I asked myself this very question while cleaning aquariums back in May 2003 at my first job, a local pet store.
“I mean, they just float or swim side-to-side.”
These feelings persisted during my first couple of months on the job. Then one day I observed a coworker feeding Oscars with some feeder fish. Whoa. Now this whole fish thing was getting interesting.
The following week my coworker took me to a true LFS where I got my first look at the cooler, more aggressive fish available. I also glimpsed a reef aquarium for the first time.
Suddenly, I was hooked.
Fast forward six years.
“Psh. Tetras? Lame!”
After years dabbling in saltwater aquaria, I had come to view freshwater tanks as somehow inferior. It wasn’t until around this time last year that my mind was forever changed.
During my first week of employment at MarineDepot.com, a veteran employee showed me pictures of planted tanks that completely blew my notion of freshwater tanks being second-rate out of the water.
Not only did they look good, many were better than the best reef tanks I’d seen. Suddenly those docile tetras were a thing of beauty, weaving in and out of plants and schooling. The scenes were like works of art. I squandered my breaks and lunch hours ogling photos and watching videos online.
I felt inspired. I immediately began hashing plans for my own planted tank.
Fast forward again.
I’d expected the planted aquarium side of the hobby to be more challenging than it has been. But believe me, I’m not complaining! It’s just after maintaining aquariums personally and professionally for so long I guess I’d prepped myself for the worst. I’ve learned one of the keys of keeping a planted tank healthy—similar to reef aquaria—is having the right equipment.
I consider myself a low maintenance hobbyist. I don’t dissect every detail and analyze every aspect of my tank.
When it came time to choose a substrate I didn’t reach out to the scientific community or research the chemical properties of substrate. Instead, I asked my peers. I looked online. The consensus was a substrate rich in Fe (iron) was the way to go, like fluorite or Eco-Complete. I opted for three 20lb bags of the Eco-Complete. It’s a “live” substrate enriched with the essential elements that a planted tank needs to be healthy. I also buried Seachem Flourish Tabs in the substrate to help the plants’ roots.
Before my foray into freshwater, I hadn’t calculated the watts per gallon of my tanks. Now I can proudly share I’ve got 3.39 watts per gallon via a 4 x 39 watt Aquatic Life T5HO fixture. Speaking of the light, I am impressed by it in every way. It has a built-in timer that controls bulbs 1 and 3 separately from 2 and 4 and there is only one cord for the whole fixture. You can also control the lunar LED lights. Nice.
Next week I’ll post a follow-up with a breakdown of my equipment along with some of the rookie mistakes I’ve made (and corrected) so you can learn from them.
And maybe, just maybe, I’ll turn some of you reefers over to the dark side. Or, at least, the green side.
Until next time, stay classy.