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FAQs on Filtering Planted Tanks 1

Related Articles: Filtering Freshwater Planted Aquariums,

Related FAQs: FW Filtration 2, FW Sponge Filters, FW Canister Filters, Planted Tank Undergravel Filters, FW Hang-on Filters, Ultraviolet Sterilizers, Freshwater Refugiums, Chemical Filtrant/Media,

An EcoSystem Hang On Refugium filter unit for freshwater/plant tanks, stocked with Water Sprite.

Aquarium substrates; for planted tank; UG filters for same     3/5/16
<Hey Sarah>
I'm looking to set up a 30gal freshwater planted aquarium. I have some basic brown gravel but was wondering if that was the best option for planting live plants. I'm considering using EcoComplete or even mixing the two.
<A good product...>
What are your thoughts/suggestions?
<Am a huge fan of SeaChem's Flourish...>
I am using an undergravel filter <Mmm; then do blind pot your planted plants... almost all do poorly with UG
filters along with an overhanging tetra filtration system. Would it be unavoidable to use the EcoComplete with an UGF?
My goals for this project is to create an environment focused more on the aquascape than fish, but still plan on including fish in the system.
I'm still very new to all of this, so I'm looking for a solid, basic setup that won't limit me to only growing certain kinds of plants or fish.
<Either remove the UG filter or don't hook it up>
Also, I would like to assemble some pieces of driftwood to create a centerpiece. Any pros/cons or directions I should be aware of in attempting that?
<See; as in read on WWM re... the search tool; on every page>
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Aquarium substrates /Neale     3/5/16

I'm looking to set up a 30gal freshwater planted aquarium. I have some basic brown gravel but was wondering if that was the best option for planting live plants.
<Depends on the plants. Anything attached to bogwood (Anubias, Java fern, ava moss) couldn't care less. Anything floating won't care either. Some plants are so adaptable they'll happily grow in gravel, such as
Vallisneria. The hardy Amazon Swords are fine too, provided you stick the odd fertiliser pellet into their roots every few weeks or so. But for sure there are some delicate or greedy plants that prefer something richer than
gravel. The downside is that if you have slow-growing plants and/or too much light, the nutrients in the substrate have to go somewhere... and they end up encouraging algae!>
I'm considering using EcoComplete or even mixing the two. What are your thoughts/suggestions? I am using an undergravel filter along with an overhanging tetra filtration system. Would it be unavoidable to use the
EcoComplete with an UGF?
<By definition you can't use anything other than gravel with an undergravel filter. Even if you could, it'd be pointless. Flowing oxygenated water (necessary for the filter bacteria) will oxidise mineral nutrients too,
making them unavailable to the plants. So if you're going to have a fancy pants substrate, it needs to be relatively oxygen-poor, and that means no flowing water going through it. Make sense?>
My goals for this project is to create an environment focused more on the aquascape than fish, but still plan on including fish in the system. I'm still very new to all of this, so I'm looking for a solid, basic setup that won't limit me to only growing certain kinds of plants or fish.
<Here's the thing: ecosystems are very difficult to create in small aquaria. In most aquatic habitats algae, not plants, dominate -- and few aquarists want to grow algae! So you instead have to think of the tank as more like a garden, and your job is to balance substrate, lighting, and plant choice in such a way that the plants grow well but without so much light or nutrients that algae use up the excess.>
Also, I would like to assemble some pieces of driftwood to create a centerpiece. Any pros/cons or directions I should be aware of in attempting that?
<Actually, using bogwood to support epiphytic plants is the idea way to plant a tank with an undergravel filter. Anubias, Java fern, Java moss and if you can get it Bolbitis provide some really contrasting shapes and
colours. Alongside these floating plants can be used to moderate lighting and inhibit algae. Both floating plants and epiphytes absorb nutrients from the water, not the substrate, and as such do just fine with undergravel
<Welcome, Neale.>
Re: Aquarium substrates; reading; and how     3/5/16

So would it be a better idea just to start with the gravel and see if the plants will take? It sounds better to utilize fertilizer pellets than to battle too many nutrients.
<.... these are complex issues.. Let's have you start reading here:
From the top down>
I've always been advised to use an undergravel, but it's sounding like it's not the best option for a planted aquarium.
If I opted to remove it, how would that play out with cleanings and longterm care? Is it more efficient to use both as I originally intended?
<Keep reading... BobF>

filtration for 150 gallon planted community tank    12/14/14
I have a 150 gallon (48 x 24 x 30) I want to setup as a planted community tank. I will stick to small, appropriate fish such as tetras and danios and Corydoras. I haven't yet purchased filtration or lighting. I have purchased laterite and Activ-Flora Premium Planted Substrate - Lake Gems for the substrate. I have also purchased some Manzanita driftwood. I would like to go with a moderate lighting setup. If you were starting from scratch with this tank, what filtration and lighting would you choose?
<Two good quality canister filters (am partial to Eheims) set up to take in water at each corner and discharge at the opposite end length-wise; and a modest but powerful LED system; likely Orphek or ZooMed. Bob Fenner>
Re: filtration for 150 gallon planted community tank; specifics on Eheim Canisters; heaters      12/17/14

Thanks Bob. I like Eheims as well. Would two 2217s work or would I be better off with one of the pro models?
<Wow; their site and range has changed... https://www.eheim.com/  and NOT very user friendly. Looks like the 2217 is now the Classic 600; and yes, two of these would do... though I do like the options on the newer models... like the push/pump to start the siphon. So, if it's not too dear/expensive, yes to the Pro models; Don't know if the issues years back w/ the integrated heaters ever got worked out so I'd skip the eXperience line and go w/ the Professionel: at least the "600" designates (l/h); and the "e" series if you prefer digital control>
If the pro models, which do you like. I plan on running two inline heaters for redundancy. Is that wise or would I be better off with in tank heaters?
<I'd run one in and one out at most; if not both in-tank>
I'd like to keep them out of the tank if possible.
<Mmm; better to place one on the bottom, horizontally... or even look into in-the-substrate types. Bob Fenner>

Help with 150gal Freshwater semi Planted tank filter 4/9/11
Hello Everyone,
I have set up a 150 gallon acrylic tank previously used for saltwater, 24" tall, 48" wide and 30" deep. When I bought this used, I cleaned it up nice and converted it to freshwater since this is all I have ever done. This was the first time I had passed a 55 gallon tank and wanted to switch to canister filters for the first time as well. Not knowing ANYTHING, I read up on filters and decided on what my pocketbook could hold. Two Marineland Canister filters with 530gph each. Since my tank is a community tank, I wanted to add plants to this tank to reduce nitrates and eventually do less maintenance on it. I am trying to put together a Fish tank with plants, not a planted tank with fish, so my fish are the priority with having plants as a bonus. I do not want to work with CO2, or do I want to add fertilizers, so the plants that grow would need to be hearty and low maintenance. I have chosen a light fixture for plants to help with photosynthesis but my problem now is my filters.
<Although you can minimise the use of fertilisers, you will have to use some. Iron, in particular, is used up quite quickly by plants, and needs to be topped up periodically. If you're going to use a plain gravel substrate, then fertiliser pellets pushed into the roots every month or so should do the trick.>
I found out that with plants you don't want lots of water movement, but just minimum. With these two filters, there is no spray bar that they make for this filter to reduce water flow and I found out that there is not a way to reduce water flow from the filter, so its full force from both filters. I can angle the nozzle of the output but it really gives the water a good push. On the flip side, I don't know how much I can reduce water movement without making my fish miserable. Is there anything you can recommend I can or should do, or do I need to get a whole new type of filter that has these adjustments on them and the ability to attach a spray bar? I was thinking of removing one filter completely, so I am using one 530gph to see how that may work but then I wasn't sure if that would be enough filtration for my size tank. I thought 5x my tank size so that would be 750gph, not 530.
<For a tank 150 gallons in size stocked with ordinary community fish, you're after 4 to 6 times the size of the tank in turnover per hour, i.e., 600 to 900 gallons/hour.>
Second, I have a pile of driftwood that my fish hide in and was told that with planted tanks, you should only need to syphon the surface only of the soil.
<Shouldn't really need to do much siphoning of the substrate at all. In a standard planted tank the fish species kept are all very small: Neons for example. The solid wastes produced by these fish -- faeces, uneaten food -- are so small that they break down quickly and are absorbed into the substrate. Up to a point, this "mulm" contributes nutrients the plants can use, particularly CO2, as the bacteria break down the organic molecules.
But bigger fish, really anything larger than a Platy or Corydoras, is going to produce solid wastes that won't be dissipated this easily. Solid wastes end up gathering around the stems and roots of the plants. This won't do any harm, but it is unsightly, and plants with delicate, feathery leaves end up looking a bit grubby. That's why you'll see Amano-style tanks contain few fish, and what fish they do contain will be very small species.>
Well, after setting up my tank seven months ago, I decided to move my deco around just a little bit and found lots of poop debris under the pile of driftwood. I couldn't syphon just the top so I had to dig into the soil a bit since there were no roots to disturb. Someone I know has a planted tank and he says he doesn't have any issues with anything building up. So I don't know what I am doing wrong there since I am not really supposed to move and disturb everything in a planted or semi planted tank.
<Virtually all problems with establishing plants come down to these three things: [a] choosing inappropriate species; [b] not providing enough light; and [c] keeping fish species that damage or eat plants. The type of substrate and the use (or otherwise) of fertilisers are important, if secondary, issues.>
Third, since my tank has been running for seven months now and plants have taken root and some have started to grow, my nitrates are still at 40ppm.
<Inevitable given the species of fish you're keeping.>
I do water changes every couple of weeks but I can't seem to get the nitrates down, even with the plants. I thought that they would reduce the nitrates so either they are reducing nitrates and they would be higher or something isn't quite working. 0 ammonia, 0, nitrites, 7.6 ph, nitrates 40ppm.
I had some large plants that were growing great a couple of moths ago. I trimmed them down for the first time and they just haven't grown back. I just have no idea what I need to look for in order for me to fix it. Any help or ideas would be GREATLY appreciated.
Fish include:
2 6" Pleco's (for the massive algae attack I had when setting up the tank)
<These are completely incompatible with planted aquaria. Even Java ferns and Anubias, the two toughest plants species, are likely to be damaged or uprooted by them. Other plants will simply be uprooted, and new shoots or roots on them may be eaten. Replace with small algae eating species if you think you need them, i.e., Nerite snails or Ancistrus spp. catfish.>
7 Neons
6 5" angels
<Angels do of course eat Neons.>
3 6" gold gouramis
1 dwarf Gourami
2 Kuhli loaches
7 Blackskirts
2 red tetras (can't remember their name)
3 4" rainbows
6 2" rainbows
3 albino Corys
Thanks for the help,
<Various issues for you to resolve. Plecs need to be rehomed. Lighting may need fixing, at least 2 watts per gallon is important. As for plant species, the easiest ones to work with are Java fern and Anubias as specimen plants (both epiphytes, so attach to bogwood). Hardy Crypts will make nice choices for bushy plants in the mid-ground, e.g., Cryptocoryne wendtii and Cryptocoryne becketti. For algae control you will need some fast-growing plant species. I'd recommend Vallisneria spiralis and Vallisneria americana as good all-around tall plants, and hybrid Aponogeton are excellent too, if treated for what they are, more or less disposable plants that last a year or so but produce daughter plants on the ends of runners. Floating plants are a major plus, with Amazon Frogbit and floating Indian Fern my two favourites because they do well under hoods (most floating plants don't, and need cool air above them). They're also excellent nitrate-control, growing rapidly when happy. Hope this helps, Neale.>

Water Pressure for Plants 9/18/10
I have a dilemma with my planted tank. I have been told I should get some floating plants in my tank. My problem is my filters water pressure pushes the floating items to the other side of the tank and, eventually, to the intake filters (please see pics).
<Indeed. Easy fix is to use filters, or adjust existing filters, so that the inlet is well below the waterline. Should be doing that anyway. The plants you have don't appear to be floating plant species at all, but
Hygrophila cuttings, and pretty miserable cuttings at that. Clearly not enough light. Healthy Hygrophila has much bigger leaves and the stems should be far less noticeable. The fact the leaves are covered with algae
is a bit of a give away too.>
I have a large 150 gallon tank and had to buy two canister filters that produce 1000 gph total (about 500 each) but the pressure the two output hoses produce is incredible. I have to be careful where to aim it because it will blow all my gravel and soil around and ends up pushing my plants everywhere. I have some live plants that I try to float within the large plastic floating plant but when they get out of the safe zone of the fake plant, they go right to the filter. I pull them off and try to hook them to the fake plant again but eventually they work themselves loose. Can you tell me how people who have planted tanks are able to let them float on the top without disturbing them?
<I have the outflow at one end of the tank, the inlets close to the bottom of the tank, and floating plants get stuck and the other end of the tank.
Yours aren't floating because they aren't floating plants. If necessarily, mail order some floating plants; I'd recommend Floating Indian Fern and Amazon Frogbit as too very reliable species.>
I have looked for a spray bar to attach and reduce pressure but the Marineland canister filter do not have anything like this for accessories.
<Should be able to mix and match brands, e.g., Eheim spray bars fit Fluval hoses. If all else fails, a bit of silicone sealant should enable to you to secure a spray bar to some sort of fitting for the filters you have.>
I have gone to the LFS and their tanks are about 20-30 gallon and hardly have any water flow which seems serene and quiet but they also have very few fish to require a filter. Do I have any options or do I just add some plastic plants and hope for the best?
<For your fish, a turnover rate of 4-6 times per hour should be ample. So for 150 gallons, that's 600 to 900 gallons/hour. Adjust the outlet flow of water using the taps on the outlet house, if your filter has them.>
I have attached pics for you to see. Two show my plants sucked to the filter. The third pick is of my tank to show the plastic plants in the top right corner of the tank. I have my intake tubes on the right and the
output hoses on the right. the last pic is of the output hoses with my black background. P.S. This is my first large acrylic aquarium and I will never get another one again. So many nicks and scratches. I'm sticking to glass. ;-)
<Pros and cons. If you think glass doesn't scratch, you're wrong! Sand will do so easily if trapped between the glass and an algae scraper. So it depends very much on the substrate and the care with which the tank is maintained. Certain fish, in particular Plec-type things like Panaque spp., will scratch acrylic.>

Re: Water Pressure for Plants 9/18/10
Ok, I will check to see if I can manage some sort of spray bar for my tank but my next question is...If I add a spray bar to my filter, won't that then reduce the gph the filter is siphoning?
<To a small extent yes, but that's why you use a generous filtration estimate like the one I suggest. In practise, so long as ammonia and nitrite remain at zero, and assuming the fish show no signs of oxygen deficiency, things are fine. The value of the 4, 6 or 8 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour is that it's a generous estimate that allows latitude for things like spray bars, clogged-up media, and so on. When manufacturers say that a filter is "suitable for a 20 gallon aquarium" that usually means under the best of circumstances: clean media, small fish, regular maintenance. I was shopping yesterday and looked at a box of cereal that contained 450 grammes, and the calorie count was given per 40 grammes serving. I don't know about you, but 40 grammes is a very small serving!
The cereal manufacturer was trying to advertise that their cereal was both low in calories and good value, since the box contained about 11 servings.
In reality it was neither of these things, as most people would eat at least 80 grammes of cereal at one sitting, so the box of cereal would really contain only 4-5 servings and each of those servings wouldn't be much different to a couple slices of toast and jam in terms of calories. My point is that marketing people tend to be very optimistic about how much, how far, or how well their products work. If you have an objective measurement to work from, like gallons per hour, you can apply that criterion to your filtration choices.>
Also, since the filter cannot push out nearly as much water with the spray bar, will it have any effect on the filters motor burning out or heating up?
<Shouldn't do. A good quality filter like an Eheim can, will last 10-20 years running with a spray bar. Cheap Chinese filters do indeed burn out quickly -- 5-10 years seems typical -- so as with anything, you get what you pay for. Are these canister filters? These are indeed designed for use with spray bars so using one shouldn't cause problems.>
Last, would it be wise to place a spray bar on both or just one output tube?
<Sure. Or put something like a tall vertical rock in front of the outlet pipes so the water is spread out as it flows. In fact directing the outlet towards the glass can work, but often the water splashes over the sides of the tank when done this way, so be careful.>
As for my "floating plants" These are clipping that have come out of their weighted tie down but I was trying to show what would happen with any actual floating plant I would place into the tank.
<Much different; true floating plants contain air in their tissues that keep them right at the surface. These clippings are just drifting about because they have about the same density as water.>
I want to stay away from any java fern types.
<Indian Fern and Java Fern are completely different! Floating Indian Fern is much easier to grow, in my experience, and also very, VERY popular with fish. Apart from being a place for baby halfbeaks and livebearers to hide, it provides overhead shade and a source of food, many fish eating it when hungry. That makes it a great holiday food!>
The strings always float away and get caught in the impeller in my filter.
<My recommendation with Java fern is to buy plants already attached to bogwood. Much easier. Personally, I prefer Anubias. More expensive but much easier to grow and very, VERY long lasting.>
It's just a pain to me. And last, yessssssss, such an algae problem. Two month old tank that finally got done with diatom algae, green hair algae and now I am battling BBA. What a nightmare. Water changes reduced the Green Hair Algae but the BBA is a nightmare. I am going to cut clippings off of the plants affected. the Hygrophila and Anubis have gotten the brunt of it. I read online that Flourish Excel seems to have helped several people with BBA in their tank so I am going to try that.
<Wouldn't bank on this. Black Beard Algae is red algae, and red algae grows most in tanks with mediocre light and poor plant growth. The true Siamese Algae Eater will consume it, as will certain other fish such as Florida Flagfish and Ameca splendens (though this last species is very nippy).
Almost all algae problems are best contained by maximising light, adding fast-growing plants like Indian Fern and Vallisneria, and adding a few suitable algae eaters to clear up what the plants don't fix. Adding potions and products almost never works, and if your plants aren't thriving now, I can tell you the substrate is neither here nor there. Lighting is almost always the issue.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Converting to a planted tank - shutting off the under gravel filter 9/13/08
so i have this 55 gallon tank that I've been given charge of. it's been going for about 7 years. no plants, weak light. I'm putting in our budget next year money to up grade the lighting and put some plants in (and some more fish whee).
<Okay. If you're serious about plants, do spend the $ (or £, or whatever) on a good aquarium plants book -- money well spent. While lots of plants look similar, some do better in certain types of tank than others, and knowing which species to order online if your pet store doesn't have them makes a huge difference.>>
I've been reading all over on how to do a planted tank right, but converting a non planted to planted with my substrate I'm still not sure on. i currently have what i suppose could be called "generic aquarium gravel" in there. the pieces being .2 to 1 cm in size i guess. and an under gravel filter going on.
<The substrate will need an upgrade of some sort, perhaps the addition of aquarium/pond soil or some laterite.>
i understand a finer substrate is in order for a planted aquarium. but then, i don't exactly want to redo the entire eco system...so my thinking is that i will take about half the current gravel out and replace with something finer, probably some made for plants branded substrate on top of what i have now and let it over time mix up. Ok?
<Here's my advice for cheap and effective plant growth. Grab a bag of pond soil. It's sometimes called "aquatic soil" and you can get it at garden centres. It's essentially nitrate-free soil. The lack of nitrate means the water won't become polluted and your tank won't be overrun with algae. But being soil, it has lots of iron, copper, and all the other things plants like. Here's in England it's very cheap, a mere fraction the cost of Eco substrates, and easily 90% as good. If I recall, a 20 kilo bag (around 40 lb) costs under £5 (about $8). Put a 2-4 cm/1-1.5 inch layer of this into the bottom of the tank, and mix with some silica sand (again, "smooth silica sand" is widely sold in garden centres and costs even less than the soil). Fine pea gravel works just as well as sand, so choose whichever you like. Put a gravel tidy on top of this to keep it all in place, and then cover with gravel or silica sand as preferred. With the gravel tidy in place the fish can't expose the soil and make a mess, but the plants will send their roots into the stuff quite happily. It's a bit messy when you set the tank up, but after the filter is running a few days the tank will be spotless. Add your plants whenever you want, and off you go. A great aquatic plant substrate on a shoe-string budget! Works for me!>
The real worry i have and my question is this undergravel filter. what happens when i shut it off?
<Nothing much. The bacteria will die off course, but that's no big deal. Remove the gravel and the UG filter plate, clean up any nastiness (there won't be much, honestly) and then add your soil/sand mix on top.>
I'm not wanting to dig into the nasty underneath it and pull it out. I hope just to pull out the upshoot tubes and leave the thing in there.
<I wouldn't do this for lots of reasons. The main is that a dead "pocket" of water is not what you want in an aquarium. It's also a waste of space. Just pull the darn thing out... you're going to have to do this anyway for the plants.>
My hope is that all the detritus that's been sucked down inside it and to the bottom level of the gravel will just wait and become nutrients for the plants once the roots get down that far. But that will take some time.
<No, doesn't work that way. Trust me on this: you're saving ten minutes of work, but creating a huge disappointment in terms of how your plants will prosper. Plants need very specific things to thrive. Do also remember the alternatives: floating plants and epiphytes (species that grow attached to wood) don't need a substrate, and are JUST FINE with undergravel filters. You can create an amazing tank using just those kinds of plants. Anubias, Java fern, Bolbitis fern, Java moss, Riccia, Salvinia, Ceratopteris, Limnobium... just a few plants that would work in this kind of tank. Floating plants have roots that grow downwards, and epiphytes can be positioned at any level you want. With some care, you can create stunning displays with plants at every level.>
what do i have to worry about for the water of the aquarium when that stuff in the under gravel filter gets used to not having water pass through it?
<Don't do it this way. Not worth it. Cheers, Neale.>

29G planted tank, aeration, stkg... 8/22/07 Hello. I have acquired a great deal of information from your website over the past few years, and would first like to thank you all for the amount of work you put into enlightening the masses. As your time is precious, I will try to keep this short and to the point. <Appreciate this> I currently have, among other tanks, a 29 gallon planted aquarium with a pair of 1.5" Corydoras trilineatus catfish and one golden angel. The tank was cycled before any creatures were added, and the water quality (with routine water changes) has tested with flying colors. The plants are java ferns (4), water wisteria (7), and moneywort (5). Without any injected CO2, aside from the fishes' respiration, the plants are growing well. I currently use an airstone at night when the plants are sucking up the oxygen instead of producing it, <Good technique> but I wonder if leaving it off during the day is jeopardizing the fish. <Mmm, doubtful> Should I keep the airstone running at all times, or would that drive out too much of the CO2, and stunt/kill the plants that I feel are so beautifully balancing my ecosystem? <Perhaps try this and see... there are folks who in recent times have poo-pooed the idea of CO2 being driven off thus...> Secondly, I've been adding fish slowly, and I wonder if I can or even should add any other fish. <The Angel may go after most anything new...> The three fish get along very well. The two cories are inseparable, and swim all over the place. The angel swims around like he owns the place, <Does> practically eats from my hand, and will also nibble at the sinking wafers right alongside the cories without any chasing or harassing. I am content with just letting this tank grow and flourish without adding any other life forms, but I am wondering if keeping only 2 cories is keeping them from the schooling on which they thrive, and if my angel gets lonely, as hard as that is to type, haha. <Does not get lonely I assure you... You are its company> I apologize if this email seems like I'm fretting without cause, but I truly love all of the fish I keep, and want to make their lives as pleasurable as they make mine. Thanks again! Thomas <Ahhh! Perhaps another Corydoras or two of the same species... they may spawn... Bob Fenner>

Air Stones and Live Plants 8/1/07 I have thoroughly enjoyed spending some time with your website for the past several hours! Great stuff. I am getting back into the aquarist hobby after taking a 17 year hiatus! I am re-starting my 38 gallon tall aquarium set up with a Magnum 200 canister (still going strong). I would love to have live plants in the tank, but the last time (read 17 years ago), I remember having what I thought were circulation issues due to the depth of the tank. My LFS recommended a large air stone to help circulate the water. Now I read some of the FAQs and aeration doesn't seem to be a recommended practice for planted tanks. I would love your recommendation. I enjoy the serenity of some bubbles in a tank, so can I get away with some, but not a large stone? <Greetings. The deal with airstones, and indeed any form of turbulence in a planted aquarium, is that the splashing causes carbon dioxide (CO2) to leave the water. Since plants need this CO2 to thrive, when this is lost from the water, plant growth slows. In fact, serious plant growers use devices to *add* CO2 to the water and take care not to have any splashing that will cause the CO2 to be lost. To improve circulation, these tanks usually rely on pumps that move water about with the use the air bubbles. Any decent canister filter should provide enough circulation, but additional powerheads can be added if required. Regardless, in planted tanks, it is normal to *understock* the aquarium anyway, so water current is less critical than in a heavily stocked community tank. Bottom line: aim for good plant growth, or go for water with bubbles, but you can't really have both. Cheers, Neale>

What filter media to load into two canister filters in a planted tropical tank. 5/15/07 Hi, I have settled on buying a 42" x 18" W x 24" H tank that will be freshwater and well planted. <Sounds nice. By my estimate, that's 297 litres.> For filtration I like the idea of combining heating with filtration and I though I might go with an Eheim 2324 Thermo Filter canister. I thought the 500l per hour filtration rate a bit low though so if I added a 2213 Classic, I'd have a combined rate of filtration of 890 litres /hour - or so the online store site I use tells me. <Yes and no. The estimates given to canister filters are optimal, and assume the filter is [a] empty and [b] place alongside, NOT below, the filter. As soon as [a] you put filter media in that flow drops, and [b] when you put it *under* the tank it drops further because the pump must now work against gravity ("head pressure"). Realistically, downgrade the quoted turnover by 25%. Anyone who's used a canister filter for long will notice turnover declining over time, as the filter clogs up. Mine probably get down to about 50% estimated turnover before I get round to cleaning them! Anyway, assuming you're keeping only small tropical fish like neons and danios, you'll need not less than 4x the turnover of the tank for optimal water quality. For a 300 litre tank, less 15% for the substrate, that's about 250 litres of water in the tank which means you need about 1000 litres per hour filtration. So your 890 litres per hour total using the "best possible" estimates from the manufacturers is somewhat less than idea. If you can, round up to around 1200 litres per hour filtration.> The Classic looks a simple thing with no inbuilt filter trays and difficult to prime so maybe I could use that as a 'pure' biological filter just filled with ceramic 'hoops' or similar and clean it (or rather carefully rinse half of it) with tank water not so often?? but how often?? <My father used a very similar filter on his reef tank. These are good, durable filters with very little to go wrong. In freshwater aquaria, a simple combo of filter floss and ceramic media (in a media bag) works extremely well. Filter floss will be useful in a planted tank because it catches the inevitable silt from the substrate and decaying leaves. Otherwise, this silt clogs the ceramic media, reducing biological filtration. So I recommend this combo highly. As for cleaning the filter, less is more. Canister filters devoted to biological filtration work best the less they are fussed about with. I know experienced, highly successful aquarists who clean them literally once a year. I'm not quite so hard-core as this, but still, it's something to be done every 2-3 months rather than any more often. Your own mileage will vary, but to some extent the mantra is clean the filter when water flow drops below some threshold value. You certainly shouldn't need to do this more than once a month. If you do, it's likely because the filter is overwhelmed -- the more filters a tank has, the less maintenance it needs.> I thought perhaps some coarse to fine mechanical media in the thermo filter with maybe some activated carbon in a bag as it has trays so I could keep things easy to wash (in tank water)? <Bin the carbon. Useless in your aquarium. Carbon exists solely to remove dissolved organic materials. In the properly managed freshwater aquarium where you're doing 25-50% water changes weekly, the level of dissolved organics should be at or close to zero. Biological and mechanical media are all you really need.> I'm not keen on water treating chemical filter media as I'll use a 50/50 mix of R/O water and tap water to keep nitrates going into the tank at 15ppm, hardness moderate and pH at 7-7.5. I'll pre-treat for chloramines of course and add plant food. <Whilst I like using soft water in aquaria (I use rainwater, a cheap, green alterative to RO water) do factor in the cost/benefit ratio carefully. RO water is expensive to produce, and because of this people tend to "ration" it over time. Your fish and plants would prefer 50% weekly water changes of regular tap water over 20% weekly water changes of RO water. Most freshwater fish and plants generally adapt extremely well to hard, alkaline water, whereas old, stagnant water does indeed cause harm over time.> But what coarse to fine media and how often do I wash it?? <Doesn't matter. Use whatever suits your budget. The "deluxe" ceramic media like Siporax and Eheim's own media are excellent, but plain filter floss works fine as a sediment trap (perhaps better than anything else). Sponges are also excellent performers and very good value, lasting for many years.> And as I'd have the 'biological' canister could I not give the thermo filter a really good cleaning every water change? <Both filters need to have some mechanical filtration to keep the biological filter media from being clogged. Hence both will need the mechanical filter media cleared out or replaced periodically. So treat them as equals rather than trying to force one to be a biological filter and the other a mechanical filter. The water won't work this way, so neither should you.> Oh and would it be suitable for an intake pipe that draws some surface water in? I don't like to see any 'scum' on the surface. <I believe Eheim and perhaps others make devices (Eheim call their a Surface Extractor) that do exactly this. Your retailer should be able to help. This said, in a planted aquarium, removing overgrowth, hair algae, and dead leaves at the surface is a weekly job.> As for returning water back to the tank what are your thoughts on spay bars vs. returning it below the surface? <Splashing at the surface is important for maximizing the surface area and so allowing oxygen into the water and CO2 out. HOWEVER, in a planted tank, you don't want to drive off CO2, and more than likely you will using a CO2 fertilization system to deliberately add CO2 to the water. So you probably want to avoid too much turbulence at the top of the tank.> I intend to draw water into the filters at one end (front and back corners) and return at the other. <Sounds fine, but be prepared to move things about. Adding a small internal filter in a "dead" corner can also be very useful, even if the amount of filtration it provides is trivial.> Your helpful thoughts as ever welcome. Thanks, Charlie <No problems. Good luck, Neale>

Re: What filter media to load into two canister filters in a planted tropical tank. 5/15/07 Hi. Thank you for your comments - most helpful. <Cool.> My reason for using some R/O water is that our tapwater has nitrates of 30+ppm and I was hoping to reduce it to 15ppm by mixing 50% R/O with tapwater for each change. That would also reduce the hardness as it is very hard alkaline stuff from the tap here. <30 ppm nitrate levels aren't bad for a freshwater aquarium at all. If you have a light loading of fish and lots of rapid plant growth, you should be fine even without RO water. As for the hardness, neutral, moderately hard water is, admittedly, optimal for many fish. But if you have hard, alkaline water, then one option is to concentrate on plants and fish that appreciate such conditions. Many plants thrive in hard water using the carbonate as a carbon source for photosynthesis, and among the fishes that prefer such conditions are livebearers, halfbeaks, rainbowfish and various other atherinids, and of course lots of cichlids. Even some tetras and barbs do well in such conditions, the x-ray tetra (Pristella maxillaris) doing well at up to pH 8, hardness 35 dH in the wild! It even lives in slightly brackish water. So the idea you have to go for soft, acid water for tropical fish is very wrong. In fact, one benefit of hard water is the breathtaking stability in terms of pH changes. If you ever keep a really soft water aquarium, monitoring the pH at least weekly can become a real chore.> The waste R/O will go for watering - although would it be suitable for a pond at all? I appreciate it would be mineral rich stuff though... <It's fine in the garden, assuming you have lime-loving plants. Obviously acid-loving things like heathers and azaleas aren't so keen on waste RO water. As for the pond, up to a point you could put some in there, as goldfish especially like quite hard, slightly alkaline water. But you would still want to maintain a pH of 7.5, no higher, and a hardness at or below 20 dH. So I'd be tempted to use waste water in the pond only sparingly. Cheers, Neale>

Planted Discus Tank... filtration/circulation 12/12/06 Hi Crew! <Mike> I'm in the process of setting up a moderately planted 100 gallon discus tank. <Some fun!> About the last bit of research I need to complete before adding water has to do with filtration. I'm planning on using canister filters for filtration, but am not quite sure how to balance the discus' preference for reasonably calm waters with their filtration needs and the plants needs for some current to facilitate biological processes. <Easy to do... using the spray bars for the returns... near the surface is best... at one end or both> My original thought was to use two Eheim Professional II, model 2126. They are rated at 250 gallons/hour for a combined total of 500 gallons/hour. <I have two of these fine filters> Couple of questions: What is a reasonable water turnover rate given my somewhat contradictory considerations? <This, these will be fine... not as vigorous a movement per unit time as you might think, consider> Assuming no additional sources of current in the tank, would the two Eheims be too much? Too little? <IMO/E right about right> I really want to get this right from the onset and appreciate your assistance. Happy Holidays, Mike <And to you and yours. At the near-surface for the discharges... Bob Fenner> Re: Planted Tank Question... chem. filtrant use 12/18/06 Hi Bob, Thanks for the quick reply. When you mentioned not using PhosPure pads or 'other chemical filtrants', does that included plain activated carbon, carbon pads, and/or ammonia removing resins? If so, how come? Or am I reading too much into your comment? Thanks again, Kerry <Sorry for this confusion... After I had just sent your response I had misgivings re this issue. I would actually use (periodically... perhaps replacing monthly) a bit of activated carbon (just not other more-specific contactors) in your filter flow path. The bogwood you mention in particular will tend to discolor your water... and the carbon will handily solve this. Bob Fenner>

Protein skimmer in freshwater planted aquarium <<Tom here, Dan.>> As previously stated, I have converted a 75 gal. saltwater to a freshwater setup. Per your advice, I will remove the bio-balls from the sump, and plan to add live plants to the aquarium after that. <<Sounds good'¦>> One more question--Would the protein skimmer provide any benefit or useful purpose in this set-up? <<Not really. Not to say it won't work at all but it won't work nearly as effectively in freshwater as it does in saltwater. Not to 'belabor' the issue but it's a good question and one that's asked from time to time. Proteins (dissolved organics) have a high affinity for air. Left unchecked, these form a scummy/soapy film on the water's surface. Yucky/smelly stuff. The skimmer produces air bubbles in a 'contact chamber' to which the proteins attach themselves, rise to the surface and remain as a foam in a collection cup/container. The quantity of foam collected is dependent on three factors: the amount of dissolved organics in the water, the overall 'air surface' of the bubbles and time of contact between the organics and bubbles (air surface). It's the second of these that's the 'tail that wags the dog', so to speak. Since saltwater has more 'surface tension' than freshwater, the bubbles created -- by whatever method the skimmer employs -- will be much smaller than those created in freshwater. Small bubbles yield a much greater air surface by volume than large bubbles and, therefore, will attract more of the organics. Small bubbles also rise less quickly than large bubbles allowing for more 'contact time'. All that said, aren't there companies that manufacture skimmers designed to work in freshwater? Certainly (if you've got the money), but it's a fair bet that the one you already have isn't one of these. Okay, so what if it doesn't work as well? Wouldn't it still be a good idea to use one? Well, let's consider economics here. I can change out a lot of water in my freshwater tanks very inexpensively compared to what it costs to power a protein skimmer 24 hours per day. (Saltwater's far more expensive to replace, however, which makes a skimmer in a marine tank a cost-effective piece of equipment.) It's really your call here, Dan, but good filtration and regular water changes are a more effective, and cheaper, method of keeping water quality high in your application.>> Thank You. <<Not a problem and thanks for letting me 'ramble'. Tom>>

Two questions: Planted tank lighting, filter choice 8/6/06 Good evening! <Yawnnnn! AM now> I loooove your site and have been on it for the last 3 hours reading and trying to learn. I have done searches within the FAQ's and forums. I have learned alot, <... no such word> but unfortunately I am a person who has a very difficult time understanding information. <?> I have read and re-read many articles and forums. I also realize the two questions I have are ones that can take paragraphs to answer but hopefully I can cover enough in my question to need only minimal answers. I currently have a 3 month old 50 acrylic planted tank with 10 cardinal tetras, 4 Glowlight tetras, two Cory cats, 5 japonica shrimp, 3 Featherfin rainbows and two Oto cats. My plants are doing fine and are sprouting out new growth right and left - even little roots from the leaves. I have primarily Java ferns, Swords, Val.s and Sagittaria, but have two bunch plants: Hornwort and Fanwort. I have Eco Complete substrate mixed with gravel. I also have several pieces of driftwood which gives that water a pale amber colour. I do 10 - 20% water changes every other week. My water is good: 0 nitrite, 0 ammonia, 0 nitrate, ph 7.4. temp 76. I am using a small pump on the bottom of the tank to circulate water and have an Eheim 2215 as the main filter. There are still small particulates in the water. <Yes... will be so till the driftwood completely dissolves or is removed> I do not have a CO2 system in place. The lighting was heavily pushed/recommended to me by my LFS: one Coralife strip with 2 ESU Reptile Desert 7% UVB F18 T5 BP bulbs and a second light strip with 1@10000K, F20 T12 BP bulb. <Interesting. Should work> Here are my questions: Is my lighting sufficient for a planted tank? <Mmm... yes... though, could be improved> LFS trying to convince me to buy a VHO light strip with bulbs. I cannot quite remember, but there are four bulbs altogether (two pairs) and the bulbs seem to be attached to each other. Each pair of bulbs has a white bulb and a blue bulb. There are two little fans on the lighting strip. <Mmm... you don't need the "blue bulbs"...> I am adding another filter to work alongside the 2215: either an Eheim 2026 or 2028. Which would be better? <The larger...> I can't thank you enough for any help you can provide. Your site is fantastic and I really appreciate the fact that you guys maintain not only the site, but still have time to answer questions. Thank you in advance and I certainly understand if you receive too many questions to respond. Sincerely, Beverley <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/lightingags.htm and the linked files above. Perhaps writing down what you consider pertinent facts one by one... a technique I developed to help me concentrate/focus, and remember. Bob Fenner>

Air pumps, aerating planted tanks - 05/13/2006 I was reading in a book and it said that keeping air pumps on during the day is not really a good idea... if you have plants. <Can be detrimental... as this "drives out" Carbon dioxide, adds oxygen...> It did not really give a reason but it said that since photosynthesis stops during the night hours, <Actually... the dark reaction/s of photosynthesis occur during non-lighted periods...> and everything in the tank gives off carbon dioxide, that it is a good idea to have an air pump / air stone running at night. Should I leave air running all day or do what the book suggests. Thank You <I would likely leave all running continuously... much more to this "story" then stated here... likely other factors are much more important to your overall plant growth, health... Too much chance, possibility of trouble with leaving gear off... Bob Fenner>

Discussing Discus issues 04/17/2006 Hi there! <Howdy> I have been planning a planted discus aquarium for the last 6 months and have done all the reading and watching I believe I can. <Heee!> I have drawn sketches in order to aquascape the tank with plants so as not to mess around with anything once I place them in there. <Good technique> I'm at the stage now where I have a few unanswered questions: Is it necessary to have extra aeration in the tank or is the plants sufficient? <Mmm, well, necessary to have sufficient circulation to provide for gas exchange, oxygen solubility... day and especially night... can be provided in other ways than with "bubblers" though> What plants can you suggest for a 250L tank? <Posted on WWM> How many discus should i have? <Also posted> I want to have a lot of variety and colour, so what discus will give me this? In other words what collection of discus will give me colour and coexist happily? <... not a matter, issue of this> I am planning to house the discus with a ghost knife, 3 Corydoras cats, 3 Bristlenose cats, 2 dwarf cichlids. are these okay?? <Depending on species... yes> I am hoping you have time to assist me and thank you so very much Jarryd. P.S your website is great!!!) <Thank you. Enjoy using it a bit more. Bob Fenner> Carbon and Plants 11/30/05 Love the Conscientious Marine Aquarist. Do you think that the addition of activated carbon to a planted fresh water tank, that I routinely add fertilizer to, will remove the fertilizer needed by my plants? John <Yes, and will quickly become inactive carbon as it does. Unless you are trying to remove a known chemical contamination I would not add extra carbon. Don>

Carbon and plant fertilizer products 7/17/05 Hello and thanks for all your help in the past. Quick question. Will I remove carbon from my filter if I am using Plant Gro. <Yes> I say yes, the aquarium staff at local store say no. Which is it? Can't find anything regarding instructions or anywhere on the net......................Regards Craig P. <Carbon of any quality, freshness will remove some of the fertilizer. Bob Fenner> Planted tank sump 7/10/05 I have searched this and related questions on your site. Good stuff, you guys and gals are a wonderful resource. I hope to contribute shortly on setting up a large planted tank. But first need to call on some vast experience. This is of course where you all can help please. <Will try> I am in the process of setting up the following planted Arowana tank and need some advice. I have been to the Arowana forums and want to hear from US aquarium enthusiasts now. 84 x 36 x 30 acrylic tank drilled with two 1" supply and 1-1/2" returns, potential for reef later. <Okay> DIY welded tube steel stand 2x2 - 1/4" - plenty of support and room underneath <Need it...> 100 gallon acrylic sump tank - not drilled yet (hence the following questions) 96watts x 6 CP Florescent under DIY custom hood <That is firmly attached... jumpers> with fans and timers 4" Seachem Fluorite substrate 350 watt Dupla undergravel cable heater, transformer, controller. CO2 system with regulator, computer, and 1000 AquaMedic CO2 canister. 3/4 hp flow through style chiller 40RXL Iwaki pump Eheim 2080 canister - The new one that just came out 450gph. 2260 in reserve Planning a Arowana and other small species Oto's and tetras in a heavily landscaped and drift wooded tank. <Mmm, the Arowana will likely eat a bunch of the smaller fishes> There is a water softener / carbon filter on the city supply into the house, but I can get source water before the filters. I think the Eheim will handle the fish load mechanical /biological cleaning and would like the sump for the monthly 100 gallon changes. The chiller will be needed to offset the lighting and gravel heating to maintain 74-76 degrees. Now to the questions...concerns I would like to use the sump to do the "secondary circulation", i.e. water changes and conditioning, cooling, and any extra filtering (if needed, I hope to avoid). Mostly to turn the water over for cooling, but I am concerned about CO2 loss in the water drop from the tank overflows. Is this an issue? <Likely not... can route the discharges under water to cut down turbulence, carbon dioxide loss> Secondly, I would like to be able to drain the water for changes in the main tank out through a tee valved pipe above the sump return, through the wall and to the outside of the house. Then I could shut down secondary circulation to add city water back through another pipe into the sump to sit until conditioned, tested, and ready for circulation into the main tank. Then I could start the pump and chiller, and gravel heater back up. The house has A/C and stays about 78 most of the time. Please comment on this, any potential pitfalls etc? <The teed secondary valving, pump... I would be careful re... Only do so yourself... and only when present... potential for disaster in actual practice> Would like to set up a manual valve system, as I don't trust the automated valves. <Me neither> Please make suggestions, any advice is greatly regarded and appreciated. Thanks GW <From what I understand of your plan, all sounds well thought out... Should be an impressive display. Bob Fenner>

Aeration and a Planted Tank - 06/07/2005 Thanks for all the good advice so far. It has been very helpful over the years. <I am delighted that you have found WWM useful; thank you very much for the kind words....> I have a 90 gallon tank...18 months old...with two Emperor 400s, 80 degrees, 5 angelfish, 11 Cory cats, and 7 Bristlenose Plecos...the Plecos spawn constantly. <An excellent bonus, to be sure!> I also have a 30 gallon cube...one month old, but I stole a BioWheel from my established tank...with an Emperor 280, 75 degrees and two goldfish...an Oranda and a moor. I change 10% of the water every day and vacuum the tanks once weekly. <Wow! You've sure got me beat. I tend to be a lot more lax about maintenance.... Now, I know we typically crack the whip on folks and tell them to do MORE maintenance on their tanks, but a word of caution, if you plan to plant a tank heavily, you'll not want to vacuum the gravel each week.... and, being that the substrate is where your little nitrifying pals colonize, be sure not to be *too* thorough in your weekly vacuum job.> I have been running air stones in both tanks...2 in the 90 gal and one in the 30 gal...to increase oxygen content in the water. <I'm sure the Plecs and Corys especially delight in this, as they come from areas that usually have high oxygen content, though it may not be an absolute necessity.> I bought a small piece of Anubis Nana rooted on bogwood for the goldfish tank and some Java Fern and Anubis Nana for the angelfish tank which I tied to existing bogwood so it could root. The LFS told me that I should discontinue the air stones now that I have added plants...something to do with CO2 levels. Is that right? <Well, yes and no. These VERY hardy plants will take just about anything you can dish up - very low light, low CO2, low nutrient levels, etc., etc.... You need not change anything you are currently doing to please them. You can keep your aeration, maintenance scheme, and all.> I do not want to stop the extra aeration if I don't have to do so. <No worries. If you choose to plant the tank heavily with plants in the substrate, you'll want to make some major changes (less frequent gravel vacuuming, for one), but the Anubias and java fern will do fine for you. You could lightly plant the tank with plants in the substrate, as well - if you do so, I would recommend heavy root feeders like Amazon swords, Crinum or Vallisneria, Cryptocorynes, and Aponogetons, and give them some nice fertilizer tabs in the substrate around them, and you could still keep your aeration.... If you plant the tank heavily, though, you'll want to do some research on how best to change your tank. Diana Walstad's book on low-tech, low-maintenance planted tanks is great, as is Peter Hiscock's "Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants", which details lighting, fertilizing, adding CO2, and much much more.> James Nyman <Wishing you continuing success with your aquaria, -Sabrina>

Optimal Filtration Quest for a 29 gal. Planted Tank Dear Crew, <Leticia... one of my sister's daughters names> I am sorry if this question is redundant, but I searched the archives and could not find the answer to my quest. I have a 29g FW with a Flora base substrate and 2x55W Power compacts which I intend to make a medium to heavily planted community tank. My questions are: 1) Is one of the new Penguin bio-wheels an adequate source of filtration for a planted tank? <Should be, yes> (Or will the bio-wheel take up waste that the plants will absolutely need? <Mmm, no... a balance will be struck> I intend to have the tank pretty well stocked - cardinals, Rasboras, hatchets, blue rams, Corys, Otos). <Sounds very nice> And 2) What is the ideal turnover I should get? Would it be harmful to the plants to go with 350 gph, or should I only do 200? <Either will work... I'd go with the smaller myself> Oh, and since we're here, one more: Is it at all possible to have a tank whose bottom is fully planted and would not need vacuuming? How would I keep this healthy? <Yes, can be done... with careful feeding, maintenance otherwise> Thank you so much for your help. I know time is a rare commodity these days, but I think without your help I would have given up on this hobby a long time a go - I'm glad I haven't! Leticia <Me too. Bob Fenner>

Filtration on Saltwater and Planted tanks Hi to all!! Great website- I have found tons of useful info. I have to separate questions regarding two different tanks (sorry if I should have done to separate emails). First, I have a 125 gallon tank that is in the process of cycling. The ammonia is almost at zero and the nitrites and nitrates are still high. I have the diatom process starting in the past few days. I have the AquaClear Pro 150 wet/dry system with pre-filter and built in protein skimmer. The unit is powered by a Eheim 1260 pump. I also have 3 powerheads (2 Zoo Meds Power Sweep 228 and a Maxi-Jet 1200). <Hello Karen. I don't believe you will like your power sweep before long. The gears in these things are almost like watch gears, will get jammed from debris going through them, you'll be cleaning this quite a bit> I have a combination of Seaflor special grade reef sand, Arag-Alive special grade and 40 lbs of live sand to equal a depth of 3 inches. I also have 165 lbs of live rock. For lighting I have an Orbit CF Lunar Light with 2 96 watt dual actinic and 2 96 watt dual daylight and 6 lunar lights <You are a little weak on lighting if you plan on keeping corals/anemones. Your at 3 watts/gallon and need to be up around 4-5 watts/gallon> After reading about the wet/dry filters and their high nitrate capabilities I am not sure I want to stick with this filter. If I keep it and take the bio balls out do I need to take the foam block out of the sump? <Leave the foam block but clean it weekly> I do remember that you have said to take the filter pad out also. I think I also recall that you had said something about adding Ehfimech to the sump to rid of excess nitrates, is this correct and if I was to add some live sand in the sump would I just add the media on top of it? <To add live sand to a sump, the unit needs to be designed for it, such as a refugium, or you will need to create a baffle of some kind to prevent the sand from being sucked up. Live sand will help reduce nitrates but get at the root of the problem. If the system is in balance you should not have excessive nitrates unless your system is overstocked, you overfeed, do not do weekly water changes etc> My protein skimmer is working great, but was wondering if it would benefit if I added another one to the system or if it would make that much of a difference? <You can't have too much protein skimming, and sure it will help> I also have an Eheim Pro II 2028 that I am not using right now. Would I benefit by adding this filter to my tank in addition to my wet/dry or could I run my tank with just this canister filter plus a skimmer without any reduction in filtration- what would you do? <I would use the Eheim with Chemi-Pure to aid in waste removal. Chemi-Pure has a very low phosphate content in their carbon plus the added benefit of two ion exchange resins and two scavenger resins.> My other question has to do with my 75 gallon plant/ rainbowfish tank. I have the dreaded Eheim wet/dry filtration on it. I know you guys dislike this filter for saltwater tanks- does the same go for freshwater? Would it be better to put my Eheim 2028 on this tank? I know that this filter does not have much of a carbon pad but if I ran it with the pad in there continuously would that take all the plant nutrients out of the water? I started out with fluorite as the substrate, but I am disappointed. I rinsed it out many many times and it still causes cloudiness in my tank if it is stirred up. I was thinking about replacing it with EcoComplete, any thoughts on this product? I also have the deluxe fully-automatic CO2 system with this tank.. <Karen, it sounds like you're serious about plants so search the wet web for freshwater plants for some useful info along with the Q&A at Drs. Foster & Smith. James (Salty Dog)> Sorry about the two separate questions and thanks for your time. Karen

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>

Marine filter gear for Planted system Hello ? for freshwater aquarium I have a 55 gallon FW aquarium and I just brought a dirt cheap Aqua refugium pro series with built in skimmer with pumps lighting and Bo balls for $150 new, the person I brought it from told me that someone told her that she could not used it for freshwater tank, know, I know nothing about reef aquarium but I know that biological matter is good for freshwater tanks also finally my? I would like to know what ways could I used this set up to benefit my aquarium what sort of thing should I put in the refugium area that are natural what are the best way I could get the water to go from my tank to my refugium Please if possible anything that you could or would put in you on freshwater tank if you had this set or have please do not hold back. Big or small, cheap or expensive. Thank you I appreciate any advice that maybe giving I am tired of my local pet store that can't really tell me nothing and seem unsure them selves. Keep in mine that my tank has not yet been started so thing that I could put in the main tank that are natural, that would help with the keep of my fish. list of what I already have for tank undergravel filter whisper heater which was brought rated for the refugium PGP power reactor C02 system and Hagen plant grow natural system with co2 (not sure if I should use both and if so should I put one the return of the refugium sump) plan to have a well planted tank (low mnt.) also if it possible with your advice < Dump the undergravel filter and the sand that came with the tank. Fill the bottom of the tank with well washed Fluorite by SeaChem. Three inches should be fine. The light bulb should be florescent and be around 5000K. The heater is Ok and should be set at 78 to 80 degrees. Dump the refugium and get a canister filter that will pump up to 400 gallons per hour. If you want to go with stem plants then you will probably need a co2 system. -Chuck>

Canister filters and possible gear reviews by Gage Hey Bobster, <Gage> I just purchased some via-aqua canister filters for my new 125gal fw plant tank, so far they suck just as much as every other canister filter I have used, a couple extra pros, a few cons, blah blah blah. So far I have experienced the magnum 330, the Rena xp1/2/3, via aqua 650, and it will not be hard to get my hands on a Fluval 404. All the big ones except for the Eheims (too expensive). I think our site could use an honest review of canister filters, what do you think? <I strongly agree. As a matter of fact, we could REALLY use an ongoing review of most all products in our interest... you might be just the enterprising individual to engage (sorry, couldn't help m'self)> One of the fish mag.s I get had a two part piece on canisters comparing all of the aforementioned, but it really left me not knowing any more than I already did. Like the author did not want to piss off any of the manufacturers. I'd like to say "This one sucks for this reason, but is good for this, and this one sucks for this reason, and for my money I would go with this one." <Too, too common. I have had book reviews omitted, changed to being "all positive" for the same lack of reason by editors... Arggghhhh> I love canister filters, but after all what exactly are they, I am convinced they are all a pain in the arse? Water leaves the tank, through the media and back to the tank again, wouldn't that make the media more important than the canister itself (ignoring maintenance, gph, ease of use, contact time with media, etc)? Gage <An interesting point of view. I am still a big fan for certain applications, and brands, esp. Eheim. Canister filters are not the end-all for all types of systems, but do have their place. Write on brother. Bob Fenner>

UGF and High pH? - 04/14/2004 Hi guys.... <Hello> I have a 39G high tank that has been set up for 10+ years. All of a sudden my ph is 7.6 , no ammonia, no nitrates, I do a 25% water change 1-2 x a month. <"All of a sudden".... Have you added any new rock recently? New substrate? Anything at all new in the system?> I have a undergravel filter. LFS says that is the problem with the pH. <If the UGF is properly maintained, I doubt that this is likely at all. Do you regularly vacuum the substrate? Any large pieces of decor that would create a "dead spot" under the UGF plate?> PH used to be 6 and then it went up and won't go down. My live plants are not enjoying it. Should I just remove UGF.... I know the plants would be happier? <The plants would certainly do better without it, that's for sure. But I am not convinced that the UGF is the cause of your problems.... Have you tested your source water? Removed peat or driftwood from the system? Changed the manner in how you go about regular maintenance? Added or removed anything at all in the system that may have contributed?> Please advise. Monica <Hope to help you get to the bottom of this.... Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Planted tank filtration options Hey you guys rock and your solid info is priceless. When I upgraded my freshwater planted set-up early last year I got all the fancy stuff except for filtration. The tank is a 72gal bowfront and I'm using two magnum 350s I had laying around for filtration, one half filled with SeaChem renew and half SeaChem PhosGuard, the other filled with SeaChem Matrix bio media. The tank is heavily planted and has a fairly heavy fish load, seven clown loaches (1"-4" they'll get a larger tank in a couple years), one red-tailed black shark, four yo-yo loaches, four Kuhli loaches, seven Otos, a small 3" royal Plec. The tank also tons cherry, Amano, and red-nosed shrimp that seem to multiply like rabbits along with about 3 dozen Nerites snails and a dozen freshwater clams. I'm having a hard time controlling phosphate levels and using PhosGuard is helping but it's only temporary, usually the first few days after changing the media and cleaning the filter sleeves everything looks good and then I get hair algae blooms on slow growing plants. I sparingly feed frozen bloodworms, beef heart, and tetra flakes. Cleaning the Magnums is a real pain in the @ss and I'd like to upgrade my filtration. I'm leaning toward an Eheim wet-dry but I'd like to know any other options or opinions on this. Due to space restrictions (back of tank only 2" from wall, and the entire inside back of the tank is covered with cork bark) I have little other options other than a canister set-up. So would a single Eheim wet dry be better than my two magnums? Or would the improvement be minimal and instead should I only run one magnum? Thanks. >>Hello :D The Eheim wet-dry will not provide enough mechanical filtration. It is intended for bio-filtration, so you should run another filter for the mechanical. Perhaps another Eheim, regular canister, the Professional series, something heavy duty yet easy to clean. You should clean it bi-monthly. I am interested in knowing how often you vacuum your substrate. Anoxic substrates can lead to algae problems over time...and a year sounds about right. What do your nitrates read? You may need to clean up the substrate, and that is not a job I envy. With your high fish load and even with the light feedings, you are getting just way too many DOC's. :O -Gwen

Planted tank filtration - Follow-up Thanks for the response. It is difficult to vacuum my substrate do to the plant coverage but I did remove a number of plants, vacuumed the substrate, and replanted. I'm somewhat perplexed as to why all my plant growth has slowed down so significantly. My previous tanks have done this over time but I went with substrate heating and 100% fluorite substrate this time around in order to avoid everything going stale in that area. My light bulbs (4-65watt 6500K CF) are about 8mos old and I'm going to go ahead and replace two of them next week. I do a 10-15% water change weekly, add SeaChem iron, and trace element fertilizer, as well as add tab fertilizers every 3mos. Most of my stem plants grow about an inch a week which is less than half the growth I've seen in the past, crypts are being consumed by hair algae, the mother Rubin sword has ceased multiplying like crazy, and a once beautiful dwarf lily is slowly melting away while one other has just gone dormant. After much exhausting research I'm starting to think that maybe my bio-filtration is just too strong. I have a magnum 350 completely filled with SeaChem matrix, this with the entire back of a 72gal tank covered in natural cork bark (which I would think would be ideal for bacteria colonies) along with any bacteria in the substrate. Is it possible that the bacteria is breaking down the bad stuff so fast that it's leaving my plants too little or an imbalance of macro nutrients? It seems like on planted tanks I've done in the past the plants did best when the bio-filtration was at its weakest (after haphazard filter cleaning) and test showed very slight amounts of ammonia or nitrite present. >>Hey Alan :D The cork background bothers me...how is it attached? I would worry about anything behind it that may be decaying and deteriorating your water quality. This would result in an imbalance in your tank, leading to algae and other problems. Do you measure your nitrates? Ammonia, nitrites? Yes, plants consume those, but plant tanks do equally well without the levels being high enough to register on our test kits. Plants also consume nitrates. But overstocked-with-fish planted tanks can be imbalanced...And how about phosphates? Do you test for those? How about CO2, do you add that? All things must be balanced. High lighting and lots of fertilizer means you will need CO2 so your plants can breathe.. I doubt the filter is the problem. I think your problem, again, is a too-high fish load. In other words, your filter cannot "break down the bad stuff" if there is no bad stuff to begin with, and fish are the producers of the "bad stuff". Thusly, less fish = less waste. Algae need two things to flourish...light, and food. You are providing both, and the algae is out-competing the plants for it. Imbalance problems can be complex, and hard to trouble-shoot. I would recommend reading some of the material here: http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/ and see if you can find out where your imbalance lies.. HTH -Gwen

Planted filtration options Thanks for the quick reply and I hope I'm not dragging this out but you couldn't be more correct in that imbalance problems are complex and hard to pinpoint. I did some test last night; nitrite=0, ammonia=0, KH=4, phosphate=.5 (second to bottom of scale), I also tested the tap water for phosphate and got no measurable reading, I didn't have a nitrate kit but will test tonight for that. The tank does have high pressure co2 injection with a ph controller that keeps the tank at a constant 6.7ph, my tap water comes out at 7.4. I have spent countless hours reading over material from theKrib and WWM and like they say if you look long enough you'll find someone that agrees with you. I found this article that somewhat backs up my theory that bio-filtration just produces excess nitrates that are less readily taken up by the plants and if given the opportunity the plants could effectively do a better job than bacteria. Here is an brief part of the statement... "For most of us with freshwater systems, the nitrogen sink is the front yard during our water changes. However, plants are excellent nitrogen sinks (and nitrogen uptake is so good by plants that nitrogen availability is the limiting factor for vegetative growth in the VAST majority of terrestrial systems). I hear many aquarists with heavily planted tanks report nitrate levels at zero because the plants utilize it all for biomass production (although light, CO2, and other nutrients must be available). Adding a biological filter only provides opportunity for Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter to fix the ammonia to nitrite to nitrate, simply to remove it from the (more) toxic lower states to the minimally toxic higher state of nitrate. However, we still end up with something that we want (eventually) removed from the system. So why bother? Why not just go for the source, and remove the nitrogen immediately and directly in its lower state? plants can more readily take up ammonia and nitrite, so why bother with the bacteria at all? If you have plants to buffer the change, the bacteria actually SLOWS this process down, even to the point of allowing nitrogenous wastes to accumulate in the system. The argument "Well, plants may not be able to buffer that change fast enough" is baloney sausage (BS). We trust bacteria to do it, so why not plants? Bacteria is capable of hitting a geometric growth curve in a short period of time, yes; but these populations are largely steady-state in a cycled aquarium, so their geometric growth curve is not an advantage to a cycled system. Likewise, plants can easily be the established infrastructure in the system WAITING for the ammonia to absorb, WAITING for the opportunity to grow. Same thing. Even if the bacteria is MUCH more efficient, (which they probably are), that is more than compensated for by the fact that you have THOUSANDS (millions?) of times more plant mass than you have bacterial mass in a typical planted tank. Similarly, the bacteria IS NOT efficient at REMOVING the nitrogen (fixing it into an inaccessible form: biomass or N2 gas). It doesn't do that at all! (Unless your substrate went anaerobic and all your fish and plants died.) It merely converts it to another state, which still must be removed. Now, PLANTS ACTUALLY REMOVE IT by putting it in an inaccessible bio-mass state. Also, your friends thank you when you give your nitrogen waste away in the form of plant cuttings." >>Hey Alan, yes, I understand. You would need to experiment with the quantity of fish required to remove the ammonia and nitrite in your particular system, however. That could take some time, and could lead to some deaths along the way. But it would be interesting to see at what stocking level you would succeed at. Are you going to try to do something along those lines? -Gwen<<

Filtration (and more) for Planted Aquaria Wow, this is quite and informative site. How long has this been around? <Ooh, good question. You got my curiosity piqued, so I had to ask Bob - WWM as you now know it came to be in 1999, though it got started as Q/A for Flying Fish Express in the mid- to late- '90s.> I wish I had known about it with my first tank. Then again I should have read a little more back then, I feel bad for the fish in my first tank knowing what I know now... I'm much more 'researched' this time around! <Excellent - and you'll probably have that much more fun now, too!> I've had a tough time finding a good LFS or someone that seems to know what they're talking about at these chain stores... <All too common, unfortunately.> My first tank was a FW, 55 gallon, planted, community tank. I moved 6 years ago but it stayed. I will be setting up a brand new 72 gallon, bow front, freshwater, planted, community tank. My first question is regarding filtration: I would like to get a canister filter so I can store it in the stand, out of sight and less noise. <Canister filters are the best way to go for planted aquaria, as well.> I'm looking at the Eheims (not sure on the wet/dry option). <Eheims are excellent filters, the "cream of the crop". Probably the best choice available, IMO. As for the wet/dry option, I think this would be unnecessary for a plant tank.> I've read here and other areas that 5-10X turnover is a good way to go. The big Eheims rate at 270ish GPH and claim it's good up to 90+ gallons. That is only 3+ times turnover for a 72 gallon tank, even less for a 90. Are these filters that efficient? <Eheims really are quite good filters. Though it might be the best option to go with two smaller Eheims, instead of one large one - if cost isn't a factor. On planted aquaria, one can get by with rather little filtration, even, provided the tank is well planted and not overstocked on fish. If this is the case, don't be too terribly concerned with turning over water as much as you would on an unplanted (or sparsely planted) tank.> Will it be enough, or should another type of filter be added like an internal sponge? <The 270 GPH Eheim would be just fine, I believe. Were I to upgrade my filtration, I'd definitely go with an Eheim.> For the money I could create a whirlpool with a few box filters at a combined 800PGH with money left over, <LOL! A planted aquatic hurricane.... Honestly, the Eheim would be a much better bet. The air-powered box filters I don't like to recommend - aeration will work against you and your plants by letting too much CO2 out of the water.> but I'd like all the filtration and devices to be as hidden as possible, might even do the thermo canister! <Now that's something I'd recommend against. Maybe just me, but I feel a lot safer with the heater actually in the tank. If for some reason the filter got clogged or stopped somehow, on a cold winter night, you might not have fish to wake up to.> I can also get this tank with an overflow in the corner. Is there some advantage to this devise? Seems to be a nice way to have the canister's in/out pipes hidden. <Usually, overflows are used with sump systems. Though you might be able to make use of it with a canister, it's an unnecessary expense, in my opinion.> My second question is stocking related: I'm looking to stock a school of tiger barbs, zebra Danios and some form of tetra, probably a school of Serpae tetras. I would like to add a few angels too. I know the barbs are fin nippers, but I've had them together before and the angels spawned to then eat their fry. <I would definitely recommend against angels with these fish. Tiger barbs and Serpae tetras are both aggressive nippers. Though the angels might be able to hold their own, I fear it'd be an unhappy situation for them. I'd also be afraid they'd grow up and eat the zebra Danios. Might you consider black-skirted tetras as an angel substitute? They are somewhat similar in appearance, but are very "tetra" in demeanor - would get on well with the other nippers. Fair warning though, tetras and barbs will chew on your plants some, as well.> Anyway, what is a good choice for bottom dwellers? I could get some Corydoras, which I like, but I really want to get some inverts too. <Corys are nice, and would do fine in your tank.> A crab would be great, but wouldn't it eat the Cory? <And any other fish unfortunate enough to get too close for too long. With the fast moving schoolers that you've chosen, though, they'd be less at risk than, say, a Betta. I would fear for the Corys, though.> I'm just getting to the stage of researching what I want in the tank, so shrimp are on the list. What kind of inverts will work that will not become either predator or prey. <I'd skip crabs, then; they'll prey on the shrimp, for sure. But as far as shrimp go, you have oodles of options. For something sizeable, wood shrimp (Singapore/bamboo/flower shrimp, all the same) are an attractive animal, and not terribly shy at all. Even at their size (up to 4"), they are incapable of eating fish or other shrimp. They will have to be fed sinking foods that break up into a fine "dust", like shrimp pellets, etc. For smaller guys, "Amano" algae eating shrimp are quite easily available now. Others, like cherry shrimp, bumblebee shrimp, and a few other Caridina/Neocaridina species are becoming available from time to time and pretty much all will help to combat algae. Stay away from shrimps of the genus Macrobrachium, as these are mostly large predatory animals. To get an idea of what's available, take a look at: http://www.franksaquarium.com/freshwatershrimpfarm.htm > Lastly, with a QT set up, I would need to go through the same acclimation ritual from the QT to the main tank once the 2 weeks is up, right? <A good idea to, yes. Basically, bag the fish, float, add water, wait, net, release.> Thanks for your help. Todd <You bet! Hope all goes well with your new tank! -Sabrina>

Setting up an Eheim Canister Filter - Hi. <Hello, JasonC here...> I am setting up a freshwater plant tank. My questions concerns the supply and return lines from an Eheim 2217 canister filter and CO2 reactor. The tank is 36x18x21 high. I am using 2" of fluorite so the depth now is approx 19". The rigid plastic return tube as it came from the factory is down to the substrate. How high should it be from the substrate? <It's fine where it is... if you want the super-snazzy fix, Eheim makes a surface skimmer device that will amend that rigid tubing and pull water for the filter from the surface of the tank, which is ideal.> The return tubing from the canister is teeing off to a CO2 reactor so there are now two tubes going back to the tank (directly to the tank and from the reactor). How should I set up both of those two in the tank? How much below the surface should they be and how far should they both from each other? <For the return from the canister, close to the surface of the water is best, creating surface agitation for gas exchange, etc. As for the CO2 return, doesn't really matter that much, but about mid-way down the tank would probably be best.> I am using two of the rigid tubes from Eheim. Should one be just below the other one running parallel? Also since the rigid tubes are about 12" long, should I center them (left to right) on the back wall? <Doesn't really matter - whatever pleases your aesthetic sensibilities.> Thanks a lot. Ken <Cheers, J -- >

Diatom Filter and Water Polishing >Hi Bob, >>Marina tonight, I won't even try with the Buddy Hackett jokes. >I set up a freshwater plant tank with fluorite. I was thinking of using a diatom filter to clear the water now and after I disturb the substrate when I plant. >>Ah yes, you wish to "polish" the water. >Will this do the trick? >>Absolutely, loved by pros! Magnum makes a good quality design that is VERY easy to use and clean, too. >Also will it change any of the water parameters using the diatom powder that comes with it? Thanks, Ken >>Nope, not at all. On a well-maintained tank it would take maybe an hour or so to fully polish, unless there's a great deal of detritus and the like stirred up into the water column. Do know that, being such a fine-particulate filter, they require very regular maintenance, and DO keep the filter media wet! Best of luck, Marina

- CO2 in a Planted Tank - <Good morning, JasonC here...> Hi, I have been using Chemi-pure in my canister filter for a planted freshwater tank. The water has never seemed so clean and the fish seem healthier. I started using a DIY CO2 reactor a few weeks back and the plants seem to have improved. Now I see, looking back at the Chemi-pure label that it removes CO2 from the water. Do the two cancel each other out? <Probably not completely, but... there is certainly a conflict of interest there.> Should I stop using pure-pure? <I wouldn't use it 100% of the time, and/or when you do, just shut off the CO2.> Or should I stop using CO2 or is it ok to use them together? <If your intention here is to have a planted tank, then CO2 injection is a must... which makes the use of Chemi-Pure less important, but I wouldn't write it off completely.> Thank you again for your expertise and patience. <Cheers, J -- >

Fish and filtration (180 gal. FW) I am new to fish keeping, and got my first freshwater fish in September of 2002. I had a 20 gallon tank that came with my classroom, overstocked it, and so bought a 75 gallon tank, which all the kids love. Now that summer is approaching, I would like to get a 125-180 gallon tank for home, and slowly transfer the fish to it to avoid the daily 30 mile commute to check on them. Is there much practical difference between a 125 and a 180? <Much easier to maintain. More stable due to size, cube> Do the fish get more oxygen, or is it just deeper with a 180? <Some. This is mainly a function of surface area, but more volume, turned over, exposed to air, results in more dissolved oxygen> Except for the rainbows and sometimes the Danios, they all seem to prefer the lower regions of the tank. <This is their nature> My main question is filtration. I currently use a Fluval 404. The ammonia and nitrites (nitrates?) seem good, and the pH is about 7.0. I vacuum out 20 gallons every two weeks and replace it with treated (AquaClear) spring water, and have about 10 plants in it, plus some broken flowerpots for shelter. I have read the Ecosystem articles in FAMA with great interest, and understand that the system is available for freshwater tanks. Is it effective? <Yes... but if you are so interested, I would at least consider just adding soil to the main tanks substrate. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/soilags.htm> Does one use the same Caulerpa species as with a salt water tank? <No, other (freshwater) species of plants rather than this marine algae genus> Can I combine it with a canister filter, and if so, should I get a pre-drilled tank for the Ecosystem, and use the regular hose system for the canister to maintain surface turbulence, or is there a better way? <There are many ways. A good idea at this juncture to purchase a pre-drilled tank, look into sumps/refugiums... in view of your likelihood of "going saltwater" someday soon... a better idea to study what your options are, what livestock you intend to keep (other than what you currently have)> And finally, I think I overstocked again. From smallest to largest, the resident fish are: 3 dwarf Corydoras (1 hastatus, 2 pygmaeus) 4 brass tetras 16 neon tetras 7 blue-eye Forktail rainbows 4 Celebes rainbows 3 cherry barbs 6 X-ray tetras (golden Pristella) 3 leopard Danios (long finned) 2 neon calico platies 4 checkerboard barbs 1 German (blue) ram 2 flying foxes 2 Bolivian rams 1 Hoplo catfish <About right, and a very nice/compatible mix of fishes> I thought I would move the 4 checkerboard barbs, the 3 Danios, the brass tetras and maybe one of the flying fox to the 20 gallon tan, which is currently empty. I would love to move the German ram too, as she bullies the two Bolivians, but I am afraid of losing her. What do you think? <A good plan. Plenty of room in the new system> Thank you for your time- Edna <Thank you for writing. Bob Fenner>

Re: plants and my filter hey crew I bought a new setup for my 2 yr old daughter and we're really getting into it. we have a 72 gallon with a Aquaclear 300 filter. undergravel filter with a 402 powerhead at either end. I would say we have standard gravel no epoxy coated stuff. we started out with a few plants. I have since put them in terracotta pot. I read on your site that UG's are bad for plants. <Most rooted types, yes> we would like to have a lot more plants but not in pots. should I take out the UG and change the gravel to better suit the plants. <Possibly. That or place a barrier (a thin sheet of plastic perhaps) under the gravel, on top of the part of the plate where you intend to root more plants> and when cleaning the tank if I take out the filter how often and how deep should I do. and will this not disturb the roots. Thanx Dave <Mmm, depth of sand mainly depends on its grain size and your esthetic appreciation. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/substraags.htm Bob Fenner>

Filtering a Freshwater Plant Tank Hi, I want to start a 38 gallon planted freshwater tank. I want to keep the tank as clean looking as possible, but highly filtered. Because I don't have any overflows or any holes built into the tank, the only way I could think to get water from the tank to the sump and back was by 2 PVC or ABS pipes attached to the same model pumps. <This is a terrible idea.> 1 feed line connecting the tank to a pump to feed the sump, and 1 return line connecting the sump to the pump to feed the tank. My problem is I can't figure out how to accommodate any irregularities in pump speeds between the two units. <NO one can. We get this question pretty regularly. There is no way to do this. You will create a very wet floor.> I don't want the sump/tank running dry or overflowing. Is there something you would suggest other than the two pumps? <Yes, just use a canister filter. That is how most all plant tanks are filtered.> Also, in case of a power outage, the only thing I could think to do to break the siphon was to drill a hole into the sump feeder line below the natural water line on the tank. But are these pumps self priming, or would I have to intervene every time the power goes out? Can you give me a quick idea of how to make a safe sump system for this type of tank? <Yes, don't do it.> Thank you for you time! <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Filters on Planted Tanks Hi, I have a 55 gallon freshwater tank with plants. Plant density is moderate to heavy and covers the whole tank. I run a canister filter now, but am not enjoying the amount of time it takes to maintain it. Especially, having to take the hoses off and apart to clean them. <not always fun> I have used your Emperor 280 in the past and really liked it. Would it be possible to use that filter or the 400 on my planted tank? Or would it create too much surface agitation? <It may create too much agitation.> I also own and run a Hot Magnum filter on this tank now and then. I run carbon to pull medication after medicating and run the micron filter as needed to polish the water. I have what I believe to be a slightly heavy fish load: 2 medium discus 10 neon tetras 5 hatchets 1 Siamese algae eater 3 Otos 4 Cory cats 1 clown Pleco (3 inches long) 2 small blue rams (1 inch each) My current canister filter is a Fluval 304 with sponges, ceramics, and floss. I use RO water, and Kent RO right to put chemistry back into the water, along with some type of black water extract and some liquid plant food. I feed 4 times daily and all food is consumed within 1-2 minutes, unless I feed bottom feeder wafers which takes a lot longer for consumption. <That's a lot of food, I hope they are small meals.> Please advise with your opinion on the filter situation. <I would consider a wet/dry filter, the return pump will allow you more control over circulation. It is also much easier to clean and replace the filter media. I have a couple of Filstar canister filters that are not too terrible to deal with, but probably not much different than the Fluval. > Sincerely, Jeff Abramson

Question Related to Planted Aquarium I have a 65 gal. aquarium that I was going to filter with a Filstar XP2 and I was thinking of coupling it with a Tidepool 1. But reading the articles on your Web site, I believe you suggested against using a trickle or wet dry system like the Tidepool for planted aquaria. <In general yes> If so, do you recommend any filtration in addition to the Filstar for a planted aquarium (65 gal.) that will soon have community tropicals? I was considering a fluidized bed filter or an Emperor. Any thoughts? <The Emperor (Hang on tank open power filter) is fine. For about the same reasons as I eschew the use of wet/dry filters you don't need, want a fluidized bed either. Do keep studying... all you really should have need for is some mechanical filtration, water circulation... Bob Fenner>

CO2 (devices, connection/infusion) Dear Mr. Fenner, I wish to experiment with CO2 fertilization using yeast. When i connect the airline tubing to the bottle containing yeast mix, where do i place the other end of the tubing? below or beside the canister filter intake?(Fluval 104) <You want to intake the carbon dioxide into the canister filter system? Hmm, well... a few things, actually three... Do use a check valve (or even two) from the 3/16 line (likely I.D.) from your yeast/pop bottle system... and do make or buy a "bubble counter" to be able to see if gas is actually exiting through the line to the canister... and do connect (via a "T" or "Y" fitting to the discharge line of the canister filter if you're going this route... I would/do encourage you instead to utilize an in-tank infusion line... there are a bunch of designs here... some very simple. Take a look on the Net at the Aquatic Gardener's Association's archives (the Krib) for a slew of these. Their link is on WWM if you can't find it. Bob Fenner> Kind regards Keith
Re: Re: CO2
sorry about this but i am a little unclear about where to place the CO2 discharge line? <Ideally within the tank itself... if on the Canister system, then on the discharge line (the exhaust side of the pump plumbing) Bob Fenner>
Re: Re: Re: CO2 infusion
>sorry about this but i am a little unclear about where to place the >CO2 discharge line? ><Ideally within the tank itself... if on the Canister system, then on the >discharge line (the exhaust side of the pump plumbing) Bob Fenner> do i place the CO2 discharge line underneath <Underneath? The gas must be discharged into the water...> the filter discharge line? wouldn't it be better for the CO2 discharge to be placed beneath the filter intake line? -i heard CO2 would be completely dissolved by the time it leaves the filtration unit. My concern is whether the filter intake line would suck all the CO2 & air out of my 'yeast bottle'. Keith <On the intake side there is more of a chance that the water will be pumped INTO the yeast bottle... Please see the Krib archives as you were directed in the first email. Bob Fenner>

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