Hi everyone! I know it's been a long time since I've posted updates, and I'm sorry about that. I went away for the month of August, came back to a tank full of algae (my pet-sitter was good about water changes, but he didn't follow my C02 refilling instructions very well). I tore down the tank, removing everything except the sand bottom, and started over. Here are two pictures from August, before I left town:
Tank: a 20 gallon "long" (76 liters), 30"x12"x12"; back glass painted black.
Lighting: Coral Life 30" 2x18W T-5 unit, plus stock light (17W), total 53W
C02: diy soda bottle, 1c sugar + 1/8 tsp yeast, changed weekly
Water changes: 50% weekly
Dosing: EI for dummies http://www.barrreport.com/estimative...chy-folks.html
Substrate: pool filter sand, a little bit of peat moss, and some fert tabs
Plants: water sprite, java fern, chain swords, lobelia, elodea, and a very sickly bolbitus fern
Fish: 15 neon tetras, 9 black neon tetras, 8 otos, 1 SAE, 1 female gold ram, 12 olive snails
And here are my most recent pictures! I'm still having problems with algae, but it seems to be getting better -- I added the snails and SAE a few weeks ago, after the rebuild. I'm not adding iron at the moment, which is why some of those swords look so pale. But the whole thing is finally, finally, finally starting to look like the tank I'd hoped it would become from the start:
If you have any comments about my lighting/C02/fertilizer/algae situation, please feel free to offer advice. Like I said above, the algae has been mostly under control since the rebuild, but I do find myself manually removing excess green hair algae every week when I do water changes.
Also, I kind of want more fish -- the tank feels empty with only 24 tetras, a few algae eaters, and the one ram. (Attempts to find a healthy mate have not been successful.) But it's probably smart to leave it understocked, for the sake of fishes' health, if not the plants.
Finally, if you want to see enlarged photos, check out my Flickr account here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/readyro...7622736029174/
Thanks everyone for all your help so far.