Will my tank ever be nicely planted??
I was looking around on some other forums today, specifically forums for planted tanks, and the setups people use are pretty amazing. Seems like everybody who has a nice planted tank has some massive plumbing system, pressurized CO2, super intense (aka expensive) lighting, canister filters, ect.
Is this the only way to get a nice planted tank?? I hope not, becuase my tank will never be that complicated. Is it possible to have good/equal results with a more simple setup - power filter, DIY CO2, ect?
I'm planting my 28 gallon. It will be my first tank with plants. I've put a lot of work getting this tank going, and I've got a lot more work to do. I really want to end up with a nice tank, but I can't afford to do all the crazy stuff some people are doing.
What can I expect??
Mating the correct plants with the lighting you will be providing, providing proper nutrients and water conditions will give you a healthy lush growth in your tank. Choose easy to care for plants, swords, crypts, sags, and anubius are the names of a few of the genus' of plants to look for. Will you ever have tank that looks Takashi Amano designed it without using all of the high tech equipment? I wish I could tell you it is going to happen for you next week. But, alas, I doubt that is the case. You can, however, have a tank to be proud of with a little time, effort, money, and research. Buy quality fertilizers. Perform routine maintainance. Select plants that will thrive in the conditions you can provide. Just show a little patience along the way and you'll be fine.
Ok, here is my setup:
2 ten gallon tanks under 1 four foot shop fixture with two 40 watt bulbs. One bulb is a daylight, one is a plant gro bulb. This comes out to about 33 w/g. I know, 80 watts total but the fixture is longer than the tanks.
I used standard epoxy coated clown puke gravel. In the first 6 months I grew very little but once the gravel accumulated some mulm I could grow plants very well.
DIY CO2 for a while but only for 6 or so months. Excel for another 4 months. Tanks were running for 3 years.
I could grow the following without any problems at a very fast rate:
Red Melon Sword
Red root floater
Crypt Red Wendtii
Hygrophila polysperma 'Rosanervig' (Sunset Hygro)(grew like a weed in my tanks)
Plants I had success with but grew slowly:
Myriophyllum pinnatum common milfoil, green foxtail
Vallisneria Americana v. 'Biwaensis' (Corkscrew Vals)
Plants I could not grow:
HC on the substrate
It took a good 6 months before my gravel would support it but when it started to work the plants simly took off.
I dosed EI and got the best growth. All EI is, the Estimative Index, is dosing more of everything than the plants could use but not enough to poison the fish. I kept my phosphates at 1.5ppm, nitrates at 15ppm, I dosed .33ppm iron 3x weekly, potassium at 50ppm weekly, Calcium and magnesium regularly. Yo do not need to dose EI to have great growth! Dose what the plants need, adjust it when needed and you will do fine.
When I dosed properly and changes water weekly 50%, I never had anything more than the minute amounts of algae. A little BBA and some spot algae on occassion.
The plants I could grow fast needed trimming weekly if not more often, The ones I had slow growth from had to be trimmed at least monthly. I could grow enough Sunset Hygro in 1 month to fill a 1 gallon jug from two 10 gallon tanks with only 1/4 of each tank planted with it.
Nothing is proven until it is done. I should not have been able to grow plants like I did. Why was I able to, maybe it was simply luck, maybe it was attention to detail, maybe it was my dosing, who knows. The key to plants is try plants that you like, if they won't grow, try somethng else. But never give up after 2 weeks with any plant. Roots are some of the most important things to a lot of plants and if you do not let the root system get going then the plant will never grow like you want it to. I also believe that roots are the most impoartnt factor in fast growth from Anubias. Plants also have an acclimation/recovery period so two weeks just isn't enough time.
Have patience my friend, ask questions and don't stop asking them. I must have asked more than 150-200 questions before I got really good at seeing what my plants needed and growing the ones that would grow in my tanks.
How I Did It (without CO2)
Before I delve into the pictures, let me first review my tank's specifications:
2 x 30watt light fixture
15watt light fixture
reverse flow powerhead
and for viewing purposes, I have
21 cardinals (para. axelrodi)
6 silvertip tetras
3 discus (temporarily)
2 cherry barbs
To begin with, my substrate is a very simple 30 lbs. fluorite on the bottom and about 20 lbs. of pea-sized, light-colored, river rock on the top. Below all of that even, is my undergravel filter plate that I use in conjunction with a powerhead to pump any liquid ferts that I put in the tank, to the very bottom where they may be properly absorbed by the roots of the plants. Here's a general picture of my tank:
These pictures were actually taken with my cell phone, so please excuse the amaturity.
Because of the intensity of the light that I have and a relatively short tank, my light goes a long way. The crown jewels of my display are dwarf lilies. (The big tangle of "wires" to the left.) Here's the bottom of them surrounded by a few corkscrew val.:
I created a little "bay" or open area for them to grow by arranging two pieces of driftwood in the background there. They provide a spectacular aerial view:
The largest is about 3 1/2". They probably could be larger with more room and more trimming. My discus do enjoy swimming through some small amounts of dwarf hairgrass that I have used in the foreground:
Now, I have been able to accomplish this kind of amature grow without the use of expensive lighting or CO2 systems. Most of the plants that I have are in fact "difficult" high light plants, but they are incredibly simple to care for. I dose iron and excel twice a week. I've actually added a small 15watt MarineGlo light over the side where my lilies are to provide them with a little more blue spectrum lighting. Everything grows very well and my lilies actually grow amazingly fast; every few days a new one will shoot up.
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