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A few quick questions regarding non CO2 Excel tanks

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by orion2001, Mar 31, 2008.

  1. orion2001

    orion2001 Guru Class Expert

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    Hi everyone,

    I'm new to the forums and I've been reading up extensively on planted tanks and any bits of info I've come across regarding setting up low-tech planted tanks. I'll be setting up a 10 gallon planted tank shortly and I would like to go the route of the Non CO2, Excel method as outlined by Tom in these excellent threads:
    http://www.barrreport.com/articles/433-non-co2-methods.html
    http://www.barrreport.com/articles/1356-looking-feedback-intro-non-co2-excel-tanks.html

    I had a couple of quick questions regarding the method.

    1) With this method Tom suggest planting heavily (he mentioned in a thread that you should only be able to see around 5% of the gravel from a top view) right from the start. However does one have to include fast growing plants in this initial mix or do people do that only to save on the initial costs of planting/filling the tank up?

    From my understanding, Tom mentions that in such tanks light and CO2 are the limitting factors for algae/plant growth and nutrients shouldn't cause algae. In that case would it be possible to start entirely with slow growing (low tech friendly) plants like anubias, java ferns, etc or is there still some advantage to mixing things up with other fast growing stemmed plants? Also in that case how does one actually go about the process of phasing out the fast growing plants?

    2) How essential is the Leonardite at the bottom of the substrate? I can't find any locally and money is a little tight so I'd prefer not having to order it online. However I cannot get access to mulm/filter squeezings from an established tank either. My substrate is going to be Seachem Flourite Black Sand. If it is important to the success of my planted tank though, then I'll definitely order some Leonardite.

    3) For filtration, do people use only Mechanical and biological filtration elements in their filters? I presume something like Activated charcoal would be a strict no-no. I plan on having an Aquaclear HOB filter with filterfloss/foam and Seachem Matrix bio media. Does that sound OK?

    4) Also I am curious as to why filtration in planted tanks is important. Assuming that we don't use it for Chemical filtration, and the plants are doing most of the biological filtration, then is the filter primarily there for the mechanical filtration? What would happen if you didn't use a filter in a planted tank?

    Sorry for the long post. My head is spinning from all the information I've been trying to absorb over the past couple of weeks :D . I hope some of you'll can help answer these questions. Thanks!
     
  2. creighton

    creighton Guru Class Expert

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    These are all very good questions.

    1.) My guess the fast growing plants are would be use just to make sure to out compete the algae, but that's just a guess. The more plants the better though.

    I started a 10 gallon with only java fern, moss, and red cherry shrimp using 2 x 6500 K 13w screw in PC's. No CO2, I even have a sponge filter in there :). The java fern is growing at a pretty good pace and only a little algae on the glass.

    2.) I don't even know what leonardite is, nor have I used it. Let me know how that goes :p .

    3.) Biological filtration is not really needed, but water circulation to distribute CO2 rich water is in higher light tanks. Activated carbon becomes inert after a while and make a great host for bacteria to grow on, though initially it does absorb some nutrients. Your filtration setup sounds good.

    4.) Many people run planted tank without filtration, but they normally use hardy plants and a small fish load. It can be done but it doesn't always look pretty :).


    I hope that helps a little bit.
     
  3. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    I ran a 29 gallon tank with just a sponge on a powerhed as a filter for several months. The consequence was water that was never really clear of tiny debris particles. Other than that, it worked ok.

    The reason for having lots of growing plants when you start a tank is to get around the need for cycling the tank. Fish generate waste, like all living creatures, and that waste contains ammonia. Ammonia also can come from some substrates, like ADA Aquasoil. And, anything decaying in the tank can produce ammonia. Algae use the presence of ammonia, in tiny amounts, as a signal that it is a great time to start an algae bloom, so you need the growing plants there to consume that ammonia the instant it appears, depriving algae spores of the signal to start growing. But, plants and algae do not compete for nutrients - algae require minute amounts of nutrients compared to plants, so they would always have enough no matter how many plants you have.

    Leonardite is just a nutrient rich material to act as a rich sediment at the bottom of the substrate. Other materials that will work are garden soil, which has had the nitrogen compounds mineralized by heating or by soaking in water for some time, river or lake sediments which also have had the nitrogen compounds mineralized, and a few even use manure! (not me)

    Mulm gives beneficial bacteria a jump start in the tank, but is only highly desirable, not essential.

    This week I will be adding water to my 10 gallon tank, with leonardite and black Flourite sand substrate, and glosso started emersed. I will use Excel as a carbon source. My tank has two 20 watt CFL bulbs, which I found necessary to go to from 15 watt bulbs to get my glosso to grow horizontally.
     
  4. orion2001

    orion2001 Guru Class Expert

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    Thanks a lot Creighton and VaughnH! Your replies have certainly helped me a lot. VaughnH, I had a couple of follow up questions. Your point regarding Ammonia and algae makes complete sense and now I understand why it would be important to start of with faster growing plants to prevent any ammonia from hanging around and encouraging algae growth during the initial cycling phase.

    So would you recommend phasing the fast growing plants out slowly, maybe a month or so after the tank has established? Is the idea that by then you have enough nitrifying bacteria established in the filter media/gravel along with denser growth of the "slow growing" plants which should start taking over the role of the fast growing plants in terms of ammonia removal? Also to get the tank cycling in the first place, is it recommended to load the tanks with fish pretty much a week or 2 after planting the tank (and water parameters being stable) so that there is some ammonia source from fish waste? Or will dosing ferts (in accordance with EI for non CO2/Excel) be enough to get the tank cycling?

    Secondly, I will be using Leonardite (decided to order it) along with Flourite Black Sand. My lighting consists of 2x15W CFL Spiral Daylight lamps (GE). Also I have pretty crappy reflectors which are covered with aluminium foil although I might be swapping them for Mylar (I figured for the low CO2, Excel method 2 WPG is recommended, so 3 Watt/gallon but with crappy reflectors should also be OK?). Do you think this should be enough for growing Dwarf Hairgrass as the carpetting plant, and along with that have a mix of java ferns, anubias, crypts (mostly low-light, low maintainence plants)? Ofcourse I'll throw in a good amount of fast growing plants to start things off.

    Lastly, regarding your newly setup 10 Gallon tank, I'm curious as to how you plan on managing it with your reasonably high light intensity (4 WPG) just with Excel doses. Wouldn't the high light, high nutrient (from EI type dosing) but limitted CO2 (from excel...well not exactly CO2, but carbon) be good for algae growth? If I remember correctly Tom mentioned in a thread that when CO2 is restricting growth in a high light environment, algae can be better at adapting. I'd love to know what your strategy/thinking is in terms of how you'd deal with this.

    Oh and will you be keeping a Journal/thread on the progress of your 10 gallon tank? I'd love to see how your tank progresses. I'd like to try growing Glosso at some point in the future (I have a spare 10 Gallon tank) but right now i'm going to play it safe for my first planted tank. I'm hoping that I'll be able to get my dwarf hairgrass to carpet the tank.

    Sorry again for all the questions :D. I'm so excited to finally understand how things work after going through a whole bunch of threads here and a lot of excellent posts by Tom. I really like that he has a very scientific approach to growing plants (I'm from a scientific background myself) and talks about "Controls", correlation not being causations and always gives fully fleshed out reasonings behind his approaches. A lot of other sites/forums have guidelines etc. but not as much reasoning which isn't very reassuring to me since I want to understand why doing certain things the recommended way is necessary.

    PS- Ohh! Are you by any chance Hoppycalif on APC? I just read your thread on growing emmersed glosso today morning. Didn't put 2 and 2 together then :). I guess I have a link to your journal thread then. I was actually meaning to PM you on APC regarding this...what do you think of your Perfecto Hood in terms of light distribution? I've noticed that the light kinda spreads out in a triangular cone of sorts from the glass panel area. However the upper parts of the front and back glass do not get illuminated much at all. Have you found this type of lighting to be limitting when you tried growing tall background plants? I'd imagine that the upper leaves wouldn't get illuminated very well. I found that my cheap 9 buck Aqua-tech (Walmart) hood does a much better job illuminating the tank (both brighter and better spread). I just unscrewed the cheap reflector on the hood along with the plastic bulb protector and then aluminium foiled the whole inside of the hood. The only problem with that hood is that the lights aren't well protected from the water/condensation which is why I went for the perfecto hood. If the latter works well despite it's poor light spread, I'd prefer using it.
     
  5. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    1. Fast growing stem plants: I started a 29 gallon tank a few years ago with lots of fast growing stem plants, too little CO2, and too much light. So, I had algae problems, which kept me too busy to worry about the best way to replace the fast growing plants with other plants. But, I did finally get them all replaced, reduced my lighting, found out how to use a drop checker, switched to a 45 gallon tank, etc. I'm not sure yet what the best timing would be for making the switchover.

    2. Generally you add a few algae eaters, and other "working" fish a few days after starting the plants. Then over the next few weeks you add the fish you want to look at. I added guppies almost from the beginning, along with otos and cory cats. If the tank is heavily planted from the start there is no good reason to wait to add fish, in my opinion. If I wanted expensive fish I would take more care and wait longer before adding them.

    3. CFL screw-in bulbs are not nearly as effective as linear tube bulbs. So, I don't know how to determine what a wattage with those bulbs gives "high" light. I have used a couple of 14, 15, and now 20 watt bulbs, and apparently all I have even now is moderate intensity of light, if that. (Yes, I am hoppycalif on APC, so you can find my threads there about my 10 gallon tank experiments.) For high intensity lighting I suspect an AH Supply 36 watt kit would do it, but I haven't tried it. I will treat the tank as if it is moderately lighted and use Excel only for carbon.

    4. I removed the glass from that Perfecto hood to gain more light, at the same time that I installed the 20 watt bulbs. I suspect the glass was greatly reducing the light, due to condensation and deposits on the glass. I only plan to keep this tank going for maybe another year, then either sell the set up or give it away, so I'm perfectly happy with the Perfecto hood. I'm not sure what will happen to the electrical parts once I put water in the tank, without the glass, so I may get a rude surprise.
     
  6. orion2001

    orion2001 Guru Class Expert

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    Thanks a lot for your reply. I think that answers most of my questions for now. I'll probably post a thread in a couple of weeks with my tank setup prior to planting/ordering plants. Hopefully with some input from people on the forum I should be able to have an algae free low maintanence tank :)
     
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