Newbie to planted - need ideas/advice - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-06-2014, 01:27 AM Thread Starter
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Newbie to planted - need ideas/advice

Hey all,
Quick intro on experience - had a soft coral saltwater tank for years (120g), multiple freshwater tanks as well. Familiar with all of the basics on freshwater, but nowhere near as knowledgeable as saltwater.

I've been lurking on the forums somewhat passively off and on for months - until now, as I just was lucky enough to inherit a 120 gallon tank from my mother (the same one that ran saltwater for years). I've already decided to go planted - always wanted to, and just begun a fishless cycle. I grabbed some media from the old lady's 30 gal she had as well, and after only a week of initial cycling it's already well along (2x doses of ammonia so far, nitrites are spiking heavily and nitrate already starting to spike). I thought I'd have a month or so easy to research, but looks like my timeline has been bumped up a bit. SO, I'm really hoping for some advice from more experienced keepers (I've done quite a bit of reading so far, so I'm not asking for you guys to get me 100% there in a newb thread). I'll just throw this out in an easy format, and any advice you guys can give/links you can provide/etc. would be vastly helpful.

Tank specs:
2'x2'x4', 120g tank w/ dual overflow into 30g sump (originally saltwater setup)
2x return pumps pushing ~800 gph, adjusteable down to ~600 gph if needed
4x 46" lights - currently equipped with 2x 110w full spectrum aquasun VHOs and 2x 110w VHO actinic blue bulbs
Substrate used - top soil w/ a natural gravel top layer from the mom's failed planted setup. She doesn't know what it is, I don't either, but she had researched/had it recommended by a LFS. I know this can heavily impact things, and if you guys think it super important for the health of the tank I can grab pics/etc. under the hopes others will know what it is and what impact it may have. I'm not exactly rich, so I used what was available, after doing some research on the top soil.
Filter media: 2x filter sponges in overflow top pipes, 1x sock media in sump filtering 100% of overflow water (also where established media resides currently)
Water specs:
gH and kH are both looking to be quite high from initial testing - as in at the top of the test strips I inherited. I know these aren't super accurate, and will take for better testing to the LFS or get my own kits for gH and kH.
PH: Out of the faucet it's coming at 8.4-8.6 here. I found a half empty bottle of PH down, and a few doses of that have it closer to 8.0 right now - but I fear having to use too much of this stuff..

So, that's what I have to work with. Now the fun part - I'm hoping YOU all can help me determine the path that will be the most successful for this tank in terms of tank/fish/plant options to pursue, and prepping the tank for them to thrive. I know I would like to do a DIY carbonation following the guidelines for DIY found on this forum (already working with a local homebrew supply to get this rolling) - which I plan on diffusing with a powerhead running on the same timer as the lights directly into the sump. I'm not comfortable with the pressurized option, primarily because I'd like to keep this as natural as possible. Beyond that, I'm really hoping for some solid advice in helping shape the tank, given the limitations I have, into something that will do well long term. Thoughts/advice/opinions on equipment/tank conditions/recommended path to take from here?

Thanks in advance guys, and I'm certain I'll be very active here over the coming weeks/months in trying to swallow as much information as I can chew - I've still got a lot to learn, but I'm hoping I've gotten off to a good start. Looking forward to getting to know this new community!
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-08-2014, 12:34 AM Thread Starter
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Hmm, did I TLR this? Bumping for great justice and the hopes of some advice
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-08-2014, 02:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quack? View Post
Hmm, did I TLR this? Bumping for great justice and the hopes of some advice
Wall of Text-Critical Hit

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quack? View Post
Hey all,
Quick intro on experience - had a soft coral saltwater tank for years (120g), multiple freshwater tanks as well. Familiar with all of the basics on freshwater, but nowhere near as knowledgeable as saltwater.

I've been lurking on the forums somewhat passively off and on for months - until now, as I just was lucky enough to inherit a 120 gallon tank from my mother (the same one that ran saltwater for years). I've already decided to go planted - always wanted to, and just begun a fishless cycle. I grabbed some media from the old lady's 30 gal she had as well, and after only a week of initial cycling it's already well along (2x doses of ammonia so far, nitrites are spiking heavily and nitrate already starting to spike). I thought I'd have a month or so easy to research, but looks like my timeline has been bumped up a bit. SO, I'm really hoping for some advice from more experienced keepers (I've done quite a bit of reading so far, so I'm not asking for you guys to get me 100% there in a newb thread). I'll just throw this out in an easy format, and any advice you guys can give/links you can provide/etc. would be vastly helpful.

Tank specs:
2'x2'x4', 120g tank w/ dual overflow into 30g sump (originally saltwater setup)
2x return pumps pushing ~800 gph, adjusteable down to ~600 gph if needed Should be fine..aim for about 10x flow with pump and powerheads
4x 46" lights - currently equipped with 2x 110w full spectrum aquasun VHOs and 2x 110w VHO actinic blue bulbs Get rid of the actinic blue...pick up some 6500K bulbs to start with
Substrate used - top soil w/ a natural gravel top layer from the mom's failed planted setup. She doesn't know what it is, I don't either, but she had researched/had it recommended by a LFS. I know this can heavily impact things, and if you guys think it super important for the health of the tank I can grab pics/etc. under the hopes others will know what it is and what impact it may have. I'm not exactly rich, so I used what was available, after doing some research on the top soil. It's probably okay but hard to say
Filter media: 2x filter sponges in overflow top pipes, 1x sock media in sump filtering 100% of overflow water (also where established media resides currently) Should be good, just keep the sock clean
Water specs:
gH and kH are both looking to be quite high from initial testing - as in at the top of the test strips I inherited. I know these aren't super accurate, and will take for better testing to the LFS or get my own kits for gH and kH. Get the results and we can from there
PH: Out of the faucet it's coming at 8.4-8.6 here. I found a half empty bottle of PH down, and a few doses of that have it closer to 8.0 right now - but I fear having to use too much of this stuff.. Did you test pH after 24hrs? Sometimes the pH will drop 1 degree or more if you let it sit out overnight. I would check this before doing anything.

So, that's what I have to work with. Now the fun part - I'm hoping YOU all can help me determine the path that will be the most successful for this tank in terms of tank/fish/plant options to pursue, and prepping the tank for them to thrive. I know I would like to do a DIY carbonation following the guidelines for DIY found on this forum (already working with a local homebrew supply to get this rolling) - which I plan on diffusing with a powerhead running on the same timer as the lights directly into the sump. I'm not comfortable with the pressurized option, primarily because I'd like to keep this as natural as possible. Beyond that, I'm really hoping for some solid advice in helping shape the tank, given the limitations I have, into something that will do well long term. Thoughts/advice/opinions on equipment/tank conditions/recommended path to take from here?

I would figure out your kH and gH first since certain types of plants will do better than others. I would find some driftwood or rocks and go from there. If you have high pH you might want to consider a low light, cichlid planted tank. Overall you got a decent start with the equipment.

Thanks in advance guys, and I'm certain I'll be very active here over the coming weeks/months in trying to swallow as much information as I can chew - I've still got a lot to learn, but I'm hoping I've gotten off to a good start. Looking forward to getting to know this new community!


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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-08-2014, 05:09 PM
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A planted tank does not have to be a science project. Seems like modern (ex) reefers wanting to go planted tend to have difficulty grasping that concept.

I would offer don't fight the water, accept it for what it is. There are plenty of plants that can work in harder water.

After you do that research, decide on the lighting in your budget

Par is the driving factor to further define you plant choices.

Choose your substrate, plant heavily initially, stock lightly with plant friendly fish.

Don't dose or use CO2 for the first month as you "learn" your tank, try to keep you hands out of it once you plant.

Understand weekly waters changes are a major+, do them.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-08-2014, 06:40 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by DogFish View Post
A planted tank does not have to be a science project. Seems like modern (ex) reefers wanting to go planted tend to have difficulty grasping that concept.
Agreed, tbh. Personally I ran low-tech bio for the saltwater - the only addition I had on the above (aside of different substrates, etc.) was a protein skimmer.

I would offer don't fight the water, accept it for what it is. There are plenty of plants that can work in harder water.
My bigger concern is the fish here. I want plants - the wife wants fish. Perhaps a Cichlid tank is my best bet?

After you do that research, decide on the lighting in your budget
Will I be ok with 4x 440w VHOs at 6500ishk in your opinion?

Par is the driving factor to further define you plant choices.

Choose your substrate, plant heavily initially, stock lightly with plant friendly fish.

Don't dose or use CO2 for the first month as you "learn" your tank, try to keep you hands out of it once you plant.
Thanks, good advice.

Understand weekly waters changes are a major+, do them.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 05:02 AM
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For you water Rift Lake Africans would be very happy. Not the best combination for plants though. You could plant in Clay pots & hide the pots in rock work. PVC pipe hidded in Rocks makes great caves.

4x 440w VHOs at 6500ishk? You may have to raise that fixture 2' about the tank. Too much light will bleach out the plants, may lead to an Algae nightmare.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 02:28 PM Thread Starter
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Apologies it is 440w total, 110 per - didn't write that correctly. Can you tell me a bit more about what you meant regarding the pots and why it isn't the best combo for plants?
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-10-2014, 12:10 AM
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Many of the Rift Lakes Africans will dig when prepping for breeding. So you may have you plants uprooted.

I had some Mbuna in a tank and they would spend all day moving gravel from one spot to another. I'm not talking about a little gravel either, pounds of gravel.

You can plant your aquarium plants in 4" clay pots and hind then in/behind rocks. Then place large pebbles on the top of the pot around the plants to discourage digging. Ypu can also go with Java fen attached to driftwood.
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