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View Full Version : 125G Improvements for Plants



Dacotah7
12-16-2010, 09:57 AM
I want to grow plants better, consistantly, while trying to do several things, keep costs at a reasonable level if possible and when possible, minimize routine maintenance and facilitate easier maintenance when it is due. It is not that I avoid maintenance, I am just tired of distrurbing everything when I do, and taking most of a weekend to get it done.

I am rethinking everything from the ground up. Other than the tank and the fish, everything is subject to change. Right now I am not overstocked and plan to keep it that way; life is so much eaiser and forgiving that way, with less chance of surprises, spikes, dead fish, disease, stress or total sytem crashes.

I have two Fluval 404's running but have proven that one can do the job adequately if needed. Tired of leaks, especially after servicing them and intolerant of them siphoning tank water while they are off part of the day and during feeding I am considering replacing one or both, with the equivilant GPH filtration. I am considering one Fluval X-5 or two Rena XP3's. If I go with the Rena I probably will get the cannister heaters.

Heaters - two Hydor 300 watt heaters; one set slightly below the other. If one fails no problem, as it is proven one is adequate. I am thinking as stated above either a heater on the canister, or two in-line heaters. That would improve the tank appearance, eliminate forgetting to unplug the heaters when doing water changes, and eliminate potential (not so likely) shock when sticking my hands in the water.

Lights - two 36" Coralife, each one with a 6,700k and 10,000k T-5 tube. They seem adequate and both are maybe a year old. One seems to go thru tubes about every 1-2 months. I don't know if the fixture has a starter in it, but if it does, I wonder if that is faulty. I am thinking about replacing that fixture for that reason. Replacing or changing lights altogether is a possiblity.

Substrate - the big one, and most difficult for me.
I have white gravel. Whatever I go with i want it to look natural and facilitate growing plants. I am considering sand, either black or white. Some months back I read the pros and cons of dark or light substrate bue have not found that thread yet. If I change to sand, Dark or Light?

Than what? Soil, Flourite, Laterite, Super Soil:
http://www.aquaworldaquarium.com/Articles/TonyGriffitts/supersoil_planted_aquarium.htm
or AP.com substrate?
I am afraid of the mess, muddy and clouded water with any potting soil like the SuperSoil, especailly when planting, replaning, or any uprooting.
My fish love the gravel sucking it up moving it around and re-landscaping, so I don't know how they will like sand or soil substrate or if they would eventually get into soil under sand or gravel.
I think Florite is cost prohibitive. In my 20 g, it cost about as much as the complete setup, tank, lid, filter, heater and lights.

Substrate Heater - Must I? Is it really worth it? Would it mae a big differance?
If so, which one is a good one? How many watts and feet of heating coil do I need?

In all that, I struggle with the substrate type, mix and color the most, followed by a substrate heater or heaters. And those two things are what i want to take care of first. Other changes can follow later, especially being I have built in redundancy, plus spare everything in an emergecny if needed.

hockeyhead019
12-16-2010, 01:05 PM
I'd definitely switch to one filter as it'd make things much easier on you cleaning wise lol as to inline heaters they'll definitely improve the look however be warned that heaters tend to get stuck in the on position... so instead of having two heaters which could heat the tank by themselves if the other one were to turn off it's better to have two smaller sized heaters that when combined can heat the tank. That way if one gets stuck on the other will go off and you won't have a huge temp spike.

As to light or dark sand, personally I'd go dark since it tends to make the greens of the plants and the colors of your fish pop more. However be careful since I see from your sig you have corys so you will have to consult somebody else (since idk) because some sand doesn't go well with corys

Lady Hobbs
12-16-2010, 04:16 PM
I use this substrate.
http://www.aquariumplants.com/Freshwater_Aquarium_Plant_Substrate_p/ss.htm

The black is dusty until it settles but all substrate for plants is. I have used the black, the amazon and a combination of the two mixed which is my favorite. Far cheaper than eco-complete and grows plants very well. The amazon is less dusty but as already stated, even the tank with black substrate is only dusty for a day or so.

I would stick with both heaters. I used a 250 watt in my 55 gallons and I think using both in a 125 gallon is just fine. You don't want heaters to over-work or they will simply stop working. You also want the same temp on both ends of the tank.

One 404 is probably sufficient if your tank is heavily planted. You can always have just a HOTB on one end for added oxygen.

I think you may want to improve on those lights. No light should be going thru bulbs like that, anyway.

Brhino
12-16-2010, 04:24 PM
you're going to need a LOT more light. Right now you've got 84W in a 125 gallon tank? You'll likely need double or even triple that to grow most plants well. What are the dimensions of your tank? If your lights don't span the entire tank you're going to have a hard time growing plants anywhere other than directly under them.

Why are your filters off for part of the day? Just curious.

Dacotah7
12-16-2010, 04:59 PM
I'd definitely switch to one filter as it'd make things much easier on you cleaning wise lol as to inline heaters they'll definitely improve the look however be warned that heaters tend to get stuck in the on position... so instead of having two heaters which could heat the tank by themselves if the other one were to turn off it's better to have two smaller sized heaters that when combined can heat the tank. That way if one gets stuck on the other will go off and you won't have a huge temp spike.

As to light or dark sand, personally I'd go dark since it tends to make the greens of the plants and the colors of your fish pop more. However be careful since I see from your sig you have corys so you will have to consult somebody else (since idk) because some sand doesn't go well with corys

Thanks. Having two filters was by design. With my set-up it, really is not more work as I alternate servicing each one about every 2-3 months. That way I always have some clean foam (mechanical), fresh renew and purigen (chemical) and maintain a colony of nitrifying bacteria in the ceramic noodles and maybe in the oldest serviced filter (biological). Having two filters, each capable of maintaining the tank individually, provides a redundant system should one fail and it provides better circulation with 2 return lines and 2 intake screens, eliminating dead spots in the tank.

I like the multiple filter set-up so much, I have considered using 3 smaller filters, maybe on a manifold system. If I were to make that change, I probably would go with the Eheim canisters.

I have been drolling over and considering the Fluval FX5 for a single filter system. Even just one of those, is a bit of overkill, more than required plus. At about $350 new retail, the price has been the detractor until I stumbled upon Amazon.com What I don't like is the single return line, and the factory discharge nozzle with 2 ports positioned at right angles. Should I go with the FX5, I think I would do some plumbing, incorporating two or more return ports, postioned where they best serve the tank setup, and maybe include a spray-bar.

Heaters - I understand your reasoning. At the same time with two small heaters required, should one fail, the other is than task with a tank it is incapable of maintaining. With two 300 watt heaters, I've had both things occur; a complete failure by one heater, and on two other occassions, one heater stuck in the on position. There is no perfect solution. The best one can do is buy reliable brand name equipment, and have someone checking on the tank daily. Tanks on auto-pilot, while on vacation or holidays have the potential for disaster. The current changes I am considering (at a greater expense than I already paid for + 1.5 to 2x) is two external, redundant heaters; in-line or in-canister.

My BIG delima and decissions are substrate and substrate heaters.
Color - I want a natural look, so rainbow colors are out. That leaves white, black or something inbetween, river run sand & gravel look, or raw soil maybe covered with sand or gravel.

I appreciate the comments on black substrate. I've noticed the effect in my 20 gallon with black florite sand, enhancing fish and plant colors.

Whats the concern with Coreys and sand. For them, I always thought the concern was their barbels and gravel, which I have now, but have not had any problems after years of that combination. With no problems, I've mostly dismissed the whole topic.

So... Substrate Heaters, how much do they improve plant growth and success. There is at least one extra cord to conceal, or attempt to hide. Are they the way to go if one is serious about growing healthy nice looking plants.

And Substrate - Florite would be really expensive for a 125g, but I've seen the results in my 20g. In my mind paying a lot for "dirt" just isn't easy to accept. Still, I'm at the point of spending money, if that is what it takes to grow fresh water plants well. The advice and reviews are conflicting and confussing.

Dacotah7
12-16-2010, 05:47 PM
you're going to need a LOT more light. Right now you've got 84W in a 125 gallon tank? You'll likely need double or even triple that to grow most plants well. What are the dimensions of your tank? If your lights don't span the entire tank you're going to have a hard time growing plants anywhere other than directly under them.

Why are your filters off for part of the day? Just curious.

Light - I failed to mention ambient day-time sun light, the effect it has on the tank, and the problems it can cause if I don't conteract it. Visualize this:
Your computer moniter is the front of my tank.
Over there, to the right ---> is a double sliding patio door, on the South side of the house. The end of the tank is about 3 feet away from that wall, with my 20g stand between the wall and the 125g.
Behind you, across the dining room table, are two West facing windows.

I have no plans to change the tank location, I have few options for alternate locations where the tank would be enjoyed. As it is, it is a center-piece viewed often and by many, by everybody.

The bad news is, without intervention I can create a green water tank within a few days. The good news is, to counter act that, I actively manage the sunlight with dark cloth drapes over the patio door and wooden slat blinds over the windows. Over time, I've learned what to do when, allowing the plants some natural sunlight, very intense during mid-late afternoon depending on the time of the year. I work from home, so that is not a problem. I also know when to limit the sun to prevent green water or green glass. When we leave home, the blinds and drapes are closed.

Diminsions: 6 feet long x 18" wide x 20" tall
Two each, 3 foot fixtures span the six foot length.
Problems are:
Maybe total wattage; maybe.
The 18" width, I have to move the fixtures to cover the front or the back parts of the tank.
Hornwart - when it gets out of hand, it blocks everything under it. The floater grows vigorously which I like, but it may have to go, Or I must keep it in check, doing a better job of thinning it routinely.

Filters off: During feeding, at night. I turn them off so the food does not get sucked in before it is eaten. It is a waste of food and a cause of having to clean the foam in the filters much sooner and more often. The filters will suck it up fast, before the fish are done eating. When I turn the filters off, I may leave them off for several hours. There is no need to run them 24-7. Once, by accident, we left for 3 days with the filters off. I expected a dead tank, but found the fish healthy and normal. While I never would do that intentionally, it proved a point, about not over-stocking and having some degree of an established, self-maintaining eco-system. Whatever I created in the tank, be it intentional or unknowingly, it saved itself. Frankly, I think it was a bit of both, by design, while not fully undertanding each element of biology and chemistry and how they interact.

Directly under the lights. Point taken and noted.
Most of my rooted plant growing attempts, have been along the back wall, which happens to be the default location for the fixtures, providing access to the hinged lid openings in front, for feeding and minor maintenance.
When I do anything major in the tank, at least one or more lids are removed completely.

Noted, meaning I will consider adding to or upgrading the lighting system.
What I have now is not high-output, but will consider it.
I think I need to consider four things, the desired end state (healthy plants), the cost to purchase, the cost to operate (power consumption), the cost to maintain (tube replacement cost).
While purchase price, is what it is, and maybe difficult to accept at first, it is the last two, (cost to operate and maintain) that truly cost the most over time.

Dacotah7
12-16-2010, 06:04 PM
I use this substrate.
http://www.aquariumplants.com/Freshwater_Aquarium_Plant_Substrate_p/ss.htm

The black is dusty until it settles but all substrate for plants is. I have used the black, the amazon and a combination of the two mixed which is my favorite. Far cheaper than eco-complete and grows plants very well. The amazon is less dusty but as already stated, even the tank with black substrate is only dusty for a day or so.

I would stick with both heaters. I used a 250 watt in my 55 gallons and I think using both in a 125 gallon is just fine. You don't want heaters to over-work or they will simply stop working. You also want the same temp on both ends of the tank.

One 404 is probably sufficient if your tank is heavily planted. You can always have just a HOTB on one end for added oxygen.

I think you may want to improve on those lights. No light should be going thru bulbs like that, anyway.

Thanks. I am leaning towards your substrate recommendation, based on the facts that it cost less, but still works well. Dust, not a problem if it settles as stated. Most any type of substrate that is composed of particles is a temporary problem when messing with it.

I'm still intrigued by the garden dirt recommendation:
http://www.aquaworldaquarium.com/Articles/TonyGriffitts/supersoil_planted_aquarium.htm
Simple, inexpensive, but I fear the mess and muddy water, especially when it is time to thin, seperate or replant. Anytime one must disturb the soil, the potential for days of muddy water exists. Plants could tolerate that, humans (me) could accept it, but the fish need to live in it. Mud or particles in the water column also present themselves to the filter system, which could be another problem, unless it is turned off temporarly.

Lights - Thanks. I need to get over the fact that I may made a less than good choice and wasted money by doing so; or was sold a lemon, one fixture with inherent problems. Further, the solution will cost more yet.

Dacotah7
12-17-2010, 08:34 AM
I use this substrate.
http://www.aquariumplants.com/Freshwater_Aquarium_Plant_Substrate_p/ss.htm

The black is dusty until it settles but all substrate for plants is. I have used the black, the amazon and a combination of the two mixed which is my favorite. Far cheaper than eco-complete and grows plants very well. The amazon is less dusty but as already stated, even the tank with black substrate is only dusty for a day or so.

I would stick with both heaters. I used a 250 watt in my 55 gallons and I think using both in a 125 gallon is just fine. You don't want heaters to over-work or they will simply stop working. You also want the same temp on both ends of the tank.

One 404 is probably sufficient if your tank is heavily planted. You can always have just a HOTB on one end for added oxygen.

I think you may want to improve on those lights. No light should be going thru bulbs like that, anyway.

Lady Hobbs,
Do you also use AquariumPlants.com's own: SUBSTRATE VITALIZATION SYSTEM?
Or other fertilization, trace minerals, etc. ?

With 2 heaters and 2 pumps running I don't have serious dead spots or hot-cold areas. The heaters are on the back corners as are the intake tubes. One return nozzle is at the top of the right rear corner and directs return water from the right end across the back of the tank towards the left end. The other return nozzle is at the top of the left rear corner and is directed at an angle to the right, towards the front of the tank. While there are a few areas in the tank without strong flow, there is some water movement most everywhere. It is evident from plant debris, miniute air bubbles, the fish swimming and behavoir. Fish that want to rest move out of the fastest moving water, while those that want to play, sometimes do so for hours on end, in some rather strong current.

Lady Hobbs
12-17-2010, 01:55 PM
Oops. Just saw this but already answered in another post. I have not used the fert tabs simply because I haven't gotten around to it. But I have heard they are very good and certainly cheap enough and the reviews on them are good as well as others I have told about them have had good results.

Others here are now using them so perhaps they will respond on this.

A good tip is rinse the substrate, dump it in the tank then cover it with a plastic trash bag and fill the tank covered by that bag. It helps hold down the dust particles and works well with all plant substrate.

dragoonwoman
12-17-2010, 04:00 PM
Wish I'd known it before - had a terrible mess recently when the water became OPAQUE from kicking up the substrate. :22:

I use the aquariumplants.com fert pellets and recommend them highly. They are much more economical than other brands, you get a lot in each bottle and my plants always show increased growth right after I put them in. I have mostly sword plants in my 46g and they are heavy root-feeders, so the reaction is greatest with those.