How To Build A Pressurized CO2 Set Up For A Planted Tank

Below I’m going to outline how to build a suitable dual stage CO2 regulator for a planted aquarium; I do not recommend using single stage regulators due to the fact that they do not keep a constant pressure like dual stage regulators do, nor do they react as fact to changes in PSI when wanting to make adjustments. Dual stage regulators will save not only your fish, but your time, money and stress when having to adjust your single stage regulator. Common single stage regulator brands include but are not limited to : Milwaukee MA 957, Red Sea CO2 Regulators (Including Pro Model), Aquatic Life Co2 Regulators, Azoo CO2 Regulator, and DC CO2 Regulators. Keep in mind there are MANY other single stage CO2 regulators, especially those coming out of China/Japan which I highly recommend to STAY AWAY from.

Here is a list of amazing dual stage regulators, keep in mind these brands also make single stage regulators so you must do your research when figuring out which model number will be suitable for our purposes:

– Matheson
– Concoa
– Praxair
– Prostar
– Harris
– Linde
– Air Gas
– AGA
– Victor

Here is a regulator I use on one of my planted tanks, I’m a big fan of Concoa regulators and the 212 and 312 models are amazing for our purposes with a planted tank.

Here are a few shots of my set up, some are pictures from home and others are from a speech I recently did.

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One way to always tell if your regulator is dual stage without having to look up the model number is by looking at the back of the regulator; below is an example of a dual stage regulator and a single stage regulator, both in which I own.
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The next important thing for your CO2 set up is your Solenoid Valve and Needle Valve, also knowing as a Metering Valve. I prefer to use a Fabco Solenoid with a Parker H3L although there are endless options when it comes to this step; Parker H3L’s are superior metering valves making them very hard to come by, and when they do it is not at a cheap price.

– Fabco Directional Control Valve, Part # 3853-04-A287 – $27
– Plug Sys 8 Mini, Part # 4552150 $3

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Parker 2F-H3L-V-SS-TC with 1/8 NPT (Female)
Pricing – $50-$800 (All depends who you know 😉 )

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The second last optional set is your bubble counter; this is more so something just to give you a visual representation of how much CO2 is going past the metering valve but is completely unnecessary once you understand the relationship between CO2 PSI, Regulator Flow, and Metering Valves.

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The only other thing you need after the bubble counter is some CO2 resistant tubing, or the stuff from Home Depot or Lowes works perfectly fine; and a CO2 diffuser.

How you choose to diffuse your CO2 is up to you and entirely depends on the equipment you’re using for filtration and the size of your aquarium. With that said, CO2 diffusion is a whole other topic in itself which I will write about another time in a more detailed manner.

If anyone has any questions feel free to e-mail me or comment and I’ll help you out as much as I can.

Microsorum Pteropus ‘Windelov’ AKA Windelov Java Jern

Microsorum Pteropus ‘Windelov’ AKA Windelov Java Jern is an awesome plant for any planted tank when using driftwood, under high light this plant will stay nice and compact however under lower light it will grow long and “leggy” making it quite unattractive in my opinion.

With that said, Windelov Java Fern is best used in higher light aquariums, and will do best with CO2 supplementation although it is not needed. Windelov Java Fern does best when attached to a piece of driftwood or rock however it can also be planted in the substrate provided the rhizome has not been planted.

The number one rule for any plant with a rhizome is to never plant the rhizome as it will rot once buried in the substrate; you only want to plant the actual roots.

A secret for Java Fern species is “the more you cut it, the more it will grow” as commonly said by the godfather Takashi Amano.

Enjoy the pictures below, and as always here are the specs:

PH- 7.4 at night, 6.5 during the day when CO2 is on.
Temperature- 74-76
Lighting- 30″ Dual bulb T5HO – 6700k and Rosette bulb (7 hours per day). 24″ Dual bulb T5HO – 6700k and Rosette bulb (2 hours per day during the middle of the 7 hour lighting period)
Filtration- Marineland C220 Canister Filter
Substrate- Flourite Dark, Flourite Red, Flourite Black Sand, Muriate of Potash, Dolomite, Mineralized Top Soil, and Natural red clay from the earth.
Water Changes- X 1 a week 50%
Dosing- Alternate Micro and Macro ( 1 day Micro, 1 Day Macro, etc)

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Pogostemon Helferi ‘Downoi’

Pogostemon Helferi also known as ‘Downoi’ is one of my favourite foreground plants; it can be difficult to grow for some people but that’s normally due to insufficient nutrients, CO2, and lighting.

In my experience I’ve found this species to really prefer the higher like (60+ PAR), a nutrient rich substrate, adequate CO2 supplementation and an acidic environment.

Once established Downoi will spread quickly via growing smaller plants off the base stem; most people think Downoi is a rooted plant when it is actually a stem plant as it has a crown.

Here are some pictures from my 37 gallon aquarium, as well as the specs for anyone interested :

PH- 7.4 at night, 6.5 during the day when CO2 is on.
Temperature- 74-76
Lighting- 30″ Dual bulb T5HO – 6700k and Rosette bulb (7 hours per day). 24″ Dual bulb T5HO – 6700k and Rosette bulb (2 hours per day during the middle of the 7 hour lighting period)
Filtration- Marineland C220 Canister Filter
Substrate- Flourite Dark, Flourite Red, Flourite Black Sand, Muriate of Potash, Dolomite, Mineralized Top Soil, and Natural red clay from the earth.
Water Changes- X 1 a week 50%
Dosing- Alternate Micro and Macro ( 1 day Micro, 1 Day Macro, etc)

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Anubias Barteri Var. ‘Nana Petite’

Anubias Barteri Var. ‘Nana Petite’ is a great plant to add onto driftwood or to attach to rock pieces like lava rock; due to it’s smaller leaves in comparison to most Anubias species, this plant makes a great foreground plant.

All Anubias species are slow growing plants which prefer shaded conditions, although they will grow under med/high light but you may have algae issues since the leaves take so long to grow.

Anubias species can always be quite expensive, here in Canada Anubias is commonly sold at $1 per leaf for the Barteri species and can increase significantly when dealing with species like Coffeefolia or Bangkok.

The great thing about Anubias is their tolerability to a wide variety of conditions like temperature and PH; however Anubias is best grown in either hard water or acidic water with low light, in the neutral PH state Anubias does not grow as well.

As always here are the specs of the tank it’s being kept in:

PH- 7.4 at night, 6.5 during the day when CO2 is on.
Temperature- 74-76
Lighting- 30″ Dual bulb T5HO – 6700k and Rosette bulb (7 hours per day). 24″ Dual bulb T5HO – 6700k and Rosette bulb (2 hours per day during the middle of the 7 hour lighting period)
Filtration- Marineland C220 Canister Filter
Substrate- Flourite Dark, Flourite Red, Flourite Black Sand, Muriate of Potash, Dolomite, Mineralized Top Soil, and Natural red clay from the earth.
Water Changes- X 1 a week
Dosing- Alternate Micro and Macro ( 1 day Micro, 1 Day Macro, etc)

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Ammania Sp. Bonsai AKA True Rotala Indica – Tropica 1-2 Grow UPDATE 4 (Germinated Seeds)

Ammania Sp. Bonsai AKA True Rotala Indica is a fairly easy plant to grow once it’s been established, provided you’re growing it under optimal conditions. I’ve had this plant constantly flowering for quite some time now which has given me the opportunity to experiment with it’s flower and seeds; however I have not figured out how to germinate the seed on it’s own without being attached to the plant.

When I see ripe pink open flowers I take a small paintbrush and collect pollen from one plant and place it on another open flower in an attempt to artificially pollinate the plant; this has worked successfully for me so far in the past four months.

A few weeks later the plant flower will close, followed by the flower turning itself into a seed which then feeds off the mother plant growing tiny baby stem plants with surprisingly extensive root systems. As you’ll see below it there are easily 15-20 tiny stems in each seed but they are EXTREMELY difficult to even plant, for reference the pictures below were taken on my fingertip.

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Here shows the life stage of the flower from a tiny flower bud, to open buds, to the seedling now growing off the mother:
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At the last stage of it’s lifespan the Ammania Sp. Bonsai will begin to rot away after it’s produced a bunch of daughters as you see in the photo above.

As always here are the specs in which the plant is kept in:

Lighting – 4 T5 36″ SHOPLIGHTS (Nothing Fancy!!) The lights don’t even have reflector’s on them.
Light Bulbs – X 2 6700 Natural Daylight, X 2 Rosette ColourMax Bulbs.
Lighting Duration – Lights on at 10:00am, Lights off at 10:00pm = Full 12 hours, I gradually drop this down to 8 when the winter comes.
Substrate – 1 Cow Manure, 1 Sheep Manure, 1 Worm Castings, 3 CHEAP topsoil, 2 Peat, 0.5 Naturally Collected Clay
Humidity – Misting done via MistKing pump for 20 seconds at 1:30pm and at 6:30pm. Humidity stays between 70-80%
Temperature – 68-70 when lights are off and it is night time, 72-74 when all the lights are on in the plant room.
PH – 6.5 with the use of Almond leaves; being sure to keep on top of replacing them not letting the PH swing too much.

I also keep this plant in a submersed state in my main display tank, I try to not let the stems get too tall as I prefer to use it in a Bonsai effect. Once established in your aquarium Ammania Sp. Bonsai is really not all that difficult to grow, just be sure to have sufficient lighting, nutrient rich substrate, and pressurized CO2 supplementation.

Here are some pictures of the plant submersed in my tank.

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Cryptocoryne Wendtii Sp. ‘Green Gecko’

Since I’m in the process of tearing down tanks before I move, I sadly had to take down one of my tanks which houses a huge Cryptocoryne Wendtii Sp. ‘Green Gecko’ that has flowered submersed for me many times. The pictures you’ll see below include THREE spathes on ONE plant, yes that’s right three spathes on a single plant!!! This clearly shows how a nutrient rich substrate like the mineralized top soil that I use in all my submersed planted tanks really does give plants the extra boost they need as if they were in the wild. You rarely see Cryptocoryne’s flower submersed and when you do it’s generally 1 spathe, not 3; making this plant all that more special (in my eyes anyway).

I’ve been keeping this plant in a mineralized top soil substrate as previously mentioned, with a border of Seachem Flourite Dark and black sand as the cap. The PH stays roughly between 6.5 and 7.6, this does swing when I do water changes or when I don’t keep up on using Almond Leaves enough to lower the PH; now that I have a PH pen I can monitor this much better in my other tanks that are still up and running.

The tank itself is a simple 10 gallon tank with hood containing two 6700k 23 watt CFL bulbs, I do not use CO2 in this tank and I also do not dose any fertilizers; all the nutrients have come from the substrate itself and fish waste.

Fauna consists of: 15 fancy tail guppy fry and three ‘Super Red’ Bristlenose Ancistrus Plecostomus

Here are some pictures below that I took before I sold this plant to a friend of mine
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How To Grow Aquatic Plants Emersed

Many people have asked me how to start an emersed set up so I thought it’d be best to go ahead and do this write up; please keep in mind I’m in the process of clearing out many of my plants and tanks since I’ll be moving to Australia in early 2015. With that said many of the pictures you will see won’t have as many plants in the tanks as they normally would but this will still give you an idea of how to start an emersed set up for aquatic plants.

My set up consists of a three tier set up, one custom made 33 gallon aquarium on the bottom, three 10 gallon tanks in the middle section, and three 10 gallon tanks on the upper section. I recently removed one of the 10 gallon aquariums from the middle row and took one from the upper row of the stand to complete the middle section again; the upper section of the stand now only consist of two 10 gallon tanks. Every tank of course has a lid on it which consists of two pieces of glass, one that can slide over the other for easy access in and out of the tank; this is an absolute must for growing emersed aquatic plants, especially if you’re going to be in and out of your tanks a lot.

I’ll write how everything is controlled and any tips/tricks through the pictures below:

Here is the 33 gallon custom aquarium on the lowest level of the three tier stand; this tank houses 75% rare cryptocorynes and the rest are anubias and some stem plant species I’m experimenting with under lower light. Every pot in this tank has the same substrate, lighting, and misting schedule since they are all in the same tank, here are the specs :

Lighting – Dual bulb Coralife T5NO fixture with 6700k and rosette bulb, approx. 10 inches above the tank. 10 hour photo period.
Substrate- Cow manure, Sheep Manure, Worm Castings, Natural Red Clay, & Top Soil.
Misting- 20 seconds every 3 hours via Mist King pump.
Plants – Cryptocoryne Cordata Var. Siamensis ‘Blassii’, Cryptocoryne Cordata Var. Siamensis ‘Rosanervig’, Cryptocoryne Cordata Var. Siamensis ‘Thailand Sungai Kolok’, Cryptocoryne Cordata Var. Grabowski ‘1952 Shirley Aquatic’s’ , Cryptocoryne Sp. ‘Flamingo’, Cryptocoryne Moehlmannii ‘Sosak’, Cryptocoryne Purpurea Nothovar Purpurea ‘Kota Tinggi’, Cryptocoryne Nurii ‘Pahang Mutated’, Cryptocoryne sp. Affinis aka Cryptocoryne Haerteliana, Cryptocoryne Cf. Affinis, Anubias Barteri Nana, Anubias Barteri Nana Petite, Anubias Congensis, Alternanthera Reineckii Var. Roseafolia Mini, and Ludwigia Repens.
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This is the top level of the stand where originally one emersed and two submersed tanks sat; as you can see I’ve cleared out the emersed tank on the left as well as many of the plants from the submersed tanks. Currently the two submersed tanks are just used for housing smaller fish/fry and any plants before they go into my main display tank in my room or into the grow out tanks. Both submersed tanks are connected to the main air pump while also having HOB filter’s to provide extra filtration for the fish.
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The middle level does have three 10 gallon tanks again, I just haven’t taken a new pictures since the tank is still empty anyway. On the left hand side you’ll see an emersed tank which is also connected to the MistKing pump and includes the same substrate as above except the lighting is four T5NO shop lights with two 6700k bulbs and two rosette bulbs for a total of 4 T5 bulbs which sit approx. 6 inches above the tanks. I use these tanks for my higher light plants or any plants in which I’m trying to grow at a faster pace as opposed to the 33 gallon tank where everything in there is grown very slow.
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This is where the magic happens in terms of misting and all the power connections; as you can see a food safe 5 gallon bucket filled with R.O.D.I water acts as the reservoir to feed the MistKing pump which is then connected to all the emersed tanks to receive a 20 second misting every 3 hours during the 10 hour lighting period. The air pump is an Active Aqua Commercial Air Pump with 6 outlets, 45 LPM, 713 GPH and surprisingly only 20 watts! I picked this up on Amazon for less than $50 shipped to my house which is a steal considering what you’d pay at the local fish store for a basic air pump that still isn’t as powerful as this one; my only complaint is it’s a bit noisy but I didn’t expect silence for $50 so I’m satisfied. I have two main power stations which control the plant room; they are identical which is why I only took a picture of one but one is for all the lights which is plugged into a timer, while the other one is for everything that always needs to stay on like the air pump, filters, etc. 
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This last little set up contains two high humidity domes where I normally grow out different Cryptocoryne’s and carpet plants like Glosso or H.C Cuba; the lighting on the first level consist of two 23watt 6700k daylight CFL bulbs. Since the lights can get quite hot I rigged up an old computer fan I found in the garbage to some spare wire’s I had from previous electronic projects and placed this behind the lights blowing the warm air outside of the tent/domes to keep the temperature down. During the night when the lights are off the fan also goes off in order to not cause a drop in temperature.

The second row is used for growing mosses like Singapore Moss, Flame Moss, Riccia, and even H.C Cuba in smaller pots which I was surprised to see grow. I have these plants on the second row under a much lower light; just a cheap Marineland LED that came with my tank when I first bought it.
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The most important thing when growing aquatic plants emersed is that you maintain a high humidity inside the tanks or domes that you are using, anywhere between 75-85% is what I’ve found to be best, although some plants may need a higher humidity like if you were to try growing a Crinum species. Another important thing to keep in mind is the water level in the tanks, I’ve found if the water level is too close to the top of your pots and your soil appears to be very wet you’re going to have bad algae problems; I always try to keep my water level 3/4 of the way to the top of the pot, making sure that the top of the soil is damp and firm, not soaked and mushy.

Another thing to keep in mind is how you will mist your plants ? If you have a large number of tanks and grow set ups physically misting them every day can be a pain in the butt; investing in equipment like a MistKing pump will save you time to look after other things and money on wasted water from over misting. Be careful not to mist too often during the day or you will increase your overall water level within a few days and possibly have an algae outbreak on your hand if not looked after in a timely manner.

Here is a full list of all the plants I have inside all the tanks:

Stem Plants
Ammania Sp. ‘Bonsai’ True Rotala Indica
Alternanthera Reineckii Var. Roseafolia Mini
Ludwigia Repens
Bacopa Monnieri
Rotala Rotundifolia
Rotala Macaranda
Staurogyne Repens
Hygrophilia Polysperma ‘Rosanervig’ – ‘Sunset Hygro’
Pogostemon Helferi ‘Downoi’
Pogostemon Erectus

Rooted Plants
Cryptocoryne Cordata Var. Siamensis ‘Blassii’
Cryptocoryne Cordata Var. Siamensis ‘Rosanervig’
Cryptocoryne Cordata Var. Siamensis ‘Thailand Sungai Kolok’
Cryptocoryne Cordata Var. Grabowski ‘1952 Shirley Aquatic’s’
Cryptocoryne Moehlmannii ‘Sosak’
Cryptocoryne Purpurea Nothovar Purpurea ‘Kota Tinggi’
Cryptocoryne Crispatula Var. Tonkinensis
Cryptocoryne Sp. Affinis AKA. Cryptocoryne Haerteliana
Cryptocoryne Cf. Affinis
Cryptocoryne Lucens
Cryptocoryne Aponogetifolia ‘Sorsogon’
Cryptocoryne Nevillii
Cryptocoryne Wendtii ‘Brown’
Cryptocoryne Wendtii ‘Green’
Cryptocoryne Wendtii ‘Green Gecko’
Cryptocoryne Wendtii ‘Mi Oya’
Cryptocoryne Wendtii ‘Tropica’
Cryptocoryne Wendtii Sp. ‘Flamingo’
Cryptocoryne Nurii ‘Pahang Mutated’
Cryptocoryne Pontederiifolia
Cryptocoryne Retrospiralis
Hemianthus Callitrichoides “Dwarf Baby Tears”
Sagittaria Subulata – ‘Dwarf Sagittaria’
Echinodorus Tenellus ‘Micro’
Echinodorus Amazonicus
Vallisneria Americana
Glossostigma Elatinoides
Lilaeopsis Brasiliensis ‘Micro Sword’
Marsilea Crenata

Floaters/Mosses Etc.
Riccia Fluitans – Crystalwort
Riccardia Chamedryfolia – Mini Pellia
Monosolenium Tenerum – Pellia
Vesicularia Dubyana – Singapore Moss
Vesicularia Montagnei – Christmas Moss
Limnobium Laevigatum- Amazon Frogbit
Lemnoideae – Duckweed
Spirodela Polyrrhiza – Giant Duckweed
Taxiphyllum Sp. ‘Flame Moss’
Subwassertang
Fissidens Fontanus ‘Phoenix Moss’
Eichhornia Crassipes ‘Water Hyacinth’

Rhizome Plants
Anubias Barteri
Anubias Barteri Var. Nana
Anubias Barteri Var. Nana Petite
Anubias Barteri Var. Congensis
Anubias Lanceolata
Anubias Frazeri
Bolbitis Heudelotii
Microsorum Pteropus ‘Narrow Leaf’
Microsorum Pteropus ‘Trident’
Microsorum Pteropus ‘Windelov’

Bulb Plants
Nymphaea Lotus ‘Red’
Nymphaea Caerulea
Barclaya Longifolia ‘Green’
Crinum Calamistratum

Floaters
Giant Duckweed
Amazon Frogbit

If anyone ever has any questions, comments or needs help feel free to e-mail me or comment below and I’ll be sure to reply.

‘Super Red’ Bristlenose Ancistrus Plecostomus

I know I usually only post about plants but due to the fact that these pleco’s are so cool and somewhat rare I had to post them. After doing a speech for the Durham Region Aquarium Society they had a mini auction after the presentation as they normally do every meeting and I saw a trio of these ‘Super Red’ Bristlenose Ancistrus Plecostomus and I just HAD TO HAVE THEM!!

Below are some pictures for you all to enjoy. I will do a further write up on the conditions and such as they get large since they are still juvenile fish.

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Cryptocoryne Cf. Affinis

I originally purchased this plant as Cryptocoryne Cf. Affinis and to my understanding the .Cf is used when the species is undefined/unknown. I’ve had this plant growing in emersed conditions ever since I got it and it’s displayed a wide variety of colours for me in the time I’ve had it as you’ll see in the pictures below.

I hope one day this plant will send up a spathe so I can hopefully ID it but it’s still gorgeous nevertheless

As always here are the conditions in which it’s kept

Lighting- Coralife T5NO Dual Bulb – 6700k and rosette bulb – Lights are on for 10 hours. 
PH- 7.5
Substrate- Homemade substrate mix, cow manure, sheep manure, worm castings, natural red clay, and cheap topsoil.

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Cryptocoryne Wendtii ‘Mi Oya’ Spathe Update 6

This plant has been consistently producing spathes for literally almost 3 months straight now; it’s almost as if it is begging to be pollinated. I decided to cut this one open in order to get a shot of the inside kettle and limb.

If you look closely you will notice a spathe on the left that I’ve cut open and a spathe on the right which is forming; as I’ve said this plant is CONSTANTLY sending up spathe’s for me.

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