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veggie filter plants

Discussion in 'Talk to Tom Barr' started by SMCKEE, Dec 20, 2008.

  1. SMCKEE

    SMCKEE Junior Poster

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    Hey Tom, like plants, but I dont think my cichlids would take care of them the way we would like to. Question, was going to set up a 375 gallon tank along with just as large or larger sump in another room. I had the thought off using hydroponics to help with the nitrates using the ebb and flow method. How much square feet of plant and what would be fast nutrient absorber, like a water hyacinth bog would do for a pond. Sorry if off the topic, just hate to see the nitrates go to waste.

    Thanks for your time....steve
     
  2. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Hi,

    Duckweed has been found to be excellent at this sort of thing and grows very quickly (too quickly most times lol). Are you going to have lights on the sump? Elodea and many other stems like hygro, rotala, ludwigia will also grow quickly and absorb these nutrients. You can float them on the surface. Hornwort will also work well for this.

    What type/size cichlids do you have?

    Many anubias species will attach to wood or rocks and have strong leaves that will withstand a lot of abuse. Larger swords will also root well with a few small stones to protect them initially.

    Java fern is also tough and attaches like Anubias and comes in several different varieties.

    I envy you a 375! Make sure you post a pic or two.

    Good luck.
     
  3. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Since it's a 375, I'll assume it's at least 8 ft long and that you have 4 ft of tank space under or in the filter area.

    So a nice Shop light with an E ballast, or if you really into it, use a T5 set up 4ft long.
    It does not need to be anything complex here.

    Just some SMS or Zeosand or likely the best thing would be Zeolite gravel for sediment(cheap, very high surface area, excellent biomedia over time).

    Next get some pots(4" to 8") that will sit about 2" above the high water in the sump when filled with Zeolite. Drilla large no# of small holes(not big enough for the zeolight to spill out etc) Go to Home Depot etc, buy several 6" peace lilies and repot them into the pots filled with zeolite. Place these in the sump area. Make sure the root crowns are about 1" above the water line.

    Set up light. Place on 12 hour time.
    If you have say 8 plants, as they grow, you can prune off a large leaf etc one at a time if you chose, or whack one pot at a time and pull the plant apart and replant a small side shoot, or mow about 4" above the root crown, it will respout. Just not hack everything and repot about 1-2x a year.

    That's about it.
    If you want, you can use a small powerhead and a gang valve to dribble a small amount of water into each pot, this will help. Plants are extremely efficient light users, and Peace lilies can handle lots of light and other abuse. You can use a wide range of tropical foliage, but Peace lilies do work very well.


    Now about the tank, do you want nice algae growing etc and plecos as well etc?
    If so, place a small powerhead and add aeration and have the current flow along the horizontal length of the tank right above some rocks, driftwood....etc.
    This will grow the right type of algae pretty well. Rotate slate piece in the area for food for fish.

    Water sprite can do pretty well floating also.
    Just use the current to keep it in one region near the light.

    If you set this up right, you will not need to many if any water changes.
    The plants will use everything up. As always, plant heavy and give the system some time to develop the bacteria. About 1-2 months. The plants require very little light, so a shop light should do well.

    Make sure you have plenty of space for the plants/pots in the sump, you do not need Bio because the pots are the bio with the Zeolite. So just heaters(say 2 x 500 watt Finnex), and mechanical filters, say some large sponge and then a bag filter set(6 x 20 or close) of say 2-4 bags at 100-200 micron range. If you want, you can polish well with a 50 micron set.

    This is an ideal sump.

    Flow, well, 2000gph should do fine.
    Add that and a powerhead in the tank with aeration, things should be fine for high bioloads. You can sort of think of each pot unit as a wet/dry filter and as a denitifyer and as a plant export(PO4/NO3/NH4/K/other salts), all 3 things are happening in each pot.

    And you can easily harvest the plants and it looks pretty nice and cool.
    You can tease your other aquarist friends with your sustainable approach.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  4. SMCKEE

    SMCKEE Junior Poster

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    veggie filter?

    Thank you all for your input. the subscription has really paid off. Hey Tom, does the proportion of peace lillies have to be in proportion to the tank. In other words. let see if I can explain this... does the sump have to have 50%(higher or lower) vegetation to be effective denitrifiers. OH, one more thing, the sumps or sump will be in the next room so it can be as large as the tank. thanks again everyone.

    Steve
     
  5. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    The % biomass of the plants needs to be matched to the bioload, not the size of the tank.

    But it's okay to do a bit of overkill.
    Same deal with any filter system, the more, the better I figure.
    Rare cases perhaps otherwise, but those are rare.

    I'd fill the 4ft tank/sump, with 36" full of the plant "pots", lava, zeolite etc, then a pair of large sponge filter blocks and gate right before the intake for the return pump.

    Since this is a fish only system, you can use a small valve and a venturi suction(or small air pump) for aerating the return the water. If you do not like the mist, you can use an air line valve to adjust and stop it for viewing etc, but when not, leave it going to keep the O2 high. Adjusting it down to lower aeration also reduces any noise, but I think the return pump will be louder and it'll be under the tank etc.

    If you have high plant biomass high fish loading, high bacteria, you need high O2 also. Not just for the fish breathing, rather, to help the bacteria and plants process all the waste and cycle it fast. This helps the fish and adds O2 for them(aerating the return line).

    Make sure to install and hard plumbed drain and refill valve for this tank.
    I doubt you live in a small apartment, so do this now at the planning stage.
    Add the water fill(hot/cold) and drain lines(this can go out into the yard or landscaping for irrigation/ground water recharge etc) directly to the tank.

    All you do is turn a valve to drain any % of the tank you want, then turn another to refill it.

    This makes water changes very easy and you need little motivation to do a water change from then on. You will save your self hours of labor and be more likely to care for the tank. Also, your other hobby friends will envy the set up.

    Even if you hire a plumber to add the lines, it's still pays for itself in 2 months.
    If you own the home, you are insane not to add such a system to larger tanks.
    If you are concerned about the Electric bill, a skylight or placing the sump next to the window and using less light or only during winter etc kight work just fine also since the filter system is in the other room.

    This way you get free light and use the wastewater for irrigation.
    You can also use the plant trimming for compost or sell them etc.
    I would try and make the filter look like a nice Hydroponic style garden.
    Those clay balls they sell for media work well also.
    You can take 3" PVC pipe and cut into 18-20" long pieces and glue those test 3" caps on the bottom drill a few small holes for drainage and fill with the zeolite, clay balls, lava etc and plant the peace lilies in there. Some small air line tubing and a small pump will slowly trickly the water through each 3" dia pipe.

    This is pretty easy abd a very high % success rate method.
    If you are competent enough to set up a large tank, do sumps etc, then this is cake work. As long as you have plenty of plants, light, and water, they should do pretty well.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     

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