Substrate depth for a 55 gallon planted aquarium? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
 
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post #1 of 10 Old 07-10-2009, 09:44 PM Thread Starter
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Substrate depth for a 55 gallon planted aquarium?

Again, planning on trying out the planted thing, just wondering if there is any difference for planted tanks when it comes to how much substrate to give the plants?

I've read that about 100 lbs of substrate (planning on using eco complete) is the right amount for a 55 gallon. Will this give me adequate depth for plants? Is there a point when you can have too much substrate? Certainly there can be the opposite, so is there a "sweet spot" for plants? I know I'm generalizing here so there may not be a 100% answer since I am assuming it depends on the plants used, etc.

Also, when I get the new tank set up, how long should I wait for the plants to get rooted before adding fish?

Also a little unrelated to this, but my angels love to eat the algae off my fake plants...what are the odds they're going to trash and devour my plants?
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post #2 of 10 Old 07-11-2009, 11:26 AM
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The substrate needs to be deep enough for the plants to root well. As you mention, this depends partly on the type of plants, as well as on how many you have that need rooting space. Stem plants have minimal root systems at the base (roots develop all along the stems) so they only need sufficient substrate to hold them down (the lower part of the stems). Swords and crypts have extensive root systems and require a minimum of 3-4 inches of substrate. You can't have "too much" substrate, but more than needed will take space away from water available for fish, so you don't want to go overboard. I have minimum of 3 inches along the front and it is sloped and terraced up towards the back where in the corners I have 5-6 inches. When I have moved one of the swords, it is interesting that their roots are very extensive and meander several inches outward (and down) from the base.

You can add plants right from the start, and there is no wait with the fish. The cycling of the tank has no effect on plants (but obviously does on fish, so there is your wait).

Angels will not eat your plants, but they do naturally graze the leaves for food, as indeed do many fish, even corys will continually graze plant leaves.

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Vancouver, BC, Canada

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post #3 of 10 Old 07-11-2009, 05:13 PM
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I usually find that 1.5 inches is sufficient, but if you're getting plants with giant roots like amazon sword, you're going to need more. Substrate amount also depens on how much you slope it.

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post #4 of 10 Old 07-11-2009, 09:00 PM Thread Starter
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I like to keep mine fairly even, no sloping. I'll have to look into the plants a little more and figure out what I'm going to need.
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post #5 of 10 Old 07-13-2009, 09:14 AM
i keep amazon swords in a substrate of 1.5 inches... and it does fine. i agree that more might be better for the plants but ive never had a problem with less substrate
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post #6 of 10 Old 07-13-2009, 05:05 PM
I used 100lbs of ecocomplete in my 55gal, the substrate is between 2-3".

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post #7 of 10 Old 07-14-2009, 10:55 AM
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1.5" to 2" is plenty. You just need enought to hold the plants down. If they won't stay down after a couple of weeks, you either need more substrate or you have to tell the fish to stop kicking the plants up.
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post #8 of 10 Old 07-14-2009, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by WisFish View Post
1.5" to 2" is plenty. You just need enought to hold the plants down. If they won't stay down after a couple of weeks, you either need more substrate or you have to tell the fish to stop kicking the plants up.
This will work for stem plants and rooted plants with smaller root systems, but not for large swords. The Echinodorus macrophyllum, E. bleheri, E. osiris and E. major that I have need more than 2 inches; I have them in 3-4 inches and the root systems can be seen from the underside of the tank (glass on metal frame with the 90g) and they are thick and extensive even along the bottom glass; I have had ocassion to move a couple of these, and I can assure you the hair roots extended for several inches in all directions and throughout the 3-4 inches of gravel--it left quite a crater. With these it is not a question of just being held down but the space required for the root systems to grow. Unlike stem plants, swords are primarily root feeders; stem plants do have roots along the stem but they are also adapted to absorb nutrients through the leaves much more than Echinodorus.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #9 of 10 Old 07-14-2009, 08:14 PM
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Just wondering the best way to vacuum aroundplants and not mess up their roots
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post #10 of 10 Old 07-15-2009, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by el Mattador View Post
Just wondering the best way to vacuum aroundplants and not mess up their roots
Hold the syphon just above the substrate so that the gravel is not displaced but the lighter detrius will be pulled up. If this is done every week during the partial water change, it will be sufficient. The mulm that is in the gravel will decompose naturally to feed the plant roots, but you don't want this to become excessive.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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