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Old 10-06-2011, 03:31 PM   #1 
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Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: New Hampshire
Cycling a planted tank?

Hi everyone. My wife and I just bought a 29 gallon tank, and even though we've only been keeping fish for *checks calender* 3 weeks now, I've decided that I'm going to do a planted tank. I tend to jump into things full bore, which surprisingly rarely backfires for me.

Anyway, I've done a bunch of reading, maybe way to much on plants in the past few days, and I've decided to do a low-tech setup, no CO2, little fertilization etc. I've selected a variety of plants that are very low to low lights, and the tank isn't going to be planted too heavily, and especially not while it grows and I keep splitting plants.

Anyway, I read on some plant forums that you aren't supposed to pre-cycle planted tanks, because the plants themselves act as the cycle. I understand the cycle well enough, but where this tank isn't super-planted, are the plants going to do their job well enough that I don't need to cycle? Or should I just cycle the tank with the plants in there, or just cycle the tank and then add plants? The last option sounds like a bad idea, as the colonies will suddenly be robbed of ammonia levels they were used to.

Also, I have a question about algae eaters. My idea for stocking consists of a male betta, maybe 12 neon tertas, 6 platies, 5 cories and then I think Ottos are good algae eating fish, so maybe 5 of those. That puts my stocking level at 103% according to aqadvisor. Will all these fish go together? Piecing together threads from the forums tells me that I think they will, but I'm not sure.

Then I just have to figure out the lighting situation, which, despite how much I've read on places like, I still feel like I have no idea what exactly to get...

Thanks in advance for your replies!
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Old 10-06-2011, 04:06 PM   #2 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: USA
Welcome to the forum.....

Since you are new in the fish keeping will be much easier to cycle the tank without plants and the only reason-is that it can be more confusing for your first cycling experience.....unless you plan on cycling with the fish....then it will be safer to add the plants.....(if doing fishless...without plants)
Live active growing plants will use ammonia before conversion and often you will not get the nitrate reading to help tell you the cycling stage-(since we look for the nitrate reading to tell us that the nitrogen cycle has completed)

Once you understand the nitrogen cycle and the bacteria involved-it will be easier to cycle with plants.....and by your post you don't understand it least the bacteria-the process is pretty easy to grasp.....

A few questions-what cycling method do you plan, how many and what species of plants, type of substrate do you plan to use, do you have a test kit to test-ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH......if so, what kind..

What kind of lights do you have-

Most planted tank failures are related to wrong lights-proper color temp or Kelvin is the most important factor when it come to successful planted tanks......for low tech, no CO2 you need at least 6500k bulbs 20-40watts over a 29gal tank...2 bulbs would be best and would give you just under 3wpg with 2 40w bulbs and with deeper tanks you will need that much-but this also depends on the number and species of plants you plan as well as the type of substrate...

Proper lighting doesn't have to break the bank either....the biggest expense is usually the light strips- the bulbs are pretty cheap...I buy/use the GE brand "daylight" 6500k 40w 48in-2-4 tubes over my 55g and 75gal NPT soil based very heavy planted tanks (see pic in my album) on a 12h/day photoperiod-they cost me less than $7.00 for 2 tubes that I get in the lighting dept at Walmart or Home depot and I use the shop lights for the tubes from houseware dept.......these bulbs also have to be changed out at least yearly due to color temp loss.....we can see the light but the plants can't see it for photosynthesis......

Your stocking sounds fine, however, I would not add the Ottos until the tank has established and matured least 3 months old or older

Last edited by Oldfishlady; 10-06-2011 at 04:09 PM.
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Old 10-06-2011, 05:23 PM   #3 
Join Date: Feb 2011
The neons may become a concern, tetra fin-nip and may see your male as a "chinese buffet". Depends on how deep he sleeps. Keep in mind that 12 Caracidae (striped) tetra is 18 inches of fish when grown.

If you do go with the tetra, they love sinking micro pellets, Hikkari has Fancy Guppy pellets that I like best, you can throw a small pinch at the water and it will immediately sink, right into the cloud of shark impersonators!
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Old 10-06-2011, 06:29 PM   #4 
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Location: New Hampshire
Thanks so much for your reply.

I was planning on a fishless cycle, I was going to use the Ďdead shrimpí method, only because I havenít been able to fin pure ammonia at any local hardware stores. I did read a ton of people who had used Bio-Spira (Tetras safestart now) and said it worked real well, so, for 12 bucks I was considering trying it so I donít have to wait a month. I think I get the cycle plantless, and the whole ammonia to nitrite to nitrate thing, and how that works, but with plants it threw a kink into my whole visualization of the process.

I spent the day planning out my tank, around the low(ish) light parameters. Hereís the names of the plants.

Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides )
Jungle Val (Vallisneria americana giganteana)
Tiger Lotus, Red (Nymphaea zenkeri)
Anubias Nana
Java Moss and Java Fern

Originally I was reading about the correct substrate to use, especially one that didnít need to be layered, and I find that fluorite and eco-complete were the two that came the most recommended. I was going to go with eco-complete because I like the darker color it comes in, but since half those plants donít need it, and the rest donít need heavy fertilizing (I think) I was thinking maybe I could just get away with regular gravel and root tabs? I donít know if Iím off base on this though.

I donít have any lights on the tank right now; itís just an empty tank, with those clear sliding tops from Foster and Smith. I know you canít attach lights in that, but a lot of people online said you could just rest lights right on top of that. If not Iím sure I could rig something up. If you think itís OK, I will run out and grab the lights you recommended and rig them up and see how everything works. I wouldnít buy 48 inch long ones of course, but the smaller version of the same thing. I was kind of balking at these 30 dollar lights and 60 dollar setups from AHsupply and all sorts of other online places.

Where I am in NH local fish stores are nonexistent, and there is only 1 pet store within an hour of me that has a person who knows what the word substrate meant, so I really appreciate the help, like A LOT.
Any other feedback or help you have I would love to hear. Itís been a crash course, and Iím eager to get started, but Iím trying to hold back and do things right the first time.
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Old 10-06-2011, 06:41 PM   #5 
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Canada
So fish-less, plant-less shrimp cycle, got it.

You should have the heater and filter running the whole time you're doing the cycling, the filter will be where your beneficial bacteria lives and the heater makes it warm enough for the bacteria to thrive.

I use regular gravel (Geosystem Substrate by Hagen) and I used to use root tabs (bad experience with them). You can whichever substrate you like, I have no experience with fluorite and eco-complete, just plain gravel. C:

Hope it works for you.
With your plants, they're mostly low-care low-light plants, with the only exception of the Val, I don't know what Tiger Lotus is. . But the rest of your plants are quite low-light. . .

For lights get something around 6500K fluorescent, since most of your plants are low-light I wouldn't worry about getting huge amounts of light. .
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Old 10-07-2011, 12:46 AM   #6 
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Location: PA, USA
I just bought for my tank. It was the best price I could find.
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