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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I recently got a black Friday deal on this: https://www.petsmart.com/fish/starter-kits/top-fin-essentials-aquarium-starter-kit-5262353.html 20 gal version.

I also ordered this, which is supposed to arrive next week: https://www.modernaquarium.com/18-plant-assortment/

And a 10-pack of flourish root tabs.

The tank has a sand substrate (tube sand), and some dragon rock. No inhabitants as of yet.

My goal is twofold: 1) get the plants set up well enough that I can do a silent cycle since this tank is slated to become a QT for a 125gal tank
2) keep the plants alive until I can move the ones that aren't doing so well in the "kit" setup to the 125gal which will have better lights.


My concern: the light that comes with the kit is a 9.6W LED light, and with water in the tank even to my plain eye it looks awfully insufficient. I won't have the 125gal set up until after the holidays at the earliest, so what do I do in the interim to a) keep the plants alive and if possible b) help the plants grow?

I know one avenue is to get a better light, but from what I've read the hood for the 20gal kit is a nonstandard size, and budget is very limited (since all the $$ is going into the 125). I'm planning on putting foil in the hood to at least reflect what little light there is back into the tank, but what suggestions do you guys have to prevent an epic failure?

If it's not already apparent, I've never grown a single aquatic plant before (my previous attempt of growing 1 vallisneria plant 17 years ago was thwarted within 10min of introducing the plant by a hungry "apple snail"). I've been out of the hobby for about the past 15 years and am slowly getting back in with these two tanks. Taking my sweet time with the 125 but I wanted something fun in my office so hence why I just grabbed a couple black friday deals on the 20.

Thanks so much for your help and advice!!
 

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From the reviews on the tank I'd say you need a different light for the plants. I'd say either look into a cheap T5 light and plant bulbs or you could look into getting a NICREW SkyLED plus. I've been using a NICREW for a few months now and it's growing everything in my tank very well and it's fairly affordable(~$25 on amazon).

As far as ferts go, I'm not an expert but I would say strategically placing the root tabs should at least get them started. Won't know for certain until you know exactly what plants you're getting.
 

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I have a Topfin 20G kit that I picked up earlier this year to start my first tank - the light on it isn't great but it will grow things, I posted the first 3 months of beginner progress here: https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/...low-tech-can-lush-too-=-143.html#post11336565

I read the same reviews and put aluminum foil under the lid early on, it may have helped although I don't have a frame of reference for how it does without it. I'd also recommend avoiding floating plants (or limiting them to a corner with nothing growing directly under it), they block a lot of the limited light and I've found that most plants have trouble under them, they either grow tall and thin trying to reach the light or just die out. You probably also won't be able to get bright reds/oranges to do well or carpets to grow (they'll probably grow upwards and not outwards), looking at the assortment you linked I'd probably expect there to be some successes and failures out of the bunch depending on the requirements of the plants.

I've looked a little bit, but haven't found a replacement light that fits into the hood - my tank is on a bookshelf low enough for my kids to look at, so the lid has to stay on (and taped shut - I learned that the hard way when a handful of a ultra-washable crayons were thrown in..) It's not a bad tank though and seems to do better in my experience than the reviews show.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Awesome, thanks so much for the replies! I was also thinking of doing the aluminum foil trick, hopefully it will help. Do you think that if I stick with the existing light for now I will have "time" to react if the plants are doing poorly? As in, if I plant on Wednesday, will I see within a week how the plants are doing? Or does it take longer for them to start dying? Then, if shipping for a new light takes a week for example, will they still be alive in time for the new light to show up?

Also sorry for my delayed response, another fish forum I am on emails you every time you get a response and I was expecting this to be the same way, sorry!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Also @chrisg looked at your pictures and I am in awe! If I can achieve what you did before you added co2 it will be a grand success in my book!!!!

Also lol at the crayons thing 😄 I also have a toddler which is why this tank is going in my office 😄 this will eventually be a quarantine tank for a 125 gallon which we are slooowly setting up, and that should be fun for the offspring to look at as well 🙂
 

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I think what specific plants you get will make a difference. I quarantine with a different kit tank that also has terrible light situation and I have moss and java fern that does great with no substrate or fertilization beyond fish waste. This tank also has floating plants, so that reduces the light further. The toughest plants can make do with very little for sure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)


well here's the tank as of yesterday. I got my plant shipment in and I have added one dose of Flourish comprehensive liquid fertilizer. The root tabs got delayed in shipping by USPS, so they're somewhere in New Jersey or who even knows, hopefully they will get here in the next day or two.

What is the best way to install root tabs? Do I use a chopstick and just push them under the sand? Any specific locations I should target?

I think I planted the tiger lily bulbs upside down so I used a stick this morning to just pop them on top of the gravel, I assume they will put themselves the right way then the roots come out...?

I know this tank will probably be overgrown (hopefully relatively quickly!) my goal is to turn it into a temporary jungle so that I can get a lot of plants out of it for the 125 gallon, and also do a silent cycle for the fish.

Advice appreciated!!!
 
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