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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay so I'm not an expert by any means, but I have owned tanks since I was a kid, and I've read tons about tanks. In the last two years I've tried this whole planted tank thing, and I am thoroughly confused. Please bare with me this is going to be long, but Im trying to be as thorough as possible.

First of all I have 3 tanks. A 3 gal betta tank no filter or lighting (it sits in the window and gets natural light) with a Brazilian sword plant (I think that's what it's called?). I have a 30 gal tank I bought from Walmart with all the generic lighting and filtration that goes with it.
In that one I just have some tetras and mollies with Java fern and an Anubis plant. and then I have 55 gal with a plecos and a spotted Florida gar (he's still a baby).

The problem I'm having is in the gar tank. My other two tanks the plants are growing and flourishing just fine. But in the gar tank I have tried just about every low light plant I can find and they all either get brown spots and die (Currently I have a banana plant in it and that's what it's doing) or the plants turn clear and die.

In the betta and tetra tanks I have gravel as a substrate. In the gar tank I thought sand substrate would be better as its more natural for a gar. The sand I bought was this sand from petsmart. http://m.petsmart.com/h5/hub?id=sup...d36-16745/cat-36-catid-300072?var_id=36-16745

I live in AZ so I have really hard water. The KH is 0-40 and the GH is always 180. Despite that the fish I have are thriving. Non of these are newly set up tanks. They are all at least a year old and the gar tank several years old (although I've only had the gar itself for a few months before him I had some cichlids for a few years). None of my fish have died. the ph is a little high 7.5-8 and my nitrites are 0, but my nitrates are always between 80-200 (I know that's super high. I attribute it to the feeder fish spiking the nitrates and the plecos/aka poop machine even with constant water changes) this why I wanted a planted tank. I thought plants could help combat the nitrates and possibly take some of the heavy metals attributing to the KH out of the water. But therein lies the problem. I can't get a single plant to last in the gar tank before it croaks within a week. Anyone got any advice? Should I remove the sand? Do I need a co2 diffuser? After reading and reading online I'm thoroughly confused as to why my gravel tanks are doing just fine fish and plant wise but not the gar tank. Any advice would be welcome!
 

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Okay so I'm not an expert by any means, but I have owned tanks since I was a kid, and I've read tons about tanks. In the last two years I've tried this whole planted tank thing, and I am thoroughly confused. Please bare with me this is going to be long, but Im trying to be as thorough as possible.

First of all I have 3 tanks. A 3 gal betta tank no filter or lighting (it sits in the window and gets natural light) with a Brazilian sword plant (I think that's what it's called?). I have a 30 gal tank I bought from Walmart with all the generic lighting and filtration that goes with it.
In that one I just have some tetras and mollies with Java fern and an Anubis plant. and then I have 55 gal with a plecos and a spotted Florida gar (he's still a baby).

The problem I'm having is in the gar tank. My other two tanks the plants are growing and flourishing just fine. But in the gar tank I have tried just about every low light plant I can find and they all either get brown spots and die (Currently I have a banana plant in it and that's what it's doing) or the plants turn clear and die.

In the betta and tetra tanks I have gravel as a substrate. In the gar tank I thought sand substrate would be better as its more natural for a gar. The sand I bought was this sand from petsmart. CaribSea African Cichlid Mix Aquarium Substrate

I live in AZ so I have really hard water. The KH is 0-40 and the GH is always 180. Despite that the fish I have are thriving. Non of these are newly set up tanks. They are all at least a year old and the gar tank several years old (although I've only had the gar itself for a few months before him I had some cichlids for a few years). None of my fish have died. the ph is a little high 7.5-8 and my nitrites are 0, but my nitrates are always between 80-200 (I know that's super high. I attribute it to the feeder fish spiking the nitrates and the plecos/aka poop machine even with constant water changes) this why I wanted a planted tank. I thought plants could help combat the nitrates and possibly take some of the heavy metals attributing to the KH out of the water. But therein lies the problem. I can't get a single plant to last in the gar tank before it croaks within a week. Anyone got any advice? Should I remove the sand? Do I need a co2 diffuser? After reading and reading online I'm thoroughly confused as to why my gravel tanks are doing just fine fish and plant wise but not the gar tank. Any advice would be welcome!
sand is fine don't worry about that...are you planning to run co2 if so that's when you need a diffuser..it really comes down to what type of lighting are your running in the big tank?? and how long your running it for? but ya lighting and ferts liquid or dry will help out the plants

also most generic lights that come with tanks don't push out enough to grow plants
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I actually don't know really understand much about the co2 stuff. I just read that some planted tanks need it?

As for the Walmart tank the Java fern and the Anubis I have in it are growing steadily. So although I know the light doesn't give off much it seems to be good enough.

The gar tank has better lights but they're a year old. The lights in that one are floramax 15w 120v. Not sure if that helps. Could it be that the lights are old and not giving enough? I have tried sticking the tablet fertilizers in the substrate. That didn't seem to do any good.

But you guys are suggesting liquid fertilizer? I actually forgot to mention I have a few ramshorn snails in with the gar. Will the liquid fertilizer hurt them?
 

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I'm not fond of using sand as a substrate (consider how many plants naturally grow in sandy areas). It is completely inert (no nutrients for the roots) and the small particle size tends to compact more (less oxygen for roots). Having said that, many people have successfully grown plants using sand as a substrate. You just have to keep in mind that the roots won't be getting the nutrients for the plants so you need to put the nutrients in the water. Fortunately, the plants can get nutrients from their leaves.

Since you're just beginning, let me offer a different way of approaching the problem. Rather than figuring out what you might need to do to grow plants, turn the problem around. Consider figuring out what plants may be happy in your current tank's environment. So instead of trying to change a desert into a tropical forest, figure out that cactus like deserts! Or visa-versa and all in between.

To do this, I suggest getting a very wide variety of plants. Plant them all. See what takes and what does not. Do not get the ones that died again. Get more of what grew.

There are a few things to keep in mind when doing this. Don't attempt to grow plants that clearly have needs your tank cannot meet (so if you have low lighting, don't try plants that require high lighting). Do toss in some very fast growing plants which tend to be less fussy about their environment. Buy clippings from other hobbyist rather than paying big bucks for store bought plants. Ask the seller for the tank's conditions from which the clippings are coming. Buy plants that are coming from tanks with similar conditions as yours.

Pull and throw away any plants that die. Enjoy the plants that thrive.

I am also a gardener and have been known for having beautiful displays of flowers in my front yard. People have asked me how I do it. I tell them that I buy the flowers I like that I think will do well (maybe 5 kinds). Plant them all. The ones that die are pulled. The ones that thrive grow into a beautiful display. No one sees the dead ones I pulled, they only see the beautiful ones that survived. So they think I either did something special for those specific flowers to do so well or somehow knew exactly which flowers would do well in my gardens. I did neither. I allowed nature to tell me what works and what doesn't work in my gardens. I repeat what works and learn to not beat my head against the wall for what doesn't work. In the end, I'm happy. You can do the same thing with aquarium plants.
 

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I actually don't know really understand much about the co2 stuff. I just read that some planted tanks need it?

As for the Walmart tank the Java fern and the Anubis I have in it are growing steadily. So although I know the light doesn't give off much it seems to be good enough.

The gar tank has better lights but they're a year old. The lights in that one are floramax 15w 120v. Not sure if that helps. Could it be that the lights are old and not giving enough? I have tried sticking the tablet fertilizers in the substrate. That didn't seem to do any good.

But you guys are suggesting liquid fertilizer? I actually forgot to mention I have a few ramshorn snails in with the gar. Will the liquid fertilizer hurt them?

Well guess what you are in the right place to learn everything you want to know about planted tanks or pretty much any thing at all..so don't be afraid ask all the questions and everyone here is able to help with what you need.

..alright quick overview with co2..all plants need or use co2..in a tank we can sort of can get away with it depending on the type of plants they are..low tech or high tech..mostly lights and ferts are good enough for the plants to survive and make the tank look very nice..co2 is going to make it lush open up the colors and all that jazz but that's a whole different level that takes time researching more funds and all that..honestly don't worry about the co2 stuff..

so getting back to your question..if the walmart tank is growing good then lets not worry about that one and go with the gar tank..but everything said can be used for all/most tanks in general..of course different factors and taking the time to study and gather information is very important..so you don't waste time money and getting frustrated..

it does help with what you said..but also how many bulbs? and the size? this is for others to answer in on because I don't know to much about T8 bulbs but from what I have heard usually after a year or so they don't push out as much light as needed..but again I could be wrong and I have only ever messed with LED's..

Tab ferts are good.. they help get the plants roots to grow and get it started..but having some liquid or dry ferts really do help..yes you get some from the fish food but its not enough..also it does matter how much plants you have in the tank for dosing and then the type of ferts..also putting to much ferts can hurt/kill...and cause algae..

this is just some of the liquid ferts..and liquid co2..excel is widely used
Fish & Aquarium Supplies: Planted Aquarium Fertilizers: Liquid Nutrients - Flourish, Sechem

this is just a quick down and dirty of some things.. but yea let us know more or any other questions..myself and others will gladly help
 

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If you have java fern in your other tank doing well and already adjusted to your local water, maybe take one of the ones you have and try moving it (or divide one and move the division plant) to the gar tank.

Also, I had a lot of success with the dry nymphaea bulbs from petsmart in a difficult tank, probably because they already have stored nutrients and all the leaves will grow in new in the tank, eliminating shock.

If that works, then you know its more likely shock, not a plant-killing tank.
 

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Something to add to my earlier suggestion: Crypts. They are super hardy plants that grow in a wide variety of conditions. In the last few years, I reentered college (finished my bachelor's and now working on my master's). The time for my plants dropped to almost nothing. No more CO2. No more ferts. I didn't even do water changes as before. Fortunately, my fish are hardy and managed to survive with the changes. I can't say the same for my plants. But there is one plant that I could count on: Crypts. They just grew and grew and grew! I have crypts growing out my ears. And that's with horribly neglected tanks.

Cryptocoryne wendtii 'Bronze' was one of my first plants to get. That was nearly a decade ago. They have thrived in every tank I have put them in: tanks with sand substrate (with cichlids if you can imagine!), tanks with bright light, injected CO2 and EI ferts, tanks with nothing but good ol' water from the faucet, and even tanks with such low lighting as the basic lighting that came with the old 5g Eclipse tanks (which, btw, is still going strong!).

You can make a very nice scape with driftwood, anubius, crypts, maybe some bacopa monnieri, or some compact hygro (Hygrophila corymbosa ‘Kompakt’ - very hardy plant), and possibly a hardy sword for a centerpiece. I've also had good luck with cryptocoryne beckettii (taller variety) and cryptocoryne parvo (very small). In the end, after the CO2 stopped injecting and the ferts stopped coming and the tanks' lights grew old and their photoperiod was decreased and the other plants had died, these are the plants that remained. They are the hardy plants that work well for beginners.

Eventually, you may want to get set up with injected CO2, ferts, etc, but it's not needed, and I personally do not recommend it for a beginner. A tank like that can and will drive plants to grow very well, but everything else tends to move equally as fast, including problems. It's like putting your tank on speed... like suggesting a beginning driver to start out on the highway during the morning commute. You'll know when (if) you are ready for a more complex setup. Until then, enjoy learning how to make the most of what you currently have.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Wow a lot of great advice! Now I don't feel so overwhelmed. Thanks! I think I'll start with the transfer of some of the Java fern first from the cheap tank. That's a great idea. And I'll look up the hardy plants that were mentioned. If all else fails I can always just dump the sand substrate. I'll let you know what happens! Glad I found this forum thanks again!
 
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