Feeling the lure of a freshwater planted aquarium.

PPPPPP42
  • #1
My wife bought herself a complete 75 gallon saltwater aquarium which I first learned about when I had to take it in from the car (about 8 trips) and then do most of the setup and plumbing the sump and hooking up and arranging 2 powerheads and the heater and the skimmer and the led lights, setting the RODI system up, ect ect.
In the end I had to take a crash course in maintaining a saltwater tank and setting everything up to not die.
She did learn to do her own testing and handled the cycling of the tank and adding the first fish. (which I also can do now).

I had at some point in the future when things calm down more (have 3 and 4 year old) planned to get my own saltwater tank, and maybe I will but its a technical monster trying to jump rope while balancing on a ball to get everything just right with SPS especially and not have things eating or killing each other or just dying because some number is slightly off.

Then somehow through a link on reef2reef to youtube (or maybe a suggested link from that video) I saw this and it kinda threw that plan sideways, specifically the shot of the guys award winning amazon tank at about 2:20 which looks like a photo of the jungle with fish swimming in it.
Not to offend anyone but most planted freshwater tanks I have seen look like someone accidentally knocked their plant shelf into the aquarium so this kinda blew me away and the video shows that its really not hard at all to setup.
I can't imagine it could be more complicated than managing the saltwater reef tank to keep it going.
I've seen a ton of high end aquascapes after searching more that are equally amazing.
It all just looks so zen.

The biggest thing that is confusing me is in my preliminary researching of stuff I feel like saltwater and freshwater tank methods and technology have evolved totally separately despite all the overlapping science. For example there was a reference in one thread on checking seasonal chlorine and chemical changes in tap water which to a reefer would about the same as how to use your tank as a toilet since everyone serious about it is using rodI water now.

If I were going to cycle a reef tank I would just use live sand with a bottle of bacteria for an extra kick (which we did and it only took 2 weeks) and then wait for ammonia and nitrite to do their dance and zero out, after which there is an eventual diatom bloom which then settles out, but the thread on cycling I read here talks about dosing ammonia with a brief reference to the old method of rotting a shrimp (which salt people did as well).
Do they not have freshwater live sand and bottled bacteria? The sites selling stuff don't really specify
I am guessing I don't need a sump since a skimmer and refugium don't really apply to a planted tank and there doesn't seem to be quite the same need for constant dosing of all the coral needs perfectly in balance or charcoal or calcium reactors and whatnot.
That would mean a regular tank with a simple hob filter would work instead of a drilled reef tank I guess (or not?).

I feel like I am starting all over again and its almost worse as some of what I think I know no longer applies.

EDIT: Another excellent example is the treatment for Ich I just read in another thread here. Super high temps and vaccuming is something I have never heard of (and impossible in a fully planted tank so it sounds a bit odd to me). For saltwater it was always QT the fish with medication and then no fish in tank for 76 days (longest ich survives fish free). Ideally you QT the fish before hand and basically treat for everything ahead of time due to some sketchy practices in suppliers keeping diseases suppressed for a while then popping up.
 
SM1199
  • #2
For freshwater, live sand isn't really a thing, and live rock isn't really a thing. Bottled bacteria is a thing.

Freshwaters usually use just some sort of filter (whether HOB, canister, etc) and don't need skimmer/refugium/etc. No drilled tanks (usually).

You are right, beautiful freshwater tanks are easy to set up. BUT, maintenance can be difficult. Do you know about root tabs? Dosing the water column with ferts? Algae blooms? Plant die-offs? CO2? Trimming plants? Stem plants vs mosses vs substrate-growing plants vs water column-growning plants vs floating plants? Often times people do end up using RO/DI water (or some % of RO/DI mixed with tap) to manage algae blooms and prevent plant die-offs, so they can dose back in the exact amount of minerals and nutrients the plants need to not just survive, but thrive. Aka, plants that usually won't survive, let alone lushly, without CO2, ferts, etc...

Driftwood and live plants are expensive - not nearly as expensive as corals, if that makes it any better. But it just adds another level of complication to a planted tank, especially when those plants might not survive long.

Those tanks are award winning for a reason! Most hobbyists don't get near that level of visual sophistication with their planted tanks. Because they don't want to have to manage that level of chemical sophistication with their planted tanks. And I don't blame them. Most of our planted tanks do look like someone accidentally knocked their plant shelf into the aquarium, because those are the plants that don't need chemical sophistication to survive And some of us really do like the look of that! Our fish love it, and that's what matters

I hope you don't take this as discouragement. Just that right now you might be in the "Wow, look at that! How hard could it be when they make it look SO simple?" phase. You don't know how much you don't know!
 
Inner10
  • #3
It's only as hard as you make it, I like planted tanks the most. I wouldn't say they are more ofrless tough than any other style.
 
PPPPPP42
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
I definitely have a ton to learn.

My first hurdle is all the resources are different, if I want a complete guide to what it takes for every single SPS, LPS, and soft coral out there with pictures of the many variations I have that bookmarked.
Plant types? I don't even know what the different categories are much less where to go.

I am ready for another academic uphill slog which seems to be what I have gotten myself into again.

But then if it were easy it wouldn't be worth taking pride in the end result.
 
Inner10
  • #5
I definitely have a ton to learn.

My first hurdle is all the resources are different, if I want a complete guide to what it takes for every single SPS, LPS, and soft coral out there with pictures of the many variations I have that bookmarked.
Plant types? I don't even know what the different categories are much less where to go.

I am ready for another academic uphill slog which seems to be what I have gotten myself into again.

But then if it were easy it wouldn't be worth taking pride in the end result.

Tropica should put me on their payroll for how often I toot their horn, but they are one company that has done a great job of making this easy. Every plant they sell right on the package it says if its stem/floating/carpeting etc. It also says how tall it grows in x amount of time, it says if you should put it at front, middle or back (short, med, tall)...and reads the difficulty on the package.

Most of my plants are from their 1-2-Grow line:

The right aquarium plants: 1-2-Grow! - Tropica Aquarium Plants
 
Deku-Cory
  • #6
Freshwater and Saltwater ich, despite sharing names, are completely different beasts. Freshwater Ich is easily treatable, and most fish are able to get through it without a problem. Saltwater ich is a monster that can wipe out an entire tank like it's nothing.
 
PPPPPP42
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
Plant site looks great, going through it now.

My first battle is to familiarize myself with the new set of diseases and QT procedures so I don't go and screw everything up right from the get go. For saltwater it was down to a specific list you could follow with certain timing and drugs that basically nuked just about anything the fish could possibly have.
Its nice to know Ich is tank treatable in freshwater.
 
Ebreus
  • #8
Okay sounds like you know how to do your research. I'm by no means an expert myself just getting into planted freshwater at the beginning of last year but I'll share what insights I have so far (and others please correct me on anything I get wrong):
Light: Plants need it but not just any little light will do. You need to provide enough light intensity for photosynthesis through water. This is a measured thing, it's called PAR. 10 and up is low PAR, 30-50 is medium, 50+ is high. Most plants, at least all I've checked, it's not hard to find which PAR range they need.

Algae: Pretty much everything plants like so does algae so this stuff will be a nusince for you unless you manage to balance things such that the plants out-compete the algae for resources. I do this with snails and guppies. Giving the tank a few hour break in the days photo-period (period of the day the tank gets photosynthesis level light) also helps the plants edge out algae.
-Cyanobacteria: This stuff the freshwater community, at least here on Fishlore, deems similar enough to algae to be roped into the algae subforum but its a sheet bacteria. It will grow over plants and starve them for light while releasing toxins into the water that hurt your fish. It's nasty but proper light control and vigilance will keep it at bay.

Nutrients: Plants, like all living organisms, need nutrition. You're going to have to deliver that to them in the form of fertilizers &/or nutrient rich substrate. This is effectively a dichotomy for freshwater plants. They either take nutrients from the surrounding water (and so receive water column fertilizer) or through roots (and so receive root tabs).

C02: All plants will do better with a C02 injector but not all plants need one. Thing is with C02 is underwater animals, like surface animals, stand a suffocation risk if the C02 gets too high. The idea behind this is to be diffusing C02 before the photo-period so they'll have C02 to photosynthesize. If you don't mind shelling out the $$$ you can get an autonomous injector that will monitor C02 levels and keep them at a desired level.

Immersed v Submersed: A lot of these plants can be grown in air. This is cheaper for growers than growing them in water and so you'll be buying the Immersed version most of the time. This is fine but you need to be ready for all the leaves the plant has to wither and melt and for new leaves that don't look like the old ones to grow.

Animal compatibility: Like with saltwater it's a balancing act to keep everything from killing anything. Snails are great algae control helpers but too little and some (but not all) will snack on your plants. Some fish and snails will just uproot your plants and some will eat them. Also Scuds: These are little critters likely to hitch-hike in at some point. Some of them are herbivorous and without a predator (small fish will do) they will consume your plants. With predators present they shouldn't cause too much damage and are good enrichment/live food for the fish that hunt them.
 
PPPPPP42
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
The reef tank has a large programmable LED light bar and I have an apogee SQ-520 par meter (coral are persnickety little bastards about light levels) so if I can work out what level of lighting and spectrum I need for the plants ahead of time I should be good.

Saltwater has red cyanobacteria as well (and also clumps it in with algae), thankfully my tank doesn't seem to have it, just harmless brown diatom algae after looking at it under my microscope which is what keeps the other stuff suppressed in the reef tank. Green hair algae is another problem I thankfully don't have at the moment.

Looking at CO2 and I had wondered how that juggling act works since as I understand it CO2 drops the PH as well as suffocating the fish. There are equally annoying balances in the reef tanks like maintaining low but not zero nitrates and super low phosphates.
If I can get plants that don't need extra CO2 to stay healthy green but look similar that would be the plan. If its needed to keep the correct looking stuff healthy then that's what I will have to do.

I will be curious to see what plant QT and treatment looks like. I have no idea what the plant equivalent to coral RX or an iodine or hydrogen peroxide dip would be like.
 
Ebreus
  • #10
The reef tank has a large programmable LED light bar and I have an apogee SQ-520 par meter (coral are persnickety little bastards about light levels) so if I can work out what level of lighting and spectrum I need for the plants ahead of time I should be good.

Saltwater has red cyanobacteria as well (and also clumps it in with algae), thankfully my tank doesn't seem to have it, just harmless brown diatom algae after looking at it under my microscope which is what keeps the other stuff suppressed in the reef tank. Green hair algae is another problem I thankfully don't have at the moment.

Looking at CO2 and I had wondered how that juggling act works since as I understand it CO2 drops the PH as well as suffocating the fish. There are equally annoying balances in the reef tanks like maintaining low but not zero nitrates and super low phosphates.
If I can get plants that don't need extra CO2 to stay healthy green but look similar that would be the plan. If its needed to keep the correct looking stuff healthy then that's what I will have to do.

I will be curious to see what plant QT and treatment looks like. I have no idea what the plant equivalent to coral RX or an iodine or hydrogen peroxide dip would be like.
I've only done cursory looks into C02 myself. On my thread asking for help about it I was pretty much told to ignore pH swings from C02. Most of the replies were on DIY injectors and not so much proper operation though... neat info but not what I was looking for.
 
SM1199
  • #11
Some people quarantine plants, but it's not nearly as prevalent as fish quarantine. Really, people are just making sure no pest snails are making their way into the tank via plants. Some people do dips but most aquarium plants are so fragile that they'll go through a small leaf die-off afterwards that they may or may not recover from. For that reason, I don't bother. I check for snails visually and then chuck them into my tank.

You also have to know about the whole emersed versus submersed plant thing. Plants that are started out emersed (partially exposed to air) will often have a hard time transitioning to submersed (fully underwater growth) because it's easier to pull air from air than it is to pull air from water. Companies that grow plants will often grow them emersed because they grow so much faster. Keep an eye out for what you're buying.

Looking at CO2 and I had wondered how that juggling act works since as I understand it CO2 drops the PH as well as suffocating the fish. There are equally annoying balances in the reef tanks like maintaining low but not zero nitrates and super low phosphates.
If I can get plants that don't need extra CO2 to stay healthy green but look similar that would be the plan. If its needed to keep the correct looking stuff healthy then that's what I will have to do.
If you don't feel like dabbling in the chaotic balance of CO2 and ferts (I definitely don't), then there is no harm in avoiding it. Just do your research and select plants that are okay with being "low tech" (aka: no CO2, ferts and/or intense light required for growth). Also keep in mind that different plants, just like fish, like different pH, KH, etc. Often times, low tech plants don't really care about these things either. Where there's water, there's growth. Things like anubias, java fern, and moss are the way to go. You can still do awesome aquascapes with them without all the added hassle.

If you want to keep plants that grow in the substrate like stem plants and crypts and swords, you will need to decide between a dirted tank (soil with a cap of sand or gravel) or just inert sand/gravel with added root tabs. Again, easy plants like anubias and java fern are happiest hanging out in the water column (tied/glued to rocks/driftwood/deco with roots exposed) so they make this easy. You could just not bother with substrate plants at all, that's cool, and might make your life easier, depending on how much you like gluing and tying things down and including driftwood and rocks in your aquascape.

Floating plants are the easiest. You literally just chuck them in the water and let them do their thing. Hornwort, duckweed, and frogbit are among those plants. The thing is, they're literally so indestructible and fast-growing that they may quickly overrun a tank and block light to lower-level plants.

There are some plants that do well when planted in substrate, but better when floating. This includes plants like water sprite. This means if you shove them into the substrate, they might decide to revolt and throw themselves right out of the substrate by means of refusing to root or decaying below the substrate. So sometimes it's easier to just avoid these plants, or have a plan for when they revolt.

Thank you for joining me on my unorganized digression
 
Addictedtobettas
  • #12
I definitely have a ton to learn.

My first hurdle is all the resources are different, if I want a complete guide to what it takes for every single SPS, LPS, and soft coral out there with pictures of the many variations I have that bookmarked.
Plant types? I don't even know what the different categories are much less where to go.

I am ready for another academic uphill slog which seems to be what I have gotten myself into again.

But then if it were easy it wouldn't be worth taking pride in the end result.

When I was young I had dreams of a beautiful saltwater tank with incredible tropical fish and live reef coral.
Somehow I ended up with quick betta tanks at work in previous decades. Saltwater was too much to take on right off the bat.
Now I have 6, almost 7, freshwater tanks and all of them are planted - I have weekly trips to the lfs or orders incoming from online with new plants or rocks or something.
I’m planning to one day go with at least 1 saltwater tank but honestly? Freshwater is an ongoing project in a way saltwater isn’t, yet saltwater is an every day monitoring in ways freshwater will never be (in an established tank). I can realistically leave a freshwater tank for a week or two without worrying that a .2 decrease in.. anything, will wipe out the tank.

Freshwater is a lot more like gardening and that works for me. I can go into most tanks and redo everything aquascaping once a week and all is well. I just don’t see that with saltwater.

I think you’ll enjoy freshwater but it is a different beast in many ways. Plants grow time vs coral even.
 
GlacialMold
  • #13
Congratulations, you have been bit by the bug. There is no turning back now .

You said you wanted a really nice aquascape, right? Aquascaping is something you get better at with practice. your first tank will probably look like trash, as will you 2nd and 3rd tanks. After a while, you will have enough experience to rescape your older and uglier tanks and make it look halfway decent. Those guys on the aquascaping videos have been doing that for years, and have tons of practice. If you have the patience and really want to, you could copy their scape down to every last little piece of moss.
 
Oriongal
  • #14
I always said I wanted a saltwater tank, but...I just like plants too much. As another said, it's kind of like terrestrial gardening, something else I enjoy.

You'll find there's lack of consensus about many things in freshwater, and I think part of the reason why is because there is so much more variety in habitat. Wider pH ranges, wider temp ranges. I think freshwater fish and plants have to be a little more adaptable on-the-fly, because changes happen to them more often/quickly (evaporation in a closed body of water, effect of rain or snowmelt on a smaller body of water, faster temperature variances, and so on.)

So, freshwater seems a little more elastic, a little more forgiving. Which means that there's more than one successful way to do something, in many instances. You'll find people who have been successful with seemingly diametrically opposite approaches - for example I run all low-tech, don't add any water-column fertilizers, only occasionally add root tabs, and never vacuum substrate (using aquatic soil such as Eco-Complete or Stratum, I am about to branch out into regular old dirt as well.) I use 'low-tech' plants like those mentioned - mosses, floating plants, epiphytes/rhizome plants like java fern and anubias, and stem plants like cabomba, dwarf sagittaria, bacopa, and others that aren't particularly demanding.

But it's certainly not the only way to do it, and it is more limiting in plant choice.

There's also somewhat less (or less high-profile) study of freshwater habitats, so that may also contribute to why there's less specifics when it comes to freshwater. My brother was a marine biologist, but what do you call someone who specializes in the study of freshwater habitats/creatures? Just a biologist, because unlike saltwater it's not broken out as a particular specialty. [I also suspect that grant money for freshwater studies is probably a bit harder to come by as well, which may be another reason it's not a specific specialty like marine biology is.]

Updates also seem to circulate more slowly among freshwater, again probably because it's not a particular scientific specialty. I get most of my scientific information from searching for things geared toward aquaculture, food-fish farming; because there isn't as much available (science-wise, vs. just anecdotal from other hobbyists) for the fish we keep. There are also many plecos and corys that have been known and kept by hobbyists for years, but that still don't have a name (just a classification number.)

We (freshwater) need another Axelrod or Innes, I think.

Anyway - welcome to the green side!
 
RDcompton03
  • #15
For freshwater, live sand isn't really a thing, and live rock isn't really a thing. Bottled bacteria is a thing.
Actually its very much a big thing. When someone sets up and cycles a new tank using gravel, hardscape or filter media from and existing tank you are doing the same thing for the same purpose as someone who adds live sand or live rock in a salt tank
 
SM1199
  • #16
Actually its very much a big thing. When someone sets up and cycles a new tank using gravel, hardscape or filter media from and existing tank you are doing the same thing for the same purpose as someone who adds live sand or live rock in a salt tank
You're very right, I'm not sure why I phrased it that way, looking back to when I posted it three months ago. I believe I was intending to say it's not a purchasable item in the way that it is in saltwater.
 

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