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Hello,

What would be the easiest setup for requiring no CO2 or ferts or hopefully no soil?

Currently I have 10 gallon with 10 tetras that was supposed to be planted, but all plants die. Marimo moss balls, crypts. I tried dwarf hairgrass at one point it died. I had some sort of stem platns they died. I have lots of green algae that wipes away easily. The soil is a laeyr of sand over eco-complete. The bulbs are 2 12W CFLs... They are on for 8 hours a day. I tried 20W before and got too much algae and tried hjaving lights on longer and got too much algae.

The nly thing that stays alive is anubias nano, which grow lots of algae on the leaves. They have loght colored leaves that cluster densely. They dont really grow much.

Is there an easier way to do things.

Thank you,
 

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There are some plants that can probably survive in your setup without soil or fertilization, but while that's what is easy for you, that's a tough environment for plants. There isn't going to be much nutrition from the waste of 10 tetra, so your only move is to get the most robust plants and accept slow growth. Java fern and java moss will probably be ok if you can get the algae under control and you probably have way too much light.
 

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Agree that you need to change what you are doing if you want to be successful with plants. If you want to keep with the CFL bulbs then I would get rid of one of those bulbs. For a 10 gallon growing anubias you only need 1. If you want more coverage switch to a cheap aquarium led bar style of light. Something like a nicrew or Beamswork EA.

Anyway you need to add ferts to the tank if you want a chance of things going well with plants. Despite what the package says, eco-complete is inert and does not add any nutrients to the tank. In the bag when you first bought eco-complete there was a little bit of liquid ferts but that was only enough for the first week or first water change, whichever happened first. In other words right now you are trying to grow plants in a fairly nutrient deprived environment. The solution is to buy a liquid fertilizer. There are a few all in ones out there that mean you only need to dose once a week when you do a 50% water change. Nicolg ThriveC is popular for low tech tanks here. Easy Green is another popular option.

Hopefully this is helpful.
 

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Hi! Dont get discouraged, the tanks you see here took many years to get perfect 🙂

I have a sand bottom tank with only shrimps, and what's grown well for me in that is amazon sword with a flourish root tab pushed in when you first plant it, water sprite which you can just leave floating as stems, and pogostemon which also can be floated. Cut your lights down to maybe 4 hours a day. As someone above said, EZ green is a simple fert, I do a couple pumps in my 36G once a month.

I think thats about as low effort as you can go to be successful with that substrate and setup. To avoid algae, less light and less food are always a good choice, fish arent like cats and dogs, they dont need multiple meals a day.

Good luck!
 

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Thank you everyone. Is there some maximum amount that shouldn't be exceeded with fertilization? I guess the answer is to start small and work up?

Bump: Thank you everyone. Is there some maximum amount that shouldn't be exceeded with fertilization? I guess the answer is to start small and work up?
 

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With liquid fertilizers I start with dosing less than what's recommended, until i can see how the plants react.
Setting the light on a dimmable timer, and raising it up off the top of the tank really helped as well.
 

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Thank you everyone. Is there some maximum amount that shouldn't be exceeded with fertilization? I guess the answer is to start small and work up?
I just follow package directions. Both thrive and easy green come in a pump bottle and will say 1 pump per 5 or 10 gallons depending on which you are talking about.
 

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This is very helpful information.

As far as nutritional substrate is concerned, is soil something which can last the lifespan of the tank, would fertilization in ther water column be necessary with soil? I know that tabs must be replaced every so often.
 

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You ask 10 people on this board you're going to get 10 different answers. There are many different way's to keeping low tech. The key is a large plant mass to out compete algae. The main thing is to feed your plants enough for them to grow so algae don't take over. You'd be surprised with what you can grow with a single fluorescent tube light on a 10 gallon. You have to find balance between light nutrients and fish waste.

You don't need dirt if you dose the water column. There is a method of dosing dry ferts used in high tech planted tanks called the estimative index. What ever tank size I use I dose 1 EI dose at half strength a week after a 50% water change. The day after I do my water change and EI dose I dose the recommended amount of Flourish comprehensive.

Here this is a good read and should help you understand.

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

On my 55 gallon tank I dose 1/8 tsp KNO3 (potassium nitrate) 1/32 tsp KH2PO4 (potassium phosphate) right after my water change. The next day I dose 1 cap of Flourish comprehensive. If by the middle of the week my plants look hungy (slumping over) I'll add another cap of Flourish comprehensive.

My tank is loaded with crypts and anubias. It can be done with swords too. The plants can absorb ferts from the water column.

I use small pea gravel for a substrate. I like the caribsea supernaturals gravel.

If you use the method I discribe and you're still getting algae you lights are too bright. If that's the case add floating plants like frogbit salvinia or duckweed.
 

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This is very helpful information.

As far as nutritional substrate is concerned, is soil something which can last the lifespan of the tank, would fertilization in ther water column be necessary with soil? I know that tabs must be replaced every so often.
Soooo it depends on your standards for healthy growth and the plants you choose. Also over what time period you are speaking of. If you want something that will be growing healthy for less than a year soil by itself will work. Though much slower growth after 6 months. If you are talking about over a year then no you need something more unless your only plants are the super easy ones like pearl weed, hornwort and guppy grass. In which case ya, you don't need to add anything else.

But let's assume you want to add a variety of plants and you want the tank to last longer than a year. In that case you need to add fertilizer and as someone who has done a few dirt tanks I feel comfortable saying they are not worth the trouble. If you want a nutrient rich substrate go with aquasoil or aquasoil capped by sand. All of the advantages of dirt without the negatives except you will have to pay 20 or so dollars for a bag and that will be plenty for small tanks.
 

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horn wort and guppy grass can get annoying and take over your tank as a floater, but it does well to out compete the algae. I keep some in a few of my tanks and rotate it around to the tanks as they have algae blooms and it does a nice job to recalibrate everything. They just aren't pretty to look at and they don't really "float" all that well.
 

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You ask 10 people on this board you're going to get 10 different answers. There are many different way's to keeping low tech. The key is a large plant mass to out compete algae. The main thing is to feed your plants enough for them to grow so algae don't take over. You'd be surprised with what you can grow with a single fluorescent tube light on a 10 gallon. You have to find balance between light nutrients and fish waste.

You don't need dirt if you dose the water column. There is a method of dosing dry ferts used in high tech planted tanks called the estimative index. What ever tank size I use I dose 1 EI dose at half strength a week after a 50% water change. The day after I do my water change and EI dose I dose the recommended amount of Flourish comprehensive.

Here this is a good read and should help you understand.

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

On my 55 gallon tank I dose 1/8 tsp KNO3 (potassium nitrate) 1/32 tsp KH2PO4 (potassium phosphate) right after my water change. The next day I dose 1 cap of Flourish comprehensive. If by the middle of the week my plants look hungy (slumping over) I'll add another cap of Flourish comprehensive.

My tank is loaded with crypts and anubias. It can be done with swords too. The plants can absorb ferts from the water column.

I use small pea gravel for a substrate. I like the caribsea supernaturals gravel.

If you use the method I discribe and you're still getting algae you lights are too bright. If that's the case add floating plants like frogbit salvinia or duckweed.
Wow that was a great guide. I think the only question I had would be that without using a nutrient rich substrate or usnig root tabs, would heavy root feeding plants be out of the questioN?
 

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You don't need root tabs for root feeders. They can absorb nutrients through their leaves. The only time I'd use root tabs is if I had a large sword plant or something. And if you should ever use them make sure you have a deep substrate. If root tabs leach into your water column it will cause algae issues.

With that guide I use seachem flourish once a week instead of seachem equilibrium. I also do 1 50% water change a week and dose KNO3 and KH2PO4 directly after a water change. I wait until the next day to dose flourish comprehensive because the dechlorinator I use can neutralize certain trace elements. The dechlorinator is active for 24 hours.

Also I just use small pea gravel. I'd start with only crypts and anubias. I noticed plant substrates absorb to many nutrients from the water column causing problems with my anubias getting nutrients. The more plants the better. A large plant mass once growing will outcompete algae. My anubias only put out 1 leaf a week. So don't expect fast growth. As long as the plants stay healthy it algae shouldn't take over.

For lighting I have a fluval fresh and plant 3.0 and it's super bright. I dim it down somewhere between 1/2 and 1/4 brightness. Crypts and abubias do not need a lot of light. I have my timer on 8 hours a day.
 

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I tried to grow plants in gravel for years, but they all eventually died. You really should try a little soil. Here's a quick way to set up a new tank:
1. Sprinkle potting soil about an inch deep on the bottom of an empty tank.
2. Add enough water to bring its level up to just above the soil. Swirl the soil/water around and smooth/even it all out.
3. Put and light your lights over the mixture, leave the top off and just wait for the water to slowly evaporate until the soil is smooth and compacted down as the water evaporates.
4. The above will probably take two weeks or so, maybe longer. You can now sprinkly whatever gravel or sand on top of the soil that you want. An inch or two will suffice and it should all sit on top of the soil.
5. You can now slowly add water to the your tank (invert a plate and slowly pour the water onto it) without having a bunch of sediments floating around, loose soil, perlite, and so on. With the tank half full of water, plant the plants you want; remove the lead weights many plants come with, unbunch them, and so on. Your plants are going to grow prolifically once fish are in the tank and providing the ammonia they need for fertilizer (which they will absorb through their leaves, btw).
6. Add you fish. NO cichlids as they will root around the bottom digging burrows, nests, dens, holes, and so on completely stirring up the mud under your gravel and making a general mess of your tank and clogging your filter.
7. Add a pleco to keep the glass clean of algae and a few catfish to keep the gravel clean (your pleco will grow quite large over a few years, maybe an inch a year).
8. If you can find them put some trumpet snails in your tank. They burrow down into the gravel during the day, eat the accumulating garbage and at night, in the dark, will come out to clean the rest of the tank and eat the offal. Nirile (sp?) snails are also good to add; they only reproduce in briny water so will not reproduce in a freshwater tank, so if you add five you won't suddenly find 50!
Piece of cake, and please, don't be afraid of putting soil in your tank. You'll end up with more plants than you'll know what to do with and they will proliferate. Your main problem will be keeping them all trimmed back!
 

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^^^ Soil is another option but to start with I had severe algae outbreaks in the beginning.

The first most basic things you need to learn is light management vs nutrients. The more light the more co2 plants need. With a lot of light and no co2 you'll just grow algae.

The 2nd thing you need to understand is nutrients and how plants use them.

The 3rd thing you need is how to find a balance between light and nutrients.

With a 10 gallon tank get a single fluorescent tube light and learn to grow plants with it. You'd be surprised at what you can grow. There is a whole slew of crypts and anubias to choose from. Start with that and use either a dirt substrate or learn to use ferts. A 10 gallon tank is a rather inexpensive tank to start with because it won't cost a lot for plants. Learn the basics and don't be afraid to experiment. Do what you think is best. Take small steps and learn the basics as you go.

When you feel your ready don't underestimate the guide I posted. I started using it 5 years ago and I modified it to fit my needs. I prefer dosing dry ferts over dirt. Dry ferts can be intimidating at first.

When you start your planted tank if your anubias gets covered in algae don't throw them out. Soak them is 20 parts water to 1 part bleach for 5 minutes. Rinse them really well and put them in a container with a bunch of extra dechlorinator. There are guides on youtube of how to do it. They'll clean up like new. Anubias are the toughest plants around. Unfortunately you can't bleach crypts it will kill them.
 

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To get back to your original topic about growing plants without CO2 injection (guess no liquid Carbon as well?), and no fertilizers:

So WHY are you even thinking about even starting with live plants? Why not just have artificial plants and keep your fish? Not everyone has to have live plants.


You seemed to start off this topic in a way like saying "I want to have children but I only want to have children that will never get into trouble and be easy to maintain until they are 18".


If one decides they wish to have a "live" planted aquarium, they should research what steps they should take to have a successful "live" planted aquarium and research the different types of fertilizers available. Living plants like a certain amount of light per day and require periodic fertilizers and carbon (whether they get the carbon from CO2 injection or in liquid form). This is the way it is. If you wish to be introduced into having a successful "live" planted aquarium, best to start with a low-tech setup in which the types of plants require less overall care and can handle less carbon.
 
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