First Planted Tank 20 Gallon - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-18-2020, 05:00 PM Thread Starter
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First Planted Tank 20 Gallon



Posting up here to keep track of my 20 gallon long all on the same site as all my other records. Currently dealing with a pretty nasty hair algae (? [long white strands propagating prolifically]) and decided to pull the trigger on keeping track of this stuff in a centralized location. I'd post a picture but to be perfectly honest I'm a little embarrassed at how rudimentary my scape is. I wanted to go for a river-like appearance and am having second thoughts. Started this tank a month or so ago as a quarantine project/tax refund goodie waste and am working on getting things dialed in. I've listed the tank specs below for my records:

Substrate:
- Fluval Stratum with pool filter sand cap

Fertilizer
- Twice weekly with Seachem Flourish
- Seachem root tabs; ~20 placed intermittently at mid-level in the substrate

Tech
- DIY CO2 feeding into the filter
- Finnex+ Planted 24/7; running MAX at 6 hours/day
- Seachem Tidal 35 filter; stock filter media running at max water flow; introducing purigen when I can afford it

Plants & Decor
- Anubias
- Amazon Swords
- Pigmy Swords
- Creeping Jenny
- Water Wisteria
- Dwarf Baby Tears
- Natural Cholla Wood
- Natural Gray Flagstone

Livestock:
- (3x) Peppered Cory Catfish
- (2x) Emerald Cory Catfish
- (10x) Yellow Shrimp set to arrive Wednesday, 20 May

Feeding Regimen:
- Alternating shrimp pellets and brine shrimp; fast on Sundays

Maintenance:
- Rinse filter in tank water once a week
- 30% water change once a week (or as needed for nitrates)

I've started injecting CO2 and reduced the lighting to 40% and will see how that goes when combined with manual removal. The tank does get a little filtered natural light in the morning so I've been running the aquarium light starting once that subsides. After injecting CO2 I've started to notice my baby tears exploding so I must be doing something right. I know keeping an aquarium is all about chemistry and getting things dialed in, but sometimes it's hard to look at. Easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff to deal with. I try to keep my chin up by remembering it's always going to be a project - that's what pets are after all.

I know shrimp don't generally eat filament algae but I'm hoping they'll get after the miscellaneous biofilm to clean things up a bit. We'll see how things go.

"What we learn to do, we learn by doing." - Aristotle (385-325 BCE)

Last edited by WaterWelder; 05-21-2020 at 03:28 AM. Reason: My computer is an idiot and auto-corrects correct words
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-21-2020, 03:23 AM Thread Starter
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Shramp friends came in a day early, which is always a pleasant surprise. I got ten of the neocaridina davidi var. yellow from an online site recommended to me by folks on the forum. I was lucky to get 'em. Apparently I got the last few in stock. They got to work right away and knocked out a TON of the algae on the rocks and decor. They seem very happy. No DOA. Hair algae removal continues apace, which I expect will subside once I get a regular bit of CO2 going on and balance my variables. Water parameters remain stable at 0 ppm NH3, 0 ppm NO2-, <10 ppm NO3-. pH is still at 7.8; will monitor fluctuations as drop checker (Nilocg) changes colors.



I did have an incident with one of the emerald corys. He started freaking out. Don't know what his deal was, but the poor guy was breathing heavy and doing barrel rolls across the substrate for a few minutes. Killed the CO2 and he seemed to recover pretty quickly. Strange, because I wasn't running any heavier than usual. Drop checker read nil. Will monitor.

Also got a shiny new 5# CO2 canister for my birthday (albeit a couple months early.) The welding shop was very accommodating and picked one out of their stock or me that's basically brand new; shiny and unscuffed. It's a nice piece of hardware I bought outright.



Regulator comes in on Friday - an AirGas Y12-244D dual-stage regulator that was only used as a model unit in a water laboratory. Couple that with the postbody kit courtesy of @Bettatail in the sale threads. S/he was and is very helpful and also included instructions for setup. Very excited to get my first high-tech rig up and running.

"What we learn to do, we learn by doing." - Aristotle (385-325 BCE)
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-21-2020, 06:25 PM Thread Starter
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Day 1 of shrimp keeping and the "hair algae" is all but gone. Maybe it was actually stag horn. Who knows? I did have a mishap with a couple of my shramp buddies and lost a couple into the HOB overnight (D'oh!). After finding an ancient post from @crazie.eddie I improvised a protective cover out of a spare net to put over the intake, then secured with a rubber band until such time I can dream up a more permanent solution.



After some research, I've decided with the plants and stock I have to only run CO2 during the photoperiod with an hour beforehand to bring up concentration. This might change in practice, but that's where it stands right now. Regulator comes in tomorrow, then another 24 hours before pressurizing to let the thread lock cure.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-21-2020, 07:28 PM
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Looks like a nice start. When you're ready, you might want to bump the catfish to 5 or 6 of each species. They're happiest in larger groups of their own kind. (Just not sure if those species get too large to do that in a 20-l...)

As for hair algae, that's usually the big problem I face when starting a tank. Have you considered putting in some Amano shrimp? They're pretty good at eating it.

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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-21-2020, 07:43 PM Thread Starter
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Looks like a nice start. When you're ready, you might want to bump the catfish to 5 or 6 of each species. They're happiest in larger groups of their own kind. (Just not sure if those species get too large to do that in a 20-l...)

As for hair algae, that's usually the big problem I face when starting a tank. Have you considered putting in some Amano shrimp? They're pretty good at eating it.
Thank you! 've been out of the hobby for a few years and am re-learning some things.

The schooling tendencies are something I've noticed. The emeralds stick together a lot but school with the peppered from time to time and vice versa. They seem to be pretty happy together. I've thought about upping to five of each breed once supply chains for fish are reestablished and my LFS opens back up. Basically everyone is out of everything, even online. When I have the room for it, I plan on getting a much larger tank and will probably put all 10+ in that.

I did look for the amano shrimp, but same problem with stocking. Not a lot out there. They would look very nice though and do a good job of cleaning up. These are things I plan on doing proactively with my next tank.

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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-22-2020, 09:18 PM Thread Starter
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Regulator finally came in today and I have to say it's a pretty solid piece of equipment. I had to do some jerry-rigging at first but quickly figured out where I was going wrong. After two trips to the local welding shops I got this bad boy rigged up with only a moderate amount of cursing and re-setting fittings. Two beers later I'm a very happy camper. Currently I'm trying to think up a way to either feature the canister and hardware as an aesthetic component or mask it. It's a little too wide when standing abreast to put between the tank stand and the couch to display the gauges. Perhaps I'll put a ficus tree or some such foliage in that gap. I won't be able to see the tank as much from just sitting on the couch, but we'll think on it some.

Shrimp Update: I absolutely panicked today thinking that all but one of my shrimp disappeared. How could they have possibly? I even made my filter shrimp safe! Turns out a happy side-effect of wrapping the intake of my HOB was that the shrimp found a safe, low-current location behind the intake in the netting to lay their eggs and munch on debris. They've been back there all day. I'm glad they found a place they feel safe. If I wind up escaping down the road I'll have to actually provide them a safe place to chill that the corys can't get to.

All-day class tomorrow but I plan on having CO2 up and running by tomorrow afternoon. Also going to remove this [redacted] anacharis once I get the motivation. Don't know what it is about this stuff but I'm sick of looking at it.

"What we learn to do, we learn by doing." - Aristotle (385-325 BCE)
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-23-2020, 12:24 AM
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Thank you! 've been out of the hobby for a few years and am re-learning some things.

The schooling tendencies are something I've noticed. The emeralds stick together a lot but school with the peppered from time to time and vice versa. They seem to be pretty happy together. I've thought about upping to five of each breed once supply chains for fish are reestablished and my LFS opens back up. Basically everyone is out of everything, even online. When I have the room for it, I plan on getting a much larger tank and will probably put all 10+ in that.

I did look for the amano shrimp, but same problem with stocking. Not a lot out there. They would look very nice though and do a good job of cleaning up. These are things I plan on doing proactively with my next tank.
Emerald corydoras (Corydoras splendens) reach from 3- 4 inches in the aquarium. I have a group of 8 in my 180g that are 5 years old. They are all between 3.5-4 inches. These guys get big. May need to wait until get a bigger aquarium to add to the group.


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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-24-2020, 01:48 PM Thread Starter
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Emerald corydoras (Corydoras splendens) reach from 3- 4 inches in the aquarium. I have a group of 8 in my 180g that are 5 years old. They are all between 3.5-4 inches. These guys get big. May need to wait until get a bigger aquarium to add to the group.
That's good advice. I always get nervous about them having enough room. I think what I have right now is more than enough without being too overstocked on the floor of the tank. It seems like no matter how much I read up on stocking, there's always a surprise or a d'oh! moment around the corner
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-24-2020, 01:51 PM
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That's good advice. I always get nervous about them having enough room. I think what I have right now is more than enough without being too overstocked on the floor of the tank. It seems like no matter how much I read up on stocking, there's always a surprise or a d'oh! moment around the corner
Yes, I know. This hobby has a lot of moments like that.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-26-2020, 08:31 PM Thread Starter
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After getting my CO2 rig all hooked up and testing connections I've started to inject today. There's no notable difference as of yet in the way the plants are reacting, or the algae. There's a little bit of pearling on the swords but other than that nothing interesting. Dwarf HC started perking up but that might just be my imagination. I've got my gas diffusing through a wooden airstone that's under the filter intake. Drop checker never changed color throughout the day so I'll up the diffusion from .75 bps to 1.25 bps. Good news is the bubbles get caught on the net I used to shrimp-proof the filter, which is a semi-happy byproduct. The bubbles stay in contact with the water for a greater duration that way. The stringy stuff that was floating across the tank like a spider web is nearly gone but I still see some hairlike strands growing kinda fuzzy on plant leaves. Dosed today with Flourish to make my stem plants happy since I'm low-stocked and my nitrates are low. Tested today and have 0 ppm.

Now for the bad news. I have what appears to be BGA growing in the first inch of substrate in the layer of pool filter sand. I don't see it anywhere else except against the glass under the substrate. When I wiped it with my finger, it came up as a greasy blue-green color. I keep telling myself one thing at a time. I don't know how it would have been introduced. The plants I had were set up quite a while before I started seeing this stuff. I'm going to keep an eye on it and try to nip it in the bud. One thing at a time though. Patience is the name of the game. I'm trying so hard to stay optimistic about this and keep up with it.

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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 05-28-2020, 03:31 PM Thread Starter
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Good news and better news today. After a fair bit of research, I came across some threads suggesting that dosing NO3 (most often KNO3) to increase nitrates will beat back a great deal of BGA. Similarly, I have decided to go with the EI dosing method of fertilizing my high tech setup. The conclusion I've come to for myself is along the lines of when I first started welding: we began with stick before moving on to other methods with the intention of learning how and why certain methods work and others don't. My idea is to cut my teeth on a high tech setup to understand plant demands, etc. before reverting to a lower-tech setup like the Walstad tank. Also added a powerhead and my circulation has improved by leaps and bounds. The head has an air intake (albeit post-impeller) that I'm considering hooking up to my CO2 to distrubute but haven't decided yet.

Beginning next week I'll dose using NilocG Aquatics's EI NPK+CSM+B w/Iron dry salts. My batch of Purigen is slated to come in around the same time. For right now I'll continue my semi daily dosing schedule with Flourish. I also dropped some boiled zucchini in the tank last night for my shrimp to munch on and my corys tore. it. up. Everyone got a go at it but it was nice to know they were into it. I'll try and get a picture next time I supplement.

The same emerald cory that was flashing when I first started injecting CO2 is at it again. This has me a little worried considering I dealt with an ich outbreak a month ago that I treated with high temps and Kordon's Ich Attack. That treatment continued until at least a week after no symptoms were present in any fish. This doesn't seem to be that. Water is clean, fish diet is varied, no ammonia, pH changes with injection but doesn't swing as my gas is well regulated. Fish appear healthy - no red gills, no strings coming from gills, no spots, no hyperventilating. It's got to be something in the water chemistry or TDS causing this. Furthermore, I've noticed that when my fish have parasites, they prefer to flash against hard surfaces like rocks or coarse gravel. This guy is rubbing against the pool filter sand substrate.

I'm starting to believe after some research that CO2 concentrations are to blame. Thought I don't understand because my drop checker is, and always has been, in the blue range. I even moved it to where the greatest distribution would be to get a more accurate reading. All the other fish look fine. No other symptoms. The shrimp are healthy too. Water change is on the docket for today so maybe that will help. Also planning on reducing CO2 from 1.25 bps back down to 1.

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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-03-2020, 05:30 PM Thread Starter
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New update: I do have what appears to be some BGA on the front glass of my tank. I began dosing with Nilocg's kit on Saturday after a 50% water change and soft escape. Also decided to forego the Sunday water change and give the ferts a couple extra days to compound and catch up to slow growth rates. The plants are doing much better and the staghorn/hair algae that was most prominent on my swords are all but gone. Good news is.....


I have shrimplets!



Picture is trash quality because between the glass, plants, particles in the water, and the shrimp, my camera didn't know where to look Today I counted five on the plants and a few more in the water. They're no bigger than a pinhead and nearly translucent. Mostly they come out at night. Looks like the netting I put over the HOB intake and the sponge over the powerhead has kept them protected thus far (fingers crossed).

Fertilizer regimen will continue apace. I've got a hunch that my nitrates need to be increased again, but that will be determined by a water test before the 50% water change on Sunday. With my little shrimp there's some concern over sucking them up in the wc. The plan right now is to basically stuff the siphon with sponge media as a jerry-rigged solution. From what I've seen, they're pretty zippy anyway and I suspect they'll be able to evade well enough.

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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-14-2020, 09:28 PM Thread Starter
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The shrimp and new Oto catfish are doing alright, but I've run into a snag with my cory catfish. All of them look kind of like this guy: red coloration or missing scales in front of the dorsal fin. There's only one fish that's bloated, lost color, and hiding. The others are still active, and all of them have a good appetite. Any ideas as to what this is and how I can fight it?



I'm planning on hitting the tank with General Cure and E.M. Erthyrmomycin to combat whatever fungal or parasitic infection it might be. Here in the next few weeks or so I intend to move them over to a fresh, brand-new show tank and I'd hate to have to dose 65 gallons as opposed to 20.

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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-15-2020, 07:19 AM
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The shrimp and new Oto catfish are doing alright, but I've run into a snag with my cory catfish. All of them look kind of like this guy: red coloration or missing scales in front of the dorsal fin. There's only one fish that's bloated, lost color, and hiding. The others are still active, and all of them have a good appetite. Any ideas as to what this is and how I can fight it?



I'm planning on hitting the tank with General Cure and E.M. Erthyrmomycin to combat whatever fungal or parasitic infection it might be. Here in the next few weeks or so I intend to move them over to a fresh, brand-new show tank and I'd hate to have to dose 65 gallons as opposed to 20.
Looks like a classic columnaris saddle to me, although the photo makes it a little hard to see. Which, if that’s what it is, neither general cure or erythromycin will help in the slightest (I really wish Cory at Aquarium Coop would stop pushing those 2 as some kind of cure-all, because it’s so in-effective for so many fish ailments). Plus stacking all those meds at the same time is stressful to already sick fish...

If it’s columnaris, you need an antibiotic that treats gram negative bacteria. Kanaplex is one. Although typically its so virulent that your fish will probably die before you can attempt a treatment &#x1f630;
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If itís columnaris, you need an antibiotic that treats gram negative bacteria. Kanaplex is one. Although typically its so virulent that your fish will probably die before you can attempt a treatment &#x1f630;
I will admit I took his word for it and started dosing with the antibiotic first a couple days ago to hopefully help in case it is columnaris while I wait for the medication I ordered to come in. I didn't plan on using all the meds at once. It looks like saddleback disease to me too, but I don't see any other symptoms. Only one fish is shy, but the others seem relatively healthy. They have a good appetite. I don't see any popeye or mouth fungus either. All the same, I'm incredibly embarrassed to look at the photo of this poor guy. It just... sucks. If it hurts this much to have a sick pet, I don't even want to imagine what it's like to have sick kids.

From what I've seen, columnaris can be extremely quick, but these guys started showing symptoms (not of columnaris necessarily, but redness like a "blush" in the same spot the "saddle" is now) a month ago. Apparently there's a few strains, and some take weeks and weeks to do fish in, but I haven't found much to indicate at what point the disease has reached a terminal stage. Some folks say if you see symptoms, it's game over. I kept an eye on them and the injury didn't progress much. Then I wake up a few days ago and boom, I see this stuff. @klibs has some threads and posts about an awful experience with this stuff and the advice to nuke the tank after the disease runs its course or euthanizing fish that are CONFIRMED to have the disease is fairly disheartening.

I'm going to go on and nuke the tank that I have cycling with media from this tank as well and start over. Fortunately, I didn't have anything but equipment in that tank. I was just cycling my filter media while I waited for my substrate and decor to come in. Columnaris can't survive in >1% salt solutions, but bleach is cheaper, on hand, and I don't need to buy 20 pounds of it to create a solution in the 65 gallon tank.

I just added a pair of otocinclus to the tank right before the saddles became apparent. In hindsight this was a bit of an oversight. I didn't mean to add fish into a tank that might have been compromised. My logic at the time was I could quarantine the two new fish with the others (who appeared healthy except the very mild blemish in front of the dorsal fin at that moment) and not risk compromising my new show tank. And if there was some kind of issue I could (theoretically) treat the tank and be done with it.

At present, I'm draining the 65 gallon and going to wipe down the tank walls, then going to create a 200mg/l available chlorine at a recommendation from @Random_Fish. All of the equipment not in the compromised tank (and some that is) will go into the big tank to purge the filth. The absolute last thing I want is to transfer this gunk.

It really makes me sad that I might have a serious, serious problem. I got these fish at the start of quarantine as a form of therapy and they've been a great help to me. If I lose them, it's going to break my heart. They've been my whole life for well over a month. I even bought them a big new home with an extra large footprint so they'd have lots of room to poke around in the sand. I just don't know what to do besides treat with medication that I have on hand in the hopes that it slows the infection enough to keep the new fish healthy. The otocinclus don't look like they have any symptoms so with luck I can get them quarantined in my little 10 gallon bare-bottom tank with medication that comes in next week.

As a student I've also got a sizable investment in their home. It just kills me that I came back to the hobby after so many years away and was welcomed with the fish equivalent of the Black Plague. I try so har to keep water parameters up, keep substrate clean, and keep fish healthy. One thing's for sure, I'm going to quarantine everything always and forever henceforth. It's just not worth it. I've never felt so defeated.

Fortunately the battle isn't over yet. Time will tell what I'm dealing with, exactly. For now I guess it's battling BGA and waiting for more substantial antibiotics to come in.

"What we learn to do, we learn by doing." - Aristotle (385-325 BCE)
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