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Discussion Starter #1
Hi. I normally post over on the bettafish side of the site, but I figured I might be a better response for this one over here, since I'm planning a community tank that probably won't have a betta.

So I've been poking at the idea for a community planted tank for a while, and I think I've settled on a 20gal npt for my last big purchase/project before the semester starts and I forget the outside world for three months. My budget is going to be around 200 all total(fish, plants, tank, stand, heater/filter/whatever), but I'd prefer not to spend more than 150. I have a sinking feeling that at least half of that is going to go to the friggin stand, unless I can find something on the cheap somewhere that'll bear the weight.

but that's not the point for this post. The point here is, pretty much my only experience with fish is the one pain-in-the-everything betta currently residing on my desk, and I'm not 100% sure where to even start looking for the types of fish to stock. I know I want to avoid neon tetras and similar (long story, don't ask) I've considered guppies possibly, or potentially a betta sorority, but that sounds like trouble waiting to happen when I won't be able to monitor the tank closely for quite some time. I'm thinking of cories or Otos for algae control along with my displaced mystery snail, but past that I'm drawing a blank. Any suggestions, (or even just your personal favorite fish?)

The tank will be heavily planted (following the npt guide on the betta side of the site) but plants+ heaters/filters has always made me wary. It seems like heavy planting would block water circulation and interfere with the efficiency of the heater/filter working?
I want to experiment with semi-aquatic plants, if that's a thing that's possible; mostly lucky bamboo? I kinda like the idea of the plants not being confined to the tank itself, but I'm unsure how well it would work re:accommodating the lights, heat retention, and keeping snails/shrimp/fish from jumping/escaping.
Other than that, again, I'd really appreciate suggestions for fast-growing plants, bulbs, floating plants, especially plants that are pretty easy to find, or just your absolute favorite plant. I'm really looking more for opinion than hard fact here.

Also, if by some miracle anyone is in the Austin TX area, I'm heading up there this weekend in search of fish stores that actually have useful things, and if anyone could suggest a place that carries Malaysian trumpet snails, or a wide selection of plants, then I'd be eternally grateful.
 

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my super secret (almost) method.

Add 1" canadian sphagum peat moss (1'x1'x3' plastic cube).
wet that layer, level and clean the tank.
add 1" play sand (home depot.lowes 50 poounds for $3)
level and clean
add 1" pro choice select (pro choice baseball conditioner 50 pound bag for $8)
(or aquarium gravel, or some pea gravel or whatever looks nice)
level and clean

add 10 bunches of anacharis, 10 vals, 10 small potted plants, 1-2 amazon swords.
fill tank with water poured over a dish.

Stand back and say Hmmmm looks good. LOL

wait one week.

add 1 fish (male if a live bearer (recommend platy)

wait one week.

add more fish (2 female live bearers or at least 4 if schooling fish)

start feeding 1 flake per day.

in 6 months with live bearers you will have and nice population of live bearers.

Oh yea just to remind ya, no filter, no water changes, no chemicals. Just replace the evaportive water with straiight untreated tap.

my .02
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Where do you suggest finding the peat moss? will a nursery/plant store have it or is it something I'm gonna have to order? I only have about a 1-week window where I'll be able to shop for/buy fish and plants, and will have very very few windows for quite some time after (until round december. I'm doing the full time work and full time school thing and kinda have a 24 hour schedule, so~) I have a few small spare tanks (one 1.5 and can move my betta into that one to house fish in his tank temporarily if need be. So I could still introduce fish on the schedule you said up there.) to qt/house fish in until the tank's ready for them, but I'd prefer not to have to maintain that arrangement for more than a week or two.
I'm assuming the one fish-and-then-more-fish thing is a fish-in cycle to jumpstart the nitrogen cycle? could I bypass that if I moved the betta's sponge filter into the new tank and ran that alongside whatever filter would be running in the new tank for a week instead?

I'm leery of the no filter/untreated tapwater/no water change thing. my tapwater is pretty funky, and like I said before, after next wednesday I'm not going to have a whole lot of leeway to fix/rehome/repair if things go wrong. If nothing else, I'd want the filter just to create a current to circulate the water and regulate the temperature. You've had success with this method before, so what's the worst thing that can go wrong with this setup?

Also, would ecocomplete gravel be an acceptable substitute for the pro choice select? I've got roughly five pounds of the stuff left over from the betta's tank, so I'd prefer to use that if possible.

there was another thing I was gonna ask, but it keeps slipping my mind, will probably remember later.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
of course I remember after the edit window is over. under that setup, would I still need the Malaysian trumpet snails to aerate the substrate and prevent ammonia pockets from building up in anaerobic soil?
 

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You don't ever "need" Malaysian Trumpet Snails, but they are always helpful in planted tanks.

And with all due respect to beaslbob, the no filter etc. won't work in all situations, and for beginners it is MUCH easier to just use the conventional method. You do need water changes, to replace the metals (and everything else in tap water) for the plants, that aren't included in any standard fertilizer (like Flourish Comprehensive). Not to mention water stability! For more info I would read this article: http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/freshwater-general-articles/regular-partial-water-changes-188641/ .
 

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Where do you suggest finding the peat moss? will a nursery/plant store have it or is it something I'm gonna have to order? I only have about a 1-week window where I'll be able to shop for/buy fish and plants, and will have very very few windows for quite some time after (until round december. I'm doing the full time work and full time school thing and kinda have a 24 hour schedule, so~) I have a few small spare tanks (one 1.5 and can move my betta into that one to house fish in his tank temporarily if need be. So I could still introduce fish on the schedule you said up there.) to qt/house fish in until the tank's ready for them, but I'd prefer not to have to maintain that arrangement for more than a week or two.
I'm assuming the one fish-and-then-more-fish thing is a fish-in cycle to jumpstart the nitrogen cycle? could I bypass that if I moved the betta's sponge filter into the new tank and ran that alongside whatever filter would be running in the new tank for a week instead?

I'm leery of the no filter/untreated tapwater/no water change thing. my tapwater is pretty funky, and like I said before, after next wednesday I'm not going to have a whole lot of leeway to fix/rehome/repair if things go wrong. If nothing else, I'd want the filter just to create a current to circulate the water and regulate the temperature. You've had success with this method before, so what's the worst thing that can go wrong with this setup?

Also, would ecocomplete gravel be an acceptable substitute for the pro choice select? I've got roughly five pounds of the stuff left over from the betta's tank, so I'd prefer to use that if possible.

there was another thing I was gonna ask, but it keeps slipping my mind, will probably remember later.
the eco complete would probably work. I haven't used.

peat moss is available from lowe's or home depot. example:

Shop 3.8 cu ft Sphagnum Peat Moss at Lowes.com

pro choice select here:

Pro's Choice Products

(had to contact that company to get a local supplier who had to order)

The waiting is to insure the plants keep up with the nitrogen cycle and condition the tank. For instance, when I used to feed that first fish it always died just like clock work in the 5 th day after suffering for two days. The second fish always lived. But with no feeding the first week, that first fish always lived.

If you over feed and have too much light the tank does cloud up. I just kill the lights and stop feeding and in a week or so it clear again.

I do not use snails to break up ammonia in the substrate. The plants consume any ammonia directly preventing ammonia build ups. Plus the plants provide a low level circulation through the substrate as well. Any really nasty stuff is either trapped in the substrate or just no present.
 

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You don't ever "need" Malaysian Trumpet Snails, but they are always helpful in planted tanks.

And with all due respect to beaslbob, the no filter etc. won't work in all situations, and for beginners it is MUCH easier to just use the conventional method. You do need water changes, to replace the metals (and everything else in tap water) for the plants, that aren't included in any standard fertilizer (like Flourish Comprehensive). Not to mention water stability! For more info I would read this article: http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/freshwater-general-articles/regular-partial-water-changes-188641/ .

Seems to work in my case and with evry newbie who has tried this.

BTW I do use a fliter----- the plants.

IMHO replacing evaporative water and using lotsa plants is a much more stable environment that any water change based method. When something goes bump in the night the plants step up to rapicily return the system to its steady state. Which simply does not happen is a water change bacteria based system.


my .02
 

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Seems to work in my case and with evry newbie who has tried this.

BTW I do use a fliter----- the plants.

IMHO replacing evaporative water and using lotsa plants is a much more stable environment that any water change based method. When something goes bump in the night the plants step up to rapicily return the system to its steady state. Which simply does not happen is a water change bacteria based system.
I'm not saying it won't work, just water changes usually work better.
I was reffering to this
Oh yea just to remind ya, no filter, no water changes, no chemicals. Just replace the evaportive water with straiight untreated tap.
"using lotsa plants" is the key phrase here, at what point is "losta plants" achieved? And with all those plants to keep them healthy you will either have to dose the things (can't remember exactly what those are right now...) that are found in tap water, but not in conventional fertilizers like Flourish Comprehensive, and THAT is too hard for a newbie to do, OR do water changes.
Also, "When something goes bump in the night the plants step up to rapicily return the system to its steady state" how are the plants going to use the nutrients (ammonia/nitrite/nitrate) if they don't have light to photosynthesize?
 

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I'm not saying it won't work, just water changes usually work better.
I was reffering to this "using lotsa plants" is the key phrase here, at what point is "losta plants" achieved? And with all those plants to keep them healthy you will either have to dose the things (can't remember exactly what those are right now...) that are found in tap water, but not in conventional fertilizers like Flourish Comprehensive, and THAT is too hard for a newbie to do, OR do water changes.
Also, "When something goes bump in the night the plants step up to rapicily return the system to its steady state" how are the plants going to use the nutrients (ammonia/nitrite/nitrate) if they don't have light to photosynthesize?
You are correct in that plants need the light to consume the ammonia spike. But then the ammonia level is rapidily consumed when the lights are turned on. Much better for that to happen then wait for bactria to multiply. Not to mention the co2 reduction the plants do.

All I can actually say is this method works for me but your mileage may be different. I have had 25-30 guppies with 6 reproducing adults all from the initial cycle trio in a 10g tank for 9 years. With no added chemicals or dosing of any kind. So some level of self substaining must have been reached.

I did notice that peat moss prevents kh and gh build up and neon tetras did much better.

By building up the bioload slowly the plants expand to whatever level is necessary to balance out and stabize the tank.

By using more plants you just insure that happens right from the start and the bioload can be higher earlier.

But still that's just my .02
 

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Welcome to the forum!

Is the tank a 20 long or the regular 20 gallon size? I ask because this affects your stocking choices.

Honestly, eco complete is a waste of money IMO. It doesn't give better growth from my experience. The best growth I've ever gotten has been with Flourish Black Sand, but really, any substrate will work just fine if you use the right supplements. You can even use Quikcrete Playsand or Sakrete All Purpose Sand, or Black Diamond Blasting Grit. All these options are less than $10 for a 50lb bag. If you use root tabs every few months instead of soil, it works just the same.

Most people use Miracle Gro Organic Potting Mix for the soil portion of the tank. If this is the route you go (with ANY soil, even if you just use cheap topsoil and mineralize it) you have to be aware that it's going to release ammonia for awhile, and may not be fish safe for several weeks. It also makes moving plants rather difficult.

If you're looking for bottom feeders, try sticking to sand instead of gravel. Their bellies generally prefer it. I've also had much more luck with plants on sand, and it's way easier to clean! But it's all your decision ^-^

I also think you'd do best to use a filter. I'd recommend either an Aquaclear 30, or a mini canister filter. (TOMS and Zoo Med come to mind, but I haven't tried them, personally.) Filters are a great help to have. Plants do not affect the efficiency of filters and heaters. :)

Hm. If you do an open top tank you could try doing a riparium if you're interested, although maybe down the line? If this is your first time doing a planted tank you may want to wait until you have this down pat before trying something else. Although if you really want to give it a go, it's totally okay, too! Several of our members (including me!) have created ripariums. If you're interested in going the route I'd suggest posting another thread asking specifically about ripariums ^-^

My favorite plants are Crypt Lucens, Crypt Spiralis, Aponogeton Crispus, Frogbit, Water Sprite, Dwarf Sag, and Pygmy Chain Sword.

What are your water parameters, as in Ph, Gh, and Kh? Do you have a liquid test kit?
 

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You are correct in that plants need the light to consume the ammonia spike. But then the ammonia level is rapidily consumed when the lights are turned on. Much better for that to happen then wait for bactria to multiply. Not to mention the co2 reduction the plants do.
there is going to be bacteria multiplying even if you don't have a filter, there is bacteria on the glass decor etc. not just in the filter. And doesn't it seem like a good idea to have the plants taking care of it (to a certain extent) during the day, AND have some bacteria to pick up what the plants don't use?

What I am saying is that although I LOVE having plants, and they work well for filtration, you need to have almost more plants than fish, so it seems impractical. I'm glad you have found a method that works for you, but it really seems a lot easier to just buy a filter...

Welcome to the forum!

Is the tank a 20 long or the regular 20 gallon size? I ask because this affects your stocking choices.

Honestly, eco complete is a waste of money IMO. It doesn't give better growth from my experience. The best growth I've ever gotten has been with Flourish Black Sand, but really, any substrate will work just fine if you use the right supplements. You can even use Quikcrete Playsand or Sakrete All Purpose Sand, or Black Diamond Blasting Grit. All these options are less than $10 for a 50lb bag. If you use root tabs every few months instead of soil, it works just the same.

Most people use Miracle Gro Organic Potting Mix for the soil portion of the tank. If this is the route you go (with ANY soil, even if you just use cheap topsoil and mineralize it) you have to be aware that it's going to release ammonia for awhile, and may not be fish safe for several weeks. It also makes moving plants rather difficult.

If you're looking for bottom feeders, try sticking to sand instead of gravel. Their bellies generally prefer it. I've also had much more luck with plants on sand, and it's way easier to clean! But it's all your decision ^-^

I also think you'd do best to use a filter. I'd recommend either an Aquaclear 30, or a mini canister filter. (TOMS and Zoo Med come to mind, but I haven't tried them, personally.) Filters are a great help to have. Plants do not affect the efficiency of filters and heaters. :)

Hm. If you do an open top tank you could try doing a riparium if you're interested, although maybe down the line? If this is your first time doing a planted tank you may want to wait until you have this down pat before trying something else. Although if you really want to give it a go, it's totally okay, too! Several of our members (including me!) have created ripariums. If you're interested in going the route I'd suggest posting another thread asking specifically about ripariums ^-^

My favorite plants are Crypt Lucens, Crypt Spiralis, Aponogeton Crispus, Frogbit, Water Sprite, Dwarf Sag, and Pygmy Chain Sword.

What are your water parameters, as in Ph, Gh, and Kh? Do you have a liquid test kit?
Thanks for getting this back on track! :)
 

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Back to your question about the media from your betta tank, if you betta tank is cycled then it would help you to cut a piece of it and put into your new filter or even take some of the gravel in a mesh bag and put into your new tank to get some good bacteria established.

We have had great success using just play sand (washed first of course), and plants from petsmart. We use flourish liquid fertilizer about once a week. We bought a floating plant from our local pet shop and now we have snails, which I don't mind but just a thought for you when you're choosing plants to check to see if they are snail free.

After our first tank cycled our weekly maintenance is about 30 minutes per tank to vacuum and do about a 10% water change. I prefer this method myself. If you use media or something from your betta tank and live plants, you should have about the same maintenance.

I love cories, and they do love sand which someone mentioned already. We have guppys that I like and I also love harlequin rasboras as a good shoaling fish for a smaller tank.

Also (sorry I'm tend to write a book lol) Have you checked craigslist for tanks or stands? You may find a good deal. We actually have our 30g on an old night stand but it is all real wood a very sturdy.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
@beaslbob
Your method sounds really interesting, and I'd love to give it a try, but some time when I'll have a month or two of steady time to keep an eye on it. Right now, I'm barely going to have time for my weekly maintenance, let alone the time to notice anything going wrong.

@jentralala
I mentioned the ecogrow because I've already got a big bag of it leftover from my first tank, but I've also head sand is better for bottom feeders, so I'll look into finding some dark colored sand instead(I really hate white play sand, you have no idea). do you know if beaslbob's peat moss will generate ammonia? more/less than organic soil?
There's a word for the thing I want! that's always cool when that happens. I'll have to do a little more research before I go looking into a riparium, I think, just from the quick googling I did, but it's definately something I'd like to look into down the line, maybe expand this tank into a riparium come winter break or early spring semester. I'd just have to figure out how to incorporate enough of a lid to keep the heat in while still letting the plants out? my house is super cold, so no top at all will probably not work. I really love the idea of the ecosystem not being confined to the tank from an artistic point of view, and I think there's a lot I could do with it in terms of composition and I could go on but I think I'll stop here because no one's looking for an art!ramble. Babbling now, please ignore.
I have a lest kit, but it doesn't have tests for GH or KH. my PH likes to hang around 7.6 and I can tell you that the tap water is from a limestone aquifer and very hard. more than that I can't say.

@ameliarose82
I've got a spare bit of filter sponge I could stuff into the betta's filter to gather bacteria until the setup. it'll be another 5-7 days before everything gets put together and stocked, so it should have time to grow.
I have looked on craigslist and there's two decent deals I'm looking at. one's pretty banged up and battered, but way cheaper than the nicer one, and looks sturdier too. If they don't pan out I might end up forking over for that cheapo one petsmart's got on clearance. still waaaay more than I wanted to spend, and a good 25-50% of my budget though :<

thanks everyone for your plant and fish suggestions! I'm keeping a list of them so I can check them out this weekend.
 

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Hi. I normally post over on the bettafish side of the site, but I figured I might be a better response for this one over here, since I'm planning a community tank that probably won't have a betta.

So I've been poking at the idea for a community planted tank for a while, and I think I've settled on a 20gal npt for my last big purchase/project before the semester starts and I forget the outside world for three months. My budget is going to be around 200 all total(fish, plants, tank, stand, heater/filter/whatever), but I'd prefer not to spend more than 150. I have a sinking feeling that at least half of that is going to go to the friggin stand, unless I can find something on the cheap somewhere that'll bear the weight.

but that's not the point for this post. The point here is, pretty much my only experience with fish is the one pain-in-the-everything betta currently residing on my desk, and I'm not 100% sure where to even start looking for the types of fish to stock. I know I want to avoid neon tetras and similar (long story, don't ask) I've considered guppies possibly, or potentially a betta sorority, but that sounds like trouble waiting to happen when I won't be able to monitor the tank closely for quite some time. I'm thinking of cories or Otos for algae control along with my displaced mystery snail, but past that I'm drawing a blank. Any suggestions, (or even just your personal favorite fish?)

The tank will be heavily planted (following the npt guide on the betta side of the site) but plants+ heaters/filters has always made me wary. It seems like heavy planting would block water circulation and interfere with the efficiency of the heater/filter working?
I want to experiment with semi-aquatic plants, if that's a thing that's possible; mostly lucky bamboo? I kinda like the idea of the plants not being confined to the tank itself, but I'm unsure how well it would work re:accommodating the lights, heat retention, and keeping snails/shrimp/fish from jumping/escaping.
Other than that, again, I'd really appreciate suggestions for fast-growing plants, bulbs, floating plants, especially plants that are pretty easy to find, or just your absolute favorite plant. I'm really looking more for opinion than hard fact here.

Also, if by some miracle anyone is in the Austin TX area, I'm heading up there this weekend in search of fish stores that actually have useful things, and if anyone could suggest a place that carries Malaysian trumpet snails, or a wide selection of plants, then I'd be eternally grateful.
Did you know you can totally have a betta in a community aquarium. The darker colored ones behave better then the lightly colored ones, in my experience anyways.
Eventually you can just add water but you will need to do water changes until everything catches up. Floating plants are a must for this they consume more ammonia then any other plant. Water lettuce, duckweed, frogbit, and pennywort to name a few. You will enjoy a planted tank a lot more. The best mix I have found that looks natural and is great for plants is. Crushed fluorite and Fluval aqua soil, mix both together and the plants will love it. Your PH will not go up, and after about a week or two low maintenance.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Did you know you can totally have a betta in a community aquarium. The darker colored ones behave better then the lightly colored ones, in my experience anyways.
Eventually you can just add water but you will need to do water changes until everything catches up. Floating plants are a must for this they consume more ammonia then any other plant. Water lettuce, duckweed, frogbit, and pennywort to name a few. You will enjoy a planted tank a lot more. The best mix I have found that looks natural and is great for plants is. Crushed fluorite and Fluval aqua soil, mix both together and the plants will love it. Your PH will not go up, and after about a week or two low maintenance.
yeaaaaah, not this guy. he's alone in his five gallon because he's killed the shrimp, two mystery snails bigger than he was, and turned the oto carnivorous.
If I had some more time, I'd really love to try and find a pretty crowntail or something for this tank, but I don't have the time to rehome or the funds to buy another tank if he turns out to be another hyper-aggressive fish
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Okay, so I might as well journal the building of the tank here, now that it's definately a Thing That Is Happening.
Ordered the Aquaclear filter, that came in today. Craigslist dude never called me back but I went crawling through the thrift stores and found an awesome solid wood tv stand for 20, 20gal long tank from petsmart, a hood and heater from my favorite LFS and a ridiculously large bag of peat moss from the hardware store later, and I'm starting to grow uncomfortably close to my budget.
Luckily, I left myself a decent amount of wiggle room deciding on it, so I sucked it up, ave myself a bit more, and I'm all set to go on my city-wide fish-store trawling adventure tomorrow.
My LFS carries anacharis and vals, but nothing in the way of floating plants, and they don't get MTS in but rarely, so here's hoping the stores on the rich people side of town has more selection.
Or at least that the stores on the scary side of town has a cheaper selection 0_0 Love my fish guys but they take so much of my money....
I'm planning on pulling most if not all of the wenditti from my betta tank. they're spreading like wildfire, and that's at least one plant I won't have to buy.
Also need to grab a plant bulb for the hood. the bulb it came with is I think full-spectrum? not a 6700K at least. probably will grab that one from my LFS.

No pictures yet, will need to remember to take some tomorrow.
 

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sounds good.,

I would recommend a common 6500K light from building supple stores.

my .02
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Unpleasant news. Apparently Floating plants like duckweed and frogbit are illegal to sell in my state. I'm going to guess that they're nonnative/invasive or whatever. I've been informed that I might be able to find some water lettuce at a nursery that sells pond plants but it's a longshot.
I know that floating plants do a lot to absorb ammonia, but on the offchance I can't find any in town does anyone have any other suggestions?
 

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Discussion Starter #20
looks like I was wrong. Duckweed and water lettuce are restricted, frogbit and pennywort are not.
just gotta find someone who carries some....:-?
 
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