Planning my first tank

lovingHDTV

Junior Poster
Oct 9, 2008
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I'm looking for some guidance on my first planted tanks.

My goals:

1. low maintainance.
2. non C02, but will use Excel
3. would like to add ferts 1-2 times per week.
4. 1 maybe 2 schools of small fish, tetras, or neons

Current Equipment:
46 gallon bow front tank
Tetra Whisper 40 filter - the best I can find is that this is ~225gph
Stock light - plastic white reflector with 2 15w bulbs.
Small air pump for some bubbles

I plan on buying the 96w 36" retro fit from AHSupply for lighting, this should give me right around 2 wpg.

Will my filter be adequate? I read a lot about lights, ferts, and water changes when planning a tank, but not much about the filters and water flow. However, when I read about algae the filter and water flow is mentioned. I don't want to end up with an aglae pond.


Here is a list of plants from Tropica website that I like the looks of and appear to be easy to tend.

Tall plants:
033D Ludwigia repens 'Rubin'
053A Hygrophila siamensis
043 Bacopa caroliana
047 Limnophila sessiliflora

Lower plants:
048B Hemianthus cal. 'Cuba'
073F Echinodorus 'Ozelot'
073G Echinodorus 'Oz.' Grøn
101 Anubias nana - this one flowers, I think that would be nice.

Suggestions/comments on this selection?

Layout:
This is where I need the most help :)

I prefer the "V" shaped design with taller plants on the right and left, in the back, sloping to the center with a piece of wood/stone that has plants on it flowing to the foreground. Not sure if that makes sense. I like the foreground to be covered with a carpet of low growing plants.

EDIT:
I've attached a layout of my first attempt. Each square is 1"x1"

Does this sound too far off base? Suggestions and comments please
 

jeremy v

Guru Class Expert
Apr 17, 2008
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lovingHDTV,

I think you are looking pretty good. I am not going to comment on the plants or the layout, because you are the one that will be looking at the tank most of the time, so I think you should design the layout in whatever way is most appealing for you, not anyone else.

In relation to your lighting, if you are just starting in planted tanks, you might be a little high on the light. Those plants can all do fine with less light, because a 46 bowfront isn't that deep of a tank. 2wpg will most likely make it hard for you to keep algae from wanting to grow on your anubia leaves for instance. If you are going to be using a glass lid on your tank, possibly just put a few strips of black electrical tape on the lid perpendicular to the light strip in order to cut the light levels a little bit (at least at the beginning). Then as the plants get established and begin growing faster and you get more experience with dosing fertilizers, etc. you can remove the electrical tape strips and increase your growth rates a little bit with the higher lighting levels.

In regards to your filter, I would say just try it out and see. With a low fish load and good tank cleanliness practices you might very well be fine with just the one filter. It never hurts to have more filtration though. Since you are dosing Excel instead of using CO2, you don't have to worry about surface agitation outgassing some of your CO2, and you don't necessarily need the higher levels of current (that are usually recommended), because you don't need to make sure dissolved CO2 is well distributed in the water column at all times.

For now I would recommend that you at least put the air bubbles on the opposite side of the tank from the filter. The air bubbles themselves will circulate water and help to prevent dead areas within the tank if the filter and airstones are apart from each other. If they are both really close to each other you will most likely have lots of circulation on one side of your tank, and almost nothing on the other side of your tank. If you eventually find that the one filter is not enough you could just buy a second one of the exact same filter and add it to the other side of the tank in order to create more circulation and extra filtration for the fish and plants. Then just clean each of the filters on an alternating schedule so that the tank's biological balance stays as consistent as possible.

Have a good one, Jeremy
 

VaughnH

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Jan 24, 2005
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One of your desired plants is considered a noxious weed, and is not supposed to be imported into this country - L. Sessiliflora. It is also a very, very fast grower, so it isn't going to be a low maintenance plant anyway. L. Aromatica is similar, but not nearly as fast a grower, plus can be very beautifully colored.

If you are concerned about spending too much money for a filter, the Tetra powerfilter you mention should work, but for low maintenance you can't beat a canister filter, in my opinion. A Rena Filstar XP3 would be a good size for that tank.
 

lovingHDTV

Junior Poster
Oct 9, 2008
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That is good to know about the L. Sessilifora. I could not find it to buy, now I know why, so I swapped with L. indica (Ambulia).

What would be another replacement for this? I want something green and somewhat lacy in appearance.

EDIT:
I do like this Vallisneria spiralis, I think it is also called "Tiger" or "Italian" VAL?

thanks,
 
N

nerbaneth

Guest
Have you already chosen your substrate? If you do not plan on moving your plants around much there are several cheap and very effective ways to make your substrate fertile. Of course ecocomplete or ada aquasoil is preferable, if money is a concern these are hardly an option (I think I calculated out that to fill my 90 gal with ecocomplete it would cost me around $160) Diana Walstad talks about one of those cheaper substrates for low maintenece tanks and has had great success. I think she uses loam and vermiculite? Tom Barr seems to prefer aquasoil but has had great success using earthworm castings mixed with sand and then topped off by sand in the past.

The substrate I believe is important to a low maintenence tank because it can give that extra boost to make your plants happier and grow a little faster. Also after planting, it sucks to decide you want to change your substrate (I am in the process of this right now)

Hope this was helpful,
Nerb
 

Tom Barr

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Jan 23, 2005
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Ec work fine, so does sandy clay loam from the delta(delta Sediment is a common non limiting nutrient sediment we use at the lab and there's a ton of it here) :)

Since we wash and screen, then allow the washed submersed soil to settle, then decant off the water, then allow to dry some to a clay like consistency, it's basically better than mineralized top soil. The more clay in the sediment, the better but you want about 10% or so organic matter, most top soil is too high in OM(organic matter), but if you soak it a long time, and allow the bacteria to munch on it, the OM is removed.

But why wait?
I just go use the delta clay sediments.
Already to go after some labor(which if you make 20 x 5 gallons worth, takes a lot!).

I sent some to LeftC as he was so curious, but if you are near a nice productive wetland, go look and see. Screen it and wash the soil into a wheelbarrow with a garden hose, then let sit 1-2 days, then decant off the water, let dry some, then use.

You still need to do some labor in each case.
You can boil or bake the top soil or EC to speed things up rather than waiting 2-3 weeks soaking in a shallow tray. But you lose the bacteria(but it colonizes in 2-3 weeks anyway, so time wise, it's a draw).

Given the labor, a couple of bags of ADA AS, which is basically the clay and a little OM already done for you, is a better solution even if you paid yourself 5$ an hour.



Regards,
Tom Barr
 

lovingHDTV

Junior Poster
Oct 9, 2008
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Substrate:

I have read a lot about it. I used Flourite in my 3 gallon beta bowl, but at $20 per bag and needing almost 6 bags that is way expensive.

Aquasoil may be an option. I'll look at my local HD, and pond store. I read a thread about mineralized top soil. I'm not sure if I can believe the statements that you won't ever need to supplement with it. If that were true it would be worth the trouble to make up a batch.

I can't even decide if I want black or white? :D

Suggestions are much welcomed.
 
N

nerbaneth

Guest
You want black :)

you could use 2-3 bags of flourite at the bottom and then put your gravel of choice(black) on top - so you can't see that your gravel has layers, you can run your (black) gravel around the edge, fill the inside of that 'cup' of (black) gravel with flourite and then top off the rest with (black) gravel.

The only problem with black gravel is finding it! I have been reading about Turface grey, but cannot find it in my area. You can find black sand from petsmart for $20 a bag (which is way too expensive IMO - might as well buy ecocomplete) You can buy black gravel at pet-co/smart (the cheap stuff) but it is usually too big for planted aquaria and still $15 a bag. umm... aquariumplants.com sells their version of ecocomplete that about half the price(I don't think it is as good.. but BLACK) I believe the cheapest way to do it is to use mainly playsand or all purpose gravel mixed with EC and then use as thin of a layer as you can of the black stuff.

I'm not sure that helped at all because the black color is the dilemma I am in right now. Thats just what I have found from reaadiing a lot online and running to every garden nursery, home depot and ace hardware in my area.

White might be just as hard, but you don't want white :D

ADA Aqua soil =? $40 a bag (granted they have a little bit more in the bag than the flourite or ecocomplete bags)

From my readings mineralized top soil should last approx. 10 years - if you don't change your substrate/tank/where you live by then.. I guess it could run out.

I am thinking about going with an even cheaper approach mix EC and sandblasting sand #3 in a 1:1 ratio cover the bottom couple inches with that and then top off with an inch or so of more sand. That would cost - $10 for EC and maybe $10 or $15 for 2 or 3 bags of sandblasting sand #3 depending on how deep you like your substrate

Hope this was helpful,
Nerb
 

VaughnH

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Remember, you only spend money on the tank once. You usually only spend money on the light fixture once, plus replacement bulbs. And, you should only spend money on a substrate once. So, why not buy the best you can budget for? It seems to be universally accepted that ADA Aquasoil Amazona is the best substrate by quite a margin, so spending money on that has to be a good deal, again if you can budget for it.

If you just can't fit that in the budget, you surely can get a bag of aquariumplants.com substrate, which is Soilmaster Select Charcoal in a different package. Then, go visit the nearest body of water, preferably one that floods periodically, dig up some silty clay near the waterline, and use that as a lower level below the Soilmaster. I use that, and it has been the best substrate I have ever used, with zero problems. Of course it is a good idea to soak that silt and let it sit for a few days, to try to get rid of any pests in it, and any residual ammonia in it.

I used a bottom layer of the silt, mixed about half and half with SMS, then added an equally thick layer of SMS, and mixed it a bit with the top part of the lower layer, and topped it with just SMS. Tom has previously pointed out that mixing silty layers with your inert material tends to work better than using pure layers of just one substance. Over time most of the silt settles back to the bottom in any case. I would do this again if I were replacing the substrate.
 

lovingHDTV

Junior Poster
Oct 9, 2008
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There is a creek/river nearby. What kind of dirt/silt do I look for? I know there is a sand bar at one of the turns. Is that what I'm looing for?

thanks,
 

VaughnH

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Mine seems to be about 2/3 clay and 1/3 very fine sand, with a little organic content in it. Based on what Tom said, I think the best silt is like fine granular clay, not the slick, ultra fine particle clay, but more like decomposed rock. It was just by chance that there is a little peninsula made of that type of silt, sticking partly out in the American River almost in my back yard. I saw it and guessed it would work well, and it has.
 

Tom Barr

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Vaughn, I gave some to Left C. If you want to take a look or want some, just ask and stop by.

Regards,
Tom Barr