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Questions About Establishing Medium-Planted Low-tech Tank for Newbie

1563 Views 19 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  kfish
Hello. I am setting up a new tank and have questions about "cycling," or establishing. My setup:

36x24x18" 65 gallon
36" Finnex Planted+ CRV light
Fluval 407 filter loaded with 20 PPI and 30 PPI Poret foam
Ehiem 150W heater
Ehiem 200 air pump
Seachem Flourite Black, natural aquarium gravel and aquarium sand substrate, all rinsed and divided or bagged
Creek rock and aged manzanita wood

To this I plan to add a medium amount of plants, leaving some open space, and toward the heavy end of what my biofilter can support in terms of fish.

For getting my tank going I plan to:

Order plants online
Fill aquarium and run without light for 1-3 days before plants arrive
Drain 2/3 of water or more for planting after I get plants (including some I buy locally)
Add a small media bag filled with a neighbor's garden soil and sludge from a friend's established tank to the bottom section of my filter
Refill and run tank with light and fertilizer as is recommended for plants, at around 78°
After a few days to a week start adding a small amount of flake food as an ammonia source. Planning to use a hang-on mesh quarantining box for this
Continue until cycling is detected with testing, changing water as needed
Once a cycle has been completed and the tank has remained stable for a week or two, add a small number of hardy fish. At this point, stop adding extra food and feed fish the same number of times per week as the number of weeks I have had them - 1 for 1, 2 for 2, etc. Also probably now remove the seeding material in the filter.
Maintain plants and add more fish slowly over months

My questions are:

Should I be concerned about pathogens from my friend's sludge?
Is 78° the best temp at which to cycle?
Should I wait to change water until tank has cycled?
Any other advice on tweaks or changes for above?

Finally, do plants in any way slow down or otherwise deter the health or establishment of the rest of the biofilter? Does my planned method lead to the same outcome as a more extreme, plant-less and fish-less + added ammonia cycling method? Does a planted cycle perhaps create less algae than the more extreme, plant-less and fish-less approach? Are there other ways to prevent algae (currently getting only a little early morning sun in late fall and winter)?

Thanks for any help. I have read this forum for hours and it's great.

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Hello. I am setting up a new tank and have questions about "cycling," or establishing. My setup:

36x24x18" 65 gallon
36" Finnex Planted+ CRV light
Fluval 407 filter loaded with 20 PPI and 30 PPI Poret foam
Ehiem 150W heater
Ehiem 200 air pump
Seachem Flourite Black, natural aquarium gravel and aquarium sand substrate, all rinsed and divided or bagged
Creek rock and aged manzanita wood

To this I plan to add a medium amount of plants, leaving some open space, and toward the heavy end of what my biofilter can support in terms of fish.

For getting my tank going I plan to:

Order plants online
Fill aquarium and run without light for 1-3 days before plants arrive
Drain 2/3 of water or more for planting after I get plants (including some I buy locally)
Add a small media bag filled with a neighbor's garden soil and sludge from a friend's established tank to the bottom section of my filter
Refill and run tank with light and fertilizer as is recommended for plants, at around 78°
After a few days to a week start adding a small amount of flake food as an ammonia source. Planning to use a hang-on mesh quarantining box for this
Continue until cycling is detected with testing, changing water as needed
Once a cycle has been completed and the tank has remained stable for a week or two, add a small number of hardy fish. At this point, stop adding extra food and feed fish the same number of times per week as the number of weeks I have had them - 1 for 1, 2 for 2, etc. Also probably now remove the seeding material in the filter.
Maintain plants and add more fish slowly over months

My questions are:

Should I be concerned about pathogens from my friend's sludge?
Is 78° the best temp at which to cycle?
Should I wait to change water until tank has cycled?
Any other advice on tweaks or changes for above?

Finally, do plants in any way slow down or otherwise deter the health or establishment of the rest of the biofilter? Does my planned method lead to the same outcome as a more extreme, plant-less and fish-less + added ammonia cycling method? Does a planted cycle perhaps create less algae than the more extreme, plant-less and fish-less approach? Are there other ways to prevent algae (currently getting only a little early morning sun in late fall and winter)?

Thanks for any help. I have read this forum for hours and it's great.

View attachment 1048839
Sooooo first of all.. Please do not put 'sludge' or dirt in your filter. This will not be a good thing and will in fact make a giant mess. If your friend is willing, you could buy him some new filter media (be it foam, or ceramic rings, or whatever he is keeping in there), take a small Tupperware container to his house, add some of his tank water to it, and take some of his filter material and put it into the Tupperware and take it right back to your house and put it into your filter and start up your tank right away (don't leave it sealed in an airtight space for a day or 5 etc) and your friend gets the new media you just bought in exchange. Alternatively you can grab a handful of substrate from his tank be it sand, gravel, or whatever and add it to your tanks substrate. Same thing, with storing it in some of his tank water for only so long as it takes you to get from his house to yours. And keep in mind... this is totally unnecessary. But it will help establish your cycle a few days quicker then it otherwise would.

Secondly... I admit I have a bit of a pet peeve when it comes to people throwing around the word 'pathogens' online. If you spend much time around facebook groups or certain animal forums you will see it being tossed around so much that if its use were actually correct, one would have to take truly hypochondriac levels of care with every creature or it would just instantly die when you looked at it sideways.

Anyway.... the reality is that while it's very possible to get infections from other tanks, the truth is that if your friends fish and animals are healthy, then his tank is far safer then the tanks at your local fish store who will surely be getting in a constant supply of new animals from all corners of the globe and won't be spending enough time in their store tanks to show much sign of illness.

Regarding plants, they do nothing but beneficial things for our tanks. They help cycle a tank quicker, they provide oxygen for our fish, they absorb harmful waste our fish produce, and they help fight algae by out competing it.

To prevent algae from forming in your tank you need to balance light, nutrients, and plant growth. For you this will mean making sure your light is not too strong. To do that you will want to measure the strength of your light. The easiest way to do that is set your light on your tank (now that it's empty) and turn it on and then use an app on your smart phone. A lux meter app is the easiest one to use. Take a reading with the phone inside the tank on the bottom and divide the result by 80. This is a rough measure of par. For a low tech tank you want this number at 20 to 40 par. Adjust the strength of the light till you get that.

Put your light on a timer so it's on for no more then 8 hours a day.

You didn't mention it but you will also need a fertilizer. There are many options but my goto is Nilocg ThriveC for a low tech tank. You add that once a week with your water change. Speaking of water change, 50% once a week (minimum, more is better). That's a lot for siphons and buckets so buy a water change system like the python to assist.

Hopefully this is helpful. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Please advise if I should be creating a separate post in the Lighting Forum for this, minorhero, but since you mention it in your response:

Regarding lighting, since I am using a Finnex, with the dreaded remote with mandatory ramp up and down periods of three hours, I am imagining that setting my light to MAX (or another more beneficial custom WRBG setting) and using a separate timer is better. Is this strictly the case? I really enjoy the color capabilities of this light during ramp up and ramp down periods, but am imagining a situation that is more beneficial to algae and less beneficial to plants during those times. Am I right about that? Asteroid has said in another thread, Finnex Planted+ 24/7 LED light configuration for low-tech 30 gal tank, that algae is not all lighting, giving me some hope of being able to use ramping programming. On the other hand, even though my tank is new, nothing pre-cycled, I have gathered, I think from Cory at Aquarium Co-op, to focus on growing plants instead of preventing algae, which, along with your PAR recommendations and my lux readings, minorhero, leads me to think that the MAX setting is the way to go in my 24" deep tank. Could I ramp up from 12-3 and ramp down from 6-9 with MAX setting from 3-6 and be ok, or should I restrict myself to a timer turning on and off a MAX setting for up to 8 hours a day? Are there other recommendations for lighting vs algae, such as spectrums to favor or avoid, or other non lighting-based recommendations?
 

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Please advise if I should be creating a separate post in the Lighting Forum for this, minorhero, but since you mention it in your response:

Regarding lighting, since I am using a Finnex, with the dreaded remote with mandatory ramp up and down periods of three hours, I am imagining that setting my light to MAX (or another more beneficial custom WRBG setting) and using a separate timer is better. Is this strictly the case? I really enjoy the color capabilities of this light during ramp up and ramp down periods, but am imagining a situation that is more beneficial to algae and less beneficial to plants during those times. Am I right about that? Asteroid has said in another thread, Finnex Planted+ 24/7 LED light configuration for low-tech 30 gal tank, that algae is not all lighting, giving me some hope of being able to use ramping programming. On the other hand, even though my tank is new, nothing pre-cycled, I have gathered, I think from Cory at Aquarium Co-op, to focus on growing plants instead of preventing algae, which, along with your PAR recommendations and my lux readings, minorhero, leads me to think that the MAX setting is the way to go in my 24" deep tank. Could I ramp up from 12-3 and ramp down from 6-9 with MAX setting from 3-6 and be ok, or should I restrict myself to a timer turning on and off a MAX setting for up to 8 hours a day? Are there other recommendations for lighting vs algae, such as spectrums to favor or avoid, or other non lighting-based recommendations?
You can use the ramp up and ramp down feature if you want. I can't really advise you on what strength to have your light at during the brightest period without knowing what the estimated par is though.
 

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@minorhero covered just about everything, but the only suggestion I have is when you get to the cycling part, use ammonia rather than flake food. The reason ammonia is better is because you're dosing an exact amount versus an unknown variable.

You can use regular old ammonia, or if you have no use for ammonia in your house for other purposes, stop by your local LFS and they'll probably have a bottle of Dr. Tim's ammonia. Follow their directions on how much to dose and then carefully monitor how much your tank is processing in 24 hours. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on how high to dose ammonia (2ppm, 4ppm, etc.) but just follow what is recommended on the bottle, if you get Dr. Tim's ammonia, and test every day. Bear in mind that even if you're using cycled media, it's still going to have to cycle.

It takes time for the whole tank to colonize with bacteria. There's a misnomer when it comes to cycling that it all resides in your filter media. It does, but it colonizes everything in the tank.
 

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I have the Finnex 24/7 on a 40 breeder and a 20 long. Low tech. Here is how I have them set up:

9am 10% all channels
12n 40% all channels on the 40 breeder. 30% on the 20 long.
3p 10% all channels
6p 10% blue
9p Off

What really happens is the lights start coming on at 6am and are quickly at 10%. From 9-12 they ramp up to 30% or 40%. From 12-3 they slowly go back down to 10%. Then they ramp down to the dim blue light before shutting down at 9 pm.

I have Anubias, crypts, Val, Amazon swords, h. pinnatifida, Java ferns, mosses, water wisteria, lobelia cardenalis, Crinum, mini Bolbitis, and all are doing great. Never had an algae battle. Knock on wood. I use GLA ferts at a low tech dose. Hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
You can use the ramp up and ramp down feature if you want. I can't really advise you on what strength to have your light at during the brightest period without knowing what the estimated par is though.
PAR is an estimated 25 at the bottom of the aquarium at MAX, ramping down to about 5 for "sunrise" or "sunset" modes, so I'm assuming MAX is the way to go for alot of my grow period of 8 hours per day. One caveat might be that, as byunative describes, ramping up occurs pretty quickly, getting me close to 100% fast. But ramping down seems to occur slowly, so I might have more like 3 full hours at lower light for that (program slots are 3 hour blocks of time.)

ddiomede - thanks for this! This does seem to make more sense and I like your characterization of the biofilter existing all throughout the tank.

byunative - thank you! I appreciate your schedule and am encouraged by your results. Is your tank heavily planted? I am concerned that since mine is new and will not be heavily planted I might run into more algae issues.
 

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PAR is an estimated 25 at the bottom of the aquarium at MAX, ramping down to about 5 for "sunrise" or "sunset" modes, so I'm assuming MAX is the way to go for alot of my grow period of 8 hours per day. One caveat might be that, as byunative describes, ramping up occurs pretty quickly, getting me close to 100% fast. But ramping down seems to occur slowly, so I might have more like 3 full hours at lower light for that (program slots are 3 hour blocks of time.)

ddiomede - thanks for this! This does seem to make more sense and I like your characterization of the biofilter existing all throughout the tank.

byunative - thank you! I appreciate your schedule and am encouraged by your results. Is your tank heavily planted? I am concerned that since mine is new and will not be heavily planted I might run into more algae issues.
25 par is pretty low, you can definitely run it at that for 8 hours or if you prefer, as little as 5 hours and the remaining 3 at lesser light levels etc.
 

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You made a good choice with the Fluval 407. I have one on my 55 gallon with the spray bar kit and love it. In 30 years it's the best filter I've used. I'm running a Finnex 24/7 on a 36x12 40 gallon with CO2. I'm growing medium light plants successfully. On your size tank I think you're in the medium/low territory. Your tank is tall and light looses it's brightness for every 6 inches of water depth. Your biggest problem is your substrate. You're doomed to fail without a nutrient rich substrate. I'm not saying it's impossible but you're not making things easy on yourself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
You made a good choice with the Fluval 407. I have one on my 55 gallon with the spray bar kit and love it. In 30 years it's the best filter I've used. I'm running a Finnex 24/7 on a 36x12 40 gallon with CO2. I'm growing medium light plants successfully. On your size tank I think you're in the medium/low territory. Your tank is tall and light looses it's brightness for every 6 inches of water depth. Your biggest problem is your substrate. You're doomed to fail without a nutrient rich substrate. I'm not saying it's impossible but you're not making things easy on yourself.
Ok. Wow. I have not encountered the idea that inert substrates are that hard to work with. Thanks for your input. Glad to hear about the Fluval.
 

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Your biggest problem is your substrate. You're doomed to fail without a nutrient rich substrate. I'm not saying it's impossible but you're not making things easy on yourself.
I completely disagree! Suggesting that anyone setting up a tank is doomed if they do not have a nutrient rich substrate is completely false. I have had great success, even as a beginning hobbyist, with plain sand and a good fertilizer dosing regiment.

Inert substrates are quite easy to use in a planted tank. They do nothing to alter water parameters, and will do that indefinitely, unlike aquarium specific "soils."
 

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I completely disagree! Suggesting that anyone setting up a tank is doomed if they do not have a nutrient rich substrate is completely false. I have had great success, even as a beginning hobbyist, with plain sand and a good fertilizer dosing regiment.

Inert substrates are quite easy to use in a planted tank. They do nothing to alter water parameters, and will do that indefinitely, unlike aquarium specific "soils."
OK poor choice of words I'll give you that. Not impossible but more difficult without a hot substrate. Yes I've keep plants low tech and high tech with an inert substrate by dosing NPK. Not exactly easy for a noob. Success also depends on your tap water. My water is liquid rock so it's not exactly easy to do a low tech without dosing. Using a hot substrate would increase chances for success.
 

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OK poor choice of words I'll give you that. Not impossible but more difficult without a hot substrate. Yes I've keep plants low tech and high tech with an inert substrate by dosing NPK. Not exactly easy for a noob. Success also depends on your tap water. My water is liquid rock so it's not exactly easy to do a low tech without dosing. Using a hot substrate would increase chances for success.
Plants will usually still need to be given some kind of fertilizer to thrive and to help avoid algae. In my opinion it would be better to learn how and why we dose fertilizers from the get go because a nutrient imbalance is usually why we get algae. I personally do not like using a active substrate because its nutrient supply is finite and I do not run into deficiencies down the road due to the substrate running out of nutrients.

Ok. Wow. I have not encountered the idea that inert substrates are that hard to work with. Thanks for your input. Glad to hear about the Fluval.
Inert substrates are not difficult to work with. You will most likely need to dose some sort of fertilizer with whatever substrate you decide to go with. Inert substrates may require you to dose more and will also allow you to have better control over what goes into your tank. I look forward to seeing your journal.
 

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Goodwood and Wantsome99 - I appreciate your input. This is helpful. I felt more comfortable pursuing the inert route because of the "heat" and to not be as destined to have to redo the tank. Also, I am only interested in low-medium light and low tech at this point. I like the idea of learning with more control with relying on added fertilizers as well. Thanks much! It is a big help for getting into this and learning.

I look forward to seeing your journal.
Thanks! Will create that once I get going.
 

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Please advise if I should be creating a separate post in the Lighting Forum for this, minorhero, but since you mention it in your response:

Regarding lighting, since I am using a Finnex, with the dreaded remote with mandatory ramp up and down periods of three hours, I am imagining that setting my light to MAX (or another more beneficial custom WRBG setting) and using a separate timer is better. Is this strictly the case? I really enjoy the color capabilities of this light during ramp up and ramp down periods, but am imagining a situation that is more beneficial to algae and less beneficial to plants during those times. Am I right about that? Asteroid has said in another thread, Finnex Planted+ 24/7 LED light configuration for low-tech 30 gal tank, that algae is not all lighting, giving me some hope of being able to use ramping programming. On the other hand, even though my tank is new, nothing pre-cycled, I have gathered, I think from Cory at Aquarium Co-op, to focus on growing plants instead of preventing algae, which, along with your PAR recommendations and my lux readings, minorhero, leads me to think that the MAX setting is the way to go in my 24" deep tank. Could I ramp up from 12-3 and ramp down from 6-9 with MAX setting from 3-6 and be ok, or should I restrict myself to a timer turning on and off a MAX setting for up to 8 hours a day? Are there other recommendations for lighting vs algae, such as spectrums to favor or avoid, or other non lighting-based recommendations?
I run a Finnex HLC light on one of my tanks. Yes the remote is horrible. Seems odd that they can make an excellent light, but can not make a remote that is intuitive. I can help if you need help programming it.

When I set up the tank, I used the 24/7 automatic setting which is all on all day (because the programming was too confusing). Not a good idea in general and especially not good on a new tank. After a month or two I had a really nice algae farm. After finding someone online that explained the programming in plain language I was able to set it up they way I want.

The tank is "low tech" with low / medium light plants.

I now have the lights on 15 hours a day, but most of that is ramping up or down. The max setting I use is 70% of max which lasts about 6 hours.

So here is what the day looks like. 9am-noon: ramps up from zero to very low
noon-3pm: ramps up from noon setting to max (70%)
3pm-6pm: stays the same except I have the blues and greens start to decrease.
6pm-9pm: White set at 1 (lowest), Reds are bright and green and blue decrease to zero.
9pm-midnight: Ramp down to off by midnight.

My tank is not by a window, but has a fair amount of ambient light from all 4 sides and the tank has no background.

Here's what I did when I was tired of farming algae. I cut the fish food in half and I switched to the above light schedule. I also planted a lot of emersive plants. After they got established, I had to start fertilizing because nitrates were zero.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
kfish Oh this is awesome. Very good info. How deep is your tank? I will most likely take you up on your offer to help with programming. Yours looks similar to what I have in mind. I just wonder if I can get the light to simulate the great sunset changes it does in regular 24/7 mode. Very good to know about algae, and food.

It would almost be funny how non-linear Finnex's light offering is, but I would be bummed if I didn't do alot of pre-research. Have you seen this: Finnex Lights Explained - CRV/HLC/ALC ? Kind of neat information from Finnex
 
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