Advice for Converting Established Tank to Planted
Alright, for 2 years now I look at pictures on the internet and a couple of the planted tanks at the LFS and am green with envy (no pun intended). I get the motivation to tackle the project, read for days, then back out at the last minute due to concern about upsetting the balance of my tank. I'm really hoping for some helpful and frankly honest feedback. I will try to be as descriptive as possible. Thanks in advance for reading!
Here is a link to my current tank. Living Room - 29 gallon Freshwater fish tank some of the fish you will see in the pictures are no longer in there. I moved them to a 10gallon tank in the bedroom. Currently have Danio's and Cory's in the 29gallon
About 6 months ago I changed the substrate from crappy black rocks (wife picked out to "match" or 50's theme in the living room) with pool filter sand. That was a fun project and I have been amazingly happy with the way it looks, and it just makes me want to go planted even more.
I do have a large bubble bar in the back, and as you can see from the pictures and tank description I went a little overkill on the filtration. Tank has been setup for almost 4 years now, had a very very mini cycle when changing the substrate, hardly noticable if I wasn't obsessed with testing the water. I used the bins from the larger filter to house some of the old substrate to aid with the bacteria transfer... rambling again.
Alright so what I would LOVE is to get rid of everything fake and go with some natural wood and fully planted. I know I will probably need to upgrade the light and drop the bubble bar. I've read through all the guides but am still nervous about stressing the existing fish. How bad will putting in some drift wood and plants swing the tank chemistry. Amonia and Nitrites are Zero, PH does run a little high at 7.4, water is somewhat hard (sorry don't have exact reading off top of head, at work right now) Nitrates usually run around 20. One problem I seem to always have is a dark green film that spreads on the surface areas, not really an algea but looks bad, I've always assumed that was probably due to the room getting a decent amount of natural lighting and the nitrates.
Should I drop one of the HOB filters, currently with both filters and the bubble bar the water surface is always very agitated. The Danio's seem to love swimming through it, the Cory's believe it or not love swimming directly above the bubble bar and the current doesn't seem to bother them. I read though that having too much surface agitation and water movement will be bad for the plants.
Lastly, here is what I'm thinking the plan "should" be. Please feel free to tear it up, I have thick skin.
1) Improve the lighting and install a light timer
2) remove the smaller HOB filter since that one causes a larger "waterfall effect" agitating the water
3) Remove the bubble bar so it doesn't "starve out the plants"
Phase 2 Option 1
1) Replace the large mountain/castle thing with a piece of drift wood and start with a few "hardy" plants
2) Slowly replace the rest of the fake plants and decor with natural elements piece by piece once a week.
Phase 2 Option 2
1) Switch out all decor with drift wood and plants in one swoop.
I'm 50/50 on Phase 2, thinking getting it done and over would upset them but that would be it (just like changing from the LFS tank to mine, one shot, wham bam thank you mamm). However, I'm more concerned that the one shot method will swing the water parameters too much. If I got some driftwood or other natural decor from the LFS how much would it swing the PH?
Meanwhile doing it slowly would be a prolonged weekly stress on them as things start dissapearing one at a time.
Any other advice, am I overthinking it?
I would go with plan B. The driftwood will slowly lower you Ph but not enough to hurt anything and the plants will take care of any spike of ammonia if there is one. What light bulbs are you useing in your fixture? Don't forget that you will need root tabs and liquid ferts. And if you go with low light plants they are easy to care for.
Thanks, that's what I was thinking also. I just read through the 4 page guide again and am now getting concerned with my filtration. I already know I should and need to drop the second filter, but the guide was pretty adament on not having any checmical or biological filtration? Will leaving my filter with carbon and biowheel really hinder the plants that bad?
Right now my current fixture is a single flourescant full spectrum bulb. Apologies, I don't have the exact specs on hand. I already know that is the first thing to get replaced though. Without replacing the whole hood do you recommend any specific lighting that will be sufficient with one tube?
Yes it will. If you want a cheap but effective filter you can use just sponge filters on a tank the size of yours I had the same type of filter as you on one tank and sponge filter in the other and everything else was the same and the plants in the tank with the sponge filter were much healthier and grew alot faster.
Go to Lowes, Home Depot or Walmart and get a 6500 kelvin daylight bulb and it should be perfect as long as you stick with low to moderate light plants.
Also for the plants I would suggest getting them online it will safe you alot of money.
Just want to add... I don't think the biowheel itself will hurt a planted tank. I run one on my 25g and grow plants like crazy. Its the current and the carbon in the filter cartridge that can be the problems. The carbon can remove the fertilizers you put in. Not all plants do well with an HOB's current and surface disturbance, though you can mitigate it in some ways. (I don't lessen/mitigate the current in my 25g, and my plants are weeds. It just depends on the plants, I think.)
Also, an important lesson I learned- Leave a day or two between your WC and dosing ferts, because your water conditioner can neutralize parts of your ferts.
Good luck, it'll be fun!
Shes is right.
I think that's the best analogy for anything ever! Wow, I'm so in love with that!
Yes, I just ditched the carbon, kept everything else. I used a utility knife to cut off the floss, removed the carbon, and rubber banded the floss back on. When the floss runs out, you can replace it with a number of things including 100% polyester sheet batting from the craft store and the sheets of floss from the fish store. Algae cleaning sponges from the fish store can also work if they are a similar shape. (Some people use regular sponges but those make me nervous because some are treated with chemicals or detergents.) Rubber bands will need to be replaced periodically. When I started up my 25g, I put the seeding material in a knee-high inside the filter cartridge where the carbon was because I had limited space in my filter and didn't want it visible in my tank. I suppose you could also use additional biological material (like ceramic rings) in place of the carbon. Some might say its over kill in a planted tank, and some might say it certainly can't hurt.
I plan on making some "water bottle baffle" thingies for all my tanks, which would help with the current. Here's some info on that: http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/b...-baffle-30139/
And I agree with Calmwaters that plan B seems to be the way to go if you can afford to fork out the money for the plants/wood all in one shot. And I agree, too, that sponge filters seem to work much better for planted tanks, but if you already have an HOB and want to try to continue with it, at least you have some ideas to help. Good luck!
If the bio/chemical filtration is what's bad for the plants, aren't sponge filters breeding grounds for nitrifying bacteria? I'm thinking I might be better off running the HOB with a filter cartridge that has the carbon removed. Thoughts?
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