40 Gallon Breeder Transformation to Planted (High-Tech?)

MJohnson

3/31/21 9:00 a.m.
I wasn’t sure the best place to post this: planted, individual questions in individual threads, etc. I settled on tank builds. I hope this is the right place. I would like to record my journey into my tank transformation and planted journey.
So, yesterday I decided that I am definitely going to transform my tank into a heavily planted tank. Although I had previously done some research, yesterday was a non-stop research type of day. I must say that I may be even more confused than I started. This all started because I was unable to start a 125+ gallon aquarium like I had wanted due to space, financials, and convenience. I wanted to try something new and decided to go the heavily planted tank route. Now, I have a lot of questions. I am hoping that people will chime in with advice, experience, and anything useful really as I go into this journey. I will try to keep this updated every step of the way including mistakes, pictures, etc.

Tank: 40 gallon breeder. It has been up and running for about 2 years now.
Stock: 3 pearl gourami, 2 thick-lipped gourami, a single male guppy, a female albino bristlenose, a Bolivian Ram, 2 albino cories (aeneus), 3 bronze cories (aeneus), 6-8 peppered cories (paleatus), 5 neon tetras (keep losing them due to neon tetra disease so not adding to school), 6 ember tetras, and a bunch of red cherry shrimp.
Questions: According to AqAdvisor I am 97% stocked. Would this be a negative thing for a planted aquarium?
Filter: I am currently using 2 Aquaclear 70’s. I have 2 Aquaclear 30s, but I am not currently using them. Thinking about switching to a 525 GPH canister filter (SunSun or Polar Aurora).
Hardscape: Large and small Mopani, a couple small rocks, and a small terracotta pot.
Questions: What is the best way to attach Java Moss to Mopani? If I wanted to get rid of my large Mopani altogether then how do I detach my Anubias that is already rooted there? Also, how do you stop Anubias from rooting into the soil (it’s attached to the Mopani, but the roots keep growing)? Won’t that kill the plant?
Substrate: Petsmart regular black sand (about 1.5 inches).
Questions: I have so many questions here. I am planning on keeping my sand to put on top of whatever else I decide on. I understand that I want at least 3” of substrate. What is the best substrate to use (top soil, miracle-gro nature's care organic potting mix, Amazonia, Tropica aqua soil, Eco-Complete, or something else)? How do I avoid the initial ammonia spike since I already have livestock in the tank? I would hate to lose them!
Plants: Unsure. I have whatever survived my half attempt at growing over the last year. I believe I have an Amazon Sword, Anubias, Java Fern, Bacopa Carolina, Java Moss, some type of Crypt, and some others. Would love some help with identification.
Ordered: Red Dwarf Lily Bulb, Aponogeton Madagascar Lace, Aponogeton Ulvaceus, Amazon Sword Red Rose Echinodorus, Red Ludwigia, Alternanthera 'roseafolia', Aponogeton Boivinianus, Amazon Rosette (Echinodorus Parviflorus), Aponogeton Capuronia, Hygrophila Polysperma, Bacopa Monnieri, Hygrophila Angustifolia. I may order some more, but I have spent a lot already. I think I will look to buy plant trimmings and such for cheap to experiment with growth in the new set up.
Root Tabs: I had tried Seachem root tabs and Osmocote+ a couple times a year or 2 ago. I switched to NiclocG Root Tabs, but I have only used them maybe twice.
Questions: Is Osmocote+ actually aquarium and shrimp safe? Is Osmocote+, NiclocG root tabs, or something else better?
Liquid Fertilizers: A year or 2 ago I used Seachem flourish and Seachem iron a couple of times. I switched to NiclocG Thrive all in one, but I have only used it a couple of times.
Questions: Should I switch from NiclocG Thrive to Thrive S or does it not matter? Are there all in one liquid ferts that are considered better than others?
Lighting: 36” Beamswork DA 6500K 0.50W Series LED Pent Aquarium Light Freshwater Plant
Ordered: Beamswork DA FSPEC LED Aquarium Light Pent Freshwater
Questions: Would this make the tank low-light, medium-light, high-light (both with the original DA and with the addition of the FSPEC)? How long would you recommend having the lights on? Should I run both lights at the same time or separately?
CO2: I would like to try my hand at it, but it is so confusing to me. I do not want a DIY system. I also don’t want to kill all my shrimp and fish while trying to learn.
Questions: What exactly would I buy, and is it possible to buy everything to start under $250? Would be even better if I could do it under $150. I would want something that I could transfer to a 125+ gallon down the line if possible.
Lid: I currently have an open top on my aquarium, but I do have a Versa-Top cover.
Questions: Is it better to have the Versa-Top on or to do open top?

My current setup is not pretty. I just threw stuff in there. I need to wipe down the outside of the tank. I will be painting the back black as well. I know this was a long post, but thank you for reading! I am so excited!
 

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Basil

Watching. I’m planning on upgrading my 40 breeder to a 75 in a few months and was thinking about dirted.
So I purchased enough Dustins dirt for a 10 g to do a trial. It’s not supposed to create an ammonia spike but it’s not cheap. Now to get that set up lol!
Good luck with your project!
 

MJohnson

Watching. I’m planning on upgrading my 40 breeder to a 75 in a few months and was thinking about dirted.
So I purchased enough Dustins dirt for a 10 g to do a trial. It’s not supposed to create an ammonia spike but it’s not cheap. Now to get that set up lol!
Good luck with your project!

Thank you! I still plan on upgrading (minimum of 75 gallon; max of 180 gallon) one day in the future, but it does not seem too likely currently. I am still the most confused on substrate and CO2 at the moment.
 

Basil

I’ve always thought about doing CO2 and was also very confused. And I was never able to find a “CO2 for dummies” anywhere lol!
I purchased two books (yes, real books! ) a few months ago and finally understand it a bit better. Although I still don’t have the time to dedicate to it yet!
Anyway, I highly recommend George Farmer’s “Aquascaping” and Karen Randall’s “Sunken Gardens”.
Both have nice sections on CO2 and I finally have a much more thorough understanding of the process.
 

MJohnson

I’ve always thought about doing CO2 and was also very confused. And I was never able to find a “CO2 for dummies” anywhere lol!
I purchased two books (yes, real books! ) a few months ago and finally understand it a bit better. Although I still don’t have the time to dedicate to it yet!
Anyway, I highly recommend George Farmer’s “Aquascaping” and Karen Randall’s “Sunken Gardens”.
Both have nice sections on CO2 and I finally have a much more thorough understanding of the process.
Awesome! I will look into those. Thank you.
 

MJohnson

Correction to stocking: I have 3 thick-lipped gourami, not 2. Sadly, I lost my Ram last night. I did come home with 8 Banded Kuhli Loaches this afternoon.

I also came home with 17 new plants today. I bought various plants including Swords (Echinodorus Harbich, Echinodorus Grandifolius), Anubias (Barteri Glabra, Barteri Long and Wavy, Nana Thick Leaf, Heterophylla), Rotala Blood Red, Ludwigia (Ovalis, Senegalensis, Aromatica), Red Tiger Lotus, Marsilea Quadrifolia, Alternanthera (Reineckii, Rosanervig), Vallisneria Gigantea, Crypt Balanese, and an unknown one that I forgot to write down. I will try to get a picture ID when I plant them all and narrow down which one it is.
 

RedOnion

Correction to stocking: I have 3 thick-lipped gourami, not 2. Sadly, I lost my Ram last night. I did come home with 8 Banded Kuhli Loaches this afternoon.

I also came home with 17 new plants today. I bought various plants including Swords (Echinodorus Harbich, Echinodorus Grandifolius), Anubias (Barteri Glabra, Barteri Long and Wavy, Nana Thick Leaf, Heterophylla), Rotala Blood Red, Ludwigia (Ovalis, Senegalensis, Aromatica), Red Tiger Lotus, Marsilea Quadrifolia, Alternanthera (Reineckii, Rosanervig), Vallisneria Gigantea, Crypt Balanese, and an unknown one that I forgot to write down. I will try to get a picture ID when I plant them all and narrow down which one it is.
Wow nice amount of plants! How are the 3 pearl gouramis all together? I want to get some pearls but idk how many to get in my 40g
 

MJohnson

Wow nice amount of plants! How are the 3 pearl gouramis all together? I want to get some pearls but idk how many to get in my 40g
They do great! I've seen no aggression between any of my gouramis. So many plants. I still can't decide on a substrate though. I need to do so soon.
 

RedOnion

They do great! I've seen no aggression between any of my gouramis. So many plants. I still can't decide on a substrate though. I need to do so soon.
Thanks! You could do pool filter sand which is cheap and some root tabs its what I have in my 40g and it works just great
 

MJohnson

Thanks! You could do pool filter sand which is cheap and some root tabs its what I have in my 40g and it works just great

I think I may stick to that. I thought about doing a dirted tank, but after so many days of research I am still just confused. I think I will save that project for my 180 gallon that I hope to get by the end of the year.
 

Cherryshrimp420

Does your source water have adequate GH and KH and trace micros? A low tech, no fert planted tank can be very easy depending on your water source. Just gotta be patient and let things grow out.

Keep in mind that plants are always competing with each other so the 17+ species will not all survive very long....eventually some will out-compete others
 

MJohnson

Does your source water have adequate GH and KH and trace micros? A low tech, no fert planted tank can be very easy depending on your water source. Just gotta be patient and let things grow out.

Keep in mind that plants are always competing with each other so the 17+ species will not all survive very long....eventually some will out-compete others

I figured that. It's more of an experiment for me right now to learn what I like and don't like as well as learning what grows and does not grow. I also have a 10 gallon and a 20 gallon long that I might set back up. Probably won't set them up if I am able to get the 180 gallon that I have been eyeing.
 

MJohnson

So, I ended up adding Fluval Stratum and Eco-Complete to my set-up. I have a few other plants arriving and I definitely have to work on aqua scaping once that happens. For now, I got the plants in the tank though. Ignore the bad lighting in the picture.
 

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MJohnson

So, I am still waiting on the last of my plants. Then I will split them between my tanks and start aqua scaping. That may not take place until this weekend though when I have a little more time.
 

MJohnson

I think I am going to go ahead and get a 180 gallon once I build a stand for it. It will probably be a couple of months. I am also currently setting up a 20 gallon long. So, I am still playing around with stocking between the 3 tanks. I am thinking that in the 40 I may do the following:
  • 3 Thick-Lipped Gourami
  • 5 Guppies
  • 15 Cherry Shrimp
  • 25 Habrosus Cory Cats
  • 55 CPDs
Of course, this all may change. Time will tell.
 

RedOnion

I think I am going to go ahead and get a 180 gallon once I build a stand for it. It will probably be a couple of months. I am also currently setting up a 20 gallon long. So, I am still playing around with stocking between the 3 tanks. I am thinking that in the 40 I may do the following:
  • 3 Thick-Lipped Gourami
  • 5 Guppies
  • 15 Cherry Shrimp
  • 25 Habrosus Cory Cats
  • 55 CPDs
Of course, this all may change. Time will tell.
55 cpds isnt too much?
 

MJohnson

55 cpds isnt too much?
I guess that's all relative. It says I would be 100% stocked on AqAdvisor and I have 2 AquaClear 70's and a SunSun 404b. So, I hope not? However, if it is then I will not add them all. I plan on adding 10 or so at a time so if it starts looking like too much than I will not add anymore.
 

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