Beginner - help getting started please - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-26-2009, 04:24 PM Thread Starter
kor
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Beginner - help getting started please

Hi all! I'm completely new to the world of planted aquaria. So, before I make some terrible, costly mistakes, I was hoping to get some feedback from the experts.

The plan is to use a 55g tank, and about 100W of T5 lighting. I do not want to use CO2 in any form (homebrew too much effort/mess, tanks too expensive).

I'm almost certain that I will use pool filter sand (PFS) as substrate, not because I think it's necessarily the best for plants, but it has the advantages that it's cheap, easy to deal with, and doesn't make a mess in the tank (either clouding or altering water params). I really don't want to deal with the mess/uncertainty of DIY, and just can't see myself ponying up over $100 for fluorite or eco-complete.

My water is about 7.8 pH and about 4 degrees hardness.

I expect I'll have to fertilize, but don't want to be in a situation where I have to do so constantly or risk wipeout of my plants. Other than flourish and flourish excel (both readily available at the LFS), is there anything I'd have to be adding?

Given the light output from the T5s, can I get away with an inert substrate like PFS? And survive without CO2? Or am I going to be in trouble right from the outset?

If this arrangement can work, what plants would do well under such conditions? Any "ground cover" type plants, or just ultra-hardy species like anubias and java fern?

Is it recommended to cycle the tank first, then add plants and fish, or to have the plants in the tank while cycling, only adding the fish later? If adding the plants up-front, would the ammonia levels involved in the typical "fishless cycle" (5 ppm) cause damage to the plants?

Thanks for your help!
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-26-2009, 05:05 PM
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Quote:
The plan is to use a 55g tank, and about 100W of T5 lighting. I do not want to use CO2 in any form (homebrew too much effort/mess, tanks too expensive).
That doesn't work, you have way too much light to not use CO2. In fact, at that point, you'll most definately have to aim for pressurized. T5 is very powerful lighting.

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can't see myself ponying up over $100 for fluorite or eco-complete.
If you seriously wanna go into planted tanks, be prepare to "pony" up a LOT more than that.

Quote:
I expect I'll have to fertilize, but don't want to be in a situation where I have to do so constantly or risk wipeout of my plants
If you have that much light, you'll need CO2 and ferts. If you don't, then stay low tech. I'm not too sure how far the wpg rule applies to T5s, it is different. Low tech is definately the approach you should take if you want low maintenance, no ferts, no CO2.

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Other than flourish and flourish excel (both readily available at the LFS), is there anything I'd have to be adding?
If you wanna go cheap, get dry ferts from greenleafaquariums.com . Are you going to have any inhabitants in the tank?

Quote:
Is it recommended to cycle the tank first, then add plants and fish, or to have the plants in the tank while cycling, only adding the fish later? If adding the plants up-front, would the ammonia levels involved in the typical "fishless cycle" (5 ppm) cause damage to the plants?
Only hardy plants and fish can survive the cycle process. Fish like comet goldfish and many stem plants can.
This place lists which plants are hardy or not:
http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/f...finder/all.php

However, just because they're not hardy doesn't mean they won't survive it and vice versa. You should just aim in the beginning for plants that are fast growing. You can do a fishless cycle with just plants only. Just find the fast growing plants that are cheap like those in the rotala and hygrophilia family.


The place also tells you the light requirement, since you're stepping down to low tech, you should look around for plants that require medium or less amount of light. Who knows, you might even get away with keeping the higher lighted ones. I've kept UG with 1.5 wpg.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-26-2009, 05:06 PM
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With T5 lights at 2wpg you will be in trouble. That's too much lighting for no CO2. You can hang your light many inches above the tank so that all doesn't go into the tank. That will help. Keep your lighting period very short. Florish Excel is going to be very expensive as a carbon source for a 55g tank. It has a tank life of 24hrs. It has to be dosed everyday. If you don't you'll always be battling algae.

You can set up an EL natural tank. That is about as low maintenance as you can get. (Do a google search for EL Natural.) You need to be low tech if you don't want to fertilize. You could use plant tabs. They work great for slow growers. Flourish is only trace minerals, a micro fertilizer. If you went the Flourish route you would also need to get their N, K and P. They are in separate bottles.

Check out low light plants, use fert tabs, limit your light and you'll be ok. Cram your tank with fast growing stem plants at first. They will suck up the ammonia. My favorite new cycle plant is Najas sp 'Roraima'. You'll see it in the SNS pretty regularly.

Here are some basic sites to get you up to speed.
http://www.aquatic-plants.org/articl...ges/index.html
http://beginneraquarist.petfish.net/...rist/Home.html
http://www.rexgrigg.com/

Just keeping on keeping on....


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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-26-2009, 06:03 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for your responses. Here are answers to some of the questions (and questions to some of the answers):


Yes, I do want to have fish in the tank. Probably a fairly low stocking level, a small school of tetras, perhaps a couple angels or blue rams, and a handful of otos.

The T5s will be hung about 4-6" or so above the tank. A 55 is also a quite tall tank, and I've read that a fair bit of light intensity is lost with depth. You think the T5s are still going to be a problem? Would 80W fluorescent non-T5 lighting be a better choice, or is that still too much light? If too much light is my problem, can it be solved by just running the lights for shorter periods?

Does the presence of floating plants alter the light/CO2 equation at all? Presumably as floaters they'll be soaking up light while drawing CO2 directly from the air?

The idea is to run the tank open-top and with a fair bit of surface agitation. Shouldn't that produce enough gas exchange to replenish the CO2 that the plants are taking in? After all, it's always been enough (even without the open top) to replenish the oxygen that the fish use, even in highly-stocked tanks.

What's the "SNS"?
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-26-2009, 06:44 PM
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as the posters above have mentioned that is a lot of light there.
as to cycling with plants, that is not an issue, the fish are the issue, infact the plants will thrive quite well in a cycleing tank.
the draw back is that with plants in, it will slow the cycle as the plants consume the ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates, in effect competeing with the bacteria, Now if you went heavy with Stem plants, the plant uptake would allow for the immediate introduction of fish as the plants are doing the job of the bacteria. They seriously buffer the Ammonia and nitrite spike to nearly zero. in many cases you will never see ammonia above 1 or 2 ppm and nitrites above 2.0 ppm, you may catch the nitrates above 5 for a short period. This is called a Silent Cycle, very smooth and natural for the fish and plants.

Note: The plants must be fast grwing Stem plants and planted over 50% of tank area.

SNS = Swap and Sale

and no reducing lighting time in not a viable option for to strong of light.
Yes light intensity drops off, but at 100w of t5 that is pretty much the equvilant of 240w of T12 lighting ( what the WPG guidline was originally created from )

If you are looking to stay low Tech you will want to be in the 1.5 WPG range, prob limited flourish or excel dosing.

This is of course my opinion Enjoy and remember YMMV
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-26-2009, 07:09 PM
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Right now, I am running one T8 32 watt 10,000K bulb on my 55 that is low tech. And I have had even lower watts on it before this and that has been plenty to grow the low light plants, and I even get away with some of the higher light plants at times. I would look for something more in this range of lighting, if you want to go low tech.

Tim
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-26-2009, 07:39 PM
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Remember T5 lights are about 2 times stronger than other lights out there. You can out light yourself really fast with these bulbs! Hope you read the links. You'll understand the balancing act if you read them.

Just keeping on keeping on....


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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-27-2009, 03:07 PM Thread Starter
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Sorry to keep bothering, but would someone be kind enough to answer one more question?

For CO2 injected tanks, the mantra is low (or no) surface movement, so as not to minimize CO2 loss to the atmosphere.

But shouldn't the opposite work as well? In a non-CO2 tank, shouldn't maximum surface agitation result in increased intake of CO2 from the air? That is, can one choose to (at least up to a point) increase the surface movement in a tank as an alternative to CO2, at least in a low-moderate light tank?
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-27-2009, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by kor View Post
Sorry to keep bothering, but would someone be kind enough to answer one more question?

For CO2 injected tanks, the mantra is low (or no) surface movement, so as not to minimize CO2 loss to the atmosphere.

But shouldn't the opposite work as well? In a non-CO2 tank, shouldn't maximum surface agitation result in increased intake of CO2 from the air? That is, can one choose to (at least up to a point) increase the surface movement in a tank as an alternative to CO2, at least in a low-moderate light tank?
No surface movement is not a good idea for c02 tanks, especially pressurized c02 injected tanks. This can do more harm than good. You want some ripple in the water to improve oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange at the surface. This along with good overall circulation in the tank also prevents dead spots which some say can facilitate or contribute to the development of such menace algae as blue green algae. The rippling also helps to circulate the c02 throughout the tank.

With non c02 injected tanks, people say taht you should not have any agitation or ripples at all. I use HOB filters in my low and mid light tank which causes noticeable surface agitation even when it is turned to the lowest flow setting. I have not notice any major plant growth issues. With lower light levels, c02 does not become as important so you can get away with much less.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-27-2009, 10:29 PM Thread Starter
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OK, last question (until I think of another ). Is there any value in putting a UV sterilizer on a planted tank to kill algae?
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-28-2009, 02:25 AM
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I would say the answer to that question is:
Only if your algae is suspended in the water. So if your water is green, a UV sterilizer clears this right up, but the algae stuck to the tank walls and hardscape should not be effected.
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