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Old 01-31-2004, 02:59 PM   #1
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lights, substrate, filtration opinions

I ran across a great deal on a 37g (36x15x16) acrylic tank from a friend that I am starting to build up. After running a successful 55g Cichlid tank for five years. I had to give it away to a loving home, due to a long distance move. I've decided to build a heavily planted tank on the opposite end of the spectrum this time.

My problem is, there are several "daisy chain" pet stores in my area. I have a huge selection to choose from, but most of them really don't have knowledgable help on complex aquiriums. I have yet to find a LFS with knowledge/passion. Which has brought me here.

I've read several of the FAQ, as well as hundreds of threads on here. Thought it was time to ask a couple of questions, to clear up some confussion.

I've decided to use Seachems Flourite substrate (the black fine)at a varying depth of 3". I might even mix in a bag of Eco Complete to break up the substrate size a little. That should be suitable to sustain plants. I've got this beautiful idea in my head that the black substrate with the black background of the tank would look great. Which leads be to my second problem.

As far as filters, with the fine substrate it seams UGF would compact and not be very efficient. From what I've gathered UGF are'nt very desirable for a planted tank. I would really like to run a good canaster. I had great success with Marineland in my Cichlid tank. However, my Cichlid tank was'nt planted very much, mostly wood and rock (got tired of replanting everyday). It seams that bio wheels affect the water surface to much, causing valuable CO2 loss. Would a Magnum without the bio wheel be ok, or maybe a Fluval 404?

Finally one last thing,the most important thing in a planted tank, lighting. The tank has a nice custom built canopy top, but I'm not satisfied with the lighting. I can easily modify the hood to fit better lighting. I've decided to go with AH Supplies PC lights. Thier reflector looks really effective. Plus, even with shipping they are considerable cheaper than what I can find locally. What a deal! On a 36" long tank would a 1x96 watt (approx. 2.5wpg) or 2x55 watts (approx. 3 wpg) be better? I'm concerned about the sides of the tank not recieving enough light with the shorter lights. I could always plant low light plants on the sides. Will the black background and bottum require more lighting due to absorbtion? Does the AH setup run hot? It appears the light tubes would be approx. 2" to 2.5" of the top of the acrylic. I'd hate to damage the acrylic top.

I realize with this amount of light, I'll need to run CO2. Will a cheap DIY yeast CO2 set up work for a couple of months, to get the tank cycleing and help keep start up cost down a little. I can build a DIY preassure CO2 set up in a couple of months to spread the cost out a little.

As far as plants and fish, I'm still researching. I want to get these concerns clarified first and see where I'm at. Then add plants and fish accordingly.


Sorry this is so long. I was hoping some knowledgable, passionate fish lovers out there can clarify some of my concerns, before I start spending money. I'd really like to get the ball rolling and get this tank cycleing. Any help would be apprechiated more than you can imagine. Thanks

BTW.........this sight is awesome! I'm hooked!

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Old 01-31-2004, 04:46 PM   #2
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I hate to tell you this but Flourite is not black. Eco-Complete is black but Flourite is mostly reddish orange. If you are thinking about the Seachem Onyx Sand then I would suggest you take another look at it. It's not black in the water but more of a light gray. If you want black use the Eco-Complete. It's a great substrate.

I'm not a big fan of Magnums for planted tanks. The filter has a very small surface area and needs to be cleaned often. I use and recommend the Rena Filstar XP series of cannister filters.

With the 55 watt bulbs you will have a much wider choice of bulbs available. And you will get better front to back coverage if you stagger them a bit but do so at the expense of the sides. It's a hard choice to make. You should put some sort of ventilation in the canopy because the lights do generate some heat. But mounting the ballast remotely helps a bit there.

DIY CO2 can be done but it's a bit of a pain. The amount of mix needed is best measured in gallons and not liters. You would be better off with a pressurized system. You can get a all-in-one regulator for around $80, find a cylinder locally and build a reactor to plumb in-line with your cannister filter and you are set to go. If you go to my FAQ you will see pictures of my reactor that I built.

As for cycling the tank. You are still thinking fish tank and not plant tank. There is no need to cycle a planted tank in the traditional sense. If you read my FAQ you will find what I consider the best way to start a planted tank. I have used the method on 5 planted tanks and had great success with all of them.
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Old 01-31-2004, 06:08 PM   #3
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Quote:
If you are thinking about the Seachem Onyx Sand then I would suggest you take another look at it. It's not black in the water but more of a light gray.
All due respect, Rex, I'm looking at my 20 with Onyx in it right now, it's black. not as jet-black as it is when dry, but certainly not light grey.

As usual, the rest of your advice is dead-on correct.

Mojo, I applaude you for doing all your reasearch first. If more people did that, there would be far more success in the hobby. 100 kudos coming your way!
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Old 01-31-2004, 07:37 PM   #4
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Well, thank you very much for the help. After my first big tank (the 55g Cichlid tank) I learned a few things. On that tank I was amazed by the Cichlids colors for FW and jumped feet first with little or no knowledge. Starting with the fish after purchasing the tank. Needless to say, there were a few casualties, as well as several emergency water sample runs to a great LFS at the time. It was a bumpy start, but in the end I learned alot and ran that Cichlid tank successful for five years.

After that learning experience. I want to start at the bottum and build up. Taking the time to do it right the first time, even if it takes a little longer to get completed or cost slightly more (in the long run I'm sure one will come out ahead).

I've been running two 5g's the last 2 years, since the sad departure of my Cichlid tank.(BTW...the Cichlid tank I had to give away to a loving home is still running strong. It still has the same original four Cichlids that are now 7+ years old) .

Now I'm ready to set up another decent size aquarium. This time a heavily planted 37g tank. I have a green thumb for plants. I have about 30 species of house plants through out the house. I was wanting to build this tank into a realy nice planted tank as a center piece in the living room to complament the house plants. Making a nice "relaxing" living room.

Rex, I have read your FAQ, as well as printed it, for future reference. I'd like to thank you on your advice. It's great to see people such as yourself as well as many others on this very forum willing to help out and offer advice/experience. It's certainly apprechiated by all!

I just returned from running around locally. I finally found a reputable LFS. On equipment (filters, lighting, substrate etc.... they are 33% to 50% more than the local "daisy chain" fish stores or mail order. Sadly, I will have to go with the cheaper prices on equipment. This frees up more money for a good CO2 set up and successful tank for me.

However, the one LFS store I finally found had great knowledge on aquariums. All of thier sw/fw tanks as well as plant tanks were extremely clean and well cared for. As well as a very knowledgable/passionate staff. Sadly I have to buy my equipment elsewhere, but I will most certainly pay a little more for thier experience on healthy fish, plants, decor, chemicals etc...

If anyone out there has an opinions or advise I am certainly open for suggestions. Thanks to all.
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Old 01-31-2004, 08:29 PM   #5
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corvus, must be the lights or the way our eyes work. Onyx has never looked black to me. More grey than anything else.
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Old 01-31-2004, 10:04 PM   #6
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All I have to go by so far is substrate on the shelves. I've yet to run across plant substrate which I'm looking for in an aqual running set up. All I can go by is the dusty plastic bags which lye on the shelves. Theres no doubt in my mind that it looks differently in actual working conditions.

This is the exact info I was looking for. Thank you.
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Old 02-01-2004, 01:32 AM   #7
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I wish more LFS would do what my favorite LFS does. Have a jar of each substrate in water so you can see what they actually look like.
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Old 02-01-2004, 06:50 AM   #8
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Now thats a really good idea. A small jar of substrate in water would be a hugh help. Large amounts of plant substrate is'nt cheap. Plus the substrate really sets off the tank, giving the tank it's own personality IMO.

With Eco Complete is it better to place a thin layer of peat moss on the bottom as well? It appears a layer of peat moss on the bottom of a tank would be benefical, no matter what the substrate. Pardon my ignorance, but it's important to me to set this tank up correctly the first time.

After looking at the Filstars, they seam to have nice filtering characteristics at a reasonable price. I'll continue to research them.

Thanks again for all the help.
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Old 02-01-2004, 10:48 AM   #9
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I would and have put the thin layer of peat moss under the Eco-Complete.
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