The long struggle, need advice - Toxicity or deficiency? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-17-2017, 01:39 PM Thread Starter
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The long struggle, need advice - Toxicity or deficiency?

I had my 55g high tech tank setup for about 2 years now. But I have restarted several time because of algae/poor plant growth issues. Just restarted about 6 weeks ago. Every time I start fresh, everything is growing fast and healthy for about a month, then I start getting pinholes, twisted leaves and sudden bloom of GSA and BBA. And seeing a lot of discussions on micro toxicity lately I just thought I'd ask if this might look like it?

I always just contributed it to the "CO2 issue. Not enough, poor circulation etc". But I have now tried so many different configurations of extra pumps for flow, adding more Co2 to the point of almost gassing inhabitants. Different methods of diffusion. You name it.

2 Weeks ago I had no algae, now its on the driftwood pretty bad and on some of the plants. Started with twisted new growth on the L.Glandulosa and H.Compact, some twisting of AR mini. Then GSA on driftwood, then GSA on some leaves (mainly H.Pinnatifida ,L.Glandulosa and AR mini). Then Pinholes in Buce and H.Pinnatifida. Now BBA is starting to spread on driftwood and substrate pretty fast. Only a little bit on the Buce and L.Glandulosa so far.

As I said earlier, every restart and the issues start out the same. First GSA slowly creeping up on hardscape after 4-5 weeks, then GSA takes off followed by BBA.

Plant list:
Ludwigia Glandulosa -
Pogostemon Erectus
Hygrophila pinnatifida
Hygrophila Corymbosa "compact"
Alternanthera reineckii 'Mini'
Staurogyne Repens
Bucephalandra 'wavy green'
Microsorum pteropus 'Trident'
Utricularia Graminifolia - Changing this out for HC, just too much of a pain to plant and keep planted for me.

Substrate:
ADA Aquasoil Amazonia

Filtration:
Fluval FX6 with Eheim substrat Pro,3-4 years old well established.
Clean it every 2-3 weeks.

Lights:
Finnex Planted+ 24/7 @ about 18" from substrate
Running it in 24/7 mode.

Used to run 2x54W T5HO with high quality reflectors, but now have the finnex, as I thought I might have to much light and/or not the correct type of light.
No difference after switch, other than plants and algae are growing a tad slower.

Ferts:
EI method with values based on this calculator:
Aquarium Nutrient Calculator
KNO3, KH2PO4, K2SO4 on Mon, Wed and Fri.
Rexolin APN (used CSM+B before with pretty much same results)Tue, Thur and Sat.
Flourish Excel at the recommended 5ml pr 40L every day.

Water chemistry:

KH = 2.5-3
GH = 4-5
PH before CO2 7.3-7.4
PH after CO2 6.0-6.1

NH4 = 0
NO2 = 0
NO3 = 30-40
PO4 = 1

CO2:
Bazooka atomic diffuser 65mm
1.8bar pressure
BPS - Too fast to count, but drop checkers in every corner of tank show yellow/very pale green at peak co2.
12lbs Canister with BioPlast Regulator (single stage from the 90s, German Made)

Water changes/maintenance:
50-60% once a week.
Daily use of a Koralia wavemaker to get mulm from under plants/driftwood etc into the water column and into the filter.
Removing dead or decaying plant matter on WC day.
Suck up any substrate with BBA and discard it, trim the worst hit leaves on WC day.

As of 2 days ago, I did a close to 90% WC and stopped Micro's so far, to see if I too might see improvements as some others have.
But since I have been dosing CSM+B and Rexolin APN in EI amounts for close to 2 years, I'm a little worried that my Aquasoil has become toxic too. If this is indeed the case.

I really don't know what I'm doing wrong, hopefully I could get some insight here.
On a sidenote, I have a low tech shrimp tank with no co2, ferts and pretty high light. Not a spot of algae. And If I put anything from my hightech over with algae, it dies pretty fast in the low tech. Strange.
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Last edited by Malakian; 03-18-2017 at 06:12 PM. Reason: Added details
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post #2 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-17-2017, 05:15 PM Thread Starter
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After some long thinking and reading up on toxicity it does make some sense in my case. Seeing that I have fairly soft water, and as far as I understand the softer water the less micro's it takes for toxicity.
And since I have been dosing EI amounts for so long I doubt it could be deficiency. I'll just do a "micro detox" and see where it goes.

Also, the twisted leaves, both GSA and BBA on plants seem to be a common "trait" with toxicity.

I know there is a lot of controversy between EI and Micro toxicities, but it's pretty much the only thing I have not addressed/tried to change. The ferts regime that is.

I'll try to keep this update on any changes. Comments would still be very welcome.

Last edited by Malakian; 03-17-2017 at 05:27 PM. Reason: Added details
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post #3 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-17-2017, 06:59 PM
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When I read through your post, I was expecting to see a tank that is a total mess.

After seeing the pictures, it seems to me you have more right going on than wrong. That's why I would change things slowly and only change one parameter at a time.

And as you may know, trace toxicity has been a heated subject for debate on this board at times. The strange thing it does not seem to be consistent from tank to tank. Some people dose loads of micros (T. Barr) and everything is just fine. Others get negative effects (Burr740) and dose very, very little.

Keep us posted as to your findings. Should be interesting.
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post #4 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-17-2017, 07:10 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the feedback. We'll this is just the "beginning stage" of the deterioration and it's not the best pictures showing the flaws, but trying to stop it before it gets out of hand. If its the same as my numerous attempts it will go down hill from here in a hurry.

Yeah, that's what doesn't make sense with the Micros. But I think read somewhere Tom has pretty hard water, which might explain it in that case. Possibly mixing it up with someone else. But who knows, worth a try I think.

Edit: I also been very diligent the last week, removing not so fresh looking leaves and removing substrate with BBA almost everyday. Might explain why it doesn't look as bad. Had I not done this, from experience the BBA on the substrate would have a formed a nice little matt in 1-2 weeks where there is no plants covering it. Also most of the lower leaves of the S.repens is trimmed away, they get infested with GSA then when it starts dying/deteriorating BBA takes over them. But now the GSA is starting to attack pretty new leaves on the AR mini and L. glandulosa, this is what is worrying me now. If it continues at this rate, I have to chuck most of the plant mass to get rid of it in not too long.

And it happens so fast, every time. It's like a light switch. From practically nothing and every thing going picture perfect, to be growing on most of the hardscape and older plant leaves in 2 days.

Last edited by Malakian; 03-17-2017 at 07:38 PM. Reason: Added info
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post #5 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 02:53 PM Thread Starter
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Probably to early to tell really, but for the first time the Buce. is throwing out new leaves that doesn't melt at the stem, and a lot faster than before. Every since I got it, it has been growing new roots and leaves, but the new ones barley reach "maturity" before the stem melts and leaf floats away.

Unfortunately I already see more GSA and holes on the H.pinnatifida and the H.Compact is starting to get holes on the older leaves.

Getting some more plants soon, so then I can trim a lot of the affected plant mass, and increase the plant mass over all. Hopefully that will help some. Plants are still growing very fast, just not as healthy as they could/should be. So thinking maybe more will help compete with the algae.
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post #6 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 04:07 PM
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Just curious. Do you reuse your substrate (or filtration material) between tear downs?
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post #7 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 04:34 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zorfox View Post
Just curious. Do you reuse your substrate (or filtration material) between tear downs?

Yupp, I do. That's why I was a bit concerned about the substrate being toxic if it has adsorbed a lot over the 2-3 years I used it.

Since I read that aquasoil last more or less indefinitely, and same for the media I haven't changed it, since both are rather expensive here in Norway. 3 Bags of aquasoil will run me around 200$ and media around 150$.
Everything in this damn country that is slightly "niche" is so overpriced. Take musical instruments as an example, I can buy a brand new guitar on eBay and pay almost the same amount in shipping as the guitar, and pay 25% taxes on that when it arrives (on the shipping too, I know it's ridiculous but it's just the way it is here). Still about half the price of the local shops here

Anywho, got a little off track there. Do you think I should change it, and start totally fresh? Or is there maybe a way to clean/flush the substrate?

I really do want to continue to use ADA aquasoil though, as I have a custom ordered OptiWhite tank and the fact that ADA doesn't scratch glass is really appealing to me. But if you think a completely fresh restart would help, I might as well try. At this rate I'm loosing a lot of money on new plants all the time anyways. But I'd have to go with something else for the moment probably inert. But at this point I guess the Aquasoil is pretty much inert High CEC substrate after so many years.

Edit: Now that I think of it, I actually have some high CEC inert substrate lying around. I bought it before the ADA, but never used it. It's called Easy Care Substrate - ECS. Very little info when googling, but it's seems to be pretty much the same as Eco Complete.

Here is a link
, but it's in Norwegian though, only one I could find. Google translate of the product, it's rough but you get the idea:

"EasyCare Substrate (ECS) Consists of burning natural clay that has very high porosity. This provides high colonization of bacteria and increases the degradation of waste products. It makes the water clean and clear while there reduces algae growth in the aquarium.

ECS's two grain sizes 0.1 to 1.3 mm (this is the one I have) and 1-4 mm for a large through-flow in the bottom layer. Along with the natural minerals and trace elements bottom layer contains, provide the optimum conditions for aquatic vegetation.

ECS makes the substrate to a natural filter while the reddish-brown color gives a natural look and creates a good contrast to green plants."

Last edited by Malakian; 03-18-2017 at 04:59 PM. Reason: Added info
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post #8 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 04:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malakian View Post
Every time I start fresh, everything is growing fast and healthy for about a month, then I start getting pinholes, twisted leaves and sudden bloom of GSA and BBA.
The 3 month time is the time problems can arise. For the parameters of the water change as things settle. Here is some interesting read by Kekon, "Lowering NO3 always helped to eliminate problems with stunted tips but at lower NO3 (5 ppm) some fast growing species may suffer from N deficiency. Thus introduced Co-NH2-2 (urea or carbamide) and NH4NO3 (Ammonium Nitrate) with NO3."

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Originally Posted by Greggz View Post
Some people dose loads of micros (T. Barr) and everything is just fine. Others get negative effects (Burr740) and dose very, very little.

Keep us posted as to your findings. Should be interesting.
If you have city chemical treated water, which may contain algae spores, you have to work harder on maintaining a balance. When dealing with nature nothing is written in stone.
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post #9 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 05:06 PM
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Quote:
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I have some high CEC inert substrate called Easy Care Substrate - ECS. It seems to be pretty much the same as Eco Complete.
I think instead of ECS you could use Laterite. I have found Laterite in Pet Smart. It is not listed on their website though. Oops!! That is if you lived in the states. I see now you are in Norway
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Last edited by Hilde; 03-18-2017 at 05:17 PM. Reason: added text
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post #10 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 05:19 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
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I use Red Bag kitty litter on the bottom under dirt for it has high CEC.
Under dirt? As in under potting soil or under Aquasoil, or did you just mean Kitty litter over dirt? I'm a little confused :P

I read through the post you refered to, interesting about the NO3. I always had pretty high levels 30ppm+. But then again, the same argument comes in to play, why does several EI tanks like Tom's lard on with ferts and don't show the same signs.

And yes, I do use chemically treated city water, but we are so lucky to have some of the cleanest water in the world, or at least so they boast about in Langvatn Water works.

I even tested it with a high quality TDS at the lab at work, and straight from the tap is 23 TDS/ppm, not to far from RO water.
And their spec. sheets on their site is very consistent with what I can test, TDS, PH, Iron NO3 NH4. It also has no form of bacteria detected and little to no metals/minerals, the GH from the tap is pretty much just from Ca. So I add 10gr of MgSo4 and 5 gr K2SO4 at each WC.

Edit: I see you changed your post, yeah we do have Laterite (in form of kitty litter) pretty cheap, but it's also almost white. A very light grey color, so not too attractive though. Also found a brown/reddish clay type kitty litter that I use for my parrot, but it is dusty as all hell. Would be hard to rinse it properly and seem to be easily broken into dust. The white stuff, which I'm pretty sure is laterite is more like small pieces of slate rock with a porous structure in appearance and very little dust. But yeah, not to stoked on almost white substrate :P
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post #11 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 05:28 PM
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I would definitely try a fresh substrate.

All those "micros" are still present in the substrate and filter material.
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post #12 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 05:30 PM
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Under dirt? As in under potting soil or under Aquasoil, or did you just mean Kitty litter over dirt? I'm a little confused :P
Since I hope to move this year I have my plants in plastic containers in the tank. In them is 1st Kitty litter, 2nd Worm castings dirt, 3rd River sand or Black diamond blasting sand for topping.
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post #13 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 05:35 PM Thread Starter
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I would definitely try a fresh substrate.

All those "micros" are still present in the substrate and filter material.
We'll then, I guess ill try the Eco Complete stuff, just have to be really careful when cleaning the glass until I can afford some new Aquasoil. I'm not the most active person on here, but I lurk around a lot. And you are one of the people on this forum I see as very knowledgeable and always seem to give good advice and know your way around stuff. You and about 4-5 other people on forums I trust more or less blindly :P

Good opportunity to redo when the other plants come in. Poor fishy's though, just had a major tear down/stress moment. You really think the media is necessary too? Really hate to chuck 8-9l of eheim substrate pro. Holds a good bunch that FX6. I'm guessing the sponges are fine to reuse at least. Since it is pretty much 100% inert and just mechanical.

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Since I hope to move this year I have my plants in plastic containers in the tank. In them is 1st Kitty litter, 2nd Worm castings dirt, 3rd River sand or Black diamond blasting sand for topping.
Ah, that makes sense. So it's more of a Walstad/dirted tank kind of approach. Not what I am really looking for though. I replant and move stuff around quite often, and disturbing the dirt would cloud the water a lot and possible spike in nutrients/ammonia. No?
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post #14 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 05:43 PM
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We'll then, I guess ill try the Eco Complete stuff then, just have to be really careful when cleaning the glass until I can afford some new Aquasoil. I'm not the most active person on here, but I lurk around a lot. And you are one of the people on this forum I see as very knowledgeable and always seem to give good advice and know your way around stuff.
Thank you. I appreciate that.

I will say that there is more to this than meets the eye. I have some suspicions about what is actually going on with this outbreak of "old tank syndrome" or micro toxicity. Until I do a little more research I'd rather not say. Suffice it to say that "the old tank stuff" is in the substrate and will not wash away with a good rinse.
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post #15 of 114 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 05:49 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you. I appreciate that.

I will say that there is more to this than meets the eye. I have some suspicions about what is actually going on with this outbreak of "old tank syndrome" or micro toxicity. Until I do a little more research I'd rather not say. Suffice it to say that "the old tank stuff" is in the substrate and will not wash away with a good rinse.
Very true. And I've never seen or read about other people having BBA growing directly on the aquasoil, some something might be iffy there. Should of thought of that before. But non the less, I don't really have the money to fork out for the media this month. I'll try the substrate first, if it's still not much improvement I'll have to change that next.

Or maybe I could just fill it with those BBQ lava rocks? Seems like a decent filter media and usable size, and best of all. Dirt cheap. Maybe not the most efficient bio-media, but as I said the FX6 holds A LOT of media, and its just a 55g tank with 50 cardinals, about 5 platies and some corys and shrimp. I just wanted the FX6 more or less for the flow, and ease of water changes. Maybe just change 50% of the media for the lava rocks, that way I at least eliminate 50% of the old stuff from the filter, and I have to have some left for recolonization/cycling anyway.

Edit: Also, on the ferts part. I was planning on continue EI for all other elements, other than micros. Thinking about not using micros to start, then start with 1/2 or 1/3rd of EI values of micros at the first sign of deficiency, sound reasonable? Also, would any of the Macros bind to toxic levels in High CEC substrate, as in do I have to watch out for overdosing with PO4 and NO3 as well?
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Last edited by Malakian; 03-18-2017 at 06:00 PM. Reason: Added question
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