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My first planted tank in a 20 long

8779 Views 236 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  ElvishDuck
My wife brought home a 20 gallon tank "for our kids" in early January that I sort of laughed about but quickly found myself enthralled by. Then I bought her a 55 gallon for her birthday we have set-up peninsula-style in our living room. We've quickly gone done the rabbit hole and are absolutely in love with this hobby. Unfortunately we didn't do enough research ahead of time (nitrogen cycle who?) and so had some set backs but luckily with the help of daily water changes and Seachem Prime and Stability we only had a few deaths. Things have settled in and water parameters have been good but I'm still checking daily. Only issue now is our neon tetras and glass catfish are slowly just disappearing out of the 55....

I work from home and spend a ton of time in the mornings and evenings observing the tanks so naturally I "needed" one in my office. Petco was having another sale so I picked up a 10g and stand and got them set-up. Then I promptly re-boxed everything and exchanged it for a 20 long - ah, that's much better!

I'm currently working on my hardscape design with Black Diamond Blasting Sand, Dragon/Ohko stone, and Mopani driftwood. Latest iteration is pictured below.

Vertebrate Water Purple Pet supply Organism


Light is a Hygger 26W full spectrum LED and I've ordered a Seachem Tidal 55 HOB filter. Plan was to run the new filter on the 55 for a week or so to hopefully pick up some beneficial bacteria and then finish a fish-less cycle in the 20L before adding stock. I may ditch that plan and run a fish-in cycle in an attempt to save our last 2 neons and glass cats.

I've placed an order with WetPlants for the below plants. Not sure if anyone has experience with them and I've seen mixed reviews but they had a sale plus a first order discount that made them significantly cheaper than some of the other popular options. Hopefully being cheap (or frugal as I call it) doesn't bite me there.

Beginner plant starter pack:
  • 2 Anubias
  • 3 Crypt Wendtii green
  • 5 Dwarf Sag
  • 3 Java fern
  • 2 Bacopa
  • 2 Buce
  • 2 Myrio green
  • 1 Java moss cup
Mystery plant pack that includes 5 random varieties
2 Annubias Petite
2 Moneywort
2 Crypt Spiralis
3 Dwarf Hairgrass

I look forward to chronicling this adventure and as a newbie definitely appreciate any thoughts/tips/tricks/wisdom you can provide.
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My wife brought home a 20 gallon tank "for our kids" in early January that I sort of laughed about but quickly found myself enthralled by. Then I bought her a 55 gallon for her birthday we have set-up peninsula-style in our living room. We've quickly gone done the rabbit hole and are absolutely in love with this hobby. Unfortunately we didn't do enough research ahead of time (nitrogen cycle who?) and so had some set backs but luckily with the help of daily water changes and Seachem Prime and Stability we only had a few deaths. Things have settled in and water parameters have been good but I'm still checking daily. Only issue now is our neon tetras and glass catfish are slowly just disappearing out of the 55....

I work from home and spend a ton of time in the mornings and evenings observing the tanks so naturally I "needed" one in my office. Petco was having another sale so I picked up a 10g and stand and got them set-up. Then I promptly re-boxed everything and exchanged it for a 20 long - ah, that's much better!

I'm currently working on my hardscape design with Black Diamond Blasting Sand, Dragon/Ohko stone, and Mopani driftwood. Latest iteration is pictured below.

View attachment 1038865

Light is a Hygger 26W full spectrum LED and I've ordered a Seachem Tidal 55 HOB filter. Plan was to run the new filter on the 55 for a week or so to hopefully pick up some beneficial bacteria and then finish a fish-less cycle in the 20L before adding stock. I may ditch that plan and run a fish-in cycle in an attempt to save our last 2 neons and glass cats.

I've placed an order with WetPlants for the below plants. Not sure if anyone has experience with them and I've seen mixed reviews but they had a sale plus a first order discount that made them significantly cheaper than some of the other popular options. Hopefully being cheap (or frugal as I call it) doesn't bite me there.

Beginner plant starter pack:
  • 2 Anubias
  • 3 Crypt Wendtii green
  • 5 Dwarf Sag
  • 3 Java fern
  • 2 Bacopa
  • 2 Buce
  • 2 Myrio green
  • 1 Java moss cup
Mystery plant pack that includes 5 random varieties
2 Annubias Petite
2 Moneywort
2 Crypt Spiralis
3 Dwarf Hairgrass

I look forward to chronically this adventure and as a newbie definitely appreciate any thoughts/tips/tricks/wisdom you can provide.
Since you are using a HOB filter my advice is to not use the disposable cartridges, or not to use them past the free ones that come with the box. Instead buy some filter foam (if the filter doesn't come with - not sure on the seachem ones) and just use the foam forever. Squeeze it and rinse it in old tank water to clean, and otherwise run it forever. The cartridges are expensive and frankly soooo much worse then reusing filter foam.

Other bits of advice, if you don't own a water changing system like a python, then invest in one right away.

And following up on that, get used to doing big 50+% water changes at least once a week.

You haven't mentioned your fertilizer yet, if you don't have one, then you will definitely want to get one. There are a few options here, my personal favorite is nicolg thrive (or thriveC if you are not injecting co2), because it is an easy to dose all in one. But there are a lot of good options available these days.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Since you are using a HOB filter my advice is to not use the disposable cartridges, or not to use them past the free ones that come with the box. Instead buy some filter foam (if the filter doesn't come with - not sure on the seachem ones) and just use the foam forever. Squeeze it and rinse it in old tank water to clean, and otherwise run it forever. The cartridges are expensive and frankly soooo much worse then reusing filter foam.

Other bits of advice, if you don't own a water changing system like a python, then invest in one right away.

And following up on that, get used to doing big 50+% water changes at least once a week.

You haven't mentioned your fertilizer yet, if you don't have one, then you will definitely want to get one. There are a few options here, my personal favorite is nicolg thrive (or thriveC if you are not injecting co2), because it is an easy to dose all in one. But there are a lot of good options available these days.

Good luck!
Thanks for the tips! The Tidal HOBs don't use cartridges and have a ton of room for media. It comes with a sponge and ceramic rings; I'll probably add a layer of filter floss as well. I believe it comes with charcoal which I'll switch over to Purigen once it's through.

I actually purchased a Python but it's not compatible with either of our Moen faucets. I tried several home improvement stores and plumbing suppliers but couldn't find an adapter that would work so very sadly returned it. I already do water changes on the other two tanks so not too concerned about that but it's just going to be buckets and pitchers ha.

I picked up some root tabs I'll add to the sand but don't have a specific fertilizer picked out yet. I think my wife bought a bottle of API Leaf Zone for our other tanks; any thoughts on that? I'll look into thriveC as I'm going low-tech with no co2.
 

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Thanks for the tips! The Tidal HOBs don't use cartridges and have a ton of room for media. It comes with a sponge and ceramic rings; I'll probably add a layer of filter floss as well. I believe it comes with charcoal which I'll switch over to Purigen once it's through.

I actually purchased a Python but it's not compatible with either of our Moen faucets. I tried several home improvement stores and plumbing suppliers but couldn't find an adapter that would work so very sadly returned it. I already do water changes on the other two tanks so not too concerned about that but it's just going to be buckets and pitchers ha.

I picked up some root tabs I'll add to the sand but don't have a specific fertilizer picked out yet. I think my wife bought a bottle of API Leaf Zone for our other tanks; any thoughts on that? I'll look into thriveC as I'm going low-tech with no co2.
Soooooo definitely reconsider the buckets. If you are using buckets you will be very tempted to not change as much water or not do it as often and this is without a doubt the most important thing in keeping a tank clean and healthy.

There is a VERY good chance your moen faucet (if its a kitchen faucet) unscrews just after the extendable cord portion. If its a bathroom faucet, it likely has an aerator that unscrews. The first time you unscrew them, they can be a bit stiff, but after that its pretty easy. My upstairs tank uses a bathroom faucet to take advantage of a python. My basement tank takes advantage of a laundryroom washdown sink.

Alternatively you can buy something like this or this.

And finally, if you simply can't get it to work, or prefer not to, you can always use a pump and a bunch of hosing. Put the pump in your tank to remove water, and put the pump in bucket that's in your sink to refill the tank. This way works but requires you to assemble the various pieces yourself and still requires something else to do gravel vacs.

API leaf zone is not a complete fertilizer. It lacks micros and some macros. It's basically something you use if you already have a lot of fish poop in your tank and not many plants. I would not recommend it for a medium to heavily planted tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Soooooo definitely reconsider the buckets. If you are using buckets you will be very tempted to not change as much water or not do it as often and this is without a doubt the most important thing in keeping a tank clean and healthy.

There is a VERY good chance your moen faucet (if its a kitchen faucet) unscrews just after the extendable cord portion. If its a bathroom faucet, it likely has an aerator that unscrews. The first time you unscrew them, they can be a bit stiff, but after that its pretty easy. My upstairs tank uses a bathroom faucet to take advantage of a python. My basement tank takes advantage of a laundryroom washdown sink.

Alternatively you can buy something like this or this.

And finally, if you simply can't get it to work, or prefer not to, you can always use a pump and a bunch of hosing. Put the pump in your tank to remove water, and put the pump in bucket that's in your sink to refill the tank. This way works but requires you to assemble the various pieces yourself and still requires something else to do gravel vacs.

API leaf zone is not a complete fertilizer. It lacks micros and some macros. It's basically something you use if you already have a lot of fish poop in your tank and not many plants. I would not recommend it for a medium to heavily planted tank.
Thanks. Using root tabs do I need to use a liquid fertilizer right from the start?

My Moen faucet is a pull down and the head screws off but I couldn’t find an adapter that fit the threading. I’ll continue to look into it because I would love if I could get it to work. I was utterly defeated when I returned it ha.
 

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Thanks. Using root tabs do I need to use a liquid fertilizer right from the start?

My Moen faucet is a pull down and the head screws off but I couldn’t find an adapter that fit the threading. I’ll continue to look into it because I would love if I could get it to work. I was utterly defeated when I returned it ha.
Soooooo regarding fertilizer. I would say yes, you need liquid fertilizer right away... BUT there are those that really like root tabs and dose those as a primary method fertilization. I use root tabs only occasionally and frankly am mistrustful of them because I have no idea when they will run out of an essential nutrient. I am also suspicious of their ability to disperse fertilizer throughout the areas that need it. When I dose liquid fertilizer, I know it goes everywhere right away. I also can follow dosage schedules from people much smarter then myself for how often and how much to dose. So in short, you can sort of get away without liquid fertilizer, BUT as soon as you run into problems you will be in a situation of trying to figure out what caused those problems and the answer might be 'I am not dosing any darn liquid fertilizer' or it might be something completely unrelated and you won't know until you start dosing liquid fertilizer ;P

Sooooo, buy some liquid fertilizer ;P. There are a lot of options out there for all in one fertilizer, thrive, aquarium co-op easy green, tropica specialized, apt complete. Some others I probably have never heard of. Choose one you like, or find acceptable and go with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The plant pack is pretty sweet!! For the buckets it’s how I do my 29 g and I’d really not recommend them for anything bigger.
Haha, yep! It's how I've been doing it for the 20 and 55 and certainly not ideal. I'm trying to be optimistic so I'm counting them as workouts! 😂
 

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Haha, yep! It's how I've been doing it for the 20 and 55 and certainly not ideal. I'm trying to be optimistic so I'm counting them as workouts! 😂
That’s the spirit!! 😂 Honestly at the moment I am really enjoying the water changing ritual, I always do it on Saturday night, prep the water the previous day, have a whole routine, get the water out, wipe the glass, tidy the plants, test water before and after.... I do everything very slowly and honestly it’s pretty meditative.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
It looks like my filter is supposed to arrive today; I'm kind of torn on whether I should set it up to run in the 55 for a little while like I originally planned or go ahead and fill the 20L and do a fish-in cycle with our two remaining neons and glass catfish. I've got Seachem Prime and Stability to help with a fish-in cycle if anyone thinks I should go that route.

Haven't seen an update on my plant order yet; should receive them either end of this week of sometime next week.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Sooooo, buy some liquid fertilizer ;P. There are a lot of options out there for all in one fertilizer, thrive, aquarium co-op easy green, tropica specialized, apt complete. Some others I probably have never heard of. Choose one you like, or find acceptable and go with it.
For low-tech do you recommend Thrive C or Thrive+. I'm guessing C but just want to confirm; it's same price for a two-pack of both on Amazon.
 

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Yeah, I'm so torn. I said never again to adding fish too early after the mishaps with the first two tanks but now it's a situation of picking the lesser of two evils.
Yeah I think it’s different now because you’re moving them from a clearly dangerous situation to a potentially dangerous one... I think if you read up on fish-in cycling and arm yourself with Prime and do very frequent water changes it could work.
 

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For low-tech do you recommend Thrive C or Thrive+. I'm guessing C but just want to confirm; it's same price for a two-pack of both on Amazon.
I like thriveC for low tech tanks. One bottle lasts a long time. I'd price out buying it directly from Nicolg rather than buy 2 at once from Amazon.
 

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Waterbox Frag 105.4 High Tech
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Nice 20g are dope dimensions and blasting sand is always a good choice

That’s the spirit!! 😂 Honestly at the moment I am really enjoying the water changing ritual, I always do it on Saturday night, prep the water the previous day, have a whole routine, get the water out, wipe the glass, tidy the plants, test water before and after.... I do everything very slowly and honestly it’s pretty meditative.
that's why this hobby is great!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
So after messing around with it some more I’ve decided to return the Tidal 55 and get an Aquaclear 50 instead.

The Tidal 55 has some significant issues for smaller tanks and fish/shrimp that kind of get glossed over in most reviews.

The first issue is they’re not great for shallow tanks as the intake nozzle will basically be in your substrate and it’s wider than any other HOB I’ve seen so standard pre-filter sponges won’t fit. You can completely turn off suction to this part for what it’s worth.

The more glaring issue is there are fairly large (not shrimp or fry safe) intake slots on the bottom of the motor housing as well as the very long “surface skimmer” slots. I don’t see a way to pre-filter either of them and they can’t be turned off like the intake tube. Just an odd design choice IMO.

I really wanted to like this filter but it just wasn’t going to be a good fit for this tank. Fingers crossed the Aquaclear is a better fit.
 
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