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Live Plant Journal - Part 1

Converting to Live Plants


Tank with plastic plants

Before converting to live plants

This is the first in a series of articles that follow Sheila, a new aquarium owner, as she converts her tank from plastic to live plants. In return for help from plant grower, Don Matakis, she agreed to journal her experiences. She will include detailed descriptions of each step she takes, and include successes as well as problems. We hope that her journal will help others who want to keep live plants.

Initial Call
Don called to introduce himself and let me know that he would help me to convert my fish tank from a plastic plant tank to a live tank. I explained to him that I had purchased a 10 gallon tank from Wal-Mart as a whole package that included the tank, light and filter system. My tank is a glass aquarium with an Aqua-tech 5-15 power filter. I also purchased a box of Ez change filter cartridges so that I could be sure to have a clean filter at all times.

Lighting and Substrate
The aquarium is lit with an Aquarium reflector - 120 volt / 19 watt / 60 hz. When I told Don this he explained that I needed to go with low light plants. He said that he would send me a plant layout along with the plants he has chosen to use in my tank. I then explained to him that I had white small pebble gravel in the tank and he said that was fine to use and that he would send some strata gold to put around the plants roots.

The Fish
From there we moved on to the fish that I have in my tank. I told him that I have 2 neon tetra's and 4 glow lite tetra's and 1 sucker fish. He suggested that I get rid of the sucker fish as it is a rather large one and might eat some of the plants that he will be sending. He suggested that I get a smaller species sucker and that he would send a list of his suggestions along with the plants.

Don also explained that I needed to be careful of how much I was feeding the fish so as to help control the necessity of vacuuming the bottom of the tank. Don said that whatever size pinch of food I was feeding my fish to give them only half of that as most people tend to over feed their fish and that fish will act hungry all the time.

So for now I am awaiting the delivery of the live plants and am very excited to get started. Here's a picture of my tank as it is now.

Guide Notes
Sheila has been given solid advice so far. Overfeeding is the most common mistake made by aquarium owners. Among other things, it increases the phosphates in the water, which contributes to algae growth, a nasty problem in planted tanks.

Given the small size of her tank, suggesting a smaller bottom dwelling species of fish is good not only for the plants, but for the water chemistry in general. Larger fish produce more waste, which can quickly become a problem in a small aquarium.

... stay tuned, our series continues when Sheila receives her live plant shipment.

My thanks to Sheila for sharing her journal and to Don Matakis for sending plants and providing Sheila with expert advice.

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