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What are some mini/carpet plants you might suggest for a smaller NPT? I've got a couple of 2.5 G's I would love to turn into NPTS, however most of the plants I've used so far are taller or would be far too large.

Also plan on doing some searching for a new light/6500k bulbs I can modify no AQ specific light fixtures for.
 

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I am so excited to try this in my 6.6 gallon! Why do you remove the filter in a <10 gallon tank?
 

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Is there any point to adding a CO2 system to my planted tank? I have mostly low-light plants and I use Seachem Flourish and Flourish Excel. My substrate is Fluorite with a sand cap. I guess I'm just wondering how much of a difference added CO2 would make.

Also, I did get some mud in my filter when I first set up this tank, mostly because I didn't wash the substrate first. All that dusty dirt was really light and got kicked up by the filter. I washed the filter bag 3 times or so over the first week (each time shedding enough mud to make a 2 gallon bucket of water opaque and still needed to be rinsed under the tap), and after that it improved greatly on It's own. I also switched to an uptake bubble filter instead of a filter that continuously dumps water into the tank (much gentler current) and have had zero issues with mud or fine particles fogging up the tank. Even water changes aren't causing too much dust to kick up as long as I pour the water onto a plate I've set on the sand. The only thing that really causes clouding now is if I pull up a rooted plant and move it. When I first added water some of the substrate came up out of the sand cap and I was worried they would mix together, but since then they have not mixed further and my MTS are very careful about what they move around. Little ninjas.
 

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Excuse my ignorance (for there is much of it and it is large) but how big of a difference is there between soil or just a sand planted tank, or a gravel tank? What do gravel planted tanks require? If there is a post on this somewhere and I missed it I apologize.

I think it has something to do with the ion exchange capacity... which will allow it to pull nitrogen wastes into the substrate.. whereas sand and gravel does not provide this function...
 

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I think I may want to redo the 20G and add soil after all. Most of the plants are growing like weeds though.
 

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Please keep this sticky on topic....Soil based planted tanks.....

As for filters-with the soil based tanks the plants can function as the filtration..

I remove my filters in my 10gal and smaller soil based tanks-because they are not needed.....Once they are mature-the soil is alive and plants thriving the plants will filter the water.

Soil based planted tanks-when setup properly with enough of the right species of plants, soil is mature and plants thriving-They are as close to a natural ecosystem that can be created in a closed system.....

You don't need any added ferts or injection of CO2 with soil based planted tanks.

As for carpet plants-it can be hard to get a true carpet that you see with the high tech CO2 injected tanks-but I can create a fairly nice carpet in my soil based using java moss, pygmy chain swords and another one I can't recall the name right now. I just got back from vacation and will have to look through my log books and post it tomorrow....seems like it was tennulas or something like that.....

Soil based tanks are nice systems-but you have to remember they are intended to be a low tech system and plants will be limited.
 

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OFL what kind of soil do you recommend? I've heard people use Miracle Gro, is there a specific type that works best?

Also, I just put some Quikrete Commercial Grade Fine Sand in one of my 5 gallon tanks and I was AMAZED at how it responded to being in water. It's a very fine white silica sand that is 0.6-0.2 mm so it's comparable to pool filter sand, possibly even finer. No dust at all, I dribbled in the first bit of water and after that more or less splashed bucketfuls into the tank and the sand did not move. No floating particles whatsoever. It's beautiful sand, I will definitely be using it in my next NPT. And it's available at pretty much any home improvement store at around $3 for a 50 pound bag. Win.
 

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When creating the base, you had mentioned using sand or a small diameter gravel as a cap. In anyones experience, what tends to work better? I have a couple partial bags of regular store aquarium gravel that I could use as a cap, or I could go out and buy some sand. Does anyone prefer one over the other?

Also, I'm not sure if this has been mentioned or not, but is it easier to place plants in position before adding the water? Or should I fill the tank with water and then place the plants?

Thanks!
 

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When creating the base, you had mentioned using sand or a small diameter gravel as a cap. In anyones experience, what tends to work better? I have a couple partial bags of regular store aquarium gravel that I could use as a cap, or I could go out and buy some sand. Does anyone prefer one over the other?

Also, I'm not sure if this has been mentioned or not, but is it easier to place plants in position before adding the water? Or should I fill the tank with water and then place the plants?

Thanks!
I prefer sand, it just looks more natural to me :) It's really down to your own preference though. I will say that I think fine consistently graded sand is easier to clean than gravel.

I'm not good enough at filling the tank for the first time when I use anything dusty to avoid serious clouding so I do not add my plants until that's settled down. I'm cautious about adding plants. I'll put in 1 or 2 after the water is clear and ammonia is testing at 0ppm, and if they do well overnight I add the rest. I know some people can add just a few inches of water, then plants, then the rest of the water also.
 

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For soil-anything that doesn't have any type of chemical additives, ferts, too much manure, pine bark.....Organic type potting soil, top soil, dirt from your yard.

I have used all kinds of different soil bases-and really haven't seen much difference as far as water quality-but I have seen differences in plant growth.

I used a local nursery brand potting soil they make and it was full of the perlite and that didn't cause any problems other than it floats when disturbed and looks a bit ugly until you net it out.

My dirt I use from my pasture "black gold" I like to call it-since it is from virgin land high in organics, composted leaves...etc....It will have lots of bugs, critters, worms and the like. I don't stress over it-I leave them and they drown-I look at it as more plant food or even food for the fish.

I like to add a bit of native sand and clay to my dirt and I sift it all together.

I have used generic clay kitty litter-but found it too messy when I pull plants-but it is great when used in a 25/75 mix. The added Iron is loved by the rosette plants.

When I set one up-
I add my dirt-then add just enough water to cover-then I add my sand-I don't rinse my sand-I like to use everything dry. Then I add water-drain and repeat until clear. Then I add about 2-3 inches of water and start to plant-I already have my hard scape placed, filter, heater and check the hood for placement if one is used.
Once I have everything planted-I fill with water and drain and re-fill if needed until clear.

Its important to start with enough stem plants from the beginning and clear water for best light penetration to plants. The active plant growth is what keep the water safe.

The cap-its up to you on what you want to use-My first NPT I used sand but I had some really nice 1-2mm gravel and used that on one tank and larger on yet another. I use both on some or use sand with handfuls of gravel around the base of plants to help keep them anchored until they take root or for some contrast in texture......It endless...no right or wrong per se...The goal of the cap is to help hold the soil in place until it is water logged and starts its life under water and why you don't need that much.

I used pool filter sand for the first time on the 55gal I re-setup last Oct. and it has worked fine.

This is the tank that I experimented with using sand I collected from my stock pond and ended up needing to add an inch of gravel on top of that sand due to the silts from the pond sand-What a mess-but the gravel worked to help collect the silts and to prevent more silts in the water column. I also had some anaerobic soil issue due to too deep of substrate layer, however, even with all these problems the tank lasted for 5 years before I got tired of looking at it and 2 of those years it didn't have a filter running-but only because it stopped working and I didn't replace it-that is how well the plants worked as the filtration-Plants or fish never suffered-everything thrived.....And this is the tank that also got the flea powder in it at one point-killed a lot of shrimp but nothing else......

I have needed to replace sand on occasion-after a time the sand will start to discolor and I will suck it out with my python that drains out in the garden. I use a plastic cup with dry sand-lower it into the tanks and pour in the places I need it. Best to have the filter off if one is used and usually within 2-3min its all settled.

I have also used a larger meshed net to kinda turn the sand a bit and to remove the hundreds of snails-I scoop them up along with a net full of sand and kinda shake it or sift it and that brightens the sand back up.

I don't use any specific brands-honestly I don't think it matters, I don't stress over water prams. I watch the water, plants, fish, shrimp and snails and they tell me when something is wrong-You can't beat the power of observation. Too many things can cause skewed water pram readings and you are going to do the same thing with the results that you would do with change in behavior of livestock....Water change......

If the plants are thriving/growing and needing regular trims-provided that you used enough stem plants-they will keep the water safe.
Shrimp usually will be the first thing to tell you that you have a water quality issue. Bettas will be the last to tell you since they can tolerate more harsh conditions than other species of fish.

By understanding normal behavior it will be easier to pick out abnormal behavior.....

And when in doubt....make a water change-by the time you complete the water test it might be too late.....

Most important...relax, have fun, use your imagination and enjoy your little ecosystem....That is what its all about...
 

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Peat moss you want to limit that to about a handful or 2 per 10 gallons. Make it your first layer under the soil.

If you have soft water or plan to use R/O water add a 1/4 cup/10gal of bonemeal to the soil. For smaller tanks a tablespoon or so....

Most plants that work well in the soil based-low tech tanks like hard water and higher pH-so soft water or R/O water isn't needed.
 

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I'm going to use a Fluorite Black substrate for my planted tank, will that work well? It is what the LPS uses in their tanks and it seems to work for them..
 

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I use all kinds of sources for my water movement and haven't really seen a difference in them-from HOB, canisters, sponge-I do try to limit the agitation of water at the surface so not to degas the natural CO2 that is created in the system itself.

Since this will be a grow out for Betta fry-you need to look at how the filter will affect the fry-HOB might be too strong and you risk sucking them into the filter and the sponge might be the best option. With a 20gal long I would use 2 sponge filters placed at either end.
 

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Oh wow! I LOVE this!!! I'm a natural gal, always have been. We feed and care for all our animals as close to nature as we can. We make the dog's raw food, the horses go barefoot, the cattle are grassfed only, all of them are treated with homeopathy... This just lines up with our whole philosophy perfectly.

I don't think I'll do it with this 3.5 gallon, primarily because we may have to take it on the road in an RV and I can't imagine a dirt floored tank would do well... Seems to me it would kick up a lot of mud to be joggled around so.

But someday! I MUST try this! Thank you for the wonderful info!
 
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