total newbie, going from reef to FW - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-23-2019, 12:01 AM Thread Starter
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total newbie, going from reef to FW

Hello everyone!

I'm in the process of breaking down my 150 Gallon reef tank and hoping to converting it into a simple planted tank with tetras and Discus.

I wanted to emulate an environment similar to pictures attached. Can you guys share some good guidelines for beginners to read when starting out?

I currently have an old Aqua Illumination LEDs, could I just modify the white / blue % in order to keep plants?

Are there breeders for Discus and Tetras? With SW fish, I was always dealing with diseases and parasites from wild fish.
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-23-2019, 12:28 AM
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I found youtube to be a very helpful resource on planted tanks and aquascaping. I follow channels from aquapros, aquarium co-op, and george farmer. All 3 have been great at explaining what they are doing and why but in very different ways. Aquarium co-op is more a resource on fish and fish keeping whereas aquapros and george farmer gets into how to plant, design aquascapes, and keep plants alive.

This forum is probably the next biggest resource. Reading through some of the tank journals in the journal sub forum is extraordinarily helpful. People will go into a lot of detail about how they overcome problems.

Generally speaking you will find that the planted tank hobby is divided broadly into low tech and high tech. Somewhat hilariously these are not well defined categories. High tech will run things like pressurized co2, high light, lots of fertilizers etc. Low tech will run things like low to medium light, usually no co2, and typically things like an all in one fertilizer. That said people will mix these things and call themselves one or the other. Before people can give you advice on how to achieve what you are looking for you need to decide if you want a low tech tank or a high tech tank.

Do you want to run CO2? Do you want only easy to grow plants? Do you want a plant to carpet the bottom of the aquarium? Do you want fast plant growth or are you willing to wait a while?
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-23-2019, 12:40 AM Thread Starter
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I will check out those youtubers, thank you for the recommendations!

I definitely want to keep it low tech. One of the reasons why I'm converting from saltwater to freshwater is to reduce the amount of overall maintenance involved and cost.

I'd like to start off with easy beginner plants for sure! Not particular on growth rate, I just want to try a few species as fillers in between aquascape.

Most importantly, I'd like to know if Discus and Tetras will be an easy combination to keep and if there are any breeders I can purchase from to ensure quality.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-23-2019, 12:57 AM
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-23-2019, 02:15 AM
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I have also never kept discus. They are practically their own sub hobby. My understanding is that they are fussy about water conditions and are also a fish that likes it hot. As in the low and mid 80s. They are not a beginner fish. /Shrug you will need to decide if their requirements are what you want build your tank around.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-23-2019, 08:00 PM
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Well pics you posted are not really what you would call a discus biotope, I’d suggest you do a google search for “discus biotope aquarium” and see how they differ from the Japanese style aquascapes in your pics. Also color spectrum and intensity in those photo are not really representative of aquatic plant tanks, those are just under low level morning/late afternoon viewing only lights. Be very hard to grow most plants under that lighting. Most the lighting in fresh tanks will usually center around using 6500k whites as main lights and supplement those 660nm reds along with blues. Not sure on your light but it may use 10000k white, not that plants can’t adapt to use most spectrum it may not give appearance that you like.

That said, as noted above, there are many hybrid approaches to fresh tanks many have implemented successful.

Main things you will need to learn.
1. Circulation and turnover in tank and biofilter. Be prepared to reduce flow in your tank by probably at least 40% compared to a properly set up reef. These are much quieter, calmer waters overall. Protein skimmers don’t work in fresh. And your losing the big wall of biorock that is base of most reef setups and may need to rework sump to compensate, but that can depend on fish and plant load in tank.

2. Chemistry. You can probably throw out 90% of what you think you know about water chemistry now that your going to lower PH/KH/GH. Two examples, ammonia is no longer as super toxic as before and your target for phosphate is no longer 0, .5-2ppm phosphate is normal.

3. Don’t get caught up in a lot of super high dosing, high tech rollercoaster thinking that’s what you need. Unlike reef which has pretty stringent requirements to be successful there are all different .shades of grey.

I myself wouldn’t pick those two types of setups as tanks for cardinals or discus, that’s not type of environment they require. As posted above discus can be a picky lot.

If you want super simple low maintenance something like this would be easy, easy way to go. Roots for fish to feels safe in, super easy floating overhead plants providing the dim lighting they prefer. The floating plants access all co2 and light they want and are one of best water cleaning filters you can get. Only plant maintenance you have to pull is snipping out a bit of floater and tossing them to keep numbers and light diffusion in tank how you like it. Do that, change 25-30 water weekly, clean filters and your done for cardinal oriented tank. Discus will require more frequent water changes.



Add 48 cardinal, a herd of cory cat rooting around on bottom sand cleaning up excess food, maybe 2 dozen lemon tetra and you’ll find the calming aspect of a backwater/forest type setup is so relaxing to just sit and watch, complete opposite end of spectrum from hustle and bustle of most reef setup. The dimmer slightly diffuse light of overhead plants will just make cardinals blue sparkle like glitter in tank. You can add a few spots of sword plants or others to mix it up bit. But great thing is you barely have to lift a finger to keep tank running once you get plant load, fish load, filtration and a few water changes/routine dialed in.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 12:04 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by DaveKS View Post
Well pics you posted are not really what you would call a discus biotope, I’d suggest you do a google search for “discus biotope aquarium” and see how they differ from the Japanese style aquascapes in your pics. Also color spectrum and intensity in those photo are not really representative of aquatic plant tanks, those are just under low level morning/late afternoon viewing only lights. Be very hard to grow most plants under that lighting. Most the lighting in fresh tanks will usually center around using 6500k whites as main lights and supplement those 660nm reds along with blues. Not sure on your light but it may use 10000k white, not that plants can’t adapt to use most spectrum it may not give appearance that you like.

That said, as noted above, there are many hybrid approaches to fresh tanks many have implemented successful.

Main things you will need to learn.
1. Circulation and turnover in tank and biofilter. Be prepared to reduce flow in your tank by probably at least 40% compared to a properly set up reef. These are much quieter, calmer waters overall. Protein skimmers don’t work in fresh. And your losing the big wall of biorock that is base of most reef setups and may need to rework sump to compensate, but that can depend on fish and plant load in tank.

2. Chemistry. You can probably throw out 90% of what you think you know about water chemistry now that your going to lower PH/KH/GH. Two examples, ammonia is no longer as super toxic as before and your target for phosphate is no longer 0, .5-2ppm phosphate is normal.

3. Don’t get caught up in a lot of super high dosing, high tech rollercoaster thinking that’s what you need. Unlike reef which has pretty stringent requirements to be successful there are all different .shades of grey.

I myself wouldn’t pick those two types of setups as tanks for cardinals or discus, that’s not type of environment they require. As posted above discus can be a picky lot.

If you want super simple low maintenance something like this would be easy, easy way to go. Roots for fish to feels safe in, super easy floating overhead plants providing the dim lighting they prefer. The floating plants access all co2 and light they want and are one of best water cleaning filters you can get. Only plant maintenance you have to pull is snipping out a bit of floater and tossing them to keep numbers and light diffusion in tank how you like it. Do that, change 25-30 water weekly, clean filters and your done for cardinal oriented tank. Discus will require more frequent water changes.



Add 48 cardinal, a herd of cory cat rooting around on bottom sand cleaning up excess food, maybe 2 dozen lemon tetra and you’ll find the calming aspect of a backwater/forest type setup is so relaxing to just sit and watch, complete opposite end of spectrum from hustle and bustle of most reef setup. The dimmer slightly diffuse light of overhead plants will just make cardinals blue sparkle like glitter in tank. You can add a few spots of sword plants or others to mix it up bit. But great thing is you barely have to lift a finger to keep tank running once you get plant load, fish load, filtration and a few water changes/routine dialed in.
Thank you for the detailed reply. It sounds like I should stay away from Discus.

Do I need to implement any mechanical filters or ceramic media for bio-filtration?

Could you share where the best source is to purchase decorate rocks, substrate, plants etc?
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 03:31 AM
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Originally Posted by fwreef86 View Post
Thank you for the detailed reply. It sounds like I should stay away from Discus.

Do I need to implement any mechanical filters or ceramic media for bio-filtration?

Could you share where the best source is to purchase decorate rocks, substrate, plants etc?
Well I don’t want dissuade you from discus, they just take a bit more work and care than some fish.

But 1st thing that should be asked about doing a 150gal tank is what do you use for your water supply?

Do you have any pics of your current sump/filter setup?
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