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Okay I just joined about 20 minutes ago and after thoroughly combing the website I could not find a thread with FAQ's and Do's and Donts of planted tanks(I tried the search feature)

I have recently set up my 55 tank moving up from my previous 29 gallon setup. I originally wanted cichlids, but I decided to go a different direction due the limitations caused by their aggressiveness. So I decided to setup a tetra tank and while at my LFS that was going out of business I decided to go with a planted tank.

Now here are where my questions begin unlike most of the tanks i have seen thus far on this forum the fish in my tank are my top priority but i would love to add as many plants as possible.

I currently have
3 Amazon Swords
1 fern
3 Short plants whose name has slipped my mind

I have 2 8k lights that i keep on 12 hours a day. I also treat my tank once a week with a cap full of flourish.

How do you know whats an adequate amount of light ?
What determines if you need Co2 or not?
Are there specific types of lights that are better then others?
How can you tell if you plants are thriving?
What maintenance is required to keep plants healthy?

Thanks for reading all of that
 

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How do you know whats an adequate amount of light ?
A general rule of thumb if you have regular fluorescent (T-8) bulbs or compact fluorescent bulbs is at least 1.5 - 2 watts per gallon...so for your tank you are looking to have at least 85 watts of light for a "low-light" planted aquarium. Because the new bulbs (T-5 and T-5HO) are much more efficient, this same amount of light with those bulbs would be considered a "medium to high light" planted aquarium.

What determines if you need Co2 or not?
CO2 will help any planted setup but become necessary when you have really high amounts of light (3+ watts per gallon) to avoid growing algae.

Are there specific types of lights that are better then others?
T-5 and T-5HO lights are considered to be the most efficient lighting for a planted tank.

How can you tell if you plants are thriving?
Steady amount of new growth, no yellowing, holes or disintegration, vibrant colors.

What maintenance is required to keep plants healthy?
In this order:
1. Enough light
2. A source of carbon (Flourish Excel, DIY or Pressurized CO2)
3. Macro nutrients (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium)
4. Calcium and Magnesium (if not present in your tap water use GH Supplement like Seachem's Equilibrium)
4. Micro or Trace Nutrients (Iron, Manganese, Sodium and others)

As a general recommendation, I would get your lighting setup figured out and plant a significantly larger amount of plants that you listed about. Perhaps 4-5 times the amount for a 55 gallon tank. You are start with more fast growing (cheaper) plants and switch them out with plants that you like better once the tank is stabilized and your cycle is complete.
 

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I have recently set up my 55 tank moving up from my previous 29 gallon setup. I originally wanted cichlids, but I decided to go a different direction due the limitations caused by their aggressiveness. So I decided to setup a tetra tank and while at my LFS that was going out of business I decided to go with a planted tank.

Now here are where my questions begin unlike most of the tanks i have seen thus far on this forum the fish in my tank are my top priority but i would love to add as many plants as possible.
There are some cichlids that would be ok with a planted 55. Angelfish, of course, or discus. You can also do some of the smaller, less aggressive cichlids like German Blue or Bolivian Rams, or some Apistogramma species. They're colorful and interesting and still have some aggression, but do well in a community and planted setup. I've also kept Firemouths in planted tanks successfully, but they will munch on smaller inhabitants like most tetras, and they do dig and rearrange plants a little, though not as badly as African cichlids.

My fish are also my first priority; to me the plants are just there to give the fish a nice, decorative habitat. There are quite a few people on here who have fish-less planted tanks, but that sort of setup does not interest me at all. I'm more of a fish keeper than a gardener. =) One thing I like about a heavily planted tank is that I can overstock a bit since the plants act as a natural filter. The fish also seem to act more relaxed and natural in a planted tank.

I would agree that you should get your tank filled up with plants from the start. I struggled for years to plant a tank, just buying one or two plants at a time, because that's all my LFS had, and I would get tons of algae and poor growth. Then I tried just filling the tank full with more plants than I wanted, bought online, and it took right off. I don't know all the science behind it, but it really does seem to work better.
 
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