Re: New Plant Tank Advice

> From: Chuck Lawson <clawson at onramp_net>
> The tank is a custom tank, roughly a cube 30" square.  

My tank is very similar to yours in dimensions. The biggest problem
is reaching in to perform planting or maintenance. The looks of the
tank are nice; improving as I transition from the initial planting
to varieties which will be semi-permanent.

> got some tropical bog plants (black princess taro and dwarf umbrella palm)
> from my koi pond that need to be brought in to be wintered over

I have E. cordifolius which is quite large but doesn't extend above
the water surface. I think your plants should be ok even if they do
extend above. 

> Light - I've got a 250 watt "5500K + Daylight" MH pendant coming from
> Hamilton. The challenge here will be to arrange this high enough that it
> lights but doesn't cook the bog plantings, while still lighting the
> submerged plants and not going over the edge of the tank and flooding the
> room.  I also plan to supplement this with 1 or 2 NO fluorescents, so that
> the MH can be on 10 - 11 hrs per day, but there can still be some light to
> enjoy the tank for a few additional hours.  I was thinking of cycling the
> lights with a timer so that the fluorescents come on two hours and then off
> when the MH comes on for 11, and then the MH off and the fluorescents back
> on for another 2 hrs.  Will this additional light disrupt the plants
> tropical light cycle too much, or will it be unnoticable compared to the MH?

This sounds like a good idea. The deep tank will offset the intensity of
the MH light and you can use some of the larger plants to "shade" those
which suffer from algae in intense light. You can reduce the MH strong
lighting period to shorter if algae becomes a problem but maintain the 12
hr photo period with the fluorescents. I should copy this idea with my
shallow tank.

> Substrate/Heat - At this point, I've pretty much decided to try to avoid
> doing substrate heating (commercial systems too expensive, DIY wire too
> risky with my competence :-), and DIY pvc/heater systems too messy
> visually), and go with a vermiculite/loam/texblast mixture - it seems like
> (reading some of the debates in the archives) laterite pretty much requires
> substrate heating to keep it from going anerobic, and "cold floor" tanks
> would probably do better with something that doesn't compact as much.  Is
> this a fair assessment?  If so, can anyone in the Dallas / N. Texas area
> recommend what "loam" might be packaged as in the garden shops?  I don't
> recall seeing anything saying "loam" in particular...

Loam = black dirt. Don't use potting soil; IMHO it's not composted
well enough. Earth worm castings is fine and you should be able to find
that at a garden shop. I don't think laterite has a propensity for going
anaerobic particularly esp. if its the granular form. Some plants like
to have a muddy substrate. I would say that Ludwigia species and many of
the stem plants which made the transition from land to water are of this
class. Karen, are Crypts mud loving plants? I think we can put Aponogetons
in that category too.

> In any event, I plan
> to run a pair of Ebo Jaeger 150 watt heaters to keep the tank up to discus
> temps (82oF - 84oF), so it wouldn't need to do more than provide substrate
> circulation.

I think you could get that temp from a single 150w heater depending upon
how cold your room temperature is. Don't forget the 250w lights heat the
water and room too. That temperature is a little above optimum for some
plants so you may want to check the recommended conditions for your plants.

> Fertilization - No idea.  Something reasonably low-tech and low maintenance,
> hopefully.  My tap water comes out at a pH of around 8, with vanishingly low
> alkalinity (your average biofilter will drop it like a stone without buffer
> support).  GH unknown (I've not needed a test kit for this for years, so I
> haven't checked it yet).  I'm a reasonably large consumer of lily pond
> tablets, and have a fair amount of these around if they can be put to use...

The Kelly method includes adding pond tablets under the substrate. There
are good arguments for doing fertilization here as opposed to in vitro.
For Fe and micro nutrients, Flourish seems to be ok but premature to make
any long term statements. Never did get a response back from that guy
who works for the Flourish company regarding the analysis of it. Joanne,
did you say you might arrange a spectral analysis of the stuff? That
would be very useful!

> Plants - likewise no idea.  I've got a bunch of Anubias nana around from
> another tank that I'd planned on using, and would like to have some
> Hygrophilia and a radicans sword or two, but no preconceptions beyond that.
> I'm particularly unsure of ideas for tall plantings to take advantage of the
> height of the tank, other than something like "jungle val.".  Any
> suggestions on what might work well here?  I'm not looking for something
> challenging as much as "what will thrive" in this kind of environment.

Myriophylum grows tall and looks good in a large tank. A. crispus looks
good in the middle or foreground of a deep tank. Ludwigia & Bacopa can
look good if long and in good light with a nice muddy bottom. The lower
leaves of H. difformis don't look good when its tall but it might have
been too shady where it was. Crypts which look good and are taller are
C. retrospiralis and C. balansae but these should go in the middle
foreground. These do fine in my tank and should suit yours. I don't know
if I'd recommend Valisneria; it propagates very quickly in my substrate
with the 250w lighting. With a deep tank, it's difficult when you need
to uproot these things esp. when they get tangled with other plants.
Maybe the giant stuff isn't as bad. With soil or vermiculite, you want
to minimize the amount of uprooting and digging in the substrate. This
can cloud the water and it takes a while to become crystal clear again.
A good canister filter would help with this.

 Steve Pushak - spush at hcsd_hac.com - Vancouver, BC, Canada