Steady as she goes. Another iPhone pic, but I tried a little harder this time, haha... I should just get my good camera out sometime. I trimmed the HC back, but it's still not quite as short as I'd like - it needs a week or two to root better before I can trim it as low as I want. The glosso is taking its sweet time to grow in, but it's doing its job as well. The stauro is going to take over if I'm not careful, haha... that stuff grows like crazy when it's happy. I added some anubias nana 'petite' in the shady spots, as the HC and glosso would not grow there. They were not the healthiest plants, but they are bouncing back now that I have my crap together. Added livestock on Sunday: 32 neons and 20 otos. Everybody is happy and thriving, the neons are super colorful and the otos are fat and grazing happily.
Seeing this with the plants growing in, I'm not really happy with the left side hardscape. The right side grouping is groovy, but the left just looks like I threw some rocks in there. Which is essentially what I did.
I think this definitively demonstrates that my light was not the issue after all, as I have made absolutely no changes to it since I removed it initially. At the current height, the coverage is flawless, and my plants pearl within minutes of the lights coming up every day. The issues had to be because of one or all of the following:
1. The lava rock adding silicates to the water column.
2. The water aging system I had in place.
3. Unknown CO2 issues that have since been resolved
1: Toss the lava rock. Easy.
2: When we moved, I dismantled my 50-gallon storage barrel and hoses that brought the water to my tank. The issue was that I wasn't draining my hoses after water changes, so I was getting anaerobic bacteria buildup in the hose. I flushed it before each water change, but I'm thinking that wasn't enough. Even if it wasn't the largest issue facing my tank, I imagine it had a negative effect on my plants, making it even harder for them to survive.
3. I had my system set up with a 10-lb CO2 tank, dual stage reg, 2-port manifold, ancient bubble counters (JBJ-style without the check valves I've had for about 10 years) miles of hose, old check valves, and some sketchy diffusers. I switched back to a reactor (as I have had great success with Rex-style reactors before) and dismantled the whole system, cleaning and inspecting every connection. I removed the manifold and tossed the old bubble counters, replacing them with shiny new ones with check valves. I also reduced the hose to the minimum necessary. To be certain, I also introduced my 5-lb cylinder with a dual stage reg and an atomic diffuser. The combination works well, but it should be just fine with either one by itself. I'm a little hesitant to change anything (if it ain't broke don't fix it), but I'd sure like to figure out which will be the best solution. I'd like to free up the 5-lb cylinder for my 45cm tank.