My Planted Tank is Extremely Unappealing...(pics) - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-15-2014, 03:54 AM Thread Starter
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My Planted Tank is Extremely Unappealing...(pics)

Tank info:
-36g Bowfront (30.3"L x 15.5"W x 20.9"H)
-(1) Aqueon 24" full spectrum, 17 watt, T8, fluorescent bulb
-Hood is designed to only hold 1 bulb
-Aqueon Quietflow 50g power filter
-Eco-complete planted black aquarium substrate
-Established for about 2 1/2 months
-Tank is stocked

So first off, the lighting is obviously insufficient. I'm contemplating completely replacing the hood with a different light fixture because of its limitations. Some plants are barely managing but for the most part they are slowly dying. I need suggestions on a better light fixture and do you think LED lights would make my tank look more appealing? Is it possible to keep the hood and get a stronger bulb?

Second, water clarity is a big problem. The yellow tint in the water appears about after a week following a water change. I've associated this problem with either free floating algae or tannin from my driftwood (possibly both). I don't have a CO2 system but I want to get one setup. I don't know much about that, however.

Third, power filter is very loud and has a very mediocre filtration system. I'm limited on the amount of space I have in the back of my tank so I cant fit more thicker filters on the back like an Aquaclear. Ideally, I want to set up an external filter so I can utilize the benefits of not only powerful filtration but the option to use Seachem purigen which will help with clarity. I've never used an external filter before though and will need suggestions. Also, would the addition of a powerhead benefit my tank in any way? If so, how and what type of powerhead should I get?

Lastly, I supplement the plants with Seachem flourish about once or twice a week. I want to know if there is anything else I can do to help them grow beautifully (assuming I get everything else in order).

Please help me upgrade my struggling planted tank and thanks for reading.

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Last edited by Shaumei; 04-15-2014 at 06:52 AM. Reason: Wrong dimensions
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-15-2014, 04:23 AM
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I'd say empty it, till it's 3/4 to 1/2 full and go for a riparium setup with a large HOB or DIY planter hanging from tank rim

1) It will make water changes easier.
2) water quality will improve with more plants
3) Invest in overhead spotlight setup, I use a closet hanger(with wheels) to suspend lighting
4) Powerheads will be important if you choose to have this 36g full to aid in nutrient and temperature regulation
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-15-2014, 04:51 AM
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I'm currently working on a similar size tank and I've pretty much used all the equipment you have on hand. For starters upgrade the light to a finnex planted plus led. For the filter ditch the cartridges and place a sponge inside where water enters and fill the rest with bio media a prefilter would help too on the intake. For fertilizers check out GLA pps pro ferts and take a look at their co2 systems I personally use the atomic v2. A powerhead would help to move some dead spots but not necessarily needed

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-15-2014, 06:31 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the information, I appreciate it a lot. Your light suggestion is much better than the one I was originally looking at by Zoomed. Also a very great suggestion on the filter but I will eventually scrap it for a canister because it is very noisy. The Atomic v2 appears as a nano system and you said your tank is of similar size, does it still perform well?

Lots of new information that I did not know before, thanks again!
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-15-2014, 02:53 PM
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The brownish water is likely coming from the Eco-complete. My tank does the same thing and it becomes noticeable by the week's end. I have rinsed the stuff well but while that helped it did not rid the problem completely. I do a weekly 50% to 70% WC and that set it back to being fairly clear for most of the week. It is no big deal and in many ways is more realistically natural than absolutely clear water.
Along with better lighting removing the floaters will also help to light up the plants below. It is a matter of preference but I think your tank will look better without them.
Get some more plants in there and get some that grow up to the surface. Again a matter of preference but I like the jungle look myself. Try to do something more interesting with the wood and/or rocks, something that has eye appeal and adds interest to the tank. The wood and small rocks in there seem to be just scattered about as an after thought.
You don't have to go the CO2 route, Excel will work well in a lower maintenance tank to give your plants the carbon they need. Dosing them with low levels of ferts won't hurt either, not too much though as the plants in a low maintenance tank won't be growing that quickly. Get yourself both macro & micro ferts and do a little reading on how much to use to start.
It is a nice looking tank and I'm sure you will get it looking great soon enough.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-15-2014, 03:28 PM
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I've got a 36 bowfront as well. I'd upgrade your light. I've got a finnex planted plus and like it a lot. I also found that just a hob filter really didn't work that we'll. I run a focal 306 in addition to a marineland 200 hob filter. With that combination my water stays pretty clear. I've been able to grow crypt wendtii, anubias, ludwigia, java fern, and some other stems pretty well worth only black Diamond as a substrate. I do dose excel and some ferts.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-15-2014, 07:58 PM
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Your scape could use some work too. Because you have a smaller tank and you stuck in big leafy plants it makes everything look tiny and cramped. I would suggest sticking with thin or small leaf plants to add more scale. stick with smaller fish and get some more hardscape materials.

tannins will pass with time.

75 Gallon Low Tech w/ Green Terror Pair
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-15-2014, 10:51 PM
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Purigen works wonders with dirty water.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-16-2014, 12:23 AM
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You can fix a 24" Finnex Planted Plus in your hood. You'll have pull the old light fixture out, but its not hard. The light would be a nice upgrade.

I'd consider a canister filter (Fluval 206 comes to mind).

My own tank started out, kind'a sad... (stock light, HOB filter)


Today, over a year later, it a much happier place. (Finnex Planted+, Fluval 206, lots of driftwood)


Give your tank, time and love and it will reward you. Some plant will thrive, while other will wither, this is normal; focus on what does well. Fish are the same. I've never had luck with Neon or Cardinal Tetras. Filigree "Glass" Bloodfin and Green Fire Tetras have much better for me.

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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-16-2014, 12:49 AM
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Hey Shaumei and welcome to TPT!

There are a few things you can address to with your aquarium if you want to continue it as a planted aquarium. The first decision you need to make is to decide if you want to have a low-tech tank or a high tech tank, this decision will be a factor is almost every other decision about your aquarium. Low-tech tanks get a bad rap, you can have a very vibrant aquarium with little maintenance and low costs of operation. Or you can go with a high tech tank and grow pretty much any plant you could want, once you learn the basics of how to control you light and fertilizers.

Right now with your current filter you are not getting enough filtration and this can be the cause of your tinted water, given the depth of you tank you should consider swapping to a small canister or a much larger HOB. It is a little unclear from the picture but it looks like you have your intake tube set really high, you are going to want to have that tube as close to the substrate as possible, in my 10 gallon (one tank I use a HOB on) aquarium I have it about ľ inch from the substrate. A canister filter to me will work best for your situation, you will be able to get more filtration, more flow, and with a canister you can split your intake from your outflow, which helps create better circulation in your aquarium.

I see you said you cannot put a bigger HOB filter on there and Iím curious why? If it is because it is too close to the wall just drain the aquarium until you can move it and move it out some, or if you donít have space with the stock plastic cover, you can get a cheap soldering iron from one of the big box stores for around $6 and use it to ďCutĒ the plastic, or you can use a dermil tool if you have one handy.

From the pictures you posted most of your low light plants look fine, they seem like they are getting decent growth and have a nice color to them. So you have the workings of a decent low the setup, but you will still want to increase your lighting, if you want to grow those stem plants to where they are more compact and not tall and lanky like they are now. If you want to stick with a low-tech setup you probably want to swap those out for something else. Another thing that would help would be to remove the floater, since you are in the bottom range of low light they are taking away a lot from what little light it able to get to the plants at the bottom of the aquarium. You donít have to throw them out you can raise a smaller portion in the 2-way breeder you have hanging in your tank now. If you want to continue with the low-tech approach you should get some root tab to dose your substrate with and with a low-tech setup you will probably only put 1 every 6-7 inches, and continue your Flourish dosing until it runs out, when it runs out just buy some dry fertilizers and use that, one of the EI package would last you a very very long time in a low-tech set up you will be using very little of the fertilizers but they will help you out a lot. You can use co2 injection in low-tech tanks on a low bubble per minute count, or you can start dosing Excel, you will get much better growth from your plants and deeper color.

A circulation pump will help you out a lot, throughout the day the plants will use all the nutrients and co2 that are around their leaves and this is why you need good circulation even in low-tech setups. You have some options here, if you donít want to upgrade your filter you can get a sponge style powerhead that will help filter your tank, increase circulation, and oxygenate the tank.

Now on to high tech.

If you want to go with a high-tech setup you will have to upgrade your lighting, and in doing so you will probably need to ditch that black top you have on there currently. This subject is debated all the time here on TPT, if money is not a factor go with a BML LED fixture, or if you want to go a more affordable route you can get some regular CFL bulbs in 5,500K, 6,500K, and 10,000K which are the spectrums most people use, this is the most affordable route and you will get a lot of Lume output. You can make your own fixture of get some clip on light fixtures, or use desk lamps; CFL will give you the greatest option of how you fixture will look and function. There are also 10watt LED flood lights that can be found on eBay, I have used the 10,000K version and it worked out fine for what I needed it to do, the fixture is a little bulky but I have seen people that simply mount them to a board and suspend them above the aquarium, or make a sort of wood box for the fixtures so you donít actually see them.

When swapping to a high-tech tank you will need to increase your fertilization, you will either want to do EI dosing or PPsPro, I have never done the PPsPro so I can comment on how effective it is. With EI dosing everything is pretty simple, there is now water testing, and no chasing parameters, and it is much cheaper than buying the liquid fertilizers in the LFS, a $20-$30 will last you well over a year. You are adding more nutrients than your plants can use and this will ensure that there is never a lack of anything in your water system, then at the end of a week, you do a 50% water change and this will reset the nutrient values in your water. You will also want to use root tabs with this kind of set up but will use many more; in my high-tech setups I use one for every 3-4 inches.

Co2 injection is necessary for a high-tech setup. You can use a paintball setup, they are a little cheaper start up price but they will cost you more in the long run due to the cost of filling the canister. Currently in my area a 20oz paintball canister refill is $4.50 after taxes, and a 20 pound co2 canister exchange is only $20, so if you do the math to get 20 pounds of paintball refills it will cost you $72, so you are going to instantly save $50 on co2 and you will not have to worry about it running out for a while, as to where I was filling up paintball canister up weekly on my 75 gallon high-tech.

There are several things you will need for your setup, a regulator, either single or dual stage will work, some tubing, a 1 way check-valve (stainless steel is best), a diffuser either inline or in tank, and a drop checker, to me a bubble counter is optional most regulators come with one attached anyways. You will want to get a regulator that has a magnetic solenoid, you will hook this up to a timer, and set that timer to turn on 45 minutes to an hour before your light come on and go off about 30-45 minutes before they turn off each day, and it will turn your co2 off and on for you, a solenoid is key to help prevent the growth of some types of algae, many of which grow when there is fluctuation of co2. The drop check will help you determine how much co2 is dissolved in your water and give more accurate information than what a bubble counter will give you. Right now inline diffusers and inline reactors seem to be the way most people are going, I am still using the old fashion setup with an in tank style diffuser. The 1 way check-valve will prevent water from back flowing into your co2 tubing and damaging your equipment; this is a necessary piece of equipment.

This is all I can think of right now, I am sure there is more and others can use this as a base to build off of to help you out. I will source some equipment and let you know the names, sometimes the mods here are strict on links.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-16-2014, 12:38 PM
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The lack of filtration is not a likely source for the brown tint and swapping to a canister from the HOB is not going to cure it. Filtering it through a lot of activated carbon might reduce it but only temporarily and it would be a waste of money and time.
The plants in a tank, one that is kept reasonably clean of dead plant material, don't need any filtration. When you add fish is when filtration becomes more important, the more the fish the more the importance. There are 2 types of filtration mechanical and biological and it is the 2nd that keeps the toxins in the water down. The suggestion to switch out your HOB with a canister is a good one for various reasons. Most of us use canisters because they tend to offer more efficient biological filtration, they can be made not to agitate the surface which would reduce CO2 levels in the water, they are usually quieter, and less visually obtrusive. That said a HOB filter can be made to be more efficient by putting sponges in it, you can redirect its water flow to minimize surface agitation, and some of them are very quiet too.

Aquarist suggests you first make the decision as to low tech versus high tech (and there are a few shades of grey in between these two). You really have to decide how involved in your tank's maintenance you want to be and how much money/time you want to spend on it. I would guess that a lot of us go high tech because we really like to play, we like to have to look after our tanks on an almost constant basis. Just looking at them is simply not enough to keep us interested in the hobby. Are you that kind of person or are you simply looking for a visually appealing tank and have lots of other things to devote your time to. Do some more reading about both and try to make your decision. As Aquarist says all the remaining decisions you make will be based on this one.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-17-2014, 09:41 AM
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added a bit about using Purigen in a filter.

The brown/yellow water is most likely tannin from your driftwood. You could a) boil the driftwood until it stops dumping tannin into the water or b) load a filter up with lots of carbon and/or SeaChem Purigen and let the filter do its magic. The driftwood is effect your water, most likely soften the water and reducing the pH. Many fish prefer soft acidic water, so be careful with sudden changes.

I suggest the filter method, going as far as buy a small filter like a AquaClear 20 (now labeled Fluval 20), and using it only with carbon and Purigen (you can fit 2 bags of carbon and one bag of Purigen in it). If you ended up with a canister filter (I suggest a Fluval 206, which is spooky quiet once it settles in and the trapped air escapes) put the Purigen in the top basket. (Keep the carbon in the middle basket.)

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Last edited by King of Hyrule; 04-17-2014 at 09:43 AM. Reason: yellow/brown water = tannin (driftwood)
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