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Hi I'm brand new to this forum so my apologies if this question has been done before. I just took down my reef system after 6 years of disappointments and spending outrageous money. I have a 65 gallon tank with corner overflow that drains into a 40 breeder sump with filter socks. I have two Aqua Illumination Sol blue Led fixtures as lighting that I hope I can use for plants (at least the white spectrum). I have a hob reactor for carbon, ph meter, tank and regulator for CO2, power heads for flow, RO/DI filter to produce water among other items.

I had fw tanks as a kid, but just fish bc the plants never lived long (didn't know I didn't have enough light). So what do I need? What planting substrate will need the least maintenance? Do I need to add bioballs or other media to my sump for the nitro cycle or is the substrate sufficient? Are the power heads necessary? Besides a bubble counter and diffuser what else do I need for CO2 addition? is there anything else I need? Any and all advice is appreciated. Thanks
 

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Welcome to planted tanks. Your tank setup sounds good, I just setup a reef ready system for a planted tank. The light spectrum might be a little high but you might be able to get away with it for a while. You won't really need the carbon all the time so it is something to have on hand for removing meds etc. The power heads may or may not be needed depending on the species of fish and if you end up with dead spots, and if you use RO/DI you need to use something like Seachem Replenish or mix half RO & half tap water to reminieralize the water some. For bio media it is suggested to use something like Seachem Matrix, Eheim Substrat or other sintered products. A good low maintenance substrate is Seachem Flourite(any color) and Seachem Flourite Sand, also good are pool filter sand, turface(not sure how little upkeep there is) and Eco-Complete. ADA Aquasoil will get high recommendations but it supposedly needs to be replaced every few years so that might be out.
 

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Lots of people use blue and white, so long as you like the color it's fine. You would probably be using white at 50% and blue at 0-15% at first, planted tanks don't need as much light as reef tanks.

I like poret sponge as filter media, your choice. Planted tanks do better with some biological filtration. Your socks are great for mechanical filtration of course. Planted tanks are pretty dirty so the socks may need attention quite often. Maybe put a prefilter sponge over the drain as well?

10x gph turnover is usually suggested as the sweet spot for circulation. It can be from your sump pumps or that plus circulation pumps, your choice. Try for a circular flow rather than chaotic. The sump return and circulation pump would likely be next to one another. I am satisfied with the ~5x turnover I have now though, it is also the first time I've had good circular flow going on in all the years I've run a planted tank.

65 gallons would likely be better off using a reactor rather than a diffuser. They don't clog like diffusers but some find them noisy, some find they fill with gas. I build according to the plan and both of mine have worked fine. Look through your reef gizmos, possibly there is something you can convert to a reactor, it's an added loop of hose/pipe with CO2 injected so bubbles want to flow up but water is forcing them down and the CO2 is suspended until it dissolves. One common design, Cerge's, is a 10x3-4" whole house filter housing to give you an idea of the size needed. Running the reactor on its own pump helps preserve flow if you happen to have a small pump available.

Substrate is up to you. I used a mix of medium gravel [too coarse] and a calcined clay product used for pond plants for years. Coarse sand like pool filter sand works, some like a black sand blasting grit some like one of those over potting soil. Some spend the big bucks because they trust and like the look of the stuff sold at the stores as planted tank substrate. I currently have ADA's Amazonia. Pale sand shows stuff and algae growth, black can look dirty too. Oddly now that my flow is pretty decent the only debris is below the overflow and it's too heavy for my siphon to pick up so there's that. You can add root tabs and/or liquid fertilizers to any substrate.
 

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There's a lot to learn in your transition but in a nutshell, it should be less of a headache and it won't drain your wallet. A few things for both reef and planted tanks apply. For starters, they both need water, lol. To elaborate, FW is much less of a chore. Even when doing a R/O system is not the pain that making SW can be I am sure. Most FW plants and fish are not as finicky with water parameter as SW. You get a little slack here but house species that are in range of your parameters. FW tanks can range from 6.5-8.0. Your housing intent and your tap water source plays a role in the range you should shoot for. I won't go into detail about lighting and substrate though. Loads of that info in other post that is discussed numerous times. Stickies are also your friend. Lighting and substrate can also be opinionated so find something of interest and start there. One thing I will say though is research as much as you can before actually setting up your tank. FW is not as costly as a reef tank but you still don't want to spend unnecessary funds if you don't have to. When you do setup your tank, please do a fishless cycle. The steps are out there. Diana on here has a good write up that she gives everyone.

Flow is much less for FW. I think 10x is too much actually imo. Most planted tanks are fine at 3-5x turn over. Plants are your filters for toxins just as the beneficial bacteria. Chances are your powerheads are much too strong for a FW tank. You can literally kill your fish from fatigue and constant battling currents. Same goes for plants. Plant should have just enough sway to them. If they are blown over, they grow awkwardly or may even fall apart on you. You want enough flow to keep nutrients flowing and debris suspended in the water columns so that either the filter or overflow system can pick it up.

One of the best parts about FW vs SW is the nitrates. It's not so crucial to keep it at 0ppm. In fact your want 10-30ppm on average. Your plants use this. I know nitrates is an enemy to SW. Not to FW, only in high amounts does it create the issue that resemble SW. I would saw if a tank averages above 50ppm for nitrates, something should be looked into.

CO2 is different here as well. No calcium reactors to run, just co2. When running a sump you will more than likely be required to increase you bps though. The trick to a sump and CO2, is minimize sump agitation. This can be trick but it is not impossible. The less surface agitation you have the less co2 is loss. Don't get surface agitation and surface moved mixed up. Agitation is water breaking the surface where as movement is gently ripples. Most of your equipment can be reused for FW but note to have optimal success, you must provide your FW tank with thriving conditions. So lighting can play a major role. PAR and spectrum is your focus with lighting. You need to provide nutrients in the form of substrate and/or additives. CO2 helps but not always a requirement. The more light your provide, the more need for CO2.
 
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