Thinking if starting a new planted tank


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North Brunswick, NJ
Just started
Ok so I've spent a year and a half getting my feet wet in fish keeping. I'm still learning and still consider myself an advanced beginner. Anyways, I am moving in June which means taking apart the tank and reassembling. When I do that I'm considering changes and could use help!

Currently have a 38 gallon freshwater with fake silk plants and fake driftwood decorations. Fluval Aquaclear 70 filter. LED light with timer set for 11 hours on 13 hours off (with simulated sunrise and sunset). Medium grain sand substrate. Temperature kept at 78 degrees. Ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrates vary between 10 and 40 depending how long since a water change. 3 harlequin rasboras, 2 serpae tetra, 2 honey gourami, 2 bandit cory, 2 sterbaI cory. I haven't increased my schools because I know I'm redoing the tank and figured keep the bioload down just wait until june.
So... I have brown algae breakouts every 5 months which forces me to do a real deep clean and scrub of decorations. Pain in the butt... but someone suggested doing a planted tank. Claiming the plants will help reduce algae and would also naturally filter the water, so that water changes could extend as much as 10 days (assuming low bioload). Is that true? What other benefits of planted tanks are there? I also agree the look of a planted tank looks great and natural. But here's a main question... how do I even start? I watch youtube videos and nothing seems to be really helpful for a true beginner. What plants? What substrate? Do I need chemicals and fertilizers or just insert plant into substrate and wait? Special lighting or are my current ones good? How do I keep the plants alive. I already stress about keeping the fish alive lol. Also, someone told me that if starting a planted tank, I should set it up without fish for several weeks. That would mean I need a second aquarium. is that true or can I just move to my new house and transfer the fish into a new planted tank same day?
Upkeep - how do you vacuum the substrate without disturbing the roots? With fake plants it doesn't matter. But how do you remove fish poop from the ground without tearing apart the plants?
Next question... should I use a canister filter instead of the HOB I have? Is it truly better? Pro and cons?

Sorry I know it's a lot of questions. I have so many! Open to anything you have. Books. Websites. Videos. Or just your own written explanations. I've been tempted to just find someone to pay and set it up but I guess that defeats the fun of it all.


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4 years
Considering you have a sand substrate already , there would be no need to start a whole new separate planted tank, unless you want too! You can go ahead and add plants into the sand substrate and use root tabs instead. Sand is suggested as I heard it helps the plants stay grounded better.

Theres a huge variety of plants and a lot of info about them. You have the root feeder plants that take nutrients in from their roots. Also the column feeder plants that take in nutrients through their leaves & stems (easiest type of plant IMO as you can just let them float). Some examples of root feeders: java ferns , amazon swords , crypts.
Examples of column feeders: duckweed, water sprite/wisteria, Ludwigia repens, anubis.
Theres also the height category for planting them too; background, midground and foreground.

For a successful planted tank, you will need a full spectrum lighting set up, the lights you have now will possibly work with low light plants. Youll also need decent fertilzers or roottabs. Theres a easy all-in-one plant fertilizer called ThriveC ,perfect for column plants. They also make root tabs which are used for root feeder plants. Its good to read into which plants need what fertilzers.

You also have the choice to use CO2, I do not so I don't jave any experience or knowledge about using it. I do know plants benefit very much from CO2 as they do intake CO2. The brand API makes a liquid CO2 booster that I use and I think it works just fine!

If you decide to start from scratch, you could go more depth into it like adding actual plant soil and layering it with sand and gravel to promote extensive growth outdoor plants! That method is called the "Walstad method" .

I do suggest going with a planted tank very much. Plants do help intake the bad Ammonia, Nitrites and high levels of Nitrates. Plants also release oxygen for fish as trees do outside for us. Plants also give a beautiful, natural, realistic effect imo and helps fish feel more comfortable. Feel free to read more into planted tanks and the Aquarium Plants forum on this site, there's a lot of helpful info :D

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