Starting a planted tank, Need advice on equipment and plants
I am looking to make my 60 gallon tank into a planted tank. I have an established tank that houses a few cichlids but lacks the nice landscape of plants. I have been researching and reading the stickies for the last few days and still find myself a little lost with whether or not I need fertilizer and a CO2 system. I think I can have well established beginner plants without getting to complicated with equipment and fertilizers from what I read but really have to confirm here first. My question is what changes would I need to house plant and what steps should I take. I have two HOB filters (marineland emperor 280 and a AC 30) and a new cascade 1000 canister filter coming in tomorrow( I think I read the canister was the ideal filter for a plant tank) and will eventually take off the HOB filters. My question is what plants should I start off with and is there any equipment that I should pickup. The light I have came with the tank hood combo I bought. I have two light 18" lights that are marked f15t8 by marineland and I believe they have a 4600k rating. I read previously a light with 6500k is more ideal but is the light I have inadequate or adequate. I also use pea size gravel.
I had seen on aqua bid a auction for 12 beginner plants. I would also want to know if this is a good price or if these are good plants to start with. Here is the link
AquaBid.com - Your Aquatic Auction Website
The growth rate of the plants will depend upon the method you choose--from high tech down to low-tech with many variations in between. Adding CO2 means you need considerably more light and fertilization to balance. Without CO2 you can use much less fertilization and less intense light.
You do not need CO2 diffusion for a healthy and successful "planted tank," but you will almost certainly need some sort of fertilizer. The essential nutrients that plants need do occur partly from fish food, some minerals maybe in the source water, and then from the organics being broken down by bacteria--but it is unlikely that everything will be available from these sources, or in sufficient quantities. Fertilization is simple if you use a good comprehensive fertilizer, only once or at most twice a week.
The main issue is light. And assuming from your post that you are inclined toward low-tech, your fixture will work but I would definitely replace the tubes. "Daylight" with a kelvin of around 6500K really do make quite a difference from what you have which is high in red but very little blue. Mid-day sun is around 5500K, and aquatic plants use (need) red and blue light to photosynthesize. The "daylight" tubes provide this, since they have the red but add some cool white (blue). These needn't cost a lot; hardware stores sell "daylight" tubes made by GE, Phillips, Sylvania that are about 1/4 the cost of fish store brands.
Filtration should depend solely on the needs of the fish; some prefer currents, many do not. The filter should suit this need. Canisters can provide either quite easily; the spray bar at one end will produce a slight current but it can be lessened by aiming the holes at the end wall, or the current can be increased if there are fish that need this.
Pea gravel is not the best, but it will suffice. However, think this through carefully; changing the substrate later is the most involved change of anything, so make sure the substrate is what you really want. Here again the type of fish may have a bearing. Most plants will be OK in pea gravel, though they are better in a finer grain, about 1-2 mm seems to work best. There is also the all-important colony of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria that lives in the substrate and has a significant effect on the health of the plants and fish. And the colour--darker substrates are in most cases better, for the fish as much as for the appearance.
I won't comment on the plant link as I've never used them, but others here have used online plant sources and will undoubtedly be able to offer advice.
I just wanted to add that I have ordered from the guy you are looking at on aquabid and I was very pleased with the plants and those are in my opinion good plants for a beginner. You could also look at sweetaquatics.com and aquariumplants.com they have good prices and plants and aquariumplants.com has a section of beginner plants you could pick and chose from.
I decided I will also be making a trip to search for the lights mentioned since paying a little extra for the bulbs sounds like it will help out. It wont hurt and is definitely inexpensive. I started keeping fish a little over a year ago and made the rookie mistake of using pea sized gravel. If I had known how great sand is and how great it looks then I would have definitely chose sand. I have been mulling changing to sand but its freezing in New York right now so I might wait until the spring for a warm day to make it easier on myself to clean the sand. I love the look of black sand and think that might be the way I want to go or a dark tan but Ill leave that for another thread. Finally the only reason I would be ordering plants is my LFS plants are awful (dingy looking, filled with snails)and the Petsmart and Petco by me carry the tubed plants that are usually terrarium plants or have overpriced plants with a severe lack of variety. Thanks again for all the info. It was a great read.
Also thanks calmwaters for the website references. I have definitely been checking out the websites you gave me and now I dont know what to get now lol They also look like they have great pieces of driftwood and other things. Thank you very much for all the info
I would look to the sites mentioned for plant's such as Anubia's and Java fern which can be attached to driftwood and perhaps onion plant and maybe sword plant's.
I fear the fish mentioned under Your aquarium Jack Dempsey,Green Terror. Red parrot,common Pleco, will make keeping rooted plant's difficult.
I don't like sand because it can compact, and you need a good depth of substrate for larger plants, although in a 10g this is obviously not an issue. I have dark sand in my 10g, it looks nice, but I would never use it in larger tanks, just my experience.
Fertilizer: best in my view is Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement for the Planted Aquarium. It may seem expensive compared to others, but you use so little that long-term it is not. About a 1/4 teaspoon once or twice a week in a 10g is all you need. Make sure you get the Flourish Comprehensive, they make several products in the "Flourish" line.
Converting from low-tech to high-tech simply means adding more equipment and using more nutrients. It's all to do with balance: light and nutrients (all 17 of them) must be balanced. If you start increasing CO2 through diffusion, you must increase the light over the tank, and increase nutrient fertilization to probably daily instead of weekly. Plants can only grow (photosynthesize) up to the point at which something is no longer available, what we call the limiting factor. Light should always be the limiting factor, as excess light means algae problems. But if light is limited and nutrients such as CO2 are greater than what balances the light, the plants cannot make use of it. Algae is very advantageous. Plus you would be wasting money on the CO2 (it is not cheap). And more light is expensive to set up and run (using double or triple the electricity every day adds up). The only advantage to high tech is faster plant growth; unless you are raising plants to sell or something, I see no value in all the expense. Plus, the more stuff you increase/add, the more you set up a higher balance and the more that can go wrong. The real value in a natural setup is not only the money savings long-term but the fact that nature is doing most of the work, and that is much easier to maintain balanced.
Thanks again for all the info, Low tech seems to be the way to go for me. My cascade 1000 came in today and Im setting up at the moment. I have a question about the media. Should I switch out some of the media or leave it? It came with the coarse sponge, carbon bag and some floss pads.
The sponge and floss is fine, all you really need with plants. Mechanical filtration means trapping the fine particulate matter and these sponges and floss pads do that.
Carbons is believed to remove some nutrients that the plants require, so in planted tanks we generally leave carbon (and any form of chemical filtration media) out. It has to be replaced at some point as it adsorbs stuff and becomes useless; in a new tank some might suggest using it and then removing it, but if there are live plants I would not leave it in.
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