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Starting a Planted Tank Part Two
A 15 watt bulb on ten gallon tank generates luxuriant plant growth, and when combined with the fertile potting soil and the small amount of co2 creates a tank which requires constant pruning. On the fifty five gallon tank I am using full spectrum low watt T5 bulbs which are not supposed to be used for plants according to what you read on the internet. What I have discovered is that when you use these low wattage bulbs on a tall tank, you get long spindly stalks at the bottom of the plant and all the heavy growth occurs in the top one third of the tank. This is acceptable to me, for the fish have open space to swim in the bottom on third of the tank, while the plants shield the fish from the light bulbs. On the far right one third of the tank I have planted swords and large anubias, as well as a long grass like plant (vals). This creates a dense plant growth which extends right from the bottom of the tank to the top in this part of the tank, and this is also a popular area for the fish, since fish do like the sense of security as well as the interest generated by dense foliage. Sword plants require good fertilization since they only grow one single and very large sword shaped leaf on each branch, and so any nutrient deficiencies would show themselves in ugly looking damaged leaves. My swords have flawless leaves that are now over a foot long, and I also have new sword plants popping up here and there (runners sent out below the surface start new plants). These types of plant do exceptionally well under low light conditions, and create a pocket of dense foliage that extends from the tank bottom to the tank top. I have noticed that swords are very greedy plants that are very competitive at the root level, and as a result I have had to prune damaged leaves off of the anubias from time to time, and I am now dealing with the situation by giving the anubias extra fertilizer pellets at the root level. My tank maintenance routine includes no ‘gravel cleaning'. I maintain the filters (I use a Rena external on the fifty five gallon long, and hang on the back filters on the ten and twenty gallon tanks. The filter on the ten gallon tank failed and it took me about two weeks to realize that the tank water was not being properly filtered. I use ‘Seachem Ammonia Alert' as an early warning system on all tanks (it attaches to the glass inside the aquarium and turns green and then blue in the presence of ammonia) and this device remained yellow throughout, because the plants in the ten gallon tank took over from the filter (plants are able to directly feed off of ammonia in the water, which would normally be processed by the filter). Without the plants, in the case of the filter failure there would have been a dangerous ammonia spike in the tank, which would have immediately been displayed by the color change in the alert device. I maintain pristine water conditions, by doing heavy water changes in my tanks, so as to remove any unwanted dissolved organics and so on. What this means is that I change half the water twice a week and then on Sunday I change half the water twice in a row (the net result is a 75 percent water change). I know that there are people on the net who advise 10 percent once every two weeks and so on, but I consider this advice to be badly dated (going back to the days when people erroneously believed that fish require old, so called ‘aged' fish water). It is a well known fact that aquarium fish live short stunted lives. Neon tetras only live a few years in a tank, while the life span of a wild neon tetra is measured in decades. The reason for these short life spans is inadequate water changes. Fish are not harmed by heavy water changes, if heavy water changes are the norm (chemically the water does not have time to alter, and it is the chemical difference between ‘old aged water' and new replacement water that can potentially harm fish in a manner similar to the way that a reverse osmosis filter works...as long as the water is similar large water changes can do no harm, and I know that the fish love water changes and indicated by their jubilant behavior after each change. I use the Marina Aquavac which hooks up to the kitchen faucet and elminates the need to carry pails. I use Seachem prime as the dechlorinator which I add directly to the tank during the fill phase (contrary to what you somtimes read on the net, chlorine or choloramine are deadly toxic to fish, and even if it doesn't kill them, it can leave them permanently damaged, as I found on my twenty gallon tank when I stupidly took some advice from the net about how you don't really need to remove cholorination, its just a gimic to make money, only to have fish in that tank either drop dead right on the spot or become infected and sick and die later). The following is a list of plants that I have had good luck growing under low light conditions. Anacharis (Egeria najas) Anubias Nana (Anubias barteri v. ‘Nana') Bacopa (Bacopa carolina) (susceptible to algae attack) Cabomba Green (Cabomba carolina) Cabomba Purple (Red)(Cabomba pulcherrima) CLOVER, FOUR LEAF Dwarf(Marsilea quadrifolia) (I don't recommend clover as it prefers to float on the top of the tank and must be constantly skimmed with a fish net before it blocks all the light) Congensis (Anubias ‘Congensis') Contortion Vals (Vallisneria asiatica) (Vals is a very aggressive long grass like plant, that constantly sends out new plants on runners, and requires constant pruning so that its long grass like leaves do not block out the light to other plants. Its one advantage is that it creates a dense grassy effect, and thrives under low light, while its disadvantage is that it requires constant control) Dwarf Baby Tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides) Baby tears are another plant to avoid. Floats on the top and robs light. Requires constant removal. Heteranthera Stargrass (Heteranthera zosterfolia) Star grass prefers to float on the top of the tank, and has a tendency to be attacked by filament algae that was accidentally introduced into the tank by some plant I bought-this type of algae must be introduced to appear in a tank and should be avoided like the plague as it grows in dense clumps and requires constant searching and plucking). Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) Hygrophila corymbosa ‘Angustifolia' Hygrophila balsamica (Hygrophila balsamica) Pennywort, Brazilian (Hydrocotyle Leucocephala) (becomes a floating plant, but is not a problem like the clover or tears) Myrio, Red (Myriophyllum heterophyllum) (thrives and requires constant pruning, susceptible to being attacked by filament algae) Mayaca (Mayaca fluviatilis) Myrio, Green (Myrio pinnatum) Tiger Lotus, Red (Nymphaea zenkeri) (Thrives and requires constant pruning to prevent its leaves from robbing all the light...no other plant can grow in the shade of this plant, which is best used as a center piece...requires constant feeding at the root level) Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides) (becomes a floating plant, gets attacked and killed off by filament algae) Wendtii, Bronze (Cryptocoryne wendtii v. ‘Tropica') (a beautiful sword, mine has leaves over a foot long, and is starting new plants here and there...really fills out the bottom and midsection of a low light tank...like all swords it requires very fertile soil, developes a massive root system, and requires consistent fertlization) Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis) (fast growing and can become a very big plant if not constantly trimmed) The following plant thrives under low light conditions, sending out runners and creating a grassy bottom on the tank, and then suddenly dies... this happened before I discovered fertilizer pellets as this type of grassy sword, like all swords, must be constantly fed fertilizer pellets once the available nutrients are depleted Sword, Narrow Leaf Chain (Echinodorus tenellus) The following plants die when in a low light tank. Giant Hairgrass (Eleocharis montevidensis) Lloydiella (Lysimachia nummularia) Myriophyllum tuberculatum Ludwigia Peruensis (Ludwigia peruensis) Ludwigia, Broad Leaf (Ludwigia repens) Pogostemon stellata (Eusteralis) Rotala Indica (Rotala roundifolia) Sword, Micro Sword (Lilaeopsis novae-zelandiae) Telanthera Rosefolia (Alternanthera reineckii)
Flexibacter Columnaris The problems in my tank are compounded by the fact that when I bought my first fish I ignorantly brought home a Flex infection. This bacteria is like a fish version of 'flesh eating disease', and it appears like a white fungus, and attacks and dissolves the tissues on the fish body. As I discovered due to misuse of antibiotics, Flex has now become ferociously resistant to antibiotics and nothing can rid of it. The disease was transferred to all three of my tanks through sharing of equipment. What I have discovered is that if a fish has a strong immune system, Flex causes no problems. From time to time there will be a small outbreak of Flex fungus on a fish which will disappear in a couple of days. If the immune system of the fish is unable to handle flex, the fish dies, and antibiotic intervention never does seem to work. To maintain the fish immune system I do these heavy water changes, and I also feed the fish New Life Spectrum fish food, to maintain the highest possible nutrition, and this tactic does work, for any degradation in either the health of the fish or the environment would result in an outbreak of this latent flex which has now become a permanent part of all my tanks.
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