Re:Setting up an 80 liter

David Rabelius <t91dre at student_tdb.uu.se> wrote March 15

...........<First paragraph snipped>

.....>I am about to set up a 80 l (Thats the way we measure volume in Sweden, I
>think it equals about 20 gallons) planted tank. I'm wondering about what
>substrate to use, How deep it should be and so on. Should I use gravel
>only, or mix it with something like laterite or clay, or should I first
>have a layer of laterite and gravel on top or... ? Are there different
>kinds of laterite ?
>Any help on this topic is appreciated.
A lot depends on how much importance you want to give to the plants as
opposed to the fish.  At one end of the scale is a tank with no fish and
plants plus Daphnia and snails to keep the algae under control.  At the
other end is a tank where the fish are the important element and you would
like to have a live plant or two as decoration.

Let me assume you want to give the plants more importance than the fish,
but would like to have a few fish in the tank, also.  In this case, there
are some generalities that apply:

        1. Keep the fish load light.  The ratio of plant biomass to fish
biomass should be high.  You want to start with an especially light load of
fish.  Once the plants are well established, and the water stays clear, you
can cautiously add more fish.

        2. The plants will need a source of iron.  Many people on this list
are believers of using laterite and substrate heating.  Some swear by the
former, but not the latter.  I am not convinced that ordinary topsoil isn't
just as good as laterite as an iron source, and I don't believe that
substrate heating is necessary for good growth. (I enjoy my eccentric
status!) I would recommend getting ordinary topsoil and mixing water
gradually with it in a pot or bowl with much kneading until you have the
consistency of thick soup.  Pour this through screening to strain out roots
and other objects.  Put about 1 centimeter of this "soil soup" in the
bottom of your tank and then cover it with several inches of gravel.  (No
undergravel filter, of course!)

        3. Get your plants established and growing before you get any fish
at all.  Vallisneria, sword plants, and Hygrophila are good starter plants,
because they grow fairly rapidly.  After these plants are established, you
can prune them back and put in slower growing genera, such as Cryptocoryne
or Anubias.  I would recommend some ramshorn snails to keep soft, attached
types of algae under control. There is likely to be an algae bloom until
the plants get well established.

        4. If algae is taking over, cut back on your fish load, and the
amount of food you are putting in.   If that doesn't work, cut back on the
light, as a last resort.  If algae is not taking over and the plants are
well established, give them plenty of light.  For your tank, this could be
two or three 20 watt fluorescent tubes.

This is only one of many ways to grow aquatic plants. My leanings are
definitely towards low-tech, DIY (Do It Yourself).  There are many other
very successful growers of aquatic plants on this list that have different

Good luck!

Paul Krombholz                  Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, MS  39174