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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 38 gallon tank and am going to set it up as a LOW TECH planted tank in a couple of months. It is currently cycled with a few fish. I have an Aqua Clear 70 filter on it. Several questions about converting it.

1---What is the best substrate to use for a LOW TECH tank. Ecocomplete, Fluorite or a combination of both? I understand about 2 to 3 inches is normal. I also understand capping the top layer. I do not mind spending to get the proper substrate that is best for the tank. I know there are many different opinions on this. I am trying to do this right the first time.

2---Can I leave the tank running and cycled while I change out the substrate? It has just small natural looking gravel in it now which is easy to remove.

3---It has a single light fixture with a 24 inch T8 bulb.

Any help and opinions will be greatly appreciated. I intend on getting a nice piece of drift wood in it also. Is there any source for drift wood that has been presoaked with the tannis already removed ? I see all kinds advertised presoaked so they will sink but must be soaked to remove tannis. I had a large Chiclid tank with drift wood and I could not boil it and had to soak it for 4 months to get the tannis out. The piece for this tank will also be to large to boil. Changed the water everyday. I do not like colored water buy putting it in the tank and let it leach into the tank.

Thank you
 

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1) Eco-Complete and Flourite are both good substrates for a planted tank; which you get is up to personal preference. Flourite comes in several colors, while Eco-Complete comes in only black. Flourite Black is not as black as Eco-Complete. So you could go off color, price, or research ease of planting, etc, and see which sounds the best to you. You could mix them, but I wouldn't for aesthetic reasons.

If you use one of these substrates you don't need a cap; you can just use the one substrate throughout.

If you start out with some root tabs and either of these substrates you will have a good start, and can't really go wrong. (These substrates don't contain nutrients; they have the ability to hold nutrients and make them available to the plants, so root tabs help the plants get established.)

2) Most of the beneficial bacteria live in your filter, so if you shut the filter off while you're stirring up the old substrate to get it out, you won't have much of a problem.

I would probably recommending taking your fish out and putting them in buckets or a large container, and make sure your filter media stays wet too. Once you remove the old substrate you're going to want to do about a 100% water change, since all the old mulm and debris will get into the water column and could cause ammonia spikes.

You could try to save some of this mulm to add to your new substrate, which will help establish bacteria there. If you're filter is still okay, you shouldn't get a cycle, but watch your parameters closely in case the loss of the old substrate causes a mini cycle with your current fish load.

3) Even for a low light tank you're going to need to get more light; at least one more T8 bulb. It would probably be best to get a fixture with a T5 normal output bulb.


For the tannins, what I did was I got a bucket big enough to put my driftwood in, then boiled water and poured it in to cover it and then let it soak. I did this every day for a week or two. Once you can't stand it anymore, you can put it in your tank and put some Purigen in your filter, which will help control the tannins. In fact you can try just putting it in with Purigen from the start and see if it keeps them down enough not to bother you. Also, some woods don't leach as much tannins; for example, I don't think manzanita leaches as much as mopani wood.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Substrate and lighting

Thanks Jadelin for your responce. Several questions yet.

1--- On the substrate, can I leave the small gravel in the tank and cap it with Ecocomplete or seeing I have some Fluorite and will have to buy more Fluorite. I have about 1 inch of gravel in the tank now. Would about 2 inches of cap with Fluorite or Ecocomplete be fine? I have some fluorite was in a tank about 6 to 8 months ago and was removed and allowed to dry. It is stored in a tight container. Is it still usable or toss it and start over? I do not mind buying either substrate to cap the gravel with. I just want what is the best and easyist to work with.

2--- On the lighting, You said a t5 fixture would work as well as a bouble t8. The t5 you suggested is it a single bulb or bouble? I have an extra dual t8 36 inch fixture I am not using. Bulbs I know to use bulbs for plant growth. I see there are several available. What is recommended?

3---I will be able to save the filter and run it in a container with the same water from the tank during this switch. I can siphon all the old water and leave enough to keep the existing gravel damp while adding the new substrate and refill with new water and reinstall the filter without distrubing the prefilter or media in it. I guess i can put the Dinos back in then . There are only 8 of them. They are pretty hardy to water changes.

4--- How soon after can plants be added? Should I wait a few weeks and make sure the water has stabilized and the proper lighting is in place.

Thank you
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Lighting fixture question

The tank is 36 inches wide. I am going to get a Versa glass cover for it. It will be a cover for a 2 bulb fixture. On this 36 wide which length fixture should I get one of three choises 24 inch, 30 inch, 36inch. I would guess the 30 or 36 for this low tech tank. I would think the 30 would work with dual t8s and correct bulbs. Or am I all wrong ? Or go with the single t5 and what length.
I think I understand most of this build but the correct lighting.
Thanks
 

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For the gravel, once again it's mostly a matter of aesthetics; will it bother you that there is a layer of gravel under the other substrate? It would certainly be easier to just add more rather than take it out. On the other hand, it will never be easier to take out the gravel than right before you put in the other substrate, since you won't have any plants or decorations in the way.

With two inches of substrate above the gravel it's not likely that the gravel will get mixed in and show on the surface much, but it will happen eventually. And if you ever decide to move the tank, your substrate will all be mixed up together and it would be a huge pain to try and get the gravel out of it.

Also, since the plant roots will be the deepest things in the tank, it kind of makes sense to have the nutrient-holding substrate down where the roots are.

Personally I would just take it out because I know it would bother me later, and it would be better for the plants to have all planted tank substrate But everybody's different, and it might not bother you.

You should be able to use the old flourite fine, I would think. How well was it washed before it was stored? I would get it wet in a bucket and slosh it around and see if it makes the water dirty or anything weird, and if it doesn't I would use it.

Between Eco and Flourite it's a matter of preference; they both work about the same. In fact I have to decide which one I want in the 75 I'm going to set up and can't decide because I hear good things about both. Flourite tends to cloud the water more initially, so it's best to rinse it well. I've found that if you rinse it then spread it thin on a tarp or something to let it dry completely there isn't any clouding at all.

Eco is ready to put in the tank straight out of the bag. Eco is a little smoother, so if you're planning on getting corys or fish that like to burrow in the substrate, they would like it better than Flourite. On the other hand, Flourite Black Sand would probably be the best option there. Flourite tends to be lighter than Eco which can be good because it's easier to handle when dry, but it also can be harder to plant things in it (I've heard people complain about this, but I've never really had a problem with the Flourite Dark in my shrimp tank).

So, it's up to you basically. If you already have some Flourite and you like the color, that seems like the simplest option, but there are pros and cons to either.

Probably your easiest light would be a one bulb T5NO fixture. Since you already have the T8 lights, I would try and see if I could make them work first. Definitely put the two bulb fixture on there, and try to see if there's a way you can get the one bulb one on there too, to have three lights total. That will give you solid low light.

You should always get a light as long as your tank is, since you'll get shadows in the corners if you don't. So go for the 36" fixtures.

For bulbs, you have a wide range of options. Look on the package or on the bulb and you will find a number that is something like "6000K". You want bulbs that have a K reading somewhere between 5000K and 10,000K. People say 6700K is optimal for plant growth. I would actually avoid ones that are 'plant grow' bulbs, since they tend to be reddish and make your tank look a little weird. These tend to be better for terrestrial plants rather than aquatic. I would look for ones that say 'daylight' or 'sun' in their names.

As long as you have the proper lighting, plants can be added immediately.
 
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