I have read the articles and many of the posts about starting up a planted fresh water tank set up. I have always used fake plants, but I am making the jump to real plants (I have a list based upon articles and posts on this forum).
I have also read about the pros and cons of various filter set ups. My current filter system for my 40 gallon tank (5 clown loaches, 1 neon tetra, 2 red eye tetras, and 3 pristella tetras [I am looking to add more tetras]) is a Fluval 305. I have sponges and BioMax in it. I use activated carbon. I have also used Phos-Zorb and Nitra-Zorb. My fish are happy. Today's tank parameters are pH 6.5, GH 8 (looking to bring this down with water changes), KH 0, ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 2.5, and phos 0. Temp is running at 76 F.
If I put in real plants, do I need to use the Nitra-Zorb and the carbon?
I have medium sized gravel (no sand) that is a mix of moderate to dark brown color ~3 inches or so in depth. The fish have lots of hiding places.
I would remove the chemical filter media, being the carbon, phoszorb and nitrazorb, when you put live plants in. Plants use the substances (nutrients) this media is removing.
Thanks. The plants will keep the phos level under control in addition to regular water changes?
Will the water quality be OK without the carbon?
I noticed that the carbon I had bought had Zeolite in it. If I don't use it, then will I have an ammonia problem? I have read that in a tank with a pH <7.0, the ammonia gets converted.
Without the additional stuff in my filter, all I will have will be sponges and the BioMax. Anything else needed for the fish and the plants?
Carbon adsorbs substances that the plants will either assimilate (meaning as nutrients) or "take up" (meaning as toxins). Here as with the ammonia, etc, provided the tank is not way overstocked, the plants will handle things.
My canister filters on the larger tanks only hold the pads, ceramic disks and rock material (biomax, lavarock, whatever). On my smaller tanks, up to 50g, I only use a sponge filter with no media. Plants are nature's filters, and they are better at doing the job.
You may need fertilizer for the plants, depending upon fish (type and number), fish food, and tap water. Minerals (nutrients) occur in or from all these, and can be sufficient. Most of us find a complete liquid fertilizer helps. I use Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement. Once a week, maybe twice, is all you need.
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