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Thinking about fertilised substrate in already established tank?!

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So in our 300L tank which we set up under the impression that nutrient tablets in the gravel are good enough.. It doesn't seem to be the best option. We have a little cheapie CO2 system the fills a "bell" with CO2. Basically an compressed gas cylingder, like any other spray, just CO2.

Over the tank we have 4 x 39W T5HO, 2 x Gro-lux (Plant Growth Tubes) and 2 x AquaStar (Daylight 10000K).

From what I've read fertilized substrates are the best way to go but was wondering about adding some after the tanks been running about 5 months?

If so, what substrates would you recommend? Also, How should it be done?

If not, what else can we do?

Would a decent CO2 system work better?

If so, Is 'pure' welding CO2, or even CO2 for Soda Fountains safe for fish? - Just cheapish options for CO2.. Maybeee

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You don't need to buy fertilised substrate or co2 when starting out whats more important is to get the basics down and be able to grow a jungle with low light demands with low or no co2 demands as well if you can do that then go for fertilised substrate as it can cause problems if the basics are not learned like lots and lots of algae lol :D

So what substrate you could use ether ada amazonia or eco complete, I've only used ada amazonia for the last 3 years or so and it will grow your plants like crazy even with out co2 but adding it to a running tank would be a massive job I personally don't think it's worth it for the trouble but would setup a new tank instead hope that answers the question.

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I love that eco complete because its just ready to rock and roll. The ada is great as well, but you have to be ready for the nutrient spike as its more intense.

I have had decent success just adding in fert tabs to established planted tanks, especially the dino dung with things like swords, lotus and lace plants. Basically big feature plants.

Its certainly harder to get great results when you are planting lots of little plants, like ground covers.


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We have been using Seachem Tabs but either we are just choosing bad plants or we doing something else wrong. We have an amazonian sword which all but died when we first added it to the tank. After removing the carbon and severely cutting it back its growing slowly. Another sword type plant has grown well in the tank too. We are really looking for some nice easy to care for plants which are tall (as the tanks 2ft tall), bushy (for hiding spots and coverage) and nice looking. Anything come to mind?

Also we have very little algae grow, at least no more than one 6cm bristle nose can handle well :)

Edited by Oromis
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Well those aluminium plants are doomed for starters.

hmmm not many rocks or wood.

And nice dark sand.

Firstly I would hide the heaters.

Either with bunches of elodea, or a healthy apontagenton plant with a nice siced nut on it.

Next I would throw in a few cheap banana lillys...... just to try them.

You may fall in love lol

Theres a fair bit of yellow on the leaves of your anubias.

Is this a recent photo?

If so you may want to add in some liquid fertilizer like API leafzone that the anubias roots can feed on.

A couple of bunches of wisteria will really fill out that tank quite a lot, while you work on what to replace it with.

What temperature are you running?

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Okay then. Since the photo they've grown big think hairy 'spines' all over their stems.

The photo is about a month old when we rescaped the tank. We have started adding a Florish, Florish - Nitrogen, Phopshorus and Potassium to try and help the yellowing and dark leaves. We also added a fresh lot of Tabs to the gravel.

We run the tank at 26degrees and for the most part sits perfectly there. We'll hide the heaters, maybe drop them down or lie the down lower a bit. (Unrelated but we were thinking of swapping the two heaters out for one 200W/150W jager heater with the belief that they can handle 2L/W, is this true?)

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It can be done and people do it fairly frequently with good success from what I have gathered. I am doing it today in fact, but it seems mine will probably be a larger logistical problem because I have more fish in my tank haha. From the research I did and compiling a few peoples information on what has worked for them, this is what I can say.

The main reasons for changing or enriching your substrate are going to be for either one or a combination of

- Aesthetic purposes (don't like the look of the old substrate and you want a change

- Enhancing plant growth or quality of growth by utilising a new substrate with a higher Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) and/or mineral/fertiliser enrichment

- Changing the gravel size (also kind of for aesthetics but can be considered beneficial depending on the types of plants you have and the root systems they use)

- Changing the substrate to alter your water parameters (some Fluval substrates can be used to set a lower pH, and some (most?) black gravels appear to buffer the water at a higher pH (somewhat frustratingly)

The main choices in no particular order are:

- Using a pre-made tried and tested, "it just works!" plant substrate. This is probably the simplest method, and arguably the most effective long term method. If you can wait a little while and plan a little longer, you could get some Eco Complete from AOA once it is back in stock. It's recommended by a lot of people and someone correct me if I am wrong but I don't think the newer formulation will cause an ammonia spike? Which is obviously pretty important.

- Doing some more research and having a go at a DIY substrate system. A lot of people swear by these and if you plan it properly they can really compete well with the pre-prepared all-in-one options. The main downsides are that if you don't plan it properly, don't have your plants ready for planting and/or use too many fertilisers / the wrong fertilisers you're going to end up with a huuuuuuuuuuge mess of either algae, dirt in your tank, dead fish or possibly all of the above. The positives for this method are that it is significantly cheaper, you gain a lot more knowledge on your plants and their requirements, and you can tailor it to the types of plants you like/are using.

- Modify the substrate you have now. So this would be similar to the second option but if you're only using DIY CO2 and pick the right plants, you could get away with just adding substrate to the already established tank. This would be pretty simple, and your options are varied. You could either mix in some Eco-Complete or other enriched substrate to get the ratio you want. This would save you money I guess, because you wouldn't need as much.

Once you have figured out what you're going to do, you need to figure out how you are going to do it. If it gives you any insight, my plan for today is as follows:

- Wash all the new substrates I am planning on adding, and have them by the tank ready to go

- Take out a small amount of tank water into a tray and then remove all the plants I already have in the tank. They can then be trimmed (roots and stems) for replanting

- Obviously turn off my canister filter and lock the valves in place so it retains water and doesn't need re-priming.

- Remove the hardscape from the tank (not a big job in my tank)

- Drain about half of the tank water into a storage container that has a bio filter, just to provide the fish with some oxygenated water. Then obviously also transfer the heater over to this container.

- Once everything is out of the tank and it's at about half-capacity, I will catch the fish. Removing everything first makes it easier obviously, and stresses them less (hopefully) with a quick catch and transfer.

- After all the fish are in the container I will transfer more of the tank water in with them, and then siphon the rest onto the garden.

- Then it's just a simple matter of scooping out the old substrate with an empty container and adding the freshly washed new substrate layers. Then I plan to add about 2cm of water above the substrate to make replanting easier.

- Give it a tidy and then begin the tedious job of replanting everything (after adding the hardscape)

- Transfer the water back and top it all off with fresh water, and obviously also adding the fish

I guess the key point is planning the order you're going to do it in and then having everything ready to go so you can minimise the stress on the fish. Depending on what substrate you choose there may be other considerations to take into account. Some of them might not let you put fish back in for up to a few weeks, depending on what filtration you have, if you remove all the old substrate or not (loss of beneficial bacteria), the fertiliser you have added, etc.

Hope this post gave you some sort of idea as to how you can do it, best of luck.

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Good post [MENTION=10186]mjt90[/MENTION]

You are correct that the eco complete wont ammonia spike the tank.

Also the new ista substrates are black, and will lock your ph @ either 6.5 or 5.5

One bit of advice I have for your move is to give your cannister filter a clean first, in a few bucket of aquarium water.

This mission may take you a while so you dont want the cannister filter shut off AND sealed up. Any oxygen in the cannister will be rapidly used up and then the microbes will start to die off.

If you clean the media, there is less organics in there to drain oxygen.

A perfect solution if you have an airstone is to then place it into the cannister with its head still removed, and refilled with aquarium water just enough to cover the media.

If you dont have an airstone then I reccomend leaving the cannister with its head off anyway. That way it can breath.

Obviously you need some water in it to prevent it drying out......... but having it open is even more important.

To transport I tip all the media in a bucket and put a battery powered air pump on it.

Good luck with the rescape.

But remember.......... pictures or it never happened!

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My original though was to get some pre made substrate and slowly over a few water changes thoroughly gravel vac a portion of the tank then mix into the current gravel some of the thoroughly washed fertilised stuff. With the hope that it would be less stress full to the fish and overall easier. Not aiming for a rich fertilised substrate. More of a low medium fertilised substrate that suitable plants would grow in without tabs and with less fertiliser additives.

My current though is along the lines of find a decent store nearby or that ships to buy specific plants that will do well with what we already have/can do with tablets. As it seems that adding the substrate could be a much bigger, more disruptive job than thought. I also really don't want to screw the cycle round too much.

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Don't go overboard, keep it simple,just buy some small sized (2 to 3 mm) river gravel at your local Landscape people, a bucket full usually is $3, wash well and add to your tank. I find that ALL plants grow very well in it. Keep up the root tbs (find the ones that work or make your own) and liquid ferts. Co2 is not needed unless you want to grow a jungle and forever trim it.

All my tanks are low tech and doing well on the above.

Good Luck!

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You haven't said how deep your gravel is... Plants like swords that have a big root ball, need deep gravel. Like 10cm deep. Personally, I've found coffs harbour gravel works really well. I'm not into the latest gravels and the higher prices of this n that.

you might have to bight the bullet and start from scratch. There's no reason you'll overly stress the fish doing so unless you set out to do so.

If you have a clean,new 40lt rubbish bin, dk green, you can put the fish in there for days with a heater and a small pump/airstone with no problem. Don't feed for 2-3 days before and keep a bottle of prime or waterager cn on hand.

Or a container you can make dark or you can put bin liners in a bucket ect.

Make sure you have proper aquatic plants and not marsh plants like aluminum. Don't know why shops sell that rubbish...

If you have co2, you'll have to watch the amount going into the tank as it can kill fish. The plants are the main thing of the tank not the fish.

Do some research on the net,books forums, shops and take bits and pieces and apply them for yourself. You're just starting so you're better off useing tried and tested methods instead of making up things yourself until you get the hang of it.

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If you want darker small gravel, the gravel I have in my turtle tank I got from our sponsor "Age of Aquariums", hit [MENTION=9246]Donny@ageofaquariums[/MENTION] up for some info and or prices.

This is what it looks like - Dark and Smallish


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That actually looks like blue ridge there

have to admit its picture on the website is not the greatest


We also have a new range of black from serenity


its not as rounded though, but it is darker.


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Our gravel bed is about 4cm deep on average. Its a black/dark quartz gravel.

So for swords and stuff we should add more gavel anyway?

Also the way I figure If I need to go through the trouble of adding more gravel I might as well add some fertilized stuff into the mix!

I would be thinking of getting two bags of eco complete for an extra 18kg of gravel in 20kg of what we already have

If we were going to redo the lot I'd be probably use this tank and set up the filter on it if it was going to take more than a day before we could put them back in.

Edited by Oromis
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Haha well if re-doing the tank from scratch with a bigger tank is an option then I reckon you should jump on that. If you're using an already-established external or even internal filter with eco-complete then I would imagine you wouldn't need to wait nearly as long for a cycle to stabilise the water, if at all? The big plus would be that you can set the tank up while you keep the fish happy in the already established tank, and then cut sick with some hardscaping and plant-scaping in the new tank, with no real time constraints.

What are the dimensions on both the tank you are using and the larger tank you're considering? My personal preference is for taller tanks with plants, because I think it lets your background develop a better height contrast to the midground/hardscape. Plus it means you can generally have more substrate in the bottom without it looking like a tank half-full of dirt. When I did mine the other day I ended up with 3 inches depth at the front and 4 inches at the back, which might not sound like much but the water level is only 15.5 inches haha. But it doesn't look silly because the tank height permits it. I will get some photos up in the next few days when I'm not slack!

Keep this thread updated!

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With the space we have its not an option to move the larger tank inside but the tank we do have is a 3x2x2ft tank.

The other tank is 4 foot long, but only about 4x1.5x1.5 so its not as deep, doesn't have as larger volume and honestly I don't trust that tank anywhere else but the shed at the moment! Kinda iffy in case it starts leaking...

The idea with the longer tank was as a place to temporarily house the fish whilst we tear down the tank and rescape it. (We also want to put a black or blue background on the tank to hide pipes, wires and the horrible horrible calcium marks on the back caused by the last owner (how the hell he managed that I will never know!)

We went out to visit a friend in Dayboro on her property and asked if we could take a look down at the creek for some drift wood and rocks, we scored two bits of drift wood we like and a whole bunch of rock to use! Not a bad haul overall. Were going to have fun trying to boil that to sterilize it and help water log it then just let it sit for a couple of weeks. (Were going away for two weeks to house sit for my partners cousin)

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