Setting up a semi low-tech 40 gallon, substrate and a few other questions...

Ghostie

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Mar 3, 2009
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Thanks for the tip about trimming at the base johnny_ftm. I suppose I could also do a very large water change too. Anyone else have trouble with algae using rich organic substrates?

I decided to go with these normal output t-5's from Coralife: http://www.bigalsonline.com/BigAlsU...6/cl0/coralifefwt5aqualightdoublestriplight36
If I need to cut down the light more, I can use some of that spun silk for softening lights used in photography.

R
 
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jonny_ftm

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Mar 5, 2009
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I don't have trouble with algae at all. These were just recommendations. Throwing castings in water could cause ammonia spikes and kill sensitive fish/critters + adds organic on surface. So, better to avoid it. Actually, casting will limit algae problems by enhancing plants growth
 

Tom Barr

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Ghostie;45802 said:
Thanks for the tip about trimming at the base johnny_ftm. I suppose I could also do a very large water change too. Anyone else have trouble with algae using rich organic substrates?

I decided to go with these normal output t-5's from Coralife: http://www.bigalsonline.com/BigAlsU...6/cl0/coralifefwt5aqualightdoublestriplight36
If I need to cut down the light more, I can use some of that spun silk for softening lights used in photography.

R

I think some folks use to have issues, then soils got a bad name, that and folks liked to move their plants around a great deal and where not careful.
If you are careful, mineralize the sediment prior, I use nice clay delta soils locally here which are as good as ADA and pretty similar in most parameters to ADA, works better than top soil or store bought garden soils.

They work well, you will want to keep up on water changes in the first 1-2 months.
Screen metal etc, works well and can handle higher temps from the light bulb's heat.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

d0lph1n

Junior Poster
Jul 19, 2010
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Biollante;45647 said:
Hi,

I am not trying to be controversial, honest question, honest answer, honest.

I use the Wal-Mart store-brand clay kitty litter. It is calcined diatomaceous earth. I like to soak it a week or so before use.;)

You did not ask but being allergic to over-priced commercial substrates, I will tell you anyway.:gw

Some variation of this is basically, what I use these days:
• A thin layer of boiled peat (save the ‘tea’ fancy black water extract don’t you know), just enough so you cannot see the bottom of the tank.
• If I am planting robust rootstock, therefore a deeper substrate, I place layer of soaked kitty litter, usually half-an-inch to an inch. The amount varies according to what I am planting, also I tend to vary the depth of my substrate within a tank according to what I am planting and weather I am using pots.
• This is usually where I put the Osmocote Plus, I used to be a wus about it, but Tom Barr says use gobs, so I now use gobs, seems to work.
• Depending on the plants, size of the aquarium, I use from one to three inches of Tom Barr’s worm poop recipe, make sure you boil the crap out of the poop. Generally I mix it with more kitty litter, I doubt I have done it the same way twice, again the mix is a lot richer than what I used pre Tom Barr and I have definitely liked the results.
• I often plant the heavier plants at this point I have also left the soil uncovered, a little messy, but the grasses really like it, and planting is simplified.
Depending on the plants and look I want, I cap it with, usually an inert material, gravel, something I can get at a home center or nursery. I do not recommend sand; there is a tendency to sift into the substrate.

Hope this helps.:cool:

Biollante

If you don't mind, please let me know for a 20G tank:
1. if I don't have a week to soak the Walmart kitty litter, what else could or should I use?
2. if I can't find the worm poop locally, what else should I buy?
3. for capping, I had a poor experience before with the "aquariumplants" substrate capped with Caribsea Floramax
Volcano. It created a mess everytime I've added/removed a plant. The floramax is way heavier than the substrate, so it sinks easily. What's the cap substrate ideal thickness?
4. My current substrate (6-8 mo old) is a mess of Aquariumplants substrate & Caribsea Floramax. Any use for these, should I bother to recover the soil or the vulcanic rocks?

Thanks a lot.

A.
 

Biollante

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d0lph1n;54291 said:
If you don't mind, please let me know for a 20G tank:
1. if I don't have a week to soak the Walmart kitty litter, what else could or should I use?
2. if I can't find the worm poop locally, what else should I buy?
3. for capping, I had a poor experience before with the "aquariumplants" substrate capped with Caribsea Floramax
Volcano. It created a mess everytime I've added/removed a plant. The floramax is way heavier than the substrate, so it sinks easily. What's the cap substrate ideal thickness?
4. My current substrate (6-8 mo old) is a mess of Aquariumplants substrate & Caribsea Floramax. Any use for these, should I bother to recover the soil or the vulcanic rocks?

Thanks a lot.

A.

Hi A.,

I am getting a number of these questions… Well maybe it is just the time of year, Or maybe it's the time of man. I don't know who I am, But you know life is for learning. We are stardust. ..., oops, just remembered I am not Joni Mitchell. :)

If you do not have a week to soak something, soak it as long as you can, make sure you stir and rinse it thoroughly getting any floating stuff and debris out. :D

Before I started using the Tom Barr worm poop special I used potting soil mixes, the ones I liked were under the “Black Gold” label, there is quite a bit of debris in there but there is also good old fashioned worm poop, boiling is still a good idea.


  • If you just want a decent enriched substrate, try Miracle Gro Shrub and Bush soil mix in one or two parts, depending how rich you want the substrate, kitty litter (make sure it is the cheap stuff).
  • Well-composted vegetable material works.
  • Adding a layer of Osmocote Plus frankly cures most substrate nutrient problems.

I have no experience at all with any commercial aquarium substrate so I cannot comment or properly compare them.

Substrate thickness and cap thickness depend on form and function, what you want.

Heavy root feeders I like 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) of substrate.

As far as a cap goes, that depends on what you are doing I range from no cap, to a layer of pool filter sand to sand blasting shot to perhaps my favorite a layer of enamel covered “aquarium” gravel two or three layers, ¼ inch (6 mm) thick or so. :)

No enriched substrate is going to do well if plants are constantly uprooted and replanted. By its very nature enriched substrates are, well, rich. Care in planting and replanting needs to be exercised. Part of what make a good substrate for heavy root feeder and good root development is a-certain friability, crumbliness if you will, that very quality tends to make it a bit messy if it gets churned up into the water column. :gw

As mentioned earlier I do not know much about commercial substrates, I am however parsimonious, some say cheap, :( I like parsimonious, :p I would clean it and work some of it back in and keep the rest for use another day. :cool:

Biollante
 

d0lph1n

Junior Poster
Jul 19, 2010
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Biollante, thanks a lot for your fast and heavy reply. I appreciate it.

To keep it short. I've ordered plants assuming I can do it with my existing substrate. But every time I look at it I think "it's too thick" or "what a mess" or both.
My new plants will arrive this Friday. I have 2 days to decide about substrate. I like Amano's stuff, but can't afford his products (or find them locally for a decent price). Also, for the past few days I've been reading Walstad's book which messed me up (even more). Also, I'm afraid I'll lose fish, especially the rummy noses, if I disturb the existing substrate.

My stuff:
tank: 20G 30x12x12inch
filter: Eheim 2076 (24h Bio Stream)
filter media: matrix, substrat pro, bio-rio, tourmaline, palm net
light: DIY 2x20w T8 (Hagen Glo-light 6700k) + reflectors (10h a day). Now I think I have too much light.
aeration: air pump (14h a day) small amount, probably as much as the co2 dosing
CO2: DIY 2L bottle (not enough or maybe I should remove it)
heater: Jager (77-78F)
fish: mostly tetras (too ashamed to say how many rummy nose, neons, glowlights), otocinclus (3)
other critters: amano shrimp (11), red crystal shrimp (2), assassin snails (2) hunting small weird snails (too many), apple snail (1 x Pomacea bridgesii)
substrate: aquariumplants.com substrate + caribsea floramax volcano
existing plants: riccia, amazon sword, cabomba (red), hairgrass, dwarf lilly (red), java moss
new plants:
1 of : Anacharis (Egeria najas)
2 of : Cabomba Furcata
1 of : Cabomba Green (Cabomba carolina)
1 of : Contortion Vals (Vallisneria asiatica)
1 of : Heteranthera Stargrass (Heteranthera zosterfolia)
1 of : Java Moss (Vesicularia Dubyana)
1 of : Pennywort, Brazilian (Hydrocotyle Leucocephala)

30-50% water changes every thursday. I do fertilize with Excel and Flourish every other day based on "my observations". Rarely (did it once so far), I inject Flourish, API Leaf Zone and MycoGrow Hydro in the substrate. I also confess that I've stopped doing any kind of tests except the co2 indicator. 3 weeks ago, I introduced 5 black neon tetras, zero dead so far. 10 days ago I introduced 6 rummy nose tetra, 2 red crystal shrimps & 2 assassin snails. I lost 4 rummy noses one by one. Otherwise, the plants & critters are doing fine, and some minimal algae grow (I rarely clean the glass)
 
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Biollante

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Hi,

Overall, it sounds as if you are doing well. :)

My ever so humble potted-plant opinion is that the expensive Japanese guy is a marketing genius. The prices are completely unwarranted.

There is nothing wrong with the so-called natural aquarium or high-tech or low-tech or anything else, you need to choose, as Tom Barr says, “pick a method and learn it well.”

Any choice we make, including choosing not to choose incurs risk. :eek: Moving forward with a plan and sticking to it provides the greatest probability of success.

As far as the light, it is manageable, perhaps raising it 10-12 inches (25-30 cm) off the surface.

Honestly, it would be best to remove the critters to another container for a bit when making these kinds of changes. I am inclined to think that you may be just as well off continuing your substrate "as is" if you do not wish to remove the critters and for that matter the plants while you change the substrate.

I do not think do-it-yourself CO2 is a problem, less likely to kill all your fish. The issue is how (and how much) CO2 you get into solute.

Your tank is obviously over crowded; I am assuming you know that. Adding a 55-gallon tank seems appropriate, but I am also assuming you do not want to do that.


  • The Amazon Sword, Echinodorus amazonicus is simply too large for the tank.
  • The Anacharis, Egeria najas is a cold-water plant that likely will end up fouling the tank.
  • The Red water lily, Nymphaea nouchali or Nymphaea stellata, among my favorites but way too much for a 20-gallon tank, especially with all this stuff.


  • The Red Cabomba, Cabomba Furcata, is a difficult plant, but if it is already growing for you, okay.
  • Cabomba Green, Cabomba caroliniana is a noxious weed so it is not a problem.
  • Contortion Vals, Vallisneria asiatica a good low light plant very aggressive; I think a bit much for a 20-gallon tank even if it were by itself.
  • Heteranthera Stargrass, Heteranthera zosterifolia nice plant, grows fast.
  • Java Moss, Vesicularia Dubyana an easy going moss, tie it to something or let it float, is a good low light plant.
  • Brazilian Pennywort, Hydrocotyle leucocephala fast grower, not a bad choice as a floating plant, especially if cannot raise the lights off the surface.

As things stand, I suggest you set up another tank. :gw

I think you should continue with your current substrate, perhaps add a thin layer of well rinsed, enamel covered gravel.

Understand you are going to make a mess whatever you do. :eek:

I also suggest you immediately order dry fertilizers and figure on high end EI. :cool:

Biollante
 

d0lph1n

Junior Poster
Jul 19, 2010
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Biollante when you are right, you are right. Thank you for all your comments.
If my filtration and lights can handle a bigger tank, why not. I've never been satisfied with my tank's high anyway. The lights are at fixed hight, at 25-30cm above the surface.

I've put my aqua-medic 1x250w hqi on craig's barter page, maybe I can get a nice tank for it. I don't have use for these lights anyway.
But, I don't know what I'm going to do about the CO2 injection...well, bigger tank less w/gal, less co2 demand...I'll figure this out until I decide to move to a bigger tank ;).

Ref. plants:
My dwarf red lilly had an explosion of floating leafs (kept no more than 3 simultaneously) until recently. Since the last time I did the sub. injection with Iron, Flourish & MycoGrow, it's shooting only submerged leafs, shorter than 5-7 inch, redder, much nicer, like it's a different plant.

My amazon swords , well, these were my first plants, got them from petco as "amazon swords". I think there are 2 types..one type is smaller and grows slower (5-7 inch), the other type is bigger and taller, I trim them often..but it doesn't get bigger than 10-12 inch in my tank.

Egeria najas, I don't remember why I order it, maybe bcz it says "The plant secretes antibiotic substances which can help prevent blue-green algae". I can donate it if you say it's inappropriate for my setup.
Thanks again for all your suggestions.
 
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d0lph1n

Junior Poster
Jul 19, 2010
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Biollante,

I got so far the Walmart's cheapest kitty stuff (red paper sack, Special kitty brand) and the Osmocote Flower & Vegetable since I couldn't find the Plus one. Still looking for bigger tank.
 
C

csmith

Guest
Two things I've experienced with Biollante:

1.) He's going to tell you you're amazon sword is going to get huge, but if you're absolutely hell bent on figuring this out the hard way then swords love Fe.
2.) Biollante knows exactly what he's talking about on both counts, so just refer back to #1.
 
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