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Old 04-19-2009, 03:51 PM   #16
AirSong
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gh: 30 dH - 530ppm+ (liquid rock)
kh: 1 dKH
pH: 6.2

Maybe my test kits are wrong (the gh and kh one), I'm using the JBL ones. Both results seem kind of extreme.

I have nothing right now that can help me measure Co2.

I have looked for the four leaf clover, but it seems no one has it here in Mexico. I was recommended Ranalisma Rostrata by the same person that sold me the HC, but I'm not sure how that one looks in a nano.

Other carpet plants I can get (through mail) are, Glossostigma elatinoides, Lilaleopsis, Eleocharis acicularis (dwarf hairgrass ?), Eleocharis vivipara and a variety of mosses.

The blyxa (top right) and the parrot feather (right besides it) are both doing fine though, they all arrived at the same time since I got the from the same seller.

The blyxa has new leaves which took a nice green, and the parrot feather which arrived brown, nearly all dried up (it was a gift so I did not complain), has done a complete recovery and is now looking bright green.
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Old 04-24-2009, 09:14 AM   #17
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Hi, AirSong... I'd like to make a few comments on your tank and your quest for lighting. I keep small tanks like yours myself with good success - and I thought I'd share a few ideas with you and also dispel some half-true statements that are constantly being echoed among hobbyists.

I'm glad to see that you are targeting the light. This is very important as it is the one thing that drives the biology in your tank. Most people fail from the start by not really assessing the light in their tank. They like to apply rules like watts per gallon etc, but that is not really assessing the light.

Your original HC died because it wasn't getting enough light to photosynthesize. Even if it had been given enough light, it would have died because of lack of nutrients (given the picture in your last post).

People will tell you that you need injected co2 to grow HC, glosso, riccia etc. but it simply is not true. I grow them, and I grow them well in non-co2 tanks, they create nice carpets. But there's a lot of accumulated knowledge that goes into it and you can't just follow everyone's "rule of thumb" to achieve success. You have to put more attention into knowing about your light, and you have to know exactly what kind and how much nutrients you are providing. Then you will have a much better chance of success.



YOUR LIGHT

You say that you "like the low light, and anything more would be too much for your room". You can't use this a basis for your tank if you want to grow HC or glosso etc. I would also tell you to forget about anything you've heard about the "watts per gallon" rule. It's antiquated and it holds no meaning.

WPG rules would only work if everyone used the exact same kind of light, with the exact same kind of efficiency, placed exactly the same height above the same size tank. You've already encountered that the light you wanted to use didn't fall neatly into everyone's rule of thumb. Also, just because one person used 27watts of a certain bulb on a similar sized tank doesn't mean it's going to work in your situation... for many reasons.

What exactly is low light? What exactly is high light? The amount of watts isn't going to give you the answer. Here's an example: I have 100 watts of metal halide lighting above my 5gal tank (really). That comes out to be 20 watts per gallon. Is that high light? Or could it be low light?

Many would say that's definitely high light. But, the answer is that it is low light, given the way it is set up. And you can only know that if you measure the light in a different way: a PAR meter. A PAR meter doesn't measure LUX or Lumens, those are human vision quantities and don't mean anything to plants. A PAR meter measures the amount of light that is available for photosynthesis. It has a funky unit of measurement because it counts the number of photons that strike a surface over time.

Now, I know you probably don't have a PAR meter. But, I do and I'd be interested in helping you determine exactly what bulb might give you enough light, given your fixture and distance from the water. I can tell you immediately that you're going to have to have more than 15watts of the bulb that has been mentioned earlier. If you're interested, send me a private message and we can work out the specifics, I have an idea.



YOUR SUBSTRATE

After you get your light worked out, I would concentrate on the substrate next. Based on the picture of your tank, I would not consider that to be a adequate substrate on a couple of levels: one, it is too coarse for small rooted plants like HC and glosso; and second, it effectively is inert and provides no nutrients to the plants.

There are so many philosophies on what kind of substrate to use, but whatever philosophy you choose, you'll have better success if you choose one that actively provide nutrients to the plants, like soil for example.

Personally, I use a layer of yard soil in the bottom of all my tanks topped with a fine grain gravel - and I think is an important aspect of a non-co2 tank. Diana Walstad's book covers the mechanics of aquarium soil quite extensively, if not intensely.

I would highly recommend using real soil. Some claim it is messy, causes cloudiness, and is generally a pain - but I do not find this to be so. The hardest part is finding the CORRECT source of soil. And for small tanks it's nice because you don't need that much... only a 1/2 inch layer on the bottom.

But, even if you decide that soil is not in your interest, then at least use a fine grain clay fractured substrate: the fine grain helps tiny roots, the clay fractured aspect allows better bacteria colonization.


YOUR NUTRIENTS

Especially if you don't use soil, you have to provide water column nutrients. Fish waste and uneaten food will provide some nutrients, but it is better to supply a consistent source; and more nutrients than you need (to a point). The idea is to not limit the nutrients to the plants. Once your plants become limited in any aspect, you are setting the stage for algae. So supply more than they need, and they will always be growing. Please don't fall into the trap of thinking that excess nitrates and phosphates causes algae. Read about Estimative Index to learn more.

Even in my non-co2 soil tanks, I dose 10ppm nitrates and 2ppm phosphates and 0.2ppm iron each week.

Whatever the method, you will have to actively sit and look at your setup and ask yourself: How are my plants getting nutrients?

In my opinion, light and nutrient deprivation is the BIGGEST reason people fail at growing HC, glosso, and riccia in non-co2 tanks. As far as nutrients go, this is why soil is good because it supplies a steady slow flow of nutrients to the plants.

In a very small tank, it is better to use your dry ferts to create dilute nutrient solutions that you store in bottles. Then you can dose small amounts of the solution into the tank. To create the solutions, all it takes is an accurate gram scale, storage bottles, a pipette for dosing, and a little bit of math.

Don't be afraid, unleash that inner chemist... at least a little.

Here are some pictures of my tanks... Can you tell me which one is non-co2?










Cheers!
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Last edited by i4x4nMore; 05-04-2009 at 10:58 PM..
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Old 04-24-2009, 03:08 PM   #18
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Absolutely beautiful tanks i4x4nMore. I would be interested in how exactly you determine approriate light levels if not watts per gallon. I know you mentioned using a par meter. Is that what you do? I would be more interested in learning about your methods. You stated that nutrient deprivation is the biggest reason that people fail at growing HC, glosso, and riccia in non-c02 tanks. However, IME I have seen riccia grow like a weed(even when tied to rock) in my high tech and low tech non-c02 tanks, but in the same tanks Hairgrass has died off and HC has failed to grow at all(even with ADA Aquasoil II and water column dosing). What is your explanation for this? Light intensity over c02? I have reservations about shining too intense light on a tank. Even experimenting with a 10 gallon where c02 tested ideal, water parameters were ideal, fert dosing was ideal, and even plant growth was explosive with only 30 watts fluorescent lighting(6500K daylight) that tank was literally raped by just about every algae imaginable. BGA, followed by black brush, followed by clado, and even green dust algae. The single biggest change that resulted in the algae disappearing was a reduction in light intensity from 30 watts total to 20 watts(6500K daylight)
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Old 04-24-2009, 04:45 PM   #19
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very interesting, I believe light is a big factor in HC growth. Recently i upgraded my lighting system from 108w to 216w at the same amount of height above my tank and boom, GW! However, the HC was growing like mad, spreading faster than ever. Too bad i couldnt see the plants with my gw and uv sterilizer did not help. So i raised my lighting and so far the gw is slowly going away but my HC isn't growing as well anymore.

Although i fail to mention one thing is that during all this my CO2 diffuser broke so my CO2 distribution is varying from a ceramic diffusing to directly injecting co2 into my canister. I believe once i get my new ceramic diffuser in the mail HC should grow better but not as fast or lush as it was when the lighting was lowered.
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Old 04-24-2009, 07:53 PM   #20
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This is an interesting thread. I was under the suspicion that my lack of CO2 use in my 15 gallon long was causing my HC to disappear, but based on this, it may be my lighting. I am using a Coralife NO T5 (28 watts), Eco-complete, and Excel along with EI dosing. From a significant swathe of HC, I'm now down to 2 patches, but they are very low growing and appear to be healthy. Maybe it's time I though about more light.
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Old 04-28-2009, 10:52 PM   #21
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Follow-Up: Household CF Bulbs, Growing HC, and Non-CO2...

I wanted to follow up to this thread to share some more ideas on lighting with household CF bulbs. AirSong originally had posted asking how much light she should use to light her 2.5gal non-CO2 tank... She was interested in growing HC or other carpeting plants. To her, I answered that she would probably need more than 15 watts. I didn't want to leave it at that however. I set out to investigate and find the right answer. As such, I duplicated her setup: tank size, fixture type, water depth, distance of light from the water, etc... and then took some measurements.

The answer is that you can use anything from 14 watts to 27 watts, and beyond. It all depends on how you set it up...

I personally believe that many hobbyists underestimate the need to accurately quantify their light - especially when they are plagued by unexplained algae or dying plants. The growth in non-CO2 tanks is quite slow and getting feedback takes too long. It's good to know from the start that your lighting is in a good range, so you can eliminate it as a variable if your tank is "less than desirable".

As I discovered, these CF bulbs (14-23 watts) seem fairly tame, but how you use them can mean the difference of not having enough light, and having way too much. And believe it or not, that difference can manifest itself just by moving the light up or down a few inches.

I created a several slides to show what I'm talking about. I hope this will help illustrate how things like reflector type and distance make a big difference, and can't be overlooked - it is also the reason one person's success with a particular bulb may not be your success.

(Hopefully, you've turned off that pesky "image resize" in your user preferences - if not, make sure to unscale for readability. )


Diagram1 - Household CF Bulbs

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Diagram2 - Measuring Household CF Bulbs

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Diagram3 - 19W, 5500K Example

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Diagram4 - Does Color Temperature Matter?

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Diagram5 - 23 Watt Extremes

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Diagram6 - Reflector & Orientation

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Diagram7 - 14 Watt Example

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Cheers!
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Old 04-28-2009, 11:15 PM   #22
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Wow, very interesting! Thanks for taking the time to do this and share your findings. The question is which setup is minimally needed to grow carpeting plants like HC without c02 or in a non-c02 tank?
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Old 04-29-2009, 06:39 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Homer_Simpson View Post
The question is which setup is minimally needed to grow carpeting plants like HC without c02 or in a non-c02 tank?
In my non-CO2 tanks, the HC really grows thick in about 60 umols/m2/s of light (PAR) - and that's measured at the bottom of the tank where the HC is growing. So in the graphics above, any setup that shows PAR values in a range of 60-70 should be "sufficient" light. It doesn't mean you can't go higher. But in going higher, you may be over driving your soil's ability to provide enough nutrients. And even if you dose the water column, the higher light will start to give algae a good environment in which to grow.

In my non-CO2 tank with an average of 60-80 umols/m2/sec, I never change the water, I dose nitrates-phosphates-traces each twice a week, I have a soil substrate, and I don't have algae buildup anywhere in the tank.

But that wasn't always the case... During the first two months I had several patches of different kinds of algae. But I just let them run their course without attempting to fight them, and then did a removal when they seemed to be dying off. It's never come back. Also added snails and 5 amano shrimp... I was amazed at how they started to clean up the tank.

Did any of the above answer your question about the minimal setup required?
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Old 04-29-2009, 10:45 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by i4x4nMore View Post
...Did any of the above answer your question about the minimal setup required?
Yes, absolutley! Thanks for a very thorough explanation. I would never have guessed that 60 umols/m2/s of light would be sufficient to grow carpeting plants like HC. I would have guessed 120-220 minimum. This is good to know. When I test emersed with mineralized topsoil, I am going to go with the 60 umols/m2/s of light to grow HC or dwarf hairgrass after flooding. I did not have a par meter and even if I did, I would never had the experience of growing carpeting plants and measuring the minimal light levels needed to grow them. This helps a lot. Again, many thanks for sharing your experience and findings. And sorry for the thread hijack, but this was just so fascinating I couldn't resist.
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Old 04-30-2009, 11:12 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Homer_Simpson View Post
...sorry for the thread hijack, but this was just so fascinating I couldn't resist.

Friends don't let friends kill HC.

I don't think AirSong minds you hijacking.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Homer_Simpson View Post
You stated that nutrient deprivation is the biggest reason that people fail at growing HC, glosso, and riccia in non-c02 tanks.

To be clear: light AND nutrient deprivation.

I've seen that many people view low-tech, non-co2 tanks as dark, murky places that have plants with spindly growth where anubias, crypts, and java fern reign king. They are overly cautious about having extra nitrates, phosphates, and iron in the water column. And they gravitate toward plain gravel or other DIY substrates that are essentially inert and don't have good CECs (Cation Exchange Capacity).


But some are brave, and they do try to grow things like HC, hairgrass, glosso, and riccia etc. However, they apply the same low-light, nutrient thin philosophies - because that's what a low-light, non-co2 tank is... right? And when the plants eventually die off, they begin to think that such plants can only be grown with CO2 injection, high light, and heavy dosing routines.


To me, a low-light tank is this: It's a tank in which the natural, biological nutrient supply is able to keep up with the demands of the plants, and that demand is driven by the light. Nothing more, nothing less. It's a tank that relies on biology to create CO2... and these bio-chemical rates, albeit slower, are able to keep up with the plants. Surely there is a range of light intensity that works well... and how do you know what the top-end of that would be?


You can't guess this range just by making sure that you have 1-2 watts per gallon. I have disliked this rule-of-thumb ever since the first day I got into this hobby. It never made sense to me - Photosynthetic energy is what is important, not watts. I've seen people trying to grow various plants in a 20 gal tank, a gravel substrate, and a trusty bottle of Seachem Flourish; And I measured their PAR values to be around 15-25 umols/m2/s (far from 60-70 umols/m2/s). To me, it's no surprise why they are having trouble: insufficient light, and no viable nutrients (and maybe a lack of CO2 generation).


Even when they kick up the light a notch, it's not enough to fix the problem. In a non-CO2 tank, you still need CO2 and a consistent nutrient supply. To my knowledge, that CO2 comes from a robust substrate that's filled with healthy soil bacteria.


I've read so many times that you'll never see "pearling" in a low-light, non-co2 tank. This is another one of those "things" that is simply not true. The Riccia and HC in my non-CO2 tanks pearl quite a lot at the height of the day. How could this be without CO2 injection and high light? Well, it's because of a strong, healthy environment, good substrate, and sufficient photosynthetic energy. And maybe "low-light" can be higher than you previously thought... or were conditioned to think by other hobbyists.

And this is all without algae. If you really assess your lighting, and you really assess your nutrient supply, and you have a viable substrate, algae problems really become minimal.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Homer_Simpson View Post
However, IME I have seen riccia grow like a weed(even when tied to rock) in my high tech and low tech non-c02 tanks, but in the same tanks Hairgrass has died off and HC has failed to grow at all(even with ADA Aquasoil II and water column dosing). What is your explanation for this?
Well, to start, I would put Riccia in it's own class since it strictly derives its nutrients from the water column. Riccia is generally undemanding and if you're dosing the water column in both cases, I would expect it to do moderately well in both cases.

HC and Hairgrass, however, interact heavily with the substrate. My guess is that you can't just dose the water column and expect these plants to ignore the biology in their root system. Question: In the non-co2 tank, is the substrate able to generate the kind of bio-chemical activity that's needed to support the rooted plants? Sure, it's "ADA AQUASOIL", but how do you KNOW what it's capable of? What's it's CEC? What is the ratio between sand/silt/clay? How rich is it? What were your PAR values?

I know you don't have a PAR meter. I'm just saying that these are the things you CAN know and remove them from the "variable" list. Personally, if I really wanted to use ADA's Aquasoil, I'd pay the $50 and send it off to a lab to have it analyzed.

That's where I'd start: Determine your photosynthetic energy, and provide a substrate of known quality and content. Only then can you begin to say anything about the success or failure of a particular plant.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Homer_Simpson View Post
I have reservations about shining too intense light on a tank. Even experimenting with a 10 gallon where c02 tested ideal, water parameters were ideal, fert dosing was ideal, and even plant growth was explosive with only 30 watts fluorescent lighting(6500K daylight) that tank was literally raped by just about every algae imaginable. BGA, followed by black brush, followed by clado, and even green dust algae. The single biggest change that resulted in the algae disappearing was a reduction in light intensity from 30 watts total to 20 watts(6500K daylight)
Here again: phrases like "too intense", "only 30 watts", "30 watts total to 20 watts"... they are all ambiguous. They say nothing about actual photosynthetic energy that you are supplying. Small tanks like 10gal, 5gal, etc are tricky because it's so easy to screw up the light, either high or low. If anything, this is what I wanted to illustrate with the slides I created earlier in this thread. Overall they show how a simple change in the distance and reflector type can make huge differences in the photosynthetic energy. And if you don't know what you've got, it's setting the stage for failure (or algae, if you equate the two).

Also, another factor is the life-cycle of the tank. In my experience with using a soil substrate, all new tanks experience some form of algae as the bio-chemical processes are kickstarted after you set it up. This period can last several months. But it goes away as the plants take hold and the substrate kicks into high gear.

If you KNOW that the photosynthetic energy of your lighting is in a good range, and you KNOW that you have a robust substrate, then you can have some confidence in allowing algae to move through it's life cycle without trying to fight it.

But if you don't KNOW those things, you may be consistently supplying an environment that benefits algae and not plants. And then it will never go away. You'll be scraping and removing until the end of your days.

Just my thoughts.


Cheers!
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Old 05-01-2009, 05:50 AM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Homer_Simpson View Post
And sorry for the thread hijack, but this was just so fascinating I couldn't resist.
Hijack as much as you want. I'm learning a lot from all the questions and answers.

I'll go back to reading now
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Old 05-01-2009, 05:54 AM   #27
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excellent data!
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Old 05-01-2009, 02:10 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by clwatkins10 View Post
excellent data!

Agreed! This should definitely be a sticky!! Mods???

Just a few questions i4x4nMore if you don't mind.

(1) You mention fine gravel as cap over the soil. Could you post pictures to give an idea of grain size of the gravel you mean. Have you ever experimented with different caps and noticed any positive or negative experiences or one working better than another. For instance, pool filter sand, Schultz Aquatic Soil, Soil Master Select, tahitian moon sand vs pea size gravel.

(2) What photoperiod do you run your lights and have you noticed any positive or negative effects on plants or algae with different photoperiods. If so, what photoperiod would you recommend.

(3) How long have your tanks been running? Have you noticed and effects of substrate nutrient depletion(via plant nutrient deifciency symptoms) and the need to add more water column ferts over time.

(4) Do you follow the 1 inch per gallon rule of stocking when it comes to fish/snails/shrimp. Do you generously stock your tanks or keep stocking to a minimum? How frequently do you feed your fish?

(5) Finally, what is your water change schedule like and how much(% of total tank water approximately) water do you change?

Thanks.
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Old 05-01-2009, 02:45 PM   #29
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wow, just by mouting CFLs vertically you seem to get a lot more light!
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Old 05-02-2009, 03:43 AM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Homer_Simpson View Post
(1) You mention fine gravel as cap over the soil. Could you post pictures to give an idea of grain size of the gravel you mean. Have you ever experimented with different caps and noticed any positive or negative experiences or one working better than another. For instance, pool filter sand, Schultz Aquatic Soil, Soil Master Select, tahitian moon sand vs pea size gravel.
Here's an image comparing the different gravel caps that I've used. I have not used any of the ones you mentioned. For me, as long as the gravel size is paired well with the root size, I'm not too critical about it. I have never gone below a gravel size of 1-2mm in size.


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Quote:
Originally Posted by Homer_Simpson View Post
(2) What photoperiod do you run your lights and have you noticed any positive or negative effects on plants or algae with different photoperiods. If so, what photoperiod would you recommend.
Nothing special here... 12 hours. I have not experimented with different intervals.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Homer_Simpson View Post
(3) How long have your tanks been running? Have you noticed and effects of substrate nutrient depletion(via plant nutrient deifciency symptoms) and the need to add more water column ferts over time.
Most of my tanks run for a year or more. Not that they couldn't run longer... I just want to try new things. I did experiment with running a non-co2 tank at about 100 umols/m2/sec of light and it did great for about 10 months without algae - then, all of the sudden at the 10 month mark, it totally went south. All the plants turned pale and algae became dominant. I attributed it to the soil finally giving out - but can't say for sure.

With my current non-co2 tanks with soil substrates, I have been dosing using EI. I dose it the same way as I do my CO2 tanks, just less frequent. It's too early for me to tell how this will extend the life of the soil.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Homer_Simpson View Post
(4) Do you follow the 1 inch per gallon rule of stocking when it comes to fish/snails/shrimp. Do you generously stock your tanks or keep stocking to a minimum? How frequently do you feed your fish?
I keep stocking to a minimum. In general, I prefer relatively few fish, with heavy plants. I feed them only once a day, and sometimes skip a day. I only feed them live or frozen foods. No flake foods.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Homer_Simpson View Post
(5) Finally, what is your water change schedule like and how much(% of total tank water approximately) water do you change?
In my non-co2 tanks, I never change the water. Periodically, I check the nitrate and phosphate levels to modify my EI dosing routine.

On the CO2 tanks I change 50-70% of the water every 1-2 weeks.



Cheers!
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