New planted column with VERY HARD water
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Old 02-12-2014, 02:27 AM   #1
Algae Grower
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New planted column with VERY HARD water

I have been getting a lot of good information from this site so far and would like to get some opinions on my new tank build. I have questions about a couple different issues regarding TOM BARR's non-co2 method. I will try to follow this method as best as possible including the no water changes...

First of all, this is my proposed build:

Tank: 15 Gallon Column, measuring 13.5L x 13.5W x 19.75H
Lighting: 8w T5 + CFL modification
Filter: Aqueon QuietFlow 10 (will be upgrated to AC50 or 2313)
Substrate: flourite black sand (3 to 4" deep, sloping from front to back, using egg crate and yamaya stones to help keep the substrate from shifting)
Hardscape: yamaya stones and Branch wood of some kind
Flora: possibly ferns, mosses, anubias, crypts, vals, wisteria, anachris, frogbit, duckweed, dwarf sag, rotala, or anything else that can work with this depth of tank
Fauna: low bioload of RCS, ottos, school of boras sp.

Parameters of Tap water:

GH 22-25
KH 17
pH 7.4

Now to the questions:

1) I've been reading that the peat or leonardite layer is added to give the plants a carbon source right away. how necessary is this step? can I just use a dusting of peat as i have heard the leonardite can cause water discolouration, not to mention is a lot more difficult to obtain...

2) I've been finding conflicting info on substrate depth, so am I okay making the flourite black sand somewhere between 2" and 5" depending where in the scape it is? crypts will be the main root feeders... does this substrate have anaerobic pockets like other sands?

3) Given my VERY HARD water and GH and KH values, is it necessary to use Seachem EQ, or can i get away with Flourish Comprehensive instead for my micros? Is my tap water even usable for planted tanks with such high TDS? Should I mix with RO, given the species of flora and fauna that I want?

4) If I wanted to use the Flourish Macros, is there a way to calculate the amount needed to maintain the ppm levels suggested in the original non-co2 method?

5) This is my first tank of any kind for at least 20years, so I have no access to mulm or dirty sponges or used filters... how do I help cycle my tank? LFS? Seachem Stability?

Thanks for your patience,
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Old 02-12-2014, 08:14 PM   #2
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Hard water is not really a problem.
There are some fish that are going to do better than others, though. I would use something like Asian Rummynose or certain Rainbow fish relatives, certain Pseudomugils.
These fish thrive in hard water.

Plants are mostly just fine in hard water. The depth of the tank suggests that you make sure you have enough light. A small enough bulb to fit the top of the tank, but bright enough when that light reaches the bottom.

I would not bother mixing RO with your water unless you really want to keep soft water fish.

With water that already has high GH there is not any need at all to add more GH booster of any sort.

I think the Seachem products are labeled so you can figure out what dose will add how much of each nutrient to the tank.
As for figuring out how much of each the plants are using, testing is the only way.
Here is what I would do:

Figure out how much of each seachem product you need to give your tank the right levels to get started.
Write it down and think of it in ratios:
If you use 1 teaspoon of N and 1/8 teaspoon of P then that is a 8:1 ratio.
and so on through N, P, K, micros, Excel.
Then, dose and monitor the NO3. If the level is...
dropping... add more of all the ferts in the ratio you have figured out.
staying the same, perhaps between 5-10, maintain the dosing.
rising... reduce the dosing of all the ferts in the ratio you have figured out.

Here is where it gets tricky:
Fish food (and shrimp food) can supply some of most nutrients, but is low in K, Fe and Ca.
You do not need to worry about Ca.
But the other nutrients (K and Fe) might be in short supply. You might have to modify your fertilizing to dose more K and Fe, but less N, P and other micros.
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Old 06-03-2014, 02:50 AM   #3
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Well after starting my tank up on March 2nd, it has been 3 months of relatively good growth... some plants worked and some did not... but now all my plants, including H. polysperma has stalled and developed fuzz algae of some kind... I am using Tom Barr's non-co2 method of ferts and no water changes but I add about 2cups/day for evaporation because of open top and high flow/filtration...

I know that a dirty filter or disturbing the substrate can cause this kind of algae, but everything has seemed to stop growing before the algae hit... the water is very clean and clear with never any spikes...

My kh has stayed around 14-16 and the ph stabilized at 8.2, but my gh has gone from 25 out of tap to 35 in 3 months!!

Hort wort does very well near the surface and with 9 species of crypts and the H. poly, H. difformis which is very slow growing all seemed to grow quite fast despite the 25 to 40 PAR at the substrate level, the H. angustifolia is surviving but the new leaves seem distorted and with pinholes, the water sprite is growing well in a shaded location but was overrun with fuzz and a brown or red dust algae, the pennywort slowly died as did the azola, frogbit and lindernia rotundifolia... the liliopsis mauritana and crypt is succumbing to GSA, fuzz, staghorn and some kind of green branching hair algae...

The CPD's and applesnail/cherry/amano shrimp are happy and the scalet badis i just added seems to be healthy too... but the tiger shrimp and ottos were a bust, but they are softer water creatures i have learned

i'm not abandoning the non-co2 method, but i am seriously considering using RO water to top off this tank, and also use it for my first water change after a small rescape this week... what can i expect from using RO in this instance? if i replace 50-75% of my water with RO, will the flora/fauna go into to shock with the different parameters?

Now my 5.5G nano with aquasoil malaya uses the same tap water, but has vastly different numbers with a ph of 7, kh of 2 and gh of only 18... most of the plants that didnt grow well in my 15G grow much better in this smaller tank, so this leads me to believe that a more reasonable hardness is more ideal

My tank parameters on March 2nd

gh 25
kh 16
ph 7.8

April 11th

gh 26
kh 14
ph 8.2

May 5th, which is when things started to slow down...

gh 30
kh 15
ph 8.2

June 2nd

gh 35
kh 16
ph 8.2
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Old 06-05-2014, 03:28 AM   #4
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I tried Tom Barr's low light method and ended up with the some serious algae problems. I'm sure it was just my inexperience with planted tanks, so I decided to cut back my dosing to just micros, potassium, and a little GH booster. I saw much better results and fewer algae outbreaks.

As for the RO water, you should probably do all your topoffs with it because minerals in water don't evaporate, just the water. With your liquid rock water, more hardness is being added that can be used by the plants. I would just do a 50/50 mix during water changes to gradually bring the GH down. Initially replacing 50% of your tank volume may shock your livestock.
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