I work at a LFS, and am working on a monthly newsletter.
My store offers everything aquarium, but focuses hard on saltwater reefs. I'm trying to bring new attention to our lines of planted equipment, and wanted to run the rough draft past y'all professional hobbyists before submitting it to my owner for review. Be harsh on me if I messed something up
Thanks for any time you guys spend!
This is a short intro guide to setting up a high tech planted tank! Stop by the store for more details from our staff; we have many associates who are freshwater specialists that can help you build the perfect underwater ecosystem. In this newsletter, we’ll touch some basics of the planted tank, and explain the choices made for equipment. Of course there are variables such as size of the tank, brand affiliation, and personal preferences, but again; details can be discussed and worked through by our talented staff.
One of the major considerations when planning your planted tank is the cost. Most people see the cost of equipment and shy away from high tech options, opting for low tech, low cost, low return set ups. However, those are not always cheaper! It’s important to consider the cost of a piece of equipment over the life of the tank. Equipment that is expensive up front, but has fewer or less expensive upkeep costs will likely be cheaper over the long run.
If you’re going to plant heavily, you need a good light, good nutrition, and a supply of CO2. We’ll start with the substrate; a key component that ties into nutrition..
We offer Fluval Stratum substrate, a premium substrate for your planted aquarium. This substrate does not discolor the water, and has a high CEC (cation exchange capacity) meaning it can absorb and hold nutrients that would normally wash out into your water column and become useless. This helps it grow root feeding plants like a charm! It hosts nitrifying bacteria, absorbs tannins from driftwood, and since it is lightweight and non-compacting, plants can easily dig into it to retrieve nutrients.
So why buy this? You need substrate anyways; this is the best one that will efficiently deliver nutrients to your plants. Other products do contain vital minerals, but they are locked up inside (roots can’t dig into a rock)! Over the life of your aquarium this substrate will allow you to dose smaller amounts of fertilizers and trace minerals, saving you money in the long run.
The next consideration is lighting. An L.E.D. system is going to give you the most power for the cheapest cost over its life. A T5 fluorescent tube will begin to shift its color spectrum after roughly a year of use; it will also drop its luminosity and PAR. Even if the tube is marketed with a life of 5 years its effective life is much shorter. A similar problem exists with metal halides. Also, halides and fluorescents are tubes, and it is very difficult to concentrate their light into the tank. An L.E.D. is conical and by its nature aims down.
The diffusion of an L.E.D is much less; and therefore more of its output is directed into the tank, and concentrated enough to penetrate the water to effectively deliver light to shorter plants. Also, your L.E.D. has an effective life identical to its actual life. Whereas the others start a slow decline less than a year into their life, your L.E.D. will do a sharp decline (a matter of a month) at the very end of its life. You can get ten years out of a single L.E.D. They also consume anywhere from 25 to 50% less electricity than their counterparts. So even though that price tag in the store is expensive, it will literally pay for itself ten times over while you relax and enjoy your tanks.
The final topic to cover is your CO2 system. Your options are three: One, liquid carbon. Two, organic CO2 reactor. Three, pressurized CO2 system. Option one is the most expensive over time - a bottle supplies simple carbon compounds and slowly releases CO2 to the plants. The bottles have a high monthly cost, but zero “start up” costs. Option two has a small start cost, buying a cheap reactor system, and moderate monthly costs to recharge your reactor. Option three has a very large start up cost, but cheap costs every few months. Over the life of your aquarium, a pressurized CO2 system is the cheapest option by far. At [local fish store], we can explain the parts of your pressurized system, show them to your in person, explain all aspects of setup and operation, and even demo the same system in use on our planted show tank!
We of course offer all of the various options in the store for each of these three things. With the exception of lighting, you can buy the more expensive (over time) options and see if you enjoy the boosted results. If you do like what you see, come back in and we will set you up with the cheaper (over time) system. That way you can “test drive” what the enhanced plant growth does for your tank without the hefty investment.