Nature Aquarium Going Through Difficult Times - Help! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-12-2019, 06:02 PM Thread Starter
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Nature Aquarium Going Through Difficult Times - Help!

Hey guys!

So this is my low-tech, heavily-fertilized, heavily-stocked (plants AND fish) nature aquarium. This is my first ever tank and I've had it for about 5 months now. Its a 125 Liter (33 Gal) Juwel tank with the stock MultiLux LED lights and filter, which has a flow-rate of about 500l/hr and a turnover of 4x/hr. However, I modified the filter media to include a ton of Seachem Matrix and my tests are always perfect. Although its technically a low-tech tank, I use a carefully regimented dosing schedule, which I've attached below. I also used ADA Power Soil and ADA Amazonia II for the substrate. I do about a 35% water change every week.

For the first 4 months, it was growing beautifully and better than I ever expected given that it was low-tech. However, the last month has been particularly challenging in that I started to get a ton of glass algae. I had a small hair algae problem in the past but after adding some Amano Shrimp, that hasnt been a problem anymore. I've been scrapping my glass every 2 days or so just to keep up with the algae growth. Whats worse is that my plants seem to have taken a serious hit. Many of them have started to darken and grow brown dirt-like spots and stopped growing altogether. I've attached a couple of pictures to show you the examples. My montecarlo and weeping moss have become especially darker as well. This is my full plant list:

- Monte Carlo (Darkening and not growing)
- Weeping Moss (Was growing intensely during the first couple of months, now is struggling)
- Anubius Nana (Surprisingly struggling)
- Sagitaria Subulata (Melting)
- Staurogyne Bihar (Ok)
- Staurogyne Repens (Brown spots)
- Java Fern (Blackening)
- Cryptocoryne Costata (Brown Spots)

My stocking list (AqAdvisor stocking level: 89%):
- 13 Neon Tetras
- 13 Harlequin Rasbora
- 2 Pearl Gourami
- 4 Otocinlus
- 7 Amano Shrimp

If I'm honest, things started to really take a dive after adding the last 13 harlequins. All these fish were added incrementally over the course of this tanks existence, however these harlequins could have been the feather that broke the camels back. I've brainstormed a couple of possible reasons that could have created this problem and I'd really appreciate your feedback.

1) Tank is overstocked, need to remove some fish
2) Need to upgrade filter pump (Juwel do a 1000 l/hr filter pump that is compatible with my filter)
3) Need to start adding the macro elements Nitrogen and Phosporus
4) Need to reduce dosing altogether
5) Need to upgrade to high tech CO2 injection and lighting

I understand that its a long post but I really wanted to give you guys all the possible info you would need to break down what is happening in my tank. I added two main layout pictures of my tank. The one with the thick moss, red plants and cabomba is the older one. Its worth noting that I cut down a lot on the plants I have because many of them started to struggle quite badly and moss was covering all my pretty seriou stones!

I'd really appreciate the guidance, thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-12-2019, 06:09 PM
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Flourish should be all you need as it includes potassium and iron and such. I am not sure about excel. I have never used it before. I think the algae is because you have a nutrient-rich soil and the nutrients are leeching into the water which would be fine except you are dosing ferts in addition to that and have no co2 and have intense lighting. I would not dose any ferts for a week or 2 and see how things go. Cut back the lighting to about 5 hours a day. I am not an expert so if someone like @somewhatshocked or @Discusluv says otherwise, do as they say. How big of water changes are you doing?
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75 gallon planted tank. About to stock.
10 gallon QT

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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-12-2019, 06:18 PM
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Maybe reduce feeding and reduce dosing?

I think it's overstocked...and stock filters are almost never enough.
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-12-2019, 06:26 PM
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I would first try to increase CO2 or in your case, more excel. Maybe some phosphate and micros (seachem trace) to your doing mix.

Just a thought. Im no expert


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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-12-2019, 06:42 PM
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Was this a DSM?


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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-12-2019, 10:15 PM
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I would stop dosing iron immediately. Your substrate contains iron and you don't need much iron to sustain these plants. Iron however is something that is often a limiting factor for algae. By dosing iron so frequently you are allowing the algae free access to a nutrient they normally would not have and need. Your affected leaves will likely remain affected but if you stop dosing immediately and do some big water changes you should see new growth that is unaffected by algae in a few weeks.
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-13-2019, 03:09 PM
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Why would a tank that AqAdviser says is 89% be considered overstocked?
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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-13-2019, 03:45 PM
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This is a CO2 problem. High lights + High ferts - CO2 = Algae. IMHO you have two options:

1) Get CO2 (DIY is pretty cheap and works, just a pain to maintain)
2) Lower your ferts significantly, reduce lights to 6 hours a day

Option 2 will cause some of your plants to die, which will be the ones that require CO2 and that wouldn't work in a low-tech setting anyways.

Hope this helps!! Tank looks nice, I like your scape.
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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-13-2019, 03:58 PM
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You're redefining low tech and natural! You have a 'loaded' substrate, but adding ferts in addition to the nutrients (aka waste/pollution) that the fish provide.

> Stop all fert additives - a natural tank doesn't need them...and Excel is a form of gluteraldehyde...a chemical used to STERILIZE heat sensitive medical and dental equipment. There's nothing natural about it.

> 50-75% weekly water changes like religion.

> Fast growing floating plants are your friend.

> Best wishes to resolve issues.
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-13-2019, 04:04 PM
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It's not a 'natural' tank it's a 'nature' aquarium by means of layout and ada substrate. These tanks still require K and micros which is what OP is providing. I agree with @minorhero the extra FE dosing is probably not necessary as it isn't in many tanks.
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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-13-2019, 05:47 PM
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I set up a similar tank about the same time you did. 50 gallon low tech/ excel tank with Amazonia 2 soil and medium light. See pic below.

My tank in different in that I only have 20 fish and use a Oase 600 cannister, which is probably larger than yours. I am dosing using the PPS- pro method but with N adjusted way down and K way up due to the soil. You probably experienced the same thing I did in that its impossible to maintain any alkalinity and phosphate level; Dennis Wong told me don't worry about those measurements, and to dose phosphates normally, so I left the PPS levels on P alone; same for M. I dose 5 ml of Excel per day, 5 ml macros and 2.5 ml micros, which is what GLA recommends for medium light. I've also been adding 5 mil of Flourish Iron 2 x per week, but after reading some posts here I'm going to stop that. I water change just 25% a week.

My issues have been limited to green spot on my anubis and that common general dark algae film on the pygmy swords
( is there a name for that algae?)
So things have gone pretty well; I've been surprised at the plant growth, though this is my first low tech so I had only my high tech tank to compare too.

So I'm fertilizing as you are but using a different method, and have a larger filter and a lot less fish in a larger tank. I also recently got more serious about cleaning up the mulm that developed over these first few months; with your fish load have you done that and cleaned your filter a few times by now? Tank maintenance is one thing I hear constantly on this forum.
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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-13-2019, 05:48 PM
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I second what others are saying about adding pressurized CO2. Amano pioneered the nature aquarim, and he wrote that adding pressurized CO2 was the most important thing he ever did to improve plant growth. You don't always need it in a low-tech system, but my understanding is it's much harder to do without in larger tanks.
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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-13-2019, 06:39 PM
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+3 try some co2. It's easy and with an in-line diffuser to pump it into your filter out flow then there is no additional hardware in the tank. You're carpet will thank you. Might be about time to try some root tabs to refresh the substrate near the heavier rooting plants.

Most people say Excel is worthless. I have had good luck with the nilocg liquid ferts. I think it's better balanced than the seachem. More comprehensive and they have a few different variants.

Nice tank.
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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-13-2019, 07:41 PM
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What are your nitrate levels like? For all of your plants to start kicking the bucket, it sounds like a macro deficiency to me, or far too much light for the co2 levels but if that were the case I would have expected issues before this. You're dosing Excel which is a carbon source, but not dosing nitrogen or phosphate, so to me it seems possible the plant demand has exceeded supply, maybe since you now have more plant matter in the tank than you did initially just from the growth.
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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-13-2019, 09:09 PM
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Yea, need some nitrate and phosphate readings.

Things I would do....

1. More flow and better circulation patterns. Looking at specs you barely have 4x turnover in tank with pump running full capacity (500l/hr pump), factor in flow reduction from filter media your probably not even hitting 3x turnover.

Get a Tunze 3162 for the other end of tank mounted at top left. Also will do extra surface skimming, magnetic mount. Then that nozzle on Juwel pump point it down and slightly at back wall blowing behind plants, this will flush substrate level as well as push debris on bottom over to tunze filter so it will pick them up. Then tunze, which you’ll probably turn down to about 80% output, it will push water towards front and sweep current and debris around front of tank left to right where Juwel filter will pick it up. You will get a rotating current going in tank and also set up the high-low water circulation patterns which your tank which is completely missing in your tank right now. Skimmer on tunze will handle surface scum and oxygenation. I would also put a small ping pong ball size bag of Sera Super Peat into last stage of tunze filter. You can then alternate filter cleanings on a bi-weekly schedule.

2. Amount of light you have, no real CO2 and low demand plants I would cut all dosing in half or 2/3. Get you a small measuring eye dropper or Pipette with markings so you can properly measure out dosing which will now be in .5 to 1ml range.

I don’t think your overstocked at all.
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