Beginner Looking To Start Using Live Plants

aquariumnewbie

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Hello everyone. I am new to this site and recently started getting more involved in things relating to my fish tank. I have so many questions about different things but i'll just start with some.
 
Just to give you guys a little bit of info, I have a 20 gallon established aquarium that I have had for about a year. I have an aquaclear 70 filter housing with an aquaclear 50 impeller which brings it down to 200gph. I do have my 70 impeller which would boost it to 300gph but not sure if that would be too much? I just wanted to have larger filter media and more gph since i have a lot of fish. I have 15 fish (which I know is a lot for my 20 gallon). The fish I have are as follows:
3 zebra danios
3 gold twin bar platys
3 cherry barbs
3 white fin rose tetras
2 mollies (one white sailfin i think its called, one regular black)
1 rainbow shark
 
I check my water levels weekly and change about 30-40% of my water and vacuum gravel every three weeks. I use four medias in my filter aquaclear sponge, marineland carbon, api ammo chips, and aquaclear biomax. I changed them every two months scattered. My water is always clear and levels always within specs. I don't get any algae (at least not that I can see). My thought has been that even though I have a lot of fish for a 20gal, I maintain my water regularly and they havent eaten each other. One of my questions is, should I take some out even though I keep my water clean and they have survived all this time?
 
Now, to the live plant issue. I recently bought a National Geographic led light for my tank and started thinking to myself that I would like to add plants to my aquarium. I have never used live plants and after looking into some beginner plants I like the amazon sword, java fern, and anubias nana. I wanted to place the amazon sword in the background and the other two in the front. Not sure if I am going in the right direction with these choices so I wanted to ask some more experienced people their opinion and some questions. (Some info on the natgeo light. It says on the box 7000-10000k for color temperature for white and 20000k for blue. It has a total of 54 white leds (18/tube) and 9 blue leds(3/tube). It says .18watts for white and .18 for blue, not sure if this is per led or the whole thing) The picture I posted is with a flourescent colormax T8 18" as I have not set up my new light.
 
I have regular blue color gravel. Will that be ok if I put that stuff that goes below the gravel so that the roots can grab (not sure of the name but i guess something like soil?). Would it be better to switch to sand (I do think i would like the look of black sand in my tank)? Will I need a co2 system? Will introducing plants to my tank cause me to have algae? If so, is there a fish that will keep the plants clean, or do i have to manually clean them? Also in the pictures, these plant didn't look droopy. I don't want droopy plants. Not sure if thats the word to describe what i want.
 
Hope i didn't bore you guys with all my questions. I am just really enjoying the hobby more since i have more time due to losing job. Thank you all in advance for your time and replies and have a great day.
 

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TwoTankAmin

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Amazon swords get big, real big. I had one thatout grew a 75 gal.
 
Regarding substrate- Color isn't an issue, grain size is, same for sand. Plants do not like large size gravel and also won't do reall well in really fine sand. They need to be able to push roots through the substrate and grip.
 
There is a lot of moise about planted substrates and they usually cost a bit to way more than other option. But in the end, any substrate becomes equally nutritious over time. O lot of folks refuse to pay up for substrate and let ours develop over time. You can add substrate ferts after all.
 
These days I see a lot of folks trying to jump into the more sophisticated end of plants with their first tank. For year I have always told people that live plants have an experiential learning curve like anything else. So start off simple and easy and learn your way up that curve over time.  To That end start off lower light, easier plants and minimal or not form of co2 supplementation.
 
While any and all planted tanks can benefit from adding co2, many tanks will be just fine without it. For my low light easy tanks I add a liquid co2 supplement at water changes along with any ferts I may add. I no longer have my co2 added tank any more.
 
Look at ferns, anubias, some stem plants, some crytocorynes, some smaller swords etc. I am going to send you to one of my favorite sites for plant info. It is the worlds leading producer of Aquatic plants for the hobby. We cannot get them here in the states due to our import laws. But these guys know their stuff. I do get their fertilizers and have for years for my tanks.
http://tropica.com/en/guide/
You will love the section: Get the right start           
Also, go to their Plants list and look at the easy plants for one's you can do to start.
 

fluttermoth

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You don't need to add anything under the substrate for the plants you've mentioned, which are all easy ones and great choices for a beginner to plants. They don't need any special lighting, whatever you have will do. I've even got abubias growing in a goldfish bowl (there are no fish in there! just a few snails!) with no lighting, just the daylight from the room, and I've grown Java fern like that too.
 
Introducing plants will not encourage algae, if anything they'll reduce the chances of it a bit. 
 
Don't forget both a Java fern and anubias need attaching to a rock, or piece of wood, as they'll rot if you cover the rhizome (that's the thick stalky bit that the leaves and roots grow from).
 
I feel I ought to tell you that your rainbow shark shouldn't be in a 20g tank. They need a tank that's at least four foot long, as they do get rather large and aggressive as they they get older. Your water changes also sound as if they might be on the small side, with the amount of stock you have. What sort of level does your nitrate get to, before a water change, and what do you use to test the water?
 
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aquariumnewbie

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Thanks for the replies.
 
thanks for the link to the site. really helpful. when you say that the amazon swords get big, can i just trim them to keep them within the height of my tank or will they die if i trim them?
 
I did not know that the java fern and anubias needed a rock to attach to. will they attach to those fake ornaments i have in there? I kind of wanted to keep the ornaments in there with the plants if possible. Maybe you guys have some suggestions for different plants to do this? Maybe plants that dont get too tall and that will plant into the substrate?
 
About the rainbow shark, I have been thinking about giving him to a friend of mine who has a 46 gallon bowfront but its not 4 feet long. He mostly just stays inside the ornaments and swims around once in a while. I do want to get a bigger tank as well i just don't know how soon in the future i can get one. maybe i'll just keep him a little while longer to see if i can get a bigger tank.
 
Somebody just referred me to aqadvisor calculator website and you're right my water changes are not frequent enough. It recommended i do 30% twice a week which i will. It also recommended i add more filtration so I put my 70 impeller in.
 
I just did a water sample and my ph is between 7.2-7.6 (chart doesn't have in between color), ammonia 0, nitrite 0 and nitrates 40ppm. i use an api master dropper test kit
 

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