April 2002

April 2002


DPH Tank of the Month questionnaire
With Leo Reinhard

How did you get into keeping a Planted Discus Tank?

I had a dream. In fact I dreamt this dream for more years than I care to admit. Over the years I tried many times to grow aquatic plants. The result was always the same. After a month or two, algae would rear one or more of its ugly heads and the plants would die or have to be removed. The dream was becoming a nightmare. I read numerous articles by aquatic plant experts of how easy it was to have a beautiful aquarium lush with gorgeous plants. Looking at fantastic pictures of planted aquariums of breathtaking beauty would motivate me to try again but I usually cut a few corners because all the steps seemed like a lot of trouble. After many attempts at maintaining a planted tank for more than a couple of months, I decided that if I was meant to have a plant tank I would have been born with a green thumb and my hands were certainly not so disfigured. So I gave it up. (For a while)

Having given up on plant tanks, I found that raising discus was best suited to bare bottom tanks and so did not even have to think about my dream. After a couple of years of raising various strains of discus, some health concerns following heart surgery caused me to sell off most of my equipment and all of my discus. With no more daily water changes to do, I started thinking of a plant tank again. After all, it would be much easier than discus wouldn’t it? After more research, I decided to try to do it right this time. I chose my gravel, substrate additive, plants, fertilizer, trace elements, lighting and plants with care for my limited budget. 3 months later the plants were not only alive but were quickly filling out the tank. That dream finally became a reality in March 2001. Wow, talk about a long dream.

About the time when my plants had to be pruned at least weekly, I was invited over to see Davis’ new discus. I was hooked on discus again. I acquired 6 Discus from Davis and decided then and there that when the Discus were nearly full-grown they would replace the Angels in my plant tank. I had replaced the lowly pail for a pump to do water changes and thought that the weekly water changes I was doing on the plant tank would only have to be increased to 3 times a week once the discus were in place.

So, that is the short answer (:>) to the question.

What do you feel has been the most rewarding aspect of keeping such a tank?

That’s easy. Watching my Discus was always a pleasure as was viewing my plant tank. But to have both pleasures in the same space is an experience that makes the effort worthwhile. Discus seemed to have the perfect shape to glide through the plants. Another benefit is having my wife finally make some nice comments about the appearance of the tank.

What has been the hardest challenge for you in keeping a Planted Discus tank and have you overcome it?

The tough part for me, before the plants started to grow well, was controlling the algae. I was having some trouble getting rid of green hair algae. I bought various algae eater including Ottos, Bushy-nose Plecos, Siamese Algae Eaters and shrimp. The algae did not seem to notice and continued to thrive. Eventually I re-read an article about giving the plants enough of the proper nutrients so grow fast enough to out-compete the algae for the phosphate in the water causing the algae to die from lack of this important nutrient. Following instructions in the article I made a solution of Potassium Nitrate and dosed the tank daily until a nitrate level between 5 and 10 ppm was achieved and maintain this level. To answer the 2nd part of the question-the hair algae was all gone in about 10 days. Another challenge is keeping the tank clean. I siphon the bottom every other day and change 25-30% water at that time.

What kind of approach do you take in maintaining your tank the High Tech way or a more natural way?

My methods would likely be called “ low high tech”. High because fertilizer, trace elements, co2, moderately high lighting levels and substrate additives are all important parts of the whole solution. Low because My co2 setup is the inexpensive sugar and yeast method without any needle valves or regulators to control the co2. By keeping an eye on the Discus and ph levels, I feel that the co2 levels are within safe range. Rising ph tells me to recharge the sugar and yeast solution. I add 10 drops of trace element solution daily and 3 ml of potassium nitrate solution every other day with the water changes. I think I need to increase my lighting a little.

What piece of advice can you give to others who are thinking about setting up a tank like this?

Be prepared to do some research and study until you understand the requirements and relationships of plants, algae, nutrients, light and co2. Everyone will not have the problems I encountered, if the effort is taken beforehand to learn the basics.

Make a plan of the plant layout, include some fast growing plants in the layout to soak up excess phosphates and thus preventing algae from getting a foothold, pay attention to the ultimate size the various plants will achieve so you don’t end-up with a jungle and no swimming room for the Discus. And last but not least, don’t get discouraged.

Plant Tank Landscape Plan

LR Lugwiglia Repens EO Echonidorus Ozelot
LS Limnophilia Sessiliflora EB Echonidorus Bleheri
CW Criptocoryne Willisii VS Valisneria Amricana Gigantea
AR Alternanthera Reineckii Small Rock
HS Hygrophilia Polysperma "Sunset" Driftwood
CB Cryptocoryne Blassi AC Anubius Coffeeafolia
LB Lilaeopsis Brasiliensis AN Anubius Nana

Plant Tank Materials List

Tank        48” x 18” x 20.5” 75 US gals.
Substrate Bottom-2 ˝ “ 50% Terralit / 50% fine gravel
               Top- 2” fine gravel
Heater     250 Watt
Filter       Fluval 404 with sponges, ceramic noodles and polyester filter wool
Lighting   110 W compact Fluorescent, 40 W regular fluorescent
Water      Tap water- KH 4, GH 7-8, PH 7.6-7.8 out of tap but lowered with CO2.
CO2         Produce with water sugar and yeast in a 2 litre bottle. Recharged every 2 weeks.

20-25% water change every other day – gravel siphoned at each change. Water aged and preheated to 86 F.
1 ml potassium nitrate, 10 ml home-made trace element solution ( Poor man’s Dupla Drops) added daily.
Plants pruned weekly.
Inside Glass cleaned weekly.


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