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Old 07-06-2012, 10:13 AM   #1 
JBosley
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Difference between Planted and Natural Planted?

Hey!
I have been looking into doing a planted tank for a few months now, and I am wondering what the difference between natural planted and planted is

Which is easier to do? I plan to use sand or soil (not sure which, give me your opinions!) as a substrate, get a few plants (Cambomba, Hornwort, Java Fern, Anubias, Süsswassertang) and let it cycle itself!
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Old 07-06-2012, 10:49 AM   #2 
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Natural planted is a soil based...if its your first time to grow plants...I would recommend that you do lots of research before you try NPT soil based....Lots of thing can go wrong and usually it is due to improper lights and not enough of the right species of plants to start off with-then you can have anaerobic issues and the tank can crash......
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Old 07-06-2012, 11:44 AM   #3 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oldfishlady View Post
Natural planted is a soil based...if its your first time to grow plants...I would recommend that you do lots of research before you try NPT soil based....Lots of thing can go wrong and usually it is due to improper lights and not enough of the right species of plants to start off with-then you can have anaerobic issues and the tank can crash......
Wow! Thanks

Would sand work better then? This would be my first planted tank.
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Old 07-06-2012, 01:08 PM   #4 
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Sand works perfectly well, and from what I've seen ... there really isn't much (if any) difference. Depending on region, a lot of these plants grow in sand anyways naturally.

Here are some examples of my own tanks.

10 gallon Betta tank, sand:

20 gallon community, epoxy coated gravel:

125 gallon community, sand:
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Old 07-06-2012, 01:24 PM   #5 
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Wow! Those look amazing
Any tips? Did you cycle those tanks?
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Old 07-06-2012, 01:45 PM   #6 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JBosley View Post
Wow! Those look amazing
Any tips? Did you cycle those tanks?
Thanks!

All my tanks are cycled, I'd never do it otherwise. Technically speaking, if you have enough fast growing floating and stem plants you can get away without cycling because the plants use the ammonia before the bacteria can, but that's a more difficult balance to achieve on your first try with plants. I did this in the 125 gallon. EDIT: I wanted to clarify this by saying in the 125 gallon I added fish before it cycled, but it has long since then cycled. I added fish before hand because I had sufficient plants that the Ammonia/Nitrite never went beyond trace readings and I had an extreamly light bio-load during that period.

The real question you should have is not if you should go 'natural' or not, but if you should go high tech or low tech. High tech is where you inject CO2 into the water and use bright lighting to get much faster plant growth. Low tech is where you let nature produce your CO2 thorugh the fish breathing and the breakdown of wates in the substrate.

All my tanks are low tech, I don't want to bother with the expense of a high-tech setup and all of my fish prefer the dimmer lighting. For your first attempt at plants, I would recommend low tech.

For low tech, you want to stick with low light plants, and possibly some moderate light plants. I don't know what size tank you have so I can't offer specific recommendations. The usual suspects are Java Fern, Java Moss, and Anubias for low light plants. These all you can keep small enough for the kind of tanks most people put Bettas in.

You can try stem plants in smaller tanks, but stem plants all will grow tall and some grow outwards too (Wisteria is one like that). Most stem plants do best in at least moderate lighting.

In something with a little depth to it you can put in some Pygmy Chain Sword which is a really nice small sword plant that you can see in my 125 gallon all over the place. There are also some Crypts that stay on the smallish side. In my three tanks I have cryptocoryne wendtii, another option is cryptocoryne parva which is even smaller.

For a light you want a 'daylight' bulb which is usually around a color temperature of 6500K. Can't say what size without the tank size.

For fertalizer, use Florish Comprehensive once a week. One bottle will last you years on a small tank, and it's pretty cheap. It has every nutrient you need in the right proportions. If you get crypts, consider what are called 'root tabs' which are solid chunks of fertalizer you place under the substrate next to the plants and they last usually 2 months. These help heavy root feeders like large swords (don't get unless you have a tall tank) and crypts.
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Old 07-06-2012, 02:29 PM   #7 
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Since this will be your first planted tank...IMO using small diameter gravel or a plant specific gravel would be better.

Sand can sometimes have anaerobic issue especially if too deep (over 2in) with limited aeration. Trumpet snail can help by burrowing, fish that burrow or dig in the sand. Sometimes sand can compact around the roots/stem of the plants and this can cause issues with nutrients and suffocation that can kill the plant.

Proper lights are really important-most failures with some species of plants when not due to improper planting, use of non-aquatic plants, anaerobic issues..will be due to wrong color temp light, old light bulbs, wrong photoperiod...When photosynthesis is effected the plant can't grow and algae will take over. Without the correct color temp light the plants can't use the nutrients.

Lights don't have to break the bank either....I get/buy my bulbs in the lighting dept not the aquarium dept..."Daylight 6500k" florescent bulbs-watts vary based on length.....While the wpg rule is still used to a degree-the Kelvin is more important IMO/E.
Florescent bulbs need to be changed every 12 months since they will lose intensity over time-we can see the light but the plants can't to use for photosynthesis.
You also have light penetration that is important-when using a hood-either remove the partition between the light and water or make sure it is free of algae, debris, water deposits...etc....
Photoperiod-most plants are naturally on a 12h/day PP....10 hour of light with lower light an hour before and after as the sun rises and sets.
Too short can trick the plants into thinking its a season change and either go dormant, die or flower-Wrong color temp bulbs or old bulb can cause this too.

With plants its a balance......you have support active plant growth so it can out compete algae-but since this is a closed system some manual removal is still needed-but you should be able to keep problem algae controlled with balance that support active plant growth.

Cycling-with enough of the right species of plants that are actively growing-this will take care of ammonia produced by the livestock and other organics. Its a silent cycle of sorts......the plants will use the ammonia as food before conversion. Its not uncommon for thriving heavy planted tanks to never have nitrate reading-the sign we use that tells us cycling stages/completeness. Its still happening......the active plant growth functions as the bio-filter.

This is the 55ga soil based NPT

One of the 2gal

The 5gal

One of the 10gal-this one is the newest I just setup a few months ago


I have more pics in my album

I have found that the plants that work for my NPT's or low tech tanks with an average of 1-3wpg using daylight 6500k on 12h/d/PP-no injected CO2 or ferts added
Naja grass, rotala, wisteria, H. corymbosa, H. siamensis, cabomba for the stem plants. For the rosette plants-vals, sags, swords, crypts. Floaters I use-frogbit, duckweed and water lettuce. I also use java moss and java fern tied to driftwood and Nymphaea stellata bulb
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Old 07-06-2012, 04:31 PM   #8 
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I can't get over how helpful everyone is on here!!

I am going to be attempting this in a standard 10gallon tank. If it work, I will be doing it in my 15 gallon, divided tank!

So what substrate should I use? Could you link me to something so I can get a better idea?
Would this work: http://www.petsmart.com/product/inde...3225&lmdn=Type

It says it is for plants... if not I will just get small gravel! As for lighting, the tank I am getting doesn't have a hood. But Big Al's Aquarium store, had TONS of lighting options that hook onto hoodless tanks and such. So I will be getting something like that! Which type of bulb would be best? I heard LED....
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Old 07-06-2012, 05:04 PM   #9 
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No, do not use crushed coral. That's a calcareous substrate that will raise your GH, KH, and pH of your water. It is meant for marine tanks and african lake cichlid tanks where you need hard, basic water.

If you want sand, Play Sand works great, this is the same sand you would put in a kids sand box. It's dirty and has to be cleaned very well, but it is fantastically cheap (less than $5 for a 50 lbs bag).

If you want gravel you have two options, the epoxy coated stuff which you can get in numerous colors (but black, natural, or dark brown is best for fish) or you can get what's called an enriched substrate which the most popular ones are Eco Complete and Flourite.

I know a lot of people will point you towards the enriched ones... but I am no where near convinced they are worth the vastly higher price. They do contain nutrients for plants, but that only gives great benefit to substrate rooted plants, which root tabs can give the same (and better) benefits. The nutrients also, obviously, don't last forever. A 10 gallon is small enough that it won't break the bank, but don't expect it to do miracles either.

For light, the standard hoods tend to have two screw in sockets. Buying 10W 'Daylight' CFLs from the hardware store will do you just fine and cost about $10 for a two pack. They are 6500K which is perfect. If your hood is a florescent tube, then again head to the hardware store and buy a 'daylight' one that will also be 6500K. I believe 10 gallon ones are 18".

The two 10W bulbs will be upper end of moderate light, so you may want to start with a 10 hour photo period and see how it goes. If you start to get algae growth cut it down. All tanks will have algae, so only cut it down if you start to get a lot. ('Brown algae' is actually diatoms, and almost all new tanks get this. It usually goes away on its own). Floating plants will work quite nice. Dwarf Water Lettuce is a good one. Some stem plants also work well floating, in my picture above I use Brazilian Pennywort.
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Old 07-06-2012, 05:08 PM   #10 
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Thanks! I think I will just use the gravel, as I can find it easily and it isn't too pricey.

As for light, I might talk to the aquarium store. And see what their opinions are! Since I do NOT have a hood...
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