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I am an amateur when it comes to aquariums, I had the basic 10 gallon tanks growing up with all the plastic plants, ceramic caves, and even had some bright colored gravel (I have heard this referred to as clown puke), and all sorts of fish. I have a 3,000 gallon pond that I have had for six years now with 3 koi that range in size from 18" to 22", about 30-40 goldies, lots of rosy reds and all sorts of frogs, snails and even a snake or two have come to visit. So I have some experience with taking care of fish and balancing the whole thing out, cycles and even the yearly algae bloom every spring.

So why am I now interested in starting a planted tank hobby? I really like to garden and enjoy my fish that are in my pond, but I can only enjoy them about 8 months a year before it gets too cold and I have to shut everything down for the winter. I have always wanted an aquarium again but I always thought that I wanted a salt water reef, however a friend of mine had one and I saw how much work it took so I just never really got into it. What was originally driving me to the saltwater reefs was that they were living things and the fish were pretty cool as well. So this past week I was doing some research and came across several web sites and forums that talked about planted tanks or aquascaping (I think these are the same thing from what I can tell but if not please let me know) and several youtube videos that were just amazing. I showed my wife several of these and she was like when you going to start on ours. Doing a planted tank would bring my passion of plants and fish indoors and would be a great hobby for me to get into.

I am still doing a lot of research and will be asking a ton of questions, most of these you folks on the forum have probably answered a 1,000 times already and I apologize in advance for asking if it has been asked and answered just steer me to the appropriate link or thread. I will search for my answers before but sometimes they can be quite hard to find inside of a long thread or I may just be looking for some clarification. Like I stated earlier I have been lurking here for about the last week and have already found a ton of info (had no idea that CO2 was used lol). Some of the abbreviations or acronyms I can figure out but some I am just stumped as to what people are referring to so pardon me if I ask for clarification on some of these.

I don't have anything yet so I will be starting literally from square 1. No tank, stand, filter, lights etc nada nothing zilch! What I want to accomplish is a planted tank that has quite a few plants, rocks, some driftwood in it and of course fish. The type of fish I am planning on are tetras, maybe some sort of algae eater, a few shrimp would be awesome. I like the idea of having schooling fish so that is why I am looking at the tetras and from what I have seen they look awesome swimming around with all the plants. The vision is to make it look like something you would see in the wild.

So now that I have told you a little about me I have some questions for you more experience folks. I don't have a blank check either but I like to buy quality stuff that is going to last for years so I will need to balance this out.
1. I was looking at a 55g tank and have read on the net that some say to stay away from this size tank b/c the height can be too short and the depth is not there to give you enough room to make it look realistic. If you were starting out, what size would you recommend. I have the room for a 48" wide aquarium but I have to weigh the cost etc with that but would like your opinions. I have also been considering a 75g tank which is 48.5L x 18.5W x 21H.
2. I have done some research on the filters and see that Eheims look like a pretty good brand. Thoughts? How big of a filter is recommended for aquariums, do you want to turn over the entire volume once, twice, three times an hour? So if you have a 55g is a 150gph filter too much, will there be too much water flow?
3. What brand of heater? I heard something about these under the substrate heaters, is this something to stay away from?
4. I see that there are DIY CO2 plans out there, are CO2 necessary? Is it worth building your own CO2 system not from pressurized co2 but the kind you make with sugar and yeast?
5. Lighting- Seems there are a ton of topics on this subject but here is my question. The aquarium is going to be in the kitchen or family room not sure yet, but I see some lights that have the hood and sit right on top of the aquarium and others have them raised a foot or more above the aquarium, what is the difference? I need this to look nice so if it is necessary to have it above the tank are there options to make it look good besides just a shop light with some chains hanging from the ceiling? Was looking at the aquaticlife t5ho light fixtures, they look really nice and I like the idea of being able to have them on a timer and the moon light effect is pretty cool but are these lights too powerful for the size tanks I am looking at. I would like to have a wide variety of plants so I don't think I want low light plants.

That should do it for today, sorry for posting such a long intro . If I should post my questions in another thread somewhere let me know and I will do so, looking forward to learning a lot from this forum.

Thanks again Todd
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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Welcome to TPT! Sounds like you've got some great experience that should apply well to the planted tank side of the hobby. :thumbsup:

1. I was looking at a 55g tank and have read on the net that some say to stay away from this size tank b/c the height can be too short and the depth is not there to give you enough room to make it look realistic. If you were starting out, what size would you recommend. I have the room for a 48" wide aquarium but I have to weigh the cost etc with that but would like your opinions. I have also been considering a 75g tank which is 48.5L x 18.5W x 21H.
I would go with a 75gal or 90gal. Same footprint, just different heights. I personally am all about the fish, so like greater water volume so I can have more fish in with all my plants. Many like the shorter tank for light penetration issues, but IME the newer T5HO fixtures with their great reflectors really make that a non-issue any more.

2. I have done some research on the filters and see that Eheims look like a pretty good brand. Thoughts? How big of a filter is recommended for aquariums, do you want to turn over the entire volume once, twice, three times an hour? So if you have a 55g is a 150gph filter too much, will there be too much water flow?
I'm a big fan of both the Eheim Classic and Rena Filstar canister filters. Either a 2217 or an XP3 would be enough filtration for a 55gal tank, but once the plants grow in you are likely to need more flow. You could double up on canisters or get some powerheads. I personally really like running double filters on big tanks- it effectively doubles your filter efficiency (dual intakes collect more debris before it falls out of the water column), is a failsafe should one filter ever fail, and you can alternate cleaning them to be sure not to disrupt the tank's biofilter too much during maintenance. On one of the bigger tanks (75 or 90gal) I'd definitely recommend doubling on the filters. I personally run a Rena XP3 and XP4 on my own 90gal.

3. What brand of heater? I heard something about these under the substrate heaters, is this something to stay away from?
I wouldn't fool with an under substrate heater. They are NOT designed to heat the entire tank, they supposedly increase nutrient flow through substrate by creating convection currents through it. IMO even if that is more than theory and does actually have some tangible benefit, they'd still be a royal pain any time I wanted to do any tank maintenance, getting caught up in plant roots. I could see myself accidentally slicing into one and electrocuting myself. I hate in-tank heaters, I've been shocked entirely too many times by them in my almost 3 decades in the hobby, so I go with the Hydor ETH inline heaters whenever possible. Since you're considering going with canister filters anyways, I highly recommend going with an inline heater.

4. I see that there are DIY CO2 plans out there, are CO2 necessary? Is it worth building your own CO2 system not from pressurized co2 but the kind you make with sugar and yeast?
Whether or not you need to add CO2 to your tank really boils down to how much lighting you put over the tank. I would not recommend trying to achieve good results using just DIY CO2 on a tank over about 30gal, so your options with a 55gal plus tank really are either going with a pressurized CO2 or a low tech/non CO2/lower light setup.

5. Lighting- Seems there are a ton of topics on this subject but here is my question. The aquarium is going to be in the kitchen or family room not sure yet, but I see some lights that have the hood and sit right on top of the aquarium and others have them raised a foot or more above the aquarium, what is the difference? I need this to look nice so if it is necessary to have it above the tank are there options to make it look good besides just a shop light with some chains hanging from the ceiling? Was looking at the aquaticlife t5ho light fixtures, they look really nice and I like the idea of being able to have them on a timer and the moon light effect is pretty cool but are these lights too powerful for the size tanks I am looking at. I would like to have a wide variety of plants so I don't think I want low light plants.
See also my answer above. If you go with T5HO lighting over your tank but do not want to invest in a pressurized CO2 setup, then you'll most likely have to find a way to moderate the lighting, as otherwise it will be too much (and you'll end up with an algae farm rather than a planted tank lol). Raising the light fixture up off the tank is one option that many people chose because you can play with the height till you "dial in" just the right light intensity that works best for your setup. Other options include shortening a photoperiod, getting a fixture that allows you to run fewer bulbs at a time, or putting screening or using floating plants to block some of the light from the main tank.

Figuring out the best light level and picking out a light fixture IMO is the hardest and most critical step in setting up a planted tank. It's light that drives everything else in the system. So if you're spending time researching, this is where I'd start off.
 

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I will say this, first welcome to TPT. Glad to have you. And, second, +1 on everything Laura said. From what I have seen (being unemployed at the moment, that is a lot, lol) she really knows her stuff. Also, there is a lot of knowledge to be had on here, so take your time, and make sure you start a build thread or journal when you decide on the tank and all that. Good luck.:):thumbsup:
 
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