Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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florida386 04-22-2011 09:43 PM

Interest in Amazon Biotope (20Gal.)
I just bought a 20 gallon tank and a stand, after reading for a while, I've decided to start a project; an amazon biotope.
For starters, this will be my first fish tank in years.
Would anyone like to give me some advice? I tried to get some from the pet stores in my area but they just tried to sell me the most expensive equipment and wouldn't give me many details on the fish I pointed out, so I went home to read about some of the fish in the store and found out the store employee was trying to sell me fish that grow to be 16"! I made it clear that I had a 20 gallon tank but they tried to sell me unsuitable fish anyway.

Right now, I have one 15w 8000k full spectrum day light that came with the tank's cover, a Penguin Bio-Wheel 150 filtration system and a 100 watt submersible heater that sticks to the side of the tank.

What I've decided to do is start with plants and what I would like to know is if the light that I have now is suitable for plant life? Also, is gravel good or would sand be better for this type of biotope? How high should gravel/sand be in the tank to grow a variation of plants? How should I get the water prepared for introducing plants? What type of water testing kits will I need?

The plants I have in mind are,
  • Ecinodorus amazonicus
I would like to use the as a center piece. The question I have is if this plant is growing to large for a tank that is only 16.5" high? If not, is flowering of the plant possible if I fill the water up to around 12-14" allowing it to grow up above the surface of the water?

  • Cabomba
  • Elocharius acicularis
I am open to suggestions and wondering how many different plants I should or could put in here?Once I have the plants setup and healthy; I would like to introduce some fish, although I won't be getting some for quiet sometime, I would like to begin to research some of the fish species from the amazon in the meantime. By the time I am ready to get the fish for my aquarium, I'd like to know everything about them.

If you took the time to read this, thank you!
If you take the time to reply to this, please be gentle and use plain language with me. I am not to savvy to the aqua-tongue you may be speaking in yet!

amazon21 04-23-2011 09:51 AM

Well first of all, do you know what your tap water is like? (pH and hardness)

florida386 04-23-2011 12:58 PM

The pH is above 7.6, my 5$ kit only reads up to 7.6. I'll have hardness measurement by the end of the day.

florida386 04-23-2011 01:53 PM

Kh = 71.6
gh = 107.4 - 125.3

redchigh 04-23-2011 02:39 PM

First off, what kind of lights does the tank fixture hold?

(That Ph should be fine for a bushynose pleco and tetra species native to the amazon.. Just don't try to mess with it.)

Cabomba carolina and dwarf hairgrass might work if you have enough light. Both prefer sandy substrates.
One of my favorite plants is 'Echinodorus var Vesuvius'. Very hardy, and exotic, but can be hard to find.

Byron 04-23-2011 03:47 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Your GH equates to 7 dGH, and your KH about 3 dKH. That is good. The pH will tend to lower as the tank becomes established, also good. Letting it lower below 7 would be best, and it likely will on its own. Can explain this later if asked.

The light specs sound good, which rather surprises me; tubes that come with tank hoods are usually not worth it for plants.

From your plant suggestions this will be what I like to term a "geographic" display, meaning that everything in it (fish and plants, and "decor" items) would be from the Amazon basin. As opposed to a "biotope" where everything is specific to one stream, lake, or whatever. The geographic allows for more plants and fish than would normally be authentic in a biotope. You might want to check out the photos of my flooded Amazon forest and Amazonian Riverscape aquaria under "Aquariums" below my name on the left. Also the photos attached here of the new 70g flooded Amazon forest display I just set up, and another similar in a 33g. These may suggest things, and feel free to question.

All of the fish and plants in my tanks are in our profiles, second tab from the left in the blue bar across the top of the page; if the name is shaded in posts you can click on the name to see the profile for that s[species. The fish are mainly characins and Corydoras with a few "odd" catfish like Farlowella vitatta and Rineloricaria parva.

And, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. Glad you found us and joined.


amazon21 04-23-2011 05:31 PM


Originally Posted by Byron (Post 656574)
Your GH equates to 7 dGH, and your KH about 3 dKH. That is good. The pH will tend to lower as the tank becomes established, also good. Letting it lower below 7 would be best, and it likely will on its own. Can explain this later if asked.

You sparked my curiosity! Could you tell us more about this?

amazon21 04-23-2011 05:37 PM

As far as plant species go here are some other ones that you might like.

Pygmy Chain Sword (Helanthium tenellum) -I'd recommend this over the hairgrass, it creates a grass like effect as well but is only found in south america (as opposed to everywhere) and is a little easier to maintain.

Brazilian Pennywort (Hydrocotyle leucocephala)
Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum)

and pretty much anything from the ecinodorus genus, almost all of them are hardy (there are a few exceptions though, and there are even some dwarf species)

Byron 04-24-2011 11:27 AM


Originally Posted by amazon21 (Post 656678)
You sparked my curiosity! Could you tell us more about this?

Certainly. The pH is a measure of the ratio of two ions in the water: positively-charged hydrogen ions (H+) and negatively-charged hydroxyl ions (OH-). A neutral pH of 7 means an equal ratio; more hydrogen ions means acidic, more hydroxyl means alkalinity (what we now call basic water).

The pH is closely linked to the level of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and usually to the hardness that can affect this. CO2 produces carbonic acid which lowers the pH. In a normal aquarium, the pH lowers over time due to the acids produced by waste organic matter, respiration, biological filtrations, etc. Higher nitrates also lower pH. The level of bicarbonates affects the rate to which this will occur.

Water contains carbonates, depending upon the hardness. Carbonate hardness is measured in degrees or ppm of KH. Carbonates reduce the fluctuations in hydrogen ions, thereby reducing the lowering of the pH. This is why knowing the hardness of the source water is so important. The harder the water, the more carbonates, and the more it will resist changes in pH.

I have extremely soft water, GH and KH are both at or less than 1 d (17.8 ppm) out of the tap. The pH is 7-7.2 [raised by adding ash or something, I can't remember what the water board does], and in established aquarium lowers fairly quickly (within a couple weeks in new tanks) to 6-6.6 and sometimes it goes to 5. The biology in the tanks seems to create these differences between tanks. I have monitored pH for many years, and it is consistent and stable at these levels. I have all soft water fish; I would raise the GH and KH (naturally, using calcium and magnesium rock/gravel) for livebearers, etc., if I had them, as I did years ago when I used dolomite.

With a KH around 3, there will be minimal "buffering" so the pH will lower. Once it does, water changes will help to keep it stable. I would do smaller water changes to see what fluctuation occurs; in my own case I can do major ones because there is little or basically no KH so nothing shifts, but you want to keep any shift minimal.


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