pH: 6.6 during the day / 7.8 during the night. Holding rock solid now.
NH4: <0.25 ppm (some small leaching from tabs) Not in harmful state when pH low
NO3: 20-30ppm (a bit high? Fish don't seem to care...skipping KNO3 next dose..will up K2SO4 to compensate)
PO4: ~7ppm !! (I dosed KH2PO4 instead of K2SO4 whoops! Skipping next dose)
tds: 240 ppm
Well it's been quite the journey the last 6 weeks. I finely have what seems to be decent growth. My first batch of HC died, and was on the verge of coming back, but I didn't notice in time and got some more. The 40b has new HG in it on the sides and recessed down the slope next to the stone.
I vowed that I would not buy any more plants until I had the basics figured out. Now I think I do...
My problem to begin with was not enough co2. Tons of light in my 40b: a ray 2. Suffice to say, I was pushing the gas peddle a bit hard without proper oiling of the machinery. I still use my pH to find ballpark co2 levels, but I've learned to simply watch the fish and then adjust down accordingly. My mistake during the first weeks was cranking up the co2, seeing distressed fish, and then nocking it down to like 0.5 bps. I'd then up it to 3 bps and the fish got mad. So now I'm up to about 3bps with ALL correct ferts in and the plants are producing so much o2 that the increased co2 doesn't seem to matter. This whole thing is quite the balancing act.
2nd mistake was not enough surface agitation. I got a powerhead. Solved many issues. Coming from African cichlid only tanks (lots of rock) I never knew that water movement was so dang important.
3rd mistake was not using any real fert dosing regimen. I thought I could wing it and simply dose flourish / leaf zone. Wrong. I got dry ferts and since then my plants have taken off. High co2 + correct ferts is a clear win. Not even that difficult.
It makes me wonder why I had so much trouble in the first place. I mean they're freaking plants, right? Evolved forms of algae. They want to survive. Give them co2, K, P, N and some traces and they will do just that.
If you look back to the first pictures you'll see that I took out the shelved look. I was hoping it would not erode. It did, and was a pain. I went with a single "connected" down-sloped driftwood / stone layout. I think this looks much better, and when the carpeting plants fill in, should be even better.
In the following pictures, some of the plants are still recovering, but take a look at that ozelot sword. He's producing 1 new leaf every 3 days about! Haha! Some of his leaves are curved in an S pattern from previous stress. New leaves are perfectly straight. He's also producing a metric crap load of o2! Ozzy is quickly becoming one of my favorites.
Another thing I noticed is how cool molly's are. I always thought they were newb fish but they are interesting! They love eating dead / dying plant matter and keep the tank looking cleaner than the otto's alone. I highly recommend a pair of them.
Left side of tank. Wish I took a more leveled picture:
Right side of tank. Ozzy is breathing nicely
And here's my little 7.5g aqua
He's still cycling a bit.