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tx246 02-23-2010 09:32 PM

Confused Newbie wanting to do Plants
Ok. I have had freshwater tanks and raised both cichlids and other varieties of tropicals but never did I try plants until now.

I have a 55 g with a homemade light hood containing CF bulbs. Lighting is from 6 30W 6400k. I have been running them for 8hrs a day. Too much?

Substrate is 3 inches of aquarium gravel mixed with red flourite. It is sitting on a UGF that has powerheads on opposite ends of the tank.

There is a basic Whisper hanging filter on the back.

I have one lone Guppy for the moment.

I added a couple of Foxtail and and two other basic plants. At first they seemed to be generating new growth but brown algae has broken out and covered the plants.

Did an ammonia test tonight and it was 0.

This tank is only a month old.

So far Ive learned to quit venting the powerheads (c02 loss) and Im assuming that I shouldnt even be running them at all.

I hesitate to go spend a bunch of money on plants with the brown algae.

A week ago there were good bits of green algae but I cleaned the tank friday with a light vacuum and 10 gal water change and boom now I have brown algae all over.

I am sure I am doing it all wrong. I am open to do whatever I need to do up to and including tearing it down and starting over.

Thanks in advance for all of the replies

Mean Harri 02-23-2010 09:40 PM

My first thought is you have too much light and too little plants. If you heavily plant the tank from the start the plants out-compete the algae. With 120 watts of light and little plants you are feeding in to the algae.

Secondly, under gravel filters with live plants are a no should do. They pull nutrients away from the roots of the plants. Canister filters are best. If you don't want to spend the money for a canister filter Like an Eheim 2213 or a Rena Filstar Xp 2 or XP 3 the hob may work well. But surface agitation from hob are greater than a canister. Surface agitation gases off your co2 in the tank too quickly. You want co2 in there for the plants to use.

I hesitate to recommend this as I may be wrong but someone can correct it if I am. Maybe getting a Siamese algae eater to eat that algae. Or Nerite snails. Let them get it munched up then add more plants. The more the better. Within reason of course. Heavily planted is the goal.
As a matter of fact. You could get some hornwort. It's a floating plant or can be weighted to sink to the bottom. They consume nutrients from the water column and can quickly turn the tide on algae. They are also easy to care for and are high oxygenating plants.

cmc29 02-23-2010 10:35 PM

Right on Mean Harri. Look for plants that are fast growing. I find that Rotala grows very quickly.

tx246 02-23-2010 10:43 PM

After doing a bit more reading, it seems the potential for algae is omnipresent and will show itself given an imbalance in the tank. This makes me think that starting the tank new isnt going to help.

Can I leave the UGF in place and not run the powerheads?

I am sure the tank lacks nutrients for the plants as there is only one fish and I havent added anything fertilizer.

I can reduce the light by simply removing bulbs but how many?

Am I right in thinking that the canister filter primarily filters the water mechanically or does it perform as a bio too? No activated charcoal as it pulls plant nutrients out. I dont mind investing in a canister filter if that is what is required.

I really like the hornwort idea as a floater it will cut light to the rest of the tank. I can add some octo cats.

I guess what I am asking is fighting algae by adding more plants the way to go or do I need the fish to provide the plants with nutrients?

Is it good practice to run a powerhead not attached to a UGF in order to move water around?

Angel079 02-24-2010 09:48 AM

Let's go over this step by step for your case....

If you can (financially) I'd exchange the HOB for a canister; on a 55g this will do just fine (the 2213 model) EHEIM Classic External Canister - Filtration & Circulation - Fish - PetSmart

You have 180w CFL total there that is a LOT to say the least. My planted 55's are set with a single 4ft 30w tube;-)
The problem that's creating is not just the algae you see (which brown algae is SUPER common in new set ups like yours but will subside automatically once tank matures). Each tank needs a BALANCE between light-co2-nutrition.
To balance that kinda light you'd need a LOT of everything else and that's not needed. So being CFLs if you can remove at least half of the bulbs or if your DIY hood is built in a way you can add a simple 4ft shop light that'll do.
The bulbs themselves you have with 6400K are great!

Then add liquid comprehensive ferts such as Flourish Comprehensive. You get some nutrition needed for plants from the water, some from the fish and then your comprehensive fert will cover the rest.

And the co2 will be covered by your fish.

In a planted tank you don't want a powerhead nor UGF nor HOB because they drive out the co2 too much and create too much surface disturbance for plants.

JohnnyD44 02-24-2010 11:00 AM

+1 On everybody....

I am currently awaiting my plants and I have to 48" 30W bulbs in my 55G. One is a full spectrum and the other is a sunlight bulb. Outside of those to I can't recommend anything because I have no experience with everything else.

I would ditch the UGF, as for the reason stated above...

As for your canister filter.....Eheim's are great, I know Angel loves them , she runs a 2217(as do many others)....Harri runs an Rena Xp3(as do others) and i run a Marineland 350 magnum....all are great, all will do the trick...

You'll probably want to ditch the HOB filter like HM said, as it will disruput your surface and release oxygen that your plants need.

I was concerned about a canister filter not really filtering the water, but "polishing" it also....but as Harri, Angel and the others pointed out in my thread, your plants them selves will act as a biological filter....and the "good" bacteria you're looking for (that you currently get from your HOB) wil reside in the gravel.

I already ordered a bottle of seachem's flourish comprensive....if you plan on having sword plants, you may want to pick up some root tabs too.

Byron 02-24-2010 11:59 AM

Agree with what's been posted so far, but if changing this drastically (new filter) is not in the realm of possibility for you at this time, you can make do with what you have. I have seen too many beautiful planted tanks with an UGF to say differently. It is not the filter of choice if starting from scratch, but in an existing setup it can work. Remove the powerheads and use an air pump and air stones. And remove the Whisper HOB, not needed with plants.

The light is more important; do you happen to know either the lumen or lux rating for the bulbs you have? Wattage is useless with CF bulbs. The spectrum sounds good, it is just the intensity which is lumens (or lux will indicate closely).

Re the brown algae, that is very common in new tanks during the first 2-3 months. It will go away on its own. In the meantime, remove it from plant leaves with your fingers as it will block photosynthesis and exchange of nutrients. On other objects, clean it off the glass, beyond that up to you. It will end.

The four-part series "A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium" stickied at the head of this section of the forum is geared to setting up a new tank from scratch, but some of the detail on why this and that is done may be of interest so you'll better appreciate the issues.


Angel079 02-24-2010 05:57 PM


Originally Posted by Byron (Post 331514)
Wattage is useless with CF bulbs. The spectrum sounds good, it is just the intensity which is lumens (or lux will indicate closely).

I'd not compleatly discard the watt factor over that tank having 6x comparison I just reworked my kitchen which is fairly large kitchen with 4x 26w (Not 30w and 6x like the user here!) CFLs Daylight and its BRIGHT to say the least that same scenario over my 55g pictured I can just see plants melting & algae developing.

My "kitchen cfl" 26w @ 6500k are @ 1600 lumens so his/ her's may be a lil higher there.

Byron 02-24-2010 06:12 PM

I just don't understand CF bulbs sufficiently to offer any constructive advice, which is why I'd like to know the lumens or lux so I can have some idea what it's like. I'm expecting the light to be far too much too, but I'd like a better grasp, although I would not counter your suggestion to reduce the bulbs if that is your advice from your experience which I accept. B.

tx246 02-24-2010 09:33 PM


Here is a link the bulbs that I am using.

30 Watt CFL Light Bulb - 120 W Equal - Full Spectrum 6400K - Spring Lamp - Energy Miser FE-IIS-30W-64K Light Bulb

Too much eh? Ill pull three for the time being.

I think I will invest in a canister filter as it has to do a much better job pulling particulates. When you say keep the UGF and use air stones, I am not following. Do I run the air stones under the gravel filter? In my local fish store they have a tube in the middle of the tank and there are tiny bubbles coalescing up it. Im assuming there is an air stone in the bottom.

I have some other work projects so it will be next week before I can continue tinkering.

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