You’ve got to get the levels right from the beginning and getting basics wrong like lighting just gives you a headache later on.
If you have high lighting, then the only way you will have success is if you have CO2, lots of ferts and great water distribution, and….lots of plants that like high light! Slow growers in high light tanks just doesn’t really work.
Low light plants are like that for a reason – they grow slowly and you can’t push them on quicker than their genetics allow them to. The classic example is moss – it will never grow quickly, no matter what. If you try and force it on with high lighting and lots of CO2, you’ll probably end up stressing it out and making it go yellow rather than the wonderful green you want it to.
So before you commit to high lighting, have a good hard think about the types of plants that you genuinely want to grow, and if you’re not sure, start with lower lighting – you can always build on that if and when your mind changes.
So many newcomers to the hobby are blighted by poor information on the internet dated from years ago, and sadly it’s wrong. So I wanted to make it very very clear:
You cannot rely on fish waste for plant nutrition
If you rely on fish waste for nutrition, your plants will suffer a nutrient deficiency and algae will take hold. Now there are some plants (like vallis) which is like a weed and grows in almost nothing, providing water conditions are suitable. But I’m not talking about weed like plants. I’m talking about the plants sold on our website – the attractive potted one’s that look truly wonderful given the right fertilisers.
So please remember this, and spread the word. You have to give your plants nutrition, and that always comes in a bottle form.
I’m not keen on the concept of having discus that have been caught from the wild and then placed in a tank – for me, it’s just not right. I’m fine with captive bred fish – no problems there but snatched from the wild? Seems a very harsh transformation. Anyway, I stumbled across this clip which shows wild discus, but I appreciate the lengths the hobbyist has gone to in order to replicate a natural environment for them. It’s a little cramped in there but fascinating to watch.
What are your thoughts about wild discus in aquariums?
If your drop checker is staying blue, there is almost zero CO2 in your water. But here’s the thing…
Drop checkers don’t actually monitor CO2, they monitor pH. When you add CO2 (an acidic gas) into your tank, it reduces the pH. When your drop checker is showing blue, it’s telling you the pH is around 8 (far too high for plants). As you inject CO2 your drop checker will change colour (assuming you’re injecting enough CO2). The solution will begin to look a bit more green. When it hits a nice shade of green it means your pH is about 6.8 and your CO2 levels are 30ppm (parts per million). Green is the ideal colour to aim for and what you need to strive for.
But all too often hobbyists don’t inject ANYWHERE ENOUGH CO2. In a 100L tank, you need to start with 1 bubble per second for 8 hours a day.
Any changes you make to your CO2 flow rate needs to be done slowly. Remember your drop checker operates in the past – it’s not like a test kit in the respect that you take a sample of water and do a reading. There’s a delay of about 2 hours – this is how long it takes for your drop checker to change colour. So if you tweak your CO2 levels now, wait 2 hours, then see what colour it has changed to.
Always make small gradual changes to CO2 flow rate, otherwise you could overdose your fish with CO2 and see them gasping at the surface of your tank.
YouTube is just so inspirational sometimes and this clip below is no different. It a BIG tank at 265cm wide so it’s no nano. Apart from the aquascape being lovely, the owner of the tank has got it right for many reasons. Watch the vid, then read my comments.
You can see a substantial amount of CO2 coming out of the glass diffuser on the right hand side. So he gets a big tick there.
The plants swaying nicely which means that nutrients and CO2 are being distributed (this is no mean feat in a large tank). This is a key reason why he has no algae (apart from having a high plant mass).
Hydro Koralia pump (top right) is angled at 30 degrees directing water/CO2 into the main area of the tank – another tick.
Wood and rock placement is excellent. The 2 main islands placed slightly off centre is very easy on the eye – tick.
A lot of moss is used for this tank. This gives a great feeling of maturity and calmness. It appears to be java moss. Big tick.
Lots of small fish used. Bigger fish would detract from the aquascape. Tick.
Good use of transitional plants from foreground to midground – again this makes it look very natural and serene. Tick.
In summary this is a very skilled hobbyist who’s working his magic. Great job I’m sure you’ll agree.
Plants need trimming all the time. If you want them to look their best and remain healthy and bushy, then you need to get your scissors out and give your plants a good trim. And generally, I don’t mean a little snip here and there, I mean hack them off. Stem plants for example, need to be cut very heavy, perhaps 50% off each time. But what about plants that some of you may never trim? Cryptocorynes.
Below I found a lovely YouTube clip that shows how to trim Cryptocoryne’s. The angled scissors (very nice) make light work and are accurate enough to provide clean crisp cuts. Crypocoryne’s (particularly in the early days) can lose their leaves especially if there is some melt. But rather than wait until the leaves go all mushy, nip them off.
Lots of you keep and grow HC and I stumbled across this YouTube clip by the excellent aquascaper Mark Evans. He shows just how you need to clean your HC in a planted tank.Firm yet gently pushes on top of the HC means the dirt is removed by the roots hold the plant in place. Just perfect.
Well this is a debatable one but like everything we sell we have preferences. These are based on quality of results and price and for something to be recommended as the best aquarium fertiliser, it’s got to stand above the others.
So I like products that are convenient and I’m sure you do, and also one’s that don’t hurt the pocket too much. Ideally you should be using a fertiliser that contains everything in one bottle – you don’t want to be faffing about with lots of different bottles, trying to work out which one you need today and how much you should be using. This just adds to the confusion and you don’t need that with a planted tank. After all it should be simple.
You also want a fertiliser in which you don’t feel like you’re worrying about the cost of, as you do need quite a lot of fertiliser when you’re running a planted tank, in particular a CO2 infused one.
So this narrows it down considerably. There aren’t many ferts that fit this bill in order to qualify as what i describe as the best aquarium fertiliser. So which one is it? If you are running a planted tank which isn’t using pressurised CO2 then I am personally recommending Neutro T.
If you are using pressurised CO2 then I am recommending Neutro+.
In fact I recommend it so much that if you don’t get great results after using one of these products, I’ll give you your money back. Now which other retailers are that confident in the products the recommend?
No is the short answer to this and the reason for it is very simple.
They are grown in a nutrient rich jelly that has a shelf life like anything in this world. Typically, the faster the plant grows, the less time it can stay in the jellied pot. So plants such as mosses which grow very slowly can stay in their pots for probably a few months and if you pop them in the fridge, they will last even longer – but the fridge really needs a light in for them to survive for the longest amount of time.
Plants which grow quicker such as Glossostigma can’t live in the pots for that long as they’re fast growers. Incidentally in the summer they grow really fast even with little light so the amount of time the plant can stay in the pot for is relatively short. This can make it difficult for retailers as if they’re not sold in time, they have to be binned (ouch £££).
You can tell if the plant has been in the pot for too long as it begins to die off or go and a pale green colour – a bit like it’s dehydrated. It will be limp and probably smell funny when you lift the lid off.
But either way these Tropica 1-2-grow! plants are excellent and there’s just something very cool looking at a plant that has been grown in a lab. In addtion when you buy 1-2-grow! plants from us, you only ever receive super fresh plants as we never send out anything less than 100%.
Not because they’re small bags, it’s because the grain size is half the size of the normal soil. And this is useful why?
When you place rocks or wood in your tank you want the soil to look as natural as possible right? Right. But the normal sized Flora-Base, whilst being excellent is not the most subtle – by that I mean your eye can be drawn to where the rock or wood meets the soil. Now if you use the 2.5L bag of Flora-Base, the soil grain size is much smaller – less than half actually. So here’s what you need to do.
Create your aquascape with your wood and rock using the 5L or 10L bags of Flora-Base. It doesn’t matter whether you use brown or black – they both work the same. Take your time – it’s meant to be fun remember 🙂
Then, use a 2.5L bag of Flora-Base and pour this where the wood or rock meets the substrate and you’ll suddenly realise why it looks so good. Suddenly the transition is super smooth and it looks very natural. The smaller grain smooths over any cracks and it looks just as nature intended.
Of course, you can also use the 2.5L bag for creating a foreground that looks smooth and in nano tanks where the grain size needs to be smaller due to the overall aquascape being smaller.
Lots of you have a particular gravel or sand that you like and understandably so. The problem is sand and gravel contains zero nutrients so whilst the plants may anchor down well, they get diddly squat from it. Sure you can add liquid fertilisers, but lets not forget plants absorb from their leaves and their roots.
Now if you’re anything like me, you want to make sure your plants get the best, so that they grow as they should and look in tip top shape. And recently, I’ve been having a lot of conversations about hobbyists who really don’t want to use anything but their chosen sand and they’re hell bent on using it! So here’s the solution:
This 5L bag has been created by the commercial plant growers and is based on 25 years of experience. Contains more nutrients than you can shake a stick at and is super economical at only £9.99 each (1 bag per 40x60cm base)
Dead easy to use, just pour the bag on the bottom of your tank, spread it about then top with your chosen gravel. Cool heh?