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Old 08-23-2022, 02:39 PM   #1
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New to Planted Aquariums

Hello all,

My wife and I have been keeping freshwater fish for about 25 years. About a year ago, we decided to simplify our 3 tanks (65 gallon, 55 gallon, and 29 gallon) to one single 135 gallon tank. Maybe not much of a downsize, but one tank is definitely easier for us to keep, especially since we moved to a sump filtration system from previously using cheap "hang on the back" filter boxes.

However, until now, we mostly had artificial tank decorations. Our single tank is now a planted aquarium, so we are pretty new at keeping plants. A year after staring the tank, we are still trying a lot of experimentation by slow adjustment. I don't yet have a C02 system, so I'm mostly using a low-tech approach of controlling lighting and fertilization.

I joined this forum because I'm basically trying to learn all I can about the ins and outs of planted aquariums.

Thanks,

Dave Barnhart

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Old 09-30-2022, 04:56 PM   #2
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Old 10-02-2022, 04:51 AM   #3
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Hi Dave and welcome to the forum

You have some New Guinea rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemani and Glossolepis incisus). These fish need lots of plant matter in their diet. Duckweed is a small floating plant that is hated by most people but makes a great food for rainbowfish. If you can cordon off the trickle filter intake, you could grow the plant and the fish could eat it.

You can also feed them vege flakes/ pellets, along with various fruits/ veges like cucumber, zucchini, spinach, pumpkin, etc. Some people feed marine algae from Asian supermarkets.

Do not feed potatoes, onions or onion relatives (leeks, garlic, spring onions) to fish.


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AQUARIUM PLANTS 1.01

LIGHTING TIMES
Most aquarium plants like a bit of light and if you only have the light on for a couple of hours a day, they struggle. If the light doesn't have a high enough wattage they also struggle. Try having the tank lights on for 10-12 hours a day.

If you get lots of green algae then reduce the light by an hour a day and monitor the algae over the next 2 weeks.
If you don't get any green algae on the glass then increase the lighting period by an hour and monitor it.
If you get a small amount of algae then the lighting time is about right.

Some plants will close their leaves up when they have had sufficient light. Ambulia, Hygrophilas and a few others close their top set of leaves first, then the next set and so on down the stem. When you see this happening, wait an hour after the leaves have closed up against the stem and then turn lights off.

Plant lights should have equal amount of red and blue light and a bit less green light.


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TURNING LIGHTS ON AND OFF
Stress from tank lights coming on when the room is dark can be an issue. Fish don't have eyelids and don't tolerate going from complete dark to bright light (or vice versa) instantly.

In the morning open the curtains or turn the room light on at least 30 minutes (or more) before turning the tank light on. This will reduce the stress on the fish and they won't go from a dark tank to a bright tank instantly.

At night turn the room light on and then turn the tank light off. Wait at least 30 minutes (or more) before turning the room light out. This allows the fish to settle down for the night instead of going from a brightly lit tank to complete darkness instantly.

Try to have the lights on at the same time each day. Use a timer if possible.



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TWO LIGHT UNITS
If you have two light units on the tank, put them on timers and have one come on first, then an hour later the second one can come on. It will be less stressful for the fish.

In the evening, turn the first light off and wait an hour, then have the second light go out.

If the lights have a low, medium and high intensity setting, have them on low in the morning, then increase it to medium after a couple of hours, and then high for the main part of the day. In the evening, reverse this and have the medium setting for a few hours, then low. Then turn the lights off.


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LIST OF PLANTS TO TRY
Some good plants to try include Ambulia, Hygrophila polysperma, H. ruba/ rubra, Elodia (during summer, but don't buy it in winter because it falls apart), Hydrilla, common Amazon sword plant, narrow or twisted/ spiral Vallis, Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides/ cornuta).
The Water Sprite normally floats on the surface but can also be planted in the substrate. The other plants should be planted in the gravel.

Ambulia, H. polysperma, Elodia/ Hydrilla and Vallis are tall plants that do well along the back. Rotala macranda is a medium/ tallish red plant that usually does well.

H. ruba/ rubra is a medium height plant that looks good on the sides of the tank.

Cryptocorynes are small/ medium plants that are taller than pygmy chain swords but shorter than H. rubra. They also come in a range of colours, mostly different shades of green, brown or purplish red. Crypts are not the easiest plant to grow but can do well if they are healthy to begin with and are not disturbed after planting in the tank.

Most Amazon sword plants can get pretty big and are usually kept in the middle of the tank as a show piece. There is an Ozelot sword plant that has brown spots on green leaves, and a red ruffle sword plant (name may vary depending on where you live) with deep red leaves.

There is a pygmy chain sword plant that is small and does well in the front of the tank.


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GROWING PLANTS IN POTS
We use to grow some plants (usually swords, crypts, Aponogetons and water lilies) in 1 or 2 litre plastic icecream containers. You put an inch of gravel in the bottom of the container, then spread a thin layer of granulated garden fertiliser over the gravel. Put a 1/4inch (6mm) thick layer of red/ orange clay over the fertiliser. Dry the clay first and crush it into a powder. Then cover that with more gravel.

You put the plants in the gravel and as they grow, their roots hit the clay and fertiliser and they take off and go nuts. The clay stops the fertiliser leaching into the water.

You can smear silicon on the outside of the buckets and stick gravel or sand to them so it is less conspicuous. Or you can let algae grow on them and the containers turn green.


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TRUE AQUATIC VS MARSH/ TERRESTRIAL PLANTS
Lots of plants are sold as aquarium plants and most are marsh plants that do really well when their roots are in water and the rest of the plant is above water. Some marsh plants will do well underwater too.

Hair grass is not a true aquatic plant, neither is Anubias.

Some common marsh plants include Amazon sword plants, Cryptocorynes, Hygrophila sp, Rotala sp, Ludwigia sp, Bacopa sp. These plant do reasonably well underwater.

True aquatic plants include Ambulia, Cabomba, Hornwort, Elodia, Hydrilla and Vallis.

The main difference between marsh plants and true aquatic plants is the stem. True aquatics have a soft flexible stem with air bubbles in it. These bubbles help the plant float and remain buoyant in the water column.
Marsh plants have a rigid stem and these plants can remain standing upright when removed from water. Whereas true aquatic plants will fall over/ collapse when removed from water.


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IRON BASED PLANT FERTILISER
If you add an iron based aquarium plant fertiliser, it will help most aquarium plants do well. The liquid iron based aquarium plant fertilisers tend to be better than the tablet forms, although you can push the tablets under the roots of plants and that works well.

You use an iron (Fe) test kit to monitor iron levels and keep them at 1mg/l (1ppm).

I used Sera Florena liquid plant fertiliser but there are other brands too.


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CARBON DIOXIDE (CO2)
There is no point adding carbon dioxide (CO2) until you have the lights and nutrients worked out. Even then you don't need CO2 unless the tank is full of plants and only has a few small fish in.

There is plenty of CO2 in the average aquarium and it is produced by the fish and filter bacteria all day, every day. The plants also release CO2 at night when it is dark. And more CO2 gets into the tank from the atmosphere.

Don't use liquid CO2 supplements because they are made from toxic substances that harm fish, shrimp and snails.
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Old 10-03-2022, 02:13 PM   #4
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Information

Thank you! That is a lot of information to digest. I agree with getting everything straightened out with lighting, algae, nutrients, etc. before worrying about CO2. In fact, if I find I'm getting adequate plant growth, I probably won't want the complexity of CO2 anyway. After about a year, I finally have most algae under control, and the plants are growing pretty well now.

I have several lights in the tank, one Fluval Aquasky that slowly ramps up in the morning, then down as it's replaced by two Plant 3.0 lights for the day. In the evening, it's reversed. The Aquasky comes on as the Plant 3.0 lights fade, and then fades itself in the evening. In other words, there are no sudden lighting changes. Over time, I've learned what intensities are good for the lights to give the plants enough but still inhibit algae. Interesting what you said about blue light, as I have kept that low based on other advice that blue light encourages algae growth. Maybe I'll play around with the colors some more.

I'm using Seachem Flourish for my plants, once a week. I hadn't thought of testing iron, but I'll get a test kit for that. Weekly I have been testing pH, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, phosphates, GH and KH. A couple months ago I got an RO machine and started using that water for changes instead of treated tap water, and that seems to be helping quite a bit, since our tap water already has about 1ppm of phosphates and a TDS > 100.

I'll see if I can get some duckweed for the rainbowfish and find a way to keep it out of the filter intake. It will take some time for me to do the research and go through all the rest of the plant information you gave. Thanks again.
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Old 10-03-2022, 08:42 PM   #5
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Be careful using pure reverse osmosis (R/O) water for rainbowfish. They do best in water with some minerals (GH around 200-300ppm) and a pH at or above 7.0.

You can add a Rift Lake water conditioner to increase the pH, GH & KH of R/O water.
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Old 10-04-2022, 03:30 PM   #6
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Thanks for the caution. I only change out small amounts of my tank water for the RO water. Usually about 15 gallons (out of 135) every two weeks, with a larger change (about 30 gallons) once every two months. I started using RO water instead of tap water a couple months ago to try to reduce TDS and phosphates to more normal numbers.

My current pH is about 7.1, and the GH is about 230. I test GH weekly, and pH about 3 times a week. However, I like your suggestion about using a water conditioner with the added RO water as my other numbers come down and approach normality. My RO water consistently tests at 6.6 pH.
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Old 10-04-2022, 07:55 PM   #7
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If you have a stable KH (carbonate hardness) in the water, you should only need to test the pH once a week. The KH will stop the pH from dropping.

Reverse Osmosis water should have a pH around 7.0. If it is dropping to 6.6 the pH test kit might be off or something else could be happening.

Check the pH straight out of the R/O unit and let a sample of R/O water stand for 24 hours and test it then. See if there's a difference. If the pH goes up to 7.0 after 24 hours, the lower pH is probably being caused by an imbalance of dissolved gasses in the water, which is being normalised after 24 hours.
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