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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi,

I have a new aquarium and am new to fish keeping. I have had it about a week and a half and have pretty well decided on a stocking scheme.

4-6 Swordtails
1 Rubber nose pleco
5-6 Glowfish
4-6 corydoras or khuli loaches

I have two main areas of question. I have some strait vallis and another plant that has a fleshy stem and small leaves close to the stem coming off it, both in the back. I have two pieces of slate and large pepples for the gravel. Should I change the 'gravel'?

Is the current light that came with the tank ok? It is 150 watt 16in I believe.

The tank dimensions are ~22in height, 10in panals, 18in side to side, 20.5in corner to corner, and I believe 260sq in surface area/base.

I am interested in places for the fry to swim as well as hiding for the fish but also in aesthetics for a good planted aquarium. I have a HOB filter that is just charcoal and mesh I think. What plants should I be looking at? I used to have a java fern, and I like the look of pellia, hornwort, and anubias nana. I want a mostly complete planted aquarium but would like to avoid having to buy expensive lighting or a CO2 infuser. Is it difficult to change the gravel? Will this be detrimental to the fish I currently have? Will it set back my cycling? Will having these bottom dwellers be a problem with a planted aquarium? Low maitanance plants preferred. I really like the look of some of the mosses such as christmas and flame moss.

I have been doing regular water changes and testing the water with no problems so far. Right now I have 2 black sword tails, 2 red sword tails, 2 creamsickle mollies, the rubber nose pleco. 1 male and 1 female of each. I know this isn't ideal but it was a mistake and so far they are getting along. I am using the water condioner that includes bio start bacteria and feeding algea discs for the pleco and color enhancing flakes for the fish. Thanks for any help.

Oh and had my water tested at the store this morning as not sure my strips were accurate, did a water change 2 days ago I think. Went from 2 to 6 fish 2 days ago. Set up aquarium on the 12th.

PH - 7.4
Nitrate 5.0
Nitrite 0
Ammonia - 0.4-0.5
Phosphate - 0 - 0.5
Hardness 150ppm
Alkalinity - 80
 

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If this tank has only been set up a week and a half, it has not cycled. The cycling process takes anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks (varies depending upon all sorts of things in your tank). Do not add any more fish; I can almost guarantee losing some of them if you do.

The ammonia reading indicates you are in the first stage of three in the cycling; the ammonia will drop down to "0" within a few days, during which the nitrite will rise and then drop to "0" in another few days. Once you have readings of "0" for both ammonia and nitrite for several days in succession, the tank can be considered cycled for the bioload (fish, plants, etc) in it now. Then you can add a few fish but slowly, one or two at a time, waiting a few days between each addition so the bacteria can multiply to handle the increased bioload.

Using the biostart is good; it may have saved your fish. Test strips are not reliable, you should get a good liquid test kit; API make one that many others on here (along with me) recommend, it contains tests for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH which are the most important tests.

Re the plants, with a pH of 7.4 you should be OK, and your light should be adequate, but are you sure it is 150 watts? What type of light is it? May have more suggestions when you answer these questions. No need for CO2 with your setup and the plants you intend to have; it would be a waste of money and needless bother for nothing. But we need to sort out the light issue.

It isn't important at this stage (first we need to cycle your tank) but as for the fry, java moss and floating plants are the best ways for providing hiding places. Stem plants like cabomba, pennywort, hygrophila can be allowed to float, or plants like Ceratopteris (floating fern or water sprite) are good choices.

On the gravel, can you send a photo of the tank? Rooted plants prefer smaller-grain gravel, and changing it will affect the cycling, but as you are at the first stage it is better to do it now than later.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
My test strips were fairly close to what the liquid test in the store came up with except the ammonia strip. The color my ammonia strip shows is grayish and the chart goes from orange to green lol.

My light is actually a 16 watt and on the back of the fixture it says 150 watt. I have attached a photo of the fixture if it isn't too blurry to read.

I have a piece of dead coral in the water which I am about to take out as soon as I change some of the water. I also think I am going to exchange the mollies for 2 more female sword tails to avoid future aggression.
 

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On the light, the photo says it is 16 inches (that is the fluorescent tube size, good to know when you buy new tubes) and 40watts so that is OK. You will have plenty of light for the plants I mentioned. I think the Vallisneria will have difficulty rooting in your pebble gravel, so if plants are your desire I would recommend changing the gravel to the smallest-grain size; your aquarium store will undoubtedly have this, in perhaps several colour options. Buying the commercial bags will be more expensive than buying what you need in bulk. You want enough to give you 3 inches of substrate, plus some extra to use for building up a small terrace with the rock or whatever you might like. Natural gravel (buff/beige/brown colour) looks good with plants, as do darker (black/grey) gravels. The choice is yours. Personally I would avoid bright colours or anything white; it detracts from the plants, and some believe fish are less calm with white substrates (which does make sense, considering most natural biotopes). Make sure it is regular aquarium gravel, not a calcium-based gravel like coral or dolomite that will add hardness and raise the pH. I'm assuming your tap water is around pH 7.4 like the tank, so that is fine for livebearers and plants like Vallisneria, and the others will adapt OK.

If you're going to return the mollies perhaps the store will take them now if you agree to buy something else later. I would not add any more fish until your tank is cycled, up to 6 weeks from now. If you change the gravel, don't clean the filter as the bacteria will have started to colonize it. Add some "Cycle" or "Stress Zyme" to the water, it is a bacterial supplement that quick-starts the cycle and does ease fish stress. It will work with your water conditioner.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Im at work now so I cant check but I think the bulb is like 15 watts but the fixture says 40 on the back. I took the mollies back and got another two female swordtails. I took my coral out and added a small bag of small pebbles to the large gravel. Im scheduled to add the biostart in 2 more days.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
My issue is that the filter I got with the aquarium is a top fin 40 HOB. I was told that tetra bought them out and the tetra filter does fit. It slides into the filter and is white with carcoal inside. Ive not seen a sponge or other type of filter media for this type of filter. Is there one? I think circulation is good now but should I invest into a new filter?
 

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OH no, i meant fit a sponge onto your intake to reduce the suction rate and prevent fry from getting sucked up intot he filter.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Oh that makes sense. There is actually a knob that I can turn to reduce the opning for the water but A sponge seems better for fy. Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I was told today that I should have something like 2 or 3 watts per gallon of water, perhaps more since I have a taller hex tank. I don't think I can do a metal halide hanging light and not sure I'd be comfortable with the heat level and kids in the house anyway. A salesperson that seemed very knowledgable and helpful, at a non chain store, told me that coralife used to make some sort of fixture that affixed on the back of that tank and hung over like a desk lamp that would work well for me, a metal halide I believe. He said he has been working at this store for 12 years. He also mentioned some sort of powerstation or something like that that has several lights or leds in it that may work for me. I am mainly worried about the Anacharis and Vallis having enough light and I want a flourishing plant system in my tank. Does anyone have any suggestions preferably not costing a few hundred dollars? I did order some moss, java fern, Anubias pygmy nana, and water wisteria. Also I read the wisteria will not do really well if it lacks light. He also said adding a second light fixture of the same type would not help any.

The current bulb I have is a 14Watt, aqua glo, 15 inch, 30 lux, 18,000k.
 

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I was told today that I should have something like 2 or 3 watts per gallon of water, perhaps more since I have a taller hex tank. I don't think I can do a metal halide hanging light and not sure I'd be comfortable with the heat level and kids in the house anyway. A salesperson that seemed very knowledgable and helpful, at a non chain store, told me that coralife used to make some sort of fixture that affixed on the back of that tank and hung over like a desk lamp that would work well for me, a metal halide I believe. He said he has been working at this store for 12 years. He also mentioned some sort of powerstation or something like that that has several lights or leds in it that may work for me. I am mainly worried about the Anacharis and Vallis having enough light and I want a flourishing plant system in my tank. Does anyone have any suggestions preferably not costing a few hundred dollars? I did order some moss, java fern, Anubias pygmy nana, and water wisteria. Also I read the wisteria will not do really well if it lacks light. He also said adding a second light fixture of the same type would not help any.

The current bulb I have is a 14Watt, aqua glo, 15 inch, 30 lux, 18,000k.
The advice you got was not altogether incorrect, but not completely. I would certainly not waste my money on metal halide lighting.

First, you have several low-light plants on your list, namely Anubias, Java Fern, Moss. I personally don't see an issue with these. Anacharis is a stem plant, as is Wisteria, and these generally require more light than rooted plants like swords and crypts or the previously-named species.However, I have grown vallisneria and wisteria under less than 1 watt per gallon; more on this in a moment.

Second, the tube you have is rated at 18,000K which is quite intense light. I'm assuming it is the Hagen Aqua-Glo tube; this series of "xxx-Glo" tubes are in my opinion very good (I use the Life-Glo). I checked the website and the spectrum graph shows this particular tube to be strongest in the red/yellow and then blue. This is just what aquatic plants need (more blue than red actually, but close enough). My only complaint about this tube is the somewhat purplish tint it gives to the aquarium; back in the 1980's I used Grow-lux tubes which did the same, and one gets used to it and it does enhance reds and blues on the fish. And my plants certainly thrived then, with only one 40w tube over a 48-inch 55 gallon tank. So I personally think you're OK with this light.

Blue light penetrates water better than red, which is good since it is blue light that the plants most require. Your low-light plants should grow fine under this light. As for the wisteria, as I mentioned in another thread yesterday, it is described as a moderate to high light plant, but I have grown it very well with 1 watt per gallon. If there are no floating plants to reduce the light penetration, you may find it grows OK, probably slower than it would under more intense light. Low light brings out wider leaves, while higher light causes the leaves to be more thinner and more lacey in appearance. But several sources I've checked all say it will grow under low light.

Byron.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks, exactly what I needed to hear. Is Co2 and fertilizer something I may want to consider to help my plants flourash?
 

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Thanks, exactly what I needed to hear. Is Co2 and fertilizer something I may want to consider to help my plants flourash?
In my view, and with your light, tank and plants, absolutely no on the CO2. Plants will grow and be healthy without CO2 [look at my photos]. Liquid fertilizer, yes. Plants require nutrients in balance, and while some of these come from the fish and biological processes in an aquarium and a few (maybe) from the tap water added with the partial water change every week, it is not enough. Fertilizing will prevent the wisteria leaves from yellowing (iron deficiency, but other nutrients as well).

I use Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Plant Supplement, and several others on this forum have recommended it as well. I've also had good success previously with Kent Freshwater Plant Supplement. Follow the dose recommended on the label, and start once a week (right after the pwc). Observe the plants, and if yellowing leaves appear as on the wisteria, or the vallisneria doesn't look good, do a second weekly dose and see if things improve. I experiemented in both my tanks and have settled on a twice-weekly dose and the plants have responded; twice in th last 5 months I have gone down to once a week just to test, and both times within a week I had yellowing leaves on the swords; after back to twice weekly, new leaves were back to being green. I've obviously found the correct balance between light, CO2 (from the fish) and fertilizer. These tanks have ben running as you see them for 7-8 months.

If CO2 were to be added, the light would be too little to balance, and you would be forced into going with mega light. That's OK if you want the plants to grow faster, flower, etc., but it isn't necessary for healthy thriving plants.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Really should have done this in the beginning but I think I am going to upgrade to a 55 gallon tank lol.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Hahaha, just pretty well finished setting up the 55 gallon. I'll post a picture at some point along with the specs on the lights and all that stuff too. Found my rubber nose pleco under a rock too, not sure what happened to him.
 

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haha. well thats good. glad to hear its going well. cant wait to see pics!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I'll try to post a pic a little later today. I was wondering if the lights I selected are decent. The bulbs that were in the fixtures were a bit old and one was a reptile light. I bought a 15 watt tropic sun 5500k Tropic Sun light by Zoo Med and a 15 watt Reef sun 50/50 6500k light by Zoo Med. The store only had one of each of these so I got one of each. I would like to have optimum situation for my plants and will probably get the co2 packs and liquid fertilizer soon if my plants require it and my lighting situation can take advantage of it. The reef sun light seems to have less blue light than the tropic sun and am wondering whether I should return that for a tropic sun light when I get the chance. Thanks for any help.
 

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I'll try to post a pic a little later today. I was wondering if the lights I selected are decent. The bulbs that were in the fixtures were a bit old and one was a reptile light. I bought a 15 watt tropic sun 5500k Tropic Sun light by Zoo Med and a 15 watt Reef sun 50/50 6500k light by Zoo Med. The store only had one of each of these so I got one of each. I would like to have optimum situation for my plants and will probably get the co2 packs and liquid fertilizer soon if my plants require it and my lighting situation can take advantage of it. The reef sun light seems to have less blue light than the tropic sun and am wondering whether I should return that for a tropic sun light when I get the chance. Thanks for any help.
According to the info on this series of tubes at Doctors Foster & Smith website, the Reef Sun is strongest in the blue, strong in yellow and green, but no red whatsoever. This is not a good plant light, as plants need blue and red.

The Tropic Sun is good, I have one on my 90g. There is also the Flora Sun. I would think the Flora Sun should be similar in light to the Aqua Glo you already have. As you have two tubes, one Tropic and one Flora Sun might create a good light for the plants and viewing. Or use two Tropic Sun as you ask. Or go to the Life-Glo with a Tropic Sun [I tried this and liked it]. I would stay away from tubes intended for marine/reef tanks, they will not be balanced for plant growth and in my view lack a bit of warmth.

This is a 35g hex tank, and you're putting two 15w tubnes over it. I don't think CO2 will do anything. To balance CO2 to make it worthwhile to the plants would require three or four times the light. Not only somwhat impractical, it will be very bright for the fish. With only 1 watt per gallon on my tanks, I sometimes think they are bright, but of course they aren't really--but I can't even imagine 3 or 4 times that amount of light. The fish will go blind, or I would.
 
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