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:
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
9/20 Tank Water Test after the substrate, driftwood, and partial water change
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
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
9/23 Tank Test
7.6 low 7.4 high PH test
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!
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!
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