Large Planted tank with HOB filters - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 10 Old 04-08-2012, 08:57 PM Thread Starter
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Large Planted tank with HOB filters

Byron has been answering questions for me since I joined the forum regarding planted tanks. He suggested that we start a new thread here where everyone can benefit from the discussion. Like many of you I have HOB filters. I have had several tanks in the past but have never done much with live plants. Canister filters are generally preferred by those who work with planted tanks for many reasons. I am giving it a try with HOB filters. It is a large tank, 120 gallons. It is 26 inches deep. I have gone with lighting set up, substrate, background and most other features similar to Byron's amazon tank.
Have 2 T5 lights, one cool white, one full spectrum. 2 HOB's, aquaclear 70's. Dark substrate. Am adding liquid fertilizer biweekly. pH around 7.4. Water here in South Florida is very hard, am attempting to soften with rain water when I can get it. Just added first fish a couple of days ago, (lemon tetra's, 10 of them). Also 2 Cory catfish.
Have large pieces of driftwood in tank. Soaked it in tap water for 2 weeks, but still leaching tannins into water. I have reduced the flow rate of the two filters to cut down surface turbulence and removed the carbon from one of them. I will be adding 6 to 8 small anglefish and one medium angle in about 2 weeks.
Anyone have any other ideas how to increase my chances of success with the plants.
I have always done well with the fish, but the plant thing is all new to me. Thanks,
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post #2 of 10 Old 04-08-2012, 09:59 PM
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I'm experimenting with planted in my 10g for the last month or so. I went quite slowly at first, not wanting to disturb the balance. Also, I didn't want to go all-out with a high-tech setup and dosing fertilizers.

Right now I have one Brazilian Pennywort and a Dwarf Hygrophila that are doing really well. The Pennywort I have to trim every week, and I'll have to start trimming the hygrophilia next week I guess. The flow from the aquaclear 20 is going directly through the pennywort, the plant doesn't seem to care at all. I have added a Corkscrew Vallisneria last week, it seems to be doing ok but no new growth yet.

Right now I only have to dose flourish comp once a week, and my water parameters are the best I've seen : 0/0/0 ! In fact, the 0 nitrate is quite surprising to me, since I feed the fishes a lot and am not religious on removing the dead leaves.

I can only recommend you go planted, start with easy plants, and everything should be fine
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post #3 of 10 Old 04-09-2012, 02:43 AM
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I can help with the leaching of the tannins. When I added some driftwood to my tank, I was not happy with the change in color of the water. So upon the advice of others, I boiled it. But I let it boil for 45 minutes and the water turned so dark; I could not see the bottom of the pot. So after seeing how much tannins boiled out, I decided to boil it two more times using fresh water each time. After each boil, the water appeared just as dark as the first boil.
After the driftwood cooled down, I placed it back in the tank. Now my tank water is clear and I suspect that there is some leaching but not enough to make it detectable.
Also the size of the driftwood and the tank may come into play here. I have two pieces of it about 12 inches long and 3 inches wide in a 75 gallon tank.
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post #4 of 10 Old 04-09-2012, 06:56 PM Thread Starter
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Planted Tanks

Thanks for the help. I wont be able to boil the driftwood because my pieces are huge,
two pieces that are 4 feet long each, so I think the tannins will be there for a while.
I actually like it, kind of natural Amazon look.
Thanks Boise for info, thats incouraging about the plants doing well in the current from the Aquaclear. I have about 6 types of plants in now, so I will see who does well and who does not. Eventually I should be able to give some good info on planted tanks with HOB filters. Byron has been a constant source of tips, although he does not care much for HOB filters on big tanks. One tip is using rain water to soften and lower high pH water. Most of the Amazon plants would prefer softer water and pH not much above 7, from what I have read. Also when you use rain water you dont need to declorinate it. The declorination step pulls some of the other nutrients out and may interfere with the liquid fertilizer.
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post #5 of 10 Old 04-09-2012, 08:21 PM
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Were I live, the tap water is very soft, about 3-5 dGH according to the el-cheapo strip test I have for measuring gh and kh. Right now this doesn't seem to affect the plants so much, but I may raise it with seachem equilibrum if I have some problems later. The water is also slightly basic (pH 7.4, proper liquid test), so the treatment plant must be adding something to raise the pH...

Is there some "sweet spot" for hardness, or it really depends on the type of plant ?
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post #6 of 10 Old 04-09-2012, 08:42 PM Thread Starter
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I think it depends on the plant type, but most I have read about prefer soft over hard.
If you go to the section of this forum that describes each plant it will help you choose plants that go with your water type, although most of my local aquarium stores have a fairly limited selection. For example, Byron, the plant expert on this forum, really likes floating plants. I have been to 5 or 6 local aquarium shops and not one of them had any floating plants.
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post #7 of 10 Old 04-10-2012, 07:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Boise1024 View Post
Were I live, the tap water is very soft, about 3-5 dGH according to the el-cheapo strip test I have for measuring gh and kh. Right now this doesn't seem to affect the plants so much, but I may raise it with seachem equilibrum if I have some problems later. The water is also slightly basic (pH 7.4, proper liquid test), so the treatment plant must be adding something to raise the pH...

Is there some "sweet spot" for hardness, or it really depends on the type of plant ?
Some plants do really well in hard water, vals are one, but most like a bit softer water.

I think the minimum is 3 dGH, so if you are 3-5 you are in the sweet spot.

Mine is 1.9 - 2.5 dGH and my plants are all growing well, but pretty slowly. I'll be trying out Equilibrium soon to see what effect it has.
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post #8 of 10 Old 04-10-2012, 11:12 AM
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First on the filters, you're correct, I do not like HOB for most planted tanks. On a 5-6 foot tank, a good canister is best for fish and plants.

On the water parameters for plants, most aquarium plants are fairly adaptable provided extremes are avoided. The majority of our substrate-rooted plants occur in habitats with soft water and acidic substrates so such plants naturally do well in similar soft, slightly acidic water. But calcium and magnesium are important essential nutrients. Most sources suggest a GH no less than 4 or 5 dGH as minimum for such plants, and this has been my experience. Equilibrium by Seachem is my method of raising my GH to 5 or 6 (from basically zero in the tap water) and the increased growth and health of my Echinodorus especially has been remarkable.

Some plants need harder water. Vallisneria is one, this plant occurs in water with a higher GH, example the African rift lakes and you can't get much higher than that. Vallisneria readily uses bicarbonates as a source of carbon. Hard water plants tend to do poorly in soft water. Most soft water plants prefer CO2, and some such as the mosses can only use CO2 for carbon.

Most liquid plant fertilizders contain some calcium and magnesium, but usually not much because it is assumed the tap water will naturally have these if it is medium hard or harder as in most areas. Those of us with very soft water have to increase these minerals by some other means.

I have tried dolomite (this worked very well, though it raises pH a bit), and aragonite and crushed coral mix (similar to dolomite but pH went sky high which is not acceptable with soft, acidic water fish but would work with livebearers or rift lake cichlids). If you really want to fuss, you can prepare your own combination: calcium is critical, and crushed coral provides this (though again the pH issue), and magnesium sulfate (pure Epsom Salt) will add magnesium.

Seachem's Equilibrium is the only product I have been able to find that can be used to raise GH accurately without affecting the pH. Seachem has come out with a new line, called Aqua Vitro, for freshwater planted tanks [they have had a marine line under this name for a while now). There are some good products in this line, according to the info I have found. The line is only carried in select stores, and not available online unfortunately. One of my good local fish stores will be carrying this and I intend to look into it. What I like about it from what I have read is its completeness. A water conditioner that only detoxifies chlorine and chloramine (thus not negating minerals like iron, copper, zinc, manganese, nickel), a supplement to increase GH (comparable to their Equilibrium but in liquid form), and various trace elements and a carbon supplement (not Excel). This line is being geared for those who have hard water and use RO, but obviously it will be ideal for those of us with near-RO water coming out of the tap.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #9 of 10 Old 04-10-2012, 01:54 PM
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I have have had a number of different sized planted tanks (10g, 20g, and 55g) and I have used canister, sponge and HOB filters on my tanks. I personally do not like HOB filters for planted tanks. If I had unlimited resources all of my tanks would be canisters. I have an Ehiem canister on my 55g. HOBs do not give you the control (flow direction, etc.) that canisters give. Canisters also do a better job at water polishing IMO, which is nice if you have a planted show tank.
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post #10 of 10 Old 04-10-2012, 08:42 PM Thread Starter
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Planted Tanks

Im sure I will eventually end up with a good canister filter. My tank is in a custom wall unit which I had designed with HOB filters in mind as far as easy access, etc. The nice thing is that I do not require any access to the back of the tank, other than just lifting out the section of the Aquaclear filters which contains the sponge, carbon, etc. And there are no hose connections that I need to worry about coming loose when Im out of town or springing a leak.
On a side note, my T5's are on a timer and when they shut off at night I have some cheap LED's that stay on to give a sundown effect. I found them at one of the big hardware stores for $50 and they have three different bulbs that you can spread out on the glass cover, positioning them over a special plant or structure to show. Its a great look besides giving the fish that gradual loss of light before total darkness.
As soon as I get better at loading pictures into the forum, ( I am computer compromised), I will try to get good pictures of the big tank.
This is my first time with a tank in a custom unit. I tried to think of everything, and it looks great but it definitely adds some challenges. I can give some good pointers to anyone thinking of enclosing the tank in some kind of structure.
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