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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm thinking about setting my 120G up as a planted Discus tank.

Did I mention I'm a complete newbie to planted tanks? Am I crazy for jumping in feet first to the deep end of the pool before learning how to swim?

Well let me explain my madness. For starters, I do have extensive saltwater and reef experience in the aquarium hobby. I have also kept a Discus tank before. The only new part is live plants.

While doing research here for the past week, I found that most people on this forum believe in moderate to high light aquariums and in adding CO2 and fertilizers to the water column. Apparently this method makes it easier to control algae, rather than trying to create a low tech balanced system.

I also found that several people like to use the Estimated Index method of dosing ferts, which eliminates the need for testing, but requires 50% weekly water changes. I really like the theory behind the EI method, and I hate testing water, so this is right up my alley.

The only caveat to this method is the large water changes, especially on a 120 gallon system. I remember this from the days with my 150 gallon Discus tank, and at first did not really care for the idea. Luckily I've designed a great water change system (on paper anyways) that I will be incorporating with the setting up of my tank. When I start, I will create a journal here and post lots of pictures.

This is when I decided to setup my tank as a planted discus tank. If I'm already doing the 50% weekly water changes, then why not? I happen to live within an hour of Jack Wattley's warehouse in Miami, and I really like these silly round fish

My current strategy will be:
- To dose pressurized CO2 via a PH controller. I will set the CO2 discharge rate slow enough that the controller should only have to turn off the flow at night.
- I plan on using a 50/50 mix of flourite and pool sand for the substrate.
- I will have moderate lighting of either four or six T5 HO bulbs on my TEK hanging light fixture.
- I will use the built-in overflow (former reef tank) and a small sump.
- I will use an Eheim 2028 cannister filter which will draw water from the sump and return it through an Aquamedic CO2 reactor back into the sump.
- I will dose ferts in the sump and keep the heaters in the sump.
- The return pump will only be an Iwaki 20RLT for a tank turnover ratio of about 3X to 4X per hour.
- There will be no bioballs in the sump.
- The aquarium will be open topped, but I plan on putting a cover over the sump.

This is where my questions come in:

1. Is it very difficult to keep a planted Discus tank?
2. How long should I have the tank setup for before adding the discus?
3. Discus like calm water, and I'd like to add a few other species of fish. Can I add loaches, or do they need water movement?
4. I definitely plan on adding a school of one of three tetra types to the tank. Either rummy nose, head and tail light, or cardinals. The water here in south Florida is moderately hard water. Is one of these tetra types hardier or more sensitive than the others?
5. Is there any part of my above strategy or equipment that you would change?

As always, any help is greatly appreciated.
 

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Sounds great. Might want to talk to Scolley. But its definately doable, and not too hard. My LFS keeps a big corner tank planted, open top with Co2 and Discus. Just have to pick warm water tolerant plants. Not sure about Tetras but if not breeding they will probably be OK in moderately hard water. Of course they would be happier in softer water as will the Discus.

There is a great old article in the precurser to TAG magazine (The Aquatic Gardener) published now by the Aquatic Gardener's Assoc. It was called "Planted Aquaria". Its a Autumn 2001 issue and the article is by George and Karla Booth, who are famous in the hobby. The article is: "Success with Planted Discus Aquaria" I have a copy I can lend you if you want. Just email me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Sounds great. Might want to talk to Scolley. But its definately doable, and not too hard. My LFS keeps a big corner tank planted, open top with Co2 and Discus. Just have to pick warm water tolerant plants. Not sure about Tetras but if not breeding they will probably be OK in moderately hard water. Of course they would be happier in softer water as will the Discus.

There is a great old article in the precurser to TAG magazine (The Aquatic Gardener) published now by the Aquatic Gardener's Assoc. It was called "Planted Aquaria". Its a Autumn 2001 issue and the article is by George and Karla Booth, who are famous in the hobby. The article is: "Success with Planted Discus Aquaria" I have a copy I can lend you if you want. Just email me.
Thank you very much for the heads-up on this article. I found it online here: http://www.tropica.com/article.asp?type=aquaristic&id=453 in case anyone else is interested in reading it.

I know the discus prefer softer water, but I had great success in my previous stint as a discus owner using our moderately hard water. They grew very fast and I never had any problems at all with them (I never tried breeding them). I have not owned Tetras in over 25 years, so I remember almost nothing about them.
 

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I currently have a 120 gallon (48x24x24) planted discus tank.

I have 7 wild brown discus,8-9" dia 2 blue/red snake skin discus 4" dia, ~35 cardinal tetras, 7 panda cor, 1 sunshine pleco, 10 otto cats and sometimes will have a SAE to help with the algae.

I have 5" of substrate from Aquariumplants.com with a plenum, dose with ferts and do about a 50% water change bi-weekly. With a CO2 controller running a pressurized tank feeding a CO2 tubing into the inlet of the pump.

I have had this tank set up with discus for about a year now. And supply the LPS with plants on a monthly basis.

In my opinion the 9 discus is too much for this tank and I would only recommend 43-4 of the large discus in this tank. When I started with the discus I only had a big piece of driftwood covered in java fern and dwarf grass all around it (forgot the technical name :icon_roll ). But now that I have so many plants I think the discus would be happier if there was more room.

Discus are hard to get started, but I feel once they feel comfortable, they are one of the most hardiest fish out there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I currently have a 120 gallon (48x24x24) planted discus tank.

I have 7 wild brown discus,8-9" dia 2 blue/red snake skin discus 4" dia, ~35 cardinal tetras, 7 panda cor, 1 sunshine pleco, 10 otto cats and sometimes will have a SAE to help with the algae.

I have 5" of substrate from Aquariumplants.com with a plenum, dose with ferts and do about a 50% water change bi-weekly. With a CO2 controller running a pressurized tank feeding a CO2 tubing into the inlet of the pump.

I have had this tank set up with discus for about a year now. And supply the LPS with plants on a monthly basis.

In my opinion the 9 discus is too much for this tank and I would only recommend 43-4 of the large discus in this tank. When I started with the discus I only had a big piece of driftwood covered in java fern and dwarf grass all around it (forgot the technical name :icon_roll ). But now that I have so many plants I think the discus would be happier if there was more room.

Discus are hard to get started, but I feel once they feel comfortable, they are one of the most hardiest fish out there.
50% bi-weekly. Is that twice a week, or once every 2 weeks?

Have you had any bad algae outbreaks to contend with?

What CO2 level do you maintain?

Can you explain: "supply the LPS with plants on a monthly basis."?

Does this tank seem any more difficult to maintain than others?

Thanks for the advice.
 

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One thought here. With heavy feeding of Discus, EI might be a tad high on dosing. Just something to consider as underdosing is safer than overdosing and estimative index has to take in fish load vs. plant mass.

And another thought. That Aquariumplants.com substrate (aka "Soilmaster Select" some say) will soften the water considerably and help the plants and soft water fish. Might be just the right substrate for Florida water....
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
One thought here. With heavy feeding of Discus, EI might be a tad high on dosing. Just something to consider as underdosing is safer than overdosing and estimative index has to take in fish load vs. plant mass.

And another thought. That Aquariumplants.com substrate (aka "Soilmaster Select" some say) will soften the water considerably and help the plants and soft water fish. Might be just the right substrate for Florida water....
After reading the Boooth article, I immediately started thinking the same thing about the EI method.

A few things I'll need to consider are:
- Lower light levels (2 WPG)
- Lower CO2 levels (15 - 20 PPM)
- Slower growing warm water plants which won't require much pruning.
- Higher fishload average

Because of these considerations, I believe I can cut the EI maximum uptake numbers in half for my tank. This means my dosing will be cut in half. I really do like the theory behind EI, so I just need to figure out the maximum uptake my plants will need, and then I can calculate the dosing requirements.

Does half sound about right?

I will check into the Aquariumplants.com substrate.
 

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I'm fairly new to the planted tank relm too so not much input on plants, although mine seem to like my beginners luck. As for Tetras, My school of Neons (14 or 16) look FABULOUS under the intensity of a planted tank light of corse I'm running 3 WPG via diy hood. Just a thought.
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After reading the Boooth article, I immediately started thinking the same thing about the EI method.

A few things I'll need to consider are:
- Lower light levels (2 WPG)
- Lower CO2 levels (15 - 20 PPM)
- Slower growing warm water plants which won't require much pruning.
- Higher fishload average

Because of these considerations, I believe I can cut the EI maximum uptake numbers in half for my tank. This means my dosing will be cut in half. I really do like the theory behind EI, so I just need to figure out the maximum uptake my plants will need, and then I can calculate the dosing requirements.

Does half sound about right?

I will check into the Aquariumplants.com substrate.
IME, with a Tek light, 2x54 watts in a 90 gallon is more than enough for middle light. Those parabolic reflectors are very efficient/bright!!

The less light you have, the less fert uptake. You may need to cut EI to 1/4 or 3/16, possibly less. Maybe no dosing save for K at water changes - if your fish food/extrement take care of NO3 and PO4. This is old school approach and it can work fine. Of course you still want the CO2 for sure. Just some thoughts here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
IME, with a Tek light, 2x54 watts in a 90 gallon is more than enough for middle light. Those parabolic reflectors are very efficient/bright!!

The less light you have, the less fert uptake. You may need to cut EI to 1/4 or 3/16, possibly less. Maybe no dosing save for K at water changes - if your fish food/extrement take care of NO3 and PO4. This is old school approach and it can work fine. Of course you still want the CO2 for sure. Just some thoughts here.
That would be great if I didn't have to dose ferts! Old school is great if it works. The Booth article doesn't mention fertilizer, so I guess I'm going to have to figure that one out by trial and error.

Thanks for the info.
 

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I'm thinking about setting my 120G up as a planted Discus tank.

Did I mention I'm a complete newbie to planted tanks? Am I crazy for jumping in feet first to the deep end of the pool before learning how to swim?
Crazy? No. Just ambitious. And I respect that! But it's also ill advised IMO.

If you can keep discus and if you can grow out a nice planted tank, a planted tank with discus is not such a big leap IMO.

But the reality is most people's first planted tank (or two, or three) aren't so easy to keep. You make a lot of silly mistakes, and all sorts of drastic measures wound up being taken to save/fix your aquascape. That's all fine and well for a lot of fish, but I wouldn't put discus through all that.

I think you should absolutely keep your aspirations to have a planted discus tank. But personally I think it's a really, really bad idea to do it until you have had at least one successful planted tank first.

Good luck.

PS - I'm sorry to rain on your parade. But I do have your best interest (and happiness) in mind.
 

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With all due respect Steve, I would like to disagree. He has extensive reef experience and Discus experience. If Megalops wants to start a planted tank (lower light) with CO2, it aint that difficult. As long as you don't start dumping in a lot of crazy buffers and start out with the right substrate, throw in a few plants (well, preferably lots of plants) and keep the light lowish and go easy on the ferts, all should be fine. Keep the CO2 moderate and follow the basics, Discus should thrive in a less bright, planted tank. Just my .02 - caveat, I've never kept Discus.:icon_roll
 

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That was some cold splash by Scolley.

Megalops, a midrange planted aquarium is not a difficult project. Don't think EI, but go moderate.

Yes, Scolley is right to the extent that I would also ask you to sart your aquarium with plants ------- cycle it and introduce the school of tetras, and some more fishes for the cleanup crew --------- only when the aquarium has settled down and the plants are growing well and you have got your fishes to stand the higher temperature; introduce your discus.

Go ahead man, nobody won anything worthwhile without reaching for the stars.
 

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50% bi-weekly. Is that twice a week, or once every 2 weeks?

Have you had any bad algae outbreaks to contend with?

What CO2 level do you maintain?

Can you explain: "supply the LPS with plants on a monthly basis."?

Does this tank seem any more difficult to maintain than others?

Thanks for the advice.
-Once every two weeks.

-I did at first, but after putting in a couple SAE's it went away.

-PH 6.5, KH 2, so about 19 CO2 PPM

-I supply the LFS (local fish store) with plants (Sorry not LPS, sorry from Vermont the home of Phish :icon_roll )

-"Discus are hard to get started, but I feel once they feel comfortable, they are one of the most hardiest fish out there." Therefore the only thing that I do differently then other planted tanks that I have had is, keep the temp higher then normal ~83(but you can keep discus at lower temp levels <80), and make sure there is some open area for them to pick food up from.

I think the biggest thing is getting healthy discus, if they make it the first month they will make it forever, but that's only my opinion. I am in no way an expert, and I am not trying to breed discus. If I was then I probably would have thing set up differently, because discus need lots of open swimming area. I think my discus would be more comfortable in a 120Gallon tank that was 6' long rather then the 4' foot I currently have.

I just torn down my tank this weekend to re arrange it, I'll try to take some pics this weekend and post them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Crazy? No. Just ambitious. And I respect that! But it's also ill advised IMO.

If you can keep discus and if you can grow out a nice planted tank, a planted tank with discus is not such a big leap IMO.

But the reality is most people's first planted tank (or two, or three) aren't so easy to keep. You make a lot of silly mistakes, and all sorts of drastic measures wound up being taken to save/fix your aquascape. That's all fine and well for a lot of fish, but I wouldn't put discus through all that.

I think you should absolutely keep your aspirations to have a planted discus tank. But personally I think it's a really, really bad idea to do it until you have had at least one successful planted tank first.

Good luck.

PS - I'm sorry to rain on your parade. But I do have your best interest (and happiness) in mind.
I thank you for your response and I respect your opinion.

I really doubt I will have more than one tank in my house which would be freshwater. If (when) I add a second tank, it will most likely be a 65G cube reef tank. When I was a kid, my bedroom looked like a LFS, but nowadays I just want one or maybe two tanks in the whole house (with the exception of a 10 gallon quarantine tank).

Being around the reef hobby, I know not to add live corals to a tank for at least 6 months after setting it up. It takes at least that long for the tank to become stable. I was going to take a similar approach with Discus.

I plan on setting up the tank with the plants listed in the Booth article, a school of tetras, a few SAEs, and a school of small corys. After all is well, I'd start raising the temperature over the next month until I get it into the 82F range and then let the tank stabilize for another month.

The discus probably wouldn't get added until the tank is established. From what I've been reading here, most people feel that is around the three month mark on planted tanks once the "new tank algae battles" have been beaten.

In my previous experience with Discus, they were extremely hardy. I did start with fish from Wattley's warehouse in Miami, and I did 50% weekly water changes. They grew like weeds and I never had a single problem. I did keep them in a single species tank, so that may be why they did so well. This time I'm planning on a community tank, so there is a much greater chance of introducing disease and possible stress.

I am ambitious and a little bit crazy, so I am going for the planted discus tank on the first try. If you think I need to wait longer than 3 months before adding discus, please let me know what you feel is adequate time for a planted tank to become established.
 

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I think that you could go for it. Just take it easy on the fertilizers and stay on top of the water changes. You'll certainly run into issues along the way, but algae is not bad for discus... just ugly.

I will give you three tips that I have learned through trial and error.

You might want to look into the PPS method also, it will give you another opinion on dosing and then you can customize. Discus are sloppy eaters, I don't need to add nitrates or phosphates, only potassium, and trace (and some calcium and mg).

I would plan my scape with an open sand foreground. It gives the discus a nice flat plain to pick food up from. Otherwise its just a big mess. They'll pull up your forground plants trying to get at the food and lots of uneaten stuff will end up in your plants.

Take it easy when planning your stocking. I have had discus do fine in a heavily stocked tank with other fish, and I have also had discus that were totally freaked by the other fish and hid constantly. After three weeks I moved them to their own tank and they are doing much better. The ones that stayed, who weren't freaked still had difficulty competing for food with other more aggressive eaters like angels, rainbows and tetras. I feed very heavily to compensate (think food storm). That also means water changes every 5-7 days.
 

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IMO what turbosaurus said will work. And in PM's you indicated small discus. Good idea from a planted tank perspective - not to big a hit on the bioload with the fish. But from what I understand about discus, the only way you are going to keep them fed well enough to prevent stunting is to feed them way too much for a planted tank. But it can be controlled.

I used those little plastic feeding cones fairly successfully for frozen blood worms. That's one way to potentially feed the large quantities small discus need without spreading it around the tank.

Also, I'd hit the 84 degree mark from the get-go. Start from day 1 at your target temp. It's not like you are moving established plants from one tank to another. In all likelihood you are getting plants in the mail... they'll be happy for ANY water. That said, please take a look at aquariumplants.com. They have a great section of "discus ready" plants. That's really the same thing as saying... they don't need high light, and won't croak at 84 degrees.

I would caution you about the 50% weekly water changes. I have no experience with changes that infrequent with discus. It's done all the time though. But I'm not sure if it's done with the quantity of food you are going to have to provide smaller discus.

Also, do note that discus medications and plants generally don't mix well at all. So for a community tank, I'd strongly suggest you get your planted tank up an running - standard planted tank methods - or look at my Kahuna's Revenge thread for a project plan for a discus tanks. Either way, I'd get the planted tank up and running, and at the same time... have a quarantine tank with the discus and ALL the other critters you want to go in your tank. Then you bomb the quarantine with prophylactic meds all you want. To everybody. At the same time you can do a few hits of Potassium Permanganate (see Simply Discus forum for dosing) to clean out any nasties in your planted tank. Time the two so that your planted tank has recovered just as you are ready to dump the contents of your quarantine tank into the planted tank.

Because once you have fish in the planted tank, you want that environment to be CLEAN. No meds with plants, if at all possible.

Likewise, once the fish and plants are together, I'd observe quarantine type procedures with that tank's equipment - no swapping of buckets, pythons, or nets. What goes in the discus tank, stays in the discus tank, and nothing else gets in.

Clearly you are courageous - and doing your homework. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
IMO what turbosaurus said will work. And in PM's you indicated small discus. Good idea from a planted tank perspective - not to big a hit on the bioload with the fish. But from what I understand about discus, the only way you are going to keep them fed well enough to prevent stunting is to feed them way too much for a planted tank. But it can be controlled.

I used those little plastic feeding cones fairly successfully for frozen blood worms. That's one way to potentially feed the large quantities small discus need without spreading it around the tank.

Also, I'd hit the 84 degree mark from the get-go. Start from day 1 at your target temp. It's not like you are moving established plants from one tank to another. In all likelihood you are getting plants in the mail... they'll be happy for ANY water. That said, please take a look at aquariumplants.com. They have a great section of "discus ready" plants. That's really the same thing as saying... they don't need high light, and won't croak at 84 degrees.

I would caution you about the 50% weekly water changes. I have no experience with changes that infrequent with discus. It's done all the time though. But I'm not sure if it's done with the quantity of food you are going to have to provide smaller discus.

Also, do note that discus medications and plants generally don't mix well at all. So for a community tank, I'd strongly suggest you get your planted tank up an running - standard planted tank methods - or look at my Kahuna's Revenge thread for a project plan for a discus tanks. Either way, I'd get the planted tank up and running, and at the same time... have a quarantine tank with the discus and ALL the other critters you want to go in your tank. Then you bomb the quarantine with prophylactic meds all you want. To everybody. At the same time you can do a few hits of Potassium Permanganate (see Simply Discus forum for dosing) to clean out any nasties in your planted tank. Time the two so that your planted tank has recovered just as you are ready to dump the contents of your quarantine tank into the planted tank.

Because once you have fish in the planted tank, you want that environment to be CLEAN. No meds with plants, if at all possible.

Likewise, once the fish and plants are together, I'd observe quarantine type procedures with that tank's equipment - no swapping of buckets, pythons, or nets. What goes in the discus tank, stays in the discus tank, and nothing else gets in.

Clearly you are courageous - and doing your homework. Good luck.
Thank you very much for the advice. I'll be reading the Kahuna's revenge thread tomorrow. My water change system will be easy enough for me to do twice a week or more if you feel this would really be beneficial. I remember talking to the guy from Wattley's a few years back, and he said I'd only need to do WCs once a week as long as it is at least 50% in a discus only tank of my size. He said he recommends twice a week in the smaller tanks (55s and 70s).

Is there a reason not to add the fish in two stages? I'd personally prefer to add all the fish except the discus first, and wait a couple of months before actually adding the discus.

I'd definitely dose these other fish with meds in the QT tank and take your advice about the Potassium Permanganate hits in the display tank.
 

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You can reduce the W/C's in a large tank, certainly. But if you are putting smaller fish in, you will be feeding heavily, and that requires much more in water changes. Frankly, I'd do more even if you put in bigger fish with fewer feedings. That may be disagreeing with an expert. That's ok. Not the first time for me. I know what works when I see it - vs. what might work if all the other stars are line up. IMO 50% a week is wickedly optimistic for someone new to planted tanks, with discus to boot. For the record, I'm currently doing 50% every three days on a 180g tank.

You can absolutely put your fish in in two batchs. Or three. Take a look at my thread and you'll see a good way to do that in the project plan. What I should have been communicating more clearly is this...

You have to quarantine all your fish BEFORE they go in the planted tank. The meds you will have to use in quarantine will wreak havoc on your plants. So quarantine them, then put time in with the plants. And once you get your discus in, STOP adding more stuff - either fish or plants. Once you bomb the tank with the PP before the discus go in, then it's time to keep things level... no change of introduction of nasties into the tank with either fish or plants.

BTW - Have you researched what you are going to do about snails yet? I strongly reccomend Zebra loaches. But that's just a personal thing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
BTW - Have you researched what you are going to do about snails yet? I strongly reccomend Zebra loaches. But that's just a personal thing.
I do want to add loaches for snails, but wasn't sure if they'd be OK in a tank with light water movement designed for discus. How many zebras would you add for a tank my size?
 
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