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Old 04-13-2011, 06:35 PM   #1
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Oh BOY! Confused about where to begin...

I know this is probably the millionth post with this same subject, but I'm having difficulty finding exactly what I want to know by searching. I used to be" into" aquariums and had a good general knowledge of what types of lighting was best for reefs and planted tanks, but this was about 10 years ago. Now, I've decided I'd like to start a planted, tetra-style tank and I've discovered all the lighting options have changed and ones that were too expensive for me 10 years ago (a teenager working in a pet store) are now affordable! I am planning to use a 20g long that's currently residing empty in my basement. I'll need brand new light fixtures, bulbs, a canopy, etc. What does everyone recommend? Please consider me as a complete newb who doesn't have a clue. Thanks!

I've been looking into Compact Flor's...the only 30" seems to be a dual bulb (at least on hellolights.com)...providing too much wattage. Is it ok to use a 24" 65W? This one is highly affordable and seems to provide the perfect wattage. It seems I remember reading that many people supplement their CF with a regular hood light as well...is that recommended? Am I going to need a cooling fan? What about CO2 kits? Any recommendations there? I've only peeked at the lighting sticky so far, so feel free to direct me to other posts! Your help is greatly appreciated!
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Old 04-13-2011, 06:39 PM   #2
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If you are looking to go with medium or high light plants, I would look into T5HO. A dual T5HO fixture would give you lots of options.

fish need it;lights; food;Sponge has some great prices right now on their T5HO fixtures.

LEDs is also something to look into. They have been around awhile now with hydroponics, but are just starting to make their way in the last year or so into the mainstream of FW planted tanks.

As far as CO2, if you are looking at setting up a pressurized system, I really like the MA957 regulator/solenoid from milwaukee. A lot of folks on here use it, and I have never had any issues with mine.

eSeasonGear FreeShipping! usually has a pretty good price on that particular model.

I would stay away from the bigger online places that sell the CO2 "kits". They are often more expensive that way... and usually involved powered co2 reactors of some sort, which just aren't necessary, especially in a tank of your size. If you have a canister, I would go with a DIY inline reactor. If you are using a HOB, I would just use a ceramic/glass diffuser on the co2.
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Old 04-13-2011, 06:41 PM   #3
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If you are looking to go with medium or high light plants, I would look into T5HO. A dual T5HO fixture would give you lots of options.

fish need it;lights; food;Sponge has some great prices right now on their T5HO fixtures.

LEDs is also something to look into. They have been around awhile now with hydroponics, but are just starting to make their way in the last year or so into the mainstream of FW planted tanks.

As far as CO2, if you are looking at setting up a pressurized system, I really like the MA957 regulator/solenoid from milwaukee. A lot of folks on here use it, and I have never had any issues with mine.

eSeasonGear FreeShipping! usually has a pretty good price on that particular model.

I would stay away from the bigger online places that sell the CO2 "kits". They are often more expensive that way... and usually involved powered co2 reactors of some sort, which just aren't necessary, especially in a tank of your size. If you have a canister, I would go with a DIY inline reactor. If you are using a HOB, I would just use a ceramic/glass diffuser on the co2.
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Old 04-13-2011, 06:49 PM   #4
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Ok, so looking at fishneedit.com, they have the T5 HO/30" dual...but it's only about 48W, will I need to supplement or will 48 suffice? This is about the same price as the CF I was eyeing... Can anyone give me a general comparison on the two?
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Old 04-13-2011, 06:55 PM   #5
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The PAR produced by the T5HO will be 1.5 to 2X higher than the CF. IMO you really can't beat them for planted tank lighting (though the LEDs are quickly gaining ground).

What are your goals? Are you planning on high tech, and definitely using a fert regime and running pressurized CO2?

48W of T5HO will allow you to grow all medium light plants, and most higher light plants as well. You could bump up to something higher, but I doubt you would need it. I have in the past ran as much as 4WPG of T5HO on a planted tank... but that tank was a lot of work. This puts you at 2.5WPG... which is a nice mid-to-high-range lighted tank.
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Old 04-13-2011, 06:59 PM   #6
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Welcome to AA

FWIW, I have three fishneedit fixtures and couldn't be happier. I have a 2x39w on my 40g breeder and the plants are growing like mold in a wet basement.

I think that 2x24w fixture would give you ample light to grow all but the very highest light demanding plants.
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Old 04-13-2011, 07:12 PM   #7
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Thank you for your replies! <3. My goal...well, I want a nice looking tank that is not extremely difficult or expensive to maintain. I enjoy plants, but I love fish as well, LOL. I've never had any luck with anything but an Amazon sword plant in a discus tank that I had many years ago, but of course I never spent any money on lights, CO2, etc. I want a small, easy to clean (I actually have empty 55g and empty 75g tanks as well) lush set up. I want to take it slow and do it correctly, and eventually I want a school of diamond tetras and possibly neons and cory cats (dunno if a 20g is gonna be enough after I get started, haha!) The diamond tetras are going to be my main, if not only, fish and I want plants that will compliment them without being extremely demanding. I don't mind low or medium light plants, I mainly want what's easily available and won't die immediately. I am willing to have decent lighting (these T5's sound great! The LEDs are a bit pricey for me), CO2, and fertilization if necessary. I am really still on day 1 of my research and have nothing but the 20g tank. No stand, no hood, no water (heehee, not in the tank!).
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Old 04-13-2011, 07:18 PM   #8
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You are doing this right then! Most folks buy all the stuff, end up with the wrong stuff, get frustrated, and then come here. You have a big leg up!
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Old 04-13-2011, 07:18 PM   #9
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Not to gloat, but if you take a look at my 40 breeder journal (in my signature), it's basically me going from plant dummy to where I am now (some might argue I haven't moved up any LOL). It covers setting up lighting, plants, co2, ferts, and pictures of the progress I have made. I was a bit apprehensive of doing co2 at first, but now I couldn't be happier.
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Old 04-13-2011, 09:06 PM   #10
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LOL Fort...been there done that...At one time I had going 3-55g freshwater tanks, 5g feeder fish tank, 75g salt (gosh, I couldn't get rid of ich in that tank on a little porc puffer I was in love with), 20g salt for invertebrates (the puffer made inverts in the 75 impossible!), and a 14g fresh coldwater hex (my first aquarium!) And a pond (my mom did most of the pond work) AND I cleaned tanks at the LPS for my measly $5.25/hr. You name it, I've taken care of it LOL. Now I just don't have the time or the space for such set-ups and I've since given away several of the 55's. I also happen to be one of those irritating impulse buyers I am going to try really hard to do this correctly!

I am finding the CO2 really confusing, even after reading the articles. I don't understand how I know how much to put in, what exactly I need, if I really need it, etc. The hubs wants me to buy CO2 so he can use it for his homebrew beer stuff too (don't think THAT's gonna work out). Jonathon's tank is exactly the kinda set-up I'm looking for, but on a smaller scale and with a non-sand substrate. I had sand in one of my tanks in the past and despised it (well, I cleaned gravel for a "living" and obviously you can't python sand!)

Also, thank you for the suggestions! I am planning on buying the lights you suggested tomorrow This weekend: a stand, maybe some low light plants, gravel...maybe a filter... we'll see! Any filter recommendations for my tiny tank? A canister seems overkill...but HOB stire the surface...(ugh!)
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Old 04-13-2011, 09:10 PM   #11
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I would recommend a canister... they work best on planted tanks with co2 injection imo. I have canisters on my 5 gal tanks, so I don't think it would be overkill. Eheim makes some appropriately sized models.
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Old 04-13-2011, 09:14 PM   #12
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LOL Fort...been there done that...At one time I had going 3-55g freshwater tanks, 5g feeder fish tank, 75g salt (gosh, I couldn't get rid of ich in that tank on a little porc puffer I was in love with), 20g salt for invertebrates (the puffer made inverts in the 75 impossible!), and a 14g fresh coldwater hex (my first aquarium!) And a pond (my mom did most of the pond work) AND I cleaned tanks at the LPS for my measly $5.25/hr. You name it, I've taken care of it LOL. Now I just don't have the time or the space for such set-ups and I've since given away several of the 55's. I also happen to be one of those irritating impulse buyers I am going to try really hard to do this correctly!

I am finding the CO2 really confusing, even after reading the articles. I don't understand how I know how much to put in, what exactly I need, if I really need it, etc. The hubs wants me to buy CO2 so he can use it for his homebrew beer stuff too (don't think THAT's gonna work out). Jonathon's tank is exactly the kinda set-up I'm looking for, but on a smaller scale and with a non-sand substrate. I had sand in one of my tanks in the past and despised it (well, I cleaned gravel for a "living" and obviously you can't python sand!)

Also, thank you for the suggestions! I am planning on buying the lights you suggested tomorrow This weekend: a stand, maybe some low light plants, gravel...maybe a filter... we'll see! Any filter recommendations for my tiny tank? A canister seems overkill...but HOB stire the surface...(ugh!)

Actually... you CAN use a python with sand... I do... I treat it just like gravel. I use pool filter sand which is heavy enough that it acts much like gravel, but keeps all the waste on top making it super easy to clean. While I wont try to push that on you if you don't want it, I HIGHLY recommend it, especially for planted tanks (unless you want something like flourite or eco-complete).

Co2 is pretty simple. fort was kind enough to walk me through it, as I'm sure you saw in my thread. I over-analyzed everything, its actually ridiculously simple.
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Old 04-13-2011, 09:48 PM   #13
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Ok, so a caninster, CO2, and sand, LOL. Got it

I typed up a long response and...then my browser crashed (its totally fired!)

I was thinking about flourite, actually. Sand scares the crap outta me; almost as much as CO2!

You over-analyzed... is that possible?! (I'm a lab tech, hehehe)
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Old 04-13-2011, 09:53 PM   #14
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flourite would be ok. I like eco-complete and ada aquasoil better... but it depends on budget. And the specialty substrates certainly aren't required to have a great planted tank. You can use gravel if you want to... but I wouldn't be frightened by using sand. I would say 50-70% of the folks here with planted tanks use it. You just have to make sure you use the right stuff. PFS and playsand do not the same substrate make .
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Old 04-13-2011, 10:06 PM   #15
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You guys have been ULTRA helpful and now my excitement level is throught the roof! Woo!

With eco-complete...surely eventually these nutrients are depleted? I assume I just use root plugs in the future?
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Old 04-13-2011, 10:08 PM   #16
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Yes, that is true... but it lasts a lot longer than most would think. It does well for at least a couple years. I have aquasoil, which is a similar composition, that is over 3 years old, and it still grows very high light delicate plants like it did the day I put it in.
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Old 04-13-2011, 10:09 PM   #17
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Root tabs may be necessary anyways if you have swords, though that wouldn't be a great idea in such a small tank ( I have one outgrowing my 125!).
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Old 04-13-2011, 10:15 PM   #18
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Wow! I found a place online that sells an (expensive, but cool) variety pack of plants, may have to give away the sword plant then! Now I'm not convinced I shouldn't go with the 55 gallon. =/ But then everything is more expensive...and I dont have a clue where to put it, unless I put it on top of my dresser... (sorry, I'm rambling!)

The eco-complete only comes in 20lb bags. Would it be ok to mix it with something else (for a thinner substrate layer) or should I just go for 40lbs of it?
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Old 04-13-2011, 10:18 PM   #19
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It would be ok to mix it, it just might look funny if the color is off. As far as layering, it would be tough to keep it from getting jumbled up... the only very successful layering I have seen is if you are using dirt or dirt/clay on the bottom layer.

You could consider dirt as a substrate too. It is cheap and can work, though it is a little more work on your part up front. Mfdrookie516's 125g build thread details using dirt as the bottom layer, and so far his tank is looking great!
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Old 04-13-2011, 10:28 PM   #20
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I think it might look cool to mix natural colored gravel with that dark dirt brown colored eco-complete... I think I may have just upgraded the project to a 55. Wish me and my pocketbook good luck!
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