This may be a longish post and may be all over the place. I apologize in advance. I am tired and just want to get this out into the world before I go to bed. I will try to be as detailed as possible.
I have a betta tank and it has been so easy for me. I decided to go with a 40breeder, so I could get more fish and do "high tech". It has been a small nightmare from the beginning.
I wanted that lush coveted planted tank and I tried to do as much research that I could and could understand. I went with a Finnex planted plus light fixture. I read/watched a video that a dirted tank will help provide nutrients to my plants and promote root growth better than just a substrate alone. So I went for it. This is the dirt that I used. Organic Potting Soil
. I then capped that with Black Beauty Blasting Media Black Beauty Link
. I added some dragon stone and spiderwood as my hardscape. Filled it super slow with tap water and Prime. The initial fill was good and it looked great. The next morning I had what appeared to be a biological bloom, from what I googled anyways. Once that slowly went away (about 5 days), the spiderwood was covered in some white/clear fuzz. I read that it was just fungus from the bacteria feeding on the wood.
For the most part that has not cleared up. I originally had two Aquaclear 50's on the tank and the tank was cycled/still is now. Once I noticed that the CO2 diffuser that I used wasnt working I started looking for other CO2 solutions. I switched to a Fluval 306, as I figured the surface agitation was causing the CO2 to not be able to build up. I wanted to do a DIY inline CO2 system with the canister filter. That didnt work out. Mainly because of leaking issues/ me not being able to find the right hose to switch what comes with the Fluval.
So I went with a powerhead and an Ista Max Mix reactor. Since doing those two things the CO2 level has been spot on, from what I know anyways. I see the 1 ph drop shortly after the lights come on and the CO2 turns off about an hour before lights out. I feel like I have CO2 figured out after tweaking bubble rates for a few weeks. Once that was working better I noticed that the white fuzz stuff on my spidwerood started to die off and go away. It is still there though. I try to suck as much of it off as possible with the gravel vac.
Just a few days ago I started to get algae show up on the dragon stone and on the leafs of my anubius. For right now the Finnex light fixture comes on at 12pm at a low level, ramps up to 3pm full light, then stays there until 6pm, then ramps down until 9pm where it goes off completely. Im thinking about changing the schedule to start at 3 instead of noon. Everything I read says that algae is because of lighting.
I just dont feel like I can fully come back from this. The plants aren't doing great, other than some jungle val and bacopa monnieri, everything has not been flourishing like I hoped. Damn near all of my ludwigia repens and hygrophila polysperma is gone or is not doing well. I had really bad stem death right at where it entered the substrate. Out of the maybe 30 stems I planted of those, 8-10 have survived total. Hell I couldnt even keep alive some dwarf sag.
I just feel like something is going on. I have 6 diamond tetras who seem to be doing fine. I had 8 corys but found one dead on Monday. Not sure why as the others are fine. I do a roughly 15-20% water change each weekend and use Prime during the refill EVERY time. No issues with the cycle and nitrate levels hover around 20 right before the water change.
I think I used the wrong dirt, or the wrong cap, or I need to be dosing some fert I dont know about. Is starting over a terrible idea? Does every beginner get to where I am at on their first big try? I am attaching some pictures and would really love some advice. One last thing is that the mulm that is on the substrate is really hard to actually get vacuumed up, as I dont want to disturb the dirt and make a mess. Any suggestions there would also be appreciated. Thank you to everyone in advance.
Here are the images. IMGUR link of pictures