Don’t let your bubble counter fool you…

Don’t be fooled in thinking that all bubbles counters are the same and don’t get hung up on your flow rate. 1 bubble, 2 bubbles, 3 bubbles, 4.

Let me give you an example. We have glass bubble counters and plastic bubble counters. If we add the glass one to one of our set ups, it will show 4 bubbles per second – pretty fast heh. If we remove it and then swap it for a plastic version, it will show 1 bubble per second. So which is it? It all depends on the manufacturing process of the bubble counter and this is a perfect example why you MUST NOT get hung up on your bubble counter flow rate. No one cares, and your plants certainly don’t. All they care about is are they getting enough CO2 and you’ll only know this if your drop checker is showing an approximate green colour (don’t get too hung up on that either). You’re simply looking to have as much CO2 in your tank as possible without distressing the inhabitants.

So for all you lovely hobbyists who email me and say they have 2 bubbles per second and they can’t work out why they don’t see their plants releasing O2 bubbles, now you know!

Have you seen these plants before?

Found in the rice fields of Asia the Murdannia ‘keisak’ is a stem plant from the bamboo family. New in to us from Tropica, they describe this plant as easy to grow and unchallenging. We’re yet to give it a whirl ourselves but it looks the business.

Murdannia-keisak

Originating from North America the Penthorum sedoides is a low maintenance, easy growing stem plant. Another new plant from Tropica. Seems like they do the sourcing of this plant and then other growers jump on their ship. I might be wrong though (just seems like that). Anyway, looks pretty cool.

Penthorum-sedoides

Mastering a minimalist planted aquarium

My good friend George Farmer has demonstrated just how you create a planted aquarium with just one pot of Micranthemum ‘Monte-Carlo’. This is no easy task and unless you have A LOT of experience, do not try this at home. I always recommend a high plant mass from the beginning for creating balance, but if you know what you are doing, you can experiment.

Here George mentions why he thinks this tank has been successful:

  1. Controllable LED lighting – without which it would be too easy to have too much light
  2. Super (and already mature) filtration with lots of Purigen – mature bio-media and chemical media result in zero ammonia spikes and low organic waste
  3. Time to do water changes every other day – lots of water changes help prevent algae by diluting organic waste
  4. Large shrimp population – constantly cleaning all surface inside tank to prevent algae
  5. Low fish population – less organic waste = less algae
  6. RO water – I find I need less CO2 compared with hard tap water, and there’s other anecdotal benefits
  7. Active soil – high nutrient content, ideal grain structure, and stable low pH to encourage root growth

So take note, replicate, rinse and repeat. Do as George says and you shouldn’t go far wrong.

What’s your concern about tissue culture plants?

I know a lot of you are unsure about tissue cultured plants, which concerns me! A lot of you don’t understand them too as I was recently asked about storing these plants and if they are for a conservatory! The simple answer is these plants are so easy, so adaptable that they really should be at the top of your list when it comes to choosing plants for your aquarium and for a few good reasons:

  1. They take much better to a new environment than potted
  2. They often are extremely well grown it and completely fill up the pots
  3. Better for the environment (wash away the jelly and recycle the plastic pot)
  4. They ship better
  5. They look better
  6. They grow better

That’s a lot of reasons. I’ve taken a few snaps this morning so you can see what they’re like and how full they are. Tell me what you think and if you have tried them.

tissue culture plants

tissue cultured aquarium plants Easy Grow Didiplis diandra Easy Grow Didiplis diandra Easy Grow Sagittaria subulata Easy Grow Eleocharis acicularis Easy Grow Eleocharis acicularis Easy Grow Eleocharis acicularis Easy Grow Eleocharis acicularis

You can see the range by clicking here

Vitro plants are expanding

With the popularity of Vitro plants (aka tissue culture plants) it’s really great to see that Aquafleur are taking it to the big stage too. They’ve brought out a dozen plants that are free from snails and algae GUARANTEED. So this means Tropica need to step up and continue producing more vitro plants to remain competitive.

This is refreshing because it gives you the choice of more plants that are not only perfect but are free from a lot of the concerns that hobbyists have. So this is a super exciting time for aquarium plants that are grown in vitro and you can find the range of Easy Grow plants here.

Easygrow-micranthemum-umbrosum

Position your circulation pump like this

To get the most out of your circulation pump and to make your water flow in the correct direction, point it in the same direction as your filter outlet. Let’s assume that your filter is on the right and points left. If you had a circulation pump you would position it on the right side so it also points left (same direction as the filter). Positioning it anywhere else or in some cases the opposite end, will cause negative flow and effectively stop most of the circulation.

Below I illustrate just what I mean. Essentially you want to increase the current around your aquarium so more water is moved and less dead spots remain. The better your water circulation the more fertilisers and CO2 are moved around, the better your plants grow.

Marine guys twigged this a long time ago, and now it’s our turn.

If you have any questions, please let me know. Ask via Twitter or Facebook preferably as others will see your question which is beneficial for all :)

Feed your shrimp like a King!

So we’ve got some rather cool looking foods in stock for shrimp. They really do look the business. Manufactured by Dennerle, these guys know what they are doing so it made complete sense for us to begin stocking them.

If you love your freshwater shrimp then Shrimp King might be just what you have been waiting for. Available in 7 different types they are:

dennerle shimp food king

Cryptocoryne petchii grown on lava rock

You’ve gotta love this little Cryptocoryne on lava rock – perfect in every way. It’s dainty at only 7cm square so ideal for smaller tanks. The great thing about plants on decor from Tropica is that they’re well established which means they have cared for then for months so when you receive it, it looks perfect. Roots attached to the rock naturally.

The other benefit to this plant is very simple to grow (suitable for beginners and up) and you can move it about if you decide where you place it first isn’t quite right.

Tropica Cryptocoryne petchii on lava stone

You can find our other plants grown on wood or rock by clicking here.

Drop checker positioning

If you have a drop checker…

and you really should (assuming you have a pressurised CO2 system) then making sure you have the correct positioning is sooo important. Too many hobbyists place their drop checker in the top right or top left of their tank. Maybe this is where you have yours? And I can see why too, because if you look at any decent planted tank in a magazine for example, they have it positioned just there but only because it ‘looks right’. Remember a drop checker is a measuring tool and whilst they do look nice and aesthetically pleasing in certain areas, the correct positioning is not there.

Neutro Drop Checker

So where do you place it?

Your drop checker should be located in the bottom right or bottom left, about 2-3cm off the substrate. CO2 rises so when a drop checker is placed near the top of the tank you get a false reading (and it will appear you may have more than enough CO2). A lot of problems in a planted tank arise from insufficient CO2 levels due to not using a drop checker or incorrect positioning. Customers email me ‘but my drop checker is showing green’ and they proceed to tell me it’s located near the top of their tank. Soon as they move it down the bottom, the colour changes to blue. So, if you position your drop checker correctly (at the bottom) and you know the bromo blue solution (very important) is green, you can rest assured you have the correct CO2 levels. All you then need to be concerned about is water distribution and making sure those precious CO2 bubbles are going everywhere (and I mean everywhere) but that’s a email for another day ;)

Just how much CO2 should you have in your tank?

You want to use as much pressurised CO2 in your tank as possible without causing distress to your live stock. CO2 will make or break your tank and I want you to give you the confidence to use it as it should be used in a high tech CO2 tank. In some cases your CO2 levels will be A LOT more than you think. If you have no live stock you can really have some fun and crank it up. You’ll be amazed at how well your plants will do when you’re let loose…

Most of you are using drop checkers now which is great and just what I have been advising. But many of you get too hung up on the colours – remember the colours are only indicating a pH level change (they don’t really measure CO2). However when your drop checker is showing green (pH of 6.8), you ‘probably’ have good CO2 levels, but I would like you to take it one stepĀ  further because in some cases your drop checker may need to show yellow. This is fine as long as your fish/shrimp are fine. If they’re showing any signs of distress, lower your CO2 levels.

You really need to maximise the amount of CO2 you can pump into your tank so it will take a bit of playing around but the effects are tremendous and your tank can look like the inside of a champagne glass.