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Setting up a new 125 gal planted. Looking for some advice.

2244 Views 15 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  Byron

I,m new to your forum and looking for advice. I am going to purchase a 125 gal tank. I would like it to end up heavily planted with a large number of small schooling fish. I have been away from the hobby for a long time but I have had many tanks over the years. Both fresh and salt. This is my first attempt at a project like the one above and I would like to buy only quality equipment. Hope you might have a minute to respond.
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Welcome to the forum, and good luck on designing a gorgeous planted tank! There are tons of people around that love to help with new setups - what questions do you have, exactly?

A good place to start - always - is with the Gh of your water. . . knowing the hardness of the water you're dealing with goes a long way in figuring out which fish, and which plants, to focus on.
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Hats off to you for taking time out to do the research and do things the right way! If everyone started that way, there would be a lot more happy fish in the world!

If you don't have a water testing kit already, the company API makes a LIQUID Gh/Kh (general hardness/carbonate hardness) test that is sold for around $8 (Amazon carries it if your shop doesn't). Normally I'd tell you to try giving your local water company a call, but I don't think that would work with a well, lol! Since we're talking about testing water, you'll also want to pick up a test kit to measure toxins in the water once you get to the point of adding fish. Most people on here will recommend the Master Freshwater Testkit made by API, runs about $30 (OOH! Amazon has it on sale!), but it will last you for ages. Don't be fooled into getting the easy dip strips, they're notoriously inaccurate - a waste of money - unfortunately, it has a Ph test, but not one for water hardness - so if you can't find that info out another way, you'll have to get both :)
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Ahhh, glad you mentioned the softener, and it makes the numbers in the post above make a bit more sense, as they're both very soft and very hard! I'm not too familiar with the methods used to soften water for use in the home, as it isn't a problem I have. From what I've read, however, you'd be best off to bypass the artificially 'softened' water for use in your tank. From my understanding, in many cases the outside water isn't run through a softener, and I've noted that several of our users care for their tanks by using their garden hoses! Byron has written a great article on Water Hardness and pH. Good information that I recommend you take a look at. An excerpt from the article regarding water softeners:

"A caution on home water softeners: many of these work by replacing the calcium [Ca] and magnesium [Mg] ions with sodium (=common salt) [Na] ions. Each Ca and Mg ion is exchanged for two Na ions. Therefore, the end result is water containing twice the ions--or double the total dissolved solids--it previously had, and for soft water fish this is an even worse situation, plus there is the detrimental impact of the sodium (salt)."
The article in its entirety can be found here: Water Hardness and pH in the Freshwater Aquarium

It is far more difficult to soften water for use in the aquarium than many will lead you to believe - also an expensive process, and one which you'll have to keep very much on top of, as if the water is allowed to swing dramatically from soft to hard the fish will be negatively impacted. All of this said, I've found that it's generally best to stick with the fish that will do well with the water you already have, rather than trying to change your water to suit the fish - most especially true when you're just starting out. There is so much to learn without worrying about keeping water hardness and Ph stable, etc.

So. . . what this means for you is that you can keep a lovely group of hard-water fish and plants - but avoid the softies, as they'd be too difficult for you to maintain right now.

If it's possible for you to get a sample of water from your hose, or from the water before it has passed through the softener, please do so! In the meantime. . . look into the Live-bearer group - Mollies, Platy, Swordtails, Guppies. These are wonderful little fish, brightly colored and engaging - that enjoy harder water, and are very easy for a beginner to keep. As a bonus, they give birth to live young - and baby fish are always fun! I love my Mollies and Platy, and have really enjoyed keeping them - these are the fish that I started out with, though there are many other options out there, as well as many plants that would be happy to live in hard water to choose from. Take a look through the aquarium profiles linked above and see what appeals to you, and would appreciate your hard water!
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Wanted to add that with a tank that size, your options are pretty broad. If you're looking for something a bit more grandiose than live-bearers, I'm afraid I won't be of much help, as I have soft water - it's an area I haven't done much research into. But start by flipping through the profiles - there are a ton of members on this site that can give you more direction into different fish that prefer the water you have, hopefully one or more of them will stumble onto this thread to give you a bit more direction!
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