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Discussion Starter #1
TLDR: I'm planning a new 20G tank with Platies and 1 Male Betta, and live plants. Below I am seeking advice on stocking, and live plants.

Well its been a good four years since I posted here, of which my Betta that I purchased at that time just died 4 months ago :cry:, He was pretty old (I had him just shy of 4 years :-D). That is the extent of my fish keeping for the most part ( a two gallon betta tank), beyond the tanks I had (that my mom took care of) when I was way younger.

I currently live in a college dorm, but I am moving in a few months to my own apartment, and well Its time I get a proper aquarium going again.

I will have cycled media from my shrimp 1 gallon tank, and a friends betta tank to get the cycle started on the 20g.

Hardware:
I'm planning on purchasing one of the new walmart 20G tanks, with the low profile LED hood, and internal filter (I always hated tanks with filters that hang outside off the back of the tank.) For $74 you cant go wrong right? And the tank stand will be the $29 stand walmart sells that fits that tank. Aqua Culture Aquarium Starter Kit, 20 Gallon: Fish : Walmart.com

I already have a nice submersible 100w heater I can use, Also I have an air pump that I will be using to add some decorative airaration to the tank.

As for odds and ends I got lots of test kits and old water conditioners, but I dont know how good that stuff is after its been sitting in storage for almost ten years? I will likely buy all new stuff like that.

Stocking/Fish:
1 Male beta that my other roommates girlfirend has, she is moving soon, and needs a home for him.
6-8 Platies? (The exact amount I'm seeking advice) (obviously not all at once, probably only two at first.)

Decor:
I really want all live plants and natural rocks, but live plants are $$$ at all the stores in my area. I can't afford 10 plants at $4.99 each (thats $50 just on plants!!!) (I have a large pile of fake plants already, but I simply hate the looks of fake plants.) Does anyone here have advice or tips on where/how to get enough plants to fill a 20g tank on the cheap? I also think the LED lights on the tank I want are likely no good for keeping plants alive, so I may have to give up on the live plants for now.

Budget:
Im trying to keep my out of pocket under $100 (I am an uber poor college student), the actual tank from walmart is on my birthday list, so the tank cost is not likely to come out of my pocket.

But I will need to buy:
Gravel (Pure black)
Plants/Decor
Fish
New Siphon Gravel vacuum (my current one is super slow and tiny for my little tanks)
Tank Backdrop (I plan to get a stick on all black or blue backdrop)
And plenty of other things I am likely forgetting.

Thanks for reading!
 

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To save money on a backdrop you can get some blue or black paint. A couple of containers of acrylic (the little craft ones) should do your tank just fine. As far as substrate, how set are you on black? You can get natural colored sand or gravel for $5-10 for 50lbs. Just a thought.

Filter-wise I want to comment that internal filters can't support the same bioload as canisters or HOBs. With the live plants you're likely to be okay but just so you know. That led won't support much outside of low-light plants. Java Fern, stem plants, Anubias, crypts, mosses. Check out the classified section for deals on plants.
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How set are you on platies? They can get rather large (4 inches), and if you get any females you're going to be overstocked rather quick as the breed incredibly fast. Do you know the gh/kh/ph of your tap water? That can help us better determine stocking.

Honestly I wouldn't go with that Walmart tank. You can get much better prices if you buy used, and you can get get lighting that works a bit better. That LED can really only support a few plants. You can rig up lighting pretty cheap, using lamps and 6500k CFLs. Bayco aluminum lamps clipped on/suspended above (I've seen some people just rest them on the glass top) your tank with CFLs in them would work really well (you'd need 2 or 3, depending on the size lamp you get and how you space them).

I think the lamps are about $8 a piece, and then CFL prices vary. 13 watt CFLs aren't terribly pricey, though I can't think of the price off the top of my head.

If you'd like something a bit less rigged, you can look at getting fluorescent lights, or buying a tank with an incandescent hood and switching them for CFLs. I really like the streamlined look of the Marineland DoubleBright LEDs, but they're a bit pricey, same as the Fugeray LEDs.

Even just buying the tank on it's own and piecing together what you need can work better, I'm not a fan of kits tbh. The stuff they provide you with can be pretty meh. Those internal filters have very little room for biological media, and they can be pretty loud. Aqua Cleat filters are nice and have lots of room for media, easy to clean, and are quiet.

If it's for a birthday, you can easily list the the items you'd like that way you can get some good stuff, or even link to a used tank you really like (I've gotten great deals buying used!)
*20 tank (with possible hood/glass combo)
*LED lights you want
*AquaClear 20/30 filter

It might be a bit more pricey buying that way, but you can get much better quality stuff, and save yourself the cost of upgrading your equipment later.

Black Diamond Blasting Sand works great if you want a black substrate, it's only about $8 per 50lb bag.

Plants you can get cheap if you check the classifieds here (and possibly post an ad that you're looking for plants), or look at places online that sell plants. Aquabid can have some pretty good deals sometimes, as well as other online plants stores. Browse around for the cheapest prices!

Hope that was a bit helpful!

The starter kit isn't BAD, it's just not really the best value with the stuff it comes with.

I really do recommend browsing around online and looking at ways to piece your tank together so you get better equipment in the long run.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
How set are you on platies? They can get rather large (4 inches), and if you get any females you're going to be overstocked rather quick as the breed incredibly fast. Do you know the gh/kh/ph of your tap water? That can help us better determine stocking.
Ph is 7.5, I don't know the gh or kh in Sacramento off hand (And my testing kit is not with me right now).

I'm tired of tetras, and I like how colorful platies are, I know they get big, I would likely buy all males. I don't want to deal with breading or fry. I initially wanted guppies, but I've read a few times they are hard to keep.

Honestly I wouldn't go with that Walmart tank. You can get much better prices if you buy used, and you can get get lighting that works a bit better. That LED can really only support a few plants. You can rig up lighting pretty cheap, using lamps and 6500k CFLs. Bayco aluminum lamps clipped on/suspended above (I've seen some people just rest them on the glass top) your tank with CFLs in them would work really well (you'd need 2 or 3, depending on the size lamp you get and how you space them).

I think the lamps are about $8 a piece, and then CFL prices vary. 13 watt CFLs aren't terribly pricey, though I can't think of the price off the top of my head.

If you'd like something a bit less rigged, you can look at getting fluorescent lights, or buying a tank with an incandescent hood and switching them for CFLs. I really like the streamlined look of the Marineland DoubleBright LEDs, but they're a bit pricey, same as the Fugeray LEDs.

Even just buying the tank on it's own and piecing together what you need can work better, I'm not a fan of kits tbh. The stuff they provide you with can be pretty meh. Those internal filters have very little room for biological media, and they can be pretty loud. Aqua Cleat filters are nice and have lots of room for media, easy to clean, and are quiet.
I know petsmart has a 20G kit for $75 that uses incandescents, but it has a chepo filter. I like the CFL idiea, I know some decently priced CFLs can make some good light for plants, didn't think of that until now) Petco has just the glass tanks for $39, If I can find an incandescent hood and filter on the cheap that may work. I'm not a fan of buying used fish equipment, I know that is typically a good way to go, but I don't like dealing with craigs list people.

If it's for a birthday, you can easily list the the items you'd like that way you can get some good stuff, or even link to a used tank you really like (I've gotten great deals buying used!)
*20 tank (with possible hood/glass combo)
*LED lights you want
*AquaClear 20/30 filter

It might be a bit more pricey buying that way, but you can get much better quality stuff, and save yourself the cost of upgrading your equipment later.
My birthday is in May, so I got some time to think about it, this is why I'm asking here :)

Black Diamond Blasting Sand works great if you want a black substrate, it's only about $8 per 50lb bag.
Amazing! I looked at some photos of tanks with the black blasting sand and I love the way it looks, cant go wrong for the price!

Plants you can get cheap if you check the classifieds here (and possibly post an ad that you're looking for plants), or look at places online that sell plants. Aquabid can have some pretty good deals sometimes, as well as other online plants stores. Browse around for the cheapest prices!
Yeah, I will most defiantly look into that option as I really want a planted tank.

Hope that was a bit helpful!

The starter kit isn't BAD, it's just not really the best value with the stuff it comes with.

I really do recommend browsing around online and looking at ways to piece your tank together so you get better equipment in the long run.
I've got tons to look at and research, and I'm glad people here can point me off in the right directions and offer good suggestions.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
To save money on a backdrop you can get some blue or black paint. A couple of containers of acrylic (the little craft ones) should do your tank just fine.
I love the paint idea, I will probably end up doing this.
 

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I've never heard of guppies being hard to keep all on their own, that's odd. Maybe with bettas, it's possible that the betta can get nippy towards them?

Guppies are so cute, I wish I had harder water to keep a few pretty boys!

Paint works really well, I used Krylon Fusion spray paint to do the backs of mine. Just make sure to let it cure. There's really great tutorials out there.

Also, with the sand, if you want more punch you can look into doing dirt underneath to give your plants a boost. I'd really recommend doing a lot of research on that though! :) It can be tricky, but seems to really give a boost (I'll be doing a dirted tank soon, hopefully!)

If you're ever wanting some frogbit, lemme know o.o I got that stuff growing like a weed in my tanks, haha.
 

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So I'm going to stear clear of the Walmart tank. The LEDs are cool, but conflict with the plants I want. The internal filter is not that great from what I'm also finding.

I've decided the pet smart topfin 20g kit will do me better. The hood will fit two nice CFLs. The top fin hob filter is OK from.what I'm reading, I can shove in some sponge or media to hold more space for bacteria.

Still super happy about the black diamond sand, I have a TSC store in my town too!

As for guppies or platties, I will mull that over some more too.
Top Fin 20 Gallon Aquarium Starter Kit | Aquariums | PetSmart
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As far as replacing the bulbs, Walmart sells 6500k cfls specifically for plants in their fish section for $5 a piece. That's what I have in my 10g.
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Due to the amount of 'line breeding' that has gone on with Guppies they are not as hardy as they used to be. They certainly are not hard to keep but 'defective' specimens are not particularly uncommon. You could look at something like Endlers or even wild Guppies if you are not happy with the 'regular' Guppies.

Having said that, of course, the average lifespan of a Siamese Fighter has been reduced through line breeding.
 

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I just bought a pack of 6500k CFL bulbs from the lighting section in Lowes. You'll have to really look around for prices though, as they vary store to store-brand to brand.

I forgot to ask, do you have a testing kit, preferably the API Liquid Master Test Kit?

Glad you really like the blasting sand!! It's super pretty (reminds me of Tahitian Moon Sand, but a fraction of the cost!)
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Due to the amount of 'line breeding' that has gone on with Guppies they are not as hardy as they used to be. They certainly are not hard to keep but 'defective' specimens are not particularly uncommon. You could look at something like Endlers or even wild Guppies if you are not happy with the 'regular' Guppies.
I'm still on the fence, I like the look of platies more IMHO. At first I really wanted guppies, but after researching all the types and colors of platies, I want them. I can still be swayed by what I learn here and other googling.

As far as replacing the bulbs, Walmart sells 6500k cfls specifically for plants in their fish section for $5 a piece. That's what I have in my 10g.
I just bought a pack of 6500k CFL bulbs from the lighting section in Lowes. You'll have to really look around for prices though, as they vary store to store-brand to brand.
The bulbs will add about $10-15 to my budget, but I am perfectly happy to do that to make my take able to support plant life much more effectively.

My new dilemma, the petsmart topfin 20G kit I was looking at online, now has LED lighting in the store. So I have since changed the tank I plan to buy. It seems its actually getting hard to find tanks with Incandescent bulb slots, I get the push for Led or fluorescent, but why can't they just include some CFLs in the box if thats the issue.

I am now planning on purchasing this tank: Grreat Choice® Aquarium Starter Kit | Aquariums | PetSmart
The 20G version is $59.99 (not even listed online)





This tank has a nice incandescent hood

Grreat Choice® Internal Aquarium Power Filter | Filters | PetSmart
The filter may be the bad part, but it does have a "bio grid" and I managed to fit a bag of fluval biomax in the space where the grid goes (The employee was wondering what the heck I was up to), and I will likely never replace the cartridge media, it looks like I can easily cut the top open and just replace the carbon only as needed. The filter is rated for 90GPH, not sure if that is enough for my 20G. I still like how much better a tank looks without a HOB on the back, I like the self contained tank with internal filters. If the filter ends up being too little for the tank, I may eventually pick up a 2nd identical filter and put one in each corner, as I add more fish. (I plan to very lightly stock the tank for a decent amount of time at first; even beyond cycling time.)

Edit: I will also have plenty of aeration with my decorative air stones too, I have like 5 air pumps from previous tanks, so I will likely have fun with a few of them. This should help keep the water in the tank moving and aerated even if the filter is a tad under powered.

I forgot to ask, do you have a testing kit, preferably the API Liquid Master Test Kit?
I do have that exact kit, however its super old... (like from 2002 ish) (its the kit my mom used on my tank when I was young)

Glad you really like the blasting sand!! It's super pretty (reminds me of Tahitian Moon Sand, but a fraction of the cost!)
Yeah, I'm excited to do sand (at that price! I assume 1x 50lb bag is enough for a 20G tank) But now I have questions about the sand. Do I still use a gravel vacuum on it? or will that suck up all the sand? And since I will have plants, do I even use a vacuum any more, due to the roots of the plants in the way? (I've always cleaned the gravel on my tanks out of habit, the idea of not doing it to me is weird.)

Thanks again for all the input everyone!
 

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For a black background I used two black poster boards from the dollar store and tapes them to the back. $2.00. Works for my 75g, and have worked for several years. Not sure how it compares to black paint but it looks good in my opinion and I'm picky.

(My 75g is a couple months old but on my 50g the black poster covered the top and bottom trims so they were large enough to simply transfer to my new 75g tank. Awesome.)
 

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For a black background I used two black poster boards from the dollar store and tapes them to the back. $2.00. Works for my 75g, and have worked for several years. Not sure how it compares to black paint but it looks good in my opinion and I'm picky.

(My 75g is a couple months old but on my 50g the black poster covered the top and bottom trims so they were large enough to simply transfer to my new 75g tank. Awesome.)
Thought about this as I was driving home today, I hatched the Idea as I drove past the $0.99 store, and thought hey a nice black poster will do. Yeah its not water proof, but I'm not sure I want to permanently paint the tank black, and if I want to sell the tank on craigslist down the road (when I upgrade to my 29 gallon or 55 gallon j/k :twisted:)
 

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Yea you should see what they have! I think they had them when I went because I was back to school time so not sure if it's something that's always around. Mine have not gotten wet. But there's really no reason water should be spilling behind your tank. All my accidents during water changes (and I've had plenty...) and such happen in the front.
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Yea you should see what they have! I think they had them when I went because I was back to school time so not sure if it's something that's always around. Mine have not gotten wet. But there's really no reason water should be spilling behind your tank. All my accidents during water changes (and I've had plenty...) and such happen in the front.
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I know my $0.99 store always has posters in all colors.

And as far as water goes in the back, I guess I tend to overfill and water likes to seep out near the air line hoses in my old small tanks. Probably not going to be an issue in this 20G.
 

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I plan to buy quite a few plants from the get go with this tank, I want it to be a fully planted tank. I will likely use the classifieds here or buy an assortment for sale on aquabid.

I want my plants to be healthy and successful, but I dont want to harm my fish by over correcting the tank to foster plants. Some points below concern me.

So after reading the beginners guide here to planted aquariums I learned a few things,

* Apparently adding an air stone is bad for plants, as is too much water movement and filtration, So I guess I will forgo the air pump on this tank? Air pumps add too much oxygen, and remove Co2?

* Chemical filtration is bad for plants? Too much biological is bad? I will stick to the single sightly under powered filter that comes with the grreat choice tank? I will just shove some sponge or other media into the internal filter and call it good?

* Don't vacuum the gravel, and make sure the gravel is not too deep, don't crush the roots.

* I plan to use a mixture of plant tabs and plant ferts in the water, just whatever petsmart has (unless someone highly recommends something else.)

I feel like not having an air stone, keeping the underpowered filter, and not using chemical filtration will harm my fish... But supposedly the natural filtration from the plants will make up for that and end up being better for the fish?

I'm mostly thinking out loud, as my entire way of thinking and care for a fish seems so old school when it comes to planted tanks.
 

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As far as your tank, I want to mention that if you have the room, the long version of the 20 gallon will much better suit your intended stock. a 20 high has almost the same footprint as a 10 gallon. Platies or guppies will enjoy the extra horizontal space, as will your betta. You could also look into some cories with a 20L. :)

Oh, and the API test kits expire after 3 years, it's time for a new one. (;
 
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