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Just setup a new planted tank. Not sure if it's right. Could anyone help..? Thanks

1810 Views 39 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  ctaylor3737
Hi. I'm not particularly new at fish tanks but I've never ran a freshwater planted tank before. The guy sold us flourish excel, and aquavitro envy, plus flourish tabs for the plants. He said to stick a tab by each plant, and replace every couple months. I have no idea what plants he sold us, because he made it sound really simple to run with just those three ingredients.

The tank is 60 gallon, and I have a double emperor bio wheel filter, plus the proper size heater. One bulb is purple and the other white. They've been going for a few years, and I have no idea if they're the right kelvin, or strength to keep the plants alive. I never really thought about the bulbs for proper growth until now, and really don't know what I've gotten myself into to make this successful. The water has become kind of cloudy and not really clearing up.

I don't know if I'm killing everything or what. I was told it would be ok to have gravel over the sand, bu then someone else said not have any gravel because it traps ammonia, and I should only have sand. I've added a few pictures. If anyone can help me fine tune this, I would really appreciate it.

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Gravel is fine, I actually prefer it. However your lighting is not going to work as is, you will at least need to replace those old bulbs with new 6500k light temp bulbs as fluorescents lose their growing ability after about 9 months of use. You'll also likely want to add a canister filter (eheim 2217) to supplement that insufficient HoB.
Thanks. What's hob...? Now that I'm doing plants, I'm really confused at everything needed to make this all work. I've checked out a few other threads, but everything seems to be equations or greek to me. I read about co2, but I don't know if I'm producing it or what. Also, what about led bulbs? The guy tried to sell us one but it was around $250 and I didn't know if we needed it or not. I really don't know anything at this point now. Before we just had a few fish and fake rock. Now we need to recreate real life, so I really don't know what all to do. I need led by the hand through this unfortunately. I will be glad to donate to the site afterwards for the help I receive. Thank you.
HoB = Hang on Back filter. The amount of information to catch up on may seem daunting at first but keep reading and it will all fall into place. Don't worry about co2 at this point, just get used to growing out a low tech tank first before deciding if you even want to go that route. The same goes for the led lighting, get new bulbs for your existing lamp now then if you are still enjoying a planted tank 8-9 months down the road when you'll need to replace the bulbs again you can look into led lighting. Good luck and enjoy, there's no rush.
I'm kind of at the point now to where I just want to say forget it, and return it all. He made it sound like it's completely easy, and from what I'm reading it's far from that. Even if I return everything though I'm still out $80 in gravel and sand, and I can't return it. I would like to make it go, but if you have to wear a lab coat all day long, and figure out everything with beakers, and never ending formulas, I don't think I can run this. I won't be around much this summer, and my gf has to take care of it all, and she's extremely simple, and I don't know what routine needs to be done daily to keep this growing and not dying. I'm just getting really frustrated at this point. Nothing was ever mentioned about co2 canisters, and all that, and I don't even know if I have co2 in there.
HOB means hang on back filter, and while LEDs aren't exactly necessary, some people do prefer them over fluorescents because they have a much longer life, a lot less power pull, and are sometimes programmable to do different colors at different times to simulate day and night. They are also a lot more low profile than fluorescents. It's really just personal preference. Be the looks of things and your description, you don't have any kind of CO2 system set up. Once again, it is not necessary,but helpful, as it will encourage your plants to take in more nutrients and grow faster than they would without it. The Co2 your fish produce is usually enough to keep them going, it will just be a much slower growth rate.

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Hi. Thanks for the replies. Do you even need a hang on filter if you're using a canister? How many hours should you keep the lights on? What about the nutrients he sold me? Are they right or do I need more? Is there a reason why the water is staying cloudy? How many times should you water change with plants? Never? Every other day? Are the flourish tabs enough for plant growth? What are the optimal settings for test kits? Is the temperature supposed to be a certain setting? Anyone who could walk me through this in baby steps would be the best help. I'm in this around $300 so far, and would like to know how much or how little maintenance is required, and what the schedule is supposed to be.
No need to get frustrated, you can go the high tech lab coat route with it if you want but you can also go the low tech cutoff jeans route as well haha. Once you're set up the maintenance is quite minimal, I only spend a half hour a week on average tending multiple tanks to do a 30% water change, trim some plants, and rinse prefilters. I like to use both a canister and hob but a single canister will suffice. Lights can be on all day every day or just 4 hours a day, start with 8 hours per day then adjust from there reducing time if too much algae blooms or increasing time if plant growth is minimal. Cloudy water is common for a tank that is cycling, it will clear up. Flourish tabs are more than enough for growth, I don't even use those anymore and just get macro nutrients from fish waste and micro nutrients from a few drops of flourish after a water change.
I completely understand your frustration. I'm only about 3 weeks into my first planted tank. I had fish tanks for years. The lighting, filtration, substrAte, and fertilizers are major confusing and tons of info. Here is my experience from one plant noob to another.....

Bought some plants and stuck them in gravel. Watched them and this board for a couple of days... Bought black diamond blasting sand, emptied tank and refilled with new sand. Watched tank and message board for a few more days..... Cloudy water.... Bought the current USA sat+ light.... Couple more days lurking....tank still cloudy but getting better.... Bought api canister filter left for weekend came home Sunday tank was crystal clear and I'm now in love with it again. Cost...$8 for sand, $126.20 for light.....$105.99 for filter. Little here and there for ferts and plants. I use excel for co2, and flourish comp and root tabs.

Here is my tank before

Right after sand

And right now

Again I'm a noob just like you so I'm still learning what is what. I'm not saying you need to buy anything but I do love the new lights and filter so far. I had a mismatch of marine lighting and basic tube light to start out. Of the three things I've done the sand made the biggest fastest difference with my plants.

The other thing that has helped is the api master test kit. That has helped because the pros on this site require the info obtained by those tests to start helping you with other things. :)

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Thanks for the replies. I'm a little more settled now. Really it's my fault for not doing enough research, but it doesn't appear to be as bad as what I was believing. So it would be better to have the canister over the hang on? Any particular reason?
Canisters are a little nicer because they are more customizable. The biggest thing with a filter is making sure it's big enough. I've always used one that is rated for at least twice the size of my tank.

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That Emporer filter will be just fine for the time being. You may want to upgrade to a canister at some point, but it's certainly not a necessity.

Im sorta in the same boat as Ckalisz. I just recently converted a 75 gal cichlid tank into a planted one (see profile). It's my first planted tank and I did almost exactly as he describes, sans the new filter. Im still using a Penguin 350 and a smaller Whisper on it. I will probably get a nice canister filter at some point, but the two HOBs are doing fine for now.
Thanks. Do you know what optimal test strip scores you should get with a planted tank? Would they vary from non planted tank?
Btw... What's the best place for plants? I've seen some tanks on here with moss or grass across the floor, covering it almost completely, and they look really nice. Is there some that are easier to work with than others. I know some plants are easier to grow outside than others. I saw some little shrimp, and would like to have some if they didn't get big. Can those all be bought from a store too? You'd think they'd all die between shipments. Thanks
Check the classified sections on here. Research the plants and ask questions. You should probably get a master api test kit. Make sure you cycle your, tank before adding anything. Shrimp I would advise,against they are sensitive,and can't really be kept with fish.

Hello welcome to the deep end.

There is just about endless setup possibilities in planted tanks but if your looking for an easy low tech tank... You've got an excellent start!

The pool filter sand with a gravel cap will work just fine. Check out the the tank journal I did when I set up my 125 in the link on my sig. Builders sand with a pea gravel cap.

You will need to change the bulbs in the light. Let us know the type (T12, T8, T5 etc) and wattage. This will let us know if you have enough light. Retrofitting a hood for higher light if needed is cheap and easy if your like DIY. For replacement lights just look for "Daylight" as the advertised temperature. It's generally between 5-6000K. I'm running 10 - 23W CFL lights over my jungle of a tank.

Fertilizer - Yeah the guy at the store misrepresented the facts. It's much easier than that. Search online for Aquarium fertilizers and order a Macro-Micro mix. You can also order PMDD but will need to buy Phosphate to add into it. I did very well when I was first starting out with these. Just drop the dry ferts into the tank weekly and stir.

Weekly water changes at the beginning just do them. 50% is a nice round excessive number. As you learn more you can reduce the amount down. I'm down to 1 or 2 per month now.

You'll also need a timer for the lights. These are less than $10 at the hardware store.

If you are dosing CO2 you need a canister filter or a sump. If you are not dosing CO2 an HOB works great. I've got three little tanks in the garage with HOB's growing plants like crazy. If you want easy and low maintenance, forget about CO2 for now.

BTW you will grow algae. Accept it now :).
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Hi. Thanks for all the help. Mine are 36" long, and there's 2 in the case. Do you need to add the water conditioner each time, even if there's plants in there. I didn't know if the plants added anything so you didn't have to. It's just plain tap water before we add the conditioner. Also, if you do a 50% change once a week, do you have to re add all the excel and envy each time for that 50% that's gone? Would you add 50% or normal dose? Thanks
Is this the micro macro you're talking about?

Ebay item number: 151204607489
Just wondering, but couldn't you just go pick all this stuff out of your pond, since it's freshwater? Throw some goggles on and dunk your head under and grab some.
Ok. So I just went up and looked at the plants and they all just kind of look like they're dying. The one that's in the left rock was real green when I put it in yesterday, and now it's starting to turn brown, and weathered. The rest all seem to be doing the same. Just kind of looking cruddy, and sick. Becoming pale, and brown. Could it be because my lights are so old? Do they need to go back or be fixed quickly if they're gonna have any chance for survival? I don't want to kill them for no reason. They seem to be fading by the minute though. Or maybe they're supposed to do that. I don't know...:(
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