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Esahc 08-21-2013 10:04 AM

First Natural planted tank -
 
Hi. I normally post over on the bettafish side of the site, but I figured I might be a better response for this one over here, since I'm planning a community tank that probably won't have a betta.

So I've been poking at the idea for a community planted tank for a while, and I think I've settled on a 20gal npt for my last big purchase/project before the semester starts and I forget the outside world for three months. My budget is going to be around 200 all total(fish, plants, tank, stand, heater/filter/whatever), but I'd prefer not to spend more than 150. I have a sinking feeling that at least half of that is going to go to the friggin stand, unless I can find something on the cheap somewhere that'll bear the weight.

but that's not the point for this post. The point here is, pretty much my only experience with fish is the one pain-in-the-everything betta currently residing on my desk, and I'm not 100% sure where to even start looking for the types of fish to stock. I know I want to avoid neon tetras and similar (long story, don't ask) I've considered guppies possibly, or potentially a betta sorority, but that sounds like trouble waiting to happen when I won't be able to monitor the tank closely for quite some time. I'm thinking of cories or Otos for algae control along with my displaced mystery snail, but past that I'm drawing a blank. Any suggestions, (or even just your personal favorite fish?)

The tank will be heavily planted (following the npt guide on the betta side of the site) but plants+ heaters/filters has always made me wary. It seems like heavy planting would block water circulation and interfere with the efficiency of the heater/filter working?
I want to experiment with semi-aquatic plants, if that's a thing that's possible; mostly lucky bamboo? I kinda like the idea of the plants not being confined to the tank itself, but I'm unsure how well it would work re:accommodating the lights, heat retention, and keeping snails/shrimp/fish from jumping/escaping.
Other than that, again, I'd really appreciate suggestions for fast-growing plants, bulbs, floating plants, especially plants that are pretty easy to find, or just your absolute favorite plant. I'm really looking more for opinion than hard fact here.

Also, if by some miracle anyone is in the Austin TX area, I'm heading up there this weekend in search of fish stores that actually have useful things, and if anyone could suggest a place that carries Malaysian trumpet snails, or a wide selection of plants, then I'd be eternally grateful.

beaslbob 08-21-2013 10:43 AM

my super secret (almost) method.

Add 1" canadian sphagum peat moss (1'x1'x3' plastic cube).
wet that layer, level and clean the tank.
add 1" play sand (home depot.lowes 50 poounds for $3)
level and clean
add 1" pro choice select (pro choice baseball conditioner 50 pound bag for $8)
(or aquarium gravel, or some pea gravel or whatever looks nice)
level and clean

add 10 bunches of anacharis, 10 vals, 10 small potted plants, 1-2 amazon swords.
fill tank with water poured over a dish.

Stand back and say Hmmmm looks good. LOL

wait one week.

add 1 fish (male if a live bearer (recommend platy)

wait one week.

add more fish (2 female live bearers or at least 4 if schooling fish)

start feeding 1 flake per day.

in 6 months with live bearers you will have and nice population of live bearers.

Oh yea just to remind ya, no filter, no water changes, no chemicals. Just replace the evaportive water with straiight untreated tap.

my .02

Esahc 08-21-2013 12:24 PM

Where do you suggest finding the peat moss? will a nursery/plant store have it or is it something I'm gonna have to order? I only have about a 1-week window where I'll be able to shop for/buy fish and plants, and will have very very few windows for quite some time after (until round december. I'm doing the full time work and full time school thing and kinda have a 24 hour schedule, so~) I have a few small spare tanks (one 1.5 and can move my betta into that one to house fish in his tank temporarily if need be. So I could still introduce fish on the schedule you said up there.) to qt/house fish in until the tank's ready for them, but I'd prefer not to have to maintain that arrangement for more than a week or two.
I'm assuming the one fish-and-then-more-fish thing is a fish-in cycle to jumpstart the nitrogen cycle? could I bypass that if I moved the betta's sponge filter into the new tank and ran that alongside whatever filter would be running in the new tank for a week instead?

I'm leery of the no filter/untreated tapwater/no water change thing. my tapwater is pretty funky, and like I said before, after next wednesday I'm not going to have a whole lot of leeway to fix/rehome/repair if things go wrong. If nothing else, I'd want the filter just to create a current to circulate the water and regulate the temperature. You've had success with this method before, so what's the worst thing that can go wrong with this setup?

Also, would ecocomplete gravel be an acceptable substitute for the pro choice select? I've got roughly five pounds of the stuff left over from the betta's tank, so I'd prefer to use that if possible.

there was another thing I was gonna ask, but it keeps slipping my mind, will probably remember later.

Esahc 08-21-2013 12:55 PM

of course I remember after the edit window is over. under that setup, would I still need the Malaysian trumpet snails to aerate the substrate and prevent ammonia pockets from building up in anaerobic soil?

spreadtoothinly 08-21-2013 01:24 PM

You don't ever "need" Malaysian Trumpet Snails, but they are always helpful in planted tanks.

And with all due respect to beaslbob, the no filter etc. won't work in all situations, and for beginners it is MUCH easier to just use the conventional method. You do need water changes, to replace the metals (and everything else in tap water) for the plants, that aren't included in any standard fertilizer (like Flourish Comprehensive). Not to mention water stability! For more info I would read this article: http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/f...hanges-188641/ .

beaslbob 08-21-2013 02:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Esahc (Post 2850705)
Where do you suggest finding the peat moss? will a nursery/plant store have it or is it something I'm gonna have to order? I only have about a 1-week window where I'll be able to shop for/buy fish and plants, and will have very very few windows for quite some time after (until round december. I'm doing the full time work and full time school thing and kinda have a 24 hour schedule, so~) I have a few small spare tanks (one 1.5 and can move my betta into that one to house fish in his tank temporarily if need be. So I could still introduce fish on the schedule you said up there.) to qt/house fish in until the tank's ready for them, but I'd prefer not to have to maintain that arrangement for more than a week or two.
I'm assuming the one fish-and-then-more-fish thing is a fish-in cycle to jumpstart the nitrogen cycle? could I bypass that if I moved the betta's sponge filter into the new tank and ran that alongside whatever filter would be running in the new tank for a week instead?

I'm leery of the no filter/untreated tapwater/no water change thing. my tapwater is pretty funky, and like I said before, after next wednesday I'm not going to have a whole lot of leeway to fix/rehome/repair if things go wrong. If nothing else, I'd want the filter just to create a current to circulate the water and regulate the temperature. You've had success with this method before, so what's the worst thing that can go wrong with this setup?

Also, would ecocomplete gravel be an acceptable substitute for the pro choice select? I've got roughly five pounds of the stuff left over from the betta's tank, so I'd prefer to use that if possible.

there was another thing I was gonna ask, but it keeps slipping my mind, will probably remember later.

the eco complete would probably work. I haven't used.

peat moss is available from lowe's or home depot. example:

Shop 3.8 cu ft Sphagnum Peat Moss at Lowes.com

pro choice select here:

Pro's Choice Products

(had to contact that company to get a local supplier who had to order)

The waiting is to insure the plants keep up with the nitrogen cycle and condition the tank. For instance, when I used to feed that first fish it always died just like clock work in the 5 th day after suffering for two days. The second fish always lived. But with no feeding the first week, that first fish always lived.

If you over feed and have too much light the tank does cloud up. I just kill the lights and stop feeding and in a week or so it clear again.

I do not use snails to break up ammonia in the substrate. The plants consume any ammonia directly preventing ammonia build ups. Plus the plants provide a low level circulation through the substrate as well. Any really nasty stuff is either trapped in the substrate or just no present.

beaslbob 08-21-2013 02:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by spreadtoothinly (Post 2851105)
You don't ever "need" Malaysian Trumpet Snails, but they are always helpful in planted tanks.

And with all due respect to beaslbob, the no filter etc. won't work in all situations, and for beginners it is MUCH easier to just use the conventional method. You do need water changes, to replace the metals (and everything else in tap water) for the plants, that aren't included in any standard fertilizer (like Flourish Comprehensive). Not to mention water stability! For more info I would read this article: http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/f...hanges-188641/ .


Seems to work in my case and with evry newbie who has tried this.

BTW I do use a fliter----- the plants.

IMHO replacing evaporative water and using lotsa plants is a much more stable environment that any water change based method. When something goes bump in the night the plants step up to rapicily return the system to its steady state. Which simply does not happen is a water change bacteria based system.


my .02

spreadtoothinly 08-21-2013 04:35 PM

Quote:

Seems to work in my case and with evry newbie who has tried this.

BTW I do use a fliter----- the plants.

IMHO replacing evaporative water and using lotsa plants is a much more stable environment that any water change based method. When something goes bump in the night the plants step up to rapicily return the system to its steady state. Which simply does not happen is a water change bacteria based system.
I'm not saying it won't work, just water changes usually work better.
I was reffering to this
Quote:

Oh yea just to remind ya, no filter, no water changes, no chemicals. Just replace the evaportive water with straiight untreated tap.
"using lotsa plants" is the key phrase here, at what point is "losta plants" achieved? And with all those plants to keep them healthy you will either have to dose the things (can't remember exactly what those are right now...) that are found in tap water, but not in conventional fertilizers like Flourish Comprehensive, and THAT is too hard for a newbie to do, OR do water changes.
Also, "When something goes bump in the night the plants step up to rapicily return the system to its steady state" how are the plants going to use the nutrients (ammonia/nitrite/nitrate) if they don't have light to photosynthesize?

beaslbob 08-21-2013 05:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by spreadtoothinly (Post 2852433)
I'm not saying it won't work, just water changes usually work better.
I was reffering to this "using lotsa plants" is the key phrase here, at what point is "losta plants" achieved? And with all those plants to keep them healthy you will either have to dose the things (can't remember exactly what those are right now...) that are found in tap water, but not in conventional fertilizers like Flourish Comprehensive, and THAT is too hard for a newbie to do, OR do water changes.
Also, "When something goes bump in the night the plants step up to rapicily return the system to its steady state" how are the plants going to use the nutrients (ammonia/nitrite/nitrate) if they don't have light to photosynthesize?

You are correct in that plants need the light to consume the ammonia spike. But then the ammonia level is rapidily consumed when the lights are turned on. Much better for that to happen then wait for bactria to multiply. Not to mention the co2 reduction the plants do.

All I can actually say is this method works for me but your mileage may be different. I have had 25-30 guppies with 6 reproducing adults all from the initial cycle trio in a 10g tank for 9 years. With no added chemicals or dosing of any kind. So some level of self substaining must have been reached.

I did notice that peat moss prevents kh and gh build up and neon tetras did much better.

By building up the bioload slowly the plants expand to whatever level is necessary to balance out and stabize the tank.

By using more plants you just insure that happens right from the start and the bioload can be higher earlier.

But still that's just my .02

jentralala 08-21-2013 05:15 PM

Welcome to the forum!

Is the tank a 20 long or the regular 20 gallon size? I ask because this affects your stocking choices.

Honestly, eco complete is a waste of money IMO. It doesn't give better growth from my experience. The best growth I've ever gotten has been with Flourish Black Sand, but really, any substrate will work just fine if you use the right supplements. You can even use Quikcrete Playsand or Sakrete All Purpose Sand, or Black Diamond Blasting Grit. All these options are less than $10 for a 50lb bag. If you use root tabs every few months instead of soil, it works just the same.

Most people use Miracle Gro Organic Potting Mix for the soil portion of the tank. If this is the route you go (with ANY soil, even if you just use cheap topsoil and mineralize it) you have to be aware that it's going to release ammonia for awhile, and may not be fish safe for several weeks. It also makes moving plants rather difficult.

If you're looking for bottom feeders, try sticking to sand instead of gravel. Their bellies generally prefer it. I've also had much more luck with plants on sand, and it's way easier to clean! But it's all your decision ^-^

I also think you'd do best to use a filter. I'd recommend either an Aquaclear 30, or a mini canister filter. (TOMS and Zoo Med come to mind, but I haven't tried them, personally.) Filters are a great help to have. Plants do not affect the efficiency of filters and heaters. :)

Hm. If you do an open top tank you could try doing a riparium if you're interested, although maybe down the line? If this is your first time doing a planted tank you may want to wait until you have this down pat before trying something else. Although if you really want to give it a go, it's totally okay, too! Several of our members (including me!) have created ripariums. If you're interested in going the route I'd suggest posting another thread asking specifically about ripariums ^-^

My favorite plants are Crypt Lucens, Crypt Spiralis, Aponogeton Crispus, Frogbit, Water Sprite, Dwarf Sag, and Pygmy Chain Sword.

What are your water parameters, as in Ph, Gh, and Kh? Do you have a liquid test kit?


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