Difficulty with my first planted tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-04-2012, 07:32 PM Thread Starter
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Difficulty with my first planted tank

Having issues with what I believe to be algae and some kind of nutrient deficiency with many of my plants. I'll list the specs of my tank and hopefully an expert here can point me in the right direction since I'm obviously doing something wrong!

Tank: 90g (48" x 18" x 24")
Water: Quite hard, low-to-no nitrites/nitrates/ammonia, mild pH, 81F
Filter: Aquaclear 110 (with filter pad, filter floss + biomax rings)
Substrate: 3-4" of Eco-Complete
Lighting: 3x 54W T5 HO (all 6500K), on timer for 6hrs a day
Fish: 6x Rosy Barb, 8x Glowlight Tetra, 1x Bristlenose Pleco (eventually going to be a Discus tank with 5 adults and Barbs removed)
C02: Originally had C02 injection using this DIY system, but found it too annoying and expensive to have to make a new mixture every several days. Now dosing with Flourish Excel every 2 days.
Water Changes: 40-50% every 2 weeks
Fish Food: twice daily (bloodworms morning, flakes night)
Plant Food: using root pellets once a month and Flourish liquid plant food once a week.
2x Red Melon Sword - Not doing well. Leaves have brown spots all over them and eventually rot away.
10x Cyperus Helferi - Not doing well. Some stalks have brown/yellow spots on them, almost all the tips are brown, and I'm pruning them faster than new growth so they are getting thinner every week.
15x Crinum "Dwarf" Onion Plant - Mostly doing well, but getting fuzzy black algae on the tips (BTW does the white "onion" portion need to be above or below substrate? Mine are below)
10x XXL Balansae - Existing leaves doing OK, but no new growth, and smaller leaves tend to rot away instead of grow. They have thinned out considerably since I put them in my tank.
2x Anubias Nana - Only green plants doing well.
6x Red Tiger Lotus - Doing great!

Other notes: I keep the tank as full of water as possible so there is minimum surface agitation with the HOTB filter. I've got a glass top with about 1.5" of open space in the back.

Last edited by steagle; 12-04-2012 at 08:39 PM. Reason: added more parameters
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-04-2012, 07:57 PM
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I wonder if there is not enough fertilizer in there? What is the analysis of the root tablets, and which of the Flourish products are you using?
Nitrogens low to none make it sound like the plants are gobbling all they can, and may need more, which hints that there may be other deficiencies, too.

Can you post a picture of the Sword with brown spots? I can think of 2 things:
Diatoms, also called brown algae, can grow on the leaf, hiding that spot from the light and leading to it rotting there.
Potassium deficiency; aquatic plants often show this with holes in the leaves.

Black fuzzy algae (Black Brush Algae, BBA) can grow in high water flow areas, and I have seen it in many spots in my tanks, too. It can be killed by treating with hydrogen peroxide, but try Excel, since you are already using it. When you are ready to do your regular dosing turn off the water flow. Then squirt the Excel directly into the algae. Leave the filter off for 15 minutes or longer (it will not harm the beneficial bacteria to be off a short time like this). Treat daily. Yes, I know you are only dosing every other day, go ahead and dose daily and treat the algae with that dose. If the black algae turns red, it is dead.
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-04-2012, 08:06 PM
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i have to admit looking over your specs that you may want more filtration. This was something hard for me to grasp when I started out 4 years ago, but the most important part of filtration is the bioballs (or rings) for the beneficial bacteria. The general rule i have always followed is that i run filtration that is rates 2 times higher than what it says on the box. Example for your 90, i would find something that is rated for at least 150 gallons if its a HOB or a large canister like eheim or fluval rated around 90gallons or more.

I may help prevent issues for you later on. Other idea would be to slap on another aquaclear 110...

-Just another day in paradise-
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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-04-2012, 08:12 PM
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What exactly are your water parameters? "Quite hard", "low-to-no nitrites" and "mild pH" are pretty vague.

Is there a reason you keep your temp that high?

How much are you feeding your fish?

How long has your tank been set up?
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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-04-2012, 08:31 PM
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Your Planted Tank

Hello steag...

You've provided quite a lengthy list of issues. Here are some things I had to get right before my plants started to grow. Aquarium plants take quite some time to get used to tank conditions. Some never do, so patience is needed.

You must provide the right light, nutrients and pure water, large frequent water changes, for the plants and research their individual needs. Low light or shade plants aren't going to do well in strong light and the reverse is also true.

The Seachem liquid contains "Gluteraldehyde". Some plants don't tolerate it. There are a number of good liquids that don't have this industrial form of carbon.

Algae problems are typical of new tanks. The water chemistry isn't stable yet. Time is needed for the new plants, fish and water to work together to keep a level water chemistry. If there are too many nutrients (ferts) in the water, algae can be a problem. Keep feeding both fish and plants to a minimum. Your tank will be healthier.

Aquarium plants are tropical and used to long hours of daylight. It's been my experience, that tank lights need to be on at least 10 hours per day. Timers are helpful.

Just some thoughts to consider or not. Hope some of this is helpful.


"Fear not my child, just change the tank water."
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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-04-2012, 08:31 PM Thread Starter
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-What exactly are your water parameters? "Quite hard", "low-to-no nitrites" and "mild pH" are pretty vague.

As I'm at work ATM I don't have access to the exact figures but I can do measurements and post back later. I was just summarizing what the basic parameters of my tap water are.

-Is there a reason you keep your temp that high?

As this will be a discus tank shortly, I wanted to have the water be at that temperature far in advance so I could see how the other fish and plants would respond.

- How much are you feeding your fish?

Twice daily, bloodworms in the morning and flake food at night. I'm careful not to under or overfeed.

- How long has your tank been set up?

About 5 months now. I meant to have a higher bioload in the beginning to cycle the tank faster for the discus, but due to one reason or another have stuck with these little fish for all this time.
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-04-2012, 08:51 PM Thread Starter
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@Diana - thanks for the feedback. I am using the "Total" root pellet found in this system. The liquid plant food I'm using is the Flourish Comprehensive. Detailed photos of the algae & rot have been posted below.

@msawdey - i always thought having more than adequate filtration was more for the benefit of fish health. How does extra filtration help the plants? I suppose I could put another filter on here if push came to shove but I wouldn't be too thrilled about the extra maintenance

-BBradbury - I can certainly change my timer so the plants are on longer. I just thought that more light can lead to more algae, which is why I cut it back from 8 hours a day to 6. Honestly I don't know if it made that much of a difference one way or the other. As for point on algae, I have had the tank set up for quite some time now so I thought I'd have a relatively stable ecosystem by now. Do you think it could be just a mismatch of plants + nutrients rather than the water parameters?

Last edited by steagle; 12-05-2012 at 06:12 PM. Reason: update
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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-05-2012, 03:30 AM Thread Starter
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Here are some photos. First a deceptive photo of the overall tank (looks fine right?) then close-ups of the problematic plants. Didn't realize till tonight but a few of my red tiger lotus leaves have some white splotches/holes in them too.

Last edited by steagle; 12-05-2012 at 03:39 AM. Reason: forgot a photo
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-05-2012, 04:52 AM
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Seachem sells nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus in separate bottles. I was using Comprehensive but in truth, Comp is basically a trace fert. It's got a little bit of just about everything. While it's great that it's providing a variety, it doesn't supply adequate amounts of macros(NPK). Dose your macros, maybe iron from the yellowing; increase your lighting schedule and you should be good to go. Your algae issues maybe coming from running the diy co2, and then stopping it, the imbalance can trigger algae blooms.

Edit: feeding fish twice a day seems like overkill to me. Granted i keep small fish in smaller tanks than that, but i feed once a day and skip a day sometimes too.
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-05-2012, 05:16 AM Thread Starter
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Hey ZLogic thanks for the input. I stopped the diy c02 about 3 months ago so it's been awhile but even when I was using it I still had the same kind of algae and brown/rotting plant matter. I've never had an algae "outbreak" in the sense of it getting all over the glass and devouring an entire plant but it's always been present since the tank started.
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post #11 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-05-2012, 02:52 PM
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I was interested in your post as we have similar tanks. I am no expert and started my planted tank a little over three months ago and I am about to add Discus this weekend.
As you can see we have many similar plants. My poorest growers so far have been the Amazon Swords and the Red Melon Swords, but they are starting to come around . I have had no luck with HC. It took many weeks for most of the plants to show new growth.
Eco Complete substrate. Gieseman 48", 54w T5 bulbs. Two Aquaflora for 12 hours, plus two Mid Day for 6 hours. Temp 82 degrees. W->D filter with bioballs and a 700 gph sump pump. I have a spray bar that gives a fair amount of surface movement. Ph 7.4, Nitrates .5ppm, phos.<.5ppm. I have used Pfertz plant tabs and their Macro and Micro supplements along with Excel every other day. 50% WC every week. 10 Rummy Nose, 10 Cories and two Bistlenose.
I have yet to see algae but I am sure it will happen. And I am not sure if you can have your cake and eat it too as far as plants and Discus are concerned. One thing I have seen commonly in the threads is to avoid trying to feed and grow young discus in a planted tank. I read all sorts of opinions on when to add the Discus.
The only difference I can see between our set ups is the amount of light and filter size/flow, and probably a little dumb luck.
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Last edited by SMB; 12-05-2012 at 02:54 PM. Reason: correction
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post #12 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-05-2012, 04:03 PM Thread Starter
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Wow those are pretty similar! Other than the longer lighting schedule I see you are doing the water changes every week whereas I do it every two. This is mostly due to time constraints in my schedule but also because the water and overall cleanliness of the tank look fine on that second week. I could try doing it every week for a few weeks and see if there's any improvement.

Other than that, I'll definitely up the lighting from 6hrs back to 8, I'm also going to cut out some of the red tiger lotus leaves that are blocking light to some of the melon sword leaves. I'll also look into some macro ferts to supplement what the plants are not currently getting.
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post #13 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-05-2012, 05:35 PM
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Heavy filtration sort of gets mixed in with heavy flow in the tank (as filters are typically the main providers of it).

Heavy flow in planted tanks is primarily warranted when injecting CO2 and adding ferts as it helps to better ensure equal dispersal of both of these throughout the tank. Dead spots are typically unwanted.

Without CO2 and ferts, heavy flow is not as necessary (other than that required to effectively filter the water - but water filters provide for more than enough of that). In fact heavily planted (Walstad type) tanks can get away with no flow (and no external filtration as well).
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post #14 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-05-2012, 07:59 PM
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With the spray bar I seem to get even flow with some very gentle movement of the plants. I suspect that the 700 gph pump delivers much less then that given the four foot rise. There was a chart with the pump, I could look it up. Water movement at the surface is said to facilitate O2 transfer, is that true for CO2 as well?

@steagle: look into Pfertz. They are a little more expensive but I think are still having a sale. VERY easy to use, and seem to get favorable reviews here and elsewhere.
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post #15 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-06-2012, 06:22 PM Thread Starter
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Can anyone verify exactly what we're seeing in the photos I posted? Is that all algae, or just plant rot?
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