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Planting density for start up tank.

Ian61

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26 Mar 2021
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Keswick
Hello. The general consensus with a brand new set up seems to be that you ‘must‘ plant densely from the outset and then merely allow the finished scape to just grow in. Accepting that it is plant growth and metabolism that helps mature a system and prevent algae, rather than quantity of plants, then is it not reasonable to start off with fewer fast growing plants and allow them to spread/re-plant over time, also adding new , more delicate species?
To fill a brand new 1200mm tank with all the plants I would hope to end up with would be expensive and likely v wasteful of expensive plants. I have no access to any mature systems or plants from other aquaria as I’m starting up again from scratch after a few years out of the hobby.
I suspect I’ve watched too many you tube videos on aquascaping for my own good and at risk of being seduced into hoping for the perfect result within a few weeks of starting from scratch.
Do any of you have any thoughts/ experience of starting off with cheap/ fast growing plants and slowly evolving from there?
 

John q

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Hi, I'm not exactly sure as to why plant density aids tank maturity but from my experience the more mass I accumulate seems to result in less algae and healthy plants per se. Its just worth remembering that as plant mass grows the demand for nutrients including co2 also increases, so that needs to be considered and indeed balanced.

I think it's wise to start off with some fast growing stem plants and these can be replaced as the tank grows in, its also worth remembering that because stems grow quickly cutting and replanting is done often, so effectively plant mass increases at no extra charge to you.

As to getting cheap plants ~ once you get to 25 posts You'll get access to the For sale/swap/wanted section and members often have excess plant cuttings that sometimes are given for the price of a small donation to the forum.

Hope that helps and am sure others will explain more technically why plant density is desirable from the outset.
 

Zeus.

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To fill a brand new 1200mm tank with all the plants I would hope to end up with would be expensive
Yes, expensive for just the hardware and hardscape substrate.

the more mass I accumulate seems to result in less algae and healthy plants per se

In a nut shell,
High plant biomass in a tank is advantageous because more plants interact more vigorously with the sediment (and with the water) and provide oxygen to nitrifying bacteria in the sediment, filter and in the water column. Higher biomass consumes higher quantities of NH4. High biomass produces more food such as carbohydrates on which the bacteria feed thereby stabilizing the tank system more quickly and more comprehensively. You can have just a single plant in the tank with massive nutrient/CO2 levels and this will not necessarily trigger algae. But if the bacterial infrastructure is weak or unhealthy, or if the plant becomes weak or unhealthy, then this triggers chemical transients in the tank which can cause algal blooms. This is not related to the nutrient level.

Low density planting leads to a better opportunity for algae to take over, fast growing plants may also seem the answer, however they often need high light and high light compounds the algae issues.

Are you planning CO2 injection ? which can/is tricky to master esp in a big tank with modern LED lights, most folk melt everything with their first tank, I did, it is so easy.

Dimensions/type of tank are also important, deeper tanks are harder and braced tanks are cheaper but bracing makes planting and routine maintenance harder also. Open top tanks makes maintenance/trimming/minor alterations so easy, roll up sleeve and go. Hooded tanks with glass covers just stops the daily tweaking IME.

hoping for the perfect result within a few weeks of starting from scratch.

I have never been 100% happy with my tanks in over three years, the perfect tank goal is rarely achieved IMO, it more about the journey than the finished product. However a perfect result in a few weeks is thriving plants and no/minimal algae/issues.

Read lots and reading journals of folk who have done a similar tank size and scape can be very helpful as they often contain all the issues they have had also and not just the glory moments and best pictures.
Starting a Journal also very helpful IMO/IME, get all your details down and folk can chip in with tips etc and handy when there's an issue as it will contain all the details to help diagnoses the issue. I started my Journal
Olympus is calling before I even had a tank, which I found massively helpful being a newbie at the time.

Eidt 28/3/2021- as @ceg4048 corrected my false understanding,
 
Last edited:

Ian61

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John and Zeus, Many thanks for your really helpful responses. Largely confirms my thoughts. Having invested heavily in an aquascape tank from aquariums4life, an Oase 850 , fluval plant 59w and likely a CO2 system I’m confident that with time and experience I can create something special. My main thought remains that it is the amount of actively metabolising and growing plants that help a system stabilise. A large mass of expensive , delicate, slow growing (or dying) specimen plants is unlikely to be beneficial in terms of tank maturation, aesthetics ,my sanity , wallet etc etc.
Best wishes
 

Ian61

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Other than stem plants as already mentioned any thoughts re other good new tank hardy plants. Best moss / ferns to attach to wood?
 

Nick potts

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My main thought remains that it is the amount of actively metabolising and growing plants that help a system stabilise. A large mass of expensive , delicate, slow growing (or dying) specimen plants is unlikely to be beneficial in terms of tank maturation, aesthetics ,my sanity , wallet etc etc.
Best wishes
Absolutely, the idea behind a large plant mass at startup as mentioned above is more about mitigating some of the common issues with new tanks, such as algae etc, so the best plants are going to be hardy but fast-growing species to suck up nutrients.

Other than stem plants as already mentioned any thoughts re other good new tank hardy plants. Best moss / ferns to attach to wood?
Anubias, Bucephalandra, java ferns and pretty much all mosses are nice easy plants, however, they won't help much with nutrient uptake etc as they are very slow growing.

Another option would be floating plants like Salvinia or frogbit etc , they have the benefit of access to atmospheric CO2 and uptake excess nutrients very quickly
 

John q

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Other than stem plants as already mentioned any thoughts re other good new tank hardy plants. Best moss / ferns to attach to wood?
Would totaly depend on the look your after and if your using co2 then my experiences may or may not help.

Plants I've found grow easily and grow at a reasonable rate would be. cryptocoryne crispatula var. balansae - vallisneria spiralis - Ceratopteris thalictroides - various echinodorus sp .
 

Sammy Islam

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I'm a big fan of planting very heavily from the beginning, that's what i did on my first proper aquascape. 14months in now and i have a proper flourishing system with minimal algae. The only algae i have is because i lowered CO2 for a couple of weeks.

I think when planting a high tech tank bigger than 100L you should aim to cover a decent amount of the substrate maybe like 70%. I think spending about 10-15% of your total budget on plants will give you a great start.
 

Ian61

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Thanks Sammy. Did you use easy plants? Any particular successes or failures?
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Do any of you have any thoughts/ experience of starting off with cheap/ fast growing plants and slowly evolving from there?
Yes, I start with the floaters Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum), Floating Fern (Salvinia "auriculata group") and Nile Cabbage (Pistia stratiotes). You don't need all of them, <"any floater will do">. I particularly like Amazon Frogbit, because I can use it for the <"Duckweed Index">

I also have two "stems", Hornwort (<"Ceratophyllum demersum">), and another fern, Indian Fern (<"Ceratopteris thalictroides">). I don't plant any of these they all float, the latter two sub-surface, although <"I encourage C. thalictroides up above the surface">.

I also plant any large, chunky plants I might have (usually Amazon Sword (Echinodorus bleheri) and Hygrophila corymbosa). The I just change water and feed the plants if the condition of the <"floaters indicate that I need to">.

I put in my <"tank janitors"> right from the start and after a couple of weeks an easy Cryptocoryne. Every-one will have their favourites, I like any of the forms of Cryptocoryne wendtii, C. x willisii & C. pontederiifolia, but any from the <"Tropica Easy section should do">.

After that, once everything is growing well I add in <"Anubias barteri etc">.

I only grow easy plants, and I don't do carpets etc.

cheers Darrel
 

ceg4048

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To fill a brand new 1200mm tank with all the plants I would hope to end up with would be expensive and likely v wasteful of expensive plants.
Hello,
That is why the second half of the "...must..." statement is to start the tank with lots of fast growing cheap plants which can be easily propagated. Everyone seems to forget this part. Starting the tank with expensive plants is folly. The cheap, ugly plants can be discarded and gradually replaced by the pretty, expensive plants when the tank has stabilized. Water sprite, Egeria densa, cheap swords and bog standards crypts, such as wendetii, as well as stems such as H. polysperma are examples of low cost plants that are ideal for stabilizing the tank and which can easily discarded without regard. If they fail due to mistakes in dosing or CO2 the loss is minimal and is less painful.
In a nut shell, the higher the plant mass the better as the plants suck up all the light and out compete the algae.
Karl, this is not true at all. Plants do not, cannot, and never will compete with algae, much less "out compete" algae. This is a myth born in The Matrix. Please review the post=> South American 720L high tech
Absolutely, the idea behind a large plant mass at startup as mentioned above is more about mitigating some of the common issues with new tanks, such as algae etc, so the best plants are going to be hardy but fast-growing species to suck up nutrients.
Another absurd contention about the relationship between algae, plants and nutrients. If we continue to believe in these false doctrines then we will continually misdiagnose the situation when problems arise. Algae do not care how many nutrients are in the water. That's why EI works.

Cheers,
 

Zeus.

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Karl, this is not true at all. Plants do not, cannot, and never will compete with algae, much less "out compete" algae. This is a myth born in The Matrix. Please review the post=> South American 720L high tech
High plant biomass in a tank is advantageous because more plants interact more vigorously with the sediment (and with the water) and provide oxygen to nitrifying bacteria in the sediment, filter and in the water column. Higher biomass consumes higher quantities of NH4. High biomass produces more food such as carbohydrates on which the bacteria feed thereby stabilizing the tank system more quickly and more comprehensively. You can have just a single plant in the tank with massive nutrient/CO2 levels and this will not necessarily trigger algae. But if the bacterial infrastructure is weak or unhealthy, or if the plant becomes weak or unhealthy, then this triggers chemical transients in the tank which can cause algal blooms. This is not related to the nutrient level.
Thanks for the correction and details as always 👍 bookmarked for reference ;)
 
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