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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-22-2014, 04:20 AM Thread Starter
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Exclamation EXPERTS ONLY: New planted tank - Every question you can imagine

Hey everyone,

This thread is huge, so please answer as much or as little as you like.

I have been lurking here for a while and I'm planning on setting up my first planted tank. I have a lot of experience with fresh water tanks, and have even bred a few of my fish successfully. I am sick of working with "Petco" tanks that have fake gravel and plants. It's time to step things up a notch! Due to many open-ended answers in my search, I have made this large thread that asks all of my questions. I have a Mr. Aqua 12 gallon long. I am going to start simple with my first planted tank: One carpeting plant and some rocks, that's it. Definitely considering HC Cuba, despite a lot of people saying they have had bad luck growing it.

Now for the questions:

Lighting:

I am going to use T5 HO bulbs, 2x 24W. I have 10000k bulbs and 6500k bulbs. I might do a combo of both. I am going to suspend my light fixture about 8 inches above the water's surface. Please tell me if it is too much /too little light.

Filtration:

I have a Fluval 105 canister that I am going to use. I already have the clear tubes and glass pipes. Never ran this filter - I am debating whether or not to use activated carbon or stuff the canister with some media.

Honestly, planted tanks look so clean and perfect it doesn't seem like they need a filter at all! Filters seem to be mostly for surface agitation in a planted aquascape.

Substrate / Fertilizers:

I am going to do an emersed growth of my HC, and I will not fill the tank until there is a very prominent carpet. I am going to use 30-40lb of Eco Complete: I thought about ADA Aquasoil Amazonia...but $90 USD for a 20lb bag of dirt is ridiculous! Paying for that ADA stamp, it seems.

While I have my HC growing emersed, do I dose the soil with ferts? Also, please tell me how "wet" the soil should be. I was planning on filling it just until the soil is completely saturated, maybe with some small puddles.

CO2:

I have read that the pressurized tank method is expensive and needs to be replaced constantly. I am going with the DIY method and would like some advice on recipes / longevity of the CO2 production, etc. I will attach my tubing to a glass diffuser.

Test Kits:

Please tell me EVERY test kit I will need. I want to have them all ready while the tank is still doing its emersed growth.

Water Changes:

I am planning on doing them once a week when the tank is filled, dosing my ferts and Seachem Prime each time. I am going to WC whether there is livestock in the tank or not.

Livestock:

I am going to put some small exotic tetras into the tank (X-ray Pristellas or Blue King Tetras), and maybe a couple of those pygmy corys (forgot the name) as bottom feeders. This is the absolute least concern of mine, but I thought I'd throw it in here.

Miscellaneous:

Heater? Every picture of a planted tank I see does not have a heater in it. Maybe the person takes it out for the photo? Clever angle / hiding? I don't know. I think it's suicide to not have a heater in the tank and I will have one 24/7, despite the fact that it is ugly.

Powerhead? I wasn't going to put one in the tank; I read that it disturbs the CO2 by exchanging it out of the aquarium. Also, they are unsightly (I am trying to go for all clear glass equipment)

Snails in shipment: This is a big one. I have had trouble with pest snails in my FW tanks and I am worried that I will get snails in my HC shipment. Please tell me any precautions I can take to prevent them.

RO/DI water? I read that it is unnecessary, and that all you need is treated tap water. Seachem Prime.

Hardscape: Please list acceptable rocks / wood that can be used. Those Seiryu Iwagumi rocks are beautiful, but expensive. They're rocks!
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

That's about it. I want to have all of my grounds covered before I even begin this tank.

Thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-22-2014, 04:37 AM
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Lighting-all depends on your CO2 and plants

Filter-Don't use activated carbon in a planted tank except if you're trying to remove tanins from wood. It will absorb all the nutrients the plants need.

Substrate-Eco-complete is fine but ADA Aquasoil is better...its not just a stamp

CO2-you are sorely mistaken...on my 125g I replace the 20lb tanks every couple months for $20....cheap and easy.

Test Kits-None

Water Changes-Sounds good but you want to split your macros and micros up in dosing. The Iron will react with the phosphates and come out of solution.

Livestock-Sounds cool

Misc
Heater is in-line or in the sump

Powerhead-Gives surface ripple for oxygen exchange and helps move water. All good things. I personally use a Vortech MP40 and it's not to bad looks wise.

Snails-Dip them or buy a couple dwarf loaches

RO/DI-Yes, unnecessary for most unless you have terrible tap water/well water. Seachem Safe is the same as prime but a powder....cheaper in the long run.

Hardscape-Lots of things work. Seiryu are actually a form of limestone and will change your water parameters. I would stay away from them if you're a beginner. Go to your local landscape place and get river rocks or bring some acetic acid with you test.


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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-22-2014, 04:44 AM
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Bigger/better filter. Personally, I'd use a 2215. (2213 minimum)

Ditch the eco-complete. Bite the bullet and get the aquasoil.

Don't bother with diy co2. It will just lead to frustration. Get a decent pressurized system. You should only need to refill a #5 cylinder twice a year. You'll spend more than that on sugar for diy.

Get a longer light, preferably an dimmable led fixture. The 24" t5 will work, but you'll end up upgrading anyway...

Order your Ferts from gla. Get whatever the pack is that has the npk + micros. Learn to ei dose.

seems like a lot up front, but you'll be set for the long run. Just my $0.02
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-22-2014, 04:58 AM Thread Starter
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OG: The Eheim 2215 has just about the same specs as the Fluval 105...just 30 gallons more per hour. This tank is going to be very lightly stocked, and I will not stock it until the tank is fully carpeted.

Also, I have heard that Eco-Complete gives great results and also works great as a base substrate. People often top the eco with Aquasoil, and I thought about that.

I am trying to make this as budget-friendly as possible.

CO2 Kit: Would this work?

http://www.marineandreef.com/Hagen_F...KDShoCWffw_wcB

Keep in mind this is a very small tank.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-22-2014, 05:11 AM
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The 105 will quickly slow down. The eihem wont. Enough flow is very important. (Your tank is small but 3' long...)

You just can't beat aquasoil. Eco-complete is more or less inert. Im.say this from experience. Aquasoil will get things going faster and yield better results. Eco-complete has its advantages but imo, aquasoil spanks it.

I can't see the link but I suspect anything from big als isn't what you're looking for. The minimum I'd recommend is a basic aquatek and a 5lb cylinder. I like reactors but you can use whatever.
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-22-2014, 07:18 AM
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You want a good filter not only for biological filtration but circulation as well, circulation is critical to distribute nutrients and as long as your not rippling the surface of the water off gassing of CO2 is minimal. Also with a decent filter you may not need a power head.

Speaking of CO2 in regards to your link, the cylinders in that kit are 88gram disposables. Green Leaf Aquariums (GLA) also sells injections set ups as well as your ferts. Your tank isn't very large at only 12gal I wouldn't think from what I've read that you'd go through a lot of CO2.

I also agree with the poster who suggested going LED on the lighting. T5HOs seem like a lot of light for such a small tank even if it is CO2 injected, though if you do stay with the T5HOs I suggest loosing the 10,000k bulb IMHO it'll create algae issues for you in that tank as it's quite intense, stick with the 6,000k to 7,000k range bulbs.

As for heaters; I have a submersible heater though the reason you can't see it is because it's hidden behind all those plants

Test kits; get an API master test kit, plus a GH/KH kit.

RODI water unless you have bad tap water you could do without it.

Hardscape; I pick up rocks from the creek, lake, around work..... If I like the look, just make sure you test them before using in the aquarium.

Same goes for drift wood, the tributaries leading into and out of lakes are great places to look, just take a folding saw on your hunt.
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-22-2014, 10:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HeyDerHiDerHoDer View Post
Lighting:

I am going to use T5 HO bulbs, 2x 24W. I have 10000k bulbs and 6500k bulbs. I might do a combo of both. I am going to suspend my light fixture about 8 inches above the water's surface. Please tell me if it is too much /too little light.
Probably fine with the lighting, but I'd stick with the 6,500K bulbs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeyDerHiDerHoDer View Post
Filtration:

I have a Fluval 105 canister that I am going to use. I already have the clear tubes and glass pipes. Never ran this filter - I am debating whether or not to use activated carbon or stuff the canister with some media.

Honestly, planted tanks look so clean and perfect it doesn't seem like they need a filter at all! Filters seem to be mostly for surface agitation in a planted aquascape.
You definitely need a filter. Finding the right balance without one would be difficult, IMO. I run activated carbon in my aquarium with no problems. It's not necessary, but it won't truly hurt anything unless you dosing some sort of medication. Bear in mind, the usefulness of the carbon will last a week or two, and then it basically just becomes another media in your filter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeyDerHiDerHoDer View Post
Substrate / Fertilizers:

I am going to use 30-40lb of Eco Complete: I thought about ADA Aquasoil Amazonia...but $90 USD for a 20lb bag of dirt is ridiculous! Paying for that ADA stamp, it seems.
I use Eco-Complete as the bottom layer, followed by AquaSoil Amazonia, then capped with regular gravel. The Eco-Complete is more or less inert, but I think it does serve as a good nutrient sponge. Either way, the AquaSoil would not be money wasted; it's good stuff.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeyDerHiDerHoDer View Post
CO2:

I have read that the pressurized tank method is expensive and needs to be replaced constantly. I am going with the DIY method and would like some advice on recipes / longevity of the CO2 production, etc. I will attach my tubing to a glass diffuser.
You will want pressurized CO2 for what you want to do. I can't see DIY being consistent enough. A 5lb. CO2 tank for a 12 gallon set-up should last quite a while. I've been running a 5lb. pressurized set-up on my 65 gallon for 2 months now, and I probably won't have to switch out tanks for another month or two at least.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeyDerHiDerHoDer View Post
Test Kits:

Please tell me EVERY test kit I will need. I want to have them all ready while the tank is still doing its emersed growth.
The basic API master kit, available at most big box pet stores, will get you there as a starter. I would suggest a GH and KH test kit as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeyDerHiDerHoDer View Post
Water Changes:

I am planning on doing them once a week when the tank is filled, dosing my ferts and Seachem Prime each time. I am going to WC whether there is livestock in the tank or not.
Once a week is good. I would try following a basic EI dosing plan as a starter. Dose macros 3 x week and micros 3 x week, dosing macros and micros on different days. Plenty of info on EI methodology on this site.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeyDerHiDerHoDer View Post
Miscellaneous:

Heater? Powerhead?
Yes to both, though in a 12 gallon, I might think you filter alone would be enough flow.

David


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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-22-2014, 10:40 AM
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The lighting you have will be fine, set it up so it can be raised or lowered easily.

Use the filter you already have, then switch it if you don't like it, it may save you some money.

There's a reason ada soil is expensive, well worth it imo. Eco complete is fine I have it, its just not nutrient rich like ADA.

Save up for a pressurized CO2 system. The DIY is cheap but the cost adds up over time. Not to mention its a pain to deal with, its extremely inconsistent.

Test kits: NO3, NO2, ammonia, PH, GH, KH, PO4 are important. Don't go without the basic test kits, not sure why people would say you don't need them.

RO water isn't necessary but helpful depending on what your keeping.


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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-22-2014, 10:50 AM
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Lightning

I think you need just one bulb. It's a thin tank. But I could be wrong honestly I'm no expert on par.
and in my experience for growing plants a 5k-6k bulb is better for growing and a 10k is better for looking. Leds are likely cheaper and better for your tank, but if you have this light might as well use it.

Heat and power head

You need a heater unless you go with cold water fish. There are lots of gorgeous coldwater fish though, mainly all native to America and sold on aquabid. You may want to look at them, just search for coldwater fish on google, permitting your plants would do ok in whatever room temperature is in your house.
You're tank is fairly small and the filter should generate plenty of turbulence to get oxygen in the water and not leave dead zones. If not, add a powerhead, unlikely but maybe because the tank is so long.

Co2
everything I have read building a DIY co2 is the best option (by building DIY i mean buying the parts and using pressurized not the making your own gas method. Making your own co2 can be detrimental with mistakes, and can add unwanted side effects)but 3 things.
A) don't buy cheap parts and make sure you have a solenoid.
B) don't go the "paintball" method, the fitting means extra parts are required and/or the gauge will be lower quality.
C) use the biggest tank you can. The bigger the tank, the more money you save by filling it less often.
alternatively just buy a small pressurized system for example from GLA. It's cheaper, but don't create your own co2, you will eventually regret it.

Filtration

You have plenty. It's just right I like fluval, other recommend eheim but I use fluval.

Test kits

I use every one for freshwater. Phos and gh/kh and the master kit ect.

Snails

Snails are a good thing to have in a tank. They clean up. If you have to get rid of them look into plant dips safe for hc. I'm not sure which you can do with hc and which you can't

I recommend however getting one assassin snail and allowing snails in your tank. I have a 15g and a 5g that have snails and 1 assassin snail. I rarely ever see a snail in my tank although I know they are there and cleaning up. It's win win.

Soil

Imo stick with eco. Ada is nice but you don't have to have it. Add some root tabs under and as for dry start if you go that way then use root tabs and you don't need to add any ferts.

Last edited by ErtyJr; 12-22-2014 at 01:14 PM.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-22-2014, 11:54 AM
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I will say the following..... Look at GLA CO2 kits, they are great. The tank for the fish you want, fresh tropical fish need waters in the 70 plus degrees (research the fish water parameters and make the decision on the heater based on that).
ADA substrate is nutrient rich so there is no need to add ferts while you trying the dry method for growing HC, but you should inject co2 (right from this start you need a good CO2 diffuser, again GLA is your answer)
I really don't see the need of an emersed growth, I have grown HC underwater from day one no problem, look at tropica or the green machine videos on how to grow it and you should be fine). HC is a beautiful plant but demanding of several things: Co2 (again you need a good set up), high light.. go led, TON of care. By care I mean constant trimming, you need quality small scissor and do frequent trimmings at least every other week. You press down the plant and cut the top, there are a few videos of the process in you tube.
Filter go eheim canister filter, move your water about 4-5 times per hour and you will have a cristal clear water all the time.
Another item you need to factor in is a timer to set your photo period,depending on light, co2, ferts and overall plants you end up with 7-8 hours will be enough.
Final 2 cents, get quality stuff in the long run is better ..... Even on resale value if you get bored with what you got.
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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-22-2014, 01:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HeyDerHiDerHoDer View Post
Hey everyone,
CO2:
I have read that the pressurized tank method is expensive and needs to be replaced constantly. I am going with the DIY method and would like some advice on recipes / longevity of the CO2 production, etc. I will attach my tubing to a glass diffuser.
I have also pondered this, and in the end I decided a pressurized setup, ALTHOUGH has a more expensive initial cost, in the long run it will be more cost and time efficient.

Get a 5lb cylinder tank, a regulator, and a diffuser and you'll be set. A tank this size will last you awhile and they are not expensive to re-fill. A lot easier on maintenance than a DIY set up.
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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-22-2014, 01:31 PM
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Oh I forgot about water...... Unless you live in a place with high quality, where parameters don't change (I live in the northeast which is not the case) you will need ro water, it can be bought but is expensive so a filter is your best investment long run.
Finally tests... I am going to sound crazy..... Don't become hostage of numbers, test, adjustments ... At the end pretty much the easy solution to bad water parameter will be ..... a water change. So after set up daily changes for a week, every other day the following. Once tank settles at least once a week and for a smaller tank I will say change a third of the water twice a week.
At the end you will be rewarded with a great looking tank.
Btw I won't claim to be an expert, far from it, I am just rewriting the expert advice I got from at least two people I do believe are experts in this forum.
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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-22-2014, 02:29 PM
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I am at work and don't actually want to do work so here is a lengthy response lol

Lighting:

Your lighting entirely depends on your fert schedule, CO2 distribution, plant mass, etc... Contrary to what all beginners believe there is not a 'magic number' for any of this crap. Adjustable lighting is key here. Make it so you can raise or lower your T5 ballast and tweak lighting as you go.
START SLOW. Too much light while your CO2 /ferts/plant mass are not where they should be will cause a lot of algae and a LOT of headaches. It is worth it to be patient.

Filtration:

You 100% need a filter. I would just use the canister you reference as long as the flow is not too weak or strong.
Do not use activated carbon. IMO all you need are some layers of foam (coarse – fine) then put your bio media on top of that. It is by far the most efficient way to pack a canister. This video explains how to properly set up a canister (FYI most manufacturers recommend to set it up THE WRONG WAY): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szrUlHTW5Zo

Substrate / Fertilizers:

For substrate I recommend a dirt tank capped with sand or something cheap like Black Diamond blasting grit. Either that or splurge on the ADA AS. Never used AS but people say it has a steep learning curve.
Fertilizers get dry ferts. Do not bother with liquid crap. Get a few pounds of KNO3, KH2PO4, K2SO4, CSM+ B, and maybe some Iron Chelate. They will last your little 12g forever and will cost you like $20 - $25.

I did a dry start with HC and it was… weird…

I did the same thing as you. Jumped into high tech planted tanks headfirst and all my HC browned and died off within a few months. My tank was a 75 gallon so it was more difficult than your endeavor but I will warn you that HC is VERY DIFFICULT. It is called a DRY start for a reason. Standing water will grow mold and your dry start will fail. Puddles are NOT GOOD during dry start. You want the tank to be humid and moist with absolutely no water above the substrate level.
That said I will never recommend dry starts. If I could do it all over again I would have planted 1000 individual stems of HC and patiently waited for it to fill in (the right way to do it). Dry start is risky (ESPECIALLY since you and I were inexperienced with planted tanks and tried HC first) and I wasted months of my time waiting for it to fill in.
If you do go ahead with a dry start you will need to have your CO2 dialed in very nicely with good flow. Wait until the HC has taken good hold with decently long roots. It will take at least a month. When you fill the tank immediately dose it with EI levels of ferts. BLAST it with unreasonable amounts of CO2. The plant will need to adapt from having infinite CO2 to as much as you put in the water column. You want to keep the HC trimmed VERY low so it spreads and does not grow over itself. When trimming you have to be very careful. It is really just a tangled mess and it is incredibly easy to uproot chunks of HC. Eventually too much of mine uprooted – and once it comes out it ain’t going back in there.
Also remember that HC loves CO2 – not so much high light. It is NOT a high light plant. Everyone says it needs high light but that is a load of crap. It needs good CO2 and medium light and it will grow just fine.

CO2:

Get a CO2 setup. DIY CO2 sucks and will only cause your problems in the long run. 5lb tank setup will cost you a few hundred and each 5lb tank will last forever on a tank that small. I BLAST CO2 in my 75 gallon and replace a 5lb every 3 months or so.
Either run a little reactor on a small pump or plumb a reactor to the output of your canister. It’s not that hard to make a cheap little PVC reactor for like $15.

Test Kits:

None. Test kits are a waste of time and money IMO. All you need is the API Freshwater Master kit to test Ammonia and Nitrites as your tank cycles. After that it is not worth it. Again – do not chase water parameters. It is not worth it.

Water Changes:

With a tank that small I would do at least 50% a week. In the first few months you definitely want to do at least 2x 40% water changes a week. Water changes are VERY IMPORTANT especially as your tank becomes established. Dirty tanks lead to algae problems (especially in the beginning).

Livestock:

Fish should come only once your plants are doing well, CO2 levels are reasonable (not deadly), and you are ready. Fish are the easy part lol. Just don't overstock.

Miscellaneous:

In-line heater with your canister filter on one of those controllers that turn it off if it gets too hot. People whine that heaters malfunction (and they all do eventually) but getting a cheap little controller will turn the heater off when your tank gets too hot. I have a few Hydor inline heaters and they have been great for years.

Powerhead only if you need the flow. Dead spots will create breeding grounds for algae. You will need solid flow to distribute your CO2 and ferts throughout the whole tank. In a 12g this is not hard to do.

I personally take no precautions to get rid of pest snails. Some people bleach dip plants but this may do bad things to HC. Not sure…

With respect to water parameters do not fall into this trap. Deal with the water you have. It is probably fine. If it is absolutely unusable then use RO water (I do not recommend this unless your water is totally unacceptable for fish & plants). Don't chase parameters and don't chase pH. It's not worth it.

Hardscape is up to you! IMO it is worth it in the long run for some nice rocks. You will have them forever and you don’t need many to fill in a 12 gallon… Look at some nice iwugami setups. You will not need more than a few nicely placed stones.


SOME KEY PIECES OF ADVICE:
Start slow.
Be patient. Rushing things only causes problems. It is never worth it. Realistically it will take close to 6 months to get the average tank to where you want it to be.
Don't skimp on hardware. You will only end up buying the nice stuff later on anyways when it becomes obvious that you need it.
Don't let frustration get the best of you. As you long as you put the work in and learn from your mistakes you will have a beautiful tank eventually.

GOOD LUCK
High tech tanks are very difficult. Hopefully you run into less problems than I did with my dry start LOL.


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Last edited by klibs; 12-22-2014 at 03:13 PM. Reason: WHATEVER
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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-23-2014, 08:09 AM
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Most questions have been answered well enough except for your heater question.

A lot of people have inline heaters. This works if you're running a canister filter. As I found out, you'll soon realise that there's really only one manufacturer for inline heaters. Hydor. I wasn't keen on a 150w heater for my 8g setup, so I made my own DIY inline heater which uses a regular in-tank style aquarium heater.

It's surprisingly easy. You can find some threads on google or this one here... http://www.aquariumlife.com.au/showt...detailed-build

You will find that you require a large cable gland which the heater sits in to provide a water tight seal. Every single post I've come across, in relation to this cable gland, seem to think it's some specialised product only available from a particular manufacturer who give away free samples. Maybe they're not aware that it's a standard cable gland available at any electrical wholesaler. There's nothing special about it. A cable gland is a cable gland. Every town will have some sort of electrical wholesaler. And every electrical wholesaler will stock cable glands. Head into one with your heater and ask them for a cable gland to fit the shaft of your heater.


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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 12-23-2014, 03:09 PM
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Welcome to the forum first off.
Not to be mean or anything but between the search feature and the stickies (typically the first 1-4 post at the top of every category) they cover a lot of basic questions for new people to the hobby. The search feature can be used to find additional information on a given topic and is elaborated a bit more based on everyone's experience.

This site is one of the best in regards to planted tanks but a good thing to do is to search for answers here prior to posting. 9 times out of 10, its been covered. The post you will get here, won't equal the amount that as accumulated over the course of this sites life. You could get 15-20 replies here but there are hundreds of replies spread out in several other threads over the years.

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