Are air pumps or stones necessary for a healthy 20 gal tank?
What is the story on air pumps and stones? Sometimes I read they are necessary, sometimes not. It sounds like they are more useful in large tanks that may not get adequate surface disruption from their filters for proper gas exchange. As some of you can probably tell, I don't know a helluva lot about this subject and would like to learn more. Any advice/knowledge would be appreciated.
The answer to the question "are they necessary" is no. To explain: at the water surface there occurs a gaseous exchange, as CO2 (carbon dioxide, produced by the fish) is driven off and oxygen is absorbed into the water. The more surface disturbance there is (agitation of the surface) the more gas is exchanged. Same effect occurs from the constant bubbles from airstones and wands. This is bad in a planted tank where the plants need CO2 and this disturbance drives much of it off instead of allowing the plants to utilize it for photosynthesis; and this is important for the filtering ability of plants as I'll mention below.
As for the oxygen, a biologically balanced aquarium that is properly maintained (weekly partial water changes, adequate filtration, no overfeeding, stocking levels balance the water volume and chemistry) does not require anything further beyond the filter and biological cycle to remain healthy. Having live plants significantly increases the biological health of the aquarium; plants are nature's filters, and as Dr. Ted Coletti pointed out in his column in the July TFH, plants are the first and best filtration system in any aquarium, and far outperform any mechanical filter. Diana Walstad advocates a natural planted aquarium approach, and uses no mechanical filters. The plants are the only filters.
Thanks for the info Byron. What freshwater plants do you recommend for a 20 gallon system? Any advice on what substrate is best for a naturally planted aquarium?
Thanks again for the info.
depends on what light you have and type of substrate you have now. Higher wattage and spectrum lights will allow for more high-light plants whereas the basic fluorescent bulb will only permit low light plants. Common hardy lowlight plants are java moss and java fern along with some types of anubias. Moderate light tanks can grow swords, such as amazon sword and micro swords. High-light tanks will grow plants like cabomba and watersprite. Most plants will do well with moderate light which is around 2watts per gallon.
For substrate many would suggest eco complete, which is a blend of flourite i beleive. However any medium fine to fine gravel will do. Smaller size gravel will result in better rooting for plants. flourite gives off nutrients over time for plants whereas standard gravel from a lfs wont. But oncethe nutrients are gone its just normal gravel.
Thanks for the info Sin, much appreciated.
SC answered your questions. I would only add that generally you can grow anything except some stem plants (they tend to require more intense light) with 1 watt per gallon. I have this on both my tanks, and you can check the photos to see the result. No CO2, regular aquarium gravel, liquid fertilizer twice weekly and plant tabs next to the larger swords that are heavy feeders. Use full spectrum fluorescents, nothing else, and you're home.
And I'll add, with everything stated above, it still comes down to trying different plants to see what works with your setup. I've tried some plants that I thought would work with my 2watts per gallon and they didn't make it. But as you can see from my pics, I've found several that do well in my conditions.
i find that having airstones always looks nice as well as gives the fish a bit more oxygen to diffuse
Thanks for the info and advice everyone, and nice aquariums too! I will post a picture of mine as soon as the set-up is finished.
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