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1st post...going to ask a lot of questions.


New Member
Greetings. Been keeping fish for about 20 years but the past few have been solely saltwater reefs so a little out of practice with freshwater. Right now I have 5 reefs going(75g,40 breeder,2 34g solanas and a 12g nano). Recently decided a 20 long I had in the garage would make a good planted apisto tank. After doing some reading I used pool filter sand on top of a thin layer of rinsed miracle grow organic. I have a 4x24 t5ho retro in a canopy with salt bulbs right now. Think I am keeping the ati purple plus and aquablue special and have 2 plusrite 6500k bulbs on the way for balance. I planted it pretty heavy and filled it yesterday. Used 50/50 rodi and dechlorinated tap. I dont have a gh/kh test kit yet but the api kh test I use for salt gives me 2dkh. Ammonia right now is about .50 ppm, zero nitrites and ph is around 6.6. I have a tiny bit of water movement with a small powerhead and heater is set to 80 degrees. Stock plan is a dozen neon tetras and a pair of agassizii with a possible trio of hatchets up top. No plans to raise fry if they occur.


Do I need a sponge or hob filter? My understanding is the plants should be filter enough.

Was going with an aquatek co2 system on the same timer as the first pair of lights coming on around 10am and going off around 8pm set to 1 bubble per second with a drop checker. Do I need an airstone running during the night to balance ph?

Can I go with just RO water with the miracle grow providing nutrients or do I need to add ferts and/or use tap for water changes?plan is 25%(5 gallon) water changes weekly.

Any other tips/advice to help me make these guys happy would be much appreciated.

Sorry for the long post and hope its in the right forum.

The tank as of yesterday afternoon...its a bit more cloudy now.



That is going to be a beautiful set-up. I personally wouldn't try it without any filtration. For the first year with organic miracle grow substrate, I haven't fertilized other than adding iron for my ludwigia and an indian red sword. Plants are thriving although I did initially have some significant algae issues due to excess nutrients from the soil. In retrospect, I should have increased the initial water changes.

Are there cave like openings under the driftwood? It looks like you might have some which the apisto's will very much appreciate.


New Member
It,s a very nice plated aquarium.
I think it,s necessary to have a spongin filter in the aquarium.
The filter also prevent making lipid membrane on the surface of water.


New Member
That rootwood has lots of nooks and crannies both on top and under it so I am sure they will dig up a few caves to hide in.Would a canister filter be better or stick with sponge?Am I overdoing it with the co2 system and if not is turning it off at night a sound plan or should I run it 24/7?


Active Member
5 Year Member
It's NOT necessary to have filtration -- although you probably SHOULD at the beginning, until the plants become established, and the biocycle of the water has stabilized. I would estimate that to take a couple of months, to be stable enough to not have a filter. Additionally, I would highly recommend DOUBLING the amount of plants you have -- especially more stem plants.

In the case of no filter, I would stock the tank VERY lightly...in the case of a 20 long, I would say six to eight small barbs would be good; maybe a single apistogramma, but not much more than that.

Here's an example of a tank that I eventually did with no filtration -- 75 gallon with dirt substrate, no CO2. I took the sponge filters one at a time -- about 2 weeks apart -- AFTER the stem plants had almost completely covered the top of the water surface. I also removed the bolivian rams and left sixteen cardinal tetras and maybe four corydoras in there, and that's it.

Good luck!


New Member
Ended up grabbing a penguin 100 hob at petsmart this evening but may take it back for the 150. Also ordered a rio 50 with the sponge filter.trying to keep the flow low for the apistos.as far as stocking the apistos and at least 6-7 neons are a must have...I can sacrifice the hatchets if need be.