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post #1 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-13-2018, 07:09 PM Thread Starter
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Tank postmortem

Huh, been a while since I posted here!

It's looking like I'm facing a tank teardown in the next few months, and there are a number of big questions. Here's a look at the
tank over the years. It looks even more bare/sparse now, just one fish left, a very pleased & healthy roseline shark (one of four we got about two years ago).

Questions
  • Is 3-4 years a common teardown cycle to refresh the substrate?
  • This last year has shown significant plant growth slowdown - is that a common failure mode for substrate mineral exhaustion?
  • What is the current "best" low-tech/low-maintenance/long-lasting substrate?

So...
  • What went well?
  • What went wrong?
  • What can I do better/differently next time?

In the software world, this is called a 'postmortem' - I will attempt to do this for my tank (tank thread here). To best accomplish this, we should look at my original goals and a success/failure for each:

Original goals
  • No water changes - mostly successful, although comments point to this having led to a downfall
  • Minimum maintenance - successful - beyond feeding fish and top-ups, really did nothing (aside from a few plumbing accidents due to shoddy execution, the concept proved itself out)
  • Enjoyable view - completely successful for 3 of the 4-ish years in operation.

What went well?
  • Beananimal drain system continued to work well (aside from what I note below), and provide peace of mind if nothing else
  • First 3 years, excellent plant growth
  • Did not have any issues with gas bubbles causing a mess
  • Although it was a pain, the create process was achievable on a budget
  • Silicone patching for sump worked perfectly
  • The stand has held up just fine - mat used (in lieu of foam) worked just fine, too
  • Drilling the glass with ebay diamond holesaws
  • Pot scrubbies seem to have done just fine
  • Sump design in general seems to have done just fine - aside from the 'fish collection area' being too narrow. That was purely a function of 'run what you brung', i.e. having a 50G to work with.
  • External overflow w. minimal internal overflow has been perfect. The triangular gussets might not have been necessary, but definitely gave peace of mind when small children were exploring.
  • SCS1200 was a good idea - joints are still perfect
  • I stopped using the water conditioner stuff after a while, it didn't seem to make a difference given I was only ever adding 5G to a 150G system.
  • Shutting down the tank on my desk, plus the refugium, was a great idea - one tank + sump is plenty for me to deal with (ha, or not deal with)
  • The two circulation pumps appear to have done their job well - have never dealt with collections of waste piling up, or dead spots
  • The suggestion to add a 1/4" siphon break was most excellent - it continues to work quite well
  • The necking-out of the return as it enters the tank (from 3/4" to 1.25" or so) was also a great suggestion
  • Peninsula tanks are great. Although this has turned into part of the wall of my office.

What went wrong?
  • Last year, sudden drop-off in plant growth and growth trend became negative
  • Snail population also experienced decline to the point of there being only a few left
  • Fish populations never seemed as stable as I'd expected (or maybe just naive as to fish lifespan) - some fish lasted 3+ years, others months, suspect that the fairly strong current could also have played a part
  • Jungle vals took over (and possibly exhausted the soil?)
  • Getting fish out of the sump was difficult - better screening up top led to zero fish getting past
  • 1.5" primary siphon drain was (in retrospect) mathematically dumb - primary siphon needed to be 0.75"
  • Exposed overflow turned into a cat water dish (not making this up)
  • Melamine is NOT waterproof, lol - also was awful to work with for making doors - needed a proper carcase
  • Using 1.5" pool flex hose was dumb, it barely fit, probably puts a ton of unnecessary pressure on glass
  • Cutting glass just was awful, could rarely get a clean break, made a huge mess
  • Siphon activator was really poorly executed on my part, it never worked. Then again, with a 1.5" secondary, didn't really matter.
  • BuildMyLed - just had really really really really bad luck...
  • Secondary tank inside the stand was really just unnecessary
  • Angelfish. Just say no.
  • Too much LED caused some plants to attract that black hair aglae, affected plants were dipped in peroxide, and subsequently died
  • Introducing small fish (babies) into an existing fish pecking order = expensive fish food

What can I do better/differently next time?
  • Substrate at one end might have been too thick (incl. gravel, was ~4")
  • Substrate at the other end was too thin (incl. gravel, ~1")
  • Bite the bullet and do monthly water changes - can possibly save a pile of time now that we have a floor drain closer to the tank
  • Lighting in the sump area would have been well worth it - but in the end, had to rush completion and that got left out
  • Pick a fish type and stick with it
  • Don't get 'weedy' plants this time - big, moderate-growing maybe?
  • Change up the substrate?
  • Cover up all plumbing, and don't rush
  • Light hood. Light hood. Light hood.
  • Primary siphon gets ripped out and turns into 3/4"

Revised goals for v2
  • 5 year tank refresh cycle, can we do it?
  • Low maintenance, but monthly or bi-weekly water changes as an attempt to prevent the 3-year die-off
  • Spend more time watching it, use it as a teaching aid for our kids

Tank as it is today


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post #2 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-14-2018, 10:55 AM
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Heya, welcome back!

Is 3-4 years a common teardown cycle to refresh the substrate?

Yes, especially in a tank with enough light to push plant metabolism into the medium-high to high levels.

This last year has shown significant plant growth slowdown - is that a common failure mode for substrate mineral exhaustion?

Yes. Nutrient exhaustion = slower growth and/or death.

What is the current "best" low-tech/low-maintenance/long-lasting substrate?

There isn't a single "best" substrate specifically for high tech or low tech. In my opinion, Amazonia is THE best substrate for all uses. Substrate properties and nutrient availability are the same across the board, whether high or low tech. Everything else comes down to personal goals/preferences. If you're looking for a more DIY option, then yes, there are mixes that are better than others. My recommendation would be 60% mineralized soil (not raw stuff), 20% calcined clay (such as Turface or Safe T Sorb), and 20% small gravel/coarse sand in the 2-3 mm range. I think Black Diamond makes a suitable product. You'll also want to use this as the cap layer. If you absolutely, positively, cannot mineralize enough soil, at the very least, strain out the coarse stuff with a colander. You really just want the fines. The Turface and sand will provide the needed bulk.

  • Beananimal drain system continued to work well (aside from what I note below), and provide peace of mind if nothing else
  • First 3 years, excellent plant growth
  • Did not have any issues with gas bubbles causing a mess
  • Although it was a pain, the create process was achievable on a budget
  • Silicone patching for sump worked perfectly
  • The stand has held up just fine - mat used (in lieu of foam) worked just fine, too
  • Drilling the glass with ebay diamond holesaws
  • Pot scrubbies seem to have done just fine
  • Sump design in general seems to have done just fine - aside from the 'fish collection area' being too narrow. That was purely a function of 'run what you brung', i.e. having a 50G to work with.
  • External overflow w. minimal internal overflow has been perfect. The triangular gussets might not have been necessary, but definitely gave peace of mind when small children were exploring.
  • SCS1200 was a good idea - joints are still perfect
  • I stopped using the water conditioner stuff after a while, it didn't seem to make a difference given I was only ever adding 5G to a 150G system.
  • Shutting down the tank on my desk, plus the refugium, was a great idea - one tank + sump is plenty for me to deal with (ha, or not deal with)
  • The two circulation pumps appear to have done their job well - have never dealt with collections of waste piling up, or dead spots
  • The suggestion to add a 1/4" siphon break was most excellent - it continues to work quite well
  • The necking-out of the return as it enters the tank (from 3/4" to 1.25" or so) was also a great suggestion
  • Peninsula tanks are great. Although this has turned into part of the wall of my office.

Since these worked well, are you looking to make major changes or improvements during the renovation? If so, what do you want to change?

Last year, sudden drop-off in plant growth and growth trend became negative

Even though there have been/are tanks that have been going for much longer this sounds like a reasonable timeframe given parts of your system, see above.

Snail population also experienced decline to the point of there being only a few left

Did you have fewer fish to feed?

Fish populations never seemed as stable as I'd expected (or maybe just naive as to fish lifespan) - some fish lasted 3+ years, others months, suspect that the fairly strong current could also have played a part.

3ish years is a reasonable expectation for most tropical community fish. Make sure to pick fish that are appropriate for your system/current. Rummynose tetras love current and are adapted to it. Angelfish, not so much.

Jungle vals took over (and possibly exhausted the soil?)

They're nutrient hogs so that's a strong possibility. They may also have contributed to the declining snail population as they're good at removing Calcium from the water. Did you ever notice thinning or pitting on the snail shells?

Getting fish out of the sump was difficult - better screening up top led to zero fish getting past
1.5" primary siphon drain was (in retrospect) mathematically dumb - primary siphon needed to be 0.75"

1" may be the best compromise. After using 1" drains I won't go back to 0.75" again if the tank size allows for it.

Exposed overflow turned into a cat water dish (not making this up)

HAHAHAHA! I laugh out of sympathy. My sump is uncovered, exposed, and easily accessible...

Using 1.5" pool flex hose was dumb, it barely fit, probably puts a ton of unnecessary pressure on glass

I prefer to use regular vinyl hose for at least some sections of my plumbing. Hard PVC plumbing looks great, but it can cause issues with stress too. Having some flexible hose in the mix helps alleviate stress and can improve ease of access.

Too much LED caused some plants to attract that black hair aglae, affected plants were dipped in peroxide, and subsequently died

High light + dissolved organic buildup = BBA. Regular mulm removal (monthly water change?), filter cleaning (!!!!), and CO2 can help a lot. I always recommend CO2 for all plant tanks, even "low tech" as it's so important to plant health. It doesn't really add to maintenance aside from some more frequent trimming and the occasional swap-out, so I still consider it part of a low-maintenance system. Light's the major determinant of "high/low" maintenance as it's what drives the system's metabolism.

Introducing small fish (babies) into an existing fish pecking order = expensive fish food

Been there done that. Includes shrimp.

Substrate at one end might have been too thick (incl. gravel, was ~4")

Go with a 1" (max 1.5") soil mix layer (see above) covered by *at least* 1.5", preferably 2-3", of cap evenly across the tank. If you need more depth, it's better to increase the cap layer than the soil.

Bite the bullet and do monthly water changes - can possibly save a pile of time now that we have a floor drain closer to the tank.

Even if it's only done to remove detritus, this will help out a lot. Adding activated carbon into the filter scheme can help manage unwanted nutrients too. Water changes don't need to be 50%, but the substrate does need to be cleaned of surface junk for optimum health. Just do a light surface suck, there's no need to even put the siphon tube into the substrate. Just remove surface debris.

Pick a fish type and stick with it.

Always a good plan. Livestock need to be planned for just as much as the plants. I can't tell you how many times I had customers come to the store with fish issues due to poor consideration of their stock.

Don't get 'weedy' plants this time - big, moderate-growing maybe?

That's the trade-off. Plants that get big and/or grow extensive root systems come with their own challenges. If you're not supplementing the water, whether though heavy feeding or nutrient additives, then they'll deplete the substrate faster and will create a big mess when being removed. Solutions? Add a substrate amendment such as Osmocote tabs every couple months after the initial six. If you grow swords, removing the outer leaves is a great way of managing size without having to remove the plant. If/when you do need to, use a knife like a cookie cutter to cut the roots around the plant before pulling up. That'll help minimize substrate disturbance.

"Weedy" plants like stems can do just as well as things like Crypts in low maintenance tanks as long as their light needs are met and they're a lot less messy to uproot and replant.

Change up the substrate?

See above.

Cover up all plumbing, and don't rush

Don't rush is always a good plan.

Primary siphon gets ripped out and turns into 3/4"

Consider 1"?

5 year tank refresh cycle, can we do it?

Yes.

Low maintenance, but monthly or bi-weekly water changes as an attempt to prevent the 3-year die-off

Water changes will help refresh the mineral content of the water, but won't do much to prevent substrate depletion if no nutrients are added as well. The plants have to get their nutrients from somewhere. Regular substrate amendment and adding a water remineralizer such as Equilibrium to give the plants Ca, Mg, K, and Fe will help extend the substrate's effective lifespan; possibly indefinitely.

Spend more time watching it, use it as a teaching aid for our kids.

Preach!


Hope this helps.
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Last edited by Phil Edwards; 01-14-2018 at 10:56 AM. Reason: formatting
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post #3 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-14-2018, 11:15 AM
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Here are some other thoughts I had.

1. Fish type (goes along with #2)- In general, fish that prefer high(er) current tend to be bullet shaped and have forked caudal fins. Broader bodied fish with non-forked caudal fins tend to prefer slow(er) current on the whole. This doesn't apply to every single type of fish, but it's a good guideline.

2. Current- There's nothing wrong with having good current in a tank. In fact, it can be quite helpful for low maintenance systems as it helps keep mulm in the water column and going into the filter. If it's possible, you may want to get a couple powerheads/current makers and consider arranging your filter outlet to manipulate flow patterns such that the lowest flow areas where crap accumulates is in a spot that's easy for you to get to for water changes. Also, having one or more of those powerheads lower in the water column creating flow around the plants' bases and on a timer can help a lot. The timer is there so you only have intermittent periods of flow to help flush detritus out from around the plants so it's easier to remove without huge disturbances and hassle.
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post #4 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-14-2018, 01:04 PM Thread Starter
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Mister Phil! In the interest of focus and space, replies to the above below...

Substrate/lighting/plants
  • Lighting - I would note that I quickly turned the dimmer knob to zero after the initial BBA outbreak. It looks beautiful under 100%, but dang that's a lot of light. (esp. since I'm now on the high-power version, and no CO2) I would really like to get a PAR meter, but, budget.
  • CO2 - I have dismissed this already due to cost (doing this without some form of basic automation is folly, in my books - e.g. the Ph sensor that GLA includes in some kits). Expound on why this is so necessary, and give me search fodder to understand how things have changed in the last 3-4 years. Last time I looked, this was a $500 minimum entry kinda thing.
  • Substrate - I had mineralized soil (AaronT's recipe iirc?) before, about 0.75-1.0" uniform across the tank - the depth variations were the gravel cap. I am still on a pretty tight budget, so will look into the DIY mix you suggested.
  • Substrate cap - For some reason I thought having too deep a cap can cause anaerobic conditions? Or is that just 'soil depth'? I currently have medium black gravel - locally all our sandblasting stuff is nickel slag - no bueno for aquariums.
  • Substrate top-up - Equilibrium eh...hmmm...
  • Jungle vals - I would say the snails got smaller over the years, and I never really looked that closely for pitting. At this point I don't think there are any left.
  • Current - There are two powerheads pushing water back toward the return for exactly this reason. You can see one in that last pic - just peeking out in front of the internal overflow. There is another at substrate level pointing in the same direction.

Animals
  • Snails - Yes, snail population followed fish population. Guessing there is a correlation there.
  • Fish - The black skirt tetras lasted the longest, the original 6 were almost four when they finally died. I suspect because they were also the largest tetras I had. The cardinals, neons, platies, and of course angels all didn't last that long. One cardinal managed to get to 3yrs, weirdly. None of the fish experienced what I understood to be 'poor water quality' symptoms, and the periodic tests I ran over the years indicated ammonia was zero.
  • Fish plans - I am still in love with the idea of 100% cardinals or neons. Dem colours. Also thinking shrimpies, but probably will be forced to get the giant ones (Amano?) to prevent the endless frustration of the sump excursions. A fleet of Congo tetras also high on my list. Worse case, large school of mountain minnows. It's a big tank - one fish looks ridiculous - love how the large schools operate.

Plumbing
  • Water changes - Dagnabbit, Phil. My plan to make this palatable includes rigging up some plumbing to dump directly into the new floor drain nearby (we put in a 2nd bathroom last year, conveniently the floor drain we also installed is ~15' from the sump). But I am moving closer to the camp of 'kinda hard to avoid water changes'. I had also abandonded the automation project due to time - still not really the time to do that.
  • Hose - Link me an example of what you mean by vinyl hose? I am cool with hose & reducing stress - just not the pool hose. You mean the standard hose that comes with "normal" aquarium pump/filters?
  • Primary siphon - I will disagree with you here - I want the PRIMARY siphon to be 0.75" purely because I believe it will match my flow rates to give the best chance of a 'silent' overflow. To be clear - one of the main reasons I went beananimal was 'silent', and I suspect even a 1" primary siphon will be too powerful (I did the math a while back, pretty sure I need 0.75" primary). The secondary and emergency drains will remain 1.5". Does that make sense? Or do I need to revisit maths again? Tell me why I'm wrong, Phil. TELL ME!!!
  • Cat - That. Cat.


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post #5 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-14-2018, 02:00 PM
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I just don't understand. Why spend the time and money on a setup like this and choose to forego the most basic fundamental requirement for a planted tank. Plants are primary producers. They are responsible for life in it's entirety. They require C02 to photosynthesize. The confines of our aquariums allow for substantially less gas exchange than they would enjoy in their natural setting. I have a $100 Aquatech running on my 150 and it was about as inexpensive as they come. I have a $500 custom reg for my 2 75 gallon tanks and I really don't see a need for the high end parts unless you are trying for optimal... which clearly you are not.. why not just inject some C02, add some water ferts, through in some root tabs and look into areas that are not inundated with experimental and anecdotal results showing their necessity? Biologically plants aren't going to do well without I injected C02. Its a well known fact.

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post #6 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-14-2018, 02:14 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by The Dude1 View Post
I just don't understand. Why spend the time and money on a setup like this and choose to forego the most basic fundamental requirement for a planted tank.
The threads/stuff I researched led me to zero-maintenance tanks - guys running tanks that had done nothing more than top-up water for 5+ years, and still have thriving ecosystems. IIRC Diana Walstad did a bunch of work around this. Life and work prevent me from making this an all-encompassing hobby, so the only way this would work was zero or minimal maintenance. I mean, let's be realistic here - for 3-ish years this thing was growing, flourishing, doing just fine - with essentially zero work required by me.

Now obviously a lot could have been done differently or better. I had to rush completion due to an impending birth (finished exactly 7 days before our second was born), so some things didn't happen. I was limited by CO2 options - everything I read indicated 125G + 50G sump = gonna need a lot of CO2, therefore need better equipment. Plus, faster growing plants = more plant food required = etc etc. The goal was not to have a gorgeous and lush tank (that needs lots of pruning, based on all the build threads I went through) - just to have a planted tank that stayed somewhat neutral/slow growth. The ferts/supplements frankly I was hoping to avoid due to having mineralized topsoil/clay/etc as a substrate.

Again - it worked. Just not for quite as long as I'd hoped. (in my head I had hoped for 5-7 years before teardown, we got 3-4)

My understanding of a sustainable/low-maintenance CO2 system is that you essentially need:
  • Ph probe/controller
  • Large tank (20lbs)
  • Ideally dual valve thingy (terminology escaping me...)
  • Cerges reactor setup
  • Very well-sealed sump/overflow

At best, that's gonna set me back $300-400CAD (it is my experience US citizens have little clue how well they have it re: shipping/availability ). I know this price figure is accurate, because I waffle about CO2 every 6mo or so and price it out, try to cut corners...it's just not cheap to CO2 a large tank properly + low-maintenance (monthly CO2 tank refills = high-maintenance in my books).

Does that clarify the why?


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post #7 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-14-2018, 02:44 PM
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Hi @crazymittens

I'm only an hour down the 401 from you, and I would like to throw my $0.02 in....

First off, I like how you have a plan set out, Phil gave you some great tips and I agree with it all.

Second, I always love hearing about the costs associated with our neighbors to the south, and then compare it to what we pay! Leaves me sighing and wishing we could obtain goods as easily and as cheaply as our American friends. Unfortunately, we cannot, and have to make due as best we can, which is why I'm a fan of DIY.

Anyways.... moving on, it was stated that vals like them some Ca, and as luck would have it our water is loaded with it, which might be why they did so well for you. I would skip the swords, I could never get them going in our hard water, unless you cut it with some RO. I'm guessing the fish that you said did not do well because of the extremely hard water, maybe pick up a gH + kH test kit and give us some hardness values? My guess is liquid rock, so skip the Equilibrium and dose P and Fe separately if needed. Last I checked my kH was 17 and gH was 20+.

Sounds like an interesting overhaul, keep us posted!

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Originally Posted by crazymittens View Post
I mean, let's be realistic here - for 3-ish years this thing was growing, flourishing, doing just fine - with essentially zero work required by me.
Would not argue with a capped soil mix that lasted 3-ish years.
I am hoping for 12-18 months.
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Growing is not that difficult.
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post #9 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-14-2018, 03:53 PM
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I wouldn't add CO2 - it makes tanks more high maintenance, as they require more ferts added and the plants grow faster requiring more trimming/mass removal. Low tech things grow slower and also issue developer slower so there is more chance to catch them. It does limit what you can grow but I think the trade off is worth it for lower maintenance.

My question would be what were you topping off with? Without water changes you really want to be topping off evaporation with RO not tap. It would also be worth monitoring your KH as that can be depleted over time which is a potential cause of tanks crashing.

You might find a TDS pen handy, they are a very quick way to judge if 'stuff' is building up in your tank. Doesn't tell you which stuff but it's takes seconds to test so is good for a first look.

I'd also argue for slightly higher life expectancies. The average age for cardinals might be 2-3 years, but with good husbandry they can certainly make it more like 5-10 years. I would think about what water you are providing i.e. hard/soft, the size and compatibility of fish, also the type of water they come from. Some have much 'cleaner' watch that others with a high turnover rate.
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post #10 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-14-2018, 03:56 PM
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I must have glossed over that.. 3-4 years is pretty awesome. My 2 attempts at soil tanks had tremendous growth, but after about 8 months they pretty much crashed.. hard. It was a wretched mess and a horrible clean up. If I was able to get that kind of time out of them it would be a different story though.

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My question would be what were you topping off with?
I'd also argue for slightly higher life expectancies.
Yeah, just more tap water. I used Prime for the first few years, then gave up when the plant/fish die-off started. I agree with your point about life expectancies of fish. There are a few factors I think contributed to lower lifespans:
  • Lack of water changes
  • Feeding was sporadic and widely spaced out (I read cases on both sides - feed too much = disease, feed too little = less lifespan). FWIW I never had any kind of disease outbreaks - at least that were identifyable to me/google.
  • A number of them survived 3-4 tank moves, probably didn't help
  • Adding little fish to existing pecking order

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Dude1 View Post
I must have glossed over that.. 3-4 years is pretty awesome.
I dunno, a lot of folk doing the Walstad method were easily hitting 5 years. But I'm not complaining.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maryland Guppy View Post
I am hoping for 12-18 months.
What soil mix are you using? I pretty much followed the stickied MTS method as close as possible. I strongly suspect that my big issue was doing a crappy job mixing the clay in. Like really awful. That almost certainly led to the rapid depletion. The ideal was to grind the clay up into a powder, then it would evenly distribute into the MTS mix. Due to the rush at the end, the best I could do was cut the clay up (it was natural pottery clay in a 'wet' format) into tiny cubes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quagulator View Post
Hi @crazymittens
I'm only an hour down the 401 from you, and I would like to throw my $0.02 in....

Anyways.... moving on, it was stated that vals like them some Ca, and as luck would have it our water is loaded with it, which might be why they did so well for you. I would skip the swords, I could never get them going in our hard water, unless you cut it with some RO. I'm guessing the fish that you said did not do well because of the extremely hard water, maybe pick up a gH + kH test kit and give us some hardness values? My guess is liquid rock, so skip the Equilibrium and dose P and Fe separately if needed. Last I checked my kH was 17 and gH was 20+.
Yay, local info! I really need to ask some of these questions at GTAaquaria, too.

I had a test pen, but read about how poor they were so didn't really trust the results. Cannot recall what they were...your numbers sound familiar.

That's great input on 'ensure accurate water params, THEN plan for what fish and plants I will be hosting'. I went on the assumption that most of the fish I got were 'hardy to generally ok' (Cardinals aside), and so they should be able to cope. There were so many variables over the years, hard to say.

That's one other thing I'd like to do better - keep a better tank journal. I did for the first 2-3 months, but once chemical tests were stable, it got boring and I dropped it.


Given that this was essentially my first shot at aquaria, things went ok. Always lots to learn, and so glad you guys are encouraging and knowledgeable!! Keep the input coming! This will be good search fodder for future aquarists.


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post #12 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-14-2018, 06:06 PM
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I noticed your fish preference were Neons, Cardinals, and more sensitive tetras. Even with my near fanatical husbandry I have struggled with these. I include Rummynose in the group. I quarantine in a pretty nicely planted tank with very low nitrate, no C02 or metricide and feed only freshly hatched baby brine shrimp and I lost 4 out of 5 in my last group... I've found that with those fish the first 3 months or so is the "die at any point" time. Of my 5 Rummynose they were all eating, schooling, and swimming like perfect specimens. Overnight they just dropped dead. By comparison I recently purchased 35 Pristilla tetras... I lost 1... a single one..

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post #13 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-14-2018, 06:57 PM Thread Starter
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I noticed your fish preference were Neons, Cardinals, and more sensitive tetras. Even with my near fanatical husbandry I have struggled with these. I include Rummynose in the group.

By comparison I recently purchased 35 Pristilla tetras... I lost 1... a single one..
Yeah, I kinda expected the neons to not last, given how they are perceived as 'the fish to start with'. i.e. overbreeding issues. But to have 75 of them eaten was not cool, haha. My original fish tank dream was a huge school of cardinals, but I'd settle for neons.

Fast-forward to now...I'm open to ideas. All I know is that I am gonna pick something and stick with it.
  • Colourful (i.e. colours respond well to 10k lighting)
  • Schools well
  • Good with hard water
  • Generally hardy


Doing stuff is hard, it would seem.
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post #14 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-14-2018, 07:38 PM
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Yeah, just more tap water. I used Prime for the first few years, then gave up when the plant/fish die-off started.
That could definitely be part of your problem with no/low water changes. As I'm sure you know, water has stuff in it that adds the harness - calcium/magnesium etc. when the water evaporates it leaves those behind. So when you top up with tap water you add more in, now you've the same volume of water but you have all the old stuff and the new stuff - that's more stuff, which means harder water. If you do regular water changes that's ok, as it resets it, without water changes over time your water will get harder and harder, the longer the tank is running. Not something tetras tend to like. It also means then if you do try a water change, the water you are changing is now massively different to the water in the tank you are replacing. You can help this by topping up with RO, as that doesn't have any stuff in it, just like the water that evaporated, that way your water is more stable.

The other issue is KH, that gets used up by the nitrogen cycle. If you run out the ph becomes unstable and can swing up and down - again, not something fish like. You can monitor that with testing and adding KH back in if you find it drops below 2-3.

There is a lot going on inside fish bodies we don't see - damage to kidneys, hearts, gills etc. are all basically invisible. The diseases we tend to see are often related to fish that are already compromised by water quality or other stressers.

I wouldn't worry too much about feeding, as long as the fish look a healthy body weight and you don't feed more than they can eat so you pollute the tank you are probably doing fine
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post #15 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-14-2018, 10:48 PM Thread Starter
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That could definitely be part of your problem with no/low water changes. As I'm sure you know, water has stuff in it that adds the harness - calcium/magnesium etc. when the water evaporates it leaves those behind. So when you top up with tap water you add more in, now you've the same volume of water but you have all the old stuff and the new stuff - that's more stuff, which means harder water. If you do regular water changes that's ok, as it resets it, without water changes over time your water will get harder and harder, the longer the tank is running. Not something tetras tend to like. It also means then if you do try a water change, the water you are changing is now massively different to the water in the tank you are replacing. You can help this by topping up with RO, as that doesn't have any stuff in it, just like the water that evaporated, that way your water is more stable.

The other issue is KH, that gets used up by the nitrogen cycle. If you run out the ph becomes unstable and can swing up and down - again, not something fish like. You can monitor that with testing and adding KH back in if you find it drops below 2-3.
And so I am reminded how little I know of running aquariums. I know of this sorta thing, but significance and ability to measure something I have to learn. The hardness increasing due to lack of water changes makes total sense. And kinda pushes me back toward the 'constant drain/top-off' automation I had started. Dangit.

Well, one thing at a time. Guess this will be a 'late 2018' project vs. sooner.


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