pm'd me and asked for help; I'm going to respond in his thread so others can chime in and or possibly use the suggestions I offer to deal with similar issues. @Surf
is correct, I deal with soft water issues on a regular basis. I too have a tall tank, a 45 gallon tall (24") so I am well familiar with the issues tall tanks can present.
I've had aquariums for decades but just started planted tanks about 10 years ago. I did a lot of reading (thekrib.com) as well as the relatively new (at that time) aquaticplantcentral and theplantedtank forum and many of the articles by Amano. What I learned kind of boiled down to this......it's all about balance. Plants are pretty basic, they need light and nutrients to thrive but the trick is how much light and how much and what nutrients? When I increase one item I need to increase other items and if I decrease one item I need to decrease other items.
stated his tank was fine with the 'standard' light fixture (likely T12 maybe T8) over his deep tank but then he upgraded to power compact (2X55 watt) and things went downhill....why? With low light the plants didn't need much in the way of nutrients, likely the fish waste combined with the minimal nutrients in our very soft NW water allowed things to grow fine although slowly. Now we add the power compact light, likely 2-3 times the light output of the original lights. More light means more nutrients are required but fish only poop so fast. Also the minimal mineral nutrients in our soft water were likely no longer adequate. The result, the tank was no longer in balance. Adding CO2 is fine if the limiting factor for growth is a lack of available carbon molecules but if other factors are limiting growth adding CO2 helps very little. Sometimes I explain it this way, with the low light is it sort of like riding a tricycle...very forgiving if I make a mistake but when I add high light and/or CO2 to a tank it is more like riding a Kawasaki Ninja ZX motorcycle where if I make a wrong move at high speed I eat asphalt.
First, let's deal with the light. Power compact lights are fine for growing plants, I use a 96 watt power compact light with an MIRO 4 reflector over my 24" tall tank and can achieve [email protected]
at the substrate level. However, power compact lamps loose light intensity quickly, that same lamp only provides [email protected]
at the substrate level after 12 months of use. My first recommendation is to replace the two 55 watt lamps.
I usually mark the date I install a lamp on the socket end with a magic marker so I know when it is time to replace them....I never go over a year. Secondly 8 hours of light plus additional diffused sunlight is a lot of light. I suggest (#2) until the tank is balanced and growing properly reducing the light from the fixture to no more than four (4) hours
- maybe in the evening when you can enjoy your tanks. I run the 96 watt on my 24" tall tank for a total of 4.5 hours and it is in a lower level of the house with minimal ambient light.
Turface Pro League is a fine calcined Montmorillonite clay substrate, although it may 'break down' over time (I find that mine is good for about 3-4 years). It has a high CEC (approx. [email protected]
) so it 'absorbs' nutrients from the water column and makes them available to plants in the root zone. Do you know what model API canister filter you have? I run two 350 gph canister filters on my 75 gallon and sometimes I think I should add a powerhead as well. Your two powerheads are probably helping a lot in your tank. All I typically put in my canister filters are bio-balls and sponges, no charcoal. If I have issues with high nitrates and I suspect it is due to high bio-load (lots of fish) I also use Seachem Purigen in the canister to remove organics from the water.
+1 to the previous posts to get some water test kits. I use the API Freshwater Master Test Kit and API KH/GH Hardness Test Kit monthly and I would suggest starting with those
. After you get those in and have taken your pH, dKH, and dGH readings along with ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate we can discuss specifics concerning your tank however the following is what I do for my tanks here in Seattle.
When Tom Barr visited our local aquarium club (Greater Seattle Aquarium Society / GSAS) in 2010 during the Q&A after his presentation I asked him about our soft water (typically <1.0 dKH; 1.0 - 2.0 dGH). He lives in the Sacramento area and has similar water. He said it doesn't worry too much about dKH as long as there is sufficient to avoid pH crash when using CO2 and he tries to target 4.0 dGH hardness in his tanks. He also said that even if the water is over 4.0 dGH naturally he would increase the hardness by 2.0 dGH just to insure there is sufficient calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and potassium (K) available to the plants. At first I used Seachem Equilibrium to harden my water. It is a very good product and contains Ca, Mg, K, Mn, and Fe but when doing regular water changes with larger tanks it can become expensive. There are 'generic' GH Boosters offered by aquariumfertilizer.com, greenleafaquariums.com, and nilocg.com that are all based upon Tom Barr's original formula which is:
1 Part K2SO4 (Potassium Sulfate)
2 Parts CaSO4 (Calcium Sulfate)
1 Part MgSO4 (Magnesium Sufate)
Regrettable they do not contain any manganese (Mn) and they tend to overdose potassium (K) (as does Equilbrium) which can effect the uptake of iron, manganese, and magnesium. Lately I have gone to mixing my own GH Booster and have been happy with the results.
For nutrients this is what I suggest you purchase:
1 lb potassium nitrate (KNO3) (online)
1 lb potassium sulfate (K2SO4) (online)
1/2 lb (mono) potassium phosphate (KH2PO4) (online)
1 jar Seachem Equilibrium (online or Aquarium Co-Op)
1 bottle Seachem Flourish Comprehensive ( (online or Aquarium Co-Op)
While waiting for your test kits and nutrients to arrive please do two (2) 50% water changes about a week apart to 're-set' your tank (siphon from the bottom to remove 'mulm'), pick up your new 55 watt lamps, clean your filter, clean your glass, and remove as much algae infested plant material as possible. Questions? Just ask! -Roy