Thinking about starting over. - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-23-2019, 01:13 AM Thread Starter
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Thinking about starting over.

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
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-23-2019, 01:45 AM
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H.polysperma is a great indicator plant to let one know if something is wrong.
It reacts quick and can recover quick from water parameter changes.

How deep is the blasting sand cap?
I've always used 1-1/4 to 1-1/2" of cap over 3/4 to 1" of soil.
This allows a bit of substrate to be vacuumed but not to deep.

Sounds like you have a handle on the CO2 now.

Ferts:
I dose all of my capped soil tanks after the first week.
Lard on macros and very minimal micros.
I'm not recommending this method of dosing but has worked well for me.
Also used a very potent non-organic soil filled with poultry litter(crap).

Lighting has always been 100+PAR and I have no experience with any commercially available aquarium lights regarding PAR levels.


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Growing is not that difficult.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-23-2019, 02:38 AM
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@thatoneguy99, do not despair, you tank doesn't look too far gone to me. I too had some growing pains (which I've documented in my journal). A big part of my issues was general tank maintenance. Sounds like you've got a nice weekly routine going, but I think I would be wise to do 50% WC instead of 15-20%, and maybe for the first week do an 80%WC with a 50% mid-week. Make sure to scrub down the walls, filter, rocks, and even the wood (I have a tooth brush set aside for this, and scrub in the sink what I can). This should keep algae under control until you're plants start to take off. Keep your ferts going (what are they?), but realize that with low plant mass, you do not need to be in the upper EI ranges.

I don't know what kind of PAR you'd be getting either, but you can get a nice tank with low PAR. I'm at less than 50 PAR in my own tank. 6 hours should be plenty on a new, lightly planted tank. Maybe decrease ramp times to 15 minutes?

CO2 sounds like it's on point, but:

I see you have two heaters in there, is there a reason? What temperature is your water? Do you have any surface agitation? Looks pretty calm in the photos. Warmer water generally accelerates algae growth, as well as reduces the dissolved gases water can hold (disclaimer: not a scientist, just my experience with deaerating water). Low agitation, high CO2, and high temps will not bode well for fish and plants. Just because you have a good CO2 concentration in your water, does not mean you have enough O2 in your water. Until I set up my spray bar to agitate the surface of the water, it didn't take much CO2 injection to get my fish gasping for air. How are your fish doing, gills going like crazy?

In short:
1) WC and scrub
2) Dose ferts at lower concentrations
3) Decrease ramp time of lighting.
3) Get your tank flows up and try a slightly lower temp

Remember to be patient, these gorgeous tank we see weren't built in a day.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-24-2019, 04:46 PM
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I will tell you the first thing I was told when setting up my first planted tank.

More Plants
More Plants
More Plants

and when your done with that, add more plants.

It made quite the difference in my tank. It helped to stabilize the water which is better for the plants and animals.


Plus if you are having algae problems try adding some floating plants, they will strip out the nutrients that the algae uses. I was starting to get some green water and algae on my glass and rocks and added some Duckweed to the tank the the algae was gone in a few days. I did not even have to change my photo period.

I can send you some duckweed if you want to pay the postage. I have plenty... I was given a small clump of it a little over a month ago and now have some of it in my display tank and my sump is full of it.


Tim
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-24-2019, 09:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TDSapp View Post
I will tell you the first thing I was told when setting up my first planted tank.

More Plants
More Plants
More Plants

Tim

Bingo! This is what I recommend to anyone new to dirted tanks. More plants from the start gives you a better chance of having that nice planted tank you always wanted. plant around 70% of the tank and let the rest fill in over time. Your tank does not look bad at all so stick with it. Keep cleaning off the wood and it will go away over time. Another thing I recommend is get rid of your ramping light cycle. I know it might look cool and you think it may simulate nature but in planted tanks it doesn't seem to work as well. especially for new tanks. Give those plants the light they need from start to finish of the day so they can out compete the algae. I will say run your light at a lower intensity say around 70 or 80% until you see the plants settling in and growing and algae vanishing. Then once established you can turn the light up. If your tank ended up like the last scape I did in my 60 gallon you would have probably quit the hobby. Seriously it was 20 times worse then yours. I cannot say if the soil you used is good or not since I use miracle grow organic potting soil but I would imagine yours shouldn't be much different. Another thing to do is stop messing with the tank as much. You are changing to many variables to fast and I'm sure that is having an affect on the tank. Just relax, breathe and let the tank do its thing while you do your usual maintance.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-25-2019, 12:20 AM
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Best thing you can do right now is get good colony of frogbit floating around.

Things I see wrong with setup....

As stated above you need way more plant load.

Circulation across and into gravel bed and circulation in whole tank completely inadequate, hook up spray bar or nozzle on back wall and point it right down back wall at substrate. Your plants melting from root is sign that gravel/soil bed is stagnant and putrid, it’s a sulfide bomb. But be warned, when you set up this nozzle onto gravel bed you are going to get a big flush of nasty stuff purging in tank water, about 4-5hrs after you set nozzle up have a 50% water change ready to go, repeat next day also and then probably 25-30% water changes every other day for next week. Poor little Marimo ball covered in silt, you need way more circulation in tank.

You used way to much highly decomposed organic soil and not enough sand cap. You needed half that much soil and you should have cut it with some less broken down organic matter such sphagnum moss or coco peat, about 50/50 mix. Then topped that with at least 1.5-2” sand.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-26-2019, 04:37 PM Thread Starter
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Thank to everyone for the replies and sorry that it has taken me this long to write back. The wife has been out of town and its just me playing single dad. Not my favorite thing in the world to do.

Anyways, I have gone this morning and gotten supplies to make a DIY spray bar. 1/2" pipe and some fittings for the hoses coming from my canister filter. I have long thought that I had a flow problem but wasn't sure how to fix it.
As far as the "dirt" that I used. I did not put that whole bag into the tank. I would say I put maybe an inch or so of that dirt across the tank and then my cap is about 2". I sifted it a little bit to get rid of the big chunks. I also washed my blasting media really good before I put it in.

So my plan right now is to do a few things that you have suggested. Please let me know if I skimmed over something I should have read.

1) Get the spray bar made and pointed down at the substrate, from the top of the back wall.
2) With my fluval planted plus light there is no way to automate it, without it ramping up. So even if I said I wanted it full bright at 3pm, it will come on at 12 and ramp up to that time. So I will have to get some sort of timer. For now I think I will leave it the way it is.
3) I have added about a 1/4 cup worth of duckweed. Hopefully I do not regret that decision come July. (over run with duckweed)
4) Up my WCs to change out more water each time. Thinking 50% per week?
5) More plants. I'm not sure just what yet but I will be getting some more added. Any suggestions?

Again if I missed something please let me know. Thank you very much for the advice so far.

Bump: Oh and @carlsj2012 the tank is steady at 80 degrees. I used two heaters probably just from being naive. I used that same heater in a 10 gallon and thought that a 40 gallon would probably need two. They are both 50W. I guess I thought that it would be better at "evenly" heating the tank.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-28-2019, 02:36 AM
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The fluval planted plus doesnt have the normal timer setup? I know my fluval 3.0 will allow full bright or the ramp up depending on the time I determine. Wouldnt think they would do it differently for other lights. Worth looking into.

Algae is more then lighting, there are various influences although true lighting is one of them.

Hang in there and figure out whats going on, starting over doing basically the same thing I cant imagine would net you different long term results.

Why 80F? Just curious if thats a plant or fish setting your trying to achieve. Do you plant on putting in any livestock in the near future?
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-28-2019, 06:10 PM
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I don't have dirt in my new-ish 45 gallon, but I do have a green algae issue. I've dropped the light intensity down to 70% to see what that does and put in a new plant order this morning. It's difficult for me to do water changes on that tank. It's so tall on the stand and I have to do buckets. I need to do better at this.

As for the slime on the wood - it's hard to look at. Before the fish went in I kept trying to clean it off with a toothbrush. My platties eat it and now it's gone. I think adding the inflow pipe with the surface skimmer helped my tank flow. As for ferts I just got the Simple Green recently from Aquarium Co-Op. I'm dosing after water changes until I get more plant growth. For the most part all my plants seem to be doing great. I just need more of them, but I refuse to use duckweed. I toss out handfuls of red root floaters every other week (from my other 2 aquariums - not this one) so if someone wants some they should message me - I'll do it for postage or trade.

Don't make things too complicated. Try to relax, enjoy every moment, get used to everything. - Angelique Kerber
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-29-2019, 10:23 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
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The fluval planted plus doesnt have the normal timer setup? I know my fluval 3.0 will allow full bright or the ramp up depending on the time I determine. Wouldnt think they would do it differently for other lights. Worth looking into.

Algae is more then lighting, there are various influences although true lighting is one of them.

Hang in there and figure out whats going on, starting over doing basically the same thing I cant imagine would net you different long term results.

Why 80F? Just curious if thats a plant or fish setting your trying to achieve. Do you plant on putting in any livestock in the near future?
I will do another google search on the light settings. As for the temp yes I have fish in there. 6 diamond tetras and 7 corys. I have decided to not start over and get the flow figured out. I really think that will solve lots of my problems. I made a spray bar but I think it’s too long and there’s not enough pressure. Going to shorten it. Length wise it probably takes up 3/4ish of the tank. Going to try to cut it down to half of the length.
So hopefully flow, checking the light settings, and the duckweed will help out with my current issues. I’m just thankful I don’t also have cycle problems.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-29-2019, 11:38 PM
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The thing about algae is that it too is a plant, and what's conducive to plants...
After my first planted tank was set up I was having some problems with fish dying, algae growing everywhere, and so on, and realized that what I really needed was a UV light. I bought a rather "industrial" pond UV of about 37 watts or so, made some plumbing up to push the exhaust water from my canister filter through it, and am now on a second dirt tank and never have a problem with either fish diseases or algae. I have a 40-breeder with about 50-60 watts of LED (5600 K) which runs about 16 hours a day, and do get a minor film of algae on the water surface which would probably go away if I cut back the power or the hours, but no algae in the rest of the tank, on plants, wood, or substrate.
Anything that breaks the surface tension of the water will tend to facilitate the exchange of CO2 and O2, dispersing the CO2 you're trying to add in, defeating the purpose, imho. I've never found the need for CO2. In fact, previous tanks, once established, have grown plants so well that they begin to become a nuisance, choking out the tank, and requiring too much time-consuming trimming and maintenance. I rarely change water; maybe twice a year I swap about 50%. Think "ecosystem": with lots of fish, fertilizer is pointless as plants prefer getting ammonia from the water over Nitrogen from the soil (as the book says, and as experience indicates).
And as others have mentioned, your substrate looks like something is building up; fish food maybe? Any tank really needs to have "water in motion" everywhere, and a canister filter outflow should provide that. It's almost impossible to use too large a canister filter! I've done different dirt tanks, one with gravel and one with BD blasting sand and one difference I've noticed is that gunk tends to permeate and gather in a gravel substrate, whereas with the blasting sand, gunk doesn't seem can't penetrate or permeate, making it easier for the water to keep it in suspension and for the filter to pick up. No vacuuming!
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-30-2019, 02:14 AM
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Quote:
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The thing about algae is that it too is a plant, and what's conducive to plants...
After my first planted tank was set up I was having some problems with fish dying, algae growing everywhere, and so on, and realized that what I really needed was a UV light. I bought a rather "industrial" pond UV of about 37 watts or so, made some plumbing up to push the exhaust water from my canister filter through it, and am now on a second dirt tank and never have a problem with either fish diseases or algae. I have a 40-breeder with about 50-60 watts of LED (5600 K) which runs about 16 hours a day, and do get a minor film of algae on the water surface which would probably go away if I cut back the power or the hours, but no algae in the rest of the tank, on plants, wood, or substrate.
Anything that breaks the surface tension of the water will tend to facilitate the exchange of CO2 and O2, dispersing the CO2 you're trying to add in, defeating the purpose, imho. I've never found the need for CO2. In fact, previous tanks, once established, have grown plants so well that they begin to become a nuisance, choking out the tank, and requiring too much time-consuming trimming and maintenance. I rarely change water; maybe twice a year I swap about 50%. Think "ecosystem": with lots of fish, fertilizer is pointless as plants prefer getting ammonia from the water over Nitrogen from the soil (as the book says, and as experience indicates).
And as others have mentioned, your substrate looks like something is building up; fish food maybe? Any tank really needs to have "water in motion" everywhere, and a canister filter outflow should provide that. It's almost impossible to use too large a canister filter! I've done different dirt tanks, one with gravel and one with BD blasting sand and one difference I've noticed is that gunk tends to permeate and gather in a gravel substrate, whereas with the blasting sand, gunk doesn't seem can't penetrate or permeate, making it easier for the water to keep it in suspension and for the filter to pick up. No vacuuming!

Not sure I would reccomend only dong once a year water changes. That may work in certain situations however a "ecosystem" in nature is a million times larger then anything we have and is constantly replenished and naturally balanced. Like many say our tanks arent exactly "natural ecosystems" by any means.
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