What am I getting into? - Betta Fish and Betta Fish Care
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post #1 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-22-2017, 12:45 PM Thread Starter
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What am I getting into?

Recently wife wants a sorority tank of her own. It was supposed to be a simple project - substrates and a few plants. However, I was (rather, I felt) challenged by aquascaping - the whole enchilada including a sandfall.

Although this past 3 months I've been reading up on plants and squascaping, I'm still not confident because there are many conflicting views on "easy beginner's" plants - not to mention conflicting views shops told me. Plus my fear of algae.

I bought a 60x30x30 cm (about 13g)
I have both undergravel and regular filters
both air and water pumps.
Black sand subsrate (don't know English name, but is widely used in shops)
I have rocks (lava, I think), wood, and will make styrofoam ornament.
*** I plan to buy a light

1. Can I use undergravel filter.
2. Are ferts, CO2, etc. Really needed (I'm reluctant)
3. How do I avoid algae - considering the tank will be outdoors, though under a shade (no direct sunlight).
4. What material is best; wood, rocks, or styrofoam coated with cement.
5. What do you recomend as an easy low light carpet plant.
6. Can I use a combination of soil covered with black sand (as replacement for aquatic ferts) . . . Don't plan to add livestock until much later.

I may be ok breeding animals. But to be honest, I know nothing about plants other than what I've read. And I tend to kill regular potted plants - whether flower or fruit. . . . Though I followed recommended instructions, I still manage to eventually kill them.

Any insight is highly appreciated.

*** Thus far I can only keep anacharis alive - adapted to very little light (covered tanks/tubs) Other plants can't adapt to my setup.
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post #2 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-22-2017, 12:58 PM
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1. I personally don't like UGF's, but you can.

2. Not really, depending on the types of plants.

3. I have a Finnex Stingray and haven't had any problems of algae even with 10+ hours of light a day. Most people recommend 6-8 hours only, though. It's all up to you. Since I don't dose ferts or CO2, except for the occasional Flourish, I do more light.\

4. I've used both wood and rocks, but I've never used styrofoam. Remember: Wood = tannins. If tannins kill your OCD, like it does mine, don't use wood. Since your'e a breeder, I don't think you would be bugged by that. Use whatever you want.

5. That's a hard one. Currently the only thing that I've been able to keep alive with little to no ferts is Dwarf Hairgrass. It is starting to carpet, but slowly. My substrate is also Eco-Complete.

6. I've heard of dirt-based tanks, but I've never tired to use one. I feel like I'd mess up and somehow kill the fish.

Some of the easiest plants are Anubias, Java Fern, Java Moss, Anarchis, etc. I've only been able to kill Java Moss, mostly because I trimmed it too short and the trimmings got into the filter, and it was a huge mess, so I just tossed it. Depending on the light you can get, and the power it has, you can do more plants like Hornwort, Water Sprite/Wisteria, Cacomba, and various swords. Swords prefer root tabs, which aren't hard to dose. Just one in between a couple of plants. I've also only had good (bad?) times with Duckweed (both normal and Giant) as floaters (they too over the tank....), but I've heard Frogbit is a good one. Salvianna melts if condensation from the lid hits it, and my lid always has condensation. My Salvianna, as you probably guessed, is dead.

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post #3 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-22-2017, 01:47 PM
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I agree with all above, I just have some to add about dirt tanks.

Make sure you use organic soil with no additives and rinse it thoroughly. Let it sit in water a few days so all the loose bits will float to the top, then use the heavy soil at the bottom of the bucket. Make sure you press it down extremely well in the tank. It wouldn't hurt to add some iron tabs to the soil, which you can get on eBay. Put your hardscape down, then cover with a solid layer of sand. You MUST plant extremely heavy from the start. I don't mean a few plants, I mean A LOT (which is mandatory for a sorority anyway). Make sure you have fast growing stem plants. Swords will fare well but will need root tabs when the soil is exhausted. Also be aware that you can't really change the placement of your plants once they take root. It will pull up tons of dirt and cause a mess, so be carefully while planting and even more so when moving plants.

Carbon can help remove tannins, as can Seachem Purigen. I prefer Purigen since it can be recharged.
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post #4 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-22-2017, 09:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by indjo View Post

1. Can I use undergravel filter. Not with sand or dirt. I found with gravel they do a great job.
2. Are ferts, CO2, etc. Really needed (I'm reluctant) No CO2 but if you have rooted plants you do need root and Iron tabs.
3. How do I avoid algae - considering the tank will be outdoors, though under a shade (no direct sunlight). Get some Nerite snails and Oto to help control algae. If you see it immediately remove it.
4. What material is best; wood, rocks, or styrofoam coated with cement. I like driftwood and rocks. Anything that is or looks natural.
5. What do you recomend as an easy low light carpet plant. Any of the Micro Swords. They are low-light, low-tech.
6. Can I use a combination of soil covered with black sand (as replacement for aquatic ferts) . . . Don't plan to add livestock until much later.
You can anchor clumps of Anacharis all over the tank; it makes a very pretty background. Any of the stem plants are good in a sorority: Water Wisteria, Hornwort, Cabomba, Pennywort, Bacopa, Rotala, Ludwigia. You don't even need to plant; just get some plant anchors and they will eventually root themselves.

Anubias, Cryptocoryne, Swords are all good beginner plants.

Have fun!


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Last edited by RussellTheShihTzu; 01-22-2017 at 09:58 PM.
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post #5 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-23-2017, 09:26 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you all for the advices.

My current bettas are under a plastic canopy (car port/garage). Further, most are covered to avoid rain leaks. Under those conditions my tanks and tubs still get over run by algae. This new tank will be shaded but still get extreme lighting. I can't imagine what'll happen.

I read there's an anti algae chemical. Is this safe for plants and fish? I'd rather avoid any chemicals, but I will use them if needed.

Why do I need to plant lots of plants? I do intend to densely plant the tank but slowly - arranging one type at a time. Because I realize that once its set up, I can't take it apart - specially root plants. To my knowledge, what I have in mind is a "yearly" set up.

I bought anubias nana to see if I can keep it alive. If this can grow in my betta set up, it will definitely grow in my new tank.

The problem with plants is names. Take moss for example. What looks like christmas moss is called peakock. I couldnt find java but got this fuzzy type instead. And shops confuse me with different methods of keeping/growing. One common view is that they all say CO2, ferts, etc are needed.

I plan to visit more aquascaping shops and learn as much as I can. . . . Plus compare prices. Lol. . . . .never thought some plants could cost hundreds of dollars.

I have a few wood (diferent types), plus we bought a new one which is being soaked atm. I too prefer natural when posible. But I fear breaking the tank floor if I use to much/heavy woods and rocks.

Reading OFL's NPT, what I want has been proven possible - Relying on fish to fertilize the plants. But, is it advised for a total noob like me.
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post #6 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-23-2017, 11:00 PM
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Ramshorn snails are good at eating algae but most people don't want them. I like seeing how big I get them to grow ^^

Java fern is so easy I've got it spreading in my Betta totes without any substrate or anything crypts plants are fairly low maintenance too, and camboba. Water sprite grows like crazy and could help keep algae growth to a minimum by absorbing the extra nutrients. Dwarf water lettuce is supposed to be easy but I've killed 2 different orders, red root floaters Are rather cool ^^

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post #7 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-24-2017, 12:42 AM
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You wants lots of plants to break up lines of sight.

If you can find it, Ceratophyllum submersum (Soft Hornwort) is easier to grow...at least for me...than regular Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum).

Anacharis...which you already can grow.

Anubias...any type. The only thing that seems to hurt Anubias is too much light.

Water Wisteria.

Frog Bit...grows better for me than Dwarf Water Lettuce.

Bucephalandra

Cryptocoryne: Parva makes a nice foreground plant.

I have a friend who is fairly new to aquariums and she has dirted tanks. I'll ask you to check out your thread.


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post #8 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-24-2017, 05:50 AM Thread Starter
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All the shops I visited didn't have java fern. I can keeo Cabomba and bacopa, but not in my regular betta setup. However I could never keep water sprite alive for long. I know how water lettuce works and can manipulate their sizes. Not sure if wife would want them.

Water sprite and water wisteria looks the same. I don't know which one I couldn't keep. But I'll try what looks like those. There were lots of them the other day, but I was asking about carpet plants and plants that don't grow to tall.

The buce- looks nice. But I didn't see any of those. I think I've kept some Cryptocoryne in the past. Grows very slow though.

I don't understand how fast growing plants could reduce algae growth. Everyone is saying they will use up the nutrients and reduce algae. IME, not in my tanks. I've had combinations of anacharis, cobomba, and bacopa densely growing in my tubs (it was so dense that the bottom part eventually disolves). But algae still grew on the upper part. Once hair algae grows, I destroy the whole lot.

I'm not sure if wife will agree to snails. Tbh, I'm also reluctant. . . . We'll see. I plan to use algae eaters. But in the past, these didn't do their job too well. Btw, how many of those algae eaters could/should I keep in a 13g planted tank?

Oh. . . I was wrong about the lighting. Since I cut down this tree, the tank will be getting about 2 hours of direct sunlight (8-10). Will this be a problem? I could cover the tank (block ditect sunlight).
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post #9 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-24-2017, 06:30 AM
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The problem with algae eaters is not all algae eaters eat all algae.

I like Nerite snails because they don't reproduce in freshwater. I also have Oto; a minimum shoal of six would work in a 10 gallon. And Amano Shrimp. Or, if you get algae you can dose Seachem Excel...it will kill any algae.


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post #10 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-24-2017, 08:13 AM
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You can totally do dirt under sand or under eco-complete if that's what you were talking about, though you don't really have to spend money on eco complete if you have dirt, it's one of the cheapest ways to get a nutrient rich substrate. In the states, I recommend Miracle Gro Organic Potting Mix, so if you look that up on Amazon, you can see the kind of soil you're looking for. No fertilizer added, no perlite (the little white things in some potting mixes, they float when you add them to a tank).

You can't do an under gravel filter with dirt, however, it will just get clogged.

Backstory: I started with dirted tanks because I love the idea of a complete eco-system in miniature. So yes, you can start with them and be successful, I now have six and have helped 2 friends start successful dirted tanks as well.

But a good dirted tank is an eco-system, so you need snails. I actually like ramshorns. I have nerites as well, but nerites don't have a neutral shell like ramshorns do. Ramshorns (and plain old pond snails too) can climb your plants and eat algae off of them. Nerites stay mostly on the glass and wood. Also, if you are going to go with dirt under sand, you really need malaysian trumpet snails as well. They live in the substrate and help keep the sand from compacting too much (rinsing it VERY thoroughly also helps with this I've discovered as you wash away all the super fine bits that not only cloud the tank, but make it easier for the sand to compact).

As far as why to plant heavily: I have a tank set up in a window with no algae because of dense planting. The plants outcompete the algae because they are better at photosynthesis, but if you don't start with enough and algae gets a foothold, it can be time-consuming to get rid of. Although, my favorite solution is just to add more plants. I got a case of staghorn and black beard algae in another tank and I spot treated with hydrogen peroxide (it's a 3% concentration in the States and I dosed no more than 1 ml per gallon a day, from a syringe directly onto spots of algae). I added ramshorns and Amano shrimp to that tank because both will eat the dying hair algae types. And I added more plants, and surface plants. Within a month, I was down to no visible algae (I'm sure there's a little somewhere!) and I never have to clean the glass. If you don't overfeed, the ramshorn population will stay under control.

Diana Walstad who is one of the leading voices on dirted tanks recommends a tank that is at least 70% planted when viewed from above to start with. Floating water sprite, frog bit, duckweed, or the like helps because plants in contact with the air are much more efficient at using up nutrients in the tank because they can exchange carbon dioxide directly from the air instead of the water where the concentration is likely to be lower.

Lastly, if you have lights on the tank, set them up with a timer and give them an off time in the middle of the day of at least 4 hours. You can try something like 5 hours on 4 hours off 5 hours on. Or on most of my tanks its 4 on 5 off, 4 on because all of them get some degree of at least reflected sunlight (lots of windows!). Plants need a 4 hour window of lights on to photosynthesize, but turning them off disrupts the algae's ability to photosynthesize.

Hope that helps! Good luck!!
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