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I've heard of SEVERAL people having success using LEDs with planted aquariums. I say if you can afford it and don't mind giving it a try, go for it. Just don't add any fish unless you know for sure your plants are thriving well under the LEDs.
 

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I've heard of SEVERAL people having success using LEDs with planted aquariums. I say if you can afford it and don't mind giving it a try, go for it. Just don't add any fish unless you know for sure your plants are thriving well under the LEDs.
Let me add a few cents to this...

LED lighting creates several concerns when it comes to plants:
  • Color temperature - Always check the output color temperature rating (K value) of the bulbs. Several color bulbs may be required to fulfil the entire spectrum needs of your plants.
  • Actual wattage of light output as opposed to wattage of electricity used. This may sound confusing, but be aware that the wattage on an LED bulb is (IMO/E) not directly converted to traditional wattage as from an incandescent bulb or a fluorescent tube. Make sure you provide ample light output for your plants. I go by wattage of electricity being used because of the various qualities of LED light that may skew the perceived wattage of output. e.g. We all know those "super bright" single bulb led flashlights only seem very bright because of the color of the light. Actual light output value in terms of what the plant would receive from the bulb is most likely lower than what you may perceive it to be.
However, I had a coworker once who grew plants under his desk at work. He built his own LED array for the vines to grow on, but one thing he did was to vary the color of the led lights in a rainbow-like progression from red to orange, yellow, blue, green, purple, etc. I think this color changing effect he created accounted for his success in providing adequate lighting conditions for his plants.

There are several led hood setups designed for aquariums, but whether they were designed with plants in mind is a different question. Make sure to check outputs and color temps, and if you do spring to buy one, I'd suggest testing it on another tank before relying on it to keep your NPT healthy.

You may need to fact-check some of this wattage information with some sort of scientist (aka Google) to make sure that I'm right, but this is the general understanding I've come to have over time.
 

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Most of whom I've seen who successfully used the LEDs did use varying LED colors. One recent person I saw his progression with the plants used a blue, white, blue, white variation for his lights. He was also using these lights for low light plants.
 

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I have the six gallon fluval edge aquarium with halogen lights- I have heard I can replace the lights with LED. Would LED work for a natural planted tank with soil? I currently have plants with gravel with my halogen lights and they looked healthy the first nine months but look like they're dying now. I'm wondering if its contributing to my recent green algae overgrowth too.
I have never personally tried the LED light for a soil based planted tank. From the research I have done, there are some LED light that will meet the needs of aquatic plants-but-boy-O-boy are they expensive. If I could afford some LED lights rated for aquatic plants I would give them a try-If anything to experiment....

If you want to use LED's-I would recommend that you do a lot of research and find the proper LED lights for aquatic plants if you plan to setup a soil based planted system, otherwise the regular LED may not provide enough of the right color temp for plant photosynthesis-with that said, they might work with regular inert substrate with the lower light plants-like-ferns, moss, anubias and some crypts.

And yes, a lot of algae problems are related to the wrong color temp lights, old light bulbs, too short/too long photoperiod, too high watts, plants to close to the light source, poor plant growth that in turn causes high nutrient load as they break down....Proper lights and balance is the key factor in good plant growth that can out compete algae growth.
 

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Not sure if this has been asked already but is it possible to start a NPT without using floating plants? Or would it be better to wait until I have a source for floaters before I start one?
 

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I planted after I put the cap down, but in retrospect, I'm wondering if my stems would have stayed down better if I had planted them after the dirt.

I had a problem where I couldn't get the roots embedded deeply enough for some stems and all bets were off when I tried to plant a stem clipping... Those suckers always would come right out because they had no root structure to hold them down, though I'm starting to suspect my MTS caused them to pop out by digging under/around them.
 

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I touched on this earlier but have revised my question. I know you said mature plants with roots will oxygenate the soil, but what about the water itself? There are some fish I'm looking at (not bettas) that prefer water movement since they like well oxygenated water (oto catfish for one, even my white cloud minnows were recommended water movement). Are these fish simply not suited for a mature 10gal NPT that does not have a filter? Do the plants oxygenate the water well?
 

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I haven't had or seen any oxygen problems with my quartet of otos

I *have* noticed they have a strong preference for any sources of water motion in the tank, which means they spend a lot of time hanging out under the HOB filter or near the airstone (when I had it running). The airstone's been turned off, for fear of aerating out the CO2 in the water
 

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You can start one without floating plants, however, I would be careful with stocking in the beginning-Once the tank is mature and stem plants thriving-you could finish your stocking.
Is it necessary to use a product like Seachem Stability in an NPT?

^I was just curious:p

And I personally do not have much luck with LEDs. I splurged on one and it did not do much good. Back it went! I'm wondering if indirect sunlight would be a better environment for the plants.
 

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Mal-no, you don't need to use the bottled bacteria for soil based systems-the soil and plants have all of that already. I don't know much about LED lights-other than what I have researched and from what I have found the standard LED will not provide the needed color temp for plant growth, however, they do sell LED's for plants-but they are expensive. I have several tanks that get direct and indirect sunlight from a East facing window as part of their light source-but I do supplement it due to needing to keep them on 10-12/hr/day PP-plus cloudy days. But direct and indirect sunlight is considered part of the natural planted tank lighting.

mellotune-I have done it both ways, but I like the soil then cap then plant better-less mess...I rarely have had any problems with my bare stem staying in place-but when I do, I will use a rock or something to temporary hold the stem in place until it anchors itself. When I plant my stems-I cram them in the substrate with my fingers-while I rake a small amount of the soil/sand-up and around the stem. I have also use a small handful of gravel around the base after I crammed them in the dirt.

MonteCarlo-Plants produce oxygen as a byproduct, however, depending on the number, species and growth state of the plant-as well as tank size and stocking-the plants might produce enough oxygen, however, when you have a lot of gill breathing fish-adding either a filter or airstone might be in their best interest. Watch the fish and if you see them gasping at the surface-you might not have enough dissolved oxygen in the water. Some fish need that water movement to thrive. I have used a power head and placed it mid level in the tank to provide water movement without any problems for the plants.
 

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Mal-no, you don't need to use the bottled bacteria for soil based systems-the soil and plants have all of that already. I don't know much about LED lights-other than what I have researched and from what I have found the standard LED will not provide the needed color temp for plant growth, however, they do sell LED's for plants-but they are expensive. I have several tanks that get direct and indirect sunlight from a East facing window as part of their light source-but I do supplement it due to needing to keep them on 10-12/hr/day PP-plus cloudy days. But direct and indirect sunlight is considered part of the natural planted tank lighting.

mellotune-I have done it both ways, but I like the soil then cap then plant better-less mess...I rarely have had any problems with my bare stem staying in place-but when I do, I will use a rock or something to temporary hold the stem in place until it anchors itself. When I plant my stems-I cram them in the substrate with my fingers-while I rake a small amount of the soil/sand-up and around the stem. I have also use a small handful of gravel around the base after I crammed them in the dirt.

MonteCarlo-Plants produce oxygen as a byproduct, however, depending on the number, species and growth state of the plant-as well as tank size and stocking-the plants might produce enough oxygen, however, when you have a lot of gill breathing fish-adding either a filter or airstone might be in their best interest. Watch the fish and if you see them gasping at the surface-you might not have enough dissolved oxygen in the water. Some fish need that water movement to thrive. I have used a power head and placed it mid level in the tank to provide water movement without any problems for the plants.
Okay, I'm going to the hardware store to get some Organic soil--since my soil has way too much sand in it (live by the beach), so I'll look for lighting there. Thanks OFL.
 

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2 questions here for you oldfishlady,hopefully you could help me..

1

im not liking the colour of the play sand,its just not for me, i hate when some dirt comes up though it and sits on top of the sand, i hate seeing all the poop on the sand and other messy stuff.. im lookin for a black coloured cheap substrate that will do a good job. can you recomend anything that will be as cheap as the play sand? i do have some gravel in my house,enough to cap and its black but its a large gravel,its from petco, i think it would be too large to cap with,maybe the dirt would float up through it when i do cleanings and move plants around,id prob need 2 inches or more of the gravel cap to make sure the dirt stays under.. should i just use this gravel for other tanks without dirt..i do like the look of sand i think id prefer a black sand cap over gravel but im not opposed to a gravel type cap if the grains are really small

2

ive noticed that alot of poop will sit on top of the sand,so i tend to do alittle vacum every 3 days to get most of the poop out,i think this might be bad as the plants need the poop, but with a sand cap the poop does not get down into the dirt layer,it just sits on top of the sand,how does the dirt and plants access this poop?would it not be better to go with a gravel or a less compact cap so the poop can fall through and settle in the dirt later??

which also leads to another question,any benefits between using a sand cap or a gravel cap?
 

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2 questions here for you oldfishlady,hopefully you could help me..

1

im not liking the colour of the play sand,its just not for me, i hate when some dirt comes up though it and sits on top of the sand, i hate seeing all the poop on the sand and other messy stuff.. im lookin for a black coloured cheap substrate that will do a good job. can you recomend anything that will be as cheap as the play sand? i do have some gravel in my house,enough to cap and its black but its a large gravel,its from petco, i think it would be too large to cap with,maybe the dirt would float up through it when i do cleanings and move plants around,id prob need 2 inches or more of the gravel cap to make sure the dirt stays under.. should i just use this gravel for other tanks without dirt..i do like the look of sand i think id prefer a black sand cap over gravel but im not opposed to a gravel type cap if the grains are really small

2

ive noticed that alot of poop will sit on top of the sand,so i tend to do alittle vacum every 3 days to get most of the poop out,i think this might be bad as the plants need the poop, but with a sand cap the poop does not get down into the dirt layer,it just sits on top of the sand,how does the dirt and plants access this poop?would it not be better to go with a gravel or a less compact cap so the poop can fall through and settle in the dirt later??

which also leads to another question,any benefits between using a sand cap or a gravel cap?
I used the black sand from Petco on top of my dirt. IT looks fantastic and I don't really have allot of mulm.... I also have snails and a coupl shrimp
 

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The debris is one of the hardest things to get used to with the soil based natural systems...lol....That urge to keep it clean visually is tough, however, you really need to try and leave it and allow it to start to break down so the plants can use it-plus the natural decomp creates CO2. If you have trumpet snails-they will help to a degree in mixing the debris into the soil and if you don't have MTS and are poking the soil instead-this can help to get the debris mixed in some too. The debris has to break down before the plants can use it. You have to be careful with over cleaning-especially in a soil based planted tank or you can risk upsetting the balance. Soon, as the plants fill in-you won't be able to see the floor and any debris buildup.

As for cheap black sand....I have no idea, the only black sand I have used was an aquarium specific sand, however, I have seen different colored sand as well as black sand in the plant dept at either home depot or Lowes (I get them mixed up..lol..) that is used for cacti and orchids. I found and used some dark brown sand in one of my NPT's. With that said, as the tank matures the sand usually will change colors anyway-both the playsand and pool filter sand are much darker than when I first used it-it get dingy over time.

You can use small diameter gravel instead of sand for the cap-I used it with a couple of mine-plus I sometimes will use handfuls of it around some plants to either hold them down or to give a different texture contrast.

Once the soil is mature and starts its life underwater-it shouldn't float-once water logged it should stay in place and if it does get into the water column-it should clear or settle within a few min.-In one of my 1gals-I don't have any cap at all-just dirt-but its also about 3-4 years old-This is the tank that was knocked over and when I put it back together the sand mixed into the soil and I didn't bother to add more. The soil doesn't move unless disturbed and even then it will settle back down within seconds. Even in my big tanks that I have a couple of Empera 400 filters running-I pull mass amounts of plants and the water will be so dark you can't see in the tank for about 5min-then clear once the soil settles.
 

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I looked into black sands alot when I started with my tank. One thing to know is that sands can have mineral contents that can change the mineral content of your water. Most of the black substrates I could find were made out of some kind of lava rock or dyed and Seachem at least has nicely available information on their different products.

Pool filter sand is completely inert, as far as I've been able to research it. In the end, it ended up being more of a headache than I wanted to tackle for my first tank.

I've come to really like the look of all the little wood chips resting on top of my sand cap, to the point where I'm wondering how to make my next tank soil + wood chips --on the bottom, as opposed to floating on top!
 

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The debris is one of the hardest things to get used to with the soil based natural systems...lol....That urge to keep it clean visually is tough, however, you really need to try and leave it and allow it to start to break down so the plants can use it-plus the natural decomp creates CO2. If you have trumpet snails-they will help to a degree in mixing the debris into the soil and if you don't have MTS and are poking the soil instead-this can help to get the debris mixed in some too. The debris has to break down before the plants can use it. You have to be careful with over cleaning-especially in a soil based planted tank or you can risk upsetting the balance. Soon, as the plants fill in-you won't be able to see the floor and any debris buildup.

As for cheap black sand....I have no idea, the only black sand I have used was an aquarium specific sand, however, I have seen different colored sand as well as black sand in the plant dept at either home depot or Lowes (I get them mixed up..lol..) that is used for cacti and orchids. I found and used some dark brown sand in one of my NPT's. With that said, as the tank matures the sand usually will change colors anyway-both the playsand and pool filter sand are much darker than when I first used it-it get dingy over time.

You can use small diameter gravel instead of sand for the cap-I used it with a couple of mine-plus I sometimes will use handfuls of it around some plants to either hold them down or to give a different texture contrast.

Once the soil is mature and starts its life underwater-it shouldn't float-once water logged it should stay in place and if it does get into the water column-it should clear or settle within a few min.-In one of my 1gals-I don't have any cap at all-just dirt-but its also about 3-4 years old-This is the tank that was knocked over and when I put it back together the sand mixed into the soil and I didn't bother to add more. The soil doesn't move unless disturbed and even then it will settle back down within seconds. Even in my big tanks that I have a couple of Empera 400 filters running-I pull mass amounts of plants and the water will be so dark you can't see in the tank for about 5min-then clear once the soil settles.
OFL, I set up my NPT and everything looks well--except for the fact that the water is still cloudy from the dirt/substrate. No fish in there yet, but the PH levels, temperature, etc are all looking good. I have a light (I'll probably switch to a plant light soon) and a sponge filter, but I can't seem to get a definitive answer on whether or not a filter is needed in an NPT. The only reason I ask if because the filter was in one of the boys tank and he hated it--even though it is pretty quiet and he'll be going back into this tank now that it is NPT. (It's a divided 10 gallon).
 

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I use filters on start up sometimes then remove them later and sometimes I don't use one at all....Not really a right or wrong answer to filter or not...With that said, in larger tanks-over 40gal...the water movement might be needed for nutrient transport-but you don't want or need a lot of water agitation at the surface since that can drive off the CO2.
 
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