I think my tank might just be a little too small for to support tanks and loaches--it's only a 20 gal and I already have 9 fish in there (3 adult platys, 5 platy fry and an Oto.) I was going to keep the snails in there since they do such a bang-up job on algae & scavenging, but I've hand picked 75 snails so far and the bioload is much too much for such a small tank. I end up vacuuming out 6-8 gal of *black* water every week and my plants are getting very chewed up. I told myself that I wouldn't do anything with the snails unless they started having a negative effect on my fish and that time has finally come, the fish end up scratching just before a water change and clear up right after one. It's been a tough decision--snails are *so* interesting with how they can modulate the air in their shells to literally hover in water or how they can "walk" on the surface tension of water, but I think I probably have more waste coming from the snails right now than I do the fish. Plus, feeding my little Oto, Nila, has become harder because now she has to compete with both the platys *and* the snails for algae tabs.
But maybe I'm misguided (it wouldn't be the first time
)-- is it possible that the plants are causing all the black, mulmy water?
I'm thinking that, bare minimum, I'm going to break down my tank, rinse the gravel in a very weak bleach solution (rinse well), dip most of the plants (SE. bolivianus, Ambulia, Hygrophilia polysperms, Rotatalla indica, Aponogentons, Dwarf Lilys) in alum and maybe, if I can find some, rinse the Java in Lime-it (I tried dipping Java in alum before and it never recovered, that's why I'm looking for an alternative solution.)
That's why I was hoping to find someone who'd successfully dipped Java before.
BTW--I love this smiley
--if my fish could use it, I think they lovingly would!