Beginning a 450g planted discus tank - need advice - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-24-2018, 10:46 PM Thread Starter
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Beginning a 450g planted discus tank - need advice

I have a 450g that I am about to switch over (from saltwater) to a planted discus tank. It was a reef prior to this, but about 3 years ago the front glass panel came off and everything died. I got a new tank in the mean time, but just didn't have the energy to get it back going again as a reef. Here is a picture of the old reef:
https://photos.app.goo.gl/MWQQPHHLcsgdXM2U8

I did have a successful planted tank about 10-12 years ago, so I do understand the basics, but it was only a 110g and used a canister filter... my current system is going to add some complexities that I want to make sure I'm not running into an unmanageable nightmare! So please provide as much large-tank advice as possible.

Dimensions: 8'x3'x2.5' (LWH)
Overflow: double calfo (on each side)
Sump: ~120g, 4 compartment
Return pumps: 2x Dart Pump (output can be reduced as necessary), each ~3200gph +/- 400, I don't recall exactly

I will have large pieces of driftwood and some stacked dragon rock.

Questions:
(1) Substrate: what type/brand/etc, and how many inches is recommended?

(2) Lighting: I currently have 4 250w MH's from my reef days, and 4x 39w T5s, and 1x 8 foot VHO (forgot the wattage, 160 maybe); Is any of this recommended to be used for a planted tank, or should I strongly consider switching out for some LEDs. Please swamp me with recommendations on lighting.

(3) CO2: I understand it will be a challenge to keep co2 up given the sump situation. But, what will it take for me accomplish this? I am sure technology has improved in the last decade...?

(4) Plant food: What is the go-to these days for dosing into the aquarium to keep the plants happy?

(5) Water changes: Discus require a great deal of water changes but am I really going to need to do these "25-50% weekly" ones with plants doing a lot of the water cleansing? I have an auto water change setup already, so I can do however much per day is recommended, but wondering what I should really expect on a weekly/monthly basis.

(6) Water additives: I will be using RO/DI water (0 TDS) as my initial water and then adding back what is needed. What is the go-to these days for this? Considering Discus here in the answer. And obviously to keep the plants happy.

(7) Algae prevention: Please flood me with recommendations on how to prevent algae from ever being an issue from the get-go!

Anything else is much appreciated! Let's get my tank off to a great start!
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 12:08 AM
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Your reef was beautiful!

You can do co2 with a sump. Plumb it into the inflow using a reactor.

I think your biggest challenge will be the discus. Most buy them small and grow them out. Doing those water changes in something this big will be a task. Generally, while they are growing out they use bare bottom with little to gather anything organic. @Discusluv is the smartest discus person I know

Substrate can be anything. Aquasoil is the best. Black diamond has a good look and is cheap

Fertilizer is a book to its self. Nilocg has some good stuff, easy to use. Search Rotala Butterfly calculator or Zorfox to get an idea of dosing ranges

Algae is another novel. Generally speaking, its going to happen. Prevention is about balance between lights, co2 and fertilizer. Start with the smallest amount of light possible and work up


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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 12:33 AM
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Setting up a 450 gal planted discus tank can be somewhat of a large challenge for anyone who doesn't have much, if any, prior experience with keeping discus.
Having said that, and since I have over 40 years of discus-keeping experience (on & off and much of it in planted set-ups), I believe I can give you with a lot of help.
However, I've tried to prepare a lengthy response for you twice before & had my commentary erased somehow before I could submit - so either my computer is acting up, or the forum's system is acting strangely.
Please start with having a read of my 'Beginner's Guide to Getting Started with Discus' located here in the FISH section within the first thread on Articles & FAQ. Then I'll be happy to try once more to begin giving you some of what I believe to be 'sage' advice on doing this project the right way.
I'll be back with more posts soon.

Bump: Meantime, here's some quick & dirty thoughts that might be helpful as a start:


D-I-S-C-U-S - 6 CARDINAL RULES FOR NEWBIES TO FOLLOW


First I'd just like to mention once again that discus are hardier than many people think, and are not difficult to keep, so long as one is prepared to accept and adhere to a few key practices that will provide the best chances of success with discus.

This listing is recorded more or less in order of importance:

1) - D - Do your homework well before delving into discus. Read and research all you can beforehand. Googling will certainly help, as well as spending a good deal of time reading the posts and threads on the simplydiscus.com forum, particularly the stickies in the 'Discus Basics for Beginners' section, which will provide you with much of the material you need to digest.

2) - I - Investigate and learn of the best sources to get your discus stock. Find those breeders &/or importers that are long time, well-experienced, responsible, reputable, and known to supply high quality, healthy, and well-shaped discus. Buy your discus from one of these sources in order to insure that you get off on the best footing possible.
This is the single, most important factor in succeeding with discus.
The simplydiscus.com forum has a sponsors section which lists a good number of high quality discus suppliers in North America. Check it out.

3) - S - Set up and plan to follow a strict regular routine of fresh water changes, tank wipe-downs and cleansing, vacuuming of wastes, and regular filter and media cleaning, changes, replacements, and maintenance. Be fully prepared for the kind of commitment it takes to produce and maintain the highest water quality and conditions that you can.

4) - C - Carefully consider the type of tank set up you start with. Make sure the tank size is ample enough to start with 5 or 6 discus. Don't be tempted to begin with a tank of less than 55 or 60 gallons, and don't try to justify going smaller by just getting 1, 2, 3, or 4 discus for cost or other reasons.
Wait till you have sufficient resources to get a proper-sized tank, and the suitable size and number of fish to insure continuing good health and harmonious discus sociability.
Do not start with small, undersized, very juvenile fish which have not yet developed a more mature immune system, are more demanding to raise properly, and much more prone to health problems and other issues. Get fish of at least 3.0" in size, preferably larger.

5) - U - Undertake to start off with a bare bottom tank, unless you're getting fully adult fish and have previous good experience with fish-keeping generally, and maintaining a planted tank in particular. If you must have some decor, limit yourself to a very thin sand substrate layer, and perhaps a piece of driftwood with just a couple of small plants attached, or one or two potted plants.
Once you gain several months' of experience getting to know your discus' traits & behavior, and your discus get larger, then you may proceed to an aqua-scaped environment, to possibly include some other species of compatible discus tank-mates. Feed a varied diet, several times a day, and learn which foods will achieve a nutritious diet, by researching.

6) - S - Simplify. Keep things as simple as you can to start. Don't complicate your start with discus, at least at first, by placing them in a heavily planted environment, using CO2 and a strict fertilization regime. Make sure your tank is fully cycled before adding the fish, and don't be tempted to alter or change the pH of your water, or modify your water conditions and parameters by using chemicals of any kind. No need to use RO water or adopt any other procedures that would tend to complicate what should be a simple start to your discus launch. If you plan on eventually having a community tank set-up, carefully research the species of other fish you'd like to keep with the discus, to insure they are able to withstand the higher discus temp of at least 82 F, and that they are fully compatible with discus.
And do a complete and proper quarantine before adding any such tank-mates to your discus tank.

Follow these 'rules', and there's little doubt you will succeed with discus !
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 12:50 AM
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Quote:
(1) Substrate: what type/brand/etc, and how many inches is recommended?
If you want cheap you just use plain sand and be fine as long as your water column fertilization is sufficient. Want black sand? black diamond blasting sand is cheap @ $8 per 50 lb via tractorsupply. I regret only going 2" on some parts of my sub though.

If you want an aquasoil, ADA aquasoil is the tried and true. Oliver Knott is also releasing his own brand soon in the US through walmart I believe.

Quote:
(2) Lighting: I currently have 4 250w MH's from my reef days, and 4x 39w T5s, and 1x 8 foot VHO (forgot the wattage, 160 maybe); Is any of this recommended to be used for a planted tank, or should I strongly consider switching out for some LEDs. Please swamp me with recommendations on lighting.
T5HO will work: https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/12...er-volume.html
I think the ADA gallery in Japan might still be using MH on some of their older displays.

LED example: https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/12...periments.html He's using BML leds (no longer in production)

If you want LEDs, SBReef Freshwater LEDs are a pretty good. I wouldn't get the wifi version though, some people have been having problems with the wifi controller/settings. The basic version you can dim either channel. I think you might need 8 units for your tank (each box was designed for a 2' x 2' area), 8x $135.
PAR Data: https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/10...-par-data.html

SBReef mentioned something about releasing LED tubes in the future (around July or August this year iirc). personally if I were you I would use what I have currently and wait for those if you want to make the switch (assuming reviews are good)

tagging @jeffkrol , he might know more brands out there

Quote:
(3) CO2: I understand it will be a challenge to keep co2 up given the sump situation. But, what will it take for me accomplish this? I am sure technology has improved in the last decade...?
Slap a lid on the sump to prevent some degassing. Personally I ran a reactor on a separate loop in my sump (exits into the main pump's intake) for awhile and I did fine with it. Currently testing a JBL ProFlora Atomizer in my 135 main / 55 sump set up and that's doing fine too.

Quote:
(4) Plant food: What is the go-to these days for dosing into the aquarium to keep the plants happy?
dry ferts if you want to be able to customize your doses. I get my macro ferts from Nilocg, micros are various ones from ebay/amazon (testing custom mixes)

Quote:
(5) Water changes: Discus require a great deal of water changes but am I really going to need to do these "25-50% weekly" ones with plants doing a lot of the water cleansing? I have an auto water change setup already, so I can do however much per day is recommended, but wondering what I should really expect on a weekly/monthly basis.
no comment since ignorant about discus

Quote:
(6) Water additives: I will be using RO/DI water (0 TDS) as my initial water and then adding back what is needed. What is the go-to these days for this? Considering Discus here in the answer. And obviously to keep the plants happy.
no comment since ignorant about RO/DI

Quote:
(7) Algae prevention: Please flood me with recommendations on how to prevent algae from ever being an issue from the get-go!
Plant heavy at the beginning or adjust your lights to a lower setting til you have enough plant density to ramp it up.
Your lights are the gas pedal, ferts and co2 are the fuel.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 01:17 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks all! I have some reading to do and will be back for some follow ups. I am taking this transition slowly, in no hurry.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 03:22 PM
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Hi again Spar,


First, my best advice for newcomers to discus-keeping wanting to start them in a planted environment, is to alter your mindset a bit in terms of primarily focusing on keeping this expensive livestock healthy & thriving, with plants being of very secondary importance.
Second, contrary to popular belief, a planted tank is far from being an ideal environment for keeping discus. Don't get lulled into thinking that plants will go a long way to keeping the tank 'clean', and water quality & conditions good. Especially in a very large 450 gal tank that you're setting up.

Plants by nature will accumulate and harbor all types of wastes and decomposing material which can eventually produce bacteria that can be harmful to discus over time.
If you must start with a planted set-up before you become well familiar with discus traits & behaviors, carefully consider the type of substrate which will allow you to keep the tank clean and as free of waste accumulation as possible.

It's best to avoid any soils or substrates which might eventually produce pathogenic organisms that discus may not be able to tolerate. My strong suggestion is to consider using pool filter sand (with root tab fertilization) which can easily be vacuumed of daily wastes from the fish, decomposing plant matter, etc.

Further, it's very important to start with the largest, most mature discus that your wallet can handle, and obtained only from a reputable well-known source for supplying good to high quality discus. Since you're in Dallas, Tx., my suggestion would be to consider getting your fish from the very best source nearest to your location, which is Kenny's Discus in Daly City, Ca. (S.F.) (Arguably the finest source in the U.S.)

That's it for now. I'll be happy to add more suggestions as your project moves along, so feel free to post as many questions as you wish. Keep in mind my only objective is to help you succeed at keeping discus.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 10:03 PM Thread Starter
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So... it sounds like I was in that bucket of 'contrary belief' assuming that discus and planted tanks go hand and hand... may have to go back to the drawing board.

What about a bare bottom planted tank with simple plants (java fern/moss, etc.) only attached to driftwood? Does this resolve the core issue, or not really?

I'd rather just move on to other ideas for what to do with this tank if it is just leaning toward a bad idea in general.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 10:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spar View Post
I did have a successful planted tank about 10-12 years ago, so I do understand the basics, but it was only a 110g and used a canister filter...
I chuckled when I read "Only 110g"! Without real data, I am ready to bet that your 110g is well above average tank size for people on this forum!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spar View Post
Questions:
(1) Substrate: what type/brand/etc, and how many inches is recommended?
I use Swimming Pool Filter Sand from Ace Hardware. Its a white substrate that I like. If you'd like something black, the recommendations on black diamond blasting sand are solid. All that said, I have no experience in discus keeping other that drooling near the discus tanks in my local fish shops. Most of those tanks are bare bottom too or have very "boring" substrate with hardly anything planted at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spar View Post
(7) Algae prevention: Please flood me with recommendations on how to prevent algae from ever being an issue from the get-go!
I've used this and its been really helpful:
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/26...e-control.html

Good luck! Post photos when you are ready!
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 10:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spar View Post
So... it sounds like I was in that bucket of 'contrary belief' assuming that discus and planted tanks go hand and hand... may have to go back to the drawing board.

What about a bare bottom planted tank with simple plants (java fern/moss, etc.) only attached to driftwood? Does this resolve the core issue, or not really?

I'd rather just move on to other ideas for what to do with this tank if it is just leaning toward a bad idea in general.

I encourage you not to think of a launch into discus as being a bad idea.

I also regret having perhaps painted a negative picture of keeping discus in planted set-ups, and I'm hopeful you'll positively consider a discus tank as a real good approach for your tank.


And you really don't have to move down to the bare-bottom tank as being the only safe approach to keeping discus successfully.


In fact I believe that a 450 gal discus tank would very easily prove to be an exceptional, smashingly dramatic showcase if done up in a way more or less as you have considered, i.e. a 'minimalist- type' presentation using a layer of white or off-white PFS, ( along with a medium to dark blue background) and a number of carefully selected pieces of driftwood adorned with a good number of say, anubias &/or java ferns, and several deep background plants like a variety of say, e.g. Swords, which plants readily tolerate the higher discus temps, and will do well in PFS using root tabs for the planted swords, and dry or liquid water column ferts for the anubias.


Suggest you might wish to google 'images of large minimalist discus tanks' to get an idea of where I'm coming from.


That approach, coupled with a good number of Kenny's discus in the 4" -5" size bracket, and a large number of compatible discus tank-mates, such as Cardinals, Lemon Tetras, or Rummy-Noses, would make anyone stare at your tank in awe & admiration. That's my 2 cents.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2018, 11:23 PM
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Keep in mind that I only advocate going the route suggested above to significantly minimize the risks for any newbie to discus-keeping - i.e. one with no prior experience keeping them, whereas I would even encourage any well-experienced discus-keeper to go with a fully planted set-up from the outset, and you may wish to do that, once you gain some good experience keeping them for a reasonable time period.
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-26-2018, 01:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spar View Post
So... it sounds like I was in that bucket of 'contrary belief' assuming that discus and planted tanks go hand and hand... may have to go back to the drawing board.
450G's of Rainbows and high tech plants would be a sight to behold..........just sayin'!!

Of course I might be a bit biased!!
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-26-2018, 11:13 PM
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I can't wait to see the route you go!

For CO2 I would imagine your tank would suck down a 20lb tank like no one's business! I've got a 125g DT with a 55g sump running a 3 or 4' coast to coast DIY overflow (in my tank build thread) and using a bean animal setup with minimal water noise, except from my CO2 reactor now. With some folks talking about CO2 a flow meter was suggested for larger tanks and I'm running about 70cc/min into mine for about 30ppm of CO2, I started my dosing routine on 04/12/2018 and my 20lb tank is indicating it's about 300psi left, so I should be on my second tank by this weekend I'm thinking, as it's taken a week for it to finally drop pressure once the liquid CO2 ran out. Just to give you an idea on consumption. So maybe a low injection of CO2 would be better than trying to strive for 30ppm of CO2 in a tank that big.

The Calflo from what I can tell is a coast to coast skimmer for an overflow, what's the piping method you are doing? I'm doing a bean animal in mine.
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-27-2018, 03:59 PM Thread Starter
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Chayos, i do bean animals on mine, but I have consistently found it difficult to keep them both working as expected at the same time. I am likely going to just switch both to a regular durso soon for more equal water flow on each side. I have a dedicated fish room so don't care about any extra noise that comes from it.

After giving my wife a run-down of the pros/cons of a planted tank endeavor, I think we are agreeing to stay in saltwater for a while longer since it will involve less effort for the foreseeable future. At least until my girls get a little older and can actually help out with the maintenance (only 1 and 3 years old right now).

I do greatly appreciate all the advice given in this thread! Hopefully I can convince my wife to setup another tank one day that is a bit more manageable for a planted tank. Maybe my "small" 110g again
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-27-2018, 06:46 PM
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I'm glad we could help you out to figure what route you wanted to go! But I'm sad there won't be a massive FW tank I'm going to be envious of! Good luck to you!

I've got two about that age right now too, they are a bunch of work on their own and don't help with having the time to work on a tank.

Feel free to show an update of your SW tank, or share a link to a build thread, I love following SW tanks too that are big ones.

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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-27-2018, 07:28 PM
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For lighting, I strongly urge you to avoid LEDs. On large tanks they simply do not provide the proper light intensity and spread you need for healthy, lush, dense, plant growth and intense coloration. Plus the overly harsh blue spectrums many have cause undue stress on animals. SBReef lights have many fans but they are much too purple/pink for my taste, making even hardscape like driftwood look purple.

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