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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,
I'm planning and preparing for my first planted (low-tech) tank. I have most of my equipment set up and I'm preparing my hardscape. I've been doing as much reading as I can here and elsewhere online and think I have a pretty good idea what I want to do but have a couple questions remaining.

Here are my main questions:
  1. Does the setup I describe below seem reasonable?
  2. Biggest question: Given the tank/plants I listed below I need to pick some lighting. Currently I have this clamp-on LED setup that I don't think will be sufficient for much more than the anubius, java fern and moss. I've ordered 5 3 watt 6500k LED's (230 Lm each at 3.8v, 700mA) to build a light strip, but even though I'm comfortable with doing the electronics I'm not sure if the light output would be right. I'm hoping to be able to grow a couple medium light plants like Hygrophila compacta, Blyxa japonica, and/or S. repens along with my low-light plants. Conversely, I don't want it too bright for my betta to be comfortable or so much light that I need CO2. Would a 13 watt 6500k CFL be better than LED's? I'm already stretching my planned budget so cheaper solutions would be preferable.
  3. I know most substrates need to be washed, but since the Eco-complete has various grain sizes and comes packed in water the package says contains some ferts for the plants should I just pour the bag straight into the empty tank?
  4. I want a small cleanup crew to eat algae and dead plant bits, but getting along with the betta makes that tricky. Some bee shrimp would be my ideal pick, but I'm thinking nerite snails or a cory or two would probably be less likely to be killed. Would corys or nerites be good at eating dead plant bits? What would be a good hiding plant or decoration for shrimp?
  5. I think I have a good selection of background to mid-ground plants. Any suggestions for easy foreground plants? I'd love some short, bushy plants for the betta to rest on as well as for hiding places.


Here's what I have ready so far:
Tank: 10g tank 20"L x 10"W x 12"H + 20" Glass Versa Hood
Filter: AquaClear 20
Heater: 50 watt ViaAqua
Lighting: Remaining issue (see question above)
CO2: None (will dose Flourish Excel as a carbon supplement)
Substrate: CaribSea Eco-Complete (20-Pounds)
Hardscape:
  • Gray granite rock (Not 100% sure on purity. Soaking to check for ph change)
  • Assorted small aquarium rocks from pet shop
  • Looking for a driftwood piece I like

Planned Plants (Depending on local stock & lighting choice)
  • Anubius barteri (var coffeefolia, nana, and/or other)
  • Java Fern
  • Java Moss tied to hardscape (maybe)
  • Amazon Sword
  • Blyxa japonica (if light permits)
  • Jungle Val
  • Hygrophila compacta (if light permits)
  • S. repens (if light permits. Carpeting would be ideal, but I'm not expecting it)

Definite Fish:
1x Male Betta splendens (currently in a 1 gallon and needs a new home)

Additional livestock Possibilities:
  1. Bee shrimp
  2. Nerite snail(s)
  3. Small Cory catfish

Ferts and treatments (ready to go):
  • Seachem Prime water treatment
  • Seachem Flourish root tabs
  • Seachem Flourish Comprehensive
  • Seachem Flourish Excel

Expected Water Params:
  • Temp: 80 F
  • pH: 7.5 - 7.6 from tap
  • I will test gH and kH once my tests for those arive from amazon

Thanks for any help!
 

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You should probable some sort of substrate that will provide nutrients for plants. Inert gravel isn't going to grow good plants. Think of a tomato plant growing on a rock versus in dirt. Same theory with a planted tank. Do some research on this forum about that subject. The rest looks pretty good with a quick read.
 

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Do not dump eco-complete straight into the tank.

It is supposed to be clean right out of the bag, but I learned (as have some others) that is not always the case. You could end up with one of the rare bags that has some extra fine particulates in it that will cloud up the tank something fierce. Dump it into a bucket before putting it in the tank. If it is cloudy then you need to rinse it off first. If it isn't cloudy, then it can go right into the tank.
 

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Here are my main questions:
  1. Does the setup I describe below seem reasonable?
  2. Biggest question: Given the tank/plants I listed below I need to pick some lighting. Currently I have this clamp-on LED setup that I don't think will be sufficient for much more than the anubius, java fern and moss. I've ordered 5 3 watt 6500k LED's (230 Lm each at 3.8v, 700mA) to build a light strip, but even though I'm comfortable with doing the electronics I'm not sure if the light output would be right. I'm hoping to be able to grow a couple medium light plants like Hygrophila compacta, Blyxa japonica, and/or S. repens along with my low-light plants. Conversely, I don't want it too bright for my betta to be comfortable or so much light that I need CO2. Would a 13 watt 6500k CFL be better than LED's? I'm already stretching my planned budget so cheaper solutions would be preferable.
  3. I know most substrates need to be washed, but since the Eco-complete has various grain sizes and comes packed in water the package says contains some ferts for the plants should I just pour the bag straight into the empty tank?
  4. I want a small cleanup crew to eat algae and dead plant bits, but getting along with the betta makes that tricky. Some bee shrimp would be my ideal pick, but I'm thinking nerite snails or a cory or two would probably be less likely to be killed. Would corys or nerites be good at eating dead plant bits? What would be a good hiding plant or decoration for shrimp?
  5. I think I have a good selection of background to mid-ground plants. Any suggestions for easy foreground plants? I'd love some short, bushy plants for the betta to rest on as well as for hiding places.
1) Mostly reasonable, pending some choices. I think your temp is a little high. I'd shoot for 76-78 instead of 80.

2) Medium light, Excel and liquid ferts is starting to get out of the realm of low-tech, just so you know. More like mid-tech. ;) Don't worry about your betta, he'll be fine with anything but the brightest lights. Especially because the tank will be well planted.

3) Since it's your first step, I'd just pour it directly into the tank. I've done it before with no problem. Let it settle for an hour, then do a water change. Within a day or two (and long before it's cycled to the point of adding fauna), you'll be good to go.

4) Nerites are great for algae cleanup, and usually Betta-safe, but they don't really eat dead plant matter. Shrimp are sometimes ok with a betta, sometimes not. Really depends on the betta and the shrimp (bigger is better). But there are stories of bettas wiping out entire colonies of shrimp one day when they realize they're food, and of hyper-aggressive bettas tearing apart larger shrimp. So proceed with caution. Ditto any other fish, including corys: It really depends on the betta. Some tolerate other fish, some will fight them, some actually just don't get along and will be harrassed by the other fish. (those massive fins means they're actually not very agile in the water) If you add shrimp, be sure to give them hiding places. Wood hardscape or rocks with ledges to hide under, moss, etc. are all good.

5) Bettas love Anubias. The board leaves are like hammocks. :) Otherwise, pretty much anything is fine.
 

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Your plans are good, and you're most certainly on the right track.
So you needn't have too many concerns as it may be less complicated than you might think.
Since it's just a 10 gal and will be low tech, and with the plants you've selected,you needn't overcomplicate things for yourself. Low to medium lighting will be good, so if you feel the equipment you now have will provide sufficient lighting to illuminate the tank well enough, it should be fine for the plants.

I have a similar 10 gal set-up to what you're planning, with the same filtration, but with the exception that I'm using pool filter sand as substrate, along with root tab ferts, and using similar liquid ferts to what you're intending for the water column.

My tank also has swords, anubias and blyxa japonica - how's that for commonality ?
So, here's what it looks like - these pics were taken many months after set-up, and to this day the tank is sparkling clear with good plant growth, and no problems:

http://s1105.photobucket.com/albums/h357/discuspaul/Anubias
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for all the info everyone. I guess I'll give it a start with the lighting I have and upgrade if necessary.

If I'm not able to find good tank mates that will eat dead plant bits should I just plan on clipping leaves that look like they are starting to die and siphon up any bits I find that fell off?

Discuspaul, that tank you linked looks great!
 

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I would not put jungle vals.

If you want some vals I would make sure they are nana, they are alot thinner and will suit the tank a bit better. but all vals minus spiralis all grow super long 4'.
 

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Bettas prefer the higher temp.
There is debate on that point. But 78 is widely considered the ideal medium, and 76 is well within the comfort range, and the slightly cooler temp brings other advantages.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
There is debate on that point. But 78 is widely considered the ideal medium, and 76 is well within the comfort range, and the slightly cooler temp brings other advantages.
What benefits are there to lower temperatures? I know higher temps can help bettas resist bacterial and parasitic infections but I hadn't heard about benefits of lower temps.
 

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More heat means more active bacteria. A warmer tank is actually harder to fight infection. The fish may enjoy it but it's not as good for everything else in your tank. Parasites, like Ich, need MUCH higher temps to treat... temps that are not good for your fish (or anything else), on an ongoing basis.

More heat is also harder on the plants, which usually prefer slightly cooler temps.

If you go TOO cold, then the fish can indeed have problems with their immune system... on the other hand, it's been shown that colder bettas live longer because their entire metabolism is slowed down. They live longer, but they're far from comfortable.

But 78 is not "too cold", nor is 76. I wouldn't go below that, but 78 is a perfectly reasonable temp to keep a Betta. (and nearly everything else)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for the info.

Also, thanks for the warning about the size of vals philipraposo1982, I'll watch out for that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I was getting everything assembled and placing my hardscape yesterday when I found that the cheapo LED clamp-on light I had didn't fit the rim on my tank (it had previously been on my old, rimless betta tank). I gave in and ordered a Marineland LED strip from Amazon (5/8 the price the LFS was asking for it). Based on the specs I found for this model, it will be outputting 450 lumens with 30 PAR at the substrate directly below it, about 25-26 PAR out at the far corners (not accounting for shadows of course).

From what I've read this is sort of borderline between low and mid level lighting, is that correct?

With that level of lighting can I still get by without CO2 if I dose Flourish Excel?

Would I be safe in trying a couple plants that require medium lighting?

Looks like I will be more in the mid-tech tank category now.
 

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I was getting everything assembled and placing my hardscape yesterday when I found that the cheapo LED clamp-on light I had didn't fit the rim on my tank (it had previously been on my old, rimless betta tank). I gave in and ordered a Marineland LED strip from Amazon (5/8 the price the LFS was asking for it). Based on the specs I found for this model, it will be outputting 450 lumens with 30 PAR at the substrate directly below it, about 25-26 PAR out at the far corners (not accounting for shadows of course).

From what I've read this is sort of borderline between low and mid level lighting, is that correct?

With that level of lighting can I still get by without CO2 if I dose Flourish Excel?

Would I be safe in trying a couple plants that require medium lighting?

Looks like I will be more in the mid-tech tank category now.
Yes, yes, and yes. :)

From Hoppy's comprehensive PAR post:

LOW LIGHT, MEDIUM Light, HIGH LIGHT

I don't believe there is any consensus about the definition of low, medium and high light. But, here is my definiition, subject to, and almost certain to change:
Low light - 15-30 micromols of PAR - CO2 is not needed, but is helpful to the plants
Medium light - 35-50 micromols of PAR - CO2 may be needed to avoid too many nuisance algae problems
High light - more than 50 micromols of PAR - pressurized CO2 is essential to avoid major algae problems
Borderline situations like yours are tailor-made for Excel.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Ok, so I got my light from Amazon and it looks like it will be pretty good.

I have my eco complete substrate and granite hardscape set up in my 10g tank and sitting in water with a running filter.



When I look at the rock in a photo it shows more discolorations and inclusions than are easily visible to the naked eye, but I think some of the reddish brown on the right side is light reflected of the furniture out of frame.

Tonight I tested the water parameters in the tank and my pH was higher than my tap water, but my KH and GH were high but slightly lower than the tap:

Tap:
pH = 7.5
KH = 11.5
GH = 16

Tank:
pH = 8.2
KH = 10.5
GH = 14.5

Is this likely due to the rock I have? I would have thought that leached minerals that raise the pH would have also raised KH and/or GH.

Do these parameters look problematic for planting? I've heard it's best not to try to mess around with adjusting them unless it's necessary. Does it sound necessary or am I just worrying too much?

Thanks for any help.
 

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You're fine for planting. It's getting ready for fish that takes time, not plants. :)
This is absolutely true. You have chosen decent plants that will adapt well. I don't think you'll have an issue at all. I would start planting and worry about your PH later. You should do a fishless cycle and at the end, test your tank and see how your parameters look.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Ok, thanks.

I guess overall I'm mainly concerned that the rock may be leaching something that would eventually harm the fish and if it is I'd like to find out and swap it out before planting so that I don't have to move plants later.

Is the pH likely to go down over the course of cycling? If so, what would cause that?
 
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