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Old 06-17-2012, 01:17 AM   #1 
mathkid
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Mixing fake and live plants - 5g - will this try to cycle?

So, I would really like to have live plants for my betta. Unfortunately, all the rooted plants I've tried don't seem to thrive in a gravel substrate (my tap water is very soft and high PH, so no help there). I want to try setting up a Walstad-style tank for the plants, but I don't want to subject my betta to any more experiments! For him, I want something as reliable as possible!

Now I am considering how I should (re)set up my 5g... The thing is that I am not sure if it will cycle stably (I've heard 5g is iffy for that), and it's a bit big for doing 100% water changes.

So here's my proposal:

(1) Separately, set up a NPT, monitor it, etc.

(2) In main 5g, have a thin layer of rinsed/clean gravel substrate, fake plants, a piece of real driftwood, and floating live plants (and the usual: filter, heater)
- Since there are no real plants in the substrate, I can vacuum it without worrying about disturbing roots.
- Since there are floating plants, they should suck up any ammonia before it can start a cycle
- Hopefully the real driftwood doesn't do anything weird?
- 1x/week 50-70% water change with thorough gravel vacuuming.

(3) Maybe someday, if the NPT thing goes well, consider putting betta in there instead.

Do you think this would work? I don't want it trying to mini-cycle.

I have a 2.5g tank, which I could put him back in and go back to 100% every 4 days or 50% & 100% 1x/week each.
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Old 06-17-2012, 08:05 AM   #2 
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....my tap water is very soft and high PH, so no help there.
How soft? How high. Maybe a few shells would increase your buffer.

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Now I am considering how I should (re)set up my 5g... The thing is that I am not sure if it will cycle stably (I've heard 5g is iffy for that),
We hear a lot of things online. A few of us are, in fact, running stable, cycled 2.5g and 3g tanks. My 3g is even bare-bottomed. Thunderloon (experienced keeper on here) says you can cycle a 1/2g if you have enough bacteria. The secret is lots of area for the nitrifying bacteria to colonize. The easiest is additional filter foam at the intake and outflow of your filter. Or, like I do, a large sponge filter (BB like air). Removing rotting food, plants, feces and debris doesn't hurt

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(1) Separately, set up a NPT, monitor it, etc.
I think you should, if you're good with plants. I'm not; I have to cycle.

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(2) In main 5g, have a thin layer of rinsed/clean gravel substrate, fake plants, a piece of real driftwood, and floating live plants (and the usual: filter, heater)
- Since there are no real plants in the substrate, I can vacuum it without worrying about disturbing roots.
With you so far. I tie Anubias and Java fern to rocks and beads, and have a couple of pots of Wisteria and swords. Then I float Wisteria and Anubias, mostly for topcover and hammocks; they don't grow fast enough to eat much ammonia.


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- Since there are floating plants, they should suck up any ammonia before it can start a cycle
Well, sure, if you're planning on using Hornwort or Duckweed or Water sprite or Frogbit or other ammonia eaters that need pruning and thinning. Swords and Crypts and stem plants eat more ammonia, if that's what you're looking for.

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- Hopefully the real driftwood doesn't do anything weird?
It might lower your pH a little and make the water brown with tannins. Is that what you want?

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- 1x/week 50-70% water change with thorough gravel vacuuming.
I do a 50% every week in my bare-bottomed divided 5g to reduce DOCs and to remineralize the water.

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(3) Maybe someday, if the NPT thing goes well, consider putting betta in there instead.
I think gardening is a lovely hobby and a worthwhile endeavor. I feel nothing but awe of and admiration for Aquascapers. I can barely keep up with my fish.

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Do you think this would work? I don't want it trying to mini-cycle.
Many ways to keep fish, but I'm still not clear on why you don't want to cycle your tank.
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Old 06-17-2012, 08:31 AM   #3 
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They want a fully planted tank, which needs no cycle.
By sure you get the plants right, some of mine rotted enough to start their own cycle, I have .25ppm ammonia/nitrite. :/
I personally would NOT do Walstad method if you don't not want rooted plants. It's a total waste with floating plants, as you want the roots to be benefitting from the soil. Nutrients will move up into the water column, but it'll be at a slow rate and you won't be able to add fish for a long time most likely.
You can have a beautiful, cycle free tank with floating plants, but just use sand on the bottom instead. You'll also need a ton of these plants.
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Old 06-18-2012, 12:11 PM   #4 
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Quote:
How soft? How high. Maybe a few shells would increase your buffer.
Tap water has KH 0 and GH 2...

Quote:
Well, sure, if you're planning on using Hornwort or Duckweed or Water Sprite or Frogbit or other ammonia eaters that need pruning and thinning. Swords and Crypts and stem plants eat more ammonia, if that's what you're looking for.
Quote:
I personally would NOT do Walstad method if you don't not want rooted plants. It's a total waste with floating plants, as you want the roots to be benefitting from the soil.
Yes, this is exactly the dilemma. I really want to try a Walstad tank, because aquascapes are so beautiful, I like the "jungle" look, and they're lower maintenance. BUT I don't want to put my fish in a Walstad tank, because I have no experience with it and I hear they take time to settle down. Better not risk it.

So the betta goes in a traditional tank (5g). Trick is, I want to make sure his tank's water quality is OK without 100% water changes. The proposed solution is a bunch of floating plants (water sprite and maybe frogbit... Watersprite has been doing quite nicely in my soft water). Stem plants might be better at eating ammonia, but mine don't seem to like a gravel substrate.

I hadn't heard that a 5g could cycle stably. So I guess that would be an option too - but it would take some time to set up a cycle?

Quote:
By sure you get the plants right, some of mine rotted enough to start their own cycle, I have .25ppm ammonia/nitrite. :/
So in the plant case, the weak link is plant health: if they rotted, they might start a mini cycle. In the cycle case, it's more like if I screw up a filter change/too large water change/etc, might re-start the cycle?
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Old 06-18-2012, 12:46 PM   #5 
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Depending on the type of filter you are using and depending on how you're changing the filter is the key to preventing a mini-cycle at the time you do any maintenance on your filter.

The bacteria colonize on any spongy material for the most part, or any other surfaces such as a bio wheel or those bacteria balls/cylinder bits...

A good portion of people don't change the sponge out, but rather swish it in old tank water during a water change to dislodge any detrius or mulm that has collected on it - and then return back to the filter. I've kept filter media for 6months to a year doing this. If you are using a filter with a biowheel... the biowheel hosts the bacteria and you pretty much never replace that unless the whole unit breaks.

If you do replace the filter, to help with any regrowth of bacteria you can put in the new filter with some of the old filter media.
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Old 06-19-2012, 11:34 AM   #6 
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With KH 0 and GH 2 I would expect your pH to be <7. It would be unusual if your pH is in the mid 7s. I have pH7.8 and KH 200. These are good specs for a quick cycle.

I don't know much about low buffer (low KH) tanks. Low KH, low pH tanks have their own problems and advantages. If I were you, I'd ask Littlebettafish from Australia to comment on our questions. Bahamut is the water queen. I'm sure she'd have some good advice. Thunderloon is also up on acid tanks---Olympia, too, and some others I can't think of right now.
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Old 06-19-2012, 11:44 AM   #7 
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You would think that, right?

But no, tap water is KH 0-1 deg, GH 2-3 deg, and pH 8.4(!). That ages to 7.8 or 8.0. I don't know what they put in the tap water that raises pH but not KH... maybe it's the chloramine?

[1] http://www.sfwater.org/modules/showd...ocumentid=1064
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Old 06-19-2012, 01:59 PM   #8 
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Your source water is most likely quite acidic, the water company buffs up the pH in a temporary manner to prevent pipe corrosion. OR if you live by the ocean, they may use seawater to supply the city, which they may treat in a process that removes hardness but doesn't alter pH from the source water.

It's possible because pH is the ratio of H+ (hydrogen) ions to OH- (hydroxide) ions. These are non metals so they are in the most basic sense not at all related to hardness, though pH and hardness often go together.
Your water has lot's of OH- ions.

kH is carbonate hardness, namely the amount of CO3- in your tank, also known as carbonate. In products such as aragonite, crushed shells, this comes in the form of Calcium Carbonate, CaCO3. The calcium raises hardness and the carbonate buffers this to keep it stable.
How buffers work- (bear with me here, I can tell Hallyx is itching for an explanation You can skip this part if you wish.)
The reason your pH is lowering slightly with aging is because carbon dioxide, CO2, is diffusing into the water.
-CO2 will mix with a water molecule, H2O.
-This will produce carbonic acid, H2CO3 (two hydrogens from the water, one carbon from carbon dioxide, two oxygens from carbon dioxide, one oxygen from water, all added together).
-During this process the OH- is split apart, meaning it's no longer basic. The two hydrogens together turn this into an acid. It's not done yet however!
-The carbonic acid then SPLITS, it loses one hydrogen, become bicarbonate, HCO3.
-The lone hydrogen takes a carbonate, CO3, and creates another bicarbonate. Bicarbonate is an acid, but more importantly it removes the OH- which is what causes your pH drop as water ages.
There's only a certain amount of CO2 that will successfully diffuse into your water and bond with the few carbonates you have in there, so after a while the process slows down (but continues on a decimal scale). Water is a balancing act, and eventually will pretty much stabilize until you start messing with it again. The reason people use aragonite is that it provides the calcium to boost hardness and the carbonate to fight off pH being lowered and raise it as well.


Chloramines are hydrogen based and if anything they would make water more acidic (as would ammonia, also has hydrogen).


I'm curious as to why you have plant troubles. I would consider slightly boosting up your hardness and carbonate hardness. I don't think high pH is your plants issue, it's more likely the soft water. Do you use any root tabs? You'll need them in low mineral water. You should try some vals for rooted down plants.
What size is your gravel? Most advanced aquascapers stick to pea sized gravel exclusively and it does wonders for them.
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Old 06-19-2012, 08:02 PM   #9 
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See? I told you she knew her stuff. Thanks, Olympia, for that lucid explanation.

You and thekoimaiden really have your acts together on this topic. So do many others here.

So much to learn. <sigh>
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Old 06-19-2012, 08:07 PM   #10 
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Saw my name and felt the call of duty.
I should really rack up these posts into one longer one for TFK. Is it odd if I use my chemistry teacher as my source? xD
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