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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi everyone,

I'm new to the hobby. My 4 year old daughter wanted an aquarium and me being me I'm down a rabbit hole and enjoying it, but a little overwhelmed. I have quite a few questions, mainly around plants, but any general advice on my planned setup would be awesome.

I'm looking for low maintenance plants for an aquascape that I'll be doing in a 65 gallon, 36" L x 21" W x 20" Ht JBJ all in one. Some additional information can be found below.

  • No CO2 planned, but know a local source and if the benefits are great and not a ton of maintenance, I might go that route. Any recommendations on a good set up for this?
  • Want low maintenance overall. I understand the regular maintenance, but if i can stay away from really fast growing plants, that's what I'd like. Having two young kids require a lower maintenance tank.
  • plan to use 2 AI prime freshwater lights on 18 inch arms
  • want shrimp and snails, maybe pleco to keep algae at bay
  • want a school of platy or tetra and maybe angelfish
  • Want a natural scape with large Driftwood on one side and smaller stones on the other side with a path of sand or gravel in the middle. I like the Iwagumi layout, but I want a little more going on... less simplistic.
  • Using ADA Amazonia ver.2. Not sure on what kind of sand or gravel. Recommendations?
  • Plan to make a steeper slope with nylon net bag and lava rock
  • 2 Jager 200 watt heaters in the sump area of the AOI
Foreground
I'd like a dense carpet look and low to the ground. It's ok if it grows slow and takes a while to fill in since I don't want to trim as much.
I like S. repens. I also like Monte Carlo and dwarf baby tears, but wondering your thoughts about having to trim more often (no CO2). Dwarf Sag is also something I was looking into.

Midground
Cryptocoryne Wendtii Red or green for a front corner or in front and base of rocks and driftwood.
I'd like something else around the base of the driftwood, maybe Java fern and Java Moss, maybe Anubias.

Background
Not a huge fan of long flowing grass that floats across the water, so I'm thinking something like a sword or larger Anubias.
Are there grasses that are more up and down only and not so flow-like?

Should I just go with a package like below and make my life easier?
20 Gallon Low Light Plant Package - Planted Aquariums Central

Another option was below for $95
3 pots of Narrow Leaf Micro Swords or Pigmy Chain Sword (foreground)
4 rooted Red Wendtii or Cardinal Plant (foreground or mid-ground)
3 Java Ferns or 3 Lace Java Fern, or 3 Pinwheel Swords (mid-ground)
2 Anubias nana (mid-ground)
2 Anubias Frazeri (mid to background)
2 Red flame sword, or Ozelot Sword (background)
2 Amazon swords (background)
16 Italian Vallisnaria or Cryptocoryne Spiralis or 12 Dwarf Onion Plants or 12 Quillwort or Tall Narrowleaf Sagittaria(background)
1 Medium Marimo ball AKA moss ball (anywhere)

Don't be shy telling me I need to rethink some things or I'm wrong with any of this..

In the South Denver area if anyone wants to come help set up ;)

Thank you so much for the help!
Michael
 

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Start slow. If you're not going to be using co2 I strongly discourage dwarf baby tears and even monte carlo is not beginner friendly. S repens may be an option but without high lighting and co2 it will be a lot less compact than you see in most aquascape pictures.

My honest suggestion is that you start off with some java fern, java moss, anubias, hornwort, crypts and other easy low maintenance plants to get you used to figuring out photoperiods and balancing your tank while cycling. Once you've got the basic you can decide if you want to take the plunge into something more colorful and a bit more difficult.

Aquasoil will leech ammonia so you're going to need to devote the time to properly cycle your tank before adding any livestock. If you haven't yet you're going to want to pick up a test kit or separate tests for- at bare minimum- ammonia, nitrite and nitrate to be able to track your cycle. Whether you cycle with plants in or not is up to you. I've, personally, never cycled unplanted but if I set up a new tank with aquasoil I want to try it. I've cycled many tanks using aquasoil planted using the standard 50% water change practices and have not had any issues.

Most long leafed plants that extend to the surface are going to be flowy I can't think of any that aren't. You could use larger java ferns (narrow leaf and windelov come to mind) but they aren't particularly grass like.

The most important thing I think you can do is research the plants that you're interested in and figure out the parameters that you are going to need to keep them and what they require for the type of growth you're looking for (some plants will love perfectly in low tech/ no tech set ups but they look vastly different from their high light/ high nutrient counterparts) and figure out if you can match their requirements.

Good luck!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
@Plinkploop I really appreciate your response. I like the idea of a slow start, just didn't know since some people suggest planting heavy in the beginning to help cycle the tank, please correct me if I'm wrong.

I have an API FR master test kit coming in the mail and I'm going to be testing both my tap water and the filtered and softened water I use for my coffee addiction. I want to get a baseline before I start cycling. I'll probably cycle with plants, though. Do you recommend aquasoil for a beginner?
 

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You know, I don't really think it makes a difference whether you use Aquasoil or not as a beginner because if it's your first experience you're not really going to have a learning curve because you haven't learned any different. Inert or normal aquarium and and gravel definitely have their plus sides like permanency, predictability and price but the flip side of it is they hold no nutrients for your plants, they usually aren't graded properly for root development and you have a pretty limited selection of plants that will grow (add root tabs and you have a few more). The one thing I will say, though as that if this will be your only tank and you like the idea of aquasoil do it right and start it with aquasoil, you can always add the additional lighting and CO2 if you want to go high tech and you won't have to worry about what to do with your livestock and plants while you cycle the aquasoil. Another plus with starting with aquasoil is you don't have to add any ammonia to start your cycle, just add conditioned water (or remineralized rodi) and perform scheduled water changes, super simple.

Planting heavily does help cycle your tank by giving the ammonia leeched by the soil (technically ammonium I believe) a purpose. In aquasoil it is a little better to plant as much as you can but it's not really a necessity. Just expect excess nutrients to be an issue in the beginning if you plant sparsely and counteract with additional water changes.

Definitely a good idea to test your water sources. If you have city water you can usually get a water quality report, that's what I have to use for a lot of my base lines because I live in the middle of nowhere with no access to test supplies locally and currently no mail routes deliver to my house lol.
 

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I wouldn’t count on a nice carpet of those plants without active substrate and co2. I have Marsilea in the foreground of a low tech tank. I wouldn’t call it a carpet but it grows fairly well and looks nice. You say you don’t want fast growing plants. They are helpful while the tank is getting settled. You could throw in an inexpensive fast growing stem as a floater to help with excess nutrients at first. Toss it when you are ready.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
@Plinkploop I think i'm going to have a go at the ADA aquasoil since I may end up getting CO2... Are you saying i don't have to add a nitrifying bacteria in order to cycle with aquasoil. If I already have it, would it help or make things worse? In response to your statement, "Another plus with starting with aquasoil is you don't have to add any ammonia to start your cycle, just add conditioned water (or remineralized rodi)" which direction would you take? Would you condition the water or remineralize my filtered and softened water? Do you have a preferred product for remineralization?

Also, that's insane about your mail! You must live out in the middle of nowhere!
Thanks again for all of your help!
 

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Sorry for the late reply. I used my tap water- I have perfect tap for planted tanks. Nitrifying bacteria is different than ammonia, but I, personally, use it minimally, but only because I have a lot of mature filter media that essentially does the same thing. For a new start up without seeded media I would use start up bacteria as directed. I've been known to use microbe lift's nite out for start up and special blend before deep cleans. As for remineralization, I'm not yet on to that aspect in practice, yet, but I have picked up some shrimp king for once I'm completely cycled and before I add shrimp. I'm not 100% on how to advise you there.

My comment on not needing to add anything to kick off your cycle when using aquasoil was referring to ammonia. If you use inert gravel you have to add ammonia by some means to start the process of cycling. With aquasoils they leech ammonia and will automatically start your cycle. That's why amazonia and other active soils have the strict water change start ups prescribed for using their soils. Just stick to their instructions (50% water changes per day first week, every other day second week, twice a week 3rd week and once a week thereafter) and test and track your cycle.
 

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Would you condition the water or remineralize my filtered and softened water? Do you have a preferred product for remineralization?
Don't remineralize unless you have to. You would want to remineralize if you have 400+ ppm TDS or 8+ GH for example. My aquarium had a TDS of 540 so I started remineralizing a couple of months ago. It has been a lot of extra work compared to just using the tap water. I don't know if you already have one, but these RO units are slow and wasteful. Going to the water store is even harder because you'll be hauling hundreds of pounds of water. Personally, I haul the water because I don't think my wife would tolerate two hours of making RO water at the kitchen sink.

I reconstitute my water to 6 dGH for my Otocinclus. I add 3 dKH because I'm trying to reestablish my filter. The recipe I use is my own but you can buy proprietary mixes like Seachem Equilibrium. All you need is some Calcium Sulfate, Magnesium Sulfate and Potassium Bicarbonate to make your own remineralizer. There are other possible combinations of compounds you can use.
 

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Here to give non-plant advice:

What shrimp and what snails do you want? If you're going for the dwarves (Neocaridina and most Caridinas), angelfish are going to be out of the picture, and platies will be hard on the population unless you start it very early on. Larger ones like amanos might do better but I've never tried amanos with angels before. Tetras may also be a really bad choice.

Pleco - I believe that you'd want a BNP, a bushynose pleco for algae control. That being said, I'd much rather go with a school of otos and herd of amano shrimp before resorting to a BNP again. One I had for a few years wouldn't eat pellets, wafers, whatever, and only munched on my amazon sword plant's leaves....
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
@Savetheplants i think I’m going to try tap water to make my life easier. I’ll have to see how my water is for TDS and GH. Do you have a recommended test kit? I have the API master freshwater kit, but that’s only ph and nitrate nitrite and ammonia. I tested my tap ph and it ended up being close to 8, pretty high.

@ichthyogeeki was thinking nerite snails. I was also thinking starting with a young angelfish to watch it grow.
What shrimp and what snails do you want? If you're going for the dwarves (Neocaridina and most Caridinas), angelfish are going to be out of the picture, and platies will be hard on the population unless you start it very early on.
I’m thinking Amano shrimp. What do you mean potatoes will be hard on the population unless you start early on. I’d love more clarity there. Thanks!

it’s unfortunate to hear about you BNP, I love the way they look, but I like the idea of otos as well. I definitely don’t want my swords being eaten.
Overall, would you recommend taking the angelfish out? Is there another larger fish that wouldn’t be so hungry for smaller fish?
 

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Well, potatoes just rot, which cherry shrimp don't really like. All those added starches just make a bacterial bloom happen, which sucks out oxygen as well as the bacteria multiply as well.

Jokes about auto-correct aside: platies are at the right size to pick off any freshly hatched dwarf shrimp, and they're voracious enough to make a pretty big dent in the population if there isn't already a number of shrimp in that tank that are already breeding. The more baby shrimp you have in a densely planted tank, the more likely you are to get survivors when you have shrimp eating fish.

Nerites will work, they won't breed, but they'll work. Just be mindful of the eggs.

If it's just amanos, you could try them with angelfish. But most of the fish you listed are going to be hard on dwarf shrimp. The angelfish won't pick on adult platies, but will most likely snack on any fry. Any tetras you get should be less "neon tetra" shaped (tiny torpedoes) and more solidly built (black skirt tetras, etc.) or larger (emperor tetras, etc.). You can, of course go with the classic rummynose and/or cardinal tetra schools; just make sure to add them while the angelfish is still small and can't predate on them. You may still lose a few every now and then though.
 

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i think I’m going to try tap water to make my life easier. I’ll have to see how my water is for TDS and GH. Do you have a recommended test kit? I have the API master freshwater kit, but that’s only ph and nitrate nitrite and ammonia. I tested my tap ph and it ended up being close to 8, pretty high.
Your life is going to be so much easier. This hobby requires strategic budgeting of your time IMO. I grew up drinking Denver water. I looked up your water quality report and it looks like you will be able to work with the tap water. However, your water hardness will vary with the season. The water collected to the North (Mt Evans) will be soft and the water collected to the South (Pikes Peak) will be hard. You should test your water if you do large water changes to prevent osmotic shock from killing your fish. Here is a link for a cheap TDS pen:
You can get an API GH & KH test kit from somewhere. The TDS pen will probably be enough to keep your fish safe. TDS pens are fussy instruments that have to be calibrated every fifteen uses. If your tap water test much softer than your tank water you should either do a smaller 20% or less water change or drip in the new water with some constricted air tubing if you do a larger 50% water change.

You use CO2 or a weak acid to lower the high pH. @Deanna has an impressive acumen on this subject. She says you can use a weak acid called Fulvic Acid in a powder form to lower your pH. Some people boil leaves or filter peat moss to lower their pH. This hobby can get really arcane with the water processing techniques. I tried filtering peat moss once but had to knock it off because it was so messy and such a time sink.
 
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The more I read about CO2, the more I’m thinking I’m going to use it. Do you all have a recommendation on a good setup I can buy. I have a place down the road from me that’s pretty cheap to fill up.

Also, because I have a sump area in the all in one JBJ 65 gallon that I have, I’m going to use an intank filter basket. Near the intake I’m thinking filter floss or quilted batting for the water to go through first and then seachem matrix for the bio filter. I’ll use purogen as needed. It’s 4” x 4” if that matters. Do you think that will work well?
 
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