How to setup a low light planted tank - Page 2 - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #11 of 21 Old 04-13-2013, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by MoneyMitch View Post
I understand what your saying here, but my personal experience along with many others on here that do not vac the gravel haven't seen any adverse effects on the fish. again this all depends on how many plants you keep. if you only have a few I would vac the gravel. but from what I have gathered and noticed in my tanks. when I vac the gravel I get algae blooms and crazy diatom outbreaks. yes they settle on their own but always has happened with a gravel vac.

but a question for you - where does the Co2 come from for the plants? is it just from the fish's respiration since you are saying the co2 that comes from the breakdown of organics is unable to be used by the plants. aren't the plants able to seek out and use any source of carbon in order to photosensitize as long as the other nutrients are available?
Plants do produce Co2 at night remember and thats a natural process of photosynthesis, and I didnt say that the co2 is unusable .... read the post again, i said "the carbon which is produced ends up as methane gas which is dissolved in the water and chemically making the carbon in available to the plants."

Simple fact .... keep substrates clean and use good quality fertilisers (which your rightly point out) and root fertilisers .... and your plants AND fish will have the maximum lifespan.

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post #12 of 21 Old 04-13-2013, 12:18 PM Thread Starter
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ok so the carbon from the DO is in the form of methane gas that is dissolved in the water right? meaning there is no carbon but actually methane gas? I understand there is very very low in measureable amounts of co2 in a non injected tank and I know how plants switch from night to day. but within lights on the amount of co2 would be used up within hours of lights on.

without a constant source of co2 the plants would not be actively growing which I would think the DO (decomposing organics) that are decomposing constantly in the substrate along with the fish breathing is enough carbon to keep the plants photosynthesizing during photo rather then burning up all the co2 from the night before.

and the algae blooms and diatom bloom from when I vac the gravel - theres nitrates from the DO and when the substrate is stirred they enter the water colum and cause a algae bloom right? so in theory you wouldn't need root tabs then if your not vacing the gravel since the plants will use the (DO). this would lead me to the answer why not to vac your gravel right? thus keeping nitrates to a minimum in a planted tank when substrate is not vaced.
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post #13 of 21 Old 04-13-2013, 12:44 PM Thread Starter
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also would you happen to have any cited sources?
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post #14 of 21 Old 04-13-2013, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by MoneyMitch View Post
also would you happen to have any cited sources?
27 years of experience and trial and error is a good start... Im going to let this drop now because im not going to get into the sort of debates I see so often in this forum... my suggestion is do what YOU feel is right for you... but monitor and keep a good diary of your experiences.

Have a good time! ;)

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Last edited by Chesh; 04-18-2013 at 02:45 AM. Reason: language
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post #15 of 21 Old 04-13-2013, 12:49 PM
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I don't intend for this to be simply argumentative; we are here to exchange knowledge and opinions, so in that spirit I must make a couple of corrections.

First on the light spectrum/wavelengths. It is true that plants use light in the red and blue wavelengths for photosynthesis. But there is also the scientific evidence that aquatic plants grow best when green/yellow light is predominant. A study [K. Richards, The Effects of Different Spectrum Fluorescent Bulbs on the Photosynthesis of Aquatic Plants, Freshwater & Marine Aquarium, July 1987, pp. 16-20] determined that plants photosynthesized best [= more oxygen was produced] under a combination of Vita-Lite [which is rich in red and blue] and cool white [produces mainly green/yellow], and second best under straight cool white. Third best (poorest growth) was under the straight Vita Lite. At this point I will cite from Diana Walstad's book since she has opinioned why this might be the case.
The fact that plants did very well with Cool-white, which produces mostly green-yellow light was an unexpected result of this study. One would have expected the plants to do better with Vita-Lite. This is because Vita-Lite was designed for growing plants; its spectrum, which is rich in red and blue light, matches the light absorption of plant chlorophyll much better than Cool-white and many other fluorescent bulbs.
Cool-white was found to give off 13% more photosynthetic light than Vita-Lite. Perhaps Cool-white's slightly higher light intensity explains its better performance? However, I would also argue that green-yellow light is what many submerged aquatic plants encounter in their natural environment. Aquatic light is not like terrestrial light where the blue and red wavelengths predominate. Aquatic light is unique. This is because the water itself absorbs red light, while DOC [dissolved organic carbon] absorbs blue light. What's left for plant photosynthesis is mainly green-yellow light. Aquatic plants may have adapted their photosynthetic machinery (over the course of evolution) to use green-yellow light fairly efficiently. Thus, the assumption that aquatic plants grow best with full-spectrum light may not be valid.
At this point, I would refer members to all written articles by acknowledged planted tank sources which maintain that light around 6000K to 7000K is best for aquarium plant growth. Walstad in another section of her book mentions that the combination of red/blue and green/yellow that is found in tubes having either a K rating between 5000K and 7000K or a CRI of 80-100 is the closest match to the best light for plants. I carried out a minor study on this and found it to be so.

Moving on to the substrate issue. As organics in the substrate decompose, CO2 is released and plants take this up. The largest source of CO2 in an aquarium comes from the substrate, not from respiration of fish/plants/bacteria. This is in fact the only real benefit of using soil; the initial release of CO2 from the organics in soil provide a significant source of carbon for plants in a new aquarium. But as Walstad [who is pro-soil substrate exclusively] admits, any sand or gravel substrate will become equivalent after organics have been allowed to settle into it. Removing significant amounts of organics from the substrate is counter-productive in a natural method planted tank.

Fine gravel or coarse sand has been determined to be the best substrate with respect to plants. I use mainly play sand, and as the photos of my tanks under the "Aquariums" tab below my name on the left illustrate, the plants are certainly thriving.

In most of these tanks, I never touch the substrate. There seems to be sufficient CO2 being produced naturally to balance a light period of 8 hours; going beyond this, algae becomes a nuisance, due I believe to the insufficient carbon which is the only nutrient [apart from oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen] I am not adding artificially.

The issue of de-nitrification in the substrate is one that is largely mis-understood. Anaerobic activity is actually a vital aspect of a healthy aquarium. This post is getting long as it is, so rather than go into all this, I would refer members to my article on bacteria:

I realize I reference Walstad frequently, but simply because she [a microbiologist] has probably done the most research into all this. Her book, Ecology of the Planted Aquarium, is a solid source of much scientific evidence. Given time, I could pull out articles by other aknowledged authorities to substantiate what is above.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]

Last edited by Byron; 04-13-2013 at 12:53 PM.
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post #16 of 21 Old 04-13-2013, 03:17 PM
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Thank you all for taking the time to clarify your opinions!

I didn't intend to start a debate, but I do feel that it is important for a new aquarist to take the time to explore the views and research on all sides in order to come to a full understanding themselves - preferably before stocking.

The most important thing, whichever school of thought you follow, is to pay attention to what your tank (and everything in it) is telling you, and to be willing to make adjustments should they be needed. . . :)
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post #17 of 21 Old 04-13-2013, 03:26 PM
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A reasonable compromise on the vacuuming issue would be to do so when the amount of buildup detracts from the appearance of the tank. Cleaning in open areas that look messy makes sense and helps keep nitrates at healthier levels. We don't all have the same plant and fish stocking levels and we don't all feed our plants and animals in the identical manner. When you see photos of tanks owned by some folks who never vacuum, they seem pristine. Why would you vacuum in that case ? Let's face it, appearance is a major factor for having an aquarium in the first place. Finding the balance between the type of plants and fish and your tolerance for the degree of maintenance or lack thereof is extremely important. Too often, we try to force our will upon situations with disappointing results. I'm the worst offender; however, I'm trying to change and believe it will make for happier tanks and a happier aquarium keeper in me.

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post #18 of 21 Old 04-13-2013, 05:27 PM
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Originally Posted by MoneyMitch View Post
also would you happen to have any cited sources?
Since you brought it up....

Why is it that they need to provide you with cited sources, when you didn't provide any for your article? Byron always cites sources for his articles. Any time you use someone else's ideas, you are supposed to cite them as a source - when you are writing things like articles. Otherwise, it's plagiarism.

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post #19 of 21 Old 04-13-2013, 05:29 PM Thread Starter
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yes and again to clarify, it was all a guide wrote up with the intentions to be very basic and easy to follow as possible. I purposely didn't go into the whole why to vac and why to use certain lights etc etc to not overwhelm and confuse someone new looking into planted tanks. the debate that this led to I think is what turns people off from planted tanks. yes there are many many ways to do things and each system is different. sometimes trying to convince and force your way onto others just turns into a crazy very technical debate.

anyways im sure a lot will agree its still not a bad place to start for a planted tank, then I would strongly recommend looking into byrons guide to planted aquarium if after you read this and still have the will to learn more and plan to build a planted tank.
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post #20 of 21 Old 04-14-2013, 11:17 AM
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Hi, as a new planted tank wanna be i see this article as pretty good information, ideally people will research different views, and sources before making rash judgements.. thanks for some insightful info..
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