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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

I may be setting up a 24"x18"x18" very soon and I aspire to set-up a lusciously planted SA aquarium though have very little understanding about the best way to go about doing this successfully.

I am an experienced fish keeper, though my experience lies in a larger African set-up, as well as a smaller community tank, which is currently being used as a grow out tank for my Africans.

I have never had much success with plants and am up for the challenge, though I need some advice,

1 - This is to be done on a TIGHT budget! ( I'm a full-time student and enthused traveler which leaves little money for anything else! )

2 - I want it 'green', sweeping fields of grass type or dense forestation!

3 - Co2, how necessary is it in this size tank? It's awfully expensive to buy an injector and I suck at hands on diy.

4 - I want the tank to be Blue Ram friendly, this is the best fish imo, though have little experience with them. I had them in a community tank once and they seemed ok until I got rid of the set-up.

5 - What are best tank mates with Blue Rams, I really like, for a catfish, the Hypancistrus Zebra ( maybe not a good idea for a planted tank though ), along with the standard 'rummy nose' tetras.

I have a light for the tank already ( though what globe i'll need to put in it for plants, I do not know ) and am tossing up about what sort of filter would be best, internal, external, undergravel?

I guess that I really need advice on everything after all of that! lol. To inform you a bit, my tap water here in Melbourne has a fairly high ph varying between 6.6 and 7.

Any advice or tips would be great :thumb:

p.s. Any body from Melbourne with clues on where I might find some bargains on equipment or plants please pm me, thanks :D
 

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Hi Joseph,

I found this article a really helpful starting place:
http://www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/s ... d_tank.php

My Planted SA is only a month or so old, and I don't have any pictures yet. I visit two LFS's that were very straightforward with me about the plants I picked out - they understood that I wasn't using CO2 and that I was not a green thumb. This meant abandoning my hope of staying pure SA in my plants, since many of the 'easy' ones are from SE Asia. But so far, so good.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks a lot, that is a very useful article! Sounds like you are where I want to be with your tank, seeing as though you don't use Co2 either. It would be great to see some pics when you have them :thumb:
 

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I will try my best to help you out with a few general answers to your questions. If you have anything more specific, please ask again. If I explain everything in detail, your looking at a decent sized book.

First off, I'll get the fish side out of the way. Blue rams to great in a planted tank, but there are some issues. They require a pH on the acidic side, but thats fine for plants. They also require soft water, some plants are fine with this, others are not, so you need to be a little careful. Often this involves buying a bunch of plants after talking to the LFS person, and trying them, sometimes they work, sometimes they die. Note: you keep buying the ones that live, and note the ones that dont, so you dont keep wasting your money. Good tankmates for blue rams are tetra's (rummy nose are great) corydoras are decent tankmates (they like slightly cooler water, but some species will be fine), bristlenose pleco's also work. What is the tank size you have? Is that a 30 gallon long? This will go a long way in determining how many fish you can keep.

Now onto the plants, and this part will be slightly dissapointing, but it wont be a deal breaker.
Im assuming by lush, you are refering to the tanks by amano and others with bright green foliage covering the tank. Very lush, very beautiful. Done by very experienced plant keepers with high tech setups. In a planted tank, the fish are the easy part, its the plants that are difficult. The key to the next section is WPG = watts per gallon. Its the output of your flourecent bulb/ the gallons of water in the tank. Its not a hard rule, but its a great guidline.

There are three types of planted setups:
1) low light. This is between ~1.5wpg. Your only going to grow anubias, java moss, and java fern in here. Your not going to get a lush tank, these are slow growing plants.
2) moderate light: ~2wpg. You can grow your easy to grow, moderate light plants. Amazon swords, val, hygro, pygmy chain, microsword, bacopa, as well as any low light plants. You may not get any plant growth in the "shade" of the taller plants though. Note: The 2wpg will be necessary for most of these plants, the plastic light fixture that came with your tank will not be sufficient. You will need a higher intensity bulb as well, your looking at ~$50-$100 (but you can diy for much cheaper), you will need compact flourescent or higher output flourescent t5 bulbs. Those regular flourescent tubes sold in petco as plant bulbs will not cut it (well, maybe 2 or 3 of them might). As for a tank, you can achieve lush growth over time, but your plants will not grow too quickly. CO2 is not necessary at this level. Ferts about once a week or so. This is the level where you get some beautiful low tech tanks. Algae can be a problem, but its not as difficult as the next level.
3) High light: ~3-4 + WPG. This is where it gets difficult. You can grow almost anything in here. You will get lush, dense plant growth with carpet plants thriving underneeth taller plants. Over 2wpg, and the plants grow quickly. However, they will soak up the CO2 in the tank, so you NEED CO2 injection. You also need fertilizers, and need to know how much and how often. Frequent water changes to keep neutrient levels balanced are likely required. This type of setup requires a lot of knowledge and skill to keep balanced. If everything is not perfectly balanced you WILL be overrun will algae. At this point you have a tank of plants with some fish in there, not a fish tank with plants. Expensive, high maintenance, difficult to keep. But absolutely stunning.

I would say, go with the moderate setup. Get to know it, and learn. You can always move up later as you get more money, and more knowledge. The thing thats going to throw a wrench in you plans is that you state tight budget. But in order to have the lush plant growth, its going to cost you, so that rules out the high tech setup. The moderate light setup will cost a little bit too, but not nearly as much. Hope I could be of some help.
 

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Nateling23 gives some good advice. I agree completely on the stock suggestions. I have rummynose tetras with blue rams, along with cories and a BN pleco (I suggest the albinos, which I find are more out-going!)

I have two planted tanks. I was a novice last summer and there was a steep learning curve. Fortunately, I found a very knowledgeable LFS employee and that made all the difference. From my lessons learned:

Start with eco-complete substrate mixed with gravel. It is pricey but it's easier to plant the plants in this substrate than regular gravel and I find the tank with this substrate has less algae.

I do have 3 WPG and injected CO2. It gives me the look I want and is really not that difficult. For a long time I tried to get away with using only Excel and then later a DIY CO2 set-up, but frankly it was a waste of time. A CO2 tank that lasts a year costs about $100 and the regulator can be gotten online for about the same. The CO2 will also bring your pH down to a level that blue rams like. Otherwise I don't recommend messing with the pH. You can use RO water mixed with your tap if you need to. Initially, I was using a buffer to lower pH. My phosphates went off the chart and it was algae-city for a while . . .

Some good plants that I've had good luck with and which flourish right from the start: java fern, anubias, swords of all kinds, wisteria, crypts and onion bulbs. I particularly like swords and most of mine have come from Petsmart (very inexpensive). They are often HUGE and lush with lots of "babies" and they do very well. Plant heavily from the start to prevent algae.

Use Seachem fertlizers but NOT to their schedule, which IMHO promotes algae. I use Excel daily, potassium three-four times a week and that's about it. Maybe once a month I dose one tank with iron (the one without eco-complete) and Flourish. I do two 15 percent WC a week. (I like to do smaller more frequent changes.)

I love my planted tanks. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
wow, definitely not in Kansas anymore Toto, lol...this is some full on tech stuff you're giving me guys...and it is GREAT! It is really psyching me up about it and making me want to do it even more!

So the tank, when I get it (sooner now rather than later, hehe) will be 24"Lx18"Hx18"W @ 255L or 56G. It is a plain glass tank with cover glass.

The light is a proper 2Ft aquarium light that I already have (ie, it is not part of the tank) that has an output of 240V 50Hz (stuff i dont understand), it takes a single tube which I need to replace so i figure i'll ask for and buy one at 2WPG. Will 1 light of this description be enough?

Finally, what do you recommend for a filter? Internal would suit me best, though i hear undergravel's dont do well for planted tanks and the internal canister filter will take up tank space, though that would be my preference.

All you're advice has been very clear and informative. I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from all of you.

I would like to thank you all for your generous input :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Joseph Masci said:
So the tank, when I get it (sooner now rather than later, hehe) will be 24"Lx18"Hx18"W @ 255L or 56G. It is a plain glass tank with cover glass.
My apologizes, that is 24"x18"x18" @ 127L or 28G, sorry about that :wink:
 

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It depends on your output for the bulb. I know the highest that the standard flourscents for a 4ft tank go are 40 watts, which is less than 1wpg (for a 4ft tank), which is barely enough to grow algae let alone plants. At 28 gallons, your going to want ~60W bulb. Sorry, but the standard flourecents dont go that high. You going to need to either put a second bulb over there, or get a better hood.

Its a shame, they sell those bulbs listed as plant bulbs, but the truth is, you would need about 4 of them to actually be effective. They never mention any of this, you just have to learn about it on your own.

edit: it depends on the bulb type for tha aquarium light. The T5's should be fine, as should the compact flourecent. When I hear typicall aquarium hood, I think those plastic things that come with the tanks, they are not enough. You may be able to find a bulb that works, but it depends on the hood you have. 2wpg will be necessary, if you cant get a bulb that high, then you need a new hood.
 

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Filter -- get an external canister filter. I use both Fluval and Marineland C-series on my tanks. I probably prefer the latter, though both work well. The Marineland C-220 would work for your tank size. I have a Fluval 205 on my 30 gallon, but actually wish it was the next size up.
 

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My two cents:

Definitely spring for the EcoComplete. It makes easy plants easier.

I run Aquaclear filters on all of my tanks. I aim for at least 10-12x (ro more) turnover/hour. I am of the school that there is no such thing as over filtering. I like the ACs because they are basically large boxes--it gives you a lot of choices for filtering materials. I use double sponges in mine. This keeps my water crystal clear. I rinse the sponges out in tank water about once a month.

I am a big fan of Coralife's dual-strip T5 lights. They are relatively inexpensive and provide ~1.2-1.5 watts per gallon. HO T5s will bump you up to the 3 or more wpg area.

I have also found that the key to keeping my planted tanks looking their best is shrimp. 5 or 6 amano shrimp will keep your plants, substrate, and everything else clean. You could try some of the neocardina species, but beware, species like cherry reds or tigers breed prolifically. Your rams may or may not be able to keep the population in check. Amanos can't successfully breed without brackish water.

Also, those stunning, lush, high-tech planted tanks require A LOT of work, a la pruning, to keep them looking so great.

Good luck!
 

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The 240v 50hz pretty much just means you don't live in North America, here we use 120v 60hz for reasons I won't explain.

You want a bulb or combination of bulbs that will give you about 60W, this should be listed on the bulb itself not necessarily on the fixture unless the fixture is designed for a proprietary bulb. I'm guessing you have an 18" T8 fluorescent tube in your 24" fixture, that will put out a little less than 20W if I recall correctly. I hate to spend your money so frivolously but you're going to need to buy a different hood, you won't be able to just buy a new bulb and get the kind of wattage you need.

Aside from the wattage you need to look at the color temperature as well, for planted tanks you need to have bulbs that emit light in the spectrum useful for photosynthesis. Generally 5500k to 10000k is the range suggested for plants, somewhere around 6700k is the optimum for most plants. An actintic bulb won't work for growing plants, there isn't much of the spectrum emitted by an actintic bulb that freshwater plants can use. Better bulbs will have the color temperature or kelvin rating marked on them pretty clearly, some times it is a real chore to find the color temperature of the bulb, names like cool white, soft white, plant bulb or natural sunshine are more common than specific color temperature, anything called a plant bulb or containing the words "sunshine" or "daylight" should be pretty close to the range you are looking for.

Aside from the other plants recommended I'd suggest a floating plant of some type, for whatever reason floating plants are especially efficient at absorbing nutrients in the water, they'll help the water parameters stabilize more quickly in a new tank. Frogbit, hornwort, water lettuce, duckweed, and a few others are pretty common. Duckweed is especially easy to grow but it is almost impossible to get rid of if you decide you don't want it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thank you everyone for all of the input, it is my official reference guide now and I will always keep a copy of this discussion close at hand :thumb:

kornphlake said:
I'm guessing you have an 18" T8 fluorescent tube in your 24" fixture, that will put out a little less than 20W if I recall correctly. I hate to spend your money so frivolously but you're going to need to buy a different hood, you won't be able to just buy a new bulb and get the kind of wattage you need.
That about sums up my light in a nutshell, well done! (if it's a T8 I cannot tell you :-? lol)

This project, I see now, is clearly going to take a far greater investment than I first anticipated (a canister filter costs about $100 more than an internal and my light isn't going to cut it, **** it!), though I am still going to go ahead with it. It just might take me a little longer before I get to the set-up phase. I will need to spend some time shopping around and bargain hunting, which is not necessarily a bad thing as I can sus out fish stocks available to me from my LFSs at the same time :D

I will keep an eye open for updates on this thread, and also when I do (eventually) get my tank set-up I will PM each of you to let you know how it goes!

Once again, thank you all very much, I will put your knowledge to good use!

Joe
(now off to start the bargain hunt...)
 
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