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New 24g Planted Tank


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Decided to start a new FW planted tank after being out of the hobby for a while. I've had many planted tanks over the years with various levels of success. Searching around on the internet there is SO MUCH more information out there than there ever was when I had my tanks. However, I think a lot of success comes from finding out what works for the area you are in (water conditions, available products, etc). So, I've got a few questions for the local's as I'm in information overload noexpression.gif

First the Basics - Here are my initial ideas for the tank:

24 gallon JBJ Nanocube.

Plan on using Tap-Water. (Have had more success than RO in the past.)

Substrate will be soil with a cap of Fluorite or Eco-complete.

BML LED lights (Either the 6300K Dutch or 6500K Natural)

CO2 injection. Thinking of converting my Tunze skimmer into a CO2 reactor. Solenoid and timer to cut off the CO2 at night.

Community Fish.

Now the questions!

1) What type of soil have you had success using in the area? I've heard that commercial brands can vary enormously across the US, so that what works well in one state is an algae bomb in another. I see a lot of people using MGOC, and a lot that hate it. Some just use dirt from the back yard!

2) Where do you like to get plants from? I have not been able to find any local planted clubs to get cuttings from, which I would prefer to the weak "bits" from on-line and LFS's.

3) Where do you have your CO2 tanks refilled?

4) Suggestions on good plants to start with?



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1. I have always used inert caribsea torpedo beach substrate. It's slightly larger than sand but smaller than most gravel. Has always worked well for plants, add root tabs if necessary, and it's the correct size for discus and angels that like to blow water into it. For a darker substrate I would either go with eco complete or ADA soil, the ADA being pretty expensive if you need a lot of it.

2. LFS's and online retailers and ebay. I typically get my anubias from ebay, and normal plants from local or online retailers. Austin has a facebook planted tank club: https://www.facebook.com/groups/264898253645161/There are sometimes plants available on there. Rinse / scrub all plants to keep snails out of the tank.

3. AAA fire safety

4. Really depends on what direction you want to go. Running CO2 and ferts will turn some normal plants into pests because they'll grow too fast. Swords are another that will usually outgrow any tank you put them in. Stem plants require a ton of maintenance to keep trimmed but look amazing if you can keep up with them. To keep maintenance and trimming minimal, I like anubias, java ferns, and crypts, but even these can get out of hand over time.

Other comments, you may want to try 50/50 tap / RO or straight RO with equilibrium to buffer the water back to a safe level. Even in a low stocked tank, Austin water has enough nutrients that algae is a constant battle.

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I'll tag along as I'm in the same process, just on a much larger scale and not nearly as much experience. I was looking at doing the organic potting soil from Lowes and then covering it with a layer of the black blasting media from Tractor Supply, but debating on maybe doing a different option in a lighter color depending on what type of rocks I find for hard-scaping. I need to get a test kit to test my tap water as I'm on well water here with water softener.

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Here is an update. I got a little impatient, so I went ahead and started to set up the tank. I made some DTS and mixed it with some clay to increase it's CEC. Made a border of Eco-complete around the edges of the aquarium bottom and put the slurry in the middle, and then capped it with the rest of the Eco-complete. Picked up a neat piece of driftwood from the LFS, positioned in the tank, and started filling the tank. Using Fluval Cycle and Aqua+ to dechlor the water and jumpstart the biofilter. Been doing daily 50% water changes while the driftwood leaches out.

Planted up the tank Friday with a wide selection of plants.

Water Trumpet, Cryptocoryne wendtii "Green"

Scarlet Temple, Alternanthera reineckii

Golden Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia

Anubias, Anubias barteri

Micro sword, Lilaeopsis brasiliensis

Ludwigia, Ludwigia repens

Then yesterday picked up some fish. Two gouramis, a very pretty betta, and 5 long finned zebra fish (Danios). Everyone seems happy so far.

I should have known things were working out too well. My light died on me. sad.png I ordered a BML on Friday and was using an old light to start the tank with while I waited on the new one. Anyone have a light I can borrow for a week or two???



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Well, it's been about a week and a half now, and the tank is doing well. The BML arrived last Friday (6500K Natural) and it's really brightened the tank up well. Love the way it makes the reds pop in the tank. Stem plants are growing well, and the Anubias has already attached to the driftwood.

Biggest issue with the tank so far has been the driftwood. It was obviously not already cured and has been leaching tannins like crazy. Still having to do 50% water changes every two days to keep the water clear, but it seems to be slowing down a little now. It's really too big for this tank, but I want to get a 65 gallon soon and will move it to the new tank eventually.

Now that the plants are settling in will start introducing CO2 and ferts soon. Mixed up some PMDD last night. Currently using Excel for carbon source.


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Well, it's been another week, and time for a new update.

Things seem to be going well so far. Started dosing Micro's and Macro's at half strength this week, and ran DIY CO2. I ran the CO2 into the air intake of my protein skimmer, which I converted into a reactor by simply taking the collection cup off and pushing it deep into the rear sump. For this purpose, the micro-bubbles it makes are a good thing. I put it on the same timer as my lights so when they kicked on the reactor started, and at night the CO2 just bubbled out without dissolving. I got my valve in the mail yesterday, so I was able to hook up my paintball tank to replace the DIY CO2 setup, and started dialing it in last night. Next step is to pick up a glass diffuser to replace my protein skimmer "reactor".

So far, minimal algae - mostly diatoms, but a few small patches of green. However, everything seems to be rooting nicely and I actually had to do my first trimming today! rock.gif

Still having to do frequent water changes to dilute the tannins from the driftwood. Carbon is not touching it.

Here are some pictures before the first trim this morning.







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I would suggest an ista Max mix reactor they are not terribly expensive and in my experience significantly better at getting high volume of co2 into the water without micro bubbles. They take a bit off getting use to and some cleaning every now and then is some what important depending on the tank.

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I got one of these on ebay a long time ago and it's rock solid even with a huge CO2 flow rate.


You could easily make one using a TLF reactor and rigid airline or other DIY airline adapter. Just reverse the flow direction, so that it flows downward, then back up the center tube, and add some plastic filter balls or even some plastic loofah's in the void space.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, the tank has really done well this week. Many of the plants have started to hit their stride, and I anticipate having to up my trimming schedule in the near future. Added two Chinese Algae Eaters to keep the more slow growers tidy and they have done a great job. Also, was able to replace the protein skimmer with a glass diffuser. I have it positioned under the water return, so the micro-bubbles are shot around the tank instead of going directly to the surface. Judging from the plants, it seems to be working well. Rate is approximately 1 bubble per second.

I've been slowly increasing the amount of ferts; up to 75% the recommended dosing rate. So far so good. As you can see, everything seems to have good color. I really love the 6500K BML light - it makes the red plants really pop.

I must also say that I have noticed that the fish in this tank are the most active of any I have ever had. I assume it is a combination of high water quality and lots of plant cover the fish feel safe and healthy.

Cheers - Steve


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No pearling yet, but I have good water movement near the faster growing plants. I could probably up the CO2 to 2 bubble per minute and see what happens. Also, the tannins are still coloring the water, which is reducing the total PAR that is reaching the plants.

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You said you were running some carbon in the tank right? If so I a little surprised you are still having trouble with it, perhaps moving it to a higher flow area might help or maybe it is just spent. I know that carbon in a back is not as efficient as a reactor at removing tannins so perhaps you have just hit the peak absorption and can not deal with the rest.

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The smaller number of water changes could be adding to your statement about fish activity. I usually boiled any piece of wood I put into a tank but that is not always possible with larger pieces they are the ones that you really just have to let soak in a brute for a month or so to leach out most of the tannins.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Five Week Review

I can't believe this incarnation of the tank has only been up and running for five weeks! I have never, EVER, had a tank take off so successfully and quickly before. So I though I would take a minute and document the successes and failures encountered thus far, along with a recap of the tank setup.


- JBJ 24 gallon Nano-cube with custom stand and canopy

- Bottom layer was 3/4" of DTS (80% decomposed top soil, 20% of clay soil from the backyard). I then topped with a 3/4" layer of Eco-Complete. Large driftwood centerpiece.

- Filtration is composed of filter floss over MarinePure Ceramic Biomedia 1 1/2" spheres (Chamber 1) and Carbon (Chamber 2).

- Heater set at 78F

- CO2 injection at 1.5 bubbles / minute through glass diffuser, paintball tank, aquatek paintball regulator

- Lights - One 12" BML 6500L XB and one 18" Current Satellite +Pro Freshwater


Water Trumpet - Cryptocoryne wendtii "Green"

Scarlet Temple - Alternanthera reineckii

Golden Jenny - Lysimachia nummularia

Anubias - Anubias barteri

Micro sword - Lilaeopsis brasiliensis

Ludwigia - Ludwigia repens

Wisteria - Hygrophila difformis

Green Rotala - Rotala rotundifolia "Green"


2 Gourami's

1 Betta

5 Zebra Fish

2 Chinese Algae Eaters

2 Cherry Shrimp

Free Snails (hitchhikers)


Micro Mix per 500mL

CSM + B 40 grams (Total magnesium - 1.5%, Copper - chelated 0.1%, Iron - chelated 7.0%, Manganese - chelated 2.0%, Molybdenum 0.06%, Zinc - chelated 0.40%, Boron 0.04%)

Macro Mix per 500mL

K2SO4 – 29 grams

KNO3 – 33 grams

KH2PO4 – 3 grams

MgSO4 – 20 grams

Macro and Micro Dosing at 1.5ml per day

Flourish Excel 5 mL once per week

Observations and Lessons Learned:

1) Even if your driftwood is pre-soaked, don't believe it and soak it anyway! After five weeks my piece is still leaching tons of tannins.

2) If you buy the new tissue cultured plants, you will need to separate the stems really well. About half of my plants were tissue cultured packages and I rinsed the biogel off as instructed. On the whole, I really liked these plants and they started off very strong in the tank. The only exception was the Golden Jenny, which just had tons of tiny stems. I separated it into four bunches, but I really should be used tweezers and separated them into individual stems for planting. The "bunches" were still too crowded and really slowed them down in getting established.

3) If you use Top Soil as a substrate layer, definitely add some clay to it. It instantly makes it much easier to work with as it "gels" it together. And the plants definitely love it.

4) The betta died suddenly. sad.png This really surprised me as they are pretty hardy and he was the "king" of the tank. I think I'll get an angelfish to replace him.

5) My tank is too small for most of the stem plants I like. The Ludwigia and Wisteria are growing like crazy. On the up-side, No algae, but I'm having to trim constantly.

6) I guess this means I need a bigger tank! Thankfully, I just happened to have picked up a 90 Gallon for a song a few weeks ago. It needed a lot of TLC to bring it up to scratch, but it's finally ready! So here is the plan - Make the new tank into a planted community tank with lots of stem plants and cool specimen plants scattered here and there for interest. (Will start a new build thread soon) Convert the 24 gallon into more of an Iwagumi style tank better suited to it's scale.


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