The Planted Tank Forum banner
1 - 9 of 9 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,406 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
tank setup>basics

Basic breakdown: Types of planted tanks

So... you've decided you are ready to set up a planted tank. Did you know that there are several different types and approaches to setting up a planted tank? This article will hopefully break each approach down into some simple comparisons to help you decide which one suits the goals for your planted tank the closest. When considering setting up a new tank one should always do their best to research all aspects of the tanks setup possibilities before heading out to the store to purchase items. A good plan can save you much grief later when you find that you should have gotten a bigger filter, more or less light, or a totally different substrate. As this is meant to be a general guide to the types we will not be going in depth regarding substrates/lighting/filtration options. Also some of the descriptions as to what defines a "natural/low tech/high tech" tank are sometimes varied depending on who the question is posed, again this is a vague view of the differences in setup types along all three lines. You can combine approaches from all three to find what works best for you individually.

These will be listed in ascending order leaving the one with the greatest requirement on time and funds at the end of the article. There is not one method that is "better" than another but each approach has different goals in the end. Any type of tank setup should be cycled before adding fish.

First up is the "natural" planted tank. This is described by Diana Walstad in her book entitled Ecology in the Planted Aquarium as a system where plants and fish balance each others needs. Traditionally this type of setup is done sans mechanical filtration but it is always still recommended when keeping fish. The idea for this setup is that the plants use up available ammonia/nitrate and provide the fish with Oxygen and in turn the fish waste and excess food feeds the plants. A "natural" planted tank once established is very low maintenance only requiring occasional pruning of plants and rare partial water changes. In addition to being less demanding maintenance wise this type of setup is also a little simpler in the type of equipment used. This type of tank uses a layer of regular garden or top soil topped with small gravel pebbles (2-4mm). The lighting is normally in the < 2 watts per gallon range and the tank is positioned where it gets daily natural sunlight. A simple power head with a sponge pre-filter or a regular “hang on back” filter can be used for filtration. This type of setup would be best using more hardy low light plants (ferns, anubias, etc. HELP HERE) also including some that could possibly emerge from the water and some floating plants. As far as fish go a moderate level of load is recommended along with types of fish that do not like to dig into the substrate.

Second on the list is the Low light, Low tech approach. This is very similar to the "natural" tank type in several ways except this tank is not intended to impart a balance between fish and plant life. A low light tank in general has <= 2 watts per gallon of lighting and normally compact fluorescent or spiral bulb lighting upgrades are what are used for low light setups. "Hang on back" filters or bio-wheel filters would more commonly be used as filtration in a lower light setup. Of course a heater rated for tank size is usually needed depending on inhabitants and ambient temp. The low-tech approach could certainly include CO2 injection in the form of a DIY setup but a good portion of the time a nice balance can be met without the need to do so give the lower light. JamesfromCali has created an excellent list of low light plants that would be suitable for this kind of setup (this should be article-ized and linked). This tank requires regular water changes in the 10-25% range weekly as well as occasional plant pruning/replanting if they are shading other plants. This type of tank as well as the "natural" requires you to be patient with growth and attempt to project a picture of what you would like your final tank layout to be months in advance. The lower light limits somewhat the types of plants that can be successfully kept in the tank but by far once you strike a balance between plant mass and lighting these two tank types have very minimal upkeep needs.

Third is the High Light, High Tech approach. This is the Ferrari of the planted tank world at the moment. Basically this approach is using very high/intense lighting to make the plants grow 10-20 Times faster than they would normally in nature. This in turn puts a strain on the entire system requiring the hobbyist to strike a balance between adequate fertilization regimes, providing a stable CO2 source, and larger (50%) weekly water changes. The water changes assume using the EI (Estimative Index) approach to fertilization but there are many different methods to provide plant food. Lighting on these types of systems includes Power compacts, T5HO, and Metal Halide fixtures. Generally these are more efficient at projecting light into the aquarium using higher grade reflectors. Canister filters are more of a staple in this type of tank as hobbyists will be injecting pressurized CO2 into the tank and any major disturbance of the water's surface will "bleed off" CO2. There are many more variables introduced with the higher light and if one element of the equation is missing things can get out of whack very quickly. The high light arena requires more research and planning but it can be very rewarding as well. These tanks require constant pruning, almost daily fertilization, and a very close eye to detail.
These are just the general jist of high tech tanks. The tanks really get much more advanced depending on the hobbyists goals. Tanks at this level sometimes have in depth plumbing systems allowing auto water changes, in line testing equipment, automatic fertilization dosing, and storm simulations! etc..
Using this method of getting greater growth gives the opportunity to shape plants into groupings and have a little easier time of defining a pre-determined "aquascape" as envisioned by the hobbyist. This gets us to completely other set of articles... coming soon?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,406 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
James: Spellchecked. :p

Indi: added HO/removed T8

Pictures would certainly be cool. I guess prime examples of each could be found on the forums for reference.

So those things aside... does this kind of article seem relevant at all? Is my writing style ok? Never actually written anything like this except for technical documentation and thats fairly dry.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,847 Posts
I think it's a good overview, and I definitely think that such an overview would be useful. I can see pointing to this article when there are posts like 'I want a planted tank, but I don't know anything about them.'
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,406 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Indi: Those are probably going to be the kind of articles that I wouldn't feel overly uncomfortable writing about. Mainly the general knowledge stuff that I learned from the first few months of being around here. I could chime in on lots of topics but feel like there are others with more experience that would do a better job.
Like aquascaping... I know I could hook up a general this is what aquascaping is and how its done type article but I have so little experience actually doing it that I feel like folks might be like "Who does this newb think he is?".
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
13,533 Posts
Like aquascaping... I know I could hook up a general this is what aquascaping is and how its done type article but I have so little experience actually doing it that I feel like folks might be like "Who does this newb think he is?".
I think that is what is so great about our idea of collaborative article writing. One person puts down the main ideas, and then we can all add our own thoughts, and help out in areas that need help.

Just a side note about pictures, if you plan on using a picture that another member posted, just shoot them a quick email ask permission. Its the polite thing to do! ;)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
961 Posts
Great effort MrJG. Sounds like a great start. As others have said, sounds like a great "Get me started cause I don't know a thing about planted tanks" kind of article, which is always nice. I would have loved to red this kind of article when I got started, because honestly, I didn't have a clue that there were the two main distinctions of low light and high light....

Great stuff.
 
1 - 9 of 9 Posts
Top