New to planted tanks, help me out! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-21-2012, 10:54 PM Thread Starter
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New to planted tanks, help me out!

Howdy Folks!

I'm not new to aquaria, been doing that for a while, but mostly African Cichlids, which aren't plant friendly. I decided to convert one of my 29 gallon fry holding tanks into a planted tropical/South American tank (tetras, that kind of thing).

Right now, I have a big ol' piece of driftwood that spans the entire tank, and is as tall as the tank, I've got some Dwarf Hair grass, an Anubis which I already forgot the name of (long stems, broad leaves), and some Java moss. Figured that would be easy enough to start off with?

Okay so here's what I'm doing now / the equipment I've got...

Lighting: 4 bulb T5 HO, 46" currently with two daylight bulbs and two actinic bulbs (yeah I know the Actinic won't do anything for a freshwater tank, but they came with the fixture). I know it's overkill but I got it on clearance a while back and had it on my 75 Gallon, and figured I'd stick it on this puppy for some good lighting.

Question One: This fixture is programmable, how much light should I be giving these plants? How many hours per day of the 'daylight' bulb? (I think it's 5500k, I'll check in a minute and edit this post woops, nope, it's 12,000K/54W T5 HO, two of them, 46", over this tank (and two actinic). Does the actinic matter at all? (In other words, can I leave it on for 12 hours just to keep the tank lit?). This fixture 'has' LED's but the reason it was so cheap is they don't work :P

Water Parameters:

Well cycled tank, has been a Cichlid fry holding tank for a year and a half, this morning it had about 30 2" long White-Tail acei poop-machines.

0 Ammonia
0 Nitrite
0~20 nitrate typically when it was stocked with fry, with some huge water changes each day (when they were very young) and each week beyond that

Water is hard (I am out of testing materials to get the actual numbers, I can buy some if it's really important, but it's hard I can tell you that)
pH of about 7.5

STOCKING: Currently 6 cory cats. Going to stock much more later, but I want to give it at least a few days (any new stock will go into a 10 gallon quarantine tank first anyway so it'll be a couple weeks before it has more stock)

Next question: With those water parameters, and that lighting in mind, how should I be feeding? I want to go CO2 eventually, but right now I can't afford that. So, for now, I've been using API 'liquid' CO2 (a.k.a. some form of plant-usable carbon I'm sure, the bottle was way too warm to be liquid CO2, hehe), doing the recommended dosage, I have API root tabs underneath the anubis and a couple of the hairgrass, and I have API Leafzone fertilizer.

Suggestions for how to dose (currently using labeled dosage), or what to add/subtract for fertizer?

FINALLY, because African cichlids like to dig, I have a mix of black and white fine sand in there. I don't really want to change the substrate because it looks good, I have nowhere to store it, and dangit that would be a huge pain. Is that acceptable substrate? Do I need to change it / mix something else in / create a layer underneath it, anything like that? Everything I've been reading has said these plants aforementioned don't need the substrate that much, and they can handle the sand as long as they get the nutrients they need.

FINALLY, any stocking suggestions? Looking for some fun tropical fish that will fit in a 29 (preferably small schooling fish), that won't harm my plants and will make all of the colors come together!

Hey folks I know I'm asking alot of questions, but I appreciate your answers in advance. Hopefully all of those patient days of mine explaining the fishless aquarium cycle over and over again or answering the same questions on various Cichlid forums over and over will have built me up enough good karma that I can get away with asking what is probably a bunch of really newbie questions here! I appreciate it everyone.

-John
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-21-2012, 11:43 PM
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In my opinion you will have too much light. I have 2 t5HO on my 29 gallon and I have constant algae issues. I have had to cut back the light and jack up my CO2 to keep things in line. My plants grow like crazy.

T5Ho is a lot of light.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-21-2012, 11:53 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by smokaah View Post
In my opinion you will have too much light. I have 2 t5HO on my 29 gallon and I have constant algae issues. I have had to cut back the light and jack up my CO2 to keep things in line. My plants grow like crazy.

T5Ho is a lot of light.
So.. suggestions? How should I reduce the light? Reduce the amount of time the lights are on? Swap out the 12000k for other bulbs? Anything?

I had the same light setup in a completely unplanted 75 gallon, running 12 hours a day, and didn't have algae issues, but I suspect that was because of frequent water changes (if ya don't eat ya don't grow), so I suppose adding some plant-food can create a scenario but... as I'm new at this, I need to know what the right amount of light is, and how I should remedy it?

Edit: I AM considering CO2, problem is- space! This is a kitchen counter-top setup. Those fluval co2 canister get-ups would be PERFECT because they just hang off the tank but the cost is stupid high ($50 for 3 88 gram canisters? Forget that. Apparently they use a proprietary fitting too so the 88 gram canisters I can get all day for $15/3 pack won't work... or so I've heard). Paintball systems seem flaky and DIY is WAY out of the picture purely on the looks/smell/mess of having that setup on my kitchen counter... nu uh. Any thoughts on that? ARE there decent kits that I could run a 20 oz. paintball tank on? There is a place two minutes from my house that will fill them for $3, so it's really not bad. Any decent solenoid based systems?
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 01:17 AM
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Im no expert but from what I know you are very high on the spectrum with a 12000K I use a 6500 and a 10000. Also those fluval CO2 are a waste I have 2 of them. 1 I bought and the other came with my EBI. I would go straight to pressurized if you are serious about it. I use pressurized CO2 with an aquaticlife regulator with solenoid works great. If you know anyone with a bar or restaurant see if you can get a can from them. They are cheap and when you run out you exchange your cylinder for a new one. As far as the light goes give it a try and cut back as needed.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 01:29 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by smokaah View Post
Im no expert but from what I know you are very high on the spectrum with a 12000K I use a 6500 and a 10000. Also those fluval CO2 are a waste I have 2 of them. 1 I bought and the other came with my EBI. I would go straight to pressurized if you are serious about it. I use pressurized CO2 with an aquaticlife regulator with solenoid works great. If you know anyone with a bar or restaurant see if you can get a can from them. They are cheap and when you run out you exchange your cylinder for a new one. As far as the light goes give it a try and cut back as needed.
Well, like I said in my posts, those larger tanks won't work, this is a kitchen-counter aquarium. I don't want some 3 foot tall+ tank sitting on my counter, or on the floor next to the counter right in the walk way. Paintball co2 may be an option, since it's a bit smaller but it's still obtrusive (though there may be room behind the aquarium). Drilling into the counter and running the lines into the cabinets is not gonna happen.... in case anyone was gonna suggest that LOL.

If I decide I like the idea of a planted tank, then perhaps I'll do a larger tank in the future and do a bigger co2 system like that. I did find a paintball co2 unit with a solenoid.

If I'm using the API 'co2 boost', is that going to supplement me enough to at least keep my plants healthy? Slow growth is acceptable, as long as they don't die!
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 01:36 AM
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you definitely want a new light, and i think actinics are generally too strong for plants, and will cause algae. especially on a tank that size. if you could hang the fixture high off the tank, say from the ceiling, then you could maybe use it.

sand would be okay, but if you add any heavy root feeders like swordplants and others, you'd want to add fertilizer "root tabs" to your substrate.

if you want small schooling fish, i'd go for some small tetra or rasbora. you can have a pretty decent sized school in a 29 gallon.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 03:41 AM
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You'd want new lights, as others have stated. That set up is most definitely for reefs, which won't be optimal for plant growth. You want bulbs in the 6500k-10000k range at most. These gives the most amount of light in the usable light spectrum for chlorophyll A and B which is more towards yellow and red than blue.

Also, you need to cut back severely on the amount of PAR you'd be outputting. Your tank is only 19" high, figuring 2" substrate, 1 T5HO bulb will give you high lighting on top of the tank, any more and you are going to be having some serious issues Of course this is assuming your fixture has decent reflectors.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 03:49 AM
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this website is good for how many of what fish you can put in your tank: http://aqadvisor.com/
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 04:23 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Trickerie View Post
You'd want new lights, as others have stated. That set up is most definitely for reefs, which won't be optimal for plant growth. You want bulbs in the 6500k-10000k range at most. These gives the most amount of light in the usable light spectrum for chlorophyll A and B which is more towards yellow and red than blue.

Also, you need to cut back severely on the amount of PAR you'd be outputting. Your tank is only 19" high, figuring 2" substrate, 1 T5HO bulb will give you high lighting on top of the tank, any more and you are going to be having some serious issues Of course this is assuming your fixture has decent reflectors.
The tank is high, and the fixture is on a stand that sits about 4" above (this isn't a 29 long, this is a 'standard' or 'tall' 29).

So I have two options, you all can tell me what is best:

I also have a single-tube T12 flourescent. It's old and ugly but hey it works.

OR, I can swap out any/all of those four bulbs, with 6500-10000K as recommended. Yes, this is a reef light, I bought it for africans, the lighting really makes their color pop. But I can swap bulbs out and make it work if that needs to be the case.

Which would yield BETTER results, my T5 with a new combination of bulbs? Keep in mind I can shut off one bank or the other, alternate banks (it's programmable) or just leave one bank off altogether. If I just run two bulbs at a time that works out to be under 4 watts per gallon, on a tall tank, with a light suspended a few inches above the tank... that's not too bad is it? OR would my old T12 fixture be better? That's what I had before with a 6500k bulb from a hardware store in it. I had the T5 fixture on my 75 gallon african tank... I just assumed that the T5 would be better for plants, but whichever works works!

Finally, is that API liquid carbon any good? Is it doing anything? I've read it's equivalent to a low-output co2 setup, true or overly optimistic?
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 04:31 AM
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PAR is a measurement of the light that is available for photosynthesis in plants and corals. It stands for Photosyntheticaly Available radiation. It really is THE MOST important consideration when choosing your lights. Not enough PAR and your plants will not thrive and probably die. Too much PAR and you will "cook" you plants and they will probably die.

As for how much PAR you want, I am looking for that answer myself (as I have been keeping Corals for years and am just starting with plants. I am sure that smeone more knowledgable than me will chime in here.
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 04:38 AM Thread Starter
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PAR is a measurement of the light that is available for photosynthesis in plants and corals. It stands for Photosyntheticaly Available radiation. It really is THE MOST important consideration when choosing your lights. Not enough PAR and your plants will not thrive and probably die. Too much PAR and you will "cook" you plants and they will probably die.

As for how much PAR you want, I am looking for that answer myself (as I have been keeping Corals for years and am just starting with plants. I am sure that smeone more knowledgable than me will chime in here.
So then, would two 54 watt T5's be better, or a single T12/T8? That's the dilema I'm at now for the lighting... I can do either one in a matter of seconds, and it makes no difference, I just want to know what is going to give me the best growth!
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 04:45 AM
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Here is a place to learn about your lighting, if nothing else, look at the charts on the first post:

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=105774

If you are going to have a "high light" set up, you will have to use a reliable source of co2, and you will also have to dose fertilizers, see here:

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=21944

If that sounds like to much work, then do some research on low light aquariums. They can be very beautiful also.

Standard 10 Gallon (20 x12x12).
Low tech, Sand substrate.
Eheim 2211, and Aqueon Quietflow 10.
Finnex Stingray LED, 20" above substrate
2 Anubias Nana Petite, Christmas moss.
4 Halequin Rasborahs, 5 RCS.
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 05:12 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by livingword26 View Post
Here is a place to learn about your lighting, if nothing else, look at the charts on the first post:

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=105774

If you are going to have a "high light" set up, you will have to use a reliable source of co2, and you will also have to dose fertilizers, see here:

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=21944

If that sounds like to much work, then do some research on low light aquariums. They can be very beautiful also.
Doesn't seem so bad, I already do more than 50% water changes weekly on all my tanks anyway. Dosing is easy enough. The only issue is the co2, this tank is a 'trial run' so I'm not sure if I want to invest money in co2 at this time.

So lets say I want to do a 'low light' setup, can I do a low light setup with my current plants? How might I do that? I'm gonna try and way my options. Assuming I can do a low light setup with that tank (by switching to that T12 I suppose, still waiting to see if anyone has an opinion on the T5's with different bulbs vs single T12...), what would the difference be? Just slower growth?

As a matter of fact, looking through that dosing guide, it would appear the products I'm using now on my LFS's recommendation pretty well fit that, so it really does come down to co2 at this point, since I'm already doing the water changes, and already doing the dosing (and I will tweak it a bit I'm sure). So again, the question is, what's the difference between that setup and a low-light setup... I need to decide if I really want to invest in a co2 system (not to mention the counter top clutter, even with just a paintball system, and yes, that is the ONLY option for this tank)

-John
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 07:39 AM
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yes, you can have a low light setup with java moss, anubias, and dwarf hairgrass.
the hairgrass will probably not carpet in a low light setup, however.
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-22-2012, 12:27 PM
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I had the same situation with my light fixure. It is great - but for a reef.

Mine is a 4ea 55w tube T5 programable fixture. I love it. But I also learned it was just too much light.

I still use it. I run 2 of the 4 bulbs 8 hours a day. In addition, on the advice a PT member, I cut a window screen the size of the fixture and attached it to the fixture. The screen alone reduced PAR by 20% and I really can't see the screen.

I went from way too much light to light in the med-high PAR zone. Even at this light level, I did need CO2. I started with liquid Excel and that worked except it melted my Val so I switched to pressurized.

Good luck.

*60g
*Substrate = 50% Florite sand 50% regular Florite
*Lighting 108W of a 216W T5HO Aquatic Life hood 25" from substrate 8.5 hours daily.
*Amarath Redroot, Waterhyssop, Brazilian Pennywort, Water Wisteria, Jungle Val, Moss Ball, Riccia, Nana, Java Lace, Cryptocoryne, Pigmy Chain Sword.
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