help me review for a friend: setup to minimize maintenance & water changes - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-27-2012, 03:48 PM Thread Starter
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help me review for a friend: setup to minimize maintenance & water changes

So I have a friend who inherited a tank. It's a hex/tall so I have no clue what size ... 15-20G? The lighting is terrible (stock fluorescent bulb, doesn't penetrate far down). She let the fish store advise her and did the thing where you buy 3 fish to cycle the tank.

I live 2 hours away & took her some super-low-light, low-maintenance plants (java fern, java moss, anubias) and some fast-growing, water-cleaning plants (anacharis, water sprite, some other stems, a little duckweed).

Now she's ready to (1) stock her tank and (2) take my advice over the fish store's. So I'm going up there again this weekend to go fish and plant shopping with her.

Here's the thing: she wants low, low maintenance and super-minimal water changes.

I know some things that can help, but I couldn't find anywhere that lists, in an easy format, what steps to take to set up a tank that allows you to minimize water changes and maintenance in general. I can think of the following:

--low light, no CO2

--low fish load (how does this translate into actual practice? half of the suggested maximum on something like AqAdvisor, which I understand to be conservative and not aimed at people with planted tanks?)

--plants that consume fish waste especially efficiently (anacharis, floaters?) I'm trying to balance that with the other side of low-maintenance, which is that fast-growing plants require more trimming, removal, etc., so other plant suggestions would be great. (Plus the floaters block what light there is to the other plants!)

--ensuring good circulation throughout the tank

Anything I'm not thinking of?

Thanks!!
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-27-2012, 03:59 PM
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Shrimp. And crypts. Root tabs in flourite or similar high cec inert material. Your other plants are good. May still want to upgrade the light though.

You could maybe do 1 or 2 otos and a piece of driftwood.

My cherry shrimp tank is as low maintenance as it gets. Granted, mine are low grade. Lights on a timer. No co2. I clean the glass, change the water and filter cartridge maybe once every 2 months. Other than that, just weekly top offs.

Also heard good things about low maintenance betta, but I've never kept one.
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-27-2012, 07:34 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks! I've been suggesting shrimp but she's not interested. I think she might be if I showed her some, though. Her sister's getting some; maybe that'll give her the shrimp bug.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-27-2012, 10:02 PM
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Tank Review

Hello P...

I don't believe you can get by with infrequent water changes unless you have a very large tank, it's heavily planted and you keep only a couple of small fish. Without frequent water changes, eventually, the waste produced by the fish will build up to the point that it kills them. It would be like never flushing a toilet.

If your friend for whatever reason is unable or unwilling to do what's necessary to keep an aquarium healthy, then maybe you could convince her to sell the tank and get into a hobby that isn't so demanding.

Just a thought.

B

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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-27-2012, 10:20 PM
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Plastic fish on a string, plastic plants, layer of gravel on the bottom, just enough to hide the weights that anchor the fish. Light only when someone is there to look at it.

I have seen this, with a little bitty HOB to move the water just enough to make the fish sway back and forth.

However, a low maintenance tank is possible, but I would suggest your friend start with a few more water changes and so on, and get to know how the ecology of a tank works. Then start backing off when she is aware of what is happening.

Cycling with fish: If there were 3 fish @ 1" long to cycle the tank that is all the fish the tank can handle. It only grew enough bacteria to handle the waste from 3 fish @ 1" long. This might be all she wants for a low maintenance tank.
To add more fish means more cycling. Print out the fishless cycle for her.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-27-2012, 10:26 PM
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BBradbury - that post is going to invite the zero-water-changes folks to start arguing with you.

However, BBradbury's post does lead to a very valid point. No matter what angle you take, an aquarium newbie is not a good candidate for a tank with minimal-to-zero water changes.

An aquarium newbie will most likely want more. More fish. More color. More activity.

An aquarium newbie will not know when to test water parameters.

An aquarium newbie will not know when to clean filters.

An aquarium newbie will not know the signs of a sick tank.

etc. etc.


Philia, looking at the few threads you've made since you joined this year, it seems that unlike the typical lazy newbie, you're willing to read and research. I think it will be good for you and your friend that you help her form the good habits of an aquarium owner. If I were you, I'd help her set up the tank in a simple way - more focus on fish, and less on plants, but still have the basic regular maintenance the she HAS to do.

Example:
- Inert substrate, most likely go with some cheap sand.
- Form of filtration is up to you. Airpump-driven Sponge or corner box filters are simplest, but she may get annoyed with the noise.
- If she has to have plants, I'd say stick to VERY EASY plants. If it was my friend, I'd put some wood pieces in there with java moss tied to it.
- 10 white cloud mountain minnows.
- Teach how to feed properly. In other words, just enough food for the fish to eat in 2 minutes, NO leftovers.
- Teach her how to change 10-20% of the water every week. In a small tank, all this takes is a bucket, water conditioner, and 15minutes of her time.
- Some sort of magfloat she can use to clean the glass.

This way all she needs to do is feed the fish once a day, and do a small water change once a week. This will teach her some sense of responsibility in how to take good care of an aquarium, but still super manageable.

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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-27-2012, 10:49 PM
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For a 15-20g hex, as far as fish go, I'd go with an assorted "shoal" of tetras at maybe some Corydoras or some such bottom feeder, to give the substrate area some more action. (Neons, serpae, black skirts, etc.)

For plants, definitely some Anacharis, java fern, Cryptocorynes, hornwort, Anubias and maybe even some Vallisneria. Those should all grow fine in pretty low light conditions with minimal care. I'd stay away from floaters because of the amount of light they block.

Growing plants in the tank with the light it currently has is going to be pretty tough, if at all possible. I'd definitely upgrade the lighting, as soon as funds allow. Take a look at a good dual bulb T5NO fixture, or maybe one or two clip on CFLs. Just a thought.

What type of filter does she have currently?

If you have the time, it may be a good idea to write up a quick little maintenance list for her.

Good luck!

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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 04-29-2012, 12:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philia View Post
So I have a friend who inherited a tank. It's a hex/tall so I have no clue what size ... 15-20G? The lighting is terrible (stock fluorescent bulb, doesn't penetrate far down). She let the fish store advise her and did the thing where you buy 3 fish to cycle the tank.

I live 2 hours away & took her some super-low-light, low-maintenance plants (java fern, java moss, anubias) and some fast-growing, water-cleaning plants (anacharis, water sprite, some other stems, a little duckweed).

Now she's ready to (1) stock her tank and (2) take my advice over the fish store's. So I'm going up there again this weekend to go fish and plant shopping with her.

Here's the thing: she wants low, low maintenance and super-minimal water changes.

I know some things that can help, but I couldn't find anywhere that lists, in an easy format, what steps to take to set up a tank that allows you to minimize water changes and maintenance in general. I can think of the following:

--low light, no CO2

--low fish load (how does this translate into actual practice? half of the suggested maximum on something like AqAdvisor, which I understand to be conservative and not aimed at people with planted tanks?)

--plants that consume fish waste especially efficiently (anacharis, floaters?) I'm trying to balance that with the other side of low-maintenance, which is that fast-growing plants require more trimming, removal, etc., so other plant suggestions would be great. (Plus the floaters block what light there is to the other plants!)

--ensuring good circulation throughout the tank

Anything I'm not thinking of?

Thanks!!

The book "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" by Diana Walstad is about setting up a low maintenance soil-based tank. The last chapter in that book listed the steps involved.

Since your hex tank is tall, you may want to use CF bulb - it reaches much deeper than a regular T8 or T6.

As to fish load, stock it as you would for a regular tank.

On plants that consume fish waste efficiently, basically any fast growing plants will do. If you do not want that much time doing trimming, use the slower growing plants and cut down on the fish load.

If you want to experiment with plants, instead of having a soil substrate covering the tank bottom, have plants in containers (filled with soil and capped with gravel). That way you can easily switch plants by taking out a container and re-plant it.

For good circulation, just have a little pump.

Because of the soil and plants, the tank does NOT need any filter (mechanical or biological) for on-going operation.

As explained in Diana's book, due to the aerial advantage, floating plants (e.g. duckweed, red root floater, and salvinia) are great helpers on maintaining a healthy tank.

During the initial setup period, while the submerged plants are adjusting to a new environment, floating plants get to work immediately. Thus, preventing algae from the very beginning.

Floating plants do block some light. But as long as the submerged plants do not require a lot of light, they should be okay.

I have applied the Walstad method to tanks as small as 2.5 gallons requiring very very low maintenance. Basically just feeding, trimming, and topping up water. No need to even do a single water change.

BTW, there is no need to cycle a Walstad tank. Add fish within 24 hours of setting up the tank.
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