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donpatch 03-04-2008 09:06 PM

Good Plants For Gravel Substrate?

I'm wondering what a good set of plants for my tank would be(if my tank can even accommodate plants). I have a 20-gallon tank with the standard dimensions, a coarse gravel substrate, 9 tetras, and some struggling amazon swords. I cannot figure out what wattage of my light, but it is flourescent and came with the tank. I also have an undergravel filter, which I have heard is almost completely incompatible with plants. I would still like to give plants a try, though. I am willing to adjust the lighting. Are there any plants that are optimal for this setup(with the undergravel filter)?


Holly 03-04-2008 09:11 PM

ug filters are very hard on plants. The swords should do well with fert tabs. They're little dime sized nutrients that you place in the gravel so the root has more nutrients. That's how I did it in the begining and it worked fine. I'm not sure iof the ug filter would pull all the nutrients out of the gravel as thier being release though. Ancharis I've read is another plant that should grow anywhere except in my tank! LOL For some reason other can't kill this plant but I can kill it in a few days...only me!

herefishy 03-05-2008 02:06 AM

The use of undergravel filters in tanks has been debated for years. Many say that they are not conducive to plant growth. Others say the added filtration is worth the effort. And still others, like me, see no difference when using them or not using them. I do, however, use them in a reverse filtration scheme and appreciate a significant difference over traditional flow. But a 20g tank is much too small for such a system.

Plants can be grown in just gravel, they may not, however, reach their full potential. There are amendments you can add to your substrate like flourite and laterite that have important micros, such as iron, and enhance vigorous plant growth. The texture of these products also allows rather free root expansion. Another product in the hobby is Eco-Complete for Planted Tanks. I use this as a substrate by itself and have had enormous success with it. I like the darker color also. It has been proven that darker substrate has a calming effect on you fish also.

When using gavel alone, you will ned to be on a fairly dedicated fertilizing regimen. In a tank as small as your 20g, I would recommend using liquid ferts, simply for their convenience. I have started using pfertz liquid fertilizers and am quite impressed with the results. They are also one of the forum sponsors. Alex and his crew have put together a four bottle package that includes both the macro and micro fertilizers that plants need. The product comes in user friendly squirt bottles and easy to follow directions. Some swear by Excel products, I have never noted great results with them, but they are effective. They are a bit more expensive. I also use plant tabs for the "nutrient hogs" in the tanks like that contain Amazon swords. These a large, heavy root feeding plant, and I think the tabs are a must for them. I use API tabs. They are economical, easy to use, and contain most essential elements. using the tabs and liquid ferts, in combination, all of the plants, whether root feeders or leaf/filter feeders are having their needs met.

Plants you could plant in your tank would include java fern, some cryptocoryne species, Echinodorus sp. (sword plants), Anubius sp., elodea(a plant that can be anchored or floated) banana plants, and other medium to low light plants. Good luck.

fish_4_all 03-05-2008 09:24 AM

Once my gravel tanks get established, after about 6 month, I can grow pretty much anything that my lighting will support. The light could be 18 watts, it could be 15. Never know for sure. If the bulb has a number on it, post it and we try to figure it out.

If you want to get better plant growth then a new light will help. It doesn't have to be anything too fancy just at a wattage of between 30 and 40 watts for a regular flourescent light.

That is a great site to help understand lighting needs for different tanks.

Stay with moderate light and you won't need CO2.

Root tabs that have laterite in them also help to seed and condition the gravel so they support roots better. I think it would be cheaper to just get laterite though. I can't find laterite here so I use cheap root tabs until my plants grow how I want them to.

donpatch 03-05-2008 05:45 PM

Thanks so much! I just have one question, though. If I fully plant my tank, will they choke the UG filter? If so, what is a safe level to plant my tank at so the UG will not be choked?

fish_4_all 03-05-2008 06:07 PM

Theoretically I would say yes, even a moderately planted tank could choke out an undergravel system used the usual way. Reverse flow maybe not as bad.

It all depends on how much root mass you get in the tank. I have had crypts and swords create a massive root system. I would bet that if I had an UGF then it could have easily been choked out or at least the flow could have been blocked enough to reduce it's effectiveness.

Reverse flow should not have this problem because even if the root system gets massive, the reverse flow will kpee the substrate loose and keep it from being stopped up.

donpatch 03-06-2008 04:07 PM

Thanks. What exactly is reverse flow?

fish_4_all 03-06-2008 04:50 PM

Standard UGF pulls water down through the plates and up the stacks. Reverse flow pushes it down through the stacks and up through the plates and substrate.

donpatch 03-06-2008 06:31 PM

Ok thanks

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