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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
hi guys,

its my first time being here and im really hoping i can get a crash course on how to not miserably fail on my first attempt at a planted aquarium.

What i know right now:

-i cant afford CO2
-my lights are stock led's that come with the Juwel rio 180 (they seem to be relatively bright)
-i need 'easy' plants
-i really like needle leaf java fern
-i don't want to use fertilisers if i can get away with it
-i'm miserably uncreative and need aquascaping inspiration
-id rather buy fluorite substrate than use root tabs

that may be asking alot but right now i think i just need someone who is experienced in plant keeping and aquascaping to hold my hand and tell me what to do lol.

thanks in advance!
 

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Just an inspiration how I started my first low tech planted tank (Juwel 180 as well) and what a jungle it became after about 2 years :) If you are after a jungle look, plant whichever easy plants you can get and let the nature take its course (with occasional trimming of course) - some will disappear, some will try to overtake the tank, but eventually you'll achieve some kind of balance. The only one thing which I would definitely do differently is the position of Echinodorus - keep them in the back of the aquarium, eventually they'll grow huge and it's next to impossible to replant them later.



 

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CO2 isn't at all necessary, unless you want difficult plants and super fast growth.

Plants can be split into two types, those that root into substrate (like plants in your garden) and those that are attached to hardscape like rocks and wood. Javafern falls into the later group.

For plants that attach to hardscape, there isn't a lot of benefit to having substrate specifically for plants, because their roots aren't in it!

In terms of easy plants those that grow on rocks are anubias and javafern, and those that grow in substrate are crypts and you could probably do swords too. I would have a look at low tech tanks and see what things you like and then we can help you recreate it.

In terms of fertiliser, it partly depends on your fish stocking levels (their poop provides some natural fertiliser) and how dense you want your plants. The less fish / more plants the more food they'll need and you may need to supplement it.
 

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It's going to cost you a fortune for that much Flourite. Flourite is a waste of money. Do yourself a favor and look into black diamond blasting sand. It can be found at tractor supply stores for $7 a 50 lb bag. You might want to think about doing dirt under the sand. It helps with root feeding plants like crypts and swords. There are videos on youtube of how to do it. You can get 2 giant bags of dirt for probably $10. Either way you look at it your plants are gonna need to be fed. Fertilizers are food.
 

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hi guys,

its my first time being here and im really hoping i can get a crash course on how to not miserably fail on my first attempt at a planted aquarium.

What i know right now:

-i cant afford CO2
-my lights are stock led's that come with the Juwel rio 180 (they seem to be relatively bright)
-i need 'easy' plants
-i really like needle leaf java fern
-i don't want to use fertilisers if i can get away with it
-i'm miserably uncreative and need aquascaping inspiration
-id rather buy fluorite substrate than use root tabs

that may be asking alot but right now i think i just need someone who is experienced in plant keeping and aquascaping to hold my hand and tell me what to do lol.

thanks in advance!
CO2 DIY is pretty cheap if you want to do it yourself, if you can cough up $50 then you can make your own CO2 generator.
 

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CO2 is not needed or required to have a "planted" tank. You are in complete control into how you want to set up your tank. Best first step is to do some research and decide what kind of tank you want to create. Things like substrate, lighting and fertilisers are all depended on your choice of how you want to go.

Want to go low tech? Here is a good resource to read and get you going.

How to Setup a Low-tech Planted Tank: Planted Aquarium Guide | Bits and pieces of my digital life

There are lots of plants that do well in low light, no CO2 aquariums....anubias, crypts, swords and mosses just to name a few. All have many different varieties and grow big and small, tall and short....so lots to choose from.

Cheers
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Just an inspiration how I started my first low tech planted tank (Juwel 180 as well) and what a jungle it became after about 2 years :) If you are after a jungle look, plant whichever easy plants you can get and let the nature take its course (with occasional trimming of course) - some will disappear, some will try to overtake the tank, but eventually you'll achieve some kind of balance. The only one thing which I would definitely do differently is the position of Echinodorus - keep them in the back of the aquarium, eventually they'll grow huge and it's next to impossible to replant them later.
thats so cool! but for my tank i was kind of aiming to have some nice hardscape for the structure of the tank and plant accordingly

In terms of easy plants those that grow on rocks are anubias and javafern, and those that grow in substrate are crypts and you could probably do swords too. I would have a look at low tech tanks and see what things you like and then we can help you recreate it.

In terms of fertiliser, it partly depends on your fish stocking levels (their poop provides some natural fertiliser) and how dense you want your plants. The less fish / more plants the more food they'll need and you may need to supplement it.
what are some suggestions for crypts? i would like to have plants with smaller leaves to make the aquascape look bigger than it is (if that makes sense) ill try find some photos :) and i was going to stock it relatively heavily. not too wild but i was thinking:
6-8 dwarf neon rainbows
15 harlequin rasbora
3 pearl gourami
however many otocinclus there are in my non-cichlid 15g

It's going to cost you a fortune for that much Flourite. Flourite is a waste of money. Do yourself a favor and look into black diamond blasting sand. It can be found at tractor supply stores for $7 a 50 lb bag. You might want to think about doing dirt under the sand. It helps with root feeding plants like crypts and swords. There are videos on youtube of how to do it. You can get 2 giant bags of dirt for probably $10. Either way you look at it your plants are gonna need to be fed. Fertilizers are food.
i considered this but i also wasnt planning on having the whole floor lined with fluorite. i was going to target plant wherever the focal point of the aquarium is. but yes i have black sand from a west coast beach in NZ

CO2 DIY is pretty cheap if you want to do it yourself, if you can cough up $50 then you can make your own CO2 generator.
i would consider doing CO2 from like a fire extinguisher or soda stream bottle or something but only to settle the plants in to the tank and get some growth. and i would only have it on very slow (1 bubble per 5 seconds or something). but once it ran out i dont really have any intention of keeping it going. so is it fine for me to do this? can i take co2 off a tank once its established?

and thanks frank158 for the resource, i will definitely have a look.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·

this is a link to a video by george farmer. literally everything he does is amazing and i want to try and replicate one of them as best as i can.

so any of his videos are in the style of what i would like to ultimately achieve.

also, can you get low tech carpet plants?

Bump: sorry i replied to all of you guys but for some reason it didnt post lol. i need to go to my class now so will elaborate more when i get a chance but thankyou all for your enthursiam in replying to me hahaha.
 

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Here's some resources you might find useful:

George Farmer has a whole series of videos on a low-tech budget aquascape. You might have seen them already! Here's the first.

Tom Barr is a legend. He can be a bit gruff but it's only because he's tired of debunking old myths. He has some good advice for low-tech tanks, even though he's usually associated with high-tech ones.
https://barrreport.com/threads/step-1-define-your-goals.2864/
https://barrreport.com/threads/step-2-chose-a-method-and-learn-it-well.2865/

I recommend putting a lot of effort into your hardscape. Use big rocks and driftwood to create height and interest in your tank, so that it looks nice whether or not it's stuffed with plants. Move things around until you really like it. You could do that, throw in some clumps of java-fern, and have an effortlessly beautiful tank.

I wouldn't be afraid of fertilizers. Plants need nutrients to grow, and your fish probably won't provide enough nutrients to support robust growth. Maybe look into an all-in-one liquid fertilizer (NPK+micros) for maximum ease of use. This is what George does in his tanks. It really is easy, and it really can make a difference.
 

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I’ll add my typical advice, and then follow to see what you make. Enjoy!

I second the BDBS recommendation, but would suggest osmocote plus in a thin layer on the bottom. Dirt works, but with a caveat. As this is a new setup, you may be likely to move things around. Dirt can make that a mess. If you’re set on your scape and plant layout and wanna try dirt, don’t hold back.

The prev. suggested easy plants are good: crypts, java fern, anubias, etc. Dwarf sag I could add to the list. For your small-leaf request: bucephalandra. Don’t bury the rhizome, just like java fern and anubias. Stem plants (huuge selection) and floaters (also, many) are good plants to have at the start, to help you get your light/fert balance figured out.

You will very likely have algae. Don’t panic. It isn’t evil, just unsightly. Please try manual removal, waterchange, and reduced light period (5-6hr) before looking for bottles of magic.

Scaping examples are a googling away. George Farmer is a fantastic source of inspiration, as previously mentioned. Many others, too (slip down the internet hole, you’ll soon find ‘em). I also like the Tropica website for inspiration and plant info.

Plant a lot at the start. Make a jungle outta the tank in the beginning and, I believe, you’ll have a better chance of positive success.

Feed your plants. I wouldn’t start for a week or two from the beginning, to give the plants a chance to settle into your water parameters. I usually recommend 1/2 recommended dose per instructions, until you feel the plants need more. Easy Green, Thrive, and Dustin’s Growth Juice are some all-in-one examples, easy to measure and add.

Some plants will ‘melt’ at the start. Before pulling them as dead, check for any new growth - even a tiny bit. You may even want to only look at the new growth for an indication of plant health.

Careful with rock placement. Consider shifting sands, etc. and prevent falls. Maybe put something under the big rocks: styrofoam sheet, ‘egg crate’ plastic mesh, etc. Please consider the rock impact to pH as well. Some are inert, some will dissolve minerals that chamge chemistry and raise pH.

Know your water. Pick fish (and plants, in some cases) based on what you can keep well. African Cichlids are tough to do in soft water, SA Cichlids are difficult in hard water. No, that’s not complete info - of course. Find fish you like, check around.

Join your local fish club. Best place to get advice, deals on plants and fish, and some seriously good finds for gear.

Keep posting here. If for no other reason, to show off.

As I said before, Enjoy!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I’ll add my typical advice, and then follow to see what you make. Enjoy!

I second the BDBS recommendation, but would suggest osmocote plus in a thin layer on the bottom. Dirt works, but with a caveat. As this is a new setup, you may be likely to move things around. Dirt can make that a mess. If you’re set on your scape and plant layout and wanna try dirt, don’t hold back.

The prev. suggested easy plants are good: crypts, java fern, anubias, etc. Dwarf sag I could add to the list. For your small-leaf request: bucephalandra. Don’t bury the rhizome, just like java fern and anubias. Stem plants (huuge selection) and floaters (also, many) are good plants to have at the start, to help you get your light/fert balance figured out.

You will very likely have algae. Don’t panic. It isn’t evil, just unsightly. Please try manual removal, waterchange, and reduced light period (5-6hr) before looking for bottles of magic.

Scaping examples are a googling away. George Farmer is a fantastic source of inspiration, as previously mentioned. Many others, too (slip down the internet hole, you’ll soon find ‘em). I also like the Tropica website for inspiration and plant info.

Plant a lot at the start. Make a jungle outta the tank in the beginning and, I believe, you’ll have a better chance of positive success.

Feed your plants. I wouldn’t start for a week or two from the beginning, to give the plants a chance to settle into your water parameters. I usually recommend 1/2 recommended dose per instructions, until you feel the plants need more. Easy Green, Thrive, and Dustin’s Growth Juice are some all-in-one examples, easy to measure and add.

Some plants will ‘melt’ at the start. Before pulling them as dead, check for any new growth - even a tiny bit. You may even want to only look at the new growth for an indication of plant health.

Careful with rock placement. Consider shifting sands, etc. and prevent falls. Maybe put something under the big rocks: styrofoam sheet, ‘egg crate’ plastic mesh, etc. Please consider the rock impact to pH as well. Some are inert, some will dissolve minerals that chamge chemistry and raise pH.

Know your water. Pick fish (and plants, in some cases) based on what you can keep well. African Cichlids are tough to do in soft water, SA Cichlids are difficult in hard water. No, that’s not complete info - of course. Find fish you like, check around.

Join your local fish club. Best place to get advice, deals on plants and fish, and some seriously good finds for gear.

Keep posting here. If for no other reason, to show off.

As I said before, Enjoy!
Thanks so much for this helpful information! i really like the bucephalandra you suggested. it reminds me of a plant that you'd find at the bottom of a New Zealand native bush (where i live). will definitely look into getting some of that. as for the hardscape, i plan on spending at least a couple of days getting it just how i want it. i found some really good sized pieces of snakewood which i think ill invest in (i say invest because they're 50 dollars a piece!) but now i just need to find some good rock. i'm aware of how rocks can effect water chemistry so no worries there. ill be sure to plant as much as i can, and i also have a question about pest control. in NZ, we dont have tissue culture plants as far as im aware and all my lfs's have snails. is there anyway i can avoid introducing snails?
thanks for the inspiration on tropica website, im going through it now and loving it!
what are your favorite species of easy plant? because you say crypts but what ones lol theres so many! what are your personal favorites, i dont want to miss any of the good ones.
and final question lol: what does it mean if a plant was to 'melt'? i understand that its the plant disliking the change in water parameters but im not sure what 'melting' looks like.
 

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Carpets are definitely tougher, not impossible low tech, but as it's your first go, I'd be tempted to go for one of the scapes with a really dense island of plants and sand in front - the style you're leaning towards is called island scapes by the way if you're google for inspiration. It should be very achievable low tech.

I would say getting your hardscape right is very important, make something that looks good before it has plants and you'll be much more likely to succeed that if you are trying to build/cover things with plants to make it look good. That style also lends itself to plant substrate piled in the centre and decorate sand around the edge (good for budgets).

A lot of youtube videos have the plant list in the description and the tropic ideas have them too, the tropica website all so lists whether a plant requires CO2. Wenditti is a popular and easy to grow crypt and will give you quite a dense cover, Parva will give you a low 2-3" size plant but it's very very slow growing. If you start with some nice tall wood you can add plants all the way up which gives you height and density. Definately watch George for some hardscape ideas, even his high tech ones you can swap out plants to suit your conditions better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Carpets are definitely tougher, not impossible low tech, but as it's your first go, I'd be tempted to go for one of the scapes with a really dense island of plants and sand in front - the style you're leaning towards is called island scapes by the way if you're google for inspiration. It should be very achievable low tech.

I would say getting your hardscape right is very important, make something that looks good before it has plants and you'll be much more likely to succeed that if you are trying to build/cover things with plants to make it look good. That style also lends itself to plant substrate piled in the centre and decorate sand around the edge (good for budgets).

A lot of youtube videos have the plant list in the description and the tropic ideas have them too, the tropica website all so lists whether a plant requires CO2. Wenditti is a popular and easy to grow crypt and will give you quite a dense cover, Parva will give you a low 2-3" size plant but it's very very slow growing. If you start with some nice tall wood you can add plants all the way up which gives you height and density. Definately watch George for some hardscape ideas, even his high tech ones you can swap out plants to suit your conditions better.
Yeah i was aware that carpeting plants are much harder to grow just because of their light requirements (and need for CO2?) so all the scapes i sent through were just ideas for the general structure, i wasnt actually going to attempt to carpet the whole thing (or use the advanced plants they may have incorporated). i might try a small patch but i definitely wasn't going to put money into it if i wasnt going to use co2. and good to know, the island scapes provide much more structure to the tank (in my opinion) and allow for a greater depth because it allows you to plant in more areas than if you didn't have a large hardscape. i definitely like the island style but i kind of disregarded doing a 'single' island as i thought the tank was too wide and i would have too much negative space but if i really tried to widen it out with snake wood then im having second thoughts that maybe its more achievable than i initially thought. originally i was thinking that having 2 'islands' using the thirds rule would be the easiest but im now thinking that broadening out a central island is probably the way to go! thankyou for the wendetti suggestion, i will definitely use that. ill probably avoid the parva though because while i dont expect my plants to grow fast with no co2, id like the to grow somewhat lol.

ill keep looking for inspiration in the places you guys have suggested :)

Question: can i put CO2 on my tank for a couple of months (on a very low level) and then take it off? just to get the plants established or is that a recipe for algae?

Thanks guys for all your help, its very much appreciated!!
 

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Question: can i put CO2 on my tank for a couple of months (on a very low level) and then take it off? just to get the plants established or is that a recipe for algae?

That should not be a problem. Recipe for disaster is High light + no ferts = algae

Algae is a complex subject but often it is the lights that drive the engine. So as long as your lights are good to be without the addition of CO2 is fine for short term.

My 2 cents. Save some money and get yourself a pressurised system. Does not have to be the most expensive, just something reliable. Don't mess around with paint ball or things and get the biggest co2 tank that fits your space.

I played around with diy for years and had good results but it is a pain in the arse.

Cheers
 

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Tamsin’s advice is spot-on in my opinion. Frank’s is great too - but I don’t know squat about CO2. Looking forward to some pics of your work in progress.

Fave crypts? Parva and Wendtii.

How to protect against snails? I say don’t bother. They’re a great help in my tanks. If you’re dead set against, some folks have done bleach dips or things like that. I can’t advise any of it. Snail traps can work, or just manually removing them - Dennerle makes a cool tool for that, I believe.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
That should not be a problem. Recipe for disaster is High light + no ferts = algae

Algae is a complex subject but often it is the lights that drive the engine. So as long as your lights are good to be without the addition of CO2 is fine for short term.

My 2 cents. Save some money and get yourself a pressurised system. Does not have to be the most expensive, just something reliable. Don't mess around with paint ball or things and get the biggest co2 tank that fits your space.

I played around with diy for years and had good results but it is a pain in the arse.

Cheers
oh ok, cool. i currently have 2x23w daylight led's from juwel. what kind of lighting is this considered to be? (low/high etc)
and good to know about short term CO2, i didn't really want to be running CO2 'permanently' because everything in New Zealand is like 4x the price in comparison to everywhere else in the world. but i do want to get the plants established, otherwise i would be looking into getting as big as possible of a pressurised system.

and i can believe that lol, ive seen people use yeast and all sorts of things and all i can think of is wow that must be ALOT of f***ing around just to get it to work almost as good as a pressurised system lol.

just to give you an idea of how expensive things are here in NZ, Fluval CO2 Disposable Cartidge 88g A7546 | Hollywood Fish Farm
40 bucks just for 88g of CO2. apparently CO2 refills are only $40 or so for 5kg so ill see if my dad has his old diving bottle lol.

Bump:
Tamsin’s advice is spot-on in my opinion. Frank’s is great too - but I don’t know squat about CO2. Looking forward to some pics of your work in progress.

Fave crypts? Parva and Wendtii.

How to protect against snails? I say don’t bother. They’re a great help in my tanks. If you’re dead set against, some folks have done bleach dips or things like that. I can’t advise any of it. Snail traps can work, or just manually removing them - Dennerle makes a cool tool for that, I believe.
cool, will upload once i get my hardscape supplies :). good to know that snails arent a massive problem for you, i just assumed that they were an issue since everyone online seems to be constantly removing them and calling them pests lol. i might have a look at the snail trap if it becomes too irritating lol. i wouldn't mind having a few its just when tanks get overrun that it becomes an issue for me lol.
 

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I personally wouldn't even both with CO2 to start. High tech is very popular for fast results, carpets and a big range of difficult plants, but people have been growing plants well without it for decades. Particularly the style of tank you want - easy jungle look. You'd be better spending the cash on buying extra pots of plants - you get the same effect of denser planting and let hassle ;)

I agree with Proteus01 just embrace the snails :) They'll self regulate if you don't over feed and the dinky ones are cute. Usually people pay extra for 'dwarf' versions of things, snails just get a bad deal and you pay extra for the big ones.

Looking forward to seeing the hardscape :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I personally wouldn't even both with CO2 to start. High tech is very popular for fast results, carpets and a big range of difficult plants, but people have been growing plants well without it for decades. Particularly the style of tank you want - easy jungle look. You'd be better spending the cash on buying extra pots of plants - you get the same effect of denser planting and let hassle ;)

I agree with Proteus01 just embrace the snails :) They'll self regulate if you don't over feed and the dinky ones are cute. Usually people pay extra for 'dwarf' versions of things, snails just get a bad deal and you pay extra for the big ones.

Looking forward to seeing the hardscape :)
oh cool, thats good to hear! and yes thats what im going for! easy jungle look is exactly what im trying to achieve lol. ok, duly noted, snails are friends, not pests! im planning on getting everything tomorrow, im just going to bite the bullet and spend the cash for a really good hardscape. ive learnt my lesson and im sick of half assing the skeleton of my tanks.

ill look into planting a bit later when ive decided on a hardscape layout then ill upload photos for second opinions before i wet everything. :)
 

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MY BEST 150cm NATURE AQUARIUM - EASY PLANTS, NON-CO2!!! - YouTube

this is a link to a video by george farmer. literally everything he does is amazing and i want to try and replicate one of them as best as i can.

so any of his videos are in the style of what i would like to ultimately achieve.

also, can you get low tech carpet plants?

Bump: sorry i replied to all of you guys but for some reason it didnt post lol. i need to go to my class now so will elaborate more when i get a chance but thankyou all for your enthursiam in replying to me hahaha.
These kind of videos really annoy me. I hate when people set up a tank and slap a bunch of plants in it and say look how great it looks. What they don't show is how the tank looks in a year after it matures. I have a feeling with those kessil lights that tank turned into an algae farm with the low plant mass and slow growing plants. I have experience with kessil lights and even when dialed all the way down they're still bright. He has those anubias directly under them.
 
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