Planted Tank Advice?

Aynia

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So as we're dealing with our 38gal, we're looking to get a second tank, possibly 65gal. We're kind of tired of gravel and want to switch to a planted tank with a sandy bottom. Right now the only plants we have in the 38gal gravel tank is two anubias plants and some moss balls. Other than that we have a ship cut in half, one large rock, driftwood, and three plastic plants. Fish are 3 yoyo loaches, 2 bristlenose plecos and 6 blue moscow guppies with about 15 fry. We've found that with the amount of decoration we want it's really hard to gravel vac and our guppies are getting to where they want to play with our hands as we vaccuum. My questions are:

1. Do you have to gravel vac a planted tank with a sand bottom, if so how do you not suck up the sand? (we use the python system)

2. What are the best set it and forget it plants for a low tech planted tank? We don't want to have to do CO2, maybe just adding fertilizer to the water.

3. How much should we leave the light on in our tank for the plants to grow? Right now the cycle is towards the end but the fish are still pretty stressed so we've been leaving the light off a lot hoping that would make them more comfortable, but the flip side is less light for the plants, and I've read that the fry need a lot of light. What's the best balance of lights on vs lights off?
 

Byron

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1. Do you have to gravel vac a planted tank with a sand bottom, if so how do you not suck up the sand? (we use the python system)
It depends. I do vacuum into the sand in some of my tanks, but not others. To do it, with the Python connected to the tap, is fairly easy as the suction is not that strong. Just don't dig down into the sand bed. I sort of move the Python over the surface quickly and it will suction up quite a bit but the sand should fall back down.

2. What are the best set it and forget it plants for a low tech planted tank? We don't want to have to do CO2, maybe just adding fertilizer to the water.
Light is the governing factor when it comes to plant species that will/should work, and I will get to this in your next question. So for now, assuming moderate lighting, sword plants (the green leaf species) should do well, the pygmy chain sword is especially useful as a substrate plant. Floating plants are always advisable; they dim the overhead light (which is better for fish) and they are incredible assimilators of nutrients like ammonia. A comprehensive liquid fertilizer may be needed, but nutrients also occur from water changes and fish food. Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement for the Planted Aquarium is one of the best; it has all nutrients required and you use very little.

3. How much should we leave the light on in our tank for the plants to grow? Right now the cycle is towards the end but the fish are still pretty stressed so we've been leaving the light off a lot hoping that would make them more comfortable, but the flip side is less light for the plants, and I've read that the fry need a lot of light. What's the best balance of lights on vs lights off?
No fish we keep in an aquarium needs light overhead. They come from fairly dimly-lit waters. We use the light so we can see them, and to grow plants. But we should always remember the fish would be happier with no light, so it is best not to overdo the lighting.

Light drives photosynthesis in plants, so this is why the plant species are so closely tied to the light. Intensity (brightness) is key, but the spectrum is also crucial, as only red and blue light drives photosynthesis. It would help to know what lighting you have, if you have selected it.

The duration has to balance the nutrients, and be suitable for the plant species and numbers. Six or seven hours is usually the least amount of light you want, and using a timer so this can be set for the same 6-y (or whatever) hours each day is better for plants and fish. Light does impact fish health considerably. Some have the light on for 8, 9 or 10 hours; few go beyond this as the nutrients are likely to be fairly exhausted after this much light and that is when algae takes advantage. And "problem" algae is not always so easy to deal with, so prevention is better.
 
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Aynia

Aynia

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Thank you for the awesome reply :D

I'm thinking I'm going to put a timer on the lights to auto turn on and off.

The light we currently have is just the standard led that came with the tank, I'm not sure if they have clip on grow lights for aquariums, as our current lights just snap on to the rim of the tank.
 
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Aynia

Aynia

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Another question ,what's the best substrate for a planted tank? We're looking to go with something soft for the loaches but easy to grow in. We don't want to have to gravel vac at all.
 

Byron

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Another question ,what's the best substrate for a planted tank? We're looking to go with something soft for the loaches but easy to grow in. We don't want to have to gravel vac at all.
Sand is best for plants and fish. You can buy specific aquarium sands but they are very expensive. I use common play sand, available at home improvement and landscaping type stores, and it is the least expensive substrate. It is inert, it looks natural (because it is!), it is totally safe for all fish (those that burrow into it, those that sift it through their delicate gills), and it is not white (which is bad for fish). I have a dark grey mix but there is also a buff mix I believe, depending where you live.

You may or may not need to vacuum the sand, that depends upon the fish and feeding amounts. Some of my tanks I do, others never. It is similar but a bit different to gravel, in that you don't dig down into the sand but just skim the surface.

The light we currently have is just the standard led that came with the tank, I'm not sure if they have clip on grow lights for aquariums, as our current lights just snap on to the rim of the tank.
I'm not much up on LED lighting, so I will leave that to those who have the experience. If you could post a link to online information about the light it might help. The main issue with LED is the lack of red and too much blue in the "white." Plant LED's obviously have more red in the mix.
 

seangee

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I have 3 tanks that all just have the standard LED lights they came with. These are different but all work well for my low tech tanks. I do tend to go with easy plants. FWIW the anubias you mentioned don't need very much light at all (neither do amazon swords) so I agree with the advice on floating plants.

This pic was taken at the weekend. https://www.fishforums.net/threads/back-to-black.454283/page-3#post-3843423 If you scoll up the thread you will see that the dark side of the tank really is quite dark (I used software to even out the light for the pic). FWIW I have never vacuumed the sand in this tank. Also FWIW all those anubias were a single plant in summer. Search youtube for info on how to split them. They grow faste after being split (but bear in mind they are not fast growing)
 

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