to around 3mm. To fine a sand and soil layer canít breath, to coarse and it leeches into water column to fast.
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-17-2019, 11:52 PM
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Layering substrate. Sigh. In the end it will all be mixed up, so whats the point? Just get caribsea eco-complete and call it good.
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75 gallon planted tank. About to stock.
10 gallon QT

"Do not pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a difficult oneĒ Ė Bruce Lee

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