Rex's Planted Tank Guide

Your Source Of Information For Planted Tank Aquariums, Lighting, CO2 & Fertilizers

Bits of Wisdom a.k.a The School of Hard Knocks

If you wish to contribute to the Bits of Wisdom contact me.

Bits Of Wisdom

  • Don't test your test kit in your tank. If you get strange or results that don't seem right test the test kit in a bucket. i.e. If the nutrient calculator or other source tells you to add ΒΌ teaspoon of dry KNO3 to your tank to get to say 10 ppm and you add this amount and then test the tank and the test shows 0 ppm of nitrates DON'T ADD MORE KNO3! Instead test your test kit in a bucket. And just for giggles you should verify the accuracy of your test kits every six months or so. They do go bad.
  • When dosing your tank NEVER hold the bag, box or bottle of nutrients over the tank. This is basic baking and cooking common sense. ALWAYS bring the measured nutrients to the tank! NEVER measure over the tank. This can lead to big problems if you drop a bag/bottle/box of nutrients into the tank.
  • If you don't understand how the nutrient calculator works ASK!
  • If you are not sure of how much baking soda or calcium carbonate to add to reach a certain gH or kH ASK!
  • Don't assume your nutrient levels are OK. Test.
  • Don't think you need some mythical “optimum” water levels for plants. Most all plants will do fine in water that is with in normal values and wet.
  • Don't start chasing the dragon by using chemicals to lower your pH. This is hard on your fish. You might be able to lower the pH to a certain level and hold it there but by doing so you are raising the TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) to levels that can be harmful to the fish.
  • Don't assume that by lowering your pH with the use of acids that you are raising your CO2 levels because the CO2 chart says that with that pH and your kH you have a certain CO2 level. That's not the way the CO2 chart works. It's based on the idea that the only buffers in the system are carbonates and the only thing used to lower the pH is CO2. Thinking otherwise is like thinking that because you write in a deposit in your checkbook that you actually have the money. If you don't deposit the money you haven't got it. Same thing with CO2. If you are not injecting CO2 you haven't got it.
  • Try and choose your livestock based on your tap water. If you have hard alkaline water don't expect to breed Licorice Gouramis.
  • It's very easy and inexpensive to make your water harder and more alkaline, but VERY expensive to make it softer and more acid.
  • Terrestrial fertilizers are for terrestrial plants. See my FAQ for inexpensive sources of fertilizers suitable for planted tank use.
  • CPA, Cat Piss Absorbent, aka Kitty Litter, is a commodity product and comes from several sources. Just because someone in Texas has good luck using some brand of CPA as an inexpensive substrate doesn't mean that you will have the same success in a different part of the country. That's the nice thing about more expensive single source substrates like Eco-Complete or Flourite. They are the same everywhere.
  • Same thing goes for sand. Many people have had good luck with inexpensive sand from the BORG, aka Big Orange Retail Giant, aka Home Depot. But I can assure you that in my area of the country, the Pacific Northwest, that the sand the BORG sells sucks. It's a very fine powder that is ugly in color to boot.
  • Don't assume that all rocks are good for the planted tank because the LFS, Local Fish Store, said they are “aquarium safe”. They can be perfectly safe but play royal hell with your water chemistry.
  • When testing rocks or substrate use a strong acid. Vinegar doesn't cut it.
  • Shop lights look like hell sitting on top of a tank. And they are a poor choice to start with. If you are on a very limited budget they are better than nothing, but just barely better.
  • Actinic lights don't do a lot of good for planted tanks. They are designed for reef tanks containing corals.
  • The effect of tank depth on lighting options is way over rated. Unless you are rich enough to get a tank that is more than 30″ in depth it hardly makes a difference.
  • Learn how to use Google or another search engine and how to use the search function on various forums. It saves time and you might even learn something.
  • Not all plants at the Big Box pet stores and even many LFS are true aquatic plants. Buyer beware! (Submitted by Tank Girl)
  • When algae strikes try balancing your nutrients before you wage chemical warfare against it. (Submitted by Tank Girl)
  • If you are new to planted tanks don't start your first tank with a soil substrate without a thorough understanding of how it's done. I suggest that you read Ecology of the Planted Aquarium by Diana Walstad, several times if necessary.
  • Not all wood you find in the local creek is good for your tank.
  • If you are new to planted tanks PMDD is not the holy grail of algae problem solving. Limiting phosphates is really not the answer.
  • Snake oil in a different package with a different name is still snake oil.
  • Bio-Spira works as claimed. The same can not be said for other cycle in a bottle products.
  • The Fishless cycle is for FISH tanks and it is NOT needed for a planted tank.
  • No matter what the clerk at the LFS store says that “magic” plant bulb is not going to make up for lack of sufficient light. Ditto for leaving the lights on for 24 hours a day.
  • Water changes are good!
  • Bio-Wheel based filters are NOT bad for plants. They can make it hard to get decent levels of CO2 in the water column but they DO NOT harm plants.
  • The shift key is your friend and keeps people from assuming that your IQ is lower than room temperature.
  • A spell checker is a wonderful thing. If you use Internet Explorer then go over to IESpell and get one.
  • Spend your money right the first time. This hobby can be expensive and it gets even more expensive if you end up with a bunch of hardware you don't use anymore. When buying things like lighting anticipate future wants/needs it's cheaper to buy a lot of good quality lighting first than to buy several half assed lighting solutions over time.
  • If you buy an iron test kit the only thing you are gonna end up measuring is your own stupidity ( I know I bought 2 of them) (Submitted by Greentank)
  • Most all sword plants get much too large for a 10 gallon tank. And many of them get too large for even a 55 gallon tank. Plan ahead.
  • Many Crypts will also get too large for a 10 gallon tank. Come to think of it most common plants will quickly overtake a 10 gallon tank.