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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-05-2005, 06:25 PM Thread Starter
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Getting started -- basic questions

Hello out there! Let me introduce myself. I've been a marine hobbyist for several years and I'm now wanting to get started with freshwater aquascaping. Someone forwarded me to this board and I was hoping to get some answers from experienced hobbyists. So while I'm a newbie to the planted tank world, I do have a pretty good understanding of how systems work. I've started reading some of the archives to get info, but you know how it is -- I could search all day for bits and pieces and still not find all the info I'm looking for. So I'm hoping you'll be willing to help.

As a hobbyist/hack scientist, I appreciate the opportunity to learn through trial-and-error, but I don't want to make mistakes that will kill a load of plants and fish or cause undo stress. I figure that if I start with a solid foundation of good filtration, flow, lighting and substrate, I can enjoy experimenting with plants, fish, chemistry, aquascaping, etc. At least I hope I'm on the right course.

I'm starting with a 75G glass tank with overflow. For lighting I've got a T5 set-up with 6 tubes, 3 daylight and 3 actinic. My filtration system is typical reef -- sump with refugium powered by a Lifeguard Quiet One (high head) pump through a chiller. I've learned that I need to lose the sump and switch to canister filtration. And I think I need to change some of the bulbs in my hood. So here are some questions that I'm hoping you (all) can help with.

1. Is my lighting adequate for a freshwater planted tank? What are the optimum parameters for a well-lit tank (watts/gallon, spectrum, etc.)? Are there brands that are better then others?
2. How many times per hour should I be cycling my water through the system? With a relatively low bio load, is it better to reduce pump output and keep the water current low?
3. Since my set-up doesn't really accommodate a traditional canister, I'm thinking of running a Pentair system with three canisters -- mechanical, chemical and UV. Is this too much? Is UV sterilization helpful or necessary?
4. Is planted freshwater easier/lower maintainance than a reef?
5. Is there a good LFS in the San Francisco Bay Area that you can recommend for plants, products and advice?
6. Regarding water current: I was using a Sea Swirl on my reef. Is there a preferred current pattern for planted tanks? Will the Sea Swirl serve a planted tank well?
7. I have an RO/DI unit. Should I use RO/DI water? What are the basic additives needed to keep my tank lush and vibrant?
8. Regarding fish selection: Are there species I should avoid? Can I keep discus or other exotics in a heavily planted tank? I like some of the rainbow fish, congo tetras, archer fish -- will these guys thrive, or do i need to stick with basic stock?

Well that's enough questions for now. I appreciate any and all input. When I get this thing running, I'll be sure to share photos and tales of woe and intrigue.

Thanks folks,

jeremy
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-05-2005, 07:13 PM
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Quote:
Is my lighting adequate for a freshwater planted tank? What are the optimum parameters for a well-lit tank (watts/gallon, spectrum, etc.)? Are there brands that are better then others?
Get rid of the actinics, they're useles for plants. Depending on if you wanna go high-tech or not 2-3 WPG of full spectrum lighting is what you need. 2wpg for low tech, 3+wpg for high tech, though, some have done less light with hi-tech and been very succesful.
Quote:
2. How many times per hour should I be cycling my water through the system? With a relatively low bio load, is it better to reduce pump output and keep the water current low?
2-3 times is good for planted tanks and you can get by with less if there's good current.
Quote:
3. Since my set-up doesn't really accommodate a traditional canister, I'm thinking of running a Pentair system with three canisters -- mechanical, chemical and UV. Is this too much? Is UV sterilization helpful or necessary?
There's no need for chemical filtration, the plants do that for ya. The plants also do most of the bio too. You'll need good mechanical filtration for dead plant parts etc.. UV is nice to have for killing algae spores and diseases, but it's not a must.
Quote:
4. Is planted freshwater easier/lower maintainance than a reef?
I'd say it's easier, but it's still important to do regular water changes. Low-lite/low teck is easier than high lite/high teck. Slower growth means less maintenance.
Quote:
6. Regarding water current: I was using a Sea Swirl on my reef. Is there a preferred current pattern for planted tanks? Will the Sea Swirl serve a planted tank well?
I'm not familiar with a seaswirl. see #2 above.
Quote:
7. I have an RO/DI unit. Should I use RO/DI water? What are the basic additives needed to keep my tank lush and vibrant?
RO/DI isn't necesary unless your water is total crap. Water parameters will dictate your needs. There's a 90% chance you won't need it. You'll need to add fertilizers for the plants... this is where you'll have to do some homework... lots of it.
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8. Regarding fish selection: Are there species I should avoid? Can I keep discus or other exotics in a heavily planted tank? I like some of the rainbow fish, congo tetras, archer fish -- will these guys thrive, or do i need to stick with basic stock?
You'll wanna make sure that you get species that get along with each other and are nice to plants but for the most part the selection is huge. I know that discus and rainbows and most tetras do really well in planted setups. I haven't a clue about archer fish.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-05-2005, 08:35 PM
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I believe Archer fish are more of a brackish water fish.

Jeremy, take a stroll over to our own Rex Grigg's website (www.rexgrigg.com) and take a peek at the information he has put together. It is a pretty comprehensive place to begin.

Mike

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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-05-2005, 11:31 PM
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Shucks. I don't need to pimp the site at all.

Thanks.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-06-2005, 12:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbomber
I'm starting with a 75G glass tank with overflow. For lighting I've got a T5 set-up with 6 tubes, 3 daylight and 3 actinic. My filtration system is typical reef -- sump with refugium powered by a Lifeguard Quiet One (high head) pump through a chiller. I've learned that I need to lose the sump and switch to canister filtration. And I think I need to change some of the bulbs in my hood. So here are some questions that I'm hoping you (all) can help with.
No need to loose the sump. You might burn through a little more CO2 but as long as the turbulance is at a minimum you should be fine. You can do without the chiller though (unless your place gets really hot) as you will have less lighting and fish do fin at 75-80 ish.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbomber
1. Is my lighting adequate for a freshwater planted tank? What are the optimum parameters for a well-lit tank (watts/gallon, spectrum, etc.)? Are there brands that are better then others?
I like to make sure I have the power (lumens) first and then pick a spectrum/color that is pleasing to me. I mix bulb colors to get the desired effect.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbomber
2. How many times per hour should I be cycling my water through the system? With a relatively low bio load, is it better to reduce pump output and keep the water current low?
Stay away from wild surface turbulance (spray bar) and you will be fine. I was shocked to see how much plants cut the current so use what you have and turn it down if the fish are pinned to the glass.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbomber
3. Since my set-up doesn't really accommodate a traditional canister, I'm thinking of running a Pentair system with three canisters -- mechanical, chemical and UV. Is this too much? Is UV sterilization helpful or necessary?
You can keep the sump if you like. UV is nice. You might want to build a "CO2 reactor" though

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbomber
4. Is planted freshwater easier/lower maintainance than a reef?
Yes and no. Depends if you can keep your hands out of it. An expensive fish will set you back $20 and $6 is a lot to pay for a plant. Compare to your reef experience

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbomber
5. Is there a good LFS in the San Francisco Bay Area that you can recommend for plants, products and advice?
Can't name a store but mail order (visiting the sites sponsers is good) or the people here are a good place to start.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbomber
6. Regarding water current: I was using a Sea Swirl on my reef. Is there a preferred current pattern for planted tanks? Will the Sea Swirl serve a planted tank well?
I would say "another piece to break" but use it if you like it. The best tanks always have the water flowing from left to right unless you are austrailian.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbomber
7. I have an RO/DI unit. Should I use RO/DI water? What are the basic additives needed to keep my tank lush and vibrant?
Read up on EI. In contrast to reefs, many planted are kept nutrient rich so only use DI if the tap water has nasties in it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbomber
8. Regarding fish selection: Are there species I should avoid? Can I keep discus or other exotics in a heavily planted tank? I like some of the rainbow fish, congo tetras, archer fish -- will these guys thrive, or do i need to stick with basic stock?
With fish I would recomend fewer types and more numbers. Each type gets it own "zone" which makes the angels/congos/rainbows a bad mix in my home tank.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbomber
Well that's enough questions for now. I appreciate any and all input. When I get this thing running, I'll be sure to share photos and tales of woe and intrigue.
Keep asking!

Moved to Tucson.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-06-2005, 03:30 AM
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Hey, welcome to the Green Side Jeremy. I too am a recent reefer convert. I switched my 100 gallon from a full blown SPS tank back in November and I couldn't be happier. You will really like it. Many of the questions have already been answered quite well above, I would just like to add that the flow rate is far reduced in a planted aquarium. I ran an AM3K on a closed loop in my reef, plus a mag 950 as a sump return, so roughly 3900gph in a 100 gallon. In comparison, I now run an Eheim 2028 canister at 277 gph. There's still a discernable flow in the water (obviously, nowhere near the violent waters of the reef), which makes for pleasant plant movement and fish activity. I'd personally lose the SeaSwirl, it's not really necessary and you could use the proceeds of the sale to get some nice plants, fish or equipment for the setup.

In my experience, yes, the planted tank is easier, lower maintenance, more enjoyable and most importantly, flat out better looking than the reef ever was IMO (not that the reef wasn't gorgeous, I just love the feel of a planted tank a lot more). Also, get ready to watch your electric bill plummet .

BlueRam, what exactly do you mean when you say, "The best tanks always have the water flowing from left to right unless you are austrailian. "? My tank flows right to left, now you've got me worried .

Paul

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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-06-2005, 04:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silent Running
BlueRam, what exactly do you mean when you say, "The best tanks always have the water flowing from left to right unless you are austrailian. "? My tank flows right to left, now you've got me worried .
Just a little "easter egg" for those that made it through the post. I chose austrailian as they untouchable sprinters this year.

***jeremy:
On sumps: They are great pieces but there may be some difference between a reef sump and planted I forgot above. For one the protein skimmer is not needed. Also, many of the sumps here are more "second tank, plumbed together" as I keep fish and plants in mine. But they are a great place to hide the equipment and such. Silent Running's tank with the Eheim is impressive in terms of space and noise so that is a viable option too. Add on the inline heater and inline reactor and you have a "closed loop" sump in effect.

Moved to Tucson.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-06-2005, 08:12 PM
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Sumps work fine BTW, you need rto seal the air vent, and raise the over flow in the prefilter up to about 3-4" below the surface of the water in the tank, this prevents the offgassing of CO2 to that of a canister filter.

A number of folks proved this conclusively many years ago on the APD, see George Booth, Steve Dixton and my post there.

All larger tanks I have over 75 gal have sumps.


Regards,
Tom Barr



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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-07-2005, 03:32 AM
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Is UV sterilization helpful or necessary?
4. Is planted freshwater easier/lower maintainance than a reef?
==========================================
Completely easier.

UV Sterilization is helpful but by no means neccessary. Should mean less algae.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-07-2005, 02:05 PM
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There was recently (last month or so) a thread somewhere on here discussing stores in SF. I believe someone was visiting the area. You should be able to search for it pretty easily. And don't forget the possibility of getting plants on the swap forum.

With fish selection, I echo the recommendation that you school/pair limited varieties, with a goal of populating the top, middle, and bottome layers of the tank. By including a cleaning crew, you can come closer to approximating something close to a biosystem. Just about the only fish to avoid are those that will eat or dig up your plants. With a little searching, you will find threads where folks discuss their sucess keeping cichlids in planted tanks, a feat many folk would think impossible. One thing to be aware of is that some fish prefer somewhat different water conditions. So if you go with archer fish, or discus, you may be limited in the other fish you can include with them.
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-07-2005, 03:12 PM
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That was me who was down in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, I don't have anything to report 'cuz I had the flu the whole time I was down there .

Paul

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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-08-2005, 04:39 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks so much!

Thanks Guyz (that's New York for people, as to not offend anyone),

I've already learned a ton from your replies -- visited websites, downloaded info, asked semi-intelligent questions at my LFS, bought some books, learned some more, developed more questions.

I still have a lot to learn -- as hack scientists, we're always learning and testing and pushing boundries. But for now I have a plan and a shopping list and lots of fun to have setting this thing up. Looks like I'll swap the sump for one without a built-in protein skimmer (nice CPR unit, but I've no use for it). You convinced me that it was worth keeping. Even small sumps take up nearly every inch of my cabinet (I actually had to disassemble the cabinet to get the last one in). Keeping it will force me to be creative on placing UV and CO2. Do any of you have experience with ozonators in fresh water?

So I'll partially submerse Lifeguard mechanical and UV modules in the sump, run through my heater/chiller. I'm running 234w (39w x 6, T5) on a 65G tank -- quite bright, but the tank is 24" tall, so light should get to the bottom, no problem. I am a bit concerned about this much light. It will limit my choice of fish and plants. Will discus freak out in this much light, or if I provide enough cover and shelter, will they be comfortable?

I'm debating whether or not to leave the coraline that built up on the plastic overflow on the back of the tank. I'm guessing it's harmless to the new inhabitants, but will look goofy in photos. On the other hand, scraping it off will be a chore and might scratch up the finish on the overflow. Any advice?

Well, that's enough. Thanks again. Youze guyz are great and this is a great forum.
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-08-2005, 05:08 PM
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I am using a 20 gal sump on my 60 so no need to go big. I lose ~1/2 gal a day or less so the level fluctuates a few inches. As fresh water planted tent to be nutrient rich, UV and ozone are less necessary. UV will take out a tiny bit of the trace you mix in but it's real purpose is helping with green water/ick. If you have the modules go for it but I am getting by with a sponge filter on my AquaClear 802. It is my humble opinion that discus do best in a mature tank so you might want to hold off. Depends on you water, but if it is really soft you might keep the coraline to bump the hardness up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbomber
Looks like I'll swap the sump for one without a built-in protein skimmer (nice CPR unit, but I've no use for it). You convinced me that it was worth keeping. Even small sumps take up nearly every inch of my cabinet (I actually had to disassemble the cabinet to get the last one in). Keeping it will force me to be creative on placing UV and CO2. Do any of you have experience with ozonators in fresh water? If too much light, just take one or two out.

So I'll partially submerse Lifeguard mechanical and UV modules in the sump, run through my heater/chiller. I'm running 234w (39w x 6, T5) on a 65G tank -- quite bright, but the tank is 24" tall, so light should get to the bottom, no problem. I am a bit concerned about this much light. It will limit my choice of fish and plants. Will discus freak out in this much light, or if I provide enough cover and shelter, will they be comfortable?

I'm debating whether or not to leave the coraline that built up on the plastic overflow on the back of the tank. I'm guessing it's harmless to the new inhabitants, but will look goofy in photos. On the other hand, scraping it off will be a chore and might scratch up the finish on the overflow. Any advice?

Moved to Tucson.
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