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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I am a beginner and looking for advice on making my planted low tech 20 gallon long aquarium
-also I am aware of the $1 per gallon sale is going on and will end tomorrow. I am wondering if it's a good deal to buy the 20 gallon long there and then buy the equipment seperate or buy a starter kit. (I've heard the hood and sometimes the filter aren't good quality)

My goals:

fish:
a school of tetras or rasboras
possibly shrimp
possibly corydoras catfish

I want the aquarium to be low tech; so no co2, low light, and little to no fertilizers.
I want background plants to cover the back glass as well as the filter and heater.
I would like a full carpet but I understand that is somewhat difficult in a low tech setup unless it's moss on a mesh wall.
I really don't want to vacuum the gravel so any suggestions on plants to use so I wouldn't have to
I would like to be able to only have to do waterchanges every 14 days.
I want glass top to prevent evaporation.

My questions:

What substrate do you recommend for a beginner and a low tech setup? (I would like it to be low maintenance, have no problems with pockets of anaerobic bacteria, and also would like it to be a black substrate to contrast the fish)
If I don't want to vacuum the gravel would I have to completely cover the substrate with plants or would plants be able consume the fish waste from a fair distance?
I am aware of the $1 per gallon sale is going on and will end tomorrow. I am wondering if it's a good deal to buy the 20 gallon long there and then buy the equipment seperate or buy a starter kit. (I've heard the hood and sometimes the filter aren't good quality)
What is a good heater brand to get? (i've researched and it seems a 100 watt is ideal for a 20 gallon long but I could be wrong.)
What is a good filter for my setup? (I've read more filtration is better so getting one for a 30-50 gallon instead of a 20 gallon filter is ideal, but I am nervous if the flow is too strong or the filter takes too much space for my setup.)
If i choose to use glass tops, will the cutouts fit a bigger size filter compared to my tank and where would I find a good glass top for a 20 long?
Lastly, if I choose slow growing plants like anubias, valisneria, or java fern how do I fight against algae.




Please help if you can on my questions above and also some tips on how to achieve my goals above as well. I apologize if it's too long or if I am asking too many questions. I have done research for months and just was stumped on some of these things. Hoping to get the aquarium soon so any help is appreciated. Thanks.
 

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Sorry if I'm late to the party, I think I can help as I have done almost the exact same thing as you were doing.

Fish: School of tetras, shrimps are good choices. A couple of cory catfish are also good choices but feeding could be an issue in the beginning since there would be a lack of algae for them to eat if you're just starting a new tank. Algae wafers can work but the problems I got from that is the tetras would try to eat them and end up dangerously full. Peas can also work as the tetras may just nibble on them a little but the shrimps will hog them. So you'll either have to plan on getting them later when there's a good amount of algae in the tank for them to feed on or if you got a way to feed them


Plants: Anubias, Java Fern, Anacharis (Tall), Water Wisteria (Tall), Amazon Sword Plant (Tall) are some good plants that are hardy I have worked with in a low tech aquarium. Especially the Anacharis.

Trying to do a carpeting in a low tech aquarium is possible but can be quite difficult without something like co2 to help it. I wasn't able to get a carpet of dwarf hair grass but I was able to see them grow and spread out of the tank just a little. But took some months for me to see any spreading. You could try Dwarf Sagittaria as they work the same way as dwarf hair grass but more hardy I suppose. I was able to get 10 of them cheap on ebay for $12.

If you have algae eaters like Nerite snails or cory catfish, they can easily deal with soon to come algae on the leaves and the glass. Avoid plecos as they can really out grow the tank.

Glass tops: They do get dusty above and water stains on them, but I don't see much of a difference in lighting so long you have some decent lighting. They definitely protect your lighting and prevent the water from evaporating into your lighting which can cause damage that you'll eventually have to replace because of it.

You can fit all your filters and equipment in the back where there will be an opening. If you want to put something in the front of the tank, you'll have to start in the back. You can get some really cheap glass top from Doctors Foster and Smith where they have glass tops for 20 gallon long tanks. As of now, they're having a sale for about $9.

Aquarium tank: I have Grreat Choice and Aqueon tanks, they both pretty much perform the same for me. Petsmart and Petco tend to have these kind of sales from time to time so if you're waiting to get it cheap (which is what I did) just keep an eye out.

Substrates: Sand, pool filter sand or something like Flourite (the sand kind) works very well with plants. I would avoid gravel as they seem to work against plants like water sprite, dwarf hair grass when I had them. As if the gravels are heavy and crushing the plant so it can't grow or something for me. Soils works too but once you add water before or after in the tank, it's unlikely you're going to find minimal effort since the water will begin to cloud up and won't settle down after a long time. This goes the same for sand and every time you disrupt the substrate unless you thoroughly rinsed the sand. You can avoid most of the cloudiness if you do something like this with a bottle and a tank full of water.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tk6QuMu6oU

I haven't had a problem with build up gas by doing this so I guess this will help too.

You can avoid needing to vacuum the substrate if you have good water flow in the tank from something like water pumps or filters. However, this can be difficult since you'll need to have them positioned where they are not strong enough to mess up the substrates and plants but strong enough clear dead spot, and somehow get all of that stuff into the filter.


Hope this helps enough to help you plan something.
 

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I am a beginner and looking for advice on making my planted low tech 20 gallon long aquarium
-also I am aware of the $1 per gallon sale is going on and will end tomorrow. I am wondering if it's a good deal to buy the 20 gallon long there and then buy the equipment seperate or buy a starter kit. (I've heard the hood and sometimes the filter aren't good quality)

My goals:

fish:
a school of tetras or rasboras
possibly shrimp
possibly corydoras catfish

I want the aquarium to be low tech; so no co2, low light, and little to no fertilizers.
I want background plants to cover the back glass as well as the filter and heater.
I would like a full carpet but I understand that is somewhat difficult in a low tech setup unless it's moss on a mesh wall.
I really don't want to vacuum the gravel so any suggestions on plants to use so I wouldn't have to
I would like to be able to only have to do waterchanges every 14 days.
I want glass top to prevent evaporation.

My questions:

What substrate do you recommend for a beginner and a low tech setup? (I would like it to be low maintenance, have no problems with pockets of anaerobic bacteria, and also would like it to be a black substrate to contrast the fish)
If I don't want to vacuum the gravel would I have to completely cover the substrate with plants or would plants be able consume the fish waste from a fair distance?
I am aware of the $1 per gallon sale is going on and will end tomorrow. I am wondering if it's a good deal to buy the 20 gallon long there and then buy the equipment seperate or buy a starter kit. (I've heard the hood and sometimes the filter aren't good quality)
What is a good heater brand to get? (i've researched and it seems a 100 watt is ideal for a 20 gallon long but I could be wrong.)
What is a good filter for my setup? (I've read more filtration is better so getting one for a 30-50 gallon instead of a 20 gallon filter is ideal, but I am nervous if the flow is too strong or the filter takes too much space for my setup.)
If i choose to use glass tops, will the cutouts fit a bigger size filter compared to my tank and where would I find a good glass top for a 20 long?
Lastly, if I choose slow growing plants like anubias, valisneria, or java fern how do I fight against algae.




Please help if you can on my questions above and also some tips on how to achieve my goals above as well. I apologize if it's too long or if I am asking too many questions. I have done research for months and just was stumped on some of these things. Hoping to get the aquarium soon so any help is appreciated. Thanks.
Substrate: If there is a Tractor Supply in your area, pick up a bag of Black Diamond blasting grit 20/40. It's super cheap ($9 for 50lbs), it's black and plants do really well in it.

Vacuuming: You never want to do a deep vacuuming on a planted tank. The plants will use the fish waste and left over food as there food. When you do your weekly maintenance or in you case biweekly, you just want to vacuum the debris from the surface of the substrate.

The tank: I'm not a big fan of the starter kits. Like you said the other equipment you get with it is typically not the best and you end up upgrading it anyway.

Heater: You should be fine with a 50/75w heater. I run 50w heaters in both my standard 20's and they do just fine. For me the Aqueon Pro is the best I've used with a close second being the Eheim Jager.

Filtration: This depends on what you are looking for. Do you want a HOB filter or a canister? If it's the HOB you're going after I'd suggest an Aquaclear. If it's the canister then my preference would be an Eheim classic.

Tops: This is really a preference decision. I run open tops on all my tanks because I constantly have my hands in them. There are pros and cons for having them or not.

Algae: This will need to be dealt with on a case by case basis. You are going to have it as there isn't a planted tank out there that doesn't.
 

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+1 on Black Diamond blasting sand.
+1 on staying away from starter kits (unless you need a quarantine tank, but by that time you probably have accumulated enough stuff you don't need a kit)
+1 on sticking with a 50w heater, 75w seems even to much for a 20g, but it would work fine.

Plant choice is important. Stem plants generally need more light. Low maintenance means things change/grow slower, so less light is needed. Honestly I'd not pursue carpeting plants at all given your preferences (low light, low maintenance, no CO2) and stick to Java ferns, anubias, java moss, rosette swords, etc. are great. There's a great list of low light plants in the low-tech forum. Pick a light you can either adjust the intensity or have the ability to raise/lower according to your needs.

I actually like my MarineLand Penguin 200 for my 20L. It keeps the water really clean and it's easy to service. It gives good flow and isn't expensive. Since it has 2 cartridge slots, I rotate the back cartridge to the sink for cleaning, the front cartridge to the back and populate the front slot with a previously clean cartridge. I just do that 3 cartridge rotation and it has been great. I think I got it for $27. My Eheim cost me $120.

Don't add shrimp until the tank is a couple months old. They appreciate a tank that's more stable and dialed in. A school of tetras or small corys would be good. A rubberlip pleco only grows 4-5", totally acceptable for a 20L, but mine munches on my plants. My 20L is completely overstocked with 6 skirt tetras, 1 rubberlip pleco, and about 15 guppies. It has a Eheim 2215 on it.

Glass lids come with a plastic part that you can cut to fit your needs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I appreciate all the help. I think I am gonna buy a 20 long at petco before the $1 per gallon ends and just buy the equipment separate.

Could you elaborate on the black diamond blasting sand? It is a dark substrate which I want but is it messy? Does it add nutrients for the plants? Would I need to add root tabs or could I leave it as it is?

With it being sand, is there a good possibility that it would cause pockets of anaerobic bacteria to form and possibly poison the fish? I am not really interested in getting mts snails to prevent that.

I just read that the sand has an oily residue. How did you guys clean the sand before putting it in the aquarium? Just running hot water for 45-60 min while refilling the water?

Also If I want to achieve not having to vacuum, would I need to cover every inch of the substrate with plants?

Thanks again.
 

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As everybody else said, stay away from kits. Get the tank at Petco's $1/gl.

You don't necessarily have to have the boogeyman, aka algae, a bit of education and planning will serve you well. 20 long is a very popular tank - read other people's journals with that tank and learn from their experiences. Get everything ready before you start the tank - set it up once and don't mess with it daily, let the nature do the work. Don't rush - you can either have a really nice, trouble free tank in a month or a gorgeous tank in the first day and an eyesore and time and money pit days 4 to 365.

[Soap box] I contend that one can control most, if not all, aspects of a tank with plants. You want slow growing easy maintenance plants? Fine, but invest your time and money into plants the first month so that you can reach your goal later. The so-called fast growing plants don't have to be in your tank forever - use them and then give them away / sell later. Most posts focus on these plants as means to "soak up" excess nutrients and to "mature" the tank faster. They do that but they also do a lot more: they provide home to numerous micro organizms, their roots help to aerate substrate and move nutrients around, they produce co2 at night and O2 during the day, they can be used to control the intencity of light, they live and die, they consume and give back. Phew.

Get a viriety: different plants use more of this nutrient and less of that. Some you will like and keep and some will die and others you will give away.

Water sprite, water westeria, different other Hygrophilia, floaters (Salvinia minima, frog bit, water lettuce), Valisneria (actually, a fast growing / propagating plants), ambulia, Ludwidgia, basic Rotalas, mayaca, are all part of your first line of defence.

For your "final" plants: any Valisneria will outgrow your tank in no time. It's fine if you like their leaves to trail across the surface. Get over the "carpeting" plants, go with Blyxa Japonica and if it does well for you, you will have the look at the fraction of the effort. Want some color? Dwarf water Lilly (nymphaea stellata) is your plant. Regular baby tears, Bacopa australis, Ludwidgia repens, chain sword, Hygrophilia kompact, dwarf sagitaria - they all give you something special, from color, size, leaf shape and size.

Do add your ferns, mosses, Anubius, crypts from the start - they are all part of a complex, not well understood biosystem.

Above all, enjoy the trip.
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Any idea on what a good light would be for my 20 gallon long? How many watts would I do for a low tech setup?

Also, how would I clean glass tops because I heard they can get really dirty especially with hard water, which I have?

Also if I get glass tops would you suggest just putting a light fixture on top of it or buying a canopy with light over that? Just want the easiest to maintain but looks decent as well.
 

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I appreciate all the help. I think I am gonna buy a 20 long at petco before the $1 per gallon ends and just buy the equipment separate.

Could you elaborate on the black diamond blasting sand? It is a dark substrate which I want but is it messy? Does it add nutrients for the plants? Would I need to add root tabs or could I leave it as it is?

With it being sand, is there a good possibility that it would cause pockets of anaerobic bacteria to form and possibly poison the fish? I am not really interested in getting mts snails to prevent that.

I just read that the sand has an oily residue. How did you guys clean the sand before putting it in the aquarium? Just running hot water for 45-60 min while refilling the water?

Also If I want to achieve not having to vacuum, would I need to cover every inch of the substrate with plants?

Thanks again.
I just rinsed mine really good with a 5 gal bucket and garden hose until the water turned clear. If there is a toxic residue on the sand, nothing has happened yet in my tanks. The sand is coal slag and is inert. It can be used as a capping substrate or alone. The benefits other than price are that it's coarse, for good exchange between substrate and water column and rooting.

And I only vacuum a little here and there when I'm doing a water change. Only if there is a major pileup but that's it
 

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A couple of cory catfish are also good choices but feeding could be an issue in the beginning since there would be a lack of algae for them to eat if you're just starting a new tank. Algae wafers can work but the problems I got from that is the tetras would try to eat them and end up dangerously full. Peas can also work as the tetras may just nibble on them a little but the shrimps will hog them. So you'll either have to plan on getting them later when there's a good amount of algae in the tank for them to feed on or if you got a way to feed them
Just to point out - cories are not algae eaters. They need a varied diet and also meaty foods like shrimp pellets, special bottom feeder/catfish pellets, frozen blood worms, etc.
 

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My advice is; buy all the stuff for a medium tech setup, as you are probably going to end up there anyway.
Planted tanks are a bit like a pyramid scheme with ever increasing installments.
 

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And please, please stop multiple threads on the same subject - you now have 4 going on at the moment on your 20 long. It just confuses people, who do not get the whole picture or who give you the same advise multiple times ☺
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
And please, please stop multiple threads on the same subject - you now have 4 going on at the moment on your 20 long. It just confuses people, who do not get the whole picture or who give you the same advise multiple times ☺
You don't need to repeat yourself. I already replied to you on the other thread saying sorry about that. I had all 4 threads up before you sent that.

I didn't get the same info, I got different info that I needed and think I have a grasp on it now. Th other questions I might have would involve plants or some other matter. Which I will search the website or make a thread specifically on that. Again, sorry about that, I am new to this website and just trying to get help.
 
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