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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm going to be converting my 4x1.5x1.5ft into a planted community when the current stock gets thier new larger home. The tank is already moderately planted so it has enough light over it (4x40w T8's).
I have only had dabbled & had moderate success with plants in the past so I'm looking for tips & suggestions that are going to make this easier for me. Especially how to keep away the horrible thread algae I always seem to get in every tank I have any plants in.
I'm not going for the Dutch look but I do want a decent number of plants in there.
I'm after specific advice on a good cheap nutrient base as well. Flourite costs an absolute fortune (over $100aus for 15lbs), in my area & is hard to find as are most Seachem products. I can get thier liquid ferts easy though. Are there any alternatives that people can suggest that will give me good results but not send me broke? The visible substrate will be ungraded natural black inert gravel with a maximum 9mm particle size.
 

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ive heard of a lot of different techniques, cheap and expensive. the cheap substrates work fine at first, but then eventually break down into mud, and can be very dirty. ive heard of people using a layer of potting soil on the bottom and gravel on the top. again more mud. the most promising ways ive heard to do it on a budget is to either use a layer of regular old playground sand on the bottom loaded with dry tab ferts or course, and then you can either put a layer of the expensive stuff on top (so you dont have to spend AS much on flourite, or ADA aquasoil or powersand. personaly i think ADA is the best.) Or just sand and then your black gravel you mentioned. Another one is somthing called Zeolite. its a really porous kind of gravel. Really the experts say to spare no expense on the substrate if not anything else, they say you wont regret it in the long run.

whatever you choose, remember these three things...

1. you want a subtrate that is really fine (like sand or small gravel) so the roots can grab hold.

2. the cheap way to do it doesnt have any ferts built in, so you have to add them with tabs, pellets, sticks, etc.

3. Make sure it isnt somthing that is going to break down over time and turn into mud. that will save you headaches 6 months to a year down the road. i learned this one the hard way. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for that chichlidkeeper. Ive been hunting for suitable alternatives to flourite & all I can get is onyx which costs much the same. I guess that's part of the problem with living in the most remote city on earth, supplies are hard to find. I am on a budget as I'm a single dad with 4 boys. So as much as I'd like to splurge & get flourite, it would take quite awhile before I had saved enough for it. The only LFS that stocks seachem isn't very good & I don't usually go there, so I can't make arrangements with them to pay it off.
I have been thinking of trying no nutrient base & just using tabs & liquid fert combo with the ungraded substrate I'm putting in but I don't know just how succesful that would be & I figure it will be more expensive in the long run. On the positive side though I wouldn't have to pull the tank apart every few years to replace the nutrient base.
My layout will heavily feature anubius, echinodorus, crypt & java varieties. the javas will be attached to the backwall & rock etc, as will the anubius barteri. Liquid ferts are fine for the attached plants I know but I really want the plants to get going so that I have a chance of beating the algae problem I always seem to end up with. I know there's no substitute for a good nutrient base but could I get good results just using the tabs etc instead?
 

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Yes you can, I use either playsand, pool filter sand, or black blasting sand in all my tanks and have no problem growing plants as long as I use fert tabs and water column ferts. With playsand though you have to remember to poke it with a fork during water changes, where there is no roots growing so that you won't get anaerobic conditions in the substrate.
 

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I use what back in the late 70's was called the leiden, natural, planted, or dutch methods.

What I recommend is a lot of plants with a mix of fast growers (anacharis/vals) and slower growers (cryps, small potted) and perhaps a large centerpeice plant like amazon swords.

Using play sand I have had many fish last for years but some fish especially neon tetras did not do well. So I have (currently) settled down on this substrate. 1" peat moss, 1" play sand, 1"pc select or small gravel. Each layer is added and water added to the top of that layer. Then the tank cleaned and the layer leveled and the next layer added.

After the final layer I add the plants to my liking and the fill the tank to the top.

I then let it set for a week

Then add a single (for a 10g tank) fish.

Then wait a week with no food being added.

Then add fish to the initial stocking level and start adding a single flake per day of food.

Again for a 10g tank.

I use no filter, no air stone, no circulation and just replace the water the evaporates.

I do harvest some hair algae in some tanks every month or so. In most tanks if algae or cloudiness appears I kill the lights and stop adding food untill clear. Then resume reduced feeding and lighting. And adjust until the plants thrive but not the algae.


Peat moss in the US is an organic moss which costs $10 for 3/4 of a cubic yard. I presume there is some type of orgnaic garden or potting mix down under that will serve the same function. I would stay away from any soil with added fertz.

What I have found out is that with the peat moss neons thrived for years.

Also my KH and GH slowly rise over time with just sand. But remain more constant with the peat moss for years. Kh is around 4 degrees and GH around 9 degrees and has been those levels for over 2 years now.

I also use 1-2 watts per gallon lights (6500k), do not use any co2, and do not added any fertz. Well other then the fish.

My 7 year 10g tank has 20-30 guppies from the original cycle trio.

My 2 year 20g has 15 -20 platies again from the original cycle fish.

I have a 1g test tank (Jar) with a neon which is has lived in there fo about 2.5 years now.

My wife started a 10g 8 months ago with 5 glo fish and 6 neons. All but one neon are still there and she harvests plants every 3 months or so.

I have used these techniques in 1/2 dozen cities in the US since the late 70's with the same results. So it is not a question of the quality of the tap water at my current location.

When I finally measured parameters a couple years back what I found out was ammonia bumped up to .25 ppm then down the next day. The nitrItes to .5 and down the next day. Meanwhile nitrates jumped to 20ppm and remained there for 3 weeks then dropped down to 0. pH with the peat moss was 7.2 for a couple of weeks then jumped up to 8.4-8.8 (api test kit). With no peat moss pH rose to those levels in a few days.

From what I understand these parameters are what are to be expected for a heavily planted, un filtered, un circulated tank. And obvously why it worked so well before I started measuring anything.

Let us know how it works.

As always these are just my ideas.

Worth at most .02
 

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I personally do not care for just sand for 2 reasons. You want good aeration even around your roots. Sand compacts can can form pockets of anerobic areas that produce sulfide gases that are bad for your plants and fish. Susankat mentioned above that you need to stir it up with something like a chopstick, but in a heavily planted tank this will get to be more and more of a pain.

You also cannot give it really good cleaning like you can with gravel like substrates. You have to adjust your vacuum and pay more attention. I found that I liked sand as a fine weight to keep down the 1st layer of nutrients. I typically use a combo of soil, peat moss (lowers pH), and cat litter (non-scented clay) up to 1.5in, sand on top of that 0.5in then 2in-3in front to back of regular gravel. This allows you to still vaccum the gravel surface, and provides iron rich (and other) nutrients for the roots with minimum anerobic effects.

If you lived here in the US you could get flourite fairly cheap from Dr Foster&Smith since they do not charge to ship by the weight.

Here is a picture showing a 20g setup I did, you can see the layers:


One month later:
 
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