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New planted tank... Need advice/suggestions!

1104 Views 22 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  agimlin
Hi all! this is my first posting on PT forums so go easy on me :icon_lol:

I am wanting to start a low/semi-low tech planted tank with NO CO2 (store bought or DIY) as I am new to this and do not want the added hassle. I will run you down what I am thinking of doing, from tank size to filters to ferts. I would like some feedback on my ideas whether they be good or bad (I do well with constructive criticism) So here we go!

1. Tank: 20g long (30" x 13" x12")

2. Substrate: Eco-Complete (possibly mixed with some gravel, not quite sure yet)

3. Lighting: 40-50w (2-2.5 wpg) (Any certain brand you might suggest and I do not have a hood yet...)

4. Filter: Aquaclear powerhead 50 with AC quick filter (suggestions on something better??)

5. Heater: 150w (suggest brand??)

6. Ferts: Seachem Excel and Flourish

7. Plants: This is a list of ones I am looking into I do not plan on putting them all in.
-Green Hygro
-Willow Leaf Hygro
-Giant Hygro
-Anubias Barteri
-Java Fern
-Dwarf Sag

8. Fish: This is a list like the plants. I will not be stocking all of them just some of them.
Cherry barbs (5-6)
Corys (4-5)
Black Neon Tetra (5-6)
Otos (4-5)
German Blue Ram (1-2) Centerpiece fish??

Thank you for taking the time to read my post... i hope that you can help out a planted noobie
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Welcome to TPT!

Your plan sounds pretty good to me.

If you don't want to need CO2 on the tank then you'll need to stick with low light. A dual bulb T8 fixture would work well for your setup, or a dual bulb T5NO fixture IF you raise it up off the tank 6-8". I like the Coralife fixtures for 30" tanks, as they're one of (if not the) only brands that actually uses 30" bulbs versus 24" bulbs. Don't get too caught up in watts per gallon, those guidelines typically are outdated with all the new technology and fixtures on the market over the past few years.

Avoid T5HO fixtures, they'll be too much light w/out CO2.
Thank you very much lauralee! I will look into those.

One question if you dont mind... How are my ferts?
Probably fine for a low tech tank. It really depends on what light fixture you end up putting over the tank, since light is what drives plant growth rates, and their growth rate determines their nutrient needs.

Start off with those, and you can always add more if you need them later. Just keep in mind that Excel is a carbon source, and Flourish Comprehensive (which is what I assume you have... Seachem's entire fert line is called "Flourish") is mostly just micros and trace. You MAY end up needing to dose macros (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) down the line, but you can cross that bridge when you get to it.
Any idea of where to find the lighting you suggested? carries the Coralife fixtures and probably also dual bulb T8 fixtures. You can also check Ebay and DrsF&S (, and here in the swap n shop for used fixtures.
I bought my light from Big Al's. It was a decent price. In addition, both bulbs in the fixture broke (one came out of the socket and hit the other one). I called them and they sent me 4!!! Great customer service. I recommend them.
Awesome... and thank you again!
as far as fish are concerned i would stay away from otos for a wile as they are very sensative to water conditions same with the german ram, a nice alternative to the german ram are bolivian rams. if you wanted the otos for algae reasons you could try some glass shrimp but even then it will be a wile before you even have an algae issue. other than that i like the idea of the corys and tetras. just my 2 cents worth
You could also grab a t5No from a lowes or homedepot.
I think you are right on track. I have 2 20L shrimp tanks with black eco complete and have been wanting to do one more with the black neons and fairly heavily planted tank. How about bristlenose pleco for a good sucker?
Post some pics or a journal when you get things going.
I have an aquaclear 20 powerhead on a 20 long and even with the flow turned all the way down, I still feel like it's too powerful. A fifty is just extreme overkill and, as a beginner, you'll get frustrated with your plants flying around. Plus a powerhead doesn't provide any bio filtration. I'd go with the Aquaclear 20 or 30 hang on back power filter.

Substrate: Eco-complete seems to get favorable reviews, but personally, I'd rather have plain fluorite, since it doesn't increase your pH (most plants thrive in acidic pH). If you're willing to spend a bit more money, you should definitely consider aquasoil.

Lighting: Coralife 30" T5NO fixture will be fine, as long as you don't try any high light plants. They're very affordable too.

Plants: Hygros are great plants for beginners, but don't purchase too many or else they'll quickly outgrow the tank.
bushynose plecos are awsome i have an albino since they are slightly smaller and he is an algea eating machine
forgot to mention, regardless of what algea eater you do choose wait till you have algea because if not you will have to supplement with algea waffers then you run the risk of him not eating real algea at all
Thank you all for your input!

Isnt a bushynose pleco gonna get too big for my tank?
BN plecos get to about 4" (females??). They are a poop factory so they will affect your bioload.
So if I had one in my tank with 4-5 corys 4-5 black neons and possibly 4-5 cherry barbs... Would that be too many? Too heavy bioload while running an AC 50 powerhead with quick filter attached?
they actually stay fairly small for a pleco. albinos get about 4 1/2" and the regular variety gat about an inch larger
i wouldnt mix the barbs with the tetras because they are both schooling fish as are the corys. if it were me i would do 7 tetras , 3 corys, a dwarf cichlid, and way down the road like 4 otos. but thats just me. if you cant tell i love south american fish. and i would consider geting a power filter with chemical filtration along with mechanical.
what if I did this:

7 black neon tetras
3-4 corys (panda or julli)
2 bolivian rams
(if/when algae shows up)
5-6 shrimp or BN pleco
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