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MagooWu 08-19-2012 06:29 PM

Plants not growing and minor/medium algae problems - lots of details
Long time reader, first time poster.

Started a 65 gallon (3’x18”x2’) six to seven months ago. Plants have never taken off and I am in desperate need of help. Minor/medium algae problems come and go and signs still exist. Overview)

Main problem is plant growth is minimal, most leaves are dying, already gone through 2 sets of leaves on a few sword plants (clipped when dying/dead), and new plants are also getting brown edges.
Is it light, fert, or c02 requirements? Willing to expend any amount to see the problem rectified.

Per plant problem:
Sword leaves died and removed, twice. No new extended growth and starting to turn brown and spot.
(Sword and SFF [hoped it was an SAE])

Anubias – brown edges, minimal growth, leaves starting to fail.
(Anubias - Original Planting on Left, Recent Crypt on Right)

Java fern – sprouted many offspring, never took off, leaves died, leaves brown/darken and fall off. Recent brown algae (best guess it diatoms) covering leaves.

New plants are all experiencing brown edges on leaves.

Below is a detailed rundown of every part of the system and a run-down of the tank thus far.
Any suggestions or tips would be greatly appreciated.

Tank: 65 gallon (3’x18”x2’) – glass top (top cleaned every 2 weeks w/ water and vinegar to ensure light can get through)

- Rena XP3 – 350 GPH (had since start)
- Media: Course (30) and Medium Floss (30) in Bottom Basket, Ceramic and Stars in Middle, Ceramic in top followed by Purigen in “The Bag” and fine floss
- Intake ~3” above substrate right side of tank
- Output ~3” below water line mid-left side of tank
- Rinse floss every 3-4 weeks in bucket w/ aquarium water

- Fluval 306 – 210 GPH (added 3 months ago to take care of floating “slimy stuff”)
- Came w/ kit (floss, carbon, ceramic)
- Intake top skimmer and mid-level on right side of tank (adjusted so barely siphons water off of top)
- Output ~6” below water line mid-right of tank
-Rinse floss every 3-4 weeks in bucket w/ aquarium water

In basement with minimal natural light. Standard overhead lights on ~10-14 hrs per day as used as an office.

- Odyssea 36” 4x39W T5HO
- x2 bulbs came with fixture - 6500K Daylight Odyssea brand 39W (since start)
· x1 6,700K Daylight 21W Aqueon (3 Months ago)
· x1 Actinic 420 Coral Sun 39W (1 week, suggested for lower frequency to get to bottom of tank easier)

Lights are on for 10hrs straight – LED moon lights on when days are not
[Have 4' 2 x 40W glow bulbs ready to add]

· ~60lbs Eco-Complete for 2” bottom layer
· ~1.5-2 inches of normal aquarium (medium to medium/small) at bottom

· - Set at 74-76 2x 250W submerged (in case 1 goes out)
· - 1 currently unplugged. Active next to intakes.

· - Oceanic BioCube ACP 250 (250 gph)

· - Temporarily NOT using any due to algae
· - Have Flourish, Flourish Iron, Excel (I know it’s not a fertilizer)
· - Was doing 1 cap excel every 2 days, 1 cap Iron every 2 days, 1 cap flourish every 3 days
· - Home-made root tabs added once ~3 months ago. Same properties as store root tabs

Water and Conditioners:
· - 10-20% water change every week
· - Setup with well water with broken water softener, last 1 month water softener fixed
· - Originally used Tetra Aquasafe plus, now only use Prime (last 5 months) (per directions)
· - Aquarium Salt (per directions)
· - pH 7.8, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate (very low 0-5)

· - Started 2 months ago
· - DIY 6L (x2 3L bottles, started one 2 months ago and slowed down so started 2nd 1 week ago)
· - 1 bubble every 1 to 2 seconds
· - Output was in the powerhead until yesterday – it was not breaking up as much as desired. Currently, drilled hole in Rena inlet tube (below water level) and snug-fit DIY from bubble counter into it

Fauna: (might be overloaded, but nitrate levels have almost always been zero since cycled)
-3 cory cats
-3 odessa barb
-7 rasbora
-6 oto
-3 upside-down catfish (always hiding)
-1 black molly
-2 fancy guppy
-2 neon tetra
-2 SAE (hopefully, small so they may be flying fox)
-3 madagascan rainbow

Flora: Since start:
-3 amazon sword
-2 red swords
-3 anubias
-5 java fern attached to wood
-2 large swords (unknown variety)
-1 bunch wisteria
-2 crypts

Hoppy 08-19-2012 06:38 PM

Fertilizing doesn't cause algae. Not fertilizing when you have plenty of light does often cause algae. I don't have any data on that partiicular light, but even if it is the same quallity as the FishNeedIt light, you have high medium to high light. If it is better quality you may have very high light. So, you really need good CO2, steady bubble rate, the same every day during the photoperiod. And, you should be dosing fertilizers per Or, you can run only two bulbs in the light, and probably reduce the intensity enough to get by with your DIY CO2, but you still will need to dose some fertilizers. I would reduce the photoperiod to 8 hours too.

MagooWu 08-19-2012 06:46 PM

So you are primarily saying too much light and not enough ferts?

Even for a medium planted tank, should I follow the fert regiments that the article mentions?

My main concern is how can algae grow if there aren't any ferts available?

I have been limiting water changes since nitrates are so low.

The article you referred to says that O2 should be added, I assume that since it is DIY and fish are OK that no O2 should be needed (even at night).

mistergreen 08-19-2012 07:12 PM

Not enough CO2 as well. DIY is good for ~10G - 20G tanks. It's not enough for the size and lighting you have.

You can cut down your lights and go low tech or keep the lights and buy pressurized CO2 and dose the estimated Index method.

MagooWu 08-19-2012 08:42 PM

Reply 2
OK - so the solution seems to lie in upgrading to pressurized c02 and dosing regularly with method proposed above.

A few quick questions for this size of tank and pressurized c02.

1. I assume a 5lb tank, 2 gauge valve, solenoid valve, and better diffuser (currently going into the filter system) are needed. Anything I am missing?

2. How do you determine the correct amount of c02? I have looked and haven't found an end-all-be-all guide.

3. IF I add pressurized c02, do regular dosing per the EI method, is there anything additional I need to do to remove the current algae?

You answers were and are greatly appreciated.

Some points of discussion, currently getting 1-2 bubbles per second w/ two 3-liters of DIY c02. How far short am I falling because I have never seen any decent growth in the tank.

Would Excel be a viable solution in the meantime?

Should I be dosing with Flourish and Flourish iron in the meantime? (plan to move to the dry ferts and follow the regimen specified.

chew 08-20-2012 03:12 AM

The best way to determine the correct amount of co2 is watching how your plants react or how your fish react to it being almost too much. But if your new to co2 best/easiest way is a drop checker; drop checker turns yellow/green/blue depending on how much co2 you have in the tank

Complexity 08-20-2012 06:01 AM


Originally Posted by MagooWu (Post 1984478)
3. IF I add pressurized c02, do regular dosing per the EI method, is there anything additional I need to do to remove the current algae?

Yes. Add more plants. It helps to have some fast growing stems in the tank to fend off algae.

Keep this in mind when you worry about algae: the very best way to combat algae is to have a tank filled with healthy growing plants. They will out-compete the algae. Algae grows when a tank is having problems with the plants, just like you're experiencing now. What people tend to do is focus on the algae, often at the expense of the plants. The plants get worse which only helps the algae. This is the wrong way to go about it. Instead, when you see algae, focus on getting the tank filled with healthy plants which may include increasing CO2, ferts, and plant mass.

So while you're working on adding pressurized CO2 and EI ferts, add more plants to increase the plant mass in the tank. Tanks in trouble often benefit by adding fast growing stems to help get things under control. When the main plants grow in more fully, the fast growing stems can be reduced or removed.

MagooWu 08-22-2012 12:08 PM

Thanks for the sage advice. Instead of trying to go the pressurized c02 route, I'm going to try low tech for a while.


-cut photo period to 8 hrs (4-hrs one set of bulbs and 4 hours other set for better light distribution) [is this going to cause a problem?]

-dose 1/3 to 1/4 EI amounts once per week and skip every 4th week

-add a few more plants

-they recommend no water changes for the most part, how do you clean the filters out then? (I guess I can keep an eye on the nitrates too and if they rise too much I can WC)

-should I kill my 6 liters of DIY c02? (they say c02 fluctuations induce algae growth, hence the lack of water changes)

I am really looking for healthy plant growth, doesn't need to be super fast. And not needing 50% WC/weekly sounds appealing on a 65.

mistergreen 08-22-2012 01:09 PM

Keep running the DIY co2. It couldn't hurt. Changes your water whenever you feel like it since you're adding cow CO2 and ferts. I tend not to do water changes to tanks where I don't add anything.

BruceF 08-22-2012 01:39 PM

13 Attachment(s)
You should never add more iron than flourish. You probably don’t need to be adding aquarium salt either. You might want to get the treated well water tested so that you know what you are starting with.
Until you figure out what you are dosing and why try adding 1 cap of flourish comprehensive every other day. Dosing excel will help also. Concentrate on getting the plants to grow and don’t worry about the algae for the moment.

MagooWu 08-22-2012 02:52 PM


I started adding more Iron as the tips of the sword plants were yellow.
Should I completely discontinue for the present?

Now knowing that the light was too much (by 2x needed it appears) I will stick to 1 cap excel/day and 1 cap flourish every 2 days.

I have ordered some dry ferts and would like to start on those (either now or when current liquid supply runs out).

As it says you should dose 1/3 to 1/4 of the normal amount - I assume the 10/20 gallon regimen should work well (But only 1 once per week and skip a week now and then):

+/- 1/8 tsp KN03 (N) 1x a week
+/- 1/32 tsp KH2P04 (P) 1x a week
+/- 1/32 tsp (2ml) Trace Elements 1x a week (going with Plantex CSM+B)



I am running the 6,700K 21W and 6,500K 39W for 4 hours as the back set for 4 hours.
Then running the Actinic 420 (4,200K - blue spectrum) 39W and 6,500K 39 W for hours immediately after than in the front set.
(4,200K was said to penetrate better as the lights are about 28" from the substrate. It also has a sharp peak at 5,600K but not much)

Is this a good plan or should I run the same set all day, replace the original all 6,500K 39W and run 4 hour back then 4 hours front?

Additionally it runs with bulbs removed - so I can run 8 hours with just 2 bulbs in the far front and back for better light spread.


BruceF 08-22-2012 07:21 PM

13 Attachment(s)
Do you know if the water is hard or soft?

Just limit the iron to maybe once a week.

MagooWu 08-22-2012 08:34 PM

Embarrassing to say, but I have yet to buy a GH or KH test kit yet.

Just ordered one from Amazon and will get it Friday. Report back then with the results.

(For the first 4-5 months my water softener was not working, so likely fairly hard water. No idea now that it is back up and running.)

Jules 08-22-2012 09:25 PM

If your water softener uses salt (as in NaCl), you'd probably be better off bypassing it when adding water to your aquarium anyway.

Hoppy 08-22-2012 10:59 PM

You probably have about 30 micromols of PAR with only two bulbs on. Pick the bulbs that make the tank look good to you. For now, it isn't going to matter what their color temperatures are, as far as the plant growth is concerned. I use two 2 L DIY CO2 bottles with my same size tank, have 20-25 micromols of PAR, so a little lower than yours, and my plants are doing very well, with no algae problems. I dose per the EI method, with extra iron, at about half the recommended dose amounts. My CO2 bottles are changed one bottle per week, so I have staggered changes, and the bubble rate varies between about 1 and .5 bubbles per second. The CO2 diffuser I use is which is a very efficient diffusing method.

My primary plant, for now is Hygrophila polysperma, a real weedy, very fast growing plant. Soon I will be slowly changing to different plants.

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