Aquarium Setup • Setting Up a 10 Gallon Tank?

New to the world of cichlids? For discussion on how to set up new tanks, including placement, filtration, substrates, water, etc. No stocking discussions here.

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Setting Up a 10 Gallon Tank?

Postby drummerguydw » Wed Apr 09, 2008 1:01 am

ok, I have a few extra 10 gallon tanks and I want to make one of them into a nice planted mini-aquarium. My question is what substrate should I use, I looked at the eco-complete i think its called and flourite(sp), but they seem a bit pricey. Also, what kinds of cichlids could go in there, obviously it will only be like 1 or 2, so I want something that will be happy in a 10 gallon tank, and wont be too cramped. And what kinds of plants do you people recommend for these types of setups?
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Postby partsrep » Wed Apr 09, 2008 2:08 am

I have a lightly planted 10G with Kribensis. Seems OK. It's been running for years without any problems.
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Postby matpat » Wed Apr 09, 2008 8:52 am

I use 3M's Black Color Quartz in my shrimp breeding tanks. The plants do very well but they are easy to grow plants. Most any species of Hygrophila will work well as will Java Moss, Java Ferns, Anubias, Water Sprite, and quite a few Cryptocoryne species. Here is a pic of my Shrimp Breeding setup:


For a bigger pic

All the tanks are 10g tanks with Color Quartz sand as a substrate (only 8 of the 12 tanks are in the pic). Any sand will work but I prefer the dark sand. I don't add any fertilizers to these tanks and they have all been doing well for over a year now. What type of light are you using for the tank? Light is usually the limiting factor in keeping plants in an aquarium.
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Postby kornphlake » Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:21 pm

:drooling: That's a nice setup matpat. I'm slowly whittling away my wife on the idea of a rack of tanks in our computer room.

10g tanks are great for planted tanks in my opinion, they are a little small so you have to keep up on mantinance but otherwise they're cheap to setup and cheap to stock. You have several options for substrate depending on how much you want to spend, but before making that decision it's important to know what your goals are.

Most important is how much light will you have? I've got a 10g setup right now with 2 16watt spiral compact fluorescent bulbs in a DIY canopy. It's a lot of light for such a small tank, the 2 watts per gallon rule doesn't necessarily apply to small tanks, usually you need a little more. Spiral compact bulbs are rumored to be inefficient due to "restrike" although I've never seen it actually measured, the suggested method for calculating actual watts per gallon when using spiral bulbs is to devide the rated wattage by 2 then devide by gallons. I think that convention is incorrect because my plants and algae behave as if I've got much more light. I'm rambling and it has nothing to do with substrate...

If you've got roughly 25 watts of 6500k lighting over a 10 gallon tank you should be able to grow any plants you want, you will need fertilizers and CO2 though or else you will grow a lot of algae. DIY CO2 is easy to build and pretty effective on a small 10g tank, for a few pennies a month there really isn't much reason not to do it, unless you just don't want the hassle. The benefit of CO2 is that it can help control agae and will help your plants grow faster. If you are adding CO2 and have high enough light to benefit from it your plants will grow and to grow they will consume nutrients which means you'll need to add fertilizers. If you are adding fertilizer (nitrogen, potassium and phosphate would be the most important, they are not contained in sufficient quantities in most all in one liquid fertilizers, you'll need seperate bottles for each) the plants will get all the nutrients from the water so your choice of substrate isn't very important. I've got inert playsand in the tank I mention above.

A nutrient rich substrate is advantageous when you grow rooting plants like cryptocornes, sword plants or valisineria. Any of the commercial planted tank substrates will work, ADA Aquasoil is supposed to be the best, but it's also the most expensive, laterite, flourite, eco-complete, soilmaster, etc are all good substrates, some having specific strengths or weeknesses but generally they are all better than plain sand. The root feeders will benefit from these substrates but stem plants, floating plants, rhizome plants and mosses won't benefit much, they'll still need water column fertilization.

It's a tough decision to make, if you want the lowest mantinance tank possible I'd suggest using a plant specific substrate and use about 20watts of light over the tank for 8-10 hrs per day. Plant root feeding plants that are hardy such as cryptocornes and swords and add some anubias or java fern to cover rocks or driftwood and you'll have a good looking tank that doesn't need much more than the occasional water change and light filtration. If you want to keep faster growing species of plants such as stem plants or floating plants I'd bump up the lighting a little bit (not because the plants need it but it does help reduce the probability of dead plants) add DIY CO2 and fertilizers, you can use whatever substrate you like, from gravel to a high end substrate like aquasoil.

I'm experimenting with a new setup that uses a few inches of garden soil (dug from my back yard) covered with an inch of gravel. Search google for Diane Walstead or natural plant tank and you'll find a lot of information. I'm planning on about 20 watts of light on this tank, I think I'm going to plant vallisneria, cryptocorynes and I'm going to try to find some aponogetons to fill it out. I haven't gotten far with this setup so I'm hesitant to recommend it but several people have had a lot of success using a soil substrate.
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Postby matpat » Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:40 pm

Thanks kornphlake...don't ask your wife about setting up a rack, just do it. Sometimes it's better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission ;-)

kornphlake has given you a great amount of advice for setting up one of your 10s as a planted tank. If it were me, I would go with plain sand because it is cheap and supplement with some Flourish root tabs if you find the plants need it. I have been growing easy Crypts (lutea, lucens, wendtii, etc) and an unidentified sword plant (right rear of the first tank in the second row in the pic) in inert sand for several years now. I don't use root tabs but I prefer they not grow too fast ;-)

I used two 15w bulbs over the first 10g planted tank I set up and found this was a bit too much light for a non-CO2 tank. I added Flourish Excel daily but it just wasn't enough of a carbon source even at double the recommended dosage. I now use a single 15w bulb and only use Crypts, Anubias nana, and Marsilea sp. in this tank. It only gets fertilized when I remember (which isn't very often) and then only with the recommended amount of Flourish comprehensive. It is a very low maintenance tank but my Endlers breed quite nicely in it :-)

It can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it but definitely give it a try. Whatever you do, put more plants in the tank initially than you think you will want or need. The excess plants can be sold or traded and you will soon learn what will grow and what will not given the amount of light you have over the tank.
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Postby drummerguydw » Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:08 pm

thanks guys, you've been a great help.

also, what kinds of plants would do good in a plain sand substrate, and would adding ammonia to a planted tank hurt the plants. I want to put a couple of dwarf cichlids in it, like they describe in the 10 gallon cookie cutter setups, but I want to know the best way of cycling a planted tank.
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Postby matpat » Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:40 pm

drummerguydw wrote:also, what kinds of plants would do good in a plain sand substrate, and would adding ammonia to a planted tank hurt the plants. I want to put a couple of dwarf cichlids in it, like they describe in the 10 gallon cookie cutter setups, but I want to know the best way of cycling a planted tank.

Again, the plants you will be able to keep will depend more on your light level than the substrate. Have you decided on what light(s) you will put over the tank?

If you plan on using a single 15w bulb that typically comes with a 10g tank, you will be fairly limited in your plant selection. I have had good success with the following plants in a 10g tanks with a sand substrate (no root tabs or substrate fertilizers) and 15w of light:

Anubias barteri var. nana
Anubias barteri var. nana 'Petite'
Ceratopteris thalictroides (Water Sprite)
Cryptocoryne lutea
C. wendtii
C. lucens
Hygrophila difformis (Water Wisteria)
Hyrgophila polysperma 'Sunset' (Sunset Hygro)
Java Fern
Narrow Leaf Java Fern
Java Moss

I prefer not to use floating plants in a planted tank since they require quite a bit of thinning to not shade out the plants below them. Hornwort and Red Root Floater would work though.

If you can add a second 15w bulb (or a power compact light of around 30 watts) and some DIY CO2 you should be able to grow almost any plant you desire so long as you keep up on the trimming. In a 10g tank, plants like Hygro species and Water Sprite can reach the surface pretty fast and shade out the other plants, possibly causing them to die off.

If this is going to be a "planted tank" tank you don't have to worry about cycling it. The plants (assuming you add plenty of them in the beginning) should consume the ammonia produced by the fish before the filter gets a chance to process it. For a pair (maybe a trio) of juvenile Apistos, add dechlorinated water, plant the tank, wait until the water clears, then add the fish, no need to wait for the tank to cycle. This does assume you use plenty of plants.

Most planted tank enthusiasts are more than willing to help out someone new to the hobby with starter plants. Some will sell them very cheap while others will give them away. Since you are in CA, look into SCAPE or SFBAAPS for some cheap starter plants :-)
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Postby drummerguydw » Fri Apr 11, 2008 1:21 am

thanks, thats exactly what I was looking for.
one more thing, I have one of the all glass incandescent full hoods. I found this ... Id=2753932 but I am not sure if that would work in the hood i got, the normal bulb that goes in the hood is seen here ... escentbulb, the first one also comes in a 10w option, I was thinking of 2 10w versions of the first one I showed, but what are some other opinions.
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Postby matpat » Fri Apr 11, 2008 5:24 am

The bulb at PetSmart is a 50/50 bulb and those aren't a very good spectrum for plants. You can buy a "daylight bulb" at Wal Mart with a better spectrum for plants for around $5 if not cheaper. The price in the link is for 6 bulbs, more than enough to last you a couple of years ;-) WalMart also carries a bulb similar in appearance to the one in the PetSmart link in the fish section.

Two 10-15w spiral bulbs should work nicely. They aren't quite as efficient as a normal fluorescent tube but will work.

Unfortunately, your BiGals links doesn't work...
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