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Re: New Tank

Greg asked:
"I am setting up my first plant tank. I am going to use
flourite as a substrate with no UGF,or heater cables.
I was wondering how deep to make the substrate."

That depends upon how big the tank is (primarily, how deep it is), as well
at the plants that you will be growing. In a tank 18" deep, 3" of substrate
(at the back) sloping down to 2" at the front is not excessive. In a 24"
deep tank, you could have areas which are deeper still. Some plants, such as
the larger Crypts, will send roots deep into the substrate. When I last
broke down my largest tank, I found many healthy plant roots had made it
through 6" of substrate (in some areas  of the tank). Since you are planning
on using pure Flourite, with no organic additives, I don't think that you
will have any problems.

"I am also using a DIY CO2 system. Should I turn it on
as soon as plants are added? Or wait a bit till the
plants are established?"

"Lastly, when should I begin addind fertilizer and what
types? I saw the recipe for PPMD but I would rather
just buy it off the shelf at this point..."

This depends upon a number of factors -- are your plants going to be
"cuttings" or already rooted when you plant them? Any plant takes a while to
adjust to new conditions and sent out new roots, cuttings take a while
longer than a plant which was grown in (for example) rockwool filled pots
and already has a healthy root system. During this settling in period, the
plant relies mainly on stored reserves for a lot of its nutritional
requirements, but if you have a high light level right from the start,
adding the DIY CO2 right away should only help to make the plants grow
better right from the start.

I would hold off on adding liquid fertilizers for a couple of weeks, until
the plants have had a chance to become established and are actually able to
absorb it. Start out lean, using between 1/4 - 1/2 of the manufacturer's
recommendation for the first little while, and then gradually, over a period
of several weeks, slowly increase the amount you use. Let the plants
themselves tell you how much they need and/or want. Since this is your first
try with a planted tank, stick with something that has a proven track
record, like Tropica Mastergrow or maybe Seachem's Flourish and Flourish
Iron (use these sparingly until you get the hang of things). Pick ONE type
of fertilizer and use it for at least 6 months to give yourself a chance to
learn for yourself how well it works. Most of the major brands on the market
can be used successfully but they each have slightly different formulations
and how well they react in your specific setup is something that only time
and experience can teach you.

It also depends a lot on what is already in your water supply - if you have
really soft water you might eventually need to supplement certain specific
nutrients (for example Calcium and/or Magnesium), again depending upon how
your plants are growing. But don't make the mistake of adding things willy
nilly without being pretty sure in advance that there is a need to do so.

A successful planted tank depends as much (if not more) on the patience and
perseverance of the hobbyist, as it does on which regeime of fertilization
you use. Observing the tank and the plants closely can teach you a lot.

Good luck.

James Purchase