Beginning a 55 gal... maybe.. - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-14-2018, 10:41 PM Thread Starter
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Beginning a 55 gal... maybe..

So, i keep reading everything, and theres a TON of information and a lot of it is overwhelming. Ideally I want a lot of fish in it, smaller guppies / whitecloud minnows and that sized mostly (girlfriends choice).. But I am still at a loss for what all I need, how much substrate, how do you clean? I have 2 sets of dimmable LED lights (beam nova 180w designed for corals off my now taken down saltwater tank) . Would those work? Is there a good step by step guide somewhere that I'm overlooking showing exactly what I need and what to get and all? still reading, still quite lost.. give me saltwater and coral, im good.. this shouldn't be stumping me but it is! And preferably suggestions on the cheaper end of the scale for now at least..
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-15-2018, 12:20 AM
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Hey Squigly, I’m just starting a 55 gallon too! I’m starting with the bottom and moving up.

For my substrate, I’m doing dirt capped with sand or fine gravel. Phil Edwards on here is guiding me through that process. There are also plant substrates you can buy. Some plants can survive with your basic aquarium gravel but without a proper nutrient rich substrate your options are limited.

I need to get at least 1 200W heater and I might get a backup to have on hand because I live in the North and it’s cold up here. You also need a thermometer. You can get one that attaches to the side of the tank, very cheap. The thermometer should go at the bottom of the tank because that’s where the coldest water is.

Next is your hard scrape, rocks, driftwood, ornaments, your personal preference depending on the look you’re going for.

Then you need a filter. I am getting 2 aqua clear 100 with my tank. You need at least one that can circulate the water a certain amount of times per hour. A backup is recommended as this is key to keeping the water clear for your fish and often for circulating the water for your plants.

The next key piece of equipment is lights and for that ask an expert. I’m buying bulbs from my fish store that is designed for plants, needs to have the full spectrum necessary to support plant growth.

That’s the basics.

Remember to cycle your tank before adding livestock and many people on here recommend getting your plants in for at least a week before adding plants
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-15-2018, 12:22 AM
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Sorry if some of that is redundant since you’re a reef guy so some of this might be known already.

I’m exploring CO2 options right now and I can keep you updated on what I decide if you want
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-16-2018, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Squigglyfrog View Post
So, i keep reading everything, and theres a TON of information and a lot of it is overwhelming. Ideally I want a lot of fish in it, smaller guppies / whitecloud minnows and that sized mostly (girlfriends choice).. But I am still at a loss for what all I need, how much substrate, how do you clean? I have 2 sets of dimmable LED lights (beam nova 180w designed for corals off my now taken down saltwater tank) . Would those work? Is there a good step by step guide somewhere that I'm overlooking showing exactly what I need and what to get and all? still reading, still quite lost.. give me saltwater and coral, im good.. this shouldn't be stumping me but it is! And preferably suggestions on the cheaper end of the scale for now at least..
Heya Squiggly, welcome to The Planted Tank!

First off, I'd like to let you know that your reef keeping experience will serve you well with planted tanks as they're similar in care requirements. If you consider the really high tech, carefully fertilized, high light systems the ULNS SPS crowd then work your way down to the low tech Zoa and other polyp group your points of reference for care level should be close.

One major, and significant, difference is lighting. More is not always better. In fact, it's often worse to have more light than less as long as the plants' needs are being met. Your light *should* be ok for freshwater as long as you can increase the white light and dim the far blue. Dimmable is awesome. See above.


Now, let's step back a bit, and let me ask you an important questions. What are your goals with this tank? What do you ultimately want it to be? How much time are you willing to invest in maintenance? Are you going to reuse your current tank? If so, how big is it and what sort of filtration does it have?

We'll get you where you want to go. Take a minute, go huff some 2-Part, and relax for a bit.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-16-2018, 06:09 PM
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My saltwater tank is easier than the planted I started. I have SPS, LPS and softies. Corals react almost immediately to most tank problems. Plants take more time. Fertilizers? Just mix up a fresh batch of saltwater and do a water change. Need to dose for Alk? Super easy to measure and track. My problem was that I thought a planted tank would be a breeze since I have a successful reef tank. I did 2 months of research before pulling the trigger on my salt tank. I added a light and some plants to my established freshwater tank in one weekend with zero research. Do it before and it will be much easier. Having a reef background will help with a lot of the basics.

This has turned into a long winded post to help a fellow reefer. This is the basics of what I have gained from my headfirst jump into the planted world. Hope it helps.

Cycling is the same. Easier with plants because (like macros) they use ammonia and nitrates.

Bioload - reef tanks have bacteria in the live rock. Fresh tanks have it in the filters.

Filters - This is where your nitrifying bacteria are. You probably want two of these on your 55 gallon. Place them both on the back (one right and one left) and you should have some good flow and clear water. You don't need any chemical filtration (except for medical issues). The plants use up all the nitrates that we worry about in a reef tank. Just use filter floss for mechanical filter and don't change the regular filter media until it is tearing apart. The filter media is where your bacteria are. Remove it and your tank will crash. If you need to replace it eventually, keep the new pad in there for a few weeks with the old one. This will allow the new filter media to get the bacteria transferred, then you can remove the old filter pad. This is normally done when the filter pad is literally falling apart. With good maintenance, that shouldn't happen.

Water - Test the GH and KH of your tap water. If they are both between 2 and 6, use it and Prime to dechlorinate. No need to mess with it. If they are higher, mix it with RO or RODI water (I'm assuming you mix your own salt here) to get the right GH/KH. For example, my tap comes out to 6GH and 8KH. I mix half RODI and half tap to get 3GH and 4KH. I then add Prime for the amount of tap water used.

Lights - Most people opt for 4000 to 6500 kelvin. Your lights should work though. Use more of the white channel than the blue (opposite of that for a reef tank).

CO2 - If you use medium to high light, you will want to use CO2. Low light and you can skip it completely. CO2 allows you to use higher light for quicker plant growth. With high light and no CO2, you will only be growing algae. Green Leaf Aquariums (GLA) is mentioned A LOT. They have regulators and guides on how to use them. Buy the regulator and diffuser from GLA. You probably want a 20lb CO2 tank for a 55 gallon. Buy a new tank on Amazon. Find a welding shop near you and give them a call. I found one really close to my place and they will take your new tank and swap it with another already filled tank. Much cheaper than buying a new tank directly from the welding company. You will also want a drop checker to get an idea on the level of CO2 in your tank. Tons of guides on these as well. I purchased a fluval drop checker on amazon.

Fertilizers - EI (estimative index) dosing is what I see the most and you can get a pack of these fertilizers from GLA. MUCH cheaper than buyer premixed. Use Rotalabutterfly to get the measurements for solutions. Ferts are divided into two categories; macros and micros. If you don't want to mix your own, Nilocg is well spoken of in the planted community. Nilocg mixes ferts for you and you can dispense them into your tank with a pump bottle. The key is that this is called "estimative" for a reason. It is not exact and takes time and dedication to dial this in by watching plant growth and deficiencies. Weekly water changes are key to EI dosing.

Flow - this is important in a planted tank; especially one with CO2. You want to see all your plants swaying gently with no dead spots. Biggest difference from a reef is that you do not want turbulent flow. You want it to be more laminar and flow more consistently. You don't want a toilet bowl in your reef tank. You want one in a planted tank. Oceans move back and forth. Rivers move in one direction. Place your filters so the create a nice laminar flow or use a powerhead to help.

$$$$ - same as the reef world. Get the right product first so you don't waste money on lesser items. The biggest cost will be the CO2 system by far since you have your lights.

Balancing CO2, lights and fertilizers is the key to a freshwater tank. Make sure your water GH/KH is in check so your plants can use the CO2 and fertilizers efficiently.

It is very rewarding and I love my school of neons and otos and my bright red betta who has so much personality. Stick with it, do the research and you will enjoy it.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-16-2018, 11:29 PM
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Squiggly,

Saltybuddha just gave you a lot of useful information, but even for me it was a lot to digest in one post. There are a lot of factors to consider with planted tanks, just like there are reef tanks. Some of them are similar but most of them are a 180 degree opposite. There are a lot of things that a good portion of planted keepers do that you may not need to do to meet your needs and wishes. So let's answer the questions I asked you above and have a conversation about them before going forward with what you'll need to accomplish those goals.

Regards,
Phil
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