View Full Version : Basic Plant Questions

12-10-2006, 08:31 AM
I have a 15 gallon Eclipse tank (18" deep) that I want to set up as a planted aquarium. Ideally, what I would in the end is an aquarium filled with plants and some small fish swimming amongst the plants.

How do you maintain a planted aquarium? I don't see how you could vacuum the substrate without destroy the roots of the plants, especially since in the end I would like to have plants cover the entire bottom of the tank, do you only do water changes in the end?

My current plan is to buy some substarte designed for planted aquariums, make a homemade CO2 system, buy some plants at lfs and see what happens. Is this a feasible plan or am I heading for disaster?

12-10-2006, 04:25 PM
Hi thesarge, it's good to hear you're planning a planted tank, I've always thought that a planted aquarium creates a beautiful, natural look, and the plants help with water quality too.

As for your plan, it certainly sounds feasible to me. I've always successfully kept a planted tank, I've never used CO2, special substrate or fertilizer though, and when it comes to cleaning the gravel I just clean around the plants. I know this leaves a lot of muck and debris, but this acts as fertilizer and it's left right where it's needed, by the roots. This can also contribute to an increase in nitrates but I've combated this by increasing the frequecy and percentage of water changes. Your plants also absorb nitrates.

What I have always made sure of is that my tank gets 12-13 hours of light a day, and my lighting is 2 wats per gallon. I've read that for the more demanding types of plants (usually pink, red and dark red coloured plants) that 4 watts per gallon is needed, along with c02, fertilizer etc.

From what I understand, the balance between watts per gallon and CO2 is tricky, and if the balance is upset this can cause big algae problems.

So, my advice to you is start with the hardier, easy growing plants like the basic swords, anubias, hygrophila, and java ferns. Once you've got those thriving, slowly try upping your lighting, adding cO2 and try to grow something more demanding. Good luck, also, check out this site, it's full of useful info and it's got beautiful pics for aquascaping inspiration. http://www.plantgeek.net

Lady Hobbs
12-10-2006, 05:04 PM
Also, plants have different needs for lighting. If you don't want to change the lighting in your aquarium you could use the low light plants.

I have seen portable oxygen for sale now. Just a small container that you hook up to add oxygen and then replace the cylinder now and then. The replacements cyclinders are $4 and is said to last in a 40 gallon tank for a month so it would last in a 10 gallon for much longer I'd think. You can turn it off at night as plants don't need it at night.

12-10-2006, 06:27 PM
I am planning on doing something along the same lines with my 10g. The link Slinky_Bass gave you is a good one. I have been looking into the lighting stituation and have found that the 1 or 2 watt per gallon rule usually applies to incandescent and that .5 - 1 watt per gallon fluorescent is usually enough for most plants. Some say the colour of the light is also important, but that is in debate. I would go for the lights that is most appealing to you (blueish vs, orangish (like sunlight)). I have a 2 amazon swords that have been barely surviving (not because of the light, but because I had large fish) and some other type that I can't ID (just because there isn't enough left, lol). The only fish I plan on having the the tank are gouramis, and small bristle nose pleco and a kuhli loach. I am going to buy some anubias nana after Christmas and also some wisteria. If all goes well with them, I may branch out into some harder to grow varieties. I am using a finer substrate then gravel, it's a chipped rock that looks like very coarse sand. I find the plants seem to root better in it and it's not smothering, like actual sand. My plants are tiny right now, so its not a big deal to vacuum around them. I am still on the fence about adding extra CO2 or oxygen (other then the insane amount of aeration from my bubble curtain). Hope at least some of this helps. Keep us posted how it goes :)

Lady Hobbs
12-10-2006, 06:50 PM
I've read about the planting of tanks and I also like the idea of a subtrate the plants will grow in rather than a plant subtrate and then adding gravel or sand on top. It just sounds (to me) as it would eventually get all mixed up and end up a mess. For me it would.......the cleaning freak!

Have you seen those little portable co2 units?



I would think these would be ideal for a small planted aquarium.

12-10-2006, 06:54 PM
Oh, another thing. Don't buy your bulbs from your LFS, just pick them up from your local hardware store, they should only run you $6 or so. The ones at the LFS aren't necessary and usually over-priced.

12-10-2006, 09:31 PM
Thank you all for your replies.

I think that I will shoot for the really economic route in the beginning to see if it will be successful or not. Always fun to see how far you can suceed on a restricted budget.

I'll buy some bulbs from the hardware store and shoot for 1 -2 watts per gallon so that I will have plenty of light if I choose to add in some plants that require higher intesity lighting. I'll clean up some old substrate that I have from the aquarium previously, and mix in some laterite for good measure.

As far as plant types go I will have to see what they have at the lfs, but I'll keep you posted as far as what I will buy and make sure that they are on the easy grow list according to plantgeek.com.

Abbeys_mom, do yo have a picture of your tank posted somewhere? I would be very interested in seeing your setup of your tank?

Thanks again for the advice...

12-10-2006, 09:43 PM
I'll take one tomorrow. There is one posted in last months TOTM competition, but it's an older one.

12-11-2006, 12:31 AM
BTW, I went to the hardware to buy a tank light and it was half the cost at the lfs and two-thirds of price at petco's.

12-11-2006, 12:55 PM
I think that I will shoot for the really economic route in the beginning to see if it will be successful or not. Always fun to see how far you can suceed on a restricted budget.

I've done all my tanks on restriced budgets, and trust me, it works. As a substrate for a planted tank some (like me) prefer fine sand (blasting sand) instead of gravel (your loach will appreciate that as well). Keeping that nicely aeriated is easy with Malaysian trumpet snails - they burrow in the sand, eat whatever is left over from the fish and don't touch plants. One other thing that I find nice about sand is that it makes waterchanges faster, as you don't have to poke around with the sifon (spelling?) to clean it up - just hover above the sand to suck in whatever muck you have floating around.

Instead of a plant substrate (whatever that is) you can add fertilizer sticks in the sand close to the roots of your plants, add homemade CO2 (basically just water, yeast and sugar in a bottle, with a small silicone hose delivering the CO2 to the tank - always keep the bottle above the water level) and if you think they need it, some liquid fertilizer every now and then.

Hope that helps. I would have rambled on longer, but I'm unsure of all the words I'd need in english =P

12-11-2006, 06:02 PM
I'll give the sand route a try. Thanks for the tip.

12-11-2006, 08:09 PM
Here's a pic of my tank. The really plants are up front. I will be replacing the light soon, I don't like the yellowish hue to it, the only other bulb I have is greenish (yuck).


12-11-2006, 08:40 PM
Great picture. The tank looks really good. I especially like the slopes and dips in the substrate, as well as the floating plant above the brown statue.

12-11-2006, 09:16 PM
homemade CO2 (basically just water, yeast and sugar in a bottle, with a small silicone hose delivering the CO2 to the tank - always keep the bottle above the water level)

Are you using bread yeast? and how much of each ingredient do you use?


12-11-2006, 09:51 PM
I would assume it's bread yeast, as it's the normal dry yeast I tend to use for baking. Since I'm sure someone here is interested in how to do this the cheap way, I'll give more instructions than a simple recipe.

What you need:

Screwdriver and sharp knife
enough silicone tube (the same type that is used for aerating) to reach the intended position of the CO2-bottle from the bottom of your tank
a few drops of aquarium safe silicone or glue
A passive spreader, that can be made of (for instance) the neck part of a smallish plastic bottle
A flowerpot or suction cups
1 empty Coke/Pepsi/whatnot bottle that holds 1.5 liters
1 caps for above bottle
1 liter lukewarm water, or as warm as your yeast requires
1 dl sugar (not cubes, the other kind)
1/4 or less teaspoon of dry yeast (try less first)

The passive spreader (bell):

Take a well rinsed plastic bottle and cut off the neck roughly 10 cm (4 inches) below the cap. Smooth the edges, then take the cap and make a small hole in it that will nicely fit the silicone tube. Insert 2-3 cm (1 inch) of the tube and make it airtight and secure with silicone. Do not cut tube at this point! Make sure the tube reaches where ever you intend to place the bottle before cutting it.

Place the bottleneck somewhere below the middle of your tank, either by attaching it to suction cups and then to the glass, or by using a ceramic, unglazed and UNUSED flowerpot. This method requires the other end of the tube to be free at this point, as you have to place the pot and the bottleneck inside eachother with the openings the same way and thread the tube through the hole at the bottom of the pot. Place on the bottom with the openings facing down.

Take the cap for the CO2 bottle and make a similar hole in it for the silicone tube. Attach the other end the same way and make absolutely sure this end is airtight or you'll loose the CO2.

Take your preferred bottle of soda, add the water and sugar and mix thoroughly, then add the yeast. Screw on the cap with the tube attached and place in a warm place that is above the water level of your fishtank.

This recipe will last a week or two before you have to replace the mixture.

As a note, if you can't place the bottle above the water level, you need to use a no-return valve between the bell and the bottle. I tend to keep mine on top of my tanklight, as that provides enough heat to keep the mixture going. This way I can also be sure that there won't be too much CO2 going into the tank during the night as the bottle cools down, although with a passive spreader this isn't much of a concern.

Some people also use a washing bottle in between, which is a good way to prevent the yeast mixture to overflow into your tank in case you accidentally make a too strong mixture. Apparently it also cleans up the CO2 a bit, but I haven't noticed the fish acting any more strange than they usually do without using one.

I hope I didn't forget anything.. O.o Please feel free to ask if any of the above seems like gibberish!

edit: Had 2 caps in the list, not sure where I intended to use the other one..

12-11-2006, 10:24 PM
Pictures would help.

12-11-2006, 10:54 PM
Pictures would help.

I'll see if I can find some tomorrow, right now I'm knackered from doing christmas cards all evening... =P

12-11-2006, 10:58 PM
It sound kind of like the humidifier I made for my lizards.


12-12-2006, 11:07 AM
It is a bit similar. The bell part can also be replaced with an airstone.

Anyway, I found a page on the net that should help with this. Unfortunately the text is in finnish, but if you want something translated, let me know :)

This is what the finished product would look like, with the bell part being attached with a suction cup.


You can take a look at the entire thing here: http://niilo.lautatarha.com/lehtis/hiilidioksiidinlannoitin.php He starts with what he used and goes through the various stages of building it up to the point where the bell is attached to the tank wall.

Edit. If your pH and hardness is very low, it's recommended to be careful with adding CO2, as that will dramatically lower the pH if the buffering capacities (hardness) are insufficient.

12-13-2006, 09:24 PM
Thanks for the great instructions on how to setup the homemade CO2. If I use an airstone, do you think that I could get away with not using the no-return vavle?

Also, would your instructions be good for posting on the DIY section?

12-13-2006, 10:23 PM
The no-return valve is there to prevent the water IN the tank getting sucked OUT of it in case something happens to the bottle. So yes, you can very well get away with it IF you keep your CO2-bottle above the water level of your tank. If you have a filter with an air intake, you can even attach the silicone tube from the bottle to that using a Y-type linkage, so you get both air and CO2 going in the tank via the filter nostril. Less efficient, but if you don't need all that much CO2 or want to check how it affects your plants on a minimal dose, easy to do.

Neither will prevent the yeast mixture getting in the tank if it's too strong and starts bubbling out of the bottle. That's where the washing bottle comes in, if you intend on messing about with stronger mixtures =P

I'd be willing to do an english version of it for the DIY section, as the web page I linked to isn't mine. Or I could contact the person that made it and ask him nicely if he's willing to translate it or have it translated to english, with the pictures and all. Unless you're all happy with just the link, of course :hmm3grin2orange:

12-14-2006, 05:14 AM
I think that it would be great for the DIY section.

Thanks again for posting.

12-14-2006, 09:47 PM
yes. can you please do a diy on this. thanks, jeff

12-14-2006, 11:19 PM
That would be an awesome DIY

12-15-2006, 04:32 PM
I'll post a link to the english version of the website once he's uploaded it, I already did the translation and sent it to him :P Since that will only be one way to do it, it might be a good idea to have a Q&A thingy added on to it as well... but I''ll get to that a bit later :)