Background Plants

Discussion in 'Aquarium Plants' started by Llama, Dec 22, 2009.

  1. LlamaWell Known MemberMember

    An attempt to both hide the back of the aquarium (because I think a coloured 'screen' is cheating) and to stop the massive algae growth...

    I've decided that if I buy a number of 'tall' 'slim' plants, and root them in, the aquarium will look far nicer - and I won't have to stay scraping algae from the back panes.

    So the question is - What plants do you reccomend for this job? I want them to be tall enough to cover most of the back glass, but not the kind that grows in a wide manner.

    Any suggestions?

  2. ButterflyModeratorModerator Member

    There are a large variety of plants that would meet your needs. I personally like Hygrophilia polysperma because it multiplies so fast.
    Here is a great place to check plants out for yourself.   If you check plants by type you will probably find what you want :) There are so many i get caught up in looking at them all LOL

  3. NutterFishlore VIPMember

    I like the Hygophilia Polysperma to as it has nice pink tops when healthy & is easy to grow. Ambulia & Vallis would also be high on my list of choices. There are heaps of stem plants that may suit your purposes so it is probably best for you to have a look around for yourself at the link that Butterfly has provided & here is a link to another plant database that you may find usefull.  

  4. geofariNew MemberMember

  5. AquaristFishlore LegendMember

    Thanks for posting the video Geo!
  6. LlamaWell Known MemberMember

    Just to give an update on this: I eventually went to my LFS and asked for advice - ended up buying a Alternanthera reineckii - its uh, pink (the missus liked that), and it looks brilliant. Did some minor research and apparently it needs a lot of nutrients and light, which is good for me, as I want it to compete with the algae.
  7. NutterFishlore VIPMember

    Needing lots of light & nutrients isn't going to help you I'm afraid. All that means is that you need to keep the supply of nutrients steady for the plant & in complete balance. This plant particularly needs nitrogen & phosphorus in large quantities. It is not a particularly fast growing plant either, which is what you want if you are trying to out compete algae. Things like Anacharis & Ambulia would serve you better. I also hate to tell you this but this plant needs very strong lighting. 60w on a 160lt tank just isn't going to do it. Especially if they are just standard household white flouro tubes. You will need to double the intensity of your lighting. According to my calculations you only have 1.4wpg. For this plant you really need at least 3wpg. Once you get over 2.5wpg you really should be adding co2 to the water & be supplementing the nutrients with fertilizers. This plants does much better with intense lighting & co2 addition to the water but will rot & die without bright enough light. It can still grow without co2.

    In short, you can't grow this plant with your current lighting & it will not out compete algae for nutrients. You need lots of fast growing plants to do that. Sorry for the bad news.
  8. LlamaWell Known MemberMember

    Well my water source has nitrates in it , and I assume it has phosphorus in it also - so i don't think I'll be having that problem.

    I tried the fast growing plant option, I had a lot of Elodea growing around the tank, and it didn't really help much (or at all) - the algae grew around it for some reason - also the ton of Elodea made the tank look rather ugly, even though I trimmed it regularly.

    I hope the plant doesn't die, I think it makes the tank look really nice - but I don't want to stay playing around with fertilisers, CO2 and whatnot. So I guess I'll just see what happens.

    Thanks for telling me. Knowledge is power.
  9. NutterFishlore VIPMember

    When I say this plant needs nitrogen & phosphorus in large quantities that means that you will likely have to supplement it. For some plants the waste in a tank & the little bit of phosphate from tap water & food waste just isn't enough. If elodea didn't out compete the algae for nutrients then your new plant won't either. The fact is your algae is being caused by something else. Either inconsistent co2 levels, lighting, over fertilization or deficiency in one of the critical nutrients. I will instantly say that is is the type of light you are using, combined with nutrient deficencies. Standard white flouros are next to useless for plant growth but great for algae & you say you don't want to mess with ferts so I'm guessing you don't use any at all. Having nitates & phosphates just isn't enough for many plants. What are the exact details of your lighting & fertilizer regime? How often do your water changes & what are your test readings? Do you use co2, if yes diy or injected? Last of all can you post a pic of the algae so I can ID it?

    If you can supply those details I'm sure I can work out what your algae problem is being caused by.
  10. LlamaWell Known MemberMember

    I gave this some thought. And I do want to consider increasing the wattage of the lighting. How do i go about that? How much would you recommend I get? What about coloured bulbs? Do you recommend those?

    I was thinking though, the new plant is RED, and usually chlorophyll absorbs from the red part of the spectrum, so if I get a coloured tube, will it effect the plant badly?
  11. NutterFishlore VIPMember

    Well I just checked out your gallery so I know you have a hood. Is there room in it for more light fixtures & what kind of fixtures do you have now, T8, T5HO, PC? If there is room, simply adding a couple more tubes will be nice & easy. If there's not room then changing the kind of fixture may be the only way to go, say changing from T8 over to T5HO or PC.

    A good reflector is worth it's weight in gold IMO, & as you may already know. I like just using flat white paint as it is cheap & reflects 75% of the light, mylar film is the best choice but harder to find & install, but it reflects 99% of the light. I don't think much of polished aluminium reflectors & am yet to find one that reflects even as much as flat white. So depending on the reflector you have now, that may be step one, getting a better reflector sorted.

    As far as how much light you need, well that depends what you want to grow, seeing as you already have the Alternanthera, you are going to have to aim for a minimum 3wpg. That means co2 & fertilisers. If you don't want to do the co2 & ferts, pull the Alternanthera out & pick something else to grow. There are still a few reddish plants that you can grow under the intensity light you currently have (1.5wpg) & I can reccomend them if you don't want to upgrade your lighting. If you don't mind the co2 & ferts idea then you will be needing to at least double the amount of light you have.

    For tubes, the ones you have now are next to useless for plant growth IMO. When you go out to buy tubes look for the Kelvin rating on the packet. I suggest kelvin ratings between 5,000 & 18,000 are the best for plants. In two tube set ups of my own I use 1 x 10,000k tube & 1 x Sylvania Gro-Lux tube. I don't know the kelvin rating of the gro-lux but they are high in red & blue light & are awesome for plant growth. The combination of these two tubes I find gives me good plant growth & excellent fish colour but still keeps a natural look to the aquarium. If you end up with more than two tubes pick a mixture of tubes with one being the gro-lux, one being a 10,000k & two others that are under 12,000k. On my four tube tanks I use 1 x gro-lux 2 x 10,000 & 1 x 6,700.

    I think it is important to deal with your algae problem before you add more intensity to your lighting or your algae will likely get worse & changing to proper aquarium tubes will help a little with this. How long do you have your lights on each day? How long do your fish eat for when you feed them? How large & how often are your water changes? Have you tested your tap water for nitrates & phosphates?

    That probably gives you more questions than answers but if you can answer the questions I have asked, I can make some positive reccomendations about light fixtures, plant types, co2, ferts & the algae problem & see if we can't get you growing a spectacular algae free tank that your happy to maintain.:)
  12. LlamaWell Known MemberMember

    Phew, giant post there - thank you for all the time you're spending on this ;)

    So the hood has only space for 2 tubes, it already has a pair of white reflectors which I suppose work pretty well. The hood came with the tank, so I don't want to stay changing it if its possible.

    As for the size, I think its a T8 (will check for sure in the morning) - is it possible to get a better wattage in that size and fixture?

    I don't mind the CO2 and fertiliser idea, as long as its not too expensive and (most importantly) that there's no chance of giant problems with it.

    Not sure what the Kelvin ratings are, but i'll look out for them next time I go over to the LFS - not too many sell aquarium tubes sadly, so my choice may be a bit limited.

    As for the algae -
    I usually leave my tubes on from 1pm to 10pm. This is only if I'm actually at home at the time, so sometimes it gets a bit erratic (will defentally get a timer next time I go shopping) - I think the main problem is that my room isn't very large, and due to this weird climate I'm in - its still sunny outside - so the tank receives some sunlight.

    Feeding, I usually use a mixture of flakes (which are eaten within 30 seconds) and sinking tablets which are fought over constantly until its all eaten (takes around 2-3 minutes).

    My water changes are once a week, and I change 10 litres of water each time. The water I'm using has 10ppm of Nitrates in it - I spent 2 weeks without a PWC, and the algae diminished somewhat...

    I have no idea about phosphate levels, I'll pick up a test kit I guess.

    Thanks again.
  13. rae64Well Known MemberMember

    How old are your lightbulbs? Often times old bulbs emit different light when they age, and this encourages algae growth. Maybe it is time to change the bulbs, and you can probobly get a stronger light for your new plant while you are at it.
  14. LlamaWell Known MemberMember

    Lightbulbs haven't been changed since I started the tank in... March* 09.

    Unless they have amazingly short lifespans, I don't think so - algae problem was there for ages.

    *edit- stupid bad memory
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2010
  15. NutterFishlore VIPMember

    You should change you tubes roughly every 9-12months as the spectrum they emit will change over that time. Putting a new tube in next to an old one of the same type can give a graphic example of that but I don't think it is your problem.

    I think the problem is your water changes are not large enough & maybe that sunlight you mentioned. Irregular lighting hours won't help either. The trouble you have with the water changes is that your water already contains nitrates so doing larger water changes may not help that much. Instead try doing 2-3 changes each week. Also if you can get some RO water to mix in at each change will help reduce the nitrates but will also effect your GH & KH. I know it sounds like alot but it's a small amount each time & should only take you a few minutes each time. The lighting hours are easily dealt with using a timer so yes make sure you get one. The sunlight is a bit harder to deal with. It's not so bad if the sun is hitting the tank during the hours your lights are on but if the room is bright & sunny when the lights are off you may need to start to cover the tank with a thick blanket or something when the lights are not on. Heavy blinds are easier but much more expensive.

    Kelvin ratings are describe the colour of light that a tube emits. The higher the Kelvin rating, the bluer the light. If the tubes you look at don't have the Kelvin rating on them, look for the spectral graph. This is a worm like graph that shows the exact spectrum of light the tube emits. These graphs have 3 main areas, left side, middle & right side. The left side is blue, the middle green the right side red. Look for at least one tube that is high in blue & red light but not much in the green. So high peaks on the far left & right of the graph but staying low in the middle. I know, not a very technical explanation but an easy one to understand. Your LFS will have some light tubes but you may need to travel a bit further if thier range is limited or order off the net.

    I would be adding DIY co2 to your tank already. This will help get your plants growing & may help combat the algae a bit as well. It needs to be a consistant supply of co2 though or your algae could get worse. Using Excel is another option but I have limited experience with it because I find it costly with the number of tanks I have. Plenty of people swear by it when they have algae problems though so it may be worth you looking into.

    EDIT: A couple of links to help you understand lighting a bit better:
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2010
  16. LlamaWell Known MemberMember

    Allright, so tubes are in for a changing - is it possible to get a better wattage simply by getting a higher watt bulb, or will it not support it? Am I stuck with 15W? Or can I at least get a higher wattage if i change something small?

    Allright, the sunlight, I guess i'll keep my curtains closed now. There's no direct sunlight through the curtains, though its still quite light - nothing comparing to the bulbs' output, but still there. I think if I keep the curtains drawn, it should be fine. I hope. An alternative of course, is to shift the 'light period' the tank gets to coincide with the sunlight - but I don't really like that one.

    Very interesting thing about Kelvin ratings. I do have some knowledge of biology, and I know chlorophyll likes the red spectrum mostly, so I'll have to aim for a low kelvin rating I guess. My problem however is the red plants - since their red, it means they're reflecting the red spectrum off, so I think having just a tube which gives out a lot of red - will end up starving them. Since I have space for 2 tubes, should I try a white one, and a 'plant' one?

    I'll look for a few links regarding a DIY CO2 system, should be interesting I guess. Oh I also have an air pump in the tank, should I be keeping that on during the night or something ? Or not at all?
  17. NutterFishlore VIPMember

    As far as I know you have to stick with the same wattage tube as you have now. There are slight variations in wattage for the same tube length & diameter but they are only small difference& I don't know if they apply on 15w tubes. If it a 2ft long tube you should be able to get an 18w tube but that would be it I'm pretty sure.

    If you have the curtains drawn & use a timer on your lights, try splitting your light cycle in half. Something like 4hrs on, 4hrs off, 4hrs on, then 12hrs off for the night period. Splitting the light cycle has many advantages & no real disadvantages. It helps slow or sometimes stop algae growth, (if there isn't much light during the light off periods). Algae are not as advanced as plants & need long periods of bright light before they start photosynthsis. Splitting the light cycle denies algae the apportunity for efficient photosynthisis but as plants are far more advanced, they start photosynthisis within minutes of recieving intense enough light, so plant growth isn't really effected. The other advantages are that it means the lights are off during the hottest part of the day & are on more when you are at home.

    Regarding Kelvin rating, that is exactly why I reccomend having a combination of tubes with different kelvin ratings. The higher rated tubes have lots of blue light, which red plants love, as well as having a considerable amount of red light, that all plants need. So that the lighting doesn't look unnatural, put in a tube of about 10,000k. 10,000k tubes are pretty high in the blue end of the spectrum but also contain enough green to balance it out & make the aquarium look more natural. If you have two tubes I don't think you can go past a groloux tube & either a 6,700k or 10,000k tube.

    With the air pump, you will probably need to turn it off during the day if you use co2 but if your not using co2, leave it on. If you do end up adding co2 to the tank, then running the air pump on a timer so that it comes on at night may be needed. The reason being that co2 lowers the PH. Co2 is released by your plants at night adding to the co2 content in the tank & lowering the PH even further. Co2 is dispersed from the water by surface exchange. Having the airstone on at night increases the surface disturbance & releases some of the extra co2 produced at night. A lot of this co2 stuff will be decided by your KH levels in the tank though as KH levels have a great effect on the stability of your PH. It all sounds very complicated but it really isn't when you get your head around it. We can go into further details of co2 if you want to create another thread about it or you can PM me & I will be happy to offer as much as I know about it so that you can add that to the other research you are doing. (I hope your doing other research at least:))
  18. LlamaWell Known MemberMember


    Today I went off to the store and bought myself a Phosphate test kit, and a pair of tubes.

    The test kit resulted in my tank having 0 ppm of phosphate (there IS a bit of colour in it, but its far less than the colour of the 5ppm - so I'd say its almost nil).

    The tubes I bought are for plant growth, they have quite a bit of blue and almost-red - and a result they look baby-girl pink (-_-). They're 2850 lumen (with a built in reflector) and they're expensive (*growl*)

    I haven't attached them in yet, should I use both at a time? I don't want my tank looking very pink, so i was thinking about just replacing the back one (where I have most of the plants) and keeping my standard one for the front. What do you think?

    Update: Being impatient, I changed the back tube. I now have a 'daylight' one which came with the aquarium on front, and the plant tube on back. Takes a short while to get used to it. The fish don't seem to like it too much, the platies are hiding under the shade of the anubias. Hope they get used to it.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2010

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