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Elatine americana

February 25th, 2009

Elatine americana is a North American native plant found in the eastern half of the United States. It is a fragile looking plant, but bushes readily and has beautiful bright green leaves. Just like other Elatine species, Elatine americana can be aggressively trimmed to stay lower and increase branching. I think it may grow too upright to use as an effective foreground plant, but it is an excellent plant for the mid-ground.

Elatine americana

Elatine americana grows in cold weather climates, but I haven’t had any problems growing it in normal tropical temperatures. It grows rather quickly, especially with increased CO2 and fertilizers. I have not tried growing it under low-light or non-CO2 style aquariums, so I cannot speak for it’s suitability in these situations.

Elatine americana

Elatine americana is one of the few new plants in the hobby that has fantastic aquascaping potential. For that reason, I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fine-leafed midground plant, background plant in nano-tanks.




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75G – 2.5 Months In

February 18th, 2009

My 75G aquascape is now roughly two and a half months old and is doing great! The Glossostigma elatinoides is starting to spread across the foreground, albeit, slower than usual since it’s fairly shaded there. The Staurogyne sp. (Hygrophila sp. ‘Low Grow’) needs a trim in the front left foreground, as does the Ludwigia repens x arculata in the left-middle background, but otherwise, this is quickly becoming one of my favorite tanks to just sit and look at.

75G - 2-18-2009

I’ve trimmed back the Hygrophila sp. ‘Guinea’ (feathery green on left below), and am hoping that it reacts well to the trimming, as I love this plant. I think the red of the Ludwigia arculata is a great contrast to the H. sp. ‘Guinea’ as well.

75G - Left Side

I’ve added a few more Ancistrus sp. ‘L279’ to this tank that I previously had in my 54G aquarium before I changed that to a native aquarium. From that same tank, I also added the remaining Goo Obo Gudgeon that I have. I’d love to obtain more of that particular fish so that I could try to breed them.

75G - Under the Arch

Overall, I’m really pleased with this aquarium. Once the glosso finishes covering the substrate, and with a few trims, I’m looking forward to trying to get some better photographs of it. Comments/critiques welcome!

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54G – Native Plant Aquascape – 2 Weeks

February 16th, 2009

The aquascape utilizing plants native to my area is now 2 weeks old in my 54G corner aquarium. Starting last week, I began getting lots of green spot algae on the glass indicating that the initial burst of phosphates in the ADA Aquasoil was starting to run out. So, after conducting a few tests, I did a water change, and began dosing phosphate, potassium, and traces, and soon after, the plants (and algae) are responding well.

54G - Native Plants, 2 Weeks

After my initial planting, I have added Elatine americana and Eleocharis acicularis. I wanted the hairgrass around the rocks to be a little bit taller, so I used Eleocharis acicularis there. I’m in the process of acquiring Eleocharis parvulus, which is much shorter to use in the more wide open areas. Elatine americana is the beautiful fine-leaved plant to the right of the large rock, which some club members collected in NJ, but is also native to Maryland. I’m still planning on putting Proserpinaca palustris and Rotala ramosior in this tank once I grow out a few more stems in other aquariums. Once my plants are little more established, I’ll add the fish, but that’s likely at least a month away. Comments/critiques welcome!

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Lighting

February 13th, 2009

Starting a planted aquarium can seem like a daunting task. Most hobbyists start out small, gradually learning by trial and error what works and what doesn’t, and piece together information from books and websites until they finally either succeed or get frustrated and leave the hobby forever. In this series of posts, I’m going to attempt to outline the most important aspects of setting up a planted aquarium. Hopefully this will become a valuable resource to anyone new to the hobby, or experienced fish-keepers who are looking to setup a planted aquarium.

2.5G - 08-31-2008

More than any other factor, lighting is the driving force that determines plant growth rates and fertilizer/CO2 requirements. Before purchasing a light for your tank, you need to determine what your ultimate aspirations in the hobby are. Do you want to be able to grow any type of plant? Do you mind spending time trimming your plants every week? Do you want to inject CO2 or add fertilizers on a regular basis? Lighting doesn’t completely determine all of these things, but it definitely has a significant impact on them.

Light Levels

The amount of light placed over your tank is often measured in watts (W). There are many resources that recommend a range of watts per gallon ratios (WPG) for categories called “low light,” “medium light,” and “high light” tanks. Unfortunately, the whole WPG paradigm is not a perfect formula for success. Instead, the height of the aquarium is more important than the volume. Water diffuses light so it is very difficult for light to penetrate deep into a body of water. This is why the tops of your plants near the light are often red and vigorous growers, but lower leaves remain green, or melt away altogether. Infer from this that the taller your aquarium is, the more light you will need to adequately grow plants, especially foreground plants near the substrate.

To demonstrate how the WPG rule falls apart, on a 2.5G aquarium, 26W of light would be 10.4 WPG. On a 75G aquarium, 220W would be 2.93WPG. Both are considered high light tanks, with relatively equivalent plant growing capacity. For a smaller tank, the WPG ratio is likely to be skewed due to the fact that plants need a base level of light to grow. Combine that with the smaller stature of a 2.5G tank relative to the 75G aquarium, and you don’t need a ton of light. A 75G aquarium is 20 inches tall, so much more light is required to penetrate to the bottom of the aquarium. Much less and the foreground plants could be leggy, and reach for the surface instead of crawling along the substrate.

Keeping the height and volume discrepancies in mind, in general, light levels for fluorescent fixtures can be determined as follows:

  • 0-1 WPG Low Light
  • 1-2.5 WPG Medium Light
  • 3-4+ WPG High Light

LED fixtures are an entirely different beast. A 25w fixture can output light superior to a 350W HOT5 and metal halide fixture. As such, for LED fixtures you must rely on PAR (Photosynthetically active radiation), the measurement of the amount of photosynthetically active wavelengths in light. To define light levels, you should figure out how much PAR you have at the substrate. Here is a rough guideline. These guidelines are true for florescent and incandescent fixtures as well:

  • 0 – 30 PAR – Low Light
  • 30 – 80 PAR – Medium Light
  • 80-120 PAR – High Light

If you have at least 80 PAR at the substrate, you should be able to meet the lighting requirements for almost any plant in the hobby.

Choosing the Right Plants

Taiwan Moss

It is very possible to have a beautifully planted aquarium with very low light levels. In order to achieve this, you must choose only plants that are predisposed to growing with less light. Some examples of these plants are Anubias, Cryptocoryne, Bolbitus, Java Fern, Swords, Vallisneria, most mosses, and a small handful of stem plants. While there are a large number of species within these genera, your plant selection is quite curtailed from that of higher light levels. These plants will grow extremely slowly in low light, which means that they will not require frequent trimming, but if you suffer from an algae outbreak, it will likely take longer to recover since new growth will not as quickly replace the old algae-laden leaves. Some other plants will grow, but may exhibit larger leaves, leggy growth, and green coloration. Of course, the low-light tanks are inexpensive to setup and maintain, so they do have some appealing qualities.

As you increase the light levels over your aquarium, the number and types of plants that will grow expands rapidly. Hundreds of different stem plants become viable, as do several foreground plants that are impossible to grow under lower light levels. Of course, the added light also causes plants to grow faster, thus using more nutrients and requiring more frequent trimming. While CO2 is used most readily in higher light tanks, I recommend CO2 supplementation for all light levels.

Kelvin Ratings

So far, we’ve only talked about the intensity of the light, but not the quality. Plants use specific colors within the light spectrum for photosynthesis, so it makes sense that not every bulb will adequately supply the type of light needed for plant growth. The color of a bulb is determined by the bulbs’ Kelvin rating. There are many different Kelvin ratings that will work, but the most popular are 6500K, 8000K, and 10,000K. Bulbs in the 6500K range are usually a little bit yellow-cast, while 10,000K bulbs are more bluish. I prefer to mix colors, which tends to illuminate the tank in a more natural way. If the bulb isn’t labeled with a Kelvin rating, most “daylight” or “full spectrum” bulbs will work, as will “plant grow” bulbs. Stay away from most “cool white” or general purpose bulbs. Even within the Kelvin ranges, one 6500K bulb may be more or less yellow than another manufacturer’s 6500K bulb. Experiment with a few different brands to find the one that looks the best to your eye. (Don’t be surprised if more expensive bulbs last longer, and produce a more appealing type of light.)

Degradation of Quality Light

To make matters even more complicated, the quality of light that is produced by a light bulb decreases over its lifespan. Generally speaking, a brand new bulb will appear much brighter, and produce a more photosynthesis-friendly light source than bulbs that are more than a year old. The type of bulb makes a difference, as does the daily operating temperature of the bulb, but a good rule of thumb is to replace your light bulbs yearly regardless of whether or not they have burned out. Obviously, if you can reuse these bulbs in household fixtures that would be ideal. If not, be sure to dispose of them properly (not in your regular trash), as most of these bulbs contain mercury. LED generally have a much longer degradation period, lasting 5 or more years, however, unlike bulbs, they continue to emit the same quality of light, just at a decreased brightness. You can extend the life of your LEDs by dimming them over their lifetime.

Photo Periods

Intermatic Digital TimerThe photo period is the amount of time that you have the light turned on over your planted aquarium. The recommended time for most aquariums is 10-12 hours. If you notice that your stems plants are closing up toward the end of the day, they’re done photosynthesizing, and there’s no benefit to leaving the light on any longer. In addition, if the lights are on too long, algae can advantageously utilize the extra light. Lighting systems containing multiple bulbs or fixtures can be timed to run less bulbs in the morning and evening, and more bulbs during the middle of the day, simulating dawn, mid-day, and dusk light levels. For consistency, I recommend using a timer for your lights regardless of your lighting scheme.

Lighting Options

Once you’ve decided whether you want a low-light or high-light planted aquarium, you now have to choose from a variety of lighting technologies. Fortunately (and unfortunately) there are lots of options to choose from, allowing you to customize your light solution to the specific needs of your aquarium. I’m going to give a brief overview of the most common options:

AGA Strip LightNormal-Output Fluorescent

Normal-output fluorescent lights are the standard fluorescent light tubes that are common in business ceiling lights, and the type of light fixture that’s often bundled with new aquarium purchases. Unfortunately, these fixtures are not appropriate for anything but low-light setups. Be sure to purchase plant-appropriate bulbs, and replace them yearly. Even for low-light tanks, you will likely want to invest in a double or triple tube solution. The reflectors in most of these fixtures are not very good, so a lot of light is not properly directly into the aquarium.

Power Compact Fluorescent (PC)

Just as power compact bulbs are growing in popularity for household use, they are also widely used with planted aquariums due to better efficiency and intensity than their normal fluorescent counterparts. They do produce a moderate amount of heat, and due to the width of the bulb, they suffer from some restrike problems. (Restrike is when light is emitted from the bulb, bounces off of a reflector, and goes right back toward the bulb, instead of going into the aquarium.) Overall, cost wise, PC fixtures often give you the best bang for your buck.

T5 Fluorescent Lighting

TEK T5 Lighting SystemT5 lighting is immensely popular in the planted aquarium arena. T5 bulbs are smaller in diameter than normal-output fluorescent bulbs, but otherwise look similar. The difference is that high-output (HO) bulbs and fixtures are available that produce far more light. In addition, due to their smaller diameter, less heat is generated and restrike is not as much of an issue. In a fixture where each bulb is wrapped in its own individual reflector, the efficiency is very high, producing extremely good results.

Metal Halide (MH)

Iwasaki 6500K MH BulbMetal Halide lighting is commonly used in the hydroponics industry as grow lights. The technology has been in the aquarium hobby for a number of years, particularly on the reef side. These lights are very good at penetrating to the bottom of tall tanks, and produce an incredibly bright light. They also produce a mesmerizing shimmer on the bottom of the aquarium. The biggest downside to metal halides is the heat that they generate, making them less efficient than most other forms of lighting. Of course, the amount of light produced can really drive plant growth and colors to the extremes.

LED Lighting

LED lights are taking the aquarium hobby by storm. There are already a few planted aquarium specific LED fixtures on the market. The benefit of this type of lighting is the extremely high efficiency of the light, with very low heat generated. In addition, LED lights are directionally oriented, so they do not require reflectors, and thus restrike is not an issue. In addition, the directional light combined with any surface ripples create the same shimmer effect that metal halides produce. Many LED fixtures include dimming capability that allow you to convert your lighting from low light to high light at the touch of a button. Finally, high-end lights include all kinds of features ranging from custom color configuration, lighting storm and cloud effects, moon lights, ramping up/down the light to simulate the movement of the sun, and more.

Do It Yourself Solutions

There are many DIY solutions to lighting a planted aquarium. The simplest DIY method is to purchase a retrofit kit for any of the above technologies, and install that into a custom built canopy or light strip. You can also rewire existing normal-output fluorescent fixtures to overdrive them, producing about 1.5X the amount of light that they normally would produce. I have seen examples of people using regular screw-in light bulbs in a canopy to light the aquarium. There are also excellent LED kits that allow you to completely customize the intensity and color of your light. In all, if you can think it, you can do it. Just be sure that you use good electrical practices, and that the bulbs you use are suited to grow plants.

Combined Solutions

There are several fixtures on the market that combine two types of lighting technology. The most popular is to combine PC/T5 lighting with MH in one fixture. These fixtures are designed to run efficient power compact lights for most of the day, with the metal halide light running in the middle of the day as  a noon-burst. This is supposed to emulate the 3-hour period of the day where the sun is most intense.


Reflectors

While reflectors aren’t part of every lighting solution, they DO make a difference in the effectiveness of your equipment. The shape of the reflector, as well as, the shininess impact its ability to direct more light into the aquarium. Parabolic (rounded) reflectors are generally better than rectangular ones. Polished aluminum is generally better than white or other types. In addition, using one reflector for each bulb in your fixture is generally better than using a single large reflector for all bulbs, as this minimizes restrike.

Summary

Lighting is an important part of every planted aquarium. The more light you have, the more you are pushing your plants to grow, which causes plants to need more resources to sustain that growth. If you do not adequately balance you light levels, CO2 injection, and fertilization schemes, you are asking for poor plant growth and algae problems. Fortunately, there is a lighting solution for every lifestyle and price point, so do your research and choose wisely. At this point, I would recommend any new hobbyist seriously consider investing in an LED fixture as they bring the best balance of light output, energy efficiency, customization, and configuration.

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Limnophila repens var. ‘Mini’ Flowers

February 10th, 2009

Limnophila repens var. ‘Mini’ is real name for what has been circulating throughout the hobby as simply Limnophila sp. ‘Mini’. It’s a very nice plant submersed, with smaller leaves than L. aromatica with a different coloring, and probably a more vigorous grower. Emersed, the two plants look fairly similar, exhibiting typical leaf shapes and flower forms for Limnophilas.

Limnophila repens var. 'Mini'

The flower is a nice soft purple color, rising from the stem. As you can see above, flowers can appear at every node. Both submersed and emersed, the leaves have a serrated edge, and a noticably pleasant peppery smell. It is actually kind of a peppery rosemary smell, which is distinctly different from L. aromatica’s scent.

Limnophila repens var. 'Mini'

I do have to admit that I did not flower this plant, but I helped a friend from GWAPA take some pictures of these plants. Nevertheless, I’m always excited when aquatic plants flower!

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40G – Farm Tank

February 8th, 2009

I just wanted to share a picture of my completely non-aquascaped 40G farm tank. This is the aquarium where I grow out plants for use in future aquascapes, or hang onto plants that I don’t want in one of my current aquascapes, but don’t want to get rid of either. This is the 40G aquarium that has earthworm castings underneath a top layer of ADA Amazonia Aquasoil. I dose Flourish and Flourish Iron daily, adding Potassium every once in awhile, but otherwise it does pretty well on it’s own.

40G - Farm Tank

One of the benefits of keeping an aquarium like this, as opposed to an emersed tank, is that plants grown in here are immediately ready to go into another aquarium when needed. When plants grow too large in this tank, I just trim them out, and take them to club auctions or sell online. Farm tanks also let you truly use only the plants you want in an aquascape, without feeling the need to cram a plant into the aquarium just so you don’t lose it. I have no idea how many different species of plants are crammed into this tank. I’m convinced that if I had a 1000 gallon aquarium, I’d somehow find a way to fill it with plant mass. The biggest challenge is ensuring that no single group of plants shade out others, as it’s easy to lose track of what’s growing where. Nevertheless, I highly recommend keeping a farm tank of some size as a way of improving the aquascapes in your other aquariums.

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Substrate

February 4th, 2009

Starting a planted aquarium can seem like a daunting task. Most hobbyists start out small, gradually learning by trial and error what works and what doesn’t, and piece together information from books and websites until they finally either succeed or get frustrated and leave the hobby forever. In this series of posts, I’m going to attempt to outline the most important aspects of setting up a planted aquarium. Hopefully this will become a valuable resource to anyone new to the hobby, or experienced fish-keepers who are looking to setup a planted aquarium.

20L using SoilMaster Select

I remember how choosing the proper substrate for an aquarium used to be as easy as picking the color your wanted from a palette of about 10 colors, ranging from black to neon pink. For planted aquariums, the choice isn’t nearly as straight forward, but depending on your decision, the implications are quite significant. Fortunately, there are many right answers to which substrate is used, so it’s just a matter of knowing what each choice requires of you in order to be successful.

What to Look For

There are a few common attributes that should be sought from whatever substrate you choose. In general, you want something that is attractive, and will look natural with the plants and hardscape you are choosing. I would suggest going with browns, grays, and blacks instead of any of the colored substrates. In addition, plain gravel is usually not a great substrate for plants, although it can be done. The main reason is that gravel is 100% inert, meaning that it cannot absorb and store nutrients for the plant roots to later consume. There’s a more technical term for this called the cation exchange capacity (CEC), which defines how easily a given substance can exchange positively charged ions between itself and a solution. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about the technicalities of this besides trying to avoid plain gravel if possible.

Another thing to consider is the granule size of whatever substrate you are evaluating. Anything much bigger than pea-sized is going to be difficult to physically plant in. In addition, more delicate and smaller plants, may be unable to navigate the larger granule size, making it impossible to plant a field of hairgrass or similar type of aquascape. Very fine sand should also be avoided as it is inert, and can compact on the roots, causing anaerobic conditions.

Commerical Substrates

Fortunately, there are several commercial substrates available that are specially designed for planted aquarium use. Unfortunately, many of these come with a high upfront cost, which should be considered.

Seachem Flourite

Seachem FlouriteOne of the most widely available substrates on the market for planted aquariums is Seachem Flourite. Originally a course reddish clay-based material, Seachem has now expanded their product line to include several other colors and granule types, including the attractive Flourite Black Sand. For all but the lowest-light tanks, planted aquariums using these products will require supplemental fertilization for plants to get the nutrition they need, but Flourite has an excellent CEC rating, ensuring that these fertilizers will be captured for use by the roots. For the traditional Flourite products, many people prefer to pre-rinse the substrate before putting it into their tank to remove any particulate matter that often initially clouds the tank. In my experience, you can get away with not rinsing, but you must be cognizant of minimally disturbing the substrate when initially filling the aquarium, and when uprooting plants. The original Flourite is sometimes too large for some small foreground plants, but their newer sand product lines correct that.

CaribSea Eco-Complete

CaribSea Eco-CompleteAnother widely available commericial substrate is CaribSea’s Eco-Complete. Eco-Complete is an attractive substrate, resembling black sand with a small granule size. Differentiating itself from Flourite, Eco-Complete comes with bacterial starting liquid in the bag, so it should not be rinsed prior to use. This substrate also will require fertilization in most aquariums, but should be capable of growing nearly any type of plant you throw at it. The substrate is fairly dense, doing a good job of holding plants down where you plant them.

ADA Substrate Line

ADA Aquasoil AmazoniaCurrently, the premium line of planted aquarium substrates on the market are made by Aqua Design Amano, operated by planted aquarium and aquascaping guru, Takashi Amano. The ADA substrate line can be confusing to understand at first, but essentially, it consists of 4 components: additives, Power Sand, Aquasoil, and Bright Sand. When setting up an aquarium, you first sprinkle some additives on the bottom of the aquarium. These can include Tourmaline BC, Clear Super, Bacter 100, among others. These additives are designed to provide additional minerals, jump start bacterial colonies, and aide in maintaining clear water. Then, Power Sand, a porous stone mixed with peat and other nutrients is added. Power Sand aides in preventing compaction over time, so that water continues to flow throughout the substrate after years of use. On top, Aquasoil is used either in the whole aquarium, or just in the background. If you want a decorative white sand foreground, you would put Bright Sand there instead of the Aquasoil. The most commonly used product is Amazonia Aquasoil.

Unfortunately, the ADA product line is only sold at a handful of shops in the U.S., but is available online from Aquarium Design Group and Aqua Forest Aquarium. As you can imagine, this product line is more expensive to use in most cases than other more widely available commercial substrates. In my opinion, the main reason to choose the ADA brand is that it comes out of the bag with a ton of nutrients, jump starting your aquascape without the need for dosing. Keep in mind, however, that after 4-6 weeks, additional fertilization will be required after that initial burst. In addition, Aquasoil buffers the water, ensuring a more acidic environment which is proven to facilitate the uptake of nutrients by plants. Finally, as a planting medium the weight, consistency, and granule size is ideal for holding plants in place. I recommend doing several water changes per week for the first two weeks after initially using Aquasoil to ensure that your pH and nutrient levels do not become too extreme. For this reason, you may want to wait a couple weeks before adding fish to your tank. In the end, it’s worth it, as your plants should be healthy, and ready to support the extra bioload that fish bring.

Other Commercial Substrates

Soilmaster SelectThere are quite a few other substrates available commercially, but the three I have mentioned are the ones I have personal experience with. These other substrates are most likely just fine to use, but be sure to research other aquarists’ experiences prior to using. In addition to  substrates that are specifically designed for planted aquariums, another substrate which has been widely used is SoilMaster Select (SMS). This is actually a turf product designed for use on baseball fields, but through experimentation, it has been found to work very well in aquariums. Like Aquasoil, it slightly reduces the KH of your water, providing a good acidic environment for the roots. It also has fine granules, and an extremely high CEC. The downside of SMS of that it’s fairly lightweight, so strong currents can blow it around. It does a reasonable job at holding down plants, but I would make the substrate a little bit deeper than with some of the other heavier ones available. With no inherent nutritional value, you should expect to provide supplemental fertilization from day one. The main benefit is that a $16-$20/bag of SMS will completely fill a 75G aquarium, while most of the other substrates would cost 5X or more for the same tank. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that SMS has been discontinued by the manufacturer, but hopefully a replacement product-line will arise that is similarly suitable for aquarium use.

Soil Substrate

There is another DIY substrate that is gaining use in the hobby. While traditionally, many people have recommended against using soil in the aquarium due to huge algae outbreaks, recent formulas for success have been developed to make this a viable option. Diana Walstad, author of Ecology of the Planted Aquarium has garnered a following for her low-tech, el Natural, style of soil-based aquariums. One of my fellow GWAPA members, Sean Murphy, has also developed his own mineralized soil substrate recipe, which has attracted much use throughout the hobbyist community. The key benefit to setting up one of these tanks is that very little dosing is required on a day-to-day basis, as all of the nutrients should be present within the soil itself.

Soil substrates are not for everyone. They cannot grow plants that draw nutrients from the water column, instead of via their root systems. In addition, there is a 4-8 week preparation process of breaking down the organic material in your soil, prior to setting up your tank. Finally, even after running this process, you may or may not experience a period of severe algae while the ecosystem of the tank is established. That said, once established, the substrate has been proven to last at least a decade. The full process of setting up a mineralized soil substrate tank can be found here.

Plain Gravel + Additives

Pure LateriteIf none of these other options are amenable to you, it is possible to have some moderate success using plain gravel. I will stress that it is much preferred to use any of the other options detailed above, but if you insist on using gravel, you ought to at least supplement it with a few additives placed underneath. Most importantly, make sure to add laterite, an iron-rich mineral, which can be purchased in most pet stores. In addition, a small amount of peat will help acidify the substrate and provide a material with a decent CEC ratio. I would also encourage you to use form of fertilizer sticks/pellets, such as Seachem’s Flourish Tabs, which will add other trace nutrients to your substrate. Finally, expect to have to add additional fertilization, especially in high-light+CO2 setups. Again, this solution should be your last choice.

Summary

Choosing a proper substrate is an integral part of a successful planted aquarium. There are several out-of-the-box solutions that can get you up and running very quickly. If you would prefer a more natural substrate, topsoil-based substrates can also do the job quite well. There may be some trial and error involved in finding a substrate that fulfills the aesthetic or dosing regimen that you’re striving for. I hope that you now understand the most popular options that other hobbyists are employing.

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54G – New Native Aquascape

February 2nd, 2009

54G - New Native Aquascape!This weekend I finally got around to tearing down my old aquascape in the 54G corner aquarium, and setting up the basis for a new one that I’ve been wanting to do for some time. The theme of this aquarium will now be all native plants, rocks, and fish. I do not consider this a biotope tank as it currently stands because I plan on using plants from the Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. area, but not necessarily plants that all reside together in the same waterway in the wild.

The hardscape is made of up slate that a few GWAPA members and I collected several years ago. I would have liked to add more rocks to this aquascape, but many of the rocks in my backyard are frozen in the ground, as I reused a number of them this past summer to fill some groundhog holes. (Not the greatest foresight, admittedly!)

For fish, I will be moving my Blue-spotted Sunfish and Banded Killifish into this tank once it settles in. For plants, I’m hoping to fill in the foreground with a field of Eleocharis parvulus (dwarf hairgrass) once it comes into my local shop. Otherwise, I’m using Ludwigia palustris, Proserpinaca pectinata, Proserpinaca palustris, Lobelia cardinalis, Potamogetonaceae sp. (looks like P. diversifolius or Stuckenia pectinata), and a local Eleocharis species that gets about 1 foot tall. I’ll likely add Rotala ramosior once it grows out for me a little bit in another tank.

54G - New Native Aquascape!

One of the things that had been preventing me from doing this tank is the fact that these corner tanks are so difficult to light. Previously, I had a JBJ 2x65W PC fixture on top, which did an okay, but would never grow hairgrass in the foreground. So, I saved up a little bit, and ordered a nice fixture from Catalina Aquarium, which is 4x24W T5, with a 250W metal halide bulb in the center. I made an ADA knock-off stand out of electrical conduit to hang the light from, and now should have more than enough light to deal with. I hooked up the CO2 tank, added some ADA Powersand and Amazonia Aquasoil, and am ready to go. Hopefully these plants will grow quickly into a great centerpiece for my livingroom, where I’ll have collecting stories for many of the things within.

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