48 gallon flat back hex needs planting
I have a 48 gallon flat back hex tank with a fluval 304 canister filter, under gravel filter,flourescent lighting,150 watt heater, this tank has just been drained and cleaned. I have large gravel as a substrate, lava rock is set up for hiding places for my fish that I am adding, I currently have plastic plants, weighted drift wood decor. I want to get rid of the plastic plants and add live plants but want to be as unobtrussive as possible so want to keep large gravel to aid in filtration. I am solely wanting to set this tank up as a true community tank, but want to keep peaceable fish. Question is can I go with live plants if I use large gravel , and can I use plants in peat pots without fouling the water since I believe the large gravel might damage the root system of the plants. Anything anyone can suggest will be deeply appreciated. My 48 gallon flat back hex has been torn down from a salt water to fresh.
My first thought is with large gravel and an under gravel filter you may pull the nutrients away from the roots. Without the ugf and large gravel I am not experienced enough to say it would or wouldn't work. But what you could do is forget substrate rooted plants and go with plants such as Anubias that get tied to rocks or driftwood and derive their nutrients straight from the water column. Surely there will be some more scientific answers along in a bit.
You could try an idea I had when I was considering a UG filter in a planted tank...
get some little teeny 1 inch to 1.5 inch clay pots (or large if you like- you could even use the drainage saucers that go under pots if you wanted something bigger- they're only about an inch deep- make sure to get ones without drainage holes!) and fill them with something good for plants like
organic potting soil mix) and cover it with some fine gravel.)
That way you can "plant" the pots in the large gravel so they're flush with the top of the substrate and plant in the pots.
Eventually mulm will build up in the pots (which is a good thing) and the nutrients won't get sucked away from the roots.
Bunch plants would do well in this setup, just order large bunches from SA... Cut the growing tips off, and then cut them in half. (That way they'll branch out and fill up a lot of space, and won't require as much root space. Bunch plants only use roots to anchor themselves, they feed through the leaves)
Could also try corkscrew val in a pot and see how it does.
Finally, you can get a bunch of java moss, Anubias, and Java fern and tie it all over the driftwood and rocks in the aquarium.
I think it would be quite a nice setup if you're already setup with a UG filter.
(Just call me MacGyver!) (http://www.macgyveronline.com/pages/c1.html) sorry don't know how to do links properly.
_EDIT_ this post gave me inspiration for an avatar...;)
The concern I would have is over filtration. Planted tanks filter themselves. The only reason for a "filter" in a planted tank is to gently move the water (or to move it in a stronger current if you have fish requiring currents) through a sponge, pad and media (as in a canister) to keep the water "clear." The plants keep it "clean." Two different things.
Second issue is what fish will be in the tank. Filtration should be geared to the fish, some like currents, some definitely do not--cardinal tetras, indeed the majority of tetras do not fare well with strong water flow because it is not part of their habitat, similarly gourami, rasbora, angels...all these come from very quiet scarcely-moving streams and oxbow lakes and marshes, depending which species.
If the tank is pulled down (i.e., not already set up and being converted that way) I would remove the UG filter and use the canister. Canisters are good filters in planted aquaria. UG filters are do-able, but not the preference. As for the substrate, small-grain gravel about 1-3mm size is best both for holding the plants, allowing good root growth, and supporting the very important colony of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria that are essential at the plant roots.
I am also not a fan of potting plants in aquaria. Substrate-rooted plants that have extensive root systems such as swords and crypts, which are two of the mainstay plant genera, are much better in the open substrate. They have very extensive root systems, and they are heavy feeders. The root systems of some of my larger swords extend out more than a foot in all directions from the plant, and down through 4-6 inches of gravel. If you want a success, it is best to provide close to what the plants can most benefit from; it will be more successful and you will be happier with the result--as will the fishies.
You might want to give Part 3 of my stickied series on natural planted aquaria a read, it covers filtration and explains the reason for what I've said above:
The whole 4-part series is at the head of the Aquarium Plants section of the forum.
That's why I mentioned that you'd probably be limited to bunch/stem plants, vals, rhizome plants (java fern and anubias), hornwort, and java moss...
Only if breaking down isn't an option though. Optimally, you'd take out the UG filter and replace the gravel. If you couldn't, though...
my ideas should work.
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