Friday, January 18, 2008

Setting up a planted tank


Co2 injection does more than just help your plants grow better, it adds for better water quality and also offers a way to gradually reduce the pH in the tank. Which can aid in some cases a better quality of fish as well as plant life?The simplest co2 system is the natural fermentation process to supply carbon dioxide to the water and more cost effective for the smaller tank set ups.
The lager the tank the more c02 needed and would suggest the system of bottled co2, valves and gauges.Forethought is the key to a well planted and designed planted aquarium, which should be viewed as an enjoyable not a chore aspect of your planted tank.In order to gain an aspect of this beautiful hobby, there is an abundance of books and reading material on the market to help you through every step of the way to setting up and maintaining you planted aquarium.
The first step in setting up your tank is to choosing the substrate to cover the bottom of the tank and help keep the plants from floating around.Gravel aprox 2 to 5 cm will be sufficient and should be sloped from the front up to the rear, the rear being deeper than the front. This will give a vision of depth to the finished display of your tank. There is an array of types of gravel on the market and is more often chosen for personal choice than for suitability. I.e. the darker the gravel the better to bring out the color of some of your fish, the likes of neon tetras & cardinals will be more prominent in front of dark backgrounds but will be lost if you have white or bright colored gravel.
When purchasing gravel make sure it is inert, as some gravel can alter your water quality in different ways. Always read any information on the package and don’t be afraid to ask questions before you buy. It is also wise to consider using a laterlite at this stage as trying to put this in after the tank is set up is only asking for trouble and headaches.Once you have your gravel in the tank its time to start your aquascaping of the tankPlace rocks and any wood in a way so as to give an overall visual balance to the tank.
Try to place rock and wood in such a way to add depth. I.E. rock sloping from the rear to the front will give a cascading affect. Then place your plants in the tank, again following the above rule. Rocks and wood can be used to highlight some of your favorite plants, the larger of these being placed at the rear or to the side of the tank.
Rocks can be used to make walls or dividers and raised areas for planting in the way you would do in a house garden.Bogwood is excellent for dividing the taller plants at the rear from the smaller plants at the front, and is ideal for attaching the plants Anubias or moss type plants that need tying down. Some stunning effects can be achieved using these methods. If you are not sure about planting at the start, there are now a number of plants that can be bought already attached to bogwood in various forms.As I stated in one of my other articles do not rush setting up your planted tank.
I hope you have as much fun and enjoyment from your planted tank as I do.

Setting up a planted tank

This article will be dedicated to help beginners set up their new tank and help them through the set up period of their planted tank.
The thread will be done in stages, from buying your equipment, tank etc to the final stage of turning on the power and getting your plants to grow.
This article is intended for beginners to planted tanks in general and for those who have no or little experience of setting up a planted tank. Although fish are and will become apart of your set up we will not be dealing with them in this thread.

So were do we start?
At this stage you have obviously decided to set up a planted tank and are scratching your head wondering what to buy and were to put it.
The first thing to do BEFORE running out and buying a tank is to STOP! and think of these 2 questions first.
1. Where you are going to put the tank?
2. How big a tank can you have (this depends on not only cost but the amount of space you have in your house or apt, and if you have wooded floors or concrete floors.
Once you have decided how big a tank you want and were you are going to place the tank (and this must NOT be in direct sunlight) then you go and get your tank.

For a normal every day aquarium it would be best to choose an all in one aquarium e.g. jewel aquariums, or similar come complete with everything you need to set up and go you just need to add water, gravel, plants and fish.
If you decide to set up all individual items then this is a bit harder to do.
After deciding on the size of the tank you then have to choose the rest of the equipment to match the size of the tank. You will need the following equipment:

FILTER (internal or external)

Internal or external: Internal filters work fine and come with most all-in-one set ups but limit the space you have in the tank for displaying your plants and can also look unsightly.
External filters are more suited to lager set ups but they also give better circulation to any size of tank.
Under gravel filters are very rarely used in planted aquaria and are also difficult to maintain for cleaning properly.

The most important thing about the heater is that you get the correct wattage for the size of your tank.
Internal heaters are fine and again come with most all-in-one set ups. If you are going to keep fish in your planted tank then you must make sure the heater has a protective cover to stop the fish burning them selves on it.


If you choose to have an open top aquarium you will not need a hood.
But in general you will a hood that has or will accommodate enough lighting to help grow your plants and to stop some fish from jumping out the tank.
Lighting now days comes in al sorts of different types (explain later) but for the everyday tank normal aquatic tubes with two extra tubes fitted will do for now.

You will need something to hold the plants down to stop them floating around the tank. Gravel comes in different sizes and colours and this is up to the individual to decide on that, but as a general rule the gravel should not be to big or the roots will not hold and you will have floating plants. Sand can also be used.
Substrate is a layer of fertiliser like substance placed under the gravel to allow the roots to feed correctly. Substrate is important but you can do with out if necessary.
C02 is imho one of the most important additions to any planted tank and makes a world of difference to all plants.

Routine Maintainace of your tank

• Check for any missing livestock and their health. Check that all plants show NO signs of ill health.
• Check water temperature
• Make sure that all equipment is working. E.g. lights and filters(s)

Twice weekly
• Gently disturb any fine leaved plants such as cabomba and dense foregrounds, hairgrass etc to remove any trapped debris which can weaken the plant

• Test water for nitrItes (N02), nitrAtes (N03) pH & hardness. pH/hardness will determine the c02 in the tank
• Remove dead or weak leaves and other plant matter.
• Use an algae magnet, pad or scraper to remove excess algae from the glass.
• Siphon or remove any mulm from the surface of the gravel etc. and replace the water you have removed whilst doing this with new, dechlorinated water. Siphon out enough water to give you at east a 20% water change, this will help replenish minerals and help to lower nitrItes and phosphates.
• Replenish liquid ferts after water changes as per manufactures instructions. REMEMBER to only add ferts to the amount of water you have removed, NOT to the total of water in the tank as this will lead to excess nutrients and may cause an algae bloom.
• Clean the tank glass and any condensation under the hood and around the lights. This will help the light penetration into the tank.

Every two weeks
• Thoroughly clean half the sponge in the internal filters using water from the aquarium. Then tip it away.

• Switch off external filters and clean the media in water from the aquarium.
• Replace any filter floss

Every three months
• Check substrate for any compaction and gently loosen it with your fingers
• Remove and clean impellers and housing in pumps and filters

Every 6-12 months
• Replace fluorescent tubes. Replace them aprox after 10mths even if they appear to be working fine as they loose their power and intensity.
• Replace filter sponges. Over time the bacterial capacity of sponges diminish and they need to be replaced. Only replace HALF at a time and the other half about a month later, this will reduce the loss of bacteria.

When needed
• Replenish liquid ferts as per instructions
• Check c02 supplies so as you don’t run short
• Trim large plants so they don’t grow across the surface and block out the light
• Trim large stem plants and any that have become thin at the base, cut the tops off and re-plant.
• Large leaf plants such as Echinodorus sp. Need to have their large outer leaves removed and roots trimmed, they should respond with new healthy smaller leaves for you.
• Remove any debris from the tank, e.g. any loose or floating dead leaves, and old leaves that have become tatty or have algae on them and any uneaten food that you missed when cleaning the gravel.

Good plants for beginners

The ideal conditions required for plants in the aquarium are not always the same as that for your fish. So how do they live together in nature? Very simply the aquarium is not the same as real life, i.e. you wouldn’t normally find the plants we keep in our tanks living together in true life. As also some fish will destroy plants when in an aquarium but we won’t deal with that here.
Below are some plants that should grow in most, if not all fresh water aquariums. This is intended for beginners, and not for the more experienced aquarist. These plants are probably the hardiest of all aquatic plants.

Probably the most well known aquarium plant. This is a very hardy plant and adapts well to nearly all types of water conditions. Root type. Placement: rear of tank
Again adjusts well to most water conditions. Root type. Placement: middle/rear
Very strong plant that does well to help reduce nitrates in the fight against algae. Root type. Placement: middle/rear.
Very like Amazon sword. But one type actually grows a flower type head through out the year. I use this one like a water tester. If it is growing well and flowers then there is not much wrong with your water. Rhizome type. Placement: middle/foreground.
Said not to do to well in harder water but other varieties would do better. Ideal foreground plant creating a carpet effect. Root type. Placement: foreground.

The above 5 plants are IMO the most popular in the plant range for aquariums depending on the type you are seeking.
Although I have not listed ph range or temp range for the above it is more important to keep the tank stable in water stats as it is while fish keeping.
I suggest the beginner does some homework before going out and getting what he thinks will look great in the tank only to find the fish have eaten it, or it has died by the end of the first 2 weeks because the plant is not suited to that type of environment or the fish you keep. Plants are very much like the fish you keep, they have different requirements than that of your fish so you have to make good for the fish as well as the plants.
You may as I did, start an aquarium and then start to add plants and find you then want the best of both worlds. Hope this helps to shed some light on happy plant as well as fish keeping.