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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I just banged this out while at "work". I know there are probably 50 write-ups that say pretty much the same thing but this is one for our library. Give me some feedback as to what needs to be changed/added. If I suck at writing articles let me know and I'll save my time. :p Obviously with my newness to the hobby I'll be sticking to the simple guides for the short term.

I'd like to also start on a newbie guide for deciding what type of planted tank to set up listing most of the main options. I figure start at the very beginning and work through guides for the most common questions and then work into stuff like aquascaping that comes after learning how to maintain a healthy tank.

tank setup>basics

The 'silent cycle'

A tank cycle is the process of building up a colony of nitrifying bacteria in filter media and the tanks substrate. This bacteria converts Ammonia and Nitrite (which are toxic to fish/inverts) into Nitrate (which is not harmful in low concentrations). In simpler terms its nature’s way of handling fish waste, in our smaller enclosed systems it becomes paramount to keeping a healthy tank.

There are multiple ways to cycle tanks including using a few very hardy fish to start the process as well as using only ammonia/fish food to do a "fishless" cycle. These methods on the norm take several weeks to a few months to cycle a tank and establish a good bacteria colony. These two methods are generally used on non-planted fish tanks. When a tank is going to become a planted system it makes things much less complicated and the process can actually take much less time. This article will concentrate on the method of using the 'silent cycle' to start a planted tank.

The name 'silent cycle' stems from the fact that if done properly the process does not yield the normal toxic ammonia/nitrate spike that is normally found when cycling a tank using other methods so the spike is silenced. The main idea of this method is to kick start the tank by adding lots of fast growing stem plants that will absorb and use any ammonia and nitrate buildup in the system until a good nitrifying bacteria colony can be established.

This is a very simplified process for establishing a new tank. Prior to starting these steps its always a good idea if possible to do a test fill of the tank outside of your house to check for leaks or possible issues. This process uses a 25% water change minimum weekly.

* First thing is to find a good spot for your tank that will provide a level and stable platform. Always be sure to use stands that are either built for aquarium use or are of sturdy construction. This spot would be best if out of direct sunlight and not subjected to the direct path of heating/air vents.

* Next you will be adding your selected substrate and setting up your filtration, heating, CO2 systems and slowly filling the tank. Some use a plate or bowl to deflect the water when adding to the tank to lessen the amount of dust stirred up from the new substrate. After everything is set up and the tank is filled run everything except the lighting for 24 hours. This will enable you to make sure that all systems are good to go and you have no leaks.

* Drain the tank about half way and begin planting. You should use hardy stem plants that are appropriate for your lighting selection and get as many as you can into the tank. These do not necessarily need to be the plant types that you plan on using in the final tank layout, you can sell the healthy used portions to other hobbyists to use in their tank cycles. (COULD USE SOME RECOMMENDED PLANT TYPES HERE)

* Refill the tank.

* This recommendation will vary with the intensity of your lighting but if you are in the higher lighting category (3.5-4.0 Watts per gallon) then you may choose to run the lights for only 5-6 hours max per 24 hour period. This will give the plants plenty of light to grow while at the same time not inciting an algae bloom while the plants are getting established. Lower lighting should be fine up to a max of 8 hours per 24 hour period.

* After a day or two you should be able to tell that your plants are becoming established and see some new growth. Once you have determined that your plants are healthy and growing it should be safe to add a small/medium fish load. If you have slow growth or dying plants at this point wait until things have turned around. The plants need to be established and healthy to be able to use the available ammonia that the fish will be putting into the system. At this point you'll also want to start implementing your fertilizer regime. This too will vary depending on type of lighting and tank setup.

* A few weeks in to the process you should begin to have the need to trim plants and replant the tops. Continue adding your ferts and doing water changes.

* Begin testing for ammonia/nitrites/nitrates in the system after three to four weeks. You should have 0 Ammonia/Nitrites and low (<20ppm) Nitrates. At this point in higher light tanks you should be able to move the lighting cycle to a full 8 hours per 24 hour period and you may also begin either slowly removing/replanting plants with the types that you would like to use in the tanks final layout. Try to avoid removing too much plant mass at one time as well as not replacing too many fast growing stems with slower growing varieties of plants. This would also be the point where you can slowly start to add new fishes to the tank.
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