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View Full Version : New to plants - what kinds would be right for my set-up/needs?



CherrySparkles
10-02-2010, 11:56 PM
Hi everyone!

So after years of keeping fish with fake plants (sad, I know!) and having more than my share of algae outbreaks (green algae, blue-green algae (ie: cyanobacteria, and I moved my fish to a new tank ASAP and cleaned the tanks out when that happened)) I'm ready to take the leap and add some live plants! But I'm wondering which ones will suit my requirements:

(1) Low light needs - I've currently got standard, fluorescent bulbs that came stock with my aquarium hoods and don't want to leave them on more than 8-10 hours/day. No tank is by a window.

(2) Doesn't require special substrate/soil - I'm looking for plants that either attach to rocks/driftwood or that can grow in gravel so that I don't have to change out my gravel substrate already in my tanks.

(3) Doesn't require fertilizers/additives, if possible - a couple of my fish are older bettas who are very sensitive to changes in their environments and regardless of how safe/commonly used, I don't want to put any new additives into their water if at all possible. :)

(4) Range from 5-12 inches tall, nothing too bushy - my tanks are all 5-12 gallons, though I'm more than happy to prune to keep the size down if that's all that's needed.

Note that all of the fish that will be in my tanks are carnivores, so them nibbling on plants shouldn't be an issue.

And while we're talking plants, a couple of questions?
- How do you do your gravel vacuuming without disturbing roots?
- Plants help to control algae outbreaks by competing for nutrients in the water column, yes?
- And would any of the plants that I'd use help to keep ammonia levels down/consume much fish waste?
- Can adding plants be detrimental to the tank/fish in any way? (quarantine is necessary when bringing them plants home from the pet store, in case of snails, etc...?)

Any information that you guys can provide would be fabulous - it's shameful how little I know about aquarium plants! Looking forward to starting up a whole new kind of tank! In advance, thanks bunches. :ssmile:

smaug
10-03-2010, 12:04 AM
(1) Low light needs - I've currently got standard, fluorescent bulbs that came stock with my aquarium hoods and don't want to leave them on more than 8-10 hours/day. No tank is by a window.anubias of any type,java ferns and mossballs

(2) Doesn't require special substrate/soil - I'm looking for plants that either attach to rocks/driftwood or that can grow in gravel so that I don't have to change out my gravel substrate already in my tanks.see above

(3) Doesn't require fertilizers/additives, if possible - a couple of my fish are older bettas who are very sensitive to changes in their environments and regardless of how safe/commonly used, I don't want to put any new additives into their water if at all possible. :)see above

(4) Range from 5-12 inches tall, nothing too bushy - my tanks are all 5-12 gallons, though I'm more than happy to prune to keep the size down if that's all that's needed.

Note that all of the fish that will be in my tanks are carnivores, so them nibbling on plants shouldn't be an issue.

And while we're talking plants, a couple of questions?
- How do you do your gravel vacuuming without disturbing roots?gravel vaccing isnt really needed with a planted tank
- Plants help to control algae outbreaks by competing for nutrients in the water column, yes?if the plants are healthy and growing well yes,if they struggle they will do nothing but add to the nutrients in the water with there shed leaves and poor health
- And would any of the plants that I'd use help to keep ammonia levels down/consume much fish waste?your biofilter should be doing the ammo removal but they will use the fish waste
- Can adding plants be detrimental to the tank/fish in any way? (quarantine is necessary when bringing them plants home from the pet store, in case of snails, etc...?) do a mild 20% bleach dip of just the greens of the plant to kill snail spawn,no qtine needed

CherrySparkles
10-03-2010, 12:31 AM
That sounds great, thanks so much for the info, Smaug! I've read a little bit about how hardy Java Ferns are which is encouraging right off the bat. :P

So this leads me to a couple more questions, if you don't mind:

- A struggling plant will be obviously so, right? The same as, say, a houseplant: drooping, pale, discolored, shriveling, dying leaves, etc. I'll keep an eye on water params a bit more closely with the plants in to make sure I don't miss some decaying, ammonia-making plant material, but I'd hope that I'd see that first!

- Once a planted tank is well established (ie: lots of plants), water changes won't involve sucking up solid fish waste out of the gravel anymore, as it will be fertilizing the plants, and they'll be able to keep the waste that's left in the tank under control?

- Do some low-light plants (like the ones discussed) even require aquarium lights being on at all?

- Do plants require nitrate in the water? I've had issues establishing a biofilter in my tanks (am in the process of getting established media to seed my tank with) and in the meantime and running ammonia removing media on the filters, changing when necessary and testing to make sure the ammonia level is always zero. This, obviously, leave no byproducts of the nitrogen cycle in the water...

Thanks so much again!

smaug
10-03-2010, 12:40 AM
A struggling plant will be obviously so, right? The same as, say, a houseplant: drooping, pale, discolored, shriveling, dying leaves, etc. I'll keep an eye on water params a bit more closely with the plants in to make sure I don't miss some decaying, ammonia-making plant material, but I'd hope that I'd see that first!it wont produce any ammo but will add pollutants.yes it will be obvious they are struggling

- Once a planted tank is well established (ie: lots of plants), water changes won't involve sucking up solid fish waste out of the gravel anymore, as it will be fertilizing the plants, and they'll be able to keep the waste that's left in the tank under control?just lightly hoover over the surface to remove any detritus such as plant material and other little bits as well as loose poo

- Do some low-light plants (like the ones discussed) even require aquarium lights being on at all?all plants need light to some deree

- Do plants require nitrate in the water? I've had issues establishing a biofilter in my tanks (am in the process of getting established media to seed my tank with) and in the meantime and running ammonia removing media on the filters, changing when necessary and testing to make sure the ammonia level is always zero. This, obviously, leave no byproducts of the nitrogen cycle in the water...
that nitrate will be some of the only food available to your plants without added ferts,that being said,there will be enough in the water column for the mentioned plants.Keep in mind if there isnt enough availabe to them the plants will suffer and die but its worth a try.

DrNic
10-03-2010, 01:01 AM
I ran those same conditions for years when I started with plants. You actually have a lot of options.

Java ferns are great and get about 8-10 inches tall at the max and do great in just about any tank.

Stem plants like hygros and broadleaf ludwig and narrow/thin-leaf water sprite are also a good choice as long as you get them more than as plants that are 6 inches or taller. Shorter ones will sometimes fades/melt before they take hold in a tank like that. These plants tend to be best used as backdrops. They will eventually climb all the way to the top of the water. Once they get there you can trip them back and replant the clippings.

Crypts will probably also work. There are many types/sizes of crypts but the 'basic' crypts, red/bonze, green and spirilas should do fine. They will range from 4-24 inches depending on the type you get.

Regarding your questions:
- How do you do your gravel vacuuming without disturbing roots?
Typically I just vacuum around the roots. Once every 4-8 months I will pull up the entire tank and vacuum everything and do a large trimming as well.

- Plants help to control algae outbreaks by competing for nutrients in the water column, yes?
Faster growing plants will help control algae to a point. However slower exotic plants which grow slower don't help as much.

- And would any of the plants that I'd use help to keep ammonia levels down/consume much fish waste?
The plants will help capture some of the organic waste in the tank as well as ammonia based waste products. I wouldn't rely on them alone as a filter but they will definitely help.

- Can adding plants be detrimental to the tank/fish in any way? (quarantine is necessary when bringing them plants home from the pet store, in case of snails, etc...?)
Depending on where you get the plants from they may carry snails. Typically this doesn't bother the fish but some types can be difficult to get rid of. If the plants came from a tank with fish, bacteria/fungus/parasites can also be transferred via the liquid on the plants (they are usually packed in some kind of paper towel or newspaper). It's typically a good idea to rinse your plants in a bucket of water before they go into the tank. If you have chlorine in your tap water that helps kill any snails/parasites that might hitchhike along. You can also try dipping the plants in a dilution of bleach or potassium permanganate.
Once the plants are in the tank there is little chance they will 'hurt' the fish. The only problems I've seen are cases where the plants either clogged up the filter (planting them too close to an intake), or dead leaves were left in the tank to rot and altered the water chemistry.

Hope this helps.

HeatherB
10-03-2010, 03:47 AM
If your plants do look like they are dying, leave them in a few more days. Some new plants 'melt' in new tank conditions- but after the leaves melt off, they come back beautiful!

CherrySparkles
10-05-2010, 03:32 AM
Thanks again for all the info! It hadn't occurred to me, HeatherB, but like fish, plants obvs will need time to adjust to new water conditions. And since you don't acclimate plants, the initial melt makes sense. I might have freaked out at first if someone hadn't warned me of that. :)

DrNic, it's great to know that there are so many options! I've been admiring Jungle Vals too, and I think my bettas would love them getting really tall and draping on the surface, but I'm not sure if they'll need more light/care than I can give.

When you say you've run similar conditions to mine, do you mean with the ammonia-absorbing filter media that I use, or just with the small tank/low light conditions?

DrNic
10-05-2010, 03:51 AM
I've run 'low light' tanks with standard gravel in the past and still do.

Vals may or may not work. I've had really mixed luck with them in a tank like this. If you are going to try them out do your best to get large plants that will already be at the top of the water to absorb as much light as possible. In my experience smaller vals don't take well in a tanks like this and just melt away over time.

Everyone has a different experience so I'm sure you'll find something that works for you. Just about any tank will support plants of one type or another.

korith
10-05-2010, 05:53 AM
I agree some plants go through a short dying stage when they go into a tank. Once their roots get established a bit more, they will come back to life. For plants with stock lighting, you'll want to stick to low or very low light plants. There are a lot of options. Also some nice floating plants, that can help shy fish be out in the open a bit more. This site http://plantgeek.net/plantguide_cat.php?category=1 has a nice index of plants with pics you can look at, look at the plants listed under low and maybe even medium-low categories. Make up a list of ones you like and see what you can find locally. If you are willing to fertilizer tablets, even in a normal gravel substrate tank, that should help with the plant choices.

CherrySparkles
10-06-2010, 05:47 PM
Great to know, thanks DrNic, and Korith, this site is fab! I haven't seen it before and it's making picking plants beyond simple! Now that I see some low-light crypts that look similar, I think I'll abandon the thought of the more difficult/unsuited-to-me Jungle Vals, at least for now.

So my favourites are:

Anubias nana
Anubias congensis
Cryptocoryne spiralis
Cryptocoryne walkeri
Java fern
Java moss (though I'm leery of how prolific mosses can get, or so I've read), and
Giant Hygro (if I get really brave, as this came from the "medium-low" light category)

Now to see what our local pet stores have for plant stock!

The first of my bettas to get plants will be one of the not-so-sensitive fish. For curiosity's sake - what kind of fertilizer tablets are you referring to and what kind of effects can they have on the tank/fish?

Thanks again!

korith
10-06-2010, 08:48 PM
The first of my bettas to get plants will be one of the not-so-sensitive fish. For curiosity's sake - what kind of fertilizer tablets are you referring to and what kind of effects can they have on the tank/fish?

Thanks again!

Well some plants are heavy root feeders, meaning they get the nutrients they need fro their root systems. In a normal gravel tank that can be a problem. You can get fertilizer tablets, made by several different companies at your local fish store. You just put it into the substrate near the plant, in a 10g tank 2 tablets is usually good enough. Just add new ones every 3-4 weeks or so. Other plants can get their nutrients from liquid fertilizers added to the water in the tank.

Hmm effects on fish? I can't really think of any, unless you seriously overdosed on it. Too much fertilizer could lead to algae issues possibly, if the plants can't use it all. It's all about achieving a balance between the fish, tank, plants, substrate and the nutrients. Took me a few weeks in one tank and several months in another tank to dial in the right amount of fertilizers to use. Rarely have to deal with algae these days, just a quick wipe of the tank glass every few weeks does the job. Before I'd be scrubbing the algae every week or two.

HeatherB
10-07-2010, 12:25 AM
You should look at some other moss's (mosses) too. I really like my Java Moss, but it can be a PITA sometimes. There are times it just clogs up the filters, floats all around etc.

I recently got some Sargassum and really like it. Stays together better anyways.