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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am considering a largish low tech tank with just giant swords, draft wood and fishes. The objective is to have a low tech, lower maintenance tank that is mainly to display fishes with the giant swords as back ground. I am inspired by this tank but would like to take a low tech approach and no discus.


But how to strike that balance? in a say 240g tank with say 3-4 full grown giant swords, low light environment, minimum water changes (that's after reading Barr's low tech article), no CO2, just tabs. What amount of fishes would it take to produce enough waste to keep the swords going?
 

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Tom Barr's(NON CO2 Method) includes adding dry fertilizer's which are cheap, and no harder to dose than feeding fish.
Only need to add them once a week or two for low tech NON CO2,low maint.
As for the fully grown sword plant's,I might create my own DIY root tab's by sprinkling some Osmocote+ (walmart) pellet's in ice cube tray with some water, and placing one or two at base of each sword plant once every couple month's.
The large sword plant's in my view will need at least four inches of substrate up to six inches for fully grown Mother plat's or XXL Sword plant's such as you might see offered at aquariumplants.com
I have grown them to where they became too big for my 80 gal low tech by using two to three inches of plain old top soil (no additives), covered with another two inches of sand or fine gravel.
Root mass on these large sword's can get to size of a grapefruit or larger and spread out considerably so long as nutrient's are available at both the root's,and water column as well.
Lot's of leaves may be shed during adaptation period from growing emersed at plant nurseries, to fully submerged in your/my tank but once they adapt ,,they will thrive under low to moderate light.
Will do poorly in inert/shallow substrates over the long haul without afore mentioned nutrient's for they are nutrient hog's.
My two cent's.
 

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I had several sword plants in my 75g and they regularly reached the surface of the tank and I would trim leaves. My suggestion, to achieve what you see there, is pretty simple.

I would find a nice viewing light LED, something pretty low powered for your tank. Something to literally only view the fish. Then I would add a couple of spiral CFLs in shop lights above the swords. I'm sure a single fixture over each side with 13-23w CFLs will be enough light to grow those swords, depending on tank depth. Then all you need is simple root tabs in inert sand. I never dosed anything to my tank aside from the initial O+ sprinkled on the bottom of the tank when I was putting sand in the tank.

In my opinion, swords are easy, non-demanding, plants. If you see deficiencies, you can adjust and even do the low tech dosing. Swords have broad leaves, so deficiencies are pretty easy to pick up on too.

Basically, I agree with what road master said but I would add the idea of general viewing light with only low lighting placed above the swords. This will grow the plants with 'spot lights' and keep the rest of the tank/substrate/glass algae free.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Tom Barr's(NON CO2 Method) includes adding dry fertilizer's which are cheap, and no harder to dose than feeding fish.
Only need to add them once a week or two for low tech NON CO2,low maint.
As for the fully grown sword plant's,I might create my own DIY root tab's by sprinkling some Osmocote+ (walmart) pellet's in ice cube tray with some water, and placing one or two at base of each sword plant once every couple month's.
The large sword plant's in my view will need at least four inches of substrate up to six inches for fully grown Mother plat's or XXL Sword plant's such as you might see offered at aquariumplants.com
I have grown them to where they became too big for my 80 gal low tech by using two to three inches of plain old top soil (no additives), covered with another two inches of sand or fine gravel.
Root mass on these large sword's can get to size of a grapefruit or larger and spread out considerably so long as nutrient's are available at both the root's,and water column as well.
Lot's of leaves may be shed during adaptation period from growing emersed at plant nurseries, to fully submerged in your/my tank but once they adapt ,,they will thrive under low to moderate light.
Will do poorly in inert/shallow substrates over the long haul without afore mentioned nutrient's for they are nutrient hog's.
My two cent's.
Adding dry fert is no problem, as you said, it's like feeding one's fishes. I am wondering how low can one get away with when it comes to lights?

I had several sword plants in my 75g and they regularly reached the surface of the tank and I would trim leaves. My suggestion, to achieve what you see there, is pretty simple.

I would find a nice viewing light LED, something pretty low powered for your tank. Something to literally only view the fish. Then I would add a couple of spiral CFLs in shop lights above the swords. I'm sure a single fixture over each side with 13-23w CFLs will be enough light to grow those swords, depending on tank depth. Then all you need is simple root tabs in inert sand. I never dosed anything to my tank aside from the initial O+ sprinkled on the bottom of the tank when I was putting sand in the tank.

In my opinion, swords are easy, non-demanding, plants. If you see deficiencies, you can adjust and even do the low tech dosing. Swords have broad leaves, so deficiencies are pretty easy to pick up on too.

Basically, I agree with what road master said but I would add the idea of general viewing light with only low lighting placed above the swords. This will grow the plants with 'spot lights' and keep the rest of the tank/substrate/glass algae free.
Any recommendation on viewing LEDs? Nice use of these goes a long way towards algae control. I suppose I can just switch them on during viewing hours, or have some on regularly with additional ones for those special show off occasions.

When it comes to the "spot lights", what if the tank is real deep, say 24"? Would those 13-23W jobs penetrate that deep? But then, Swords probably don't need much lights at their stem or substrate level, it's all about those leaves, aren't they?
 

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Any recommendation on viewing LEDs? Nice use of these goes a long way towards algae control. I suppose I can just switch them on during viewing hours, or have some on regularly with additional ones for those special show off occasions.

When it comes to the "spot lights", what if the tank is real deep, say 24"? Would those 13-23W jobs penetrate that deep? But then, Swords probably don't need much lights at their stem or substrate level, it's all about those leaves, aren't they?
The cheap strip light LEDs on amazon are good viewing lights IMO. If you are really techy, the RGB LEDs with IR remotes can be controlled by arduino to simulate sunrise and sunset effects.


The CFLs will penetrate 24" no problem. I had 3 of the 13w over my 75g, which is 21" deep, and they were suspended about 8-10" above the tank. I was able to grow a carpet of dwarf sag with them and only went with a higher wattage bulb after add more plants. The 13W are definitely what you are going to want for a tank that is 24" deep. If you can hang them in the hood, that will give you room to adjust them too.


The CFLs in dome shop lights are very efficient at depth. By the time I took down my 75g tank, I had 4 of the 23w CFLs in the hood and had a very densely planted tank with floaters and a carpet of dwarf sag. I still kept those suspended 8" off of the top of the tank.


Amazon swords do absorb light through the leaves. That is one reason you don't need as much par at the substrate. The plants will rarely be at substrate level.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Just a thought, What about planting the giant motherplant swords in these 9.4"x9.4"x4.9" deep containers ( next size down would be 7"x7" x 3.6") I can drill two holes on the top lip for the plant and root tabs. Probably some small tiny holes on the sides for roots to reach out. I can use different growth media in the planter and leave the rest of tank with sand.

By using a container with lip, the plant could stay put even if I would to have strong cichlids that likes to pull and tank plants.



Rubbermaid Commercial Products - Rubbermaid Foodservice : 7H79 Premier Storage Container with Lid
 

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Just a thought, What about planting the giant motherplant swords in these 9.4"x9.4"x4.9" deep containers ( next size down would be 7"x7" x 3.6") I can drill two holes on the top lip for the plant and root tabs. Probably some small tiny holes on the sides for roots to reach out. I can use different growth media in the planter and leave the rest of tank with sand.

By using a container with lip, the plant could stay put even if I would to have strong cichlids that likes to pull and tank plants.



Rubbermaid Commercial Products - Rubbermaid Foodservice : 7H79 Premier Storage Container with Lid

My very first attempt's at plant's were with the sword plant's/crypt's planted in clay pot's in tank's holding large cichlid's that dig/dug up substrates.
Filled the terra cotta pot's 2/3 full of dirt,placed the young sword plant's in the dirt, and then placed fine gravel over top of the dirt and gently pulled up on the base of the plant a bit so shoulder of root ball was barely above the fine gravel and root's were no too compacted.
Then place the potted plant(s) in a tub of tank water or dechlorinated water to allow the air pocket's to burp into the tub rather than in the aquarium.(trust me)
About an hour in the tub,saved a huge cloudy mess in the tank.
This worked well, and plant's were easy to move about.
The soil lasted about 6 month's to a year, before it needed replaced due to nutrient depletion and the need for bigger pot lest the plant become root bound.
Regular pot's sold at garden center for plant's, with no hole in the bottom worked for me .:wink2:
I like the idea of spotlight over the sword's ,and have seen folk's use the spot type light's used in reptile tank's with perhaps a full spectrum bulb rather than UV or those used for the reptiles.
Would not take much light for viewing fishes ,but the sword's while not needing super bright light, will need moderate light IMHO.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
You know guys, I would be a happy trooper if Barr's non-CO2 approach works, that eliminates the need for CO2 and regular dosing. Plants growing slowly helps minimize need for trimming. Topping off water instead of changing helps too. I am the lazy sort that rather enjoying viewing my tank than getting all wet ...
Doing water changes adds CO2 back to a CO2 limited tank.
Plants and algae both can and do adapt to low CO2 environments and induce genes to make enzymes that concentrate CO2 around Rubisco, the CO2 fixing enzyme. When we add the CO2 at higher levels back, this causes the plants and algae to destroy the low CO2 enzymes and start growing without of them since they no longer need them to fix CO2 form the KH ( the -HCO3).
Why keep all this machinery around if you no longer need it? Doing weekly water changes "fools" the plants and helps encourage algae more. Algae are faster to respond to low CO2 than plants.
Spots lights is a great idea, that way, each sword has it's own dedicated light, one can even adjust and fine tune. I think I will have 3 plants, that is 13Wx3=39W, how cool is that. With the planters, clay pot or plastic tub, I can even have this. My photoshop skills are primitive, and of course rummy nose won't survive with Green Terrors. And GTs don't school, do they? lol
 

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The Green terror's would school while juveniles possibly,but as they reach sexual maturity(five inches or five months), then thing's would get sketchy.
Would be lovely (meant in a virile sort of way) , set up for a large group of Angelfish with possibly large school of larger bodied Tetra''s like Emperor tetra's or Lemon tetra's IMHO
 

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My only insight is don't overshoot your light. I did and my swords had to have most of their large beautiful leaves trimmed due to black algae around the edges. A dome light on either side will give you pretty good spread over those plants. I highly suggest starting off lower than higher. Swords can survive in minimal light and increasing the par with a spiral CFL bulb is quite easy!

I also like the idea of pots. If you have holes, the sword roots will get out. They are pretty evasive little plants.
 

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My only insight is don't overshoot your light. I did and my swords had to have most of their large beautiful leaves trimmed due to black algae around the edges. A dome light on either side will give you pretty good spread over those plants. I highly suggest starting off lower than higher. Swords can survive in minimal light and increasing the par with a spiral CFL bulb is quite easy!

I also like the idea of pots. If you have holes, the sword roots will get out. They are pretty evasive little plants.

Yes^ Placing the sword's in pot's would bring them closer to the light, so maybe not as much needed as young plant's starting out from substrate.
Truly a balance?:grin2:
 

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Yes^ Placing the sword's in pot's would bring them closer to the light, so maybe not as much needed as young plant's starting out from substrate.
Truly a balance?:grin2:
Definitely keep that in mind! Some of the wider terracotta pots would probably work better. Like bird bowls or something. That way they aren't as tall and poke up out of the substrate. Definitely work in some hills towards the rear of the tank to hide the pots and rock features like the photo you've posted.


I'm pretty excited to see how this turns out. I like the idea and I think you can really dial in the whole setup with a little work at the start.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Thank you guys, I got some work to do. I am planning to convert a wet bar which is 9ftx2ft with sink and wall on 3 sides, into a 8ftx2ftx2ft aquarium. Good thing is that power, drainage and water are already there along with cabinets and an ice maker lol. To leverage the current cabinets, the tank will sit 36" from floor, and those cabinets won't accommodate wet dry, so I have to use canister filters, may be couple of them, with one for water polishing as Barr's non-CO2 recommended no or few water changes.

The design that I am trying to copy was built by ADG Come to think of it, quite a few things made it suitable for low tech: big tank, few fishes, undemanding plant (just sword). Except discus, which demand almost daily water change which goes against Barr's concept of non-CO2. So I jokingly changed 9 discus into 5 green terrors, one of my favorite fish. Neons etc on the original design won't work GTs, but a group of 6-10 algae eater probably would. But one can try putting say a hundred quarantined feeder white clouds and see if their famous reproduction rate can keep up with GT's big appetite, my $ on GT.

Just thinking out loud.
 

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