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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-15-2020, 09:45 PM Thread Starter
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Hi everyone,

So I setup a planted tank in March with my 2 y/o tank.

I read everything on the 2Hr aquarist website which teach me a lot about this hobby.

I also followed the Tropica's 90 day start-up service.

Final Setup:

-Fluval flex 15
- Fluval plant spectrum LED light (5.5 hr @ 95% + 2x 1hr ramp)
- Co2 injected
- Flourite black sand substrate
- Daily dose of Excel
- Dosing Seachem Iron, Potassium, Flourish, Nitrogen accordingly to bottles.
- Flousish tabs into sand

Plants:
- Hydrophilia difformis
- Weeping moss
- Monte carlo
- Staurogyne repens
- Reineckii mini

Fish:

- Neon Tetra
- Red nose
- Molly
- fluo tetra
- Amano and red cherry shrimps

2x water change per week (30%)

0 Amonia
0 Nitrite
10 Ppm Nitrate
Around 0.5 PPM phosphate
Stable 5 kH

Everything was fine and plants were growing fast! Since about 2 months, I had green spot algea on my plants. I decided to remove all the covered plants (lost my Hygrophila and Staurogyne) and overdosing Excel (15ml per day for 3 days). Also reduce my light to 55% and drop water temperature to 78F (I was at 81F previously). Remove every bit of green spot algea on my wood, my rock and my walls. I think one of the major problem was that my Hygrophila was to dence and I could not vacuum the debris between them (will all the stems).

... Well guess who came back? My Monte Carlo is again covered.

Don't know what to do anymore... I love this hobby but I'm a bit discouraged. I put a lot of time and effort each week to keep it clean and make it look good. I don't know how I could put more time in it.

Here's picture before and now.

Thanks for your tips
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-15-2020, 11:58 PM
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I have read and heard of people using the Excel and spot dosing when dosing their tank, meaning when you squirt the Excel in, squirt it onto the problem areas directly onto the algae. From what I have read about Excel, it is at least a mild algaecide, although I could be wrong about that.
I tried to grow Monte Carlo and the same thing happened to me, however, I couldn't actually reach it to spot dose it, so, maybe that could help? I also have a UV sterilizer and in my experience, that helps with the algae. I also have Nerite snails and (I know some people love them and some hate them) Siamese Algae eaters, amano shrimp and others that will help pick at the algae and keep it under control. I put in fish that will at least pick at the algae and I don't feed them too much so that they have to eat the algae. I, also, had a HUGE problem with algae and was going to give up until I got these fish, they cleaned it up in under a month.
I read that you cleaned off all of the green spot algae, I don't know exactly how you did that, but, taking out the rocks and boiling them in water will help to keep it from coming back for a little bit.
In my opinion, you will always have some algae, it's just a matter of not letting it get too bad that it takes over. I personally took out the monte carlo and gave up on it, I have never had too much luck with carpet plants and since I have a bunch of Cory's, I try not to keep any carpet plants so that they have room to swim around. You could also add Otto's, more Amano's and others that I am probably not thinking of. I am not sure how many fish you would want in the tank. I like a lot of fish. For green spot algae, I believe that Plecostomus will happily graze on it.
None of this is to bash you, these next ideas are just my personal beliefs. I never add Nitrogen, I personally feel that the fish produce enough of it to feed the plants, but, I guess that depends on how many fish you have in the tank and how big it is. I only use (again, nothing against people that do use other fertilizer than what I suggest, it is a personal choice) Flourish, Excel and some Iron. I have extremely hard water that gives most of the nutrients. I got an analysis done on my tap water. It saved me a lot of money on fertilizers that I don't need to add. Some people say that over dosing nutrients can cause algae and others say that that thinking is not true. I don't know which one it is, but, it at least saves me money on fertilizers that I don't need to add.
I hope this helps in some way. Algae can be a pain in the butt sometimes, but, imo it is a good indicator of the water quality. If it gets out of hand, you are doing something wrong, but, if it is kept at bay, then you are doing something right. Try not to get too frustrated, everyone deals with algae on some level. Your tank is absolutely gorgeous either way! Hopefully, I am not spreading any misinformation to you. I would double-check my (and others) suggestions on this.

Edit: I forgot to mention that I also have a CO2 injected, high-light aquarium. I am guessing from your specs that your aquarium is high-light as well. Last thought, if you are using Flourish and also Potassium, Iron and Nitrogen than you maybe double (or over) dosing. I don't have the bottles in front of me, but, i think that Flourish has nitrogen, iron and potassium in it. Just a thought, good luck!
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-16-2020, 12:25 AM
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If GSA is your only algae issue, it may be more easily solved than other types.

First: stop overdosing the Excel. Excel only works as an algaecide on hair-type algae. In fact, since you are injecting CO2, it is unlikely that Excel is adding anything of value. I would reserve it in case you do develop hair algae/BBA and then the 1ml/gal is better applied as a single treatment, not over consecutive days.

It does appear that your tank is in good balance, generally. GSA is often controlled by higher PO4 levels. In your case, I would try raising PO4 to 5ppm and see how things go over a week or two.

Snails can also help by disrupting/eating the biofilm that many types of algae attach to and use as a food source. I have red ramshorns in my tank.

Do things one at a time, though. Start with the higher PO4 and watch and wait. Even one change, such as increasing PO4 can cause the need for rebalancing of your other dosing. Watch your test results and plants for anyhting that may be undesirable as the change settles in.

A trick to completely remove any type of algae from hardscape is to immerse it in H2O2 for ~24 hours. The algae will turn to mush which is easily removed with a brush. Don't try adding it to your tank. It is very tricky to get enough in the tank to affect algae while preserving your fish.

In the meantime, make sure that your CO2 level is good. You can find out how to measure it on the 2Hr aquarist website.
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Last edited by Deanna; 07-16-2020 at 12:38 AM. Reason: d
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-16-2020, 02:26 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you nickandjess2008 for the tips.

I removed GSA with a toothbrush. I'll try boiling the rock, good idea. I'll also add more algea eater !

Also Monte Carlo seems hard to maintain.. maybe i'll throw it away

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If GSA is your only algae issue, it may be more easily solved than other types.

First: stop overdosing the Excel. Excel only works as an algaecide on hair-type algae. In fact, since you are injecting CO2, it is unlikely that Excel is adding anything of value. I would reserve it in case you do develop hair algae/BBA and then the 1ml/gal is better applied as a single treatment, not over consecutive days.

It does appear that your tank is in good balance, generally. GSA is often controlled by higher PO4 levels. In your case, I would try raising PO4 to 5ppm and see how things go over a week or two.

Snails can also help by disrupting/eating the biofilm that many types of algae attach to and use as a food source. I have red ramshorns in my tank.

Do things one at a time, though. Start with the higher PO4 and watch and wait. Even one change, such as increasing PO4 can cause the need for rebalancing of your other dosing. Watch your test results and plants for anyhting that may be undesirable as the change settles in.

A trick to completely remove any type of algae from hardscape is to immerse it in H2O2 for ~24 hours. The algae will turn to mush which is easily removed with a brush. Don't try adding it to your tank. It is very tricky to get enough in the tank to affect algae while preserving your fish.

In the meantime, make sure that your CO2 level is good. You can find out how to measure it on the 2Hr aquarist website.

I already stopped overdosing Excel, just daily doosing.



Is 5 ppm of PO4 not too high ? I had issus with BBA in my previous tank, I don't want it again lol. I read 1 PPM was the maximum to prevent algea ?


Also, I had snails, but they kept laying eggs everywere ! So I removed all of them. I just have assasin snails.


How do I know that I need to rebalance my other doosing after changing PO4 level ?



I aim for a 1 pH drop during the day to adjust my CO2.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-16-2020, 03:44 AM
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PO4 does not cause BBA. BBA, liked most hair algae, will appear when plants aren't healthy. Often, this is the result of fluctuating parameters, such as CO2 or other nutrients in a high light environment. With a high-tech tank,getting the right balance of light and CO2 is very important and then holding them steady sets a good long-term pattern. With that, fertilizer becomes much easier to manage. It sounds as though you may have the right light/CO2 situation.

In a high-tech setup, raising PO4 may result in higher growth rates, which is why I suggested that you keep your eye on the other nutrients through testing and plant observation. When growth changes, there may be more demand placed upon nutrients.

It sounds as though you had nerites, which do lay visible eggs and that can be unappealing. There are other types of snails that do not leave easily visible eggs. However, they will multiply if there is too much food for them. They are an excellent clean-up crew.This makes them useful as a warning that you are overfeeding or not being attentive to cleaning. Both of these factors will help induce and support algae.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-16-2020, 02:04 PM
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Have you tried increasing CO2?
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-16-2020, 02:18 PM
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George Farmer has mentioned on multiple occasions that the best way to treat GSA is actually to allow it to grow for roughly 4-5 weeks, and then clean it. This apparently gives the GSA spores time to mature. The mature spores, once cleaned, will not regrow within the tank. If you clean before the spores can mature, they will come back like you've been seeing.

Additionally, removing plant mass is not the best decision when trying to combat algae. More plant mass = less nutrients available for potential algae.

I will say though, the amount of algae in your tank appears to be pretty minimal. A 100% algae free tank is very difficult to maintain (although it can be done), it just takes extremely high levels of routine maintenance.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-16-2020, 05:24 PM
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The only long term way to prevent algae is to make sure you have a solid amount of plant mass in the tank that is growing healthy, while keeping the water as clean as possible.

That means add only as much co2, fertilizer and light for the plants to grow well, and change your water as much as you need to. This usually means way less fertilizer than you think, especially if you have soil based substrate or plants are young, and way more water changes.

What to do right now? Turn off your lights for 3-5 days while you do 50% water changes each day. Algae will dissappear and some of your plants will shrink a little but come back.

Once you dial this in life becomes so much easier. I just went 4 weeks without a water change in my tank and only saw algae beginning to grow in the last week. i did not fertiloze during this time. You CANNOT blindly slam your tank with fertilizers from an online calculator as plant type and mass varies so greatly between tanks.

I used to fight algae in my first year all of the time until I started listening to my plants. This comes with experience. Better to start now than later. I do not follow a fertilization schedule at this point but I do use Rotala numbers when I dose. I can tell when and if my plants/tank can handle it and will water change before if I'm really not sure.
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-17-2020, 01:45 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the tips,



But it seems tricky to dose the amount of light and ferts. How do I know if I need 60% of light, or 75% or even 100% ? How long if enough ?



And I do I know if I need to add (for example) 5ml of phosphate 2x a week, or 8ml, or 2ml ?



Only by looking at the plants ? ... I don't want to have the nutriment vision:


https://www.advancedplantedtank.com/...eb35b9e4&_ss=r

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I do not follow a fertilization schedule at this point but I do use Rotala numbers when I dose. I can tell when and if my plants/tank can handle it and will water change before if I'm really not sure.

What do you mean by Rotala numbers ?
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-17-2020, 02:03 AM
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Thanks for all the tips,



But it seems tricky to dose the amount of light and ferts. How do I know if I need 60% of light, or 75% or even 100% ? How long if enough ?



And I do I know if I need to add (for example) 5ml of phosphate 2x a week, or 8ml, or 2ml ?



Only by looking at the plants ? ... I don't want to have the nutriment vision:


https://www.advancedplantedtank.com/...eb35b9e4&_ss=r

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I do not follow a fertilization schedule at this point but I do use Rotala numbers when I dose. I can tell when and if my plants/tank can handle it and will water change before if I'm really not sure.

What do you mean by Rotala numbers ?
https://rotalabutterfly.com/nutrient-calculator.php

And the process is dead simple:

1. Do you have enough healthy plants growing at a rate that keeps algae at bay?
2. If not, do you have too few healthy growing plants or too much fertilizer/light?
3. Adjust as needed.

If you want to play it safe, start with a good soil substrate and that will be all you need for 3-6 months. Keep your lights lower if you are getting algae within a week. Increase lights once you can. Keep co2 high the whole time.

After that, start dowing half of EI numbers on that site and see what happens.
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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-17-2020, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by jufa03 View Post
And I do I know if I need to add (for example) 5ml of phosphate 2x a week, or 8ml, or 2ml ?
PO4 test kits are about $15 and available at LFS or online.

Dosing once a week is fine and this calculator will help you define how much of KH2PO4, K2HPO4 or many branded phosphorus products to dose: https://rotalabutterfly.com/nutrient-calculator.php
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-18-2020, 03:03 AM Thread Starter
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Wow thanks I'll try this dosing method.

How is this method better than following bottle's recommendations?
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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-18-2020, 06:42 AM
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Wow thanks I'll try this dosing method.

How is this method better than following bottle's recommendations?
They are all just rough guidelines proven through time. They cannot tell you exactly how much to dose, how long to keep your lights on or how often you'll need to do water changes without knowing your plant mass, types, fish amount, etc.

However, EI dosing for example takes the extreme route of dumping enough fertilizer in for ANY type of tank at X gallons, and keeping your tank safe by having you perform big water changes each week to reset the fertilizer levels.
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-18-2020, 01:12 PM
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Wow thanks I'll try this dosing method.

How is this method better than following bottle's recommendations?
In the case of my PO4 suggestion, the calculator allows you to easily determine how much to dose to hit the 5ppm level.

On a general basis, the calculators are used by those of us that try to know and control more precisely the levels of nutrients in our tanks. It tends to become more important with high-tech tanks. You could also do it, by trial-and-error, with the bottle's recommendations but, since there is a big difference in fertilizer uptake between high-tech and low-tech, one-size-fits-all dosing won't work. Some manufacturers have different dosing recommendations based upon this, which can be helpful.
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-18-2020, 03:37 PM
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Hey jufa,

Sounds like you had your tank for a good while and decided to tank things to the next level with a planted scape. You made a good choice for sure, don’t doubt yourself. This hobby is full of hiccups, but if you stick with it you are capable of working through anything and you’ll never stop learning along the way. I know you made a decent investment, making it easy to get discouraged when things don’t go close to perfectly smooth, but sorry, if you don’t expect it to, because it probably won’t, that’s what will keep you from giving up. Furthermore, honestly it looks like you’ve been making good moves, you went about everything in the right way and did your due diligence during setup. You saw results and great growth, so be proud of yourself for that. Now it’s just time to dial it in and keep it balanced and most importantly consistent!

On to tank specifics now that we covered the mental struggle....

First, I am of the opinion that you have yet to get the right advice, I think there is lots of wrong here, speckled with some good in everyone’s posts. Post #5 is the only one I can whole heartedly agree with and there is lots of all good knowledge there to take in.

Next I want to clear up the timeline here and also ask you some questions...?is picture 1 before—two months ago when the gsa appeared on your plants and you took out affected plants and all hardscape— and pic 4 now— two months later from your clean out?

That is shocking because it didn’t look that bad to take such drastic measures and rip out all those decent looking plants even if there was gsa on them. If that is the case please expand on how it went from pic 1 to now 4.
Did it happen all that day when you stripped the tank two moths ago?
Or did the plants slowly die off during the last two months leaving you with what’s left?

Either way that’s how your initial post read because you said you lost all your stauro and hygro.

Assuming pic 4 is now I’ll start with what you should have done and where you may have gone wrong that day two months ago then I’ll wrap up with where you go from here to have success and avoid this again hopefully.

So as soon as you noticed the gsa starting to appear on your plants get in there and do a major water change and maintenance. Start with getting a 10 dolled spinning electric toothbrush to go over all your hardscape (rock and woods). Then scrub your glass with a synthetic scoring pad. After you must take some airline hose and siphon the tank going over every inch of it spot treating it and trying to suck as much off and out as you can. Next go back over it and flick the hose rapidly back and forth to loosen it up and off trying to get off as much as you can again to save as much of the plant as you are able, continuing this until you have completed a fifty percent water change; making sure to hit all affected areas including sucking out affected substrates. Then I would go over all affected stems lightly with a regular toothbrush to try and flake of the gsa. Next replace about 3/4 of that water then take some sharp fine tip scissors and trim out all affected leaves that still have it. Then fill it all the way up and hopefully you have removed most but certainly not all visible gsa which is OK!
Continue a 50% water change each day for an entire week going over all areas with your airline Siphon again. Then every other day for an additional two weeks....

That is what you could have done and even what you should do now but it is still not the answer to your problem because the only way to eradicate it is to find the source of the cause otherwise no maintenance until your hands are shriveled will really fix it.

So the problem...
To me it sounds like you don’t have a strong biology of bacteria in your system. It starts with you not choosing a good aqua soil and base, but instead full sand. A sand cap is okay but in a tank that small you need good substrate for the Bacter to live, to give you buffered slightly acidic water, and proper nutrients your plants can absorb when they need them so algae can’t when they don’t. Simply look at the exposed sand in your pictures. All gsa hotspots. Next the flex 15’s Stock filtration is garbage! A big canister filter at least a level or two up from manufacture recommendations would make the biggest world of difference.

It sounds like since you started off great for a few months then the algae hit all of a sudden far past the two month start norm, your bioload became too great and built up and there wasn’t a good established amount of bacteria to cope with it. That is more likely as long as everything else remained consistent from when you started in March and had success and growth with until the algae hit (ie. your co2, light schedule + intensity, and fert dosing).

****For now or if you don’t want an external; cut the fluval sponge in half and put filter floss in the whole each has in the middle, put the first half in the first back bay with the intake grills covering the bottom grill with it then cover the gap until reaching the top with more floss then place the other half over that intake. In the middle bay you want to stuff as much Seachem matrix in it as you can along with the biomedia you already had. In the last bay surround the pump but not touching the heater with more floss and a bag of Seachem purigen in the middle of it. Then from now on just rinse your sponge rarely but replace all floss when soiled enough that it is affecting flow rate.

****about that pump upgrade it with the biggest one you can that will fit in it. Stronger flow will help.

****next point your outflow towards the surface of the water to cause decent agitation instead of down like you have it. The bow design of the flex will then send the water flow down the front of the glass and then back sweeping your substrate.

****next your need to replace that hygro and stauro at the very least but should get several more plants Too and don’t be worried to plant heavy, that’s better and with your stronger filtration and flow the tank can actually handle it. Those plants were your fast growing algea busters so you need them back! When they are back keep the tips of your stauro trimmed often and lowWe then you had it and It will fill out better and spread more to at least fill in that empty patch that was in front of them. The hygro exposed roots and Ariel roots have to go. Either burry them or trim them back. This was asking for gsa, they cover them first and often.

****then after those are planted stop moving stuff! Hah. Just trim often and replant to keep steady full growth. Plants don’t like to be moved and bacteria don’t like it when you take out the hardscape and disturb the substrate. Especially don’t boil it! A light toothbrush scrub in your tank with hydro perox during drastic sever times is fine. You don’t want to kill all the good bacteria and biofilm and tannins in And on your wood. Some algae on your hardscape can be considered normal and just hit it with your weekly water change/maintenance with the electric toothbrush. Keeping it on your wood and off your plants is better And then your cleanup crew should be able to maintain it.

****next get more amano shrimp. They will help a lot. Also since you are nervous about gsa get two netrite snails because they are machines and cleaning off white egg dots once a week with your maintenance is better and quicker than algae! The eggs cannot hatch so your fine. You should be scrubbing/scraping the glass every week anyways. Don’t get a small pleco even though they are awesome and also machines because they have loads of waist and your bioload is already risky for the moment.

****next get Seachem advanced, trace, stability, and Pristine to complete your chemical stock. Print out the seachem weekly dosing schedule and Simply follow it. It’s not super heavy like ei dosing and it will do you fine. You just need basic levels and consistency** so that you establish balance. You don’t want to be experimenting increasing this or Decreasing that until you have that balance and you get some more experience because with time you will learn what to look for, it just takes time and now is too soon. Once you have steady growth and the tank fully filled in cut the nitrogen and phosphorus back to every other week While increasing potash dose and see how it goes. If everything stays healthy and growth slows yet continues great, keep it up.

****after upgrading your media in your rear filter and adding the matrix start your stability dose for the 8 days required. Then upon completion, overdose pristine by dosing the recommended amount two* days in a row.

****next try bringing your light down ten percent but adding three more hours. Yes that’s right, because you have Monte Carlo which is a huge light hog. But also make your ramp over three Hours up and three down instead of one. That will help and let you maximize time while minimizing negative affect. Its another thing that will help with the algea as long as there is strong co2.

****so your co2... what diffuser are you using? where is it? What’s your bubble count? Probably can and should be higher. Barely see any co2 micro bubbles in any of your pics. If lights are on always co2 on and start it two hours before your ramp up. It could totally be that is all this was; simply co2 related algea. Either too much or too little. Hard to say but start with a gradual** decent increase and test its limits watching your fish closely because they are the real drop checker. Then see if they are gulping for air heavily then cut back. Also see if that causes algae to fade or get worse. If worse, go the other way and cut back from where you were. That’s the key, it takes trial and error and most importantly time!

****next your temp, Slowly over a week bring your temp down further to 75 to start with and see if it’s okay for a week or if your fish need it back up or will let you go down to 74. They should be fine and this will help.

****Also, what are your parameters? What is your gh? What water are you filling your tank with? What is it’s tds? What is your Ph? After completing the three weeks of more perodic wc...do a 50% once a week religiously and all I dose that day is excel.

*********finally, have fun, enjoy, and start the experiment because that’s all this is really about!

Start with these tips and I strongly believe from experience and lots of past bumps in the road myself that you will reach a full strong growing planted scape where algae is no longer an issue and maybe is even algae free-rare but possible.

Always keep in mind there is no right answer or obvious solution but this is a good place to start and you will most certainly have to make adjustments and see for yourself. None the less, good results are possible and out there.

Best,
Grant
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