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Plants and gravel

This is a discussion on Plants and gravel within the Beginner Planted Aquarium forums, part of the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium category; --> I was addressing you and your beautiful planted aquariums. I will accept advice from anyone though. I want to get the best information before ...

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Old 06-28-2009, 08:44 AM   #11
 
I was addressing you and your beautiful planted aquariums. I will accept advice from anyone though. I want to get the best information before I accidently sacrifice an innocent plant or one of my angels! thank you for your time.
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Old 06-28-2009, 11:31 AM   #12
 
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Originally Posted by abunari View Post
I was addressing you and your beautiful planted aquariums. I will accept advice from anyone though. I want to get the best information before I accidently sacrifice an innocent plant or one of my angels! thank you for your time.
Thank you for your compliment. I'm happy to respond. It is not difficult to have a healthy planted aquarium, and it need not be expensive. And you are correct, your angelfish will look nicer, feel more secure and "at home" and be happier and therefore healthier with a planted environment. Plants also do a tremendous job at filtration.

I use natural aquarium gravel; just make sure it is inert, and not one of those made from dolomite, coral or limestone that will raise ph. I have no additives; eco-complete is fine, and as I've never used it I can't comment knowingly on its effect on the water chemistry (though I would expect it might affect pH slightly), but since it is not necessary why bother--and it is expensive. I do use plant fertilizer sticks/tabs next to the larger swords since they are heavy feeders; after 3 months with these, I think there is a difference in the swords, so for the relative little cost they are worth it. I have Nutrafin's "Plant Gro" sticks, but Flourish tabs would also work. I also use liquid fertilizer twice a week, currently Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Plant Supplement, but Kent Freshwater Supplement also works well. It has to be a complete fertilizer to ensure the plants are getting everything they need and in the correct porportion.

The lights are on 13 hours each day (on a timer, it is important for plants and fish too to have consistency) and there is some diffused light from the room window. I have had lights on for 15 hours a day previously due to my schedule; it is important to have the tanks lit when you are going to be home to enjoy them. I would suggest no less than 10 hours a day, in a fairly low-tech setup like mine. With high-tech setups using CO2 and mega light, you can get by with less.

The colour of gravel is up to your preference so long as it is inert; I have read from others than sometimes the coloured gravels can affect pH, and some say the colour can fade which means it is probably leeching into the water. I do find that the natural-looking gravels (brown/buff or black or grey) tend to look more natural [no surprise] and show off the green of the plants better. And I believe the fish find duller and darker substrates more "relaxing" because they are more like what they would have in the wild.

The smallest grain is best for plants; every plant expert I've so far read mentions this. It allows the roots of plants like swords, crypts, aponegetons, etc. to grow well and anchor the plant (larger gravel is not so good at this), and food doesn't get trapped so easily. Malaysian trumpet liverbearing snails are useful in planted aquaria as they move through the gravel finding any bits of food, and help to aerate the substrate which is beneficial for plant roots that require oxygen. Gravel is less likely to compact causing other anaerobic problems. I personally wouldn't mix gravel sizes. Some authors suggest sprinkling larger gravel and pebbles on top of a layer of finer gravel for a nice look, but I find the gravels tend to mix together over time, especially if you vacuum the gravel which you should do in the open spaces or if you have corys and similar bottom fish that spend a lot of time on the substrate.

Byron.
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Old 06-29-2009, 11:30 AM   #13
 
gravel confusion!

I have currently the dark shade of green..none of that neon stuff! would this be a darker/duller substrate you are talking about. also I have seen at places such as home depot pea gravel that are the shades of brown, does anyone have any experience with this? will this affect my water chemistry at all using the pea gravel? I have not seen a ph problem with the green and ive had it for a few years.

thank you for your help. i want to make sure i start this off right.
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Old 06-29-2009, 12:15 PM   #14
 
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I have currently the dark shade of green..none of that neon stuff! would this be a darker/duller substrate you are talking about. also I have seen at places such as home depot pea gravel that are the shades of brown, does anyone have any experience with this? will this affect my water chemistry at all using the pea gravel? I have not seen a ph problem with the green and ive had it for a few years.

thank you for your help. i want to make sure i start this off right.
A dark green might be too close to the green plants; I've never seen a planted tank with dark green substrate so can only imagine how it might all blend in too much. It's like painting the floor and walls and ceiling the same colour, no contrast and looks odd. Just a thought. And there is still the issue of whether or not the colour will some day leech into the water. Back in the 1980's I had some black gravel in a tank for about 4 years; when I moved I gave that tank to a friend whose son was keen, and about a year or two after that I heard from him that the black was coming off the gravel and it was blue underneath. It had been expensive aquarium gravel, stated on the bags not to fade or change in any way. But that experience makes my wary of coloured gravels.

Pea gravel is not recommended for planted aquaria by any of the plant authors I've read, as in fact I explained back earlier in this thread (third message) and AmyK had a photo in the first message. I like it myself, and have used it in an amphibian tank where there was only Java Fern and moss, neither of which have roots that go into the substrate (both attach to wood and rocks) so there is no plant root issue. And i can confirm that food does get trapped in larger gravel as many warn.

You mentioned a tank for angelfish, so I'm thinking plants like Echinodorus (swords), Sagitarria, and floating maybe Ceratopteris. Swords and Sag have fine hair roots that will root better in small grain gravel. And with angels colouring being black, silver, white I think a black/grey gravel would look nice, something like my 90g. That gravel is not artifically coloured.
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Old 06-29-2009, 12:39 PM   #15
 
gravel confusion!

thanks for the great ideas i like the idea of a black colored gravel or grey. most of the black colored gravel ive seen looks similar to the colored green(some sort of artificial coating). could you recommend a natural black gravel and possibly where to find it. the pet store near me seems to have the coated stuff!
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Old 06-29-2009, 02:15 PM   #16
 
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Adding to what Byron stated. My setup and experience is identical to his. I've used plain gravel for over 30 years with planted aquariums and have had great success. However, at some point I'm going to try Flourish for my substrate because it's been hard for me to monitor and control the root tabs such that my swords look good all the time. What I mean by that is sometimes the tabs dissolve faster than I expect probably because I'm still using an UG filter. When I redo the tank I'll remove that. But all the rest of my plants do fine with gravel.

I'll also mention that for years I had a crypt farm in my tank. In fact, with less than 1 watt per gallon, crypts were all I could grow. When I changed the light to 2 watts per gallon, all the crypts in the direct light melted away. If you look at my tank pics today you'll still see a few in the front corner.

Adding CO2 adds a bit of work depending on how sophisticated a setup you use. It can add to the need for more light, fertilizer and algae control. It also can affect PH swings from day to night. My goal has always been to have a nice planted tank with minimal intervention.

Good luck with the tank. Remember, it may take a while to figure out which plants will thrive in your conditions. Don't get discouraged if some plants die within a few weeks. Just don't buy that plant again unless you change lighting, ferts or CO2.
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Old 06-29-2009, 02:45 PM   #17
 
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Originally Posted by abunari View Post
thanks for the great ideas i like the idea of a black colored gravel or grey. most of the black colored gravel ive seen looks similar to the colored green(some sort of artificial coating). could you recommend a natural black gravel and possibly where to find it. the pet store near me seems to have the coated stuff!
I found this particular gravel back in 1997 in a hobbyist-run local store. I've never seen it before or since, and that store is gone now. It was in a bin and I bought it by the pound as bulk gravel, just like the regular (buff/brown) gravel one sees almost everywhere; he had 3 or 4 types of bulk gravel, a true hobbyist store rather than the chain stores. The black gravel that is smooth and looks like its coated probably is, and comes in plastic bags--avoid it in my view; I mentioned what that did years ago.

If you have more than one good lfs, check around; ask them if they can get bulk gravel in a darker colour. Sorry I can't be of more help on this issue.

Of course, the eco-complete is blackish and looks good. I know we were discussing water issues with it earlier, but perhaps those who have used it could enlighten you with respect to that point. If anything I would expect it to slightly lower pH, which is good for plants and angelfish. It is expensive though, much more than regular gravel if you can find it.
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Old 06-29-2009, 02:50 PM   #18
 
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Originally Posted by WisFish View Post
Adding to what Byron stated. My setup and experience is identical to his. I've used plain gravel for over 30 years with planted aquariums and have had great success. However, at some point I'm going to try Flourish for my substrate because it's been hard for me to monitor and control the root tabs such that my swords look good all the time. What I mean by that is sometimes the tabs dissolve faster than I expect probably because I'm still using an UG filter. When I redo the tank I'll remove that. But all the rest of my plants do fine with gravel.

I'll also mention that for years I had a crypt farm in my tank. In fact, with less than 1 watt per gallon, crypts were all I could grow. When I changed the light to 2 watts per gallon, all the crypts in the direct light melted away. If you look at my tank pics today you'll still see a few in the front corner.

Adding CO2 adds a bit of work depending on how sophisticated a setup you use. It can add to the need for more light, fertilizer and algae control. It also can affect PH swings from day to night. My goal has always been to have a nice planted tank with minimal intervention.

Good luck with the tank. Remember, it may take a while to figure out which plants will thrive in your conditions. Don't get discouraged if some plants die within a few weeks. Just don't buy that plant again unless you change lighting, ferts or CO2.
I'm using Nutrafin's Plant-Gro sticks; they say they last one year. In the 3 months since I put them in (to regular plain gravel) the swords next to them have certainly thrived and grown lush green leaves. I see the Flourish tabs need to be replaced every three months, which is more expensive for a start. Back in the 1990's I used some cone-shaped tabs (German manufactured, in a green/yellow box) that never seemed to dissolve, they were always hard and looked the same size to me. Hobbyists here said they worked that way. I think they did eventually disappear. I haven't sen this around stores lately.
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Old 06-30-2009, 07:58 AM   #19
 
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Maybe I'll see if I can find the Nutrafin's Plant-Gro sticks and give them a try. I'm really not looking forward to redoing my tank. It's been setup for over 18 years. Thanks for the info.
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