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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here I am, a complete newbie at this! I've had several "easy" fish tanks throughout my life, nothing complicated, nothing planted. I recently acquired a 35gal tank from a friend. The stand itself is kind of cheesy but the tank is nice.

I decided I wanted to do a planted tank and am wishing that I would have come here first!!! I need a "do-over" on this tank as it is looking quite sad. Here's what I've got already and some questions. Keep in mind that I already started the tank and now want to start again to do it right this time! :)

I have a few plants already, not sure what they are, I will attach pictures (if you promise no eye rolling or pointing and laughing :redface:). I have 4 fish - a Betta, 2 small angels, and 1 balloon molly - they are all getting along wonderfully, no fin picking, no chasing, just peaceful. I had other kiddos and they died off (I'm not wondering why much anymore). I have some algae issues....

Here's my plan - move fish and some current water into a new tank for a temporary area while I re-do the larger tank that they are in now. I don't want to do a CO2 system. I'm on a fairly low budget and can do a few things extra, but I'd like to stick with what I have and just start over right if possible. I want to try to make the tank as self-sustaining as possible - I know this isn't going to be completely possible, but I'd like to make my own little environment that is well balanced. Right now the tank gets sunlight but when I start over - it'll be in an area that I can close the blinds and make sure that direct sunlight does not get into/on the tank.

Here are my questions
It looks like there's a variety of substrate you CAN use - looks like pool sand is a pretty popular choice. Can you use "traditional" aquarium rocks? Do you need to add a substrate under that for the plants? What is best to use? Can you use a mixture of substrates - i.e. rock on one side, sand on another, making little areas of different substrate?
As far as larger "items" in the tank (rocks, wood, etc). Can you use just about anything? What should I shy away from? If I wanted to use wood from outside, what woods are best? Is there a process to make sure the wood is ok to use before it goes in the tank? Can you "water-log" the wood in a quick way, or just fasten it down and let it soak up the wood?
I would like to add some critters (inverts?) that help with waste and any algae - is this feasible? What would you suggest?

Basically I'm a blank slate looking for a clean slate with my tank! ANY and all advice would be much much much appreciated! And also - please keep in mind that I'm a NEWBIE I need the details! Abbreviations on things planted tank people know are beyond me at this point - I'm still learning and this looks like a great place to start!!!!

:D :proud:Thank you in advance!!!
 

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I'm not Bueller but I have a couple tanks with mixed substrate - sand on one side and gravel on the other (don't know why I did it just wanted to I guess) and it works OK. I don't believe that plant in your first picture is an aquatic, it looks like a diffenbachia (sp) of some sort to me.
Personally don't recommend shrimps with those fish - they will definitely appreciate the snacks - I have heard of other people doing it with alot of mosses and other hiding places, but I wouldn't. A couple of small pleco's would probably make a bit of a dent in your algae or maybe trumpet snails (breed like crazy I hear, mine don't!, and keep the substrate aerated)
Eventually, the tank is going to be too small for your angels-just an FYI
I'm certainly no expert but hopefully this helps a teeny bit.
 

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I know the first and last plant are not true aquatic plants. Those are draconia (ribbon plant) which is just the tops of lucky bamboo. In time they will die off. The second plant is a sword plant and a true aquatic. I made the mistake with the draconias too.


I have sand and Activ-Flora (kinda like Eco-Complete) mixed in our 40g and the plants grow like mad. I haven't mixed any other substrates, but our other tanks have either gravel, 3M color quartz or sand. All are planted and doing great.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the tips on the plants - do you see the one in the background behind the draconia - is that an aquatic plant? I love when things are sold to you under the wrong pretense (here are some aquatic plants for your tank - oh wait, nevermind lol).

Thanks for the tip on the shrimps - I had some, and they got along fine, but died (having that kind of luck) and it was no fault of the fishes - they pretty much ignored the shrimp, but I'm not heading in that direction anytime soon....

As for the angels, I figure they'll eventually get too big, we have a larger tank at work I can put them in if needed, or sell them if/when they get too big (they have to survive this misadventure of mine first!)

Thanks for the tips. DragonFish71 (you're close by!) where did you get your sand and Activ-Flora?
Also - should I just take out the draconia and treat it like I would bamboo from the store? That way I don't have to unnecessarily kill off plants?

Should I do a sand or another substrate mixed with the gravel? or?
Thanks again!
 

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I'm not quite sure what you'd consider cheap, but here's a method for substrate that you could make yourself.

http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/substrate/72382-mineralized-top-soil-substrate-pics-updated.html

I don't want to do a CO2 system. I'm on a fairly low budget and can do a few things extra, but I'd like to stick with what I have and just start over right if possible.
As for a a CO2 system, you should be able to make one for under 10 bucks. Google or youtube DIY Co2 system. The simplest forms of a DIY CO2 system will usually consist of a 2liter empty-soda bottle , an air tube, air stone, water, sugar, and yeast. Depending on what kind of filter system you have, you can angle the air stone so that the bubbles get sucked through the filter tube into the filter. (It might not be as efficient as can be, but it doesn't involve you having to buy a powerhead pump(which costs like an additional $20).

Right now the tank gets sunlight but when I start over - it'll be in an area that I can close the blinds and make sure that direct sunlight does not get into/on the tank.
:thumbsup: decesion.


I'll leave the other questions for the experts :p But as for your question about the driftwood, I'll tell you this don't go looking for live tree branches!
 

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I'm not one of the experts around here, but a relatively newcomer - with enough mistakes under my belt to offer some advice about where to find good info....

1) I recommend that you quit buying plants at the local fish store. Watch the Shop-n-Swap on this site. You can get some great plant "packages" that are much cheaper than fish store prices - and you can sure that what you are getting are aquatic plants. Sometimes, members of the forum give away plants for nothing but the cost of shipping. I find that they are generally pretty generous with the portions.

2) I suggest reading a bit about the Walstad method of setting up a planted tank. Its a low maintenance, no co2, cheap substrate, that involves using sunlight. Its different from what a lot of folks in this forum do, but some folks here have reported good results. Might not be the best for beginners, but I'm playing with it a bit (not exclusively).

Even if you don't use this method, I think it might give you some ideas.

* A thread with demonstration of method
* Two of her tanks

Try googling - "Walstad Method"

3) There are quite a few threads in this forum that discuss "making your own driftwood." I suggest using the search feature to see what you can find. I just tried it and came up with this:

* DIY or finding your own driftwood

Good luck,
 

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Hi Audra, you were easy enough to find.:icon_mrgr
Audra is a friend of mine from a bird forum guys, so treat her right and help a girl out.;) I will answer your pm in a bit, and look over your questions here.
 

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Here's my plan - move fish and some current water into a new tank for a temporary area while I re-do the larger tank that they are in now. I don't want to do a CO2 system. I'm on a fairly low budget and can do a few things extra, but I'd like to stick with what I have and just start over right if possible. I want to try to make the tank as self-sustaining as possible - I know this isn't going to be completely possible, but I'd like to make my own little environment that is well balanced. Right now the tank gets sunlight but when I start over - it'll be in an area that I can close the blinds and make sure that direct sunlight does not get into/on the tank.

Here are my questions
It looks like there's a variety of substrate you CAN use - looks like pool sand is a pretty popular choice. Can you use "traditional" aquarium rocks? Do you need to add a substrate under that for the plants? What is best to use? Can you use a mixture of substrates - i.e. rock on one side, sand on another, making little areas of different substrate?
As far as larger "items" in the tank (rocks, wood, etc). Can you use just about anything? What should I shy away from? If I wanted to use wood from outside, what woods are best? Is there a process to make sure the wood is ok to use before it goes in the tank? Can you "water-log" the wood in a quick way, or just fasten it down and let it soak up the wood?
I would like to add some critters (inverts?) that help with waste and any algae - is this feasible? What would you suggest?

!
There should be a sticky around here somewhere that will help you learn the abbreviations and lingo a bit. If you spend enough time here, it will get easier to understand.:proud:
You do not need CO2. You can use Excel, and the rest of the Seachem line, or some Excel and some Tropica..potassium, etc.
You will need to decide what type of look you want, what type of plants{with low light you still have plenty of choices}
First~
What kind of filter and lighting do you have? How old are the bulbs in your lighting? Good lighting is needed, even for low light stuff. You just want to keep the wats per gallon under 2, or you will have big algae issues.
I would recommend ditching the substrate. Even if you use gravel, that looks to be in really bad shape. Some Eco-complete or other similar planted tank substrate would be good. Or if you do Diana Walstad method you can use generic potting soil{no ferts or pesticides} capped with white sand or gravel, or both. Some like to throw a few handfuls of sand on the very bottom first.
The filter is important. If it is a hang on back type, you at least want your water level to be high enough so you aren't getting a whole lot of surface agitation. Movement is good, not agitation or 'waterfall effect'. Your tank will naturally produce some CO2, even without adding it. Excess surface movement can blow that off...you don't want that.
Test kits, do you have any? How old are they and what brand and type do you have? What is the PH of the water where you are, and what temperature does your tank usually run?
As far as items in the tank, no..you don't want to just use 'anything'.
Wood will lower the PH to an extent. You want good driftwood, not just some sticks that will rot in your tank. You can and should boil driftwood, both to make sure it's safe, and to also help get it to sink. It takes a while and sometimes a few water changes on the water in the boil, depending on how much wood there is. I find driftwood is just an eventual place that algae gets a hold on, and it can also be a pain in the beginning. Getting a white snotty bacterial bloom on it, which needs to be siphoned off.
Some types of rocks can effect the PH. So if you don't have a problem with high PH, most types are ok. If you are trying to keep the ph lower, only certain types can be used without having an impact on the parameters. In other words they are inert.
You might get away with some nice nerite snails{you want to stay away from pest snails} Invertz Factory{pedro-milalic} is a great source for them. He has had some real nice horned and spotted nerites in lately. Olive nerites are also good. You might also be able to add some large amano shrimp. They are one of the best algae eaters around.
 

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Here is the Colorado forum from here
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/colorado/

the swap and shop
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/swap-n-shop/

invertz factory
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/invertz-factory/

list of low light plants-googling them should help show you pics and teach you to learn how to identify them...I agree don't buy plants from your fish store unless it's geared towards planted tanks..most are not. And the plants in the little gel or tubes are mostly non-aquatic
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/low-tech-forum/56042-excellent-list-low-light-plants.html

here is some help with dosing
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/fertilizers-water-parameters/21944-_dosing-regimes_.html

seachem list & articles
http://www.seachem.com/Library/Articles.html

http://www.seachem.com/Library/Calculators.html

I can't find the abbreviation thing, maybe there isn't one here? Watch people's sigs, sometimes good links to learn things can be found there.
 

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A tip for learning to navigate this forum is to take advantage of the search button and also...if you start a new thread, you don't even post the thread...just start it. As you type in your question or topic, other similar topics will appear as you go to type in the body of the message. Click on them to see if they answer your questions. Or just create more...:icon_bigg
I would also suggest ditching those plants, they will just rot and cause problems when they do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Hi Audra, you were easy enough to find.:icon_mrgr
Audra is a friend of mine from a bird forum guys, so treat her right and help a girl out.;) I will answer your pm in a bit, and look over your questions here.
Thank you! I didn't know if you'd be the same here as the other forum. I have to say a huge thanks to you for directing me here, and helping me out so much here and with the PMs earlier

There should be a sticky around here somewhere that will help you learn the abbreviations and lingo a bit. If you spend enough time here, it will get easier to understand.:proud:

THANK YOU!

What kind of filter and lighting do you have? How old are the bulbs in your lighting?
Filter - I need a new one, the one I had is no longer... any suggestions on inexpensive but good ones? Can I get a decent one at a decent price at the chain stores (petco/petsmart/etc)?
Lighting - just your generic old tank hood light, fairly new (months) aside from that can't tell you much (I'm pretty sure I'm SCREAMING newbie at this planted tank thing by now :redface:) I think most of my algae issues are probably sun related right now...

I would recommend ditching the substrate. Even if you use gravel, that looks to be in really bad shape.
Can I save my gravel at all? Anything I can do to "erase" any damage that's been done so far? I'd really rather not buy ALL new gravel for the tank as there's quite a bit in here...

Test kits, do you have any? How old are they and what brand and type do you have? What is the PH of the water where you are, and what temperature does your tank usually run?

Test kits, no, do not have any here, but the chain store up the street (literally, blocks away) does testing for free - is this sufficient enough? I like free...
I will have to get back to you on the PH

*I can feel people's eyes rolling at me lol*

Tank generally sits around 82/83 I've been trying to get a good feel for the heater but still playing with it - I have a feeling it's a little too warm?

Thank you for the tips on items in the tank, what not to do, and inverts etc... wow this is going to be a bumpy ride for me - hang on guys!

Is that an otocinclus on the silicone in your pic?
It was... he's unfortunately no longer with us. He made it quite a while though and was a terrific algae eater - cleaned up 3 of the 4 walls and got rid of all the algae on them - unfortunately none of those sides were the front of the tank lol - he got a few good spots on the front, and i watched him make a long line the other day - that night I found him dead... grrr

that's really good idea. i still haven't figured them all out yet.
hahaha - it already exists. it's a sticky in the general topics forum, been there since 2006 - lol
:icon_lol: sounds like me! i'll have to check that out too!!!
 

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Thanks for the tips on the plants - do you see the one in the background behind the draconia - is that an aquatic plant? I love when things are sold to you under the wrong pretense (here are some aquatic plants for your tank - oh wait, nevermind lol).

Thanks for the tip on the shrimps - I had some, and they got along fine, but died (having that kind of luck) and it was no fault of the fishes - they pretty much ignored the shrimp, but I'm not heading in that direction anytime soon....

As for the angels, I figure they'll eventually get too big, we have a larger tank at work I can put them in if needed, or sell them if/when they get too big (they have to survive this misadventure of mine first!)

Thanks for the tips. DragonFish71 (you're close by!) where did you get your sand and Activ-Flora?
Also - should I just take out the draconia and treat it like I would bamboo from the store? That way I don't have to unnecessarily kill off plants?

Should I do a sand or another substrate mixed with the gravel? or?
Thanks again!
I got the Active-Flora from Petco, the sand I got at Aqua Imports in Boulder. Great guys that work there. Another good place in Boulder is Exotic Aquatics. In the Denver area Sherman Tank is another good store.

I took out our draconia after I found out what it was and treated it just like lucky bamboo. It's growing great in the window sill. Once it grows stalks like the bamboo, you can use it for decor in tanks, as long as the leaves stay out of the water. :) We use the lucky stuff in 2 tanks.

I did re-look at your pics and the one behind the draconia looks like it could be wisteria, and if it is, it is aquatic.

Don't discount buying plants from chains like Petco and Petsmart, I get some really healthy plants from ours. Our petsmarts sell amazons, anubias, wisteria in those plastic tubes and they are in great condition most of the time. Our Petco sells marimo balls (real ones, not java moss tied to something) different species of anubias, all kinds of swords and various other plants. You can also feel free to PM me if you have a questions about "chain store plants" I've gotten pretty good at finding things out here. :)
I can also provide you with a link for where I get my other plants, shipping is cheap to us here in CO. Last time I had an order it was $10.50 shipping for 160.00 worth of stuff. I also ship trimmings or extra plants from my own tanks for the price of shipping only.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I got the Active-Flora from Petco, the sand I got at Aqua Imports in Boulder. Great guys that work there. Another good place in Boulder is Exotic Aquatics. In the Denver area Sherman Tank is another good store.

I took out our draconia after I found out what it was and treated it just like lucky bamboo. It's growing great in the window sill. Once it grows stalks like the bamboo, you can use it for decor in tanks, as long as the leaves stay out of the water. :) We use the lucky stuff in 2 tanks.

I did re-look at your pics and the one behind the draconia looks like it could be wisteria, and if it is, it is aquatic.

Don't discount buying plants from chains like Petco and Petsmart, I get some really healthy plants from ours. Our petsmarts sell amazons, anubias, wisteria in those plastic tubes and they are in great condition most of the time. Our Petco sells marimo balls (real ones, not java moss tied to something) different species of anubias, all kinds of swords and various other plants. You can also feel free to PM me if you have a questions about "chain store plants" I've gotten pretty good at finding things out here. :)
I can also provide you with a link for where I get my other plants, shipping is cheap to us here in CO. Last time I had an order it was $10.50 shipping for 160.00 worth of stuff. I also ship trimmings or extra plants from my own tanks for the price of shipping only.
Thank you so much for the tips! Seeing your "local" for me I might PM you often.

Ok everybody - change of plan! :hihi:
I'm going to "fix" my tank that I have now and make it non-planted. I have decided that tank is going to be way over my head as a newbie.
The good news (and lesson learned...) is that I'm going to save up $$ and do a mini planted tank. That way I can start from scratch, I don't have to rush (to have a "home" for the fish) and I can take the time to learn what I need. I will be around asking questions and learning as much as possible here!!! Here I am, grateful for my 20/20 hindsight! LOL

Thanks everybody so far with links and advice - it will be listened to and used in this new adventure! HOORAY!
 
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