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Old 09-28-2013, 01:14 PM   #1 
KeshiaB
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First planted tank - advice please

I'm setting up my first planted tank and need some advice. On recommendations from my local aquarium shop, yesterday I came home with some bacopa, what I'm pretty sure is hygrophila, and two cryptocoryne which are in pots (mind my spelling if it is incorrect).

At the moment the plants are sort of just plonked into the gravel randomly and it looks awful. I'm not sure what to put where or how to make my tank look good. Normally I'm very creative and good with space but this has me stumped. Any ideas?

My tank is a 30 litre and will house one betta, at a later stage I'd like to add shrimp. It is filtered, heated, has a LED light. The substrate is white gravel, there is also a small barrel ornament for my betta to hide in.

Here's a pic of my tank right now:
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Old 09-28-2013, 03:24 PM   #2 
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Okay, I had this problem at first too with the first tank I set up. It's hard in the beginning, especially if, as you said, you're normally good at things like this! I know the feeling. ;) Setting up a tank is just *different* from anything else. :)

I went through and looked at photos of other tanks that I liked. You can go through the boards here, and I googled them as well. With google you can find competition winners and professionally set up tanks that are *amazing*.

Next step, I like to choose plants that have a lot of volume. IE, plants that either grow really quickly, or those that are just big and bushy. Cabomba, hortwort, and miro are very round and bushy on each stalk, so even when you first put them into the tank, they take up a lot of space and have great eye-appeal as plants. Anachris is another one...I swear it grows while I'm watching it, lol!
Stem plants are great for this because they're usually cheaper, and you just break them off when they get too tall and replant, so with a fast grower you can fill in a tank very quickly.

Next step, choose your plants wisely. IE, shop and shop and shop around for the places that provide the biggest plants for the lowest cost ratio. I love Trickers for this, because the plants are huge, and especially when they're on sale, their prices are great. (When not on sale they're about average, but the plants are very large, which makes a difference.) And...to have it look good from the beginning...you really are going to have to spend some money. :( The alternative is to buy a few, take care of them really well so that they grow quite a bit, and then fill in your tank slowly. :) So this will save you money, but will take more time. :)

Backgrounds. They really work. ;) Just those laminated paper backgrounds that they sell in pet stores, that's what you want. Just cut to size and tape to the back of your tank on the outside, and instantly you look fuller. Choose ones with natural rocks or lots of plants in them, these give the best illusion.

Big central ornaments. Now, don't necessarily stick them in the middle of the tank, offset to one side or the other is best. Again, you can get tips for things like this from finding tanks through google, oftentimes you can see how they've set up the plants and the decor and use that as a rough guideline for what you want to create. It's just like how you'd set up a still-life or other artist medium, paint, photography, etc. You never want to have the eye go *straight* to the very center, you want to create a path of interest thoughout the composition. But, a large peice of driftwood, tall columns, something like that which A) takes up a lot of space and B ) provides *height* will really make it easier to work your plants in around it.

Levels. You'll need to have plants on all three levels, bottom, middle, and top. Of course, the top layer will mostly be taller background plants, and the middle and front (bottom) will be lower level, shorter plants. You can also use floaters for this as well. Big floaters like Lace Fern and Wisteria are great, because they provide interest and take up space both at surface level and a few inches below. If you haven't found foreground plants (I still have trouble with this) you can keep anachris and hornwort *short*, just clip them off, and you have nice mid-ground plants for cheap. :) Also, medium sized (like about 2-3 inches) smooth river rocks are great as well. Put them in the foreground with some anubias or java fern tied to them, and you've got instant foreground interest on the cheap. Always group them though, this creates a better composition. (You can get these in the floral or craft section of walmart, they come in little bags, usually dark and brown striped (which I love) and creamy colored options.)

Bacopa is different from hygrophilia, but they do look very similiar. Bacopa, if it reaches the surface, will flower beautiful little blue flowers, and is also called the Water Hyssop. I love it, and it smells a little lemony as well. :)

I'm at work and I have to get back to it, but I'll post again in a bit with some more information. :)
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Old 09-28-2013, 03:43 PM   #3 
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Another tip, leave the stem plant bunches together. You can space bunches farther apart and still have optimal visual body.

In that tank of that size I'd do two separate interest areas, one in each back corner, then coming forward. To do this, you'll need to do a fairly dense concentration in each back corner, then thin slightly following the side walls towards the front, getting shorter towards the front as well.
From there, I'd get a large decoration or a tall peice of driftwood and I would put it close to the center, but if possible, branching out to each side. The plants will draw the eye from side to side, with the large/tall decor in the middle acting as a focal point. (sometimes you *can* put things in the middle, you just have to make sure there's movement to each side as well.) :)
Put some small things, like your crypts towards the front, possible both together on one side of the front ornament, one a little in front of the other, to further offset the center and add low-front interest. I'd also either lose the pots, or plant them way deeper into ther gravel, so they're almost hidden by the gravel.

You're also going to need a LOT more light, especially if you go with cabomda. (And I'm probably spelling that wrong...sorry!) You can get two additional clip on desk lights, and put high equiv wattage (like 60 to 100) compact fluorescent lights in them, leaving them on for 12 hours a day. This will ensure enough light for the camboda, and also make sure that it grows quickly.


Oh, and floaters! I love floaters. :) Just make sure you don't coat the surface of the tank with them if you have moderate to high light plants underneath, but I can usually sort of clump mine together into a couple of spots and they stay that way fairly well, so my underplants still get enough light. Their roots hang down to create interest, and the slight shading in spots that they provide really makes the tank seem more full than it is.
Red Root (Salvinia), frog bit, water lettuce (mind, this grows up from the surface and forms a true plant, not just leaves), duck weed (very tiny), greater duck week (fairly large), four leaf clover (this is actually sometimes planted as well and then grows upwards), and fairy moss (azolla), and I'm sure there are others as well. :)
General info:
- if you use anachris, only use plain flourish, nothing with carbon or iron as it will melt your anachris plant.
- your crpyts are going to need root tabs to really grow well
- sometimes your fish will provide enough fertz and you won't need to use any liquid fertilizers, just depends on your tank and your fish. :)
- check the classifieds here for plants, and go to places like www.aquariumplantcentral.com and www.tricker.com for really good, high quality plants in big bunches. Also, the Foster and Smith website sells plants for good prices, haven't ordered from there though, so unsure about size. :)
- avoid ebay for plants. There are a lot of foreign sellers, and there seems to be frequent problems with customs and people NOT getting their plants, or getting them dead months later. :P

I hope that helps!! :D

Last edited by Blue Fish; 09-28-2013 at 03:47 PM.
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Old 09-28-2013, 04:54 PM   #4 
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Wow thanks much for all your info, it's super helpful!

I'm in Australia so I'm afraid US sites won't be much help to me, I'll have to hunt around to find some Australian sites. There a local classified site that I might be able to pick up some driftwood on, I do like the look of it in tanks.

I'm thinking of creating a sort of forest in the back right hand corner of the tank using the bacopa and hygrophila, then having the middle section empty for now until I find some wood and medium sized plants. I agree on ditching the crypt pots. I think I'll put the crypt in the front left hand corner with the ornament. I'll post updates later.

Looks like this will take more time and money than I thought (I've already spent close to $300 on my betta, long story)!
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Old 09-28-2013, 05:22 PM   #5 
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OH no, I feel your pain though, lol! They are *expensive* little buggers for a $2 fish, lol! ;)

Good luck on your tank, I forgot to say before, it's a beautiful setup! I love the rimless look. :)

Tricker ships to Canada...so they might go worldwide? That I'm not too sure about. :P Ebay might be able to help though, if you narrow it down to australian only sellers, they would most likely be good. :) It's the ones from indonesia and the other asian countries that I've read/heard some scary things about customs/plants never arrive/arrive full of slugs...ugh. :P Just grossness, lol! :)

Oh, and I know there are some australian members on the board...maybe put up a post to see if any of them know of reliable in-country aquatic plant places. :) I'm sure there are some in there somewhere, lol! :)
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Old 09-28-2013, 05:27 PM   #6 
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Thanks. My local aquarium ships live plants but they aren't cheap (up to $25 per plant). Time for some hunting!
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Old 09-28-2013, 07:26 PM   #7 
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Smile

Here's what I've done with the tank (sorry about the glare).

Unfortunately I didn't have a choice about doing the cycle so fish in it is. I figure in a tank this size it won't really harm my fish.

So far I'm happy, until my money situation improves I probably won't be buying anything new. I'll post more updates when I have added to the tank and the plants have (hopefully) grown.
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Last edited by KeshiaB; 09-28-2013 at 07:33 PM.
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Old 09-28-2013, 11:18 PM   #8 
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I think it looks nice! And as they grow, you can snip the extra growth and replant it to make more plants. :)

Ugh about the high plant prices. :P It took me a long time to find good local suppliers as well. It's crazy to me what aquatic plants are costing...I mean, I buy plants for the outdoors all the time, and I cannot help but feel that it really *isn't* that expensive to grow these things...and that it's not a cost issue, it's a supply and demand issue. :P

I'm off the next few days, I'll check google and see if I can find some places that ship (reasonably!) out of the country and PM you the links. :) I know you're not interested right now, but it might be good information for you in the future. :)

I always do fish-in...it's never been a problem for my guys. :) It's safe to do, and the fish don't seem worried by it. :)

He's a pretty little guy too! I love blue bettas. :)
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Old 10-01-2013, 10:29 PM   #9 
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Update: First planted tank

I don't have any pictures to add but I've taped a background to the tank (grey rock wall, I'm still deciding if it's too dark). I've also added a nice piece of driftwood which and might try to grow some moss over this at a later date (before adding some Red Cherry Shrimp).

One thing I have noticed is that a few of the plants have leaves dying off, particularly the crypts. Also I'm not getting any ammonia showing on my tests yet (using API ammonia test kit, my API master kit is arriving soon). Is this normal?

I guess the plants will take a long time to adjust to the water and grow roots?
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Old 10-06-2013, 10:02 PM   #10 
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Update

Well I've finally got myself a nice piece of driftwood and I must say, Kiedis is SO much happier in this tank than his old 5L. I've also added a background which it a bit hard to see in pic.

My bacopa isn't really growing yet, but the hygrophila has taken root and I've had to trim it twice already (there are new cuttings towards the front).

So far I'm happy!

My tank:

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And I couldn't resist putting up a pic of my buddy:

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