Need Advice - Converting 29 gal. to low-light planted
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Need Advice - Converting 29 gal. to low-light planted

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Need Advice - Converting 29 gal. to low-light planted
Old 06-30-2012, 03:39 PM   #1
 
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Need Advice - Converting 29 gal. to low-light planted

Hi there!

I'm in the process of changing my established 29 gal. aquarium into a planted tank, though I have virtually no experience with aquarium plants so I'm hoping to get some insight on the best route concerning lighting and the like.

What I'm really wanting is a low-light aquarium that preferably does not need additional CO2. Seeing I'm going away to college in the upcoming fall after commuting to a local school for a year to save some money, I'm trying to get my tank a bit more ecologically balanced seeing I won't be able to maintain it as frequently during the fall and spring semesters. I'm hoping plants can help with that (plus I just love how pretty established aquariums look and I'm sure my fish will be much happier).

Right now I have a Whisper 30 power filter and a Marineland dual temp. heater for aquariums sizes 20-40 gal. I also have a full hood (the Aqueon Deluxe I believe) with the standard 20W bulb, which doesn't seem to be enough for even a low-light planted aquarium if what info I've found has proved correct. I also have a bubble wall in the back.

I have your typical aquarium gravel as my substrate, which I'm hoping I'll be able to keep? If I really need to replace it in order to change to planted I will, but seeing this is an active aquarium I don't really want to stress my fish by completely changing out the substrate and I'm worried doing so may result in a mini-cycle if the bacteria in the filter isn't enough to maintain it.

Right now, the main things I'm wondering about is the lighting. Is the 2 watts per gallon rule accurate for a low-light aquarium of this size? If so, am I going to have to look into replacing the hood itself? I was browsing some of the local pet stores for a higher wattage to fit in my current hood, but I couldn't find anything above 24-25 watts in the 24'' tubes, which I'm guessing isn't enough.

I was reading some suggestions on going with a glass top. Are there any drawbacks to this? Admittedly with the lighting I'm really lost seeing I never really had to pay much attention to it before, and there's such a wide variety. Like I'm not sure if it's better to go LED or something else, and on top of that I'm trying to keep costs reasonably low seeing I don't have a whole lot of spare income to really throw into things that aren't direly needed.

Any advice would be most appreciated <3
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Old 06-30-2012, 06:36 PM   #2
 
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It's weird to not be able to edit your posts, lol. I'm used to forums that are really strict about avoiding double-posts.

Anyway, upon reading some other posts, there was information stating that wattage does not matter whereas the kelvins do (which I'm grateful for. Means I may not have to get an entirely new hood).

However, upon looking at the light currently in my hood, it seems it's a T12. Can a T8 be put in there in exchange? Also, the glass underneath the light strip (on the actual hood itself, not anything to do with the light) has been cracked for some time. It was like that when I received it and I didn't really worry about it seeing it wasn't shedding glass shards or anything. Will that interfere with the lighting at all? If so I am going to have to get another hood, but at least sticking with this style will be a bit cheaper than upgrading to some of the other styles I've seen.

Plus this is the only hood style I've seen that comes with a faux oak finish, which matches the accents on my tank |D; That appeals to be aesthetically seeing a lot of the other lighting fixtures I've found have been black.
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Old 07-02-2012, 12:47 PM   #3
 
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First off, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.

And second, welcome to the world of planted tanks.

I will try to respond to your questions, but before getting to specifics I will mention the 4-part series "A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium" stickied at the head of this section that will perhaps expand on some of what I'll mention. I wrote it, and the tanks in my log [click "Aquariums" tab below my name on the left] follow this method.

Substrate is best as fine gravel or coarse sand. I had planted tanks for 20 years with natural fine gravel (2mm grain size), and over the past couple of years I've been changing to playsand. Either is fine, although your fish might have preferences; if substrate fish like corys and loaches are intended, sand would be better. And changing the substrate now will be easier than waiting until its planted and then deciding you would rather have something different. Bacteria is not much of an issue, due to the plants using the ammonia anyway, although the substrate bacteria that breakdown organics will have to rebuild, but that is not a problem.

Light is the crucial component. You can manage with what you have (the single T8 24-inch tube) in a decent spectrum--and yes, T8 should work fine. I have this over my 29g, photo below. The plants are doing fine, but the lower light does limit options. Moving up, you could get a glass cover and then a fixture in either a single T5 or a dual T8. LED is still relatively new, and very expensive; I have seen successful small tanks (nothing over 20g) using LED, but for larger i think the extent of lighting would have to be significant. We have a couple threads here on this topic you might search for. I will leave this for now but we can discuss later.

With what you have, a full spectrum or "daylight" tube with a Kelvin around 6500K will be best. I happen to have a Life-Glo over mine, but tubes from the hardware store with 6500K will do just as well.

I would get rid of the bubble wall; these drive CO2 out faster, and that will affect plant growth. You can get a grasp of bacteria and CO2 in this article:
http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/f...quarium-74891/

I'll leave it at that for now. And BTW, you can edit posts for a specific time, then they are closed except to a moderator. Reason is, we don't want posts being changed down the road which can cause issues for the content of the entire thread. Members could change things and make subsequent posts irrelevant, etc.

Byron.
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Old 07-02-2012, 01:30 PM   #4
 
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Thanks for the welcome =3 I'm really looking forward to getting started. I was hopping around to a couple different stores today comparing prices and such (lol, why pay more for the same thing if another store has it a couple bucks cheaper?) and looking at some of the plants available.

I did read the stickied articles you mentioned after I posted this thread, and they were extremely helpful. I think I at least have a more basic understanding of how it all works. The lighting makes more sense to me anyway as well as the nutrient balance and such.

The timing actually ended up being uncannily good seeing my current aquarium bulb needed replaced, so I ran to Lowe's and picked one up after looking at the ones at the pet store.

The one I got was by GE. It's the Aqua Rays Fresh & Salt Aqua, 24'' T8 18W. It unfortunately didn't have the color temperature on it (but it did list 950 lumens, 1500h) and the little wavelength picture on the one side showed 400 to 700 nanometers with high spikes in blue, yellow-green, and orange if that helps at all. It has a pinkish tinge to it and on the back it said it supports plant growth. They didn't have a 24'' T8 with the right color temperature in stock otherwise.

I'll get rid of the bubble wall for sure then. I put it in because it looked pretty and the fish seemed to like it, but if it's no good for the plants there's no point in keeping it. One less plug in my power strip, lol.

However, it seems my gravel is quite a bit bigger than mentioned. The average piece is about a half-inch wide. I'm guessing that's too big to have plants rooted in it? I would actually love to switch to sand seeing I loved the look of it when my dad had his aquariums, and if switching it out won't cause a mini-cycle with the plants I may just do that. The possibility of a cycle was really my main concern.

And the editing thing makes sense. Thanks for clarifying that xD

Thanks for the response! Beautiful tanks, by the way. I was looking at them when i was reading through some other threads, and they look absolutely gorgeous!
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Old 07-02-2012, 06:07 PM   #5
 
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Quote:
I was hopping around to a couple different stores today comparing prices and such (lol, why pay more for the same thing if another store has it a couple bucks cheaper?) and looking at some of the plants available.
We have several plants in our profiles, and many fish. Profiles are under the second tab form the left in the blue bar across the top of the page. If the common or scientific name in the profile is used exactly the same in a post it will shade and you can click it for that profile, example Amazon Sword or Echinodorus bleherae.

Quote:
The timing actually ended up being uncannily good seeing my current aquarium bulb needed replaced, so I ran to Lowe's and picked one up after looking at the ones at the pet store.
The one I got was by GE. It's the Aqua Rays Fresh & Salt Aqua, 24'' T8 18W. It unfortunately didn't have the color temperature on it (but it did list 950 lumens, 1500h) and the little wavelength picture on the one side showed 400 to 700 nanometers with high spikes in blue, yellow-green, and orange if that helps at all. It has a pinkish tinge to it and on the back it said it supports plant growth. They didn't have a 24'' T8 with the right color temperature in stock otherwise.
I've not tried this tube. I tend to avoid the so-called "aquarium" or "plant" tubes because they do make the tank purplish as you mention, but moreso they usually are less intense light than a full spectrum/daylight/cool white type. However, having said that, 950 lumens is not bad for this length of tube but I can't find the lumens for the daylight to be able to compare. But with one tube this could make quite a difference to the plants. Were it me, i wold exchange it; I cannot abide the purplish hue as it distorts fish and plant colours. The daylight around 6500K is close to natural sun, though a bit cooler, but a good rendition of colour.

Quote:
However, it seems my gravel is quite a bit bigger than mentioned. The average piece is about a half-inch wide. I'm guessing that's too big to have plants rooted in it? I would actually love to switch to sand seeing I loved the look of it when my dad had his aquariums, and if switching it out won't cause a mini-cycle with the plants I may just do that. The possibility of a cycle was really my main concern.
This is an issue for some plants. I had a tank with pea gravel, and I noticed the plants were struggling by comparison. Part of the problem is the flow of water being too fast through large gravel. Another issue is the organics/bacteria. With large gravel chunks of waste get down and bacteria has a harder time breaking it down, which can cause pollution. I would suggest you change it to either sand or a fine gravel, again depending upon fish. My corys definitely improved with sand.

The cycle is not an issue, as the plants take up the ammonia anyway.

And thank you indeed for the compliment.
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Old 07-02-2012, 10:53 PM   #6
 
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I've started compiling a list of some of the plants from that database to look into =3 It was extremely useful and very informative, and my step-dad is actually getting really excited for the tank redo xD He's a total plant nut and he wants to help me pick some out, lol. I'm looking at the Duckweed or Hornwort for a floater, and I'm really eyeing up the Anubias seeing I like the look of it and when I mentioned it flowered underwater my step-dad went nuts xD

I really liked the Anacharis as well, but I have a feeling my tank is probably too warm for it after reading through its profile. I normally keep it between 78 - 80.

I did take the tube light back, and I'm going to go to Home Depot tomorrow morning, so hopefully they have a larger selection there. If not I figure I can try Wal-Mart seeing I need to stop there to get a new bulb for the betta tank I'm setting up (a little 15W screw-in).

Also, I'm going to stop by one of our pool places to pick up some pool filter sand tomorrow morning. I was browsing around, and I really liked the looks of it from pictures I've seen, and it seems like a lot of people only had good things to say about it. I've removed the bubble wall and I'm slowly removing some of my gravel bit by bit every couple of hours so I don't freak my fish out too much, but I'm hoping I may be able to get the substrate change done tomorrow.

Lol, I'm driving my mom nuts seeing I keep hopping between the computer to do research and then the car to run out and get something or other or do price checks xD I had her howling when she saw how many notes and price comparisons I crammed into a couple pages in my notepad.

Unfortunately, I did determine we don't have a very wide array of fertilizers here. I found a Tetra FloraPride liquid fertilizer and API root tabs, but that was all that was offered locally. I haven't checked up at Agway yet though, and they tend to offer a lot of the things not seen at the local pet chain stores. I was extremely happy when I saw Petco had mopani wood though. Our local Petco just opened up, and the only other pet store we had never carried any of it, but I've been dying to get some for ages. I've just been hesitant about ordering online seeing I like to hold pieces like that and size them up right there to see how they'd look. It's hard to do that online.

I might go ahead and post some pics once I get the substrate changed and the new light in. Lol, I may end up with some plants by tomorrow evening if everything goes smoothly seeing I'm hoping they will help relax the fish after the substrate change. My step-dad wants to go look at them tomorrow xD He's getting more excited than I am, haha. Unfortunately I'm a bit limited in my pocketbook, so he may have to donate to the cause if he wants too many of them.

Thanks so much for your insight and all the information! It's really helping me a lot.
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Old 07-03-2012, 09:51 AM   #7
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lost Eventide View Post
I've started compiling a list of some of the plants from that database to look into =3 It was extremely useful and very informative, and my step-dad is actually getting really excited for the tank redo xD He's a total plant nut and he wants to help me pick some out, lol. I'm looking at the Duckweed or Hornwort for a floater, and I'm really eyeing up the Anubias seeing I like the look of it and when I mentioned it flowered underwater my step-dad went nuts xD

I really liked the Anacharis as well, but I have a feeling my tank is probably too warm for it after reading through its profile. I normally keep it between 78 - 80.

I did take the tube light back, and I'm going to go to Home Depot tomorrow morning, so hopefully they have a larger selection there. If not I figure I can try Wal-Mart seeing I need to stop there to get a new bulb for the betta tank I'm setting up (a little 15W screw-in).

Also, I'm going to stop by one of our pool places to pick up some pool filter sand tomorrow morning. I was browsing around, and I really liked the looks of it from pictures I've seen, and it seems like a lot of people only had good things to say about it. I've removed the bubble wall and I'm slowly removing some of my gravel bit by bit every couple of hours so I don't freak my fish out too much, but I'm hoping I may be able to get the substrate change done tomorrow.

Lol, I'm driving my mom nuts seeing I keep hopping between the computer to do research and then the car to run out and get something or other or do price checks xD I had her howling when she saw how many notes and price comparisons I crammed into a couple pages in my notepad.

Unfortunately, I did determine we don't have a very wide array of fertilizers here. I found a Tetra FloraPride liquid fertilizer and API root tabs, but that was all that was offered locally. I haven't checked up at Agway yet though, and they tend to offer a lot of the things not seen at the local pet chain stores. I was extremely happy when I saw Petco had mopani wood though. Our local Petco just opened up, and the only other pet store we had never carried any of it, but I've been dying to get some for ages. I've just been hesitant about ordering online seeing I like to hold pieces like that and size them up right there to see how they'd look. It's hard to do that online.

I might go ahead and post some pics once I get the substrate changed and the new light in. Lol, I may end up with some plants by tomorrow evening if everything goes smoothly seeing I'm hoping they will help relax the fish after the substrate change. My step-dad wants to go look at them tomorrow xD He's getting more excited than I am, haha. Unfortunately I'm a bit limited in my pocketbook, so he may have to donate to the cause if he wants too many of them.

Thanks so much for your insight and all the information! It's really helping me a lot.
My problem with pool filter sand is that it is white, and that is not good for fish. There is a black pool filter sand i understand, though i haven't seen it, but that should work. I use playsand because it is inexpensive, good, and in appearance replicates the sand in many Amazonian streams.

Avoid the API root tabs, others have reported issues using these. FloraPride is missing nutrients. The two best liquids are Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement and Brightwell Aquatics FlorinMulti. If not in local stores, online. Both of these contain all essential nutrients and in proportion, and you use very little weekly. One teaspoon treats 60 gallons once a week.
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Old 07-03-2012, 11:57 AM   #8
 
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I got AquaQuartz pool filter sand and it seems like it's the same shade as your run-of-the-mill playsand? Unless white in sand colours isn't as white as your typical white; I honestly am not all that familiar with different sand types so I don't know if there are any specifics. I didn't realize white sand was bad for the fish though.

I was worried about getting the playsand seeing there was a lot of people mentioning how they were having issues with their filters due to sand particles. Seeing I'm going to be away for extended periods of time and going to be leaving general maintenance to the care of my mom and step-dad, I was a bit worried should the filter go while I'm at college.

I'll definitely look those fertilizers up =3
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Old 07-03-2012, 12:30 PM   #9
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lost Eventide View Post
I got AquaQuartz pool filter sand and it seems like it's the same shade as your run-of-the-mill playsand? Unless white in sand colours isn't as white as your typical white; I honestly am not all that familiar with different sand types so I don't know if there are any specifics. I didn't realize white sand was bad for the fish though.

I was worried about getting the playsand seeing there was a lot of people mentioning how they were having issues with their filters due to sand particles. Seeing I'm going to be away for extended periods of time and going to be leaving general maintenance to the care of my mom and step-dad, I was a bit worried should the filter go while I'm at college.

I'll definitely look those fertilizers up =3
If the colour through the bag is the sand, that should be OK. White substrates are not natural for any fish, and depending upon the overhead light (which obviously reflects off the substrate) can make fish very stressed and colourless due to this. Most of our fish are forest fish, and they occur in dimly-lit waters. Direct sun rarely reaches the water, and in streams where it does, the fish remain under cover of overhanging vegetation, branches, or aquatic floating plants. They expect a dark substrate under them, since almost all tropical substrates are a mix of mud, sand, wood and fallen leaves. Fish are dark coloured on the upper (dorsal) side so they will blend in with the dark substrate. If they were designed for white substrates, they would be light coloured on the dorsal side.

If the filter intake is not close to the substrate, it should be fine. With sand, I wold suggest no less than 5 inches from the substrate. The only time this might be a problem is with fish that dig in the substrate major-time, but the fish we would maintain in average tanks will not be these.
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