What are your "pro tips"? - Page 2 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #16 of 93 (permalink) Old 09-27-2018, 11:48 AM
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I'm not a pro, but I did stay at the Planted Tank last night.

1. Weekly water changes, weekly parameter testing (religiously follow this)
2. If you need RO water, get a beefier system than you think you need, if possible automate.
3. Daily ferts, Excel helps tremendously with algae
4. H2O2 spot treatment works well to control/kill algae
5. CO2, and don't be intimidated by it. Take the time to read up on it and by the time you put your system into use you'll be embarrassed that you were intimidated at the beginning.
6. Listen to people on this forum (and other forums); they have more experience than you do in the beginning and you'll find things much easier relying on their experiences/expertise
7. If possible, buy flora from people here, you'll typically get much bigger and more mature plants than from online retailers (even if online retailers have a larger selection)
8. Find time to just sit and watch and enjoy your tank(s)
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post #17 of 93 (permalink) Old 09-27-2018, 01:58 PM
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Seems pretty obvious, but you'd be surprised at how many don't do it. When you startup your tank and your ready to fill/add plants make sure you have everything you need. In other words if your starting a high-light tank, don't start it up and add co2 later. The damage will already be done by the time you add the co2.

Also don't rush to put fish in. Get the plants growing. You might want to move the plants and other things around, etc. which is never good for fish. Once they are established and you have a good system that is working and growing plants slowly add fish.
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post #18 of 93 (permalink) Old 09-27-2018, 02:05 PM
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This is super important. The excitement of getting an aquarium and getting plants and getting fish and getting it all together can cause people to rush and not research and little steps that should be Easy like a fishless cycle. And sometimes it's the littlest steps that can trip us up down the road.

No one wants to lose fish or plants due to mistakes or rushing, but we see it all the time. Patience is the best asset one either brings to the table and uses, or gains as they quickly (slowly?) learn that aquaria is a low speed game.

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post #19 of 93 (permalink) Old 09-27-2018, 04:54 PM
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Many of the designer tanks that are showcased in pictures are set up for that one photoshoot, then broken down. Not everything is going to look perfect all of the time.
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post #20 of 93 (permalink) Old 09-27-2018, 06:50 PM
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I know it's hard, and we're all victims of it....but keep your hands out of your tank as much as you can; other than water changes, feeding, etc.

Let nature take it's course. You have germs, bacteria, dirt, soap remnants, etc on your hands. Not needed in the tank.

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post #21 of 93 (permalink) Old 09-27-2018, 07:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Koenig44 View Post
I know it's hard, and we're all victims of it....but keep your hands out of your tank as much as you can; other than water changes, feeding, etc.

Let nature take it's course. You have germs, bacteria, dirt, soap remnants, etc on your hands. Not needed in the tank.
I'm at the polar opposite end of the spectrum. Constantly going elbows deep to pull off an errant leaf here and there, blowing some detritus around with a turkey baster so it gets sucked into the filter instead of settling. There's always a good reason to reach in 😄

Just rinse off at the sink without soap before and after, it's never negatively effected a tank of mine.

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post #22 of 93 (permalink) Old 09-27-2018, 08:57 PM
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Originally Posted by kaldurak View Post
I'm at the polar opposite end of the spectrum. Constantly going elbows deep to pull off an errant leaf here and there, blowing some detritus around with a turkey baster so it gets sucked into the filter instead of settling. There's always a good reason to reach in &#x1f604
+1.

Probably one of the most common habits of successful planted tankers that I follow.

Extra attention to detail. Extra attention to maintenance. Extra attention to everything.

Pays dividends.


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post #23 of 93 (permalink) Old 09-27-2018, 10:17 PM
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Quote:
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I'm at the polar opposite end of the spectrum. Constantly going elbows deep to pull off an errant leaf here and there, blowing some detritus around with a turkey baster so it gets sucked into the filter instead of settling. There's always a good reason to reach in 😄
+1.

Probably one of the most common habits of successful planted tankers that I follow.

Extra attention to detail. Extra attention to maintenance. Extra attention to everything.

Pays dividends.

Wi-five!
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post #24 of 93 (permalink) Old 09-27-2018, 10:26 PM
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1. Don't be afraid to cut losses. From unhealthy leaves on slow growers (cryptocoryne, anubias, etc) to whole species that aren't working (looking at you littorella uniflora).
2. When you have it "just right," that's temporary. Plants grow, wood rots, equipment wears down, you buy more flora and fauna. It's a living thing, so don't get fixated on a certain setup.
3. Corollary to 1, don't be afraid to try things that are supposed to be wrong (as long as they aren't really wrong or too expensive).
4. Fish die, algae blooms. As long as you are taking care fundamentals (water changes, etc.) don't overreact. The cure might be worse than the disease.


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post #25 of 93 (permalink) Old 09-28-2018, 02:12 AM
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You need more CO2

Learn to take your time...even when you are excited and want to rush
...if you wait long enough...the patience comes


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post #26 of 93 (permalink) Old 09-28-2018, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Greggz View Post
+1.

Probably one of the most common habits of successful planted tankers that I follow.

Extra attention to detail. Extra attention to maintenance. Extra attention to everything.

Pays dividends.
+2

Constant short maintenance prevents larger problems. It's always better to be preventive then reactive.
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post #27 of 93 (permalink) Old 09-28-2018, 12:51 PM
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Since I went pro straight out of high school and am basically the Lebron James of aquariums, I’m probably more qualified than anyone to offer some pro tips. So in the immortal words of Ben Affleck from his masterpiece of cinema, Gigli, “sit at my feet and gather the pearls that emanate forth from me”.

Lol joking aside, I am by no means a pro but I’ve been at this long enough to know what’s worked for me and here it is:

1. Enjoy your aquarium! Health benefits aside (watching an aquarium for just 10 minutes a day can: lower heart rate, lower cortisol levels, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress), spending a few minutes just watching your tank without fiddling with anything is probably the best diagnostic tool available. If you watch your tank everyday just for the sheer joy of it, you will quickly get a feel for what “normal” looks like and any deviation from that baseline will jump out at you that much faster.

If you’re on this forum, chances are you work very hard to keep a nice planted tank so please please please take the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. You’ll learn a lot about your system and it will continually inspire you to stick with it.

2. Take care of your plants, not problems: I think I picked up this concept from Tom Barr (if there is such a thing as an aquarium pro- it’s Tom). If you focus on providing optimal conditions for plant growth, everything else will fall in place. If you chase solutions to problems like algae or hitting a certain ph value you can inadvertently cause as many problems as you solve- however, if you make changes slowly and just focus on your plants you will find that most problems resolve themselves in time.

Along the same lines, when you do adjust your ferts, co2, or lighting make sure you give it time before changing anything else. Let 2-3 new nodes grow on your stem plants and use the condition of that new growth to determine if any other changes need to be made. Stem plants in particular are like a core sample of the history of your tank- old growth shows what your tank was, new growth shows what your tank is, so give the plants time to adjust to changes before changing anything else.

3. Keep your tools, equipment, and the space around your tank clean! Any non-aquarists in your home will appreciate it, you’ll be more inclined to spend time enjoying your tank and working on it if you don’t need to untangle a birds nest of wires to unplug and clean a powerhead or move a million things out of the way to access your canister filter, etc. if you have multiple tanks, cleaning/disinfecting your scissors, tweezers, etc. will not only prolong their useful life but will also prevent the spread of algal spores and/or disease from one tank to the next. A solution of excel and rodi water works well for This!

4. it’s easier to mold your tank to the parameters of the water to which you have access then to mold your water to the kind of tank you want to keep. If you have hard well water and are not willing to get an ro unit, maybe pass on the amazon biotope and focus instead on cerntral American live bearers or African cichlids. I really can’t stress this enough- you’ll have a huge head start on any tank you set up if you base the livestock decisions on the water you have instead of trying to change your water to work for the fish you want.

5. Add humic acids! I’m a big believer in the benefits of humic acids in planted tanks. I use dennerle humin elixir, glosso factory dark water, and sometimes ill make a homemade brew of Indian almond leaves, peat, roiboss tea, and manzanita bark. Black water extracts have antibacterial/antifungal properties, help to buffer/lower ph, reduce stress of new fish, and may be a crucial factor that allows softwater fish to thrive in low ph environments. There are options that will not terribly discolor your water (dennerle is very light) and if you keep neons, cardinals, rummy nose, or other soft water tetras- you will see the benefits.

That’s it... Hope it helps and thank you for this topic and all of the other great pro tips that have already been shared!

Experience: worked in fishroom of Eddies Aquarium in Albany all through college, 20 years of keeping reef tanks, planted tanks, and dart frog vivariums.

Current/in-progress tanks: 20 gallon hi tech tank in office, 120 gallon nature/tetra aquarium at home.


Philosophy: work with what youíve got, and make choices based on the conditions that easiest for you to maintain over time.

Last edited by AdamRT; 09-28-2018 at 12:52 PM. Reason: Spelling
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post #28 of 93 (permalink) Old 09-28-2018, 02:27 PM Thread Starter
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Wow, thanks everyone! This has been even more enlightening than I expected.. Please keep 'em coming if you've got 'em =D
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post #29 of 93 (permalink) Old 09-28-2018, 05:57 PM
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For some reason this topic reminded of the song “Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen”. For those too young to remember it, it contains the answers to most of life’s questions. Don’t know why but while I was compiling this list that tune kept weaving through my thoughts.

So I’m no expert, and still have much to learn, but here are some thoughts from my personal experiences so far. As always, your mileage may vary.

Decide what you want from the tank before you get started. High/Med/Low tech. It should drive every other decision.

Know how much PAR your lights produce, or buy/position lights to produce a particular PAR. PAR level drives every other decision. And both too much and too little light is the root of many problems.

Low tech tanks with low tech plants need VERY, VERY little light.

If your light is medium or high, you will benefit from CO2. In general, High/Med light + no CO2 = algae farm.

Plants need ferts to grow to their fullest. Most problems I see are the result of too little, not too many ferts.

In my experience, high level of ferts does not cause algae.

One point pH drop from CO2 injection is commonly suggested........but more is better. Very high tech 1.2 to 1.4 is common.

Bubbles per second is meaningless.

Excel/Glut is NOT a substitute for CO2. And it provides no benefit at all in a balanced tank.

Don’t use test kits for pH, they are terribly inaccurate. Get a pH meter and learn how to calibrate it. Accurately measure the degassed pH of your water. It is essential to dosing CO2. Take it seriously. Even small swings can make large differences in a high tech tank full of fast growing stems.

EI dosing is a wide guideline and starting point. Your tank may be need more/less of any/every macro or micro nutrient. No shortcut, trial and error is the only way to learn.

None of the successful planted tankers that I follow use EI levels of ferts. It could be more, it could be less, but rarely levels referred to by charts. In fact, sometimes pretty wildly different. You need to find out what works in YOUR tank.

Make an effort to learn how to read your plants. If you pay very close attention, they will let you know if they like what you are providing.......and if they don't. This takes time, experience, and effort. Even subtle changes can effect plant happiness.

Dosing macros and micros on opposite days makes little or no difference. I know many (myself included) who dose micros daily, and personally I front load all macros. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Learn how to use and buy dry ferts. Liquid ferts are expensive, and rarely have the actual combination of nutrients that are best for your tank.

If you get really serious, roll your own micros. It's easier than you think. CSM+B can be the root cause of many problems.

Take the time to learn either the Zorfox or Rotalabutterfly calculators. Don’t think in tsp/tbs, start thinking in PPM.

Keep logs and records of everything you can think of, and make notes on how plants respond. Without a timeline of changes, you will never understand what causes changes in your tank.

Use the journal section here to find tanks that demonstrate success and have goals similar to yours. Read them carefully. And don't be afraid to reach out to those folks. Most here are very generous with their time and knowledge, and are happy to share their experience with you.

Light/CO2/Ferts are often debated. Maintenance is equally or more important. Regular water changes, filter cleanings, gravel vacs, removing dead or decaying plant matter, pruning and controlling plant mass……..in general, uber clean conditions is your best defense against algae.

Make water changes as easy as possible. I went to an extreme and just flip a switch. Not for everyone, but the easier you make it, the more likely you are to do it, and the more successful your tank will be.

When starting out, more plants is better than less. Many say their tank is heavily planted, but very few are. Very lightly planted tanks are very difficult to get into balance. Load up on plants right from the start.

Once you are successful at growing plants, managing plant mass becomes important. A tank can almost choke itself from letting growth get out of control. Plants enjoy a little elbow room between species.

Get everything else right first (light/CO2/Maintenance) before tweaking ferts. If you don’t, it will have minimal effect. Chasing problems with fert dosing is rarely successful, and only works when everything else is optimized.

Make changes slowly, and only change one parameter at a time. Easy to say, difficult to do. If you keep jumping around with everything, you will never understand the effect of anything.

If you are not serious about regular maintenance, and don’t enjoy getting your elbows wet, don’t go high tech. When you learn how to grow plants, maintenance only becomes more important and you need more of it. Plants growing an inch a day are not a myth. You will be trimming more than you ever imagined.

Think growing plants, not defeating algae. Healthy growing plants are the absolute best defense against algae. In my experience, most algae is the result of poor maintenance, too much (or not enough) light, and too few ferts.

You can't please all the plants all the time. Some will thrive, some will fail. Usually makes no sense. Best to let it go and stick with ones that like the soup that are serving. Trust me, I've banged my head against the wall too many times. Life is easier if you accept that fact.

Don’t shy away from plants that are labeled “difficult”. Some of my “difficult” plants are the easiest, and some of the "easiest" plants are the most difficult for me.

Surface agitation and aeration is your friend. More is better. Your fish and plants will thank you.

Good flow does not mean plants waving around frantically. Think wide gentle flow. And more flow rarely if ever cures anything.

And if you only remember one thing, it’s that “Everybody’s free to perform maintenance”! Trust me on that one.

P.S. Forgot to add that Rainbow Fish are a perfect companion to a planted tank!!
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Last edited by Greggz; 09-28-2018 at 10:18 PM. Reason: typo
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post #30 of 93 (permalink) Old 09-28-2018, 08:13 PM
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@Greggz: I think you are WRONG. If I were to ask an Ďexpertí, your list would be what I would expect. So (since you think much as I do), Iím willing declare you to be an expert. While you may not want to say youíre an expert, at least donít say you arenít an expert.

Your list is more than some simple tips. It is what I would consider to be the template for establishing and maintaining a healthy planted tank. I canít find any flaws in it and would make only minor additions (the few I made earlier).

Uggggh: not the Rainbow Fish ad again!

Last edited by Deanna; 09-28-2018 at 10:11 PM. Reason: Comment on unabashed advertising
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