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Old 02-06-2014, 08:29 PM   #1 
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Join Date: Aug 2013
I want to have a planted tank but where to start?

I've done a lot of reading about this, and there seem to be a quite a few (too many) options to consider when beginning a planted tank. I currently have 2 female bettas left from the only sorority I've ever had that are currently living together with a separator, and they are both about 3 years old (the older fish died off). I have a medium sized apartment, but not too many places where I could put a medium sized tank (5-15 gal) and absolutely nowhere that I could have a larger tank.
I would like to know If there is any practical way to start a planted tank with a 5 gal tank and two female bettas. Right now they are sitting on a shelf next to my desk in my office where I can keep an eye on them, and their doing well. But everything is plastic, and I just can't help but wonder if they would thrive better in a more natural planted tank. I want to have them for as long as I can, and give them the best quality environment to live in as I can, (and I don't know if their just getting older but a while after I split them up because I was down to 3 bettas they don't seem as active or playful). I just have no Idea where to start with a planted tank, and I heard that they can be fairly tricky to get just right.
I would like to know what your opinion is on a 5-10 gal planted tank. I know the smaller the tank size, the bigger the risk when it comes to water quality. I also would like to know how (if possible) to create a planted tank specifically for bettas. I'm not sure if I'll ever try a sorority again, but I'd like to give my current bettas a nice home.

Are there any plants that bettas specifically like to nibble on? Are snails a good addition? And what kind of gravel/sand/soil is best suited to bettas?
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Old 02-07-2014, 12:18 AM   #2 
Join Date: Nov 2013
I started a NPT on Jan 3 and it's going strong. I used 1 1/2 in wet potting soil, no ferts added, in a 5 gal Hawkeye tank with filter and flor light from Walmart. I added 1 in play sand on that and so,e gravel on the sand. Added a garden rock and wood that I attached moss. Added several plants, fish, oto, snail and water. Plus an adjustable heater and thermometer. I tested and changed water every 3-4 days until parameters were all good. Ammonia 0, nitrates 0, Ph 7.6. The plants have really grown as have the snails multipied since they come in on the plants :< That's a whole different thread. Getting rid of the darn snails. Bettas are carnivors and don't eat plants. Use a good fish pellet that float or frozen brine shrimp. My betta prefers micro pellets at present. The regular ones were too big.

Now I test water every 5th day and change 20 percent. Cycling should be finished. I swish my filter pad out in the water I removed just to remove any detrious and put it back in. I also have a sponge on my out port to cut down the water flow that was way to vigorous for my betta.

That's it. Easy peasy. Plants are growing like weeds (hah) and the cycle goes on. Plants living off fish waste and cleaning the system. Ain't Mother Nature grand?
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Old 02-07-2014, 01:03 AM   #3 
Suresh S
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@cowgirlsue1 are tempting me...before I start researchig on this...please post pics of your tank !!
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Old 02-07-2014, 07:36 AM   #4 
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Cowgirlsue1, I would love to see a picture of your setup! Did you buy a separate light for your tank? If so, which one?
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Old 02-07-2014, 07:39 PM   #5 
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Here's my tank...having a tough time with pics. .all the plants have been growing for about 4 1/2 weeks

Last edited by cowgirlsue1; 02-07-2014 at 07:44 PM. Reason: add
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Old 02-07-2014, 07:49 PM   #6 
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Sorry about those pics. It's been a fight.
This is a 5 gal Hawkeye with Fl light, planting mix, sand substrate, heater. DT betta Kwei-Li; oto is somewhere. Plants in front have grown like crazy. I put moss on my rock and wood. Lots of duck weed and wisteria floating. Sponge on filter to cut down current.
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Old 02-07-2014, 07:59 PM   #7 
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Location: Northern California
Are the bettas in the 5 gallon now? Just start replacing your fake plants with live. One of my 55 gallons was all fake plants at one time and is now all live plants. I just kept the gravel i had and i have just standard fluorescent lighting with a 6500k bulb. I kept to easy, low light plants such as Anubias, Java fern, amazon sword, sag, and anacharis. For a small tank like yours anubias would be great. And bettas love their large leaves to rest on or under. Tie them to a piece of driftwood or rock. They don't need to be planted. I floatthe anacharis to provide a bit of shade for the anubias.
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Old 04-19-2014, 04:15 PM   #8 
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Location: Pacific Northwest
Got a question..... It seems vacuuming and doing water changes would be a challenge with a highly planted tank. I am just getting started with this method and I have moved my plants around/taken them out a couple times. Is that problematic?
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Old 04-19-2014, 07:38 PM   #9 
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Location: Northfield Minnesota
I have 2.6 and 3 gallon tanks that are NPTs. It rocks! I love to watch the growing plants just as much as watching my bettas. <3
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Old 04-20-2014, 12:37 AM   #10 
Blue Fish
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Location: East Tennessee
I'm with Tree, the planted tanks just give a whole new level of interest and beauty to a tank. :) One thing I've really wanted to do is to have a very large goldfish tank...but the little beasts are mostly herbivores...and would absolutely devour any plants I'd put in there. :P Such a bummer, lol!

Anyway, I've planted everything from 2g to 40g, and there is something really fun about the little NPT's. :) The big tanks are a struggle to really fill up without spending organ-selling bucks ;), but the little ones fill in quickly and they're fun to play with. :)

I had a 2g cookie jar I did awhile back, but took out the plants because it was just SO hard to get in there... :P Plus, it became rather overcrowded really I switched them over to a 5g. :) I think I will put some plants back into the 2g, but I believe I'm going to stick to a single large fern or crypt, and some mosses. :) Something slower growing. :)

To answer your questions, these are the steps/options to putting together an NPT.

1. Substrate. You have so many options. You can get the special "plant" substrates, you can use plain gravel (just make sure it's fairly small diameter and pretty deep), you can use sand (aquarium, play, pool filter, black diamond blasting, estes...), you can use organic dirt (miracle grow organic potting soil, or I've used MGO dirt) capped with either sand or gravel. Any of these will work. Organic soil or plant substrate will cause most plants to grow faster and bigger, but plain gravel will also work. Plain gravel will accumulate "fertz" from the fish, their waste, and any uneaten food, but it will be a slower process so the plants will grow more slowly as well.

2. Fertz. There are two different types of aquatic plants: those that get their nutrients from the water column, and those that get their nutrients from the substrate. Just about all stem plants, anubias, and java fern will get their nutrients from the water column. This means that they will need liquid fertz, like Flourish or Flourish Excel. On the other side are plants like crypts, which get their nutrients from the substrate. These plants will benefit some from the liquid fertz, but your best bet with these are to use organic house-plant fertz sticks broken into pieces and shoved into the substrate under the plants, or with special aquatic root-tabs used the same way. The root-feeder plants will benefit the most from a dirted tank, but the tabs will do almost as good a job for them if you stay on top of them.

3. After that, it's just buying your plants. :) I love rotala, it comes in SO many different forms, and it is SO easy to grow. It also comes in both green and red varieties, which is nice for some contrast.
Another favorite is water wisteria, which can either be planted or it can float.
Bacopa is another that's easy to grow, along with moneywort and pennywort.
Java ferns and anubias should be tied to driftwood and NOT planted, but they're both low-light and easy to grow. Java fern comes in both a plain variety and in a "lacey" variety, so that's fun too.
Cardamine is just a beautiful little plant...very fine, almost thread-like stems and branches with very pretty little light-green leaves that are about 2cm's in diameter and slightly scalloped at the edges. It can be planted or it can float.
Many stem plants can do either since they get their nutrients from the water column. :)
Salvinia is my favorite floater. :) It forms these really pretty little "lily pad" looking clumps at the water's surface, and then has small, delicate, reddish roots that hang down. It's nice because it's easy to clump into areas, and also very easy to scoop out of the tank during cleaning or re-arranging...Unlike duckweed. Which is in your tank forever once it has been introduced. ;)
I like myrio as a floater (normally it's a stem plant, but it makes a great clump that floats), it's just a nice place for fish to rest near the surface and it's fine enough to allow plenty of light to reach the lower portions of the tank as well. Also very easy to grow.
Java moss is some fun stuff to play with, it can be tied to rocks, tied to driftwood, made into moss-walls for the back of the tank, used for a carpet...the options with moss are just about endless. :) Also very easy to grow and very hardy. :)

4. Tank set up. This is personal preference. :) I went online and found some tanks that I thought were pretty and weren't too complicated, and then tried to replicate them in my own way. Driftwood is always lovely in a planted tank, especially with the plants growing behind and through the branches. This makes a great natural focal spot and really goes with the organic theme. :) Just stick in your plants, obviously bigger goes in the back, smaller goes in the front.
Smooth stones or river rocks also make nice accents in planted tanks.

5. Cleaning. You don't have to change water or clean a planted tank as much as a regular tank in terms of water quality because the plants form their own ecosystem...BUT, some plants shed needles or leaves, and you do still need to do regular cleaning to pick up uneaten food, waste, things like that. The trick to cleaning a planted tank is to be selective about what and where you vacuum. Don't vacuum right at the base of the plants because you'll uproot them, and the waste at their roots is actually good for them in terms of extra fertz. Just vacuum around any open areas, and any areas where you feed or the fish tend to hang out. Don't get too boisterous with it, this is more of a spot-cleaning than a full-on gravel sucking like you'd normally do. I try to clean once every couple of weeks, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on if things look mucky at the substrate level.

6. Snails are great because they can help with any algae that may be growing. Mysteries and Apple snails are herbivores, but I believe ramshorns, and I know pond snails are omnivores and will eat left over food and to some degree even waste. For whatever reason, my ramshorns seem to keep the ponds in check...not sure if they're just out-competing them or what. Not sure about nerite snails...but I believe they're herbivores? Also, if you go with dirt or sand, you'll need to get some Malaysian trumpet snails to aerate the soil/sand and prevent pockets of anaerobic bacteria which is toxic to plants and fish.

I hope that helps!! :)

Last edited by Blue Fish; 04-20-2014 at 12:46 AM.
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