New hobbyist needs help w/plants, lights, water parameters in Nano 6 Gal Betta tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-25-2014, 12:26 AM Thread Starter
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New hobbyist needs help w/plants, lights, water parameters in Nano 6 Gal Betta tank

Hi guys, Im new here. I've spent a extensive amount of time reading forums and articles and I still need some help. I apologize in advance for the novel, but I have a lot of questions. I'm really trying to wrap my head around what's going wrong. I didn't realize I'd be so absorbed with this, but it is definitely a new passion of mine and I want to get this right.

Here is the back story:
My husband and 4 year old decided we NEEDED a fish, and bought a Marineland 6 Gal Pillar (this guy http://www.amazon.com/Marineland-Pillar-Aquarium-Kit-6-Gallon/dp/B007SUUH7Q). We got it a local pet store for like $10 on sale. The tank sat around for a few months until we were at the LFS and saw the raddest little Betta that we couldn't walk away from. "Steve" came home that night, along with an Amazon Sword. He went in the tank with some smooth river rocks and a thermometer we had from a fish we had years ago. I used some of the rocks to keep the Amazon Swords at the bottom. We also treated the water with a Jungle Complete Water Care Kit. (I had no idea about cycling or anything at this point)

Everything was fine, until I started really looking in to things and decided Steve needed a better life. He had no place to hide and I wanted to give him a more natural habitat. I bought some Caribsea Ecocomplete, and a beautiful piece of Mopani driftwood (that I sanded so nothing would tear him up, and boiled). I bought an API Fresh Water Master Test Kit, Seamchem Prime, Stability, and Flourish Comp, Flourish Tabs (for the sword roots), a new heater that turns on automatically if the water temp drops (our room is like a sauna and the temp without a heater is a constant 77-78 according the thermometer). I bought some New Spectrum Thera +A (he LOVES them) to replace his standard fare Aqueon Betta Food. I bought him an Azoo Mignon 60 Palm Filter and a small Hydro Sponge because I was unsure which one Steve would like better (so I bought both of course). His new filters aren't here yet, so he's still using the Penguin Bio Wheel that came with the tank. The first night I saw he was getting tossed around the tank so I used the water bottle method to slow the current. It worked perfect, there is a little movement at the top and just a hint through the rest of the tank.

I moved him to our old tiny 1-2 gallon (I can't believe I ever kept a fish in that) with water from his tank so I could add the new substrate without freaking him out. I drained half the water, took out the rocks, added 2 inches of the Ecocomplete, planted his Amazon Swords, put a root tab in between them, added his driftwood, some Stability, a little Kordon Fish Protector, and some Flourish Comp. Steve went back in with the rest of the water he was in (i tried to make sure I wasn't doing a complete water change so as not to shock his system), and I topped off the water with some new Prime treated water. Everything looked great, his driftwood leached out some tannins and his water looks like tea (which I read Bettas like, and Steve seems stoked about it). Steve was happy, and I thought I had given him a dream home compared to his plastic cup at the LFS.

Steve is still doing great. He seems happy regardless of the issues I'm having. I watch him constantly, and he exhibits no signs of stress, or issues. He's eating great, and even growing back a damaged part of his tail (from before we got him). He swims about, and recognizes me, and hangs out with me when I'm checking his water, and investigates my hand when I clean his tank with a Turkey Baster.

Here are my issues:
1) WATER
I know I messed up not cycling his tank first. I just didnt know, but I am trying to fix it quickly. Taking Steve back isn't an option. I'm adding the amount of Stability the bottle indicates daily. I did forget to take out the carbon filter, I did that yesterday. I don't know if that was messing things up. I shoved an Aquaclear sponge, and an Aquaclear matrix bag in the filter to grow the helpful bacterial so the switch to the Azoo filter would go smoothly since the Bio Wheel is getting removed. Here are my test results

9/20 Tank Water Test before I took out the rocks and added the substrate and driftwood
7.8 PH
.25 Ammonia
5.0 Nitrite
10 Nitrate

9/20 Tank Water Test after the substrate, driftwood, and partial water change
7.4 PH
.25 Ammonia
1.0 Nitrite
5.0 Nitrate

9/21 Tested again, same results as last test expect Nitrates were up to 10 PPM. I did both the Low and High PH tests and Im getting 7.6 on the Low, and 7.4 on the High (and I'm totally baffled by this)

9/21 Tap Water Test. I tested the tap because I wanted to see if I was doing the Ph test wrong because of the 7.6/7.4 I was getting
8 PH
.50 Ammonia
0 Nitrite
0 Nitrate

9/21 Prime Treated Water Test. I keep 3 - 1 Gallon jugs of water in my room that I've pretreated with Prime to make sure when I need to change some water its the same temperature as his tank.
7.6 low 7.4 high PH tests
.25 Ammonia
0 Nitrite
0 Nitrate

9/23 Tank Test
7.6 low 7.4 high PH test
.25 Ammonia
0 Nitrite
10 Nitrate

Yesterday I talked to a girl at my LFS, and she told me the reason I'm having issues with my water is because my tank isnt cycled and I'm trying to do water changes to lower the ammonia like you would to a cycled tank. So essentially I'm restarting his cycle over and over. She told me to stop changing the water, and leave it alone. For a month! Is this good advice? I get why I'm probably messing up the tank cycling with the changes, but I don't want to kill Steve if the levels are all wrong. I don't know how to get his water to a neutral PH if my tap that I'm working from is an 8, and even treated I'm still only a 7.4-7.6. I don't know whats going on with the tests reading 7.6 on the low, and 7.4 on the high. I know the driftwood is supposed to lower it slowly. I know the ammonia is supposed to be 0, and my tap is .50 which is toxic to Steve right? Treated its .25, and my tank is at a constant .25. I religiously clean his tank with a turkey baster. There is no poop or excess food. He's so spoiled I feed him 1 tiny micro pellet at a time until he's done then clean up any he spit out. Am I just worrying too much about this and messing up the cycle? When it cycles will it fix the PH and Ammonia issues I'm having? Is part of the problem that I left the carbon filter in there? I thought the carbon only filtered out medicines, I didn't think it affected things like Prime and Stability working. Should I just do what the girl said, dont change the water for a month and just let it do it's thing? Basically, just HELP!

2) PLANTS
I first started to notice things going wrong with the plants with the 2 Marimo balls I bought Steve. They started to brown in the water so I took them out, and they smell terrible. I put them in a cup, and Ive been rinsing them with prime treated water daily, and a little Flourish Comp. I also tore open the bigger one to make sure nothing gross was inside. They seem to be smelling better, but are an olive green instead of the bright green. I mention this because Im not sure if whatever I'm doing wrong with my tank messed them up in the first place. The main issue is my Amazon Swords. I just noticed about 2 or 3 days ago that the leaves were starting to turn brown, and the tips and edges were starting to clear and disintegrate. I read and read and read up, and it seems like some sort of a deficiency? I just put the root tabs in, and just started the little bit of Flourish Comp but I'm lost as to whether or not its an Iron or Potassium or what kind of issue. ALSO, embarrassing to admit, I didnt trim the roots before I planted them. I'm not sure if that was part of the problem. Last night I pulled them out, pulled off all the damaged leaves, and trimmed the roots, and replanted. I got a Banana Lily (Nymphoides aquatica) that went in the tank last night, and low an behold the leaves today are having the same issues as the Amazon Swords, OVERNIGHT.

The LFS girl who told me to wait a month to change the water also told me the issues with my plants is that they need a carbon supplement and told me to buy API CO2 Booster.

Obviously something is wrong. I didn't know if it was related to a lighting issue, a fertilizer issue, a water quality issue, or what. But it can't be a light issue if it happened to the new plant overnight right? What could be killing my plants that seems to be harmless to my Betta? What should I do? Do I take the plants out? Do I need to buy some additional tests and test for something else? I read testing for iron is important but also that the tests aren't reliable or are hard to read. The only tests I have are the ones that came with the API Master test kit. Can anyone recommend what else I need to be testing for? I know that dry ferts are better than liquid, but I would really like to use up what I have before switching so it doesn't go to waste. Im not opposed to buying an additional liquid fert if I need something to use while I run out what I have. In short, I have no idea what's going wrong with my plants, so HELP pt 2!

3) Lighting
This tank, while pretty, is not going to last. I hate that the lights are built in to the filter cords. I'm not sure how Im going to approach separating the wiring when I switch out filters but I'll probably farm that job out to my husband. The LFS girl also told me my plants are dying because they need T5 lighting. I've read lots of reviews on my tank and some people say the leds burn up the plastic hood. I don't know if what came with this tank is enough for the plants, or not. I'm not opposed to replacing them, but I haven't been able to find much information on good leds that I can reinstall on the hood, or if they need some sort of heat shield as to not melt the plastic. I would love to just take this lid and trash it, and replace it with something else, but I have no idea how to do that. Does anyone have any experience in creating alternate lids for their tanks? The old house we are currently living at has an old vent system that funnels dust and fuzz all over our room, and even with 2 air cleaners going 24/7 fuzz and dust flies in to his tank even when I feed him. We also have cats, so I need a lid. I saw someone with the same tank that used a dome reflector with a CFL to spotlight through the clear door on the top of the lid to a live reef he had in the tank. I was thinking I could do that at the very least, but I'm not sure what type of bulb I need for this tank. There's about 13 inches from the top of the substrate to the top of the tank lid. Also, is there something I can set the dome on to again address the issue of not melting the lid?

So that's it. I'm sorry about all the questions. This was supposed to be a fish for my Husband and Daughter, and it's clear that Steve is MY fish, and I'm completely in love with him AND planted tanks. This is now going to be a life hobby of mine. I know I did everything wrong, but I hope it's clear I'm trying my best to understand all of this and do the right things for my fish and my plants. As I was writing this I got the last shipment of things I ordered for Steve's tank. Some Limnophila indica, a few Amazon Frogbit, 2 small straight vallisneria. I have no idea what to do with these. I don't want to put them in the tank and kill them immediately. I'm just going to put them in some treated water, and wait for help. (I know I clearly got ahead of myself purchasing things. I was overly excited with the newness and beautiful plants) Any help you guys could give me would be greatly appreciated.

I've attached some images of the tank, and my plants.

When he first came home, tank with rocks, plants not roots not trimmed


After substrate and driftwood added. Tips starting to brown


A day or so later, close up of leaves. Yellowing, browning, turning clear, and disintegrating






Today this is what the Banana Lily leaves look like after 1 night in the tank. It was not like this yesterday when I put it in


This is what the Amazon Swords look like today. (I trimmed the roots and replanted yesterday, and pulled off the damaged leaves)


This is just a pic of the top of the tank, so you can see what I'm working with for my lid/lighting issues
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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-25-2014, 07:46 PM
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First, LFS people rarely know a thing. No, do not stop water changes or it'll get toxic in there. You shouldn't replace all the water, but you should do water changes to keep the ammonia as low as possible, some will remain and continue to feed the good bacteria. But you need to keep the water habitable while they are building up. While they aren't strong your job is to do their job.

Plants are, well plants. Old leaves die and melt, new leaves grow. And some are sensitive to moving tanks. A sword is a heavy root feeder so if it is planted on top of root tabs in ecocomplete it'll do OK, but you will have to replace the root tabs eventaully. I don't tend to grow swords, and don't know your tank so no clue if the light is enough. I tend to stick with low light plants like Java fern and moss. Easy to grow, don't need a ton of ferts or CO2, and folks on the forums sell them very reasonably.

Bettas as tough. Keep doing those small water changes to keep the ammonia in check and he'll do just fine.
Frequent small water changes are probably better than occasional huge ones.

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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-25-2014, 08:39 PM Thread Starter
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It sounded so wrong when she told me that, but at the same time she totally convinced me it was my fault my tank hadn't cycled by doing partial water changes. I'll keep up my small water changes, and not worry that Im messing with the cycling.

Should I move my new plants in to the tank and just let everything acclimate and not worry so much if the leaves die? It was just very strange that the banana lily started developing holes in the leaves overnight. But you think that can just be from going to a new tank?

So I should just keep up with the ferts I'm doing and let everything adjust? It's just strange the leaves are dying so quickly on my sword, but Im starting to think that might be completely my fault for not trimming the roots sooner. I'd say the majority of them were brown when I figured out I need to do it, only a few white, so I'm wondering if I just killed off the root system and that's why its just in a nutrient death spiral.

I did find a new 6700k light that I'm going to aim through the clear lid. So hopefully that'll help out, and it won't need any customization on my part.
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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-25-2014, 09:23 PM
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Basically you are using a betta to cycle the tank. They are hardy fish so don't worry about it. Keep an eye on the parameters and I would throw in more fast growing plants like Anacharis or floating plants to help with the cycling and keep nitrates down.

Do not over do the ferts. Unless you are putting a ton of fast growing stem plants then you might just end up with an algae bloom. I would dose once a week only and every week for that size of a tank. The only thing I would not dose is nitrates because you already have it.

The Seachem line of ferts (small bottles) should be good for the size of your tank. Just get the smaller bottles. You are probably going to dose tiny amounts so they will last you a long time.

I would get Seachem Comprehensive (not trace) and Seachem Equilibrium just to get the nutrients in the water as quickly as possible. Remember small amounts are needed although you can put more as long as you are doing water changes. You will probably need to do the Seachem Equilibrium every time you have replaced the total amount of water by water changes. So you are doing 25% then you have to dose equilibrium after doing 4 water changes. Your target GH should only be around 2-3 dGH. You might need to dose Excel. Again a tiny amount just to kick start the plants.

Seachem Phosporus and iron is also recommended but not required at this point.

Also a couple of floating plants like Red Root floaters or dwarf water lettuce will help maintain the nitrates. I would not be afraid to have those plants cover half of the top of the tank. They are easy to remove and maintain too. Just remove them once you get too many.

Also plants need to adapt to any new tank that they are introduced too. Don't worry if the new plants are not looking too good. If you make sure the nutrients are in the water then they should be able to recover. Although the old rotting leaves will need to be removed to prevent them from breaking down and making ammonia.

What you are looking for with your plants is new growth. Once you see your plants are sprouting new leaves then you are OK.


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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-25-2014, 10:18 PM Thread Starter
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I do have some floating plants, I got them yesterday, about 10 baby frogbits so I can put those guys in.

I did buy some Excel, all though I have been warned to be careful and use only a little because it can harm my vals.

Will adding additional iron be over kill? Theres iron in the ecocomplete substrate (correct?), and a bit in the Flourish Comp? Obviously I won't put in yet, as my tank is new and I dn't have any new growth.. I was just curious if that wouldn't be like tripling the amount of iron or what.

Sorry for the newbie questions. There is so much to learn in such a short amount of time! Thank you all for the help
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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-25-2014, 10:50 PM Thread Starter
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I put the frogbit in, and Steve is in love. They are just babies so he's pushing them around the top of the tank, and playing in the little roots. I'll put my other new plants in later tonight when I change the water.
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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-25-2014, 11:07 PM
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If you are dosing Flourish (the fertilizer) I'd just stick with that. Dose once a week according to the directions. I've never messed around with specific things like iron and so long as you aren't growing super fussy plants (you haven't listed any) you'll be fine.

Keep it simple, simple is good.

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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-26-2014, 12:54 AM
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Like the others have said, give it some time. I doubt you will need to stress out about all kinds of dosing in what looks like a pretty low light tank. In tanks like these, the plants grow slow and don't require a ton of stuff from you. They will get by on Steve's waste and excess fish food under most conditions. I would keep adding a root tab every few months for your rooted plants however.

I'm sure many people might disagree, but I had a similar setup, and to add a little light I placed it in a part of my house where it got an hour of sunlight early every morning. Maybe it was dumb luck, but it worked for me. Just gotta keep a eye on things so you don't grow a algae farm.

Also, as stated, Bettas are incredibly tough fish. Change 1/3 or 1/2 the water every week and he will be a happy camper. I'm partial to Bettas myself, wonderful little fish.

I would pick up a cheap light timer. You can find them at any hardware store or Wally World...etc. That way even if you forget the light will go out at night. Bettas do sleep...and if you ever catch them sleeping it's usually hilarious. Some lay down on the bottom like they are dead, some hammock on plant leaves...my current Betta "Sparticus" let's himself get sucked against the intake of my sump (it's not a high powered affair). Really freaked me out until I realized he was doing it on purpose one night when it was off and I watched him rubbing up against it at bedtime, lol.

Hardest part about keeping plants in the beginning for me was just understanding and accepting the limitations of your setup. Some of the tanks on here are so gorgeous, but you have to remember, some plants simply wont grow in a low light setup, no matter what you do. That doesn't mean you cant have a great looking tank. You have to find the plants that will work for you. Do some heavy reading in the low tech forum...tons of amazing information in there.

Dx
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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-26-2014, 01:09 AM Thread Starter
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That is so funny! Steve totally lets himself get stuck to the filter intake and naps. The other day he was wrapped around 3 sides of it like a taco shell. (His fins, he's a half moon and his tail is long enough to wrap around) Other times he sleeps behind the filter at the top of his tank.

The light I bought I dont think is too powerful, its a Deep Blue Solarflare Micro 6700 LED. I know they aren't good for big tanks, so I thought that's probably just what I need. I figured the spotlight would be perfect to aim down in to the tank, and just give a little extra boost. His tank is on my drafting/art table next to my bed so I don't think I'll forget to turn his light off. (I have black out curtains and when I wake up in the morning he's right there waiting, staring at me like HEY WAKE UP! TURN THE LIGHTS ON!) But I will look in to getting a timer for if Im out of the house for an extended period of time. I'm going to the store today so I'll see what kind they have.
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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-26-2014, 01:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KtKeyhole View Post
That is so funny! Steve totally lets himself get stuck to the filter intake and naps. The other day he was wrapped around 3 sides of it like a taco shell. (His fins, he's a half moon and his tail is long enough to wrap around) Other times he sleeps behind the filter at the top of his tank.

The light I bought I dont think is too powerful, its a Deep Blue Solarflare Micro 6700 LED. I know they aren't good for big tanks, so I thought that's probably just what I need. I figured the spotlight would be perfect to aim down in to the tank, and just give a little extra boost. His tank is on my drafting/art table next to my bed so I don't think I'll forget to turn his light off. (I have black out curtains and when I wake up in the morning he's right there waiting, staring at me like HEY WAKE UP! TURN THE LIGHTS ON!) But I will look in to getting a timer for if Im out of the house for an extended period of time. I'm going to the store today so I'll see what kind they have.
The timer certainly isn't a necessary item seeing as how you are next to the tank...but...when it comes to plants knowing exactly how much (many hours) light they are getting can be helpful down the road. When you run into an issue, the first question most of the gurus on here will ask is how many hours a day are your lights on. Many fixes for plant problems are add a couple hours more light, or many times cut down a few hours. Without a timer this can be tough to do with real life happening all over the place. Well, it is for me anyways, lol.

My entire system is automated...the plants like consistency.
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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-26-2014, 01:26 AM
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I have a sword in my Fluval Spec that kept melting like that. It got down to just a few stunted leaves. Months went by where I thought it would kick the bucket. Lately it has been growing well. I used to have a filter sponge on the output to lessen the flow for my Betta. I switched the tank to shrimp and took the sponge off. Once the current was restored, the sword bounced back. The only other thing I did different was stop using root tabs. I may add some if the plants look like they are getting deficient, but they seem to be getting what they need without the extra ferts.
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post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-26-2014, 07:39 AM Thread Starter
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I checked my Nymphoides aquatica today, and it's fuzzy... Not like white stringy lint fuzzy (I read about that) Just like clearish blurry fuzzy. Not green or brown.

Im guessing it's an algae, should I just ignore it and it'll go away when my tank sorts itself out?
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post #13 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-26-2014, 09:34 AM
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Give it a few days. I've seen this on my plants and it was an overdose of the micros. Could also be fungus. That driftwood will grow fungus on it.


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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-26-2014, 02:03 PM
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I have not fully read through your thread at this point so I cannot answer your other questions. However, I had a look at the part about the plant issues you are having.

Your swords are almost certainly not experiencing a deficiency at this point. The leaves are dying off because the sword is losing its emersed grown leaves as it grows its submersed form leaves.

Read more about it here:
http://deficiencyfinder.com/?page_id=716

This is another example of emersed die off in sword plants:

Zapins
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post #15 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-26-2014, 05:00 PM
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Yes.
And, don't plan anything around the sword now, just guide the tank it will level off in time. You should do water changes as this doesn't stop your cycle, it exports ammonia.

It is very important to know that if you gently did two 100% water changes morning and night, and verify the ammonia conversion ability in three months, vs not doing a single water change for three months the ammonia conversion ability for the betta is the same

Threads exist where keepers showed differences in the first few weeks, but it levels out in a couple mos

That says something about the reliability of bacteria info given and it says something funny about how we think we limit the single most adapted organism in our tank. I promise you that if you did six 100% water changes per day it would not harm your fish or any biofilter progression. The day water changes are antibacterial is the day surgeons just rinse with ro di water before triple bypass operations and forego the whole soap debriding scrub in thing

The betta w prob tolerate anything you do, but reasonable water changes are the right thing to do. In two months settle off into a maintenance mode you like,then plants w grow. The ferts you are doing helps, but have a plan for algae. After you try all the methods and algae still has your tank in grip, pm me.

Algae control is less important than keeping your tank ammonia free for a fish in cycle, by water changes. You can't do too many, be reasonably consistent with temp and always use the same sourcewater and its safe to do big water changes. As the tank ages, pour in slowly to not kick up waste, I pour back on top of rock structures to break up the return water

small old reef tank:

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Last edited by brandon429; 09-26-2014 at 05:22 PM. Reason: Sp
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