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Discussion Starter #1
Hello to everyone. I’m new to the forum and to planted tanks in general. I’ve been around tropical and saltwater fish for some years and I’ve kept a couple of reef tanks, the longest of which has been set up for nearly 6 years now. One of those reef tanks had begun showing its age due to a malfunction of two heaters, (Both were intentionally undersized, but I didn’t anticipate both sticking). Rather than replenishing the stock in that tank, I took the better pieces of rock and coral and combined them and placed the rest in dry storage. That leads to me to the subject of this post. What’s reusable and what’s not for a planted tank.

The tank itself is a 125 gallon, long variety at 72”, with a 55 gallon sump. It has two 72” VHO fluorescents (10K, 160 watts each) and two Metal Halide 250W lamps at 10K. The protein skimmer will have no value, of course in fresh water. The return pump can be throttled back to zero and up to 900 gallons per hour. Sump feeds off two corner Durso stand pipes to keep the volume down. Two typical tube heaters are available but may not be re-used depending on what’s best for planted arrangements. No existing substrate or decorations are reusable. Currently the tank is just circulating fresh water in order to dissolve any remain deposits of calcium and salt. The tank is equipped with an auto top-off system. Now to the plan, limited though it is at the moment.

1. I plan to use Eco-Complete Plant Substrate for about 2 – 2.5 inches depth. On top, I plan 1” or so of normal fresh water smaller particle gravel due to appearance preferences. I presume no obvious problems here, but if any are seen, please comment.


2. There are several choices for lighting. VHO only, Metal halide only or both. The question is two-fold. How much is too much lighting? Does anyone have experience with 10K color temp and plants as bulbs in the 6500 range in those sizes can be difficult to locate.


3. Is under-gravel heating really necessary? I’d prefer to use sump positioned titanium tube heaters.


4. I’ve never set up a fresh water tank without an under-gravel filter in over 30 years except for reverse flow the last 20 years or so. Having been out of the fresh water end of the hobby for some time, it seems that under-gravel has fallen out of favor based on my reading. Consequently, I do not plan one here. No particular questions regarding this point unless this is seen as an obvious mistake.


5. The sump comprises the biggest question. I plan to use it to house equipment, attach points for canister filters, etc. The sump is contained within cabinet. The questions here are flow rate; I’m figuring 100 – 300 gallons per hour as reef type flows should be unnecessary. Does that sound reasonable? Second, are there any sump benefits that I’m overlooking? I’ve considered a refugium to balance pH with time, though this seems troublesome. Also, I didn’t know whether any deep substrate nitrate sinks had shown any promise as they have in marine tanks. I could install one with roughly 9” depth without interfering with sump return. Any thoughts in the area of sump usage which would contribute to tank management would be greatly appreciated.

6. Lastly, with the amount of light and flow to the sump, I think I can’t avoid use of an active (tank driven) CO2 system, though I’d love to avoid this. My question relates to CO2 tanks and use of paintball cylinders as a resource. I’m curious about costs, both start-up and ongoing. Of course, I’ll have to evaluate local availability of either. It seems that the paintball cylinders have recently come into use, so have folks been getting good service from those? Any thoughts here would be helpful.


7. Livestock is something I’ve not addressed to this point. I won’t start my planning for livestock (plants and/or animals) until I’m pretty firm on my hardware setup. That said, any comments along the lines of “Don’t try xyz with that setup” particularly as it regards plants would be helpful. I am plant challenged and have much reading yet to do before picking species and specimens.

That’s enough for now. I know some of these questions are individually addressed elsewhere in the forum. However, I hadn’t seen them raised in concert so I thought the collective discussion might prove interesting to others and most certainly helpful to myself. Thanks for your reading time and any thoughts you might offer. For my part, back to more reading and planning.
 

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I'm learning myself but I can comment on these:

3. "Is under-gravel heating really necessary? I’d prefer to use sump positioned titanium tube heaters."
As far as I have experienced as well as read from others undergravel heaters (mainly underground cables) are more of a PITA than of use. Most prefer in-tank heaters or in-line heaters.

4. "I’ve never set up a fresh water tank without an under-gravel filter in over 30 years except for reverse flow the last 20 years or so. Having been out of the fresh water end of the hobby for some time, it seems that under-gravel has fallen out of favor based on my reading. Consequently, I do not plan one here. No particular questions regarding this point unless this is seen as an obvious mistake."
I came to the same conclusion the undergravel filters (reversed and regular) did not have enough advantages over other methods to warrant the extra parts, maintenace, and set-up.


5. "The questions here are flow rate; I’m figuring 100 – 300 gallons per hour as reef type flows should be unnecessary. Does that sound reasonable? "
I'm not the best at what #'s to target but the basis is that the plant growth inside the tank will cut down water flow throughout the tank. More flow is needed to overcome this shielding effect.


5. "Lastly, with the amount of light and flow to the sump, I think I can’t avoid use of an active (tank driven) CO2 system, though I’d love to avoid this. My question relates to CO2 tanks and use of paintball cylinders as a resource. I’m curious about costs, both start-up and ongoing. Of course, I’ll have to evaluate local availability of either. It seems that the paintball cylinders have recently come into use, so have folks been getting good service from those? Any thoughts here would be helpful."

I had the same concerns going with a pressurized CO2 system...the CO2 supply. The paintball tanks seem useful but at higher injection rates they just don't last long enough between the need to change them out. Lower injection rates may make paintball cylinders more feasable though.
Now on to larger 5lbs-10lbs tanks. No matter how, it was a PITA to get a tank let alone get it refilled. Everything including location to home, location to work, and their limited store hours. No matter what I have to leave work early to get a tank filled. The payoff is the cost value and the WAY LONGER re-fill intervals.
I ended up going with a 10lbs tank that will last the better part of the year. Due to my location and re-fill challenges I got one of the paintball on/off adapters and tanks to use as a temp while I'm out getting the 10lb tank re-filled..


"For my part, back to more reading and planning."
It takes up so much time but it is easily worth the effort. Also make sure to get in contact with some local planted tank peoples, you can learn tons from them as well.
 

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I have a 135 gal tank also 72" long. I inject CO2 using a 20lb tank. Go with at least a 10lb tank if you want to go with CO2 injection. If not using CO2, Only one 160 watt light will be necessary. Depending upon the spectrum of the 10K bulb, it may work well enough for a medium light low tech tank (no CO2 injection). Substrate sounds good and you could still grow a lot of swords, crypts, dwarf sag, hygrophilias.
Planted tanks need a lot of flow, 900gph won't be excessive in a tank that long once the plants get going.
I would just fill the sump with a couple dozen biostars or the like and maybe some mechanical filtration. The plants should remove enough nitrates, you will likely need to dose potassium and miconutrients.
Local clubs are the cheapest way to get plants. I know the ATL club auction always has cheap plants, although that is a ways away for you.
 

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Co2 Loss

Sumps are not a good choice if your planning a planted aquarium. When the water flows down from the aquarium into the flexible tube down to the sump all of your co2 will be lost once it hits your mechanical tray. I would use Canister Filters such as Fillstars or Marineland C series filters.
 

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If you go "low tech" meaning low light and no CO2 injection the sump won't hurt your CO2 and you can use just one one bulb of the VHO.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks very much for the excellent discussion. I need to provide the requested clarifications.

- Yes, the sump would be used for the great majority of filtration. Both a cannister and a hang-on media filter would be used on the sump.

- Good info on the flow rate for a planted tank. I can introduce more flow using one or more power heads in the main tank without increasing sump flow. This is good in that I can introduce flow at more than one level, hopefully not causing debris storms in the process.

- I will explore not using the sump as one poster has suggested. I've read about the outgassing of injected CO2 caused by the drain and baffle turbulence. That was a key factor in reducing the flow rate from the main tank to the sump which results in "sheeting" of the water rather than a sloshing fall. Eliminating the sump will require bulkheads and could create a "dead water space" in the corner overflow chambers (this is an pre-drilled AGA 125). The dead water could potentially be eliminated however, with strategic placement of cannister plumbing. I'll scratch the old noggin on this issue a bit more.

- Good idea about the filling the sump with media. In reefs, we don't do that in order to slow the ammonia to nitrate cycles. I'd forgotten that was the original purpose of sumps in the beginning to house such media. The gray matter is not what it used to be.

- I'm glad to hear that an undergravel heater isn't required. I really didn't want to mess with one of those. Sounds like there are no objections to avoiding the UG filter either. Good news all around.

- I'll have to check out that Atlanta auction. The wife is always looking for a good excuse to go over there.

Thanks again for the good discussion. Hopefully this provides the requested clarifications.
 

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Friend of mine had a corner tank with an overflow. Converted it to a FW tank and used the overflow as the return. In other words the canister filter output was hooked to the old drain line. He did have to add more flow because that setup didn't deliver much.

I will say after 20 years of SW I do miss having a sump on a tank.

SteveU
 

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I'd hookup two canister filters to the bulkheads (drilling extra return(s) if needed); forego the sump and dursos, get two inline heaters and an inline reactor. Add a few koralia-type powerheads and call it a day.

For me, 2x160w VHO would be too little on that tank, and 2x250w halide would be too much, unless placed very high. Assuming you've got a canopy, I'd get a second set of the VHO retrofits and run two around 10000k and the other two around 6700k. You could also do dawn/dusk with just two and a noon burst for a few hours. For the price of new halide bulbs, you could probably get the VHO fixture AND bulbs.

You do NOT want to use paintball co2 on a tank that big. Think 10# or larger cylinder; the biggest you can fit in your stand.

Eco-complete will wind up on top. I'm against multiple layered substrates, unless we are talking about soil with something on top. I'd just use pool filter sand, honestly.
 

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I agree with Mac.

If you want to go high tech (with pressurized CO2) on this tank I don't think your current light fixture will work...

If you decide to go low tech I THINK the 2x VHO/no MH might work... and then your sump wouldn't be an issue, either.

So up to you...
 

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Discussion Starter #13
This was precisely the sort of discussion what I was hoping for. Thanks very much. The lighting capacity and its impact on CO2 was definitely one concern and the sump and CO2 outgassing was the other.

Let me answer one question and then pose a couple of clarifying questions of my own.

What is my goal for this setup? Great question and my answer may be a bit surprising (and admittedly a bit foggy at this point), but I'm looking for a bit of plant chaos and small detail. Of course, the tank should be attractive, but I'm not particularly interested in reproducing any particular landscape or zone. In some number of years of keeping fish, I've learned that folks really enjoy looking for small things and active fish in busy tanks in addition to the whole tank. I've had kids of families that visit our house spend an hour or two in front of the reef tank looking for small crabs and that well hidden fish, etc. This brings to me favor dense plantings and small schools of fish with an oddity or two thrown in. As I mentioned, though, stocking comes later in the planning process as I learn what the capabilities of my equipment will be.

Now to my follow up questions.

Regarding the metal halides, is it the light intensity (think street light) or wattage that is the concern for those? The reason I ask is that there are 160 Watt versions of those about and my electronic ballasts should not over drive those. They are about 8 inches off the water, currently. I'll have to measure the canopy and reflector to see if I could mount one or more VHO bulbs there by removing the MHs. If its the light intensity or heat generation causing the problem then VHO may be the best option.

Regarding the pumping, since these corner mounted sump feeds are fixed in position and roughly 2 feet tall, it seems I'm going to have a long fall of water without the durso's (which dramatically reduces drain turbulence and noise). I want to understand the goal of the suggestion to remove those pipes. Is it to reduce the CO2 loss due to the drain fall height? I could experiment a bit and just pull them as they are not glued in place and do not have to be water tight. Its possible I could dial back the flow even more to get the water to sheet down the overflows but that's a LOT of open surface area. I'll also need to think about what happens to a cannister attached in such a manner if the water level drops below the top of the overflow as can happen over a day or two. I could move the auto-topoff to prevent that, but that's a big ugly bunch of sensors to put in the tank.

Oops, I'm musing with the tips of my fingers and that can be hazardous to innocent bystanders. Thanks again for all the great suggestions and comments. Gives me a lot to consider before actually putting the physical part of things together.
 

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If you just want a jungle tank, then just go with the 2xVHOs, sump, etc., don't worry about co2, and throw in a bunch of Hygrophilia species and some livebreeders like swords, guppies, etc. and a big school of tetras. Voila!

About lights: I've got reef tanks too, but for planted, halides are brighter than usually needed and get hot. You'll see very few planted tanks using them, and usually as pendants over topless tanks. You could stick with them (inertia and all), but you will absolutely need high, stable co2 and might still have issues.

About filtration: I was suggesting taking out the overflows altogether, and replacing the durso standpipes with short standpipes & intake-filters, and drilling new returns if need be (you didn't mention all of what's left drilled from the reef tank). The suggestion was to remove all overflows and make the hardware nearly invisible in the tank (hidden behind driftwood etc) and run only closed loops.
Just an idea.... may not work with the tank or you may not want to do that. Got a pic?

There's no need for an ATO in freshwater; maintaining salinity is a non-issue and evaporation is much less due to the lower light, no fans, less surface movement. For example, on my 75g, The waterlevel doesn't drop below the rim between weekly waterchanges, and that's without a top and with t5HOs.
 

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For example, on my 75g, The waterlevel doesn't drop below the rim between weekly waterchanges, and that's without a top and with t5HOs.
I'm jealous! Mine drops 3-4" a week this time of year (WITH a top and only 108 watts of T5HO...) :icon_sad:

If you want to keep the overflows and run CO2 on the tank you'll have to keep the water topped off... and no mater what those overflows will outgas. How much and how easy it may or may not be to just pump the CO2 up, I've no idea?

Personally, if I were set on going high tech, I'd sell this tank (with fixture) and start from scratch.

The easier thing will be to go low tech. Stuff the tank with Valisneria, swords, Hygros, crypts... use chain sword for a ground cover...
 

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Personally, if I were set on going high tech, I'd sell this tank (with fixture) and start from scratch.

I too came from the reef tank world and made the switch nearly a year ago. I enjoy the planted tank much more. It's just less demanding and just as rewarding. The plants filter my water while providing a beautiful landscape.

Anyway, I agree witht the above comment. I started over with a non-drilled 75 gal. plant tank. I loaded it with Eco-complete (3-4" in depth), pressurized C02, and tons of stem plants. Had some algae issues early on due to me figuring out how much C02 to use and adding way too many fertz. After 3 or 4 months, my algae issues dissappered and I was left with a beautiful plant tank.

You will love the transition to plant tanks. Let me know if you have any specific questions for me. Lots of good advice already provided to you in this thread.
 
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