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Discussion Starter #1
Hi! I've decided to start keeping bettas again, but this time I really want to try making a tank with live plants. I've read that having live plants can mean fewer water changes, which is very helpful since both my tanks are upstairs and lugging water up and down the stairs can really kill my back. However, I've never successfully "raised" live plants before. My dad bought me a few from petco when I had my sorority, but they died within weeks of being in the tank.

Tank info: I just set up my 10 gallon. It has gravel substrate, heater, filter, and a light, but the light isn't an LED. Just a regular bulb. The water has been conditioned and has been sitting for about a day with the filter running. No fish.

I would just like some tips on some easy care beginner plants and how to keep them alive. Maybe there is there a beginners guide somewhere? Unfortunately I'm on my phone so searching goes rather slow. I hope to take my laptop to Starbucks tomorrow so I can leech their wifi and do more research. :p
 

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The term NPT usually refers to tanks with dirt as the substrate capped with sand or small sized gravel. Personally all but 2 of my tanks have dirt substrate and my plants seem to thrive. Petco and possibly petsmart sell a compact fluorescent light bulb by zoomed called ultra Sun(not the reef one :). It is 10watts,fits most hood lights, and is 6500k per gallon which is great for plant photosynthesis. If you can't get this, you can get a "sunlight" bulb at most hardware stores or Walmart. This will help w/plant growth.
Don't feel bad about the Petco plant deaths as many plants sold in petco/petsmart type stores are not truly aquatic.
The Walstad Method of NPTs is fairly involved but easy once you get the hang of it. The idea is tp heavily plant your tank with slow growing plants such as java fern and anubias, and fast growing plants such as cabomba, some cryptorynes, creeping Charlie and moneywort...basically most of the plants sold in bunches/cuttings...and also have floating plants such as giant duckweed, water lettuce, Asian watermoss, and red root floater. Ideally, the plants will absorb nutrients such as ammonia which is very bad for fish, from the water. They absorb about 70% of their nutrients through their leaves, and the rest through the substrate. If the tank is heavily planted with many floating plants and lots of fast growing plants, it is possible to stock the tank w/o fully cycling the tank which takes 1-2weeks. Some people including Diane Walstad(creator of this method) stock the tank immediately. I usually wait 1-2 days after setting up the tank...I test water about 2 times a day during this mini wait period. The principle of this method is that the plants absorb all the ammonia etc from water (that the fish have put in there) making it safe for inhabitants.
1. Google NPT or planted aquariums...you'll get loads of info.
2. Walstad method also calls for tank to get some natural sunlight as well as hood lights.
3. Very low tech method as you don't have to buy powerful and expensive lights, filters, and CO2.
4. Probably ok to use just gravel.
5. Plants listed above are fairly or very easy. Fast growing plants are temporary as they are to help get rid of excess nutrients/ammonia while your slow growers take root. If you decide you like the fast growers, remember that they are higher maintenance(but easy to grow) as you will have to perform regular trimming back or they could take over :)
6. There is a sticky on this forum (i think in betta tanks, bowls, etc..environment) that goes over some easy aquarium plants and their requirements. Also Planted Aquarium Central is a great place to buy some of these plants and it has a good section on plant needs. Aquariumplants.com is another good resource. Aquabid usually has some good deals...p_volitan(?) is one of my favorite sellers of plants.

I hope this helps you. Your bettas and other fish will greatly appreciate live plants in their home!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you very much! I am willing to change the substrate if it will help the plants grow better. I think I may pop over to petco later to see if I can pick up the light I need. I'm going to use Starbucks wifi today so I can research the walstad method imore thoroughly.
 

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Remember, when getting dirt stay away from non-organic, dirt that may or may not have pesticides, and if it has manure. If you are sure the dirt has none of those you are a step closer. Some soils when store bought, will give off tons of ammonia, I had to wait a month before the ammonia was at zero with all the plants. So make sure you have a test kit, or you may have some fetus if not careful.

Once established, your NPT will grow plants like crazy, it is really rewarding to see your plants thriving and you can even sell your trimmings to raise money to setup more tanks or improve the current one.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you for the warning kfryman. Do you happen to know what brand(s) may be usable?
 

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Most soils differ by region, when they were bagged, etc....ironically, I think anyway, Diane walstad has been using miracle gro which is not organic and has their ferts in it!
I used Black Gold once, way too much manure, smelly as all get out...
It is suggested on another forum to use top soil, another site says to use cheap potting soil. The best suggestion I found, says to get smallest bag or a sample of a few types of top soil or potting soil, stay away from ferts/perlite/manure. To test: smell it, it should smell good/not too strong odors, get it damp and roll it in a ball...shouldn't be too sticky which means a lot of clay, it should be able to form a ball when squeezed in hand and then loosens up a bit but not all the way when released. But remember that if you ask 3 people same question, you'll probably get 3 different answers...a lot of it is personal preference such as adding clay or peat to the mix...also depends on type of water you have(hard or soft, etc) and the type of tank you wish to have(amazon river, Asian, etc) or type of plants you wish to grow...:)
 

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Most soils differ by region, when they were bagged, etc....ironically, I think anyway, Diane walstad has been using miracle gro which is not organic and has their ferts in it!
I used Black Gold once, way too much manure, smelly as all get out...
It is suggested on another forum to use top soil, another site says to use cheap potting soil. The best suggestion I found, says to get smallest bag or a sample of a few types of top soil or potting soil, stay away from ferts/perlite/manure. To test: smell it, it should smell good/not too strong odors, get it damp and roll it in a ball...shouldn't be too sticky which means a lot of clay, it should be able to form a ball when squeezed in hand and then loosens up a bit but not all the way when released. But remember that if you ask 3 people same question, you'll probably get 3 different answers...a lot of it is personal preference such as adding clay or peat to the mix...also depends on type of water you have(hard or soft, etc) and the type of tank you wish to have(amazon river, Asian, etc) or type of plants you wish to grow...:)
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
So I went to my lfs earlier to get some live plants. I had made a list of some easy to care for beginner plants from this site, but he didn't have any of them (and also told me water wisteria is illegal in NY) so I just picked a few plants from what he did have. I had originally planned to go to Petco to look for plants as well but it was just too hot to drive another half hour down there.

Here they are with some silk plants in my 10 gallon that I'm prepping for my betta.

Can anyone tell me what they are? There's two of the shorter plant and one of the tall, kind of fern like plant.

http://imgur.com/eFrh7.jpg
 

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You didn't post pictures so I can't tell.

Your gonna need more plants if you do want to make the tank an NPT. You want about 50-75% of the tank covered with stem plants at first and roughly 25% of the surface covered with floating plants.

Really easy plants are ludwigia, rotala, almost any type of hygrophila, and crypts. The plant section on here isn't all that great.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Sorry, the pic was huge so I had to put a link instead. I plan on getting more plants but I think maybe ill order from online. Lfs guy didnt seem to know much about the live plants.
 

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Most of the easy care plants will grow equally happily in gravel, with a good light. Mine are currently in gravel (not very thick later either) and are filling the tank with growth. I can't imagine how fast they'll grow in soil... I'll be all day pruning them, lol.

Java fern is dead easy to grow, and does best tied to wood with cotton. The roots attach to the wood after a time, the cotton disintigrates. You can't put the roots in substrate, they rot.

Java moss can also be tied to things. I just let mine clump around the tank atm. Can't kill it with an axe (not that I've tried) and it is proven to be a wonderful ammonia sink.

Crypts are easy to grow! Pop them in the substrate and forget them. They grow. Easy!

Anubias also like to be tied to wood or stone.. I use wood, as I like the tannins.

Hornworts' a good floater and a great ammonia sink. I'm thrilled to be getting a pile of that in the mail next week. Elodea's another good one. Pity about the wisteria, it's awesome, but there's plenty of alternatives.

Poke the soil once in a while (I have chopstick ready for that!) or get some Malaysian trumpet snails to help aerate the substrate and prevent toxic pocket of anaerobic gas.

And take pics! Can't forget the pics!

I'm thinking of typing up a plant guide, if nobody else wants to..
 

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Aus, it would actually be nice to do that, as the plant ones on here are not very good, they are alright but yeah, I think that we need a guide to keeping live plants. If you do I would he glad to help you do it. If you really want to, PM me or something to talk to me and we can work something out. I will do one of no one else does.

True, but to get noticeable results as in, not doing a water change in months is usually only achieved by having soil, unless you have really good substrate.
 

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Go for it! Your advice is right on!

Link to pic works just fine and its Size let's me have a closer look at plants. The tall stem plants with frilly tops look like water sprite to me. The second plant is a hygrophilia I believe.
My local stores either had no plants or a really poor selection ("we have java fern, java fern on rock, java fer on wreath, Amazon sword, and java fern." :O)...so I bought online. Aquabid sometimes has really good deals like pots (i got 150 ludwigia depend for 30 bucks after shipping. Some of my favorite aquabid sellers: p_volitan(large selection, grown in his aquariums, great to work with, very clean plants arrived w/o any deaths), praxis(+4 #s) ( huge selection of mosses, helpful, good communication), mikeswetpets, planted aquarium Central (very clean plants, great selection & communication, helpful, personal experience w/every plant sold).
I have bought a lot of plants from aquariumplants.com and Planted Aquarium Central(yes they have online store as well as selling on aquabid.

Note: I am fairly certain that I bought water wisteria from a NY seller off of aquabid!

Thank you kfryman for giving the percentage of fast growing stem plants needed to start up a NPT. Basically, you want to,fill tank w/fast growing stem plants which will soak up,excess nutrients such as ammonia and nitrate and nitrite.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Awesome, thank you raven! I will check these sellers out as soon as I have more money. I look forward to the Aus/kfryman collab on plants :3

And wow...that lfs really didn't know his stuff, then. I made a list of plants and both water sprite and hygrophilia were on there..he said he didn't have them...XD oh well. At least I ended up getting some of what I wanted!
 

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Aus, it would actually be nice to do that, as the plant ones on here are not very good, they are alright but yeah, I think that we need a guide to keeping live plants. If you do I would he glad to help you do it. If you really want to, PM me or something to talk to me and we can work something out. I will do one of no one else does.

True, but to get noticeable results as in, not doing a water change in months is usually only achieved by having soil, unless you have really good substrate.

Yup, but I think a lot of folks don't realise how very easy it is to grow a lush, heavily planted tank of low light plants in just gravel, or an easy-care 'semi-planted' tank, where the plants grow on wood or in little pots (I have those in my smallest tank, makes 100% water changes very easy! also, I can remove them if the fish needs to be treated for something - he's a fin biter >< ).

I'd love to help make a guide for planted tanks - perhaps the various kinds, pros/cons, plus species and why they're good to have / plants to avoid? I'd be happy to do it by PM. I already have a plants to avoid list..

Actually, looking over the low-light list, it's not bad. The basics are there. But I think something more comprehensive would also be good.
 

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I agree Aus. This site needs a more comprehensive guide, beginning with the different types of planted aquariums. Also, we do sorely a "dictionary/encyclopedia" of plants, what they look like, how to grow, etc...
If you want additional collaboration, PM me and I'll help in any capacity, even just proof reading/editing :)
 
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