New planted column with VERY HARD water - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-12-2014, 02:27 AM Thread Starter
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New planted column with VERY HARD water

I have been getting a lot of good information from this site so far and would like to get some opinions on my new tank build. I have questions about a couple different issues regarding TOM BARR's non-co2 method. I will try to follow this method as best as possible including the no water changes...

First of all, this is my proposed build:

Tank: 15 Gallon Column, measuring 13.5L x 13.5W x 19.75H
Lighting: 8w T5 + CFL modification
Filter: Aqueon QuietFlow 10 (will be upgrated to AC50 or 2313)
Substrate: flourite black sand (3 to 4" deep, sloping from front to back, using egg crate and yamaya stones to help keep the substrate from shifting)
Hardscape: yamaya stones and Branch wood of some kind
Flora: possibly ferns, mosses, anubias, crypts, vals, wisteria, anachris, frogbit, duckweed, dwarf sag, rotala, or anything else that can work with this depth of tank
Fauna: low bioload of RCS, ottos, school of boras sp.

Parameters of Tap water:

GH 22-25
KH 17
pH 7.4

Now to the questions:

1) I've been reading that the peat or leonardite layer is added to give the plants a carbon source right away. how necessary is this step? can I just use a dusting of peat as i have heard the leonardite can cause water discolouration, not to mention is a lot more difficult to obtain...

2) I've been finding conflicting info on substrate depth, so am I okay making the flourite black sand somewhere between 2" and 5" depending where in the scape it is? crypts will be the main root feeders... does this substrate have anaerobic pockets like other sands?

3) Given my VERY HARD water and GH and KH values, is it necessary to use Seachem EQ, or can i get away with Flourish Comprehensive instead for my micros? Is my tap water even usable for planted tanks with such high TDS? Should I mix with RO, given the species of flora and fauna that I want?

4) If I wanted to use the Flourish Macros, is there a way to calculate the amount needed to maintain the ppm levels suggested in the original non-co2 method?

5) This is my first tank of any kind for at least 20years, so I have no access to mulm or dirty sponges or used filters... how do I help cycle my tank? LFS? Seachem Stability?

Thanks for your patience,
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 02-12-2014, 08:14 PM
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Hard water is not really a problem.
There are some fish that are going to do better than others, though. I would use something like Asian Rummynose or certain Rainbow fish relatives, certain Pseudomugils.
These fish thrive in hard water.

Plants are mostly just fine in hard water. The depth of the tank suggests that you make sure you have enough light. A small enough bulb to fit the top of the tank, but bright enough when that light reaches the bottom.

I would not bother mixing RO with your water unless you really want to keep soft water fish.

With water that already has high GH there is not any need at all to add more GH booster of any sort.

I think the Seachem products are labeled so you can figure out what dose will add how much of each nutrient to the tank.
As for figuring out how much of each the plants are using, testing is the only way.
Here is what I would do:

Figure out how much of each seachem product you need to give your tank the right levels to get started.
Write it down and think of it in ratios:
If you use 1 teaspoon of N and 1/8 teaspoon of P then that is a 8:1 ratio.
and so on through N, P, K, micros, Excel.
Then, dose and monitor the NO3. If the level is...
dropping... add more of all the ferts in the ratio you have figured out.
staying the same, perhaps between 5-10, maintain the dosing.
rising... reduce the dosing of all the ferts in the ratio you have figured out.

Here is where it gets tricky:
Fish food (and shrimp food) can supply some of most nutrients, but is low in K, Fe and Ca.
You do not need to worry about Ca.
But the other nutrients (K and Fe) might be in short supply. You might have to modify your fertilizing to dose more K and Fe, but less N, P and other micros.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-03-2014, 02:50 AM Thread Starter
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Well after starting my tank up on March 2nd, it has been 3 months of relatively good growth... some plants worked and some did not... but now all my plants, including H. polysperma has stalled and developed fuzz algae of some kind... I am using Tom Barr's non-co2 method of ferts and no water changes but I add about 2cups/day for evaporation because of open top and high flow/filtration...

I know that a dirty filter or disturbing the substrate can cause this kind of algae, but everything has seemed to stop growing before the algae hit... the water is very clean and clear with never any spikes...

My kh has stayed around 14-16 and the ph stabilized at 8.2, but my gh has gone from 25 out of tap to 35 in 3 months!!

Hort wort does very well near the surface and with 9 species of crypts and the H. poly, H. difformis which is very slow growing all seemed to grow quite fast despite the 25 to 40 PAR at the substrate level, the H. angustifolia is surviving but the new leaves seem distorted and with pinholes, the water sprite is growing well in a shaded location but was overrun with fuzz and a brown or red dust algae, the pennywort slowly died as did the azola, frogbit and lindernia rotundifolia... the liliopsis mauritana and crypt is succumbing to GSA, fuzz, staghorn and some kind of green branching hair algae...

The CPD's and applesnail/cherry/amano shrimp are happy and the scalet badis i just added seems to be healthy too... but the tiger shrimp and ottos were a bust, but they are softer water creatures i have learned

i'm not abandoning the non-co2 method, but i am seriously considering using RO water to top off this tank, and also use it for my first water change after a small rescape this week... what can i expect from using RO in this instance? if i replace 50-75% of my water with RO, will the flora/fauna go into to shock with the different parameters?

Now my 5.5G nano with aquasoil malaya uses the same tap water, but has vastly different numbers with a ph of 7, kh of 2 and gh of only 18... most of the plants that didnt grow well in my 15G grow much better in this smaller tank, so this leads me to believe that a more reasonable hardness is more ideal

My tank parameters on March 2nd

gh 25
kh 16
ph 7.8

April 11th

gh 26
kh 14
ph 8.2

May 5th, which is when things started to slow down...

gh 30
kh 15
ph 8.2

June 2nd

gh 35
kh 16
ph 8.2
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-05-2014, 03:28 AM
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I tried Tom Barr's low light method and ended up with the some serious algae problems. I'm sure it was just my inexperience with planted tanks, so I decided to cut back my dosing to just micros, potassium, and a little GH booster. I saw much better results and fewer algae outbreaks.

As for the RO water, you should probably do all your topoffs with it because minerals in water don't evaporate, just the water. With your liquid rock water, more hardness is being added that can be used by the plants. I would just do a 50/50 mix during water changes to gradually bring the GH down. Initially replacing 50% of your tank volume may shock your livestock.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-14-2014, 12:35 PM Thread Starter
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So shortly after the last posting I did a rescape where I uprooted plants and added new crypts, and then did a 60% - 70% water change with treated tap water which brought my parameters down to Gh 30, kh 14 and ph 8 - not as much as in had hoped. ..

Then over the next month I switched out most of the stems for hygrophila angustifolia. And by the steady top off with RO water, this lowered the parameters to gh 28, kh 14 and ph 8...

Before this time it seemed like I was constantly battling some kind of deficiency from either lack of fertz or an uptake issue. My uneducated guess was to assume the super hard water was hindering uptake in some way. With the change to only one stem species and after removing the emersed pothos vines, I could concentrate my observations without wondering how the different plants were affecting eachother in the fertilizer uptake. The other plants are crypts and mosses which are slow growers. At this time I also started dosing seachem equilibrium for calcium, magnesium and iron that the RO water lacked. I still Dosed NPK as per Tom Barr's recommendations..

Unfortunately a massive BBA infestation set in as soon as I changed the cfl bulb at the 6 month mark. I raised the light up an inch and it started to subside...

But I still wasn't happy with these parameters. So at the end of September I began changing the water in small amounts, and this slowly replaced the liquid rock tap water with RO water. Over the next 2 weeks I eventually changed 50% of the water and subsequently lowered the parameters to gh 16, kh 3 and ph of 7.5

I noticed during this time that the fish started to come out of hiding more, and the majority of celestial pearl danios now occupy the whole tank instead of just hiding in the lower back... but that might be due to the yellow forktail rainbows vying for the food supply meaning the competition is more fierce...

I am noticing more staghorn and oedogonium fuzz algae on the hygrophila angustifolia since changing the water but nothing too bad. That could be a flow issue as the stems and moss have grown thick...

I am hoping this "softer" water is better for overall stability of this tank. There does seem to be less random leaf die off...
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-13-2015, 12:23 PM Thread Starter
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Results have been interesting on this tank...

Over time switching to RO water for top offs lead to a drop in kH and subsequently a pH crash... Shrimp deaths resulted... I tried to maintain the kH with baking soda but this also raised the TDS...

I had another baby in February so the tank got neglected save for top offs and random fertz... Last filter cleaning was in march... And from April to may some kind of disease caused dropsy in the fish population... By June only 2 male furcata rainbows and 2 male and 1 female CPDs remained... All seem healthy now...

Overgrown plants with hair algae and clado and staghorn... Did a mulm vaccuming with 2 gal water change...

I hacked back the crazy growth and replanted this week... I cleaned the filter last night... I'll get some pictures up now that I have a little more time

I haven't tested parameters in a long time...

I'm actually thinking about rescaping this tank with aquasoil, as my other low techs have been far more successful with that... Of course those tanks don't have fish populations
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-13-2015, 12:57 PM Thread Starter
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2015 comparisons


15 gallon column 2015 compared by nbtobey, on Flickr


15 gallon column 2015 compared by nbtobey, on Flickr

Looking full but this is the start of the neglect...


15 gallon column 2015 compared by nbtobey, on Flickr

The plants went mental so I hacked them down to get a hold of the situation...


15 gallon column 2015 compared by nbtobey, on Flickr

Clean up and replanted but the glass is still covered in algae to be removed once the plants root... Almost all Singapore moss has been removed
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-13-2015, 06:23 PM
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Above tank shot please, I wanna see the pothos! Do you have regular green, variegated, or marble queen?
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-14-2015, 10:07 AM
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Gorgeous tank! Love that piece of driftwood.

I too have liquid rock in my tap (thanks a lot arizona) and I was worried about the impact it might have on my tank. However, lots of the research I did and people I asked seem to agree that a stable pH/gH/etc is better in the long run than the 'ideal' numbers, simply because it is trickier in the long run to maintain that specific number you're shooting for.

But that's just my two cents. I go with a slow acclimation when adding any new fish and they and my plants seem to do just fine!
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-14-2015, 03:13 PM
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As a reefkeeper, I am always amused at freshwater folks who refer to their water as "liquid rock"--most freshwater systems have a TDS of ~500 ppm or so. Saltwater is 35,000 ppm TDS (70X higher than "liquid rock"), yet we just call it saltwater.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-16-2016, 12:14 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by AquaAurora View Post
Above tank shot please, I wanna see the pothos! Do you have regular green, variegated, or marble queen?
Sorry to reply so late, but life gets in the way... its a variegated pothos...

At some point I will get an above shot but its nothing special to look at... They are simply there to soak up extra nitrates I had last year and they don't get much light... I will taking them out soon and adding them to my 75g shallow riparium
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 01-18-2016, 02:35 PM Thread Starter
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Janurary 2016:

15 gallon column Janurary 2016 by nbtobey, on Flickr

By October 2015 the fish population was down to 2 male CPDs... The plants were chugging along with top offs only... Nitrates were high but everything else checked out

After a serious BGA infestation reared its ugly head, I tried to manually remove and a 90% water change and that didn't work... Then came hydrogen peroxide treatment and that didn't work... Then I used EM antibiotics and raised the light 1"

That has worked so far with no more BGA... I removed most of the crypts and replaced with stargrass, and a patch of hydrocotle tripartita 'japan'... It certainly has a more green look to it but everything is growing gangbusters... I am having troubles with bba, staghorn, and fuzz algae on hardscape and older leaves but I reckon that's from the serious amounts of water changes after being so stable for so long...

I have had to vaccum mulm a fair bit since last summer and make sure the filter is clean.. I added purigen which cleared the water pretty good, but I figure the substrate just has too much organics in it... I don't have any heavy root feeders... I should remove the substrate and give it a good cleaning and replace with aquasoils... When I get my 75g shallow riparium setup I will be moving the CPDs and starting a breeding setup, and this tank will either be taken down or revamped.

Last edited by hitmanx; 01-18-2016 at 02:59 PM. Reason: added more info
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