Hey, Smith!!! Welcome to TFK!
Congrats on your 180g!!! This is going to be a fun project, for sure! I'm hoping to be setting up my 125g soon - very, very exciting!!! ^__^
I can't say if you're out of your mind or not (giggle) but as some of the others have mentioned, in tanks - bigger is always
better! With a tank this size, you have more options open to you as far as stocking is concerned, and maintaining water quality in a larger body of water is much easier!
It sounds like this might be your first tank ever???! That's awesome!
So yeah - open ended questions, lol. . .gotta start somewhere, neh? First things first, do you know about the Nitrogen Cycle?
If not, lets start there - a basic understanding of this bacterial process is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
you'll need to know about before bringing fish home.
Here's a link to a YouTube video one of our members put together on the subject, I feel that it gives a good overview on the subject - please give it a watch and bring additional questions to us for clarification - and don't get any fish until you understand! XP
(Disclaimer: there may be a *tiny* bit of colorful language in this one, lol, fair warning if you're sensitive to such things! o.O) Test kit!!!
I strongly recommend that you get a LIQUID testing kit before you get started on anything else. It's really important to monitor the tank closely when it is first being set up, and as the animals start going in. I use the
. It seems a bit pricey at first, but it should last you quite a while, and test for test is cheaper and far more accurate than the 'dip stick' tests you can find in shops. Worth it's weight in gold, in my opinion - no aquarist should be without one! Next up. . . substrate!
There is no answer to the question of what the "BEST" substrate is, a lot of this is really based on individual preferences, as well as the requirements of the fish you keep - and there are SO MANY OPTIONS
out there! You can even run a tank with no substrate at all! Each have their own sets of pros and cons, and have different requirements as far as maintenance. I personally find sand far easier to keep clean (though some will disagree!). Cleaning may not be a huge concern to you, though - some recommend not
cleaning the detritus at all in a planted tank, as it act as additional nutrients for the plants (I try to keep my tanks as clean as possible, regardless)
From a planted tank perspective, you DO NOT NEED
a fancy (and expensive!) enriched substrate for plants to thrive (don't believe the hype! >.<). As long as their requirements for nutrition and lighting are fulfilled, most plants will grow perfectly in sand as they will in gravel or dirt or any of those fun (and expensive!) enriched-for-plants substrates that you'll find in the fish shop. That said, the enriched substrates will
give your plants quite a nice boost to get them settled in and growing, and plenty of those to choose from if you want to go that route, too. . . :)
From a fishy point of view, there are many bottom-dwelling fish that will require a soft sandbed to thrive in a tank, so if you choose to go with gravel or stone, you may be limiting your options as far as stocking is concerned.
Unless you have a clear idea of a particular aesthetic you want in your tank, I'd recommend you go with plain old boring PLAY SAND - just like the kind you'd find in a child's box at the playground! The reason being that a tank this size is going to require A LOT of whatever substrate you decide on - you'll need *somewhere* around 200 pounds of whatever substrate you choose to get *roughly* two inches of substrate (slightly less with gravel, but you get the idea - it adds up!) Play sand is the cheapest way to go about it that I know of - I can get a 50-pound bag of playsand for roughly $4, and it's perfectly safe for the animals (though will require quite a bit of rinsing before it is tank-ready!) Filtration
. . . in a tank this size I'd recommend a canister filter (or filters!). The only one I've had personal experience with is Eheim brand, though I have seen many recommendations for Fluval, as well as many others. SunSun is a less expensive off-brand that many of our members have had great experiences with, as well. For my soon-to-be 125g, I do intend to run two canister filters, but I don't think it's a requirement that you do it this way, and much of this will tie into what stock you'll be keeping. . . I'll point your thread out to a few of our members more experienced with running big tanks, I'm sure they'll be able to advise a bit better on this question. Lighting. . .
Ahh, a tricky question! You say you want plants, but don't want Co2, which makes your life much easier as a beginner green thumb, provided you pick the right plants for whatever light you end up with (we'll help!). An important consideration with regards to a planted tank is that you'll need full-spectrum lighting to enable your plantlife to properly photosynthesize.
I'm not really comfortable with advising you with this - my experience with lighting with LOW LIGHT plants on tanks 55g and smaller, but I will say that after a ton of research, I settled on these lights
for my 125g. These lights should be sufficent to meet the needs of the plants I already keep, and at a price that is far more manageable to me than many of the other options available. Assuming your tank is standard size, your tank is 4" taller than mine, but I plan on suspending my lights, so these might work for you as well, without the hanging. That said - I haven't tried mine yet
, and there are SO MANY
other options out there to choose from, such as LED and other fun stuff that I know nothing about! Hang on for more experienced help from one of our members who runs larger planted tanks, I'm sure you'll get better input from one of our pros ;) Windows
. . . this is something to be concerned with, yes. A couple of my planted tanks get a great deal of natural ambient sunlight, and it's something I have to pay close attention to, or I will run into algae problems. Because sun light shifts according to the seasons, I have to be constantly aware of how much light is coming in, and compensate for it with the tank lights - it's really much easier to keep the lighting balanced without having to take window light into consideration. Direct sunlight is something that you'll want to avoid without a lot more research, as it can increase the temperature in the tank, as well as potentially cause you an algae problem. . . if it's possible to block the light from the window, I'd advise you do so - it'll make your life much easier - especially while you're new and still have so much to learn! Stocking!!! THIS
is gonna be the fun part, for sure!!! But more research is needed before you get your heart set on any specific animals!
One thing that many beginners don't consider is that not all water is created equal. Fish have adapted over thousands of years to enable them to thrive in their own unique environments, and as a result, have specific requirements that need to be met in order to be healthiest in our home tanks. One of the most basic - and important (!) things you can find out before considering stock is the hardness of the water you have coming out of your tap. It is always easiest to choose the right fish for the water you have in your home, than to try to adjust the water to suit the fish. I have soft tap water, so I keep soft water fish - but my softies would be miserable and not live very long if I tried to keep them in hard water. You may be able to contact your local water supplier to get this information. pH is good to know, but the GH and KH of your water is more important in determining the type of fish that will be right for your water. If your water company can't tell you,
for GH/KH that runs about $6 (the pH test is included in the master kit recommended above). General planted tank info:
One of our members put together a four-part series detailing his method to setting up a very simple planted tank. I learned a lot from it when I was just getting started with tank plants, soI highly recommend you take the time to give it a read-through! I'll link all four parts here for you. . . A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
I hope you find something helpful in all of that! Please remember that I'm a beginner, too - consider this a place to START your research, and don't take anything I say as an ultimate truth - I'm still learning! It always makes me so happy to see people taking the time out to do research FIRST, and it ultimately will lead to a beautiful and healthy tank! Best of luck to you, and never be shy to keep asking questions! The more you know, the better your tank will be.
. . . happy to have you here at TFK - can't wait to watch this tank grow!