Give Me Courage (and advice)! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-20-2019, 02:18 PM Thread Starter
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Give Me Courage (and advice)!

This tank was donated to me/my work place last August, and it's magic. Beautiful, full of life, and just lovely. The prior owner gave me the whole set-up, so we drained it 3/4 of the way, put it in my Traverse, and drove carefully a couple miles across town to my workplace, where we set it all back up immediately. It had a smattering of leftover fish that hadn't passed yet due to old age, and a bunch of red cherry shrimp. The tank now holds a couple of the leftover tetras, some otos & a twig catfish, a dozen(ish) male guppies, a decent handful of snails, and a million shrimp.

Though I now take care of about 10 other tanks regularly, this 29 gallon is the biggest, and has the most amazing plants (not surprising, since most of the other tanks are younger). That said, the plant on the left (cyperus helferi, I believe, after extensive online searching and a look at the available plants at PetSmart, which is where the owner bought his setup) is...not doing well. The prior owner taught me to cut the tops off when they got too tall, but I've since learned this is not what you are supposed to do, and I think the nutrient change, and possibly the flow rate from the filter (since I started cleaning it MUCH more frequently) has thrown it off. It's worth noting I've started dosing Easy Green from aquarium co-op in the last month, but I haven't seen much difference yet. Maybe I need root tabs for this plant instead? The crypts certainly seem to get all the nutrients they need!

This first picture shows the plant in early December -- I had just cut it down the way I had been told to, and was cleaning the filter for the first time (he had said to do it once every 3 months...after this I started doing it monthly).

The second picture is in mid January, I removed several of the sideshoots to put in other tanks (and to try to get rid of some of the dying bits, which you cannot see in this pic), and the crypt that had been tiny (between the Cyperus Helferi) before has started to grow in size.

This third picture is today. I've since removed a dozen or two dozen more sideshoots/baby plants, and though I'm still seeing new growth, the stuff in the middle that is the tallest is still completely crummy looking...

The last pic is a closeup so you can actually see what I'm talking about (my apologies for all the pics being at the bottom -- I don't know how to insert them in the text *sigh* )

So now I'm contemplating messing with this almost-perfect (for me, anyway) tank some more, and ripping the entire plant out, removing all the dead stuff, strand by strand, and then replanting it. I just don't know what else to do! Or maybe I should pull out those 2 crypts that are taking over the area, instead? I could easily put them in another tank.

Am I crazy? Will I kill it all together? Can I even reach it (I'm only 5'1" lol)?!

Please, give me courage! And advice! I'm so afraid to do something to ruin this amazing tank!

Technical details:

no CO2
inert substrate (or it is by now, if it wasn't before -- the tank is at least 5 years old, I think)
light is a finnex 20 watt LED
ph drops fairly low in my tanks -- 6.2 sometimes, though when nitrates are higher it seems the pH is often 6.8? My KH is often hard to even detect, and GH is...75-150? This is similar to my home tanks, and aged tap water, IIRC.
no ammonia or nitrite that I've noticed in recent history, nitrates usually in the 20ish area, though they were up to 80 before I introduced the frogbit, the HOB filter with the bamboo, and started doing an extra 30% water change every 1-2 weeks (instead of just 1/week).

I do not have my testing kit with me at work (and haven't convinced the boss to pony up for one yet, lol), so I cannot give exact #s today. I can bring it in tomorrow if it is really needed.
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-20-2019, 04:33 PM
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One question before I write a lengthly response no doubt
You said ' I think the nutrient change, and possibly the flow rate from the filter (since I started cleaning it MUCH more frequently) has thrown it off. '

You have been cleaning the filter? may i ask how?
(your water parameters are a bit suspect- I think it should be easy to troubleshoot your issue)

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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-20-2019, 05:04 PM Thread Starter
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One question before I write a lengthly response no doubt
You said ' I think the nutrient change, and possibly the flow rate from the filter (since I started cleaning it MUCH more frequently) has thrown it off. '

You have been cleaning the filter? may i ask how?
(your water parameters are a bit suspect- I think it should be easy to troubleshoot your issue)
Once a month I remove the filter and set it on my rolling cart. I open it, squeeze out the 2 filter sponges in dirty tank water. Then I swish the motor part through the tank water & remove any large bits of goo that could be gumming up the works. I do a quick scrape to remove any algae that will come off the plastic overall as well. Last, I quick swish the ceramic rings through the dirty tank water to get the big bits out as well (I should probably add filter floss or a fine poly pad somewhere at some point, but I don't want to reduce the flow rate...though maybe that plant would do better if I did!)

Then I spend 20 minutes with weird makeshift tools, searching for all the shrimp that are rolling around in the puddles on my cart, and leave the bucket of used tank water on the floor for 2 days to scoop out all the shrimp that were in the sponges I squeezed out. So maybe the flowrate isn't that high after all, as the little dudes seem to live happily IN the filter pretty regularly??

The guy who gave me the tank said to squeeze out or replace the sponges once every 3 months, but to never clean any other part of the filter & that the copious amounts of black tar goo in the chamber with the ceramic rings was a good thing... I'm not scrubbing or anything, but...eww.

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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-20-2019, 05:09 PM
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Some basic thoughts that may give some confidence?
I like to use a steady approach and avoid doing too much at one time to allow the tank to remain as stable as possible but in this case, that's hard to do. Moving is upsetting, for tanks as well as people and they do require much the same treatment. A steady hand after the move, perhaps?
Looking at the move, you will see that lots of things were changed as the water did slosh back and forth, upsetting the normal. Things hidden in the substrate were stirred into the open water. Bacteria living on all the surfaces and especially the sub were lost to some degree. Bacteria need O2 and don't get it if they wind up covered in the sub! Roots were moved, jostled or rearranged, so they kind of take a hit. Combine disrupted roots and possible ammonia spikes and things can hit a rough spot, so I do no do too much moving and shifting as that also disrupts things again. Obvious dead material should be clipped and removed as it is not going to come back and will certainly lead to more waste questions. I do not recommend cleaning the filter extra special as that can also kill good bacteria and you might be short already but I do recommend more water changes if things look iffy on that point. Plants rarely die from extra waste and fish do not either IF we take good care of the bacteria and have enough around to deal with the ammonia increase and then we do the water changes needed to remove the nitrate high we may get.
Steady as she goes and then gradually look at each plant and sort out why that one is not doing as well as needed and only then do I make sudden changes but one change at a time while watching if what I did was right or wrong. I can only watch one ball at a times so I try not to get too many moving at the same time.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-20-2019, 05:33 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
Some basic thoughts that may give some confidence?
I like to use a steady approach and avoid doing too much at one time to allow the tank to remain as stable as possible but in this case, that's hard to do. Moving is upsetting, for tanks as well as people and they do require much the same treatment. A steady hand after the move, perhaps?
Looking at the move, you will see that lots of things were changed as the water did slosh back and forth, upsetting the normal. Things hidden in the substrate were stirred into the open water. Bacteria living on all the surfaces and especially the sub were lost to some degree. Bacteria need O2 and don't get it if they wind up covered in the sub! Roots were moved, jostled or rearranged, so they kind of take a hit. Combine disrupted roots and possible ammonia spikes and things can hit a rough spot, so I do no do too much moving and shifting as that also disrupts things again. Obvious dead material should be clipped and removed as it is not going to come back and will certainly lead to more waste questions. I do not recommend cleaning the filter extra special as that can also kill good bacteria and you might be short already but I do recommend more water changes if things look iffy on that point. Plants rarely die from extra waste and fish do not either IF we take good care of the bacteria and have enough around to deal with the ammonia increase and then we do the water changes needed to remove the nitrate high we may get.
Steady as she goes and then gradually look at each plant and sort out why that one is not doing as well as needed and only then do I make sudden changes but one change at a time while watching if what I did was right or wrong. I can only watch one ball at a times so I try not to get too many moving at the same time.
Very good points -- I hadn't thought of the mess released into the water column with the shaking up of the aquarium in transport. Still, that was in late August and the pictures are from December, January & June, so I don't think we're dealing with that (possible) ammonia spike anymore. I'm sure all the backstory just confused things, I'm a classic over-sharer, lol.

I will say that I've probably messed with it too much sometimes -- I tend to do 4 different things at once, then sit back for a few months to see what happens. I think I added the HOB with the bamboo, the extra water changes, and the extra oto back in mid-late February, to improve the water chemistry (mainly for this plant, and so the tank would be ready for the increased bio-load when I added all the guppies back in).

I started using the Easy Green a few weeks ago. The plant continues to look worse though. I'd love to snip the dying leaves and leave the roots undisturbed, but I can't actually get my scissors down to the base with the plant in the tank. With a footstool I can reach, but I still cannot see very well, and the plant is too tightly packed together to snip individual blades (leaves).

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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-20-2019, 07:18 PM
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You may have written too much orI might also not read enough! No big thing, this communication stuff is hard!
When I find a plant that doesn't seem to be doing right, I jump to looking at one of these charts of nutrient deficiency and after looking over a few, I may spot something that looks just like my plant! If so lucky, I then move to trying to add a bit more of this or that and watch what may change on that plant. I like using dry ferts for the ease of adding one single item like nitrate without also adding other things that I don't want. Not wanting to try to change what you do, just saying what fits the way I work. Sometimes I get lucky on the first shot but there are also times when I eventually just say that particular plant doesn't like my tank or water and throw it out!
Mostly I've learned to not be too hard on myself and just shoot for having the best planted tank on the block and fine with that, without mention that it is the ONLY planted tank on the block!
Fully agree that you are likely past the ammonia/ too much stirring stage and possibly time to trouble shoot each time to correct and that can get into tricky parts. One of my main hangups for some plants is that my water is way high in Calcium due to setting in/on limestone and that major Ca keeps some plants from using the iron, even when I dose extra. Works the same in the yard and I often see iron chloris and yellowing leaves but the solution is not adding more nitrate but adding more magnesium which in turn allows the plant to use the iron in the soil.
Not a terribly easy game but great for folks who like a challenge?
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-20-2019, 07:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cinnamonamon View Post
I think I added the HOB with the bamboo, the extra water changes, and the extra oto back in mid-late February, to improve the water chemistry (mainly for this plant, and so the tank would be ready for the increased bio-load when I added all the guppies back in).

I started using the Easy Green a few weeks ago. The plant continues to look worse though. I'd love to snip the dying leaves and leave the roots undisturbed, but I can't actually get my scissors down to the base with the plant in the tank. With a footstool I can reach, but I still cannot see very well, and the plant is too tightly packed together to snip individual blades (leaves).
I had to read up on Easy Green. At face value seems like a good product but I know nothing in depth about it.

That looks like a phosphate deficiency to me. When that happens the leaves get brown patches and 'dissolve'. This melting creates a uneven water column.... It often happened when I did too many water changes. Its good you are adding ferts now, but real water test results can help. Some others may be able to assist.

The amount of guppies in there is heavy. Guppies eat everything from algae, plants, fish food to live food (their own fry or shrimp). They create a pretty decent bioload, and then quadruple it monthly like clockwork.

With your 'short issue'.... that's easy, drink more milk (sorry- old commercial im sure no one gets the joke). All joking aside, you do need to access the tank, so mabe a little step ladder is in order or a separate stand (fun project!?). I have had tanks I couldn't preform mandatory maintenance that became 'troublesome' as the months went by because I didnt have proper access.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
Calcium due to setting in/on limestone and that major Ca keeps some plants from using the iron, even when I dose extra. Works the same in the yard and I often see iron chloris and yellowing leaves but the solution is not adding more nitrate but adding more magnesium which in turn allows the plant to use the iron in the soil.
Good point. When in doubt- I believe it is usually magnesium or potassium that end up pestering my plants.

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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-20-2019, 07:53 PM Thread Starter
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I had to read up on Easy Green. At face value seems like a good product but I know nothing in depth about it.
I've spent some time on the Aquarium Co-op site, and watched countless videos made by Cory, so I was pretty confident in the choice. I probably haven't given it enough of a chance.

That looks like a phosphate deficiency to me. When that happens the leaves get brown patches and 'dissolve'. This melting creates a uneven water column.... It often happened when I did too many water changes. Its good you are adding ferts now, but real water test results can help. Some others may be able to assist.
You know, in my research I've had the passing "phosphate" thought, too. Then I get distracted by the 27 other possibilities and don't look at it anymore! I just turned this up with a quick google search: https://www.thesprucepets.com/phosph...uarium-1381884 and I wonder if I haven't been over zealous in my gravel vacuuming near the plant?! The crypts seem to grow no matter what, but maybe I've been taking too many nutrients from the cyperus...

The amount of guppies in there is heavy. Guppies eat everything from algae, plants, fish food to live food (their own fry or shrimp). They create a pretty decent bioload, and then quadruple it monthly like clockwork.
Yea, the guppy load has been crazy -- anywhere from 7 - 25, depending on how many teachers still had their classroom tanks. I do keep only the males in this tank, so no babies, at least! I'm down to 15 now, and some are a year old, so though I may eventually move juvenile males in, it won't be for a few months, I hope. I am crossing my fingers that the females eat most of their fry for a while -- I have about 15 of them as well as 8 juvenile females in my 10 gallon tanks at the moment. The whole point of the work tanks are to house guppies & mystery snails though, so they won't be going away anytime soon, lol. Keeping the plants is mostly for me (and overall fishie health, of course!).

With your 'short issue'.... that's easy, drink more milk (sorry- old commercial im sure no one gets the joke). All joking aside, you do need to access the tank, so mabe a little step ladder is in order or a separate stand (fun project!?). I have had tanks I couldn't preform mandatory maintenance that became 'troublesome' as the months went by because I didnt have proper access.
ha! I got the joke...I must be old, too! I did pull out a step ladder/stool -- took me a bit to find it initially. My co-worker is probably over 6 foot, so I usually just point & he gets things for me!
Quote:
Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
When I find a plant that doesn't seem to be doing right, I jump to looking at one of these charts of nutrient deficiency and after looking over a few, I may spot something that looks just like my plant! If so lucky, I then move to trying to add a bit more of this or that and watch what may change on that plant. I like using dry ferts for the ease of adding one single item like nitrate without also adding other things that I don't want. Not wanting to try to change what you do, just saying what fits the way I work. Sometimes I get lucky on the first shot but there are also times when I eventually just say that particular plant doesn't like my tank or water and throw it out!
Mostly I've learned to not be too hard on myself and just shoot for having the best planted tank on the block and fine with that, without mention that it is the ONLY planted tank on the block!
I like how you think! I'm not quite ready to start with individual dry ferts (because I have a habit of wanting to know EVERYTHING before I start something new, and this whole fert thing is a huge rabbit hole), but I do think it probably is just a specific nutrient or so. Also, I just tossed a plant from a tank at home because I realized that fighting with it was silly, and my tank could look lovely without it! That said, I did just order some crushed coral for my tanks...but that is because my mystery snails need a little help!

After "talking" this through with you all today, I think I'm going to pull the crypt that has grown up between the two plants, and stop vacuuming near the bases of them and then see what happens. This seems to be a plant that takes a while to redevelop roots once it's been messed with, whereas the crypts grow & transplant easily. I'll also keep an eye out for things in that article above, and do the opposite (since I likely have too few phosphates, not too many, lol). I'll keep up with the fertilizer too of course!

Thanks for your help @livebearerlove and @PlantedRich

ETA: Oh my freaking goodness!!! I JUST remembered that the old owner of the tank used to dump Seachem "Neutral Regulator" in the tank after he cleaned out the filthy filter! It says it contains "phosphate buffers." It never occurred to me that something that "fixes" pH would have anything to do with a needed plant nutrient (because obviously I do not know nearly enough about the science behind plant growth/planted aquariums)!

...so would it be a bad idea to sprinkle a little in, to help the cyperus out? I mean I have this almost full 1 pound container just sitting here, after all... (note that I would rather keep my fish/snails/shrimp healthy than my plant)

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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-20-2019, 08:15 PM
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@Cinnamonamon
Sometimes it just takes a dialog (which you are especially good at!). I think I fail at reading sometimes when it is too wordy, but hopefully you found a path that will assist you. Cheers!
EDIT: we posted at the same time. It would be good to have new readings of the tank.... finding that out will help a ton. You can test for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and also phosphates.

Just remember- everyone has their own protocols. No one is right nor wrong. Just different.
But you seem to be diligently working towards a solution which is important.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-20-2019, 08:45 PM Thread Starter
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@Cinnamonamon
Sometimes it just takes a dialog (which you are especially good at!). I think I fail at reading sometimes when it is too wordy, but hopefully you found a path that will assist you. Cheers!
EDIT: we posted at the same time. It would be good to have new readings of the tank.... finding that out will help a ton. You can test for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and also phosphates.

Just remember- everyone has their own protocols. No one is right nor wrong. Just different.
But you seem to be diligently working towards a solution which is important.
You have a nice way of saying I talk a lot! I'll grab readings next week (summer hours are Monday - Thursday) -- it's been a while, and I've exhausted the strip tests the boss bought.

I just pulled the crypt and holy crumb! The root on it was over 2 foot long, lol. There ended up being 2 smaller (but significantly sized) crypts behind it too, so I pulled those as well. I've turned the filter back on to clear the water a bit so I can see to push things back into the substrate, and to replace the rocks (which are currently chilling in a bucket of dirty water, so they don't dry out & lose the slime & algae the shrimpies so love).

Here is a little catfish cuteness -- I can't believe he did this, lol (he is on the outside of the tube, not the inside).
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-21-2019, 12:24 AM
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QUOTE:
You have a nice way of saying I talk a lot!
Maybe true, maybe not,but the alternate is not talking enough and that makes it really hard to make any sense at all. I like to get as much info as possible when I read a post. From another perspective, I see no reason anybody should be shy about using all the digital space they want as so much of it is truly a waste! And just think how bad a forum gets when nobody talks!!!
Carry on and don't worry the wasted space critics!
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 08:06 PM Thread Starter
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Monday Update!

All fauna seem to have survived the upheaval! I forgot my testing kit (and don't have a phosphate one yet), but I think the added space is going to help. I moved the rocks too -- and created a barrier with them to prevent the crypts from too easily growing into the cyperus helferi, again.

The female guppies (and the snails & ghost shrimp) in the other work tanks are very happy with all the plants they received, and I'm loving looking at them!
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 02:28 PM
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Monday Update!

All fauna seem to have survived the upheaval! I forgot my testing kit (and don't have a phosphate one yet), but I think the added space is going to help. I moved the rocks too -- and created a barrier with them to prevent the crypts from too easily growing into the cyperus helferi, again.

The female guppies (and the snails & ghost shrimp) in the other work tanks are very happy with all the plants they received, and I'm loving looking at them!
Perfect example of being an aqua-lover. I have a few overgrowing established tanks and therefore use the trimmings for other tanks- be careful.... next thing you will be like me with 9 tanks because you cant stand to throw away good plants!

Added: I will get stoned for this- but depending on your species (guppies) there is no need for a heater unless it dips extremely low at night. Water actually will retain a small amount of warms, heat up during the day with your lights, then taper off. As long as your room is not below 70, you can get away with it. You will find- they breed slower, and grow slower, but they grow stronger. Fry in higher heat conditions grow faster with lower life expectancy, generally speaking.

Congrats on your success, you are done such an amazing job. Do purchase that phosphate test kit. I never thought I needed one till my tanks really started to grow out and realized something was a miss. You know how to PM me if its a quick question! I love how much enthusiasm you have in your posts. Cheers.

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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 05:58 PM Thread Starter
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perfect example of being an aqua-lover. I have a few overgrowing established tanks and therefore use the trimmings for other tanks- be careful.... Next thing you will be like me with 9 tanks because you cant stand to throw away good plants!
oh yea...the rabbit hole i've fallen down is so deep i cannot even see the sun! when i started this job they had two tanks -- a 5 and a 10 gallon, to house any fish that survived the science unit in the kindergarten classes. Now we have four 10 gallon tanks, and the 29 gallon, lol. At home i now have a 15 gallon tank, three 5 gallon tanks, and 2 jars.

added: I will get stoned for this- but depending on your species (guppies) there is no need for a heater unless it dips extremely low at night. Water actually will retain a small amount of warms, heat up during the day with your lights, then taper off. As long as your room is not below 70, you can get away with it. You will find- they breed slower, and grow slower, but they grow stronger. Fry in higher heat conditions grow faster with lower life expectancy, generally speaking.
regarding the heaters -- i actually unplugged them this spring. I'll have to plug them in in the winter i think, as this warehouse type building gets a little drafty sometimes -- especially when we open the garage bay doors and take the truck out! I am hoping for slow breeding & growing though (as i watch one of my female guppies chasing a just born fry around a tank!). At the moment i have 14 pregnant females in three of the 10 gallon tanks, along with 7 female (i think) guppy fry/juveniles in the fourth 10 gallon already...i only need 25ish each of male & female for next spring, lol. Eat up mamas!

congrats on your success, you are done such an amazing job. Do purchase that phosphate test kit. I never thought i needed one till my tanks really started to grow out and realized something was a miss.
...i was going to buy a phosphate test kit at petsmart yesterday, but i "accidentally" bought a new tank instead (they were all on sale!), and forgot! My betta sorority isn't working out as nicely as i'd hoped, so at home i'm currently stuck with a betta in a 1 gallon jar that was intended for shrimp!

you know how to pm me if its a quick question! I love how much enthusiasm you have in your posts. Cheers.
<3 thanks for being so excellent!

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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 06:49 PM
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@Cinnamonamon
'I went for a small item and ended up with another tank'
Old story, same symptoms I think you might need AA- Aquatic Anonymous. Oh, wait- I guess that is what this is. However we convince you to buy more.... hmmm.
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Giving back creates a virtuous cycle that makes everyone more successful (as long as they cycle!)
10 gallon midwest bluffs I 10 gallon freshwater coral I 15 gallon custom I 2.5 gallon female tank I Vases I 7 gallon fry I all these critters to feed critters
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