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FAQs on Planted Tank Gear

Related Articles: Plant Tank Gear, Tanks & Stands, Electrical, Heating, Light, Light Fixtures, Filtration, Substrate, SoilPlanted Tanks 101, Growing Aquarium Plants, Planted Aquarium Set-Up, Aquarium Garden Maintenance

Related FAQs:  Tanks & Stands, Electrical, Heating, Light, Light Fixtures, Filtration, Substrate, Soil

Tank conversion question I am looking at converting an Oceanic 180 gallon Reef Ready tank to a freshwater planted aquarium and have several questions:  2/21/08 - I am looking at converting the filtration over to 2 Eheim 2028 canister filters, would this be sufficient or would you recommend another solution/supplementation? <Those filters have a turnover of a shade under 200 gallons per hour. For community tanks with small fish (tetras, Corydoras, etc.) you want a turnover of around 4 times the volume of the tank, but your combination of two Eheim 2028 filters is going to provide no more than twice the volume of the tank in turnover. At the least, you need twice as much filtration. If you're going for big, messy things like cichlids, then you will likely need upwards of 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour.> - If the canister filters are the way to go should I use the existing bulkheads for the plumbing, if so how should it be plumbed? I was thinking that I would use the canister return/spray bar (one on each side), cap the tank return, and plumb the tank intake to the canister intake (not sure if this is an issue as any gunk not on the top wouldn't be sucked up). <I'm not familiar with this aquarium so can't offer much advice on plumbing. But as a rule, the optimal system is probably a reverse flow undergravel, though you can't use that system with plants. Beyond that, with freshwater systems it doesn't really matter all that much. You want to arrange the spray bars or water outlets such that there's even circulation around the tank of course. If you decide to grow live plants, things become complex, because too much water movement drives off the CO2, which doesn't help the plants at all.> - Would I require additional water flow, if so how much (I've seen 4x-6x turnover but have also read that planted tanks require less)? If so I was thinking of using a pump and some pvc that would run the length of the back of the tank with holes on the top (or any other configuration you would suggest) of the pvc to push water up the back of the tank, what do you think? <I think you need more filtration, not just water flow. For a 180 gallon tank, you're after something around 750-800 gallons per hour turnover, minimum. Solve this problem first.> - I currently have 2 250W 10,000K halide bulbs, are these useless now? I know the recommended spectrum ranges from 5000K to 6500K or so and I'm not sure about the intensity either. If this is not ideal should what would you recommend (both wattage/number/type)? <Plants do indeed want a lower colour temperature. Something around 5500 to 6500 K seems to work best, and in terms of amount, anything upwards of 2 watts per gallon is the minimum for adequate plant growth, and at least 3 WPG for light-hungry species. There's nothing to stop you trying out the lights you have -- but here's the thing: if your plants are already growing as fast as they can (e.g., thanks to the ambient CO2 concentration) then the rest will get used up by algae. Hence people tend to research the plants, CO2 fertilisation, and lighting all together, so that these three factors fit "just right". That's how you prevent algae problems.> - I have a protein skimmer, does it have any application in this new setup? <Unfortunately not. Protein skimmers for freshwater systems are completely different to the ones used in marine tanks, and they can't be converted. Marine protein skimmers work fine in brackish water, down to about SG 1.010; below that, nothing much happens.> D'Wayne <Cheers, Neale>

Re: Tank conversion question 2/21/08 Do you have a suggestion for the filtration given an Oceanic 180 Gallon Reef Ready tank 6' wide, 2' deep, and 2' high with an overflow in each corner ~7" x 7". It will be a moderately planted tank. D'Wayne <As I said, this isn't a tank I'm familiar with. It isn't sold here in England. But I had a quick look at their web site, and have converted similar tanks with overflows into freshwater tanks. The main thing is to remove anything with calcareous media (which you don't want in most freshwater tanks, unless you're keeping hard water fish). Since you're not using living rock for filtration, you also need to rely on sponges, ceramic noodles, or whatever to support the bacteria, so you'll need to factor that into things. One major issue is that anything that mixes air and water is going to be bad for a planted tank because it'll drive off CO2. In other words: you want lots of water movement, but not so much turbulence or splashing as in a marine aquarium. You may find filling the sump with nylon bags containing ceramic media does the job nicely as far as biological filtration goes, but the overflow is likely to cause problems with CO2. Take a look and see how much splashing there is. CO2 fertilisation can of course be used to compensate for this, but the more splashing, the more CO2 you'll need to add. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Tank conversion question 2/21/08 OK, I see. Maybe a better way to ask my question is to ask you what you would purchase for filtration/lighting/heating for a 180 gallon planted tank if it were a tank you were setting up. Sorry for the confusion. D'Wayne <For filtration: as stated before, anything, provided you get at least 4 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. Multiple canister filters probably provide the most flexibility in terms of media options, fail-safe capacity, etc. Of the various brands, the Eheim ones probably get the nod in terms of reliability. Some have built-in heaters, and these are very useful. But substrate cable heaters are often favoured by people growing aquatic plants. There seems to be benefits to the gentle circulation of water the heaters produce, keeping the substrate slightly supplied with oxygen but not so much the nutrients are oxidised. On the other hand, not using a substrate cable heater doesn't seem to be a problem, and you can get fine plant growth without one. Lighting: something around 6500 K has a nice bright colour while getting good response from the plants. It doesn't much matter what sort of lighting system you use, whether T-8, T-5 or metal halide, providing the colour temperature is appropriate and the wattage suitable. If you're going for optimal plant growth, you want 3-4 Watts per gallon when using fluorescent tubes, though research this with respect to the plants you want and how much CO2 you have in the water. Too much light can cause algae problems if the plants are limited by CO2 availability. Fluorescent tubes only make sense for tanks less than 60 cm/24" depth. Beyond that, metal halide or mercury vapour are essential. For a metal halide system, a 150 Watt lamp would be adequate for any tank up to about 4' in length; longer tanks will need bigger/multiple lamps. You're basically aiming for a lamp at the low to mid light intensity compared with what you'd use on a reef tank (corals need a bit more light than aquatic plants). CO2 fertilisers are probably essential for the "Dutch" or "Amano" planted aquarium look, and become very important when you're using strong lighting. There are a variety of CO2 fertiliser systems at a range of price points. Do a little research online to see what suits. I'd heartily recommend buying a book on planted aquaria. Those lush planted tanks you see in magazines take a huge amount of work, perhaps more than even marine aquaria, because you have to constantly manage them in just the same way you would a garden or greenhouse. Plants vary widely in their needs and tolerances, and the options available for substrate are bewildering. An afternoon spent reading will be time well spent. Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Tank conversion question 2/21/08 Last question, I hope ;), If I go with the canister filtration as you suggest it seems unlikely I will get the desired 4x turnover. Is the 4x turnover required supposed to be solely by filtration or can the 4x turnover be supplemented by an additional pump to circulate the water to give the desired 4x turnover? <The 4x turnover needs to be filtration. Whether that's the powerheads pushing water into the under-tank sump filled with ceramic noodles and sponges or via external canister filters doesn't matter. But simple water movement by itself isn't enough, since you don't have live rock, so water movement on its own doesn't drive any filtration. And it's removal of ammonia you're worried about. You *can* get by with less, but there are no guarantees. You have a big aquarium, and you're going to need a lot of filtration. Do look at things like the Fluval FX5 External Filter (900 gph) or Eheim 2260 (650 gph); these are the kinds of filters you'll be after if you don't intend to use the sump under the tank. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Tank conversion question  2/23/08 Thank you for the suggestions; I thought of another idea last night and was wondering what you thought. In addition to the canister filtration I was thinking of creating a closed loop in each corner using the overflow in each corner of the tank (1 pump for each overflow) where the intake would be enclosed in sponges. If this seems acceptable would I need to put ceramic noodles in the overflow as well? <Greetings. This plan sounds good. The 'Juwel' brand tank next to me here (180 litres) has a plastic compartment with an overflow at the top and about 15 cm by 15 cm in breadth and width. The thing is partially filled with sponges and there is a 600 litre per hour pump at the top that returns the water into the tank. The heater also fits in there, nicely out of sight. http://www.juwel-aquarium.de/en/filter_full.htm http://www.juwel-aquarium.de/data/Pdf/gbw/en/Filter_System.pdf If this is the sort of idea you have, I'll say this. In terms of biological filtration, it works very well. You get a slow flow of water through the media, and since its open to the air at the top, there's no lack of oxygen. The downside is that mechanical filtration is limited. In a planted tank, that probably won't be a major issue because you won't have seriously messy fish, but you will have to remove dead leaves and such that float to the top of the tank. Anyway, have a read through these links and see if that helps. Cheers, Neale.>

New Set up 125 gallon planted tank. - 02/09/2007 The tank is 48"L x 24" deep. I have a Eheim 2250 canister filter (2)  950 power head, Water heaters etc. It is now time to buy light fixtures and CO2 injection system. I am a rookie whose only experience has been fooling with a 10 gallon the past year and reading as much as I can on the subject. <Good to have some practical experience> The more I read the more confused I am. I want lush grass type plants out front and some Swords in the back with Anubas. <Mmm, Anubias, not the Egyptian god> I wish to float some hornwort. This will be a community tank of Livebearers , Black tetras, some dwarf gouramis and some cichlids if possible. <Small/Dwarf ones of the last> I wish assistance with choosing the fixture type for my lighting scheme and some help/advise with CO2 injection. I am in no particular rush in setting   up/cycle the tank. I have no money to waste in these final steps but I want the best bang for my buck. <Good> please make your suggestions easy to understand. Do you  have any suggestions/preferences for stocking at plant time. <Oh yes> I plan to use 2-3  inches of Eco-complete substrate mixed with a bag or two of fluorite. <A good choice... is what I use> Fred Jordan <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html  The articles and FAQs files on Planted System Light, Lighting... CO2... Bob Fenner>

New set up question, planted tank set-up, plt. sel.   2/2/08 Good afternoon all. I have had two aquariums going for about two years now. One for goldfish and one for tropical fish. I have now decided to upgrade to a planted tank with fish. <Ahh!> I love the look of a planted tank but also do not want the aquatic gardens that I have seen in many pictures as I am a big fan of the fishy inhabitants too. Following is a list of my planned aquarium and would like your opinions since I have been reading non-stop for about a month now. Thank you for any help you can give me. Jorge 1. 50 gallon glass aquarium 2. Coralife 2x65w 6700K lighting system <Mmmm, may need, want more light intensity than this> 3. 48in 24LED White moonlight 3/4w each <I'd switch this to more daytime...> 4. Cascade 1000 canister filter a. Filter floss b. Zeolite c. Bio rings 5. HOB power filter for mechanical filtration only 6. HOB 150w Heater 7. Root Therm 160 substrate heater <Nice> 8. Red Sea CO2 Bio reactor w venturi pump 9. Aquarium Plants.com <http://plants.com/> Substrate with associated pellets (Trace elements, Iron etc.) 10. One extra power head, not sure if necessary for water circulation? <Mmm, of use here with the canister filter> Flourish additive Tap Water: GH= 70-75 ppm or 4 and 5 degrees kH= between 120 and 180 ppm Do these parameters and pieces of equipment seem good for the following plants (ordering from you guys when all other equipment is set up): 1 bunch Rotala indica 1 Ludwigia palustris 1 Ludwigia peruensis 10 Corkscrew vals 1 Indian Red sword 1 Alternanthera reineckii 1 Limnophilia aromatica 1 Anubias nana on driftwood 1 Java fern 1 Crypt Wendtii v bronze 1 Crypt Undulata 1 Tiger Lily Red 1 Dwarf lily <Mmm, the lilies will not likely grow here> 10 Sagittaria subulata 2-3 clumps of Riccia grass <All else can/could adapt to the water, light conditions listed... best to start with the lower growing plants first... introduce the taller plants a month or two later. Bob Fenner>

Converting to planted tank - 1/31/08 Hello! Billy from Boston here, first I'd like to thank you for providing such a wonderful service to the hobby. <Neale from Berko happy to be here too.> I've been maintaining a freshwater tank for about 4 years now, and aside from a recent ich outbreak to which my clown loaches succumbed, I've had a fair amount of success. Specs: -46 gal oceanic bowfront -Aquaclear 110 power filter w/surface skimmer (recently replaced my emperor 400 ? didn't like the micro bubbles it produced, and I enjoy the flexibility of the Aquaclear) -several plastic plants, resin rock -river rock style aquarium gravel Livestock: -6 tiger barbs -3 pictus (polka dot) catfish -2 kissing gouramis -1 red-tailed shark <All sounds nice.> The tank seems a bit bare, though eventually I'll get more tiger barbs to enhance their schooling. <Indeed.> I've always been intrigued by and hopeful to start a reef system eventually, but unfortunately my current resources and living space won't allow for it. However, I have been seeing some VERY impressive planted tanks lately and have decided to start working towards one in my 46. I'm still fairly early in my research, though I think I have a fairly good handle on the hardware aspects (I'm an engineer and consequently more adept with that aspect of the hobby). But to be quite honest I haven't begun to put together a plant stocking plan ? too many choices and I don't want to have a mishmash of different plants just to have them. <Hmm... before going further I must make this point: having big fish AND having a planted tank is difficult. Big fish pollute the tank more rapidly than small fish, and nitrate and phosphate promote the growth of algae. While you can have sufficient plant growth to compensate for this, it is much less easy to get the balance than it is with teeny-tiny fish like Neons or Dwarf Cichlids.> I was hoping to basically run my plan by you and get some constructive criticism. Any advice is tremendously appreciated. Ultimately (though over a period of time and as funds allow), the existing gravel will be replaced with a 2? bed of eco-complete substrate, the Aquaclear 110 will be modified to handle primarily biological filtration (and occasional chemical as needed) with an Eheim 2028 performing mechanical filtration ( I figure I'll exploit the strengths of the two technologies). For lighting I plan on a 36? Current USA Sundial T5 HO 4x39W fixture (w/LED lunar lighting included, though I haven't researched enough on its effectiveness ?sounds kind of gimmicky). <All should work well.> I'm unsure on a Co2 injector/reactor thus far so I still need to look into that a bit further. Ditto for a substrate heater, I've heard mixed opinions, and unsure if it'll be necessary. <CO2 does make a difference, and tanks with it work better for plants than tanks without. As for substrate heaters, I've used them, and yes, they work well. Are the essential? Perhaps not. But nice, and certainly do keep the tank looking more natural that some big glass heater stuck to the back of the tank.> One of my concerns is with using the Aquaclear and whether that will negatively affect Co2 concentrations due to surface disruption. <Always a risk; again, with small fish, it's easier to balance CO2 and O2 issues, as well as filtration rate against CO2 dispersion through too much water movement. Do spend some time researching these issues. There *is* a reason why Amano-style tanks have hardly any fish. If you're happier to go for something less plant-dominated, that's fine, but to some degree those big lush tanks filled with plants aren't really the sorts of tanks for people who want to keep interesting fish. The fish are, if anything, an afterthought.> I realize the Eheim would probably provide sufficient biological filtration, but the flow rates on those filters leaves something to be desired and I wanted to increase circulation without adding powerheads. Also, from what I've read I believe my current livestock would be compatible with live plants, but please correct me if otherwise. <Mostly yes, though Kissing Gouramis are large and will eat soft plants.> Thanks again! <Cheers, Neale.>

Q&A: Non-planted to Planted? Hi, <Hello,> I have a basic 20 gallon freshwater setup with around 10 fish of varying types (guppies, tetras, Plecos), a gravel bottom (just the standard LFS type), a couple of plastic plants, and a plastic coral. <Do bear in mind that Plecs are far too big for a 20-gallon tank. They get to at least 30 cm in captivity, and potentially bigger. Also, some tetras are notorious fin-nippers, and will shred the tails of fancy Guppies. Notable examples of such tetras are Serpae tetras and Black Widow (or Petticoat) tetras.> I'm really a reef lover, but this tank is for my 14-month old daughter, so I wanted something simpler to keep up. My question is this: is there ANY way to convert an established tank of this type to a planted type? I would love to get some plant life in there to spice things up, but everything I've read says that it's only possible with a new tank. It makes sense, but I'm hoping someone with more experience knows of a way it might be done. <Easily do-able. The quickest and most painless way is to use epiphytes: plants that grow attached to wood and rock. You can buy "Mother Plants" ready attached to bogwood in most aquarium shops, and failing that, you can order them online easily. Here in the UK, a fair sized plant on some nice bogwood retails for around £15-30 depending on the species and the size of the wood. Although expensive up-front, they're exceedingly good value because they require almost no work, and you can buy a bunch, arrange them at once, and get instant results. Three types of plant dominate: Java Fern, Java Moss, and Anubias. They make a nice range of plants, and required only moderate lighting to do well (1.5 W per gallon upwards, and ideally not more than 2 W per gallon or you get algae problems with Anubias especially). It's a good idea to add some floating plants too. These cut out some of the light and help to prevent algae from being too troublesome. It's hard to fault Indian Fern, Ceratopteris thalictroides when it comes to hardiness and reliability.> Thanks for your input! Mike <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Q&A: Non-planted to Planted? 1/25/08 Thanks for the response Neale! <Not a problem.> This is great news. I'll have to upgrade the 0.85 W per gallon lights that came with the tank, but I would love to replace that plastic neon coral with a nice piece of driftwood with the epiphytes you mentioned. <At least double the lights, if you want reasonable plant growth. Sticking reflectors behind the lights squeezes out the most from them, too.> Yes, the plecs are getting a bit big (~ 4 inches). I just did a water change an my count is 2 plecs, 7 neon tetras, 1 silver molly, 5 painted tetras, and 2 black-skirted tetras. <Hmm... Painted tetras and Black-skirt tetras are both Gymnocorymbus ternetzi (the Black Widow or Petticoat tetras). Whatever the moniker, these are notorious fin-nippers and not, in my opinion, reliable community fish. Also makes the point that Latin names are, unfortunately perhaps, the only reliable system for identifying most fish. One other thing -- please don't by painted fish. It's an abominable practise that puts fish through a lot of pain and greatly decreases their health. For the most part, I'm proud of this hobby, but painted fish sicken me. Why? The fish aren't "painted", they're injected with dye, and definitely without anaesthetic! Bad, bad karma.> I suspect I'll have to split off a separate tank for the plecs. <Sounds like it. Or trade them in. Lots of stores will take in big plecs, because advanced hobbyists often like the big plecs to keep with jumbo cichlids, predatory catfish and so on. Next time round, go for something like Ancistrus spp.> I could probably start planting now... <Indeed so. Anubias will put up with almost no light for ages. I recently rescued one that was sitting in an unilluminated aquarium for at least three years! It's fine now and growing happily. If there is a way to kill Anubias, I've not discovered it!> Thanks again, Mike <Cheers, Neale.>

Questions about planted aquariums and such 12/20/07 Hello. <Ave!> Let me fill you in on what my tank is before I start asking you questions. I have a 55 gallon freshwater aquarium, with the dimensions of 48" long x 12" wide x 21" high. For lighting I have two 18" long Aqua-Glows that are 15W each. <Likely not enough light for plants. Do bear in mind you need at least 1.5-2 watts of lighting per gallon of water for most plants to do well. Under low light conditions plant growth is weak and algae becomes a REAL problem. Since your tank is relatively deep, you will probably need to aim for lighting above the baseline, especially if you choose light-hungry (and algae-busting) species like Hygrophila and Vallisneria.> My filter is a Top Fin 60 power filter. I have two Corys and one African Dwarf Frog in the tank as of now. <Although widely sold as aquarium novelties, Dwarf Frogs aren't a great addition to community fish tanks.> pH: 8.5 <A bit high for soft water fish. Fine for livebearers and other alkaline water fishes.> chlorine: 0 <Good.> total hardness: 120 ppm GH: 120 KH: 240 <Again, on the high side. The KH is what is keeping the pH at 8.5. Really too alkaline and basic for Corydoras, tetras, etc. But fine for guppies, swordtails and other livebearers, as well as other fish adapted to such conditions, like Mbuna and Tanganyikan cichlids.> ammonia: .25 ppm <Too high. The tank is either immature or you're adding too much food.> nitrite: 0 ppm <Fine. Given this is zero but the ammonia isn't, I'm guessing the filter is immature. Proceed with caution!> nitrate: 80 ppm (I don't know if this is because I don't really trust the test strip I used. It's very poor quality. I will talk about nitrate later on.) <This isn't great. As a rule, you want to aim for less than 20 mg/l with community fish, and certainly no more than 50 mg/l.> temperature: 78 degrees F <Fine.> So enough about my tank. I want to start a live planted aquarium and am a TOTAL absolute beginner and newbie when it comes to live plants. I love how they look and decorate the aquarium and I heard they are very nice to have to keep nitrate levels low. <Planted tanks are lovely. But in many respects they are hard work. They also require an investment up front. While you can cut corners (for example by using epiphytes like Java ferns and Java moss and Anubias) most plants demand the following: [a] strong lighting and [b] a rich substrate. Neither of these things is really all that expensive, but they're also things most newcomers to the hobby ignore, at their peril! As a broad rule of thumb, you'll likely need 4 fluorescent tubes the full length of the tank, with metal reflectors behind them, just to provide enough light. There are many ways to do the substrate, both low cost and expensive. The expensive methods tend to be cleaner and easier, while the low cost routes require a bit of intelligence when choosing things like soil, sand, and gravel. Cut according to your cloth on this one. In terms of maintenance you also need to prune the plants regularly. If they're happy, aquarium plants grow VERY quickly, and you need to stop them smothering one another. Another aspect of their maintenance is fertilisation. At the very least, you need to add an iron and other minerals supplement once every 2-4 weeks. You may also need to add carbon dioxide. This isn't essential by any means, but it makes a BIG difference, especially with the more finicky species. I would encourage you to buy one of the many excellent books on aquarium plants before proceeding.> First of all, I have an issue with nitrate. I did a 25% water change the other day to try and eliminate some of the nitrate, but it is still the same. I was using AmQuel+ because it said that it gets rid of ammonia, nitrite, nitrates, chlorine, and chloramines all together, but it didn't work. I might just go back to using the Nitra ban I used a long time ago. Do you have any other suggestions for getting rid of nitrate? <First check the nitrate in your tap water. If your tap water has this level of nitrate, then almost nothing you can do will lower it EXCEPT for passing the water through a de-ionising or reverse-osmosis filter of some type. Nitrate-removing filter media tend to be overwhelmed by this level of nitrate.> Here is another question. So for lighting...I have read that the rule for lighting is 1-2 watts per gallon. For me that would be a whopping 110 watts! What would I do for lighting in this case? Would the Flora-Glow light by Hagen available at PetSmart not be the greatest choice for me? <Plants -- unlike corals -- generally adapt well to a variety of tubes, so choosing these isn't critical. There certainly are better and worse options, but the variation isn't huge provided you pick a tube in the 5500 to 6500 Kelvin colour temperature range. Secondly, quantity of light is very important. 2 watts per gallon is the minimum for the popular fast-growing species like Vallisneria and Hygrophila and Cabomba that are going to help you deal with algae. The happier the plants, the less algae is an issue. Algae problems are largely a feature of planted tanks with slow-growing species under weak light. Nothing much does well at less than 2 WPG except things like Java moss, Java fern, some Cryptocorynes, Anubias, and other shade-tolerant species. While lovely in themselves, these plants have little to no effect on algae. Indeed, Java fern and Anubias are both easily smothered with algae. You also need a timer. Regular lighting is quite important. Plants want 12 hours of light.> Now about substrate. So I have read that Fluorite is a great substrate for live plants. I read that you can blend it with gravel, but to just make sure the mixture is 50% gravel and 50% Fluorite. Since Fluorite is fairly expensive, would this be a good option to combine it with gravel? Or will that not be the greatest? The rule for substrate in general is 1 lb per gallon correct? <There are many different approaches here. I've never used fluorite (note the correct spelling if you're doing Google searches on this stuff). Laterite makes a good alternative, and is mixed with one layer of fine gravel, and then topped with plain gravel. In my planted tanks I happen to use aquatic soil (basically nitrate-free loam) mixed with sand, and then topped with gravel. For your first tank I'd warmly advise you not to try and cut corners too much here. By all means size up the options -- fluorite, laterite, and aquatic soil -- but don't skimp once you've made your choice. A good substrate will keep your plants happy for many years; a poor substrate will not save you any money because the plants will grow poorly without regular additions of relatively expensive mineral supplements to the water.> Is fertilizer necessary? It sounds really messy and some people say that you can do without. What do you recommend? <Yes, it is necessary. Think of it this way: imagine you stuck a garden plant in a terracotta pot filled with plain gravel. Would it grow? Of course not. While some aquatic plants can extract some or all of their nutrients straight from the water, many cannot, so you need to plan for that.> Another question I have is about CO2. I have read about some CO2 machine or whatever but it's pricey. Are there chemicals I can add to the water instead of using the pricey machine? <There is no cheap alternative to a CO2 machine as such. There is variation in CO2 machine cost though. As a rule, the cheapest machines tend to be more expensive to run, because they need CO2 cylinders. The more expensive machines are powered by yeast fermentation and cost very little to run. CO2 isn't strictly essential, but it is helpful for many plant species. Do research this topic VERY carefully, since the CO2 amount required depends on the pH and carbonate hardness. Since you have a high pH and high carbonate hardness, the amount of CO2 required will also be very high. So choosing a weak, underpowered machine will be a complete waste of money and not bothering with at all.> I also read that you need to add macronutrients and micronutrients. Will Leaf Zone do the job well for macronutrients? I also heard Flourish is good for micro. Should I get Flourish or Flourish Iron? <Try them out in turn and see what you think. They're all good. There's no real magic formula for plant fertilisation and most work well, especially alongside a decent substrate.> So I want to get platys and danios. However platys require pH between 7 and 8.5 don't they? <Indeed they do; Danios not so much.> And plants can't handle hard water. <Not true at all. Many plants PREFER hard water, e.g., Vallisneria, Egeria, and Cryptocoryne ciliata. Things like Java fern, Java moss, Amazon swords, Ceratopteris thalictroides, Cryptocoryne wendtii and Anubias couldn't care less. In fact most hardy plants will settle right down in a hard water tank when given good lighting and a fertile substrate. Only a relatively small group, things like Barclaya and some of the less common Cryptocorynes, are particularly fussy about pH and hardness.> So would I not be able to keep platys? <With planted tanks the mantra is this: set the tank up for the plants, and then add (small numbers of) fish according to the prevailing conditions. If you go hard water, then Platies or Endler's guppies or something like that would be ideal.> I see photos of platys in planted tanks all the time, so would I just keep the pH at 7 to make the fish and plants happy and make the water a little less hard? <If you're a beginner to fishkeeping, I strongly urge you NOT to mess about with pH and hardness. These are both much easier to 'adapt to' than 'change'. So accept what you have, and choose fish and plants accordingly.> Do I need to alter my water's hardness? I read that plants don't do well in hard water, but platys live in that kind of water. Or can platys handle somewhat hard water? I couldn't really figure out what hardness plants like. <Any decent book on aquarium plants will list the preferred hardness and pH. You can also read over the online database of species at the Tropica web site. http://www.tropica.com/default.asp They're a grower of plants in Europe, and have an above-average reputation for quality.> What plants do you recommend for beginners? I like those plants that look like there is a like a lawn growing on the bottom of the tank. The short grass like stuff. Is that beginner? <I suspect you mean Echinodorus tenellus. It's a lovely plants, but not easy. It needs very bight light that can "punch" it's way to the bottom of the tank. It also needs a rich substrate, and just as critically, no big or messy fish that will uproot, smother, or otherwise harm it.> How would you do water changes with that kind of plant. <Slowly and carefully!> I have the vacuum thing and I don't know how I would get the rocks underneath. Can I use that vacuum for my whole planted aquarium or do you have to clean your tank completely differently? Are you allowed to trim your plants also? <Vacuuming the aquarium is probably not an option. That's why these tanks are very lightly stocked, so vacuuming isn't required. And yes, you MUST trim the plants. In a good site, things like Cabomba need WEEKLY pruning!> One last question. I was wondering how many plants one should put in their aquarium. What is the rule of thumb for that? I heard it was supposed to be like only 1% of the tank. Is that true? <Never heard of the percentage rule. Anyway, this is difficult to answer. It depends on what you're after. Some tanks look good with big rocks and just a few dramatic Java ferns or Amazon swords. Other tanks look good filled to the gunwales with a tangle of Hygrophila and Ceratopteris. To some degree the best thing is to add a few plants at first, see how they do, and then add more or replace as required. If they're happy, after a couple of months even a small bunch of plants will quickly spread out over the tank.> Sorry for the tremendously long letter. I just don't want to put my tank in the hands of a PetSmart worker and ruin my whole tank and waste money on plants that die because my tank wasn't set up right. <I suspect your first purchase should be a nice aquarium plants book. There are several out there for all price points. I happen to like Aquarium Plants (Mini Encyclopedia Series) by Peter Hiscock, but there are truly lots and lots of alternatives.> I hope you can help. Thanks! <Good luck, Neale.>

Re: questions about planted aquariums and such 12/21/2007 Hello Neale. <Katherine,> Thanks for all your help! I just have a few more questions. So when you say I need to aim for lighting above the baseline, do you mean that I need to do maybe 3 watts per gallon? <Quite possibly, yes. Depends on the species of plant: some need more light than others. But going for 2 WPG works well for average sort of plants.> You also said that since my nitrite was zero but ammonia was .25 that my filter was immature. I have had that tank running for two or three years now. Can tanks go from mature to immature? How could I make the filter mature again? <Should be mature. So I'd look at other issues: ammonia in the tap water; wrong sort of dechlorinator if you have chloramine in the water supply; overfeeding; clogged filter pump.> Then you said that I would need 4 fluorescent lights along the length of the aquarium. Do you mean two on each side? Because mine are 18 inches long, so would I buy 4 18 inch lights? Or four 48 inch long lights? <Likely the latter, though more likely only 4 x 42" lights will fit in the hood. Doesn't really matter how you do this, so long as you get 2+ WPG.> If I DID perchance buy the Flora-Glo light at PetSmart, which is like 20 watts per light, would the plants get enough light if I left my window blinds open or even bought a light bulb to place facing the tank to make up for the light they aren't getting per gallon? <Nope, this won't work. Sunlight tends to promote algae, especially blue-green algae, while incandescent bulbs work too inefficiently to be of any value at all.> So I tested my tap water to see if that was the cause for the nitrate problem. It had the lowest rating for GH, the highest for KH, a 6.0 pH, and 0 nitrite and nitrate. So the nitrate isn't caused from my tap water. Could I possibly be feeding them too much? <Perhaps. Halve the food over the next week, and see what happens.> So I agree with you that I shouldn't cheap out on the substrate, because that can cause all sorts of problems that I don't really want to create for myself. Fluorite is what is easily available to me, so would my plants be healthy if I got like 30 lbs of fluorite and mixed it with fine gravel and/or sand? Maybe mix the fluorite with sand and put a layer of gravel on top? <If you want, yes. There are lots of ways to do this. Do also remember smooth silica sand, pond soil, and plain lime-free gravel can be purchased from garden centres at a fraction of the cost of identical substances sold in aquariums shops.> Would fluorite count as fertilizer, or is there a totally different thing used as fertilizer? Would Leaf Zone and flourish be considered as my fertilizers, or are those JUST my macro and micro nutrients? <Both. The iron in the fluorite sand will gradually be used up, so you need to top-up with fertilizer pellets/drops. Failure to do this sufficiently results in yellow leaves, so you'll know if you're under-fertilising quite quickly.> For CO2, since my tank would require a lot of it, could I use the Hagen Plant Grow Natural System with CO2 that treats 20 gallons and ALSO use the Green NRG Natural CO2 Plant System which treats up to 39 gallons to get a total of 59 gallons getting treated? Or should I buy 3 Hagen Plant Grow Natural Systems? Because I want to do what's best for my plants and my aquarium, so I want to provide at least SOMe CO2. <Whichever, or even neither. CO2 is extremely helpful but not absolutely essential. Hardy plants will do fine without it. So cut according to your cloth.> Well I am not a beginner in fish keeping. I have been doing it for years. I am just a beginner in live plants. But I don't want to mess with the pH and hardness anyway. What would be some good beginner plants that are hardy and need hard water that I can possibly get? <Among the plants I've found consistently hardy and easy to keep are Hygrophila polysperma, Anubias nana, Cryptocoryne wendtii, Java fern, Java moss, Vallisneria spiralis, Crinum calamistratum, Aponogeton crispus, Ceratopteris cornuta. Most aquarium plant books will rank plants by their easiness.> I will also buy those books you recommended to help me along the way. Thanks for the recommendations! They look like VERY helpful books. <Cool.> So should I consider buying my plants from that European site rather than PetSmart? So when I DO clean the tank, do I just not mess with the gravel and clean out the water? <Plants don't like being moved about once planted, so if you WANT to clean and re-landscape the tank, do it upfront.> Thank you for ALL your help! I definitely use WetWebMedia as my first option to get info from. Thanks again :-D. <Cheers, Neale.>

Planted tank suggestions, sys.  12/7/07 Greetings, <Hello Brandon.> Looking for some advice on substrate and plant choice. I have: 72G bow-front (with overflow), Glass canopies, Coralife fixture w/ (2) Colormax 6700K bulbs and (2) 10,000K bulbs, all at 65 watts each, for a total of 260 watts (and it also has the lunar LED's). Filtration wise, the tank is currently running a Mag700 on a wet-dry (I do possess (2) HOT magnums as well as (1) Magnum 350, and a power head (not sure of type). I was looking around, and Eco-complete seems to be a promising choice for a substrate, but am open to second (and third, fourth, etc.) opinions. <I have used and do like this substrate. Check out this link and related FAQ's for other options. http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/soilags.htm > Figure around 140 pounds of that should do, right? <Should be plenty.> Also, would it be wiser to use canisters instead of wet/dry, or just ditch the bio-balls in the wet-dry to let the plants do their thing, maybe having four returns instead of two to create a good current all around? <I would opt for the canister filter if you have a choice. You will not want too much current in this tank.> I'm looking to do a fairly lush set-up, selectively keeping fish (sorry Plecos, Balas, and Geophagus L.) in the order of tetras and maybe barbs, low key and not too destructive (or large). <Agreed.> Basically, I suppose my questions would be: A) Is the lighting enough (I believe it is, about 3 watts a gallon), <Yes.> B) Is the substrate choice and quantity halfway right <Sounds about right.> C) Should I lose the canopies <Personal choice, I would keep them unless you have heat issues. Just keep them clean for light penetration.> D) What filter(s) should I employ <Canister, it will not out gas your CO2.> Lastly (and perhaps most important), would hard water (on the order of 23 dGH) be detrimental to plant health? I live in Florida, so our water is outrageously hard, but RO is an option to "create" optimum hardness, but stability would be better ensured using hard tap water and de-chlorinating it. Thoughts? <I would definitely use the RO. You can mix the RO with tap to achieve the desired hardness for your livestock. You can be very stabile by repeating your mixing ratio. Tap water can vary in quality throughout the year anyhow.> Much thanks to you for your assistance, your site is the best source I've ever come across for aquatic help! -Brandon <Welcome and thank you. Good luck with this new set up, Scott V.>

Re new... FW tank set up    5/15/07 Lesley here again, <BobF here this time...> Hi to you all again you have all been so helpful regarding my thoughts on setting up my new tank.  Well it gets delivered in a few days <Oooh, exciting> and I  have now decided that the occupants will be.  Angels, Dwarf Gouramis, clown  Loaches and possibly the Cockatoo dwarf cichlid, all of which after a lot a lot  of research should live quite happily do you agree, do you have any other  suggestions? <Mmm... no prev. corr. included... there are twenty or so of us here... and though I "put away" all, I don't recall much in the way of particular circumstances... I do hope this system is large enough... to accommodate all, esp. the Angels and Loaches as they get much larger...> I would love a planted tank, I am going to include mainly vines and would effect decor securing some to the rear of the tank with aquarium silicone.   My head as they say here in Scotland is minced with all the options for substrate.  I as I originally mentioned was going to use play sand but don't  know if this is wise with the external filter and you mentioned it would not support the rooted plants. <Correct. You have read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubstrates.htm and the linked FAQs file above?> Wanted something simple...is there any such  thing?  Can I use aquatic compost under gravel? <Yes... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/soilags.htm and the linked...> the kind you buy for  outside ponds.  Is gravel enough if I add the fertilizer tabs you can  readily buy. <Maybe... one approach is to rely on fish wastes... but not really satisfying in most cases...>   i know the gravel cant be to large in size.  your  thought would be much appreciated.   <These are posted... Please learn to/use the search tool, indices on WWM> The tank itself is a Regency 100 and holds 220 litres of water and comes supplied with the external filter  and heater.  I as you mentioned  will go with the fishless cycling.  Should i buy any of these help along  products or just add some flakes on a daily basis. <The flakes will do... again... this is archived... along with much ancillary material... You would do well to read.> thanks <BobF, still>

New to fishkeeping, FW planted tanks - lots of questions!    2/16/07 Hi Guys, <And girls - Jorie here! Seriously though, I don't mind being "just one of the guys"!> I just found your site after searching many forums and articles. It is fantastic and completely thorough. <Bob Fenner's done a wonderful job - I will say "thanks" on his behalf!> I was searching for an answer to my question and could not find it, and was hoping you might help me out. <I sure will try.> (But I am very long winded!) <LOL- me too!> So, I am brand new to this hobby.  My friend recently moved and my girlfriend and I took over his 55 gal freshwater tank.  He only had one 7 in. Pleco that survived his roommate's attempts to take care of it while he was stationed elsewhere for a year. <Common Plecos (I am assuming this is what we are speaking of) are pretty hardy...> We completely gutted the tank, as it was filthy. We were guided by our local pet store workers as to the best methods to clean setup and establish the tank with the pleco.  We used what he left us for decorations and gravel for the bottom.  We began in January and today is February 15, so we are completely novice.  We figured we could just 'wing it' as that is basically what he did for 4 years. <This approach doesn't work too well in this hobby...reading, reading, then reading some more is a good way to start! Best beginner book I've come across is by David E. Boruchowitz; it's called "A Simple Guide to the Freshwater Aquarium", and explains everything in easy to understand terminology.  Do check this resource out, as it will answer many questions about the nitrogen cycle, proper husbandry, stocking the tank, illness, etc.> But now I am becoming more involved and really want to hook up our tank.  Right now we have the Pleco, 3 baby angels, a swordtail, a blue gourami (sm), and two new tiger barbs (md). <OK - you must realize that the angels, especially, aren't nearly as hardy as the pleco; you will need to be doing regular water changes, tank maintenance, etc. Also, I'm not sure based on your info if the tank has cycled or not - I'm presuming not. Read here for some very useful info. on the nitrogen cycle: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm . Do keep in mind that when you are establishing the nitrogen cycle while their are fish in the tank is a bit of a catch-22 - while you want to allow ammonia, nitrites and nitrates to spike, then fall down to zero, livestock cannot tolerate build ups of these toxins, so you must do regular water changes, which will actually prolong the cycle...> We decided that we wanted plants in our tank and bought some and they failed, bought some more, etc. etc.  I began to do some research and realized that the 40 watt light we had is basically useless for growing plants.  Last week we ordered a Coralife freshwater light with 2*65 watt 6700K lights, which based on my research, should do well for us without having to add CO2 (I hope).  That should arrive today, so that is our first step. <This should help, but substrate is also important to supporting plant life...I see that you discuss that below, so I'll wait!> Now I have realized that our substrate is probably completely wrong for plant growth, it seems to be way too large.  It has angled edges and must be more than 5 mm for each rock.  I will include some photos of our tank to show the exact size.  I'm pretty sure that I need to modify the substrate in order to grow plants well. <You *may* be able to get away with some hardy species of anubias plants, for instance, in this large gravel, but you definitely won't be able to grow any sort of "stem" plants.  The "bible" of the freshwater planted tank is written by Peter Hiscock (called something like "Encyclopedia of Planted Aquaria"...don't have access to it at the moment) - I *highly* recommend checking this book out, and reading the first few chapters from beginning to end, as they nicely lay out the "planted tank" basics...> As of right now we are not looking to have a completely planted tank like the beautiful photos I have seen on you site and elsewhere.  We are looking to accentuate our decorations and add height and cover for our fish.  We basically went crazy adding decorations when setting up the tank, for he had so many and we've always been fond of stones and crystals.  So we finally come to my questions! With so many decorations in our tank and finally having it all cycled and set up, it would be really hard to replace the substrate. <It's a big pain to re-substrate the entire tank, and I do suggest you wait until you are ready for a BIG project...> Is there a way that I can add some sort of substrate on top or mixed in or just the Fluorite fertilizer ball thingies in order to help our plants?? <I'd suggest purchasing a bag of either Fluorite or EcoComplete. Then, in the areas that you want to maintain plants, use your hands to reach in the tank and mix in a few handfuls.  This is a bit of a "makeshift" solution, but for growing hardy low-light plants, it should work.  Also, the fertilizer tabs that you refer to will help - you just push them into the substrate near the roots of the plants. Generally, it is suggested that you let your new plants establish for about a month prior to starting fertilizing.> What do you suggest to resolve our substrate problem? <See above. Also, you need to be wise in selecting your plants - I'd recommend anubias plants, and possibly some bulb plants (the bulbs actually store the nutrients, so substrate isn't so essential) like Aponogetons...>   We can buy new plants and are welcome to any suggestions that you might have that would do well in our tank.  Right now we have a couple of Water sprites (that are doing horribly), micro swords (which was a whim), a rangeri sword (which seems to be doing well), and some other swords which I threw away the cards but you will be able to tell in the photos. <Microswords are pretty light and nutrient demanding, so I don't expect they'll do too well.  And, your substrate is way too big for the water sprite.  You may be able to keep the sword, but it will require proper root fertilization.  When you look at the Hiscock "Encyclopedia", you'll need to focus on low-light, non-demanding species, such as the anubias and Aponogetons I've suggested above.  My favorite aquarium plant e-tailer, for what it's worth, is www.aquariumplants.com - they do a wonderful job!>   Let me know if you have any suggestions as what to do with our tank as far as substrate and new plants.   <See above. Also, READ!> I'm sorry for the book, today is a snow day here in MA and I have a lot of time on my hands. <Not a problem - you've got our snow from Chicago a couple of days ago...but I hear you all got it even worse...> I appreciate any advice or even directions or links to similar questions like mine (most substrate questions seemed to be for new tanks).  Love your site and have a great weekend. <Honestly, there's TONS of resources out there - best thing to do is use google, or another search engine, to browse around...I can't re-write all I've learned for you here, but if you come up with some more specific questions, please feel free to write in again... Andy Minihan
Re: New to fishkeeping, FW planted tanks - lots of questions! PART 2    02/17/07 Hey Jorie, <Hi again, Andy - hope it's stopped snowing in MA...> WOW!  Thank you so much for the prompt and detailed response!! <Told you I was wordy:-)> I really appreciate you addressing so many of my questions and concerns! <It's not a problem - that's what I'm here for.> I think I'm going to try getting some Eco Complete and just adding it around the roots for now, as most of our plants are behind larger rocks so it won't look too weird. <The black Eco Complete is preferable aesthetics-wise to the rust-colored Fluorite, in my opinion.  And what you suggest above should work for non-demanding plants - in fact, prior to moving my 44 gal. community planted FW tank, thus allowing me to put in new substrate, that's exactly what I did for my anubias plants...they grew quite well in those condition.> Our new Coralife 130 watt light came in last night, so we are pumped.  <So to calculate "Watts per Gallon", just take the total wattage of the tank (is it just the 130 watts, now?) and divide by the number of gallons your tank holds.  I don't recall if you told me how large a tank you had, but if its 52 gallons or smaller, that would give you 2.5 WPG, which is technically enough t grow "moderate" light plants...but, of course, you do need to take your substrate into consideration when choosing plants. Take a look at this helpful article: http://www.aquariumplants.com//Articles.asp?ID=111 I buy almost all my plants from these guys - they are great!> It really makes a dramatic difference to the look of the tank.  It simply glows now, where as before, with the 40 watt, it was like holding a lighter above the water. <LOL- and you can really see the difference once you go up in wattage, right?!> What a difference, and will hopefully help out our plants.  <It absolutely should.  Do remember to replace the bulb at least once per year...> I will continue to check out your website and will certainly mention it to other hobbyists. <Great! Take a look at our chat forum as well - you can find lots of good tips there, also...> <You too. Best, Jorie>


Planted Tank Set Up  - 10/22/06 Hey guys, I have used your website for research on aquarium related topics for quite a while and am impressed with the depth of information you give out. I've decided to start a freshwater planted tank for the first time. I keep lots of African cichlids right now and thought it would be fun to try something new. I just recently acquired a 58 gal show tank that I want to make into an amazing planted tank with colorful, active, and peaceful fish. I would like your thoughts on everything from substrate to CO2 injection. And if possible I'd like to save some money doing it, but only if that doesn't sacrifice quality. I'll just start with some of the ideas that I have had. I want a dark substrate, so I was thinking Estes deep river regular gravel mixed with fluorite to act as a fertilizer. What ratio of fluorite to gravel would be ideal and how deep should the bed be? <Use as much Fluorite as possible then us the other gravel for appearance.> Or is there a better product than fluorite? < Fluorite is pretty darn good.> I know that the type of plants I plan on keeping probably has an influence on a lot of your answers but all I know that I want is a large variety of different plants and possibly some different colors. For lighting I have done a lot of research and believe that VHO lighting is the direction I'd like to go. How many watts do I need for a 58 since this is a little taller than a standard tank? Or do watts even matter so long as I have the right spectrum? < Try 3-4 watts per gallon for starters. The bulb color should be around 6500 K.> One of the other areas I need some advice is in CO2. What kind of a system would be high quality while still being realistic? < CO2 is needed with stem plants and plants that require very high light. A DIY system is available that utilizes yeast as a producer of CO2. Not needed for all tanks but helpful.> That finally brings me to filtration. I would like a canister filter and have had success with Eheims 2026 Pro II filter on other tanks. Is it good to have a large canister filter for planted tanks (or does the surface agitation greatly reduce the CO2 in the water?) , and if not is there a smaller one that will still get the job done well? < Canisters are a great choice for planted tanks for the reasons you have already pointed out. The bigger the better as long as you service it regularly.> I guess the last thing to ask is about the inhabitants of the tank. Does the inch per gallon rule still apply to a planted tank or do all the living plants let you get away with a little more? < Forget the formulas. Check the nitrates. Depending on the fish the nitrate levels should be pretty low because of the plants. Start out slow and add additional fish as you go. Quarantine tanks are extremely important for a planted tank. Medications used to treat diseases can be harmful to aquatic plants.> I think that's about it unless there's something else you think I should know. Thanks for all the help and please reply quick! I can't let this tank sit empty much longer! Thanks for all your advice, Josh < Check out the Aquatic Gardeners' Association for real detailed info and suggestions on how to get a real planted aquarium up and going. Not enough space here to really give you all the info you need.-Chuck> Discus, Rummynose, Filtration, CO2 - 06/20/2006 Hi there, I was planning on setting up a 55 gallon planted discus tank with some Rummynose dithers. First off, could you tell me how many discus I could fit in there comfortably, <Ultimately, likely only one or two pairs.  However, until they pair off, you can "pack in" as many as the tank's biological filtration will realistically allow.  Discus, while still quite young and small, find great security in numbers.  If you plan to grow 'em up from bitty babies, start with a lot, and as they grow, pare them down - sell the ones you remove, and end up, in the end, with one or two pairs of adults.> as well as how many tetras? <Probably a dozen or two.> I plan on 130 watts of 6500K lighting with tons of plants, Glossostigma, Microsorium, Eleocharis, all covering the bottom, anchored on driftwood etc. What kind of CO2 system should I use? Nothing too fancy please, I have maybe 60 bucks to spend CO2 injection. <Might look into DIY methods on this budget, or consider used items.> Also, I was looking at the Rena XP2 for filtration. Is this a good choice? <I think so, yes.  I use and recommend the Eheim Professionel II models, but they are VERY pricey.  If you can find them used, as I did, you may find them more affordably - but the Rena will be fine, I believe.> The Eheim (drool) is waaaaaay out of my price range, except for the Ecco, which is even a bit on the hefty side of cheap. Any suggestions would be appreciated. <I also like some of the newer Fluvals.> Thanks again, Eddy <All the best to you,  -Sabrina>

Planted tank question Hello Bob!  <James here today> I have a large 96x30x30 tank that I am wanting to make into a freshwater, planted tank. I am looking for opinions on filtration for a tank this size. I was thinking about a large wet dry filter, versus 3 Eheim 2228 filters with the built-in heaters. The tank is reef-ready with one large, center overflow. Also, not wanting to go crazy with plants, is CO2 a necessity? <CO2 is not a necessity. More important to have a nutrient rich bottom for the plants to feed on. Fluorite is one product, but there are several. The wet/dry will definitely improve oxygen levels in the tank as one plus, but will also help rid the tank of CO2 due to the large amount of gas/air/water exchange. You may want to check Pentair's (formerly rainbow) filtration systems. They have systems large enough to filter a tank such as yours. Drs. Foster & Smith is one place that I know that carries them. I'll also post a link here that has FAQ's about wet/dry filters and planted tanks. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/tksstdsagFAQs.htm. James (Salty Dog)>

Planted Tank Water for Sea Salt Mix?? Hi Mr. Fenner, <Hello Jose> Let me start by saying I really appreciate all you do for the hobby.  Your site is wonderful.  One of the things I like most about your site is the philosophy of keeping things natural and balanced. That said, let me tell you about my tanks: 1 outdoor 55 gallon rectangular tank with lots of anacharis and Vallisneria, several livebearers and a 1 inch dovii, <Ummm, did you put this last fish/mention in to see if I was awake?! Hee hee! Am sure you know how large... this cichlid will become> no heater or filtration except for the plants; 1 outdoor 165 gallon pond with several lily pad plants , 1 pair of blue eyed cichlids, 1 ?? inch dovii ( I wanted to compare growth rates with outdoor aquarium dovii), a feeder goldfish that grew to 5 inches and a butterfly Koi of 4 inches, plus a lot of anacharis for oxygenation, there isn't any filtration in this pond except for the plants; indoors I have a 55 gallon rectangular tank with a pair of 4 inch discus, 7 German rams , and a pair of double red Apisto.. agassizi( I'm getting more females soon), 4 huge Amazon swords, 6 giant cryptos , 10 small cryptos, java moss, micro sword, fluorite over sparse layer of laterite, 20 pounds of driftwood, large lava rock with lots of caves, and a centerpiece Madagascar lace plant, <Sounds very nice... but will be very crowded> mechanical hardware consists of a small air pump to a 10 gallon sponge filter , and heater; I also have a 12 gallon eclipse with 4 inch sand bed, 10 lbs of premium Fiji live rock, 10 lbs base rock which has turned premium, 1 peppermint shrimp, 1 emerald crab, 2x13 PC , 1 fire fish goby, 1 small orange starfish, 30 medium brown w/green center zoanthids, 1 frag of zoanthids w 8  bright orange & green polyps, 1 red finger gorgonian,  sun polyps (about 10 individual polyps), 1 small red hermit, 2 small blue hermits, 2 medium Mexican turbo snails, 2 large Mexican turbo, 2 smaller Astraea?? snails, small blue sponge, several purple sponges, lots of pineapple sponges, bristle worms, fan worms, macroalgae (Caulerpa), and lots of pods. the mechanical hardware consists of a high quality submersible heater and an medium powerhead.   <Good descriptions> Now most places I research tell me discus , rams, Madagascar lace plants, and apistos are really difficult fish and plants to keep. <Mmm, these are likely older references... this life is much easier to keep than it used to be... due to captive bred efforts, shipping improvements mainly.>   Yet , I perform  hardly any maintenance on my tank and everything has thrived since 1/2/03 without any loss of life or illness.  I have turned the heater off and left it off for several days and the fish still never became ill, even in temperatures below 70.  I have neglected water changes for a months with no ill effects (not doing that anymore). Its a beautiful tank that gives me lots of pleasure with low maintenance demands. I should add that I throw in a pinch of regular peat after a water change to soften the hard water local to my area and started a compost bin to feed the fish earthworms regularly. I was nervous about starting a nanoreef because of everything I  read.  Maybe the experience with planted tanks helped me out because my tank is going great.  The only deaths (2 small damsels) in the tank I've suffered were from aggression caused by a yellow tail damsel I had. Everything else has thrived and most of the stuff I have was given to me by LFS because it was in bad condition ( this hobby is expensive and I have to cut corners where I can) or sold cheaply. Since money is a factor in how far I can lose/or find myself in the hobby, I look for ways to save.  Since I don't have a R/O unit and have to purchase DI water at the LFS.  I was wondering , What if I used the water from the discus tank to mix the sea salt???  rivers flow into the ocean right? and most reefs are near land right?  I tell you, the water I siphon out during water changes grows my terrestrial plants like nothing else. I hoping it does the same for my soft corals.  The people at the LFS think I'm slightly crazy for some of the stuff I do, but my stock never seems to get sick( knock on wood) and grows and glows , and I think you have to be bold sometimes to learn new things. Thank You for your time, your site is great! Jose Saldana <Mmm, in general I would not do this... for fear of introducing more organic and inorganic nutrient material than you likely want... I do suggest you do the math though re buying, running your own RO or DI water purifier. Some of these units are under a hundred dollars... and considering the cost of transport, your time... it's not long before just buying your own makes sense. Cheers, Bob Fenner> Planted Tanks, Lighting, and More Hello there, I'm planning on buying a 46 gal. bow front aquarium in a few months.  I plan to keep a low tech planted freshwater community tank.   <Sounds like fun!> I have read many articles on different aspects of the proper setup and I wanted to ask your opinion on a few choices that I have.  First off I plan to buy compact fluorescent lighting.  Which combination is best (1x96 + 1x36, 1x96 + 1x55, or 2x55 + 1x36). <Personally, I'd scratch the last (2x55w + 1x36w) off first, as the more bulbs you've got running, the more bulbs you have to replace yearly....  the cost does build up.  Other than that, frankly, it's more up to you and the plants you want.  Of the remaining two options, I'd go with the 96w and 55w myself, just to have the extra light :) > They all have approx. the same wattage. I was thinking about a 10000K for the 96 wt and a 6700k for the 36 or 55wt.  Do you think this is too much light for a low tech tank?   <It really, really depends upon the plants that you want.  For instance, if you only want, say, Anubias and java moss, spending boo coo bucks on PCs would be ridiculous.  If you want some moderately light-demanding plants, it should be a good route.> Is once a year the correct length of time between bulb changes? <To my understanding, yes.> Substrate.  I'm thinking of Seachem Grey fluorite, Eco-complete, LFS Sand, or Seachem Onyx gravel (I'm a bit worried about the onyx because we have hard water) <I would skip on the Onyx, then.  The Fluorite or Eco-complete would definitely be more nutritious on your plants than sand.  I like to use a mix of sand and fluorite, myself, as I like how well the plants seem to root in the sand, and the ease of planting.  Might also want to take a look here:  http://home.infinet.net/teban/substrat.htm and consider a good book on planted aquaria....  "Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants" by Peter Hiscock (for real, I didn't make that up) is an excellent book to help get you started.> More importantly would all those be compatible with plants( crypt, anubias, swords, banana <"banana" plants, Nymphoides aquatica, are tremendously demanding in lighting (among other things).  I would not recommend them for such a tall tank, especially if being lit with PCs.  These generally fare very, very poorly in aquaria, I'm afraid.> and the Cory catfish I plan to get?   <Cory bellies are pretty tender; you might consider covering any rough or jagged substrate you decide on with a thin layer of larger-grade, smooth/'roundy' gravel.> CO2 would be a DIY pop bottle reactor or two Hagen co2 plant systems <Sounds sufficient> and heating would be 2 Visitherm 100 or 150wt heaters.   <Personally, I'd go with the 150w....  Should one fail completely, the other would be able to uphold the tank nicely.> Now for filtration, would an emperor 400 be too much for this tank (I plan on some Gourami, tetra, Cory & Oto catfish, SAE's, and rasboras?) or would you recommend 2 sponge filters with power heads or a canister filter.   <Of these, I would *definitely* recommend a canister.> The emperor is my preference because of it's ease in cleaning but I'm worried that the flow is too high for fish <Not an issue there.> and bad for the CO2.   <Major issue there.  The surface agitation provided by a power filter like the Emperor will let far too much CO2 out of the system, IMO.> I've read that canister filters are great but I'm a bit intimidated by their seemingly complex care. <It really isn't as complex as it appears.  Take a trip to the fish store, get one out of the box (er, with permission, of course!), and play around learning about it, how it operates, how to maintain, etc.> If canister filters are best, can you recommend a good one for a beginner?   <Eheim is far and above my #1 filter choice as far as canisters go.  Please do look into these, they are worth the cost.> Thank you so much for your time and advice.  This website is such a wonderful gift for beginners like myself. <And thank you for your kind words!  Please continue to enjoy,  -Sabrina>

Next Stop: Planted Tank, Then on to Reef Hi, <Hello, Yuell, Sabrina with you tonight> Even though I've been in the hobby for 20 years this will be the first time that I'll do something other than a basic tropical fish tank. <Ah, onward 'n' upward!> I want to turn my 75 gallon (48x24x15)  tank into a tropical planted tank with lots of Neons and Cardinals.  In time though I want to turn this tank into a reef tank. I don't want to have to re-buy any equipment if I can help it. This is what I plan to do: Lights: I will have  a retro light kit put into the canopy 4 - 95watt compact fluorescents (this is better than going VHO's right?).   <That's kinda a matter of opinion....  I have VHOs on my plant tank and enjoy them tremendously, but the bulbs must be replaced more often than PCs.  PCs are a great choice for a plant tank, but when you go reef, if you ever plan on very light-demanding species (clams, anemones, more light-demanding corals, etc.), better to just shell out the bucks and go metal halide.> I will run 2 for the planted tank then run all four with the reef (when I get there).   <You could conceivably run all four for the plant tank, and have some pretty awesome, light-hungry plants.> What is a good company as far as lights go or does it matter?   <I hear good stuff about the Coralife fixtures, I also hear good stuff about Custom Sea Life fixtures; honestly, I haven't used PCs yet, and my next hope is to try out T5s - might want to swing by the forums http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/index.jsp and hear straight from folks who are using PCs what they prefer, and what to avoid.> Filtration:  I have an old style Fluval 404 now. I would like to keep it if possible because you see...I have cats.  Cats who love to get into the cabinet below the fish tank (I use the tank as a room divider). They would easily get into the cabinet and drop the 24hour light you are to use with an eco system or wet/dry system into the sump. If they did this, if I am not mistaken, it will cause a short, the power to the system would be turned off, and that loss of power would empty all 75 gallons of water on the floor. This would be bad...I have lots of books.  Unless the eco or wet/dry systems were completely enclosed (like a canister) so that the light can't be dropped into the sump, I see problems.  Is there a way (if I must get an eco system or wet dry with a sump) to keep this from happening (a switch or special tubing that you buy to stop that from happening?   Do I even need a sump or will my old Fluval and  a protein skimmer work?    <The Fluval will do a fine job for your plant tank, but is inadvisable for a reef tank, due especially to an overabundance of nitrates.  A sump is really a much better route.  But when you do the sump, if you do a plain ol' sump, no light is necessary.  If you do a refugium in the sump, preventing the light falling in is pretty simple - cover it with eggcrate (the grid stuff that you see under fluorescent light fixtures in ceilings).  Plenty of air exchange, but no big stuff (including cats and lights) falling into the sump.> Skimmer: I was thinking of a hang on the back skimmer like the Via Aqua Multi-Skimmer.  Is there a better skimmer?   <Oh, yes.  It'll be shelling out more cash again, but go with an Aqua-C or a Euro Reef; truly, you won't be sorry.> Again I don't want a sump if I can help it.  Do I need the skimmer with the planted tank or can I wait till I'm gearing up for the reef?   <Wait.  A skimmer will be virtually (or completely) useless on a plant tank.> The Via Aqua has a 5watt UV light, would this UV hurt the reef or the animals that might eat the algae the UV would kill?  If it does can I use additives and vitamins or should I just not go there. <Again....  Aqua-C or Euro Reef....  But as far as UV goes, some people swear by 'em, some hate 'em.  They'll kill free-swimming protozoan parasites, etc., could be a good thing to have, but is unnecessary, IMO.  More here:  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marphysf.htm .> CO2:  I'm sure that plants would love it if I went there but I know nothing about it.  If CO2 is a good idea for the plants or reef (is it good or the reef or bad) can you recommend a system? <Eh, well, with the plant tank end of the spectrum, it's really quite easy and inexpensive to do a DIY CO2 generator; consists of a 2-liter bottle, a rubber stopper, some tubing, and yeast - here's the article that got me started: http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/CO2/co2-narten.html .  There are also much more complicated pressurized CO2 systems, that come with a much higher price tag (DIY yeast could be done under $20 easily), but are regulated and well controlled, and require very, very little maintenance.  Worth studying up on.  Also, if you intend to use a calcium reactor in your reef ( http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcreactors.htm ) the more expensive pressurized canister system will be the better route, and prevent that re-purchasing of equipment you mentioned. can you also recommend a monitor that would monitor / change the PH or Nitrates or whatever automatically? <The pressurized canister systems are usually used with a solenoid that will start/stop the CO2 injection with light hours, which will regulate pH.  The solenoid can also be hooked up to a pH controller, and that will regulate CO2 injection, so that you don't have fluctuation of pH.  Both ways seem pretty efficient.> What else should I do/think about to get this done that I didn't/ haven't yet?  Is there another piece of equipment that I should think about getting or not think about getting?   <Timers for the lights.  Then you don't have to worry about getting the lights on to *your* schedule.  Also, for the plant tank, look into Kent's plant fertilizer line, much good stuff out there!  I would definitely recommend fertilizing your plant tank, and have you considered what sort of substrate you'll use?  And one final comment - if you start this as a plant tank, I fear that you'll enjoy it too much to go reef with it.  You really might wanna take the jump and just go reef now, or perhaps plan on another tank on down the road ;)  Much fun ahead in the tank-planning process!  -Sabrina> Thank you for any help you give me,  Yuell

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