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[APD] Re: Triumph from Tragedy

> I'm trying to turn tragedy into triumph. My well-established, years-old 55
completely crashed after adding a few new fish from a chain LFS. I woke to
find every fish in my tank dead.
> So I want to take this as an opportunity to start a planted tank.  I took
the compensation from the LFS to purchase a bio-wheel; I've pulled the UG
and power heads, emptied the tank and removed the gravel. So here are my
> 1. I saved quite a bit of mulm and haven't washed the gravel. Should I use
this mulm to start the new tank? (It has not been established what killed
the other tank).
> 2. If I can use the mulm, do I still need a peat substrate?
> 3. Can I put down a finer gravel and then use the old large gravel on top?
> 4. How long should the new planted tank sit before I can start adding new


Sorry to hear that all of your fish died. How many fish were in the tank
BEFORE you added the new ones? How many new fish did you add the last time?
Could it be that you exceeded the safe capacity of the tank with the new
additions? An aquarium isn't a can of sardines, the idea is not to see how
many fish you can pack into a small space.

I take it that your tank was set up in the traditional, non-planted manner
before - you depended upon mechanical/biological filtration to keep things
going. A properly set up planted tank is a bit different. The plants
themselves can take over quite a bit of the biological filtration needs of
the tank, provided that they are actively growing and you don't have too
many fish. The plants can and will absorb much of the things that
traditional tanks rely on a separate filter to remove. Mechanical filtration
is needed primarily to remove small particulate matter from the water - you
can use this in any type of tank. In a planted tank, it is most useful to
supply circulation, keeping fresh water moving over the leaves of the
plants, allowing them more of a chance to function properly.

Biowheels are great biological filters - I have around half a dozen of them,
 all sitting in a box at the back of a storage locker. The problem I have
with Biowheels is that they remove Carbon Dioxide from the water as they
work. If you really need supplemental biofiltration in a planted tank, there
are better ways to achieve it (think small cannister filter which doesn't
disturb the surface of the water). Put the undergravel filter in a box and
forget about it, but hold onto the powerheads - they can come in handy to
add extra circulation (there are few things prettier than watching plants
sway in the circulation of a few well placed powerheads)

If your old tank died due to introduced disease, I'd be leery about using
any mulm saved from it. I'd also want to bleach the gravel before re-using
it. But both of these cautions are ONLY needed if you are certain that the
deaths were due to introduced disease. If you can trace the cause of the
crash to something else, the mulm and old gravel ought to be fine. But you
mention the size of the gravel - how big is your old gravel? Marble size?
Sand size? Some size in between? The substrate in a planted tank ought to be
fine grained, but not so fine that it "packs", you want some circulation
possible between the individual grains of the substrate. For a beginner to
planted tanks, using a uniform substrate (i.e. all the same sized grains) is
usually the best option. Go to your LFS and have a look at the grain size on
Seachem Flourite - its perfect. You can probably find another gravel which
is cheaper (but still the same size) if Flourite is too costly. But very few
substrate meaterials can grow plants as well as Flourite (except maybe
Seachem Onyx). You want a good 2.5" - 3" substrate depth. If you want to, a
few handfulls of peat placed UNDER the substrate can work well (this is also
where you'd put the mulm).

Remember than any advice you get should be taken as a suggestion only, not
as a LAW handed down from on-high. There are probably as many ways to grow
aquatic plants successfully as there are members of this list - eventually
you'll find your own "best way". Read a lot, find a mentor and follow
his/her advice. Not everything posted to the Internet is true, there are
some web sites out there which are not worth the bandwidth they occupy, so
be careful when surfing. There are several member of the APD who maintain
web sites devoted to planted tanks and they are usually trustworthy (a lot
more-so than say, for example, some of the quai-commercial crap that gets
posted to sites like "About.com")

Once your tank is setup and planted, you don't really have to wait to add
fish. SOME fish, not as many fish as you can find at the store. If your
water supply contains chloramine, make sure that you use a dechlorinator
capable of dealing with it and then add a FEW hardy fish (i.e. guppies,
platies, swordtails) to get things started. Whatever you do, DON'T go out
and buy half a dozen Discus. That would be cruel and unusual punishment (for
the fish), not to mention expensive (for you). Give the tank a chance to
"break itself in" with a few hardy fish. Patience is a key virtue for a
successful aquarist and it is even more important to a well running planted
tank. Don't expect things to happen overnight and don't jump in trying to
correct every problem which might crop up. Give things time and usually the
problems will correct themselves (one of the prime benefits of live plants).
After the tank has been running well for a few weeks, you can GRADUALLY
increase the fish load, a few fish at a time.

One thing - you really ought to have a second tank to use as a
hospital/quarintine tank. Newly bought fish should never be put directly
into a show tank - its too risky. There are all sorts of diseases which are
not immediatly visible when you buy fish from even the best LFS. You should
keep them separate for at least a week (2 is better) and if they are still
healthy, they can go into the show tank. Don't use any equipment (filters or
nets) in BOTH tanks - have separate equipment for each tank so that you
don't cross-contaminate your display tank.

You say nothing about lighting in your post - you do realize that a planted
tank is going to need more light than a traditional "fish tank"? You don't
have to light up a ball park, but you do need adequate lighting to grow the

Hope this helps.

James Purchase

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