not New to planted tanks


Junior Poster
Aug 30, 2008
I'm not new to planted tanks but I am new to successful planted tanks. About 10 years ago I had a 72 gallon bow tank that I sort of turned into a planted tank with higher lighting, CO2, etc. It never really had success so I tore it down and setup a reef tank which was easier.

Now my wife and kids fell in love with an amazon display at the Chicago aquarium. The plan is a large school of neon tetras or black tetras or rummy nose, etc - you get the idea.

I have a 180g (72x24x24). I'm considering 380W of VHO lighting. I like laterite and red flint substrate but am open to suggestions. I have a CO2 tank and ceramic diffuser.

My goal is a medium light tank with CO2. Any links to what I need to start dosing? How about substrate content and depth. Water flow - what is the latest. I've seen mazzeis mentioned. What are they used for?

Any other tips?



Plant Guru Team
Lifetime Member
Sep 23, 2007
South Florida
Hi Andy,

A couple of suggestions:


1. If you can mount your fixture so that it is adjustable. Higher light levels drive plant growth rates and that = higher demand for nutrients including c02. You may find you want to lessen your light so as to limit growth and the need for weekly pruning.

2. Second option is a fixture with multiple bulbs/switches so you can use as needed.


I would suggest the EI method using dry fertilizers for the most part. Here is a good link about this:

I use this on my 180 and get excellent results......


Much to learn/discuss here.

A big tank is harder to fill with c02. A Mazzei is a brand of venturi that uses water flow and restrictive pressure to input c02 gas and mix it with the water extremely well.

However, there are many methods to diffusing c02, based on many aspects of your tank. Search around on the c02 forum section or the articles section on many of these common aspects and questions.

Plenty to read about and learn. Much has been discussed in plenty of detail, so some search/read time is really worth it.

Also, the measurement and levels of c02 in a tank is very difficult to guage and keep consistent. Much new research by Tom can be found here. You need a drop checker at least to help determine your c02 content. Do a search on drop checker and there is a sticky on this, which I don't have handy.


It is becoming more recognized the importance of good strong flow to distribute water flow and nutrients to all areas of the tank, and to wash away detritus. Also, plant growth plays a huge role in affecting flow over time. So keep this in mind when sizing pumps and powerheads.

If you search on my recent threads, you can get a lot of good info on your size tank. Here is a link to Tom's 180 that my help a lot too:

Hope this helps.


Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Nov 21, 2007
Los Angeles, CA
Are your sure you want to start out with a 180G tank, Andy? :) I totally respect your go-for-it attitude, but I'd sure consider starting off with a smaller tank to get some practice time. When you are using EI along with 30ppm CO2 with 2.0wpg light or better, most of your plants are going to grow 1" to 2" per day. My 50G is a jungle most of the time because I don't keep up with the pruning. The 180G will probably take more of your time than you might expect.


Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Jan 24, 2005
Sacramento, CA
I second Ted's comment about starting with a smaller tank. About the minimum size that will give you useful experience is, in my opinion, a 29 gallon tank. With that you can make all of the mistakes that teach each of us how to do this best, and it won't cost you much, nor take all of your time. If you want to set up the big tank now, since you already have it, you could do a fish only tank until you feel more prepared to handle such a big planted tank.

On the other hand, as they say, I started my journey into successful planted tanks with a 120 gallon tank, with 320 watts of T12 bulbs on it. It wasn't a disaster, and I learned a lot from it. But, it was only after I restarted with a 29 gallon tank that I was able to begin to understand what this hobby really requires. I suspect that in another 5 years I will know how to do it successfully 90% of the time. (My tank is now a 45 gallon one.)


Junior Poster
Aug 30, 2008
My wife will shoot me dead if I start small and trade up tank after tank. Did that already with FW and reef. I have most of the stuff needed to get the 180 running. This is in the basement so the family has to be happy too. They won't be happy with a big algae mess.


Prolific Poster
Aug 16, 2008
I learned the hard way about big tanks (125 gal w/ 55 gal sump). My last planted tank was a 55gal low light/ low tech about 10 years ago. If I could have done any one thing differently, I definitely would have started with less light. I started with 3x150MH HQI and the fight with algae was terrible. I dropped light from the 3.6 to 1.8 WPG. Now I get to focus on CO2 and flow, which I am finding is really hard to manage on this size tank.

I'm to the point now where Im planning a total teardown to drill the back for returns and converting my overflows to drains only in an effort to achieve more flow and also a change of my pump and plumbing to accomodate a mazzei injector. I then plan to set it back up with the dry start method which has worked very well on two smaller tanks I've set up since the 125 has been running.

Best of luck to you whatever you decide and you've found the best place for info about this hobby here. I wish I knew of this resource when I was in the planning stages, I would have saved lots of $ and time:D