Re: Simple planted tank

On Sat, 7 Dec 1996 Aquatic-Plants-Owner at actwin_com wrote:
> From: N.Monks at nhm_ac.uk (Neale Monks)
> Date: Sat, 7 Dec 1996 14:55:03 +0000
> Subject: How simple can a planted tank be?
> Folks,
> Out of interest, is it possible to produce a planted aquarium that thrives
> with minimal maintenence and holds sufficient numbers of fishes to amuse
> the whole family?

Fortunately for me, my tanks don't have access to my personal balance
sheet.  The fish and plants will thrive in the right conditions,
regardless of the money spent to  get there.  As an admitted cheapskate, I
also feel qualified to give advice on keeping costs down

I think providing the right environment for aquarium plants can be looked
at in three areas

- lighting.  Although the more light the better, two bulbs over a tank
should be enough light for growth in most plants.  Certainly, low-light
plants will do well with this.  It is important the bulbs be the right
kind.  I like to use one grow bulb and one daylight bulb.  These bulbs are
available at hardware stores for much lower cost than aquarium store
The GE plant and aquarium bulbs and vita-lites are widely available.  A
daylight bul will be cheaper than the vita-lite.

- substrate.  A lot of money can be saved here by using sand or gravel
from a gravel supplier rather than a hobby store.  I can buy a 100lb
(45kg) bag of sand for $6US.  This is plenty for several large tanks.  Be
sure to specify to the supplier that you want sand that is inert in water.
If it's ok for a water filtration system, as much of it is, it's ok for an
aquarium.  I enrich the substrate using laterite bought from a pottery
supply house, not Dupla.  The Dupla may be the best thing since sliced
bread for aq. plants, but I can't afford it.  Regular garden peat and some
potting soil can also be used to enrich the substrate.  WIth my pottery
laterite, I have outstanding growth in a South American tank.

  As far as heating cables go, it's either DIY or none for me..  I have an
undergravel filter running in each of my tanks, and I think this provides
much of the benefits of heating cables.  I do use rather a thick substrate
(4" or so) and use either very small powerheads or air to run the filter.
I have had to stop telling this to people in aq. stores who are inquiring
about heating cables because of the invariable "Plants grow on UGF's"
response.  I am certain that they do.

- fertilizer.  I add Tetra Flora Pride and Seachem Flourish to my tanks
weekly.  This doesn't cost a lot, but it is vital.  Duplaplant and Dupla
24 may provide stunning results, but I would certainly try the cheaper
supplements first.  If you don't get good results, or want to spend the
money later, you haven't lost much.

I have abandoned the DIY CO2 as too much trouble.  Although growth has
dropped off somewhat in my South American tank, all of the plants are
still growing well.  Karen Randall also claims best growth for her crypts
in a tank without CO2 (as I recall).

In general, a lot of money can be saved by buying used equipment and
resorting to DIY for stands and lighting.  I think lots of people
go overboard with filtration, especially since the filter is in direct
competition with the plants in a planted tank.  There is no need for a UGF
with two big power heads _and_ a power filter on a tank.  Buy gravel and
light bulbs at places other than aquarium stores.

Sorry to ramble, but I seem to be making a career out of scraping an
aquarium hobby out of my student budget.

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