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Preparations For A Planted Tank

Author Topic: Preparations for a Planted Tank  (Read 29989 times)

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TigzFish

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Preparations for a Planted Tank
« on: January 22, 2013, 10:16:26 PM »
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Hi folks,

First, sorry for the long post.

Posting in the plants section as my query is specifically about creating an environment for plants.  I'm 11 months in to the fish-keeping hobby and have decided to start a second tank, prior to closing down my current 64 litre.  My new tank is a Fluval Roma 200 (just over 3 ft, 200 litre), currently sitting on the floor of my lounge until I get the cabinet for it this coming weekend. The internal U4 has been replaced with a AquaManta EFX 200 External Canister in a swap out deal done with the retailer.

The Roma comes with 2 Hagen T8 strip lights, one called Power-Glo, the other an Aqua-Glo, both rated at 30w each. From what I have read, there seems to be a magic formula of "3w per gallon (us)" to calculate the appropriate wattage of lighting for a planted tank.  For mine, this would equate to a whopping 158w, more than double what I have now. Having looked around, I am unable to locate any source of strips that would give me this level of wattage, and I am unwilling to do what I believe is called "overdrive" for the lights; I need to keep things as simple as possible.

Question 1: Is this formula actually a valid assumption? I am unable to find any citation of a technical source that validates the formula, so am taking it as being "guidance based on experience and observation", rather than a defacto standard.

So, based on my default lighting scheme, and accepting the implication that this would be a "low-light" environment (despite it looking jolly bright to my poor human eyes), I am now in search of the most convenient method to provide both a substrate and nutrient environment.

My research has highlighted CO2 injection as being unnecessary in a "low-light" environment as boosting the CO2 would not be required due to the lower growth rates.

Question 2: Is CO2 injection (by kit, tablets or liquid) absolutely necessary in this scenario?

Next, I have managed to get myself to an impasse in regards to substrate.  I have horticultural sand, used exclusively in my current tank, and I have a gravel (a brown/black/white type about 3-5mm in non-round size).  Having read various articles that concern feeding plants, I am confused.

Question 3: Would I need a special base layer of substrate to provide iron & nutrients to root systems, or is a sand/gravel substrate sufficient, with an appropriate regime of dosing fertilizer through liquid and/or tablets?

That's a big question I know, as there are so many options, but I am looking for a "best bet" scenario given the lighting, and no CO2 injection.  I am going to try an source "easy" plants of various sizes, and "carpeting" plants too.

Ok, you can beat me with sticks now.  ;D

Offline ady81

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2013, 12:26:49 AM »
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hi dave,
            Yes this is viable for a planted tank you will just have to plan a bit more as regards to plant type.
 There are a lot of good options for low light plants, java fern, any anubias, any cryptocoryne, some amazon swords, vallisneria and sagittaria will all grow with t8 lights.
 There is no point using co2 injection unless you have a high light values, you will still get plant growth with out just not as fast. liquid co2 could be used if you wanted but again is not necessary, you may have to be careful with liquid co2 in low light as the dose has to be kept low as the plants don't use as much with low light.
I have kept many a planted tank on t8's and no added co2.
The most important aspect for a planted tank if you want success is a good nutrient rich substrate.
There are a few ways to get this you can buy a purpose made substrate for plants, these can range in price and need to be laid in different ways depending on the make you go for, I don't use these but all the info for them should come from the maker. Root tabs do work but you have to keep using them most will last for about 4 to 6 months then you would have to dose them again, if you have a lot of root feeding plants you may find you have to dose more often.
Another way which  is some what out of fashion these days is to use dirt, this is cheap and works well on low tech tanks but people don't use this method much anymore (except me) if you want further info on that option just give me a shout.
There are some good online plant retailors and some good books on the subject I can recommend but don't know the rules about this on this site. Most of the planted tank sites these days all recommend power substrates co2 and regular ferts and don't cater much for the low tech side of things or if they do I have not found them.
    I hope this gives you some where to start, this can be a very confusing subject.
Once you have a plan in place regarding what road you want to go down I could give you more detailed advise.
          All the best Aiden

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Offline ColinB

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2013, 07:37:38 AM »
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This site.... http://www.tropica.com/en/plants.aspx ....is well worth a browse, especially as it has an 'easy' plant section for plants that can cope with low light and no CO2 injection. It's where a lot of retailers get their plant stock from. It even has a section on layouts that you can filter by tank size etc and with a key to which plant is which in the layout.

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TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2013, 07:14:48 PM »
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Thanks for the great reply Aiden, and welcome to ThinkFish!

There is no point using co2 injection unless you have a high light values, you will still get plant growth with out just not as fast. liquid co2 could be used if you wanted but again is not necessary, you may have to be careful with liquid co2 in low light as the dose has to be kept low as the plants don't use as much with low light.

I am glad I have managed to get the question about CO2 injection right, I don't like messing about for no reason.

you will just have to plan a bit more as regards to plant type.  There are a lot of good options for low light plants, java fern, any anubias, any cryptocoryne, some amazon swords, vallisneria and sagittaria will all grow with t8 lights.

That's a relief, and those names I have seen a great deal too in various retailers, so looks good.

The most important aspect for a planted tank if you want success is a good nutrient rich substrate.

This is the bit I'm really having trouble with, trying to get my head around the various ways of going about this.

There are a few ways to get this you can buy a purpose made substrate for plants
Another way which  is some what out of fashion these days is to use dirt, this is cheap and works well on low tech tanks but people don't use this method much anymore (except me) if you want further info on that option just give me a shout.

I'll have to see what brands are available locally and do some more reading I think.  If a substrate is the best way, rather than using just an inert substrate and dosing with tablets and/or liquid, then I'll have to make jolly certain my design is going to work. (Focal Point & The Golden Rule have already been considered).  It sounds like a proper nightmare moving rooted plants that have a lower rich substrate.

I have bumped into a couple of references regarding the use of dirt, which is something I had never even considered. I will certainly be interested in hearing more about the dirt technique, which although much less expensive than manufactured substrate, so far it seems like a little more effort to get it set up right. A blog entry talked about using dirt and then adding all sorts of extra stuff to the dirt... it put me off reading further for now.

Most of the planted tank sites these days all recommend power substrates co2 and regular ferts and don't cater much for the low tech side of things or if they do I have not found them.

Yeah, I have noticed that too.  There does seem to be a very high proportion of high-tech solutions, most of which just helps to muddy the waters, but for the low-tech budget, I'm gradually getting a handle on stuff.

I'm of the age where "keep it simple, stupid" has a big meaning for me. Those younger folk can do all the running around, I just want peace and tranquility.


TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2013, 07:17:27 PM »
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This site.... http://www.tropica.com/en/plants.aspx ....is well worth a browse, especially as it has an 'easy' plant section for plants that can cope with low light and no CO2 injection. It's where a lot of retailers get their plant stock from. It even has a section on layouts that you can filter by tank size etc and with a key to which plant is which in the layout.

Thanks Colin, I wondered where I had seen that logo before.  Bookmarked that site for reference, lots of very interesting looking plants there, even in the easy section. The layout ideas are really helpful too, and has given me plenty to look at over the next couple of days.

Offline Natalia

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2013, 10:39:12 PM »
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Hi all,
I completely agree with what Colin and Aiden. However I would like to add a little to what they said already.
First of all – 3 wpg is quite a reasonable amount of light. It is effectively a high-tech tank level of light (meaning carefully selected substrate and additional dosing) – high labour and intensive care . All the plants mentioned by Aiden can happily grow in about 1 wpg max.
Another thing – wpg itself is a very-very inaccurate and outdated method of measuring the light (as I stated many times when I wrote on the forum of the “old version” of Think Fish).  As I said then, being outdated, it is still the one which can be used – simply because not many aquarists have a possibility to measure PAR! What I am trying to say is that 1 wpg of light in one tank is not the same as 1 wpg of light in another – it is a matter of careful trial and (possibly) correcting errors.
Substrate. I believe, the types can be roughly grouped into 4 categories:
-   Dirt with a layer of inert small grade gravel on top I never heard of it being used in high light tanks – it is a classic Diana Walstad method for low light low maintenance aquariums. I highly respect Diana, have corresponded with her personally but never tried this method myself. Aiden will be able to share his experience on how exactly he keeps his tank/s (e.g. low or high light, etc.)
-   Inert gravel (should be a very small grade – 1-3mm grains). This is possible to use in both high (-ish) and low tech tanks. It is actually not 100 % correct that plants will ONLY thrive with a rich substrate. In time mulm accumulates in this sort of gravel, and being drawn to the bottom layer, it serves as a perfect growing medium. Combined with water column dosing, it can support quite a lush growth. I have one tank (out of my 6) thriving on this method. It is a misconception to think that some plants can only get their nutrients from the substrate – ALL of the plants can be “fed” through water column dosing.
-   Nutrient rich substrates which do not require a layer on top (like Eco Complete, Flourite and the likes) – my favourites, suitable to both low and high tech aquariums
-   Nutrient rich layer like Laterite topped with inert substrate (much like dirt topped with gravel – but Diana dismisses this method for her how tech tanks)
I have tried all of the above except dirt. I can say, as much as with the lighting – you have to choose what you want: low tech (not so much work but limited types of plants you can grow) to high tech (lots of work, essential dosing of nutrients and CO2 but you can grow practically any plant there) OR – anything (ANYTHING, really!) in between.
One word about CO2. CO2 is a very valuable addition – even low tech tanks benefit from it. I have a selection of medium-low to high tech tanks with or without CO2 supplement, so I observed this first hand. “Liquid CO2” is an incorrect term. I noticed that many people think that a substance from bottles is the same as dosing CO2. It is not, really. Liquid supplements are CARBON supplements which provide, well,... carbon to the plants. This carbon is not quite in the same form as gas CO2, though – I thought I would clear this up.
The last thing: Dave, I think you have stretched the fish compatibility in your tank a little bit. The odd one out are your Vietmanese Minnows. They are temperate fish and their temperature requirement is lower than that of your other fish. They may seem happy but it is difficult to create safe margin on temperature tolerance with the other fish you have (it is barely 1-2 degrees)...  Just a thought...

Offline ady81

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2013, 11:27:33 PM »
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Quote
I will certainly be interested in hearing more about the dirt technique, which although much less expensive than manufactured substrate, so far it seems like a little more effort to get it set up right

All I do with a dirt tank is use a peat free organic potting compost form the local garden centre about 3 to 4 inch deep and then top that with an inch of coarse sand or fine gravel, you can use pea gravel but some small bits of dirt tend to pollute the water and muddy it up a bit. You can add a load of extras to this but that is not needed, the only time I have do that is if I'm keeping certain types of special plants that do better with it but they have done ok with out . Red clay is something you can add if you wanted some big echinodorus for example but they will grow fine in just plain dirt. Just make sure you get a peat free organic compost other wise it can pollute the water with the chemical ferts in them or drop the ph with the peat.
At the moment I keep my tanks low tech and low maintenance once its planted I just leave the plants to grow how they want and don't go moving or trimming that often unless I don't like the look, my rule is as long as it looks good to me I just leave them to it (i'm the one who's got to look at it all day).
The tank I have at the mo  was set up 3 years ago dirted, planted and then just left to get on with it, I have never added any liquid ferts, tabs, co2 or liquid carbon to it and all the plants have grown just fine under t8's.
Planted tanks are nothing to be scared of and can be as easy or as hard for work load as you want to make them depending on what you want to get out of it, but there is no reason you can't have a heavily planted tank with little long term extra work.

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Offline ColinB

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2013, 07:52:59 AM »
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Another thing to think about....

It's hard to tell from your fish stock if you have soft, medium or hard water as all your fish seem to do well over a wide range of hardness (so I'll guess hard because you chose that specific tetra).
Anyway, if by chance your water is soft with a low KH (less than 3 or 4) then CO2 injection can cause a pH crash - or at least an unstable pH. Not good for the fish.

As I said.... just a thought.

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TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2013, 02:52:50 PM »
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Hi there Natalia,

3 wpg is quite a reasonable amount of light. It is effectively a high-tech tank level of light (meaning carefully selected substrate and additional dosing) – high labour and intensive care .

High labour is definately something I don't want to deal with. Not that I'm incapable, I'd much rather enjoy a view than have to constantly fuss over it.

Another thing – wpg itself is a very-very inaccurate and outdated method of measuring the light (as I stated many times when I wrote on the forum of the “old version” of Think Fish).  As I said then, being outdated, it is still the one which can be used – simply because not many aquarists have a possibility to measure PAR! What I am trying to say is that 1 wpg of light in one tank is not the same as 1 wpg of light in another – it is a matter of careful trial and (possibly) correcting errors.

Understood. I was pretty much right not to treat it as "the" standard, just a "guage".

Substrate. I believe, the types can be roughly grouped into 4 categories:
- Dirt with a layer of inert small grade gravel on top
- Inert gravel (should be a very small grade – 1-3mm grains).
- Nutrient rich substrates which do not require a layer on top. (like Eco Complete, Flourite and the likes)
- Nutrient rich layer like Laterite topped with inert substrate.

Thanks, that actually helps a lot.  I have seen mention of the likes of Eco Complete and Flourite that are layered under inert substrate.  Knowing that these types can be used on their own is a bonus.  As I mentioned ealier, I'll have to check locally to see what brands are available.

Dirt is actually now sounding quite attractive as a long-lasting budget base for my low-tech setup, I'll add to that when I answer Aiden (below).

It is a misconception to think that some plants can only get their nutrients from the substrate – ALL of the plants can be “fed” through water column dosing.

Ok, I didn't know that. So now it comes down to a personal choice.  Get a rich substrate and minimal fiddling is required, or use an inert substrate and dose the water column manually.  That's great, at least there are broadly two distinct options available for me to consider.

One word about CO2. CO2 is a very valuable addition – even low tech tanks benefit from it. I have a selection of medium-low to high tech tanks with or without CO2 supplement, so I observed this first hand.

Thanks, I'll keep this in mind going forward.

“Liquid CO2” is an incorrect term. I noticed that many people think that a substance from bottles is the same as dosing CO2. It is not, really. Liquid supplements are CARBON supplements which provide, well,... carbon to the plants. This carbon is not quite in the same form as gas CO2

Okidoki, terminology fixed in head.

The last thing: Dave, I think you have stretched the fish compatibility in your tank a little bit. The odd one out are your Vietmanese Minnows. They are temperate fish and their temperature requirement is lower than that of your other fish. They may seem happy but it is difficult to create safe margin on temperature tolerance with the other fish you have (it is barely 1-2 degrees)

Yep noted. I don't think I can reduce the temp at all, which is 24 degrees. I started to use more than one source for parameters, but as it is not consistant from site to site, I settled on using the Community Creator here at ThinkFish. The article does say they prefer the 18-22 range, but has a 14-24 min-max. Based on that I made a subjective selection of companions.  The WCMM's are 8 months in the tank and do seem to be doing well.  I guess time will tell.


TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2013, 02:54:16 PM »
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All I do with a dirt tank is use a peat free organic potting compost form the local garden centre about 3 to 4 inch deep and then top that with an inch of coarse sand or fine gravel

Having read this with interest I popped over to one of my local retailers.  60 litre bag of peat free is about £7, so very inexpenive indeed.

The tank I have at the mo  was set up 3 years ago dirted, planted and then just left to get on with it, I have never added any liquid ferts, tabs, co2 or liquid carbon to it and all the plants have grown just fine under t8's.

I think you have managed to sell this concept to me. How long do you think it will last before the nutrients get used up?

Possibly then, I would need to buy the additional top layer, unless you think I could use what I have already.  I've added some shots of the sand and gravel I have at the moment.  I have about 20kg of the sand and about 8kg of gravel.

TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2013, 02:55:24 PM »
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Another thing to think about....

It's hard to tell from your fish stock if you have soft, medium or hard water as all your fish seem to do well over a wide range of hardness (so I'll guess hard because you chose that specific tetra).
Anyway, if by chance your water is soft with a low KH (less than 3 or 4) then CO2 injection can cause a pH crash - or at least an unstable pH. Not good for the fish.

Thanks Colin,

That's another point in the 'cons' column for CO2 injection here.

Actually I have very soft to soft water.  Out of the tap it is currently 3, and in tank 4.  My tap water has been all the way down to 1 during June to September last year and has been slowly climbing back to the 3 that I started with back in May.

The low KH was a bit of a worry but the pH has been fine throughout. Tap water pH is usually between 7 and 8, currently at 7.5 whilst in tank is about 8.

Offline ady81

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2013, 05:37:14 PM »
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How long do you think it will last before the nutrients get used up?

The longest I had a dirt tank set up for was 9 years, for the last couple the growth had slowed down but they were still growing. At this point you could always add tabs or liquid ferts if you don't want to strip the tank down and change out the dirt although the last time I did that on a 450 ltr tank it only took a couple of hours.


Possibly then, I would need to buy the additional top layer, unless you think I could use what I have already

You could use either of them for this, if you use the larger gravel you might need it a bit thicker to stop small bits of dirt floating up through it and messing the water.
A good book and one I have on hand is " the simple guide to planted aquariums" by Terry Anne Barber & Rhonda Wilson I got mine for about £3 of amazon. There is a lot of good info in it and is quite easy to understand. If you have any more Q's about anything lights, algae, what plants ect just ask

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TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2013, 10:25:07 PM »
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Thanks Aiden,  you have been a great help. I'm definitely going down this road.  :)

TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2013, 10:50:18 PM »
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Picked up the cabinet today and can finally get the tank started. Attached image is after the cabinet build, and siting in my lounge.  We have dirt too... £6 for 50ltr.  Leak & equipment testing for 24 hours, some root wood boiled for a while to remove tannins currently being investigated by my Amanos in the 64 ltr tank.  I am really looking forward to this.

Offline ColinB

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2013, 11:00:32 AM »
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Good lookin' tank. I'll be watching this thred with interest as I'll be going down this 200litre  route at the end of this year.

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Offline Helen

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2013, 04:44:44 PM »
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I'm really interested to see how you get on Dave with your low tech tank, as it is something I was very interested in, till I 'got going' with my fish tank.

When I first started researching my planted tank (first ever fish tank) I was looking at the low tech, low maintenance option. I was given a copy of Diane Walstead's book and started to read it pretty thoroughly. Although I have a scientific background, it is not a biological sciences one. And I found Diane's book quite heavy going, and it seemed that a lot of scientific understanding was required to get to the point where low maintenance was successful.

So in the end I got EcoComplete substrate, and put a layer of fine pea gravel on top (if I was doing this again, I would dispense with the pea gravel). I have a 240l tank, with two T8 tubes. And that was it for a good six months or so.

But I didn't get off to a very good start. I couldn't get the tank environment healthy, the plants weren't doing well even though they weren't actually dying, and my fish weren't doing terribly well either ( I had a high attrition rate with fish). 

After lots more research into plant health and measuring of my tap water parameters, I came to the conclusion that my lack of success was due to the extremely low levels of nutrients in my tap water. I live at the edge of the Peak District and we have medium to soft water. The nitrate levels are very low (less than 5ppm) and there appears to be very little CO2 in the tap water. I had too many plants in my tank to achieve a reasonable balance of nutrients just with water changes.

Now I dose my tank with CO2, and add a general fertiliser and nitrate salts (? might not be the right term) at water changes. (It still feels strange to add nitrates at water change, as most people change water to reduce the level of nitrates!) You can see how well my plants grow in the gallery section of this forum. In my opinion, this is no more effort than water changes for a non planted fish tank. (Except that I do have to prune the plants every few weeks, but I actually find this therapeutic rather than a chore)

I don't agree with Colin that adding CO2 to soft water makes the pH more unstable. KH is a measure of carbonate hardness and by adding CO2 you are increasing the amount of carbon and oxygen molecules available to increase your carbonates. CO2 itself is acidic and can reduce the pH, but in my tank, it has also made it far more stable. It does however, leave my tank vulnerable to pH fluctuations when the CO2 runs out, so I have to keep a careful eye on that.

You seem to have all the same motivations as I did, for a planted tank, but are going down a totally different route, so I am really interested to see how you get on.

 Good luck.

Offline ColinB

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #16 on: January 28, 2013, 05:18:55 PM »
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I don't agree with Colin that adding CO2 to soft water makes the pH more unstable. KH is a measure of carbonate hardness and by adding CO2 you are increasing the amount of carbon and oxygen molecules available to increase your carbonates. CO2 itself is acidic and can reduce the pH, but in my tank, it has also made it far more stable. It does however, leave my tank vulnerable to pH fluctuations when the CO2 runs out, so I have to keep a careful eye on that.


When CO2 dissolves in water it forms carbonic acid, which is why rain water is slightly acid - the atmospheric CO2 dissolves in it. If you have a low KH (i.e. your water is not well buffered) then when you add CO2 the pH of your tank will decrease.

CO2 + H2O => H2CO3 => H+ + HCO3-

The H+ ion acidifies the water.

However; if you have more HCO3- ions then H+ ions then this is a measure of your KH (Carbonate Hardness) and these excess HCO3- ions will 'mop-up' the H+ ions so keeping your pH stable. This is buffering.

So adding CO2 increases the carbonates and increases the acidity, so it's excess carbonates that are required for buffering. These need to be gained from elsewhere, either your tapwater or by adding a buffering chemical.

Helen and I are possible saying the same thing from different sides. Basically, if your water is not well buffered you're liable to pH fluctuations and adding CO2 in 'random' ammounts without correct monitoring will cause these fluctuations to occur. KH is a measure of this buffering capacity.

This article in PracticalFishKeeping by George Farmer goes in to CO2 addition and monitoring in some detail:

http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/content.php?sid=5264

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TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #17 on: January 28, 2013, 07:54:27 PM »
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I'll be watching this thred with interest as I'll be going down this 200litre  route at the end of this year.
I'm really interested to see how you get on Dave with your low tech tank, as it is something I was very interested in, till I 'got going' with my fish tank.

Happy to have sparked a bit of interest, and equally grateful to Aiden for his input which has inspired me to go for this.

The tank is fully hooked up to a new surge protected power supply, 24 hour segment timer for the lights and the almost silent external canister filter.  Dropped in 10 litres of water to see how level my final location is, and it isn't good.

The floor is much lower on the left side and is going to take a 0.5" block under the left side of the cabinet to level it out.  I was all set to do that tonight by grabbing my car-jack to lift the cabinet so I can get some blocks cut and positioned.  Unfortunately my jack doesn't go low enough so I can't get it under the 3" gap under the cabinet.  I'll have to source another jack to get that sorted. Bit of a pain, but I'm not really surprised with my Jerry-built 1970's suburban shoe-box.  ;D

I have 2 hand sized pieces of Mangrove root installed in my 64 ltr, and a bigger piece of Bogwood soaking in a bucket. That should be all I'll need in the wood department.

I'm still going through the list of plants at Tropica to decide what I'm going to aim for, and I have finished the basic layout idea for the tank now.  I'll pop a scan of the layout in the thread once I've got all the plants arranged.

Offline ColinB

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #18 on: January 28, 2013, 08:00:29 PM »
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The floor is much lower on the left side and is going to take a 0.5" block under the left side of the cabinet to level it out.  I was all set to do that tonight by grabbing my car-jack to lift the cabinet so I can get some blocks cut and positioned.  Unfortunately my jack doesn't go low enough so I can't get it under the 3" gap under the cabinet.  I'll have to source another jack to get that sorted. Bit of a pain, but I'm not really surprised with my Jerry-built 1970's suburban shoe-box.  ;D


Can you lever it up - say a stout piece of wood and a brick as a pivot type thing?

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #19 on: January 28, 2013, 08:44:08 PM »
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Yay!  Got it Colin.  Managed to find an old 5 foot long wooden curtain rail in my utility room (now I know why I don't throw anything out).  Half Inch thick chipboard shelf remnant now inserted under the left side of the cabinet.  Almost millimeter perfect!


Offline ColinB

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2013, 08:58:14 PM »
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Good news indeed. My tank was down at the front so I had to do similar things with Heath-Robinson leverage and some cut up squares of old carpet under the cabinet feet.

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Offline Helen

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #21 on: January 29, 2013, 02:35:32 PM »
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It is helpful to see the chemistry behind the CO2 theory. I'm pretty sure I've read the George Farmer article before, but understood it better after reading your explanation, Colin.

I'm trying to get my head round the different water parameters in my tank, and how they all relate. I use a 4KH solution in my CO2 drop checker, and keep the CO2 level just below 30ppm (a light but not lime green). My tank water is about neutral (7.0-7.4, I really struggle to pinpoint exactly which colour). My KH comes out as medium according to the scale (though it is in ppm, and I never manage to get it right when converting to degrees), but the GH comes out pretty low. I guess this makes sense, that most of the acidifying components in my tank water are carbonates, as I know I have very low nitrate levels in my tank and since I've been dosing calcium and (in much smaller quantities, magnesium) nitrates the plants and the fish have all done much better.

Does this agree with your explanation, Colin? I've tried to get my head around the science (but organic chemistry has never been 'my' subject) and ended up going for the trial and error method. It would be nice to know whether my interpretation of 'trial and error' actually agrees with the scientific theory.

Sorry for hijacking your thread Dave.

Offline ColinB

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #22 on: January 29, 2013, 03:28:53 PM »
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mmmmm.... if you're adding CO2 then you'll end up with H+ ions and HCO3- ions. The H+ ions will bring your pH down and also react with the General Hardness molecules to 'neutralise' them so reducing your water hardness. The HCO3- ions will increase your Carbonate Hardness, which will also react with the H+ ions to stop the pH coming down.

So the tank water chemistry must depend on the relative ammounts of KH and GH and pH that are in your tap water compared with the ammount of CO2 that you're adding. This will change depending on the quantity of water you change each week. I don't know enough to say what every value 'should' be, but if the tank is stable and the fish and plants are 'happy' then it ought to be fine. (That's my way of thinking about it, anyway. :) )

To convert ppm to oHardness then divide ppm by 17.9

I've seen many different tables of what value GH constitutes very soft, soft, medium, hard, very hard etc. What do you use, Helen? (or anybody else for that matter.)

(Sorry Dave!  :-[)

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #23 on: January 29, 2013, 05:38:04 PM »
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Sorry for hijacking your thread Dave.
(Sorry Dave!  :-[)

No bother, I can handle a bit of thread-jacking.  :P

I've seen many different tables of what value GH constitutes very soft, soft, medium, hard, very hard etc. What do you use, Helen? (or anybody else for that matter.)

I tend to use a scale derived (in a very unscientific way) from the API GH & KH Conversion Chart:

# of drops|odKH|ppm GH/KH|Scale
1|1|17.9|V.Soft
2|2|35.8|V.Soft
3|3|53.7|Soft
4|4|71.6|Soft
5|5|89.5|Soft
6|6|107.4|Medium
7|7|125.3|Medium
8|8|143.2|Hard
9|9|161.1|Hard
10|10|179|Hard
11|11|196.9|V.Hard
12|12|214.8|V.Hard

Offline ColinB

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #24 on: January 29, 2013, 06:14:10 PM »
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Thanks Dave, that's very different to mine:

0-4;      very soft
4-8;      soft
8-12;    medium
12-16;  hard
16+;     very hard


EDIT: I've just found this in a reasonably scholarly article:

0 - 4 dGH            0 - 70 ppm     very soft
4 - 8 dGH          70 - 140 ppm   soft
8 - 12 dGH      140 - 210 ppm   medium hard
12 - 18 dGH    210 - 320 ppm   fairly hard
18 - 30 dGH    320 - 530 ppm   hard
over 30 dGH     over 530 ppm   very hard

EDITED EDIT: And now this.....

0-3        Soft
3-6        Fairly Soft
6-12      Slightly Hard
12-18    Moderately Hard
18-30    Hard
30+       Very Hard


 :-\  :-\  :-\

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TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #25 on: January 29, 2013, 10:37:04 PM »
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I managed to find the chart from my water supplier [PDF Link], yep... it's different again.

German Degrees
< 4.2 - Very Soft
4-7 - Soft
7-14 - Moderately Hard
14-21 - Hard
> 21 - Very Hard

Too many measurements, not enough standards.  ::)


TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #26 on: January 29, 2013, 10:41:17 PM »
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Almost finished creating my shortlist of plants now.  Workday is getting in the way of enjoying myself.  >:(

Anyway, having got the tank leveled out, the dirt is now installed, to about 3" in depth, lightly muddy.  I'll drop my top layer of sand on there in a couple of days.


Offline Natalia

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #27 on: January 29, 2013, 11:17:45 PM »
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Hi all,
I thought I had to “throw” something into your discussions. I noticed that there is one thing which  is not mentioned/taken into the consideration. That is the CO2 uptake by plants. Plants use carbon as their major “building and growth” source. In fact, aquatic plants composition is mostly of carbon – something like 40% (or 60%? – I don’t quite remember) of aquatic plant tissue is pure carbon. So, all calculations on acidity, KH and PH values in a heavily planted tank HAVE to take this fact into consideration. A heavily planted tank with initial (tap water) KH of 3 or 4, dosed with of CO2 will end up most likely with the higher KH than the tap water. One has to dose AMPLE amounts of CO2 into a heavily planted tank to see any effects of the water becoming more acidic.
Helen – don’t worry about organic chemistry not being your subject. This all is a common sense, really: the reason we dose CO2 into our tanks is not to increase acidity or alter water parameters in any way. The reason CO2 is being used in planted tanks is to provide the plants with their main “food source” – that’s it. The “food” for plants is there to be “eaten” and once this happened, the water parameters should be the same as tap water... Equally, the dry salts (EI derived) dosing is there to provide food for the plants – these also will be “eaten” (or should be eaten) by them. So, there is no need to make things way too complicated.
 EI method has a base statement of “unlimited nutrients supply” which means that plants have no lack of any single nutrient at any given time. CO2 is the MOST important part of it. So, to all: stop worrying about acidifying effect of the CO2 dosing if you have at least moderately planted tanks! Your plants will “eat” all this CO2 (and then ask for some more): no PH crashes, no acidifying – simple as that....
P.S. Dave, your tank looks good!

Offline ColinB

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #28 on: January 30, 2013, 11:46:41 AM »
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From Wikipedia - just to muddy the water even more!


Hard/soft classification
Because it is the precise mixture of minerals dissolved in the water, together with the water's pH and temperature, that determines the behavior of the hardness, a single-number scale does not adequately describe hardness. However, the United States Geological Survey uses the following classification into hard and soft water,[18]

Classification   hardness in ppm     hardness in dGH/°dH
Soft                            0–60                             0.3-3.00
Moderately hard      61–120                           3.72-6.75
Hard                       121–180                          6.78–10.08
Very hard                  ≥ 181                               ≥ 10.14

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #29 on: February 03, 2013, 05:48:00 PM »
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Next step now completed, installed sand and created gravel areas and the 'focal point'.  ;D


Offline Helen

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #30 on: February 03, 2013, 06:15:02 PM »
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The start of the layout is looking good. I can't wait to see it progress.  ;)

Just one thing, that I'm not sure if it would be nit picking (my apologies if it is). Your heater appears to be tucked in the rear left hand corner. I think it needs to be where the water can flow around it well, to avoid temperature gradients in the tank. You could find that the water gets really warm in the back corner and appears too cool at your thermometer.

By the way, when you did your leak tests for your tank, did you fill it right up and have the heater running? What I mean is, have you tested it, without the substrate etc as it will be when set up - at running temperature and volume? I ask, because I tested my new tank as instructed, (I think half or two thirds full) and without the heater. I then planted and filled it up and turned the heater on. And a couple days later, it cracked. The conclusion was that it was a manufacturing defect (I was unlucky enough to get the tank with a fault in the glass), but I can't help wondering if I'd tested the tank with the heater and completely full, that I would have saved myself A LOT of stress. Getting all the plants and substrate out while the best part of 170l of water were trying to escape across my lounge wasn't much fun. The upside to it was that I had no snails till I bought new plants about 6 months later, as it meant all my plants has been thoroughly washed. (They spent several weeks 'planted' in a bucket on the window sill, while I kept my filter cycling in a black bin that I had spare and was able to siphon some of the escapee water into)

I hope I haven't scared you, I would just rather save you the stress (although it is something that happens so rarely).

TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #31 on: February 03, 2013, 06:35:10 PM »
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Hi Helen,

No you haven't scared me, quite the opposite in fact, I'm pleased to get sanity checks thrown in (or should that be insanity checks).  ;D

The equipment and leak test was done over a weekend; tank was full, heater was on, and I was also testing my new filter too.  No leaks or cracks, so everything is going ahead as planned.

Agreed on the placement of the heater, it may very well need moving, or at the very least placing at a diagonal angle.  The inlet is on the same corner, with the nozzle facing to the right, along the back of the tank.  I'll very likely change the direction of the nozzle (I took off the spray bar as I didn't like the effect), once the tank is running, probably aiming it towards the front right corner.

I have two thermometers, one is the stick-on variety as supplied by the manufacturer which is on the front left, and a spare internal liquid thermometer is out on the right front.  During the equipment test, the water temperature was the same on both sides after 24 hours, but I'm equally conscious that the currents will change quite a bit once plants and decor are in there.

I'll be keeping a watch on both readings, just in case a problem arises, and as I'm not planning on putting anything in except plants for the first 4 weeks, I'll have plenty of time to make any finer adjustments.

TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #32 on: February 05, 2013, 04:23:37 PM »
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Next phase is now complete; plant list.  8)

I'm on leave from work from this Thursday for a week, so am planning a trip to what looks like a very good plant stockist in Wrexham (about an hour drive each way for me).  It looks like they stock plants from Tropica, and looks like the biggest stockist with a shop within a reasonable distance from me.  Their online shop is pretty nice too.

Here's the key to the attached plan.

1: Cryptocoryne wendtii 'Mi Oya'
2: Cryptocoryne wendtii 'Mi Oya'
3: Echinodorus ‘Red Special’
4: Anubias barteri var. angustifolia
5: Cryptocoryne x willisii
6: Cryptocoryne beckettii 'Petchii'
7: Cryptocoryne beckettii 'Petchii'
8: Nymphoides sp. 'Taiwan'
9: Echinodorus quadricostatus
10: Echinodorus quadricostatus
11: Anubias barteri var. angustifolia
12: Cryptocoryne wendtii 'Green'
13: Staurogyne repens
14: Staurogyne repens
15: Eleocharis parvula
16: Eleocharis parvula
17: Eleocharis parvula
18: Staurogyne repens
19: Staurogyne repens
20: Cryptocoryne wendtii 'Tropica'

A: Mango Root (Small, hand sized)
B: Mango Root (Small, hand sized)
C: Bogwood (Double hand sized, nice shape not too extravagant)

Hopefully I've chosen well enough, what do you plant experts think to the choices?

Forgot to mention... the arrow in the bottom right on the plan is my normal viewing angle from my favorite TV chair.

Offline ColinB

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #33 on: February 05, 2013, 04:36:15 PM »
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Wow - that's organised of you. Very impressive.

My thoughts would be....

....should some of the bogwood be hidden amongst the plants a bit? Or perhaps some rockery amongst the plants?

....are you going to have any Anubias or Java Fern on your bogwood, I've got Java Fern on mine and I think it looks good (but I would.)

....might it end up a bit symmetrical, a bit too formal? Or perhaps you're aiming that way.

Whatever, just remember that..... "It didn't happen if there're no pictures" ;). A complete photo diary is required please. ;D

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #34 on: February 05, 2013, 07:25:52 PM »
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Hi Colin,  thanks for the input.

My intent, is to make the two small Mango root pieces into smaller features in the two foreground locations to help break up the wide open space.  The larger Bogwood piece, which is being situated on a focal point I'm hoping to make stand out as the main tank feature, of course.

All three pieces do require addition of plants/moss, but I'm undecided as yet which to go for.  I like the idea of Java Moss on the Mango root, and I think that will work very well.  The Bogwood needs something different, a larger plant, possibly broad leaved, with a different colour than the normal greens.  Another small 'carpeting' style plant would also be nice on the lower parts. For that, I have purposefully placed  the Eleocharis parvula close by (15, 16 & 17) to, I hope, encourage it to grow around the base.  Do you think it might need something else on the Bogwood directly?

Symmetry I'm trying to avoid, though the left side 'bed' does seem rather regimented.  I'm hoping it won't look like that once the plants are in and growing.

Suggestions are very much appreciated, this is the first planted tank I'm attempting, so I'm keen to hear what others think.

I nabbed the wood from my FishBox, much to the consternation of the Amano's who seem to be permanently feeding off them.  Attached some wood placement pics for a bit of scale.

TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #35 on: February 05, 2013, 07:53:42 PM »
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Whatever, just remember that..... "It didn't happen if there're no pictures" ;). A complete photo diary is required please. ;D

Absolutely. I'll be taking pics during the build and at weekly intervals after that to see how much things progress.  :D

The lighting is a bit brighter than my FishBox, so I'm hoping that my big digital camera will cope better with fish photography too.  That's the next project... a whole other realm to discover.  ;D

Offline ColinB

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #36 on: February 06, 2013, 07:28:49 AM »
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It's easier to imagine with the pictures - but I still can't imagine the height and spread of mature plants. But that's half the fun, watching it change and mature. They're great pieces of wood and the bogwood definitely calls out for some attached plants. I only know of Anubias and Java Fern as plants that will attach themselves to wood and they're both green.

What background is that? It looks really 3D but the suction pads give it away. It's very impressive.

I'm going to really enjoy watching this thread - thanks.

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #37 on: February 06, 2013, 07:46:20 PM »
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Funny you should mention 3d background Colin, I was going to go down that route when I first decided on a bigger tank.  However, for whatever reason I decided not to bother and located the picture from a small display at my local Maidenhead Aquatics.  The picture is a the usual glossy double-sided affair, but the big rocks in the picture was similar to a 3d background I had been looking at. The brand is "SuperFish Deco Poster".

I'm going to have another browse through the plant catalogue tonight and see what I can spot for the Bog wood.  If I can't decide I'll ask the stockist based on my tank parameters and see what they come up with.  I'm on holiday now, so as long as the shop in Wrexham have everything in, I'm hoping to go down on Friday.  My credit card is already cowering in expectation of the £150 (ish) purchase.  ::)

Edit: Make that £183. Going for extra Java Moss for the bigger Bog wood along with attaching a Anubias barteri var. coffeefolia, which looks nicely broad leaved, and apparently can flower underwater too.

Offline Helen

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #38 on: February 07, 2013, 10:35:48 AM »
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I was going to suggest lace java fern for your bogwood. It is still green, but a different texture to any of the other plants I've seen. I have taken a pic of the larger specimen I have, but it doesn't actually show you anything. (It is the bushy plant on the left in my gallery photo)  The scientific name is Microsorum pteropus 'Windeløv'. It might actually be a Tropica brand!

If you are interested in it, I can post you some (as long as someone gives me instructions on how to successfully post aquatic plants). My plants are doing so well, that I am having to heavily prune them. The plants closest to the water surface seem to be the most successful. Till now I've only taken off leaves, but I have loads of rhizomes that are now floating as they have run out of wood/ stone to fix to.

Offline Mervyn

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #39 on: February 07, 2013, 10:44:27 AM »
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Hi Helen,
Is that water wisteria in the foreground?? if it is how have you got it bushy? I have read conflicting reports on how to prune it. I have just cut the top from mine, and replanted the top and left the bottom in place, is this right?

Oops did not mean to jump into someone else's thread...Apologies :-[

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Offline Helen

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #40 on: February 07, 2013, 11:05:19 AM »
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I don't have any water wysteria. The fluffy plant reflected in the water surface at the top is limnophilia sessiflora, the bushy plant is the lace java fern. It is the 'frills' on the ends of the leaves that make it look really bushy, and I think give it its unique texture.

And there is a single leaf of cryptocorne crispatula horizontally along the bottom of the photo.

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #41 on: February 07, 2013, 11:06:29 AM »
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I was going to suggest lace java fern for your bogwood. ...  The scientific name is Microsorum pteropus 'Windeløv'. It might actually be a Tropica brand!

Hi Helen, looks nice and definitely a Tropica [article].  Thanks for the offer, but I reckon I'm going to settle on what I've ordered for now.  I'll certainly keep you mind if I need something extra on the bog wood though, it's one of the easy plants that according to Tropica do well in low-light setups.


Offline Helen

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #42 on: February 07, 2013, 11:12:52 AM »
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I can vouch for it doing well in low-light setups. With two t8 lights, my tank is definitely a low-light set up. I bought two plants of the lace fern when I planted up my tank - a couple years ago now. Each had maybe a dozen leaves each, on the rhizomes. Now I have just run out of space for them; I would say they are 10 times the size they were when I bought them, and that is with pretty regular pruning. I think plant growth is usually quantified by how long it takes to double in size? For this plant, I would say it was a matter of weeks in my tank.

TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #43 on: February 07, 2013, 01:21:56 PM »
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Been in touch with the plant stockist and unfortunately they don't have everything available.  Plants will now be delivered on 14th Feb, though I may still have a trip down to see their store.  How will I cope waiting for a whole week.  ???

Offline Helen

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #44 on: February 08, 2013, 04:46:15 PM »
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I know that feeling! But it's not aquatic plants I'm waiting for!  ;)

TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #45 on: February 15, 2013, 01:21:32 PM »
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Plants (or at least most of them) arrived yesterday and I started planting last night.

I still have 2 Echinodorus quadricostatus to put in once they arrive next Thursday, and the plant for attaching to the larger Bog Wood piece, Anubias barteri var. coffeefolia, is also in that delivery.

It took a lot longer to plant and fill the tank than I had anticipated, probably as I've never done it before, but I think it went pretty well. Started at 8pm and didn't get finished and cleaned up until 1:30am. So, today at work I am knackered to say the least.  ;D

Tonight I'll be attaching the Java Moss to the root wood and dropping them into thier right places.

Lots and lots of pictures taken during the process, which I will be compiling for posting on Saturday.

Very happy so far, despite the the store not filling the order in one hit.  8)

TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #46 on: February 17, 2013, 12:37:50 AM »
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Planting ... 1 of 7

TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #47 on: February 17, 2013, 12:39:08 AM »
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Planting... 2 of 7

TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #48 on: February 17, 2013, 12:40:28 AM »
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Planting... 3 of 7

TigzFish

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Re: Preparations for a Planted Tank
« Reply #49 on: February 17, 2013, 12:41:44 AM »
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Planting... 4 of 7

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