Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources (
-   Beginner Planted Aquarium (
-   -   Newbie Help with setting up planted tank - Substrate Advice (

mattcinders 02-26-2011 09:18 PM

Newbie Help with setting up planted tank - Substrate Advice
Hi Everyone,

I'm new to the forum. I'd really appreciate some advice with setting up a planted tank. I inherited a tank from a friend and want to create something beautiful after seeing many pictures / youtube videos, etc.

I inherited a 400L (100 Gallon) tank and stand. I'm based on Koh Samui, Thailand - so some items are quite hard to get purchase. After doing as much research as I could, I bought the following for the tank:

T5 6500 Tubes (6 x 21W) providing 126W Light (Based on min 1W/G)
Filter with 5,100L/Hour Flow rate (Based on min 10 times the tank vol per hour)

Now my next area to set up is the substrate. I understand how important this is. I'm a little stuck on what to do here. From what I've read I was told to lay a little peat down and then cover this with Flourite/Onyx-Sand. The problem is I can't find good quality peat here. Can I skip the peat? I do have a choice of products I can use for substrate:

ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia 9000ml
ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia II 9000ml
Seachem Flourite 7000g
Seachem Onyx
Seachem Onyx Sand

Can I make a good substrate from one of these? Or do I need to mix them up? Can anyone advise me?

I'm new here, so please go easy.

All the best,

DKRST 02-26-2011 09:49 PM

Granted, I'm new to this also (2 months in), but for a planted tank, I don't think you need a really high filter flow. What you have is absolutely adequate flow for filtration but, I defer to those with more expertise here, may be higher than optimal for a planted tank. What type of filter is it - canister (I assume) or something else? The next question is the T5 tubes - are they high output or normal output? What length of tube? If the T5 tubes go the entire length of your tank, you have more lighting than you think since the wattage/gallon calc doesn't necessarily hold true with the newer lighting fixtures. Regarding your substrate, some folks use plain old gravel and a mix of liquid and tablet (in the gravel) fertilizers with great success. I used ecocomplete substrate, so I'll have to defer to the experts here.

mattcinders 02-27-2011 03:01 AM

Thanks for the reply.

Unfortunately I can't get ecocomplete here. Could I just use Seachem Flourite alone for my substrate? or do I need a layer of soil underneath this? If so, could I use ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia underneath? I've worked out I will need 10 x 7Kg bags of flourite for my tank to produce 4" of substrate.

With regards to the lights, I've had a change of mind and ordered 3 x T5 High Output 54w 10000k. They're 120cm bulbs so will just about reach across the full hood. Total output 162W.

Again, thanks for the reply,

Inga 02-27-2011 03:28 AM

I see that you can get the Seachem's Flourite. Here is what I have in one of my planted tanks all alone and it is doing very well.

Seachem Laboratories Inc Flourite Black 7 Kilogram - 3725#

Actually, it isn't all alone anymore. I had a little gravel left from another tank and tossed it in there too. BIG mistake, it looks ugly now. The Flourite alone is just fine for a planted tank.. Lucky you to inherit such a nice size tank. Can't wait to see pictures of it all set up. What kind of fish and plants are you thinking of getting?

mattcinders 02-27-2011 05:45 AM

Hey Inga,

Thanks for the reply. How much substrate did you put in your tank? 2, 3, 4" Do you have any pictures?

I haven't got a clue what fish or plants I'm going to fill the tank with. I'm in Thailand so it's quite hard to find stuff here, especially the proper names for the plants and fish.

I really like the look of the java moss setups.


Byron 02-27-2011 02:35 PM

Hi Matt, and welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. Previous posts have started you off correctly, so I'll add my thoughts.

Substrate. You've mentioned several options, all will work, but some have more possible problems associated with them, and as this is your first planted tank I wouldn't want to see it fail. Plain small-grain (grains 1-2 mm) gravel or sand will work, of these two I would choose gravel. Sand easily compacts, and the deeper the more it can; and with a 100g tank you will want some large plants, like the swords, and they need a deep substrate as they have very extensive root systems. More on depth in a moment. Gravel will be less trouble than sand in this respect.

However, if you can afford them, a plant substrate like those you mention will work fine. I know Flourite, it comes in different dark colours (black, dark brown, reddish/brown, natural) in a "gravel" size so this is absolutely ideal. I believe it is what Inga mentioned (she has the black). And I agree it is best not to mix these. Uniformity creates a natural feel.

You should first decide what sort of aquarium you want in the end--a geographic (plants and fish all from one area, example Amazon, SE Asia, etc), biotope (all fish and plants from a specific stream), habitat (stream tank with fish and plants from streams but mixed geographically, etc) or mixed. Compatibility is crucial though, whatever you decide on; the fish must share basic needs respecting temperature, water flow (another member mentioned the filter issue), light (forest fish do best with minimal light), etc. A SE Asian stream might look nice with the reddish/brown substrate (replicating the reddish iron substrate of those streams), whereas an Amazonian tank will be best with black. And so on.

I think you will have too much light; can you change this? I have a 5-foot 115g tank, and last year I bought a 2-tube T5 HO fixture with only two 48-inch tubes (54w each), and it was way too bright; after a week I took it back and got a regular T8 dual-tube fixture, two 48-inch 40w tubes, and it is more than sufficient. You can see photos of that tank and my others with the same light under "Aquariums" below my name on the left. A T5 HO tube emits 1.5 more light than a T8 of the same size and spectrum, so 3 T5's is the same as almost 5 T8 tubes, and I only have two T8's. The plant growth is healthy, and the fish are not being blinded.:-)


mattcinders 02-27-2011 07:36 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Byron, Thanks again for the reply. Nice tanks!

I will use flourite as my substrate. I'm not sure on how many inches to go for. I was going to use 2" at the front and run up to 4" at the back. What do you think?

I haven't actually set anything up yet, so can easily change the lighting. I'll check with my supplier and find out what I can get, then I'll let you guys know. He only stocks T5 lamps, so maybe I'll go with 2 x 50W T5's or a little less.

I haven't got a clue what fish or plants I will be planting. So I guess this should be a good place to start. I live on a small island in the gulf of Thailand so things are really limited here. The local aquarium shops (we have two on the island) can't tell me the names of the fish/plants. I guess I will have to visit them and take photos of all the fish and plants and work out what is what. Then I can make a plan!

With regards to my filter. The filter system is built in to the corner of the tank. I hope it will work. It's a gravity filter, so water enters at the top and goes through two stages of filtration which is foam. It then lands in the bottom well (which normally has charcoal bags in the bottom) and is then pumped back out in to the tank via a pump. I have bought a submersible pump with a flow rate of 5,100L/Hour. I was told to pick a pump with 10-15 times the flow rate of the size of the tank. I have attached pictures of the filter system (it's empty at the moment) I hope it will be OK for a planted tank.

Thanks again for all the help. I'm very excited about this project.

All the best,

Byron 02-27-2011 07:52 PM

In my 115g the substrate is about 5-6 inches throughout on average, less at the front and more in the back. You want at least 4 inches at the back, and probably more. You can manage with 2 inches at the front, as front plants are usually small and there are open areas perhaps for feeding bottom fish, etc.

On the filtration, planted tanks do well with less than more, compared to non-plant tanks. The type of fish has something to do with this too. Planted tanks usually contain smaller fish, shoals of them, but still small, and the plants easily handle the filtration job. The filter is then only there to circulate the water--and less is better for the fish and the plants. Most fish occur in slow-flowing streams and flooded forest, standing pools, lagoons, etc., and do not appreciate fighting currents. And plants have nutritional difficulties in too much current, though it has to be quite a lot.

If T5 is all you can get, you will have to work around it. The problems will be not only brightness for the fish (forest fish occur in quite dark waters) but algae control. Limiting the duration, floating plants, increasing nutrients to balance will all help.


mattcinders 02-28-2011 05:02 AM


Again, thanks for the advice.

I'll go with a larger substrate of 5-6" like yours. I'll also stick to my lower flow pump which is around 2,000L/Hr

I'm a bit concerned about picking the right lights now. Especially with regards to 6500K vs 10,000K. What temp lights are you running?

If you could pick from any of these lights. Which one would you get? I was thinking I require 1200mm length bulbs as the hood is 1500mm.

Your advice would really be appreciated!


Byron 02-28-2011 12:17 PM


Originally Posted by mattcinders (Post 604650)

Again, thanks for the advice.

I'll go with a larger substrate of 5-6" like yours. I'll also stick to my lower flow pump which is around 2,000L/Hr

I'm a bit concerned about picking the right lights now. Especially with regards to 6500K vs 10,000K. What temp lights are you running?

If you could pick from any of these lights. Which one would you get? I was thinking I require 1200mm length bulbs as the hood is 1500mm.

Your advice would really be appreciated!


What is the tank length?

Kelvin is not always reliable, it is spectrum that is important. Plants need red and blue light to photosynthesize, and adding green to the mix provides a true rendition of fish and plant colours (red and blue creates that purplish or goulish appearance). This is usually what you get with full spectrum and cool white, with kelvin temp around 6500K, but not always. I have mixed (with two tubes over the tank) full spectrum and cool (more blue) light, one tube was 6700K and the other 11000K. But the 11000K was not all blue, it was still "daylight" but it added a cooler white which I like. Actinic tubes frequently have kelvin around 10000K but are much different and not suitable for planted tanks. One has to know the spectrum as well as Kelvin.

I'll look further into the linked stuff when I know the tank length.

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 09:15 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2016, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2016 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome