Can someone please help me save my tank, losing fish and plants.
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Old 02-03-2015, 09:04 PM   #1
D@nno
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Can someone please help me save my tank, losing fish and plants.


So, I've had an established 10 gallon tank for ~7 months, cycled it and have had plants and a betta thriving in there up until about a month ago, maybe 2 months ago.

I started noticing that growth in the plants had just stopped, and everything is turning a yellowish color a couple months ago. During this time I was only dosing with Seachem Flourish once a week, and Seachem Flourish Excel every 3 days. I had (2) 13 watt 6,5000k CFL bulbs. About the time I started noticing the plants struggle I started getting an algae problem, what I suspect to be blue green algae popped up, some kind of hair algae maybe?

I admit I am brand new to all this, and just jumped in feet first with both fish and aquatic plants...needless to say, it's been a mess.

Where I sit now.

10 gallon w/ sand substrate
sponge filter ran by an air pump
heater
Lighting has changed to a single 15 watt T8 Fluorescent tube.
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Last week, I made a few diy osmocote plus gel caps and pushed them deep into the substrate. I also started dosing Excel daily, and Seachem Flourish twice a week.
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I will list the plants I know about, there are a couple in there I have no idea what they are or what their needs are.
Java Fern (have noticed any problems or growth from this)
1 amazon sword type plant
Another sword type plant I'm assuming
hornwort (which I hate, hate, hate the needles it sheds).
2 banana plants
And I have 2 other species of plants that I couldn't identify and don't remember their names from when I bought them.

------

Right now I'm having issues where I am getting a small ammonia reading (between the first and second color on the API liquid test kit). And my nitrates keeps spiking, up to 60-80ppm. I was under the impression that having plants would take care of any ammonia or nitrates?

I also just lost 5 rasboras in 5 days, and nearly lost my betta. He's since been put in a 1 gallon container and improving until I figure out what's going on.

Can someone please, please help me get things back in order. Any suggestions, or advice is greatly appreciated at this point. I have plenty of pictures if it would help.
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Old 02-03-2015, 10:42 PM   #2
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What is your water change schedule? Without a circulation filter water changes are critical, once per week minimum.
I would hold back on the dosing until things stabilize.
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Old 02-03-2015, 11:37 PM   #3
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Likely the Osmocote caps are driving your nitrates up.
The 13W CFL bulbs give the correct amount of light for a 10g tank/w one if it is
held in a vertical position over the tank by a lamp like a brooder lamp or two of them if in an incandescent fixture which holds them horizontal.
Ferts are incomplete.
There are two "kits" on this link which would make it simple to dose full nutrients for the plants. "PPS Pro liquid ferts" and EI liquid ferts".
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=806066

http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...php?t=107303#2

The more popular type of the ferte I believe would be the EI and you would only dose one each of the Micro/Macro solutions each week with perhaps a dose of your Flourish later in the week so it would last considerable longer than they say on there. EI is designed for tanks/w injected CO2 so you only need about 1/3 of what they suggest as doses. One dose per week instead of three of each.
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Last edited by Raymond S.; 02-03-2015 at 11:52 PM.. Reason: more info
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Old 02-04-2015, 12:08 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raymond S. View Post
Likely the Osmocote caps are driving your nitrates up.
The 13W CFL bulbs give the correct amount of light for a 10g tank/w one if it is
held in a vertical position over the tank by a lamp like a brooder lamp or two of them if in an incandescent fixture which holds them horizontal.
Ferts are incomplete.
There are two "kits" on this link which would make it simple to dose full nutrients for the plants. "PPS Pro liquid ferts" and EI liquid ferts".
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=806066

http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...php?t=107303#2

The more popular type of the ferte I believe would be the EI and you would only dose one each of the Micro/Macro solutions each week with perhaps a dose of your Flourish later in the week so it would last considerable longer than they say on there. EI is designed for tanks/w injected CO2 so you only need about 1/3 of what they suggest as doses. One dose per week instead of three of each.
It was 2 CFL bulbs housed horizontally, but I'm back to a single 15 watt T8 fluorescent tube.

The osmocote plus with the seachem flourish is still incomplete?

Thanks for those links, will look into them.
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Old 02-04-2015, 12:44 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prp427 View Post
What is your water change schedule? Without a circulation filter water changes are critical, once per week minimum.
I would hold back on the dosing until things stabilize.
I change 20% of the water twice a week, until the ammonia showed up and the fish started getting sick. Changed 50% the first day I saw the ammonia jump, have been doing 25% daily since then until all the fish died. Only thing in the tank now is an assassin snail, I don't want to put the betta back in there until it does stabilize.

Would you hold back on dosing even the Excel?
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Old 02-04-2015, 12:57 AM   #6
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Ive never had a problem with Osmocote spiking nitrate levels, and definitely not ammonia. So I think the ammonia issue is coming from somewhere else, like being under filtered, over stocked, over feeding, something along those lines. Best thing you can do is frequent 50% water changes until you get that sorted out. I would test the tap water too though, to make sure the problem isnt coming from that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by D@nno View Post
The osmocote plus with the seachem flourish is still incomplete?
Osmocote + is a complete fertilizer for any heavy root feeders like swords, crypts, etc. It offers very little in the way of a water column fert though. Your swords need it, but it's not going to help plants that feed mostly from the water column, stems, java fern, etc.

Seachem Flourish Comprehensive (I assume that's what you mean, "Flourish" is a whole line of products) only contains Micros for all practical purposes. So as far as the water column goes, you're still lacking the big three Macros (Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus) Check out those links Raymond posted, or Seachem makes them as well, Flourish nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.

Having said that, I dont think ferts are your plant's current problem either. Need to find out what is causing the ammonia spikes. It sounds like your tank is in a general state of bad health. Like prp427 said, I wouldnt start adding a bunch of ferts until you get things sorted out better.
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Old 02-04-2015, 01:17 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burr740 View Post
Ive never had a problem with Osmocote spiking nitrate levels, and definitely not ammonia. So I think the ammonia issue is coming from somewhere else, like being under filtered, over stocked, over feeding, something along those lines. Best thing you can do is frequent 50% water changes until you get that sorted out. I would test the tap water too though, to make sure the problem isnt coming from that.


Osmocote + is a complete fertilizer for any heavy root feeders like swords, crypts, etc. It offers very little in the way of a water column fert though. Your swords need it, but it's not going to help plants that feed mostly from the water column, stems, java fern, etc.

Seachem Flourish Comprehensive (I assume that's what you mean, "Flourish" is a whole line of products) only contains Micros for all practical purposes. So as far as the water column goes, you're still lacking the big three Macros (Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus) Check out those links Raymond posted, or Seachem makes them as well, Flourish nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.

Having said that, I dont think ferts are your plant's current problem either. Need to find out what is causing the ammonia spikes. It sounds like your tank is in a general state of bad health. Like prp427 said, I wouldnt start adding a bunch of ferts until you get things sorted out better.
Thanks a lot for all that, I really appreciate it. I wish I knew what caused it to be in such bad health. I've religiously done 20% water changes (every 2 to 3 days) since setting it up.

When I first started seeing the plant issues it was just a single betta, he got fed twice a day and only about 4 or 5 pellets...he's a pig so there was never any left over food in the tank.
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Old 02-04-2015, 02:05 AM   #8
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Aside from the ammonia issue, let's assume you're going to get that sorted, with regards to your plants here's a couple thoughts:

I would go back to the cfl bulbs. A single t8 isnt going to sustain anything except maybe the java fern. You didnt say how long you were running the lights before, but start back with something like a 6 hour photo period. You can always increase it down the road once the algae goes away.

Keep dosing Excel. Additional carbon is always good for plants, and it is also an effective algaecide. It is only active for 12-24 hours though, so it needs to be dosed every day, not twice a week.

Keep dosing the flourish comp, that will cover the micros. You may not need any additional nitrogen or phosporus, fish food will provide some degree of both. Probably do want to pick up some form of potassium though. Tetra FloraPride is cheap and easy to find, it contains potassium and iron. The additional iron will be good for the swords if nothing else. You may want to explore a more economical, fuller range of ferts down the road, but this should cover the basics until you get things stabilized.

In the meantime, manually remove whatever algae you can, and keep up the good tank husbandry like water changes, clean filters, etc.
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Old 02-04-2015, 06:20 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burr740 View Post
Aside from the ammonia issue, let's assume you're going to get that sorted, with regards to your plants here's a couple thoughts:

I would go back to the cfl bulbs. A single t8 isnt going to sustain anything except maybe the java fern. You didnt say how long you were running the lights before, but start back with something like a 6 hour photo period. You can always increase it down the road once the algae goes away.

Keep dosing Excel. Additional carbon is always good for plants, and it is also an effective algaecide. It is only active for 12-24 hours though, so it needs to be dosed every day, not twice a week.

Keep dosing the flourish comp, that will cover the micros. You may not need any additional nitrogen or phosporus, fish food will provide some degree of both. Probably do want to pick up some form of potassium though. Tetra FloraPride is cheap and easy to find, it contains potassium and iron. The additional iron will be good for the swords if nothing else. You may want to explore a more economical, fuller range of ferts down the road, but this should cover the basics until you get things stabilized.

In the meantime, manually remove whatever algae you can, and keep up the good tank husbandry like water changes, clean filters, etc.
I'm hoping to get it sorted, I am at a loss as to what may have caused it to begin with. Though, testing my tap water, it shows the same reading for ammonia that my tank does (~.25).

Your post inspired me to rewire the fluorescent hood I had back up with CFL. I initially changed it back to how it came because I was having an issue with keeping the fixtures in place since it was made for fluorescent. I have it set up really well this time around. Do you think that I should switch to (2) 9 watt bulbs, instead of the (2) 13 watt bulbs?

When I first used the CFL I was running them for 10-12 hours a day...obviously that caused some issues with algae (though not as bad as it could have been I don't think) that I am still dealing with despite cutting the light waaay back.

Thanks so much for taking the time to write that up for me.
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Old 02-04-2015, 11:52 AM   #10
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I'm hoping to get it sorted, I am at a loss as to what may have caused it to begin with. Though, testing my tap water, it shows the same reading for ammonia that my tank does (~.25).
That could be the source of the problem. Even though .25 is not a very high level, the frequent water changes means a constant presence, and a likely build up of byproducts like nitrates.

I hate trying to determine an exact reading from those API color charts. It could just as easily be .10 or .40, or even higher if the test kit is off. One thing you could do is test some bottled water and make sure it reads zero. Be sure to follow the directions exactly. Shake both reagents VERY well, and take the reading exactly when it says to (5 minutes or whatever). Also be sure the test is not expired. The last 4 digits of the lot number is the month/year of the manufacturing date. API claims they're good for 5 years. I wouldnt trust them after 3.

What do you use as tap water conditioner to remove chlorine? In this case, you need something that specifically states that it removes or "detoxifies" ammonia, like Seachem Prime, API Ammo Lock, etc. One thing to keep in mind though, is that when Prime or other products change ammonia to ammonium, it still reads as "ammonia" with the API and similar test kits. Although it is no longer toxic, it is still technically present, and will continue to go through the nitrification process, with nitrates being the end result. That may or may not be a concern at the levels you mentioned. (It sounds like it might be since all of your fish have died, esp if you're already using Prime or something similar). It really just depends on the sensitivity of your livestock. Otherwise it's just more nitrogen for the plants to eat.

You could always use bottled water by the gallon to be absolutely safe. It would be less convenient, and more expensive, but the good news is you only have a 10 gallon tank. After the initial fill, a couple gallons every week or two should more than cover it. Under normal circumstances, low tech tanks dont need big frequent water changes. You wouldnt necessarily have to change out the whole 10 gallons either. A 50% change with clean water would make a big difference. The plants and biological filtration could probably handle the rest.

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Do you think that I should switch to (2) 9 watt bulbs, instead of the (2) 13 watt bulbs?
Unless you have a dynamite reflector, like polished aluminum, I think the horizontal 13 watts would probably be best. Reducing the photo period from 10-12 hours down to 6-8 should be a big help.

Quote:
Originally Posted by D@nno View Post
Thanks so much for taking the time to write that up for me.
No problem at all. We're all up in here trying to learn something, especially me!
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Old 02-04-2015, 01:24 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by burr740 View Post
That could be the source of the problem. Even though .25 is not a very high level, the frequent water changes means a constant presence, and a likely build up of byproducts like nitrates.

I hate trying to determine an exact reading from those API color charts. It could just as easily be .10 or .40, or even higher if the test kit is off. One thing you could do is test some bottled water and make sure it reads zero. Be sure to follow the directions exactly. Shake both reagents VERY well, and take the reading exactly when it says to (5 minutes or whatever). Also be sure the test is not expired. The last 4 digits of the lot number is the month/year of the manufacturing date. API claims they're good for 5 years. I wouldnt trust them after 3.

What do you use as tap water conditioner to remove chlorine? In this case, you need something that specifically states that it removes or "detoxifies" ammonia, like Seachem Prime, API Ammo Lock, etc. One thing to keep in mind though, is that when Prime or other products change ammonia to ammonium, it still reads as "ammonia" with the API and similar test kits. Although it is no longer toxic, it is still technically present, and will continue to go through the nitrification process, with nitrates being the end result. That may or may not be a concern at the levels you mentioned. (It sounds like it might be since all of your fish have died, esp if you're already using Prime or something similar). It really just depends on the sensitivity of your livestock. Otherwise it's just more nitrogen for the plants to eat.

You could always use bottled water by the gallon to be absolutely safe. It would be less convenient, and more expensive, but the good news is you only have a 10 gallon tank. After the initial fill, a couple gallons every week or two should more than cover it. Under normal circumstances, low tech tanks dont need big frequent water changes. You wouldnt necessarily have to change out the whole 10 gallons either. A 50% change with clean water would make a big difference. The plants and biological filtration could probably handle the rest.

Unless you have a dynamite reflector, like polished aluminum, I think the horizontal 13 watts would probably be best. Reducing the photo period from 10-12 hours down to 6-8 should be a big help.

No problem at all. We're all up in here trying to learn something, especially me!
I mentioned how hard it is to read the API kit to my wife, usually double checking with her the color it's on in case my old eyes are starting to deceive me. I've also seen this complaint from other people about the API kit during my research.

I use Seachem Prime, so I was under the assumption that despite there showing some sign of ammonia/ammonium, it wouldn't be as harmful to the fish.

As for the light, it' just got the flimsy, white plastic reflector in the hood with the 2 bulbs, I've been cutting way back on the light it gets but still the algae persists, but the tank sits in a place where it gets (no direct sunlight) but plenty of light comes through a bay window not too far from the tank, I wonder if that is providing enough light throughout the day for photosynthesis, and I'm just adding to the problem by turning on lights?

Once (IF) I'm able to get things to stabilize, would you recommend doing about 20% water changes every week, instead of 20% every 2 or 3 days?
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Old 02-04-2015, 02:28 PM   #12
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The Prime should take care of the ammonia being toxic, but you'll still have the resulting nitrates from it's breakdown. That could explain the fish deaths, but it's simply food for the plants, so it's not the problem as far as your plants go.

I would not rely on ambient light from the window to provide for the plants, but it most certainly can be contributing to the algae problem.

20% a week sounds good, 30% every two weeks. I have a heavily planted low tech 20 gallon that I change 5 gallons about once a month. Every tank is different, a lot depends on filter efficiency. With just a sponge filter you would probably benefit from small weekly changes.

Speaking of the sponge filter, you do use de-chlorinated water to rinse out the sponges, right? Because that could be significant if you dont.

Have you considered getting a better filter, or is there a reason you're doing the sponge w/air pump thing? Aquaclear 20s are only about 25 bucks on Amazon, that'd be a lot better overall than a sponge filter. It's certainly not a necessity, but since you're having issues...
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Old 02-04-2015, 04:30 PM   #13
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The Prime should take care of the ammonia being toxic, but you'll still have the resulting nitrates from it's breakdown. That could explain the fish deaths, but it's simply food for the plants, so it's not the problem as far as your plants go.

I would not rely on ambient light from the window to provide for the plants, but it most certainly can be contributing to the algae problem.

20% a week sounds good, 30% every two weeks. I have a heavily planted low tech 20 gallon that I change 5 gallons about once a month. Every tank is different, a lot depends on filter efficiency. With just a sponge filter you would probably benefit from small weekly changes.

Speaking of the sponge filter, you do use de-chlorinated water to rinse out the sponges, right? Because that could be significant if you dont.

Have you considered getting a better filter, or is there a reason you're doing the sponge w/air pump thing? Aquaclear 20s are only about 25 bucks on Amazon, that'd be a lot better overall than a sponge filter. It's certainly not a necessity, but since you're having issues...
Yeah, everything gets cleaned out in the old tank water i take out.

I had a Tetra Whisper 10i in tank filter before this one, but I didn't like how much space it took up in the tank, I couldn't fill the tank up very high with it in the tank and the hood on it, and I wasn't real pleased with how it worked. After some research, I read that a sponge filter would work pretty well with a planted tank since the plants should take care of most of the filtration.

I actually have that Aquaclear 20 in my Amazon cart, I just have been trying to give the sponge filter a try.

Any way I go I think I need to create some flow in the tank, plants sit motionless, gunk will settle on the leaves of the plants....but I worry about adding too much flow for a betta.
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Old 02-04-2015, 05:03 PM   #14
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I'm real big on sponge filters.
Any professional breeder will tell/show you.It is all most use!
That being said waterchanges are more then mandatory,but you sound like that should not be a problem.
When I want more circulation in my breeder tanks I add an airstone or two.They really move way more water then the sponge filters do.
Are you using one of the smaller sponge filters?Big ones don't get the water moving as well in shallow tanks.I use the smallest in my 5.5 breeders .
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Old 02-04-2015, 06:01 PM   #15
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I'm real big on sponge filters.
Any professional breeder will tell/show you.It is all most use!
That being said waterchanges are more then mandatory,but you sound like that should not be a problem.
When I want more circulation in my breeder tanks I add an airstone or two.They really move way more water then the sponge filters do.
Are you using one of the smaller sponge filters?Big ones don't get the water moving as well in shallow tanks.I use the smallest in my 5.5 breeders .
I'm using this one...just says it's a 4.5" biochemical sponge filter.
Amazon.com : Jardin Aquarium Fish Tank Biochemical Sponge Filter, 4-1/2-Inch : Pet Supplies Amazon.com : Jardin Aquarium Fish Tank Biochemical Sponge Filter, 4-1/2-Inch : Pet Supplies

Air pump is a Tetra Whisper 10 (?), it has a valve and I open it up quite a bit while the tank is active/daytime. Turn it down quite a bit at night.
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