Tuesday, 1 January 2013

NEWBIE? Starting a New Tank? Happy New Tank

Happy new year, thinking of starting a planted tank? you need the following items

Budget & Cost
For a simple planted tank you may need around 2-300 for initial setup for a 2 feet tank

Aquarium:- SGD 30-60 for a 2 feet tank
Cabinet/rack:- SGD 40- 100++ from steel rack to simple cabinet ( chengal cabinet cost more of course)
Aquasoil:- SGD 35-45 for 9L of ADA Amazonia New
Lighting:- SGD 40- 200 from normal T5HO lights to LED lights
Filter:-  SGD 3 to 200 from simple sponge filter to high end canister
Fan:- SGD 10 to 1000++ from cheapo fan to high end chiller
Fertilizer: - SGD 9-100++ from Seachem Flourish to high end ADA
Co2/Liquid Carbon :- SGD 9 to 100++ from Seachem Excel to a decent co2 tank setup
Top up CO2: - SGD 15- 20 bucks for 2kg version.
Plants:- SGD 1-100 from simple plants to expensive rare plants..haha my plants are never more than 5 dollars though
Fish:- SGD 60 cents - 10000 dollars?? It very much depend on what and how many fish you are getting, for me i like neon tetras which generally schools frequently,cheap and hardy
Time :- Looking for nice harscape may take you forever, lol. Setting up requires around 1 day. weekly/monthly maintenance of 1-2 hours

Get a decent sized tank, my preference is  minimum 2 feet tank...hehe, nano tanks are great too if you have limited space, or just want a simple setup.

Basically is aquasoil, my preference is ADA or Gex Soil. I find ADA soil very potent.with the competitive pricing, i will prefer ADA Amazonia New soil. How much of soil? for planting , i recommend around 2-4 inch of soil. so for 2 feet tank, you may need around 1 bag of 9L of soil, try to keep some for topping up and sculpting the scape later.

Any other cheaper alternatives?
Yes, of course... why depend on commercial aquasoil, who say you die die must use aquasoil?

Option 1
Sand only tank:-
this is workable for low tech tanks, plants like anubias, Java ferns, basically do not need to be rooted. Other easy plants like polysperma, some rotalas, vallisneria don't even need soil to begin with, i grow them successfully and propagate them in sand-only tank.

Option 2
Diana Walstad Style tank
Not Oppa Kang Nam Style, but its Diana Walstad Style. This style uses a very clever way by using normal potting soil as base layer, some sand/small gravel as toppings, clever selection of plants and plant densely... great for starters and lazy people like me...i got a small DWS tank..running hehe will show off when i am free

For tanks larger than 2 feet, i will use the following rule of thumb ( T8 or T5HO, not for LED)
Low tech : 1-2 Watts per gallon of water
Mid tech : 3-4 watts per gallon of water
High tech: 4+ watts per gallon of water

try to have at least 7-8 hours of photo-period on daily basis, having a timer really helps a lot, i basically have everything on auto except topping up of water and clearing of green spot algae...lol

Do not have too much lights/photo-period if you do not have sufficient plants/co2, it will promote algae growth.

You may heard of light's colour temperature in a lot of forums,so what does it mean?? see below link

 so does it matters for scapers?? see my experiment below


Scapers normally uses T5HO ( T5 is the size of tube, HO is high output), some utilize LED, PL lights too, but i would still recommend T5HO 6500k/ 12000k T5HO works great for me.

if you are setting up a low tech tank, you can substitute with dosing Seachem Excel, its liquid carbon which will boost growth and act as algae killer at the same time

if budget allows, get a simple co2 setup with solenoid, you will love the plants growth and variety of plants you can keep. i find having a co2 tank is much cheaper than dosing Seachem Excel in long run.

So the basic set up is CO2 tank > check valve> bubble counter> check valve > diffuser.
Why so many check valve? check valve is to prevent water from entering the solenoid or co2 tank... logically, water will damage the solenoid and causes the co2 tank to rust and leak.

Get a co2 checker and adjust the BPS(bubbles per second as long the checker shows Green colour(sufficient). Blue (insufficient). Yellow( too much)

where to get a decent co2 tank? AQ marketplace of course is the best place, look out for NA(nature aquarium,a LFS) tank, these tanks can do 1 to 1 exchange at NA which is very convinient as you do not need to wait for the normal 3-7 days for pick up at normal LFS.

See links for CO2 if you do not know how a NA co2 tank looks like

My favorite is Seachem Flourish, Lushgro.... both of them works well but i find lushgro a bit too potent for low tech plants. i would suggest seachem flourish for low requirement plants.

Lushgro is good for those who like fast growth, high requirement plants..hehe you can check out the ingredient and you will noticed its far more concentrated...:)

Just dose as per manufacturer's recommendation and you may half the dosage if you have less/low tech plants

Ok, you have most of the stuffs ready? time to get plants, for easy to care plants, see this link

For Plant list aka Encyclopedia of Aquatic Plants, you can refer here

After buying the plants, remember to quarantine the plant..see links for step by steps

If you are a newbie, i think you are most likely to try out moss plant... hehe they are easy to grow and hardy... you can tie moss on a variety of surface like driftwood, mesh, some even tie onto coconut husk. Below is the link for an artical on how to tie moss.

Cycling of tank

This is a crucial part prior introducing fauna and control algae, I already elaborated enough in another page, see the below links

now you alread read about the basics, how to scape? i always like Drifwood scapes, Iwagumi scapes are nice but hard to maintain due to lack of fast growing plants to out-compete algae

For step by steps  see below links

  • Red Earth


  • Simple DW Scape


  • Mysterious Trail



Ok, after all the ordeal of setting up and cycling of tank...whats next? adding fauna of course..


Simple and hardy  and community fish like Neon Tetras, danios are great for planted tanks as they do not disturb plants

platy and guppy are good addition to the tank but they poo a lot and will breed like rabbits, it think they breed better than rabbits( i kept rabbits before)

they to google a bit before you buy any fauna, lives are precious... check for fin nipping, aggressive behavior. Don't waste your time asking LFS shop keepers, they know nuts about fish as most of them are just cashiers.

Some fishes like pleco and gold fish are not recommended as they will mess up the scape. but the choice is yours

Nerite snail

This guys are a beauty but will lay eggs now and then... but they love to eat Green Spot Algae... hehe


All shrimps eat algae, its just eat More or Eat Less..Easy to care shrimps are as per below links

All shrimps requires some care like weekly/monthly WC, monitoring of water quality to reduce the fertilizer/elements we dosed into the tank. they are generally more troublesome to care for than fish, but its a joy to keep.

NOTE: I focus more on aquascaping instead of shrimping, a lot of people especially newbies wanted best of both world. To be frank, it is almost impossible, we fertilize the aquarium a lot and thus the parameter will/may not be suitable for expensive and fragile shrimps. You may get away with hardy shrimps like malayan/cherry/ yamato but try other shrimps at your own risk, my advice:- select one you prefer most of have 2 tanks:- 1 for aquascape and 1 for shrimps....hehehe


for planted tank, its inevitable to get some algae now and then, so to counter them, i would suggest you to get some algae crew and simple fishes

if you encounter ANY, DO NOT PANIC!! its normal!! haha did you see crystal clear natural pond before? hardly leh....  for counter measures, see below link:-



This is a tricky issue faced by SEA hobbyist, our weather hovers around 28-34 degrees Celsius most of the day, except of rainy seasons which weather may drop to around 25-27 DC.

To maintain a tank, the best temperature is around 25 DC, but most of us poor hobbyist can't afford/maintain a chiller, so the mighty fan comes into action, which at least can lower ambient temperature to around 2-3 dc. This will cause water evaporate to wit more water top up but its still cheaper alternative than maintaining a chiller... but seriously, chiller is good equipment to have...anyone selling cheap? let me know..lol

my favourite fan is kotobuki fan, see the review below
update: very hard to find this brand of fan nowadays, top-aqua fan works well for me too

For aquarium, filtration is essential to remove excess poo/ build BB. I am using atman DF series canister..see below link

To calculate the flowrate required for your aquarium:-
calculate your tank volume , then times 6 or 8= flowrate of the canister you should buy

aquarium is 100 litres, you should get flow rate of 600litres- 800litres flowrate per hour.

By the way, there is nothing wrong with normal sponge filter, Overhead filter(OHF), Hang on Filter(HOF), Matten filter.... it's up to your budget, space available and maintenance regime you would like to have

less washing
large space for BB
generally silent

occupy space
a lot of pipes
need to locate the canister lower than aquarium, some smaller versions do not have this problem

HOF( Hang-On Filter)
Less space required
easy to clean, access filtration media/wool

less biomedia space
water splashing noise
need to keep to certain water level to work

OHF (OverHead Filter)

easy to clean, access filtration media/wool

less biomedia space
water splashing noise
pump may contribute to higher water temperature

Sponge filter/matten filter

easy to clean, access filtration media/wool
extra aeration

less biomedia space
looks ugly, but can be hidden from view

so the choice is yours to make, nothing is best, nothing is lousy, its up to your budget

NOTE: Most filters are rate/test their flowrate when it runs empty (max efficiency), so after we stuff it with media and wool, the flowrate will suffer by around 30-50%(depend on brand + price). thus i normally suggest at least 6-10 times of the aquarium capacity. So after all the media + poo, you still get decent flowrate

Do you need aeration in a planted tank? the answer is yes. Plants takes in CO2 during photo-period, and takes in O2 during resting period. So during night, it will compete O2 with fauna.

so, i am injecting co2 into the aquarium, do i still need aeration, the answer is yes, try to get a solenoid valve and use it with a timer, this is to inject co2 during photo period only

I would suggest hobbyist to set everything on timer,
O2 during non-photo period but OFF 1 hour before lighting period
CO2 to kick in 1 hour earlier before lights is switch ON, so there is readily available co2 in the water


Ok, you all read about Beneficial Bacteria in my Nitrogen Cycle page... so does different brand of biomedia matters?? i can say Yes and No...

Yes, some brands advertises they have huge amount of area of BB to grow some just say they are good..but how good is good??

Biohome:  300g = 2190 sq ft
Seachem Matrix: 1ltr = 700 sq m
Mr Aqua
Ocean Free sintered glass CR
Plastic Bioballs (try to avoid them as biomedia if possible, i use them as mechanical filter only)

Rule of Thumb 1kg per 100 litres of water...well most of use use more than that...

From my point of view, if you are just normal hobbyist, keeping simple tank with simple scape as me, you just need normal CR regardless of brand, of course, i recommend at least to buy ANS brand sintered glass CR as they are affordable and works fine... in all of my 3 tanks

Itchy Hand Syndrome

This is the main cause of failure in planted tank, people like me likes to mess around with tank e.g, shift hardscape, buy new stuff etc, add new hardscape, plants....sigh

Try not to mess anything up, Do not touch the tank except for usual maintenance. Let nature takes its course.... there is no need for intervention unless there is some sudden death or unusual parasites.

Wrong information given by shop/ forum member

Some shops are employing aunties and uncles/ foreign workers to man their shop, so it is hard to get good advise from them. worse still they just sell you stuff/fish without knowing what are they selling, just promoting....and get profit

Secondly, there are also a lot of greenhorn newbie in AQ trying to act smart or accumulate post ( to sell stuff after clocking certain amount of post). They just anyhow comment whatever they Googled...that is almost unavoidable but to guys like you who are reading this... note how many post the person who advise you in FORUM ... do not believe those newbies who advises, most of them time, they are just as blur as you....its like buying stuff in ebay, check seller's reputation first.

no offense to anyone reading this if you are one of them...wahahaha

Local Fish Shop (LFS) in Singapore to recommend

Woodlands/Yishun/Khatib area

Nanyang Seaview (my favorite 1 stop shop), Shifted to North side in 2018
Address 8 Chencharu Link, Singapore 769197

Blk 618 That Aquarium,  ( can find most of the stuff)

Blk 934 Polyart , (Formerly known as Aquastar)

Polyart ( formerly known as Green Emerald)
Near Marsiling Mrt
Map: http://www.streetdirectory.com/sg/hdb-woodlands/166-woodlands-street-13-730166/93_122483.html

East area
Blk 328 Clementi Florist & aquarium ( don't let the name fool you, its a very decent shop with tonnes of patron)

Blk 328 Polyart (24 hours)

Aquatic Avenue
Near Redhill Mrt ( better go after 2pm)

Tiong Bahru Area
East Ocean  Aquatic Trading

Tai Seng Area
Green Chapter( Boutique shop, expensive but high quality)
565 MacPherson Road #01-00 Singapore 368234

Toa Payoh Area
Nature Aquarium ( Nice shop which you can but most of the items for aquascaping)

Choa Chu Kang Area
Qian HU ( Big Corporation with a lot of stuff and fish, major distributor for Eheim stuff, pricing a bit expensive but you can find a lot of stuff here)

Ang Mo Kio/ Hougang  Area/ Serangoon
JZX Trading ( small shop with a lot of rare small fish like cory and pleco, may not have a lot of planted tank stuff but exotic fishes are plenty)

Near Kovan Mrt ( small shop, has a lot of predator and monster fish, small amount of plants for sale)

Petmart ( behind serangoon CC,small shop but has a lot of stuff and fishes, that area is like a pet street, some shops selling aqutic plants, fishes etc items..too many to name here... you should go there walk-walk if you have the chance)

Pasir Ris Area
Too many to state here see the links below for review

Aquarium Iwarna/ capricon ( farm style)
a lot of stuff ... aquatic plants, fish, marine fish...

Mainland Tropical Fish Farm ( walk in qian hu style)


I hope i did not missed out anything crucial in this blog...lol remind me if i left out anything...hahaha

This hobby is about recreating outdoors in miniature size indoors, we are practically responsible for the health of fauna. Please try to be considerate about  fauna's lives, all lives are precious... we are basically god for them...

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder,all scapes are unique and there is NO SAME scape in the world, so your scape is YOURS, no one can steal it.

I hope you like my setups and blog entries..SO, what are you doing staring at the screen?? get your A$$ off the chair and start planting.... ENJOY!! your new tank and HAPPY NEW YEAR 2013!!

If you have any question, i don't mind if you email me or post in the comments. I am available in AQ/ Facebook too...


  1. Very detailed and easy to digest. Though not a newbie in this hobby picked up several pointers. Still grappling with Algae issues and hope to apply the knowledge picked up from this blog. THANK YOU.

    1. Hi, thank you for the encouraging comment, i am still learning the ropes in this hobby though as this hobby really requires a lot of research...

      Algae growth is normal, the link i provided is quite extensive with cures...

  2. Stan! A job well done on the above bro. New hobbyist or season and even me can read this and use this to guide through. Awesome!

    1. thank you for your comment, you OLD BIRD liau, don't need to read my newbie blog lah...lol

    2. Nonsense. You're being really humble here. We're all learning each day. From our sources and each other. Learning new things everytime we get together. =)

  3. if i want to keep angel fish in my planted tank.. any shrimp or anything else for algae issue??

    1. angel fish will peck other fish/ shrimps... especially eyes of other fishes...

  4. nice blog and its quite useful thanks for sharing your information.
    aquarium soil price