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Discussion Starter #1
Hi Folks,

Its been many years since I've had an aquarium. It was of course a standard fish only tank. I think I had a Val. in it for a while which did well despite me doing nothing for it.

I've been admiring planted tanks fr a while now and have decide my study ( I work from home when not travelling) could use some soothing decoration in the corner. I've had the itch for a while, been reading every magazine I could find, books and forums like this one (mostly this one).

So now its time. I was lucky to find a barely used Fluval Osaka 320L tank in the area and am picking it up this weekend. Its a perfect fit. Though I've learned a lot recently I still don't know much and there's no substitute for experience. So thanks in advance....

The tank comes with some upgrades - a Rena XP3, an upgraded heater, Flourite and gravel substrate, and a Red Sea Pro CO2 system and many plants. Not sure much will survive the relo so I'm thinking this will be a restart, saving as much as I can.

Before I ask any advice, some background. I'm out of town at least 3-days a week. My oldest daughter (7) will take feeding duties while I'm out, but the setup really has to be very reliable to minimize tinkering once stable. Some tings are probably obvious. For instance, the XP3 is probably good enough to start, maybe forever and I've already decided that if I continue CO2, the Red Sea system is an obvious upgrade needed to meet the "reliability", minimum tinkering criteria. I think I've figured out to buy the best Regulator that I can afford, with the best needle valve available, but have a lot of other questions. Maybe I should break them out into the appropriate threads, but here are the starting questions.

Money IS an object by the way, but I think it's cheaper pay to do things right the first time. So spending where it makes sense is OK.

First and formest as its the first thing I have to do is determine substrate. I've read that the ADA products are great, but can require more than typical oversight. I need to get into a regular routine - its OK if that includes daily dosing as long as I can prep vials and have the family do the morning routine when I travel. So what are your thoughts on substrate? I may not be around to resolve issues, so simple with easy to execute processes seem the way to go. Dump the Flurite for ECO, ADA not so bad after all, simple Potting Soil with cover layer of sand...?

The Osaka has two 54watt tubes. Current owner's plants seem healthy, so I wasn't planning on upgrading right away, but what do you think? Again, I'd rather do it now instead of struggle and fail for a while.

Fertilizers: I suppose even AS (how's that for a newbie...using acronyms and everything :) needs ferts eventually. This probably relates directly to the substrate choice.

CO2: Seems you all favor a few Regulators, so I just have to pick one. WHat about diffusion? THe Osaka cabinet has two seperate areas for equipment that probably won't hold Filter and CO2 together. Plumbing between the two doesn't seem ike a good idea (reliability and not being home shoudl something go wrong ting again), so I thought it might make sense to keep CO2 self contained. In that case diffusers seem the way to go. I like the look of glass diffusers (nice, shiny objects!). Thoughts?

Any general advice is appreciated beyond the questions. Again, looking for a fairly low-maintenance result, reliability of equipment, simple maintenance processes....

Oh, I recall that you often ask more details on what the aquarist wants to accomplish with there tank. So....I want a fairly lush planted environment, easy to maintain. Will probably have small schools of schooling fish - small rainbows, danios, cherry barbs, etc.... I like the look of smaller fish in a big environment, rather than big fish dominating a tank. So a natural, lush setting, some wood and rocks, a few schools of small, colorful fish plus the cleanup crew and maybe a couple low swimmers of interest like a cichlid or something tbd.

That's it. Seems fundamental and the biggest initial variable is the substrate which I suppose turns into a technique question.

Thanks. I look foward to being part of the community.

Rob
 

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Substrate: Eco-complete, fluorite all work well. Dark colors I find look best and hide debris well. I would go for fluorite black sand if I had a chance to do my tank over again. I use eco-complete and the plants root well in it.

Fertilizers: Get dry ferts. Much cheaper and easier to dose. For when you are away just fill some weekly pill organizers with the ferts and tell the caretaker to just dump that days in.

CO2: Ceramic diffusers are the least efficient CO2 diffusion methods and for a large tank that you have I'd go for an in-line reactor or the powerhead method(Bubble the CO2 into the powerhead and the impeller will smash the bubble into a fine mist)

And with your lighting you may not need CO2 since you are on the lower end of wpg.
 

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Welcome to TPT!
Seems like you've been reading a lot about this hobby!

How low maintenance do you want?

You could go with a non c02 / low tech / No water change approach where the tank needs maintenance once every few months, other than a slight dosing once every week or two. If you want to learn more about that, try searching for Tom Barrs non c02 method, or pm me. =)

Are the osaka lights T5s? How old are the bulbs?

Mineralized soil is a great alternative to the pricey substrates. It's cheap and works very well.
 

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Mineralized soil is a great alternative to the pricey substrates. It's cheap and works very well.
Good advice here.

There's nothing "wrong" with the Red Sea regulator. If it works for you, I wouldn't replace it until it fails. I have one, and it's definitely good enough that I won't junk it just to replace it. I will not likely replace it with another when it dies.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
thanks so far

Hi and thanks for your responses.

The lights are T5 HO.

How much maintenance do I want. Well...zero with a little trimming would be nice :) Actually that's a tough one, I like gadgets, but I would like to get the tank to a state that I'm happy with and then just have minimal routines to do - one hour on a Saturday kind of thing. Then just re-scaping and such when I feel like fiddling.

This would be nice but are results like this acheivable low-tech? My personal ability to acheive it at all is another matter of course, but you have to have a goal. Once looking like this I'd like to go into min maint mode for a while.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Substrate

Forgot. Seems that AquaSoil is a soil optimized for aquaria, so the fact that a simple potting soil can be used doesn't surprise me, though it does take a little faith :)

Can you recommend a brand, or characteristics?

Thanks again
 

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Forgot. Seems that AquaSoil is a soil optimized for aquaria, so the fact that a simple potting soil can be used doesn't surprise me, though it does take a little faith :)

Can you recommend a brand, or characteristics?

Thanks again
I am using potting soil in my tank, actually. The soil is from Walmart or any similar store, the brand name is Hyponex and it's in a black bag. It's one of the cheapest brands. I got some for potted plants and was disappointed in it as it's very sandy and heavy. But I thought about trying it in an aquarium, and it works beautifully. I have a layer of that on the bottom about an inch deep, then an inch of Special Kitty brand cat litter--it's baked clay, so it's similar to laterite, but only about $4 for 25 pounds of it! And then your decorative substrate on top. I use a mix of very small gravel and sand, it looks very natural. It forces you to be low maintenance because it's a mess if you start digging and stirring in it with the soil...but otherwise it's working very well for me, I have been using it for over a year. I wish I could show pictures of how well it's doing, but my plants are all in bad shape from other issues right now....so you'll have to take my word for it.
 

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Here is some info on Mineralized soil with pictures on how to set it up:
http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forumapc/library/52554-how-mineralized-soil-substrate-aaron-talbot.html

Here is more info on Tom Barrs non c02 method, which I've succesfully used in my 55G for 1.8 years. It's extremely low maintence, I think I've done a water change maybe two or three times. This is perfect for me as I also travel a lot, and of course... I'm lazy =)
http://www.barrreport.com/articles/433-non-co2-methods.html

If you go low tech I see no reason why you couldn't have a tank like the picture you posted, the tradeoff however is that the plants will grow much slower.
 

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The lights are T5 HO.

How much maintenance do I want. Well...zero with a little trimming would be nice.

One looking like this I'd like to go into min maint mode for a while.
That was what I was aiming for. My lousy water has befouled my goal though. By lousy I mean soft with high ph and excessive phosphates. I have to constantly keep an eye out for BBA. Contrary what most think have found Potassium keeps in under control. Hopefully things will go better for. Nature is contrary thus nothing is written in stone. Thus it is best to start with cheap fast growers like Hornwort to see what turns you have to take. From Homer have gathered after 3 to 6 that if you are going to have problems it starts then. Some have no problems, do nothing and have great plant growth.

At least you have started with some great lights. Read that the T5HO bulbs last the longer than others and have high out put.

Those whom use kitty litter beware. Toxic metals can bind to the clay. I have it mixed in my dirt. When I pull plants out I loose a few fish, even a hardy Betta.

I think it's cheaper pay to do things right the first time. So spending where it makes sense is OK.
I know that for a fact. I made a diy light and it cost more than a nice coralife T5 does that would have been fine for my non-co2 tank.

What size of tank are you planning on?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Tom Barr's method

Thanks for all the great info everyone.

TopFrog,
I read Tom's article and many of the posts. Lots of acronyms :)

If I followed it correctly, Tom is suggesting that soil sybstrates aren't necessary. They eventually run out of nutrients and have to be dosed so he's suggesting using more traditional substrates like Eco, Flourite and sonething new to me - Leonardite. That seems to make sense to me. If soil adds some mess and challenge in setup, and you move to a dosing routine in X months anyway, why not start simpler with minimal dosing right out of the box.

If that is true, then I can just keep the flourite/gravel mix that the tank already has and just start out with a low-tech dosing routine as Tom suggests.

Is that what you're doing and is working for you?

Rob
 

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If I followed it correctly, Tom is suggesting that soil sybstrates aren't necessary. They eventually run out of nutrients and have to be dosed so he's suggesting using more traditional substrates like Eco, Flourite and sonething new to me - Leonardite.
I don't know what that article says, but that's not my impression of what Tom Barr would say about mineralized substrates. If I have time today, I'll go and read it. I think he makes the point that you may deplete some of the fertilization in the soil, and after a while you may need to dose, but I think the time span he's talking about is years.

I hate to quote him, for fear that I didn't get it right, but let me paraphrase what I remember him saying on a debate over substrate fertilizing with soil versus water column ferts via powder mixes: Either is fine, they both have their differences and their place, both together are best.

I have a 15 gallon waiting to be set up in my office, and I am going to do that with mineralized top soil. There are some extraordinary tanks around here that only use soil.
 

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Not sure if this has already been said, but when you give your 7 year old "feeding duties", make sure she understands clearly how much to put in. If she spills a lot in, that can be a disaster for a tank.

You probably already knew that, but just wanted to give you a heads up. :thumbsup: I love hearing when people are involving their kids in the hobby!

Edit: An idea is to have pre-measured portions for her while you're gone, to avoid the possibility of over feeding.
 

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Hey AquaBarren,

In my Low tech tank I have turface as a substrate, which is inert, it really has no benefit for plants. So I use Root tabs, and dose the recommend amount of equilibrium and etc via tom's method.

But, this new tank I'm setting up is also going to be a low tech/low maintenance tank and I'm using MS (Mineralized soil).

Kid Creole is correct. IMO! =)
 

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I see some people say they just use soil and other mineralized soil. Is there really a difference between the two? The mineralized process seems a bit annoying.
 

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I see some people say they just use soil and other mineralized soil. Is there really a difference between the two? The mineralized process seems a bit annoying.
From what I understand, mineralizing the soil greatly reduces your changes of algea outbreaks.

From the main Mineralized soil thread at Aquatic plant central:

"Using topsoil or potting soil as a substrate is not a new idea. Aquarists have been using this method to grow healthy aquatic plants for decades. However, this method does seem to pose some problems, namely algae outbreaks resulting from light intensity that is too strong. This is especially true when you first set up your aquarium with this type of substrate. The algae likely results from the excess nutrients that decomposing organic materials release in the soil. The decomposing organic materials are not bio-available to the aquatic plants. As the tank matures, the algae dissipate slowly as the organics in the soil finish breaking down.

Mineralizing the soil beforehand helps to speed the breakdown of organic materials in the soil. In turn the mineralized soil will help shorten the initial algae outbreak period that many aquarists experience when using a soil substrate. Soil mineralization occurs from exposing bacteria, enzymes and other soil microbes to oxygen in a moist environment. The microbes break down the organic materials in the soil into bio-available minerals. As an added bonus these new bio-available forms of nutrients are generally only available to plants and not to algae."

I will agree with you that it is annoying, especially for a tank my size. But it will save me hundreds of dollars for just a few hours work.
 

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I have topsoil with my version of mineralisation. I was close to loosing the ludwiga until I added organic charcoal from ACE hardware store. The enhanced substrate helps my plants adapt to low light. Also with it I only dose 1 ml of Nitrogen, Flourish and Excel weekly. The goal with dirt substrate is to get where you only need to do water changes every 3 months. Also with dirt and plants I am able to leave for 2 weeks and not worry about feeding the fish. In fact the 2x I put an automatic feeder on the tank I major problems when I got back in town.
 

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I will agree with you that it is annoying, especially for a tank my size. But it will save me hundreds of dollars for just a few hours work.
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Yeah, I understand. All the other stuff is so expensive. I was planning on trying the mineralized method with some play sand on top. Will you be using straight topsoil or all the added stuff in that link?

-Blake
 

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I was planning on trying the mineralized method with some play sand on top.
I found river sand the best for topping soil. For you only have to sift particles out and rinse 1x. Also I get a big bag for $3 from landscaper. It is not as dense as play sand, thus very easy to push plants stems through it. Play sand has to be rinsed a lot and turns orange after a while. I had play sand from Home Depot in 10 gallon and after a month I came to hate it.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
HI folks,

I picked up the Osaka Friday night and got it set up. Took about 9 hours from take down, transport and setup. Setup took about 5 hours, but was fun.

I'll start a tank journal and break specific questions, etc.. into seperate forum areas now. For those of you who posted replies to me, here's the basics:

Time snuck oupon us, so Ididn;t have a chance to do the pre-work that I wanted - finding theright driftwood, settling on and stocking up with substrate, plants, etc.... so I could just do major set up once. Didn't work out that way. Took what was already in the tank, whcih isn't ideal. Cut back the plant stock and am in the process of building things up one step at a time.

As of today though, water is clear, parameters all test great, so we're off to a good start.

Thanks again for the input.

Rob
 
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