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Thread: So you are thinking of starting a planted tank...

  1. #1
    Committee Member 1000 posts, Semi-Pro SCAPEr resowner92's Avatar
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    So you are thinking of starting a planted tank...

    This is a very lengthy basic guide on how to start out.
    I hope you enjoy it

    Before we go on to what equipment you need you need to have a plan. You need to figure out if you want a low tech setup or a high tech setup. Low tech setups are great if you dont want to do that much matienance and they are cheaper also. High tech setups need to have a lot of matienance but boy do they turn out awesome.

    • Low Tech: These consist of low lighting, plants, and fauna. The plants you choose dont need much lighting and grow slow so you dont have to trim them that much. A great list of these plants can be found here. Algae isnt much of a problem in this type of tank either.
    • High Tech: These consist of High lighting, CO2, dosing fertilizers, plants, and fauna. Plants in this type of tank are usually stem plants and need frequent trimming. You also have the option of growing a nice thick carpet plant like HC (Hemianthus callitrichoides) or Glossostigma elatinoides. Algae can also occur at any moment which is why you need CO2 and fertilizers to help cut it down. You will also need an algae crew which can include Otocinclus and shrimp as some of the most common species.


    Equipment that you will need.

    The first thing that you will need to get going is a fish tank, duh! Any tank size will do it just depends on how much you want to spend and how much space you have. You also have to remember the smaller the tank the faster bad things will happen.The smaller the tank the less expensive it will be. But you have to remember that it will also limit you on planting and hard scape options. A good size tank to start out with would be a 20gal or a 29gal.

    Second thing you will need is a filter. You should try and get something 5x your tanks gallons in GPH (gallons per hour). There are many options out there but they fall under three categories.

    • Canister filter: It is one of the most popular filters because you can hide it in your stand or under the tank. It also runs quietly holds a lot of media. The only drawback to them is that they are expensive. You can get a used one for $50 and up or a new one for $70 and up. The most popular brands are the Rena filstar line and Eheim.
    • Power filter: These are cheap and efficient. They hang on the back of your tank and are hard workers. The downside to them is that they cant hold that much media and once the water line goes down they make a lot of water noises. I have seen these go for $10-$60.
    • Internal filter: These are very cheap but you will only have a sponge for media. Most of the time these are used for shrimp tanks because they wont get sucked up in the filter. These run for $5 and up.

    Third thing you need is a light. You should get a fluorescent light fixture or a Metal Halide light. The rule is to get 3 watts per gallon if you want to grow most of the plants out there. But if you tank is below 10gal and above 100gal than this rule doesn't apply to you. If you have 1 WPG (watt per gallon) you can grow low light plants which include mosses and anubias. 2 WPG can grow medium light plants which are most stems and some grassy like plants like bylxa and eleocharis. High lighting in my opinion is somewhere between 3-4 WPG. The light bulb temperature also has an effect. You don't want Actinic bulbs or 20,000K bulbs (metal halide) because those are for saltwater. The two most popular bulbs are the 6700k and the 10,000k.

    Forth thing you need is a substrate. Stay away from gravel especially the clown barf (multi colored gravel) that they sell at the big chain petstores because they don't have any nutrition for plants and they dont look natural anyway. Sand is another substrate that you can use but it also has no nutrition but people use it because it looks great and natural. The stuff you really want is the stuff made for plants. Some brands include Flourite, Eco Complete, ADA Aquasoil, and Shultz aquatic plant soil. You want about three inches so the plants roots aren't crammed.
    Here's a good read about all the different substrate options (Link found by cainm13, thanks!)

    An optional thing that you want is CO2. Most setups need it except for low light tanks anyway it will still benifit it. If you have a high light setup you need it or algae will haunt you. There are two options for CO2.

    • Pressurized CO2: This is the most expensive option but in the long run you will spend less. What you need is a CO2 regulator, CO2 tank, CO2 resistant tubing, CO2 diffuser or CO2 reactor, Drop checker, and a bubble counter. Optional items are a solenoid w/ timer and a pH controller. If i recall correctly you want about 3 BPS (bubbles per second) but all tanks are different which is why you need the drop checker.
    • DIY CO2/Big brand CO2 at the pet store: This is a pretty basic idea which involves mixing yeast, sugar, and water together to produce CO2. Down side to this is it lasts for about two weeks and it doesn't produce it that evenly which causes pH swings.

    Another optional thing is dosing fertilizers. Again if you have a high light tank you need to dose them. You have your Micros and your Macros. Micros are a bunch of different elements mixed which i don't really know and Macros consist of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium or NPK. The most common dosing strategy is the EI method which i wont really go through.

    Some other things that you might want to consider are RO water (reverse osmosis) which lowers the waters hardness and pH. A test kit comes in handy to find out what is wrong in your tank and when tank is cycled. If you want you can add a heater but since So Cal weather is nice you dont really need one unless something in your tank needs the temps high.

    After you have your equipment then the fun part starts! You can do whatever you want. You can add a hard scape which is rocks or driftwood or both. If you want to add depth or make your tank look more natural then slope your substrate. Just have fun with it and remember who cares what everyone thinks about your tank it only has to be appealing to you.

    Some tips that i want to add.

    • Plant a lot at first so you wont have algae and trust me you will have it sooner or later.
    • When you first start your tank you want to have your lights on for 4 or 5 hours at most again to not have algae. Later when your tank cycles you can have it on for 8-10 hours.
    • Clean your filter every month. You dont have to buy new media for it just make sure to rinse it out well with tank water.
    • Make sure your rocks are tank safe. If you dont know try putting some vinager on it and if it bubbles DO NOT put it in the tank.
    • Water changes should be done every 1-2 weeks changing 25%-50% of the water.

    Well there it is I spent 2 hours typing all of this and my parents are wondering why I dont do this with well when typing an essay for english :p

    More articles coming soon!
    Last edited by resowner92; 07-30-2009 at 03:40 PM.

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  3. #2
    SCAPE Member SCAPEr dapellegrini's Avatar
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    Cool Neil - may I suggest adding a plug for "foreground" or "low growing" plants in the first bullets about selecting low or hi tech. IME A lot of people get into hi-tech because they saw an awesome foreground of HC or Glosso - and they need to understand you can't really do those in low-tech...

  4. #3
    Committee Member 1000 posts, Semi-Pro SCAPEr resowner92's Avatar
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    Thanks I added that.

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    SCAPE Member 2000 posts, Star SCAPEr goalcreas's Avatar
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    Good Job Neil, thanks for that.
    I STUCK it so it will be easy for our Newbie New members looking for basic tips to find and come back to anytime they want.

    BTW Neil, as a Forum Mod in this section, if you create something that should be STUCK, or somebody else posts some really useful information pertaining to this Forum, you can stick it in two ways.

    1, when you create a post like you did here, there are some RADIO BUTTONS (check boxes) below your text field.
    In one section at the bottom there are two buttons, "Close thread after submitting" and the other "Stick Thread after submitting" (something to that effect, might not be verbatim). Somewhat obviously, if you check the Stick thread, it will **tah Dah** stick it to the top of the page. For those of you that are not quite sure what STICK means, it puts it in a group of posts that are ALWAYS ON THE TOP of all the other posts. These posts do not get circulated in the mess of other posts, therefore, it is easy to come back to the post for reference time and time again and point others to it without having to give them the direct link.
    2, if somebody else made the post, or you forgot to do it and need to go back to it, there is a drop down menu called THREAD TOOLS on the TOP bar at the top of the thread, or if you are not on page 1, it is at the top of the first post on the page. after you drop down the menu, you can select STICK THREAD and **tah dah** it is stuck.

    Hope this information was helpful
    Last edited by goalcreas; 02-15-2009 at 12:28 PM. Reason: Added info on sticking posts
    They Call MeFancy Pants

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    No mess, no fuss - the pfertz? aquatic fertilizer system

    That is MR. FANCY PANTS To You!!!

  6. #5
    Committee Member 1000 posts, Semi-Pro SCAPEr resowner92's Avatar
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    Thanks and thanks 4 the info.

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    SCAPE Member Just Planted chrisp's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info Neil!

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    SCAPE Member Just Planted htram's Avatar
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    this was very helpful being as I had no idea what I was doing when first starting out..

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    SCAPE Member Just Planted LeeannInRSM's Avatar
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    I'm just starting out and found this article very helpful. Thank you!

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    SCAPE Member Just Planted Pitto's Avatar
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    It was helpful indeed.
    Thanks.

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    SCAPE Member Just Planted kuldeepbali's Avatar
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    Thank you nell for this help it was great

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    SCAPE Member SCAPEr Travisdt's Avatar
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    The link to substrate is dead, could you update it? i cam to learn about it today.

  13. #12
    Pew Pew Lazor 5000 posts, Officially addicted to SCAPE! Zenzu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Travisdt View Post
    The link to substrate is dead, could you update it? i cam to learn about it today.
    Hey Travis the Original post is from 2009 the last reply was in 2011 the links are dead there is newer updated information elsewhere.
    THE CAKE IS A LIE!

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