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Overwhelmed by so many options!


*Amanda*

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I have been heavily researching all the options for a planted GF/mystery snail tank over the last few weeks. I just got a 55 gallon tank that is currently empty. I plan on doing the fishless cycle with plants in the tank. I just went out and bought ammonia and bleach (I had wanted to get PP, but it is crazy expensive - $37 vs. $3 for bleach at Ace Hardware!). I also bought these GORGEOUS glass bowls below, but am not yet sure how I want to use them (I couldn't post it to my previous thread for some reason, so I had to make a new one):

qu3ysuqy.jpg

I decided on a low-tech planted aquarium with basics like anubias, Amazon sword, java fern, java moss, etc. My GF will not eat plants; however, they will uproot them when searching for food. Cost is not a huge factor, but I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on, say, a light. I just wanted to run my ideas by you all before I proceed:

Substrate: This is where I feel the most indecisive. The most frustrating is that there is no "right" answer; from what I understand all of these options are viable:

- I love the look of sand, but am concerned about plants being uprooted and it getting in my filter.

- I also really like plants tied to driftwood and large rocks, but am concerned they won't live long this way (is this unfounded if I dose the water column with Excel?).

- Many folks at TPT are praising Activ-Flora as the holy grail of substrates. I love the way it looks; has anyone here used it successfully in a GF tank?

- I don't care for the look of potted plants in a bare bottom tank, but the glass bowls I got are so pretty that this might look nice.

- I researched the Walstad method and am intrigued, but am worried the dirt and cap would quickly mix together and make a huge mess. (This is exactly what happened in my tortoise table.) Also, I am unclear on which brand of dirt is best - I have Miracle-Gro organic soil; is that what is meant by dirt?

Lighting: Are the standard $20 Aqueon 32-watt long bulbs made for plants that are sold at Petsmart appropriate for a planted tank? If so, is one sufficient, or would I need two? If not, what is a good bulb to buy? I get a headache just reading about all the different options, and want a good brand/model number.

Fertilizers: If plants are in the soil, I want Flourish tabs, not Excel liquid, correct? Should I follow the instructions from the manufacturer, or do these plants require less?

Nitrates: I have a somewhat strange "problem" in that I NEVER have any detectable ammonia, nitrite or nitrate in any of my tanks, even though they are all well established. Assuming I have the same issue in the new tank, will this pose a problem for the plants? The plants in my existing tanks were always turning yellow/brown and dying from what appeared to be nitrate deficiency (but I never used ferts, so it could have also been phosphate deficiency).

And finally, will I need to buy a GH/KH testing kit? I know we have hard water in my area, but am not sure of the exact values.

Is there anything else I need to get/do?

Edited by *Amanda*
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Oooh, you are headed for a fun adventure...

A couple of things:

I initially had used glass vases for plants. It was pretty, you could see the sand through it, etc. I have since switched to terra cotta. The reason for this is with the glass vases I had to periodically take out the plant and rinse the sand because it would start to smell like the sewer. I was worried about what this would do to the surrounding water. Basically there wasn't any circulation going on down in the vase. Taking out the plant, rinsing the sand, and replanting every other water change was a drag. Terra cotta "breathes" so I'm hoping I won't have to deal with smelly sand too often. I just converted to terra cotta pots, so I could be wrong here.

Regarding substrate, there are sands that are not too fine and don't cloud the water and get the filters clogged. I have that type of sand. My lfs sells it under their name so I don't have a link for you, but I bet you could find something similar. Basically it is very, very small gravel or not so fine sand.

Edited by LisaCGold
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Oooh, you are headed for a fun adventure...

A couple of things:

I initially had used glass vases for plants. It was pretty, you could see the sand through it, etc. I have since switched to terra cotta. The reason for this is with the glass vases I had to periodically take out the plant and rinse the sand because it would start to smell like the sewer. I was worried about what this would do to the surrounding water. Basically there wasn't any circulation going on down in the vase. Taking out the plant, rinsing the sand, and replanting every other water change was a drag. Terra cotta "breathes" so I'm hoping I won't have to deal with smelly sand too often. I just converted to terra cotta pots, so I could be wrong here.

Regarding substrate, there are sands that are not too fine and don't cloud the water and get the filters clogged. I have that type of sand. My lfs sells it under their name so I don't have a link for you, but I bet you could find something similar. Basically it is very, very small gravel or not so fine sand.

I've used both, and they'll both stink eventually.

Keep in mind that any substrate you choose will not stay in the pots, as our not-so-little friends will dig around and spit things onto the tank floor.

I use miracle grow organic potting mix, and it works out very well. As for sand vs. gravel, in the planting arena...I'm finding that I have to add a significant amount of gravel, on top of the soil, in order to cap with sand, because it's too fine and just mixes with the dirt. Caribsea Peace River gravel is very fine, and is touted as the *ideal* substrate for capping a dirted aquarium. It's fine enough to let the soil breathe, but big enough to keep things where you want them.

I'm a very dirty girl, so if you come up with more questions, please feel free to ask. :)

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In regards to the dirt, Miracle Grow Organic potting soil is what Walstad and many others use. My local Lowes didn't have it so I got another brand of organic potting soil with the same stats.

Walstad and others recommend a small sized gravel to cap dirt. I hadn't got to that chapter in her book before I bought larger sized gravel. I love how it looks, but we'll see how it goes.

If you use dirt, they say not to turn on the lights at all until you get your plants. And everyone seems to recommend planting as much as you can from the start so algae will get out competed.

Looking forward to seeing what you decide.

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I've used both, and they'll both stink eventually.

Keep in mind that any substrate you choose will not stay in the pots, as our not-so-little friends will dig around and spit things onto the tank floor.

I use miracle grow organic potting mix, and it works out very well. As for sand vs. gravel, in the planting arena...I'm finding that I have to add a significant amount of gravel, on top of the soil, in order to cap with sand, because it's too fine and just mixes with the dirt. Caribsea Peace River gravel is very fine, and is touted as the *ideal* substrate for capping a dirted aquarium. It's fine enough to let the soil breathe, but big enough to keep things where you want them.

I'm a very dirty girl, so if you come up with more questions, please feel free to ask. :)

How often did you rinse out the substrate in a terra cotta pot?

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I've used both, and they'll both stink eventually.

Keep in mind that any substrate you choose will not stay in the pots, as our not-so-little friends will dig around and spit things onto the tank floor.

I use miracle grow organic potting mix, and it works out very well. As for sand vs. gravel, in the planting arena...I'm finding that I have to add a significant amount of gravel, on top of the soil, in order to cap with sand, because it's too fine and just mixes with the dirt. Caribsea Peace River gravel is very fine, and is touted as the *ideal* substrate for capping a dirted aquarium. It's fine enough to let the soil breathe, but big enough to keep things where you want them.

I'm a very dirty girl, so if you come up with more questions, please feel free to ask. :)

How often did you rinse out the substrate in a terra cotta pot?

It's a dirted container, so I didn't. Only changed the dirt every 6 months or so.

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Oooh, you are headed for a fun adventure...

A couple of things:

I initially had used glass vases for plants. It was pretty, you could see the sand through it, etc. I have since switched to terra cotta. The reason for this is with the glass vases I had to periodically take out the plant and rinse the sand because it would start to smell like the sewer. I was worried about what this would do to the surrounding water. Basically there wasn't any circulation going on down in the vase. Taking out the plant, rinsing the sand, and replanting every other water change was a drag. Terra cotta "breathes" so I'm hoping I won't have to deal with smelly sand too often. I just converted to terra cotta pots, so I could be wrong here.

Regarding substrate, there are sands that are not too fine and don't cloud the water and get the filters clogged. I have that type of sand. My lfs sells it under their name so I don't have a link for you, but I bet you could find something similar. Basically it is very, very small gravel or not so fine sand.

I've used both, and they'll both stink eventually.

Keep in mind that any substrate you choose will not stay in the pots, as our not-so-little friends will dig around and spit things onto the tank floor.

I use miracle grow organic potting mix, and it works out very well. As for sand vs. gravel, in the planting arena...I'm finding that I have to add a significant amount of gravel, on top of the soil, in order to cap with sand, because it's too fine and just mixes with the dirt. Caribsea Peace River gravel is very fine, and is touted as the *ideal* substrate for capping a dirted aquarium. It's fine enough to let the soil breathe, but big enough to keep things where you want them.

I'm a very dirty girl, so if you come up with more questions, please feel free to ask. :)

How do you clean the substrate? Do you just lightly vacuum the surface of the gravel, and not push the vac into the dirt? Also, do you add ferts, and if so, which kind and where do you put them? What light do you use? The lighting is really complicated to me, lol.

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If you're dirting a tank, then it should really be heavily planted. You will not be able to gravel vac any part of the tank that has dirt, as you'll suck it all up into the water column. Anything growing in that part of the substrate will benefit from fish mulm, so you won't need to disturb the plants to vac where they are. The roots will also keep that part of the tank aerated.

I would think about the plants that you want to grow, and then plan your lighting around that. If you have plants that feed from the water column, you may need to dose, but your root feeders would be good because of the soil. Depending on the lighting that you choose, you may need to dose Glutaraldehyde (Seachem Flourish Excel, or Metricide 14), a co2 supplement, to keep your plants happy.

Dirt makes things grow really, really, really well. :)

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OK ... I have decided on a dirted tank! I want to do a bottom layer of Miracle-Gro Organic Potting Soil and a cap of Activ-Flora Lake Gems. I want to start off with a lot of easy, fast-growing plants - what are my best options, and where's a good place to buy the plants? How many bags of soil and cap do you think I'll need to fill my 55 gallon tank? Any recommendations for a specific light that will work best? Are there any gardening tools you recommend? I have a pair of Tweezerman hair cutting scissors, but heard I might also need long tweezers to insert the plants. I want to get off to the best start possible.

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Keep in mind that when you put dirt in dry, it will shrink down considerably, when wet. I usually like to hose the soil to "mudpie consistency", and add it then. A 1"- 1.5" depth is usually sufficient, and you would add about another 1.5-2" of your cap on top of the soil layer.

Plant recommendations are:

Watersprite

Water wisteria

water lettuce

Most fast growing stem plants (anacharis, cabomba, etc)

hygro (temple plant)

Java fern

Anubias

Crinum

Crypts (love dirt!)

bulb plants

Swords

You can grow pretty much anything. :)

Just be advised: You will see a rise in ammonia, and will need to test your tank daily. It's very likely that you'll need to do large daily w/c's for a week or two, until your cycle picks up the slack.

I have some long tweezers, and long scissors, but I honestly just plant with my hands. The scissors do come in handy sometimes, but if you're strapped for cash, they can wait. Just check amazon for "planted aquarium tools", and you'll find what you need. I think that my brand might be made by Fluval?

Give xJasminex a PM--she has a dirted 55 gallon tank, and will be able to tell you about how much stuff to buy. She can probably also give you first hand recommendations for lighting.

I have a Marineland DoubleBright LED, and a Marineland Hidden LED, and I'm quite happy with them. If I didn't have fish with constant issues, I wouldn't hesitate to dirt my own tank, with my current light setup. You could probably also do t5hos, of which I've had good luck with the Odyssea brand.

Just remember...You'll need to initially plant very heavy, to help with excess nutrients in the water column. The first five days you have the tank dirted, you should be doing massive w/c's, whether your parameters say that it's required or not. It helps with initial algae outbreaks by flushing the excess nutrients out of the water column. When you refill, try to make the flow gentle, by putting a plate, or something similar, under the siphon.

If you have a place to keep your current critters, until the plants root in, that would be even better.

Edited by yafashelli
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I haven't bought fish for this tank yet, and won't do so until the fishless cycle is complete. I plan to plant the tank really heavily. Thanks for the plant list; that is great. Will I need to soak or rinse the soil prior to adding it to the tank, or can I just add it and then do a lot of water changes to get all the yucky stuff out and keep the water clear?

I really hope my Python works with the sink I have at my new condo. I haven't tried it yet.

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I haven't bought fish for this tank yet, and won't do so until the fishless cycle is complete. I plan to plant the tank really heavily. Thanks for the plant list; that is great. Will I need to soak or rinse the soil prior to adding it to the tank, or can I just add it and then do a lot of water changes to get all the yucky stuff out and keep the water clear?

I really hope my Python works with the sink I have at my new condo. I haven't tried it yet.

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Make it into mudpie consistency before you throw it in. My dad and I used to take 5 gallon buckets outside, fill it with dirt, and SLOWLY add dribbles of water. When it was thick enough to scoop up chunks (gross, right?), we'd toss it in, and smooth it out. It may take a little while to clear out totally, but the plant results are soooooo worth it. :) It's much easier to work with when wet, and it won't shrink down so much, once you fill the tank. Just remember to fill it up slowly, and you'll be good.

You bought the orange bag, right?

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I haven't bought fish for this tank yet, and won't do so until the fishless cycle is complete. I plan to plant the tank really heavily. Thanks for the plant list; that is great. Will I need to soak or rinse the soil prior to adding it to the tank, or can I just add it and then do a lot of water changes to get all the yucky stuff out and keep the water clear?

I really hope my Python works with the sink I have at my new condo. I haven't tried it yet.

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Make it into mudpie consistency before you throw it in. My dad and I used to take 5 gallon buckets outside, fill it with dirt, and SLOWLY add dribbles of water. When it was thick enough to scoop up chunks (gross, right?), we'd toss it in, and smooth it out. It may take a little while to clear out totally, but the plant results are soooooo worth it. :) It's much easier to work with when wet, and it won't shrink down so much, once you fill the tank. Just remember to fill it up slowly, and you'll be good.

You bought the orange bag, right?

I haven't bought it yet. I have a bag of Miracle-Gro organic soil at my BF's house that I bought for my Russian tortoise years ago but never opened as he would have kicked it all over the place, lol. I don't believe the bag is orange (I think it's purple and white), but will check when I go there tomorrow and buy the correct one one if needed.

Another question just came to mind. If buying plants online, how will I know how many plants are appropriate? I don't want to end up with too little or too much. I was looking at aquariumplants.com; is that a good site?

Thanks again for all your help!

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I haven't personally ordered from them, but I've heard some nice things!

As far as quantity, I usually buy bunched plants in threes. One nice sized sword, some vals (they looooove dirt), crypts, anubias, a few diff types of hygro, a nice bulb plant (I have one that's boivianus, or something like that--really cool), and you'll be set. Will this setup be open topped?

Make sure you check the soil bag carefully, and only use the Organic Choice Potting Mix. They say that the others can cause wild algae blooms. I'll be honest, when my dad and I were making dirt tanks, in the nineties, we just took mud from the back yard. We didn't know any better, and never had any problems. I guess we were lucky! Now that I know a lot more about things, I wouldn't try that again. :o:peeka

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I haven't personally ordered from them, but I've heard some nice things!

As far as quantity, I usually buy bunched plants in threes. One nice sized sword, some vals (they looooove dirt), crypts, anubias, a few diff types of hygro, a nice bulb plant (I have one that's boivianus, or something like that--really cool), and you'll be set. Will this setup be open topped?

Make sure you check the soil bag carefully, and only use the Organic Choice Potting Mix. They say that the others can cause wild algae blooms. I'll be honest, when my dad and I were making dirt tanks, in the nineties, we just took mud from the back yard. We didn't know any better, and never had any problems. I guess we were lucky! Now that I know a lot more about things, I wouldn't try that again. :o:peeka

Thanks for the heads-up about the soil. No, the tank won't be open-topped. I have actually been considering getting some gold dojo loaches, but haven't been able to find any information on how much space they need. It seems everyone has their own opinion. I was thinking about 3 goldies plus 2-3 dojos (they do better in pairs/groups), but don't want to overstock the 55.

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I don't really know so much about loaches either. I would probably stop at the 3 GF though, as a 55 is considered pretty fully stocked with that amount. You can try posting in the "Tropical" section of the forum, and see if someone knows more about them.

If the tank is not open topped, then you don't really need to try floating plants like water lettuce, duckweed, etc. They don't like the humidity of a closed tank, and just whither away.

I'm excited for you. A nice heavily planted tank is so much fun, when things *actually* grow. :rofl3 I sit here and pot everything, and sometimes I feel like it's such a waste of time. Unfortunatlely, I have a tank full of drama queens, so I don't want to make any major changes. Next setup though....;)

Oh! You should definitely look into Ludwigia Repens. That always looks amazing in an aquascape.

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I have enjoyed reading this thread so much! Good luck, Amanada. I can't wait to see how it turns out. And, I'm in awe of Tammy's knowledge… :tammy: as usual! :D

I've considered potting a few plants in terra cotta. I think the biggest thing stopping me right now is lighting. I have an open top tank in a room with 4 fluorescent light fixtures (16 total bulbs). I mean that room is so bright you need shades! :rofl I haven't added a tank light so far b/c I don't feel like the fish need it. I wonder about plants….I guess they would need a tank light though. :idont

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So last night my mom and I were looking at pics of planted tanks. She really prefers the look of the more minimalist setups, like this one, which I have to say I like too: http://www.aquariumdesigngroup.com/sources/ipad/#portfolios/4/28

Way too many goldfish in that tank though ... Yikes!

My question is, if I end up going with something like this, would I need to forgo the idea of using dirt since there are so few plants? And when you talk about "heavily stocked," do you mean like 75% plants?

It gets more complicated by the day ... LOL!

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So last night my mom and I were looking at pics of planted tanks. She really prefers the look of the more minimalist setups, like this one, which I have to say I like too: http://www.aquariumdesigngroup.com/sources/ipad/#portfolios/4/28

Way too many goldfish in that tank though ... Yikes!

My question is, if I end up going with something like this, would I need to forgo the idea of using dirt since there are so few plants? And when you talk about "heavily stocked," do you mean like 75% plants?

It gets more complicated by the day ... LOL!

I wouldn't do the discus setup as a dirt tank. You only want to dirt the tank if you're going to stuff the tank full of plants. You'll need something to suck up the nutrients, or you'll end up with massive algae blooms.

Three goldfish in a 55 gallon would be pretty fully stocked, and I don't know that I would count increased plant load as a way to increase your stocking. I don't really know much about loaches, though. You should really ask in a different section of the forum. I wouldn't want to see any of your fish get a bite, you know?

I have enjoyed reading this thread so much! Good luck, Amanada. I can't wait to see how it turns out. And, I'm in awe of Tammy's knowledge… :tammy: as usual! :D

I've considered potting a few plants in terra cotta. I think the biggest thing stopping me right now is lighting. I have an open top tank in a room with 4 fluorescent light fixtures (16 total bulbs). I mean that room is so bright you need shades! :rofl I haven't added a tank light so far b/c I don't feel like the fish need it. I wonder about plants….I guess they would need a tank light though. :idont

I hope it makes up for my mostly useless nature, when it comes to D&D! :rofl3 I was never very good with anything biological. :o:pp

Try throwing an anubias in the tank, and see how it does. ;) Betcha it grows, albeit very, very slowly.

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So last night my mom and I were looking at pics of planted tanks. She really prefers the look of the more minimalist setups, like this one, which I have to say I like too: http://www.aquariumdesigngroup.com/sources/ipad/#portfolios/4/28

Way too many goldfish in that tank though ... Yikes!

My question is, if I end up going with something like this, would I need to forgo the idea of using dirt since there are so few plants? And when you talk about "heavily stocked," do you mean like 75% plants?

It gets more complicated by the day ... LOL!

I wouldn't do the discus setup as a dirt tank. You only want to dirt the tank if you're going to stuff the tank full of plants. You'll need something to suck up the nutrients, or you'll end up with massive algae blooms.

Three goldfish in a 55 gallon would be pretty fully stocked, and I don't know that I would count increased plant load as a way to increase your stocking. I don't really know much about loaches, though. You should really ask in a different section of the forum. I wouldn't want to see any of your fish get a bite, you know?

I have enjoyed reading this thread so much! Good luck, Amanada. I can't wait to see how it turns out. And, I'm in awe of Tammy's knowledge… :tammy: as usual! :D

I've considered potting a few plants in terra cotta. I think the biggest thing stopping me right now is lighting. I have an open top tank in a room with 4 fluorescent light fixtures (16 total bulbs). I mean that room is so bright you need shades! :rofl I haven't added a tank light so far b/c I don't feel like the fish need it. I wonder about plants….I guess they would need a tank light though. :idont

I hope it makes up for my mostly useless nature, when it comes to D&D! :rofl3 I was never very good with anything biological. :o:pp

Try throwing an anubias in the tank, and see how it does. ;) Betcha it grows, albeit very, very slowly.

Thanks for the info. I'll hold off on the idea of loaches for now, until I can research more info on their stocking and other requirements. I don't want to overstock the tank; I've done that before and was a slave to cleaning!

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If you wanted to do something like the discus tank, I would use this tank as inspiration. It's one of Tom Barr's low tech non co2 tanks. :)

f7270730.jpg

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As for planting tools, you really only need tweezers if you are dealing with fiddly plants. They help regardless of what you are planting, but they are not necessary. Look for medical grade stainless steel scissors and tweezers. Everything else seems to rust.

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If you wanted to do something like the discus tank, I would use this tank as inspiration. It's one of Tom Barr's low tech non co2 tanks. :)

f7270730.jpg

Wow, that is amazing! And I would imagine fun for the fish. I was thinking of doing something with either driftwood or stone slabs.

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Gah ... after researching substrate options EXTENSIVELY over the weekend, I have come back to the conclusion that a low-tech dirted tank with a cap of Activ-Flora Lake Gems is what I want. I want to grow anubias, and since I've heard you can't plant them (is this true?), I will be looking for some driftwood. Fortunately I live near the ocean, so I will take a trip there this weekend to see if I can find a good piece on my own for curing before spending $40+ for a piece. I found some great deals on plants at Aquabid.

Now, I have 3 questions about the dirted tank:

1) what percentage of the substrate should be covered in plants for it to work best, and

2) I want 1-2 wpg for this setup, correct?

3) is it true that you can't use the Seachem liquid fertilizer with Vallisneria spp.?

Thank you all for your help - I just want this tank to be great! I am very much a perfectionist, in case you couldn't tell. :-)

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Edited by *Amanda*
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I don't know the answers to most of your questions, but I've planted anubias in my sand before. The shorter kinds (like barteri and its variations) didn't do very well planted. I think it's because they're small, they had a hard time because goldies spit sand everywhere, and I think their rhizomes got buried a little too deep a little too often. They grew, just not very well. The taller ones on the other hand (I believe mine was hastafolia) did quite well. They sort of pushed themselves up from the sand a bit with their roots. I'm not certain if this was because they were trying not to get buried, or if my sand was just a bit too shallow for them. Regardless of variety, if you plant them in your substrate, you'll want to use root tabs near them, as they'll have a harder time drawing nutrients straight from your water column with their roots buried... unless you decide to dirt it of course.

Edited by The Dragon's Rose
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