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Starting Over...


JoeQ
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I'm not really starting over, sorry about the click baity title! 🤣 In this thread I'm more intrested in hearing;  knowing what you know now, what planted tank advice would you give to yourself if you had to start over with absolutely NO knowledge. I'll save my thoughts for later in the thread so I don't sway anyone's advice. 

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On 1/27/2023 at 6:02 AM, JoeQ said:

I'm not really starting over, sorry about the click baity title! 🤣 In this thread I'm more intrested in hearing;  knowing what you know now, what planted tank advice would you give to yourself if you had to start over with absolutely NO knowledge. I'll save my thoughts for later in the thread so I don't sway anyone's advice. 

I would start all my tanks with a layer of at least 1" of dry cow manure topped with 2" of sand.  The first one I set up that way was a standard 20 gallon, and plants are doing amazing in it.  I have since broken down and re-done three 10-gallon tanks this way, and am planning on doing it with the fourth fairly soon.  Eventually I'll probably do the 20 long.  I haven't gotten brave enough to do it with the 40 breeder or the 65, and probably won't unless other circumstances warrant breaking them down anyway.

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I would practice putting something in the substrate first with only a couple of inches of water. I struggled with getting plants and root tabs deep enough that they didn't float out while at the same time leaving the crown showing. I would put the hardscape in and find what was pleasing to my eye, then take it out and put the background plants in, so the hardscape isn't getting in the way of planting. 

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On 1/27/2023 at 6:18 AM, JettsPapa said:

I would start all my tanks with a layer of at least 1" of dry cow manure topped with 2" of sand.  The first one I set up that way was a standard 20 gallon, and plants are doing amazing in it.  I have since broken down and re-done three 10-gallon tanks this way, and am planning on doing it with the fourth fairly soon.  Eventually I'll probably do the 20 long.  I haven't gotten brave enough to do it with the 40 breeder or the 65, and probably won't unless other circumstances warrant breaking them down anyway.

I feel like I'm eventually going to end up doing something dirted with sand over it.  I have one tank with gravel, one with Fluval Stratum, one with a bit of stratum in the planted areas, some gravel over the top for roots, and then 1.5-2" of sand over the top.  Plants really seem to hit the ground running in the stratum tanks.  In gravel they'll do OK and then seem to peter out.  I'm terrible at remembering root tabs as well, but trying to get better.  Just how much, um... bull... stuff does it take to do a 10 gallon tank? 😄

Might have to go collect some this spring.  Or, just dig up some dirt from the chicken run in the backyard.

 

For me: Cut back on the light a little.  Cut back on the water changes a lot (for the planted tanks).  Don't get too frustrated with some algae covering some plants (because it seems like it eventually balances out and you can trim it away).  Don't use any blue "moon lighting" in a planted tank.  

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On 1/27/2023 at 7:45 AM, JJenna said:

I would practice putting something in the substrate first with only a couple of inches of water. I struggled with getting plants and root tabs deep enough that they didn't float out while at the same time leaving the crown showing. I would put the hardscape in and find what was pleasing to my eye, then take it out and put the background plants in, so the hardscape isn't getting in the way of planting. 

There is no Emoji to adequately show how much I agree with this. It’s probably the #1 reason why I don't do a total rescape/replant my tanks..... which usually turns Into an all day event because of this. I even have a love hate relationship with ordering plants because I know the frustration planting will cause me!

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On 1/27/2023 at 8:16 AM, DaveO said:

My advice to me would be don't use fluval stratum. Do use sand. Don't skimp, get the good stuff. 

I capped my Seachem sand with cheap aquarium gravel. I'm much happier with it now, the only exception is I'm not sure if it will have compaction issues.

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On 1/27/2023 at 7:15 AM, jwcarlson said:

. . .  Just how much, um... bull... stuff does it take to do a 10 gallon tank? 😄

Might have to go collect some this spring.  Or, just dig up some dirt from the chicken run in the backyard.

It doesn't take much to put an inch deep in a 10 gallon tank.  I have cows, so I get mine from the barn where they spend a fair amount of time.  It of course has some dirt mixed with it.  I don't use fresh.

I'd be careful with chicken manure.  It's "hotter" than cow manure and may burn the plants.  Maybe mix it with a good quality potting soil?

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On 1/27/2023 at 7:46 AM, JettsPapa said:

It doesn't take much to put an inch deep in a 10 gallon tank.  I have cows, so I get mine from the barn where they spend a fair amount of time.  It of course has some dirt mixed with it.  I don't use fresh.

I'd be careful with chicken manure.  It's "hotter" than cow manure and may burn the plants.  Maybe mix it with a good quality potting soil?

I'd dig down, the chickens have been there five+ years.  I'd skim down a bit, not taking the top layer.  

One of the farms we hunt has cows, I could easily go collect some dry manure.  

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I wish I had known more about iron supplements before I started stocking all epiphytic plants in my aquarium about 3 months ago.

A few weeks ago I switched to a 100% ferrous gluconate product from a product that had a mixture of dtpa, edta, and ferrous gluconate because I was seeing a cascade of deficiencies.  My tank runs a higher pH so the plants werent utilizing the all the Fe that was dosed, and if they don't have enough iron then they can't uptake other nutrients.  I can tell the plants are doing better now and the hair algae has stopped multiplying.  My buce are looking better for sure, they might make it!!

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On 1/27/2023 at 4:02 AM, JoeQ said:

I'm not really starting over, sorry about the click baity title! 🤣 In this thread I'm more intrested in hearing;  knowing what you know now, what planted tank advice would you give to yourself if you had to start over with absolutely NO knowledge. I'll save my thoughts for later in the thread so I don't sway anyone's advice. 

To my future self:

  1. The aquascaped nature aquarium, dutch aquarium, etc., are all beautiful and awesome, but you dont' have much artistic talent and don't like high maintenance tanks. Go see them, watch videos about them, and leave it at that.
  2. Go with easy low light plants.
  3. Which means: No need for super-bright "plant" LEDs, CO2, etc.
  4. Which means: Your favorite pant will become all Anubias sp., followed by Java Ferns, Java Mosses, Crypts, and Bucephalandra sp.
  5. Control Algae with less light, primarily.
  6. Dose ferts, but sparingly, since your tanks are running in slow-motion compared to most advice you'll read about.
  7. Avoid CO2. Everything is slower, calmer, less growth, less pruning, etc.
  8. Do the dirted tank thing once, for fun. They're great fun at the start, then they aren't.
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The constant issue I seem to run into is that no matter how much surface agitation, air diffusers, and light I crank into the tank I cannot ever have enough CO2 for the plants to use.  Between nutrient issues and lighting, the constant for me has been that the plants have what they need, try to grow, but constantly do so at the cost of the bottom half of the plant. (Carbon + Nitrogen issues, likely)

If I was starting over again, right now, I'd use a different substrate, but I would specifically start off trying to simply get the plants growing before doing anything.  I had the tank setup, planted, looking awesome, but then everything died and it's been an issue trying to get plants to root ever since.

Start:
20210830_232001.JPG.3685158d4689424a244c81b57286793b.JPG

Added the infected hardscape from the tubs to the tank.  Notice the second batch of hairgrass in there now.
Note: The decision at the time was to move fish out of the tubs, because it was either that or they froze to death.  So I am happy they were moved and doing well, but it destroyed my chances at a very fancy tank.
1.jpg.1062a8d2ad6a4ad537260ee1674368eb.jpg

 

I needed to give the plants at least 2-3 months instead of 4-6 weeks.

Edited by nabokovfan87
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On 1/27/2023 at 5:19 PM, nabokovfan87 said:

The constant issue I seem to run into is that no matter how much surface agitation, air diffusers, and light I crank into the tank I cannot ever have enough CO2 for the plants to use.  Between nutrient issues and lighting, the constant for me has been that the plants have what they need, try to grow, but constantly do so at the cost of the bottom half of the plant. (Carbon + Nitrogen issues, likely)

This isn't a carbon or nitrogen issue, or CO2 or circulation. It's a light issue. And it's completely normal/expected. Plants unfortunately do compete with themselves. Here's a random google hit for "forest understory".

image.png.1ec159abe5acea2f0a3154dca9422efe.png

The leaves all (mostly) grow up at the tops of the trees, where they get the most light, mostly above the frame of this pic. Okay yes this particular photo is an artificially cleared/opened up understory/campground, but it's not that dissimilar from an undisturbed deciduous forest. If you want your plants to grow at the floor of your tank, you need a light that will send high levels of PAR down there, you need to cut away the plants that are shading your substrate, and you need to continually chop the tops off the substrate plants to keep the lower levels sprouting/growing/green. Or (and) taking the chopped tops and planting them back in the substrate (lower down). To maintain this level of tissue loss and (re)growth, you need phenomenally healthy plants, which means great lights and usually high rates of fert application, and probably CO2 as well. On top of this, you might have to do major maintenance of higher plants, just to keep the lower plants surviving. Yes, you can put slower more resilient plants low down to partly mitigate this, but if you have similar plants (or plants with similar requirements) in the upper/middle water column and on the floor, I can guess which one will grow faster/better and which will spend a lot of time dying back. 

Cory's said this a zillion times in his streams (and my daddy told me a million times not to exaggerate 😛), but the rate at which PAR falls off with increasing water depth is really high. I found a chart on The Planted Tank that suggests that for a tank with substrate 12" below the surface (think 10 gallon), with a light 2" above the surface, the PAR 2" below the water surface is ~10x higher than at the substrate. So of course your plants are going to want to stretch for that light

https://www.plantedtank.net/threads/par-vs-column-height-vs-light-height.1281291/ (graphs at top of thread)

Sorry if this comes across preachy, it's meant to be helpful/information. 

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On 1/27/2023 at 2:56 PM, TOtrees said:

Sorry if this comes across preachy, it's meant to be helpful/information. 

Not at all.

I appreciate the detailed info and examples.

I did end up swapping lights and I did have an issue with enough light getting to the substrate. It's "improved" and plants are growing. I do still have issues, but a lot of my turn around on the tank was when I added the CO2 back in. Even with PH testing, dosing on CO2, I have still not been dosing in enough!

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On 1/27/2023 at 12:06 PM, PerceptivePesce said:

I wish I had known more about iron supplements

Nutrients in general!

On 1/27/2023 at 2:37 PM, Matt Armstrong said:

Avoid CO2. Everything is slower, calmer, less growth, less pruning, etc.

Agreed! Most newbies see co2 as a growth stimulator,  when it's actually more of a time accelerator. Your plants grow faster if you are dialed in properly,  however, if not they also die at an accelerated rate.

On 1/27/2023 at 5:19 PM, nabokovfan87 said:

needed to give the plants at least 2-3 months instead of 4-6 weeks.

My 2 cents on the issue is it would be helpful to build your eco system, get some good growth going by planting heavy: then attempt growing your carpet. My theory basically is this:; more roots in the substrate improve substrate quality. Which is more better,  making it easier for the more finicky plants to grow! 

Edited by JoeQ
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On 1/28/2023 at 7:45 AM, JoeQ said:

however, if not they also die at an accelerated rate.

I'm usually talking about species like anubias and Java fern rather than conditions like injected CO2 or not, but I always think "slow to grow means slow to die".

Knowing what I know now, I'd build up/slope my substrate higher - it seemed like I was taking up a lot of precious room but every inch closer to the light the background plants are is dramatically more light. I'd remember to stick a whole bunch of root tabs in my inert substrate before anything else: hardscape, plants, water. And I'd more thoughtfully group or bunch same-species stems together for aesthetic reasons instead of just haphazardly jabbing them in somewhere in the back. They can be a little closer to each other than I used to think.

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I have only two tanks so grain of salt but this is my two cents 

On the first one, I listened to the people telling me, " you don't need that."

And it was a struggle; I eventually made it work, but it took a long time ( over a year) and constant problem-solving. Now it's stable and on autopilot.

 

On my second one, I spent. I got the good light; I got the expensive aqua soil, and I spent a month planning hardscape, boiling wood, composition, shade spots, and light spots.

I spent almost $300 on plants to start with.

It's easier to plant in aqua soil; the plants look greener right from the start. Stem plants with a combination of slow-growing "low light " will save you from algae.

Try to find a cycled media, even for just the plants. 

You do get what you pay for to an extant in this hobby and that is a good thing 

 

Edited by Ohad
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On 1/31/2023 at 10:39 AM, JettsPapa said:

Would you mind explaining that part?  How do plants benefit from cycled media?

Only my experiences. But the first months with my first tank I got rotting melting plants and ammonia spikes that led to algae .

If your tank can deal with ammonia ( maybe again its in my mind) less algae, you worry less about over-fertilization and so on  

Edited by Ohad
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On 1/31/2023 at 9:48 AM, Ohad said:

Only my experiences. But the first months with my first tank I got rotting melting plants and ammonia spikes that led to algae .

If your tank can deal with ammonia ( maybe again its in my mind) less algae, you worry less about over-fertilization and so on  

It's typical for plants to melt back when introduced to a new environment, and as far as I know that's just as true for older tanks as new ones.

Plants use ammonia as fertilizer, so I don't believe that's a problem for them.

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On 1/31/2023 at 12:46 PM, JettsPapa said:

It's typical for plants to melt back when introduced to a new environment, and as far as I know that's just as true for older tanks as new ones.

Plants use ammonia as fertilizer, so I don't believe that's a problem for them.

correct the melting will happen , the ammonia spikes will not and to me this is helpful , I guess if not cycled media I could do the green aqua way for daily water changes for the first week , and every two days for the next two weeks 

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