Would like advice on how to successfully start and keep a 5 gallon planted tank
Hi. I'm fairly new to fish and really new to big aquariums. I have a male Crowntail Betta named Taco who was originally my younger sisters but, after a year, she got tired of caring for him and he would have died if I didn't take over. Right now he's in a 1 gallon tank and I just got him a 5 gallon tank which I would love to make a natural planted aquarium (he's still in his 1 gallon tank). I want him to have as natural of an environment as I can give him. I read Byrons "A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium" and have some questions.
I plan to put the new aquarium on my desk that's near a window. The aquarium comes with a light but would natural light from the window be enough? It's not direct sunlight.
I was going to start the cycling process as soon as I got some substrate and decor for the new aquarium but if I do a planted tank should I do the cycle? From what I understood, if the aquarium is planted then it's better for the plants if the tank is not cycled. It's easier for plants to use ammonia. After setting up the tank, should I wait a few days/weeks before putting Taco in? Do I need to check parameters often with a planted tank?
Should I not use chemical/charcoal filtration? Will it remove plant food/fertilizer? The aquarium came with an Aqua-Tech 5-15 filter.
Any suggestions on which plants I should use and what substrate I should use? I saw in another post that Bettas would like water sprite.
How often should a planted tank be cleaned and how much/what % water change?
I hope I'm not jumping in too quickly. I just think natural looking planted tanks look so beautiful and peaceful and would really love to have a successful one for Taco.
Thank You so much!
1. Tank size:
5 gallon Hawkeye AquaBrite 5, 15 1/2" L x 9 3/4" W x 16" H (for Crowntail Betta)
2 Watts and type of lighting:
Fluorescent light. On the bulb it said: 2U 9Watt Daylight 120V/60HZ 116mA. I tried using the "Chart for Lighting" link under "Freshwater Plant Informations" but it doesn't seem to be working at the moment, at least not on my computer. The box the aquarium came in did say "Environmentally friendly longer lasting lamp. 5,000K Illumination simulates bright light on a sunny day."
3. Number and types of plants:
None. Not sure which ones I should use. I was thinking of water sprite, java fern, wisteria, some sort of sword and/or anubias. Very open to suggestions.
4. Substrate type:
None. I was thinking of getting Eco-complete planted with some black rock gravel on top of that. Very open to suggestions.
5. Age of tank:
New, just got it last week.
6. CO2 injection:
None. I wouldn't want to use it if possible.
7. Water Parameters:
No water in aquarium at the moment.
8. Detailed description of plan problems:
Would like advice on how to successfully start and keep a 5 gallon planted tank and what type of plants are best to use for my tank.
Looks like we're having a go at basically the exact same thing. :P I think I'll hang about and see if I can learn anything.
Hi, and a big welcome to the wonderful world of natural planted aquaria. If they could, your fish will thank you.:-)
For substrate, anything will do. Small-grain gravel is my preference because plants easily root in it and bacteria easily colonize it (the anaerobic bacteria used to break down waste into organics for the plants live in the substrate), water flows through it easier, less chance of compaction. Play sand also works, though it is more likely to compact so needs a bit of careful handling but it is workable. A plant substrate is fine, for a small tank a small bag would do and not be too expensive (sand and gravel will be cheaper, a concern more in large tanks).
You could even leave the filter out of this setup; the betta would be better, and the plants don't need it. Let nature do the work for you. Less fuss, more reliable.
Hope this helps. Keeping those questions coming if you have them.
Thank you so much! I have actually looked at your aquariums and they're all so amazingly beautiful. I'm hoping to go to the store this weekend and get started then. I'm so excited to put it all together. I know Petco and Petsmart sell some plants but is there a good place online to order plants? Thank you so much again! :-D
If you're in the US, many here have had good success ordering plants from Sweet Aquatics. But I believe they only ship within the continental US. Their website is:
If you can use them, they sell individual plants and they also have plant packages (a selection of certain plants for various aquascapes).
Thank you for the compliment on my tanks. I hope they show that beautiful planted aquaria do not need to be difficult or expensive. The low-tech natural planted aquarium methods I write about are what I follow myself, and have for 20 years.
Sorry, yes I'm in the US. Thank you so much for all your help!
You could use a soil substrate since they are designed to go in a window...
Basically everything is the same, but you put about an inch of soil under the gravel.
They way you won't need any flourish or ferts.
Miracle grow Organic Choice potting soil is what I use, and it works wonders.
Nice selection of plants.
I once had a quite interesting five gallon tank. It was a 5 gallon bowfront tank with inert gravel and lit by a single 10 watt CFL bulb from Walmart. I had moss, pellia, HC, Blyxa japonica, Diplis diandra, and Cabomba furcata in that tank, and they all were healthy. They grew slowly, yes, but they were quite healthy. When the tank started out, I dosed some Excel and Flourish Iron, but for most of its existence the tank had no fertilizers at all. When I did does, the Blyxa even had some red on it. It was an extremely low maintenance tank, and the only thing I did was occasionally feed it. There was no algae except for the occasional green algae, but even that was in tiny amounts. Also no CO2 at all.
Window lighting can be pretty tricky. If the algae starts taking over, just light the tank with a CFL bulb.
For plants, I think sword plants would be a bad idea. Most of them get huge. However, you could try the pygmy chain sword, which stays pretty small and grows low. If you go for Anubias, you should try getting Anubias nana 'petite', which is small variant of Anubias with leafs no larger than one's pinky nail. Water sprite would be a very good plant for your type of setup.
I would advise against getting plants from Petco or Petsmart. They usually sell some nonaquatic plants, and the aquatic plants are usually in dismal shape. If you must get plants from one of the stores, get them from Petsmart. Do you have any independently owned fish stores in your area? Do some research online, and you may find that there are quite a few in your area. Some of these stores may have good plants, and some may have not so good plant. Another and much better option is online shopping. One type of place you can shop for plants online are the online stores, like Aquabotanic. These stores usually have a nice selection of plants, but they have their cons. Usually, the shipping costs can be a bit high, since the stores are interested in getting your plants to you as quickly and safe as possible by taking some unnecessary precautions. Also, some of the plants they sell may be grown emersed in a nursery. This means that in the nursery, they have been grown by being put in a tank where the water level is just enough to cover their roots. While emersed plants are perfectly healthy, they usually take some time to adjust and grow new leaves when put into an aquarium.
The other option, and the one that I prefer, is to buy plants from members on forums just like this one. Many fish forums will have a sales forum, and people often sell their extra trimmings there.These trimmings are usually quite healthy and accustomed to life in aquariums. Also, they are often quite cheap, especially when compared to local fish stores. Shipping usually is around $6 or $7 for USPS Priority Mail, but some sellers include the price of shipping in the price of the plants if the plants are being sold as a package.
If you're going to use plant gravel, it's a good idea to cover it with a thin layer of inert gravel, or it can attract fuzz algae growth.
Best of luck with your foray into the world of planted tanks. :)
Thank you! I've been thinking about starting slow at first with a few plants first then adding more. Plants I'm thinking about are water sprite, anubias nana and tropica sword to begin with. For substrates I'm debating on Eco-Complete Planted or Super Natural Tahitian Moon. What would these plants need for fertilizers? Thanks again.
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