Need confirmation on Christmas Tree Moss technique
Hello, I'm new to the forum. Have been a member for a week or so, observing how full of info and genuinely interested aquarists are here. Cool, good work guys.
Last week I purchased Christmas Tree Moss to cover a couple pieces of African hardwood I've had for a few months. Being a novice with moss plants, I did my best to wrap fishing line around it all, but the moss came undone relatively soon, so I revised my design...
I sandwiched the Christmas Tree Moss between two pieces of hardwood, and created a kind-of venus fly trap so none would escape. Reading before that CTM can grow in low-light and is relatively hardy, will there be enough light for the lower areas of the 'sandwich'?
Lighting: 80 watts of fan-cooled halogen lighting in a 20 gallon tank (+ regular use Flourish Excel) (If you'd like to see how I created a DIY halogen cooling system using PC fans, let me know).
Just don't want to end up with decaying plant mass in the lower lit parts of my "Amazon Moss Taco". ;) FYI, I do have 2 Japonica shrimp that love that log.
I'm not really sure about the moss, but why are you using halogen lighting?
It doesn't really produce enough blue light for good plant growth...
Can't afford the hood I want, so in the interim I've made use of spare halogens on hand. Went from 24 watt T8 bulb to the current 80 watts. I also run a blue moonlight all night, if that makes a difference?
Sorry, but how big is the tank?
Many of the members here use a single T8 the length of the tank to provide lighting (in smaller tanks- 40G or less)
I use CFLs (those spiral bulbs)
I see you recently joined us, so welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. I don't think I've welcomed you previously, I do so many posts every day...but regardless, a second welcome won't hurt.:-)
I have a comment on the night "moon" lights. Turn them off so that you have at least 10 hours of total and complete darkness. Both fish and plants are programmed for this, and while I cannot say that something detrimental will definitely occur, it is something I do not recommend since it is clearly contrary to nature. And in case anyone is thinking about moonlight at night in the tropics, think again; most of the fish we maintain come from forest streams and flooded forest that has such a thick canopy of trees overhead there is no strong sun or moon light penetrating the water.
Now to the halogen lighting. This is expensive to operate, as much of the energy used goes into the heat. Over a small tank, I would recommend Compact Fluorescent bulbs (screw-in incandescent); the daylight bulbs made by GE, Sylvania, Phillips, etc. with a Kelvin rating around 6500K work very well; I have two 10w over my 20g and it looks identical to my full spectrum fluorescent on the larger tanks, produces less heat, and uses less energy. And the plants are responding very well. If you are able, this would be a good solution.
As for the quality of the halogen light, if there is sufficient intensity (which there probably is) the plants will likely manage. The real issue is algae; that is more light intensity than the plants require, and when this situation occurs, algae takes advantage.
Which brings me to the Excel; are you using any basic fertilizer? Excel is just carbon in liquid form, and to be honest there is usually sufficient carbon as CO2 in an aquarium (it comes from fish and even more from bacteria) but rarely are there sufficient nutrients to balance. And without nutrients in balance, excess light is even more likely to promote algae.
I usually counsel aquarists not to use Excel. It sets up a higher level of balance (between light and the 17 nutrients plants need, of which carbon is only one). This is what occurs in CO2 diffused tanks, requiring mega light and daily fertilization of nutrients to balance the extra CO2. Unless you have a need to go high-tech, I would keep it simple; a lower level of balance is more reliant on basic natural processes resulting in healthy plants and fish with minimal intervention from the aquarist.
Thanks for the feedback :) It's a 20 gallon long. Formally ZooMed's "Coral Sun" T8 bulb was on there, but I rigged my hood with the halogen's in search of more wattage; dimming control was an attractive proposition too.
If y'all think the T8 will do fine, I might just switch it back. I just wanted more vibrant and powerful lighting, but was on a budget and love DIY projects!
What about a string of three/four 60 watt CFLs? If you have implemented a custom lighting solution, that'd help me!
You can get a 6500k "daylight" bulb. Super cheap and a good bit brighter, and good for plants. :)
If you decide to use CFLs, go for it- 2 10-13W CFLs in "cool white" should be good....
Only issue I'd have is that in a 20G long you might have areas where the light is noticably brighter (right under the bulbs)... CFLs aren't available in anything less than 10W, so three is out of the question.
A single T8 would likely be plenty.
Thanks for the welcome and good advice Byron! I was hoping you'd chime in; all your posts are not only exhaustive but to the point and helpful.
Re: moonlighting: After reading your feedback I had to laugh at myself a little. I was trying to achieve a realistic moonlight effect for the inhabitants to see more natural behavior. I'll adjust the timer to give them complete darkness at night.
Re: CFL bulbs: Have tried this on a spare 10 gallon economy hood and was surprised at how bright they are! You only use 2 of those for your 20 gallon? I have that old economy hood and (2) 60 watt equivalent CFLs - I'll tinker with setting it up.
Re: Excel/CO2: "keeping it simple" is music to my ears... if you have time, let me know what you think of my supplementation and care:
1) I use Nutrifin's "Plant Grow" which contains Nitrogen, Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum and Zinc. Weekly I distribute 10 mL with water changes.
2) I do not have a plant substrate, but 2"-2.5" of established gravel, am consistent with my supplementing and cleaning, and have planted root tabs 2 months ago.
3) Clean-up crew includes a 4" Sailfin Pleco, 2 Otto cats and 2 Japonica shrimp. Your algea advice is helpful - I'll keep an eye on it. Yet to-date, I've never had an algea problem because a) it's a low-tech setup, and b) I also like to achieve water balance naturally, and that partially through algea-eaters.
You're saying cut the Excel and let it happen naturally from here?
As for my overall goal, couldn't of said it better than you: An aquarium "more reliant on basic natural processes resulting in healthy plants and fish with minimal intervention from the aquarist." Unfortunately I don't have time or money to invest in more equipment (would love to though! :roll:), so I plan to let this tank continue to develop slowly and naturally - an approach that has worked out well for the last 6 months.
Thanks again for your help.
As for the Moss - should be ok in the log like that, right?
I have not tried it, but from what others have said and having researched the ingredient nutrients I believe Nutrafin's Plant-Gro should be good. I have used their substrate sticks, and the result was to me quite remarkable. While not all 15 mineral nutrients are in Plant-Gro, it may have sufficient of the essentials plus others that naturally enter the tank via water changes and fish food, or are made available through bacteria/organics. If you are satisfied with the growth, and assuming the light is brought into balance, fine; if not, I recommend Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement for the Planted Aquarium. It takes much less--only 2 ml in a 20g once or perhaps twice a week--so it lasts longer, and it certainly works for me and many others here. By the way, assuming you use a water conditioner than detoxifies heavy metals, do not add fertilizer the same day but wait 24 hours after a water change. Several plant micro-nutrients (iron, copper, zinc and manganese) are strictly speaking "heavy metals" and the water conditioner detoxifies these so the fert is wasted. Most conditioners only work for 24 hours or less, so the next day should be OK.
Plants will grow very well in plain gravel; and root tabs for some like the heavy feeding swords and perhaps crypts is not a bad idea. I did this myself last year for the first time, I used the Plant-Gro sticks as I mentioned above which are less expensive that Flourish tabs and the improved growth in the swords was very noticeable. A small-grain gravel is best on all accounts, around 1-2 mm grain size; it anchors plant roots and provides an excellent medium for bacteria as water easily passes through which is essential.
Algae eaters are fine, I have some though not for that particular reason but simply as interesting fish; but with one or two exceptions they will not touch hair algae, brush algae, and those other difficult algae types. Prevention is the best action.
On the CO2/Excel, as I mentioned previously, there is considerably more CO2 in our aquaria than many of us realize. For several months I had my 33g full of plants, daughter plants from swords, some Pennywort, floating Ceratopteris, etc., and no fish. The plants remained alive and quite lush, though obviously not as thriving as in the main fish tanks. But this surprised me, as I expected with what I thought would be no source of CO2 they might waste away. But the CO2 from bacteria plus some from the atmosphere (floating plants make use of this readily) was sufficient for more than 5 months. And even in a tank with fish, there is more CO2 from the bacteria in the substrate than from the fish. As long as the light is kept minimal, there is no need for CO2 supplementation with the vast majority of aquarium plants. And increasing the carbon via CO2 or Excel raises the balance level between light and all 17 nutrients, so without also raising all that, the carbon will have little usefulness.
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