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Cheap Planted Tanks

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  1. Poor Man's Plant Tank
    by Kevin Conlin <kcconlin-at-cae.ca> (Fri, 15 Mar 1996)

Poor Man's Plant Tank

by Kevin Conlin <kcconlin-at-cae.ca>
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 1996

In the spirit of completeness in cheapness, I'm pleased to offer
recommendations for a really cheap plant tank.  If you don't like
the results, feel free to sue me because I'm in Canada and I'll just
laugh at you.

Aquarium: buy it second hand from someone advertising in the classifieds.
Don't pay more than $1/gallon.  If livestock is included in the deal, offer
much less on the grounds that you'll be providing a good home for the seller's
cherished fish.  Don't let him see you take the fish to the pet shop.

Substrate: 3-4" of 2-3mm quartz gravel.  Get a free sample from a landscaping
or sandblasting outfit, or sift it from the local creek.

Substrate fertilizer: Pond Tabs, about 1 per square foot of tank bottom,
broken into pea-sized pieces.  Until I figure out how to make these things,
you'll just have to buy them, but use a coupon or haggle fiercely.
Put the tabs right on the bottom of the aquarium and cover them with the
gravel.  No UGF, no laterite, no heating coils.

Light: When they go on sale, buy as many shop lights as you can cram on top
of your tank.  Use the cheapest plant bulbs you can find.  If color rendition
isn't an issue, try a mix of cool & warm white bulbs.

CO2: spend some money here.  Yeast is a pain in the *ss and is more expensive
in the long term.  Go to a welding shop and buy a decent tank, regulator,
and needle valve.  We're talking compressed gas here; a failure could kill
you or your fish, so don't cut corners.  I paid $CDN 200 (about $US
47.99) for a 15lb bottle, regulator, and needle valve.  It was worth
every penny.  Make your own reactor or bubble CO2 into the filter intake.
Build the PMCI (Poor Man's CO2 indicator) to monitor CO2 levels, or
squander a few bucks on a text kit.

Filter: just about anything with the right flow rate will do.  Convince your
friend who uses the Dupla stuff to buy a fancy new trickle filter, then offer
him $10 for his big cannister filter or $5 for his Aquaclear 500.

Fertilizer: PMDD, of course.  You may need to double the KNO3 because of
the Pond-Tabs.  Really cheap, but you should have good iron
and nitrate test kits to tune it.  Buy the test kits mail-order.  Buy the
chemicals in 50lb bags and sell bottles of PMDD to all your friends.

Plants: One big H. polysperma and a little duckweed are mandatory.  Everything
else is up to you.  When you get tired of composting duckweed, upgrade to
frogbit or giant duckweed or something else that's less obnoxious.  Get
plant clippings free from your friends, or trade PMDD for them.

GFI: a ground fault interrupter is cheap insurance.

Algae eaters: they're going to be really hungry after your plants get going,
so don't have too many of them.  Otos and farlowellas are my favorites.
In a larger tank you might want to have a few of the legendary SAEs. 

Set the tank up, toss in a few Malaysian trumpet snails, say "Om Mani Padme 
Hum"
eight times, wait a couple of months, and start selling your clippings to the 
pet shop.
- --
Kevin Conlin  kcconlin-at-cae.ca  "We're Canadians.  Cheapliness is next to 
godliness"
Finger as332-at-freenet.carleton.ca for PGP public key.

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This page was last updated 29 October 1998