Questions on converting reef tank to freshwater - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-21-2020, 06:17 PM Thread Starter
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Questions on converting reef tank to freshwater

I have a 300 gallon reef tank that was loved, but after I moved, I am not sure I want to start over again.

Tank is on a steel stand, with a 100 gallon sump underneath. I have return pumps, radions (lights) and heaters.

Still on the fence if I am going reef, salt water FOWLR or planted, but if I go planted, I would probably just want 100-150 cardinal tetras. Heavily planted with a large piece of driftwood and lots of java fern growing on it. Maybe 25 cory cats for some entertainment at the bottom of the tank.

My questions:

How much does a CO2 system cost for a tank this size?
How big of a CO2 tank do I need to last a month or so?
Can I put the CO2 right next to the return pump?
Do I need a canister filter as well, or could I just put carbon/ammonia remover in reusable bags (in the sump, where the water runs through it)?
Do I need to protect the overflows?
Is there anything other glaring issue I am missing?

I appreciate any thoughts or advice! I have not had a freshwater setup in many years.
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-22-2020, 01:59 AM
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If you're looking mostly at Java Fern, you don't need CO2, bright light, and lots of ferts! And there are many other plants that will grow just fine w/o CO2.
You can use your sump with no need for a canister filter. You just need an appropriate amount of bio-media. I don't know the size of the weir slot size so can't speak to whether you need to protect against cardinal tetras making the trip to your sump. However, a piece of slotted foam should resolve any issue.

Good Luck.
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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-22-2020, 03:23 AM
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Not sure that CO2 costs scale with tank sizes. CO2 usage perhaps, but not the equipment needed. You'll need a CO2 tank, regulator, and a diffusor/reactor of some type to inject the CO2 into the water.

Again, not sure about scaling for a tank that size but I'd say a 10 or 20 pound tank should work just fine. I have a 20# tank and it lasted months on my 75 gallon tank.

You can inject the CO2 right into your sump return.

If your sump has filter media than no. Canister not needed. You also don't need carbon or ammonia remover. Just your mechanical filter media and some bio-media. Sumps I see people using bioballs or the cheap but effective route would be plastic scrubbies. The ones you can get at the dollar store to scrub dishes with. Bunch of those in your sump would make perfect bio-media on the cheap.

Protecting the overflows, depends on the opening size and how they are oriented, possibly.

Like AbbysDad said, if you are going with mostly java fern, CO2 not needed. CO2 is not "needed" for a large amount of the plants used in the hobby. CO2 will make things grow faster of course but CO2 also comes at the expense of needing brighter lighting and more fertilizer and more time maintaining and trimming plants. 300 gallon tank would take a decent amount of lights to hit that mid to high light level and a lot of fertilizer to dose 400 gallons of water.
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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-22-2020, 11:15 AM
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If you're coming from reef tanks, I gotta tell you a planted tank is nothing cost wise compared to what you are used to. I got a new 10lb Co2 tank and a used regulator for under $100 on [Ebay Link Removed]

You could easily make your own co2 reactor for a couple of bucks.

Radions should be fine for plants. You may have to fiddle with coloration and timing a bit compared to what you had for coral.

I'd probably just put some sort of sponge filter in the overflow to protect from sucking up shrimp and smaller tetras. And fill that sump with all the bio media and floss.

Other than that it should be simple conversion.


I gotta tell you.... I ran reef tanks for years. I had a whole room in the basement committed to frags and such. An elaborate automated water change setup as well with trash cans full of mixed salt and such.
I am really enjoying my planted tank every bit as much as my old reef tanks. I never really realized how beautiful and interesting fresh could be. Not to mention the simplicity of water changes and the lack of salt creep.
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I am an equipment and tool junkie. I try to keep it simple but.........
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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-22-2020, 03:16 PM Thread Starter
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Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by AbbeysDad View Post
If you're looking mostly at Java Fern, you don't need CO2, bright light, and lots of ferts! And there are many other plants that will grow just fine w/o CO2.
You can use your sump with no need for a canister filter. You just need an appropriate amount of bio-media. I don't know the size of the weir slot size so can't speak to whether you need to protect against cardinal tetras making the trip to your sump. However, a piece of slotted foam should resolve any issue.

Good Luck.
Thanks, that helps a lot! I had always thought you needed CO2 to get nice plants. If I go with the planted tank, I will post the build for more advice.

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Originally Posted by Nubster View Post
Not sure that CO2 costs scale with tank sizes. CO2 usage perhaps, but not the equipment needed. You'll need a CO2 tank, regulator, and a diffusor/reactor of some type to inject the CO2 into the water.

Again, not sure about scaling for a tank that size but I'd say a 10 or 20 pound tank should work just fine. I have a 20# tank and it lasted months on my 75 gallon tank.

You can inject the CO2 right into your sump return.

If your sump has filter media than no. Canister not needed. You also don't need carbon or ammonia remover. Just your mechanical filter media and some bio-media. Sumps I see people using bioballs or the cheap but effective route would be plastic scrubbies. The ones you can get at the dollar store to scrub dishes with. Bunch of those in your sump would make perfect bio-media on the cheap.

Protecting the overflows, depends on the opening size and how they are oriented, possibly.

Like AbbysDad said, if you are going with mostly java fern, CO2 not needed. CO2 is not "needed" for a large amount of the plants used in the hobby. CO2 will make things grow faster of course but CO2 also comes at the expense of needing brighter lighting and more fertilizer and more time maintaining and trimming plants. 300 gallon tank would take a decent amount of lights to hit that mid to high light level and a lot of fertilizer to dose 400 gallons of water.
Thanks! I like the idea of the plastic scrubbies. I have Radions, which are good light, so I think I am good there.

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Originally Posted by PlantStudent View Post
If you're coming from reef tanks, I gotta tell you a planted tank is nothing cost wise compared to what you are used to. I got a new 10lb Co2 tank and a used regulator for under $100 on [Ebay Link Removed]

You could easily make your own co2 reactor for a couple of bucks.

Radions should be fine for plants. You may have to fiddle with coloration and timing a bit compared to what you had for coral.

I'd probably just put some sort of sponge filter in the overflow to protect from sucking up shrimp and smaller tetras. And fill that sump with all the bio media and floss.

Other than that it should be simple conversion.


I gotta tell you.... I ran reef tanks for years. I had a whole room in the basement committed to frags and such. An elaborate automated water change setup as well with trash cans full of mixed salt and such.
I am really enjoying my planted tank every bit as much as my old reef tanks. I never really realized how beautiful and interesting fresh could be. Not to mention the simplicity of water changes and the lack of salt creep.
Haha, I know. Thinking about restarting a reef is a lot. It seems fun to just have a simpler set up.

Typically in a reef tank I quarantine everything. I know fish need to be quarantined. I read plants should be dipped into a salt or hydrogen peroxide solution for 5 minutes. How do you quarantine shrimp? Just a separate tank with no fish for 2 weeks or so?

Thanks.

Last edited by UndewaterForest; 04-22-2020 at 03:23 PM. Reason: Double-comment
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-22-2020, 05:05 PM
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I have Radions, which are good light, so I think I am good there.
I'm sure they are but can you adjust the color spectrum? SW lights are not ideal for FW plants. They will grow FW plants but not as well as something that is specific for FW. The 10k spectrum should be ok but the actinic lights are worthless plus with those and the 10k color you'll get a possibly unattractive blue hue. But it might be something you like. Certainly play around with it and see how it works. Worst case, you can't get them to work for you and you swap them out for proper FW lights. Nothing to lose trying.


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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-22-2020, 06:21 PM Thread Starter
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I'm sure they are but can you adjust the color spectrum? SW lights are not ideal for FW plants. They will grow FW plants but not as well as something that is specific for FW. The 10k spectrum should be ok but the actinic lights are worthless plus with those and the 10k color you'll get a possibly unattractive blue hue. But it might be something you like. Certainly play around with it and see how it works. Worst case, you can't get them to work for you and you swap them out for proper FW lights. Nothing to lose trying.
Yep, you can adjust the spectrum. They actually have a bunch of presets built out as well - shallow reef, deep water reef, freshwater planted, radiant colors, etc.. I remembered the others, but not the freshwater planted. Looks like that preset includes the 5k and the 7k spectrum, then you can just change the ramp up/ramp down and sunrise/sunset time.
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-22-2020, 06:49 PM
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I had a 220 gallon reef tank (7' x 2' x 2') with a 60 gallon sump. After 10+ years of reefkeeping, I converted to African cichlids. Very colorful, and with a few hundred pounds of Texas holey limestone, it was very reef-like in appearance. The maintenance was a lot easier, especially water changes, and I had to reduce the lighting. The fish reproduced like crazy--I originally started with 20 and ended up with 60+ (this after giving away several, plus losses from territorial disputes and predation). Something to consider.
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-22-2020, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by UndewaterForest View Post
Yep, you can adjust the spectrum. They actually have a bunch of presets built out as well - shallow reef, deep water reef, freshwater planted, radiant colors, etc.. I remembered the others, but not the freshwater planted. Looks like that preset includes the 5k and the 7k spectrum, then you can just change the ramp up/ramp down and sunrise/sunset time.
Thats awesome. Huge money saver not needing new lights.
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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-22-2020, 11:26 PM
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From one ex-reef aquarist to another I can say confidently that you will like planted tanks. They are just as rewarding, much less expensive and instant gratification compared to a reef. Also i'll predict you will go with CO2 eventually.
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post #11 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-23-2020, 03:44 PM Thread Starter
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I had a 220 gallon reef tank (7' x 2' x 2') with a 60 gallon sump. After 10+ years of reefkeeping, I converted to African cichlids. Very colorful, and with a few hundred pounds of Texas holey limestone, it was very reef-like in appearance. The maintenance was a lot easier, especially water changes, and I had to reduce the lighting. The fish reproduced like crazy--I originally started with 20 and ended up with 60+ (this after giving away several, plus losses from territorial disputes and predation). Something to consider.
Glad to hear you liked the conversion. I've seen a couple of pretty spectacular African cichlid tanks. Fun to hear about them breeding.

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From one ex-reef aquarist to another I can say confidently that you will like planted tanks. They are just as rewarding, much less expensive, and instant gratification compared to a reef. Also, i'll predict you will go with CO2 eventually.
Haha, glad you liked the conversion to planted! Actually pretty amazing how many people seem to really like going to a planted aquarium. It makes me feel better about the decision. I think your right about the C02, I will probably just invest in a system, whether I need it upfront or not. I am sure like my previous reef tanks, I will go in with an idea, and it will continue to evolve over time.
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post #12 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-23-2020, 11:51 PM
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With neons and plants your probably going to need to cut the GPH down considerably from a reef setup. 5-7x turnover is about all you need. Most fresh planted tanks and smaller fish need calmer, quieter waters. To high and plants will get blown over sideways and fish wonít be able to swim around.
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post #13 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-24-2020, 02:55 PM Thread Starter
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With neons and plants your probably going to need to cut the GPH down considerably from a reef setup. 5-7x turnover is about all you need. Most fresh planted tanks and smaller fish need calmer, quieter waters. To high and plants will get blown over sideways and fish wonít be able to swim around.
Good call. I forgot about that.

Bump: Any suggestions on substrate? I was looking at fluval plant and shrimp stratum, a little expensive, but I like the brown color.
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post #14 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-25-2020, 03:14 PM
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From one ex-reef aquarist to another I can say confidently that you will like planted tanks. They are just as rewarding, much less expensive and instant gratification compared to a reef. Also i'll predict you will go with CO2 eventually.
I agree that you will like planted tanks and will likely go with CO2 eventually. I only regret not having CO2 earlier when I started my first planted tank a few years back. With CO2, you have more choice of plants, and even low light plants grow lusher, faster, and with less algae issues beginners have to deal with.

But I disagree that plant keeping is rewarded with instant gratification, but rather the gratification is belated because it takes one to two years to balance out the parameters. Similar to reef keeping, there is so much science to learn on how to grow lush plants without algae, and that learning will never end.

You don't necessarily have to keep small fish with plants as many aquascapers do. I prefer more life and action, so I keep large cichlid with plants, while others prefer rainbow fish. Many rainbow and cichlid are comparable to reef fish in color, size and behavior, and many of my visitors have mistaken my fish as salt. Your high flow reef system is already ready and ideal for larger fish, and all you need is to research for the right plant and fish species to house together.


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post #15 of 21 (permalink) Old 04-25-2020, 07:56 PM
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Fluval Stratum is to light to hold bigger plants down until they root in, you’ll be pulling your hair out before get 1/3 done planting tank.

I myself wouldn’t consider active soil ball type substrate in this size (72x36?) tank. Your lookng at $400 minimum and it will need to be replaced roughly every 4yrs.

HTH pool sand is $12/50LB, you’ll need 5 bags for 1.5”+ depth, so less than $100 and will never have to be replaced.

Black Diamond medium grain blast sand is even cheaper.

https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/pr...ting-abrasives

Plenty of low tech, no co2 examples out there, you just need to decide which niche you want to be in. Sword plants, Vals, Giant hygro, aponogeton bulbs, crypts, java fern etc are all good choices.

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