Planted vs. Artificial Tank - Fish Limit - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 04:08 PM Thread Starter
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Planted vs. Artificial Tank - Fish Limit

Just turned my tank into a liveplant tank. It was doing great but then I started having plants die on me. I figured it was because I was not dosing CO2 or any other trace elements. Turns out, my nitrates were 0. I never did a lot of water changes before so the nitrates were always between 40 and 60 ppm. This was the last thing I thought would be the issue since the nitrates have always been consistently high.

If I up my biological filter (by adding as second HOB w/ filter pad) to handle more ammonia/nitrates, can I add more fish to my current system? I would like to get 3 more neons and 2 more zebras so they actually school.

Current tank - 20 gallons - 3 neons, 4 zebras, 1 dwarf gourami, 1 bristle nosed pleco
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 04:18 PM
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i would say that would be fine. obviously just keep up with water changes and make sure ammonia does not become an issue
if you already have a decent cycled HOB then you should be fine (aka your current setup is already established and running for a while). adding a second one is always good anyways though. kickstart it by adding some media from the cycled filter to the new one and topping off the current filter with new media.

the bristlenose is probably the biggest chunk of your bioload
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 06:02 PM
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In general, nitrates should be lower in a planted tank as plants will (and prefer to) use ammonia as their nitrogen source. So some ammonia is not converted to nitrites, then nitrates by BB. It's a bit odd that you would suddenly discover 0 nitrates so I wonder about the test.
Like fish, Plants need food. I suspect that since you weren't doing any ferts, the plants used up available nutrients in the water and began to fail.
....so, I don't know if you need an additional filter, but modest ferts for plants would be good.
Although plants help make the water more pure, it's likely debatable as to whether adding plants equates to adding more stock, although all things being equal, I suppose the claim could be made.
What type of HOB do you have? I would not add another if it has a filter pad/cartridge. I don't care for filters with filter cartridge pads. I think the Aquaclear and the new Seachem Tidal are a much better HOD types allowing us to control the media content (and for what it's worth, I prefer bio-sponge as both mechanical and bio-media).
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 06:11 PM
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also you gotta shake the crap out of those API nitrite test bottles


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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 06:27 PM
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I think that should be fine too. When I add fish I think about two things: 1. Can my biological filter/mechanical filter keep up with the load? 2. Do the fish themselves have enough space. You can fit even more fish if you get fish that hang out in different levels of the water column.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 06:31 PM
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also you gotta shake the crap out of those API nitrite test bottles
Better yet, get a better nitrite test kit.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 06:32 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply, guys. Nitrate test should have been on point. Used it to test my SW tank at the same time and my SW tank had values.

Granted, the decrease in nitrates did not happen over night. This is about a 2 month span; with the live plants showing bad signs about a month after being introduced to the tank. I do not test my FW tank normally, but decided to check the nitrates since I was doing some maintenance on the reef tank.

I also have a staghorn algae problem that started right as the plants started to decline in health. I'm going to test ammonia today, but my fish have been happy and active (no breathing problems, sitting at bottom/top of tank, etc.). So I am expecting that to be 0.

From my research, the new plants used up all the ferts, CO2 and nitrates. This allowed the staghorn algae to take over. Just started dosing Nitrogen and I am hoping I can give the plants the advantage again. Don't think they could with just the ferts and CO2 that I initially started dosing.

HOB is just a regular Topfin that came with the 20g tank. It has a filter pad and a sponge on the intake column. I have to rinse out the sponge every other week to keep it from inhibiting the flow.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 06:53 PM
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Better yet, get a better nitrite test kit.
lol true that


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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 07:46 PM
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I have a heavily planted 17 Gal tank with 2 Fluval HOBs a C2 and a C3. I have 7 tiger barbs, 18 assorted cories and 4 otos and 2 bristlenose plecos (small). I have no problems with nitrite and ammonia, zero for both. But i do water changes every week.

So you should have no problems adding more fish
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-23-2017, 02:52 AM
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Thanks for the reply, guys. Nitrate test should have been on point. Used it to test my SW tank at the same time and my SW tank had values.
API sells different test kits for FW and SW. I dunno if the nitrate chems are interchangeable.

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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-23-2017, 03:27 PM Thread Starter
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API sells different test kits for FW and SW. I dunno if the nitrate chems are interchangeable.
FW and SW test kits use the reagents. Only difference is the color card. I tested my nitrates with both my FW kit and my SW kit and the results were the same. Bought both the "master kits" before I realized they were the same thing.
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-28-2017, 11:21 PM
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If ammonia is zero, you can add more fish. The plants probably just need a better fert regime as you mentioned.
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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-29-2017, 12:50 AM
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Better yet, get a better nitrite test kit.
And the brand name of that would be.........?
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-29-2017, 02:41 AM
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And the brand name of that would be.........?
I'm curious too!


Good luck with your plants. I think you could add the extra fish without extra filtration just fine *shrug*
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 08-29-2017, 11:11 AM
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And the brand name of that would be.........?
In the aquarium grade test kit area, I much prefer Sailfret, Seachem, or Elos. If money is no object, the lab grade test kits by LaMotte or Hach are excellent, but are out of sight expensive, and you seldom, if ever, need that kind of accuracy in the aquarium hobby.
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