10 years of stumbling .. - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 180 (permalink) Old 10-02-2015, 08:19 PM Thread Starter
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10 years of stumbling ..

This journal is to fulfill a promise I made to myself when I signed up on plantedtank.net in 2011 and was flabbergasted at the astounding potential of a planted aquarium. As I sucked in all the new information, and saw people's journals, I said, "When I get a handle on my planted tank, I'd go backwards and I, too, will make a journal so that people will realize how easy it is to set a great one up!" Follow the good advice, apply the formula, and voila! Perfect planted tank! So easy! How hard can it be? Well, this journal will show that it's been anything but easy for this aquarist. Months, before long, turned into years before I got to get my tank to a satisfactory enough state to do this journal. For me, I didn't feel like I had anything to show if I didn't have something completed. Hopefully after you peruse this, you'll realize the struggle is real. Not everyone is lucky like any of those gifted guys who can seemingly just throw things in a tank and have em grow and then on top of that, have the artistic mind to make it look good! I don't intend for this journal to prevent you from making my mistakes. I don't have any delusions that it's anything that grand. It's just to share some sympathetic thoughts. To show the struggling aquarist that you're not alone! To show that if you made silly mistakes or have gotten bad advice, you're not alone! To show how finding the right information on dedicated sites like plantedtank.net and barrreport.com can make a big difference! To show that even when you think you've got it right, when you're telling people what to do, you can still fall into the trap of not doing it yourself! So, if you feel like you're at the end of the rope, tried everything, and ready to give up, grasp that last strand of hope and try again! There are many roads to having a decent tank, some may just be more winding. There's just so many interesting and distracting side attractions sometimes that keep you from arriving at the destination.


Too much to scroll! Jump to Present





The Odyssey

2007-09 .. how trips start

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Get a 20G, get some real plants, get a rock, have some fish, have a crab... what can go wrong? Don't feel like buying a fixture -- oh look! There's a floor lamp! Here you go plants, you have light! You'll be fine! Grow and flourish! Who wants boring plastic plants that get filled with algae?



2008-12 .. It must be good for aquatic plants because it says "Aqualight!"

A year has passed already. Haven't encountered plantedtank.net yet. Just sort of proud that I can keep fish alive and I sort of knew what I was doing with aquariums--or so I thought. Don't think the crab worked out despite my giving him what I thought was pretty optimal conditions. I think at this time, I may have realized what true aquatic plants are so I got rid of that Dracaena (Lucky Bamboo), flooded it completely, added some sad plants, and got myself a real light. It was a Coralife Freshwater Aqualight. Plus, it's just tacky to use that floor lamp. Not the best picture here. I cared about tanks and I cared about photography, but I don't think at the time, I ever cared about taking pictures of tanks. I had some of that old time mentality where conventional wisdom was that there was never really enough light to take picture of things inside a tank clearly. Then you'd have to use flash, and then it'd bounce off the glass, or you'd have to take pics at an angle.... wait, I'm going off on a tangent. This was a crop from some other holiday pic.



2010-03 .. a-HA! CO2(carbon dioxide) was the missing ingredient!

Have you guys ever picked up a product and read the label? With high hopes that it'll work the way it advertises? For sure, it'll solve your woes. How can it not? It's lab proven! Well, it's been a little over another year. The plants seem to be doing good, or so I thought, until I came across a local fish store that cared about their plants a little more. Conversation probably went like this, "Ey buddy, why are you injecting air into a plant only tank?" "That's not air son, it's CO2." So I nod, stalk off, and tell myself that I'm probably not that serious about this hobby, I don't need that. A few more visits, I go back and see this cheap CO2 kit. It's a Hagen CO2 Ladder kit. For $25, you, too, can get serious about aquarium plants! Fine! Sugar, check, Yeast, check, water, check. How hard can it be??





2011-07 .. moar light! because more is better!

So my plants still aren't really flourishing and I revisit the fish store. I'm told, well, you probably don't have enough light in that small Aqualight. Look at these Glo T5 HO lamps we have on our show tanks. I look at the price too and I balk. I probably left with some driftwood and flourite instead because it looks like I got rid of that silly fake rock that seemed like such a great idea before. Figured the driftwood would lower the ph for optimum plant keeping and the flourite was a better substrate "made for plants." Did a little "scaping" while these new things were added. I saw a cool idea at the fish store that inspired me to make a "blue path" because it allowed me to both save on flourite and look good while doing it.

As time passed, I spend some time thinking about it and saved up some money. Found out that they were getting rid of a Coralife 65W Aqualight. Oh swell! From 28W to 65W, these plants are going to GET it! 3WPG! I discover plantedtank.net around this time. I see the old timers eschewing too much light, so I ask my store guy, you sure it's not too much light? Of course he goes, naw, you can never have too much light for plants! Pssh. I guess the planted aquarium hobby was still new to a lot of people. Everyone was about reef tanks. I ignore plantedtank old timers at my expense. There's also seemingly conflicted information when you first come on here and don't understand the hobby. The separate aspects of a planted tank forums have their rabid hobbyists and it's easy to get sucked into wanting a bigger and more powerful light, a $500+ CO2 rig, a beautiful rimless tank, a great filter.. and on and on. The Equipment and Lighting forums are so exciting! Look at all these toys! Everyone wants the best. You don't get drawn to boring things -- like who cares about the "Fertilizers and Water Parameters" page.




2012-03 .. algae farming

I think at this point, it was safe to say I was pretty overwhelmed with plantedtank. So I decide to take things slow, real slow. Piecemeal. Cheap. Frugal. There were probably many competing factors that caused me to implement things slowly. Too many hobbies, life, work, you name it.

Oh, look, a DIY reactor because that stupid CO2 ladder just isn't cutting it. Plus, it got full of gunk and was a huge eyesore. Consuming tons of sugar in the meantime. Added a koralia because well, I read that it was the way to go to get the CO2 cycled through the entire tank. Flow issues, you know. Got some tougher plants. At this point, I'm just hoping I can keep em alive. At least the fish aren't dying.. Meanwhile, I was getting great at keeping algae alive. There's a reason why your title is "algae grower" when you join. This is it.





2012-09 .. time to step up to the big leagues son!

What's one of the major answers to solving algae? CO2! Of course! Denial will tell you it's never too much light! You just need CO2! But I'm already injecting CO2?! You need more! Yeast and sugar (DIY), when done the way I did was unstable at best. I mean really, how much CO2 is really coming out of your little hagen reactor? So do you go full on 2(or more) - 2L bottles of solution with the tubing/check valves/space to match or do you commit and take it high tech? Of course, I've always loved toys, so I chose the latter. It's not a knock on DIY co2, it's just a knock on halfhearted DIY CO2. There's tons of tanks that are beautiful on dedicated and reliable DIY CO2, I think I just wanted an excuse to have a new toy. Ever since I've seen CO2 systems at store displays, I've wanted one. It also tells casual visitors that you're serious about your plants! Reef guys have their skimmers, coral lights, wave generators, and so on. They have a lot of tech to show. Well, I got pressurized CO2! I thought about going cheap with a paintball tank because it seemed easy, but then I read about end of tank dumps (EOTD), needle valves taking on too much pressure, possible explosions and I decided to invest in something better. Thanks to oldpunk, bettatail, and the gang that were really into building their own rigs at the time and writing up howtos, I saved up some more and frugally built this bad boy. For the uninitiated, this is a dual stage Matheson regulator that I scored off of ebay for a great price after much long research and a little bit of luck. See the cost savings? Brass nipple and minimalist post body kit from fellow plantedtank member, bettatail. This is going to be so glorious!




2013-02 .. foiled, no pressurized yet

Other hobbies or priorities strike again. CO2 sort of took a back burner. Was still mulling over the price of a CO2 tank, where to fill, stuff like that. I wanted a nice CO2 tank, but places seemed to only do swapping. Meanwhile, the beautiful regulator stood there, on my dresser, as a witness to my lack of conviction. At least the algae seemed to have receded a bit. Toyed with some different plants for a little bit.



2013-04 .. aquasoil and a new era

So around this time, I discovered a new store called The Planted Aquarium Store. Imagine that, a local fish store that was dedicated to planted tanks! These guys not only knew about plantedtank.net, but also did NOT dismiss them as, "ah, the internet." Finally, some fellow hobbyists! They show me this Current Satellite+ LED with fully adjustable intensities and lightning storms AND it's got a remote control to boot. Who doesn't want that?! It's amazing! But man, it's pretty expensive. So that goes to the back of my mind for the time being. After some discussions, along with some research in the substrate forums, I decided to do aquasoil. Since I couldn't, or didn't want to afford getting two bags, I ended up with one and kept my flourite as the base below the aquasoil. At least I got rid of the blue path. What was probably an interesting idea at the time turned out to be annoying in practice. The substrate kept mixing at the borders and I had to keep separating them to keep the look. The substrate work was done without restarting the tank. This may have been a misstep in terms of aesthetics, but more on that later. I also scratch on different theories of algae control by increasing plant mass to "consume excess nutrients," and to add shade. I would discover later that probably only the shade part of that really applies but you know, it sounded like it made sense at the time. I don't think I was committed to fertilizing yet because the "Fertilizers and Water Parameters" forum still seemed to be a bore, plus I was already adding Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive! I mean it's comprehensive! What more do you need?



2013-08 .. Finally, pressurized and EI(estimative index) !

I must be the only idiot that sits on a great completed regulator for a year before using it. Anyway, it probably worked out for the best because it seemed like I actually did something right and grasped the concept of proper balance between lighting, CO2, and fertilizers in the interim. Those look like my first EI bottles below the CO2 tank. I FINALLY spent some real time in the "Fertilizers and Water Parameters" forum. Imagine or recall the surprise when you realized that Flourish Comprehensive was mostly only micro fertilizers! The nerve of them! They called it Comprehensive! Well, I guess it might be pretty comprehensive for tanks that are non accelerated, high light, and drugged up with CO2. There's a lot of types of micro fertilizers in there. I chose EI, because well, I'm still in denial about my light. There's not too much light. There's just not enough fertilizers and CO2! Even if it takes weekly water changes to get my plants to respond, I commit to it. I see reef tank guys on the forums complaining about not understanding planted tanks. I start to wonder about my chosen hobby. I set forward with gritty determination to prove my worth -- that a planted tank takes more skill than a reef tank. I see now that that might have been just one of those things I told myself to justify my hard work. I have no doubt that reef tanks are hard. Everything is hard when you don't understand it right.



2013-08 .. all systems go! all cylinders firing!

CO2 - check
ferts - check
light - check (of course)
After some initial struggling with CO2 dialing and worrying about leaks, I can plant anything now. Green drop checker verified by CO2/PH/KH tables means I can FINALLY buy whatever I want on the For Sale threads and they'll grow because .. I've got the trio in balance! Those sad looking plants? Oh, don't worry, I'm told. It's just initial melt. Can't wait for that glossostigma to fill in. Got a bunch of plants from my local planted aquarium store. It's going to be glorious!



2013-09 .. just humming along

Man, EI and CO2 are just great! Why didn't I do this sooner? Look at the growth! Aww, I lost some plants, but look at the others, they're doing grrreat! I lost the glosso, but it seems like staurogyne is a better carpet anyway. Finally! I've achieved something. I think I can post my journal. But you know what? Lets let the staurogyne grow in a little better so that it's a nice mat. Can't be showing off embarrassing stuff. Plus, I haven't gotten my LED light yet. Maybe I'll wait for that. I find out that these Current guys are going to drop a new, more powerful light. The Satellite+ is alright, but it sure could use more PAR! It's too weak! So I wait.



Look at these awesome natural sunlight shots! There's only a 10 minute window when the sun hits just right during the right time of the year to get this kind of view. Now if I only knew how to aquascape properly .. I add some more plants because collectoritis is in full swing now. Because I'm losing plants still for various reasons, I also sort of get everything to see what sticks. Plant packages from fellow members are easy on the budget. I press onwards, ignoring the plant loss because some plants are just growing like gangbusters so I just attribute those plants to being not suited to my environment. This sort of happens in terrestrial gardening. If you've got to do too much to recreate a plant's natural environment that happens to be vastly different than yours, then it's almost doomed to fail when you think about neglecting it.




2013-08 .. first real try at aquascaping

So I've never been much an aquascaper (still not). I don't have that artistic eye. This applies to terrestrial gardening too. I can see what other people do and appreciate it greatly, but when it comes to my own, I just seem to have a mental block. Sometimes, it's probably because I'm a hoarder. I can't stand throwing out stuff. So it's no surprise that after I get those humongous plant packages, I find it hard to throw out what I don't need. So I spent a day drawing diagrams, perusing the aquascaping forum to get ideas, and finally came up with some semblance of order from the mess. Sure, go ahead and laugh. At least it has a shape now.



2013-10 .. in memory of ..

In the meantime, I get some new fauna because well, it's still a fish tank too. I purchased a pair of bumblebee gobies because the wife said they were cute. Boy, were they. They turned out to be friendly, curious, testy, picky, and all sorts of things. Very personable. Of course, it was AFTER I purchase these things that I discover they're really kind of brackish water fish that can sort of survive in freshwater. That's why we've never purchased more since. It was also AFTER I purchase them that I find they're picky eaters. We had to handfeed them bloodworms so feeding time became an event. Anyway, they lasted for about a year (maybe a little more) when they finally decided to move on. You can see the beginnings of BBA(black beard algae) in the second picture -- the beginnings of a 2 year battle..




So, after the initial elation of having some plants survive and somewhat flourish, I start to see signs of algae. How?! I have the trinity (CO2, lights, ferts) maxed out! The light is pretty darned powerful, the ferts are on EI (so excessed), and oh .. CO2 is hard to tune I learn. On closer observation, I guess I've always had this HOB and I like being able to easily clean its filter -- not that I do regularly, but that's another problem. Maybe the extra surface agitation is offgassing too much CO2. I decide that I like the HOB anyway and since I had pressurized, I merely need to turn up the gas! Hah, take that DIY CO2. Boy, I'm glad I don't have to figure out how to add and maintain another 2L bottle of solution. I guess a diffuser with a circulator isn't cutting it in my tank. It's probably not mixing into the water well enough. Well, I could probably go back to my DIY reactor. Nah, let's try a real one. I purchase an Ista Max Mix and a noisy marineland powerhead to push it. I also do a nice spraybar so it evenly spreads the now rich CO2 water all over the major clump of plants on the left. Circulation should get everything mixed in. There were all sorts of flows in that tank. Maybe too many conflicting ones.




2013-11 .. new plants and a little trimming, some BBA

Looks like BBA is taking hold on those java fern. Let's do a little trimming. Got some red plants to spice up with tank. Hopefully they'll grow out from that back area. Forecast remains hopeful. I complain to our Current rep on their sponsor thread. It's coming up to Christmas. Where's my new light? I need to show off the tank to visitors! I learn that it's going to be an Ecoxotic light instead. He has no answers, but it didn't look hopeful for Christmastime, so we wait.



More shots of my little buddies. Man, look at that impressive growth of BBA? Staghorn?





2014-09 .. Looks like BBA is one tough customer

I spent a good part of the year fighting the BBA. During the fight, I'm convinced at this point that the Coralife has to go. It's just too strong, it's not dimmable, I'm not hanging the light, and I suppose I can put a screen there but it just doesn't seem right. Current's just slacking with their new light, but finally, at long last, they've come out with the Ecoxotic E series in the summer. At the first sign of a sale, I promptly get my Ecoxotic E-60! Bye Bye, Coralife. So, of course, I put it at max power because I can. I've got blasting CO2 and EI so why not?

On the plants front, the red ludwigia all melted away. What a waste of plantbrain's good stock. I have plants that grow and plants that just love melting away at the roots. As a result, they never really take root and flourish. The red ludwigia was one of those. What survived the initial melting just never took hold to recover. I added some java fern windelov to fill up the right side since the stauro wasn't doing the job. Something's eating my stauro! I never did figure out who. So I tried to protect it with that little soap/sponge holder. That gave it a chance to survive and they seem to grow nicely in there. My local fish store guys don't believe me when I told them something's eating it. They think it's some sort of deficiency. I tell them, no, really, there's bite marks. Other than that, plants are somewhat flourishing. The java fern is so happy that it's even doing its trident form instead of one blade. Finally getting things to grow fast!

Meanwhile, the BBA battle continues. It's taking hold on the driftwood and the older leaves of the java fern, dwarf sag, java fern windelov. More CO2! I think the fish are stressing. I observe the flow in my tank some more and I also get an eheim 350 skimmer to get rid of the top film to allow for more stable CO2 injections via consistent CO2 and O2 gas exchanges in hopes of adding a little more without stressing the fish. It also helps with the flow since plant content is starting to obstruct it. The other thought was that someone mentioned plant rot at the roots may be due to a lack of oxygen down in the substrate so hopefully, this allows me to up the oxygen content a little.





2014-12 BBA woes continue

This BBA just won't go away. Plantedtank algae forums are full of new threads with BBA. Everyone's talking about it. I figure they take up 60-70% of the threads in there. There's speculations, arguments, and probably even peace accords between factions that formed by their stances on what causes and eliminates BBA. So, I select a moderate approach. I originally tried the 1-2 punch algae removal method, but true to the words of wisdom, it only removes the current generation of BBA. I get my satisfactory red tufts and as they fade away, a new generation crops up in its place. The 1-2 punch seems too drastic, so like some other members, I make it a habit to squirt the BBA with H2O2(hydrogen peroxide) during water changes and we just repeat the cycle. I push my CO2 as far as I dare, but since that isn't helping, I look at flow again.

As for plants, I grew out my stauro but it got promptly eaten up as a tasty salad by someone, so I buy some tissue cultured loebelia cardinalis (cardinal plant) from petsmart. These tissue cultures are the way to go sometimes. It's a little costly, but I think a lot of people, including myself, have had a lot of success with them. Considering the amount of plants you get and the chance that they survive, the cost becomes justified. They've filled up the foreground on the right pretty fast. Pretty easy plants. I take them and throw em into my non CO2 goldfish tank and they don't melt. I trim them and they recover easily. I take the trims and stick it in the substrate and they take off.



2015-01 .. it's really really gotta be a flow problem

I spend any spare time during the holidays a little obsessed about flow. I try weird things like two spray bars, trimmings, eking out just a little more CO2. It was all to waste. The BBA just laughed at me. It's getting really bad on the windelov. It seems like they've even asked their diatom friends to join the party. There's all sorts of weirdness between those cardinal plants.

I figure I couldn't really change flow much unless I go with a canister filter. I come to grips with the reality that I don't really clean out that filter as often as I think so I suppose a canister would work. I got a new fluval 206 thanks to a timely ebay bid -- and a 306 thanks to black friday. I put the 206 in and replumb the output to the reactor and get rid of that crazy hob once and for all. This ought to allow me to reduce agitation just a little to allow for better gas exchange control. I pored over the equipment threads and I find that I still like the fluval for it's internal chambers setup, the quick release valve, and the overall design. Eheims are probably more reliable based on collective plantedtank experience, but at the price I got the fluval for, I'd have to get the classic model and get my own quick release valves. Plus, people didn't seem too enamored of the newer ecco line with the cool features. The added benefit of this setup is that now I have a whisper quiet tank.



2015-02 .. spraybars were a dead end

I ride with the spraybars for a little while before they started getting pretty dirty, not to mention BBA decided to grow on the little output holes. I also decide that they sort of look ridiculous. No one has a setup that way. I spent some time poring over plantbrain's famous big tank. I realize that he doesn't bother with spraybars. It's just one big output from a pvc pipe and the input is on an overflow into a wet/dry. Well, I briefly flirted with the idea of getting a wet/dry but this is getting ridiculous. Plenty members on here do great with a canister. So I get rid of the spraybars and just leave the output of the reactor naked. I also tune the skimmer to output on a path that goes along with the flow. I hope this allows the water to do a big circle by agitating the surface as it comes out and goes to the right and then going back to left at the bottom half of the tank. I figure in nature, water just flows. It doesn't come shooting out of spraybar holes. I'm really wondering if that high dissolved oxygen content in fast shooting water was causing me grief.

I chose not to give up on the red plants idea so after some research, I decided to add some AR Mini(alternanthera reineckii mini) to my setup. By all accounts, it should be easy and add a pop of color to my monotone green. I get some from a member, but they promptly melted, roots and all. Man, this substrate must be poisonous to plants. Remember the time in the past when I was cheap and didn't change out the flourite and just laid aquasoil on top? I'm starting to think the flourite just doesn't allow enough oxygen into the roots. I start thinking long term about how I'm going to redo the tank and get more aquasoil.



2015-03 .. bye bye AR Mini, and Java Fern windelov, and ..

So my flow must be obstructed with my high plant mass. I decide to do a pretty significant trim. This is no small feat considering my tendency to hoard. I decide to throw the java fern windelov into my goldfish tank. Something plantbrain said about leaving some plants in a garage in a low tech tank with shrimp to rid it of algae made me decide to take it over there to see if the BBA clears up. Of course it does! No CO2 issues. Perhaps more importantly, low light! So I figure I'll leave it over there a while, let it clear up, and then bring it back. It sure beats spraying it with H2O2 all the time. I was probably getting to the point that there was simply too much H2O2 getting into the tank during the water change squirting. I didn't want to chance killing fauna. The rest of the AR Mini melted and I desperately saved two last stems about this long ------<--------. No kidding. I remember that the seller said he had them emersed, so I get a little plastic box, a 3x5 index card storage box, from the dollar store, put some MGOPM (Miracle Gro Organic Potting Mix), and flood the bottom up to the soil level with water and stick them in there. It was an experiment and a gamble. Fingers crossed.




2015-04 .. diatoms?

I'm starting to get these weird brown cottony growths between the cardinal plants. BBA is sort of a normal resident now but who's this new kid on the block?!



2015-05 .. not enough CO2 for the light!

I cleaned the nasty stuff growing on the white fluval in/out connectors. Trying to get the cardinal plants to spread out but leaving that back section empty for something else that may come along. This may have turned out to be a mistake as BBA, BGA(Cyanobacteria, Blue Green Algae) and brown cotton algae promptly move in.

I decide to take another look at everything. Since I was tired of telling people on the algae forums that it's their light causing them problems, I realized I had hypocritically left my new light at max intensity since I first got it. I cut it to half power. Thank goodness I can do that. After all these years, I finally face my light obsession, and realize that the phrase is not merely "not enough CO2." It's "not enough CO2 for the light." Just because you think you did or even if you DID achieve 30ppm of CO2, it doesn't mean that you can just throw any amount of light with EI, and expect everything to be alright.



2015-07 .. new inhabitants!

I realized that my amano shrimp stock had slowly dwindled down to one lucky tough one. Probably should get some more amanos, but in a time not so long ago, I failed miserably in raising cherry shrimp. Imagine that! Simple, allegedly indestructible neocaridinas. They were all in this small 3 gallon tank that I probably couldn't keep stably clean. I don't know. I thought they were simple at the time. Just get a small tank, dump them in, in no time, I was supposed to have tons to pass out! Anyway, this time around, I decided that I'll put them in my most stable tank. I knew I would be taking a chance in a community tank as many fish would probably love to snack on them, but I counted on the large plant mass to give them hiding spots. Because of that, I also didn't go with a more exotic blue line because I didn't want to give my fish a $60 snack. So I came across these dream blue rilis from this guy on aquabid (hansypatty, very nice chap) that was cheap enough to fit the bill. Don't let this completely blue one fool you, all his friends are rili patterned. It just so happened that this guy was in the right place for this timely shot. I put them all in and they promptly disappeared into the java fern mass. So begins my tradition of scouring around the roots right after the lights turn off just for a glimpse of one or two of them -- to make sure they're still around.

It was CO2 tank refill time and after connecting up the new tank, I realized that the bubble count had slowed down a bit. Curse that "relatively cheap" needle valve. So hard to adjust. I tweak it up a bit and wait. That must have contributed to the recent algae woes.

I also fill the right back area behind the driftwood with cardinal plants to take up that whole empty area. Figure I'll remove them when I get something else.

These combined actions with the light reduction the month before sort of calmed the tank down somewhat. I believe the brown cottony stuff and the BGA is fading, but the BBA persists! At this point, I go back to accepting small amounts of BBA. It seems like when I have BBA, I usually don't have massive amounts of other algae issues. Yea, I think I'll trade BBA for BGA.



2015-09 .. BBA beaten!

Finally! After TWO long years! Over the past months, harmony and peace settled in. The BBA receded. No sign of brown cottony stuff. There's some minimal GSA(green spot algae) on the glass but I can really really live with that instead of BBA. I could say that it's the catch of the CO2 slowdown, and the light intensity decrease, but I'd be lying if I didn't want to give credit to my new cleanup fauna. These guys are the icing on the cake. The first group are the little blue rili shrimps hiding in the java fern that are probably doing their cleanup jobs invisibly at night -- giving a big assist to the resident amano shrimp and pair of otocinclus. The second group are the crossocheilus fish that were recently added. These allegedly are the True Siamese Algae Eaters. I came across them in a great stroke of luck at a local Pet Supermarket. They were (probably mis)labeled as flying foxes. As anyone who may have hunted for True Siamese Algae Eaters will attest, it's a pretty confusing mess out there. There's all sorts of things being passed off as Siamese Algae Eaters that don't do their job later on in life. These guys were really scouring the surfaces at the pet store. In my tank, they were really scouring the BBA! I mean, my BBA was receding, but these guys completely nullified it.

The 3 True Siamese Algae Eaters at home. I can't tell which crossocheilus species they are. Atrilimes, Siamensis, or Langei. There's all sorts of conflicting information on which one is which. Some say Siamensis are the true,true ones but they hardly exist in the trade. Doesn't matter, they scour my BBA. That's why they're my mascots now. Check them out hanging together on the lower right picture. They're responsible for that driftwood finally being carpeted heavily with moss instead of being choked out by BBA.




For plants, I let the cardinal plants grow taller. That was just due to laziness of maintenance. Summer was distracting. But it was fate. As they grew taller, they seemed to get healthier. I originally wanted to keep them on a carpet but I don't think they liked it. Maybe its the lowered light intensity not powering them when they're at the bottom of the tank. I feel that's the same thing happening to my limnophila aromatica whenever I trim it. But if you increase the light intensity to get down there, you get algae...

To combat this problem, I added a smarter controller for my light. The iAqua Lite Ecoxotic E-series cross fading controller created by fellow plantedtank member, anotherhobby. The default E-series automated light cycle is fade from daylight to moonlight. It's sorely lacking. It doesn't even turn off! If you want off, you have to set moonlight to 0 light, so you lose the moonlight feature. This controller allows me to have two extra levels of light, plus on/off during an automated cycle. That's four extra states. So, I can set a minimal low light level for sunrise and sunset (mostly used for fade transitioning), a medium light level for the bulk of the daytime running (so as to not tempt an algae takeover), and a really high level of light for a midday burst to get to those guys at the bottom!




After looking for something to replace my unhappy and not really growing dwarf hairgrass, I finally get some blyxa japonica in and they were a huge help in tying the over all look of the tank together as they took over the foreground duties. It's amazing when the tank is working. I'm furiously knocking on wood, but when they were introduced, they didn't melt. Roots are also not melting away from their substrate. In addition, the desperately saved AR Mini have been reintroduced and they seem to be growing this time.




Here's the emergency emersed setup boxes. The AR Mini has recovered so I flooded it to test it in low CO2 conditions. The excess blyxa was thrown in another box as a precaution in case the ones I added would melt.





Well, it's been a memoir up to this point. Maybe it'll be a journal going forward. Thanks for sticking with the story if you've read through the entire thing. If you're struggling, I hope it gives you the resolve to keep trying, and above all, to have patience. If you've been slightly entertained, then I'm glad it held your attention. If you feel like you lost time in your life sifting through it, then I apologize, I'm in no position to offer any refunds. Until next time..



next update: 2016-06 -- 2017-02



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post #2 of 180 (permalink) Old 10-02-2015, 09:00 PM
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Wow, that was fun to read. I saw a lot of things here that i went through. The hagen. ladder the lighting from a lamp.... i can relate a lot. Started keeping a planted tank at age 13 now I'm 28. Just look how far you came!
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post #3 of 180 (permalink) Old 10-02-2015, 09:04 PM
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Agreed, great read and glad you sorted through everything and are successful now.

Took me a while as well to sort through light/co2/flow. Finally just realized myself now you don't need insane amounts of light to grow all plants.
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post #4 of 180 (permalink) Old 10-02-2015, 09:06 PM
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Nice thread! I always like seeing everything in the first post.

Two thoughts on SAE-

1. As they acclimate to your tank, they will stop eating algae (or eat way less) especially as they grow. They will exploit the feeding you do and out compete anything in the tank.

2. SAE get HUGE. I mean HUGE. And they will get aggressive. Very aggressive.

They may be helpful now but in the end they are a huge PITA!

Congrats on the BBA resolve- once its under control its always easier to keep it that way!


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post #5 of 180 (permalink) Old 10-02-2015, 09:07 PM
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Love this story! Thanks so much for taking the time to write this up AND have pictures with it. There's always that struggle w/ algae that binds us together. There's barely ever a tank that has zero algae, and I think we can always win small battles against it, but the war never ends.

It's so true that there are times when you want to just totally give up, but once the tank looks good it all feels worth the struggle.

Taking care of a planted tank is art. Even our best tanks never feel good enough until we look back at them sometimes and say, "Wow, that was a great tank." The journey to having a nice tank is the best part of this hobby. If you ever achieve your perfect tank, then the hobby will end up just being boring.

Thanks again for sharing this!

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Wow, that was fun to read. I saw a lot of things here that i went through. The hagen. ladder the lighting from a lamp.... i can relate a lot. Started keeping a planted tank at age 13 now I'm 28. Just look how far you came!
LOL Yes, the Hagen ladder was one of my favorite parts because I remember having that when I first started doing CO2. I started nearly 9 years ago, and I too know how it feels to have real life make you neglect your tank. But the fun part about getting back into it is seeing how much has changed.


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post #6 of 180 (permalink) Old 10-02-2015, 10:43 PM
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Just be glad you didn't go down my path of I dimmed the light, algae is fading, plants are taking off, I can increase the light again stage... Though I'll be honest I'm glad I caught light being an issue before investing in CO2, saved myself a few bucks and probably wouldn't still be keeping tanks had I done that


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post #7 of 180 (permalink) Old 10-03-2015, 12:52 AM
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2012-03 picture... that reactor looks similar to mine



.... gosh such an eyesore ha.
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post #8 of 180 (permalink) Old 10-03-2015, 02:48 AM
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That really was a great read and I'm sure many people can relate to your entire journey including myself. It's easy to be new to this hobby and get frustrated when you go through these struggles and see pictures of perfectly manicured, well layed out planted tanks that others have. But the thing that people need to understand is that anyone that says that they haven't had struggles with algae at one point or another is either lying or haven't been doing it long enough yet to have the pleasure of experiencing the frustration of an algae outbreak.

I have been involved in the aquarium hobby for almost my entire life as I was introduced to it by my father that use to breed many different fish in the 70's and 80's. I have kept many different types of setups from African cichlids, freshwater, brackish water tanks and almost a decade in reef tanks before trying my luck at planted tanks. I was always looking for a new challenge and wanting to learn something new when I decided to try a freshwater planted tank. I thought that it couldn't be that difficult, after all I use to keep a successful reef tank and if I could keep a slice of the ocean in a glass box how hard could keeping plants alive be. I mean all plants really need is water, lights and nutrients right? Well as simple as that may sound I was quickly proven wrong. There is many other factors and variables that I learned along the way and I would be a liar if I told you that I have it all figured out still. I'm always learning from other hobbyists experiences and I don't ever think I will be to the point where I feel like I've learned all I can when it comes to this hobby.

Thanks again for this great post and you can find some pleasure in knowing that many others will read this and be able to relate. And for some it might just give them the motivation in knowing that if they're committed and persistent they can end up having a successful planted tank as well.

All matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death life is only a dream which is an imagination of ourselves. Bill Hicks
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post #9 of 180 (permalink) Old 10-03-2015, 05:09 PM
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Thanks so much for this journal, terrific read. I've gone through most of this as well just on a bigger scale as my first modern planted tank was a 50 gallon and I've gone up to a 180 gallon over the 18 or so years I've had a tank up continuously. My excuse for the light thing is I started out with a 25 watt incandescent which cannot grow plants if you believe the nonsense that sunlight will boil the water and grow algae and keep the tank as far from natural light as possible!

The internet is the only reason I have an okay looking planted tank. I learned modern day planted tank stuff from back issues of FAMA at the public library, that's a couple pages that mostly repeated month to month, that was more up to date than the few picture books the library and book store had. First APD and I got a handle on fertilizers and light and CO2 to a certain extent then TPT for all the journals and discussions with pretty and not so pretty photos.


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post #10 of 180 (permalink) Old 10-03-2015, 08:32 PM
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I enjoyed reading through that. I've still got a lot to learn, but struggled with lots of the same things, even though I haven't gone w/C02. It took me an entire year to get my first tank looking decent, and then I moved so now going through it all over again trying to get things right. I've kept a detailed online journal (on a separate blog) so I can go back and pinpoint causes/mistakes, it has helped me a lot but there are a lot of awful embarrassing pictures on there (when I thought my tank was improving/looking good and really it wasn't). I hope you post more to this journal! It's nice to see the progression through your photos.

I had SAEs at one time too they looked just like yours- ate up all the hair algae I had like it was spaghetti- but sadly I lost them to ich.


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Quote:
Originally Posted by latchdan View Post
Wow, that was fun to read. I saw a lot of things here that i went through. The hagen. ladder the lighting from a lamp.... i can relate a lot. Started keeping a planted tank at age 13 now I'm 28. Just look how far you came!
Quote:
Originally Posted by bereninga View Post
LOL Yes, the Hagen ladder was one of my favorite parts because I remember having that when I first started doing CO2. I started nearly 9 years ago, and I too know how it feels to have real life make you neglect your tank. But the fun part about getting back into it is seeing how much has changed.
We should start a hagen ladder support group!

Quote:
Originally Posted by bsantucci View Post
Agreed, great read and glad you sorted through everything and are successful now.

Took me a while as well to sort through light/co2/flow. Finally just realized myself now you don't need insane amounts of light to grow all plants.
Quote:
Originally Posted by theatermusic87 View Post
Just be glad you didn't go down my path of I dimmed the light, algae is fading, plants are taking off, I can increase the light again stage... Though I'll be honest I'm glad I caught light being an issue before investing in CO2, saved myself a few bucks and probably wouldn't still be keeping tanks had I done that
"It's almost always too much light!" should be my signature. But then that would detract from my new understanding that we should always look at the tank as a whole, instead of disparate elements. Hehe, easy to say now that it's working, right?

Quote:
Originally Posted by whitepapagold View Post
Nice thread! I always like seeing everything in the first post.

Two thoughts on SAE-

1. As they acclimate to your tank, they will stop eating algae (or eat way less) especially as they grow. They will exploit the feeding you do and out compete anything in the tank.

2. SAE get HUGE. I mean HUGE. And they will get aggressive. Very aggressive.

They may be helpful now but in the end they are a huge PITA!

Congrats on the BBA resolve- once its under control its always easier to keep it that way!
How big did the ones you have get? This is why it's so confusing. Of the three species that I looked up, I think their max length is about 6 inches. I guess that's sort of big. And yea, I'm sort of having to supplement their diet with blanched zucchini and other vegs since there's no more BBA for them to munch on.





Quote:
Originally Posted by latchdan View Post
2012-03 picture... that reactor looks similar to mine

.... gosh such an eyesore ha.
hehe, it's the famed Tom Barr DIY reactor no? It's definitely one of the cheapest and simplest ways to go and when you don't want to invest too much, it's a pretty effective piece. It's not like my current reactor isn't an eyesore, it's just got plants sort of hiding it. At some point, I'll probably plumb in a cerges, but then I'll have to worry about more leak points and shelf space.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ua hua View Post
That really was a great read and I'm sure many people can relate to your entire journey including myself. It's easy to be new to this hobby and get frustrated when you go through these struggles and see pictures of perfectly manicured, well layed out planted tanks that others have. But the thing that people need to understand is that anyone that says that they haven't had struggles with algae at one point or another is either lying or haven't been doing it long enough yet to have the pleasure of experiencing the frustration of an algae outbreak.

I have been involved in the aquarium hobby for almost my entire life as I was introduced to it by my father that use to breed many different fish in the 70's and 80's. I have kept many different types of setups from African cichlids, freshwater, brackish water tanks and almost a decade in reef tanks before trying my luck at planted tanks. I was always looking for a new challenge and wanting to learn something new when I decided to try a freshwater planted tank. I thought that it couldn't be that difficult, after all I use to keep a successful reef tank and if I could keep a slice of the ocean in a glass box how hard could keeping plants alive be. I mean all plants really need is water, lights and nutrients right? Well as simple as that may sound I was quickly proven wrong. There is many other factors and variables that I learned along the way and I would be a liar if I told you that I have it all figured out still. I'm always learning from other hobbyists experiences and I don't ever think I will be to the point where I feel like I've learned all I can when it comes to this hobby.

Thanks again for this great post and you can find some pleasure in knowing that many others will read this and be able to relate. And for some it might just give them the motivation in knowing that if they're committed and persistent they can end up having a successful planted tank as well.
ua hua, I remember the posts when you first built your cerges reactor and where we were jawing about what really caused the BBA and the frustration that they were forming IN places with high flow -- which sort of was going against what everyone said about not enough CO2 and/or low flow. I think you solved yours, but I never did realize how. Anyway, I'm always amazed that you have time to do all that stuff AND have a great looking pond!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kathyy View Post
The internet is the only reason I have an okay looking planted tank. I learned modern day planted tank stuff from back issues of FAMA at the public library, that's a couple pages that mostly repeated month to month, that was more up to date than the few picture books the library and book store had. First APD and I got a handle on fertilizers and light and CO2 to a certain extent then TPT for all the journals and discussions with pretty and not so pretty photos.
yea, I don't know where I'd be without some of the stuff we share on here. probably algae growing. This is what's so amazing about forums. It's why I decided to support this one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJ09 View Post
I enjoyed reading through that. I've still got a lot to learn, but struggled with lots of the same things, even though I haven't gone w/C02. It took me an entire year to get my first tank looking decent, and then I moved so now going through it all over again trying to get things right. I've kept a detailed online journal (on a separate blog) so I can go back and pinpoint causes/mistakes, it has helped me a lot but there are a lot of awful embarrassing pictures on there (when I thought my tank was improving/looking good and really it wasn't). I hope you post more to this journal! It's nice to see the progression through your photos.

I had SAEs at one time too they looked just like yours- ate up all the hair algae I had like it was spaghetti- but sadly I lost them to ich.
Losing fish (any critter for that matter) is tough. Feels like I've failed them in some way. Just hang in there. All of this is a rite of passage. It's like life. When your elders try to prevent you from making their mistakes, you don't necessarily listen to them. You go on ahead and try it and experience it yourself anyway. I've seen your 20L, it's pretty nice!


To All,

thanks for the kind words! I'm glad my time on this post was not wasted! I'll try not to wait 8 more years for an update!
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post #12 of 180 (permalink) Old 10-09-2015, 08:25 PM
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I would walk a mile for a camel

Actually I don't smoke!
But in 8 years you have walked
many miles to get some good greenery.

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post #13 of 180 (permalink) Old 03-17-2017, 04:27 PM Thread Starter
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2016

Greetings All!

It seems like it's time for an annual update to this journal*cough* memoir .. biannual, biennial? I guess it's shaping up to be the latter. Is it still a memoir if you're constantly updating it?

2016-06

Almost a year goes by since we left off. It seems like I still can't grow nicer plants. Maybe it's that or sometimes, I just tend to rest on the laurels of small successes and let the tank slide by not keeping up with the tedium -- be it refilling CO2, trimming, changing water, etc. There's just too many hobbies to keep up with. I lack focus on one. Blyxa japonica and alternanthera reineckii mini has melted away so I work with what I have. I still can't scape either, so I attempt to somewhat reset the layout with what I have left. My wishful thinking allows me to believe that it'll be better this time, the Blyxa will fill up that whole front row like the lush "grasslands" that I see here on plantedtank, the moss will fill up that middle band and .. (I can't even remember why I did that), and the loebelia cardinalis will bring up the back. Tank is reset for success and all I have to do is wait!




It looks like I decided to try that tissue culture AR from petsmart here. If AR mini won't work, then tissue cultures of regular alternanthera reineckii (non mini) will save the day! So I line up the whole front area with it hoping for the best. This quest for color did not come without its own frustrations. After many years of intermittent forum scouring on the topic, iron adding, nitrate limiting, I've heeded mostly to the advice of this thread: whats the best way to keep red plants red? So, I tweaked the lighting schedules to maximize the use of the built in red leds of the ecoxotic. Sunrise and sunsets now look abnormally red but whatever, I'm going to get my red plants! I even purchase an extra strip of red leds with intention to boost this exposure.



A brief interruption, if you're not reading this many years after 2016, you can find these at your local publix (if you're in the southeast US) and repurpose them for your dosing bottles. Quite handy since you get free coffee with it.




2016-09

It looks like some sense finally got smacked into me here and I moved the driftwood with moss in front of the java fern. Some minimal rearrangement happened and now I'm trying to fill the whole right side with the AR. Due to some melting of plants in the lower part of the tank, I experiment with extending my "midday burst" of light to see if it helps those denizens of the bottom. "Moar pars!" I wasn't sure what the Dwarf Sagittaria was in the beginning was so I let it grow, but apparently, it turned into the regular sag I had previously and nothing was dwarfish about it as it got into stride.

The observant eye will notice that the right side is getting wild because I simply haven't been doing my trimmings. That was the beginning of another round of negligence after this because I notice my small success with the alternanthera reineckii and the one lone blyxa has recovered and is actually doing well. It gets much worse after this and I have no pictures to tell that story because I didn't even bother to take them. Plants were left to fend for themselves and it was truly survival of the fittest.




2017-02

So even while things were getting messy looking, plants on top were growing overtime while plants below were suffering. The results made sense due to the lighting differential. Suddenly, I noticed melting -- even on the plants at the top?! Aww.. man, I was completely out of CO2. Even this, I had to discover by accident. Gauges were completely empty. Glad I went out of my way a few years back for that dual stage regulator now. Uneventful emptying, livestock safe. Now, CO2 refills are somewhat troublesome for me since I don't want to swap my tank, so I dreaded having to go to my old supplier on the weekend, waiting for them to have time to fill it, and then picking the tank back up another weekend later. Luckily, I find a new supplier that's a) open after work b) closer to me c) chills and fills it in 20 mins! d) has (yes, even craft) beer. It's a beer keg place! This is a sign. This was the wake up call I needed to get cracking on my tank again. If you're near or in the 954 area code, he's called The Keg King. I sure hope he stays around.

Well, after a massive throwout of random plants that didn't survive, here's what I got left with. Too bad I didn't take a 'before' picture. I was so disappointed with myself that I just started taking all sorts of scraggly looking stuff out. A couple loebelia cardinalis got huge and they were the ones that laid all over surface. I had no idea they could take that form. I trim them back to something reasonable and they didn't look half bad. So now they form 3 of my focal points. I tidy up the ever present java fern so that they don't cast so much shade on some of the lower plants that need light and I move the not so dwarf sagitarria to the back because well, they don't seem to look good anywhere, but they grow so splendidly that I can't bring myself to part with them. The blyxa sadly did not survive so I bring forth the java fern windelov (triumphant return! muahaha!) to fill up some empty space in the front.

I manage to save one stalk of alternanthera reineckii and split them into two since it was so healthy -- my only splash of red. There were quite a few good stalks early on but they were victims of the shading I mentioned earlier. This stalk managed to push through and laid on the surface too. Because I never got around to finding a nice way to mount the red led strip, I realized that the increased midday burst of light, along with its timely reach to the top of the tank brought out the reds I wanted. Perhaps it got the extra red light that it needed out of the extended and closer full spectrum exposure. Nature finds a way!




The tank in its current state. I push my midday burst to 3.5 hours now -- being ever so watchful of algae. I'm dealing with green spot algae on older leaves of various plants, but as long as black beard algae doesn't show up, I think I'm okay with it. It'll give me more of an impetus to trim more diligently. Our respected forum member with amazing well kept tanks, Xiaozhuang, always preached about the importance of pruning maintenance so I'll try to adhere a little bit.



next update: 2017-03

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Last edited by ipkiss; 05-02-2017 at 02:06 PM. Reason: housekeeping
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post #14 of 180 (permalink) Old 03-17-2017, 05:40 PM
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I just caught this thread. Awesome progression pics and story!


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post #15 of 180 (permalink) Old 03-17-2017, 05:59 PM
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I like how it looks now. What's that medium-sized plant with the roundish leaves you've got front right & left corners?


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