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Old 07-14-2003, 08:40 PM   #1
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planting with an undergravel filter (planning african tank)

tank specs: 20G High, UG w/powerhead, 18 watt light, 77F, 3" crushed coral bed
livestock: nothing except 2 plants
note: I plan on raising the salinty to 1.002 but no salt added yet

I have heard that undergravel filters are not suited for planting as well as some other filters, and i was hoping to get some opinions on how I should go about making sure the plants don't just rot after i plant them. I am not willing to part with the UG filter as I previously had a biowheel and the constant tricking sound annoyed the crap out of me (tank's in my bedroom). Plus I am going for an "African river feel," and the rotating powerhead creates nice current effect that moves the plants around which is soothing to watch. Now i have been told the way to go with UG is to get epiphytic or floating plants because they are less likely to get messed up by the filter, but i have had a hard time finding them. I DID manage to find an Anubias barteri var. nana (thats what it was labeled, though i am suspcious by nature) and secured it to a piece of wood as those are better off growing on rock or wood apparently. On impulse i also bought a small South American sword plant, removed the potting and mineral wool, and planted it directly in the bottom layer of my crushed coral bed (above my UG). So my questions are:
-Has anyone had success planting with an UG?
-With an UG should i have kept the sword plant in the pot?
-Is it true that the sword plant only lasts a few months?
-Since the sword plant is small, will the roots really clog the UG all that much?
-Does anyone know of common floating plants that won't be eaten?
-Will crushed coral have the nutrients necessary to sustain plant life?
-Will crushed coral hurt small cichlids trying to dig out a hiding spot?
-Should I add a layer of finely crushed coral for the plants/cichlids?

I am not sure that i want to put sand down on top of the gravel, because i think eventually it will build up in my UG, and when it gets disturbed it tends to cloud the water. I did hear somewhere though that you can put a layer of sand above the gravel with an UG as long as its no more than 2-3cm thick. Thanks for reading this long-winded post and i would welcome all suggestions.
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Old 07-15-2003, 12:32 AM   #2
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Re: planting with an undergravel filter (planning african ta

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfman
I previously had a biowheel and the constant tricking sound annoyed the crap out of me
terrible isn't it? whenever the water gets too low in my hospital / nursery it starts with the trickling noise - bedroom is the worst place for such things!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfman
floating plants because they are less likely to get messed up by the filter, but i have had a hard time finding them. I DID manage to find an Anubias barteri var. nana (thats what it was labeled, though i am suspcious by nature) and secured it to a piece of wood as those are better off growing on rock or wood apparently.
anything that does not need to grow directly in the gravel (like your nana) should do good - you don't have to worry about the roots getting tangled in the filter, or being poisoned by impacted waste (the main reason ugf is bad)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfman
i also bought a small South American sword plant, removed the potting and mineral wool, and planted it directly
you might consider getting a small teracota pot, and growing the sword potted, that way it will be unaffected by your ugf. another solution that I was supprised by myself is to use a pop-bottle bottom - cut the bottom off a 16 oz (or 2 liter for a big plant), leaving about 2" sides ... you can then load the 'planter' with an aquatic soil (like schultz or fluorite), and cram it down into your gravel ... the clear plastic almost disappears under water, yet it keeps the plants roots contained in a good medium.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfman
So my questions are:

With an UG should i have kept the sword plant in the pot?
No, at least, not the pot it came in. Those pots with the rockwool are meant to protect the plants roots during shipping, and to help the plant grow strong roots. It is a good sign your plant came with a pot, it shows the store buys from a vendor that wants the plants to survive.

Yes, you should repot the sword in a new pot to protect it's roots from the ugf.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfman
Is it true that the sword plant only lasts a few months?
Yes and no ... brazillian sword is a plant that likes wet roots and dry leaves, amazon sword is a plant that grows totally under water. ... other swords vary, you'll have to research.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfman
Since the sword plant is small, will the roots really clog the UG all that much?
Yes ... swords grow LOTS of roots, and they get everywhere quickly!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfman
Does anyone know of common floating plants that won't be eaten?
Only floating plant I've experienced is Duck Weed ... it does get eaten, but reproduces so fast you'll be taken it out with a net to keep it from smothering your tank.

Plants like Anacharis and some Mirfoil grow as floaters too, and most tropical fish don't eat them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfman
Will crushed coral have the nutrients necessary to sustain plant life?
No, coral is very bad for almost all freshwater plants. It's almost pure calcium, which contains no minerals except calcium It is also highly alkaline, something a lot of plants do not tolerate. Also, it will lead to uncontrollable hard water, every water change will send your hardness down and then back up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfman
Will crushed coral hurt small cichlids trying to dig out a hiding spot?
Probably not... But unless they are specific African Cichilids that enjoy very hard water, they will have stress living with coral in their water

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfman
Should I add a layer of finely crushed coral for the plants/cichlids?
If you like the white color, look into epoxy coated gravel, or crushed quartz, or even white play sand ... these are much better alternatives than coral.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfman
I am not sure that i want to put sand down on top of the gravel, because i think eventually it will build up in my UG
That's a problem with UGF's, they tend to build things up, sand, poop, you name it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfman
when it (sand) gets disturbed it tends to cloud the water.
Good clean sand won't cloud water any more than anything else ... sediment that is in the sand could lead to clouding, a good rinse is recommended to take care of that.

Also beware 'designer' sands (ones that come in "colors") - these aren't silcia but other materials, which have properites that make them "lighter" than water - these can cloud your water, and it stays cloudly

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfman
I did hear somewhere though that you can put a layer of sand above the gravel with an UG as long as its no more than 2-3cm thick.
A very fine sand will probably clog the 'slots' in your ugf plates, and cause the filter not to work. a coarse sand (0.5mm to 2 mm) should be fine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfman
Thanks for reading this long-winded post and i would welcome all suggestions.
Hey I like long winded posts - have made more than a few myself.

You've asked some great questions, and I hope my answers don't disappoint you too much.
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Old 07-15-2003, 01:15 AM   #3
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Thank you glmclell for your very helpful and informative response. Your input was exactly what i was looking for to help me create a successful tank. My local exotic pet store does have a whole section of African fish, and hopefully they will have the type of fish that are accustomed to hard water. I am concerned however that my plants wont tolerate the hard water, and if it's a choice between having a planted tank or a crushed coral bed, i guess im gonna have empty the tank and replace it with something like you suggested. I am in no rush, so I think i will talk to the guys at the petstore and see what they suggest, as well as wait and see how my Anubias nana does. As for the sword plant, i am certain it was Brazilian so i will probably remove that one altogether. Thanks again!
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Old 07-15-2003, 02:22 PM   #4
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if you enjoy the appearence of the brazillian sword (usually has a silver / white streak in a green leaf) and your tank has an open top you can get one of those in-tank display boxes (that they keep betta or young / injured fish in) ... fill it with some gravel and aquatic soil, and plant your sword in it

this will allow the sword to absorb nurtients from your water, and grow its leaves in the air.

try searching google for african rift lake plants - there has to be some that grow in very hard water.

I've never done a rift setup before, but I think you use regular 'neutral' gravel, and then modify your water prior to adding it to the tank by mixing distilled or tap water with water that has been soaking with crushed coral ... this would require the use of a KH and GH test kit but should allow you to 'hit the mark' on what your fish require
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