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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,
I have been a fish keeper for about 15 years. Finally going to attempt my first planted tank. I am planning on a low tech set up for now but I am undecided on what tank size to start with. The plan is to get a feel for the system before I completely convert my 75 gallon community tank to fully planted. I have read to start off with a lot of plants to better the chances of success. Thoughts? I was thinking maybe a 10 or 15 gallon? It will be used to rescue my wife's Beta from his unfiltered habitat.
 

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I, personally, like 20 longs for starters, though there's a lot of good nano cube packages out there that are perfect start up units that you can add to as you see fit. My favorite all around tank size hands down is the 40B but I see those as more of a permanent tank. Just my 2 cents.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the reply. I have been doing a lot of reading and I have read that the larger water volume is easier to control as far as the parameters go with a planted tank. So much info out there that it can get overwhelming at times.
 

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If it were me, I'd get a standard 10gal tank and a clamp-style lamp from the hardware store so you can use a daylight LED. Both can be repurposed and they're cheap. (This is low key my favorite setup but let's ignore that for the time being)

Get a $3 bag of pool filter sand while you're at the big box hardware store for substrate. Or use whatever you like, honestly, because it won't cost much to fill a 10gal. Regular black sand from Petco/Petsmart will also work well and make the colors of the Betta pop.

That will make for a great size tank for a Betta. Honestly, it's a great size overall and great for planted tanking. Large enough to house a Betta for a wonderful life. Small enough to redo a half dozen times without breaking the bank.
 

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Pretty good advice so far, a 10 or 20 long are inexpensive and won't break the bank to fill with low tech type plants.

I jumped right in to fully planted with my 75.. wow, was that an expensive lesson...

Good luck, and post some pictures when you get this going.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks everyone. I picked up a standard framed 10 gallon from Petco today. I almost spent the extra 30 on a 20 long but I didn't want to over do it on my first try at live plants. I think I'm going to spend the $$ on the 20lb bag of Eco Complete substrate. My lfs has a horrible selection of plants and I won't even attempt to get any from Petco. Any advice on a good and reasonable online retailer for live plants?
 

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For plants, start in the For Sale section. But not until after you've read through some tank journals and decided on your hard scape. Figure out which easy to care for plants you like. Look through other peoples' journal photos to get a sense for what's what. Then buy some. It'll make things a heck of a lot easier for you. Though, do note that some Petco plants are great - specifically those in tissue culture form and not the ones in their tanks. Never hurts to look through them when you're there to see if you find Anubias, Buces, Crypts or the occasional nice stem plant. I've even found Java Fern and some mosses on occasion.

Also have to second @Plinkploop's advice about substrate. Going with fine gravel or sand is light years better than Eco Complete. It's just crushed lava rock and offers nothing useful - especially not for your first attempt. Despite claims on the packaging, it doesn't offer anything for plants that sand doesn't. Black sand from Petco or another store (or cheap pool filter sand) will work way better and will also look a lot better in terms of scale. Flourite and Flourite sand are also great options.

I've been at this a long time and sand/fine gravel are my go-to. And I'm saying that as someone with a fish room filled with every fancy substrate you can imagine. (Not saying those fancy substrates aren't great and useful - they are and they definitely have their place.)
 

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My experience is that i like low deep tanks. The 20 long is not a bad starter but as a smallish tank the 40B offers greater depth (front to back); however if you might go high tech later than you might want a taller tank as basic plants like crypts and swords will get quite tall and are some what difficult to 'trim' as you are not going to be slicing leaves in half. Having said that there are a lot of nice plants that will stay less than 12 inches high just plan accordingly. I have eco complete in one tank (it was suggested to me by the store on my first tank) and i'm not a fan of the stuff as it is too coarse esp for cory and kuhli. However you do not want to use fine sand (like caribsea moonlight) as it create issues esp since a deeper substrate is recommended for a planted tank ( I like to target 3 inch). I've settled on a few substrate including estes stoney river for black; caribsea crystal river or torpedo beach for white and caribsea peace river for something slightly more coarse beige. Of course there are basic gravel and sand that are a lot less expensive (for a small tank substrate is not that expensive since petco sell 50lb bags shipped for a few dollars). The problem i have with anything finer than crystal river is the substrate builds anarobic pockets too quickly if deep. trumpet snails and other digging critters help a little as well as a wave maker to provide current over the surface but still it has been problematic in my tanks.
 

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Since basic gravel was mentioned I'll throw this out there- I used basic gravel to start out my most recent iteration of my 40B and broke down and bought eco complete to break it up and give plant roots a place to take hold. This combination is working satisfactorily in low tech setting but I wouldn't suggest doing it as it looks ridiculous and is more expensive than just getting some sand/ fine gravel.
 

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Hello all,
I have been a fish keeper for about 15 years. Finally going to attempt my first planted tank. I am planning on a low tech set up for now but I am undecided on what tank size to start with. The plan is to get a feel for the system before I completely convert my 75 gallon community tank to fully planted. I have read to start off with a lot of plants to better the chances of success. Thoughts? I was thinking maybe a 10 or 15 gallon? It will be used to rescue my wife's Beta from his unfiltered habitat.
A nice simple substrate for a low light tanks is plain ol dirt .. from your garden. You can sift out debris and sticks etc. cover it with some sand then gravel.. or just sand. It will slowly provide nutrients for a low light setup over a very long time and is very easy and cheap. I’d say that everyone’s biggest hurdle is algae. In my opinion, the single most important thing is getting the appropriate light. Without reading and calculating watts, PAR, distance blah blah.. see if you can get an adjustable led light from Amazon maybe. If ur runnin into algae..start by dimming the light
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for the advice guys. I have read that sand substrate can build up gas pockets. Has anyone had issues with this? I love the look of sand but I've avoided putting it in my 75 just because that's one less thing to have to worry about. How close do the root tabs have to be to the plant? Also, if I put my wife's Beta in there, will that be enough of a bio load balance? I do have the option of putting 5 Buenos Aires Tetras in from my 75. They are more "aggressive" than I anticipated and took out my neons and about 5 of my Rummynose within a couple days.
 

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Dirt bottomed tanks are really not something I would advise to beginners. I, personally, have had great success with them using ntp/ walstad/ El natural practices but it requires a good deal of research to properly balance and plant. If you're interested in these methods I'll be the first to say they are very simple and effective and often require next to nothing for maintenance and water changes but messy parameter starts and algae blooms are more of a risk.

I've had air pockets- poking/ stirring the substrate has worked for me.
 

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Thanks for the advice guys. I have read that sand substrate can build up gas pockets. Has anyone had issues with this? I love the look of sand but I've avoided putting it in my 75 just because that's one less thing to have to worry about. How close do the root tabs have to be to the plant? Also, if I put my wife's Beta in there, will that be enough of a bio load balance? I do have the option of putting 5 Buenos Aires Tetras in from my 75. They are more "aggressive" than I anticipated and took out my neons and about 5 of my Rummynose within a couple days.
30ish years. No gas pocket issues. Rarely seen on the forums, either.

With sand as a substrate, some people (me) like to keep Malaysian Trumpet Snails. They keep things gently stirred up as they live in the sand. But even without them, you likely won't have any problem.

A Betta in a 10gal? That will be perfect. It'll have plenty of swimming room and if you only have low light plants, you may not have to fertilize much at all. Or ever. Depends upon the plants you choose.

Stick root tabs right under/as close to the plants you're trying to feed as possible. I usually place mine on the substrate and then jab it down where I want with a chopstick. But if you go low light? You may not have many stem plants or plants that get put in substrate like Crypts. Anubias, Buces, Ferns don't get planted in substrate - you attach them to hardscape. So it really boils down to what you like and settle upon using.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
30ish years. No gas pocket issues. Rarely seen on the forums, either.

With sand as a substrate, some people (me) like to keep Malaysian Trumpet Snails. They keep things gently stirred up as they live in the sand. But even without them, you likely won't have any problem.

A Betta in a 10gal? That will be perfect. It'll have plenty of swimming room and if you only have low light plants, you may not have to fertilize much at all. Or ever. Depends upon the plants you choose.

Stick root tabs right under/as close to the plants you're trying to feed as possible. I usually place mine on the substrate and then jab it down where I want with a chopstick. But if you go low light? You may not have many stem plants or plants that get put in substrate like Crypts. Anubias, Buces, Ferns don't get planted in substrate - you attach them to hardscape. So it really boils down to what you like and settle upon using.
Yes I was planning on getting a few snails but I wasn't sure on which kind to get (haven't researched them yet). Don't want an infestation. Do the trumpet snails reproduce a lot? I had to put an assassin snail in my 75 due to an uncontrollable outbreak. He definitely did what he does best. Haven't had a problem since!
 

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Snail "infestations" or population explosions don't happen unless there's an overabundance of a food source. If you don't overfeed or let the tank get outta whack, you won't have thousands of snails.

All snails reproduce a lot if they have an abundant food source. But their population is always controllable.

Finding a balance may seem tricky at first but you'll get the hang of it quickly. I'm guessing a Betta will eat some of them no matter what. And if you ever do find you have too many snails (Pond Snails, Bladder Snails, Malaysian Trumpets being the most common)? You can move them into a tank with Assassins, use them as food for your other fish or give them away to people who want snails for their tanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Snail "infestations" or population explosions don't happen unless there's an overabundance of a food source. If you don't overfeed or let the tank get outta whack, you won't have thousands of snails.

All snails reproduce a lot if they have an abundant food source. But their population is always controllable.

Finding a balance may seem tricky at first but you'll get the hang of it quickly. I'm guessing a Betta will eat some of them no matter what. And if you ever do find you have too many snails (Pond Snails, Bladder Snails, Malaysian Trumpets being the most common)? You can move them into a tank with Assassins, use them as food for your other fish or give them away to people who want snails for their tanks.
Thanks for all the help, I really appreciate it. I was just reading up more on the Eco Complete and I think I will go with the black sand. Says that EC can raise Ph levels which is not good for me because I have a Ph of 7.6 out of the tap. I do plan on putting driftwood in (already boiled and is still soaking) but I don't want the levels to be all over the place. Which type of sand is easiest to work with as far as rinsing goes? Should I cycle the tank before adding plants? Sorry for all the questions but I'm trying to get it right the first time instead of waisting my hard earned money 😁
 

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Eco Complete is inert and doesn't impact water parameters. So no worries there. It's just expensive for what is, doesn't provide anything special for plants and can be tough to plant in if you're new. It's just crushed lava rock in a bag of liquid that isn't really useful.

There's no particular type of sand that's "best" - that's all subjective. I'd encourage you to check out the types that have already been mentioned. They're all pretty much the same - Petco's Imagitarium brand, the stuff from PetSmart, Walmart, Estes, other common brands.

You'd want to plant your tank prior to "cycling" but more importantly, you'd want to decide on the plants you like and what you want to buy before getting started. Because some plants get attached to hardscape, some get planted, some float. Have you done much reading on plants or looked through many tank journals? If not, you definitely should. It makes everything easier.
 
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