Help Plant Newbie With New 55g Please - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 09-28-2015, 06:00 AM Thread Starter
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Help Plant Newbie With New 55g Please

Hello everyone,

Just joined the forum, but have been reading pretty extensively for the past week. I'm starting up a planted 55g, and really need some good direction so that I don't have to go through trial and error. I'm not new to aquariums or aquatic plants, but have only had low-light plants. I've read most of the stickied posts on here, and anything else I could find through searching. However, still have a million questions. I would appreciate any help you can provide, or older posts you can point me to.

(I don't know exactly what kind of plants I want yet, but I know that I would like a green carpet on a large portion of tank, lots of tall plants in the back, and things dispersed and growing on and around driftwood - sorry for the lack of info but will only be able to decide with more info about plants and a budget worked out. Also, for now I would not be doing CO2, as it's not really in the budget, but would be happy to upgrade in the future if I feel it is needed, or I guess if you inform me otherwise now and offer some affordable solutions)


Alright so lets start with the equipment I've procured for this tank.
  1. 55g (48" L, 13" W, 20" H)
  2. Hydor Pro 350 Canister Filter
  3. Finnex Planted+ 24/7
  4. Hydor Inline Heater 200w
  5. Petco Black Aquarium Sand

Now to my questions. I'll try to keep it short and concentrated for now.
  • First, please let me know if you see any problems with the equipment I've chosen.
  • I would really like to be able to use the black aquarium sand I purchased, but understand I would need additional nutrients for plants. Can I possibly place some kind of substrate (like seachem flourite) beneath the layer of sand? Or is my better option using some kind of liquid fertilizers?
  • On that note, I'm having trouble finding good posts in the Fertilizer section. Just lots of calculators I have no idea what to do with. What fertilizers do I need if I go with sand (whether I can put another substrate below or not)? So far I think a combination of seachem flourish and root tabs. However, I really have no idea. What would be a good all inclusive fertilizer?
  • Can you please provide recommendations for plants that will be well suited for sand and my goals listed below? Also where is a good place to source plants from?

I guess some additional info would also be helpful. My goals for this tank are to have a natural looking environment, but heavily planted with all live plants. I will be using it as a community tank and will be transferring in Barbs, neon tetras, sterba cory, and a mexican dwarf lobster. I would ideally like to begin adding bigger fish with time. I have been looking at new world cichlids as I understand they are less aggressive and would be fine as part of a community tank (maybe minus the neons). I want to leave a good portion of the tank with exposed sand so the cory can dig in it, and for aesthetic reasons.

I guess that's it for now, but will probably have a ton of follow up questions. Please offer any advice you can or links to other posts.
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 09-28-2015, 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by behemoth View Post
Now to my questions. I'll try to keep it short and concentrated for now.
  • First, please let me know if you see any problems with the equipment I've chosen.
  • I would really like to be able to use the black aquarium sand I purchased, but understand I would need additional nutrients for plants. Can I possibly place some kind of substrate (like seachem flourite) beneath the layer of sand? Or is my better option using some kind of liquid fertilizers?
  • On that note, I'm having trouble finding good posts in the Fertilizer section. Just lots of calculators I have no idea what to do with. What fertilizers do I need if I go with sand (whether I can put another substrate below or not)? So far I think a combination of seachem flourish and root tabs. However, I really have no idea. What would be a good all inclusive fertilizer?
  • Can you please provide recommendations for plants that will be well suited for sand and my goals listed below? Also where is a good place to source plants from?

I guess some additional info would also be helpful. My goals for this tank are to have a natural looking environment, but heavily planted with all live plants. I will be using it as a community tank and will be transferring in Barbs, neon tetras, sterba cory, and a mexican dwarf lobster. I would ideally like to begin adding bigger fish with time. I have been looking at new world cichlids as I understand they are less aggressive and would be fine as part of a community tank (maybe minus the neons). I want to leave a good portion of the tank with exposed sand so the cory can dig in it, and for aesthetic reasons.

I guess that's it for now, but will probably have a ton of follow up questions. Please offer any advice you can or links to other posts.

* Equipment seems fine.
* Many people cap with sand very common practice.
Inch of enriched substrate capped with an inch of sand, no problem.
Very popular is Black Diamond blasting sand.
$7.99 for 50lbs. @ Tractor Supply
Not sure where you are located though.
*Seachem Flourish Comprehensive and root tabs are fine.
They are expensive and you are paying a lot for watered down ferts.
This will not provide a complete water column dosing regiment though.
Many aquarists use Osmocote+ in gel caps for substrate. Way cheaper this way.
For dosing water column dry ferts are the way to go.
Typical formats followed are EI and PPS.
Estimative Index provides abundance of ferts with weekly 50% water changes.
Perpetual Preservation System provides only for plant uptake without excess.
PPS does not require a weekly 50% water change.


NilocG.com is a excellent source for dry ferts.
Also a member here willing to provide advice.


https://sites.google.com/site/aquati...r/home/pps-pro
This is an excellent site if the time is taken to read all tabs.
Wealth of information here.



*Sand is not an issue for plants, some plants cannot be buried anyway.
This site is most likely the best place to purchase plants.
Start a WTB thread or browse RAOK and sale threads.


As for your stocking of barbs and cichlids etc... I cannot advise.
I raise simple live bearers and have no issues with plants.


I hope this information helps and am sure others will chime in.


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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 09-28-2015, 06:37 PM Thread Starter
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Awesome amount of info, thank you! I'll continue my research with this and come back.
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 09-28-2015, 08:21 PM
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Quote:
•First, please let me know if you see any problems with the equipment I've chosen.

1.55g (48" L, 13" W, 20" H)
2.Hydor Pro 350 Canister Filter
3.Finnex Planted+ 24/7
4.Hydor Inline Heater 200w
5.Petco Black Aquarium Sand
1. Not the most ideal tank size. I understand it is appealing, but the lack of depth and the tall height of the tank are not ideal. The depth makes planting slightly more complex and can make hiding equipment more difficult. As for the height, you'll need more powerful lights to reach the plants.

2. I don't know much about this brand, but I've used something as cheap as a SunSun canister with success so it can't be bad.

3. Be careful with the 24/7 mode. It is likely an algae factory. However, you can use the light on a traditional timer and adjust the intensity (since it dims) if the 24/7 mode is too much light.

4. A great choice, I would couple it with a Finnex temperature controller. The Hydors like to fail after about 2 years and that is no good.

5. This is fine, but I suggest black blasting sand instead. I used black diamond from tractor supply. At 250 lbs, it only cost me $35. The petco sand would have been something like $5-10 per 10lbs. You'll want a bit of substrate for roots and I prefer to slope the sand from side to side some to add depth.

Quote:
•I would really like to be able to use the black aquarium sand I purchased, but understand I would need additional nutrients for plants. Can I possibly place some kind of substrate (like seachem flourite) beneath the layer of sand? Or is my better option using some kind of liquid fertilizers?
Enriched substrates are a great idea. Something as simple as soil is possible. However, I do not suggest that. For a new aquarist, I suggest sand only. After you get the plants set up to how you like them (a couple weeks of time have passed and you enjoy the layout), I suggest using root tabs. They are incredibly cheap and you can make them yourself or buy them from a forum member. Remember, all soil (even seachem fluorite) loses it's nutrients over time. Supplementing root tabs is easy.


Quote:
•On that note, I'm having trouble finding good posts in the Fertilizer section. Just lots of calculators I have no idea what to do with. What fertilizers do I need if I go with sand (whether I can put another substrate below or not)? So far I think a combination of seachem flourish and root tabs. However, I really have no idea. What would be a good all inclusive fertilizer?
I think the guy I bought my ferts from what Nicolg? He sells dry ferts and liquid ferts. From the sounds of it, you are not running CO2 so your needs for ferts will be low. A DIY liquid fert kit from him ($20) will last you a long time. You usually dose 1/5 of the EI dosage since the ferts aren't really what is holding your plants back. I've been running low tech for about a year and rarely does my ferts. Root tabs seem to be enough when you factor in weekly water changes and fish waste.

Quote:
•Can you please provide recommendations for plants that will be well suited for sand and my goals listed below? Also where is a good place to source plants from?
The absolute best source for plants is here. I would check your local fish store out too, not the big chain. My LFS had amazing amazon swords, which are often way too large for most tanks. But my 75g hasn't been overwhelmed by them yet. I would go to the RAOK area and start entering for free plants and buy from members in the for sale section.

I highly suggest looking at the low tech sub forum. They have a sticky/FAQ with low light plants. I suggest crpyts (wendtii of all variety), dwarf sag, swords, jungle val, frogbit, mosses and anubias varieties. That is all I have in my tank and it all grows very well in low lighting without CO2. I will add that water sprite or any other fast grower SHOULD be added to a fresh tank. It will definitely help you out when establishing a new tank since they soak nutrients very quickly. Being low tech, most of your plants will not grow very fast. Therefore, they don't absorb nutrients (fish waste) as quickly. So a couple fast growing plants will go a long way. These are usually stem plants.

Check out the fishless cycle if you haven't already. A bottle of PURE ammonia is all that is needed, and time. I did my tank in about 3 weeks and it literally took 5 minutes a day to dose and test. You will have a great bio filter after the fishless cycle!

I have to cut the typing here, but I hope it makes sense. No time for proof reading!
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 09-28-2015, 08:36 PM
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With no co2 you will really need to watch the amount of light you are giving the tank. Better to turn it down pretty low at first and slowly increase it over time or you will have an algae farm. And I would start using Excel and slowly increase the amount to double the suggested dose also. You have a pretty powerful light that really wants co2 to be in balance.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 09-29-2015, 12:44 AM Thread Starter
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Freeman, thanks so much for the additional info. I wish I would have known about tractor supply earlier, but I had a coupon for petco so ended up getting sand when I bought the 55g on their dollar per gallon sale.

I have a couple questions though.

First, why do you suggest I not use a substrate, and just sand? Nutrient overkill or what? I ended up ordering some Eco-complete today actually off amazon.

Second, I undestand the dimensions are not ideal, but I'm a little confused on the mixed information. It seems my light is pretty powerful as you say algae may be a problem, but then it's not powerful enough for the 20in height? What am I missing here? Is it mainly the 24/7 mode that is problematic. I'm not gonna lie, I kind of picked a light out specifically that could do sunrise/sunset because I wanted gradual on/off without spending money on the expensive controllers.

Thanks for all the suggestions though. I was on the nicolg site today actually. Going to do a little more reading on Ei vs pps-pro but am leaning towards the pps. And will definitely start looking for plants on here and read the low-tech forum. I'm still waiting on an aquarium stand I ordered online, and it's driving me crazy, but probably a good thing to take this slow and learn as much as possible before I dive in.

Last edited by behemoth; 09-29-2015 at 01:04 AM. Reason: Typo
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 09-29-2015, 12:01 PM
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Freeman, thanks so much for the additional info. I wish I would have known about tractor supply earlier, but I had a coupon for petco so ended up getting sand when I bought the 55g on their dollar per gallon sale.
That's no problem. The cheap sand can just be kept in mind next time!

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Originally Posted by behemoth View Post
I have a couple questions though.

First, why do you suggest I not use a substrate, and just sand? Nutrient overkill or what? I ended up ordering some Eco-complete today actually off amazon.
I suggest just sand because it is likely that you will want to move and replant plants since you are new. I remember my first tank I swapped my plants around A LOT because I really didn't know how to make it look the way I wanted. I was unhappy with how I had planted it, so I would replant it regularly. If you have a second substrate under the sand, pulling plants will bring it on top of the sand. This isn't the most appealing thing. With that said, you will be absolutely find with the eco-complete under you sand. Just try and spend some time planning your plant arrangement. Also, I suggest just sand because all substrate looses it's nutrients eventually. So you end up having to dose ferts even with enriched substrate, at some point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by behemoth View Post
Second, I undestand the dimensions are not ideal, but I'm a little confused on the mixed information. It seems my light is pretty powerful as you say algae may be a problem, but then it's not powerful enough for the 20in height?
The tank is tall and it makes it difficult for light to reach the bottom. Your light is plenty powerful for your setup. I was merely listing reasons that the 55g isn't chosen very often. With that said, you will be fine! My sump is a 55g tank and I have plants growing in it just fine. I also have about a hundred red cherry shrimp that are enjoying the space.

Quote:
Originally Posted by behemoth View Post
What am I missing here? Is it mainly the 24/7 mode that is problematic. I'm not gonna lie, I kind of picked a light out specifically that could do sunrise/sunset because I wanted gradual on/off without spending money on the expensive controllers.
It is mainly the 24/7 mode that becomes problematic. Here is the issue. The 24/7 mode is set in stone. You cannot adjust anything. The intensity of the light may be too much when it is at it's highest. It also is likely too much light for too long. At least, that is the theory. With a traditional timer, you start small. You dim the light and only have it on for about 6 hours. Then you bump it up to 7 hours in a couple weeks, then 8, etc until you have the photo period you want without algae issues. This takes months of dialing in. Then you can up the intensity until algae becomes and issue and back it off. I would back it down at the first sign of algae.

If you want to use the 24/7 mode, you can. My suggestion is being able to raise the light. Raising the light increases the distant to the bottom of the tank, thus lowering the intensity. If you can raise it to dial in your light intensity, you should be able to use the 24/7 mode. OR, you can luck out and have the 24/7 mode work for you. If you are going to roll the dice, I suggest planting heavy at the start.

Quote:
Originally Posted by behemoth View Post
Thanks for all the suggestions though. I was on the nicolg site today actually. Going to do a little more reading on Ei vs pps-pro but am leaning towards the pps. And will definitely start looking for plants on here and read the low-tech forum. I'm still waiting on an aquarium stand I ordered online, and it's driving me crazy, but probably a good thing to take this slow and learn as much as possible before I dive in.
PPS is better, in my opinion. Even more so for a low tech tank. It takes a lot to dial it in though. I suggest reading up on it more.

Read up on the fishless cycle first, I didn't see you mention it. When you get your stand, just add water and start running the filter and doing the fishless cycle. I highly suggest thing. You can do it before even ordering fish or plants or adding substrate. It is less than ideal to not have anything in the tank because bacteria will grow on logs, plants, etc, but it is better to cycle your filter media before adding anything living (fish, shrimp, crabs, etc) aside from plants. Plants love a lot of the stuff that is toxic to fish.


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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 09-29-2015, 04:16 PM
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I highly recommend adding a temperature controller to your system. Dosing regimens are usually for high light, CO2 systems. I would try going to the low tech section of the forum, and seeing what those hobbiests use. I would just measure and monitor levels until you find what works for your aquarium.
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 09-29-2015, 06:10 PM
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I highly suggest this thread about your light:

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/10...ll-review.html

A VERY solid read. I know he did extensive research about the product and was the 'go to guy' pre-release (aside from Lowe/Finnex).

Also, you will very likely NOT need any ferts. Being low tech, the lack of CO2 is what holds the growth of your plants back.


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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 09-29-2015, 07:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Freemananana View Post
I suggest just sand because it is likely that you will want to move and replant plants since you are new. I remember my first tank I swapped my plants around A LOT because I really didn't know how to make it look the way I wanted. I was unhappy with how I had planted it, so I would replant it regularly. If you have a second substrate under the sand, pulling plants will bring it on top of the sand. This isn't the most appealing thing.
Yep. Dealing with this myself. I just ordered a small bag of sand to put on top of the now-mixed Floramax/sand substrate (that was originally sand on top of Floramax). Once I have left the tank alone for a week, I will break open the new bag to get that white sand look again. I expect it will be a while before I open that bag.

I would also add that AFAIK, many of the substrates you might think have nutrients, like Fluorite and FloraMax (not sure about EcoComplete), are inert; they are good for soaking up and storing and then later releasing nutrients (high CEC), but they don't include, e.g., nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, or trace elements in the bag.

All that said, it's totally fine to do sand on top of another substrate; just know that it's not going to be a neat layer on layer look for very long. If you want, you might actually do the Eco Complete only for a while, and then add sand when you feel like your aquascape is stable (that is, you're done with massive re-scapings for a while).

Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by behemoth View Post
It seems my light is pretty powerful as you say algae may be a problem, but then it's not powerful enough for the 20in height? What am I missing here? Is it mainly the 24/7 mode that is problematic. I'm not gonna lie, I kind of picked a light out specifically that could do sunrise/sunset because I wanted gradual on/off without spending money on the expensive controllers.
Definitely read mattinmd's 24/7 review too, but my experience has been great so far. I have the 36" light on a 38-gallon tank (around 20" tall, so 16" or so above the 4" of substrate -- pretty close to a standard 55-gallon's height I believe). I planted fairly heavily from the beginning but don't use CO2, and I have not had algae issues with this light on 24/7 mode so far. My guess is my success is a combination of the heavy-ish planting and that I use a double-dose of Excel daily, which, in addition to adding carbon for the plants, serves as a mild algacide (I think -- someone correct me if I'm wrong). Plants like Ludwigias, Moneywort, and swords are growing well. (I should note I also use EI dosing and osmocote+ caps.) See more info on my setup in the "My tank" link in my sig.


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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 09-29-2015, 07:34 PM
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Sand >>>>>> Eco Complete IMO. I hate eco complete and getting rid of it was the best thing to happen to my tank. I use black diamond blasting sand for like $8 for a 50lb bag. Stuff is awesome - plants root in it far better than they did in eco. I had dirt once too and it was just too messy for me because I moved crap all the time. Dirt can be awesome though...

Find someone with a journal of a successful tank of similar parameters you are looking to achieve. Their journal and tech setup can help guide you to achieve similar results. I think you are thinking high tech with the 'green carpet' idea which is extremely difficult to pull off without a proper CO2 setup so be prepared for that not to work out. People can pull it off but it takes a lot of time and care

Plan equipment based on how committed you think you are to the hobby. I always recommend this... Don't skimp out with the intentions of upgrading to a top-line setup later in the game. I personally planned on going all out and still bought some cheaper stuff that I ended up replacing eventually. Waste of $$$. If you think you will want CO2 for maximum results then get a good light to support that goal. Don't buy a light that won't cut it when you want to take your tank to the next level.

Without CO2 ferts are not that important really... Dose like 1/3 of the recommended EI regime at the most and you'll be fine.

Plant heavily from the start. Be wise about plant selection based on your light/CO2 levels (some plants don't do so hot without CO2 and higher light). Start slow with lighting - ramp up as your tank fills in and you have more plant mass. Just buy in bulk from this site or win an RAOK - I do them quite often because throwing so many plants in the trash is a waste. Actually just sent the above poster an enormous bag of trimmings today after winning my latest RAOK lol


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Last edited by klibs; 09-29-2015 at 08:06 PM. Reason: whatever i do what i want
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 09-29-2015, 09:50 PM Thread Starter
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First of all, thank you everyone for your responses. This forum is great! I use forums for some of my other hobbies (audio and auto), and while those forums are helpful, nothing like this one!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Freemananana View Post

Read up on the fishless cycle first, I didn't see you mention it. When you get your stand, just add water and start running the filter and doing the fishless cycle.
Freeman, I decided to do a little more reading on fishless cycling and it makes a lot of sense and seems better for the fish in the long run. I've honestly always done cycling with fish and slowly added fish and never had any problems with just transplanting some filter media. However, this seems better for many reasons - one is I can add fish at a much higher rate (once cycled). I've started looking for places to buy ammonia without all the additives, but have had some trouble finding the right one except for amazon. http://www.amazon.com/00051-Ammonia-Clear-64oz/dp/B002M8NEDS
Any recommendations?

I've also found this Ammonium Chloride Solution | Fishless Cycling | Aquarium Cycling and wondering if it's worth giving a shot.
(However, with this product I see that the standard API Master Test Kit won't be able to test for ammonia so not really sure where to go from there.)

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Originally Posted by loach guy View Post
I highly recommend adding a temperature controller to your system.
Thanks, I've read this in a few other places that the inlines might fail after a year or two and cook the tank! I'll definitely order one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Freemananana View Post
I highly suggest this thread about your light:

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/10...ll-review.html
Went ahead and read through that entire thread. Very helpful, thank you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by end3r.P View Post

All that said, it's totally fine to do sand on top of another substrate; just know that it's not going to be a neat layer on layer look for very long. If you want, you might actually do the Eco Complete only for a while, and then add sand when you feel like your aquascape is stable (that is, you're done with massive re-scapings for a while).

Bump:

Definitely read mattinmd's 24/7 review too, but my experience has been great so far. I have the 36" light on a 38-gallon tank (around 20" tall, so 16" or so above the 4" of substrate -- pretty close to a standard 55-gallon's height I believe). I planted fairly heavily from the beginning but don't use CO2, and I have not had algae issues with this light on 24/7 mode so far. My guess is my success is a combination of the heavy-ish planting and that I use a double-dose of Excel daily, which, in addition to adding carbon for the plants, serves as a mild algacide (I think -- someone correct me if I'm wrong). Plants like Ludwigias, Moneywort, and swords are growing well. (I should note I also use EI dosing and osmocote+ caps.) See more info on my setup in the "My tank" link in my sig.
Glad to hear your 24/7 is treating you well! I'll be sure to take note of what you're doing and try to replicate.

I was actually thinking today I might just play with the ecocomplete for awhile until I feel everything is settled, and then just add the sand a little while before I begin to add fish. Was actually going to come on here and ask if that was an okay thing to do.

Also, can I use some kind of little planter pots to temporarily place things around the tank before I actually settle on a layout and before I begin planting them into the substrate. I feel it would be a lot more efficient to do something like that. If so, what kind of pots should I use and where's a good place to get them.

Edit: found the underwater pots I wanted. I'm not a 100% they'll actually sink with just substrate, but if anything I'll put a couple rocks in there. http://www.amazon.com/Inch-Round-Orchid-Hydroponics-Slotted/dp/B0058PB574/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1443578089&sr=8-2&keywords=2in+net+pot
Quote:
Originally Posted by klibs View Post
Sand >>>>>> Eco Complete IMO. I hate eco complete and getting rid of it was the best thing to happen to my tank.

........

Find someone with a journal of a successful tank of similar parameters you are looking to achieve. Their journal and tech setup can help guide you to achieve similar results. I think you are thinking high tech with the 'green carpet' idea which is extremely difficult to pull off without a proper CO2 setup so be prepared for that not to work out. People can pull it off but it takes a lot of time and care

Plan equipment based on how committed you think you are to the hobby. I always recommend this... Don't skimp out with the intentions of upgrading to a top-line setup later in the game. I personally planned on going all out and still bought some cheaper stuff that I ended up replacing eventually. Waste of $$$. If you think you will want CO2 for maximum results then get a good light to support that goal. Don't buy a light that won't cut it when you want to take your tank to the next level.
Klibs, I think you may be right in many aspects. I do tend to get fairly ill with upgrade-itis. Haha. (thinking I might as well make CO2 part of the budget now) Also thanks for recommending following someone's journals. I did not consider that before, and will give them a look.

Before I get to CO2, is there any other reason you didn't like eco-complete other than better root structure? I ordered off amazon and can always return. Will some of these concerns be alleviated by me capping it with sand? Or when I cap, is the idea that I FULLY place the roots in the underlying substrate and just use the sand aesthetically.

So I've been looking at CO2 systems. I've only put in about an hour or two of research so please forgive my ignorance. I was a little intimidated beforehand figuring it was far too complicated and time intensive, but it actually feels fairly straightforward. I looked at things from DIY to the more expensive automatic CO2 systems. Right now I'm leaning towards the solenoid regulators as they seem to be sufficient for my purposes.

The only one full kit I've really found so far seems to the Foster and Smith for about $132. (minus a tank) Freshwater Planted Aquarium Plant Care: Drs. Foster & Smith Semi-Automatic CO2 System

Also, have found this one on the classifieds here, but not exactly sure on how good the condition really is. https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/15...quipments.html

If anyone can offer any input on the Foster and Smith, I personally would feel a little safer purchasing a new product when dealing with a pressurized gas. However, saving money is always something I want to do and would be happy putting out a WTB and surfing the classifieds for a week or two.

On that note, you referenced CO2 synergy with a light. Are there any problems or things I need to be aware of when researching CO2 for use with my Finnex Planted+ 24/7?

I believe I touched on all the questions I have right now. Again, thanks everyone for your help.


Edit: Wanted to add this link I found with plants (pictures and info) for any other newbies reading this thread. http://tropica.com/en/plants/

Last edited by behemoth; 09-30-2015 at 03:00 AM. Reason: link
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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 09-30-2015, 12:05 AM
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In regards to why I dislike eco complete:

Very inconsistent grain sizes. This is far and away my #1 gripe with the stuff. Some grains are HUGE. Like 1/2" in diameter huge. Others are very fine. This just means the fine stuff settles to the bottom and you end up with larger chunks on top.

It is also very light. It comes up easily when you move stuff around and you can siphon it up easily.

IMO it provides nothing special. I don't think plants grow any better in it at all. Especially due to the inconsistent grain sizes.

It doesn't look as good as black sand IMO

Capping eco complete IMO is useless. it will provide no benefit. Eco complete is NOT like dirt or aquasoil. It inherently provides like 0 nutrients. Some people may argue otherwise but I really think it does nothing. Also the sand will seep through the larger grains of eco complete and you will end up with sand/eco complete mix capped with larger eco complete granules (this happens eventually anyways)


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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 09-30-2015, 04:41 AM
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@behemoth

I started with a 29gal and did it with all ADA Amazonia soil which leaches Ammonia so started with plants and fishless cycle. Took only 14days to cycle for me. I have re-scaped that tank at least 8 times within the first 2 months, finding different and better plants that I liked so had to move them around. I then got bored and decided on a 210 gal. ( I was dosing with SeaChem Flourish and Excel and it worked great, but cost a bit even for a 29gal) Since the large tank needed ALOT of substrate, Amazonia soil was going to be a fortune, so I had to figure something out. I decided to go with Lava Rock as my base (12" high sections) and then the Black Blasting sand then cap with the Amazonia soil. IT does look the best. Over the 2 months its been running, I have re-scaped it at least 5 times moving things around and the Amazonia has piled up at the front, and the sand shows under the plants everywhere else. A proper balance between light and dosing and co2 will keep algae from invading but I did get it out of whack once and co2 addition brought it back. So I have dealt with a lot of what you will recently. I have wasted a lot of money trying things out also. so like the other posters trying to help you in advance. I bought supplements from a forum member, and have put in root tabs and plants are going great at about a 10 bubble per second rate on the CO2.



The following is personal advice, while most if not all the posters in your thread have given you the best perspective you could get, let me add to the list and add to their comments also.

1. Get the Eco Complete bag in the mail and leave it in the box. Sorry you learned a lesson with that purchase and @klibs and I are trying to save you the time and trouble. It has no nutrients in it to start. The granules are not uniform and from what I am told they are SHARP, so not good for bottom feeders (corys). I understand you are trying to cap it with the black sand, however that wont last long. The larger granules will work themselves to the top. IF you are going to go with a top rated soil additive for substrate use the ADA Amazonia soil. You will never regret that. Hands down its the best and at $30 a 9L bag its not unreasonable.

2. Tractor supply Black Blasting Sand at around $8 a 50L bag is the best you can go with. Mix it with your black sand, its fine. No nutrients and wash it in a bucket first. A lot of people use it for all their substrate in the tank. Best use for cost cutting you can do. Better to go with than wasting time with that Eco purchase. (take that eco bag and trade it for plants or fish at your LFS)

3. WATCH your lighting, algae is the largest pain to work with and you WILL get it at some point, so minimize the amount of light till the tank is established.

4. CO2, Best bet is to go to your local CO2 supply and buy a 5lb tank or 10 (about $100) and costs $20 or so to fill every 2-4 months. Get your regulator from someone who is selling theirs used and go that route. You can spend less than $200 for all of it likely. I did it that way.

5. Plant your plants where you like them and wait and see. Your will find new plants or change your design and move them anyway. I promise you that. Your idea of putting pots and trying things is wasting your time and taking more effort than you should. Just plant them and enjoy, then move or trim as you desire. You WILL want to fiddle with it.

6. THIS IS MOST Important. BUY on a $1 per gallon sale a 20 gal long for quarantine and have a heater for that setup. In time you can add a small filter for it. Air tube into a foam filter works fine. This is for quarantining your fish before you put them in the big tank. Spend this money, its well worth that. (I have ich from rushing into a 20 school of rummynose and putting directly into the tank, try catching just a few in a large tank with plants, sucks) This can also be a hospital tank if or when you get ich or something else. It will happen.

7. I wash off all plants in tap water before planting, to rid them of unwanted items (algae). There are other baths you can do, but I at least do this

8. If you follow the advice from posters, you will be successful and save money in the end. If you don't, you will end up the same, but learn in the process and likely spend a little extra money along the way.

Hope all goes well
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 09-30-2015, 06:24 AM Thread Starter
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@SheriffDep Thanks for sharing. I really came on here hoping people could stop me from making simple mistakes and it's worked out well so far. I appreciate it.

I really didn't realize the eco-complete was inert (I should have just done more research instead of trusting their advertising). I will heed your advice and go ahead and return it as soon as it arrives tomorrow (glad to spend the $50 dollars elsewhere). Will also try and return the Petco black aquarium sand. I began washing it in buckets yesterday though, as I started getting anxious about setting up my tank. Gotta try and dry it out in the sun.

Just to make sure about the blasting sand. We're talking about the Black Diamond blasting sand? Is there any particular grit I should purchase? There's a Northern Tool a lot closer to me and it's only a dollar more than at Tractor, but they seem to only have this one particular grit. Black Diamond Blasting Abrasive | Blasting Media| Northern Tool + Equipment

In reference to the planting pots. I was really only wanting to do that for a few days so I could figure out a general layout, but I think since I'm just going to go with the blasting sand it shouldn't be a problem of mixing up substrates anymore. Honestly, gets rid of a lot of headache.

One concern I have though is with root tabs. When I do finally grow a nice lush green carpet, won't placing root tabs tend to tear that up? My understanding is you're placing root tabs about every 30-45 days. I'll go do more research about ferts and whether I can just stick to liquid ferts with the blasting sand as a substrate, but would appreciate a little heads up.

Thanks for the suggestion of the quarantine tank. I'm actually going to be transferring my current fish from a 20g so I'll make sure to keep that one running to act as a quarantine tank.

Finally, I think you're right about just going with a used CO2 setup. I think it's best for me to just start with CO2 from the very beginning. First of all, I can make sure I dial everything in before I add fish, and it will also open up my possibilities for the tank. Im excited! And thank again.
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