Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Geomancer 12-29-2011 07:01 PM

Newbie alert
 
Hello all!

Through college I had a 29 gallon and 10 gallon tank that I started with, trying a few different fish and all plastic plants and decorations.

Since then I've moved 2500 miles and had to leave them behind.

I came here last year asking some questions and was going to do a ~120 gallon aquarium that would be fully planted. I'm still planning on that, but it's been put on hold for awhile since I need some work done on the floors before I could put one in.

So in the meantime we have a small 20 gallon to play around with. This time I'd like to give live plants a try to learn with before trying to do a full 120 gallon tank. It's cycling right now with three red minor tetras, and again has the coated gravel substrate and plastic plants.

I did however buy a couple live plants to also put in there and see what happens... three swords and a java fern. On a side note I also got four other plants, but when I got home learned they are not in fact aquatic plants at all and will rot if left submerged. ugh, at least I can return them tomorrow. Research before you buy, lesson learned.:oops:

So here I am, what are some good plants to start with in a 20 gallon aquarium? I'd love some small plants that I could have in the middle/front of the tank and not block out the view of everything behind them. I see in pictures people have some stuff that grows very close to the substrate that would be perfect, but I imagine those are probably more difficult to grow. Like I said, I'm new to this whole thing so I would need plants that are a bit forgiving. Also low light, it's only a 15W bulb (18", T8, 6500K).

While on the buying subject, good places online? I went to two local stores. One had literally two plants and wanted $20 for them. The other had 5 or 6 varieties in a single tank, but was infested with snails. I really don't want a snail problem (I had one previously the only other time I tried a single live plant, got a clown loach to eat them, it did, then it turned into an aggressive a-hole ... long story!) The ones I got were at Petsmart, and yeah, turns out most of them are not actually aquatic plants :evil:

The heater is also a small concern, can't have anything touching it and since it is a small tank the thing takes up a lot of real estate relative to the tanks size. Right now it's horizontal about dead center on the back of the tank. Should I instead have it vertical?

I read the four part guide stickied here, very helpful advice. Thank you all for your feedback!

Quantum 12-29-2011 07:39 PM

Should be good to go, light is fine for a lot of plant species. It's nice to have it on a timer so you don't have to turn it on and off manually, you could probably have it on up to 12 hrs without trouble. If algae develops, back it down a bit. A basic fertilizer is all that is needed, Seachem comprehensive seems to be the favored brand. Remove chemical filtration from the filter if it has it.


The swords may get too big for this size tank, time will tell, I had one that nearly completely filled my 20 gal - had to get rid of it. The java fern should be attached to wood or rock in case you have the rhizome buried. I have dwarf sag in my tank (similar lighting to yours) and it has stayed no more than a few inches tall and is spreading out. Its not real think coverage like some plants develop, more of a grassy look. Crypt wendtii is another you could try. I bought one at either Petco or Petsmart (not from the tanks, but from the shelves - came in a plastic envelope). I was not expecting much, but I thought I would give it a try. I split it into three plants, and they have all done great, didn't melt at all and have been transitioning to submerged growth with a nice reddish tint to the leaves. They are about 5-6 inches tall.


Also, if by red minor you mean Serpae tetras, in case you are not aware they can be pretty aggressive fish and may limit your future stocking options.

Geomancer 12-29-2011 08:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quantum (Post 933658)
Remove chemical filtration from the filter if it has it.

It's the basic overhanging power filter, so it has the bags full of activated carbon. So you mean no carbon? Is that okay if you only have a few plants and not a fully planted tank?


Quote:

Originally Posted by Quantum (Post 933658)
The swords may get too big for this size tank, time will tell, I had one that nearly completely filled my 20 gal - had to get rid of it. The java fern should be attached to wood or rock in case you have the rhizome buried.

Right now it's partially buried ... I don't have a rock or driftwood handy but I'll look for something. The swords I'm a little worried about too! If they get too tall and break the surface, or start to bend out horizontally can you just cut the leaf down or does the whole leaf have to go?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quantum (Post 933658)
I have dwarf sag in my tank (similar lighting to yours) and it has stayed no more than a few inches tall and is spreading out. Its not real think coverage like some plants develop, more of a grassy look. Crypt wendtii is another you could try. I bought one at either Petco or Petsmart (not from the tanks, but from the shelves - came in a plastic envelope). I was not expecting much, but I thought I would give it a try. I split it into three plants, and they have all done great, didn't melt at all and have been transitioning to submerged growth with a nice reddish tint to the leaves. They are about 5-6 inches tall.

Thanks, I'll try to find those!

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quantum (Post 933658)
Also, if by red minor you mean Serpae tetras, in case you are not aware they can be pretty aggressive fish and may limit your future stocking options.

Yep, that's them.

Quantum 12-29-2011 08:50 PM

They primary concern is nitrogenous waste (ammonia and nitrite primarily as well as nitrate) and it's the bacteria (when no plants are present) that handle this not the carbon. The different bacterial colonies are growing as your cycle progresses - ammonia is converted to nitrite, nitrite to nitrate, and nitrate is removed via partial water changes. This also removes other compounds that build up over time that are not removed by filter media. You can avoid the whole cycle process with plants, as they will utilize the nitrogenous waste so you won't have to wait for the procession of the different bacterial colonies to grow.

The sword I had never grew out of the water, just to the surface. The issue was more its circumference, it just filled the whole tank. Swords are apparently quite variable so yours may or may not get that big, depends on the plants themselves as well as you unique tank conditions.

Geomancer 01-03-2012 12:29 PM

Thanks for your help Quantum.

I'll hijack my own thread to ask some additional questions.

Like I had mentioned earlier, my long term plan is to have a ~120 gallon tank that is fully planted. Since that's a fairly large tank (read $$$$), I want to make sure I understand as much as possible without the benefit of hands on experience to avoid completely screwing the thing up to the point of having to start over =)

I would do it as a "low tech" aquarium, I'm not going to bother with the complexities or cost of a CO2 system. Not when it apparently is not a necessity for success.

So in a "fully" (what does that mean exactly?) planted aquarium, what is a good fish load? I've heard the "1 inch per gallon" rule before, but that was for no plants and use of mechanical/chemical filtration.

Speaking of filters, and water flow rates, the four part guide suggests not having too great a flow to avoid loosing CO2 and more accurately replicate the natural environment. So what kind of a flow rate would I be looking at? In my planning I was looking at the Rena XP3 which is marketed for 175 gallons with a flow rate of 350 gallons/hour. I went with that because the XP2 was only for 75 gallons (again I'm looking at a 120 gallon).

However, looking at Fluval they have the 406 that is only marketed for 100 gallons, but has a flow rate of 383 gallons/ hour. That's higher than the Rena, but they say it's only good for 100 gallons? Who's right and who's wrong, or what's the difference I'm missing?

For weekly water changes, what's a good method? On the 20g I just have a 2g bucket and siphon out 1 or 2 buckets worth, then replace. In a 120g tank doing just a small 10% change is 12 gallons (6 buckets) and doing 25% would be 15 buckets... and would be tedious. I've seen attachments you can put on your sink, but how do you handle removing the chlorine? The four part guide says the water conditioner is affective for 24 hours, does that mean you can drain 30 gallons, put water conditioner in for 30 gallons, then just fill directly from the sink?

Along this subject, if the tank is fully planted... should you bother vacuuming the substrate at all, or is there not much benefit (maybe detriment)?

Thanks everyone!

kangy 01-03-2012 02:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Geomancer (Post 938790)
So in a "fully" (what does that mean exactly?) planted aquarium, what is a good fish load? I've heard the "1 inch per gallon" rule before, but that was for no plants and use of mechanical/chemical filtration.

I'm lacking in specific (scientific) explanations, so hopefully someone else jumps in to elaborate but I will try to summarize in layman's terms: The "1 inch per gallon" is not very accurate, too many variables, bio-load of the fish, surface area of the tank, filtration, plant load, etc. Slender fish will produce less waste than wide bodied fish. Some sources say bottom feeders do not count against this arbitrary number, yet they still contribute to bio-load. The more plants the more ammonia/nitrite they will be able to absorb, yet you still have to worry about fish poop, pheromones, etc building up. Hence the partial water changes. As an example. I have a 29g moderately to heavily planted with 8 Harlequin Rasbora, 8 Black Neon Tetra, 1 Blue Gourami, and 3 Emerald Catfish. That is a total adult size of 40". My water parameters are excellent and stable. The primary thing is you need to have it "balanced" which as every tank is biologically unique will just come from experience and trial and error.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Geomancer (Post 938790)
Speaking of filters, and water flow rates, the four part guide suggests not having too great a flow to avoid loosing CO2 and more accurately replicate the natural environment. So what kind of a flow rate would I be looking at? In my planning I was looking at the Rena XP3 which is marketed for 175 gallons with a flow rate of 350 gallons/hour. I went with that because the XP2 was only for 75 gallons (again I'm looking at a 120 gallon).

That is way to much flow for a 20g, let alone with plants. Most of the fish you will be keeping in a planted tank are slow/still water forest fish that don't like a lot of current. Since you already have it by all means keep it for your 120g but I would highly recommend removing it from the 20g. You will find one of the most recommended and best filtrations for a planted tank less than 50g is a simple sponge filter. I have a Hagen Elite Double running off an air pump that cost apx $10 on Amazon. The water is just as clear if not better than when I was running 2 HOB filters (pre-plants). Not sure if it was addressed yet or not but you want to remove any carbon from the filter, that will actually hinder plants as it removes much of the nutrients they need. The plants themselves are the filters in a planted tank. All you really need is supplemental mechanical filtration (IE: sponge filter). IF you have a chamber in your cannister it should be simple, just pull it out, dump then rinse out the carbon, done. For my old HOB's before my sponge arrived I just took the cartridge, cut the side with a razor and dumped out the carbon, rinsed, and replaced it.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Geomancer (Post 938790)
However, looking at Fluval they have the 406 that is only marketed for 100 gallons, but has a flow rate of 383 gallons/ hour. That's higher than the Rena, but they say it's only good for 100 gallons? Who's right and who's wrong, or what's the difference I'm missing?

Not sure here, I don't use or have any experience with cannisters, someone else I'm sure will better be able to explain, just keep in mind all manufactures are different. A Chevy 350 crate will probably make less HP and "flow" than a modified 305 race engine.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Geomancer (Post 938790)
For weekly water changes, what's a good method? On the 20g I just have a 2g bucket and siphon out 1 or 2 buckets worth, then replace. In a 120g tank doing just a small 10% change is 12 gallons (6 buckets) and doing 25% would be 15 buckets... and would be tedious. I've seen attachments you can put on your sink, but how do you handle removing the chlorine? The four part guide says the water conditioner is affective for 24 hours, does that mean you can drain 30 gallons, put water conditioner in for 30 gallons, then just fill directly from the sink?

I haven't had to do any water changes in large tanks, (yet hehe) but they do make pumps, sumps, and other toys that would help with large water changes. Personally I wouldn't just toss the hose in there. The water treatment while fast working does need some time. I used to have heavily chlorinated water and sometimes it would take up to 15 minutes of sitting in the bucket with treatment before you couldn't smell the chlorine anymore. Some sources will actually recommend letting water for your changes sit overnight to "air out". Yes, water changes are tedious, but necessary, so consider that before you jump into the responsibility of a 120g tank.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Geomancer (Post 938790)
Along this subject, if the tank is fully planted... should you bother vacuuming the substrate at all, or is there not much benefit (maybe detriment)?

Simply put, leave the substrate alone in a planted tank, it will break down and provide nutrients to the plants and substrate, you should strive to disrupt it as little as possible. Obviously unavoidable when adding new plants though ;) If you are getting too much buildup then you are over feeding. Shrimps/snails will help a bit with dead leaves, etc.

p.s. Snails are not always a burden. If they are overtaking your tank you are overfeeding. I too was a spaz about introducing them, you just have to face the fact with a planted tank it's nearly inevitable they will find there way there. They are actually good in manageable numbers, if they start increasing too much that's a sign of overfeeding. You could always get some assassin snails to munch them up :)

kangy 01-03-2012 02:28 PM

Oh another note, check out the fish in the ID section of this site, it will tell you the bio-load of that species.

Geomancer 01-03-2012 03:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kangy (Post 938889)
I have a 29g moderately to heavily planted with 8 Harlequin Rasbora, 8 Black Neon Tetra, 1 Blue Gourami, and 3 Emerald Catfish. That is a total adult size of 40". My water parameters are excellent and stable. The primary thing is you need to have it "balanced" which as every tank is biologically unique will just come from experience and trial and error.

I knew there wouldn't be a set in stone rule, but a "rule of thumb" is at least a good place to start. I had expected I would be able to have more with a planted tank than without.

Quote:

Originally Posted by kangy (Post 938889)
That is way to much flow for a 20g, let alone with plants.

You're right! I should have clarified, my 20g has just an overhanging filter (I believe people around here call it a HOB). The canister I was talking about is just me planning for the 120g, I want to know what a good flow rate would be since rena and fluval are two of the bigger names in the canister filter world.

Quote:

Originally Posted by kangy (Post 938889)
Not sure if it was addressed yet or not but you want to remove any carbon from the filter, that will actually hinder plants as it removes much of the nutrients they need. The plants themselves are the filters in a planted tank. All you really need is supplemental mechanical filtration (IE: sponge filter). IF you have a chamber in your cannister it should be simple, just pull it out, dump then rinse out the carbon, done. For my old HOB's before my sponge arrived I just took the cartridge, cut the side with a razor and dumped out the carbon, rinsed, and replaced it.

That has been mentioned. My 20g only has a few plants in it though. 3 amazon swords, a java fern, and 5 wasteria (sp?). All are small in size right now. Is that even close to enough to completely remove the carbon from the filter? I have 3 red minors, and 3 cory cats.

Thanks!

kangy 01-03-2012 05:18 PM

Another thing to consider with stocking isn't just whether your tank will biologically sustain the fish or not. Will they be happy, have enough room, etc. Some fish are territorial, some need longer shallow tanks for more schoaling room, etc. Depends on the species you plan on keeping. Look at the tanks at the LFS, those fish do fine for a short period, but are they happy being so cramped. Trust me, the stocking I have keeps the tank plenty active. I wouldn't want any more even though technically I probably could get away with it :) The key is the balance, too many fish, not enough plants, equals more frequent and larger water changes.

Yes, remove the carbon from your filter. Wisteria especially is a Nitrogen hog and needs decent nutrients which will get absorbed by the carbon. You have well enough plants to ditch the carbon. On your HOB I assume you have the cartridge insert, as mentioned I took a clean dry one and cut a slit through the blue mesh vertically up one side, took some faningling to get all the carbon out trust me, much easier with a clean dry one ;) combination of scooping with one of my 2 yr old's baby spoons, tapping on the side of the trash can, and finally rinsing to get it all out.

With zero personal experience with Cannisters from the massive amounts of reading I've done and recommendations I've gotten I would go with an Eheim. They do tend to be a tad pricier than the others though. Just pick one that fits a 120g tank and you should be fine.

Geomancer 01-03-2012 05:29 PM

Mine has kind of a bag that's clipped at the top, really easy to remove the carbon.

Do I need replacement ones, or can it just be rinsed off and reused indefinitely? When I bought the tank, I also bought the largest box of replacement filters. At the time I had not intended to do any real plants. Later I got a bunch, but turns out most were not truly aquatic so back to the store they went. All were from Petsmart, the LFS had nothing good to pick from. Got 3 swords, the one java fern, and the wisteria had 6 in it... so plenty of those hehe (package said 2-4).

I'll have to see if they carry just the bags, and not ones pre-filled with the carbon.

I still need to find something to attach the java fern to =/ It's just kind of hanging out near the bottom. Not buried, but only hanging onto the substrate with a single root, kind of like an anchor.


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