Switch to Planted or No? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 24 Old 10-29-2011, 02:30 PM Thread Starter
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Switch to Planted or No?

Hey Everyone, I am new to the fish keeping thing and monday i started the tank the lady at the store told me to come back and put fish in there tuesday. I had no knowledge of the fish tank cycle and feel really bad not doing enough research. But anyway I was told that a planted aquarium can be great and looks nice while also making a happier nicer environment for the fish.

I have a 10 gallon tank currently with plastic flora and a fake little coral cove. The gravel is the typical stuff you would get in the 5 lb. bags and the tank came with 2 15W incandescent lights.

I know i probably would have to change the gravel. Is this true if so what should I look at getting and how much?

Do i need to amp up my lighting and get a plug that automatically puts the lights on?

What else would i possibly need? I really want to treat these fish right and I feel like i'm doing a horrible job , but i am trying and researching what seems like all the time. Any input would be really appreciated thank you!
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post #2 of 24 Old 10-29-2011, 03:10 PM
Don't panic. Most important thing to do right now is to keep up with water changes to help your fish get through the cycle. An API test kit (about $35.00 CDN) will help you to monitor the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels. Right now you need to watch your ammonia and nitrite levels. To fully cycle a tank takes 6-8 weeks. With plants, they help to shorten the time.

Plants do help with the ammonia/nitrite levels. The easiest way to start is get some floating plants. They are usually not too difficult to grow when just starting out and you don't want to over do the expenses. The gravel is fine. My tank is planted with the plants just planted into the gravel.
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post #3 of 24 Old 10-29-2011, 03:21 PM
[quote=TurnerD;878334]Do i need to amp up my lighting and get a plug that automatically puts the lights on?/quote]
Again, take things slowly. I just have my lighting plugged into a power surge bar. Every morning, I just turn on the lights. At night, I turn the lights off. Just to make this gentler on your fish, if it is dark, rather than turning on the aquarium lights immediately, turn on a nearby lamp or the room light for about 10 minutes before to allow them to adjust their eyes. Reverse this at night - turn on lamp or room light, turn off aquarium light and 10 minutes later, turn off all of the lighting.

Try not to get too overwhelmed with things. Start with what you have (other than I really recommend the expense of the API test kit - not strips) and let your tank cycle before doing much else other than the necessary maintenance for your fish. In the meantime, research. This site is great for information. My favourite reference is the "Tropical Fish Profiles" tab at the top of the page.

And welcome to the site.
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post #4 of 24 Old 10-29-2011, 08:13 PM Thread Starter
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Hey thank you a lot for the great information, I did invest in the API Test kit when i first purchased all the equipment and i have been checking everything daily. I have been doing plenty of research and will continue to do so.

I went to a local pet store today and the person there was extremely knowledgable about fish unlike the other store i went to and he said "sadly the best thing for you to do is to just wait it out. Don't change your water or anything for a month or so because if you keep doing 50% changes you will only keep losing the good bacteria that you are growing and your tank will no cycle. You may lose some of your other fish but they may be strong enough to withstand it as well."

Does this sound fairly accurate?
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post #5 of 24 Old 10-29-2011, 08:49 PM
No. The water changes will keep your ammonia and nitrites to a minimum and keep your fish safer. The beneficial bacteria will grow on your gravel, decorations, anything that you have in your tank. Just make sure that you use water conditioner for each water change so that it will neutralize the chlorine/chloramine that is in the tap water before you add it to your tank.
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post #6 of 24 Old 10-29-2011, 08:54 PM Thread Starter
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Okay i will continue to do the water changes then, do you suggest a 50% change each time? or just a smaller amount?
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post #7 of 24 Old 10-29-2011, 09:03 PM
A 50% should be ok. Just keep an eye on your ammonia and nitrite numbers. The ammonia levels will come up first and go down when the nitrites are formed. The nitrite levels will spike and then after this spike, the nitrate levels will start to appear. This is the whole cycle that you have been reading about. After this, your tank will be safe for your fish. Until this time, you are doing the water changes to protect your fish as best as you can from ammonia and nitrite...these will kill your fish. I use Prime as my water conditioner. It will protect your fish for a short time from ammonia/nitrite but your water changes are the most important right now.
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post #8 of 24 Old 10-29-2011, 09:29 PM Thread Starter
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I just got done doing another 20% water change and I tested the water also the ammonia went for .5/PPM to .25/PPM. I also am only syphoning 1/3rd of the gravel in order to not such up all the good bacteria that is cycling my tank. I am keeping a 5 gallon bucket with AquaSafe Plus in it constantly so i have good fresh water to replace in the tank. The tap water i am using after putting AquaSafe has these parameters (0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, 0 Nitrate, and 7.4 pH)
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post #9 of 24 Old 10-29-2011, 10:35 PM
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Surface plants, floating plants and stem plants are the best to soak up ammonia and nitrate. The key is finding some that will grow in your lighting, because dying plants will further pollute the water.

Water Sprite (Ceratopteris cornuta) low-med
Guppy Grass or Najas Grass (Najas guadalupensis) low-med
Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) low-med

Duckweed* (Lemna minor) any
Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) med-bright

Brazilian Pennywort (Hydrocotyle leucocephala) med-bright

Click on the shaded names to find out more.

If you have the bulbs that came with the hood, my guess is that they would be low to medium quality for growing plants. So the lower light plants would be better options. BUT verify that with some one more educated in plant light than me!

So you have two plant buying options:
If you have the money, can upgrade your lighting if needed, and have an idea of the plants you want for your final aquascape, you can get the plants now that you want for the long term. I would include a good bit of at least one of the above plants.
Alternately, you could also choose to just buy a lot of whatever kind you find from the above list that will fit your lighting. These fast growers tend to be cheaper plants. It doesn't matter if you like the plant or not. After your tank is stable, you can slowly start replacing it with the plants you want long term and upgrading your light if need be.

I would tend toward option #2 so as not to complicate things too much, but it just depends on how deeply and how quickly you want to research this.

As far as timers- in short, they're awesome. But you don't need one right now. Just simply turn the lights on and off on a schedule someone more experienced can prescribe. (I would guess starting at 8 to 10 hours/day, but double check that.) If you're budgeting, my opinion is that your money would be better spend in other places right now (like plants and Prime).

*Duckweed is awesome at sucking up ammonia and nitrate. HOWEVER, it is a commitment. Many say that once you put it in a tank, you'll always have it because it is so difficult to entirely remove. So just a warning!

"My dither fish need dither fish!"
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post #10 of 24 Old 10-30-2011, 06:46 PM
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I concur with the advice posted. When doing your water changes during the cycling, don't bother with the substrate. You can run the siphon above the top of the substrate to remove any bits, but don't dig down into it. While the bacteria are sticky and adhere to surfaces quite strongly, it is still best to leave the substrate alone.

What water conditioner are you using?

Your light fixture is fine; a couple of better bulbs is not expensive, plants will do better under daylight bulbs. The compact fluorescent bulbs labeled "daylight" with a rating of 6500K (K= kelvin) will be ideal. A 10w bulb (2 of them) is sufficient. You can get these in hardware-type stores for a few dollars, probably in a package of 2 bulbs.

And, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. Glad you joined us.


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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