My planted nano-aquarium Saga - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 04-25-2015, 07:10 PM Thread Starter
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Smile My planted nano-aquarium Saga

Hello everyone, new member here :-)

A brief intro: this is my first ever aquarium, but I've had some experience with a somewhat similar hobby in the past.

I was given as a gift a Fluval Chi tank (19 Liters/5 US Gallons) and then I started adding all sorts of things. The external pump is rated at 200 Liters / hour with a capacity of 3 Liters, whilst the light is a Toshiba E-Core LED, rated at 19.8 Watts but equivalent to 30 Watt fluorescent. This gives me around 4 Watt/Gallon and up to 6 Watt / Gallon depending on the LED marketing hype. The LED is rated at 6500K and due to the small fish tank, it really penetrates down to the bottom.

I have planted dwarf baby tears at the foreground, and dwarf haigrass at the background. I used as first layer a type of fertilised soil I bought from my LFS (sorry don't remember the brand) over which I've added roughly two inches of gravel (I know, I should had bought ADA soil).

My experience so far has been very mixed. The tank has 3 neocardina shrimps, 3 cardinas shrimps, 2 nerite snails and 8 cardinal tetras. I know what you'll say, that it is overcrowded, but I assure you the heavy filtration and frequent water changes, keep ammonia and nitrite to zero most of the days (more on that later).

My problems started with algae: I've had almost all types of algae so far: brown algae, fuzzy algae, hair algae, blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) and lately I'm back to brown hair algae.

Last week, my Co2 bottle was depleted, because I was under the stupid impression that tightening it by hand was enough. During that week, there was no Co2, and I got a bad cyanobacteria infestation, which was spreading over the dwarf baby tears. I would remove all signs of it using a toothbrush, and two days later it would come back even stronger. This started before my Co2 bottle leaked, but got much worse during the leak. At which point, I decided to take drastic measures.

I used pharmaceutical grade hydrogen peroxide at 3% concentration, by stopping the filter and dosing using a syringe, 1ml or less on the infected areas. I did the treatment for 3 days, and indeed after that, I stopped having signs of cyanobacteria (or other algae). After the treatment, I upped the co2 to 30ppm.

However, due to the hydrogen peroxide, I ended up with a lot of dead plants, and decaying organic matter. I could (and still can) see white earthworms feeding on the decaying matter, my ammonia spiked to 0.25 ppm and my Nitrite spiked to 1ppm, whilst Nitrates where at around 5 ppm.

I did a 50% water change using RO/DI water only, and kept of feeding every other day, and now ammonia is down, whilst Nitrites are at 0.25ppm. I also dosed live bacteria boosters.

One week later, no signs of cyanobacteria, and the fish appear to be healthy. However, I am still having issues with plant health. I used a wrong (very wrong) EI dosing regime, which I have since corrected (bough a digital scale and fertiliser salts, and I'm not making my own solutions).

My issues are with TDS/PPM and water parameters:

My tap water has a hardness of 7 degrees or 185ppm using a TDS meter.
The Carbon hardness is around 100 ~ 120 ppm.

By using RO/DI water, I can bring the GH and KH down, but due to the Co2, my PH also comes down. PH from the tap when Co2 injected stabilises at around 6.8m but when using RO/DI it goes down to 6.2. Cardinal Tetra seem to be OK with that range, and so do my shrimps.

However, most sites recommend a GH of 6 degrees (100ppm) for cardinals. Currently, after dosing with my EI ferts (3 times a week, one 50% water change) my TDS stands at 320 ppm, however I have now added Magnesium (MgSO4). My Trace is already mixed, and I intend to also dose some Chelated Iron. The reason for all that analysis, is because the dwarf baby tears appear to be deficient (of either NPK or Iron) as they have a lime green almost yellow colour. Also, I've noticed that since I nuked the tank with hydrogen peroxide, and upped the Co2 and nutrients, I am getting significantly less algae.

So, what is a good limit of TDS/PPM? Considering that my tap comes at 180ppm, and I'm now at 330ppm, there is probably a small excess of nutrients (also, the organic decomposing hasn't finished, there's still a lot of decaying plants).

What is a good balancing point, between the Tetra's 100ppm/6 GH preferred hardness, and the overall TDS needed for me to fertilise the plants?

If I add a lot of RO/DI water, I bring overall GH and KH down, but my PH also drops due to fertiliser salts and Co2 injection. The dwarf hair grass seems very healthy, whilst the dwarf baby tears could use the increased nutrient levels (or so I think). The indication that I get less algae seems to suggest I am on the right track, but I'm still worried about the health of the fish.

The tank is now 4 months old, and whilst I ruined the biological balance with the hydrogen peroxide, my ammonia-nitrite-nitrate params are almost zero, and I'm hoping once the entire plant matter has been composted, they will be back to normal. In the meantime I intend to keep doing water changes every 3 days, and feeding the fish every 2 days, so If I am to stabilise the nutrients, PH and hardness, I guess this is the best time to do it.

Many thanks in advance to anyone who can help.
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-01-2015, 08:16 PM
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This advice may be taken with a grain of salt. Some may disagree with some points here...

Firstly I am obliged to tell you that you cannot put that many fish in a small tank. It is not entirely an issue of water quality but rather the fact that schooling fish like cardinal tetra need more space to roam than 5 gallons. Especially if you have 8 - that is WAY too many for a 5 gallon. I would return them and chuck a single male betta in there or something. Schooling fish need space to swim around and locking them up in a tank that small is pretty cruel.

Secondly I am pretty sure that BGA is not affected by H2O2. BGA is bacteria and needs to be entirely killed off in order for it to completely go away. People use erythromycin to kill it. It shows up when you have too much light, dead spots with no flow, high nitrates, etc... H2O2 is great to spot treat algae like BBA, clado, staghorn, etc with. For BGA you usually have to kill it via chemical warfare if you have major issues (erythromycin)

I've never cared about TDS/PPM so I won't comment on that. I am pretty sure that this also doesn't matter for fish unless in extreme circumstances but I know very little about this topic (never cared for sensitive shrimp where this plays a big role)

Don't chase pH. Ever. Just deal with what you have. There is no 'magic number' of pH that will give you ideal circumstances. pH should drop roughly 1 point of pH with proper CO2 injection. My tank drops from like 7.1 to about 6 for example.

Decaying plants are a nightmare. Get rid of them. Anything that is already dying doesn't come back - that is not how plants work. If it's on its way out it is dead already. Decaying plants + ferts + light = algae city. That is very likely the big reason for your BGA outbreak / general lack of balance. General dead matter leads to BGA from what I have experienced. If you keep things clean you will be well off. If you always have dying plants in your tank you will always run into algae issues.

You should not have 0 nitrates. N is a key macro element that plants need. If you are dosing EI your N should never crash to 0.

Focus on growing an abundance of healthy plants. The more healthy plants you have the better. Healthy plants will out-compete algae given the right conditions. Dying / unhealthy plants will only promote algae growth. If something is struggling just get it out of there. If you have a stem that is almost dead just pull it out. It is only doing you harm.

I'm not sure exactly how high your light is but you should probably tone it down until you get things under control. HC and DHG can survive fine in medium light as long as they have the nutrients. I have personally had the most success with HC under medium light and plenty of CO2. HC loves CO2 more than anything.

I would not even worry about your water parameters. I doubt it is a factor in what is happening to your tank. Just do frequent water changes (I would say 50% every other day) for a while while things level out. Be very diligent in clearing out / spot treating algae you have in there. Lower your light and hope that it does not come back.

Just from your post I can tell that you are falling into the trap of trying to emulate other people's numerical values (pH, nutrient levels, TDS, etc...). A lot of people think that you need to hit these 'magic numbers' in order to achieve success and spend all their time worrying about what their pH is. Just focus on growing healthy plants. Keep things clean, keep your light levels moderate at first, and see how it goes.

Also pics of your tank would help

Good luck

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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-05-2015, 04:55 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you very much for the reply and comments.
I have some notes, since its been two weeks:

1 - all my water parameters are zero (Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate). Gh is 8 degrees, Kh is 4 degrees.

2 - I've stopped bothering with Ph, it stabilised at around 6,4 ~ 6,6 during daylight (co2 injection) I am guessing it gets higher during night-time.

3 - After using hydrogen peroxide, I haven't seen any cyanobacteria. I do have however some very long and thing algae-hair, but they are very easy to remove. Erythromycin is not easily obtainable in the EU, in fact it is a controlled substance afaik, and needs a prescription.

4- The fish seem happy, much happier than before, they are playing and schooling all the time. I realise this is a small tank, initial goal was to get a 130Litre tank, but because I will be moving in 2 months, I decided to postpone until then.

5- I removed as much dead plants as possible, problem is that parts of where I injected hydrogen peroxide killed the carpeting baby tears near the substrate (below the carpet surface) and was thus impossible to remove by hand. The shrimps, snails and earthworms seem to have removed most of it, and there is visible new growth at the patches where the peroxide was used. I understand that this process releases high ammonia and phosphates in the water column?

Now to a new problem: the baby tears are turning brownish/yellowish. I think its nitrogen/iron deficiency, but could really use a second opinion.
I'll post some pictures later on.
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-05-2015, 09:13 PM Thread Starter
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Here are the pics. Couldn't get the white balance correct, look at the burned/brown marks at the edge of the leaves. Those are progressing quite fast, its not really shown in the pics I'm afraid, its much worse when looking at it in person.

AFAIK, its not nitrogen deficiency, there is very little yellowing, maybe iron deficiency due to the fact that I'm using a 50% DI/RO water and 50% tap water?
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