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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,
Years and years a go I had a small 10gal tank. A few fake planets, some fish and I loved it. Flash forward and now I wanted another tank. Searched Craig's list and got a 55gal with two Whisper 60s, two standard lights, whisper air pump. I built the stand and this past Sunday (Aug 9th) I started it up and began the cycle process. I do have 75lbs of natrual small gravel in it. I wasn't planning on doing live plants. But after viewing the pictures of tanks here and else where I now want to go with live plant.

Now, my question...I put down no substrate or anything except for the gravel, I am on a limited budget and want a nice community aquarium. Since I want to go with a planted tank, any sugguestions? Would it be wise to stop here, empty the tank, get the gravel out and put in a good substrate (recommendations welcome if so)? The big issue I have is that I am on a very limited budget but I can take it slow (even though I sit here and longingly want to see fish swimming about.

Thanks in advance, love all the pics on here, really gives me great ideas.
 

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Im about as far from a planted tank expert as you could possibly get, but i do know that a good substrate, is the foundation for a successful planted aquarium. Ive found thru much trial and error that going slow, doing research, then plunging in is always the best route to take, no matter how anxious you are to see fish swimming. I think a well planted natural aquarium is the most beautiful and fish friendly thing you could ever achieve, however it is also not cheap, and there is quite a bit of work involved in keeping it nice once you get it there, but if it was easy, and cheap everyone would do it. So my best advice to you would be, if you want something that is very obviously worth having, wait a few minutes and one of our very knowledgeable plant folks will be along to guide you every step of the way. (Probably Susan :) )
 

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It's funny, you and I got into the hobby the exact same way (me in a shorter amount of time). I had a 10 gallon with fake plants and a few fish, then got on Craigslist and found a 55 with lights, stank, heater, what-have-you. :)

I did the same thing (except I spent way to much on Caribsea Instant Aquarium gravel, which I don't believe contains anything special for plants), but I've only added the hardiest of plants to my tanks.

Some of my favorites have been Mondo grass (except when my cats accidentally unplugged my filter and woke up to a major algae problem, they're difficult to clean), ozelot swords, apogenton, wisteria (one of my favorites that have thrived). I just added some red ludwidgia to my small planted tank (which is planted, has normal gravel and no additives), so we'll see how it goes.

I have had no luck with hornwort, personally, but it's another I have tried.



This is my small plated tank while it had only couple of fakes left. 10 gallon, low light, regular gravel substrate.

Best of luck!
 
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I highly recommend you do a planted tank even if you have to drain the new setup.

On a budget, the main expense will be the plants themselves. I would check around your area for clubs and other planted tank folks. For instance, my wife just "tossed" what must have been pounds of anacharis and water sprite from her tank. She would have much rather given that to someone starting up like you.


The substrate can be very inexpensive. I use peat moss which is $10 for a 3/4 yard bale, play sand which is $3 for 50 pounds, and pc select which is $8 for 50 pounds. In your case I would just use your existing gravel for the pc select.

I put in 1" level it out then add water to the top, then the sand add water, then the gravel add water. I then add the plants and fill the tank to the top. I have found the peat moss allows a much greater variety of fish to thrive in the tank.

I am sure there are many other methods for planted tank. So that is just what works for me.

And worth at most .02
 
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You should be fine with just the gravel if you keep your light levels fairly low. Fish waste will add to the nutrients. If the plants take off and need extra nutrients you can dose with liquids or plant tabs. Do weekly water changes and you should be good. Pick plants that are hearty like swords, crypts, anubia, and java ferns.

Beware of peat moss if you go that route as it will lower your pH some.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Wow, I get home from work and...thank you all for the posts and the advice and the welcome!

I started lurking about here and after reading the responses I saw others give on here I just knew this was a good forum....my instincts proved right. I am soooo glad I found this site. Thank you all!

Glen
 

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*o2 Maybe it is Easy and Cheap after all, Well i told you i was as far from a plant expert as i could get, and once again, I was right *r2
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Awesome, thanks! I have been reading and reading and then some more reading. What I am finding out though is that the more I read the more I end up confusing myself.

I am wondering, if I stay with the gravel and get better lamps would I still be able to use some of the other plants besides the one's listed in the topic "Setting up your first planted tank" that is in another thread in this topic? Kind of a medium but low tech system?

And again, thank you all for the help. I know you experienced folks must get these types of questions all the time and it must get old, so thank you for the help. Trust me it is very very much appreciated.

What kind of inverts would you suggest? To be honest I hadn't thought of those.

Glen
 

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Plants will grow in purt near any substrate. The key will be your lighting. Too low...your plants will suffer and fade away. Too high and you will need to look at adding CO2 (not a bad thing though).

Didn't see what your lights are so I can't comment on that as far the wattage is concerned.

The only issue I have with gravel and plants....is keeping the darned things planted. *Mad*

Planted tanks are much fun though...not to mention can be very eye appealing and your fishies will love em as well.

Once you get hooked on it...you'll start looking at dosing ferts...increasing your lighting...adding CO2...it's addicting. I won't set up a new tank unless I'm going to add live plants to it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks James,
Right now I just have the cheap lights but am looking to upgrade those. I just have a tight budget so....
 

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Well....not sure what your current setup is like but I can offer two things right off top of my head:

1) Shop lights from Lowe's, HD or similar. You can get some that look nice and hang it from the ceiling...if that is an option depending on where your tank is located.

2) Again..depending on location...look at CFL fixtures like you would find in a bathroom or such. Usually 4 or 5 bulb fixtures work well. Stylish as well. ;o)

I use option 1 for most of my tanks...but then again...they are located in the basement and I didn't make these one very eye appealing. Still in the building stages.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks James....lets see, my set up:
1. Tank bought from Craig's list. Very very basic.
2. Filters are two Whisper 60s
3. A standard heater.
4. It has two small single bulb florescent tank lights which 1 isn't working.

I have put in about 3 inches of gravel (natraul color). I am thinking of going to the shop lights and get my WPG up. Would like to do medium light plants.

Not sure if anyone has seen this (I am sure that some have) or done this but I found a DIY to up the wattage of lamps by re-wiring them at this link. It is about making the shop type lights burn almost twice as bright.
 

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I think you'll have a blast with planted tanks, I know I have. There's so much to learn, and you'll be rewarded by doing a ton of research before you have to go back on yourself (as I have done a few times before :))

You'll be fine with that gravel using root tabs for those plants that need them (Amazon Swords for example seem to thrive this way).

If you have too much lighting and not enough CO2, you will have algae problems without doubt. Anywhere about 2 wpg and above, you'll have to do some type of CO2 injection, which can be a DIY method on a budget.

When you say "medium light plants" what kinds are you thinking of specifically? The one final thing I will add is please don't buy any plants in tubes (even some in submerged displays) from a lfs unless you're 110% positive it's fully aquatic and what you're looking for, many non-aquatic bog plants are sold this way to unsuspecting consumers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks for the help, obscbyclouds.

If I am calculating it correctly (and I probably am not so feel free to correct me) if I have 2x40watt shop lights/55gal that should be about 1.4watt per gal. Would this cause issues with algae? I really can't afford a CO2 system though I have studied the DIY systems.

Truthfully....I don't really understand the CO2 systems, when to have it on or how to difuse it into the water, what it does to the water quality and how to handle it.....you know, the important stuff. *#3

As for plants I have been really reading and looking at the pictures from PlantGeek.net (thanks to threads on here I learned about that site). Which ones I get I think will depend on the LFS near me. But I am of course open to any and all suggestions.

I wasn't sure about the just gravel. I have been eyeing my tank, thinking of emptying it and getting some other substrate for the plants but on my budget that would push me even further behind in getting plants and fish next month. I was wondering how to keep the plants in the gravel though, the one's that are actually planted.
 

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Thanks James....lets see, my set up:
1. Tank bought from Craig's list. Very very basic.
2. Filters are two Whisper 60s
3. A standard heater.
4. It has two small single bulb florescent tank lights which 1 isn't working.

I have put in about 3 inches of gravel (natraul color). I am thinking of going to the shop lights and get my WPG up. Would like to do medium light plants.

Not sure if anyone has seen this (I am sure that some have) or done this but I found a DIY to up the wattage of lamps by re-wiring them at this link. It is about making the shop type lights burn almost twice as bright.
that is called overdriving and only works with the solid state ballasts listed. (sunpark sl-15). A magnetic ballast which is common on home depot fixtures now, will not work. and could cause a fire or electrical shock problem.

For a 4' planted tank you should not have to do that. You have to use one ballast for 1 tube so to run two tubes yu have to buy two fixtures and canabolize a ballast from the second fixture.

IMHO for planted tank just use both fixtures with 4 tubes. you get 120-160w that way and the only additional cost is the $6 for the two tubes.

my .02
 
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Sweet, that is what Susan also suggested. There, am sold. Will do that then. Thanks!
 

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Your substrate will depend on what you like. If you don't like the gravel....switch over to sand. Will be your next cheapest option.

At 1.4wpg, you can grow low light plants likes some crypts, java ferns, water sprite amung others.

DIY CO2 is really not going to get you anything on a 55. You would have to hook up several bottles and that wouldn't be cost effective in the end game. If your budget allows it (and you're ready to dive into it)....look at starting with low end pressurized system using paintball canisters. You can get a some regulator setups for these at around $100.

Planting stems in gravel can get a little tricky as the gravel isn't very compacted to hold them in while you're adding more and such. They will occassionally work themselves free as well. No biggie...just pop em back down in there. Once they get established, you'll be good to go.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks, James!
Just wondering, is there any problem say with planning out what plants you want, background, middle and foreground and planting them all at one time? Or is it better to do one or two at a time and let the water stablize?
 

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Thanks, James!
Just wondering, is there any problem say with planning out what plants you want, background, middle and foreground and planting them all at one time? Or is it better to do one or two at a time and let the water stablize?
Tall ones in back, short ones in front.

Put in all the plants right from the start and let them condition the water for a week before adding fish. then add just a few fish and don't add food for a week. Then add more fish and start feeding very very lightly. Like one flake per day per 10g water.

For plants I use a mix of fast growers like anachris and vals. Some small potted swords/crypts. With one or two amazon swords as centerpieces.

for a 10g I use 4-6 bunches of anacharis, 4-6 vals, 4 small potted and a singlel amazon sword.

For fish I use a single male platty or with the peat moss a single neon tetra. Then after a week I add a female platty. With the neons I add 4 or more neons after the first week.

With the plattys you will have a tank full of platys in 6 months.

Oh yea I use 1-2g/gallon, no filters, no heaters, no water changes, straight untreated tap water used for top off only.

I have one guppy tank that now has ran for 7 years with sand. It has 20-30 guppies from the original cycle trio.

just what works for me.

Worth at most .02
 
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