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Re: Aquatic Plants Digest V3 #1404

From: Mark Patrick <mmdp at mediaone_net>
>Subject: Planning new tank - have a few questions...

>I've recently subscribed to this list and have been lurking and reading
>some of the archives for a little while now.  This is my first post.  I
>have kept various freshwater and marine fish on and off since I was a
>little kid in the sixties, but have never kept plants.
>After thinking about it for a loonnnnnng time (about 7 years!) I am
>about to set up a fairly ambitious planted aquarium.  It is to be 180
>gallons (approx. 72 x 24 x 24 inches).  I am having the stand custom
>built and it will be about another 4 to 6 weeks before it is done, so
>I've got a little bit of time to refine my plans and acquire all the
>"stuff" I need.  For the most part, from the reading I've done, I think
>I've got a pretty good handle on the basics, but I could use some
>experienced advice in a few areas.
>I plan on using wire in the substrate as my exclusive heat source, and
>therein lies my first group of questions.  According to a Belden
>catalog, 22 gauge stranded wire has a resistance of 17.5 ohms per 1000
>feet.  According to my calculations, using 24 volts and 100 feet of this
>wire will give me around 330 watts of heat.  Does this sound both
>accurate and appropriate?  From the reading I've done, it seems like
>people use silicone insulated wire for this, but the insulation specs in
>the Belden catalog have me considering teflon.  Both materials are
>excellent to outstanding in water and heat resistance, but teflon is far
>more abrasion resistant.  I also suspect that the thinner teflon would
>do a better job of conducting the heat from the wire to the water.  What
>do you think?  I will feed the #22 wire with some #10.  I am unsure as
>to whether the splices should be outside the tank just over the lip, or
>at the bottom under the gravel.  If they should be inside, how would you
>suggest I insulate them to attempt to prevent contact with the water? 
>And finally, I intend to supply power to this cable with two large,
>12-amp 24-volt transformers in parallel.  I should be putting just under
>14 amps through the cable, so I believe this will be over-engineered
>enough to have no worries with overheating, etc.  (12 amps is the
>largest rated 24-volt transformer I have been able to find with only a
>little searching.  If I can find a single, higher capacity one, I'll use

After you factor your time etc into it it's worth buying the cables from
Dulpa and /or Aquarium Landscapes etc if that's you notion you wish to
do.........Amano doesn't use cables and neither do many, many good plant
tank owners. The cables(I have them and have built them also) are fine and
all but they just don't warrant the expense for what you get out of it.
Reptile heating pads will do a very close job hooked up to a temp controller
also but none of this is really needed for super plant tanks. Why make it
complicated on yourself and plug another thing into your tank hassle with
setting it up etc? Simple is good. IMO don't do it.

>I intend to use sandblasting gravel for the substrate, with laterite
>mixed in the lower portion.  According to my calculations, I'll need
>about 300-350 pounds of gravel to give a substrate depth of about 3.5 -
>4 inches.  It appears that the Dupla laterite may be obtainable (with
>some difficulty) from some overseas sources.  Should I do this, or is
>the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals "First Layer Pure Laterite" good enough? 
>Any other laterite options?  In either case, how much should I use? 
>(From reading the archives, I have inferred that the laterite is
>unnecessary over the long term - the substrate would mature with time on
>its own.  I am assuming that the laterite will not hurt and will get me
>off to a better start.  Reasonable?)

Many other folks have again grown plants with Karl's or Theil's or other
laterites so I believe it's safe to say that this doesn't matter too much
Gravel amounts and depths are good. Consider Profile and that Turface stuff
or Flourite also, instead of plain  sand unless your heart loves the sand.
Maybe add some peat in a small amount. 

>For lighting, I am considering a fixture made by Hamilton with three 175
>watt MH bulbs (5500K, but could be upgraded to 6500K for about $25/bulb)
>and four 55 watt compact fluorescents.  Do you think that's too much
>light?  Is the upgrade to the 6500K bulbs worthwhile?  An alternative
>would be to stay exclusively with either compact or VHO fluorescents
>(probably available up to around 600 total watts) and no MH. If I use
>the combo fixture, I'm thinking I'd fire up the MH lights first (gradual
>warm-up and all, plus the center MH can be controlled separately from
>the other two), and then turn on the fluorescents 1.5 - 2 hours later. 
>At the end of the day, I think I'd turn off the MH's about 1.5 - 2 hours
>before the fluorescents, but I may play around with this idea a bit.

For lighting stay with one type. Keep it simple. You'll be glad later.
Try/think about these ideas and decide for yourself.
Stick with 3-MH's and the 5500k bulbs are just fine. When they fry out get
the 6500k upgrades and see. Some people like the color of the 6500k color
though. Check it and see if this might be a factor for you. Good points are
open top hood! Very easy to work on, you can get yet another window into the
tank from above and you get to see were all that light is going too!
Plants can grow right out of the water and flower easily. 189$ea x 3 =567$
PC's are great lights and I'm very pleased with them in salt and in planted
The 6700k bulbs are great and some places also sell 5400k bulbs so you can
mix them.
I just got a 6x96 watt PC unit and it's enough light for whatever you want
to do. 790$
VHO are neat and bright enough for your needs too. URI makes some longer
tubes and Vita Lite makes some 4ft tubes. There a great article on the same
set up in FAMA on setting up a 150 gallon with VHO lighting. Does great on
soft corals and FW plants. 450-550$

>I'm planning to use wet-dry filtration and inject carbon dioxide via a
>reactor in the sump.  Is this the best choice?  What would you suggest
>for a CO2 reactor?  I saw an Aqualine (by Red Sea) on the Pet Warehouse
>website for around $30 that looked sort of like a long spiral enclosed
>in a tube.  It seemed like a reasonable choice.  There was also a bubble
>counter of the same brand.

There are many reactors out there and gas tank set ups(which I hope you'll
be using!)
Make sure the inflow and outflow of the reactor doesn't mix too much. You
want the gas to dissolve as best as possible so where the water comes into
the sump is a good place for the inflow and right next to the suction side
of the return pump would be a good place for the outflow. 
I think the dinky rector is OK but you can have one built or made for about
15$ or less that will service a 500 gallon tank or less. You'll need a pump
to push water into it. A small powerhead will do fine(150-200gph). A 18 inch
tall x 3 inch wide clear acrylic tube with sealed ends will do fine.
Position vertically, fill with bio balls, with the inflow holes going in at
the top and outflow holes at the bottom. Connect tubes to the pumps and to
the out flow. It's very simple and works very well. Plastic places will
build it for you also but it's very easy to do. 

Dulpa has the same design basically but they want 150$ for a damn 10$ piece
of plastic which is complete bulls**t and such a blatant rip off. Companies
that rip off consumers get no thumbs up from me. Gas inflow will be on the
suction side of the reactor pump. Adjust bubble rate to achieve a good Ph.
You don't *need* a bubble counter but it can be somewhat helpful getting the
flow rates down. You can see the bubbles elsewhere many times or hear it
going into the suction side of the pump and count from there.
Consider the diffuser disk also for CO2 reactors if your interested also.
You can even just feed the bubbles into the return pump's line suction side
or wet/dry section too and get good results too. Check the archives and the
Krib for more info.

>Well, thanks for reading this far!  I really appreciate anything you can
>add.  I'm sure I'll probably have many more questions as I go along...
>Looking forward to buying my first plant,

Good luck and have fun doing it. It's a big tank and you'll be busy! 
Tom Barr