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post #1 of 36 (permalink) Old 01-27-2013, 02:44 AM Thread Starter
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Exclamation HELP! I'm A NOOB In Over My Head!

Hey Everyone!

Iíve been browsing these boards for awhile now, but this is my first post so go easy on me

Below are some pictures of my 55-gallon freshwater aquarium (sorry, I know they're not the best quality). Itís about 4 months old and my goal is to transform it into an aquatic jungle. This will be my first HEAVILY planted tank and Iím pretty excited, but I have a ton a questions.




Here is a list of some of my tank perimeters:
  • Size: 55-gallon, 4ft long
  • Age: 4-months, fully cycled, & partially stocked
  • Lighting: 1 32-watt compact florescent + 6hrs(+) direct sunlight/day
  • Substrate: Newly converted from gravel to 1.5Ē peat moss topped with 2.5Ē pool filter sand (as of yesterday)
  • CO2: 3 DIY 2-liters
  • pH: 7.2 Ė 7.8
  • Water Temperature: 86 Degrees F
  • Water Hardness: ? I donít have a test kit for water hardness, but where I live we have VERY, VERY hard water because we are SURROUNDED with limestone. Before I added the CO2 the pH was around 8.7+ and it only dropped after adding the CO2. Iím expecting the peat moss of have an effect on the pH, but no changes yet.
  • Fertilizers: None yet, I need help with this one.
  • Current Plants: Anacharis, Jungle Val, & 1 Amazon Sword
As a noob to the planted tank thing (except for having Anacharis in every tank Iíve owned), I let myself get a little too excited and I dropped $100 on plants from aquariumplants.com a few days ago without carefully researching their compatibility with my tank or whatís required to successfully keep them growing (total impulse buy, I just couldnít help myself ). Now Iím afraid my tank wonít sustain the plants I bought. Here is a list of the plants I bought simply because they fit into my planted-tank image in my head:

∑ 3 of : Anubias, Nana (Anubias barteri v. Nana)
∑ 3 of : Cabomba Purple (Red) (Cabomba pulcherrima)
∑ 1 of : Creeping Charlie (Micromeria Brownei)
∑ 1 of : Crinum aquatica (Crinum natans)
∑ 3 of : Cryptocoryne, Balansae (Cryptocoryne crispatula var. Balansae)
∑ 1 of : Glossostigma (Glossostigma elatinoides)(grown in pots)(top quality)
∑ 1 of : Java Moss (Vesicularia Dubyana)(4 oz cup)
∑ 2 of : Limnophila hippuroides (Limnophila aromatica 'hippuroides')
∑ 1 of : Lloydiella, Golden (Lysimachia nummularia var. 'Aurea')
∑ 1 of : Ludwigia, Broad Leaf (Ludwigia repens) (grown in 2" POTS)
∑ 1 of : Sagittaria, Dwarf Subulata (Sagittaria subulata)(10 plants per order)
∑ 1 of : Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides) Pot
∑ 1 of : Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis)

My first concern is that I donít have nearly enough lighting in my aquarium (1, 23-watt) even though it does get 6+ hours of direct sunlight a day (on about 2/3 of the tank). Iím having green algae growth ONLY in places that the direct sunlight touches and I can see the plants releasing oxygen only when theyíre in the direct sun and not while theyíre under the aquarium light alone, but my current plants seem to be growing fine (the sword has grown 5 inches in the past 3 weeks from being completely frozen and near dead since I added CO2 Ė see pictures). So Iím pretty confused when it comes to interpreting my tankís needs. Do I have enough light?

Second, I have NO idea where to start with fertilizing. I have come across dozens of discussions about ferts on here and other forums and they repeatedly mention using Excel by Seachem, but Iím concerned that using Excel will become too costly over time. So Iím interested in a cheap, yet effective alternative for fertilizing my plants (dry or traditional gardening ferts perhaps? Idk.) Iím so confused and overwhelmed when it comes to fertilizers, but Iím really trying to do my homework. So far, I have ordered Seachemís plant tabs because I read somewhere that they can feed plant roots for close to 3 months vs. daily regular Excel dosing. Will the tabs be enough nutrients? What else am I missing?

Iím worried that I jumped into this too soon and got a little carried away before doing my homework. I just want to have a pretty planted tank like all of you Please help me.


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post #2 of 36 (permalink) Old 01-27-2013, 03:44 AM
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Hello Give it,

First off I like the wood in your tank very cool.

You probably should have had a chat with Mark, Chad, or Randy at aquariumplants.com before making these plant purchases, they are a wealth of info.
Some of these plants state that they need high light, Glosso is one of them.
I personally am not a fan of a tank by the window getting direct sunlight, can cause algea problems as you have stated. Also direct sunlight can really mess with the temps in the tank especially in the summer.

I am not a furt expert by any means but what I do for my plants is Total and Iron root tabs from AP.com also use injected co2 with Iron and Potassium from Seachem dose twice weekly. Lighting is 3 watts per gallon.

There are some very knowledgable people on this forum but trying to get a lot of answers can take forever. I personally would just call AP.com and talk to the guys.

You could call me also if you would like,

Good luck with your set up.

John 408-313-3891
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post #3 of 36 (permalink) Old 01-27-2013, 03:59 AM
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What do you mean? It is better than my first tank.(well, maybe)

ADA Gentleman #1

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post #4 of 36 (permalink) Old 01-27-2013, 04:05 AM
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That's a massive piece of driftwood Be sure you plant your lower-light plants in the "shade" from that (anubias, crypts, mosses).

For fertilizers, You don't need to use Excel, especially since you're injecting CO2. I am sold on EI daily dosing. Takes like 10 extra seconds during feeding-time each day. Order some dry fertilizers (KNO3, KH2PO4 and Plantex CSM+B) from one of the sellers here on the forum (I believe I bought mine from nilocg). I portion mine out into a little bead-organizer thing so I only have to fill it up every 5 weeks, then just dump the powder right into the tank and laugh as your fish try to eat it. (See picture in this thread)

I used this calculator for determining the amount to dose: http://calc.petalphile.com/

HANdS:
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post #5 of 36 (permalink) Old 01-27-2013, 04:10 AM
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Looks good for your first tank. here is my advice as dumbed down as possible.
1. You need a better light right away. if youre on a budget get a cheap t5ho 2 bulb fixture for cheap. Fishneedit.com has a decent one (for the bulbs you want a mix of 10k and 6500k)
2. Dose flourish excel for now, for 2 reasons, it kills algae and you need the backup since diy co2 is so unstable. also dose flourish iron, and flourish potassium as instructed on bottle. Dose flourish comprehensive at half dose.
3. Upgrade to pressurized co2 as soon as funds allow.
4. Find vendors for dry ferts here, and look up Tom Barr's estimative index dosing method.

Good luck!

please check out my 5x nano tank setup:

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post #6 of 36 (permalink) Old 01-27-2013, 04:32 AM
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Lots of plants or not, this tank is already looking good.. And welcome to the forum!

You mentioned traditional gardening. If you already have experience in that, you may know that plants require three major nutrients, which we call "macros": nitrogen (aka nitrate or N), phosphorus (aka phosphate or P), and potassium (aka K).

And they require a host of minor nutrients, the "micros". They're like vitamins. Iron is the most important one, so it is often treated separately; but when someone says micros, they usually mean the whole list, including iron.

One of the micros, copper (Cu) is necessary in small amount, but toxic to aquatic life in the larger quantities found in terrestrial fertilizers. And the nitrogen in terrestrial fertilizers is usually in some form of ammonia, which is toxic to fish. So these fertilizers can only be used with great care, best to avoid them for now and stick with aquatic ferts.

And then plants also need carbon, typically from CO2. If you do not already have one, get a drop checker and 4DKH solution, to help you monitor CO2 levels; they're inexpensive and well worth it. DIY CO2 is a bit of work and recurring expense for this size of a tank, and I'm sure you'll get recommendations to switch to pressurized. But don't let anyone make you feel rushed here, DIY is fine for now. When you're adding CO2, it needs help to travel around the tank and touch the leaves, where it can be absorbed and actually useful; and this requires more water flow than a normal freshwater tank. Multiply your gallons by ten, and that's a good guideline for how many gallons per hour (GPH) you need. It can be achieved by any combination of filters and powerheads, and should reach every part of the tank, so that all plants are gently swaying in the current.

And finally, light. I'm afraid I cannot estimate your light intensity, perhaps someone else can help with that.

You mentioned Excel. Seachem has a whole line of ferts. Here are the applicable ones:

Flourish (with nothing after it): Contains micros, including iron.

Flourish Excel: This is what you specifically mentioned. Contains glutaraldehyde, which plants can use as a minor, alternate source of carbon. You have real CO2 which works far better, so no need for this. Some plants will melt or be killed by Excel, unless it's introduce very gradually. Your vals and anacharis are on this list.

Flourish Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium: Three different products covering the three macros.

Flourish Comprehensive: Like plain Flourish (micros), with a trace of macros, but too small to be useful.

There are also dry aquatic ferts. Which are a LOT cheaper than any liquid fert in the long run. You can even make your own batches of liquid ferts from them.

Finally, you'll need to decide on a dosing scheme. You can:

1) Dose much more than is needed, so no plant will go hungry for any nutrient. Then perform a 50% water change each week, which keeps the excess from building up. This is referred to as Estimative Index (EI).

2) Dose exactly what is needed, or slightly more. This reduces the need for regular or large water changes, because there's less buildup. But it's a bit trickier - you may under or over estimate what plants need.

These are broad scheme classes. There are endless variations.

And this whole post is by no means comprehensive. Just a little primer for you that touches on all the relevant topics, which will certainly lead into more specific questions and answers.
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post #7 of 36 (permalink) Old 01-27-2013, 04:32 AM
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*edit* it was said better than I could have done
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post #8 of 36 (permalink) Old 01-27-2013, 04:36 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the quick replies guys! I appreciate your advice!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by caique View Post

You probably should have had a chat with Mark, Chad, or Randy at aquariumplants.com before making these plant purchases, they are a wealth of info.
Too late :/ Already purchased these.

Quote:
Originally Posted by caique View Post
I personally am not a fan of a tank by the window getting direct sunlight, can cause algea problems as you have stated. Also direct sunlight can really mess with the temps in the tank especially in the summer.
I totally agree that the sunlight is not helping my algae problems. As for the temp, I live in Wyoming and our summers are 3 weeks longs (joking) and if it gets above 80 degrees they issue a heat-wave advisory, but I have been watching the temp because that crossed my mind as well and haven't noticed any fluctuations yet. I will absolutely keep my eye on it. On the other hand, moving the tank at the moment probably isn't very feasible.

I will definately look into the ferts. Thanks a lot for your help!


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post #9 of 36 (permalink) Old 01-27-2013, 04:48 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mr2 View Post
Looks good for your first tank. here is my advice as dumbed down as possible.
1. You need a better light right away. if youre on a budget get a cheap t5ho 2 bulb fixture for cheap. Fishneedit.com has a decent one (for the bulbs you want a mix of 10k and 6500k)
2. Dose flourish excel for now, for 2 reasons, it kills algae and you need the backup since diy co2 is so unstable. also dose flourish iron, and flourish potassium as instructed on bottle. Dose flourish comprehensive at half dose.
3. Upgrade to pressurized co2 as soon as funds allow.
4. Find vendors for dry ferts here, and look up Tom Barr's estimative index dosing method.

Good luck!
Awesome! Thank you!

As for lighting, would this be okay? : http://www.homedepot.com/Lighting-Fa...1#.UQSvlHy9KSM

As for the Seachem, like I mentioned before I am very hesitant to use it simply because of the running cost (I'm a college student on a cereal diet at the moment), but I'm even MORE hesitant to start and then stop using it. It's been my impression, and correct me if I'm wrong, that ferts or no ferts, CONSISTANCY is what matters. I can just picture my jungle Val's melting away after stopping excel. What do you think?

As for the CO2, why upgrade? I'm curious. I'm a complete stranger to CO2 systems, but it seems to be working. I've heard people mention that DIY CO2 systems have little to no impact on larger tanks like mine, but if that were the case why would my pH drop from close to 9 down to around 7 within two days (I was panicing at that moment because I knew I was stressing my fish) and then stay there?

Thanks so much!!!


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post #10 of 36 (permalink) Old 01-27-2013, 04:53 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkCobra View Post
Lots of plants or not, this tank is already looking good.. And welcome to the forum!

You mentioned traditional gardening. If you already have experience in that, you may know that plants require three major nutrients, which we call "macros": nitrogen (aka nitrate or N), phosphorus (aka phosphate or P), and potassium (aka K).

And they require a host of minor nutrients, the "micros". They're like vitamins. Iron is the most important one, so it is often treated separately; but when someone says micros, they usually mean the whole list, including iron.

One of the micros, copper (Cu) is necessary in small amount, but toxic to aquatic life in the larger quantities found in terrestrial fertilizers. And the nitrogen in terrestrial fertilizers is usually in some form of ammonia, which is toxic to fish. So these fertilizers can only be used with great care, best to avoid them for now and stick with aquatic ferts.

And then plants also need carbon, typically from CO2. If you do not already have one, get a drop checker and 4DKH solution, to help you monitor CO2 levels; they're inexpensive and well worth it. DIY CO2 is a bit of work and recurring expense for this size of a tank, and I'm sure you'll get recommendations to switch to pressurized. But don't let anyone make you feel rushed here, DIY is fine for now. When you're adding CO2, it needs help to travel around the tank and touch the leaves, where it can be absorbed and actually useful; and this requires more water flow than a normal freshwater tank. Multiply your gallons by ten, and that's a good guideline for how many gallons per hour (GPH) you need. It can be achieved by any combination of filters and powerheads, and should reach every part of the tank, so that all plants are gently swaying in the current.

And finally, light. I'm afraid I cannot estimate your light intensity, perhaps someone else can help with that.

You mentioned Excel. Seachem has a whole line of ferts. Here are the applicable ones:

Flourish (with nothing after it): Contains micros, including iron.

Flourish Excel: This is what you specifically mentioned. Contains glutaraldehyde, which plants can use as a minor, alternate source of carbon. You have real CO2 which works far better, so no need for this. Some plants will melt or be killed by Excel, unless it's introduce very gradually. Your vals and anacharis are on this list.

Flourish Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium: Three different products covering the three macros.

Flourish Comprehensive: Like plain Flourish (micros), with a trace of macros, but too small to be useful.

There are also dry aquatic ferts. Which are a LOT cheaper than any liquid fert in the long run. You can even make your own batches of liquid ferts from them.

Finally, you'll need to decide on a dosing scheme. You can:

1) Dose much more than is needed, so no plant will go hungry for any nutrient. Then perform a 50% water change each week, which keeps the excess from building up. This is referred to as Estimative Index (EI).

2) Dose exactly what is needed, or slightly more. This reduces the need for regular or large water changes, because there's less buildup. But it's a bit trickier - you may under or over estimate what plants need.

These are broad scheme classes. There are endless variations.

And this whole post is by no means comprehensive. Just a little primer for you that touches on all the relevant topics, which will certainly lead into more specific questions and answers.
WOW. Thank you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkCobra View Post
There are also dry aquatic ferts. Which are a LOT cheaper than any liquid fert in the long run. You can even make your own batches of liquid ferts from them.
This is exactly what I'm looking for, where do I get these and where can I learn how to dose them?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkCobra View Post
Finally, you'll need to decide on a dosing scheme. You can:

1) Dose much more than is needed, so no plant will go hungry for any nutrient. Then perform a 50% water change each week, which keeps the excess from building up. This is referred to as Estimative Index (EI).

2) Dose exactly what is needed, or slightly more. This reduces the need for regular or large water changes, because there's less buildup. But it's a bit trickier - you may under or over estimate what plants need.
I like to do smaller, more frequent water changes instead of weekly large ones, it's MUCH more convenient for me. My routine has been to change approx. 2 gallons a day a few hours after morning feeding. What dosing scheme would be best in my situation?


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post #11 of 36 (permalink) Old 01-27-2013, 05:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GiveIt2MeNerdy View Post
This is exactly what I'm looking for, where do I get these and where can I learn how to dose them?
I get mine from Green Leaf Aquariums, but there are other, equally good sources as well. Learning how to dose is dependent on...

Quote:
Originally Posted by GiveIt2MeNerdy View Post
I like to do smaller, more frequent water changes instead of weekly large ones, it's MUCH more convenient for me. My routine has been to change approx. 2 gallons a day a few hours after morning feeding. What dosing scheme would be best in my situation?
Which affects your choice of scheme. Small, daily water changes aren't anywhere near as good at removing excesses of fertilizers (or other undesirable wastes) than a single, 50% weekly change.

So if you still prefer to go this route, then you'll need a leaner dosing scheme. The amount of light (yet to be determined) and amount of plant mass will affect how much you'll need to dose.

Dosage may be determined experimentally, by starting off large and then gradually decreasing one or more components until you see signs of deficiency or algae. Obviously, this can take a while, and for a beginner it can be difficult to interpret the signs. You can post pics and we can have a go, but if there's any other issue, like light or CO2, it can be a guessing game even for us.

Or you can use test kits. Nitrate and phosphate test kits are cheap and readily available for under $10 each. Iron is a bit more pricey at $30, and potassium $80 (last time I checked, which has been a while), but there's considerable leeway in these two. For example, recommended iron range is 0.1-0.2ppm, but some have gone as far as 10ppm without trouble; potassium is similar.

If you happen to fall into the high light category, everything happens faster in a tank. Plants obviously grow faster. If they're lacking for any nutrient, or otherwise unhappy in any way, they turn unhealthy faster, and then the algae can take over in no time flat. Using a scheme like EI, and/or stepping down to medium light, is something I would highly recommend for a beginner.

A little disclaimer. I use EI exclusively, pouring on most of the ferts, and using 50% weekly water changes - regardless of light level or other parameters. So I have only a passing familiarity with these kinds of dosing schemes. Others can give you more specific info, and will hopefully correct any misstatements I may have made.
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post #12 of 36 (permalink) Old 01-27-2013, 05:33 AM
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is your tank really at 86 degrees? if so why so high?
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post #13 of 36 (permalink) Old 01-27-2013, 05:39 AM Thread Starter
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is your tank really at 86 degrees? if so why so high?
Yes, it is that high, according to 3 separate thermometers.

To keep the fish immune systems high and also because all the fish in my tank are very young and I would like to see them mature faster so they become more hardy. As I'm sure you know, heat speeds up their metabolisms therefore aging faster. Once they are a bit older I will turn the heat down.


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post #14 of 36 (permalink) Old 01-27-2013, 05:40 AM Thread Starter
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Which affects your choice of scheme. Small, daily water changes aren't anywhere near as good at removing excesses of fertilizers (or other undesirable wastes) than a single, 50% weekly change.
How do you figure that? With frequent water changes there's never an excess of anything.


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post #15 of 36 (permalink) Old 01-27-2013, 06:41 AM
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How do you figure that? With frequent water changes there's never an excess of anything.
Let's say you put one cup of sugar in a gallon of water. Perform a 50% water change, you have 0.50 cup of sugar remaining. Easy.

Perform 7.14% water changes daily, over the course of a week. This totals to 50%, but something different happens. At the end of each day you have:

#1: 0.93
#2: 0.86
#3: 0.80
#4: 0.74
#5: 0.69
#6: 0.64
#7: 0.60

What happened here? Each water change was actually changing some portion of the fresh water we changed the day before, and not removing as much sugar as the one before it.

Ok, so not a big deal, right? It's still equivalent to a single weekly 40% water change, instead of a 50% one. But there's more.

Let's assume that tank water starts at 0ppm nitrate, and has 20ppm added to it each week from ferts and fish waste. We also perform a 50% water change each week. At the end of each week after the water change, the ppm's are:

#1: 10
#2: 15 (that's 10 from the prior week, plus 20, reduced by 50%)
#3: 17.5
#4: 18.75
#5: 19.375 (we're starting to level off, so here I stop)

Now do it with the daily changes, remembering they're equivalent to a 40% weekly change:

#1: 12
#2: 19.2
#3: 23.52
#4: 26.112
#5: 27.6672

43% higher. From the same amount of water, changed over the same period in time; just in smaller daily changes instead of a large weekly one.

And this is a fairly forgiving example. I picked numbers that were easy to follow. Your current water change protocol, 2G daily into approx. 45G of actual tank water volume, is equivalent to a mere 27% weekly water change. And if you have 20ppm of nitrate going into your tank each week, your tank will trend toward 43ppm, or 122% higher.

This applies to all nutrients and waste products, not just nitrate.

Now while most recommend nitrate levels of 10-20ppm, 43ppm nitrate is nothing to worry about. So if you're dosing lightly and have a light fish load contributing to nitrate buildup, no problem. But if with heavier dosing and fish loads contributing more than 20ppm weekly, I think you can now see how things can get out of hand really fast, and unexpectedly for those who aren't familiar with the nuances of daily vs. weekly water changes.

Perhaps I overstated myself when I said "much less effective". It's easier to say that than to go into more detail than you might have wanted. But you asked, so I gave it to you nerdy.
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