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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-02-2006, 06:57 PM Thread Starter
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New / Getting Started...

Hey all,

First, I'm new to the forums so let me take a moment say "hi."

Ok, so here's my situation. I have a very established 55G tank that's been running for about 3 years now. Right now, most of the landscaping is being handled with silk plants that are about at the end of their rope. So while I'm looking at replacing them, I thought I should at least entertain the idea of going the planted aquarium route. I tried it before years ago and it turned out to be a pretty dismal failure (same tank, same equipment, different fish). Of course, I didn't know a 10th of what I know now. Even so, with all the information out there (I've read a couple of the posts in the FAQ section among others), the whole prospect of going with live plants still seems pretty daunting. So I'm hoping to get some recipies for success from people here.

Ok, so the tank:
55G (48" basic petsmart special)
Emperor BioWheel Filter
Basic gravel (2-3 inches of coverage front to back)

The fish are all SE Asian (harlequin rasboras, clown loaches, siamese algae eater). And I'm trying to keep in that biotype as best I can.

So with that settled, could someone please give me a rundown of the epuipment I'm gonna need to get started, and maybe recommend some good beginners plants. Obviously I need a light fixture and a CO2 dispenser. Additional substrait is out of the question as I don't want to rip the whole thing apart, but I expect to go with fertilizer tabs. I'm hoping to spend no more than $200 on the overhaul, not including the plants.

I'd be happy with a tank full of java fern if that's all I can manage.

Thanks,
Tom
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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-02-2006, 07:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BluSponge
Hey all,

First, I'm new to the forums so let me take a moment say "hi."

Ok, so here's my situation. I have a very established 55G tank that's been running for about 3 years now. Right now, most of the landscaping is being handled with silk plants that are about at the end of their rope. So while I'm looking at replacing them, I thought I should at least entertain the idea of going the planted aquarium route. I tried it before years ago and it turned out to be a pretty dismal failure (same tank, same equipment, different fish). Of course, I didn't know a 10th of what I know now. Even so, with all the information out there (I've read a couple of the posts in the FAQ section among others), the whole prospect of going with live plants still seems pretty daunting. So I'm hoping to get some recipies for success from people here.

Ok, so the tank:
55G (48" basic petsmart special)
Emperor BioWheel Filter
Basic gravel (2-3 inches of coverage front to back)

The fish are all SE Asian (harlequin rasboras, clown loaches, siamese algae eater). And I'm trying to keep in that biotype as best I can.

So with that settled, could someone please give me a rundown of the epuipment I'm gonna need to get started, and maybe recommend some good beginners plants. Obviously I need a light fixture and a CO2 dispenser. Additional substrait is out of the question as I don't want to rip the whole thing apart, but I expect to go with fertilizer tabs. I'm hoping to spend no more than $200 on the overhaul, not including the plants.

I'd be happy with a tank full of java fern if that's all I can manage.

Thanks,
Tom
Did you plan to use pressurized CO2, or DIY?

You can have a nice, low cost low maintenance planted tank if you do it correctly.

Google "Diana Walstad" and look for her book on Amazon.com to get started.

If you plan to do anything hi-tech, $200 won't even come close to covering the costs.

Regards,
Barry
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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-02-2006, 09:05 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

Banderbe is right in that you could easily spend more than $200 to convert to the ideal system. For the time being, though, let's assume that you want to stick to your budget.

Basic necessities: Lighting, CO2, Ferts (both substrate tablets and water-column dosing).

Lighting: On this forum, a lot of people (myself included) recommend AH Supply fixtures. They sell retrofit kits to fit into your existing hood, or to install as standalone. For your 55 gallon, you might want to look at their 2x55watt kit.

CO2: A pressurized setup will break your intended budget, so you'll need to look into diy CO2. A good treatise on the subject can be found here.

Ferts: Aside from some form of substrate tabs, you'll need to look into dosing the water column. That breaks down into two categories: Macros(Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium) and Trace Elements(Iron, Magnesium, etc). While there are a lot of options for these, the most cost effective over time is ordering dry ferts from somewhere like Greg Watson's online store..

To get you started down the road of a successful planted tank, I'd also recommend that you do some background reading about the subject. Rex Grigg's Guide is an excellent source of info, as well is Chuck's Planted Aquaria Pages. Once you are comfortable with the info they present, you might then want to look at a more advanced fertilizing discussion.

Also, this forum and it's searchable threads will hold the answers to many of the questions you will have after reading the above information.

Good Luck! and welcome to the hobby of planted-tank keeping.

Last edited by sparrow; 04-03-2006 at 02:05 AM.
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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-03-2006, 01:50 AM
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I agree with Sparrow! All I would add is that if you decide not to use CO2, then limit the light you use to under 2 watts per gallon - say, a single 96 watt AH Supply kit, or two 36 watt kits. Then, plan on not doing regular water changes, but do dose all of the NPK fertilizers lightly on a weekly basis. The plants that will grow at the lower light intensity, and an awful lot will, will grow much more slowly, meaning much less pruning. If you keep it clean, remove dead fish and dead plants quickly, you should have a good looking tank without algae.

Hoppy
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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-03-2006, 09:06 PM Thread Starter
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Hey all,

Thanks for the advice! Sparrow, that light fixture is perfect, and the price is certainly right. I stopped into on of the local high-end aquarium places yesterday to pick their brains as well. The light system they recommended (Coralife Energy Savers 4x65W 48" freshwater) was at least $100 more than that. Not sure it would be worth it for the extra 40 watts.

Ok, so a fully automated CO2 system is not in my future. Moderately big deal since I'm not much for high maintenance fish keeping. My main hesitation with a DIY system is I don't want to spend the bulk of my time checking the pH in order to avoid some huge drop. But then I came across thisRed Sea CO2 Biosystem The price is right, and it certainly looks easier to put together than the standard DIY system. So does anyone have any experience with these? Or heard anything, good or bad? For that matter, if I'm running this in a 55G aquarium (its rated up to 40G), what downside am I looking at? At the price, I could use two on the aquarium and still come out pretty well.

Tom
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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-03-2006, 09:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BluSponge
Ok, so a fully automated CO2 system is not in my future. Moderately big deal since I'm not much for high maintenance fish keeping.
Well, if you are truly wanting a very low maintainence aquarium, then I'm going to have to recommend that you go with Hoppy's recommendations above. CO2 is a great tool for increasing the growth of an aquarium, but it brings with it some challenges. You really have to stay on top of things with your CO2 levels as well as your ferts dosing or you will have algae problems. However, lower-light non-CO2 tanks can be more "carefree" and are quite beautiful, but they sacrifice the growth rate of a high-tech system.

Whichever route you go, take your time and consider it carefully. There is a lot of benefit in keeping a more advanced setup, but it truly does require more attention. If you aren't willing to give it that attention, both you and your tank will be happier with a lower-tech approach. Good luck!
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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-03-2006, 09:39 PM
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Just make sure you don't make the same mistake I did by spending all the money on getting really good lights and didn't pay attention to the CO2. Because the result of that will be a tank full of nasty algae rather than Jave Moss. Its far better to lower your lights and go low maintainence if you are are not going to bother with CO2. Just take a bit longer but plants will still grow if you pick the right plants.
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-03-2006, 10:23 PM Thread Starter
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Oh, don't get me wrong guys. I don't mind a bit of pruning or some up front work. What I'm hoping in the end is that once everything gets established, I won't have to do 50 chemical checks a week. Not that I need the tank to explode with growth, but I want to put together a system that is consistent enough that I can enjoy the tank and not play amateur chemist on the weekends.

But that's why I'm here. To discover if this is the route I want to go. It sounds (and looks) like it'll be worth it in the long run. But I want to know what I'm getting into first.

Tom
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-04-2006, 03:23 AM
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You don't need to do any checks routinely if you use the EI dosing method - dose enough of everything to always have a surplus, then change half of the water every week or so to remove the excess. All you need to measure occasionally then is the PH and KH. I measure them about every two weeks. And, I add the fertilizers when I feed the fish every morning.

Hoppy
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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-04-2006, 03:33 AM
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The Red Sea system is just a fancy high priced DIY system.
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post #11 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-04-2006, 03:36 AM
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The Red Sea system is just a fancy high priced DIY system.
I agree. As a matter of fact, if you were really picky about your parts you could DIY yourself a much nicer setup.
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post #12 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-04-2006, 03:48 AM Thread Starter
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You don't need to do any checks routinely if you use the EI dosing method - dose enough of everything to always have a surplus, then change half of the water every week or so to remove the excess.
I've been reading up on the dosing method. This place is the first I'd ever heard of it. So basically, you add a little of this or that every other day? Then do a 50% water change every week? The latter surprises me, as the last time I changed that much water at any given time it was when I was treating my clowns for ich (50% change daily for 3-4 days). I'm surprised that's good for the fish, as you're talking a regular influx of cholrinated water (I don't have a RO system, so...)

Quote:
All you need to measure occasionally then is the PH and KH. I measure them about every two weeks.
See, that wouldn't bother me. I could do that during the water change.

Quote:
And, I add the fertilizers when I feed the fish every morning.
Pellet fertilizers?? That's a lot! IIRC, those are recommended to last for a week or two, and the liquid stuff is only supposed to be applied once every two weeks.

Tom
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post #13 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-04-2006, 03:55 AM
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When you do the water changes, you would add something to remove chlorine/chloramine. I personally use Prime.

Also, he meant that he added the dry ferts every other day, not pellets/tabs. See the GregWatson link above for the dry ferts.

All in all, EI is a great system. The biggest challenge you will have is being sure that you don't run short of CO2 if you do a yeast-based method. Stay on top of the CO2, keep ferts dosed, and do water changes.
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post #14 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-04-2006, 03:56 AM Thread Starter
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I agree. As a matter of fact, if you were really picky about your parts you could DIY yourself a much nicer setup.
This is all true, but it's a helluva thing when you've never made one before. I also like the fact that the Biosystem is all of three pieces whereas the DIY systems have a tendency to look like Dr. Frankenstein's lab. It's a matter of simplicity. The only downsides I see to the BioSystem are that 1) it's too small for my tank, so I either have to run two of them or worry about the lack of CO2. Speaking of which, what IS the downside to low levels of CO2 in your tank? Would it just slow plant growth? Or are we talking an algae storm of apocalyptic proportions? And 2) I have to spend $3-5 a month for the mix. I've no idea what the costs of upkeep on the standard DIY system are.

BTW, how do you regulate CO2 dispensation with a DIY system? Say I want to cut back on it at night. I don't remember seeing anything as far as a regulator goes on the DIY instructions posted around here.

Tom
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post #15 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-04-2006, 04:24 AM
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This is all true, but it's a helluva thing when you've never made one before.
I agree it can be daunting. That's what these forums are for though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BluSponge
Speaking of which, what IS the downside to low levels of CO2 in your tank? Would it just slow plant growth? Or are we talking an algae storm of apocalyptic proportions?
Not necessarily "apocalyptic", but it gives room for algae to get a foothold. When all other nutrients, including light, are in abundance, a lack of co2 limits the growth of the plants. Algae doesn't necessarily need co2 to grow... Thus, your plants are no longer competing for the nutrients through their growth.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BluSponge
BTW, how do you regulate CO2 dispensation with a DIY system? Say I want to cut back on it at night. I don't remember seeing anything as far as a regulator goes on the DIY instructions posted around here.
I guess you could use some sort of regulator for DIY co2, but I wouldn't think that would be necessary. At most, you might want to run an air pump on a timer opposite the light period to create surface turbulence and drive down the co2 level.
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