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Discussion Starter #1
My sorority tank is getting so old. I want to re-do it to look like some of the amazing tanks I see online. I'm having a hard time figuring out where I should move things and what I should add and remove.
Any suggestions on what to move and add or remove would be absolutely amazing.
I am still pretty new to aquarium plants so please suggest only easy low-moderate light plants that aren't too costly in case I kill them.

Whats in it right now.
Manzanita Driftwood with java moss, and both regular and lace java ferns.
Anubias nana petit
rotala indica and wallichi
pennywort
wisteria
moneywort
bacopa carolinia
anarchis
2 amazon swords
frogbit and giant duckweed
1 banana plant that keeps floating everywhere
cabomba and hornwort
and 1 unknown plant.
(theres probably some other random plants in it)

Fish are:
7 bettas, a couple of endlers as a temp. holding, 5 cory's, and 4 ghost shrimp


I have a 15w t-8 6500k running at about 12-13hrs a day.
Aquaclear 50 filter
Dose with Seachem Flourish once a week.

What I plan to change already::
Turn it into an NPT. Soil with probably a regular tan sand cap.
Get a higher wattage light and/or another strip/lighting source
I also might add CO2 to this in April, but still have to decide if it should go to one of my 10's or to this tank.
I'd also like to get some more rooted plants, but dont know which ones would look good?
I also want to add some more hardscape. Maybe some rocks or a piece of manzanita covered in moss. Not sure

Here is the tank:: Sorry for it being cloudy, I'm treating with maracyn plus so I cant help it right now. Also, that male thats floating is only in there as QT before I move him into another tank. And there are some really gravid endlers in the net, its not usually there.
 

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I would change the substrate, but myself would not mess with soil. A natural fine gravel or sand would be better. If the listed fish (betta, corys) are staying, sand is best especially for the corys. I use play sand as it replicates the sand in many Amazon streams.

I also don't bother with CO2, and if you intend staying with easy plants as you mention this is a waste.

The light might be better if upgraded, but what is the tank size (length and volume)? What you have might be fine with a different tube.

What is the GH of your tap water? [This is related to nutrient fertilization.]

Byron.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I'll definitely be changing the gravel. What's in it now is just a collection from old tanks and it looks like clown puke, I absolutely hate it. I think I'm pretty set on the soil with a sand cap. I'll probably go with play sand though, it's pretty cheap, and I'm a cheap-o

Im wanting to move to harder plants eventually so that's why I was thinking about co2, still undecided about using it in this tank and moving plants to another or just doing it to another tank.

It's a 26 gallon tank 24" long. The light I have now seems to be doing a pretty decent job, but my other tanks are getting a better growth rate. If you have any suggestions about a tube I can get that'd be great! Do you think upgrading to a t-5 fixture would be better instead of adding another strip? Or adding a t-5 strip with the existing t-8?

GH Is at 75, but I'm using a test strip to test that so I'm not sure how accurate it is, normally when I test from my tank it shows up as 300.
Alkalinity showed up at 300 today too, is that bad?
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I'll definitely be changing the gravel. What's in it now is just a collection from old tanks and it looks like clown puke, I absolutely hate it. I think I'm pretty set on the soil with a sand cap. I'll probably go with play sand though, it's pretty cheap, and I'm a cheap-o

Im wanting to move to harder plants eventually so that's why I was thinking about co2, still undecided about using it in this tank and moving plants to another or just doing it to another tank.

It's a 26 gallon tank 24" long. The light I have now seems to be doing a pretty decent job, but my other tanks are getting a better growth rate. If you have any suggestions about a tube I can get that'd be great! Do you think upgrading to a t-5 fixture would be better instead of adding another strip? Or adding a t-5 strip with the existing t-8?

GH Is at 75, but I'm using a test strip to test that so I'm not sure how accurate it is, normally when I test from my tank it shows up as 300.
Alkalinity showed up at 300 today too, is that bad?
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Alkalinity is KH (carbonate hardness) and has no direct effect on fish. It does act as a buffer for pH, and it can serve as a source of carbon for some plants. The GH at 75 (presume ppm) is around 4 dGH which is as low as you want it for plants; this is the prime source of calcium and magnesium, and less of potassium. The amounts of these in Flourish Comp is minimal so that should be OK. But I can't understand how it could rise to 300ppm [almost 17 dGH] if it is now 75 [4]. There is something not right here. Do you know the GH of your tap water, according to the data from the municipal water supply?

Stem plants need good light, but everything else (like CO2) has to balance. The stem plants in the photo are dwindling, due to the light and nutrients. Making changes like adding soil or CO2 will make a major shift, so rather than try to set out all the issues I will stay with what you now have.

On the light, a single tube T8 as you have will work for low and moderate light plants. With a good tube, like the Life-Glo by Hagen or the UltraSun by ZooMed, this will be decent light. You could upgrade to a single-tube T5, with a HO tube. However, once you start increasing the light this much, all other nutrients must balance, or algae will invade.

The swords will be fine with the T8 tubes mentioned. Pennywort and Hornwort are two stem plants that manage well with moderate light. The others will not last, so I would avoid them. It is much better to go with plants that suit what you can provide, as then they will be healthy and thriving. The photo below is my 29g which is 30 inches in length so a tad longer, and the light is a single tube T8 20w (24-inch) which is pretty much the same ratio as what you have. Substrate is play sand. Flourish Comprehensive dosed twice weekly. I also add Equilibrium to raise the hard minerals because my GH is near zero from the tap. In this tank I have chain sword, several crypts, Java Fern, Java Moss, floating Water Sprite. I have had Pennywort, floating, but now use the WS. With fewer species it is possible to create a fairly lush aquascape.

Byron.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Wow your tank looks awesome!!
But I am testing with strips for the g&kh so I am not positive how accurate they are. I just emailed the water treatment department of my city to ask them what their water values were. Hoping to have an answer soon.
I'll have to start researching lights. On another forum I saw someone talking about 4200k 15w t-8 growlight strips from walmart over their tanks. I know that that's a low K value, but they are pretty inexpensive ($10 for the strip and light) do you think that adding something with that low of value would be worth it?
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Well, the water department just got back to me.
Here's what they sent
kH - 162 parts per million
gH - 195 parts per million
pH - 7.83
Nitrate is <1.0 parts per million as N
We do not add ammonia as a chloramine so we are not required to test it.
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So it's 11 dGH and 9 dKH. Is that right, Byron ? I don't know how to interpret these numbers so I'll be interested to learn with your reply to the OP.
 

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On another forum I saw someone talking about 4200k 15w t-8 growlight strips from walmart over their tanks. I know that that's a low K value, but they are pretty inexpensive ($10 for the strip and light) do you think that adding something with that low of value would be worth it?
No. Plants have been shown to do best under light with a kelvin between 5000K and 7000K, and around 6500K is what most aim for. The tubes I mentioned are 6700K and more intense as well.

kH - 162 parts per million
gH - 195 parts per million
pH - 7.83
Nitrate is <1.0 parts per million as N
These numbers make more sense (when considered together). ppm can be converted to dGH by dividing by 17.9, and same works for KH. To go from dGH to ppm, multiply by 17.9, same for KH. So GH of 195 ppm is 10.9 or about 11 dGH. Moderately hard. And the pH close to 8 makes sense. The KH is sufficient to buffer the pH so it is not going to alter [pH tends to shift down as the aquarium water acidifies naturally, but the KH buffers it to keep it where it is].

No plant issues in these numbers.

Now, if you do use soil, it should tend to lower the pH but it is not going to be much. Adding CO2 will do the same, and I can't say how much as I have never done this. I don't use CO2.

Byron.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Okay so I'll just go with one of the tubes you suggested. I didn't think it would work but had to ask.

Glad my water is at good levels. Never using test strips again! Lol
 

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Well, now that we have the GH, KH, and PH sorted out, we can get back to the plants. For the most part, I'd keep what's doing well and remove what is struggling. The wisteria is really a high light plant, so maybe you could move that to one of your other higher light tanks. Some of the stem plants that are planted in the substrate could be allowed to float as this will get them closer to the light. Otherwise, you could move them to higher light tanks also. You would probably have success with vals and sags with the substrate and light you are planning. That would give you vertical interest. Most crypts do well under low to moderate lighting and there are many interesting varieties. Water sprite is a great floating plant. It has great water quality properties and its long flowing roots are attractive and provide excellent cover for fry.
 

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If you plan on switching to soil, not much is needed. A soil/sand mixture for the bottom does just as well as pure soil, and has fewer risks. Mineralising the soil also helps a lot.
(mineralise means let bacteria have a go at the soil before its submerged. This is done by placing it in a shallow container or on a plastic sheet outside, wet it well, let it air dry, stir it up, then repeat the wet-dry-stir cycle several times. It takes a while, but it really helps limit the risks.)

Don't throw any plants away quite yet, they might thrive in soil. Ill do another guide when my diy background is done if you'd like to wait and start mineralising some soil.

Soil substrates are sort of an art..my methods have changed from when I wrote the guides in my signature, but you might want to give them a read anyways. Just don't use purchased potting soil. Super cheap clay-sand based topsoil can work, but subsoil from a hardwood forest or a natural waterway is ideal. (if its from a waterway, bake it for 6 hours at 400F to sterilise it)

I keep adding to this.. LOL

As for the Ph, soil substrates will lower the Ph by adding co2, but the organic acids should be countered by calcium and magnesium in the soil. If not present, then small amounts of crushed dolomite/limestone or aragonite sand should be mixed in the soil.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks for the input redchigh!

I have looked into the soil and sand substrate NPT style tanks for quite a few months now, but love hearing about other's experiences! I am definitely going to take a look at your links tonight.

I was originally looking into getting miracle grow organic potting mix, I live in town so it's not easy for me to go out and get soil out of my yard or somewhere.

Is there another brand that is more highly suggested?

I also am going to be ordering some MTS to help with stirring the sand/soil this weekend
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hmm, maybe raid a park? jk..

Walmart sells cheap toptoil that might work... Just get the cheapest bagged soil you can, submerge it, stir it a bit, and throw away everything that's still floating after a couple days. might have to try a couple brands...
If you can just grab a handful of subsoil from a part, it will help get the good bacteria and stuff you need.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Yeah, let me go raid a park right now!

Sounds good though
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So, I wasn't able to get to the store this weekend, but I did have a bit of free time and decided to play a little with the existing plants and what-not.

Does this look any better?
(sorry for the ugly water, just did a water change so some stuff got kicked up)


I have someone sending me some rocks Monday, so my plan is to hopefully build up a slope in the back-right corner, not sure what I will plant it with.

Also have some more plants on order. Wanting to get some anubias bartieri, crypt petchii, hygrophilia corymbosa, and some pygmy chain swords. I think I'll probably add some sort of stem plants to the order as well, but not sure what to get.
Any other suggestions with plants?



Edit:: Does anyone know if there is a water additive that makes water clearer? I've seen some people talking about something that is used inside of a filter that helps with clarity?
 
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Good luck, and i hope the best for you! :D
 

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Does anyone know if there is a water additive that makes water clearer? I've seen some people talking about something that is used inside of a filter that helps with clarity?
This is not advisable with live plants. Chemical filtration, which is what we term any type of filtration that alters the water chemistry chemically such as with carbon, etc, should be avoided in tanks with live plants. Many of the essential plant nutrients will be removed.

The water "clarifiers" are dangerous because they work by binding particulate matter but they also do this to the fishes' gills.

Cloudiness can occur from several sources. It is usually advisable to allow it to settled naturally, especially when it is a bacterial bloom which is common in new setups.

Byron.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks Byron!
I guess I should go remove the carbon in my filters then.
I never have a problem with cloudiness unless its the kind of cloudiness from the sink, where the water is almost a milky white, on occasion I add it to my tank because its hard to see the color inside of my big blue bucket.
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My water does the same where it looks whitish or full of air coming out of the faucet. Generally after I turn my filters back on the water clears up with in mins. So I never worry about it. I just assume its air in the water from the lines or something. The fish never seem to mind either.
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Yeah, my fish don't mind it, but it just looks hideous! Mine takes about a day to clear up when it happens, so it gets pretty frustrating. But I guess if it isn't recommend to add any chemical filtration then I will deal with it :)
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