Beginner planter tank…

Oli

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Hi guys, I am looking to convert my Fluval 60litre to real plants for a more natural look but am absolutely clueless as to how it works. I currently have black gravel but am interested in changing to sand. Do I need any kind of soil for the plants to grow? Do they need to be planted in any kind of way or do I just drop them in and let them do their own thing? I’ve read that some plants attach themselves to rocks etc. If someone could sum up the basics for me it would be massively appreciated!
 

Essjay

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There are plants which grow with their roots in the substrate, plants which are grown attached to decor and plants which float on the surface of the water.

The plants grown in decor include those which have a rhizome which must be above the substrate so the safest way to stop it get buried is to attach these plants to decor; and also mosses which don't have roots. These are usually slow growing plants which require little in the way of fertiliser, maybe just a small dose of liquid fertiliser. Plants like all the mosses, Java fern (several varieties now available), anubias (several species from tiny to huge), bucephalandra (many available in different colours and leaf shapes), and plants like Bolbitis.

Floating plants range from the tiny invasive duckweed, through salvinia, red root floater, frogbit, water lettuce up to water sprite. With 60 litres, you may find water sprite plants a bit on the large side. Floating plants have two uses - they give the fish a 'roof' over their heads sheltering them from bright light and potential predators (they don't know there aren't any); and they take up a lot of ammonia from the water.

Plants rooted in the substrate range from easy, low light plants such as cryptocorynes and sword plants to delicate, high light loving plants. As a beginner with planted tanks, I would stay with the 'easy' ones at the start. Some plants are leaf feeders which need liquid fertiliser added to the water; others are root feeders which need tablet fertiliser (root tabs) inserted into the substrate near the roots.


Aquascaping has become a big thing with plants treated almost as an art form. But you don't have to go in for 'scaping, the fish will be just as happy with a tank with lots of plants which wouldn't win prizes for artistic design. I am hopeless at 'scaping, I just put small plants at the front and tall plants at the back :blush: Other members will be able to help with layouts if this is what you would prefer.


This website is useful for plant research. You can search by difficulty which I find useful. They also have photos of tanks using each plant so you can see what they look like when they have settled in and are growing well.
 

NannaLou

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I have all live plants, but keeping plants alive is really not my ‘thing’. I don’t do the very ‘scaped look - more of the jungle look 😂 and like @Essjay short ones at the front… I have simple tanks, no flashy lights, bells and whistles but the “easy” care plants in play sand seem to be doing well 🙂
 

imw

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I also have live plants - both rooted (in play sand) with root tabs and floating, all of which are growing - the floaters somewhat slower.
 
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Oli

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Thanks for the replies guys, can anybody expand a little bit on “root tabs” and “liquid fertiliser.” From this, I take it I don’t just stick the roots in some sand and leave it…

Also I have attached some pictures of the kind of thing I’d like to start with. If anyone can advise on what kind of plants these may be and how to go about it?

Regarding substrate, am I best to leave the black gravel that I have right now or is sand a possibility. I have read something about needing soil as well?

Thanks for any help, I assumed I would just buy plants and stick them in the substrate but there seems to be a bit more to it and I want to be fully informed before I make the change!
 
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Oli

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Pics…
 

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Mikeyboy123

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I am no expert on plants and whilst I have kept fish for many years I’m just getting back into it after about 11 years out of the hobby. whilst I have had live plants in the past I was never very successful with them and was one of those people that went to their lfs every weekend buying new plants. This time round I’ve done a bit of research just so that I can get some easy plants to grow in my nano. What I have found out is that you basically Have root feeders and column feeders. root feeders such as cryptocorynes and Amazon swords require a nutritious substrate which means sand or gravel with root tabs or one of the more dedicated aquarium soil products. If you are just starting out with plants you probably want to steer clear of soil. Column feeders are plants such as bacopa, hygrophila, and epiphytes such as anubias and moss and ferns which can be attached to wood and rocks As well as floating plants. Column feeders don’t really benefit from nutrients in the substrate even though they may be rooted in it. For column feeders you may need liquid fertiliser, but many of The easier column feeders can get by without it. In my nano I’ve gone purely for column feeders and epiphytes With bacopa monnieri, hygrophila polysperma, Java fern on bog wood, Java moss on a plastic frame and moss balls. I add a trace element fertiliser once a week and seachem flourish excel (a carbon “fertiliser”) two or three times a week. I’m using an led light at about 500 lumens on my 18litre nano. I’m just using small gravel. the plants are growing really well and nitrates are at zero so I guess the plants are sucking up the Nitrates. i Use a phosphate remover in the filter. No problems with algae so far.

I like the right hand pic you posted and personally I’d keep your gravel and just get column Feeders and epiphytes. For the right hand pic, I can see what looks like Java fern at the bottom behind the wood, but not sure what else. you could put some bacopa monnieri back right as a tall stem plant,cryptocoryne wendtii between the rocks, and I’d put anubias nana and Java fern on the wood. It wouldn’t be exactly the same but would look really good and all the plants I’ve mentioned are easy to grow.
 

Essjay

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Root tabs are just stuck in the sand and left. They are placed near the roots of plants which get their food though their roots. New ones have be pushed in every so often as they get used up, the pack tells you how often.
Liquid fertilisers are added to the water so those plants which get their food through their leaves can take it up.

I use two plant fertilisers. Seachem Flourish root tabs in the substrate next to the crypts and Seachem Flourish Comprehensive Supplement added to the water for those plants attached to decor (they don't need much) and the floating plants.

Another good brand of fertiliser sold in the UK is TNC lite (liquid)


I would not use Seachem Flourish Excel. This is called a liquid CO2 but the active ingredient is glutaraldehyde. Besides being in most of the brands of liquid CO2 it is also used for sterilising heat sensitive medical equipment, in embalming fluid, for removing barnacles from ship hulls etc. A chemical which also does that is not allowed anywhere near my tanks!




If you stay with 'easy' plants, you do not need a special substrate. A lot of these become inert after a year or so and then you have to add root tabs anyway. Sand or fine gravel is all you need. If you wanted a high tech tank with strong lighting, added CO2 and a lot of fertiliser then maybe a special plant substrate would be useful, but for low tech tanks they are not needed.

If you have wood, rocks or plastic decor in the tank, you can attach Java fern, anubias, bucephalandras, mosses to them. Plants like hornwort can be planted in the substrate or the stems wound round decor to anchor it. Floating plants are just left to float on the surface. For years, these are the only kind of plants I had. I am now experimenting with crypts, some of them have died (the roots went black and slimey) but others are flourishing.
I have not yet tried to grow any stem plants. I will have to leave this type for other members.
 

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Most plants will need to planted. Ding this is simple, just dig a small hole then place the plant In. I would use aqua soil for plants but it can be very expensive so if your trying to save money just grow them in the sand you have.
 

Mikeyboy123

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I only use the flourish excel two or three times a week as opposed to every day as recommended, and I trust seachem products. Gluteraldehyde ferts are controversial though and I have read that they may cause plant die back, so it’s not for everyone. I’ve had no problems using it so far. Planting can be a little problematic for stem plants as they are often bought as cuttings with no roots. I let them float in the tank until they have grown a few roots and then they can just be pushed into the gravel and the roots snag in the gravel so they usually stay put. when they get big you can trim the top off and then use that cutting to replace the old stem. Make sure you cut just under the nodes otherwise any excess below the node will rot under the gravel. Use string, cable ties or even superglue (not tried this myself) to secure epiphytes to wood and rock.
 

Myraan

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Seachem claims the active ingredient is similar to gluteraldehyde but not the same. While they could be lying (are they legally allowed to?), this sounds to me similar to the "soy boys" phenomenon on the internet. Soy contains what are labelled as "phyto-estrogens". This has resulted in soy protein becoming commonly known to reduce testosterone; therefore the gym-bros avoid it. Phyto-estrogens are only called as such due to a chemical similarity though, and any actual scientific studies have suggested they are not at all linked to high or low testosterone levels.

I realise that is not a popular opinion around her (I mean the flourish excel, not the phyto-estrogens, no-one cares about that, at least in their fishy interests), but excel in my tank has led to a reduction of nitrates, sometimes even decreasing in between changes if I have underfed slightly, and a slow but steady eradication of black algae, in fact dead black algae coating my filter sponges is what led me to discover that tap-water pressure washing of an intake sponge doesn't necessarily do any harm (ofc I still use old tank water when it works, apart from anything else the dirty bucket water is closer than the tap).
 

Essjay

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The safety data sheet says it contains
Proprietary aqueous solution of salts. The identity and weight of proprietary, non-hazardous, main ingredients are withheld as a trade secret

So they aren't saying what's in it.

However, I did find this
in which they say Flourish Excel does contain glutaraldehyde under the trade name polycycloglutaracetal (see last paragraph)
 

Myraan

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Well I read that link, polycycloglutaracetal, is a polymerised isomer, not glutaraldehyde itself, that's why it has a different name. Shapes of molecules are more important to biology than chemical formulae. And the safety sheet also mentions no harm to fish, only to certain kinds of plants, and even that is likely anecdotal. If it was hazardous would seachem be legally allowed to describe it as non-hazardous? Perhaps I am wrong and they are.

I do realise that lack of evidence is not evidence however. I just think the aversion of people on here to it is fear of unknown and perhaps unnecessary chemicals, which is not unwise. I suspect liquid carbon is potentially safer than pH swings caused by too much CO2 injection, but I also suspect that people who do no like liquid carbon also do not like CO2 injection.
 

Byron

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On the Excel...sorry, but this should absolutely never be added to an aquarium with fish. Or plants and bacteria for that matter. At the dose recommended on the label it will kill some plants; Valisneria is for some reason especially sensitive. Should it get overdosed it has the power to kill not only plants, but bacteria and fish. This may be the fact behind nitrates disappearing mentioned above.

Glutaraldehyde is a toxic disinfectant, used as @Essjay previously noted. Why would anyone think this is at all safe in an aquarium? Any product that kills algae is still a killer and it will impact fish. API's CO2 Booster is the same disinfectant.

There is absolutely no reason for using this product. And the same goes for diffused CO2.
 

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