What on Earth is wrong with my tank? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-21-2020, 09:25 PM Thread Starter
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What on Earth is wrong with my tank?

Hi, Everyone ~


I've had my aquarium up and running since January of this year and this whole time it's had plants which were flourishing quite beautifully at the beginning. Now, however, my aquarium looks incredibly DARK and dull, there's what looks like detritus clinging to everything, particularly to the plants... It's like a fine layer of dust in some areas, and kind of gunky and black in others. I think this was from the water getting stirred up and detritus rising from the bottom substrate, but when I look at other peoples' planted tanks, none of them have this problem-- like at all. I've tried cleaning the plants off, but there's just too much stuff stuck on them and it really clings to the plants well. I take a [unused] toothbrush and wipe off the equipment and tank decor, but it always comes back. I do a 30% water change in the aquarium every week, but maybe that's just too much agitation for the tank? Still... I feel like it shouldn't look like this.


My plants are also dying. Like I said before, they were flourishing quite well in the beginning. They were growing quickly and were vividly-colored, and my pond lily was sending out a couple of new shoots every day. For some reason though, the lily pads from these shoots would always die, like crinkle up and turn pale in color before turning so thin they deteriorated away. I thought maybe the light was too close to them, but it was several inches away and, holding my hand to the light, it didn't feel hot really. It's stopped producing new leaves completely now.



Now, some of my other plants (of a different species) are doing the same thing in the back. The leaves are turning transparent or gray and silvery, and then they break away and die. There were also black "dots" all over my leaves for awhile now. I thought it was maybe that fine detritus powder that's on everything else, but they don't rub away when I take my thumb to them, and it's on like every plant now.



Here are some other tidbits that might be helpful:

  • I've been applying plant fertilizer (Aquarium Co-op's All-in-One fertilizer bottle). I do 1-2 pumps for my 10 gallon tank, and I've been doing this for 3 weeks now, but my plants continue to deteriorate.
  • My substrate is also a mix of Fluval Stratum and Aqueon plant and shrimp substrate.
  • I was doing CO2 injections with a mini CO2 infuser, but recently ran out so I haven't used it for like a month.
  • I gravel vacuum and do a 30-40% water change once a week.
  • I usually put in some Seachem Excel once a week after my water change.
  • This is the light I use for my 10G aquarium: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07DWVXHSR/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=
Hope someone can help me out. I absolutely love planted tanks, but mine just looks unhealthy. It's not flourishing the way it used to. I'd really love to have a full and lush jungle one day.



Here are some pictures, maybe it will help:
https://imgur.com/a/eqOIKXC
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-21-2020, 09:52 PM
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Welcome to the forums. From the pictures, looks like diatoms and green spot algae. Diatoms are pretty common in newer tanks but I'd expect them to be receding by the 4 month point if everything is stable. Keeping the CO2 going would probably help. That Fluval light is pretty solid if small, is it reaching everywhere? How many hours per day are you running it? Does it run at 100%? PO4 can help with spot algae -usually. Not familiar with ACO's all in one liquid fert, but I'd expect it is in there. I don't see anything unsafe to use Excel on in the photos. Might be a good time to experiment with some different plant species. Sometimes certain plants will grow like gangbusters in a tank that others struggle. And just having *some* good plant growth discourages algae growth.

Nothing good happens fast in an ecosystem.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-21-2020, 10:49 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Blue Ridge Reef View Post
Welcome to the forums. From the pictures, looks like diatoms and green spot algae. Diatoms are pretty common in newer tanks but I'd expect them to be receding by the 4 month point if everything is stable. Keeping the CO2 going would probably help. That Fluval light is pretty solid if small, is it reaching everywhere? How many hours per day are you running it? Does it run at 100%? PO4 can help with spot algae -usually. Not familiar with ACO's all in one liquid fert, but I'd expect it is in there. I don't see anything unsafe to use Excel on in the photos. Might be a good time to experiment with some different plant species. Sometimes certain plants will grow like gangbusters in a tank that others struggle. And just having *some* good plant growth discourages algae growth.
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly!

Like you said, the light is small but has a strong output. I guess it's not running at "100%"-- the light is divided into like 4-5 categories... Warm white, pure white, cold white, red, and blue. I usually turn pure and cold white up all the way, as turning the other lights on doesn't make too strong of a visible difference in the overall output, it seems. I like to have those colors on in the evening or early morning. The light does reach most of the tank, though of course it's quite centered towards the middle. As for the duration... I usually have that light on for 9-10 hours during the day, then turn on the softer lights in the evening and keep them on low.

My plants were all doing really well initially, but now there's really not any that look like they are doing too fantastic. Why would the plants that I had growing well previously suddenly start to deteriorate?

I've spent a lot of money on plants, but I feel like now I just want to start with a "clean slate" and replace them all. Don't want to do that though until I figure out how to keep them alive to begin with.

EDIT:
Also, could having too much food in the water be causing the algae? Maybe I should be feeding less? I gravel vacuum, but maybe the food is still breaking down enough to feed algae?

Last edited by sleepycloud; 04-21-2020 at 10:52 PM. Reason: Adding a question
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-21-2020, 11:32 PM
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Also, could having too much food in the water be causing the algae? Maybe I should be feeding less? I gravel vacuum, but maybe the food is still breaking down enough to feed algae?
Abso-freaking-lutely. You didn't mention fish or a feeding regimen so I didn't go there, but a good rule to remember is that every bit of food that isn't eaten by fish is "eaten" by algae. I'd wager this is the biggest factor of all. When I feed standard tropical fish, I like to see any flake or pellets gone inside of 30 seconds. Obviously a few species break this rule, but by and large, a flake should never hit the bottom.

I would not toss your plants. If they have green, they can be saved.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-21-2020, 11:45 PM
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That light has a really high output, so running it at close to full strength for 9+ hours is likely contributing. Maybe drop your peak times to 4 or 5 hours during the time you'd usually view it, and give it a couple hours each of ramp up and ramp down time, and drop your percentages some-- even with my higher light liking plants, I don't go above 70%, personally. Also, from what I've read, the red light is a big one for growth even if it doesn't do much visually, so having that higher for only a few hours then off the rest of the day may help as well.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-21-2020, 11:47 PM
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Usually detritus clinging all over tank is result of poor circulation patterns in tank. With good circulation debris is carried over to filters input and trapped in filter pads and you remove it when you clean filter.

Got a whole tank pic showing filter placement?

As a experiment get turkey baster and point it. down into gravel and give it a puff and see how much detritus comes blowing up. Turkey baster is also good for going around a stirring up loose detritus clinging to wood etc before water change and filter cleanings.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-22-2020, 01:28 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue Ridge Reef View Post
Abso-freaking-lutely. You didn't mention fish or a feeding regimen so I didn't go there, but a good rule to remember is that every bit of food that isn't eaten by fish is "eaten" by algae. I'd wager this is the biggest factor of all. When I feed standard tropical fish, I like to see any flake or pellets gone inside of 30 seconds. Obviously a few species break this rule, but by and large, a flake should never hit the bottom.

I would not toss your plants. If they have green, they can be saved.
Yeah haha, I didnít want to add in too many words and not get a response because TL;DR.

I was adding more food than necessary to my tank because although my ember tetras eat just fine, for some reason my betta NEVER ate his food, even when it was directly above his face. Thatís a whole ínother story, but basically I was hoping he might find a little bit of excess food to consume so he could eat on his own time, though that never helped, it would seem.

I think youíre right, itís probably the food causing the algae. I will go back through and gravel vacuum, in addition to reducing the food quantity as itís not necessary anymore. I was netting out all leftover food originally, but again, was concerned about my betta never appearing to eat.

Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue Ridge Reef View Post
Abso-freaking-lutely. You didn't mention fish or a feeding regimen so I didn't go there, but a good rule to remember is that every bit of food that isn't eaten by fish is "eaten" by algae. I'd wager this is the biggest factor of all. When I feed standard tropical fish, I like to see any flake or pellets gone inside of 30 seconds. Obviously a few species break this rule, but by and large, a flake should never hit the bottom.

I would not toss your plants. If they have green, they can be saved.
Yeah haha, I didnít want to add in too many words and not get a response because TL;DR.

I was adding more food than necessary to my tank because although my ember tetras eat just fine, for some reason my betta NEVER ate his food, even when it was directly above his face. Thatís a whole ínother story, but basically I was hoping he might find a little bit of excess food to consume so he could eat on his own time, though that never helped, it would seem.

I think youíre right, itís probably the food causing the algae. I will go back through and gravel vacuum, in addition to reducing the food quantity as itís not necessary anymore. I was netting out all leftover food originally, but again, was concerned about my betta never appearing to eat.

Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by KaylSoftpaws View Post
That light has a really high output, so running it at close to full strength for 9+ hours is likely contributing. Maybe drop your peak times to 4 or 5 hours during the time you'd usually view it, and give it a couple hours each of ramp up and ramp down time, and drop your percentages some-- even with my higher light liking plants, I don't go above 70%, personally. Also, from what I've read, the red light is a big one for growth even if it doesn't do much visually, so having that higher for only a few hours then off the rest of the day may help as well.
I think I read that, too, isnít that why a lot of indoor plant lights look that bright red/neon pink color? I do have a timer on the app that controls the light so I can mess with the settings and set a schedule, I believe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveKS View Post
Usually detritus clinging all over tank is result of poor circulation patterns in tank. With good circulation debris is carried over to filters input and trapped in filter pads and you remove it when you clean filter.

Got a whole tank pic showing filter placement?

As a experiment get turkey baster and point it. down into gravel and give it a puff and see how much detritus comes blowing up. Turkey baster is also good for going around a stirring up loose detritus clinging to wood etc before water change and filter cleanings.
Here is a picture of my aquarium; the filter is a sponge filter in the back, left-hand corner:

http://imgur.com/a/YMWaxQP

I think it works pretty well. Aside from the algae sprinkled on everything, the water itself is clear. I also cleaned the filter recently by rinsing it in a bucket filled with tank water. I can see that itís collecting debris as there were broken plant pieces adhered to it, but maybe thatís not the best indicator?

Last edited by Darkblade48; 04-24-2020 at 10:25 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-22-2020, 01:42 AM
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You had a drop off in plant growth because you started with an active substrate (one with nutrients) but you were not fertilizing the tank at that time. My reading is you just started fertilizer in the last few weeks. So your soil depleted the easily available nutrients and your plant growth stalled. Then your co2 ran out and further stalled the plants that need it and shocked the ones that were just used to it. To fix it, keep up the regular fertilizing and start up co2 again. For stem plants once growth starts again you can cut the tops and replant removing the base. For other types of plants you can remove affected leaves and just keep the good ones once growth is continuing.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-22-2020, 05:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sleepycloud View Post
Here is a picture of my aquarium; the filter is a sponge filter in the back, left-hand corner:

http://imgur.com/a/YMWaxQP

I think it works pretty well. Aside from the algae sprinkled on everything, the water itself is clear. I also cleaned the filter recently by rinsing it in a bucket filled with tank water. I can see that itís collecting debris as there were broken plant pieces adhered to it, but maybe thatís not the best indicator?
Sponge filters are good bio filters and good at polishing water because flow is so slow through them. But your probably lucky if it turns over tank more than 2x a hour, it only gathers what debris fall right on it. If your going to continue with just the bubble filter get the turkey baster and go around and blow/dust whole tank to get debris floating around then do your water change/filter clean. Youíd be surprised that in a couple weeks youíll probably start to get ahead of all that waste.

I myself would just get this. Youíll have probably 3x the water movement around tank you have now and notice a big improvement in tank in about 3 weeks. Just set it so outflow ramp is right in center of tank.

https://www.amazon.com/AZOO-AZ13099-...upplies&sr=1-3
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-22-2020, 01:32 PM
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What on Earth is wrong with my tank?

Seems like you might be running into problems because you're blasting your tank with quite a lot of light and a decent amount of nutrients, but no CO2... So ultimately things are just out of balance leading to stressed plants and opportunistic algae taking advantage of your plants weakened state.


I'd also agree that increasing tank turnover would help. Might be possible to substitute an additional filter with an in tank powerhead. But I do think a filter that moves more water would be better.

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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-22-2020, 01:55 PM
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My gut reaction is that if all the plants are visibly suffering, they aren't getting enough nutrients for the amount of light they are getting, and the algae etc. is just a symptom of having weak plants. I would bump up your fertilizer by 50% and reduce hours/day of light to no more than 8 and give it a week, see if they start looking better. If so then you're on the right track.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 04-22-2020, 04:28 PM
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My gut reaction is that if all the plants are visibly suffering, they aren't getting enough nutrients for the amount of light they are getting, and the algae etc. is just a symptom of having weak plants. I would bump up your fertilizer by 50% and reduce hours/day of light to no more than 8 and give it a week, see if they start looking better. If so then you're on the right track.

I think I'd be a little careful adding more nutrients if theres no CO2.

In my experience, tank health tends to hinge on a solid balance between appropriate light, nutrient load and CO2.

I know tons of people don't bother with CO2 and still have awesome tanks, but I'd guess that they aren't using a ton of light or nutrients. But what do I know...I've only ever run my tanks with CO2, so I have no experience with running a tank without it.


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