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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone,

I had a planted 5 gallon betta tank but everything ended up going south with it. I had a cyano outbreak that was hard to control, and my betta ended up growing a tumor and unfortunately passed. I want to redo the tank but get a bit more insight this time on how to start a proper planted tank. I am not a beginner to fishkeeping but a newbie to planted tanks.

Supplies:
Finnon Planted Plus clip on LED
Fluval stratum
Thrive liquid fert
API "liquid" CO2
Sponge filter
Air pump for circulation

Something to note is that this tank will be a betta tank again and I have very hard water. So far for plants I was just thinking of doing Ludwigia, crypt wendtii, and a banana plant or something. Any other plant recommendations would be helpful. The main things I am confused on are lighting and ferts. Before I had my lights on for 8 hours (I think, it was a while ago) with a 2 hour siesta. This seemed like way too much light because the algae and cyano went nuts. Also, I don't really know what determines how much fert I should be dosing. I know it depends on what plants I have and how many plants I have but I'm unsure of the rules there.

As for CO2, I'm aware that the "liquid" CO2 isn't all that, but I have seen a few of those CO2 setups that uses yeast, so I wonder if maybe that's an option? If not I think I'll just stick to a low tech tank. Thank you so much everyone! Looking forward to getting back into it.
 

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You can always use DIY CO2, but given the chance, I'd always recommend against it and just use pressurized. I've had amazing results with pressurized. DIY was too much of a hassle unless you like that sort of 2~ week maintenance. I, like yourself, have hard water too but your Stratum will lower it by a bit, I add botanicals to my tanks too which helps it even more, and if you add CO2, all of this attribute to softening the water.

Depending on what ludwigia you want to use, repens needs very little to thrive, but macandra for instance will do a lot better with CO2. Next time you have issues with cyanobacteria, you could go to Amazon, if available, and get the "UltraLife Blue-Green Slime remover," I think it was like $15 when I bought it. Was a game changer when I had it in my little 5g. I had cyano years before where I manually siphoned and cleaned it every day, took about a month to fight it off completely.

In regards to dosing, the bottles should tell you something like XXmL per 10 gallon of water or whatever. I usually do it by ear if I were to dose. Perhaps you can research and look into the EI Method.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yeah I'm thinking I'm not gonna mess with the whole DIY CO2 thing. Looks like it's a bit finnicky. I think I'm just gonna opt for having no CO2 setup, for now at least.
 

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Do you mean Finnex Stingray LED Clip for the light? If so be aware that's a pretty low powered light. There is an aquarium co-op video floating around where at 12 inches he was only getting 16-17 ppfd directly under the light, so anywhere not right in the middle directly under the light would be less (ie the corners, front and back). Its pretty hard to grow a lot of plants at less then 15 or so par. I don't know what tank you have so maybe the light is closer to the substrate then 12 inches, but then again maybe not. Anyway 8 hours a day with 2 hours off time is not going to be way too much, you can certainly cut it back to 6 hours if you prefer but I would not cut it less then that and frankly would only do that cut back by way of an expirement to see if you can find balance.

Most likely your issue is water changes. Thrive gets dosed 1 pump for 5 gallons (or at least my Thrive C did). If you are dosing that once a week then you also need a 50% water change once a week as well. If you are doing less then that would definitely cause a big algae bloom.

Also if you are using an active substrate (such as fluval stratum) then when your substrate is new you also need to be doing big water changes very frequently. Every day 50% for the first week, every other day the second week, 3 times in week 3, and twice in week 4. Thereafter once a week. Hopefully this is helpful.
 

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Hello!

Funny thing! I had the EXACT same setup for my first tank, and I struggled! Got to learn somehow! So funny, I think I'm talking to myself from the past!

I struggled with ferts, plant selection, over planted without understanding what plants needed what, and got lost as to why my plants were sick, and so was my betta!

Good news, most people on this forum started exactly where you are. There is some great advise answering some of your questions already in this thread.

I will say the biggest takeaway from my first tank was 3 things. Maybe these will help a bit too. Some of these you might already be super on top of. That's awesome! I sure wasn't! But thought I'd share:

-Understanding my water (PH, hardness, ammonia Nitrite, nitrate, temperature). If all of your plants are having a meltdown, in a small tank like a 5 gallon, it is a disaster for your A.N.N. and could cause your fish to get sick.

-Understand what plants need what, and the difficulty of each are. Some need bright light, some some are root feeders, some are column feeders, some need more iron... You get it. Take this information and study/ask questions if you see a plant deficiency (leaves doing something different than you expected). Correct with what you need in small doses, and work your way up. The last thing you want to do is dose something that is not needed. Either you're just wasting money, or worse, polluting the water column to the point the tank is not salvageable (guilty!) You can have a tank with live plants with once every few months ferts like root tabs and no liquid co2. All depends on how you can manage the tank

-Probably the most important suggestion: Start Simple, and Go Slow.

I can't stress this one enough. It is so easy to go down the rabbit hole being on The Planted Tank and see everyone's beautifully aquascaped tanks, so we buy a bunch of plants/lights/gear hoping to mimic the results of a touchy high light, CO2 tank in pictures.

Worst mistake I've made! I've spent a fortune on plants for my 5 gallon and stuffed them in there all at once... It didn't allow me the opportunity to see small changes and work to correct them, bought tons of ferts and substrate, and I had a plant meltdown.

I wouldn't mess with Co2 right now. Something simple like a low light, low tech tank is a great starting point (plants that require low light, and little to no care with ferts). Consider starting or managing just 2 or 3 plants at a time in your tank. Balance your water, algae, and plant growth. See if you can get it going without liquid Co2, and identifying when you actually need ferts, which shouldn't be all that frequent. Add another plant only once you've got it all balanced.

Remember the goal is control algae and no dead plants! Really slow growth is what we are after here! Get excited about that new leaf you find every few weeks/months!

You might be way further along than I was with a your 5 gallon and the knowledge you have. But I hope this helps a little! We are all still learning :)

Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk
 

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Do you mean Finnex Stingray LED Clip for the light? If so be aware that's a pretty low powered light.
Finnex also makes a FugeRay Planted Plus clip light and that one is much stronger than the Stingray clip on. I have one of those on a 5 gallon and if anything it's probably too bright for my low energy tank, so I just run it for 4 hours a day.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Finnex also makes a FugeRay Planted Plus clip light and that one is much stronger than the Stingray clip on. I have one of those on a 5 gallon and if anything it's probably too bright for my low energy tank, so I just run it for 4 hours a day.
I have the Planted plus, not the stingray. Should I lower the amount of time I keep like the light on?

Bump:
Hello!

Funny thing! I had the EXACT same setup for my first tank, and I struggled! Got to learn somehow! So funny, I think I'm talking to myself from the past!

I struggled with ferts, plant selection, over planted without understanding what plants needed what, and got lost as to why my plants were sick, and so was my betta!

Good news, most people on this forum started exactly where you are. There is some great advise answering some of your questions already in this thread.

I will say the biggest takeaway from my first tank was 3 things. Maybe these will help a bit too. Some of these you might already be super on top of. That's awesome! I sure wasn't! But thought I'd share:

-Understanding my water (PH, hardness, ammonia Nitrite, nitrate, temperature). If all of your plants are having a meltdown, in a small tank like a 5 gallon, it is a disaster for your A.N.N. and could cause your fish to get sick.

-Understand what plants need what, and the difficulty of each are. Some need bright light, some some are root feeders, some are column feeders, some need more iron... You get it. Take this information and study/ask questions if you see a plant deficiency (leaves doing something different than you expected). Correct with what you need in small doses, and work your way up. The last thing you want to do is dose something that is not needed. Either you're just wasting money, or worse, polluting the water column to the point the tank is not salvageable (guilty!) You can have a tank with live plants with once every few months ferts like root tabs and no liquid co2. All depends on how you can manage the tank

-Probably the most important suggestion: Start Simple, and Go Slow.

I can't stress this one enough. It is so easy to go down the rabbit hole being on The Planted Tank and see everyone's beautifully aquascaped tanks, so we buy a bunch of plants/lights/gear hoping to mimic the results of a touchy high light, CO2 tank in pictures.

Worst mistake I've made! I've spent a fortune on plants for my 5 gallon and stuffed them in there all at once... It didn't allow me the opportunity to see small changes and work to correct them, bought tons of ferts and substrate, and I had a plant meltdown.

I wouldn't mess with Co2 right now. Something simple like a low light, low tech tank is a great starting point (plants that require low light, and little to no care with ferts). Consider starting or managing just 2 or 3 plants at a time in your tank. Balance your water, algae, and plant growth. See if you can get it going without liquid Co2, and identifying when you actually need ferts, which shouldn't be all that frequent. Add another plant only once you've got it all balanced.

Remember the goal is control algae and no dead plants! Really slow growth is what we are after here! Get excited about that new leaf you find every few weeks/months!

You might be way further along than I was with a your 5 gallon and the knowledge you have. But I hope this helps a little! We are all still learning :)

Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk

Thank you for the advice!
 

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I have the Planted plus, not the stingray. Should I lower the amount of time I keep like the light on?
It's definitely something you should consider, but you have to consider your tank as a whole. I wish I could say exactly how long you should run your lights for, but each tank is different.

In my case, I was running the light for 7 to 8 hours with a siesta, but I developed a huge algae problem. Excess light was probably a factor in that, but not the only cause, so cutting the photoperiod to 4 hours was one of several changes I made to the tank. I might be able to get away with more light, but I don't want to risk throwing things out of balance again. If my plants were rebelling I would definitely increase to 6 hours.

You had asked before about plant recommendations and I think it's very smart to pay very close attention to what you are buying. Stick to stuff on the beginner/easy/low light lists (there's not a set list per se, but I just googled around and went for stuff that many sources agreed on. I've never grown a banana plant, but crypt wendtii and Ludwigia repens have both done well for me. I find water sprite and anacharis to be very fast growing and that helps outcompete algae (and both did well even when the tank overall was struggling). Bacopa caroliniana is another super easy stem plant that I am fond of. I don't have java fern, anubias, or vallisneria in my 5 gallon, but they are classic low tech plants for a reason. I have a red tiger lotus and love it, but it is too big for a 5 gallon. Both Sagittaria subulata and dwarf hairgrass have been successful foreground plants, but I nearly lost the hairgrass to the algae - it's doable, but I would get some experience first. Salvinia nutans has been a great floating plant for me that has been fairly easy to manage. There are other plants that would probably work well, but that's the quick and dirty about what I have experience with.
@-Sutekh has given a lot of good adivce, especially the takeaway that keeping it simple is key. I do have a small disagreement - I think I would try more than 2 or 3 different kinds of plants at first. Sometimes you get a plant and it doesn't work out even if it "should" and that's ok as long as some things are thriving and I think it's worth it to try for a mix of different kinds of plants (stem plants and rooted plants, fast growers and slow growers, some floating plants). The composition of your tank will change as you figure out what you are doing. For instance, water sprite is a plant that I have relied on to get tanks started, but I actually don't like how it looks in the long term, so I remove it once everything else is going well. Fast growers will dominate in the early days, but the slow growers will start to assert themselves eventually. Everything is easier once you have all submersed growth.
 

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ElleDee is also right. Direversification is good, but don't get too crazy with it :)

I second Crypt wendtii, Ludwigia repens. Have both in many tanks and they are easy as pie to work with (and some of my favorites). Other crypts are great as well in general. Just make sure your water is stable and you feed them with root tabs.

Water sprite is great as well. Plant it or float it, doesn't matter. I have more limited experience with it, but worked well when I had it.

I do have Java Fern in one of my tanks and can confirm it is also easy to get the hang of.

Anubias as well is very easy, but I haven't gotten it to grow well if the light is too strong. it seems to do best in the darker corners.

I have some dwarf Sagittaria shipping in for a carpet plant as I heard they played nice with beginners for carpets (my newest build), but it's my first experience with any Sagittaria, so I have not enough experience to share there.

I will say I found hairgrass to be a bit more challenging to work with than the other options. That is really the only one I would be on edge with.

Call me crazy, but I'll throw in a really wild one. Try a dwarf lily. That was a LOT of fun! GREAT fast growth and color, but it will shade your tank if you don't clip them! Great if you want to see growth now. Many of the others on the list are slow growers.
 

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Thank you all so much for your tips! I really appreciate it. I'm glad I decided to give a planted tank another go.

I do have one last question. When the plants go through their melting phase I'm not really sure what to do. In the past, most of the plants melted and I was left with sticks and dead leaves. Then the algae struck and I never really got to a point where the plants came back. Do I wait it out and just do a lot of clean up and maintenance? Is there a way to avoid it?
 

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Thank you all so much for your tips! I really appreciate it. I'm glad I decided to give a planted tank another go.

I do have one last question. When the plants go through their melting phase I'm not really sure what to do. In the past, most of the plants melted and I was left with sticks and dead leaves. Then the algae struck and I never really got to a point where the plants came back. Do I wait it out and just do a lot of clean up and maintenance? Is there a way to avoid it?
Stay on top of cleaning out the dead plants and plant matter for sure.
Amano shrimp can really help out with that too. :)

I've never messed with CO2 as I've only started doing planted tanks in the last year and I've had good luck with low tech tanks growing plants and keeping healthy fish so I just wanted to put another plug out there for perhaps skipping CO2 for now and go with the basics.
 

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Thank you all so much for your tips! I really appreciate it. I'm glad I decided to give a planted tank another go.

I do have one last question. When the plants go through their melting phase I'm not really sure what to do. In the past, most of the plants melted and I was left with sticks and dead leaves. Then the algae struck and I never really got to a point where the plants came back. Do I wait it out and just do a lot of clean up and maintenance? Is there a way to avoid it?
You should expect plant melt if they are new plants from a LFS or purchased online. Fun fact of the day: most plants are grown emersed meaning out of the water. When you submerge them, they shed their old leaves and grow new ones for their new underwater living conditions. just clean the old ones up as they drop. And remember, just because it doesn't have leaves doesn't mean it's dead. I've had many melt down to nothing after shipping and being submerged, but then grow a new leaf later on.

I will caution you on too much water changes though. You need Nitrates for your plants to eat. A common mistake of beginners is to try to keep 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and 0 nitrate as if it was just a fish tank. Keeping a fish tank like this works great, but keeping a planted tank with those parameters is recipe for disaster as well. Plants are part of your filtration, so removing majority of the nitrates out of the water will cause your plants to suffer due to the lack of food for the plant. I would say this is a very common thing beginners do.

Suggestions to your above question

-Clean out the large dead plant material, but don't go crazy with cleaning it out. Sometimes a little dead plant material is good free food for your plants, and can help with increasing nitrates.

-Test your water before you change your water. Test weekly. You only want to change your water when you find more than 20ppms of Nitrates in it. Changing it with anything less is just putting the plants at risk for eating the rest of your nitrate and restarting your cycle! No fun!

-Don't go bonkers on your water changes. It's not a fish tank; it's a planted tank. Change 10-15% when you have more than 20ppm of Nitrates, test again. Repeat process until it's showing below 20ppm, and then note how much you changed total.

-Repeat your weekly testing and note your water changes when you do them. You will find a cadence of when, and how much you will need to do with your current bioload (your fish and feeding habits). I should note if you add/subtract plants or fish, you may have to do that process again until you know what your tank is up to. The more experience you have, the more you can change your tanks around without doing this process. You'll kinda develop a feel for it.

-If your water is decreasing in Nitrates on it's own without water changes, you either need more fish, more fish food (go small and work up), or dosing nitrogen. I usually like the fish route :) It just means your plants are being super efficient as a filter for what waste you have in the water.

I am actually going to make a post confirming, but I'm pretty sure this just happened in mine after I lost some of my fish in a smaller tank, and watched the nitrates go down below 5ppm (maybe even 0)... So just added more ember tetras :) Noticed it in the leaves most recently, tested, and my nitrates were really low without frequent water changes!
 
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