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SaraLee 02-11-2013 11:52 AM

Discus Tank
 
So, I got a 90 gallon tank for my birthday last week. It's set up and cycling right now.
I've wanted to do discus since I got into the aquarium hobby. And now that I finally have a tank to do it in, I plan on starting it.

It's going to take a while to set it up. I plan on cycling it and planting it, and then making sure it's maintaining well before getting the discus to add to it.
I'm using a mix of dirt and sand as a substrate, the water in my tank has already cleared up from the dirt. I actually feel like the water got clear a lot faster than any other tank I've used dirt in has.

So I know when I plant the tank I need to choose plants that can tolerate high temperature and moderate lighting. I was thinking about putting some small snails in the tank since it is going to be a planted tank, like ramshorn snails and trumpet snails.

So here are my questions (at least for now, I'm sure as soon as I'm done typing this I'll think of a billion more).
As far as lighting, what should I go with? I don't want to overdo it for the discus as I know they don't like too much, but I want my plants to be able to grow as well.
Also, the pH of my water at home tends to be low. It comes out of the faucet at about 8ish, but after aerating over night it drops to about 6. Which is fine for the discus; but if I've read that CO2 will drop my pH. I'm still unsure whether I'm going to/will need to add CO2; but if I'm adding CO2 for the plants, will that drop my pH significantly/too much for the discus? And if so, how do I keep the pH stable but low without it dropping too much?
Last (for now), how would I go about the snails? I would only be putting in some of the smaller ones, no mystery snails or anything big like that. But they need calcium, which would make the water harder, which would make the discus unhappy. So should I just forget about them? (I'm not really too stuck on them, so if I can't put them in I just won't, I wouldn't be too upset about that.) Or is there a way I can get them calcium without making the water too hard for the discus?

Byron 02-11-2013 04:01 PM

Quote:

It's going to take a while to set it up. I plan on cycling it and planting it, and then making sure it's maintaining well before getting the discus to add to it.
This is good, letting the tank establish before introducing discus. Good thinking.

As for cycling though, you needn't bother if you have live plants. Floating plants are ideal for this, as they use more nutrients (=ammonia/ammonium especially), and floating plants are natural to the discus habitat so a double benefit. I would get the tank planted, and add some of the other intended fish. After a few weeks, discus.

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As far as lighting, what should I go with? I don't want to overdo it for the discus as I know they don't like too much, but I want my plants to be able to grow as well.
Echinodorus plants will suit a discus habitat well. There are several species in our profiles [click shaded names], like Echinodorus bleherae, Echinodorus cordifolius. Avoid the red-leaf swords as these need more light. Pygmy chain sword and chain sword will do well on the substrate. Floating plants can be Water Sprite, Brazilian Pennywort, Amazon Frogbit (if you can find the authentic plant), Dwarf Water Lettuce.

Over a 90g I would use a dual-tube T8 fixture that takes two 48-inch T8 tubes. I have this on my 70g, 90g and 115g tanks, and the named plants do very well. You can see photos in the log under "Aquariums" tab below my name on the left. Any less light and the plants will struggle and most not survive. You can use the floating plants to help shade the tank, as I do.

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Also, the pH of my water at home tends to be low. It comes out of the faucet at about 8ish, but after aerating over night it drops to about 6. Which is fine for the discus; but if I've read that CO2 will drop my pH. I'm still unsure whether I'm going to/will need to add CO2; but if I'm adding CO2 for the plants, will that drop my pH significantly/too much for the discus? And if so, how do I keep the pH stable but low without it dropping too much?
I would not mess with CO2 diffusion. You have soil, which is generally considered a good bed for organics and the breakdown of these provides a lot of CO2 which the plants will use. A pH of 6 is fine. Interesting that your tap lowers this much...I assume it is soft water, and perhaps they add something like ash to get the pH up? What is the GH (general hardness) of the tap water? This is important, moreso than the pH.

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Last (for now), how would I go about the snails? I would only be putting in some of the smaller ones, no mystery snails or anything big like that. But they need calcium, which would make the water harder, which would make the discus unhappy. So should I just forget about them? (I'm not really too stuck on them, so if I can't put them in I just won't, I wouldn't be too upset about that.) Or is there a way I can get them calcium without making the water too hard for the discus?
The GH will tell us more about this, but regardless of that, the Malaysian Livebearing Snail will thrive in any water; my zero-GH tanks are full of MLS, and this is one of the most beneficial snails.

Byron.

SaraLee 02-12-2013 10:21 AM

Wow, I was unaware the plants would use the ammonia/ammonium. I know they'll use nitrates. What about nitrites? Will the plants metabolize all the ammonia and prevent a cycle entirely? Or will there still be a bacteria converting from ammonia -> nitrites -> nitrates? And would the plants be able to metabolize nitrites as well? Or just the ammonia/ammonium and nitrates?

A good number of the plants you mentioned are actually ones I was thinking of using. I've been reading quite a bit about what plants would do well in a discus tank, so I know what I have to choose from and whatnot.

As for light fixtures, do you have any suggestions on where I can buy these online? I usually use kensfish.com, but he doesn't really seem to have much other than just the bulbs.

And yes, my tap is soft. I had called my water company a while back to find out what was going on with the water. I'm not sure what they use, but they had said they artificially raise the pH of their water which is why the pH drops so much after aerating it over night. The tap GH is 0 once the water has sat out/aerated over night. I'm not sure what it is straight out of the tap if it's any higher, but I don't use the water until it's had a chance to aerate and even out.

Byron 02-12-2013 11:19 AM

Quote:

Wow, I was unaware the plants would use the ammonia/ammonium. I know they'll use nitrates. What about nitrites? Will the plants metabolize all the ammonia and prevent a cycle entirely? Or will there still be a bacteria converting from ammonia -> nitrites -> nitrates? And would the plants be able to metabolize nitrites as well? Or just the ammonia/ammonium and nitrates?
Most of the aquarium plants we keep prefer ammonium (ammonia) and will take this up first. If the ammonia becomes insufficient, and all other nutrients are still available and light is still sufficient for photosynthesis, it is now believed that most plants will then turn to nitrites, if they are present. Last they use nitrates. Terrestrial plants are very different, using nitrates first. If nitrogen has to be added, we normally add it as nitrate since this is obviously somewhat safer (with fish) than adding ammonia or nitrite. But plants have to convert the nitrite or nitrate back into ammonium before they can use it as nitrogen, and this conversion takes a lot of energy from the plant. So, ammonia/ammonium is their first choice, and in most natural method planted tanks this is going to be sufficient.

Quote:

A good number of the plants you mentioned are actually ones I was thinking of using. I've been reading quite a bit about what plants would do well in a discus tank, so I know what I have to choose from and whatnot.
It just occurred to me that a couple of the floating plants might have issues with the higher temp, Frogbit and Lettuce in particular. I know Water Sprite will be OK. And BTW, we have fish and plant profiles, second heading from the left in the blue bar across the top of the page, so you can check these plants out. If names shade in posts, like Water Sprite, you can click that for the profile.

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As for light fixtures, do you have any suggestions on where I can buy these online? I usually use kensfish.com, but he doesn't really seem to have much other than just the bulbs.
You're in the US [I'm in Canada, different suppliers here], so you have places like Big Al's, Drs Foster & SDmith, and many others. Prices will differ so check around.

Quote:

And yes, my tap is soft. I had called my water company a while back to find out what was going on with the water. I'm not sure what they use, but they had said they artificially raise the pH of their water which is why the pH drops so much after aerating it over night. The tap GH is 0 once the water has sat out/aerated over night. I'm not sure what it is straight out of the tap if it's any higher, but I don't use the water until it's had a chance to aerate and even out.
Sounds identical to my tap water, which is 7 ppm or 0.5 dGH. This is fine for soft water fish, but plants will struggle, especially swords, due to lack of calcium and magnesium. I use Seachem's Equilibrium to raise the GH up to about 5 dGH. My Echinodorus plants were slowly dying until I did this, now they are thriving. I use Flourish Comprehensive Supplement twice weekly for the other nutrients, but there is not enough hard mineral in this when the source water is very soft.

Byron.


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