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Head is spinning and looking for some help getting started.

867 Views 5 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Hoppy
I've been doing a lot of reading about planted tanks and what is required to have a successful one and I feel like my head is spinning. There is so much information and I seem to get a lot of conflicting information. This is to be expected but it has made getting started a bit frustrating. So I'm hoping someone can give me some advice on a few things.

I have a 37 gallon tank that is about 22 inches tall. There is about 3 inches of eco-complete aquarium substrate on the bottom. Also, I have a fluval 205 filter and a 150w fluval heater. Finally, there is a coralife/aqueon t5 fixture for lighting with a colormax and 6500k bulb.

So... my questions for now are...

Is my light fixture adequate light for a low tech setup or is it too much? How long does the light need to be on if I have no CO2? Would it be worth it to buy the hagen CO2 unit and how would that affect how long my light should be on and would it still be of adequate strength? Is the eco-complete a good enough substrate for a low tech system?

Any other input would be greatly appreciated. I apologize if these are stupid questions. Just need a starting boost.:help:
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Yes, there is many ways to do this. We get confused because people give their opinion in a way that puts down other methods. At the end, it's about having fun.

This is my opinion, it may be different than others but doesn't mean that a different way is wrong. As long as it works... It's all good.

The first thing to understand is the law of the minimum.'s_law_of_the_minimum

The second thing to understand is that light dictates what you need in therms of co2 and nutrients.

Now, if there is enough nutrients and co2, doesn't matter much what kind of light you have. This is very easy if you follow the Estimative Index dosing method. It provides everything the plants need to grow.

If you don't want co2, well, then somebody will have to tell you about your light and how to have low light. With low light you can skip co2 and ferts for the most part. Although is better to have extra everything but light.

The biggest and most common mistake we make is to start a tank with just a few plants. It needs to be fully planted from day 1. Plants will stabilize the tank. Otherwise your welcoming algae unless you are doing a blackout nitrogen cycle.

I would suggest you to do it like this:

1-Plant the heck out of it. Here in TPT plants are the cheapest. Make sure you have enough surface agitation without splashing, u don't want surface scum. Light 6hr max for now. (if you can get a paintball co2 now, do it)

2-get a master test kit. Test your water source and you tank. Some places have it almost all coming from the tap!

3-get dry fertilizers, save money.

4-save some money to get a paintball co2 system. Co2 makes your hobby more enjoyable. ;) then doesn't matter the light intensity, you will have the tools to keep up.

Co2 is the main limiting factor, without it (if needed), plants cannot use the nutrients available, doesnt matter how much you put in the tank. Only algae can use them. Assuming your light needs co2. But even in low light, plants do better with co2. Oh, and usually the main reason for algae is lack of co2. (ok,ok, I like co2)

I have a tank without co2, so don't get me wrong. But I want to install co2 soon.

And the last thing: overkill filtration, there is nothing worse than milky waters, also IME algae doesn't thrive with a lot of filtration.

I hope this helps because I have no clue what to say about your light. Ask Hoppy.
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I agree with everything pejerrey said but if you can achieve low light you can definitely do things more simply as he indicated. So I will chime in on that part.
According to Hoppy's chart seen here

Looks like you definitely have low light. I'm assuming the light is directly on top of the tank and that it is the Coralife T5NO. If it is a T5HO then you would be in medium to high light.

If you have low light (T5NO)
You can have plants that don't need the extra added fertilizer, they won't grow as fast, but it is possible to have a heavily planted tank with just fish as the nutrient source and a light source. You would need to choose hardy, undemanding plants like java moss, java fern, certain cryptocorynes among others.

I try to do the EI dosing but alot of times i get busy and forget to just not take the time and my plants are doing just fine.

If you have medium or high light (T5HO)
If you want more demanding plants or want faster growth then medium or high light is great, just do what pejerry said and look into fertilizers and CO2. But if you don't want the medium or high light and want to go for a lower light tank you can reduce the intensity of your light by choosing one of the following methods. Use floating plants, not only do they shade the tank they do a good job taking care of nitrates. Use mesh window screen or light diffuser. Both can be found at hardware stores and will reduce light intensity. Raise your light, if you raise it to about 12 inches above the water surface this should put you into low light.
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Agreed with kamikaze.
look into active substrates.if you have low light, that may be enough nutrients. Look into substrates that won't be messy if you change your mind and want to move a plant.
The lighting you have is quite low. I assume it's 2x T5NO 14watt bulbs since I have the same fixtures as backups. And the height of the tank will most likely pose some challenges for growing even low light plants.
A good light to use is the FishNeedIt 2 bulb T5HO light. This would give you good low light with it sitting on top of the tank. The Coralife (Aqueon) T5NO would be very low light, probably too low to work well at all. Don't assume that the FishNeedIt light is the same as other 2 bulb T5HO lights. It isn't. It give a light intensity higher than the Coralifee light, but considerably less than good T5HO lights. See
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