Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Planted Tank - So you want a planted tank! GREAT!!!


Updated - January 31, 2010 with Ray's Plant Sanitizing Tips
Updated - February 24, 2009 with plant packages from TFH magazine

I am regularly passing out the following links to folks, in forums, interested in setting up their first and simple planted tank. I figured it was about time that I just wrote up a blog article to include all of this information in one place so I can just direct folks to this page.

The GREAT thing about a planted tank is that it more closely mimicks nature and it also can completely eliminate the ammonia/nitrite issues associated with the nitrogen cycle when first starting up a new tank. A planted tank can also eliminate the need to do a fishless cycle so you can start up your planted tank and while you are getting it going, you can start figuring out which fish you are going to get so you don't have to look at an empty tank for several weeks like when fishless cycling.

Here are a few articles that I regularly refer folks to about setting up their first planted tank.

(Chuck's Planted Aquarium Pages - Setting Up A Planted Tank)

(Goldfish And Aquarium Board - Setting Up A Walstad Natural Planted Tank - Summary Article) (Note - Some report that this method can lead to algae problems due to the use of soil in the substrate)

(Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine - Lo-Tech Tanks article)

Reading over the above pages and the links associated on those pages will give every beginner a very big headstart at being successful with their planted tank.

These next links are to low-light, easy-to-grow plants which I recommend beginners start off with. Especially if you don't want to have the added expense and maintenance issues associated with high-light, special substrates and CO2 injection which might be required for higher light, harder-to-grow plants.

http://www.plantgeek.net/plantguide_list.php?category=2&filter_by=2 (PlantGeek.net - Guide to Very Easy plants)

http://www.plantgeek.net/plantguide_list.php?category=2&filter_by=3 (PlantGeek.net - Guide to Easy plants)

(Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine - Easy Plants article)

(AquaticPlantCentral.com - If you put in low for light and click Go, it will bring up a list of low light plants. If you do a second search in the Hardiness field and use Very Easy or Easy, you'll get a list of these types of plants... with good profiles on each of the plants. They started this database a couple of years ago and it has come a LONG way and appears to be much better than PlantGeek's now, so check it out!!!)

Another big issue some folks have with planted tanks is that oftentimes the plants will come with some snails or other critters hiding out in the plants roots or leaves. Here are a couple of sites on sanitizing and disinfecting your new live plants.



And here are Ray's (from AquaticLife) preferred treatment for snails and disinfecting plants:

To ensure your plants don't carry in snails to your tank (unless you don't mind having them), soak the plants in a solution of Alum (Aulminum Sulfate) which you should be able to find in the pickling and spice section of your market. Alum is by far the safest agent you can use for disinfecting plants of what are sometimes viewed as pests. Use 1 to 2 Tablespoons of Alum per gallon and allow the plants to soak at least overnight -- or up into the following day if you still see any activity of these intruders. Rinse them well after removing them.Update added Feb. 24, 2009 -
The next safest plant disinfecting agent you can use it Potassium Permanganate, an oxidizer which will kill off most any bacteria, fungus, and/or other small organism. A warning though -- as this is a purple dye medication, it will stain anything it comes in contact with, including your clothes, your rugs or your hands so you need to be careful of spilling it or getting it on your hands. You may not even be able to find it in your LFS, but if you can, with no certain measurement add enough to the water in your disinfecting container to turn the water a DARK pink, and let the plants soak for 20 minutes. Rinse them well after removing them.
An extremely effective way of disinfecting plants is to use regular chlorine bleach (bottled most often at 5% solution), adding 1 part of this bottled chlorine solution to 19 parts of water. Before going any further, I need to tell you that not all plants will tolerate this bath equally, and a few may not tolerate it at all. In general, plants are allowed to soak in this solution for between 2 and 3 minutes -- with tougher-leaved plants such as Anubias or Sagittaria easily tolerating the 3 minutes, and medium-leaved plants needing to be removed closer to the 2 minute limit. Some more delicate leaved plants such as Vallisneria or Anacharis may not tolerate much more than a minute -- if at all! I would not trust Crytps to this solution for any length of time either. A bucket of fresh water containing a dechlorinator should be kept on hand and used immediately for the plants as soon as they're removed. Whenever using this chlorine solution for disinfecting plants, NEVER allow the roots to be immersed. Then, rinse them well after removing.

I was reading the most recent edition of TFH magazine (Tropical Fish Hobbyist) and there was an ad (an ad, not a recommendation) for AquaBotanic.com and they had a package of 27 plants for the beginner in their "Hard To Kill" package for $46.38 and then at checkout, if you put in the discount code TFHPLANT, you get another 10% off.

Here's the link to the package on their website.
27 plants
20 to 30 gallon. Double the order for 40 to 60 gallon
2 Java Fern
2 Anubias nana
3 Java Lace Fern
4 Cryptocoryne spiralis
6 Cryptocoryne wendtii small
1 Hornwort
2 Wisteria
10 Dwarf Sag (1 bunch)
1 Java moss
Value 51.53 savings: 5.15

(NOTE from L.V. - this price is from the website but the $46.38 is the price in the TFH magazine and then there's the separate mention of the 10% discount code... but maybe the price of $46.38 included the discount... I just looked at the ad again and it doesn't say)

Lighting requirements: 1.5 to 2 watts per gallon
C02 requirements: suggested but not required
Water conditions: hard or soft water
Temp: not critical
Fish compatibility: resistant to most plant nibblers

Just to give a comparison...
LiveAquaria.com (DrsFosterSmith.com "live" stuff sister site) has an aquarium plant package with just 11 (compared to 27 above) plants for $48.99.

And then there is this package on AZGardens.com, which has 34 plants for only $39.00 (so it's a better deal for total numbers but not sure on the individual plant prices) but I've heard good and bad about this company as far as their shipping charges so make sure you get the final price including shipping and get it all in writing... and maybe check them out at BBBonline.com too.
1 Anacharis
2 Blood Stargrass
3 Japanese Fans
1 Dwarf Lily Plant
4 Dwarf Onions
1 Ambulia
10 Tall Sagittaria subulata
1 small red-spot Ozelot sword
8 Crypt Walkeri
3 Java Ferns

Hope this helps folks thinking about getting started with live plants. I'm sure there are many other good websites for ordering easy-to-care for plant packages.

OK... this is just a starting point and after you will see that you have also come across several planted tank forums with the above four links so your more advanced questions can be addressed in one of those forums or at any of the forums listed on the right side of this page.

Lenny Vasbinder
aka GoldLenny in the forums

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