New to Plants
Hi everybody - I'm new here and to aquariums in general. I'm planning on putting together a 10-gal tank for my dorm room (see my thread in the aquarium forum) with guppies (male - I don't think I can deal with all the fry!), ghost shrimp, and possibly an algae eater of some sort and I read that in many cases that planting a tank can be a great help to starting and maintaining a tank. Is this true? If so, what are you guy's oppinions on types of plants and substrates that would be simple to maintain and not need much special lighting? I'm prepared to spend more time on a planted tank than one with plastic plants, but I am a student and can't spend a crap ton of time tending to the tank. What kind of substrate would be best for a planted tank? Can I plant the tank durring the cycling process? And I feel really silly asking this, but how do you clean the substrate without disrupting the root system of the plants? Sorry for all the questions and thanks in advance!
I read that in many cases that planting a tank can be a great help to starting and maintaining a tank. Is this true?
Absolutely true, they are nature's filters and work better then any mechanical filter.
If so, what are you guy's oppinions on types of plants and substrates that would be simple to maintain and not need much special lighting?
Regardless of the plants you choose, you'll want to get a bulb for the fixture you already have that has a color temperature in the range of 5000K to 70000K, 6500K is ideal and pretty common when you look at a hardware store under "Daylight" bulbs. Do you know what type of fixture you have? Often a 10g can actually have moderate light already. They'll either be two screw in bulbs, or a single long tube.
For plants, the typical low light ones are Anubias, Java Fern, and Java Moss. You can also throw in Amazon Sword, but they'll mostly get too big for a 10g. A good background plant could be a Crypt. A floating plant is a good idea, lots of people recommend Water Sprite but I haven't tried that one yet myself.
What kind of substrate would be best for a planted tank?
Whatever you have, really. Fine gravel and sand are probably ideal, but you can get away with the epoxy coated gravel most pet stores sell. The low light plants I mentioned above (Anubias, Java Fern, Java Moss) actually don't get planted into the substrate. They just get tied onto rocks, driftwood, or decorations. They have a rhizome, which is the rooty mass, and if it gets buried will begin to rot.
Can I plant the tank durring the cycling process?
Yes, and that is best. Plants take up ammonia and convert it to ammonium, which is their food. With enough fast growing plants ... you don't eve have to cycle an aquarium because the plants will take up all the ammonia and leave none for the bacteria.
And I feel really silly asking this, but how do you clean the substrate without disrupting the root system of the plants?
Simple, you don't :-D If you don't have many plants, you may want to run the siphon over the top to pick up anything on the surface, but otherwise leave the substrate alone. All the stuff breaking down just provides nutrients for the plants. Care must be taken to not overfeed your fish though. All the food you give them should be gone in less than 5 minutes. If it isn't, you've overfeed.
...and possibly an algae eater of some sort...
Don't. The fish and inverts that actually do eat algae will only eat specific kinds, and often not that much. The best way to control algae is with your lighting. Put your lights on a timer, start at 10 hours a day and see how it goes. If you see algae increasing, lower the time down to 8 or less hours. Keep it out of direct sunlight.
I've only a couple things to add to Geomancer's excellent response to your questions.
For substrate, in your situation (wanting "less fuss" maintenance wise) I would go with fine gravel. Sand works but can compact, whereas gravel is less likely. No more than an inch or one and a half inches in depth.
Second suggestion is with respect to plants; use Corkscrew Vallisneria. Livebearers need medium hard or harder water, pH above 7, which is likely what comes out of your tap depending where you live; and Vallisneria does very well in that water. Swords will work too but get large. Vallisneria will send out runners and carpet the tank, and that means more help in keeping the substrate fresh. Some Malaysian Livebearing snails will help too.
We have fish and plant profiles, second tab from the left in the blue bar across the top of the page. You will notice the names shaded, that means they are in the profiles and you can click the name to see it.
Last, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.:-D
Awesome, thanks for the advice! I actually don't have any equipment yet - I'm trying to get my research done first to see what's going to work best before getting anything (I've seen far too many of my fellow students set up tanks only for them to fail desasterously :roll:). Probably a bit too much planning, acutally - I currently have a spreadsheet on my laptop of possible plants and their needs in comparison to the species I want to keep :P But the current plan is to go with a tank/hood combo, an Aquaclear 20 filter, and a Visi-Therm 50W heater - do you see any issues with that set up and plants? I shall add a daylight bulb to my shopping list :)
With spring break starting soon, I was hoping to be able to get things put together while I'm home and have more time to keep an eye on how things are going as far as water chemistry goes and I cannot tell you how happy I am to hear that plants can be added durring cycling! There's an awesome LFS back home that I've delt with for years with reptiles that has a good variety of plants.
This is all pretty cool, too - as a bio major, I just finished studying plants in class. It's fun (I'm a geek, I know) to be able to apply some of the things we learned to a practical use.
Thanks Byron for the advice and the welcome! Sorry I didn't get to read your reply before I submitted my last post.
I was planning on going with fine gravel, so it's definately good to hear that that's a valid choice.
The plants I have on the previously mentioned spreadsheet are all from the plant profiles here - 'tis a great resource! So far the list includes Java fern, Java moss, Alternanthera (iffy because it says bright light is needed, Wisteria, Water sprite, Dwarf saggitaria, Undulated Crypt, Wednts Red Crypt, and I just added Corkscrew Vaneria. Any critiques/plants to add or delete?
When I plant my tank, would y'all recommend pruning back some of the leaves/terminal bud to kick-start root and horizontal growth, or are all healthy leaves best to keep initially?
In my experience, cutting off yellowing/brown leaves and non-healthy roots is all you need to do.
My tank have a variety of crypts, aponogetons, anubias, java ferns, java moss, anacharis, tiger lily and a variety of swords. You might want to add a tiger lily, just make sure you take away the pads...that way it stays small. I'd suggest that you stay away from hornwort since its a pain to clean out the dead leaves.
In case you like an oddball...get a Morimo moss ball.
BTW, the pics of my tanks are old...I gotta update them :-) The look and the denizens have changed quite a bit. My 20 gallon has real plants now. I'm glad that you're starting with real plants.
I love hornwort, and its easy! I saved the handle of an old long handled aquarium scrubber, and it had the little fork tip on the end for burying decorations in the gravel. I stick that in and among the hornwort and jostle it around a little bit. The muck and dead leaves (if there are any, usually not) float out and get filtered. Takes me about 5 seconds. Though I do recommend thinning out the bottom of the hornwort stems before you put them in your tank. They are magnets for dirt.
On the filter, my choice would not be a HOB (hang on back) but a small internal one, since you want something minimal to deal with. I would suggest the Fluval U1 or U2 internal filters, here's a link:
Aquarium Filters: Fluval U-Series Underwater Filters from Hagen at fosterandsmithaquatics.com
On my 33g I have an old Eheim that is very similar to the U1 and it is ideal. Maintenance is just rinsing the sponge at each weekly water change. The U2 gives you directional flow which is nice, and it has more types of media though this is not a major issue.
To the plants. I would not recommend stem plants, they take more work, more light, more nutrients... if you want to keep it simple, go with the low light plants you mention (Anubias, Java Fern, Java Moss--all three of these need to be attached to rock or wood, and like shade so under floating plants is fine). Water Sprite for floating. And Corkscrew Vallisneria because it will spread nicely and grow pretty much to the tank top. I would avoid Wisteria, it is not an easy plant if light and nutrients are not just so. Crypts are nice plants, but they can be fussy, thinking here again about the care issue.
Light is the single most important issue for plants. If the tank hood is incandescent (screw-in bulbs), the Compact Fluorescent bulbs in a daylight with a 6500K work fine; it will probably have two sockets, so two 10w bulbs is all you need. GE make these, I use them, and you can get them at hardware and similar stores. I would start with 8 hours daily photoperiod or you might have algae issues.
Awsome, thanks everybody! I will definately be taking everyting into account with getting everything set up and started!
I know a lot of people here advise against adding in creatures to control algae, and I mostly totally agree. Every time you add a critter in the ecosystem, there are consequences. And with a 10g, you don't have a lot of stocking room to spare. But IF you get into an algae problem, you should take the advice of others here in balancing fish/nutrients, plants, and light.
Now if you like a creature for its own sake, and it help controls algae, then awesome. Since you already mentioned shrimp, you could substitute Amano shrimp. I've heard they're good algae eaters, but you'd have to research that. I have no experience with them. Again, I don't usually recommend getting algae eaters out of hand... except for one creature, the Nerite snail. They're algae machines! A single one in a 10g would be all you need. It won't have a lot of bioload. But don't get one if you don't have algae, then you'd have to supplement him/her. Good luck!
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