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aaronnorth

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Back To Basics

Here, I hope to condense all the information about planted tanks into one guide, so you get all the basics; providing links to the more detailed tutorials about each subject.

You need to get a balance between Light, CO2, Nutrients and Flow in order to maintain a successful planted tank, with no algae.

More recently, a higher number of people are having success, growing “high light” plants such as Hemianthus Callitrichoides in lighting as low as 1WPG, with the key to success ensuring there is sufficient CO2 and Nutrients available. If you are lacking either, then success rates drop.

Light

First thing to consider is light. Depending on how much you have will determine the growth rate of the plants. Quicker growth also means a higher demand for Nutrients, and CO2.
So there are two routes you can take,
#1 high tech – high light, fast growth, CO2 injection, high nutrient dosing and lots of trimming!
#2 low tech – low light, slow growth, no CO2, no fertilisers, or maybe a weekly dose to keep the nutrient levels sufficient.

I would recommend sticking with 1WPG T5 or 1.5WPG T8 for a low tech tank.
2WPG T5 or 2WPG T8 for a high tech tank.
If you go above those figures, then managing a balance between CO2, Ferts, and flow becomes much more difficult and algae will more than likely strike.
The reason I state less wattage for T5 is because they have a higher intensity than T8’s, giving off more watts per square inch meaning less wattage is needed to achieve the same results.

The Kelvin rating of a tube doesn’t make much difference; I have grown plants under 2700k, right up to 18,000K.
Cheap tubes are available at Lampspecs




CO2/ Carbon

If you go into the High tech zone, CO2 becomes a necessity, more importantly pressurized CO2. Fermentation systems or the small ‘push & fill’ cylinders are not up to standards. The CO2 supply is unsteady, and usually too low to meet the needs of plants, which results in algae.
Pressurized systems can be expensive, with branded kits ranging from £100-£250, and they only come with a 500g cylinder as standard. A much cheaper and cost effective way is to build your own, using a fire extinguisher. One can build an FE setup for £80-£100 which includes a 2Kg FE!

Fire Extinghuisher CO2
Equipment Needed to Set up a Fire Extinghuisher


Another option which is more viable for lower light systems is to use a fermentation kit. These cost pennies to setup and they are great. Here are couple of guides:

Tropical Fish Forums: DIY CO2
Aquatic Eden: DIY CO2

I would recommend you use 2 bottles, and connect them via a T-Piece, then, change one mixture at the weekend, and the other midweek. This keeps a constant supply of CO2 entering the aquarium.
These aren’t ideal for larger setups, as they require a lot more bottles making it high maintenance.

Finally, there is liquid carbon. Strictly speaking it isn’t liquid carbon, it is Glutaraldehyde (C5 H8 O2), and plants use various chemical processes to break this molecule down into carbon.
Algae do not have the ability to do this, so instead, it becomes toxic. However I do not recommend you buy this solely for its algae killing properties.
It is also toxic to humans so don’t consume it!! ;)
Overdosing is an option, however please note some plants react adversely to this, mainly 100% aquatic plants such egeria densa, vallisneria and liverworts & bladderworts. However, it seems they are all fine with the recommended dose.
It comes in the form of Seachem Excel, Easylife Easycarbo and AE AquaCarbon.

Liquid carbon stays in the water column 24hrs so daily dosing is required.

You must measure the amount of CO2 you are injecting (applies to gas only). There is only one way that is accessible to most hobbyists, and that is via a drop checker, for more information, see the Drop Checker Guide

Another option is to buy a CO2 analyser, but these cost a few thousand ;)

You may have heard of a pH/ KH relationship chart. This is when you measure the pH and KH, then refer to a table to work out the CO2 level, however this relies on no acidic substances in the water, except bicarbonates which is almost impossible as we dose acidic substances such as Nitrate, and plants and fish excrete substances which are converted to humic and nitric acid.
For example if you have KH4 and pH6.6 straight out of the tap, this would work out to be 30ppm CO2 without even injecting any!
As you can see they don’t work at all. ;)


If you dont inject CO2, then going down the route of no water changes for a few months is the better option, as weekly water changes fluctuate the CO2 levels so that algae attacks. Because plants growth is slow, it takes time to produce the enzyme RuBisCo which is needed for Carbon fixation. Algae do not have to worry about this step which is why it is quick to strike.

Have a read of Non CO2 Methods for a more detailed understanding.



Nutrients

First off can i just say Excess Nutrients don't cause algae. If you have any questions on this please ask as i can give out lots of information that shows otherwise.

Nutrients feed algae, they do not cause algae.

And that is the important thing, and it is a big difference between cause & feed, that is where most of the confusion comes from.
Algae is never CO2, or nutrient limited. Even the small amount of nutrients released by fish waste is enough for algae ;) there is no way around it. So using chemical removers means algae grows slower... it also means plants suffer.... which then means they leach ammonia and algae still has a source of nutrients ;)
Removing nutrients only makes problems worse, you need to address the cause, which is explained below under "algae"


New Setup, Noob question



There are two main categories. Macro & Micro elements,
Macro consists of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium (NPK) and Carbon
Micro consists of trace elements such as Magnesium, Boron, and Iron etc. Sometimes these are referred to as CSM+B
Macro nutrients are required in larger quantities than Micro nutrients; here are the targets you should aim for per week.
NO3 20ppm
PO4 2ppm
K 20-30ppm
CO2 30-35ppm
As stated above, CO2 isn’t always necessary depending on your light levels. The other macro elements need dosing, unless you have low light levels, and high stocking but high stocking is not advised as it raises ammonium levels which may cause algae.
Nutrients can be added through liquid or dry powders. The most popular liquid fertiliser is tropica plant nutrition+ (TPN+) which contains all macro and micro elements needed for plant growth.
Dosing daily at a rate or 1ml per 20litres is a good place to start; you can then adjust the levels as necessary.
Another popular liquid fertiliser is seachem flourish.
Dry powders gives you a lot more control over your dosing regime, you can mix the powders into a liquid solution, or add them straight into the tank. There are various dosing methods for you to use, but Estimative Index (EI) is the most popular.


Here is a good site for various dosing regimes, including more information on the two above, and how to make a DIY TPN+ mixture.
James' Planted Tank: Dosing Methods

Algae

Algae is unwanted in a planted aquarium. The most common of causes is:
Ammonia spikes, poor CO2 & nutrients, poor circulation.
Each algae specie is triggered by a different factor, so it is hard to cover each one in this guide. Here is a useful site to ID and rectify your algae problems.

James' Planted Tank: Algae Guide
Algae Guide 2



Ammonia comes from high stocking levels, disturbance of the substrate, rotting plants and other organic matter, and dirty filters.
Doing water changes removes algae spores, organic waste and dilutes ammonia.
Poor CO2 is unstable/ fluctuating CO2 and poor distribution. This is easy to fix with a pressurized system, less so with any other method.
Poor nutrients is easy to fix. Just add more!! Nutrients feed algae, they don’t cause algae and that is the important thing to remember.
Limiting nutrients can induce some algae species such as Green dust algae and blue green algae (cyanobacteria). Limiting nutrients also results in poorer plant health, so they start to release ammonia which then triggers algae.

Turnover and Circulation

In a planted tank, it is reccomended you aim for a minimum of 10x turnover. Eg. In a 240litre tank, one should aim for 2400l/ph turnover whether it be through filtration or powerheads.
Filters usually work at half the manufacturers stated flow rate, however, you do not have to worry about this as the 10x guideline takes this into account. ;)
Now you have turnover covered, you need to be efficient in using this to achieve the best circulation around the whole tank. This is to ensure nutrients & CO2 get delivered to all four corners of the tank, no dead spots (no water movement which could lead to algae), and to ensure detrius is moved around the tank so it can be picked up by the filter. Some people use a spraybar on the back wall, and point it directly at the front wall so it is pushed down and around the tank. Others rely on powerheads, and some can get away with using just the filter(s) alone.
Some go as high as 20x, which would be the maximum i would reccomend, anymore and the benefits it brings start to decrease.

Having a high turnover is good, but without circulating the water properly you are wasting the advantages it brings.

Cycling With Plants

So we know ammonia is often the cause of algae, therefore, cycling and plants isnt the best idea, as ammonia + light = algae. There is one of two ways you can go about this,

a) fishless cycle and add the plants after it is complete
or
b) Do a "silent cycle"

This involves planting the tank heavily (75% substrate coverage minimum) with fast growing plants. You can then add a few small fish such as tetras or shrimp which dont produce much waste (therefore little ammonia). The ammonia produced will be utilised by plants, and whatever ammonia passes through the filter will go towards the establishment of bacteria. It is advised to run purigen or zeolite (or any other form of ammonia remover) in the filter, this helps to minimize algae. Add this last in your filter, so ammonia is still in contact with the sponges & biomedia first.
If applicable, run the CO2 & nutrients as you would with a mature tank to ensure healthy plant growth.
A minimum of two 50% water changes per week is advised, as this removes algae spores and ammonia which again helps to minimize algae growth. I performed a 50% water change ever other day for the first 3 weeks, then cut down to two per week, and after 6 weeks i have just got down to doing one water change per week. I use a pump to make water hccnages easy and quick on my 216litre aquarium. I did more water changes than advised, but i have been rewarded with an algae free tank, all be there a bit of diatoms along the substrate.
With plants and filter media removing most of the ammonia, your fish will be safe, and the bacteria can still establish as usual. Just stock slowly adding abpout 6 fish every couple of weeks and build up gradually.

Why We Should Not Fishless Cycle Planted Tanks


Useful sites and pieces of information


James' Planted Tank Web Page

Green Needle

Planted Box

Aquatic Eden

Aquascaping World Magazine

Question about the science of CO2



Thanks, Aaron
Any questions please ask.
 

lljdma06

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crackin write up aaron, a pin for sure!

I agree and am willing to pin this separately as a "READ FIRST" as it links nicely to more specific topics. However...

I don't see anything on filtration or water circulation. This, in my opinion, is extremely important in a planted tank and almost ranks above nutrients, since low-techs are often light on the nutrients and CO2, but heavy in the circulation. If you don't have circulation, you are in trouble. You can pump all the CO2 and nutrients into your tank, but if it isn't being circulated throughout your tank...

stable CO2 + Light + Nutrients + Circulation = nice planted tank. This is a tad general, but it basically what I think we're all driving at.

Though I have...

No CO2 + Little light + lots of fish + Circulation = a nice planted tank. :lol:

llj
 

DBridges

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Very nice post! This should be a sticky - lots of good info for people like me looking at getting into the hobby.
 

hakova

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Great article, my vote too for it is to be sticky.
 
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aaronnorth

aaronnorth

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crackin write up aaron, a pin for sure!

I agree and am willing to pin this separately as a "READ FIRST" as it links nicely to more specific topics. However...

I don't see anything on filtration or water circulation. This, in my opinion, is extremely important in a planted tank and almost ranks above nutrients, since low-techs are often light on the nutrients and CO2, but heavy in the circulation. If you don't have circulation, you are in trouble. You can pump all the CO2 and nutrients into your tank, but if it isn't being circulated throughout your tank...

stable CO2 + Light + Nutrients + Circulation = nice planted tank. This is a tad general, but it basically what I think we're all driving at.

Though I have...

No CO2 + Little light + lots of fish + Circulation = a nice planted tank. :lol:

llj


i do have a bit on circulation under algae, but didnt put a subtitle :good:
I can always add some more :fun:

Thanks everyone
Aaron
 

Jallen

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When you say WPG, is it per UK or US gallon?

Also I had no idea tube lights were so cheap. I think I'm just going to add a little bit of plant nutrients when I do a water change to keep the levels up from now on.
 

lljdma06

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crackin write up aaron, a pin for sure!

I agree and am willing to pin this separately as a "READ FIRST" as it links nicely to more specific topics. However...

I don't see anything on filtration or water circulation. This, in my opinion, is extremely important in a planted tank and almost ranks above nutrients, since low-techs are often light on the nutrients and CO2, but heavy in the circulation. If you don't have circulation, you are in trouble. You can pump all the CO2 and nutrients into your tank, but if it isn't being circulated throughout your tank...

stable CO2 + Light + Nutrients + Circulation = nice planted tank. This is a tad general, but it basically what I think we're all driving at.

Though I have...

No CO2 + Little light + lots of fish + Circulation = a nice planted tank. :lol:

llj


i do have a bit on circulation under algae, but didnt put a subtitle :good:
I can always add some more :fun:

Thanks everyone
Aaron

Yes, I saw that under the algae, but I feel it needs the sub-heading like the others, for clarity's sake. It's such an important factor and you and I know one can be rather lax in other aspects of a planted tank if circulation is good. It is a very fine article and almost negates the need for detailed accounts of other methods, but eventually, I'd like to put those down as well. This is the basic plan for the planted tank, whether you go with CO2 or without. I don't even call it high-light, low-light anymore, that's not the determining variable, the decision to inject CO2 is.

Also, when you mention your back up information on how nutrients do not cause algae, I'd love to see some links to that back-up information. I won't object if the link is directly to another forum, as long as it is a planted tank related forum and not a general fish forum. Forum links allow for specifics if it helps members, and I am all for helping members, otherwise, I would just be moving threads and answering reports.

One more teeny, tiny detail. I apologize, but you know me, the dissertation writer. I just want to make sure that you cover your bases and account for most of the details. You don't mention substrates, which constitute another method of nutrient distribution, though I know that the nutrients in substrates leech into the water column, you can have a nutrient-rich substrate and not dose. A little burp under nutrients is all that is needed. You don't even have to talk about the various kinds. That is a whole other can of worms and should really be treated separated.

I want people to know that I am not jumping on Aaron. He's done a fine job, and I think he understands that I am only saying what I am saying to make his article even better. It is what I would do for any article submitted and would hope that you would do the same for me.

Let's let this sit for a spell so more people can say how wonderful it is before it is pinned. :)

llj :good:
 
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aaronnorth

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Also, when you mention your back up information on how nutrients do not cause algae, I'd love to see some links to that back-up information. I won't object if the link is directly to another forum, as long as it is a planted tank related forum and not a general fish forum. Forum links allow for specifics if it helps members, and I am all for helping members, otherwise, I would just be moving threads and answering reports.

While i do have information, and evidence etc i could quite literally go on forever. I can link to some past threads where i go into some more in depth detail. Just give me some time to find them :good:
However, i feel that by posting them it may take away from the basics of this thread, as you strat to get more scientific & mathematical, which is why if anyone wants informaition, they can ask and i will provide.

One more teeny, tiny detail. I apologize, but you know me, the dissertation writer. I just want to make sure that you cover your bases and account for most of the details. You don't mention substrates, which constitute another method of nutrient distribution, though I know that the nutrients in substrates leech into the water column, you can have a nutrient-rich substrate and not dose. A little burp under nutrients is all that is needed. You don't even have to talk about the various kinds. That is a whole other can of worms and should really be treated separated.

point taken.


I want people to know that I am not jumping on Aaron. He's done a fine job, and I think he understands that I am only saying what I am saying to make his article even better. It is what I would do for any article submitted and would hope that you would do the same for me.

Let's let this sit for a spell so more people can say how wonderful it is before it is pinned. :)

llj :good:


I was going to pass it through you for a proof read, but thought some other members may like to chip in aswell which is why i posted it.... feel free to offer some suggestions, i dont bite ;) :D

Thanks, Aaron

When you say WPG, is it per UK or US gallon?

Also I had no idea tube lights were so cheap. I think I'm just going to add a little bit of plant nutrients when I do a water change to keep the levels up from now on.

WPG is always calulated in US gallons.
Thanks
 

Glenn UK

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Good post but i have one question. I have a new set of lights coming this week but im really unsure of the "how much lighting" category we fall into we have these coming:

http://www.tmc-ltd.co.uk/aquarium/aquaray-lighting.asp

we have the twin aquaray aquabeam natural daylight coming. We have presurized CO2 but wondered roughly where we fall so i can look at specific plants i might want to get in the future.

Cheers for any help
 

AdAndrews

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Good post but i have one question. I have a new set of lights coming this week but im really unsure of the "how much lighting" category we fall into we have these coming:

[URL="http://www.tmc-ltd.co.uk/aquarium/aquaray-lighting.asp"]http://www.tmc-ltd.co.uk/aquarium/aquaray-lighting.asp[/URL]

we have the twin aquaray aquabeam natural daylight coming. We have presurized CO2 but wondered roughly where we fall so i can look at specific plants i might want to get in the future.

Cheers for any help

how big is your tank? that way you can work out watts per gallon(wpg) and basically 1 is low 2-3 is medium to high and 3+ is high
 

lljdma06

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Also, when you mention your back up information on how nutrients do not cause algae, I'd love to see some links to that back-up information. I won't object if the link is directly to another forum, as long as it is a planted tank related forum and not a general fish forum. Forum links allow for specifics if it helps members, and I am all for helping members, otherwise, I would just be moving threads and answering reports.

While i do have information, and evidence etc i could quite literally go on forever. I can link to some past threads where i go into some more in depth detail. Just give me some time to find them :good:
However, i feel that by posting them it may take away from the basics of this thread, as you strat to get more scientific & mathematical, which is why if anyone wants informaition, they can ask and i will provide.

Just a wittle, wittle link. I get that it needs to be easy, but the information should be there. It won't take away from the basics of the article and the whole nutrients cause algae assumption really just needs to be put to bed. One link will do it.
 

Teephphah

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Thank you!

This is precisely the one-stop-shop for information I've been wanting (needing) to find.

I appreciate the time and effort you took to put this together very much.
 

Glenn UK

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how big is your tank? that way you can work out watts per gallon(wpg) and basically 1 is low 2-3 is medium to high and 3+ is high
[/quote]

Hi

My tank is a 21" cube which works out 30USGallons but these lights are the LED Strips - i assume the normal WPG cant be used?
 

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