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Advice for Converting Established Tank to Planted

This is a discussion on Advice for Converting Established Tank to Planted within the Beginner Planted Aquarium forums, part of the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium category; --> I don't think the biological filtration is bad, per se. It might not be needed in the quantity that it is in non-planted tanks ...

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Advice for Converting Established Tank to Planted
Old 11-18-2011, 01:51 PM   #11
 
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I don't think the biological filtration is bad, per se. It might not be needed in the quantity that it is in non-planted tanks because the plants are using a good portion of the ammonia, but whatever the plants don't use (dependent on plant quantity/quality vs. bioload) will still need to be converted by bacteria.

Some planted tanks still test positive, to some degree, for nitrates, no?
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Old 11-18-2011, 01:52 PM   #12
 
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You can do it with the HOB just be sure to keep the tank filled all the way to the top so that there is less surface agitation which causes CO2 loss which is why the sponge, internal, or canister filters are recommended for planted tanks. Also with the HOB your plants may grow a little slower but thats just my opinion as to what I have seen on my own tank from before and after switching to a sponge.
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Old 11-19-2011, 01:05 PM   #13
 
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I've read through this thread and may repeat some of what's been said, but I like to cover all bases together so it (hopefully) is connected.

Your change of substrate would have had a far greater effect on the water parameters and tank biology than anything now being contemplated. Most of the bacteria resides in the substrate, and that is what maintains stable parameters.

Filters. Plants are nature's filters, so in a well-planted tank we can let them do the job. Filtration via equipment should be minimal but sufficient for the needs of the fish. Biological filtration is not "encouraged" because this is competing with the plants. Chemical filtration is always avoided because this really messes with the tank's natural biology and plants. Fish needing currents should have them, but here I am thinking of fish like hillstream loaches and some catfish that occur in fast-flowing streams. The fish you mention have more of a moderate-flow current requirement. As we have all observed in our differing setups, plants will grow fine in almost any tank provided decent light is available. There is no point in going overboard on something like water movement and surface disturbance because it will negatively affect the plants even though likely minimally, and this makes it harder for the plants to "do their thing." And the great benefit of plants is in water stability and filtration, so making the environment as suitable for the plants as possible will mean more likelihood of better response. And the fish are a big issue when it comes to water movement.

If I were to embark on this proposed change, I would remove all fake plants and add the wood and as many plants as you can, all at the same time. You will see no change in ammonia or nitrite; nitrates will lower in time as the plants get growing, and that is positive on all fish. Nitrates are detrimental to fish at very low levels, something many do not realize, so the lower the nitrates the better. The hardness will not change from what it is in the source (tap) water; it might if calcareous substances (rock, gravel, sand) were in the tank as these would increase the hardness, but otherwise no. The pH is largely connected to the KH/GH so unless they are very low the pH will remain stable. Plants actually contribute to stabilizing pH, but it is not the plants themselves but the organics and bacteria in the substrate that affect pH (subject to the KH) and this occurs in all tanks, with or without plants. There is more danger of instability without plants.

Byron.
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Old 11-19-2011, 03:22 PM   #14
 
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Thanks Byron, Calm, and Mina for the great replies.

Bryon, you really took some of the "worry" away, that is much appreciated. I think I'm going to bite the bullet next weekend and do a "one shot one kill", I removed the second filter this morning when doing a partial water change. Stopped at the LFS on my way home from home depot to look and they have some awesome drift wood with plants growing out of them (although slightly smaller than I was imaging for the center piece) they also have a decent selection of plants. Talked my "regular" employee (we go there a lot, 2 fish tanks, 1 dog, and 2 birds) she is going to order me in a larger piece of driftwood so I'll go back next weekend and pick it all up. I know I can probably save a few bucks buying online but the plants there are healthy and I like to sponsor the brick and morter shops :)

On the LFS topic, they have a two Zoo-Med bulbs there that I was looking at. Which would you recommend? I know the Guide says 6500k but they have one "FloraSun" that is 5500k but claims to be idea for planted aquariums and has a peak emmission in the blue and red regions promoting photosynthesis. Then they also have a SuperSun one that is 6500k.

Or... am I wasting my money buying a "specialty bulb"
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Old 11-19-2011, 03:30 PM   #15
 
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I tried that one at one time and I got better results with the 6500 daylight bulbs. Just remember once you get it all done we love to see pictures. LOL
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Old 11-19-2011, 04:12 PM   #16
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kangy View Post
Thanks Byron, Calm, and Mina for the great replies.

Bryon, you really took some of the "worry" away, that is much appreciated. I think I'm going to bite the bullet next weekend and do a "one shot one kill", I removed the second filter this morning when doing a partial water change. Stopped at the LFS on my way home from home depot to look and they have some awesome drift wood with plants growing out of them (although slightly smaller than I was imaging for the center piece) they also have a decent selection of plants. Talked my "regular" employee (we go there a lot, 2 fish tanks, 1 dog, and 2 birds) she is going to order me in a larger piece of driftwood so I'll go back next weekend and pick it all up. I know I can probably save a few bucks buying online but the plants there are healthy and I like to sponsor the brick and morter shops :)

On the LFS topic, they have a two Zoo-Med bulbs there that I was looking at. Which would you recommend? I know the Guide says 6500k but they have one "FloraSun" that is 5500k but claims to be idea for planted aquariums and has a peak emmission in the blue and red regions promoting photosynthesis. Then they also have a SuperSun one that is 6500k.

Or... am I wasting my money buying a "specialty bulb"
Yes, in short to the last question.

The so-called aquarium and plant tubes are much less intense in light output. It is true they highlight the red and blue wavelengths but for some reason they are about half the intensity of the full spectrum/daylight types. They also tend to discolour the aquarium with a purplish hue, which in itself is a matter of taste, but the colour rendition of fish and plants is not natural and I personally do not like it. The weaker intensity is the significant issue though.

The ZooMed line is a good one, I have used some of them. The Ultra Sun is the best, I suspect this is what you mean by "Super" Sun--unless they have recently changed the name. It is 6500K, and very intense light; this tube is comparable to Hagen's Life-Glo and Life-Glo 2. You can see the spectrum graph here:
Fluorescent Aquarium Lighting: Zoo Med Ultra Sun Trichromatic Fluorescent Bulbs

If you have two tubes over the tank, you can mix them. One should be the Ultra Sun, the other I would suggest more "cool" such as ZooMed's Reef Sun. I had this combo over my 90g for about 18 months are really liked it; crisp white light with enough blue to give it a very clean edge. The plants did very well. The tubes came to their end (12-18 months is max for T8 tubes) and the only store here with ZooMed is closed now, so Ive had to look for other tubes. The Reef Sun is obviously designed for reef tanks and on its own is very cool "blue" white light, but mixed with the UltraSun works well. If you prefer a warmer tone, instead of the ReefSun you can use the TropicSun, at 5500K. I have this, though it is a bit warm for my personal taste, but the spectrum is good for plants so it will work too. The choice of TropicSun or ReefSun comes down to your personal taste as far as the "white" of the tank light.

The above is an example of why Kelvin alone is not always a reliable guide. The ReefSun is 6500K, yet the light is definitely cooler and more blue than the UltraSun which is also 6500K. This is due to the phosphors used inside the tubes. The spectrum graphs are a better guide to the actual light.

Byron.
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Old 11-21-2011, 12:44 PM   #17
 
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Alright, so my absolute lack of impulse control and the fact that conveniently my existing tube light crapped out on my Saturday I took the first plunge. I went against my original plan to "one shot one kill". Mostly because I added in a new element (new mixed substrate) and I didn't want to completely upset the fish. So here's where I'm at and yes it feels just as good as the naked jack daniels sprinkler dance I'm hooked, going to hopefully finish it this coming weekend once my primary driftwood gets in.

1) Replaced bulb. They did not have a 24" UltraSun and after the reviews I didn't want the purple tinge from the FloraSun bulb so I went to PetsMart and got an Aqueon 8000k full spectrum daylight tube. They also had the "plant specific" tube but they confirmed it has the purplish tinge to it. I hope this isn't going to be too much.
2) Added a timer and set it to run 10 hours (will adjust as necessary) and removed the bubble bar.
3) Added some FloraMax to the substrate. I was running plain pool filter sand. While I liked the smooth look of it, I wanted something more "earthy". I see a lot of pictures with planted tanks in white sand that look great but the guide said go darker so I met both in the middle with a 50/50. I think it looks really great and "fresh". The pictures really do it NO justice at all, the 50/50 mixture of sand and the brown/redish floramax I think is real unique
4) Added a few "starter plants" as mentioned above I didn't want to upset the fishies too much and I wanted to try my hand at planting, etc. So I got a 3 pack of Java Fern and one small Amazon Sword. (to replace the last remaining plastic plants. So right now I have a mixture of live and silk, already IMO a world of difference. Can't wait to go all natural.

Here are a couple pictures, the lighting and the flash really don't do the subtrate much justice though. I'm going to stop and get a small Driftwood for the back left corner to replace that old fake log probably today or tomorrow then do the rest of the plants once I get the primary driftwood. What do you recommend for more plants with my light and setup? I would love to do a wall of tall plants along the back with dense plants on the left, driftwood on the right with some plants surrounding it. (the car, the other mountain thing etc, are going bye bye, the mountain in the trash since it's very old, and the car will go in the 10g)

Also, it's AMAZING how much quiter the tank is without the smaller filters waterfall and the bubble bar going all the time. You can notice the behavior in the fish changing, they seem to be liking the new substrate. I was worried about the Cory's and the two Clown Loaches since the FloraMax seemed rough but mixed with the sand it doesn't seem to bother them, it actually feels smoother digging into it and running your hand on it then the sand did alone. (p.s. I know the Clown Loaches are not meant for that small of a tank, nor in a pair, I rescued them from a neighbor's 30g tall tank that they had them in for 2 YEARS, they were getting rid of the tank and were just going to THROW THEM OUT!! so I took them in until I can find them a better bigger home, poor guys, they are about 3 inches right now)

Before:


After:


Closeup of Mixed Substrate:
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Old 11-21-2011, 12:52 PM   #18
 
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Looking good! I really like the mixed substrate it looks nice.
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Old 11-21-2011, 12:55 PM   #19
 
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Also removing the bubble bar actually made the tank look bigger. It used to take up the back inch of the tank, while the fish seemed to of "liked" it they seem to enjoy the new tranquility. Never noticed how loud my tank was with all the bubbles and waterfull until now. I'm LOVING it!
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Old 11-22-2011, 09:44 AM   #20
 
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I put some of that SeaView stuff on my backgroud and added a small piece of driftwood with Anubias last night. Once I get it heavily planted I may do the black construction paper background. I also removed the rest of the silk plants (less the background piece) and moved them to my 10g (it's a little overdone now haha) Planning on replacing the castle/mountain with a tall piece of driftwood leaned against the glass and of course adding more plants. Not sure about the fake white log, thinking either keep it and add some plants to it or remove it altogether. I kind of like the car and anchor though lol:

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