Which filter, lights, etc. should I get for 40 gal?
After trying to decide this for several weeks, I think I am going to end up going with the 40 gal breeder. I need to just go out and but it finally or else I will keep on researching and pondering it forever. So anyways, I thought I'd come here for recommendations on the rest of the equipment.
First off, what substrate? I was wanting a black gravel or similar, but plan to have some plants in there, so am I better off getting something like black eco-complete or similar?
For lights, I know the standard light that would come with this is only 20 or 25 watts so that won't be sufficient. I was thinking of T5's, but I don't want to deal with CO2, as I plan to just get some nice easy maintenance plants and can't afford to spend hundreds on lights. Would one double T5 fixture at 42 watts (2-21 watt bulbs) be enough, or can I go with two of those at 84 watts and still be ok without CO2? I am building a canopy, so if I can just buy T5 shop light fixtures from the hardware store for $30 a piece, that seems like it would be the cheapest. They come with bulbs too, but I imagine I would probably need a different type of bulb.
And for filters, is a HOB or canister better? I have read that canisters are usually better for plants. If that is true, I don't mind spending around $100 on one, but can't go spending more than $150 on up.
And finally, for a heater, is 200w sufficient?
Thanks in advance for any recommendations you guys make. Feel free to recommend some easy care plants as well if you want.
I am no expert on plants, but for your filter, I would recommend the eheim 2213 or 2215 depending on what your fish stock list is going to look like. Also, 200W will be plenty. As far as the bulbs in shop fixtures go, they are usually around 3000K, so yes, you will need to buy different bulbs. If you have the space, I would go with a dual T8 fixture because they will have more output than standard T-5s, and bulbs will be easier to find.
The very first question you need to ask and answer is, what specific fish do you want? The fish determine the plants, substrate, and to a lesser extent filtration and light (the plants will determine the light as they need adequate light to grow whereas fish don't).
The substrate should suit the type of fish, and be amenable to plants. Once you've answered the fish question, you need to ask yourself what type of a planted aquascape do you want with the fish. Have a look at the two aquariums I maintain (click on "Aquariums" under my name at the left). I have minimum light (two 40w full spectrum 6500K tubes over each tank, which equates to about 1 watt per gallon), regular aquarium gravel with no additives, no CO2, and weekly liquid fertilizer is added after the water change. This is a setup that is on the low-tech side; you can go high-tech with mega light, CO2 and enriched substrates. But the important thing is that whatever you do, there must be a balance between water paremeters, light and nutrients (includes CO2 and trace elements) in order to have thriving plant growth.
I've always used small-grain aquarium gravel for the substrate, but many use sand and in fact I am planning to set up a south american biotope with sand substrate soon. Bottom fish like corys are better over sand. Here's where your answer as to what fish you want is important, it helps determine the choice of substrate. A darker colour of gravel/sand is preferable, as it is more natural and will make the fish feel at home (depending of course upon what fish you want, but the majority of south american and SE asian fish look best over darker substrates which is natural) and tends to show off the fish colours better.
You mentioned a 40g tank, so I'm assuming the length to be 3 feet. Two tubes (which would probably be 20w at that size) over that would be fine without CO2, comparable to what you see on my tanks, or you could add a third tube. As long as the light is balanced by the available nutrients, plants will grow without algae problems. [In the middle of my typing this, I see MBilyeu has posted, so there's some more good advice.]
In filtration I would definitely go for an outside canister type. This allows you to do filter maintenance without being in the tank, and canister filters have chambers that provide other benefits (adding things like peat if you need to acidify the water's pH, or dolomite to raise it). Some have heating units built in, which I find is a real blessing. It means less equipment hanging in the tank for one thing, but it also means less chance of failures; heaters are frequently the cause of fish loss due to failure. I have one of these units on my 90g, and wish I had bought the same type previously when i set up the 70g which has two heaters. I have and highly recommend Eheim filters. I've been running an Eheim Professionel 2 on my 90g for 12 years now non-stop, and never a problem; it has the heating unit included, very good. I see MBilyeu also mentions Eheim.
But if you go with individual heaters, it is preferable to have two instead of one (less wear and tear on the heater which means less chance of failure) and always at a higher wattage than "recomended" for the tank. I have two 200w heaters on my 70g. In a 40g I would use two 150w heaters, one placed at the filter intake and the other at the filter outtake. And the intake and outtake should be at opposite ends of the aquarium to create a (gentle) current throughout. But here again, the current from the filter is somewhat dependant upon the fish; some like stronger currents, others prefer quiet pools. Having some sort of flow through the tank benefits the plants.
I know you don't want to run overboard on the cost, none of us do; but I would say that it is never wise to go cheap on the filter and heaters. The extra dollars to buy the best will probably save you in replacing dead fish down the road when the cheaper stuff fails--and believe me, it will. There are other threads in this and other forums about failing heaters that have fried or frozen tanks of valuable fish.
You asked for plant suggestions. With a setup like the above, you could grow several of the Echinodorus species (Amazon swordplants); most of the plants in both my tanks are swords, from the tall large leaved sword in the 90g to the small carpet-forming dwarf sword in both tanks. Crypts are good bottom plants as they require low light; also anubias. These choices assume your tank water will be neutral to slightly acid. If you want livebearers as fish, you should maintain the pH in the alkaline range, and Vallisneria does very well in such water with the afore-mentioned light. Some of the swords should manage as long as the alkalinity is not too high. All of these plants are fairly low-maintenance, and they will not overgrow the tank in this relatively low light and nutrients. If you decide on rift lake cichlids for fish, it will be very alkaline and hard, and your plant choice will be limited.
We're all here to help if you have questions. Good luck.
Thank you for all the useful info. Your tanks looks great. I was thinking a black gravel or something, and maybe not even as many plants as yours, so I guess low tech would be fine.
As far as fish, I am thinking of a couple of schools of schooling fish (rasboras, maybe tetras, danios, something like that), maybe a couple groups of 8-10 or 3 groups of smaller schools. Then a couple larger fish like gouarmis or something, haven't really decided. And for the bottom, some type of algae eaters and some shrimp too. So hopefully that helps. If there is some kind of better substrate than just gravel in case i want to have more plants later and if it looks like black gravel, I wouldnt mind getting that now.
That would be great to have an integrated heater in the canister, but I can't afford to spend $250 or more for one. Those other Eheims that MBilyeu mentioned are more in my price range. If they have an integrated one for around the $150 range or so I could do that (maybe a little more cause if I bought two heaters, that would be around $50). Thanks again for your advice.
I believe that the pro series eheims have the heaters built in, but they start at $200 normally. You could try the 200w version of this: ETH In-Line Aquarium Heaters | Aquarium Heaters | Fish Tank Heaters | Aquarium - ThatPetPlace.com
That seems like a good idea. Because I can get the 2215 for $110, and an inline for around $40, so thats not a bad price. A separate inline sounds like a good idea to me too because if it fails, then you just have to replace that part intead of the whole thing. I like the idea of not having all this stuff taking up the back of the tank (filter and heater). So with this setup, I will just have two tubes in there basically?
So you're saying that even if I just have the 42w fixture, if I use some kind of substrate other than gravel or sand, it will inhibit algae growth? I was just thinking ahead that I wouldnt want to have to redo the whole substrate in the future because I wouldnt have a place to put the fish while I redid it.
You've seen the thick plant growth in my acquaria; there is very little algae. The light I provide (approximately 1 watt per gallon, on for 13 hours a day, and some daylight from the window) is sufficient for the amount of nurients that are in the tank from the biological processes of the fish and that I add as liquid trace element fertilizer. I have plain gravel for a substrate, and the plants don't need more. If i had an enriched substrate with the amount of light I provide, and didn't add CO2, I would expect algae to appear much more than it does. Similarly if I increased the light to 2 or 3 watts per gallon without doing anything else, the plants would be no better but algae would multiply to use the light that the plants couldn't.
You said earlier that you probably wouldn't have as many plants as I have, so if you put an enriched substrate you would have in my view an even worse algae problem, because there would be insufficient plants to use those nutrients. And the nutrients in the substrate are going to get into the water if there are no plants to fully use them.
Like I said at the outset, you have to decide what type of fish and plant tank you want, and build that from day one. If you don't want as many plants as I have, you will never need a CO2 system and more light, so why bother with a plant substrate? Plants will grow very well in small-grain gravel and in sand; with sand though you have to be careful that it doesn't pack together, it is so fine, and create gas pockets that will very quickly overbalance the biological equilibrium in the tank and be very unhealthy.
You'll probably find more info in the plant section of this forum.
Ok thanks for all your help. Maybe I will check into whats involved in CO2. What exactly do you use to fertilize your plants, and how often?
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