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New Planted Tank

Discussion in 'Planted Chit Chat' started by wdavidnc, Dec 27, 2017.

  1. wdavidnc

    wdavidnc New Member

    Nov 28, 2017
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    Hi all! By a lucky happenstance I got a free 50 gallon tank and I'm planning replace my planted 30 gallon with it. I've been on a grad student income the last two years so I haven't been able to really do too much with it, but hopefully once I find a big boy job I'll have a bit more spending money for it. To keep me optimistic during my job search I'm wanting to start planning it so I have a few questions:
    - Are there any brands or types of lights that work really well? I probably won't have any super fancy plants - mainly Amazon swords, Anubias, sagitarria/vallisneria, and maybe hornwort and Anarchis.
    - Related, are there any other plants that are good for beginners and easy to find? I also have a Windelov fern(spelling?) and Cryptocorne that I love but I can't find many of them.
    - I've had trouble with lots of detritus getting stuck behind the plants. Any suggestions on how to clean the tank without having to rearrange everything? Any best brand/type of filter?
    - Any tools that are useful? I've seen trimming scissors but the ones I've seen are about $15+, so are there alternatives?

    I think that's all for now - I'm sure I'll think of more over the next few weeks.

  2. Byron

    Byron Member

    Feb 25, 2009
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    The light is the single most important factor in live plants. This involves intensity, and spectrum; both have to be sufficient for the plants or they will weaken and algae will take over. As for the type of light you have some choices.

    First, LED is becoming very popular, but not all LED is the same and much of them are frankly useless for plants. I have very little experience with LED, so I will leave it for other members to recommend fixtures, should you decide to go with LED. It is more expensive.

    I have always used fluorescent tubes on most of my tanks for over 20 years. I am using T8 which is now the "basic" fluorescent. T5 is also common but this is more intense light and can easily be far too much. Keeping with the plants you mention, which happen to be some of those I have good results with, I would forget T5.] T8 aquarium fixtures are not easy to come by, as more manufacturers are moving to T5 (especially useful over marine tanks and high-tech planted tanks) and LED. Assuming your 50g is likely 3 feet in length, this is especially tricky to find fixtures using T8. You can make your own using a basic dual-tube shop light, if you can build or find on old housing unit that it will fit inside.

    It is possible to use incandescent (screw-in) bulbs if you go with the Compact Fluorescent (spiral type) bulbs, but this is easier and more practical over smaller tanks; my 10g and 20g each have this with two 9w Daylight 6500K CFL bulbs. I wold go with fluorescent tube rather than CFL over a larger tank, or LED.

    On spectrum...plant photosynthesis responds to red and blue light; this is why many of the so-called plant or aquarium tubes have a purplish hue, it is the high red and blue mix. I don't particularly like this as it distorts the colours of everything in the tank, and ironically it is weaker light intensity. The best is a mix of red, blue and green--a Kelvin of around 6500K provides this in a good tube; a mix between 5000K and 7000K is what you want to aim for overall; with two tubes you can mix them, a 5000K and a 6500K for example, for good light that is just a tad warmer than basic 6500K. I use 6500K over all my single tube tanks, and a mix over my larger tanks having two tubes. The green in the mix does support better plant growth according to studies, which isn't surprising since mid day sun is primarily red, blue and green. I won't bog this discussion down further with more on this, until we have a better idea what you may be looking at getting (LED or T8).

    As for purchasing plants, it depends where you are; some fish stores take care to carry various plants periodically, some don't. Online is another option.

    Detritus is good for plants, but it should break down faster and disappear into the substrate unless you are overfeeding, or have too many fish, or very large fish. But you can use a siphon during water changes to get around open areas. I don't even do this in most of my tanks, they all have sand and the snails and bacteria make quick work of organics.

    I have a pair of ordinary scissors for aquarium use only, but I rarely use them; I find it easier to use my fingernail to snip off plant stems when needed. I think I only use the scissors to prune Java Fern because the stems are so thick and tough.

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