Freshwater Newb! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 05-12-2011, 01:38 AM Thread Starter
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Freshwater Newb!

Hey Folks. I would like to venture into the world of Freshwater planted i think. Right now I currently maintain a pretty "high tech" (as you folks would call it I suppose), 40 breeder SPS reef. So I do have a background in aquaculture, and as anyone who knows anything about reefs knows it takes *perfect* water quality, *perfect* paramaters, great equipment and religious maintenance and dosing on several levels to keep a thriving SPS reef.

I have a spare standard 29 gallon laying around that I would love to set up next to my reef as a planted display of neon tetras and cory cats.

I am an active member on Reef Central which is without a doubt the best resource and Forum for saltwater aquarists, and this seems to be a good resource for freshwater planted from what I can tell so far.

So I come to you fine people for advice on how to set this darn thing up. I have thousands wrapped up in my reef, and that being the main priority I would like to not spend thousands on this, hopefully that is achievable for what I want.

So here is what im looking for;

Filtration: From what i gather this is very different in fresh than salt, I have multiple levels and forms of filtration in my reef to keep it an ULNS ( ultra low nutrient system) which means 0 nitrates, 0-.002 phosphates etc. What do you folks use and what is the goal.

Lighting: On my reef I use this fixture!_Bulbs_by_ATI. Is lighting of this caliber required for planted tanks, does the freshwater world us MH, CFL, t5, LED? What do most prefer and why? Also what spectrum, my tank is more toward the 20000k end on the kelvin scale. I assume most plants photosynthesize optimally around daylight (6500k)?

Water Flow: In reef aquaria water flow is of the utmost importance. Do folks in the FW world reccomend high flow? How do you provide it? Powerheads? I have an mp40 on my 40 breeder reef.

Substrate: I realize this is probably more important in FW planted tanks than the reef world. I looked at this some and am considering either stratum or EC. Advice here is fine if you would like to contribute.

ANYTHING else you folks would reccomend as an important and beneficial component to a FW planted tank would be awesome. also number of Tetras and corys suitable for this tank size.

Thanks in advance guys. I sincerely appreciate all of your help!!

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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 05-12-2011, 03:31 AM
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I'm no planted tank guru, but I think I'll give you the basic answers that someone more experienced can expand upon. I still think these answers will give you a really good start/idea of what to look for.

Filtration: HOB power filter or canister filter is fine. The goal here is really just to maintain beneficial bacteria to keep up the nitrogen cycle so that your fish have clean water and to provide some mechanical filtration to clean up little particles from the water. It's recommended that your filter is rated for ~8x your tank volume in flow per hour if you go with a power filter and ~5x if you go with a canister, although I'd say it's not ABSOLUTELY necessary to achieve these rates if you don't heavily stock. Just giving you an idea. A small amount of planted tanks can run with no filter at all, as the plants do all the breaking down of ammonia instead. For your fish, <20ppm nitrates would be ideal, and obviously 0ppm ammonia and nitrites. The other parameters aren't really important unless you realize that your plants don't have enough of them (i.e. I wouldn't worry about constantly testing phosphates unless there is an apparent problem).

Lighting: Planted tanks require MUCH less light than a reef tank. Having something like 4x T5HO lights sitting on top of your tank is major overkill. Your lighting will depend on how high end your tank setup will be. Obviously if you plan to have pressurized CO2 and dose ferts, then you can go with higher lighting (this level of lighting is still probably very low compared to reef tanks). For example, 2x T5HOs on top of a standard 55G tank would put you in the very very high light category. Even a single T5HO bulb on top of a standard 55G will put you in high light. If you don't plan to have a high tech tank (maybe no CO2 injecting, minimal ferts), I would highly recommend low light, as that will be optimal. Something like T5NO bulbs or CFLs or even a few T8 bulbs could be fine. Look in the Lighting section of the forum to get more details (look for things like Hoppy's PAR chart stickied at the top of the forum and other really helpful things to get you started).

Water flow: Not too much to say here. Some plants like current, some plants don't, but moderate current is probably best and can be adequately provided by your filter's intake/output alone. Usually, powerheads are not necessary at all, although some do have them to improve the flow a little bit. In your boat, I would totally ditch any ideas of generating more flow with powerheads. It's just not necessary, and having too high of a current will negatively affect photosynthesis of plants. As I said before, low to moderate current will be fine, and most filters will give you this by themselves.

Substrate: I've never used it myself, but tons of people here use dirt as a substrate, and I would HIGHLY recommend that you seriously consider it, as dirt can be extremely valuable for plants in terms of absorbing nutrients for the plants to use. How you go about setting this up is by getting something like Miracle Gro potting soil (that's what I mean by dirt; something like mineralized top soil), putting some as the base of your tank, and then capping that off with Eco-complete. The reason that you cap it is that top soil is sort of messy and can fly around everywhere with the slightest disturbance, so capping it can keep it settled down a lot better and provide the extra benefits of having it for your plants. I personally regret not setting up my tank with it, as I think it's just better, but you can let me know if you try it. Otherwise, 100% ecocomplete or flourite or other specialized substrates is a fine way to go as well.

Other things I would recommend considering: Don't go crazy dosing ferts as your main priority. First priority should be getting lighting and CO2 levels to how you want them and then adjust your ferts based on those. It's way easier to change fert dosing than lighting or CO2, and I think those two are just really key in getting the balance right in your tank. Here's a basic rule of thumb that you should keep in mind: BALANCE LIGHTING, CO2, AND NUTRIENTS to get optimal plant growth. Imbalance will lead to massive algae outbreaks that are a huge pain to control. Balance can be achieved in many ways. You can have low lighting, low CO2, and little dosing and have a nice low tech tank that requires very little maintenance (maybe you'd be interested?). You can have medium of each and have a little maintenance, or you can have high levels of each and have a fert dosing regimen and have injected CO2. All your choice, but make sure you do your research on each of these departments before you start so that you can achieve nice balance.

Stocking: I think you said that you wanted a neon tetra and cory cat tank, in which case I think you could fit quite a few in a 29G. You could probably safely do 15 neons and 6 corys and be fine in terms of stocking. You may even have a little wiggle room to add something else if you go that way, which is always nice since we all know that we come up with new ideas for fish right after we've fully stocked and can't add any more. Some other cool ideas are having some shrimp in your tank or snails. There are a few species out there, a lot are fun, and neons and corys will generally leave inverts like shrimp and snails alone so that you can keep them in your tank, although any shrimp fry will get gobbled up by the fish.

Hmmm... I can't think of anything else but I hope that's a good introduction and that it helps a little bit.

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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 05-12-2011, 04:28 AM
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There are several things you want to look at before getting started.

1. What are your goals for the tank? Are you wanting high light, fast growth? or Easy maintainence, slow growth.

This first question will set everything else in motion. You could always start out as a low light tank, and move up to a high light as you get used to the planted side of the hobby. You will not need near the lighting you are using over your reef, and the first mistake people tend to do is overdo the lighting.

If you were to go high light, you would certainly need a pressurized co2 system. A drop checker (to get a rough idea of the co2 in the water) and a method of diffusing.

You might look into the T5 high output bulbs if you are going high tech lighting. The range you should look at would be the 6500-10,000k range. Hoppy has an excellent chart in the following link to determine your lighting requirements.

The tank under high light will require frequent fertilization, there is a method that a good majority of us use. It is not too complicated, and gives your plants whatever they need. Here is a link to the EI method.

as for substrates. There are many good choices here. There is the Diana Walstad method of using organic potting soil, but if you need to move plants frequently, it will become a mess. Others use the ADA aqua soil, some are using the new fluval stratum. There are others like Florite, Activ-flora, ect. I would pick the one that is going to work best for your goals.

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