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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I'm setting up a 255gallon tank with African cichlids in the near future and one of my thoughts was to use the overflow sump tank under the stand which holds 43gallons as a plant refuge helping to lower nitrates in the main tank.
I went to my LFS and the guy told me that this wasn't a very viable option unless I supplemented the plants. Without the supplements I was told the plants will not use the nitrates very efficiently. He did say that algae would have no problem using up nitrates in any situation. Should I just grow algae which I'm really good at :) or try a plant refuge????And if so which plants do I use???
Anyone out there that could help me clear this up :-? Thanks for your help in advance.
 

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I have allways had a java fern in my tank and the fish never bothered it
 

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Plants need nitrate, phosphate, potassium and carbon dioxide as well as other trace elements. If your fish are supplying sufficient phosphate, potassium and CO2 the plants will reduce nitrates, if you run out of say potassium the plants ability to use nitrate is impaired and nitrates won't drop as significantly as if the other nutirents were available. Algae on the other hand is less demanding, algae can consume nitrate without the presence of other nutrients.

Your LFS is right but only half way, you can control the amount of nutrients your plants will consume by controlling the amount of light. If you only give the plants light for 4 hours the plants will consume as many nutrients as they can during 4 hours, then when lights go out they plants stop allowing for fish wastes to accumulate again until the next day when the lights come on again. You'd have to experiment altering the duration and intensity of the lighting as well as the number of plants but I do believe you could find a balance that would keep your nitrates at at or below 5ppm without having to add fertilizers or CO2.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks kornphlake. Now my question would be what can absorb more nitrates algae or plants?? It will be in my sump tank so it doesn't have to look nice???
The other thing I want to do is grow a house plant out of a box on the back of the tank. I believe this is called aquaponics. How will this affect nitrates and does this plant require the same nutrients as the aquatic ones??? I plan on using a philodendron of some sort as I hear they like lots of water and the high ph.
 

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Your local fish shop does not know aquatic plants...

Atmospheric CO2 sets the ppm of a well circulated tank at around 5ppm... in most tank setups, plants can deplete this, making added CO2 necessary. Since you have a far larger water volume and a very large surface area, I'd be surprised if CO2 levels ever reached 0 even with plenty of light.

So on to the nitrates... plants don't have to wait for it to get to nitrate, and actually prefer ammonia so the plants will simply start sucking up ammonia... phosphate could be a possible concern, though many fish foods provide plenty of that... potassium could become a limiting factor, so do watch for potassium deficiency symptoms in your plants. With hard water, that should be the primary worry, but do read up on more...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plant_nutrition

Great nutrient suckers are elodea or hornwort and since these are floaters, then no substrate and no additional CO2 will be needed. Go with those in the sump as long as plant debris CANNOT block the return pump. Philodendrons can certainly be used and no... they get their CO2 right from the air so they should not be thought of as the same as the aquatic plants.
Again... watch for potassium deficiency.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potassium_ ... cy_(plants)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Number6 thanks for the good info.
So now I have to figure out the best way to apply and monitor these nutrients. Are there test kits for these kinds of things and what is the best way to suppliment??? Is there any DIY methods or cheap tricks for getting what the plants need?? Do rocks with rust on them contain the iron needed for my plants??
If I were to go with a floating plant duckweed might be a good option I have heard they are really good nutrient consumers. :)
 

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BenHugs said:
Number6 thanks for the good info.
So now I have to figure out the best way to apply and monitor these nutrients.
Personally I wait for signs of nutrient deficiency... if you supply ferts of any kind then you fuel the algae if plants still lack any one thing... light, CO2, calcium...

BenHugs said:
If I were to go with a floating plant duckweed might be a good option I have heard they are really good nutrient consumers. :)
Duckweed is awesome as long as you can avoid it from getting sucked into filters and pumps. If you cannot avoid it getting sucked off the surface, you will curse the day you ever brought duckweed near your aquarium!

Hope this is helping! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks again number6

So whats the best ferts to use??

My sump idea may just allow me to use duckweed only one way to find out :roll:

My next question is (will this guy ever quit with these questions :? ) If my tank with plants could sustain 5ppm or less of nitrates would there ever be a reason for water changes. It's not that I don't plan on doing them but less would be nice and none would be great in a perfect world that is :thumb:
 

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BenHugs said:
So whats the best ferts to use??
I'm Scottish, but lazy... at the end of that tug o war I stopped using bulk dry ferts and switched to a bulk aquatic plant liquid fertilizer meant for Ponds... vry cheap, lasted forever, and all I had to do was divide the dosage by 10 since all my tanks were smaller than the smallest sized pond on the instruction sheet.

BenHugs said:
If my tank with plants could sustain 5ppm or less of nitrates would there ever be a reason for water changes.
Yes there are several. In a very densely planted tank where all ammonia was pretty much used up, the TDS still increased over time... I topped up with R/O water after evaporation so it wasn't that... so something else built up over time... a water change every couple of months was all that th tank needed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
BenHugs said:
If my tank with plants could sustain 5ppm or less of nitrates would there ever be a reason for water changes.
Yes there are several. In a very densely planted tank where all ammonia was pretty much used up, the TDS still increased over time... I topped up with R/O water after evaporation so it wasn't that... so something else built up over time... a water change every couple of months was all that th tank needed.[/quote]

Hey number6 me again. :roll: I'm sorry but I'm not familiar with TDS what is this????
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
macclellan said:
Just grow plants emmersed in your sump. No need to worry about co2, algae, etc.

Just say "no" to duckweed!
Why would I say no to duckweed providing I can keep it where it belongs???
 

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Duckweed is kind of messy, it will end up stuck to your arms any time you have to reach into the sump, it is good at consuming nitrate though so if that is your ultimate goal duckweed is a good place to start. TDS is total dissolved solids, generally this referrs to organic solids that are not consumed by bacteria or plants, stuff that can only be removed from the aquarium by doing water changes. With a planted sump you'll may get a protein film buildup that will need to be dealt with, I usually suck the film off my tanks by inverting my python in the tank and creating a kind of overflow with the python tube to clean up the film but if you have enough turbulence in your sump the protein may stay mixxed in with the water and never collect on the surface so a routine water change would be sufficent to remove the protein.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks kornphlake

As for a Protein film build up I suppose it won't be a problem on my main tank as it has an overflow. I like the python in reverse idea so if I have this problem in my plant sump I'll give it a try :thumb:

For argument sake as my new tank was a saltwater reef tank before I bought it, would a protein skimmer from a salt tank actually do anything in a freshwater setup????
 

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that's a good question, I know people say that generally protein skimmers aren't necessary with fresh water because any turbulence on the surface of the water will break the film. All my planted tanks have HOB filters that give plenty of surface agitation and I still have a protein film so I'm not sure if a skimmer would be better or not. A while back there was someone here who had used a skimmer and was pretty happy with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Me again :roll: as for lighting my sump plant refuge. I would like to run it opposite to my tank lights for O2 reasons, is this a good idea and how long can I run lights to get the best benefit of this setup???
Do rusty rocks release iron into the water???I have slate in my current tank with rust on it.

Thanks again everyone for all the help so far. I hope this is helping others aswell :thumb:
 

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You can do whatever you want with the lighting as far as when they turn on and off, you'll want 8-12 hours of on time for every 24 hr period. Personally I'd run the refugium lights when the tank lights are on because plants will begin respiration when the lights turn off and produce CO2 instead of O2, I'd rather have the plants producing oxygen when the fish are active and producing the most CO2. For the type of setup you are looking at it's really going to be pretty negligable. Planted tanks usually only have significant O2 leve increases when the lighting is very intense and additional CO2 is supplimented.

Plants won't be able to get iron from rusty rocks, it shouldn't matter much though, iron is usually only used in planted show tanks to bring out deep green or red in certain plants. Iron is usually found in sufficient quantities in tap water to sustain plant life, additional iron won't make your plants grow faster or produce more oxygen, it will just change the color, which shouldn't matter much in a refugium.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks again kornphlake

I did my research on protein skimmers in a freshwater aquarium (google is great)and they do exist but are costly. The reason you don't see them for the freshwater setups often is that the surface tension isn't as high without the salt and high ph making it harder to trap the wastes in a foam type state. It was also mentioned that a skimmer might have some success in a african tank because of the high ph and some salt that some people run in their tanks. The general discussion was that the koi tanks and ponds are starting to use them and they may be effective on larger aquariums aswell so this may be part of our future in the hobby.

I might try to make one...... cause I'm like that :wink:
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
So I went to my local hydroponics/reef store (yes they are a grow-show and saltwater supplies store) to get a Toms dosing pump for a aquaponics project I'm working on for my 255g
My idea is to grow a philladendron (a vine type house plant) out the back of my tank. The hydroponics guy had never heard of anything like this and couldn't tell me what gph this plant would need. I'm going to build a box like a HOB filter that this plant will sit in and I'm using the $20 TOM's aqua lifter vacuum pump which pumps 3.5gph. I figured 3.5 gph would be plenty. Anyone have thoughts on this??
Now I just have to convince the wife that growing vines all over the back wall is a good idea :p
 
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