I have been into salt water tanks for 7 years, thinking about a planted tank. I cannot find a single one stop shop for all the questions I have so I joined up this forum in the hopes some guru can answer most of my queries
1. Is bigger still better when it comes to planted tanks because I like the look of the book shelf tanks but if a larger tank provides benefits I would consider that. In reefs bigger water volume is more forgiving when it comes to parameters and easier to maintain
Bigger water volumes are easier to keep certain parameters BUT will be significantly more maintenance. This is kind of the opposite from reefs. A smaller tank will have much less you need to worry about in terms of cleaning, trimming etc. If you like the look of a smaller tank you should just go with that.
2. Since it is water with fish I assume phosphates and nitrate/nitrite still plays a role ..not Alk, Calcium and Magnesium. Nitrites in reef tanks is taken care of by giving bacteria space to grow via rocks or bio balls, Nitrates which is mostly poop through protein reactors and Algae as in some form of algae growth outside of the tank in a controlled manner, Phosphates either by chemicals or through algae . Carbon I am guessing is used in fresh water as well so a carbon reactor will polish water in both cases.. So is carbon dosing - Vinegar/vodka for nitrates, GFO reactors for phosphates, refugiums or algae turf scrubbers for nitrates and phosphates a viable option in planted tanks ? If not what is used for nutrient export and creating a stable environment. Are hobby test kits for nitrites/nitrates/phosphates used in planted tanks ? Which brings me to the next question.
Its a LOT easier for freshwater. Nitrogen cycle is all you need to worry about for the most part. Bacteria turn ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate which is plant food. Medium to heavy planted tanks will need nitrate added, they will use up all that is provided naturally. Phosphate is not something we really worry about. Plants use it up and its very difficult (I hesitate to say impossible, but its pretty close) to have too much unless you are doing something really weird. Carbon reactors are a no go for us. We add co2 if you are a 'high tech' tank and some folks add a liquid carbon product (typically seachem excel) either for algae control or for plant benefit but we don't bother with anything else. Again its not needed the plants eat most of the waste products you would be concerned about. For the rest, water changes.
3. Reefers either do water changes or dose minor trace elements consumed by corals if they do not do water changes and in very limited cases they do it for nutrient export or rather when starting out most use water changes. I hear water changes are very important in fresh water set ups, but is it as nutrient export or because of some other reason. Can ordinary tap water be used to just automatically change x amount of water from the tank in regular intervals or does it need processing before the water is changed.
Water changes are done to stabilize certain parameters. Your fertilizing routine will determine how often you need them and also whether you are using tap water or RO. If you do EI fertilizer dosing you will be doing 50% water change every week. If you are dosing pps-pro or another method you might be doing less often. Either way you are not going to want your TDS to climb up too high. If using heavy tap water then topping off will get your tds too high. If you have city water with chlorine or chloramine then you will want to treat it with a dechlorinator. Once folks figure out there parameters then yes, people get into a routine of just changing x amount and adding Y amount of ferts and tada done. Checking parameters every so often to make sure things are still where you think they should be and also watching your plants etc will tell you what you need to know.
4. Temperature salinity, major elements Calcium, Magenesium, Alkalinity..keeping these stable is the holy grail in reef and that is done by taking the natural sea water as a baseline. Depth at which different varities of coral grow determines their ideal PAR requirements. How does one set baseline parameters in planted tanks since fresh water bodies in Asia are different from South America and plants will need different parameters to survive as will fish. How is it determined that the ideal phosphate/nitrate/ PAR from lights should be x amount or does it even matter ?
Plants are described in terms of low, medium, and high light. Typically a plant can always go higher in light, this describes the minimal amount of light needed to keep the plant alive. Annoyingly there is not a total consensus on what low, medium, and high light actually mean.... Generally though low is considered 15-25 par, medium 25-50, and high is 50+. Some will say high is 80+ etc. Anyway bottom line is that you will determine what light you need based on what plants you are growing. Generally high light is for tanks that either have a lot of algae eating critters or have co2.
I have been reading about some of the legends in the planted tank scene and while I see heaps of info about carbon dioxide, aquascaping, dry start and soil vs no soil I cannot seem to find much info for parameters to target, PAR ranges for different plants, pros and cons of small vs big set ups, areas that can be automated or am I just overthinking because I have been doing reefs
Ultimately I'd like a crystal clear and healthy tank. I don't like the overgrown garden look and prefer the green peaceful valley look with a few fish so if anyone can point me to the right direction and give some pointers and resources specifically towards helping me attain what I want I would appreciate it. Since I come from a reefing background I do understand the pain it takes and the conflicting schools of thoughts that exist with hobbyists
Thank you in advance to anyone who replies
CO2 injected is extremely helpful for planted tanks but not required for many plants (there are others that definitely DO require co2. CO2 injected tanks grow in MUCH faster, like 10x faster then non co2 injected tanks (aka 'low tech'). It sounds like you are interested in iwagumi style tanks. Those pretty much all require co2 (there are exceptions but generally speaking). So you should consider that when making your decision if you like that style of tank.
Hopefully this is helpful.