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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay so I am in the process of setting up my first planted tank. I recently came into a free 29g tank and stand. I think I'm going to go with an Asian themed tank. Here's what I've got so far:

29g tank and stand

eheim 2215 classic canister filter

coralife 30" T5 HO dual 24w 6700k bulbs (might be the new 31watt light bar. can't remember. hasn't come in yet)

20lbs eco-complete

things I am considering adding:

10lbs. tahitian moon sand on top of eco-complete

fertilizers? CO2? I know nothing about this.

What kind of heater should I use?


10 or so Harlequin rasboras

4 Kulhi Loaches

1 male betta or pearl gourami, dwarf gourami

several cherry red shrimp (how many?)


I have no idea but I would want to try and stay in the south east asian biotope although if it's not in strict compliance I'm not gonna lose any sleep. What plants would be appropriate for background, middle, and foreground?

Any and all advice, suggestions, and comments are welcome. I've heard good things about this site and I hope you guys can help. thanks


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You will definitely have quite a bit of light over your tank, and any plants that you have will definitely benefit from the addition of fertilizers (both macro and micros) as well as CO2.

things I am considering adding:

10lbs. tahitian moon sand on top of eco-complete
The Sand will eventually fall below the Eco-Complete, and mix throughly with time.

fertilizers? CO2? I know nothing about this.
As I mentioned, you will likely need to dose both fertilizers and CO2.

Below are some articles that I wrote for another site, and I have copied and pasted them below for you:

Another important aspect of the planted aquarium is nutrients.

Plants require macronutrients NPK (nitrogen in the form of nitrates; phosphorus in the form of phosphates; and potassium) amongst other elements. Micronutrients (such as iron, copper, manganese, boron, molybdenum, etc) are also required by plants. It is a common misconception that the addition of phosphates leads to algae; this is not true. Phosphates are an important part of plant nutrition and is required by plants to grow successfully. As long as there is a balance between nutrient levels, lighting and carbon dioxide, you can have a successful planted aquarium.

There are several ways to provide these nutrients to plants. In a mixed aquarium (i.e. with fish and plants) with few plants, the wastes from fish can sometimes meet the demands of the plants. However, in heavily planted tanks, the demands of the plants can rarely be met by fish wastes alone. As such, supplementation must occur.

Supplementation can be provided via commercially available products (i.e. Seachem makes such a line of products). Alternatively, one can go for the "chemical" approach. Using this approach, various chemicals can be added to the tank in order to provide the nutrients that plants require. For example:

Potassium nitrate (KNO3) provides potassium and nitrates
Potassium dihydrogen phosphate (KH2PO4) provides potassium and phosphates
Potassium sulfate (K2SO4) provides potassium and sulfur (in the form of sulfates)
Magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) provides magnesium and sulfur (in the form of sulfates)
Trace mix provides various trace elements (Iron, Copper, Molybdenum, etc) that are required

In general, the levels that are desired in a planted aquaria are as follows:

Nitrates: ~10 ppm
Phosphates :~ 1-2 ppm
Potassium: ~20 ppm
Iron: ~1 ppm

There are several different regimes that are available today that can be followed in order to dose appropriately. As I did not write these articles, I will simply link to them here.

The estimative index (EI) method of dosing was created by Tom Barr and can be found here:

The PPS-Pro system was developed by Edward and can be found here:
The last major factor in a planted aquarium is carbon dioxide (CO2). In a planted aquarium, typically 30 ppm of CO2 are desirable (see below for measuring CO2).

Carbon is an important element for plants; they require this element in order to grow and propagate (i.e. all organisms on Earth are carbon based!).

Terrestrial plants do not require carbon dioxide, as they are able to meet their carbon needs from the atmospheric air. However in the aquatic environment, levels of CO2 are typically 4 ppm (parts per million), and are insufficient for plant growth in the long run. Recall that in higher light tanks, plants are being driven harder, and as such, carbon dioxide (as well as nutrients, see above) become an essential part of the planted aquarium "triangle".

Sources of carbon can be introduced into the planted tank in 2 ways:

1) Seachem Flourish Excel
Using this method, a commercially available chemical (polycycloglutaracetal) is added to the tank as an alternative source of carbon. Note that this is not carbon dioxide, and is only an alternative to carbon dioxide. It is not as effective as carbon dioxide itself, but can work. This method can be used in smaller tanks, but quickly becomes cost prohibitive in larger tanks.

2) Directly injecting CO2
Directly injecting CO2 is the best method of introducing a carbon source into the planted aquarium. One can accomplish this in one of two ways, each has its advantages and disadvantages.

a) DIY (do it yourself) CO2
Using this method, sugar and yeast are mixed into a container. As the yeast begins to feed on the sugar, carbon dioxide is produced as a byproduct of fermentation. This carbon dioxide can be fed into the water, and provides a source of carbon for plants.

- low initial cost
- effective for smaller tanks
- relatively easy to setup (i.e. not much technical expertise required)

- expensive in the long run
- becomes difficult to maintain in tanks larger than 30 gallons (i.e. more than one bottle of DIY CO2 may be required)
- inconsistent production of CO2

An excellent resource for DIY CO2 can be found here:

b) Pressurized CO2
The second method of introducing carbon dioxide into your tank, this method is preferred for larger tanks where DIY CO2 may not be suitable/too much of a hassle. In this method, a pressurized tank containing CO2 is injected into the aquarium, much like in DIY CO2. The following advantages and disadvantages can be said for pressurized CO2:

- Consistent CO2 flow
- Cheaper in the long run
- Requires less maintenance than DIY CO2

- high initial setup cost (i.e. a tank, regulator, needle valve can run upwards of $150; there are also some optional pieces of equipment such as a solenoid, bubble counter, etc)
- some technical expertise is required (i.e. knowledge of how a regulator works)

When introducing CO2 into the planted aquarium, it is also better to fully dissolve the CO2 than to let it bubble off. Dissolving the CO2 ensures that it is available to plants, and not simply out gassed into the atmosphere. Several methods of effectively getting CO2 into the water column exist.

1) Bell Diffuser: A passive method of CO2 diffusion, this relies on the assumption that CO2 will dissolve into the water column faster than the CO2 is produced (not likely). Not an effective method of introducing CO2 into the aquarium.
2) Feeding the CO2 tube into a filter intake: Slightly more efficient, this method allows the CO2 bubbles to be fed into the intake of a filter, allowing the bubbles to be chopped up by the filter impeller. Be warned that this method is said to shorten the lifespan of the filter impeller.
3) Commercially available "bubble ladders": Hagen makes a product that is known as "bubble ladder". This product allows CO2 bubbles to travel a long a track, allowing the CO2 more time to dissolve into the water column. The ladder is quite large and bulky (in my opinion), and some people may find it aesthetically unpleasing.
4) Ceramic disc diffuser: Typically a glass diffuser that contains a ceramic disc with miniature pores. These diffusers were first made by ADA (Aqua Design Amano). Such diffusers rely on the small pores on the ceramic disc to adequately create mini-CO2 bubbles, vastly increasing the rate of CO2 dissolution in water.
5) Inline CO2 reactor: Most arguably the best method of CO2 dissolution, the inline CO2 reactor is inline with a (canister) filter output. Using this method, the CO2 is very effectively dissolved.
So you have started to inject CO2 into your planted tank, but you are unsure whether you have too much/too little.

If you are injecting too little CO2, there may be the possibility that plants are starved for carbon. If the "triangle" is unbalanced, recall that algae can take over.

Conversely, if you are injecting too much carbon dioxide, it is possible to suffocate your fish/invertebrates. The goal is to find a happy medium between these two extremes (around 30 ppm of CO2 is desirable).

Measuring CO2 can be accomplished in several manners.

1) Electronic CO2 meter
A very expensive piece of equipment, not many aquarists have the budget necessary for one of these pieces of high tech gadgetry.

2) Measuring pH/kH
Measuring pH and kH is a method of determining the amount of CO2 in your aquarium. This method relies on the fact that there exists a relationship between pH, kH and the amount of CO2 that can be dissolved. However, one must keep in mind that this method is only an estimate; there may be other buffers in the water that may skew results from this method.

An excellent article by Chuck Gadd as well as an in-browser CO2 calculator and CO2 reference chart can be found here:

3) Drop checker
Most likely the newest addition to measuring CO2 levels, a drop checker consists of an airspace between the liquid inside the drop checker and the water in the aquarium. Carbon dioxide readily diffuses outwards from water into the air; as such, the carbon dioxide in the aquarium will readily diffuse into the airspace in the drop checker. The liquid inside the drop checker contains a solution of known kH (i.e. 4 or 5 dkH) with an indicator (bromothymol blue (BTB)) which serves as a good indicator of CO2 dissolution. The CO2 that is in the airspace of the drop checker will readily diffuse into the drop checker solution, changing the colour of the BTB indicator.

A guide to making your own DIY CO2 drop checker written by me (shameless plug here!) has been copied below for your reference.

After some reading on various forums, and since I started DIY CO2 in my 2.5 g nano, I decided to build a DIY CO2 drop checker on the whim (hey, it's reading week, I get a break from university midterms, I deserve to spend some time with my aquariums! :p)

Anyways, here's the equipment you will need, or rather, the stuff that I had lying around my house that I used:

1 Glass container with screw on lid
1 Silicon glue applicator/similar type glue applicator
1 Rubber O ring that is about the same size as the screw on lid
Power drill with appropriate drill bits
1 Suction cup
1 Zip tie


Glass container with lid

Glue applicator with the tip cut off so it will fit into the glass container

O Ring

As mentioned, you'll have to cut the plastic applicator so that it fits within your container first. Next, you'll want to drill a hole in the cap.

Finally, you can put the O-ring onto the applicator, put the applicator in, and screw on the lid.

Next, I needed some way to mount the whole thing in my nano, so I used a spare suction cup and a plastic zip tie.

You'll notice the zip tie just goes through the suction cup (i.e. I just put a hole through the nipple of the suction cup).

After the mechanical work was done, I had to start the chemistry part (I love chemistry!)

Items you'll need to make a 4 dkH reference solution for the drop checker:

1 Graduated Cylinder
1 Scale that can measure to at least 0.1 gram accuracy
1 Box of Baking Soda
1 Bottle of Distilled water


Scale that I bought off a site, it was $11 (free shipping)

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), you can pick this up at your grocery store.

Distilled water, again, grocery store.

First, since a 4 dkH reference solution is needed, I made the necessary calculations and prepared a 40 dkH solution before diluting it 10 fold to 4 dkH.

To make a 40 dkH solution, you need 1.2 grams of baking soda per 1 L of water. I made up a 2 L batch, so I needed 2.4 grams (the bigger the batch, the more accurate your final solution will become).

Then, taking 50 mL of the 40 dkH solution (measured with a graduated cylinder), I poured it into a bottle and filled the last 450 mL with distilled water (giving me a 1:10 dilution = 4 dkH solution).

After you make your 4 dkH solution, measure out 5 mL, and using a pH test kit (i.e. I used the API pH test kit, any test kit that uses bromothymol blue will be fine for this purpose), put in at least double the recommended number of drops (i.e. API recommends 6, I put in 8-9 drops). This makes the resulting solution darker, and easier to read.

Here's the liquid inside the drop checker.

Everything put together, just awaiting me to strap the drop checker to the suction cup.

The whole contraption has been placed into my nano, around 4:48 pm. At the time of writing this up (5:35 pm) the top portion of the liquid is already starting to turn green. :)

6:28 pm now, it's definitely green :)
What kind of heater should I use?
Almost any brand is fine, really. I personally prefer the EboJagers (or rather, the Eheims now, since EboJager was taken over by Eheim) and the Marineland Stealths.

19 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
thanks laura I appreciate it. I looked it up on mongabay and found some good species I could use. I am getting excited about the tank. Should look nice once I'm finished. Are nymphea lotus hard to find?
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