Kick starting a tank? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-12-2013, 05:20 PM Thread Starter
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Kick starting a tank?

I have just set up my very first planted aquarium ever. I love it. I can sit and watch it for an hour at a time. Even though it's lacking much to be desired.

The specs for my aquarium are listed below in my signature. But I do have some specific questions and would love to have some opinions.

1. Can I use seachem flourish (Comprehensive supplement) more often than the bottle reads without harming my fish? I am concerned that the tank is lacking beneficial bacteria, water nutrients, among other things.

I have oyster shells in the filter now and it is slowly making my PH level rise a bit. (It's currently 5.8) But the alkilinity and hardness of the water is still considerably low.
2. Are these levels something that will improve more as the tank cycles?

3. Is there any advice you can offer me about starting a tank from scratch and boosting my PH? I have city water that I prepare with water preparation drops so it really has nothing beneficial in it at all. I would prefer methods of improving these levels to be all natural methods. No chemicals. That's why I haven't given the tank a healthy dose of PH-up or something. And for the record, I would like to keep my compressed Co2 and eventually put driftwood in the tank so I need to get my PH levels under control.

My first tank: (Set up 02-07-2013)
10 gallon with Compressed Co2 and Flourite substrate. (I don't like it. Will be using dirt next time.)
PH: 5.8 (Slowly rising with oyster shells)
Alkalinity: 45 and rising
Hardness: Very Soft (70 range)
Nitrate: 0
Nitrite: 0

2 gold bar Platys
2 female guppy fry
1 Large golden apple snail

Cabomba - Doing well
Micro Sword - Alive...
Telanthera Cardinalis - Doing well after Flourish
Water Onion - Growing insanely fast.

Fishy Missy

Last edited by imemylee; 02-12-2013 at 05:24 PM. Reason: Signature cut out...
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-12-2013, 05:25 PM
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Kick starting a tank?

Tbh and this is only my opinion I was told years ago that it's easier just to work with the water you have instead of trying to adjust it to suit, there will always be fish and plants that like your water but I have never been a fan of using chemicals/substitutes etc to change my water chemistry, it is what it is and thats how I like it.

Like I say only my opinion but it saves alot of hassle, time and effort.

The beneficial bacteria will build up naturally over time with the fish in the tank so I wouldn't worry about it just give it time and keep testing the water it will happen

Good luck with the tank though.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-12-2013, 06:34 PM
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I've used Flourish comprehensive everyday without problems. However, IMO there are insufficient macro elements in relation to the micros in it. I had to switch to dry fertilizers to achieve the results I was looking for. My trace elements were most likely fine but I consistently had nitrates of 0. I now try and maintain nitrates around 10ppm. The difference was shocking. Lighting and CO2 will determine how much to use as a starting point. What type of lighting do you have?

Oyster shells and crushed coral will raise your PH. If you want a faster method you can add baking soda, 1 teaspoon per five gallons. Go slowly though. The rapid change in PH will adversley affect your inhabitants. The low ph you currently have may prolong the cycling. Around 5.5 the bacteria will fail to reproduce. I would suggest you get a GH/KH test kit to give you a better idea of your alkalinity rather than rely on total alkalinity. The CO2 you are using will reduce your PH. Without sufficient buffers CO2 can lower your PH to dangerous levels rather rapidly causing death of your inhabitants.

The PH will not increase after cycling unless buffers are added by shells, baking soda or any number of additives. In fact, the PH will drop since the decomposition of plants material, food and waste produces acids.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-14-2013, 02:08 AM
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Baking soda, @ 1 teaspoon per 30 gallons will raise the carbonate hardness (KH, alkalinity) by 2 German degrees of hardness, about 35ppm. I sure would not use 1 tsp per 5 gallons in one dose. Too high, too-sudden a change.

General hardness of about 70 ppm (ALWAYS include the units when you measure ANYTHING!) is fairly soft, and with your fish choices you probably want to add more minerals for them. GH Booster can do this. The main minerals you are testing with the GH test are calcium and magnesium. Several GH boosters also have potassium, a required plant fertilizer.

If you want to use coral sand, oyster shell grit or limestone based sand, then here is how to get a faster result:

Prepare the water ahead of time, setting up a 5 gallon bucket with a small pump (table top fountain pump is fine, or air bubbler).
Add a generous handful (perhaps 3-5 times as much as is in your filter) of any of those materials, and let the pump run overnight. Add dechlor.
Test the water (GH and KH)
Then do a water change with this water. If the GH and KH are just a bit higher than the tank, then do as large a water change as you want. (100%, if needed)
But if the GH and KH are more than 20% higher than the water in the tank, then do a smaller water change. The goal is to increase the GH and KH no more than 15% in any one water change. You can do this much of a change a couple of times per week. The fish need to adapt to the higher mineral levels.
If the first bucket did not have as high GH and KH as you wanted, then add more of the materials or circulate the water longer.
Now that you have started raising the hardness of the water, keep on doing that every time you do a water change.

By exposing the surface area of fine particles (they have LOTS of surface area) to the moving water overnight you are dissolving the minerals into the water faster than if you were not keeping the water in motion.

Another way to do this is to use any of these materials blended with your substrate, or as 100% of the substrate.
Caution: This can make the water in the tank a LOT harder, and you must match this with every water change, or else the fish will be exposed to the variable levels that happen when you change the water and the new water has too-few minerals in it. Could kill the fish. I would not do this in your situation. (Actually I do this, but for Rift Lake Tanks).

Here is how I do this:
Prep water for water changes by adding:
Add baking soda for KH. carbonates are a buffer that stabilizes the pH.
Add GH booster for GH. (Calcium and magnesium)
Also, my hard water tanks have coral sand or oyster shell grit in the filters or blended with the substrate. The reaction time is slow, however, and when I prep the water for a water change I just add the minerals that would have dissolved out of the coral sand etc.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-16-2013, 08:55 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys! Your posts have been incredibly helpful. I have added half a teaspoon of baking soda to my 10 gallon tank and my ph went from 5 to 6. A major jump. The fish were doing fine 3 days later so I have begun adding crushed coral bit by bit each day. My PH is currently at 6.5 and holding steady. I have removed the compressed CO2 but added a small piece of driftwood. I will continue to keep an eye on my PH level and hopefully get it up to 7 or a bit higher. Thank you so much for your help!

Fishy Missy
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-02-2013, 06:45 PM Thread Starter
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Update on my tank. PH is now 7.2 and holding steady. Alkalinity is ideal. Water is now about mid range softness. No nitrate or nitrite yet. Fish and plants are all happy and thriving. However, I did have to pull up the micro sword and 2 of the 6 milfoil plants due to what I think was algae. Seems I had an outbreak of algae once I used too much flourish and kept the lights on a bit long. It got seriously out of control in a matter of 4 days. I've now got it under control but I wouldn't recommend using too much flourish like that. It did kick start the tank... Just kicked a bit too hard. :-)

Fishy Missy
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