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Old 01-05-2007, 11:47 PM   #1
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A couple assorted questions.

Ok im new to the hobby, a few months in actually. At the moment I have a 2.5 betta setup with a few invert tank mates. My pride and joy at this point and wish to upgrade it a bit. I also plan to re-do my girlfriends plain jane cheese aquarium (blue gravel, a few minnows, etc). Before I mess with anything I have a few questions.

1) Ok first question: my nano. I wish to change the substrate from white gravel to something black or very dark brown. Preferably something that accomadates live plants well. I want a lawn on the floor of the aquarium and plenty others for my betta to sleep in and my inverts to hop around on. What substrate would you guys suggest and what plants. Also how would this effect my biological filtration? As a noob I didnt do fishless cycling so my poor betta has been through enough, I dont wish to throw any more harm his way. Im afraid the substrate change will push him over the edge.

as of now the tank parameters and specs are as follows.

amm-0
niti-0
nita->40

2.5 gallon standard
-neptune 25 watt heater
-whisper 1-3i with sponge over intake
-custom flourscent desk lamp, actual fixture casing suspended over water (13 watts...enough light?)

2) My girlfriend has a 10 gallon thats been sitting for awhile now with a few minnows in it. I want to overhaul it. Im not sure what plants to include but i wish to have a lawn and other of various live plants. Stocking it with a few platies and gourami's. Now the questions are what plants? What substrate? and most importantly the lighting. I looked under the strip and its two incandescent, will I be able to put two CFLs in the place of them or do I need to purchase another strip all together?

Also co2? im new to the whole plants thing.

Thanks all!
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Old 01-06-2007, 12:52 AM   #2
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For your betta tank, it looks like it's cycled according to your numbers. If you swap out the entire gravel base for a new one, you may go through another mini cycle since you'll be tossing out most of your friendly bacteria. The common practice is to swap out your gravel a third or half at a time, giving the new stuff time to build up the friendlies. Eco-Complete seems to be the substrate of choice for people wanting to plant, though I've got plants in my Pool Filter Sand and they seem quite happy with some root tabs and pre-mixed fertilizer.

You have plenty of light in your betta tank in terms of Watts Per Gallon, though I'd suspect it's probably sub 6500k color temperature on the tube you've got installed. If it's a standard sized tube, you might have luck replacing the tube with a tube suitable for plants. Any tube that's rated at 6500K to 10000K will work fine. You could buy these at pet stores for $10-20 or at a hardware / lighting store for $2-$5, if you have such a beast in your area.

For your minnow tank, you COULD buy a whole new light strip, or if the incandescent sockets are of a standard size, you could just buy CF bulbs to screw in. In a worst case scenario, if you're handy just retrofit into the existing one if you want to go to fluorescent. What I did, though it's kind of a hack, was to empty the guts out of the plastic shell of the light strip. Then I bought some rubber exterior light bulb sockets (for standard lightbulbs), fastened them securely with epoxy up inside the old light strip casing, wired them all up in parallel. Then I bought some 6500k 11W Compact Fluorescent light bulbs (I managed to fit 8 sockets in total in my strip for the 29g) and screwed them into the new sockets. When I plugged that bad-boy in, it looked like a whole new tank, and now I'm constantly trimming back new growth.

If you go this route, ensure you use heavy enough wiring, I'd recommend 12awg house wiring, to be safe. I didn't have enough room to use marette connectors (those wire nuts that you twist on to ensure the connection is solid) so I ended up soldering all my connections and double taping them. I didn't have a WHOLE lot of room to play with, simply because I was trying to fit 8 u-shaped lightbulbs into my 24" long hood.

Of course, I was limited in wattage by the local selection of CF bulbs, as well. If you can, try to find higher wattage bulbs, but make sure they're in the 6500-10000k color range. A bulb outside that range will light the tank, but won't be of much use to the plants.

I wouldn't worry about CO2 until you have well over 2 watts per gallon, and/or start experiencing problems with algae blooms. I've got slightly over 2WPG, taking restrike into account, and I figure I probably SHOULD be running CO2 to judge by other's comments, but I haven't ever seen a speck of algae in my tank. I attribute that to the fact that I don't overfeed, and I have a bubble stick running off a standard air pump that helps to keep CO2 at atmopsheric levels.

Unless you want super fast growth, or a jungle like tank, I don't think you need CO2 for beginner plants or a sparsely planted tank. The biggest thing CO2 does for you in these situations is helps keep algae in check, because once the CO2 level drops in a tank level, plants stop using up their nutrients because they're choked, but algae which doesn't need CO2 will have a field day on all those free nutrients. Keeping a bubble wand running all the time will keep the CO2 from dropping out completely, though there's little enough in atmospheric air (about a third of a tenth of a percent of air is CO2) so it won't do THAT much for plant growth.

That's all I've got. If anyone knows what kind of lawn/carpet plants he could grow, I'd be happy to hear, too, as I'm having terrible luck sourcing some sort of ground cover plants myself.
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Old 01-06-2007, 01:05 AM   #3
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I'd suggest you change some of the water until your nitrates go to around < 20 ppm. 40, IMHO, is too high already.

If you want to have some live plants, I'd suggest you go for some laterite or one of those ready-made substrates especially made for planted tanks. Although the carpet effect is going to need a) a lot of light and b) CO2 dosing.

I haven't really given planted tanks a serious try, but I do keep a few hardy plants. You can look for some of the Anubias sp. I've bought some potted before and just dumped them into the tank. My Anubias barteri even flowered, with just regular flourescent lighting and no fertilizer dosing whatsoever. YMMV.
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Old 01-06-2007, 01:24 AM   #4
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Oops I guess I misused the less than symbol. Im a math tard. My nitrates are about 20 atm, im going to do my water chnage tomorrow and hopefully bring it down to around 5 or 10.

Thank you both for the great advice it helped a lot.

Anyone else have advice for the carpet effect?
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Old 01-06-2007, 02:04 AM   #5
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You can take a look at Java Moss, although this picture looks like 70's shag carpet.
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Old 01-06-2007, 12:34 PM   #6
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You may get better responses on the planted forum--and definitely read through the stickys at the top--they're really useful.

For substrate...as already mentioned, Eco-Complete is good, has fertilizers in the substrate and is dark (that's why I chose it). People can/do have good results with just sand or gravel though, so you don't have to go that route. (My larger planted tank is gravel with root tabs for the heavy feeders).

Plantgeek.net and tropica.com both have good descriptors of plants and their needs. I would say, look and figure out what plants you want in order to figure out what you need...and then possibly go back and decide how complicated you want things to be!

If you really want a lawn you may need to get into plants more seriously. Most of the "lawn-like" plants I'm aware of require high light to keep them short and with that comes CO2 or excell and fertilizers.
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