Upgrading 165 gal freshwater show to planted tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-17-2019, 08:48 AM Thread Starter
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Upgrading 165 gal freshwater show to planted tank

Hello!
I just posted my intro in the lounge with the details of my tank and back ground. I have been keeping fresh water fish without Aquarium Plants since I was a child. My latest adventure started with learning about Refugiums and that has led me to having plants in my tank. This is my first adventure on a forum like this so if I say something wrong or should not be starting this thread, please be kind and guide me along the way to active participation. If you read my intro post you know I have an Apex and am active in adding automation to my tank. I need advice on fertilizer, Dosing that fertilizer. CO2 or not to CO2, monitoring and controlling different parameters, Advanced use of wood and plants in a large fish environment without invoking stress on the fish and finally the creation and use of refugiums in a fresh water tank. You see I have only one tank... No quarantine tank at this time. Once I have a fish they live for an average of 10 years. Maybe you can teach me to manage plants like this?

So where am I on this adventure:
1. I have collected wood and plants for the big tank. The wood is cooking with a target temp of 180F (see Picture) and the fish are looking at the plants I plan to glue to it as I write this (see Picture). Hopefully I will show progress next week.
2. The plants needed fertilizer (see intro page) so I used some... I grew lots of new Stag Horn Algae in one refugium and used Excel which stressed the fish and they all came down with Ich (evidently came in on the plants) 3 weeks ago. Huge fight with two large fish lost to date, as this appears to be a temperature and drug resistant strain.
3. Being afraid of adding Chemical Carbon I am researching CO2 and looking for advice. From what I can see the best place to apply this is to place a diffuser of some kind in front of my COR20 Pump inlet in my sump. I can use the Apex to control it. No clue about what targets to set
4. Dosing of fertilizer can be done automatically using the DOS from Apex using the PPS Pro system (based on my own research) again no clue about the targets and tests I should run to zero this in. Plus I have the huge bio-load to eat. I know that Jungle Val needs more Iron than other plants so I will need to alter the standard mix.

A picture of the back of my tank showing the refugiums, Sump and hardware is in the intro I posted today.

Any suggestion or comment is welcome. Especially those that direct me to applicable threads where I can learn from other people's adventures.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-17-2019, 09:44 AM
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Welcome to TPT.

A place to start is to ask yourself "what kind of a planted tank I want" and "what is more important to me: plants or fish?".
Looking at your fish (I love Blood Parrots), you are unlikely to end up with a Dutch-type tank, with "fancy" and colorful plants.

If you want to have more live greenery in the tank, I would suggest a multi-step approach, with the step 1 being:
- go with plants that are hardy and grow well attached to wood and rocks, like Java Fern, Anubias, Bolbitis, and such. These plants do not need much light, co2, or fertilizer. If automation is a big part of your interest, then I would focus more on monitoring water conditions like temperature, TDS, macro concentration (NPK - not easy) and light control. Your bigger challenge is your bio-load (organics) and, subsequently, keeping BBA at bay. This is a good time to look into floating plants like Amazon Frogbit, Water Lettuce, Salvinia minima, Hornwort.

Once you are happy with Step 1 above, I would add plants like Swords, Ludwigia repens, Brazilian Pennywort, Ambulia, Rotala rotundifilia, Hygrophila corymbosa / polysperma / Siamensis, Bacopa. My goals would be: a) see what plants will get eaten / moved around b) otherwise, do well in your conditions c) add a wider variety and color. Once this step is stable, I would move into regular fertilization and co2 to increase plants health and growth.

A couple of thread to get you going:
- https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...-mbuna%5D.html
- https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...g-diagram.html
- https://www.advancedplantedtank.com/

Have fun!
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-17-2019, 02:39 PM
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Rainbow Cichlids are great fish. They do like a salad bar. They will also affect the KInd of plants that will work. Mine will eat many stems. Swords, crypts, hygrofilla they tend to leave alone

My advice, decide exactly what fish interest you the most and then some trial and error on plants that will work

Decide on diffuser or reactor for co2 and how much flow you will need to keep that much water moving.

Once you know how fauna affect flora choices and how to get co2 into the tank and flowing you will have a better idea of how to fertilize and how much light will be needed


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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-17-2019, 08:49 PM Thread Starter
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OVT!

What a great reply. Note I have only 1 tank so my interest is limited to what I can do in the refugium and main chamber. My sump is working well so I hesitate to mess with it.

Whats most important to me is the eco system in the tank followed by the fish. Living things under my control are part of my family and it is my responsibility to care for them. Note that my aquatic plant interest started in the filter. My job puts me on the road for 12 or more weeks a year. This makes me use automation and thus the apex is not optional.

I have the wood and the plants that I think will work. The plants have been in the tank with my monsters for over a month and the only casualties are from the fertilization deficiencies and not the fish so it is a matter of removing the plastic, attaching the plants to wood and getting them in there. I leave my colorful plant needs in my extensive garden. Things need to work here. By work they need to look good and provide benefit to the ecosystem. No time for fussy things. Delicate plants and animals can live in the refugium eating waste and Algae. Trickle filters and overflow boxes are not compatible with floating plants so they must either be huge and anchored or avoided.

OMG The links you provided are fantastic. This will kill my social as I now have several months of reading to do.

Black Beard and Stag Horn Algae seem to be the enemy of this hobby so I am most interested in how the people who wrote the links and the books referenced in the links solved this difficult issue. Difficult for me as I want to grow algae to consume waste so the biology of each algae will be important.

Thank you so much for your great post!

mbkemp,

Good advice. This is a retrofit so fish and good bio filtration systems already exist. What I add now must be compatible with what is there. The big issue with the fish is not the nibbling on the plants but the wanting to build nests in them hide or in the case of the Electric Blue's, to lay eggs. my wood eating pleco's are getting big and the existing wood is shrinking. Good timing to add new and attach large Anubias and Java Ferns to them. Already ruled out Jungle Val and other soft or planted plants from the big tank. The work great in the refugiums to eat whatever ammonia or Nitrate that floats by. I have large air walls and air stones not to mention the Neptune Cor20 recirculating pump in the system. Lots of flow! One new addition are Panda Gara in the refugiums to help out the nerite snails with the algae. The guy at who sold them to me told me they eat Stag Horn Algae. I think he was smoking something cause they swim through it like it is just another plant. They sure eat lots of spot algae to the point I think they will starve the Nerite snails.

Thanks for the advice. Hopefully the wood will go into the tank for acclimation today. I will post a picture if it does.
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Last edited by Darkblade48; 02-26-2019 at 01:41 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-17-2019, 10:52 PM
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What are the dimentions of the refugium?

Adding fish to help with algae is counter-intuitive to me, as more fish = more net waste. Depending on your set-up, you might want to look into riparian set up as it will help with biological filtration and add to the ecosystem. If you still want more pets, Hillstream Loaches love and need high flow, high oxygen environment.

Growing algae in a refugium is a salt water concept and its applicability to fresh water is debatable. The algae spores just might like your main tank better.

If you are traveling a lot, injected co2 would be the last thing I would add - a single mistake or an oversight could easily result in all fish dead. I would also argue that a stable environment trumps the benefits of co2 that might be jumping up and down. Automation can fail.

I would also recommend you test and learn your water (check your water District reports) before jumping into fertilization. Adding more chemicals that you might already have in excess would not make sense. Find what is lacking for the plants first. After that, pre-mixing dry fertilizers and using dosing pumps does make sense.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-18-2019, 01:39 AM
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Living things under my control are part of my family and it is my responsibility to care for them.
These words strike home for me. Well said!!
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-18-2019, 06:46 AM Thread Starter
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AquaScape She is Adorable! She will grow up to be a Fish Keeper. That was me 60 years ago with my dad. Brings back a lot of memories of helping him mess with our tanks! *wonders why Allexx46's avatar is not posting*

OVT,

My Refugiums are built inside my overflows. They are 12 wide, 6 Deep and filled to 24" of total height of 30".

Your post is full of good info that I will take! Oregon has really pure water so it is not necessary to make too many changes. If the fish are breeding that means they are happy. I get the caution remarks about moving too fast. Adding fertilizer got me in trouble so I will start low and move up. Just moved the wood into the tank Plants are not attached yet. I want to watch for issues before attaching the plants. Algae is not such a problem in the big tank due to controlling light. Today I noted the Stag Horn Algae in the refugium is turning red and dying so I am doing something right. Need to figure out what that is. Pictures of my tank and refugiums are in my first post. Do you know how to turn a picture 90 degrees? (was not uploaded that way).
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Last edited by Darkblade48; 02-18-2019 at 11:13 PM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-20-2019, 12:57 AM
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AquaScape She is Adorable! She will grow up to be a Fish Keeper. That was me 60 years ago with my dad. Brings back a lot of memories of helping him mess with our tanks!
Thank you! One of her greatest joys is hand feeding the fish with Daddy. Mine as well.
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-25-2019, 08:03 AM Thread Starter
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Added the Wood and the Plants.

After cooking the wood for several hours at 180F I let is rest in clear water for a week. Worked out a lay out and removed my plastic wood and plants and moved in the wood. No negative reaction from the fish during the week even though I was finishing the treatment for Ich. Lost a 3 year old Pictus cat to the treatment. Ich left him a week ago. Ich is gone and fish are back to breeding activity. 50% water change and restored the carbon and Ammo chip filter bags I had been holding out of the tank while I treated the Ich. Hope the filter bags do not bring it back. Suposidly if there is no fish the Ich dies in a few weeks. We will test that theory!

Spent the day fastening the plants to the wood. YouTube has been very helpful with lots of video on how to cook wood that will not fin in a pan. I did not know how easy it wad to fasten plants to wood with super glue gel.

Added 1/4 dose of ThriveC. So far all are happy. Net week will tell. Hope the picture uploaded. Anyone have a good read on how to tell if I need CO2?
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-01-2019, 03:03 AM Thread Starter
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Controlling CO2 via pH with pH 7 buffer in the tank

I am not new to fish but am new to plants. My 165 gal tank is full of big fish with tremendous bio load. I have a great sump that gets rid of all the nitrates. Before I planted the tank It needed a water change once a month and a gravel scrub once every 3 months. I run an Apex so I guess I have a hybrid tank because I am not using CO2 but have have all the other technology. I got by with few water changes because I controlled pH with Sea Chem pH 7 buffer and coral. Sea Chem pH 7 buffer has phosphates in it. After my first dose with 25% of recommended dose of ThriveC I Instantly I have BBA on a plant that has been clean for 2 months. But for the fist time I see plant growth in other plants that were just sitting there. I am looking at CO2 which I can control with my Apex and pH.

Here is my first question: How can I control CO2 with pH when I have buffers and coral maintaining the pH?

Second Question: If I chose to not use CO2 it seems I am left with dosing Excel to control the algae. Is this the case?

If answers are on other Threads please help me find them. Most threads including this one are on tanks set up as planted tanks where they carefully add fish. Mine is a tank set up as a community tank using large South American fish that do not eat plants. I am carefully adding plants....

See my tank, infected plant and some shots of my fish. Electric Blue Acara is 7" long.

I searched the forum and found lots of other people having problems with rotated pictures on upload. No Fix's or directions I can find. Anyone have or can direct me to a solution?
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-01-2019, 11:04 AM
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Images on TPT: I gave up on TPT's image handling. I upload pictures to imgur.com first and then embed links to them in my TPT posts.

@allexx46, I keep coming back to your thread because your tank made me consider keeping Blood Parrots again. Therefore, I am going through a similar thought process, weighting cons and pros and looking for an approach.

My original comments still stand and I'll try not to repeat myself.

CO2: you will drive yourself crazy while fighting chemistry. Try to think through what will happen when you add injected co2 in your situation. Phosphate buffer + corral + pH controller + co2. Worth reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonic_acid. The end result is constant, if slight, fluctuations in kH, pH, and co2 concentration. The more you inject, the bigger the amplitude of fluctuations. Exactly the opposite of what you aim for - stability. Moreover, co2 is not a magic bullet against algae. Algae likes co2 as much as the plants and I will bet you a box of plants that, in your situation, the algae will be the primary beneficiary. The air bubblers at the back of your tank will also work against effective co2 supplementation.

Excel: aka CO2 booster aka glut aka Metricide and the rest, a) not effective algaecide at maintenance dosage b) effectively kills algae while damaging plants at effective treatment dosage c) slight, if hard to quantify, improvement in growth of some plant spicies when co2 is at low levels ( ~ < 5 ppm).

Plants: again IMHO, spend $50 and get a) 2 bunches of Ambulia b) 2 -3 Azelot / Osiris//Mellon / Amazon swords (in the order of leaf durability) c) a dozen Jungle Vals d) Red Lotus Tiger. Dump them into the tank. The swords and, likely, Vals will go through transition, dumping nutrients - increase your water changes. The parrots will move the plants where they like them - and those will be the only places where the plants might survive. With just these plants + Java Fern + Anubis you can have a fully planted, fully scapped, vibrantly green and red tank. Heck, I have fully planted tanks with less species.

But you are not done yet. You cannot leave rosette plants (like swords, vals, crypts) in containers and expect them to grow normally in the long term. They need to be freely planted and for that you would need a lot more substrate then you have now. And that leads to a vicious circle: more substrate means more debris traps, resulting in more maintenance to keep the water lean. Stem plants (like Ambulia) will do just fine held down with plant weights. Ambulia grows ~ 6" per week in low light condition, worst case you replant every couple of weeks to keep the tank green. Almost anything you add to the tank means more maintenance then what you are doing now.

I am as eager as you are to find other solutions to the large fish vs diverse plants co-existence. The above is the best I can personally do.

I have posted these pictures of my low light, no co2, lean fertilizer tanks before. Hoipefully, they will give you some ideas what is doable with just a few plants species chosen carefully.

Java Fern, Ambulia and floaters only:



Blood Parrots, bare bottom tank:



I am crazy as I am considering the same headache again:





Different times: gentler fish, different water, but still no co2:

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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-02-2019, 08:44 AM Thread Starter
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Amazing Pictures.

OVT,

Beautiful planted tanks. No CO2... very little Algae with beautifully grown high light plants... WOW The Ultimate in Planted tanks. Planted Discus tanks are soo rare. Considered the ultimate accomplishment.. in freshwater fish keeping. Congratulations. Teach me how to do this.

My experience in raising fish tells me that I need to vacuum the fish waste out of the gravel at least once every 3 months or I start having serious fish health issues due to the anaerobic toxins starting to form deep down under all the poop. How did you manage to deal with the amount of waste that accumulated in the gravel from those Parrots without destroying the root systems of the planted plants? I mean they are not Oscars but almost...
Ever tried Oscars? Best personality of any Cichlid, love to be petted and played with. But O SOO dirty! Terrorist to anything pretty in the tank. No need to worry about poop in the gravel with them.. They dig it up and recycle it. They come is soo many cool colors now. If my wife would let me have more tanks I would have a pet Oscar. The exact opposite of the skidish and dainty discus.

I started researching the plants in your recommended plant list in the last post and realized a good number of them needed to be planted in the substrate. My first reaction was this guy is crazy if he thinks planting anything under my big "Big Poopers" is going to work. Looking at the pictures you posted of your blood Parrots in the bare bottom and then in planted tanks I can see you moving cautiously like I am now. Something worked at least for a while because the planted picture shows a beautiful tank. I take it from your desire to "go back and try Blood Parrots again" that something happened to the beautiful tank full of plants and Blood Parrots. What did you learn? Evidently a lot because you created a planted Discus tank full of light demanding planted plants.


By the way. I reached in to physically remove what I thought was Black Beard Algae off the Giant Anubias and found it to be black spots and looking closer finding some chlorosis. This is looking more like chemical damage. I did add some Equilibrium to the tank trying to bring down my ORP and some of it sat on the leaves for a few minutes before I noticed that it does not dissolve very fast and removed it. There is a saying in the Greenhouse industry: "Growers learn by killing." Unfortunately this also means that best Growers have killed a lot of plants! I suppose this is true of fish keepers too. That plant was soo pretty! I am learning!
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Last edited by allexx46; 03-02-2019 at 08:57 AM. Reason: was able to see more pictures from a post
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-02-2019, 11:57 AM
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What happened? We moved 150 mi and I gave that tank and everything inside away. In retrospect, a mistake made in a rush. I had that 75g tall tank for some 18 years.

I did a Google search on "blood parrot tank" -> pictures and my tank comes up in the second place.
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Last edited by Darkblade48; 03-03-2019 at 06:09 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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