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Old 03-01-2011, 12:20 AM   #1
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Limitations of a Planted African Cichlid Tank without CO2

Hi All,
I am brand new to the forum, and I am looking for a little bit of assistance. I have been keeping cichlids for about 5 years, and I currently have a 55 gallon aquarium with more mild mbuna and several peacocks. I am looking to plant the tank as well as I can without getting into CO2 systems as I am on a time/expense limitation as a student. I recently tied an Anubias species of plant to some rockwork to see if my tank would just foster plants well without my researching it further, but this didn't prove to be the case (yellowing of leaf tips and slow death of individual leaves.....possibly nitrogen deficient??). I would appreciate any advice that you more experienced hobbyists may have when it comes to starting the planting process as well as reaching the limits of a tank like mine. Thanks in advance for your help.

Some tank specs:
-55g long
-1 30 watt 36inch 5700k bulb (more than 1 year old)
- Sand substrate
-river rock- rockscape
-1 aquaclear 300 filter
-1 eheim powerhead
-temperature at 78 deg F

Stock: 3 rusty cichlids (1M, 2F), 1 red zebra, 1 yellow lab, 1 taiwan reef peacock, 1 lemon jacobfreibergi, 1 red jacobfreibergi, 1 pictus catfish

currently: no fertilizer, poor lighting, and biweekly waterchanges of 20%
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Old 03-01-2011, 09:11 AM   #2
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Here's my male Iodotropheus sprengerae (rusty cichlid)



Any advice on plant nutrient dosing? Inexpensive lighting? Maximum quantity of plants in this system?
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Old 03-01-2011, 09:32 AM   #3
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Your greatest limitation is that you're keeping African cichlids. They're notorious for eating/destroying plants.

If you're lucky enough to have Africans that won't destroy your plants, your tank is nowhere near needing CO2. I have a feeling that your anubias is suffering due to a lack of light. 30W of fluorescent light over a 55g isn't enough.
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Old 03-01-2011, 09:42 AM   #4
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Your greatest limitation is that you're keeping African cichlids. They're notorious for eating/destroying plants.

If you're lucky enough to have Africans that won't destroy your plants, your tank is nowhere near needing CO2. I have a feeling that your anubias is suffering due to a lack of light. 30W of fluorescent light over a 55g isn't enough.

Hi BigJim, Thanks for the input. I have read that families of plants like Anubias are distasteful to cichlids. Though my experience with this plant is short, I have found that the cichlids have left the plant alone except where the leaves have begun to deteriorate (possibly lose their bad taste). Also, I was under the impression that Anubias almost had a "next-to-nothing" light requirement due to them being a very low light plant. What lighting would you suggest? Also, when is it necessary to start fertilizing?
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:22 AM   #5
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I would say assuming you can find plants the your fish will leave alone, your limitation is lighting.

30W over a 55g tank is not much light. A dual T8 fixture would bring you up to something that would more reasonably grow low light plants without the need for fertilizer and CO2 addition. My guess is lighting deficiency is the reason for your anubias die back. You could try replacing the bulb first before upgrading the fixture... if it is a couple of years old, the PAR it produces will be diminished substantially. It might be possible that with a fresh bulb you could grow some low light plants like the anubias if they were tied up higher on the rocks (closer to the light).
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:34 AM   #6
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Thanks for the advice, Fort384. I may try replacing the bulb first, but I will likely want to increase wattage overall without too much expense. Now, granted this planting experience all goes really well, what is your opinion on the limitations of a planted tank without high end lighting and CO2 input? I want to maximize the setup that I have right now. Could a tank like this handle 8-10 Anubias?
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:38 AM   #7
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If you went with a dual T8 fixture, you could put as many anubias in there as would fit . You can make some amazing planted setups without the need to dose fert, inject CO2, or provide extremely high lighting. 8-10 seems like a lot, depending on the variety of anubias though... most are rather large. But, there are many varieties, and mixing and matching might give you the look you are after.

I am interested to see how it works out. Another member is starting up a 240G African cichlid tank, and he is on the fence about whether or not to put live plants in. He too was looking at Anubias to start... seems like a tougher plant, and the fish may leave it alone. Being tied down helps too, as I think the fish might rearrange anything that is planted in the substrate.
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:53 AM   #8
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Once again, I appreciate the feedback. It is hard to get good discussion about these topics without a forum like this. If you have time, I have one more question for you. I am looking at a pair of 36inch t5 lights (used on craigslist), and they are asking 40 dollars. Do you think this is a viable option? I believe they are 39watts each.
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Old 03-01-2011, 11:00 AM   #9
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You are welcome!

That is a really good price... but that is a lot more light than you would need. If you only plan to keep anubias, I wouldn't put that much light on the tank... it could lead to a lot of algae.

What you could do with it is run 1 of the bulbs as an actinic bulb, which would not provide usable light to algae or plants, and run the other bulb as something 6500-10000K color temp. That would give you effectively 39W of usable T5HO light, which would be plenty for anubias. The actinic bulb would add a nice blue color to the tank lighting without increasing the total wattage of usable light.
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Old 03-01-2011, 11:04 AM   #10
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Anubias are low-light plants, but they still need some light. Plants need something referred to as photosynthetically available radiation or PAR. PAR decreases as the light passes through the water. Unfortunately a PAR meter is expensive, so most aquarists use the Wpg rule of thumb instead.

Is your tank 36" long or 48" long? If it's a four footer, look at shop lights. A simple tow-bulb shop light will be cheaper than just about anything comparable at the LFS.
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