NEED HELP: New Freshwater Planted Aquarium With High PH And Rotting Plants - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 09-22-2016, 05:15 AM Thread Starter
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NEED HELP: New Freshwater Planted Aquarium With High PH And Rotting Plants

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To all experienced members, seniors aquarist,

First of all, I do apologize for the long post. However, I would try to keep it as concise and short as possible to cover all the required details.

I'm a newbie to this forum as well as to the Aquarium World. Recently I bought my first aquarium and planned to start a planted freshwater community like most other newcomers. With hardly any experience (I only have 3 Betta fishes in different Betta bowls), I started with an Aqueon 38G aquarium kit. I got the kit from the local Petco along with the stand at a very good deal and it included the following.
1. 38G Aqueon Tank (36" L, 12"W, 20"H)
2. Aqueon Power Filter (most probably 30 G capacity)
3. Heater
4. Deluxe Fluorescent Hood with Full Spectrum Aqueon 24" light bulb
5. And few other small items.

As I was planning for a low-light low-tech moderately planted aquarium with just a drift wood in the middle, I chose the substrate as CaribSea EcoComplete Planted and CaribSea Instant Aquarium. For the 38G Tank I put 2 bags of CaribSea Eco-Complete at the bottom and on top of it I put the Instant Aquarium as it was belly safe for the bottom feeders. That gave me about 2.5 - 3 inches depth of substrate and I put some Seachem root tabs inside the substrate approximately in 4-5 inches radius.

Other additional items which I fitted with the Aquarium are:
1. One Fluval C3 50 G capacity HOB filter
2. Changed the Full Spectrum Aqueon Light with a 20 watt Life-Glo 2 Fluorescent Bulb
3. Put an additional Current USA 36 Inches Satellite Freshwater LED Light

After completing the set up, I put the following plants in my tank.
1. Few Micro sword, few hairgrass for the foreground
2. Few Ludwigia, bacopa, moneywort and Amazon Sword for the mid-ground
3. Few Jungle val, italian val for the background
4. A week and half later I added couple of Red Flame Sword for the mid-ground and couple of Staurogyne Repens (baby tears) for the foreground.

I have been using the following fertilizers for the plants
1. Seachem Excel - Every Alternative day (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday)
2. API CO2 Booster - Every Alternative day (Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
3. Seachem Flourish Iron - Every Alternative day (Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
4. Seachem Flourish Potassium - Every Alternative day (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday)
5. API Leaf Zone - Once a Week Sunday
6, Seachem Flourish Phosphorus - Once a week Sunday
7. Seachem Flourish Nitrogen - Once a week Sunday
8. Seachem Fourish Advance - Recently started this one, as of now using daily for the past one week

Now coming to the issues which I have been facing..

1. Very High pH - The county water here is naturally hard and even though I use Aqueon Water conditioner and Seachem prime, still the pH level is pretty high approximately in the range of around 7.8-8. An aquarium specialist in the local PETCO store advised me Seachem 7.0 Neutral Regulator which I used for 3-4 time over the span of 2 weeks (once in every 3 days) and that might have reduced the pH little bit (From 8 to 7.8 I should say) but it's still quite high.

2. Rotting Plants - This is the biggest issue.. It's been almost a month since I've set up the tank and put the plants in. I lost almost all my moneywort, bacopa, and microsword, hairgrass. Amazon Swords are surviving somehow.. Only Vals are doing ok as of now. Also the newly introduced (I put them couple of weeks back) Red Flame Sword and Staurogyne Repens (Baby tears) are still looking green.

I'm really clueless and helpless and need your expert advise and guidance on how would I keep the rest of the plants alive. I'm pretty sure I've been doing something wrong, but don't know what..

Is the High pH could possibly be the reason for these plants to die?
Or is there a lack of light? Should I put one more LED light along with the currently running Fluorescent and LED?
Am I doing too many fertilizers for these plants?
Or the issue is with the substrate?
Also how would I bring the pH level down? Should I continue using Seachem 7.0 Neutral Regulator?

I test my water with API Freshwater test kit almost every other day and also got it tested a few times in Petco, Petsmart and the LFS. Apart from High pH none f them mention about any other abnormality like high nitrate, nitrite or ammonia or anything else.. I've attached a few pictures of my aquarium, tried to capture the best possible view to depict the issue. The foreground has become almost grey/brown with dying, rotting hairgrass, only a few sprouts of greens are available.. The mid-ground is relatively in better condition. Again in the background, quite a few stems are rotting..

I would sincerely request you to take a look at these pictures and provide your valuable expert suggestion so that I can keep the remaining plants alive.. Thanks a lot!
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 09-23-2016, 06:18 PM
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What I see in the photos isn't "rotting", it is black brush algae. I'm surprised by that. Usually we see that much BBA when someone has a lot of light, no CO2, and no Excel in the water. But, with one T8 bulb about 18 inches from the substrate, you should have around 30 PAR just from that. The Current USA LED light may be adding around 10 PAR, but with the limited data on the Current USA website, I can't be sure about that part. If it is a Satellite LED+ light you might get an added 20 PAR instead of 10. At most, you should have low medium light, I think. And, that shouldn't lead to BBA.

Looking at your fertilizing, it includes much too many different things. You should dose Flourish Comprehensive, as a trace element mix, Flourish Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium, for the macro nutrients, NPK. Add to that either Flourish Excel, or API CO2 booster, which is the same stuff, dosed at 2 ml per 10 gallons of tank water, every day. API Leaf Zone is superfluous, being primarily a potassium solution. Flourish Advance is also mostly a potassium solution, but primarily a profit booster for Seachem, so it isn't needed. The neutral regulator is also primarily a profit booster for the pet store, and isn't needed. Aqueon water conditioner is just for after water changes - it neutralizes the chlorine and chloramine in the tap water.

The best advice I can give you is to stay out of that store!

If your tap water is very hard, as it seems it is, you can dilute it 50-50 with distilled water, or just learn to live with it. The plants can do very well in hard water, and a lot of fish can also live with it.

You can drain about half the water out of the tank, then squirt the whole tank dosage of Excel on the BBA infested plants. Let it sit like that for a few minutes, the refill the tank. That should cause the BBA to turn red or white, which means it is dying or dead.

You didn't mention how long you keep the lights on, but you should limit that to 6-8 hours a day. Too much light can be from keeping the lights on much too long too.

Don't give up!

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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 09-23-2016, 06:33 PM
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i dont think it looks too bad. get some shrimps to eat it up?
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 09-23-2016, 07:19 PM
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I wouldn't worry about pH or general water parameters. People that know what they're doing will generally give you the advice "Use some R/O water if you're really concerned ($$$$$) or just deal with it". Personally I just deal with it. Very rarely does something like hard water create a deal-breaking scenario where you have no chance of growing certain plants. For all of these claims there is some dude out there with an amazing tank and ultra-hard water with a pH of like 9.

People who don't know what they're doing (vast majority of pet store employees) will tell you that you HAVE to have pH/other parameters within a certain range and sell you all kinds of products that don't do anything. Droves of people come to the forum with stuff like "HELP pH is too high/low". It's nonsense

I agree with Hoppy... Probably too much (and different kinds of) ferts for the light levels you have going on. Some of your plants will likely struggle (hair grass has little to no chance IMO) due solely to the low light levels while others should be fine. I'm also surprised you have that much BBA considering the low light but it's probably due mostly to the over-fertilization. You have to get rid of it or it will suffocate certain plants. Can't say for sure though.

Keep up large water changes, nuke BBA with excel and/or H2O2 to try and kill it, don't give up, etc... I'm a fan of getting a meat-injector syringe thing, turning off flow, and dosing H2O2 then excel directly on the affected plants. Searching around can tell you exactly how to do this (generally it is called 'spot treatment'). After a day BBA will turn red/white and die completely.

Also stay out of that store lol. This forum has much better advice and we won't try to sell you crap you don't need
After like 1 month in the hobby you will likely know more than anyone working at Petco. Very rarely do I find someone working at a pet store that is respectably knowledgeable about planted tanks. Some people are extremely knowledgeable around fish (particularly non-chain fish store owners) but they usually suck at growing plants. Most of the chain store guys don't know anything about either aspect.

Also S Repens is not Baby Tears. 2 totally different plants. (also Dwarf baby tears (HC) are different from regular baby tears)

good luck


If you have a HOB filter that is not even rated for the size tank you have you need to upgrade ASAP. There is probably little to no flow in your tank - this can be a major problem. I would get something like an AC70 or even maybe AC110. Generally what filters are 'rated for' doesn't cut it. Especially in terms of flow. You usually want to aim for at least 2-3x more filtration that is 'recommended'. Even if bio filtration is enough supplementing with a powerhead with flow might be necessary depending on the situation.

There should be a gentle flow in ALL areas of the tank. Dead spots with no flow lead to issues.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 01:33 PM
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I am in agreement with those above. First point is the PH. It is not worth the time to try to regulate something as they indicate in the stores. The regulator is simply something to force the PH up/down while the whole rest of the system is moving it back to the starting point. Just not good and it makes the PH do wild swings rather than hold steady. Better to hold it to natural and then use the plants that fit. And there is no shortage of plants for hard, alkaline water. It happens in nature and there are lots of plants growing in the springs which come up out lf limestone.
Go simple is very good especially when first starting.
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