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FAQs on Freshwater Planted Tanks

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Kurt of EcoSystem Aquariums rare plant tank at the WWPSA Trade show in July 02.

Various tank questions 8/16/2010
Good Morning Neale,
<Hello Phill,>
I apologize as this will be a longer email with multiple questions. I have tried to do some research on my own but the available info can be conflicting from different sources and I trust you guys the most. Please
note any improvements or adjustments you would make to increase the experience for the fish as you read. I had emailed you a while back regarding my desire to split up my general cichlid tank and have 2 biotope tanks. I will have a South American Amazon riverbed tank (Severum, Festivum, angelfish, blue Acaras) and Central American rock lake tank (Firemouth, rainbow cichlid, Honduran red point). I purchased the book you recommended (The Complete Aquarium by Peter Scott) and took some good notes. The SA tank will have plenty of driftwood and plants (Ozelot sword, Dwarf Sagittaria, Anubias nana, Corkscrew Cryptocoryne). The CA tank will be decorated with large to medium sized rocks and some hardy plants (Cryptocoryne wendtii, Anubias nana, and possibly some Java Moss). Now on to the questions at hand.
1. Are those plants acceptable for the biotopes I am targeting. I am aware they are not all indigenous to those areas but they are hardy and can maintain at lower light levels. I am using full spectrum lighting but I am only around 1.5 watts per gallon right now.
<Indeed. The reality is that many aquarium plant species have become established far outside their natural range, so their "true" biotope is a bit meaningless. Sure, purists would argue Anubias doesn't belong in a Central American tank, but and Cryptocoryne species are more characteristic of Asia than the Americas. But the fish won't care. These are good hardy species, though Java moss will be destroyed by most cichlids. On the other hand, I'd be surprised if the Swordplant and Sagittaria do okay under the lighting you have. I've not had success with either under such conditions.>
2. What is the best substrate for these areas. They book advises a mixture of sand and gravel for both.
<Yes; this often gets very good results from plants.>
Currently I am using strictly gravel. I will be moving to a new house soon so that would be a good time to add the sand if it would be beneficial. I have heard that plants that are rooted do not do as well in sand because it is more compact and cannot maintain nutrients as well.
<Quite the reverse. Sand is much better than gravel -- hardly any plants *naturally* grow in gravel, as you can well imagine. But provided you use pellet fertilisers once a month, even "greedy" rooted species like Amazon Swords should do well. Really, the substrate isn't something I'd lose huge amounts of sleep over.>
If I used sand gravel mix would that book with my plants?
<Sure. That's what I do almost always, often with a layer of pond soil right at the bottom so I don't have to spend money on fertiliser.>
3. I currently have some harder water. I tried using fertilizer for the plants but they actually began to develop holes and appeared to be getting "burned".
<Quite common.>
I was told by the local LFS that there could already be too many minerals in the tank and the plants could be getting burned from a high level of iron.
<Nonsense. Some streams in Asia have so much iron that the substrate is literally rusty red. Iron itself isn't going to cause problems at the doses provided by fertilisers. Holes tend to be caused by other problems,
including snails and especially algae-eating fish, which damage the plant leaves while scraping at the algae. Chlorosis can often be associated with holes in the leaves, in which case lack of fertilisers, often in combination with poor lighting, is to blame.>
They advised that I allow the mulm to settle in the gravel and the plants would be able to use that for nitrates.
<Very, VERY old school thinking. There is some logic to this, and yes, organic decay does produce nutrients that plants will use. Certainly, I tend to leave the substrate very largely alone in my tanks, and fertilise only sparingly. My plants are mostly slow-growing things like Crypts and Anubias, so the nutrients provided through water changes, fish wastes, and organic mulm may indeed be adequate. But on the other hand this isn't recommended for tanks with rampant, rapid plant growth, as the spotlessly clean Amano tanks show. The trend is towards clean tanks and having the nutrients added in just the right amounts each week or month or whatever.>
I followed their advice and the plants seemed to perk up and turn green.
The Crypt wendtii turned a little brown but started growing much fuller and without holes. Does this make sense? Would you advise a fertilizer in hard water?
<Yes, I would. In this case, assuming the Amazon Sword was growing well, I'd be giving a pellet to the roots once a month. The slow-growing Crypts and Anubias I'd leave be for the most part unless there were any obvious problems. They do like a bit of extra iron, but under low to moderate lighting aren't as "greedy" as Amazon Swords under moderate to bright light.>
4. Is letting the mulm build up to a certain level acceptable?
<Not a big deal either way. I'd tend towards keeping the substrate fairly clean.>
Does that serve as adequate food for plants?
<In itself, no, mulm probably isn't adequate, especially with regard to iron.>
I use to gravel vac every week with my water cleanings. Will the mulm pollute the tank? If the mulm is good and I use sand/gravel will the sand prevent the mulm from reaching the roots of the plants?
<The plants aren't using the mulm; they're using chemicals released by bacteria in the mulm. Those chemicals diffuse through sand and gravel just fine.>
If the mulm is allowed to build up how should I conduct my gravel vacs?
I've heard that I should do a complete vac every other week to just going over the surface of the gravel each week and leaving anything deep to serve as "soil or fertilizer". Obviously I cannot go deep if I use sand so this will be more important if I use the mixture.
<Indeed. Again, I wouldn't lose sleep over this issue. The impact either way will be minimal, and you'll probably need to remove the mulm as far as possible or the cichlids will make the tank cloudy. Mulm is a part of their natural diet, and they'll be sifting it pretty much all the time.>
5. When we move the larger SA tank will be a main piece in the living room instead of in the foyer where it is now. I have read that there are ways to hook up sump pumps and other exotic methods to do water changes automatically.
<Yes, I think there's a brand call Python that makes a popular line of such units.>
I don't mind water changes at all and in fact kind of enjoy them as they allow me more time to interact with the fish and their personalities. But for the sake of my wife I wanted to look into it to avoid dragging water
through her living room. Are these rigs effective or expensive? Do they do as good of a job as the manual cleaning? Will I still need to gravel vac occasionally as well?
<Yes, these water changers are useful. They aren't automatic except in so far as they make adding and removing water easier by not needing buckets.
On the other hand, they're somewhat wasteful of water, which may be an issue for you depending on your "green" ethics and the cost of water in your area. Personally, I've always found it easier to connect a hose to the external canister filter to pump out water, and then used ambient water pressure from the kitchen tap to push water back into the aquarium.>
Thanks so much Neale. You guys are best. I'm on my way to some beautiful display tanks and have you guys to thank for it. I am grateful!
<Glad to help, and happy to talk. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Various tank questions 8/16/2010
Thanks Neale.
Is there a preference to the type of sand that I should use that would perform better. Obviously I will try to obtain a brand that will not alter the parameters of my water but what about size or other notables? Also, anything special about the pond soil?
<Nothing at all except that [a] it's cheap, [b] it's clearly non-toxic to fish, and [c] it doesn't contain nitrate or phosphate, so algae problems won't be triggered through it's use. Regular peat contains no nutrients at all, so isn't a substitute. Aquarium soil can be used of course, but I find it too expensive for my budget, and it's basically just the same stuff as pond soil.>
I probably should have clarified. I do not have the Ozelot Sword, Java Moss, or Dwarf Sag yet, just the Anubias and Crypts.
<I see.>
They are doing VERY well right now under my lighting conditions and gravel.
I was entertaining the idea of the sword and sag for the SA tank and the moss for the CA tank just to give some plant life since the CA biotope doesn't maintain many plants.
<Very good.>
The books I have said the Ozelot and Sag would be ok but I will trust you above and beyond any book.
<I'm no plant expert! I buy plants, and rip out the ones that fail, and simply recommend those plants I know to be near bullet-proof!>
Would either of these 2 do well in the 55 gallon SA with a sand gravel mix?
<Yes, given sufficient light. I have to admit that I don't use Amazon Swords much because every time I buy one, my Panaque catfish eats it. The new hybrids are quite tough and hardy though, and given enough light are very adaptable. But they aren't low light plants, so at the least, use reflectors and the best quality tubes you can to ensure as much useful light as possible given the wattage your hood allows.>
If they are just going to die then I won't waste my time and will focus more on the crypts and Anubias that I already have.
<There's always a risk that a given plant won't thrive, by hybrid Swordplants do tend to be quite adaptable. Sagittaria species are also adaptable, but they do need bright light.>
Also if I don't go with the sword/sag then I most likely will avoid the pond soil also and just add the sand. Also my only concerns for the CA tank java moss was that it would over run the tank. Do you think the cichlids would keep it in check?
<I doubt the moss will even take, to be honest. Java moss is slow-growing and takes a while to "stick" to things like rocks and bogwood. In tanks with active bottom feeders it tends to be dislodged. It rarely does well in tanks with such fish. Vallisneria and robust Amazon Swords are really more authentic and viable CA plants.>
I will definitely add the sand and will fertilize sparingly as I see the need. Thanks again for your invaluable information and knowledge. All the best Neale.
<Glad to help.>
<Cheers, Neale.

Plant Growth and Algae 4/30/10
Hello dear crew,
I have a densely planted 55 gallon tank with two Anubias in driftwood, many java ferns (unplanted), very tall jungle vals (bigger than me), and a medium sized red melon sword. I do not have a CO2 injector (too expensive) and my gravel is the regular kind with no added nutrients for plants, however I do use liquid fertilizers. I use one that is supposed to contain all trace elements as well as iron, I use flourish excel, and I add extra iron from another fertilizer.
<While this can work, there's mileage in sticking fertiliser pellets into the gravel by the more "greedy" plants like Amazon Swords. Try it, and see if you get better growth.>
My lights are standard fluorescent that cover 2-3 watts per gallon. My plants did great for a long time with my nutrient supplement. However, recently I went a little crazy and bought more plants. I bought micro swords,
<Echinodorus tenellus, a very difficult species.>
which I took out of the pot (they were too tight) and planted them with reasonable distance from each other. I also bought red Cabombas, java lace fern (attached it to driftwood),
<Somewhat less hardy than standard Java Fern in my experience.>
<Needs cool water, and hard water too; often difficult to grow indoors.>
<Also difficult.>
and a weird tall plant that looks like a spinier green Cabomba (but its not).
<Myriophyllum perhaps? Or Ceratophyllum?>
They have been set up for 2 weeks and while they are alive and decent looking, I have noticed that my liquid fertilizers no longer have effect in the growth of the plants. Except for the Anubias, java and lace ferns which
are growing well (seeing as they're epiphytes and directly get the liquid nutrients), my other plants are not really growing.
<Will take a few weeks for their damaged roots to re-grow, so give time.>
The Cabombas actually look like they are losing some of their leaves. I was thinking of perhaps adding solid fertilizers to the gravel but I'm not sure if I can use regular soil fertilizer pellets.
<Yes, you can buy these for fish tanks.>
They do not sell solid fertilizers at my fish stores, what do you recommend?
<Do go shopping for these pellets; they're well worth it. Look for brands such as JBL FerroTabs and TetraPlant Crypto-Dunger.>
On a side question my tank has been algae free, which is a problem since my Ancistrus is not getting much too eat. Algae wafers are pretty much out of the question since my p. tetrazonas, p. denisoniis and b. almorhae devour anything in the tank, day or night.
<Algae wafers at night should be eaten by the Ancistrus. Do look for those brands like Tetra Plecomin and JBL NovoPleco as these are so tough that only fish that scrape food can eat them. So the Ancistrus will be left alone to eat these!>
I've been adding a phosphate supplement to try to incite algae growth, however no algae seems to be growing (maybe he is eating it before it can grow too large) any suggestions?
<Do also offer vegetables: sliced cucumber, sliced courgette (zucchini), cooked peas, sliced sweet potato, blanched lettuce. All of these will be eaten by the Ancistrus at night.>
Thanks for the help,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Saltwater to Freshwater, clown loach sys., mal-affected plants    4/6/10
Hi. I wanted to update where this tank is at and see what advice you may have as I move forward. The tank has been running for 3.5 weeks. I planted it reasonably heavily day 1, added 4 guppies and 2 Platies and about 5 pounds of inactive liverock. I also added some cycle helper from the LFS and it seemed to help.
Nitrite peaked in 8 days and fully broke to zero in about 12 days. After a 50% water change, I then added four Mollies and four 2" Clown Loaches.
<Clown Loaches prefer/need soft, acidic water and will not do well in the hard, basic conditions livebearers require. Mollies also require much warmer water than Platies, so I don't really rate the idea of combining them. Fancy Guppies and Mollies need 28-30 degrees C to stay healthy, while Platies and Swordtails should be kept at 22-24 degrees C.>
Water quality has been very consistent - ph: 7.6, total hardness 300ppm, alkalinity 180ppm, nitrate under 20ppm and no ammonia or nitrite since the cycle completed.
<Much too hard for Clown Loaches.>
I have also been adding SeaChem Flourish Excel every other day. The plants have been doing mostly well. Hornwort, Anubias and Java Ferns are doing great, Val's ok, but 2 different tries at Anacharis have failed. They just slowly die over 5 days. I would like a lush green look, but the Hornwort is more brownish and the Anubias and Val's are short and thin respectively.
<Check the lighting and the quality of the substrate. Anubias does well attached to limestone rock, but if you stick the rhizome in the ground the plant will die. Vallisneria needs a fairly deep substrate, at least 8 cm, and while not fussy about substrate quality, it's a "greedy" plant that needs regular fertilisation with pellets pushed into the gravel as per the manufacturer's instructions.>
Any suggestions to get some lush green in there? I have added salt over the past 6 days or so and salinity is currently at 1.001 - I may just leave it here if the Mollies are doing well.
<But the Clown Loaches won't be happy.>
The addition of the salt hasn't affected the ph and hardness readings thus far. I think the liverock must be doing a good job keeping those parameters stable. This past weekend, I put in five Boesemani rainbow fish and a few more mollies. The rainbows are beautiful, but more aggressive than I expected.
<Keep a bigger group.>
They immediately ate a guppy baby and are chasing the guppies around a bit.
<As is their wont. Fancy Guppies are a target for hungry fish because they can't swim properly.>
The tank is 65 gallons with a 20 gallon sump filled about 75%.
<Much too small for Clown Loaches. Take a look at a tank of adult Clown Loaches: they're massive things around 30 cm long and very deep bodied.
While they grow fairly slowly, and may take 5 or more years to reach full size, their mortality rate in captivity is high because they aren't fish suited to small aquaria.>
The tank is very large and I am noticing that aside from the Rainbows, the rest of the fish are sort of getting lost in the tank - you simply don't see them.
<Rather than Clown Loaches, why not keep big groups of the smaller fish? A dozen Rainbows would look stunning, for example. Similar numbers of Mollies would work well, too. Three or four Horseface Loaches would be infinitely better than Clown Loaches in terms of size, and they're salt-tolerant to boot, although a sandy substrate would be obligatory. Another good choice would be Hoplosternum littorale, a big, boisterous salt-tolerant catfish related to Corydoras. A male/female duo would be rather jolly and lots of fun.>
I think I will need about 50 of them between Mollies, Guppies and the one school of rainbows to make it look nice. I am committed to regular water changes and want to do it right, but would like to push the stocking limits.
<Why push anything? Keep a sensible number of appropriately sized fish in this aquarium and it'll be lovely. Why trap yourself with an overstocked tank that crashes every time you're away on vacation? Slightly under-stocking gives you some leeway.>
As always, all advice is appreciated. Thanks again, Mitch
<Cheers, Neale.>

45G Planted aquarium - plant growth and algae issues  12/21/2009
I recently set up a new 45G/165L freshwater tropical aquarium and it has been running for about a month now. I am having some issues with plant growth and green brush algae.
I have it stocked with Hygrophila species (4 types), a red tiger lotus, dwarf Blyxa and 4 Anubias. The Hygrophilas do not seem to be doing very well and are not growing as quickly as I expected in this new tank.
<Blyxa is a tricky species, notoriously so in fact, but the others should be more or less easy to grow. Hygrophila is usually bomb-proof, given sufficient light. If you're having problems with Hygrophila spp., it's almost certainly down to inadequate lighting.>
I have a concurrent tank running (17G) where I am trying to 'grow them out' in that is an Aquastart 500 model and they seem to do better in this one.
The 45G tank is outfitted with 1x39W T5HO Power-Glo and 1x39W T5HO Life-Glo bulbs. They did not have an Aqua-Glo in the T5HO range ( I would have preferred this one over the Life-Glo).
<You're offering about 2 watts per gallon, which should be ample. I take it you have reflectors behind the lighting tubes? If not, add them: cheapest way to get all the lighting you're paying for into the aquarium.>
The Aquastart 500 came with lights that I have not changed since purchasing the tank 11 months ago, and the Wisteria I had in there always had to be trimmed weekly... but such is not the case in the 45G. I have the lights
on in both tanks for about 6 hours, then a 3 hour break in the middle of the day, then another 4 hours in the evening.
<I'd switch to a standard 10 or 12 hours period of lighting, with no break.
Yes, I know this "siesta" period can work and has been used to combat algae, but I suspect a 3 hour break is too much, and if you're having problems with your plants, the whole thing is one more variable you could do without. So switch to a continual lighting period of 10 or 12 hours, and see what happens.>
I dose with the Seachem line of fertilizers - Flourish, Flourish Excel and the Iron. I usually dose the Flourish and Iron daily (about 2 ml each), and the Excel every second day.
<What sort of substrate do you have? Adding liquid fertilisers can work, but to be honest, I find using a rich substrate at least as good, possibly better. Failing that, adding fertiliser tablets into the substrate below the roots of each plant can be very helpful. Also, are you using any type of CO2 system? While not essential, it can help.>
What I am seeing is that the large-leaved Hygrophila species' leaves are curling downwards away from the light, all the Hygrophila's new shoots have slowed down their growth considerably in the last 2 weeks, and green brush
algae is starting to make its mark (on the glass as well as the plant leaves). My H. polysperma's new shoots are also beginning to show less red colouration.
<The lack of red is usually down to inadequate lighting, since the red pigment develops to protect the leaf from very strong light.>
My Otocinclus do not seem to be feeding very often on the algae and each time I see them they are just sitting still on the driftwood.
<Otocinclus only eat green algae and to a lesser extent diatoms; they have zero impact on hair algae, brush algae, blue-green algae.>
I would like to get at least one more bulb for the tank - do you think that these issues are a consequence of insufficient light for the tank?
<Adding more lighting will certainly help, but CO2 will then become a limiting factor.>
Or am I not applying enough nutrients? Perhaps I am not supplying the correct nutrients?
<If you're using them as instructed on the packaging, you should be fine.>
Thank you in advance for your time and patience,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: 45G Planted aquarium - plant growth and algae issues   12/22/09
Hi Neale,
<Hello again,>
Thank you for the very quick response! I only have 3mm river pebbles for substrate, which is what I also have in the 17G tank. I use the Seachem tabs in the substrate, and when I did a cleanup of the affected leaves over
the weekend the root systems seemed healthy enough (fat and white), and there were more roots along the stems of the Hygrophilas.
<Well, that all sounds in order.>
However, I did intend to get at least one more bulb post-Christmas so I will try that along with the single period of 10-12 hour lighting and see how it goes.
<Yes, would do this.>
I have the GLO double reflector unit to hold the T5's at the moment.
Curiously the Blyxas are the ones that have taken very well to the new tank and are producing the most noticeable new growth.
<Very odd.>
I do not have a CO2 system as I hoping to get by with just the Excel but I guess if I am increasing the wattage I will need to look into it.
<Indeed, as light intensity goes up, supplemental CO2 becomes more important. But you should get at least some good growth without it.>
Thanks again!
<So long, Marianne... (to quote L. Cohen), Neale.>  

Planted Aquarium, lgtg. Reading and more reading   6/16/09
Hello all,
I am trying to understand lighting needs for my planted aquarium. I have a 90 gallon tank and I have guppies, platys and angel fish in the tank. I am looking to add discus later this year.
<Mmm, not really mix-able with the present fishes... see WWM re>
I have just added a small amount of plants to start: Spiralis
and Hornwort.
<Mmm, Ceratophyllum/s are too coldwater...>
I am maintaining a temp of 79 F.
<A bit cool for Symphysodon...>
I am running an Eheim 2128 filter. My tank is 48" by 13" by 29" show tank. It is deep. Can you please tell me what bulb specs I should have.
<Posted... See here:
and the linked files above>
My two overhead lights hold a 18" F15T8 tube. Can you please advise of watts, lumens and CRI that I should have to support my plants.
Thanks in advance for all the information you provide!!
Tosha L Funchess
<Keep reading. Bob Fenner>

Help with community tank. Planted tank... op.  6/5/08 I have a 55 gal. tank, fine gravel substrate, a large piece of driftwood, and a few plants so far. Temp is set to 78. Plants are mostly swords and baby's tears. <Echinodorus spp. and Micranthemum umbrosum need a lot of light, at least 3 W per gallon.> My lighting is terrible at the moment: tank came with a 20 watt light fixture I'm thinking I need about 200 watts of good, fluorescent light. What are your thoughts???? <Sounds about right.> I have a few additives for them, but not a real fertilizer. Do the ones that look like gravel, and you mix in with the substrate, work well? <They can work extremely well. I use pond soil under silver sand, but other people have their own recipes, and there are of course off-the-shelf mixes too.> Or do you suggest a liquid? <Best used as a weekly addition to top up the minerals as your tank develops.> I have a bubbler going at the moment, to help with the nitrifying bacteria. I plan to switch to CO2 soon. Is the CO2 recommended over the bubbler? <If you're after a planted tank, then yes, concentrate on CO2, and remove excessive water turbulence. You are only going to lightly stock this aquarium, so filtration can be relatively gentle.> I've had minor success in the past with making my own with water, sugar, and yeast in a 2 liter soda bottle, but I think the big tanks made need something better. <Doesn't really matter how you make the CO2, and both DIY and off-the-shelf systems can work well if configured and used correctly. For big tanks, the off-the-shelf ones might be easier to use and leave alone, but CO2 is CO2, wherever it comes from.> Suggestions? Arlene <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: help with community tank. 6/5/08 I think you guys are awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love the targeted information and the quick response. Thanks for all your help!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Arlene <Happy to help. Good luck, Neale.> Converting an established aquarium to planted -- 11/13/07 Hello, I currently have an aquarium with gold tetras, gold barbs, rosy barbs, blue gouramis, a talking catfish, a blonde rubber nosed pleco and a red-tailed black shark. It has been established for about a year and I am interested in adding live plants. The substrate is just aquarium gravel (the coated kind) and the lighting is whatever came with the hood I purchased. Would I need to add anything to the substrate? How would I go about doing this without upsetting the balance in my tank? What kind of plants work decently with these fish? What is a good, relatively inexpensive light for the florescent hood? I tried putting in a couple plants before as an experiment but they didn't seem to take root. I'm new to live aquarium plants, so anything you could tell me would be appreciated. Thank you very much, Amy <Hello Amy. Plain washed gravel isn't viable for most plants. Think about it: if you stuck a garden plant into a bed of driveway gravel, would you expect it to grow? Aquarists keeping plants need to factor in a whole bunch of things. Substrate is important, as is bright lighting, fertilisation in the water, and carbon dioxide. As a basic plan, you need a substrate containing a mix of fine gravel and some sort of supplement such as laterite or aquatic soil. You need lights that provide at least 2 watts per gallon of water. Iron-rich fertiliser needs to be added to the water at least once a month. Carbon dioxide fertilisation isn't essential, but it helps, and is the secret to those amazing planted aquaria you see in the magazines. How you solve all these issues can be as complex or expensive as you want it. In my planted tanks, I use pond soil and fine gravel from the garden centre, which costs very little compared with buying the "real" things from an aquarium shop. The substrate is in two layers: a 5 cm mix of soil and gravel at the bottom, and then a 3-5 cm depth of fine gravel on top. For tanks 50 cm or less in depth, plain fluorescent lights will work. I have four full-length tubes on my planted tank, and that seems to be the minimum for good results. Barbs tend to nibble on soft plants, so choose robust species. Amazon swords, Vallisneria, Anubias, Java fern, etc will be fine. When you're setting things up, take the fish out and place them in 5 gallon buckets with lids (essential bits of equipment in my opinion). Put the filter in one of these buckets, and leave it running so the bacteria stay alive. Empty the aquarium. Take your time arranging the substrate, and then put new water in. Plant the tank, leaving room for growth. By the end of the day, the water will clear up and you can return the fish. Do buy, read a book on aquarium plants before proceeding. There are lots of "fake" aquatic plants on the market, and these are widely sold, often cheaply. They die in fish tanks. Choose plants suited to your water chemistry and lighting conditions. Cheers, Neale.>

Planted Tank Doesn't Pearl  - 10/22/06 Hi, I currently have a 30G tank which is partially planted (I'm still looking  to fill in the open spaces in parts of the tank) with Limnophilia indica, Ludwigia Repens and arcuata, Anubias barteri v. 'Nana' and Cryptocoryne  wendtii.  I have two rummy nose tetras (will be adding more once I get  the conditions right in the tank) and a few pesty snails.  For  lighting I have a 110W PC unit (on 11 hours/day) with a DIY CO2 system and  a fluorite substrate with small gravel on top.  I add potassium at the rate  of 4mg/L per day (can't test for it, but based on various websites you  really can't OD your tank with it) and I dose phosphates to a 16:1 ratio with  nitrates (to the best of my ability and I'm definitely not perfect).  I  also dose Seachem Flourish 2X week and Flourish Iron 1X week.  My water  parameters are:  temp 81 degrees F (hard to lower due to  NYC apartment heating issues), pH 6.6, GH 6 dH, KH 4 dH, Phosphate .2-.25 mg/L and Nitrates 7 mg/L.  I don't dose nitrates since they  occur in the tank naturally.  Now that you know the deal  with my aquarium now my question.  I perform weekly water changes and when  I do my plants pearl like crazy, which is exactly what I'm looking for because  it tells me that they have the nutrients they need to grow.  The pearling  lasts for about a day then nothing. Just the Barteri Nana and the crypts  pearl...but barely.  I provide the nutrients but the other  plants don't pearl.  What could I be missing that the plants need that  my tap water is providing immediately?  I'm worried that the recently  defeated blue-green algae will return.  Should I start dosing trace elements too?  Typical NYC water is high in phosphates and nitrates so I  never add additional nutrients the same day of the water change fearing too much of them will cause an algae bloom.  Am I doing something wrong or am I  missing something?  I feel like I spend my entire life testing the water  and researching on line.  Any ideas or assistance will be much  appreciated.  Thank you. Chris NY, NY < I would look at the CRI of the current lighting you are using. You want to get  the CRI as  close to 100 as possible and try a lamp with a color of around 6500.-Chuck>

Planted tank issues... gen.   8/1/06 Hi Bob and crew, Hope you can help me just one more time....I have several FW aquariums and really bad well water. After trying RO/DI and wasting too much water... <Can/could be vented to other purposes...> I modified the setup by removing the R/O membrane. I am filtering water through 2 sediment and sand filters and 2 activated carbon filters. Should I be adding anything to this water for trace elements or electrolytes? <Not able to tell...> I am using 75% filtered and 25% regular tap water which has .50 ppm ammonia. <I do hope/trust you are storing, aerating this water before use> Also, re: 75 gal. FW established 4 mos. that I am converting from plastic to live plants. Started with 5 Amazon sword and 3 bunches of anacharis... <Coldwater genus...> Lighting is two 40 watt, full spectrum, 6700k bulbs that are on about 14 - 16 hrs per day. <I'd reduce this to about 12> I know the 6700k are a little too high?   <Should be fine> I have gone through the green pea soup algae, and am now fighting with the brownish, reddish ugly algae that covers everything!! Please advise me on whether or not I am at least headed in the right direction... <Too much not mentioned here that could be at play... substrate, fertilizer use, other nutrients present...> I have already pulled out most of my hair and am starting on my beard!! When that's gone I give up....Thanks so much....DR <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html Take your time... top to bottom... Bob Fenner>

Floating Plants, Article Clarification - 05/23/2006 Hello!!! <Hi, Jeremy!  Sabrina with you, today.> I am looking for some more clarification in regard to a freshwater article. In it you say "With just a small amount of live plant material floating and breaking the waters surface, you can be rid of most algae and a whole lot of other aquarium maintenance." Why does this help control algae?? <Floating plants serve a couple strong purposes, here.  They cut down on light getting into the tank that could otherwise be used by algae, and many/most floating plants are veritable nutrient sponges, consuming nutrients that also might contribute strongly toward algal growth.> What other tank maintenance is helped?   <For one, you'll be less likely to need to scrape algae....  Also it may even reduce the amount or frequency of water changes, as the plants are converting excess nutrients into plant.> Thanks so much!  -Jeremy The referenced article: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/plttksovrview.htm <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Good Intentions, Continued - 04/06/2006 Hello again Wet Web Friends! <Hello again, Julie!  Sabrina at your service again.  Good to hear back from you.> I am sad to report that further my email entitled "It All Began With Good Intentions....", my last Goldfish perished before I received your very kind and informative reply. <I am very, very sorry to hear of this.> Having learned more about Aquarium keeping from your reply and further reading, I have decided to start all over. For the moment, I will be using my 5.5 Gallon to start with. I understand it is very small, and can be difficult to work with, however, before jumping into the larger projects, I feel that by getting it right with something smaller, especially if more difficult, I will have greater success with larger environments. That being said, my plan to upgrade to a larger tank, specifically a 55 Gallon "long-style" tank is imminent. <Ahh!  Excellent!> There is a cast-off tank coming to me in the near future from a family member, who has had it stashed away accumulating dust for years. <To be on the safe side, leave it on your porch, fill it with your garden hose, and let it sit overnight to make sure the seals are still okay.  If it leaks, then you get to learn more and have even more fun resealing it!  Call me a loser, but I've always had fun resealing old leaky tanks.  More than likely you won't have a need to reseal it, though.> Eventually, the 5.5 Gallon will become a hospital/quarantine tank, but before I jump into the bigger things, I'm still trying to finesse my understanding of the ammonia/nitrate cycle (which is where I feel I need a little work).   <Perfect plan.> I have read that live plants can actually help maintain a healthy aquatic ecosystem in terms of the overall Aquarium cycle. <.... and aesthetics for you *and* the fish, and a general sense of "well-being"/safety of the fish that they have somewhere they can hide if they must, and added oxygenation, and so forth.> As a result, I decided to start first with a change-out of 90% of the water, using the same filter media and gravel as was in the tank initially (to retain some of the bacteria from the cycled iteration of the tank). I allowed that water to cycle for the past week, with the realization that I have probably destroyed most of the established ecosystem (and hopefully, any bad bacteria and disease) in so doing.   <Give it another week at the least to be certain that you are rid of ich.>

For this small tank, I ditched the artificial plants, and today purchased a few items for it from PetSmart. This included a small decorative rock, 3 small bunches of live plants, (Java Fern, Green Wendtii, and Bacopa Monnieri). These plants were being kept separately in their own tanks, which appeared clean. I asked the salesperson if there was any possibility of snail growth (for alum rinsing), and she told me there should be no need because they never mix their plants with live fish (or snails). <Hah!  Uhm, it's not the fish and "pet"-type snails you need fear, but the snails and eggs that tag along on the plants from the farms/distributors/wholesalers prior to the pet shop.  Count yourself lucky if you don't have snails, and when/if you do start seeing them, just immediately pull them out by hand and you'll probably be okay.> Trusting this, I planted and arranged my tank landscape when I brought the items home, also inserting an air stone designed for small tanks (up to 5 gallons). No fish have yet been purchased, nor do I intend to purchase any for at least 3 weeks after Ammonia/Nitrogen/PH testing. If all is going well, and the plants are healthy, I will look into a realistic fish purchase for this sized "starter" tank, a picture of which I snapped with my lousy little Webcam, inserted below (75% of the tank is shown): <<Pic goes here, perhaps, Bob?  -S>> <Looking good.> Eventually my livestock will probably move to the larger tank once it has cycled (using the live plant method if this works out). <Live plants won't actually cycle the tank for you.  Do a search on "fishless" cycling, and look about in our cycling FAQs....  My preference is to put a piece of cocktail shrimp in the tank to  decay and release ammonia and thus start the cycle.> I haven't made an absolute decision on the fish I plan to start with... I was hoping to use about 5 white clouds (given their hardiness and cycling recommendations) but unfortunately the shop doesn't carry them. <They're absolutely beautiful, once they grow and color up a bit.  You'd like them a great deal I think; it'd probably be a good idea to try to find other stores in your area.> They did have a rather huge variety and selection of Mollies, however, we were not able to find an appropriate heater for such a small tank. <Mm, mollies get far too large for a 5g tank.  Or, should, anyway, given appropriate conditions/tank size.  The "sailfin" type mollies can reach a hearty 5" easily.> Is there anything you can suggest for such a small tank, to start out? Due to its' size and the overhead lamp, it seems to maintain a steady temperature between 29-29 Degrees Celsius (82-84 degrees Fahrenheit). <Pretty warm.  If this is consistent, even at night with not a great deal of temperature fluctuation, you could do a small handful of most any small tetra, danio, or barb (danios, of these, being my favorite - zebras are quite attractive), but these are all zippy, active swimmers that would appreciate a larger space and would ultimately like to be moved to the 55.  You could do a single male Betta instead if you like, and he'd be more than happy for his entire life in this little tank.  Incidentally, they do make small 25w heaters, so do be on the lookout, as this would be perfect for a 5g tank.  If you can find sparkling gourami, they'd be gorgeous in a small planted tank.  A few ghost shrimp would fare well, as well.  Lots of small options.> Perhaps the incandescent lighting will be enough heating and support for the plants and certain fish in a tank this size? <I'm not positive the Bacopa will fare well, as it usually likes very intense lighting in my experience, but in this small tank that may be enough for it.> If my setup works out for 6 months, <I'm voting for the betta.  You'll be greatly rewarded with the attitude and beauty of a happy, active male betta in this tank.> I feel I will be ready to move on to something bigger in the Freshwater genre, and start emptying my bank account on everything I'll need to outfit a new aquarium. <Heh!  I think you're starting out under no false pretenses!> If there is anything you find flawed in my approach, or setup, your feedback will be invaluable. I love this new hobby.... and am most grateful that there are folks like yourselves doing this service!   <And thank you, again, for these very kind words.> Thanks again all, and hope all is well! <Seems to be!  I hope all is well with you, as well.> Julie <-Sabrina>

Unusual proliferation of midwater roots on stem plants  9/29/05 Hi <Hello there> First many thanks for the website, I have used it many times in the past (for marine) and it is a fantastic resource. <Ah, good> I have tried searching, but could be missing the obvious so apologies if this is a repeat question. <No worries> The tank: 36" x 12" x 18" high, 110 watts PC daylight plus / triton for 11.5 hours. CO2 injection (enough to for plants to produce visible oxygen when lit) <Neat... and a good clue> ammonia 0, nitrite 0 and nitrate 0. GH 80ppm, KH 4deg, Ph 6.8 - 7.0, temp 79. Substrate is eco-complete. The tank is relatively new, and plant growth is amazing to say the least. The only fish are 4 Otos and 2 Corydoras. No losses, look in good health. Problem: The stem plants are throwing out profuse roots at all levels, I know that one of the varieties I have always grows in this manner, but all of mine are, even Cabomba. The rosette type plants seem OK. Is this normal in a new tank? <Mmm, yes... particularly one with no rate-limiting factors, overdriven with carbon dioxide...> is it due to water an untested element of quality? <Not really...> too much light? <Abundance of all factors more like it, but including photonic energy, yes> It is unsightly, and unchecked the planting will eventually seem to become all roots! I don't have profuse algae BTW so I would hazard a guess that excessive phosphate is not the problem? Any advise greatly appreciated. Regards Shaun <Try putting the lighting on a more limited time frame first here... there are ways to make "something" limiting... and in a while (weeks to a few months) indeed, something will become limiting. You'll see. Bob Fenner> Re: Unusual proliferation of midwater roots on stem plants  9/30/05 Hi Bob <Shaun> That makes it clearer, perhaps best described as me giving the plants 'too much of a good thing'. <Good way of putting it/this> I'll incrementally start reducing the light and maybe tweak the CO2 down till a limiting factor is reached and then equilibrium (hopefully) achieved.  Many thanks. Regards Shaun <Tis fun to "play god" at times... Bob Fenner> Low Lighting, Small Tank... Plants?  You Bet! - 08/20/2005 Hi, I have a question about lighting.  I have a standard 10g freshwater tank, with 5 head and tail light tetras.  I have just upgraded the hood from incandescent lighting to fluorescent, hoping to grow a few plants.  I purchased (on advice from the pet shop clerk) an 18000k 15w  55 Lux power-Glo bulb.  I also purchased a couple of plants: Dwarf hairgrass-which I now know needs very high lighting, Rotala indica <Also does better with higher light than what you have, but may survive and even grow.> My question is, will this light work for these (or any) freshwater plants?   <These, maybe not - any?  Yes!  Most certainly!  I would look to Anubias, Microsorium pteropus/java fern, Vesicularia dubyana/java moss, Ceratopteris/watersprite, maybe Hygrophila polysperma....  Some of the Cryptocorynes will thrive in this, as well.> Or should I exchange this for something better suited to freshwater (from reading I think I understand this to be better for marine?).   <This will be okay for those lower-light plants.> Any help would be appreciated.  Thanks,  Leah <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

About Amazon Swords, live plant aquarium keeping, WWM 7/21/05 Hello Bob I have a heavily planted 92 corner discus tank with orbit lighting that emits around 10,000 Kelvin of white itenic and  450ish of blue.  The plants are rooted in Fluorite plant gravel.      My problem is that all of the swords and jungle Val plants are getting thin yellowed leaves with holes (its not snails).  Also they seem to rot away with a brown transparency starting at the outer leaves and roots.  I have done much research and am beginning to get frustrated.  Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks Drew <Read... here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html re set-up, maintenance, and particularly the nutrition of aquatic plants. Bob Fenner> FW Stocking, plant health, study Hello!! Your site is very informative but i have a question i have to ask: After cycling my tank want to have... 3 platies 3 Corydoras catfish 1 Otocinclus or SAE <Interesting... different species as you know> 2 rams 3 harlequin rasboras (maybe) 4 other tetras the tetras are where i want help. most of the fish I've mentioned are bottom dwellers. what sorts of small tetras can i buy to swim in the top half of my tank to balance it out. something colourful and not orange. <See WWM re... Perhaps some fish of the genus Hyphessobrycon...> Also, will my selection fit into my 29g tank? <Mmm, yes> another question, i have 2 plants, i think 1 is Hygrophila (not sure) <Can find pix of this, other aquarium plants... on the Net> and the other is a very fine leaved plant. anyway on the 1 which i think is Hygrophila, at the top the leaves are all curling up and on the bottom they are rotting. what should i do? i have the light on for 8 hours a day. <Read on my friend... Perhaps your water quality is unsuitable, maybe there is a nutrient deficiency at play here... perhaps your light quality is insufficient... Bob Fenner> Thanks in advance, James

Freshwater Plant Problem Gang: Hi, and thanks for being there the couple of times a year I need you! <Welcome> I am experiencing a problem trying to grow (and even maintain) freshwater plants in my two tanks. One is 120 gallon, the other a 10 gallon. I get real nice plants from the pet store, put them in the tanks, and they rarely grow at all. In fact, they usually end up getting algae all over them.. the leaves start turning yellow and they die. Or, they just sort of lighten in color, and "stay" there with no growth. I've tried all sorts of plants, and the exact same thing keeps happening. All my fish are doing GREAT. 120 gal tank: Ph 7.2, Nitrite: 0, Ammonia: 0: Lighting : 2 48" strips each with 30 watt Penn Plax fluorescent lights. <Mmm, the lighting is at least part of the problem... poor intensity, spectral mix> 10 gal tank: ph 7.2, nitrite: 0.1, ammonia: 0. Lighting: 2, 10w Coralife compact fluorescent (output is actually like 40w I believe). <Likely so> I do not have a NITRATE test kit. <Rarely a nutrient limiting factor> Other pertinent info: 1) My tap water is whole-house filtered with charcoal and then softened over beads recharged with salt. I use the tap water in the tank with virtually no pretreating at all. In two years has never hurt my fish at all. <Mmm, but maybe your plants... they don't like the excess sodium, and your water may well be mineral deficient... I would mix at least some (a few tens of percent) "outside" tap that hasn't been thus filtered> 2) All my AquaClear filters (2 Aq300s in the large tank, and 1 Aq200 in the small) are running either Zeocarb mixture or straight carbon. ALL have a small filter bag with crushed coral in it to keep the pH steady (does a GREAT job!). The large tank also has an undergravel filter with AquaClear powerheads attached to it for water movement. <Mmm, many rooted plants do poorly with UG filtration> The small tank has no undergravel filter. The large tank also has a UV filter on it. 3) I rarely "feed" the plants except for an occasional "Planttab" near the base. So...from all of this, any idea why these plants won't grow? And what's with the algae on the plants (and in the tank) on the small tank (the one with the CF bulbs)?? Thanks again in advance for any help or direction you may offer. Larry <Easy to do... Please read over our Planted Tank subweb: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html There are a bunch of issues... lighting, nutrients, filtration, substrate... for you to consider, address. Bob Fenner>

Help with a planted tank Hey Crew, I currently have a 75 g FW setup running for a couple of years. I've had some luck with the basic lowlight plants - Javas, swords - but a couple of snails I was told were plant safe devoured all of them while I was away for a week.  So now I've decided I want to try a more seriously planted tank. I have the lighting - 4x55w Jebo 48" - all ready. I want to know if it is worth adding fluorite to the existing substrate, which is the basic aquarium gravel (about 2" deep ). I probably need to add more substrate either way because I've had no luck keeping stems in the gravel. My question is do I need to remove the fish to add the fluorite, will it make a very noticeable difference, can it be avoided by using pond tabs? < I would recommend fluorite. It comes in bags with lots of silt and clay so it needs to be washed very thoroughly. I little trick that I do is go down to the $.99 cent store and buy a plastic sieve. I then place scoops of fluorite in it a run water through it until it runs clear. You can spend a long time washing it in a 5 gallon bucket.> Where can I get pond tabs as I haven't been able to find them at my local Loews or Home Depot. < Try DrsFosterSmith.com.>  Also, I've been told that its wise to soak the new plants in a dilute chlorine bleach solution before adding them to the tank. Is that true? How dilute?  How long and how long should I soak them or rinse them in freshwater afterwards? < I know that this is supposed to disinfect the plants and prevent them from bringing in a new parasites to the aquarium. but I have found that a good rinse under running water will get rid of 90% the problems. Disinfecting them just weakens them.-Chuck> 

Tropical Freshwater Plants in small aquarium Hi there, Just recently I bought a 30 litre fish tank (I think that's about 10 gallons) <Closer to eight... a little more than a quart in a litre... four quarts per U.S. gallon> for my girlfriend as an early Christmas present as she has been fascinated by fish and wanting a tank for a few years now, however neither of us are particularly experienced with keeping tropical fish and have been taking things slowly with setting up the aquarium. <Good approach, attitude> Approximately two weeks ago we set up the aquarium, dechlorinating the water, cleaning the gravel, soaking the tank, etc, and left it running for about a week before recently adding some live plants (two large Anubias on drift wood, a banana lily, and an array of about ten other aquarium cuttings from our local fish shop), and have since been running the tank with these plants - and fortunately have had no problems with algae or plant sickness (although with my limited knowledge I don't know whether it takes longer than this for problems to show?). <Generally, yes... a few weeks> After some adjusting ph is at 7 and has remained like that for half a week so far (without any adjustments), and temperature is at 25*C. <Okay> Anyway our plan is to add a pair of guppies in a weeks time (which will of been 3 weeks after initially starting the tank and 2 weeks after the addition of plants) as a test to make sure they are okay with the tank and also to start providing the plants with some fishy nutrients. Then if all goes well with the guppies we will probably add some more fish slowly each couple of days-weeks. <Sounds good> From the extensive reading that I have been doing on keeping tropical fish over the past 6 months, most of the information I have found suggests that with a 'large' crop of live freshwater aquatic plants nitrate build-up is decreased greatly, which leads to less frequent water changes and a higher "bio-capacity" chemical-wise for the tank. <You are correct here> So among other things I wanted to ask your experienced opinion on whether this is accurate, and that with a healthy concentration of plants that the population count of small fish can be furthered? (Of course this would not apply to larger fish as they wouldn't have the swimming space). <Also correct> With this in mind, our hope is to have something similar to the following: 3 Guppies 5 Neon Tetras a pair of other small friendly fish (other tetras/catfish/swordtails are these friendly?]) <Sounds fine... perhaps consider a couple of small catfish... e.g. Corydoras species> Alternatively we are entertaining the idea of a single angel fish instead of some of the Neons and the other fish - but from what I have read angels are aggressive and it would eat our other fish :S Are there any types of 'small' angels or trop fish that look similar to angels that wouldn't feast on the Tetras? <None that are appropriate for your size system. Wait till you have a bit more experience, a much bigger tank> We much prefer the smaller, brighter coloured fish so these are just thoughts we are exercising. <Good thoughts> Additionally, I have been reading about CO2 systems for the plants, and wanted to ask your opinion on whether or not the addition of CO2 would be of much benefit to the plants that are already in the tank. <Mmm, beneficial yes... and you'll be adding a bit of carbon dioxide through the fishes, foods... I would hold off on trying CO2 infusion at this point... maybe try an experimental, home-made infuser at a later date> The tank is well planted and any further growth is not desired as it would simply mean we would have to remove the excess plants to make room for the fishes to swim - but I am more concerned about keeping the plants healthy in their current state. So far we have been giving them 10 hours of light per day and they are looking great (if not lusher than they were when we originally bought them). Thanks for any help you can provide! -Adam <I'd add a complete fertilizer (see SeaChem's products here), and this, along with regular water changes and fish feeding will supply all essential plant nutrients. Bob Fenner> Want some more inf. about live plants Hello Bob/Sabrina: This is Ahmed from Pakistan. Actually still I have some controversies in my mind that could I be able to keep some LIVE PLANTS in the tank based on UNDER GRAVEL FILTERS? In the last mail Sabrina told me that PLANTS DO NOT LIKE A GREAT DEAL OF WATER CIRCULATION THROUGH THEIR ROOT SYSTEM AND YOU WOULD BE VERY LIMITED IN SELECTION OF PLANTS IF YOU INTEND TO KEEP THEM IN U/G FILTER BASED TANK. <Yes. Best to "blind pot" rooted plants in systems with undergravel filtration... if you can't be persuaded to abandon the UG entirely. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwugfiltr.htm> She had recommended java fern and java moss and other plants of that same species. I have white silica sand in my aquarium and its thickness is almost 6 inches I mean 6 inches from the U/G filter plate. <Ahmed... silica is about the worst choice for aquarium substrates. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/substraags.htm> I wanna ask that: 1. What is the very best substrate for the live plants in which they can grow nicely? Can I grow live plants in WHITE SILICA SAND or should I include other substrate or soil with it? <See the above and the links (in blue, above) to Related Articles and FAQs> 2. The thickness of gravel is almost 6 inches form the U/G filter plate can't I grow them in my tank? I think that there should not be any effect of water circulation on the roots of plants due to the thickness of the gravel. <To an extent this is so> 3. Here in Pakistan a local fish dealer said me that I can grow them because of the thickness of gravel that will not let the circulation of water to damage the roots of the plants. He also said that Live Plants are necessary for the breeding of Angel fish. Is he right? <Maybe the former, but not the latter. Most every commercial producer of Angelfishes does NOT use live plants... Most use bare tanks, a piece of slate, lead sheet, flower-pots for spawning media> 4. Can I keep other fishes i.e. Clown loach, Bala sharks, Rainbow sharks in a breeding tank of Angel fish or should I keep only a breeding pair of Angel? <If there's room, these will all go in together... the Bala's will get very big with age> 5. Is there any sort of visible difference between male and female angel, I mean how can I differentiate between male and female angel for breeding purpose? here a local dealer said me that for breeding purpose I should raise 6 to 8 young angels and after some period they will make pair themselves. Is he right? <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwangelfishes.htm> 6. How should I start a breeding programme of angel fish? Lighting, Temperature, Food, Medications, pH etc..........! I had tried so many times to grow live plants in my aquarium but unfortunately every time I failed and I have spend a lot of money on live plants but still I could not get reward from them. Now this time again I intend to pull out all of my plastic plants and wanna try again that's why I am very much careful and collecting information about them. Thanks, AHMED (KARACHI, PAKISTAN)   <Keep studying my friend. Bob Fenner>

Lighting/CO2 and Platy question Good afternoon WWM crew, I have a three part question that I'm hoping you can provide some guidance on. My first relates to lighting/CO2:  I've had my 30G tank for about 8 months now and have enjoyed it tremendously.  It is stocked with a number of plants like swords, stem plants (Cabomba, wisteria), etc.  Right now I have about 1 watt/gallon of light and I feel that my stem plants, in particular, are being effected more due to insufficient light.  Now I've read your website re lighting/CO2 etc and it was extremely helpful.  I would like to increase the light using full spectrum bulbs (Vita lite, etc per Mr. Fenner's articles) to about 3 watts/gallon.  Now my question, since an increase in light intensity gives you more photosynthesis during daytime hours and ultimately more CO2 consumption, do I have to inject CO2 into my system? < Increased lighting will definitely increase the demands by the plants for nutrients like CO2.> Would more frequent water changes help? < The trace minerals found in tap water would need to be replenished as the plants use them up.> I would love to be able to plant all kinds of plants even plants that require bright light, but I don't want to become a chemist and have to go nuts over the amount of CO2 needed, how it affects my pH, etc, etc.  Is there an alternative? < Plants will only grow as well as the nutrients around them are made available. Stem plants in particular seem to need more CO2 then others. There are still many beautiful tank setups with out CO2. I would recommend that you set up your tank the way you want. Some plants may flourish while others take off. Try different ones and see what works in your tank.> My second question:  I've read articles regarding the use of carbon instead of CO2 (Excel Carbon was the brand name).  Would this make my life easier? < Carbon in general does not increase the CO2 content of the water. I am not familiar with this product. There is a carbon block in which a current is run through and it generates CO2 . Look for it at Belowwater.com under products.> My final question is regarding my female platy.  I've had her for about 5 months and she has given birth to two fry (or at least 2 I've been able to save) that have grown to be healthy fish.  The last few days she's been acting really strange.  She has been swimming erratically, kind of like something spooked her, it's almost spastic.  She is not swimming erratically 100% of the time just every few minutes she has one of these "fits".  There are no signs of discoloration, parasites, bloat, ich, velvet, etc -she looks completely normal! My pH is about 7.2, nitrites zero, nitrates about 10 ppm.  The temp is around 79 degrees.  I also add some aquarium salt at every water change, which is weekly.  She still feeds a bit, but spends most of her "free" time hiding and has become unsocial.  I'm afraid that she's getting old or has come down with some disease.  I have 1 other male and female platy (also 1F platy that is only 1/2 inch long), 2M and 2F guppies (1F guppy that is 1/2 long-no color yet), 4 Neons, 3 cherry barbs, 1 Cory catfish and (I think) 1 Otocinclus.  Do you know what this is?  How to treat? Thanks and happy holidays, Chris < She may have come down with a internal bacterial infection. Try and treat her with Metronidazole.-Chuck> Planted tank, nutrient-growth Hello <Hi there Lukas> I was reading the article by Alesia Benedict on her planted discus tanks.  I just wanted to say that that it gave me a idea for a future tank set up. But it also got me thinking about my tank now.  I have had some moderate success with plants but not the greatest.  I recently purchased 3 bunches of Bacopa plants.  They looked really nice in the store but after about 3 weeks in my tank they don't look so good any more.  I was wondering if you could suggest some things for me  to try with this plant.   And if you could give me a couple of suggestions on some plants to place in the tank that are relatively easy to take care of.  I have a 90 gallon tank with, 4 clown loaches, 5 golden barbs, 7 cherry barbs, a rope fish, 4 danios, about 5 Neons, I believe that the rope fish has been having snacks. 1 common Pleco, 2 glass cats 1 platy. about 5 ghost shrimp and 2 rams horn snails <Quite a mix!> The clown loaches are still little guys no bigger then about 1 and a half inches. The loaches are what I want the tank to be for in the future.  once the other fish have gone to the next big tank in the sky. The tank is filtered by a Fluval 403 canister filter, with mechanical media, charcoal and sponge. I have a bubbler on the back wall and temp at 79 degrees all the time. Water changes are done every other week  with 16 gallons per change, with a minor addition of aquarium salt.  PH is steady at 7.5. <Ahh... could well be the salt> I also have in the tank what I have been told are crypts,  I haven't been able to locate a pic on the net of the plant I have in there.  But they are doing sort of ok.  They have been turning a little brown lately but seem to be sprouting new leaves. <Mmm, do you purposely fertilize your plants? What sort and age of lighting?> Would you be able to give me a idea as to what I could place in there for, plants and not have them melt away or get eaten to death by the barbs. Thank you Lukas <Sounds to me like you may have a nutrient deficiency going here... the "slow boat to China" approach of having fish fertilizer supply your plants will work... but I would do away with the salt additions. Bob Fenner>

Question about freshwater plant I have a small five, gallon tank and decided to use live plants.  No one told me anything about this but do I remove the lead weights from the plants?  I have been putting them in especially on the wispier plants like my carobabas and hornwort bunches because my Pictus catfish, in his/her daily activities, tends to dislodge them with his/her tail currents seemingly before they can establish a root system.  I just have a gravel substrate; no soil or anything.  Does this affect the plants' ability to root in? < Remove the weights and rinse the plants very well in cool water to dislodge any loose or decaying matter. Allow the plants to float at the surface for a few days next to the light fixture. Watch for any roots that may be developing on the plants. You will need to amend your gravel with and iron rich substrate such as Fluorite or laterite. Take the end of the plant with new roots and strip off any leaves that may have developed below the new root(s). Plant the stem of the plant until the top of the root is buried. With good light and a little luck you should soon see new shoots growing from the plant in a week or so. Keep the light on between 8 and 12 hours a day. If algae becomes a problem then cut back on the light and try an algae eating fish.-Chuck> Sarah

Plants in Pakistan - 10/18/2004 Hi Bob: <Actually, this is Sabrina, plant-and-shrimp geek at your service.> This is Ahmed from Pakistan. <Ahh, quite some distance from my home in sunny California, USA!  Nice to semi-meet you.> I have 5 feet long tank and I have some fresh water tropical fishes like clown loach, bala shark, angels... <Sounds great.  I do wish to warn you that some tropicals - especially vegetarian Loricariids - will eat plants.> Actually Bob, <Still Sabrina, hope you don't mind too terribly.> I have tried so many times to grow some real plants in my water filled glass tank but I did not get success. <It is in fact a very difficult endeavor, in some cases.  You will find success; do not worry.> Now I intend to try again. Sir please would you give me some basic information to how to grow live plants in my aquarium. <If you read through some/all of the articles listed here, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html , you will find a great deal of information.  I fear there is simply far more information to pack into a single email - lighting, filtration, CO2, fertilization....> Also can I keep live plants in tank based on under gravel filtration. <Well, yeah, but you may find yourself very limited - plants do not like a great deal of circulation of cold water through their root systems; it tends to make them grow very poorly or not at all.  If you wish to try planting a tank with an undergravel filtration system, I would recommend that you look into plants like Anubias species, Microsorium pteropus (java fern), and Vesicularia dubyana (java moss), as these will all grow very well if you root them on bogwood/driftwood, or even porous rock.  They grow better in this manner than in the substrate.  Just tie 'em on to the rock or wood with an inert thread (fishing line, cotton thread, whatever), and they'll root over time.  This can create some stunning and beautiful displays.  These are also very low-light plants and do not require any "special" or "fancy" high-tech lighting systems; plain fluorescent lighting will be fine for them.  You might also find floating plants attractive - Ceratopteris species (Watersprite), Pistia stratiotes (water lettuce), and Riccia fluitans all make a very pretty display, left floating at the top of the tank.  You may even find them attractive enough that you might lower the water level to be better able to see your above- and below-water garden.  Just some ideas to start you out - and please do check the articles in that link; there's a LOT of information out there. Thanks. <You're quite welcome, Ahmed; I think you'll have a lot of fun with this aquatic endeavor.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina Planted Tank Differences Bob, <Chris> I had not heard from you.  I realize that you are busy and probably get bombarded with hundreds of e-mail, but I wanted to resend this in case it had gotten lost before you had a chance to reply. <Have a couple dozen friends here that help with queries, but have been out of town for several days (to Ecuador mainland and Galapagos)> Thanks in Advance! Chris J. Rogers >>> Chris Rogers 07/20/04 10:14AM >>> Bob, I have been heavy into keeping freshwater aquariums for a few years now.  In the past they have always been non-planted tanks.  I just decided to try my hand at a planted tank.  I have done a good bit of research on line over the past few weeks as I have time.  I just ordered the following 75G set-up: 75G AGA standard tank Modern Series Stand and canopy Glass top 2x65W Corallife Compact Fluorescent fixture w/6700K plant bulbs with timer set for ~12 hours of lighting 1 Rena Filstar xP3 with filter pad media, the standard resin/carbon that comes with it, and ceramic rings I'm planning on getting two of the new Stealth 200W heaters and a digital thermometer for monitoring temp. I'm going to try to go w/out CO2 if possible, but I may set-up one or two of the 2L yeast CO2 reactors that I have seen on this site and others. <Yes, worth experimenting... you can see almost immediate positive results with carbon dioxide augmentation> I have ordered 5 bags of the Eco-Complete planted substrate...enough? <We'll see... you'll likely want a good two inches plus base... if this does it, so be it> I already have test kits for pH, Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, KH....any others needed? <Maybe phosphate... you can wait on this for now> Stocking plan: Mainly various Rainbow fish Would like Clown Loaches, but have heard they are not good with plants, so may forgo One elephant nose (already in another tank, but would like to move him to this one) Various algae eaters (recommendations here?  I have seem mostly SAE's as the preferred choice here) Any other recommendations? <I would go, stick with this choice (Crossocheilus) for now... there are some homalopterids, smaller loricariids to consider going forward> First, does this sound reasonable to you? <Yes>   It looks like Flourish seems to be the consensus for the best fertilizer, <A very fine product> and I have seen mixed reviews on the liquid carbon additives (have read that Weiss' Natural Aquarium Vital is Snake Oil, but the SeaChem product may be O.K.)...your thoughts here?  Some questions for transitioning from non-planted to planted: <It's obvious you have a good mind and skills in such plans. All sounds good thus far> - Do you still vacuum the substrate during water changes or just let the plants use the refuse? <I would only vacuum the areas where there were no rooted plants> - I use a small amount of Freshwater salt (~1tsp./5 gal.) for my non-planted tanks.  Is this safe/recommended for planted tanks as well? <Should be. There are few salt-sensitive plants that are offered in the trade, and most folks tap/source water has at least this amount of salts in it already> - Is tap water conditioned with Stress Coat O.K. for the planted tanks (has been so far with my non-planted, and for some weird reason Stress Coat seemed to work better for me than Prime) <Yes... even straight out of the tap is fine if only doing ten percent or so changes (I don't generally use water conditioners myself). If your water is "anomalous" (has negative content initially), storing, aerating it for a few days, a week ahead of use is a good/better idea> - Are the fish stocking rules any different for planted aquariums? <Not too much... of course you want to be careful to exclude, limit the amount of outright herbivorous animals... and to under-crowd...> Any other advice you want to offer would be quite welcome! Thank You So Much for Your Time!!! Chris J. Rogers <Mmm, definitely to encourage you to peruse, perhaps join The Aquatic Gardeners Association: http://www.aquatic-gardeners.org/ Very worthwhile group (even if some members are a bit "cranky"). Bob Fenner

Questions On Plants - 04/14/2004 Greetings to whomever finds this email! <And greetings to you, too!  Sabrina here.> I'll start off with the quickest question.  What are Cory catfish sensitive to?    <Well....  the short answer is "lots of stuff".  They seem to do quite poorly with any salt in the tank, in my experience; and like any other scaleless fish, many medications should be used with great caution, or not at all.  They are essentially rather durable fish, for the most part, though.> In the last week I have lost 3 of my Corys which have been in the tank for 6 months now.  They look healthy, fat stomachs, not zipping to the surface for air ever that I have seen.   The only change is the pH has risen to about 7.5, due to running out of CO2 (6.5 is the normal pH of the tank when CO2 is running).  Are Corys that sensitive to pH swing?   <Oh yes, most certainly - as are many/most fish.> I know 1 pH is a lot, it probably happened quickly due to the cause of it.  All the other fish look fine though., 3 true SAE, about 20 Otos, and various schools of tetras.  I would of expected to see more dead Otos from the pH spike rather then Corys, I have read Corys are quite sturdy fish. <They are, and I'm quite impressed that your Otos fared the pH jump so well.  I would not at all doubt that this might be the cause of the Corys' deaths, though.> The 2nd question is regarding my substrate.  The substrate consists of about 1" of Greensand (should of researched this better, it has some nice properties, other then the ridiculous buffering capacity it has) <I am not familiar with Greensand....  I'm assuming it's either a limestone or aragonite?> Topped with about 3" of blasting gravel (pretty fine).  For the first month or so, most plants I put in the tank, deteriorated within a week and died.  After a month of weekly water changes, it seems I had leeched out the bulk of what was in the greensand causing the high pH and hard water, and plants started to do quite well. <I would still be suspicious of this stuff.  Definitely look into what it is composed of.> In your plant section, it is recommended to use 3-4" of substrate.  While in the DSB readings, it is very bad to use 2-3", and 4" should be a minimum depth of the substrate. <Mm, the big difference that we have here is that the whole DSB topic is saltwater-oriented....  You will most likely not achieve a large anaerobic space in a freshwater tank with conventional substrates.  Though, I must say, I don't know about this Greensand.> I understand that roots help keep the substrate aerobic.   <Yes.> There is much less water flow in a planted tank as well.   <Most certainly.> One of the big things in a DSB is heavy random current in the water column, to keep things from settling into the DSB.   <And again, this is considering a reef tank.  The DSB concept really does not apply.> In a planted tank, 10-20x flow of the tank is a bit much for the plants, or am I wrong there?    <Oh, no, you are *quite* correct.  That much flow would be quite a bit too much for planty success, I believe.> At the moment I am only turning my tank over 4x an hour, which is low.  In fact I think I will go move my magnum onto that tank tonight. <Canister filters are definitely my #1 choice for a plant tank.> What about the spaces of the tank that are not very heavily planted?  Am I harboring bad things there?  Since there are no roots to dig through those parts (me SAE's decided they loved to eat Glosso), as I have no foreground plants at the moment.   <Just treat these unplanted areas like you would an unplanted tank - when you do water changes, siphon and vacuum the substrate there.> Also areas like under my driftwood, and rocks (though most rocks go to the glass bottom with gravel around them not under). <Just angle your gravel vacuum under them when you clean.  Once in a while you may wish to lift the item(s) to clean under them.  Likely this is not necessary with the rocks that go all the way to the bottom.> The concepts behind a planted tanks substrate and a DSB in a reef seem very different.   <Not seem - they *are* different, very much so.> I am a little confused on how this is so.   You wouldn't really want a DSB to remove nitrates from a planted tank, but it needs to be deep enough for the plants to thrive as well. <Even with six or eight inches of substrate in a planted tank, I don't think you'd even come close to the denitrification of a reef's DSB.  The DSB in a reef tank is usually made with sugar-fine "oolitic" sand - seems almost more of a mud than a sand, it's so fine.  The larger the grain size, the deeper the substrate must be to achieve that anaerobic space.  Add to that the fact that your plants' roots are probably all throughout your substrate, even all the way to the bottom of the tank, and your substrate can now be considered quite aerated.  Very, very different idea from a reef tank's DSB.> Lastly, do you know of a resource to find out if a plant is a long night or short night flowerer?   <Try here:   http://www.tropica.com/default.asp  or here:   http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/ for starters.  Not sure if you'll find what you're looking for, but you may find links for more information to help you find what you want.> I have a very large red lotus type plant in my tank as a center piece (often if I get lazy on maintenance its leaves completely cover the surface of the 48x18" tank).  I would like to flower this plant, and create some bulbs to sell and give away, but no plant in my tank has flowered yet for some reason, I would guess because the tank gets to much light at night.  It has sent out 1 runner, in 5 months...which is more then I had expected from this type of plant. <Sounds like fun!> Thanks as always, Mark <Wishing you and your plants well,  -Sabrina>

Questions On Plants - II - 04/14/2004  Here is what greensand is:  "Garden-Ville Texas Greensand is a naturally occurring mineral called glauconite (hydrated silicon of iron and potassium). A rich source of iron (more than 13% by weight) and other minerals, Garden-Ville Texas Greensand has been recognized for more than a century as an excellent soil conditioner for lawn and garden. Dry and spread- able.  Suggested Application Rate:  As a soil conditioner, 10-20 pounds per 1,000 square feet tilled into the soil, or broadcast over lawns.  For potting mixes, blend in 5-10 pounds per cubic yard.  In containers, use 2 to 3 tablespoons per gallon of soil."  The plants seem to love it after a 1 month break in period... Seems I used a bit much, there's a 1/2 - 1" layer under all my gravel...Oh well, its working for now.  <I can't find a whole lot of info on using this in an aquarium, and what I can find ranges from comments on it being great stuff to comments about it destroying tanks - I really don't have enough info to go off to make my own comments/opinions about it - at this point, I'm quite sure you're more educated on it than I am. Thank you for the information; this is something I will enjoy looking into.>  I am confused as to the difference of a DSB in a reef aquarium and a deep gravel bed in a fresh water. I understand the nitrification piece, but I do have my concerns of sulfur buildup, as past neglect of a past cichlid tank killed all my fish when disturbing the gravel...  <Oh my, yes - conditions like this must be avoided by regularly vacuuming the substrate, or (just as you experienced) hydrogen sulfide will build up, and when the substrate is disturbed, this will be released - dropping your pH, and, IIRC, decreasing the O2 in the tank - which most certainly will kill your livestock. Any areas of substrate that are not planted must be vacuumed, as the plants will take up nutrients where they are, but not the "dead" unplanted areas of the substrate. If this is not done, you'll see the same happen as happened with your cichlids. The most significant difference with the deep substrate of a planted tank and a DSB in a reef tank are the plants - the plants which keep the substrate aerated, loose, and which absorb nutrients which might otherwise decay and foul the tank. In a planted tank, the nitrates are not an issue, because the plants will take care of that for us. As gunk (mostly organic) builds up in the substrate, the plants use it as food. Without the plants, the gunk must be removed, by vacuuming the substrate, lest we have that hydrogen sulfide issue as above. In a reef's DSB, the substrate is to remain essentially undisturbed, aside from stirring the top inch or so from time to time. There is a very tremendous amount of life in a reef, including (or especially?) in the sand. There are plenty of animals - worms, tiny crustaceans, and much, much more - that use nutrients in the DSB and so forth, plus, you've got the anaerobic lower depths of the sand bed, which is pretty much absent in a planted tank.... So, basically, the depth of a DSB, relative to the grain size, is what gets the denitrification goin' in a reef tank, and in a plant tank, the plants are our tool for the same.>  My plan is to just never touch the gravel in the tank, so far so good...  <Uh, I would definitely stop hoping and start vacuuming those unplanted areas - lest you have the same issue as brought down your cichlids.>  tank has been setup for 8 months now. Alk is 2.8KH (1 meq/l) and pH is about 6.6, 0 ammonia, 20+ nitrates (luckily there is little algae growth YAY plants!)  <Yay, plants! indeed, but - you shouldn't be able to see over 20ppm nitrate in a plant tank, the plants should be eating it as fast as it's being produced - unless they are lacking in other necessary nutrients, or if you have a too-high bioload, or if (gulp) you have too much organic material in those dead spots, decaying and rotting away, and waiting for an unhappy accident to do the same as did to your cichlid tank. I would start vacuuming and see if that reduces your nitrate issue.>  Does the KH sound a bit to low? I'd like to raise it to about 4..  <Not necessarily. Depending upon where you wish to keep your pH, and what fish are in question, it may be just fine. If you choose to raise it, you may wish to use something simple like a filter sleeve full of crushed coral or aragonite to buffer the water some.>  Thanks again! Mark  <You bet! If you want more clarification on DSBs, check this out: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm  and freshwater substrates: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubstrates.htm . Feel free to write in again if you have further questions. Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Source of Robert Gasser's Leiden tank articles Bob (or whoever is answering today) I just noticed this:   Where can I find the entire 3 part article that appeared in an aquarium magazine years ago entitled "The Leiden Aquarium"? Thanks, Ron Scott <Do you know which magazine this series occurred in? The larger (college) and municipal libraries often carry bound volumes of these periodicals... There were many such articles in the hobby press in the eighties and nineties... Bob Fenner> in this link at your site:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/litsearchfaqs.htm The articles Ron was referring to was one of the most influential articles in forming "my" own methods.  Have used them ever since and am now relearning them for saltwater now that I know about macros and marine plants.  Four articles all by Robert Gasser appeared in 1979 in Freshwater and marine aquariums.  The first had a title something like the old (and possibly new) aquarium keeping methods.  the other three were simply the Leiden aquarium parts 1, 2, 3.  Just this week I  ordered reprints from FAMA and they cost $2.00 each.  Indexes are available at the Freshwater and Marine aquariums web site to locate out the specific issues. <Thank you for this. Will post near the above citation. Bob Fenner>

New tank - plants? I  was think about putting live plants in my tank what do I need to know about plants ? <Well, there's a great deal more info than I can relay in a simple email.  You can find a tremendous amount of knowledge in the articles and FAQs about planted aquaria in WWM:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html .  There are also quite a number of good books available that will help you on your way.  -Sabrina>

Going Planted; Yo-Yo Loach  Hello,  <Hi>  I have a 46 gallon community tank with Cardinal Tetras, Zebra Danios, Cory Cats, a Yo-Yo Loach, a Gourami, and pair of Kribensis. The tank has been established for about a year, and I'm now transitioning my tank to a planted tank. I have purchased new lights that holds 3-36" 30 watt bulbs. I have also purchased a Hagan fermentation style CO2 kit. Does my lighting sound adequate?  <That really depends on what plants you want to keep; with your lighting, I'd stay away from plants that have high light requirements. There are gobs and gobs of plants you can play with for this setup.>  I'm also curious if the Hagan will inject enough CO2 into the tank.  <This depends on how heavily you wish to plant the tank; you might want a second such system, or a DIY CO2 generator in addition to the one Hagen generator.>  I'm a little torn on what kind of fertilizer I should use (liquid/solid). Any suggestions that may help?  <Well, to be honest, I use both. I'd recommend liquid fertilizers regularly, and any particularly picky plants, give a fertilizer plug.>  One of my Danios is much larger than the others in the chest area (for lack of the appropriate term). It almost seems to be swollen. Do Danios swell during reproduction,  <Females will get rather plump, so yes.>  ...or does my fish likely have some kind of disease?  <Without seeing the fish, there's no real way I could tell you; but if the fish is otherwise acting/looking/eating well, I'd wager it's just a robust female.>  Ammonia and nitrites are at 0, nitrates are acceptable, and pH is 7.4.  <All good, though the cardinal tetras would appreciate a lower pH, but if you're planning on CO2 injection, that should help.>  One more thing - have you heard of yo-yo loaches being aggressive. He seems to be the bully of the tank, and seems to pick on weaker fish.  <Certainly sounds like a yo-yo loach! They do tend to be a little boisterous as they grow; not aggressive so much as insanely hyper-active.>  Over the past year, I've had some fish die and look mangled. I'm not sure if they died for other reasons, and the scavengers started working on them, or if the loach had something to do with it.  <I would certainly bet the first idea is the likeliest, though I'm sure the loach probably does cause the other fish some stress. Loaches do better in groups, so he's probably just making up for that by playing with the other fish instead - much to the other fishes' displeasure, I'm sure. If you like loaches but want something a little more laid back, consider Botia striata; they stay a bit smaller and are a little less, uh, annoying, to other fish - and on top of that, they're quite attractive.>  The Kribs are a relatively new addition, so I can't blame them. All other fish are extremely docile.  <Though I doubt the loach outright killed anyone, he might've stressed 'em to the point of illness/weakness, and eventually death, but that's only one possibility. If you really think he's a danger to any of the other fish, it might be a good idea to remove him. Otherwise, you *might* try adding a couple more, see if they share their attentions with one another, or if they still harass the other fish; that might be a touch risky, though.>  Thanks for your help.  <Hope all goes well, and that you enjoy the world of plantiness! -Sabrina>  Jeremy Lane 

Plants not doing well I have a 46 gallon bow front.  I have a planted aquarium that is not doing so well.  I have enough light.   <'Enough' depends on what kind of plants you're trying to keep, and how much/what kind of lighting you're using; some plants require extremely intense light, some require extremely low-light conditions.  We can probably help more if you tell us what kind/how much lighting you've got, and what kind of plants you're trying to grow.> Is a temp of 80 degrees too high for plants? <Not at all.  I keep my plant tank at 80-82 degrees.  What kind of filtration are you using?  Do you use any aquarium fertilizers?  CO2?  What kind of fish?  What kind of substrate?  Water parameters (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH)?  A lot of questions, I know, but there are a lot of factors that affect plants.  I can help you a lot more if you let us know more about your system.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> Cheryl

Using 100% RO water HI Bob, <Hello> I was hoping you can give me a definitive answer to this question as it seems to be elusive. I want to use 100% RO water for my plant tank due to my tap water. Will it be ok for my tank? <Not really. Turns out aquatic plants need "some" (variable by species) of a mix of the minerals the reverse osmosis process removes almost entirely> Seachem makes a product called Equilibrium which reconstitutes the RO water. The only thing missing is something to raise KH. This can be done with baking soda. The other option I guess is the home brew of chemicals to bring back RO water. <This can work, as can (in most cases) just blending "some" tapwater back in with the RO> If I go with one of these routes, can I use this water without any adverse effect to my plants, or will I still be missing some trace elements that my harm the plants. I really appreciate the help. <Likely only missing essential nutrients (N, P, K) as time goes by... that is, something (what is it with the word "some" this AM?) will become rate-limiting as time goes by... hence the call for regular water changes, augmentation, fish feeding. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Ken

Aquarium Plant Issues >Hi, gang... >>Greetings, Marina here. >I have a 130-gal freshwater tank with an assortment of various size and type livebearers and egg layers. I recently started substituting live plants for my artificial ones and am having problems with them. They are: 1) Anacharis: Can't seem to keep it anchored! I have put them in bunches in round rockwool plugs and small 2" plastic pots, (like you'd get the plants pre-planted in the LFS) pushed down into about 2" of river rock substrate. On a daily basis I keep fishing strands of floating anacharis out of the tank. >>Ah, you have discovered what this stuff seems to be designed to do.  I know of no one, outside of those using greenhouses and even THEN this stuff tends to fall apart, who doesn't have this problem.  Anacharis doesn't root, it floats, not an easy plant to deal with as it tends to really dirty things up. >2) Being eaten. I suspect some of my swordtails and/or mollies are picking at these plants as well as my Amazon sword, which is slowly shredding... leaf by leaf. I am having similar problems with a couple of other plant species. >>Yes, they'll nibble, but if you have sufficient lighting and nutrients available the plants should outgrow the nibblers attempts. >I give the tank about 10+ hours of light daily (fluorescent, 2 30W Penn-Plax Aquari-Lux bulbs). >>Insufficient photoperiod (tropical plants need tropical daylight hours, 12-14), and insufficient intensity is my suspicion.  I would actually like to see four 40W bulbs over that tank, *minimum*.  The Aquari-Lux bulbs are for our preferences only, they do not provide anything near the spectrum needed for plants.  What you want to avoid is anything with too large a peak in the red end of the spectrum (Gro-lites).  I think you'll have much better luck going with a mix of Vita-lites and daylight (do not go with "warm daylight") shop lights.  Remember, with fluorescent lighting the intensity drops dramatically the further from the bulb the plants get, so if you can create a higher area (using PVC glued together, then silicone wood or gravel/rocks over for aesthetics) and plant them there they'll appreciate it.  Also, I'll suggest one VERY good book to you, "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium", by Diana Walstad.  EVERYONE I know who has set up systems using her methods has amazing success. >I have placed a "plant tab" vitamin in the bottom of each 2" plastic pot. >>Good, but without sufficient light, the plant cannot utilize the nutrients and they'll simply go towards adding nutrients to the system. >I have even made the rockwool plugs more tightly closed by putting a small rubber band around them. >>Closing them tightly won't add weight, lead wraps or stones will. >My water (78 degrees consistently) is rather acid at the moment, but I'm slowly bringing that up with some crushed coral in a bag in my Aquaclear filter. >>I'm not a big advocate of playing around with pH.  If it's not lower than 6.5, I'd leave it be. >Ammonia is 0. >>Nitrites?  Nitrates? >Quite  a bit of water movement, with 2 Aquaclear 300s and a UGF with 2 powerheads. >>It seems so, but for 130 gallons this is not much.  The UGF (which, by the way, plants do NOT like) should have four to six powerheads running it, or air (don't mix air and pHs = uneven flow = poor function of UG filter).  Consider a good canister filter, I really like Fluvals (a 403 would be great on your system) and Eheims.  Set the spray bar so it causes good turbulence at the water's surface.  The surface is the ONLY place where the O2/CO2 interchange takes place.  Having the pHs causing turbulence is helpful, too. >Other than maybe get rid of my swordtails and mollies, what else can I do to avoid going back to plastic plants?? Thanks! - Larry >>Please see above, and if at all possible get that book!  It's fairly priced at www.amazon.com (that's where I purchased it from, but I don't recollect the price).  Best of luck, and keep those livebearers!  Marina Larry

Re: new 72-gallon tank setup Dear Crew at WetWebMedia, My name is Paul and I'm writing you from Toronto, Canada.   <Greetings Paul, Ronni answering your questions from Kalispell, Montana> I love your site, with very useful and easy to understand articles.  I have been an aquatic hobbyist for around 10 years now (on and off).  I have been able to keep tropical fishes successfully but never without any luck trying to grow live plants, and with many available useful information on the site, I would like to try growing live plants again.  I currently don't have any tanks running. <Thank you very much for the kind words!> I'm planning to go buy and setup a 72 gallon tank - I figure that a tank of this size should keep things pretty constant.   <These are very pretty tanks, I have one myself.> I was planning to use organic soil as the base of my aquarium, then using a mixture of gravel + fluorite as my substrate (80% gravel + 20% fluorite). Would you recommend such base setup?   <A lot of people use a substrate like this with great results.> I'm also getting an Eheim filter - 2215 included with my tank.  Can you recommend as to what kind of wattage/lightings, plants that are easy to grow that should I get? <For most plants, the higher the lighting, the better they will do. Some species will do great in low light situations (I have a batch of Hornwort that is growing like weeds and the tank only have about 15w on it) others need very high lighting. Do some checking at http://www.thekrib.com/ and http://www.aquabotanic.com/ These are both great sites for information on plants. Also, if you haven't already, read through http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html There is a ton of info there.> Do I need to add any additional plant nutrients?   <For some plants yes, for others no. It depends on what you have.> I also read many sites about mixing yeast with sugar and water in a pop bottle to produce co2 and using an air aeration to get the co2 in the tank but I read that the co2 would just dissolved in the water without the plants absorbing any of the co2 produced.  Is this correct?   <I've never used Co2 myself but a lot of people do use the yeast method with good results so I don't think there is no benefit to the plants.> At first, I'm only gonna run the tank without any fish for a couple of weeks.  After a few weeks, maybe add a couple of Otos to take care of any algae problem that I may encounter.  Future additions: rasboras, Gouramis, rainbows and maybe cardinal tetras.  Any other compatible mates that you would recommend? <You could do a lot of different species in there. Some of the less aggressive Barbs, some other Tetras, etc.> I appreciate your time to read/answer my email. Thanks. Paul <You're welcome! Ronni>

Re: It's a jungle in there! Hi Ronni, thanks a lot for your informative email- I read, and re-read that webpage. But I have one more question about plants listed there to help out with algae control - mainly the ones called "Salvinia duckweed, Ceratopteris (is that the thalictroides subtype) and Vallisneria.  The duckweed is suppose to be free floating, I guess on top of tank and grows fast- but doesn't that take light AWAY from my plants- esp. Bacopa and hygro that seem to need the light? That part doesn't make sense to me. Am I wrong about this? <Yes, if it's allowed to spread over the top of the tank (and there's no good way to prevent this because it grows fast!) it will take away some of the light for your other plants.> Second, the Ceratopteris- if it is the thalictroides one, on TROPICA it says that needs medium to very high light- so if I only have 30 watt total for 15 gallon, that makes my tank a medium- at best. Will that stuff grow? Vallisneria, there is one that is a tiger spiralis that is suppose to do well in low light, but local stores never know the difference between that and the Sagittaria- so any recommendations on where to get Vallisneria spiralis, or even the torta subspecies? <You're tank definitely has only medium lighting so it's hard to say if it'll grow or not. Maybe get just a small piece and try it. Unfortunately, I don't know where you could get the ones you're looking for. You'll probably have to mail order them. You might try eBay or Aquabid (www.aquabid.com).> What about something called Riccia fluitans- Again on Tropica.com they recommend to tie it down to stone (I could attach to pieces of driftwood) and supposedly the Amano shrimp like it too- any experience with it being a good oxygenator in tank? <I've never tried it. Sorry!> Lastly (honest), you may recall that I had a bubble wall wand that produced a lot of air surface stuff- but I took it away. Fish didn't seem so happy with it and you had mentioned it wasn't necessary with the water flow with Eclipse 1 system- do you think it would really do any good to re-introduce? <Probably not but it's worth a try, at least short term to see if it helps.> As always, thanks so very much- Rosa <You're welcome!> PS- did you like the last photo of the overall tank design? <Yep, it looks very nice!! Ronni>

Re: Sword plant - leaves turning rusty I've recently set up a planted 10gal freshwater tank.  My sword plant's leaves have been steadily turning a rusty color.  Would this be an algae problem or some other disease perhaps?  None of the other plants seem to be experiencing this problem (Anubias).  Any input would be appreciated. Thanks in advance. Iris <It could just be a lighting issue. If your lighting is stronger or weaker than the tank they came out of then the leaves could change color. It could also have to do with nutrients in the tank. Go to http://www.wetwebmedia.com and search for Sword Plant to see what it pulls up. You should find a ton of helpful info there. Ronni>

Re: Overcoming Onyx buffering Hi, <Hello there>    I have a 100 G planted tank that has a substrate composed of a mixture of sand, first layer laterite, SeaChem Fluorite, and SeaChem onyx that gets Jobs plant sticks and iron tabs on a regular basis.  I also add Seachem's Iron and Trace Minerals along with Potassium.  It has 440 W of VHO lighting and the plants are doing well.  I also have schools of several sp. of tetras. This is where my question comes in.  You see, I add only RO/DI peat soaked water with no measurable hardness and a ph of ~6 along with Tetra Blackwater extract (10-15% water change bimonthly).  But when I check the water in the tank is comes out with a ph of 7.2 and a hardness of about 120 ppm.  Is this from the Onyx?  Adding iron, etc, will also drive up the ppm, but should not affect pH, correct?  So my next question, how can I overcome this buffering or can I?  From my time in chemistry classes I remember that buffers can be exhausted.  I've tried Seachem Acid Buffer (plant safe type) in the past, though not very aggressively, but the Onyx (or whatever) seems to always win out.   I am considering CO2 injection but what else?  My goal is nice soft acidic water.  Any suggestions on achieving this short of removing the Onyx? Thanks Steve Thornton <Do read http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/groplts101.htm and the related FAQ's. You should find the answers to your questions there. Ronni>

Re: RO Water Thanks for the reply. I ended up buying the JBJ 48" setup with 4-65 watt 10,000K daylight bulbs. Hopefully my plants will thank me. Only 3 more weeks till my substrate is ready (soaking in a tub to leech stuff from the soil an peat)! Regarding the RO water, I guess it is possible, the trash can sits in the kitchen next to the sink, with no lid. We do try to be very careful when around it, well I do anyways, I guess it is possible something is getting sprayed in it. <I would get a lid just to be safe.> This is not the first time, ammonia is coming from somewhere, the water always tests fine the first week, then in the 2nd week of sitting, the tubing the RIO is connected to will get slimy. I noticed all plastics do this in water. Is there any way to prevent this? <This is likely bacteria consuming the ammonia.> Is it better not to heat the water until its time to use? <I heat mine. I am thinking it has to do more with the water being kept uncovered in the kitchen. Too many fumes/smells for my tastes. Anything you can smell will be imparted into the water by the aspirating powerhead. I would definitely get a lid and see if that makes a difference.> Should I use the RIO to circulate and then aerate the day before or just use the aeration all the time to keep it mixed? <I would use it for a day or two before.> I read the FAQ on it, but am still fuzzy on these things. I guess the best would be to make only what I need, it just takes so long to make water with a 35 gpd unit. <I understand.> The first time this happened I didn't realize till AFTER I did a water change in my QT with ammonia water! Ugh! Anyway I'm pretty sure the test kit is correct, though it is one for salt or fresh (add 8 drops then 8 drops of part 2) which I've never been to trusty of, it does read 0 in my QT tank finally after about a month, and I confirmed that with my Aquarium Systems nitrite test which showed 0 in the QT also (finally, been blood red for weeks now, poor puffer). Since we're on the topic of RO/DI, I cannot find good info on mixing fresh water plant RO/DI water. I know using tap is probably better for plants, <I like the control purified water gives you.> but I do not have many yet (see above about substrate) and I would rather start soft with a low pH and go from there, easier then going from hard to soft water and lowering the pH I think. So far I have been using Kent RO Right (powder stuff, it is AWFUL, it's one big clump now) and Kent's Neutral Controller, then adding Seachem Iron, and Kent Freshwater Trace Elements. Anything different or in addition you would recommend? <Many hobbyists use half RO and half treated tapwater, or about that much of each, to reach the desired hardness and pH level. You can experiment with that or with various reconstituting compounds/supplements.> Thanks :) <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

fresh water to live plants Heya crew, hope all is well... <Howdy to you! It's a gorgeous evening in the western U.S.> Tonight's question is about my 75g fresh water tank.  I would like to go live with plants.   I have found some that require low light and I will try one or 2 with 1 40w bulb and see how they go.   Right now the tank has a UG plate with 2 power heads (MaxiJet 1000 and 900 with a spray bar on them), and a Magnum 350 running the carbon filter w/ blue filter pad.  I keep reading that the plants are biological filter, if they are doing well then you don't need anything else. <They are a biological filter but I wouldn't go so far as to say no other filtration is needed.>    My concern is that having 3"+ of gravel <Not gravel. A very small particle substrate like sand is what you need.> in the tank, catfish and what not can clean up the top layers of detritus, but what about the lower levels? <Don't disturb them> Mainly anaerobic (s?) bacteria. <Yes but standard size aquarium gravel will just become a nutrient sink. You need sugar sized substrate to get the DSB effect.> I would think this would build up greatly over time like in live sand in a salt tank...Having wiped out a tank to vacuuming after 6 months of not touching the gravel and releasing nitrogen <I think you are referring to hydrogen sulfide.> (?) into the tank killing all the fish, I am not fond of the idea of leaving sands and gravels to sit like this. <Disturbing the substrate was the problem.> I guess the idea is to never disturb it and thusly never releasing the toxins? <BINGO!>    I plan to add live sand to my refugium of my salt tank eventually and have the same concerns there.  Do you just not vacuum at all? (fresh water obviously) since its best not to disturb the plants roots etc? <Lightly vacuum mulm that you can see on the surface of the sand. If the particle size of the substrate is small enough, nothing but water will get to the lower levels. In other words, there's really no reason to disturb the bottom layers.>    Secondly, is the transfer, with 30 fish in the tank (see above for filters) most are tetras under 1" and a 2-3" clown loach and 2-3" Pleco...I was planning to remove 1 UG plate, and plant that side of the tank...and let it go for a month or 2, then do the other side.  How's that sound?   <Take out small sections at a time every two weeks. This should provide ample time for the tank to recover. You can wait four weeks if you really want to.> Any other suggestions other then more light and co2?   <The Co2 suggestion was for future reference. With the amount of light that you have  I would be tempted to try a few plants in the tank for a while before dedicating money, expense, and time to a half-hearted venture. Add a few low light plants and wait a couple of months (at least) to see how they react to the 40 watt light. Then decide if you want to proceed without the lighting upgrade.>   (can't afford either at the moment need to finish the 125 FOWLR too, new sump/stand/pumps gonna be expensive :( <I do understand...> Thanks again for your valuable input Mark <Thanks to you for a well though-out email. It is a pleasure to serve. David D.

Freshwater aquatic plants Help!  I've been trying to grow plants in my tank but with no success at all.  After a while, the leaves turn yellow, then dark brown.  What seems to be the cause of this?  Does this indicate that there is too much light in my tank? Hope to hear from you soon.  Thanks!  Philip <Hi Philip! Check out this page, it should help you with your plants. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/groplts101.htm Hope this turns your thumb green!  Craig>  

Variegated Ivy in small fishbowl like tank (Betta) Hi, Hope you can help. We just set up a small aquarium at work (in our lab) using a 1-gallon glass chromatography tank. We placed a small variegated ivy <The terrestrial species, Hetera canariensis?> cutting in tank and added two small fish, a tiger <Tiger what? Not a Tiger Barb I hope> and Betta. Can we add more ivy plants to tank. The tank is narrow , about 4inches, and the plant cutting hangs very nicely from top. We want to be sure these plants are compatible with fish. <Me too> As we do not have a filter or air source we believe the roots of the plant will provide oxygen to environment. <If it's truly aquatic... but at night it may well cause the demise of the Tiger whatever... The Betta is able to breath atmospherically...> Thanks for your help. Elaine <A few important points: These fishes are tropical species... need relatively warm, constant water temperature... And the plant... need to check to see if it is an underwater species... We have "complete answer" type areas for these concerns on our sites... about Bettas: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/betta_splendens.htm About plants: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/groplts101.htm Please read through these, the associated FAQs files for sufficient background... many folks lose their livestock, quit the hobby over simple lack of pertinent information... don't let this happen to you. Bob Fenner>

Time for a question...? An Earnest Aquarium Garden, Gardener Hello Bob! Enjoyed your article in TFH this past month. Also, will you be going to Ft. Worth this month for MACNA XIV? <Yes... Anthony, Steve, Jason.C... of WWM will all be there. Hope to see you> Well, here's my aqua question. I've found that I've learned more about marines than I ever knew about freshwaters/planted gardens. <Wait till you try them again...> This is my first real foray into Dutch aquaria and I want to be comfortable with my lighting.......ah, the age old issue but perhaps this is not that hard. <Agreed> First, I've read your planted aquaria section (among everything else that I can afford) and specifically lighting. I understand that light in the 5,000K+ level is required. <Or a bit "higher" in degrees Kelvin... basically something like that young star of ours, el Sol, the Sun> Here's the setup: 46gal. (abt. 36x15x19) Oceanic bowfront w/accompanying glass cover and an All-glass twin-tube strip with ballasts. As for the lamps they are full-spectrum Coralife 6,500K Trichromatic and a Coralife 50/50 6,500K/7,100K. <Okay> Plants are numerous but be assured that all are true aquatics: 2 sword varieties doing extremely well, red Ludwigia which is healthy but more olive with a pink tinge, <from growing conditions, mainly light> Nomaphila (giant hygro?)  <So called> which is yellowing and dropping leaves, <May need iron, perhaps more nitrogen> red hygro looking good for 1 week, 3 crypt varieties in good condition, chain sword - 1 week, Cardamine - 1 week, Sagittaria subulata - 1 week, wisteria - so-so, didiplis - 1 week, hairgrass. Fishes: 3 marble angels, schools of Neons and black Neons, 5 rams, 6 Otos, and a clown Pleco. <Sounds very nice> I'm dosing with Marc Weiss's Natural Aquarium Vital at 10ml. daily, Instant Amazon at 5ml. at water change bi-weekly, Iron supplement at half of directed amount w/water change. I will dose with trace elements once it comes in. Substrate is a 1/2 inch layer of Flora Base, 1 1/2 inches of Fluorite and a covering of Onyx. <Are you ready to try carbon dioxide infusion? I sense you are> For our purposes here , also assume clear water, perfect readings (the Nat. Aq. Vital causes skewed nitrate results according to label), temp at 76 degrees. The system has only been running for about 1 month. <Quite new> Most plants are doing fairly well but not extraordinarily robust; they lack the deep rich colors desired. 1.. Does anything stand out to you as a concern? <Perhaps just what you don't list... aspect/measure of alkalinity> 2.. Do I need to give this system more time to develop? <Oh, yes!> 3.. Does my lighting seem adequate? Will replacing the 6,500K Trichromatic with Coralife's 10,000K help? I'm not sure if simply increasing the Kelvin results in gain, although I would think so. <I would not change anything here... maybe try switching the lamp out for the 10k next cycle... and try a DIY CO2 unit (and hint re Santa bringing you a real one...> Thanks Bob. - From Dave...always learning. <I as well. Thank you, Bob Fenner>

Re: Time for a question...? (lighting a planted aquarium, what's next?) Thanks Bob. I just put the 10,000K in replacing the Trichromatic. Received my shipment of a complete fertilizer and trace elements as we speak. Yep, alkalinity could be a problem....PH is about 7.4 from our tap (which I will lower once I get a RO/DI). <Do check the dKH here... as important as pH... critically at times> I will practice what I preach by being patient and get to work on any one of a few CO2 rigs until the real deal. <Like I said, do consider a "Pop bottle" type to see if you like, can use more dissolved carbonic in your system... you will be pleased, perhaps shocked at the increase in growth, health of your livestock. Bob Fenner> Regards, from David A. Bell

Aquarium Lighting Question, (and planted tank nutritive substrate) Bob, I have read almost everything on your webpage, simply the best resource I have ever found on aquarium gardening. As a person who got into the hobby about 3 years ago I have been forced to learn most things the hard way by listening to people who it turns out had no clue. As I have a science/engineering background I definitely appreciate the way your articles are written, especially the presence of references. <Thank you for your acknowledgement.> On to my questions, I have been in the process of recovering my 50 gal 48" aquarium from neglect following moving, and incorporating the learning's from my recent investigations. I have got rid of undergravel filtration and am now running a pro-aquatics canister at ~155gph. I am using a substrate mixture of laterite, black onyx sand, and gravel. Next up is lighting. I was wondering if you had any input on the advantages/disadvantages of twin tube compact fluorescents? <Lots of personal and second-hand experience, not much scientific> I found a company (AHSupply.com's) that is selling systems that seem very cost effective using these type of bulbs, complete with true solid state ballasts.  <Am familiar with this outfit from bulletin boards> I am simply suspicious due to the relatively low cost (~$124 for a system that supposedly should produce ~220W), and if the bulbs of sufficient quality are readily available from sources other than this supplier.  <Do take a look at the reports of others re AH: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/> Also I have a water question, I have a potassium based water softener, what concerns, if any, should have about using this water untreated in my planted aquarium, and is there special nutrient supplementation I should do to account for what is lost in the softening process? <Would not worry re the potassium issue (typically unimportant as rate limiting or overabundance in these applications), and the re-constitution of your source water hardness, mineral content may prove an issue... depending on the species you choose, how much biomass, boosted metabolism/growth you intend or drive... Easy enough to do a "bio-assay" and grow what you will/want, note its appearance... and/or utilize test kits to assure your water is within whatever practical ranges of chemical, physical make-up... In practical terms... for folks like me (basically lazy) the addition of some "straight tap" serves well-enough here... even when utilizing "excess" light, CO2 infusion...> Any help would be greatly appreciated, but I am sure you get a great deal of questions. Thanks, Nate Berg <A pleasure to interact, learn.> ps. Any sources for bulk laterite? $15/box adds up pretty quickly... <Not currently. Do check with the Krib, ours and other chatforums. Bob Fenner>

sand and water (for planted aquarium use) Dear WetWebMedia Crew, As a change of pace from saltwater, I plan on setting up a freshwater tank with angelfish, Corydoras type catfish, and maybe some hardy tetras. I would like to use sand as a substrate for the tank, in particular the Tahitian Moon Sand (black) by Carib-sea. An ad in a cataloged states the sand will not affect the pH of the water. I don't plan on keeping live plants in the tank so was wondering if a substrate depth of 1/2" to 1" would be enough to anchor artificial plants while not creating dead zones at the same time? <Should be okay> The tank will be at my place of work which is connected to city water. I have obtained a water quality report from the town. Polyphosphate is added to the water supply by the town due to excess calcium (50 mg/l of the total hardness). Is this something I should be concerned about? <Mmm, not too much... there is sufficient uptake and use in a planted, going system... you may run into initial algae problems... I would use some fast-growing floating plants (Ceratopteris, Elodea...) in the system early on> The total hardness is 156 mg/l, and pH is 7.2. I suspect these values are rather high for South American fishes, but figure the majority of fish coming from fish farms can tolerate a wider range of conditions. Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Jason <Our water in San Diego is appreciably worse for the values you cite... and I use it directly in my planted systems... including ones with organisms that favor soft, acidic water of tropical temperature. Bob Fenner>

Aquarium Plants Hi bob, Firstly my kudos to such a wonderful site like this.  <kind thanks> It has tons of useful information for a newbie like me. <please tell other aquarists about us!> Coming to my issue, I have bought a 30 gallon glass tank and have set it up for around 48 hrs. I have now left a pair of rosy barbs in it and they are doing pretty fine...I wanted to go for live plants in my aquarium.. the shop keeper said, I need to wait for a week before I can introduce the live plant.. <not true... plants draw nutrients not contribute> so that the nitrogen cycle would have started... <only because of the need for fertilizer but the plants need supplemented the first couple of months anyway... 2 weeks...2 months...same thing> I have just medium sized gravel (2mm-3mm) in my tank and do not have any soil.. I have one external power filter.. I just want to verify whether I need to do anything else before I grow live plants in this set up... <just add a mild fertilizer> if I can grow plants, it would be great if you can suggest some starter plants for my aquarium that would be hardy as well as aesthetic.. <anubias are durable... crinums if the tank is tall enough... many Hygrophila... avoid the pink colored ones at first... perhaps wait on swords too. You really need to read Pablo Tepoot's amazing plant books (practical Guide to plants)>> Thank you for your time, Sathya <best regards, Anthony>

Planted Tank Questions - please help! Hello Mr. Fenner, Jason, Steve, and the rest of the WWM crew. I am 15 years old, and am setting my first "large" planted tank. I have many questions for you regarding my almost-set-up 75 g tank.  <How exciting! I have two new 65 units here in my office that I'm in the same process with> 1) I am planning on using a pure Fluorite gravel bed. This is very expensive ($23 a bag!), but I am doing it for two reasons: one, there is no suitably sized gravel sold in Hawaii pet stores (all pea-sized), and two, I do not want to add soil, due to the horror stories of people's tanks turning into an anaerobic swamp.  <Mmm, well... I am using Fluorite AND intend to add soil> Do you agree / is this a good substrate? What would you recommend? <Yes, and please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html here re substrates, soils...> 2) I am lighting the tank with 4, 55 watt, 5300K CF lights from AH supply. Is this too bright for a "South American" setup? Again, what would you recommend? <S/b fine... please see the above index for articles on light, lighting of planted aquariums> 3) I have some "water questions" that I hope you can answer. The pH of "aged" Hawaii tap water is 8.2, but the GH is 3, and the KH is 2. I thought that if the water is "soft", the pH is low. Any comments on that?  <Generally these two go together... but not always... one is a "point" on a scale, the other (hardness) a measure of "resistance" to change in that point. You will find your water is easy to "move down" in pH... and needs to have its alkalinity boosted... for practical reasons> Can I still keep soft water/low pH fish like rams, cardinal/ Rummynose tetra, etc in the setup described?  <Yes> I decided to have a South American planted tank because I knew the water was soft, but now I am just confused. 4) The temp of the tank water is 78*. I know with the bright lights it will be warmer. My current "tiny tanks" have a temp of 82*, but my rams and Betta seem fine, though I know my Cory's don't like it. Fans don't seem to really help. Is this temp fine?  <Yes> 5) Finally, I am going to filter the tank with an Eheim pro II 2060 and possibly inject CO2 with a DIY needle valve/compressed 5 lb tank-type system. What do you think of my whole setup?  <Very nice> What do you think the "limiting factor" in plant growth is in my setup? <Ahh, great question... perhaps iron will be "it"... As mentioned you may well want/need to increase alkaline reserve, particularly in the face of using carbon dioxide infusion. Do read through WetWebMedia and "the Krib" (find it on the Plant Links page on WWM) re these issues> Please answer these questions, as Hawaii's water/climate presents some problems for me, as well as my lack of experience . . . Thank You for your help and your GREAT website. . . Aloha. <Thank you for your kind words and participation. Do write back re missing parts on WWM, things that aren't clear; and keep us informed of your progress. Mahalo, Bob Fenner>

CO2 Injection (for live plants, Discus system) Greetings and thank you for your previous advice on the Eheim 2128 Pro II Thermofilter! And thank you for Wet Web Media and many hours of dedication to our passion! After forty years of fishkeeping we're setting up our first pot planted 60g Discus tank (months in the study, planning and acquisition of components; sparing virtually no expense) <Yikes! Am I too old for you to adopt?> and are debating the addition of a CO2 injection system with pH controller, solenoid, the works so to speak. I've been to many sites trying to decide if the CO2 system cost is valuable enough in controlling pH and helping our plants and livestock to justify the addition. <It is> Particularly in maintaining pH for Discus which we will be introducing several months down the road. If it will assist in providing a better environment for our future family of Discus I'll go for it! <You will not be disappointed> We will be running water into the RO storage unit and "firing" up the tank in the next two weeks. Your recommendation as to advisability of CO2 and manufacturers of good components would be most helpful. Wildriv, AKA Charlie DeLorme <Mmm, do "shop around" for advice from actual, recent users here. The various chatforums (ours: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/) are invaluable for this. Compare features (e.g. better needle-valves, larger CO2... at least five pounds) makes, models and buy the better, bigger... they are worth it. Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Tank Set-up I have a 110 gal high tank 48 7/8 x 19 x 30 3/4. I am looking at the easiest possible way to keep live plants. What would I need to have success with live plants. And what plants do you rec. My pH is 7,3. <Please read through the Live Plant Index on our principal site: WetWebMedia.com here. Bob Fenner> David Knight

Planted Aquarium Dear Bob, <You got Steven today.> I have a new 65 gal. aquarium which I just set up about 10 days ago.  I used fluorite about 1.5-2 inches deep with another .75 inches regular gravel mixed on top of the fluorite.  I have planted basic aquarium plants, Val., anubias, anacharis., crypt., Rotala, moneywort, pearl grass, Sagittaria and java fern.  Water was from tap; 30% filtered through activated charcoal, remainder direct from tap and treated with water and PH conditioner (Chlorine remover, etc.,)  to 7 ph. Temperature is maintained at 75 F.  I have yet to set up the filter or add any fish/animals (except several very small snails that apparently came with the plants).  The filter will be a Filstar XP 2, but currently I am circulating water with a Hagen 301 powerhead with a small mechanical/chemical filter attachment.  Filstar will be installed in the next few days, after which I plan to add community tropicals, Kribs., and maybe some other small cichlids, like Rams. <It would be good to wait introducing fish awhile until your plants are happily growing.> Anyway, the problem is with the plants.  They are doing minimally ok, but are starting to yellow.  A few days ago, I added some Tetra plant food, but it seems to have done little good.  <You did not mention anything about your lighting.  This is of critical importance when attempting live plants.> I have two questions.  First, any idea on what might be the current problem with the plants (which were all healthy when planted)? Second, will I eventually need to add CO2, and if so, can it be added inexpensively in some fashion other than the seemingly complicated and expensive devices I have seen in the various aquarium catalogues? <There are some yeast based devices and Alka-seltzer ones, but none of these> 

Planted Aquarium Follow-up Steve, Thanks for the comments.  You are right.  I intended to mention lighting, but because I have a brand new 110 wt Oceanic Power Compact, which the LFS clerk promised was more than sufficient for live plants, I did not think it as significant as the other factors, and thus forgot to mention lighting. 1.  Is this light, which has a 9,300 temp. rating, adequate for the plants in my tank?  If I were to add lighting, what type would you recommend?  Are the "plant" or "grow" type lights, such as Flora Sun or Nutri Grow, good for plants as advertised? <This Kelvin temperature seems a little high for live plants, typically closer to 6,500K.  That is assuming that the number is actually accurate, which is rarely the case.  Most plant type bulbs will appear yellow to our eyes.  I believe the brands you mentioned only come in standard fluorescents and would not work in your fixture.> 2. Other than the filtration, what do you recommend I do to improve the situation? <I would get and read some books on aquarium plants.  Pablo Tepoot and Takashi Amano have some very nice books.  And of course, be sure to read everything here at WWM, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqGardHP.htm> 3. If I decide I need a CO2 injection system (my wife is going to kill me), what type of system would you recommend? <I would stay away from the yeast based devices and Alka-seltzer ones and get the CO2 tank type of system with a solenoid.  -Steven Pro> 

Plant Questions FennerRobert, I had spotted your emailaddress at a website related to aquatic plants and hopes that you may be able to answer my query. Is it required to root a aquatic plant or is it sufficient to simply submerge the plant in water. <depends entirely on the species of plant> Aquatic plants derive all their nutrition from water. <true...they absorb from leaves stems and roots> So is their any need to provide any soil. <yes, for naturally rooted species there is a physiological need> If needed is sand sufficient or mud is also required. <also varies by species... very complex relationships for some plants with the microclimate of, in and above the substrate> Terrestrial plants exhales oxygen during daytime and exhales carbon dioxide during night. Does this rule applies to aquatic plants as well. <BINGO... oxygen is "consumed" in aquaria at night> Do aquatic plant carry any disease which may prove fatal to fishes. <not pathogenic hosts but can bring in with the packing water. Anthony Rajiv

Lighting and Low Light Aquarium Plants Hello, this is the first time I've ever sent e-mail like this. <Welcome> About three months ago I converted my 15 gallon fish-only tank with standard incandescent lighting to one including live plants. I say "converted", when in actuality, all I did was ask the store which plants had low light requirements, bought those, threw away my plastic plants, and took a wait and see attitude about all the expensive sounding stuff I've read so much about since I made the change. <An adventure> Just so you know, my tank has 6 full-sized white clouds, an adult pair of swords and three younger juveniles, and one small algae eater, along with an assortment of small snails. I realize this is probably too many fish...but what the heck, that's what I've got and I don't want to do away with any of them. <Okay> My reason for writing is my own retrospective unease about how smooth the change has been so far, in light of the reading I have done since then. All of the plants seem to be thriving, and the Java fern have propagated about 5 young plants which I recently separated and replanted.  <Nice> Everything I read seems to indicate that what is happening in my tank (i.e. success) is IMPOSSIBLE, and maybe even illegal (i.e. SPEND MONEY, DAMMIT). <Whoa!> Am I wrong to save my money and enjoy? Are there any other plants you could recommend that will enjoy the kind of situation I just described? <Many. Please read through the Plant Livestock sections on our site here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqGardHP.htm and the links where you take them> Thanks for your attention. Doug B <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Re: Plant questions ><I foresee us making a venture or two to L.A., the "Mecca" of livestock importing. I go up about every month to "bug" folks in the trade,  make pix... You're welcome to come along... so we can chat... in the ride share lane! Oh, that would be fun! ><Planted tanks are not hard to move... I would start them for sure. Okay. I've just about made my decisions on which plants to get. Most of the ones I'm interested in are on your brackish plants list, but a few are not. Do you have any experience or comments on these? - Aponogeton crispus, wavy-edged swordplant - Heteranthera zosterifolia, water stargrass - Hottonia inflata, tropical water violet - Hydrocotyle vulgaris, pennywort/umbrella plant - Synmena triflorum/Hygrophila difformus, water wisteria - Tricoronus rivularis, Mexican oak-leaf plant <Have had all but the last. Aponogetons... grow like proverbial weeds generally... Heteranthera and Synmena are slow growers, cub can be tough... have had limited success with Hydrocotyle (except outdoors as a pest plant around water features... then it's hard to kill.), and Hottonia I've had little success with here.> >The tapwater here is "bunk"... so would plan on getting/using an  >R.O. >device... > Good to know. I've been considering an RO device for a while, since the tap water has phosphates already. I'll read your FAQs on these...and probably come back with or post more questions. :-) <Real good. Bob Fenner> Thanks!! --Ananda

Plant questions (and moving to SD) Hi again Bob-- My husband just landed a job at a company based in San Diego. <Ah! Our town> He'll be working from here for a while, but we're most likely moving to SD this year -- either when I find a job out there or when the company brings him on full-time. I'm already looking forward to things like cheaper sushi, <We'll chat... have an extensive/expensive background here...> getting diving certs & diving & underwater photography, <Brrr, during the Summer hopefully. Look into The Diving Locker's programs> fish that don't have to get shipped halfway across the country once they get to the US.... <I foresee us making a venture or two to L.A., the "Mecca" of livestock importing. I go up about every month to "bug" folks in the trade, make pix... You're welcome to come along... so we can chat... in the ride share lane!> So my question: do I start planting my tanks, or put the planting project on hold? Or should I stick to floating or non-rooted plants and wait on the rest? We may be here another 8 months, or maybe only another 3 months; we really don't know. I am already not looking forward to moving my collection of tanks, and my initial thoughts are that it'll be even more difficult if I have a bunch of planted tanks. <Planted tanks are not hard to move... I would start them for sure. The tapwater here is "bunk"... so would plan on getting/using an R.O. device... > If I decide not to plant out all the tanks... have you tried or evaluated the product called "No-Cya-No"? I'd like to find some more info before I plunk down the $ for it.... <Not necessary or advised... Countervailing strategies, careful set-up, operation will keep you out of not-to-be-dreaded blue green algae problems. Bob Fenner, who welcomes you to sunny Southern Cal.> Thanks much, Ananda

110 gallon planted tank questions Hi Bob, <Hi Dave, Lorenzo Gonzalez standing in for Bob-in-Asia> I bought a used 110g tank, measures 60x18x24. I was going to do a planted tank with the 58g, but this tank was practically free. I can have larger schools of fish this way and more room. My questions: I was planning on a planted tank, but with the longer tank, I'm unsure what my lighting options are. I really don't think I want to "push" my system with high intensity light, CO2, frequent pruning. I want a system that is attractive and habitable for my fish, community fish that is. <Sounds like a nice break from a hard-core planted... :-) > I could use just a touch of guidance with setup ideas. Should all the substrate be the Fluorite product, that is pricey?! What kind of light fixtures should I use? <Are you thinking you'll build your own hood? Is that tank 18" tall? Or 24" tall? - If it's 24, in my opinion you'll need quite a bit more... > Finally, I have an Eheim canister filter with built in heater, model 2126, rated for 92 gallons. Any suggestions for how I could increase my filtration? Do I need to buy another Eheim? I'm a little lost with the new tank. Any ideas are mucho appreciated. Thanks, <Those are nice units... I personally wouldn't pump up the filtration right away, maybe add another, simple hang-on-tank, bio-wheel or similar, sometime in the future when your bio-load starts to get up there. -Lorenzo> 

set ups (planted tank, most everything about it) Hi bob, I was wondering if someone visiting your site could help me on setting up a 5ft tank. I want to have tropical fish and aeration using a rainbar.I would like a list of good accessories (e.g. aeration, filtration, lighting, heat, landscapes and good community fish.) Thank a lot bob hope you can help. From matt email me at mattynirve_69@hotmail.comwhiptail <What sort of help are you seeking? Selection of gear as you list? A source for same? Ideas for layout of the aquascape, a species stocklist? Do you have Diana Walstad's book? Access to a library of aquarium books, perhaps through a local hobby club? Will post your request, and help you if you can be more specific. Bob Fenner>

Planted Tank Set-Up?'s I have relied on your advice in the past for setting up my reef tank. I started with a 29g FW tank, it has been up for about 1 year. The plants are getting big and the fish have grown some over the last year. I have an Oceanic 58g tank and stand, in which I would like to transfer over the inhabitants of the 29g and add another plant or two. <okay> A few questions concerning setup: 1) What light fixture would you recommend? I currently have a 55w Smartlight ABS fixture, but would probably need more light? <Yes, another one of the same, maybe a third in the actinic range> 2) I have an Emperor 330 and Penguin mini wheel on the 29g, do you think this would be more than adequate for the 58g? <If it's well-planted, ongoing yes...> 3) I would like to buy a suitable substrate for plants, is there a particular brand or dealer that you could recommend? I currently use the small stones found in the LFS (not painted). <Fluorite... in the US... are you in the United States? See the substrates, soils sections on the "Planted Tank" index on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com> 4) I don't have a hood for the tank, any recommendations on hoods or glass tops, which to use? <Build your own...> 5) Is RO/DI water good for FW tanks too? <Yes, if your source water has too much TDS> 6) Would I benefit from the use of powerheads or air bubblers? <Not likely> Lots of questions, I want to upgrade the tank a little to make it as complete as possible. I don't think I want to add CO2 though.  <You should... definitely> I have several fish, all smallish, community fish. The opaline gouramis are the largest, at about 3-4 inches each. My hope is to keep stocking levels at or about where they are now, so everyone has plenty of room. Thanks for your time Bob, Dave Bayne <Look into joining the AGA, their listserv... and reading over the Krib... links on the WWM Links Pages... Bob Fenner>

Re: Planted Tank Set-Up?'s Hi Bob, So, you think that CO2 is beneficial for the planted aquarium?  <Yes... of a certainty... a very proven technology> I will read into it further. I haven't had any problem growing plants in my tanks yet, on the contrary, they grow like weeds. I have a 30 inch Britelight by CSL, I think that I could use a longer fixture. Do you think that 2 96watt 6700k bulbs would be excessive for the 58g? <No... about right... And you may well not have a carbon dioxide shortage in your present "balance"... but more light... something will become limited> I will try to find the gravels that you mention of WWW, I don't know if any are available here in St. Louis, but I can always mail order. What is your take on Laterite for the bottom 1/3 of my 3" gravel bed? <It works...> Where can you buy the Laterite?  <I'd get it over the Net if you can't make a deal with a LFS> Finally, I know you like, or at least used to like the Eheim products, do you think that I would be better off with a canister type setup vs. the power filters?  <Yes, for sure... less surface disruption... easier to direct flow... and a bonus, the Eheim "surface extractor" for removing film from the waters surface. You can see their products on their website> Any particular model if so? <Match to tank volume... a few volumes per hour rated flow rate> I will continue reading on WWW and the Krib sites. I have spent the last 8 or 9 months just reading about reef tanks, I should be adding water to my 120g in the next month. Then when I free up the 58g, I'll use that for the FW tank. Thanks for your insights, very useful as always. Dave <Enjoying your growth. Bob Fenner>

plants Hi this the son of the hasher Suishu again I was just wondering if I should get real plants or fake plants because my fish keep nibbling on them but I don't know if I should because I don't know how to keep the plant alive please E-mail me back thank you <Thanks for asking. Please do read over the plant selection pieces and related FAQs posted on the site: www.WetWebMedia.com about these questions. Yes to having at least some live plant material in your system, and there are some simple, good choices for every type of tank. Bob Fenner>

plants Hi, I wonder if you would be interested in putting a link to my Website Aqua Botanic. Only the KRIB is larger, and I am catching up fast!.. I had over 20,000 visitors last month, (not hits!) check it out. I am also the Open Directory editor, and added your site to the Open Directory. Robert <Will do so today. Very nice, and thank you. Bob Fenner>

Growth of plants  Bob,  I am trying to get my Vallisneria (sp?) or it might be Sagittaria (sp?) <One more L and G and you've got it>  growing in my fireplace tank and I can't seem to get them to grow past 1 to  2 inches tall. They have spread out pretty well with runners but seem to  stop growing at a point. I have the following water conditions:  PH 7.2  GH 15  KH 2 to 5  Temp 76 >  I get a lot of green filamentous algae that I have to clear out every two weeks. All the other plants in the tank do well. I have tried to  occasionally add some Flourish and Flourish Iron but that doesn't seem to help. <Does sound like the algae is hogging up all available nitrogen... will stoop to my allelopathogenic trick here with Water Sprite... Do you have Ceratopteris growing at the surface of this tank? I would>   Yesterday I did a partial water change with RO water to reduce the GH. I also added baking soda as the KH had dropped to 1.5.  Any ideas? Jeff <A few... I would actually use more of the ordinary tapwater in your replacement mix... the KH, GH be danged... and increase the intensity of your lighting if you can (add a lamp, switch out to another format, like power compacts... and add the Water Sprite. Bob Fenner>

Plant info Dear Sir or Madam: My name is Adnan Hussaini. I'm an 8th grade student going to Fairmont Private School. I am doing a science fair project involving plants for aquariums. The topic I have chosen is: what is better for fish in an aquarium, fake plants or real plants. I have done some research, but I'd very much appreciate it if you could send me some information. If the information you send me could include what materials are used in the making of the fake plants and what types of real plants do you use. Also what the chemical make up is of the plants. This would help me a lot. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely Adnan Hussaini <Thank you for writing Adnan... not only did I do aquatic science fair projects myself, I taught High School Sciences (biology, chemistry and physics) and have judged at many of these events in Southern California. If it were me, I'd use a "stock" polyethylene "fake" plant and the same species (or so) in the live variety to compare in whatever measures your going to use (color, size, reproduction...)the differences between live and not plants and your fish(es)... The plant species I would consider would probably be Elodea (Egeria), or Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) or Foxtail (Myriophyllum spp.), the common names may well vary in your area... and you can find some further references to these species on our site under the planted tank index of www.wetwebmedia.com Do write back if I may be of assistance... have you considered what sort of statistical analysis you will apply to your data to ascertain significance? Maybe just chi-square? Bob Fenner on holiday in the Cook Islands

Plant Tissue Culture I need protocol(s) for micropropagation of various aquatic plants. Could you let me know the resources? Regards Dr Abhay Shendye  >> Hmm, am sure you're as aware or more of the typical tools for searching the scientific literature for such matters... and the folks in the trade/industry are wont to elucidate on such matters, in print or otherwise... Maybe I can help direct you to some of the commercial (pragmatic) propagators if you can relate the purpose, more closely which species/families of plants you're interested in. Bob Fenner

More Plant Tissue Culture I tried several print sources, visited Kitchenculture site. Had enumerable attempts to get info. through web. I subscribe plant Tc as well as aquatic plant digest news groups. Contacted Dr. Chow, and Dr. Kane for the help; but no luck. I am interested in a small scale (initially) commercial venture with a propagation capacity of few thousand plantlets per month for as many sp. as possible. Here in India, very few plant sp. are regularly available. Imports is tough (and costly). Demand is good, but since that hasn't been regularly met with, the market channels aren't very well set. I have contacts and info. about the market, and a developing Tc lab with skilled people and necessary equipments. So, I was looking for some help in this commercial venture. Initial investment in terms of technology fees etc.. is not possible. But, we are not asking for everything free of cost. If somebody is ready to provide technology, and accept plantlets produced by us in return; we will be happy to do so. Hope that now my purpose of writing to you is more clear. Kindly direct me to some commercial propagators with similar interests. Thanks Dr Abhay Shendye >> Have you tried contacting the folks at Tropica directly? As far as plant tissue culture for the ornamental aquatics field they and their subsidiaries would be my first, best choice. http://www.tropica.dk/tropica.htm Do contact their research dept. and let me know if I can be of further assistance. Bob Fenner 

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