Any guidance welcome

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alio6

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Hi all, i’m new here! i have just bought a 30l bio orb flow. my local fish store guys are really nice and seem to know there stuff but i feel like i’ve been sent down the garden path when it comes to planting my tank. i was led to believe i could just use weighted plants in the ceramic media/filter but having bought some today ready to stock my tank with some fish soon and i’ve read that this might not be correct, feel like i may have just wasted £££ on plants and the poor things won’t survive? i have some java fern and elodea densa which i think might be ok but the others (christmas moss, hair grass and alternanthera reineckii pink) probably not. does anyone know what my chances are? or if there’s anything i can do to aid them?
thanks
ali x
 
Bio orbs aren't the best tanks. Take it back and swap it for a normal rectangular tank.

AQUARIUM PLANTS 1.01

TURNING LIGHTS ON AND OFF

Stress from tank lights coming on when the room is dark can be an issue. Fish don't have eyelids and don't tolerate going from complete dark to bright light (or vice versa) instantly.

In the morning open the curtains or turn the room light on at least 30 minutes (or more) before turning the tank light on. This will reduce the stress on the fish and they won't go from a dark tank to a bright tank instantly.

At night turn the room light on and then turn the tank light off. Wait at least 30 minutes (or more) before turning the room light out. This allows the fish to settle down for the night instead of going from a brightly lit tank to complete darkness instantly.

Try to have the lights on at the same time each day. Use a timer if possible.

If the light unit is programmable, have it on a low setting for the first 30-60 minutes and increase the brightness over time. Do the opposite in the evening and gradually reduce the light for the last 30-60 minutes before lights out.

If you don't have live plants in the tank, you only need the light on for a few hours in the evening. You might turn them on at 4 or 5pm and off at 9pm.

If you do have live plants in the tank, you can have the lights on for 8-16 hours a day but the fish and plants need 8 hours of darkness to rest. Most people with live plants in their aquarium will have the lights on for 8-12 hours a day.


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LIGHTING TIMES
Most aquarium plants like a bit of light and if you only have the light on for a couple of hours a day, they struggle. If the light doesn't have a high enough wattage they also struggle. Try having the tank lights on for 10-12 hours a day.

If you get lots of green algae then reduce the light by an hour a day and monitor the algae over the next 2 weeks.
If you don't get any green algae on the glass then increase the lighting period by an hour and monitor it.
If you get a small amount of algae then the lighting time is about right.

Some plants will close their leaves up when they have had sufficient light. Ambulia, Hygrophilas and a few others close their top set of leaves first, then the next set and so on down the stem. When you see this happening, wait an hour after the leaves have closed up against the stem and then turn lights off.

Plant lights should have equal amount of red and blue light and a bit less green light.


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LIST OF PLANTS TO TRY
Some good plants to try include Ambulia, Hygrophila polysperma, H. ruba/ rubra, Elodia (during summer, but don't buy it in winter because it falls apart), Hydrilla, common Amazon sword plant, narrow or twisted/ spiral Vallis, Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides/ cornuta).

The Water Sprite normally floats on the surface but can also be planted in the substrate. The other plants should be planted in the gravel.

Ambulia, H. polysperma, Elodia/ Hydrilla and Vallis are tall plants that do well along the back. Rotala macranda is a medium/ tallish red plant that usually does well.

H. ruba/ rubra is a medium height plant that looks good on the sides of the tank.

Cryptocorynes are small/ medium plants that are taller than pygmy chain swords but shorter than H. rubra. They also come in a range of colours, mostly different shades of green, brown or purplish red. Crypts are not the easiest plant to grow but can do well if they are healthy to begin with and are not disturbed after planting in the tank.

Most Amazon sword plants can get pretty big and are usually kept in the middle of the tank as a show piece. There is an Ozelot sword plant that has brown spots on green leaves, and a red ruffle sword plant (name may vary depending on where you live) with deep red leaves.

There is a pygmy chain sword plant that is small and does well in the front of the tank.


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TRUE AQUATIC VS MARSH/ TERRESTRIAL PLANTS
Lots of plants are sold as aquarium plants and most are marsh plants that do really well when their roots are in water and the rest of the plant is above water. Some marsh plants will do well underwater too.

Hair grass is not a true aquatic plant, neither is Anubias.

Some common marsh plants include Amazon sword plants, Cryptocorynes, Hygrophila sp, Rotala sp, Ludwigia sp, Bacopa sp. These plant do reasonably well underwater.

True aquatic plants include Ambulia, Cabomba, Hornwort, Elodia, Hydrilla and Vallis.

The main difference between marsh plants and true aquatic plants is the stem. True aquatics have a soft flexible stem with air bubbles in it. These bubbles help the plant float and remain buoyant in the water column.

Marsh plants have a rigid stem and these plants can remain standing upright when removed from water. Whereas true aquatic plants will fall over/ collapse when removed from water.


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IRON BASED PLANT FERTILISER
If you add an iron based aquarium plant fertiliser, it will help most aquarium plants do well. An iron based fertiliser is not just iron, it contains other nutrients as well, but the main ingredient is iron. The liquid iron based aquarium plant fertilisers tend to be better than the tablet forms, although you can push the tablets under the roots of plants and that works well.

You use an iron (Fe) test kit to monitor iron levels and keep them at 1mg/l (1ppm).

I used Sera Florena liquid plant fertiliser but there are other brands too.


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CARBON DIOXIDE (CO2)
There is no point adding carbon dioxide (CO2) until you have the lights and nutrients worked out. Even then you don't need CO2 unless the tank is completely full of fast growing true aquatic plants and only has a few small fish in or no fish in it.

There are no natural waterways anywhere around the world that have supplemental CO2 added to them to make aquatic plants grow. People add CO2 to aquariums to help some marsh/ terrestrial plants grow underwater. These plants should not be grown in aquariums and the fact they need to add CO2 (as well as huge amounts of fertiliser and light) just to keep them alive is a clear indication they shouldn't be kept underwater.

In an average aquarium, there is a constant source of carbon dioxide produced all day and night by the fish, and the bacteria in the gravel and filter. More CO2 gets into the aquarium from the air mixing with the water. And plants release small amounts of CO2 when resting. There is no real need to add CO2, either in a gas or liquid form to an aquarium unless it is devoid of fish. There is plenty of CO2 in the water in most aquariums.

Liquid CO2 boosters often contain Glutaraldehyde, which is a disinfectant used to clean and sterilise medical equipment. It is highly toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms and people have wiped out tanks by adding too much of it. These products should not be used for aquariums.

For aquarium plants to use supplemental CO2, they need lots of light and lots of nutrients. Unless they have the light and nutrients, they won't use a lot of CO2, so there's no point adding extra. To check if your plants are getting lots of light, see if any of them produce streams of tiny little bubbles from their leaves. This is called pearling and is the plant photosynthesising and producing tiny bubbles of oxygen. Algae also does this when given bright light and nutrients.


--------------------

PLANT SUBSTRATE
Some pet shops sell aquatic plant substrates that are meant to improve plant growth. Most don't do anything except add a lot of ammonia to the water and eventually turn into a brown mud on the bottom. Since the majority of aquatic plants take in the nutrients they need via their leaves, having a plant substrate is not going to help much. There are exceptions to this and laterite (red clay) can sometimes be added to the gravel to increase the iron level for the plants taking in nutrients via their roots. But for most plant tanks, all you need is gravel on the bottom of the tank.

Most aquatic plants need at least 2 inches of substrate to grow in and some need 3-4 inches.
 
Hi! Thank you so much for such a detailed response. I was not expecting this at all. Sadly i have already started to cycle the tank so i cannot return it. The good thing is that it is rectangular and it has the auto light setting. so it adjusts from no light to blue light and then daylight which fades up. i also live in an open plan house which has a sky light so the room gradually gets lighter with day light and evening. (we don’t use bright lights in our house with exception of the kitchen) which isn’t near the tank. fingers crossed light shouldn’t be a problem.
i’ll get that fertiliser you use and hopefully they will adjust to the rooting conditions if not i’ll get the ones you mentioned. really interesting reading though! i’d really like to thank you again for the time spent providing me this! i really appreciate it. Thank you
 
The thing with all the biorb tanks is that those big rocks on the bottom are the bio media, it is basically an undergravel filter with a media box containing a bit of foam and a mix of carbon and zeolite. Being so big and chunky, the rocks are not suitable for growing plants in. Most of the plants Colin suggested were for if you return the biorb and get a different type of tank.

But there are alternatives - plants such as Java fern, anubias, bucelphalandra and bollbitis are grown attached to decor rather than rooted in the substrate. There are several species of anubias, some grow big so choose carefully for a 30 litre tank. All these plants have a rhizome which must not be covered or it rots, which is why they are grown on decor. They are tied on with thread or glued with cyanoacrylate superglue - the gel type is best as it doesn't run everywhere.
Or floating plants. Some stem plant like elodea and hornwort can be left floating.
These would all benefit from liquid fertiliser, the best ones are Seachem Flourish Comprehensive Supplement (only that one, Seachem make a range under the Flourish name), or TNC Lite (just the Lite, not Complete).

If you can't find the plants you want in a local shop, there are good on-line shops, I use Aqua Essentials (they sell shrimp safe plants and I have shrimps)


The Biorb Flow is at least rectangular, not like the original spherical tanks. But it is a tall narrow tank at 26 l x 38 w x 39 h cm (10.2 l x 15 w x 15.4 h in inches). This means it can't be stocked like a standard rectangular 30 litre/8 gallon tank. The swimming length is only 38 cm/15 inches and most fish need at least 60 cm/24 inches.

You have a few weeks if you are currently cycling the tank - are you doing a fishless cycle following the method on here?
That gives you time to decide on fish. The first thing you need to know is the hardness of your water as we should aim to buy fish which come from water with similar hardness to our tap water. Look on your water company's website for hardness. You need a number and the unit of measurement as there are several they could use. If you can't find it, tell us the name of the company and I'll see if I can find the page.
Once we know the hardness, we can help you decide on fish. Those fish suitable for a tank this size and shape are usually the ones more sensitive to hardness.
 
I'm not very familiar with biorbs but from what I've looked up on the net the substrate you've got is quite large ceramic "gravel"? It will be a struggle to grow anything in that, so I don't think that your hairgrass and alternanthera will grow. I also have no idea if the light unit is any good.

Assuming that the light is okay, you could grow the hairgrass and alternanthera in little containers with some different substrate and root tabs. you can get little glass bulbs that attach to the tank side with suckers, you could grow little tufts of hair grass in them using some sort of aquasoil or fine gravel/sand with root tabs.


Or just use some small terracotta pots or food grade plastic tubs (old yoghurt pots etc). You could cut them down and push them down so that they are sitting on the bottom of the tank and then gather the gravel and some wood and rocks around the tops to disguise them.

The elodea, java fern and christmas moss should be okay, assuming the light unit is decent and that you use some liquid ferts. I use TNC lite and I get very good growth. Attach the java fern to wood or rocks with superglue (just a dot here and there will suffice), and you can also attach the moss to wood or rock, but use cotton thread for this. The thread will slowly dissapear over the period of a couple of weeks, by which time the moss should have a purchase on the wood/rock provided it has been left alone. The elodea can be grown either floating or you can just push the ends of the stems down into the gravel and the small leaves should snag sufficiently to keep it in place. Under the right conditions it will grow like crazy and you will be trimming it frequently. Java fern is often recommended as an easy plant to grow but many find that it doesn't thrive and turns brown over time. There are conflicting reasons given for this, some say it is a lighting issue, others that it is a potassium deficiency. Give it a go and see how it goes. Another easy plant to grow that attaches to wood and rocks is anubias whch comes in different sizes - mini coin and nana versions will be okay for you. As with the java fern, a few dots of superglue can be used. It can be prone to algae growth on the leaves, my nerite snails keep mine clean.

A couple of points of guidance, which others may/may not agree with.

1). Don't buy another biorb
2). Don't buy another acrylic tank. They are light and strong so are useful for hospital and quarantine tanks as they can easily be stored away and are quite robust to being knocked around. However, for use as a main tank, the acrylic degrades over time and can take on a hazy appearance and/or become discoloured. If you have algae growing on the tank sides you will have to be careful with scraping. Again, one or two nerites will keep this under control for you.
3). Don't ask for/rely on any advice from fish shop staff, however friendly or knowledgeable they may seem. Do your own research using sites such as this and then if you want to support you local fish shop then go in and just tell them what you want, but don't ask for any advice.
 
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Huge huge huge thanks for this. I shall let you know we i get on! :)
 
Stock wise, given the tank dimensions (38cm wide?), you aren't going to have a great deal of choice. What is the hardness and pH of your tap water?

Oh, and do a fishless cycle before adding creatures. This does not mean just running the tank for a few days with some bacteria additive (which is what the fish shop staff may say), it will take a month or more of providing an ammonia source and allowing the bacteria to establish in the filter.
 
The thing with all the biorb tanks is that those big rocks on the bottom are the bio media, it is basically an undergravel filter with a media box containing a bit of foam and a mix of carbon and zeolite. Being so big and chunky, the rocks are not suitable for growing plants in. Most of the plants Colin suggested were for if you return the biorb and get a different type of tank.

But there are alternatives - plants such as Java fern, anubias, bucelphalandra and bollbitis are grown attached to decor rather than rooted in the substrate. There are several species of anubias, some grow big so choose carefully for a 30 litre tank. All these plants have a rhizome which must not be covered or it rots, which is why they are grown on decor. They are tied on with thread or glued with cyanoacrylate superglue - the gel type is best as it doesn't run everywhere.
Or floating plants. Some stem plant like elodea and hornwort can be left floating.
These would all benefit from liquid fertiliser, the best ones are Seachem Flourish Comprehensive Supplement (only that one, Seachem make a range under the Flourish name), or TNC Lite (just the Lite, not Complete).

If you can't find the plants you want in a local shop, there are good on-line shops, I use Aqua Essentials (they sell shrimp safe plants and I have shrimps)


The Biorb Flow is at least rectangular, not like the original spherical tanks. But it is a tall narrow tank at 26 l x 38 w x 39 h cm (10.2 l x 15 w x 15.4 h in inches). This means it can't be stocked like a standard rectangular 30 litre/8 gallon tank. The swimming length is only 38 cm/15 inches and most fish need at least 60 cm/24 inches.

You have a few weeks if you are currently cycling the tank - are you doing a fishless cycle following the method on here?
That gives you time to decide on fish. The first thing you need to know is the hardness of your water as we should aim to buy fish which come from water with similar hardness to our tap water. Look on your water company's website for hardness. You need a number and the unit of measurement as there are several they could use. If you can't find it, tell us the name of the company and I'll see if I can find the page.
Once we know the hardness, we can help you decide on fish. Those fish suitable for a tank this size and shape are usually the ones more sensitive to hardness.
thanks for this! super helpful. i’ve just checked and it says i’m in a soft water area so under 60 it doesn’t say exactly. just says soft.
yeh i currently have no fish in the tank just the plants i bought yesterday so no rush. i was hoping to get something soon but obviously will follow any guidance you suggest. i have water conditioner so far and ph test kits but need to get ammonia test kit too, and anything else you think i need? how will i know when the tank is fish ready? going by the biorb instructions it was 24 hours from set up which obviously i didn’t follow.
 
Which water company is it, and I'll have a look.

You need to be able to test for ammonia and nitrite for cycling. Most of us use the API master set.


The java fern and moss can be attached to decor. The elodea can be left floating, it won't root in the rocks.
The hair grass and alternanthera won't grow in this tank as they need smallish gravel or sand to root in, neither of which can be used in this tank - unless you stop using the filter which comes with the tank, remove the rocks and filter box and buy a separate internal filter, then put 'normal' gravel or sand on the bottom.


If there are enough live plants, you could do a plant cycle, but this depends on there being enough fast growing plants. Of the ones you bought which can grow in this tank, elodea is fast growing but java fern and moss are slow growing. The idea behind plant cycling is that live plants take up ammonia as fertiliser and they don't turn it into nitrite. But there must be enough plants to remove all the ammonia made by the fish in the tank.
The alternative is to leave the plants out for now - if you have a glass container of some sort (even a vase) they can be kept in that on a windowsill as long as the temperature doesn't get too low. Then do a fishless cycle and put the plants in when it's completed.
 
I'm not familiar with the biorb filter design but personally, I'd remove the carbon and zeolite from the filter and put something else such as sponge or small gravel or small ceramic filter media in it's place to add a bit more surface area to the filter. Carbon is useful in certain circumstances such as short term use to remove medications, but after a while carbon becomes exhausted and can actually dump accumulated toxins back into the water so is best avoided unless you want to keep replacing it every month. Zeolite is of dubious benefit imo and shouldn't be necessary once your cycled.
 
unless you stop using the filter which comes with the tank, remove the rocks and filter box and buy a separate internal filter, then put 'normal' gravel or sand on the bottom.
That's a good option.
 
The biorb filter system is an undergravel filter with those big rocks as the biomedium. There is also a small box containing a sponge and either carbon or a carbon-zeolite mix. You are supposed to replace the box regularly.
Carbon is not needed on a routine basis; zeolite absorbs ammonia leaving nothing to feed the bacteria so the colonies don't grow. But if the cartridge is not replace before the zeolite gets full, it can't absorb any more and with insufficient bacteria the ammonia level in the water goes up.

If you want to keep the built in filter, I second Mikeyboy. Either break the box open and fill it with sponge cut to size, or just loose sponge.
 
Which water company is it, and I'll have a look.

You need to be able to test for ammonia and nitrite for cycling. Most of us use the API master set.


The java fern and moss can be attached to decor. The elodea can be left floating, it won't root in the rocks.
The hair grass and alternanthera won't grow in this tank as they need smallish gravel or sand to root in, neither of which can be used in this tank - unless you stop using the filter which comes with the tank, remove the rocks and filter box and buy a separate internal filter, then put 'normal' gravel or sand on the bottom.


If there are enough live plants, you could do a plant cycle, but this depends on there being enough fast growing plants. Of the ones you bought which can grow in this tank, elodea is fast growing but java fern and moss are slow growing. The idea behind plant cycling is that live plants take up ammonia as fertiliser and they don't turn it into nitrite. But there must be enough plants to remove all the ammonia made by the fish in the tank.
The alternative is to leave the plants out for now - if you have a glass container of some sort (even a vase) they can be kept in that on a windowsill as long as the temperature doesn't get too low. Then do a fishless cycle and put the plants in when it's completed.
thank you it’s united utilities. i live in south manchester.
so i have put a lot of plants in tbh now
alternanthera which i now know won’t survive
christmas moss
marimo moss balls
anubis heterphylla
2x java fern
hair grass
elodea densa
and 1 other grass type thing that i don’t know what it’s called.
i was thinking the more plants i had the happier the fish would be. (i’m a keen gardener too which probably doesn’t help)
 
thank you it’s united utilities. i live in south manchester.
so i have put a lot of plants in tbh now
alternanthera which i now know won’t survive
christmas moss
marimo moss balls
anubis heterphylla
2x java fern
hair grass
elodea densa
and 1 other grass type thing that i don’t know what it’s called.
i was thinking the more plants i had the happier the fish would be. (i’m a keen gardener too which probably doesn’t help)
i haven’t actually put the anubias in yet as i’m not sure how to tackle it. it came in a pot and the roots are all outside of it - i’ll send a pic
 

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My mother used to live in United Utilities area so I used her postcode.

First I entered her postcode here

This gave me the 'summary' page in the image.
hardness.jpg


Her postcode gives her hardness as 6.51 degrees Clark. This unit is not used in fishkeeping, but we can convert it to the two units which are used. Tell us the number for degrees Clark, please.




I had a plant arrive like that a couple of weeks ago. I used a strong pair of scissors to cut the plastic basket into tiny pieces to free the roots. Any still caught can be gently pulled free. The yellowish stuff then has to be removed; I use a straightened out paperclip under a trickle of cold tap water to get the bits stuck between the roots.
The anubias will have to be attached to something such as a rock, piece of wood or plastic ornament. it cannot be planted in the substrate as the rhizome will rot. The rhizome is a thick stem like thing which has leaves growing out of one side and roots from the opposite side.
 
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