There is a tiny fish store called “Ocean Aquarium” in an alley in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco run by one Justin Hau. He is a very good innovator and designer of cheap, DIY aquarium systems for planted aquariums. He is extremely knowledgeable and freely shares his knowledge with all who come to his shop.
Mr. Hau has come up with a excellent system for putting together a lush green planted aquarium at very little cost. His little store is full of small, absolutely gorgeous aquariums. Obviously he is an expert in planted nano tanks. His system deserves much more attention in the planted aquarium community. His typical system is as follows:
|Fertilizer||Only fish food and root tabs|
|Bottom substrate||3 inch (7,5 cm) gravel|
|Carbon dioxide||Low tech bottles|
|Lights||Light 8 on – 16 off|
|Number of fish||Moderate|
Note this is ONLY a TYPICAL set up. None of these parameters are cast in stone. They can all be changed with success.
The key to the lush growth of the plants in his gorgeous aquariums is a very ingenious CO₂ system. This system adds low pressure CO₂ to a suspended water bottle in the aquarium. The CO₂ slowly dissolves into the water and raises the CO₂ level just enough for plants to thrive. The CO₂ system looks like this:
We go into further detail about this system in this article
He proudly proclaims he has never done a water change on any of the many aquariums in his store. All the nitrates and phosphates get removed from the aquarium with plant trimmings, plant sales, and fish sales.
He emphasizes that lots of filtration gives poor plant growth and lots of algae. And he correctly says the mechanism is that the surface water movement from large filters removes the CO₂ plants need and allow algae to thrive. He only uses small homemade bottle filters with small amounts of aeration to filter his tanks. The water surface of his tanks is very still, with very little movement.
He uses a three inch (7.5 cm) deep substrate composed of pure aquarium gravel. He never vacuums. He runs 6.8 pH and 78°F (25.5°C). These parameters are exactly where plants thrive. When Mr. Hau adds plants, the roots of the plants will have a diverse group of micro-organisms on them. This will inoculate the substrate in each aquarium very well.
His lights are mainly just LED light fixtures with standard LED floodlights. No grow lights or red and blue LEDs were evident. When he sets up a planted aquarium, he starts out slow and might only have the lights on for four hours. As weeks pass, he might raise it to 8 hours per day, no higher.
He only fertilizes with fish food and root tabs. He does not add excess food. He admits he tends to overfeed, so he leaves feeding to his wife, LOL. He says, quite correctly, that overfeeding is detrimental to the fish.
There are a whole series of small DIY filter designs that will work very well with this type aquarium (low flow deep in the tank) and can be seen at the following article:
Aquarium Co-op has done an excellent YouTube video on the store.