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Looking to set up heavily planted tank


*Amanda*

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Hi everyone,

I just got a very nice 55 gallon Marineland tank with stand off Craigslist. I would really like to make this tank beautiful - it is my first tank that I will actually have at my house! (I do keep 3 tanks, but they are at my boyfriend's house and are very simple.)

I have been reading a bit on The Planted Tank and from what I see, ActivFlora looks like a great substrate: http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/showthread.php?t=526105

All the options for plants are very overwhelming, and I am considering ordering my plants through this company that will aquascape your aquarium for just $20. You give them the dimensions and have a phone consultation, and they design the "garden" for you: https://www.aquariumplants.com/mobile/Product.aspx?ProductCode=AS-1

We have live plants in our existing tanks (anacharis and Amazon sword), but I literally just stuck them in the gravel or floated them. I don't have any special lighting or use fertilizers or anything like that, but would absolutely be willing to if needed.

Fortunately the tank in my condo is far away from a window, which is an impossibility at my boyfriend's house. (He also regularly falls asleep early and forgets to turn the tank lights off until midnight, which is likely another reason for the issues we have with plants and algae overgrowth.)

Has anyone here used this substrate or service? TPT has some great recommendations for plants, but they seem to be much more lax with the fish, which are my priority. I saw many people on that forum recommending that water be changed only once every 3 months! I also saw a comment from someone who visited a certain fish forum and thought they were nuts for suggesting weekly or even semiweekly water changes. (I think that was us, LOL!) With this in mind, are there any fertilizers you would recommend I NOT use to protect the health of my fish?

Edited by *Amanda*
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When you first set up a planted tank. It is not cycled. If you do a fishless cycle with enough plants it will cut the cycle time down and the need for a lot of water changes. Then you add fish slowly.

I only do once a month WC on my dirt tank but since I don't know anything about the substrate or your water quality you plan to use you may have to just keep testing and keep an eye on how things are going to decide on when to do water changes.

I also do low lights low tech tanks.

Just keep reading and remember what works in someones tank may not work in yours.

I love the idea of someone planing my aquascaping(sp). However they well send plants they have on hand and many of them may not work for you that would work for them or even me. However I sure would love to try one out.

I started off with cheep plants and then just kept adding plants. Remember the more you can start out with the better at keeping algae away.

I also would like to suggest timers for all your planted tanks. You can get them fairly cheep and get one that well allow you to split the time on and off so you can set up a four hour lights off in the afternoon.

Good luck and keep researching. I still do even after all these years of having low tech planted tanks.

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What a fun project!

I've not heard of ActivFlora, I'll have to read through that thread later. At the end of the day what you do will come down to budget. High tech planted tanks can easily creep into the thousands of dollars if you're not budget conscious.

The first thing to consider is whether you want a high light or a low light tank. High light is obviously more expensive with more maintenance required, and there are more things that can go wrong, but once you have everything dialled in (photoperiod, co2, fertilisers) plants thrive. If you go low light perhaps consider a Walstad type setup, although it doesn't really matter. Once you have decided this it will help you to figure out what lighting, substrate and plants will be used. With either style tank, timers for lights, gas, and anything you want automated will be your best friend.

Once the technical nature of the tank is out of the way, consider what style (or lack of) you would like to follow: nature, Dutch, Iwagumi, etc -- hard scape will follow from this decision i.e. driftwood, rocks, driftwood and rocks, nothing? Choose interesting pieces that you think will work. Next is the fun part, doing a dry layout. By manipulating the hard scape in a dry empty tank (or on a towel) you can play with shapes and see what best works. At the end of the day this has to appease you, so place your personal preferences above anyone else's. When it comes to planting you want to start with as many as you can afford. The more plants you have (particularly fast growing) the more likely they will ward off algae for a time. In a co2 enriched tank with adequate fertiliser dosing; however, this is less of an issue. Properly calibrated co2 will keep algae (not diatoms) away.

Personally I'm not a fan of those aquascaping services. Unless you're a business looking for a display tank, I feel like it takes away from the fun. Sure, if you want to learn a few things it can be a great lecture, especially if they are known for their aquascaping, but otherwise it's just a waste of money. You'll learn by looking at photos of other tanks, and once yours is up, from wanting to tweak it. Judgement of taste can be a powerful thing.

At the end of the day TPT is a plant forum, but I don't think that makes them lax with fish. There are some great posts regarding schooling fish over there. I wouldn't say three month water changes is accurate either. A lot of members over there use EI dosing, which requires minimum weekly 50% water changes. There are the occasional 'long range' tanks, but they have been designed to operate like that. For the most part I've noticed people do weekly or fortnightly water changes depending on their dosing schedule.

One thing I've learnt, make sure to invest in a good set of curved planting tweezers (curved surgical tweezers work too [the key is that what you use is stainless steel]). They run anywhere from $10-100. Planting can be tedious, particularly smaller plants, but it becomes less of chore with curved tweezers. You're less likely to accidentally uproot everything with them than if you used your fingers.

Good luck! If you have anymore questions just ask. :)

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This is the thread I was referring to in which many people on TPT were saying they rarely do water changes: http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/showthread.php?t=144824

Yesterday was my first time on TPT and that just really grabbed my attention. Being new to aquatic plants, I wasn't sure if some of the substrates and fertilizers that are commonly used could possibly have any ill effects on goldfish/snails.

Sent from my SCH-I535 using Tapatalk

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Weird, it wouldn't let me edit my last post for some reason. Based on what I've read, I am leaning toward a low-tech tank. I am planning on planting during cycling; the tank is sitting in my living room empty at the moment as I haven't yet begun my fishless cycle (and I also need to remove the gravel and clean the tank before I do anything).

I was going to edit my post to say that while there were many people on the TPT thread who did think frequent water changes were important, it was the amount of people who didn't think they were necessary (or in some cases, even desirable) that just made me wonder if some of their other suggestions for plants may not be the best choice for fish. In particular, I was wondering if there are any fertilizers, equipment, etc. that I should avoid.

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Edited by *Amanda*
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A lot of the people on that forum do seem to put plants first. Most of them do have fish just not very many so they can get away with less water changes. But with goldfish and how super messy they are I don't think you can get away with less water changes on their tanks.

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What an interesting idea to have a company aquascape your tank. I had someone landscape my yard and I was very thankful for that. It would have just taken too much time for me to do what they did. I had a lot of experience in gardening so I knew what I wanted in terms of garden care and needs. I had significant input on the plant choices and placement (the landscaping contributed alot also). I'm happy with the landscaping results--I knew what I was in for in terms of plant care because I had gardening experience. That said, when it comes to aquascaping I think I would choose to get familar with growing some aquatic plants first so I could get a sense of what this underwater plant world is all about. Even though the aquascaping company will get information from you about your preferred level of care etc, I feel that first hand experience is invaluable to succeeding with a planted tank in the long run (unless you have the aquascaping company totally take care of your planted tank).

I'm learning about how to grow plants successfully in a low tech set-up using EI dosing with fertilizers from Green Leaf Aquariums. (You can see the pinned thread on my adventures.) It has taken more attention than I thought, but I'm having fun. I'm currently doing this in my 30 gallon goldfish tank. Eventually I'll be moving everything into a 55 gallon tank. By then I hope to gain enough knowledge to avoid too many plant fatalities and to create a lush plant world for my goldfish.

I'm overall trying to avoid having to do a CO2 setup.

I think if I had a 55 gallon without too much aquatic plant experience I would definitely do low tech and pick three different types of plants that do well in a low tech setup and gets lots of them. Then get familar enough with the plants to make sure they flourish before getting different kinds of plants.

I hope this helps. I think you'll have lots of fun creating your planted tank!

Edited by LisaCGold
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Sounds like you'll have a fun learning experience. I just started my 125 gallon dirt planted tank a month ago. No fish yet, so I can't really give you advice based on my own experience.

For me I was very attracted to people like Justin of Justin's Fishtanks and Diana Walstad of the Walstad Method who both use potting soil covered with gravel or sand. Justin does large water changes in his heavily stocked tanks, while Diana does very few in her lower stocked tanks. Diana relies mostly on the plants to filter and oxygenate the water, but she doesn't keep goldfish. Justin uses the usual heavy filtration and does keep goldfish.

I'm trying a combination of both methods, but I have no clue how it will turn out.

I'll be looking forward to seeing your tank progress and what you decide.

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  • 3 weeks later...
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I used that service for my tank when I started it. I did so because I was confused and overwhelmed with choices. I didn't know how many plants would be considered heavily planted for my tank size. So I figured I'd give it a shot and modify it as I grew more experienced. This is how the tank looks after a few months.

20140412_211300_zpsfeb9a7bb.jpg

Since then I removed the Java Moss but it's offspring are floating in my tank, I also got rid of the red myrio. I rearranged some of the mid ground too. This is a high light pressurized CO2 setup, so growth was fast. I also used EI dosing. It requires more water changes. If you want to reduce wc then there is an alternative method called PMDD or something like that. Supposedly there are people who never do wc with a heavily planted tank. The idea is that the fish and plants balance each other. We do water changes mainly to get rid of nitrates and re mineralize the water. If that's happening already then wc aren't necessary as the logic goes. Filtration requirements are still the same though.

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Yes. Added them a month or so ago. One black moor and one shubunkin. They don't eat my plants. I let the plants root well. They love spinach, so I give them some to fix their desire for veggies.

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20140412_211300_zpsfeb9a7bb.jpg

Gorgeous! Your tank is large enough to really showcase some ottelia alismoides if you can find it. It's such a gorgeous plant. :)

How do you like your in tank diffuser? I'm looking at going inline, I'm not terribly happy with the amount of gas being dissolved in my tank.

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I'm using a ceramic diffuser I bought off eBay. Fluval one I think. Not too happy either. I sit it right under my powerhead so the co2 gets sucked into it and shot across the tank. Even then I still have plenty of bubbles reaching the surface.

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