Received a 45 gal Tank, a complete "Newbie" to this hobby - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-06-2008, 08:31 AM Thread Starter
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Received a 45 gal Tank, a complete "Newbie" to this hobby

So I recently was given an old tank that has not been used in a long time. It is at least 17-20 years old and has not been used for over 5 years. The dimensions of this rectangular tank are 12" (width) x 19" (height) x 47" (length) which is about 45 gallons.

I have seen pictures of plant aquariums and am really attracted to making one on my own. Once the plants are all settled i'll probably add a few fish, shrimp and African Dwarf Frogs.

Now the lighting demands I am seeing on this forum ask for lights that give 10000k or 6700k. I'm going to assume i'll have to buy new lights to reach those levels but just will the light that came with the tank serve any use? The previous owner doesn't know the wattage and said he bought the light separately from the tank. On the actual light it says that the voltage is 118 volts. I tried to look online for a conversion from voltage to watts and I need amps to complete the equation. I'm no engineer and I have no idea how it all works.

In terms of cleaning and preparing the aquarium for use what should I do?. Will using soap or commercial cleaners leave residue and hurt living creatures in the aquarium? What should I do?

The tank came with a lot of colored gravel which I assume have no nutrient value and will be useless for growing plants. I'm not going to get into substrate as even my preliminary research is revealing that the topic has been beaten to death. Let's just say i'll be going with ADA amazonian II. Anyway my question for the gravel is that I recall reading about the importance of bacteria to the mini ecosystem of the aquarium. Does it make sense to leave a cup full of the gravel at the start to get things going or should I just throw it all away? Does it make sense to keep the gravel as a base layer below the aqua soil?


Also when I reach the "aqua-scaping " stage can I use rocks I find outside? Do I have to chemically process the rocks or will boiling rocks just do? Do I even have to boil them? Also how long do items have to be boiled to be considered sanitized?

Thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-06-2008, 09:01 AM
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As for the cleaning of the hardwater stains, standard household vinegar works incredibly well.. You may have to soak the area ( use a spray bottle ) then scrub it off. Usually comes off fairly easily.

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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-06-2008, 09:03 AM
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Alright, let's slow down a bit. One really big piece of advise comes first and foremost: Test the tank for leaks. See if you can find a space outside that you can place the tank for a couple of days and you don't care if it gets wet. Hopefully, you will get a couple of sunny days. Lay down newspaper, fill the tank with a hose. If this does not work, a 45 might fit in a bathtub (but this could be difficult). Please please please do not fill the tank in your house without leak testing. 45 gallons is a ton of water. I just bought a second hand 20g that had a leak, so it's in a closet right now instead of on my shelf.

Ok, that was the most important thing. Next:

Cleaning the tank: Don't use soap, almost impossible to get rid of once it's in there. Hopefully, no one else used soap either. As fshfanatic said, regular white vinegar is great for cleaning the tank, both inside and out. Give it a good scrub with white vinegar, being careful not to press too hard on the glass. It probably won't break, but you don't want to cause any separation on the silicone seals either.

At this point, pause, reflect, then think about what you want to do
How much money, time, energy, and enthusiasm are you willing to put into the tank? This hobby, at it's highest level, is extremely expensive. It doesn't have to be, but it's best to make a decision about that before you go off buying stuff. I'm not gonna lie, if you get into this hobby, you will without a doubt buy something you don't need just because it's cool Draw some sketches, come up with some ideas about what you want your tank to look like. Here are some places you could get ideas from, but some of the best tanks don't look like these at all:

Amano:
http://www.adgshop.com/
http://www.adana.co.jp/index_e.php
http://www.aquaristics.com/ada-gallery.php

Knott:
http://www.plantella.com/

Navarro:
http://www.mynatureaquariums.com/index.htm

Dutch:
http://www.aquabotanic.com/dutchsecrets.htm
http://www.aquatic-eden.com/2007/02/...aquariums.html
http://www.barrreport.com/articles/2...-articles.html

Here's an article on basic aquascaping:
https://www.plantedtank.net/articles/...-Technique/27/

Lighting:
This will be one of the many expenses. Here are two good articles about lighting:
http://rexgrigg.com/light.htm
http://rexgrigg.com/mlt.html
The amount of light you need depends on the type of plants and the rate of growth you want. Many plants can grow in lower light, just at a slower rate. Other plants may grow in lower light, but in ways that you don't want them to (i.e. growing very tall instead of staying short). More light = more growth = more co2/fertilization/maintenance (cost).
Now, when people say 10000K or 6700K, this is the color of the bulb, not the amount of light output by the light. I believe that plants grow best under 6700K bulbs. The wattage is a different story. You can have bulbs with different color temperatures in the same wattage light fixture. While not quite accurate, you can think of the wattage as a measure of how "bright" your light is. The articles above explain why this isn't always the case. Anyway, one of the oldest rules which is no longer widely accepted is the watts per gallon rule. It is a very inaccurate and rough estimate of the amount of light you have. But, it's a start. The amount of light you need is, again, determined by how you want your tank to be. Around 2 watts per gallon is a reasonable amount to shoot for. Some people can do great things with lower light, some people do great things with higher light. Just keep the electric bill in mind The voltage is the potential difference across the two holes in the wall socket (not really, but that's a good enough explanation for our purposes). All US sockets are about 110-120 (They are the same socket, but the labels on appliances might vary). Your electronics won't fry if they're meant to be used in this country. So, don't worry about that. In the same vein, 55W and 65W bulbs are pretty much the same thing too. This will come into play later if you choose PC lights.

Substrate: Many people do fine with plain gravel. It's not as nice to look at, and certain plants require smaller grain sizes to spread, but there isn't anything inherently wrong with gravel. Virtually all aquatic plants can feed from their leaves anyway, so whether the substrate is nutritious doesn't matter too much. Aquasoil is the best, but it is expensive. Other choices I recommend you look at: Flourite, Eco-Complete, SMS. Please note that Soilmaster Select (SMS) is not sold as an aquarium substrate. It is marketed as turf conditioner for athletic fields. It comes in red or charcoal, and it is getting hard to find, since one of the main distributors just stopped carrying it. I like this best because it is really cheap, and just as good as Flourite.

Rocks: First, do an acid test to see if your rocks will alter the water chemistry. It's really not as scary as it sounds. Just put the rocks in a bucket, and pour some distilled vinegar over them. If it fizzes, your rocks will alter the water. If you are paranoid, you can look for muriatic acid at a home improvement or pool store. Home depot might even have it. Boil your rocks. You can just boil them for a couple of minutes. All depends on how paranoid you are. If they won't fit in a pot, bake them.

Plants: This might be the first thing you want to do, actually. Not buy them, but decide what you want, since it will determine your equipment. This tool can help you figure out what plants you want: http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/f...c/plantfinder/

Filter: Again, this varies with what you want in your tank. For planted tanks, canister filters are best. This is because they do not disturb the surface much, and won't cause injected CO2 to leak out. However, if you have a low light tank and don't need to inject CO2, you won't need to worry about this. In that case, just a HOB/power filter is fine. I would avoid under gravel filters. The brands and makes should be decided later; there are plenty of arguments about this

CO2: All plants benefit from the addition of CO2. However, it is really only crucial to add CO2 in moderately high to high light tanks. There are two main ways people do this. One is known as DIY CO2. Using yeast and sugar, you generate CO2. The other is pressurized, using a CO2 tank, regulator, and needle valve. Pressurized costs more initially, but if you plan on having the tank for more than 3 years, it will be cheaper in the long run. It is also very difficult to get enough CO2 using DIY in a larger tank, especially with high light. Sometimes, depending on the plants and light you have, you may be able to supplement a lack of CO2 with a plant product called Flourish Excel. It is a source of organic carbon that also acts as an algaecide. The carbon is in the form of a compound that is some intermediate step of photosynthesis. Some plants are able to use it. Some plants are sensitive to it's algaecidal properties (particularly vals).

Fertilization: If you have high light, you will need CO2. This means you should be prepared for a fast growth rate. Your plants will need to be fed. Macro nutrients, also known as NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphates, and Potassium) can be thought of as plant food. Micro nutrients, also known as traces, can be though of as plant vitamins. Both will be necessary if you have high growth. Fish waste can help provide some of the macro fertilizers. It is important that you have enough of all your nutrients. Plants need to have enough of everything in order to thrive. If something is lacking, the other nutrients will not be used. Instead, algae will use it, and grow and infest your tank.

Phew! I know that's a lot of info, but it's really not as complicated or hard as it sounds. Welcome to the hobby as well as the forum!

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Last edited by fishscale; 02-06-2008 at 10:40 AM. Reason: added giant explanation
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-06-2008, 09:05 AM
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Jebus, ninja'd at 4am. I guess other people don't sleep either \

Edit: MAN! I just ninja'd you in the other thread! Coffee and work does horrible things.

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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-06-2008, 11:45 PM Thread Starter
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First of all, phenomenal post. If only all of my life’s questions could be answered in such succinct fashion. Thank you!
I understand with any passion or hobby there will be financial costs associated with it. Keeping costs to a minimum will be nice but I’d rather do things right. If not I should just goto Petco and get a goldfish in a bowl with some plastic ferns. I’ll just keep that as a far back up plan.
Planting: Planning obviously makes a lot of sense and I want to incorporate driftwood and rocks. Off the top of your head, you know any good sites for this? When it comes to plants do I have to have all the plants that I want at the beginning? More specifically, let’s say I started to grow x,y,z plants and they start spreading rapidly. Down the road I acquire Q plant, will I be able to just put it in or would I need to have included plant Q in the initial planting phase?
Let’s say I have a high light setup. Will the plants keep growing until there is no more space or nutrients to support further growth? Are the plants like trees where parts of the plant will be growing and other parts of the same plant be rotting/dying. Also, obviously this will depend on the varied species people grow, but how often is trimming needed? I like the “idea” of high growth in terms of fast growth obviously. However can you explain the point of high growth after everything is grown? Will the plants die off if you do not continue to supplement fertilizers even though you don’t need them to grow any bigger?
Cleaning: After I scrub everything with vinegar do I have to soak the tank overnight or more than 48 hours? I’m not asking about testing leaks, which is great advice, but in terms of vinegar residue, how dangerous is it?
Lighting: I visited rexgrigg's website and for the most part I understood what was he was talking about. I figure, aside from the actual tank cost and I don’t have to worry about, lighting is the next most expensive start up cost. Is there a rule or suggested rule of thumb of the length of light? For example should have a light that takes up say 2/3 in length of the tank or is it better to have as much of it as possible? So the rexrigg’s website suggested ahsupply as a great place for lights. Their 96 watt kits stretch 34.5 inches. Since my tank is 47 inches, is that watt length grossly undersized even though its “powerful.” Should I aim for setups that stretch the full 47 inches?
Substrate: Why do people suggest 3 inches in substrate? Does it have to do with the length roots typically grow? Also is there a formula to determine the liters of substrate needed based upon square inches of the base of my tank?
Filter: So I see that filters suck in water and output at the top to create a “current.” This probably is more advanced if not silly question but how do currents affect nutrients in the water? Do plants near the filter do better since the water is converging to that point?
CO2: For the tanks do petstores carry these like filters or do I treat C02 like helium so I’d have to goto some specialty store to get the tanks and refills?
Fertilization: I’m going to research this later before I start asking questions here.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-07-2008, 12:39 AM
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Good to see you haven't run away yet

Hardscape: The nicest rocks can be found at the places that sell amano equipment. However, these are really expensive (like 4 dollars per pound). You may find this stuff in the U.S. here: http://www.adgshop.com/

Edit: It appears that seiryu stone is currently not in stock, but they do have old black wood.

Personally, I would go out and try to find my own rocks, or go to a landscaping store. It's hard to select stuff unless you can see it yourself. It's also much cheaper this way. If you are interested in driftwood, you might want to check out manzanita. Most people on this forum get them from 2 sources: badcopnofishtank (a member here), or http://www.manzanita.com/

badcopnofishtank will send you a picture of the package he's selling. Really good looking stuff. You need to be more careful with wood then with rocks, if you are collecting it yourself. Some wood will rot in the water. I forget what the criteria is, but generally speaking, you want a hardwood. Wood also often leeches tannins, which will make the water darker and probably lower the pH a little. This is not a problem for those of us with hard water, or keepers of soft water fish. However, some people don't like the look of tannins. They can be removed with water changes, carbon, or Seachem Purigen. Personally, I think it looks neat. I would try to boil the driftwood first, then tie something heavy to it and keep it submerged in a bucket for a while to let it leech out. Many woods also take quite a bit of time to become waterlogged enough to stay submerged, so keep this in mind.

Planting: You can certainly add new plants. It is just more difficult at times to fit things in. Also, as I am sure you will find out later, certain plants are very frustrating, and will float to the surface a lot. Takes some practice, but you'll get it. Just don't smash the tank in frustration

Some plants will have growth issues when the top chokes out the bottom. An example of this is riccia. Riccia does not root, so you need to tie it down to use it as a foreground. When riccia grows too thick, the top part will cover the bottom part, and the bottom parts will decay and eventually release the top part, floating to the top. Trimming can also influence how a plant grows. Many of the plants in our tanks can change forms depending on the amount of light, nutrient, and trimming it is subjected to. Trimming is fairly important at times. It will induce new growth, and keep your tank looking healthy and green. After everything is grown, high rates of growth will keep it looking lush and green. Keep trimming, and you will get new pretty growth. Don't get me wrong, though. Some low light, low tech (no/DIY CO2), slow growth tanks are amazing:
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/ph...75-update.html
Many extremely large tanks are low tech, because it would be impossible to maintain otherwise. Here is a before and after trimming example: http://www.barrreport.com/general-pl...nds-after.html
It is a good idea to keep your plant selection in mind when planning as well. Some plants just grow fast and need to be trimmed a lot.

Cleaning: Just rinse the tank out once or twice, it will be fine. Aquarium silicone has acetic acid or something like that anyway. Smells like vinegar.

Lighting: Are you planning to hang your lights above the tank, or set the on top of it? Your tank is probably categorized as 48", as that is the standard length, but it's never too accurate. It would be best to have light over the entire tank, but probably wouldn't be too horrible if there was a little bit of a difference. Usually, if you are using power compact fluoresecents for a 48" tank, you would use 2 55W bulbs. I also recommend AHSupply. I scrounged together a DIY hood (still in the process, actually) using a 2x55W kit, old 2x55W ballasts, and another 2 x AHSupply 55W reflectors.

Substrate: You will see why 3" is a good amount when you start trying to plant stuff and it won't stay down There is a substrate calculator here, but may not have your specific substrate: https://www.plantedtank.net/substratecalculator.html

Filter: Not all filters are exactly like this. A canister filter simply sucks in water from one hose and outputs it through the other hose, going through the media in the chamber. Where you place the intake and outlet are up to your own creativity. Some people use spray bars, which can also be use vertically or horizontally, depending on what you want, others use outlet pipes, some use very nice looking (but very expensive) ADA lily pipes, which are basically glass outlet pipes that don't ugli-fy the tank. Ideally, your tank will have enough "flow" in all areas of the tank. That is, nutrients will get distributed evenly. You want to avoid dead spots, as this can cause hazardous conditions for fish. However, depending on your CO2 setup, this may have some effect on the CO2 levels in your tank. Remember that if you happen to get a pressurized system and a drop checker to check the CO2 levels, it's best not to put the drop checker right by the intake/outlet. Depending on your diffusion method, this might cause a reading that is higher than the rest of the tank. Try to have a filter that has a gallon per hour rating high enough to completely cycle through the entire volume of your tank 3-5 times per hour. (Disclaimer: this is not an exact number, and there are differing opinions on how much is enough.) I think that it is best to overfilter. I use 2 filters rated for 80 gallons on my 55. It's probably overkill, but if one stops working, it is a safety net.

CO2: I think I've only seen one pet store to carry any kind of CO2 equipment. It's probably one of the best stores in the country. You'd be better off looking at your local airgas, fire extinguisher store, or beverage/restaurant supply store. The tanks we use are also used for other things, most commonly, kegerators Try to buy a tank and get it refilled at one of these places. Also, sometimes, instead of refilling your tank, the store may swap your empty tank for a full one. So, it might be a waste to buy a new shiny aluminum tank. Steel tanks do weight a considerable amount more, but are probably cheaper. It is fine to buy a used tank, so long as it is currently not leaking and has been hydrostatically tested and certified for a certain amount of time. I think you need to have tanks tested every 3 years or so, and it costs a decent amount, so keep that in mind when looking.

Ferts: Good thinking, there is a lot of reading and confusion here

Good luck, hope that helped.

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-07-2008, 06:13 AM Thread Starter
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Driftwood: Do most people just PM badcopnofishtank? Does he have a website or does he do all his business via swap and shop.

Planting: This may seem silly but what do people use to “tie” down plants? If I use strings or rubber bands, which seem like logical choices, will I have to sanitize them before introducing them to my tank?

Lighting: Since the tank came with a wooden hood enclosure, I was going to sets the lights on the tank. It seems to be a bad choice though as the lights will have to sit on wooden planks, which sit on the plastic top. Do people typically think that lights should be closer to the tank or is there a suggested distance of where lights should be placed? It makes sense to me that in terms of “brightness” you’d want to have the light as close as possible to minimize light diffusion. Then again lights would raise temperature of the water?

Can you describe to me what are ballasts? From what I understand they control the electricity going into the bulbs or the efficiency in light? Do they belong next to the lights or are they somewhere external?

Also say I was going to use Ahsupply as my light source and also get the 55 watt kit. Does the width matter? The 2x55w Kit is 48”long and 4 inches wide but I could get a 4x55w where it would it be 8 inches wide, is that overkill? It is difficult for me to balance these questions inconjunction with the thread on tank lighting demands.

Thanks again!
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-07-2008, 06:45 AM
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Driftwood: Yup, you could probably just pm him. There is a thread in swap and shop somewhere.

Planting: What exactly do you mean by tie down? Are you asking about something temporary, or something permanent? Certain plants never root, and therefore, require something that will never deteriorate. You could use nylon mesh for that. A good source would be shower scrubbers (louffas). At under $2, it is a great way to attach plants. Other people use patches of stainless steel mesh to grow flame moss or riccia, and riccia can also be tied to flat rocks with nylon mesh. If you are tying some java fern, anubias, or moss onto wood and trying to have it root, you might try some cotton thread. The cotton will eventually rot and deteriorate away, but by the time that happens, hopefully the plant will have rooted.


Lighting: Shouldn't really be such a big deal if they are hanging or not. If the lights are a reasonable distance, the light will be roughly equal. Otherwise, the light will be spread out too much. Lights will probably heat up the water a bit, but then again most of our fish would appreciate it. Make sure your heater's thermostat is good, you don't want to cook your fish.

Ballasts control the current that flows through the bulbs. They look like blocks. They usually are not very far from the lights, probably inside the fixture.

You don't need the entire width of your tank to be exactly equal to the width of the light fixture. Even though AH Supply has great reflectors, the light will never be reflected perfectly straight down. The question of how many light kits is up to you and what kind of tank/equipment you want. I am using 4x55W on a 55g. This is a lot of light. Thus, I have pressurized CO2 and fertilizers. 2x55W is still perfectly fine for growing most things on your tank.

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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-08-2008, 02:11 AM Thread Starter
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Lighting: Here is a pic of the old lights that I won’t be using.

Now the enclosure would just go over the light and all is well. Since you already are using AH supply lights, is it bad if I just sat the lights on the wooden planks like the old light is sitting?

Equipment: Can you tell me what test kits I’ll need to get started? Are there all-in-one kits for testing everything from pH to mineral levels, etc.?

Planting: Can you give me a rough timeline of when I can start to plant? Let’s say I finished prepping the tank and added the substrate, hardscape and water. Do I start doing water tests immediately? Do I wait a week? Then after I add the chemicals how long before I re-test? Then after I start to plant I wait 3 weeks for the them to finish cycling and then its okay to add animals?
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-08-2008, 02:36 AM
 
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IMO African dwarf frogs wont work in that tank. It is too tall and they will have trouble getting air. I would never put ADF in a tank taller than about 1 ft.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-08-2008, 04:35 AM
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He makes a good point. ADFs are more comfortable when they have a way to get out of the water.

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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-08-2008, 06:25 AM Thread Starter
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I don't think I'll have more than a 12" of water anyway. The substrate will be 3 inches and, out of fear that the frogs will jump away, I'll have 4 inches of space from the top of the tank to the water surface. Therefore that will leave pretty much one foot of water.

Anyway back to my previous questions?...
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