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Re: Tips on planted aquaria startup

Rich wrote:

>In the next month or so I'll be moving into a place where I'll actually 
>have space for a 50 gallon aquarium.  Thus, I'm looking for advice on 
>good practices to use when starting up a new, planted tank, i.e. those 
>things you should do to avoid big algae problems while trying to cycle a 

You're likely to get a different answer in each
different response.  

>Having only ever started up two small planted aquaria (a 10 gallon and a 
>15 gallon tank), I'm sure there are mistakes I made that would have been 
>serious problems with say a 50 gallon tank.  Also, I've seen the LFS 
>give terrible advice to a friend of mine when he started his 30 gallon 
>planted aquaria. (such as don't add any plants until the fish have 
>cycled the tank!)

I'm also in Albuquerque, so I would kinda like to
know (off the list) who gave that advice.

>What advice exactly am I looking for?  Answers to the following and any 
>other advice you might have as well:
>- --If a tank has good or strong lighting (2 to 4 watts per gallon) is it 
>a good idea to only run the lights for short period of time during the 
>first few weeks.

Not necessary.  Start with the same 10-14 hour "on"
cycle that you plan on using later.

>- --Is it best to introduce the plants to the aquaria for a few weeks 
>before you add any fish?

Maybe a few days, but not a few weeks.

>- --Is it a good idea to start CO2 fertilization from the start, or should 
>one wait a week  for the plants to start to root.

Use CO2 from the beginning.  The plants need it for
good growth while they are getting established.
Without added CO2 they will start more slowly.

>- --While root tablets are a good way to avoid putting too many nutriants 
>in the water column, should liquid fertilizers be used on a new tank, or 
>held off until later?

Don't worry too much about nutrients in the water column; there's very little in most liquid additives
that can cause problems.  Be very conservative with
the root tabs, or just plain leave them out.
Probably more people have reported problems with
them then have reported great starts using them.  It
seems to be a common problem to use too much at the

But while you want to be careful keep in mind that
your plants do need the macronutrients that the root
tabs normally supply.  They can't stay healthy for
long just on the excess that they have stored.  In
particular, our water is low in potassium and you
may want to dose extra potassium first thing.

>- --Should partial water changes be done from the start, or should one 
>wait until the tank has cycled?

A heavily planted tank may never cycle. You could
wait forever.  I suggest that you set up your
regular maintenance routine right away.

In general, you should start by planting heavily
with healthy plants.  Give them good growing
conditions from the beginning so that they get
established quickly.

You may want to add a maintenance crew (oto's, SAEs
and so on) immediately.  You can hold off on other
fish for a while, but not long; if you don't add
fish then you will need to provide your plants with
all of the nutrients that they would normally get
from fish food/fish waste.

Expect a few problems with diatoms (brown coatings)
in the first few weeks. It's ugly, but it goes away

Roger Miller
also in Albuquerque, where we're all breathing
smoke from Arizona forest fires.