Advise on next steps with my established tank - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-08-2014, 06:06 PM Thread Starter
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Advise on next steps with my established tank

I have a 20gallon high that is approaching a year old. Instead of micro managing the tank and posting on here a million times, I figured I'd give it a few months and see what happens. Unfortunately I haven't made any improvements with the health of my plants. The following is my situation:

Setup - flourite substrate ~1.5 inches with ~1.5 black gravel on top. pressurized co2 w/ solenoid that turns on 2 hours before lights on, turns off 1 hour before lights off. I am always making adjustments to the co2 to keep it at max, my typical strategy is to increase the co2 until I see my fish start to move towards the surface, then dial it back down a bit. 1 aquaclear 50 HOB, 1 aquaclear 20 HOB. Finnex Ray2 24" lighting. Temp 72-74F. I use tapwater with prime as a water source.

Flora - java fern, anubias congensis, anubias barteri, hygro angustifolia, italian val, cabomba caroliana, wisteria, ludwiga repens, aponogeton ulvaceus, rotala rotundifolia, java moss, amazon sword

fauna - 8 bloodfin tetras, 4 neon green tetras, 3 ottos, 4 nerite snails, 1 gold ram, recently discovered colony of some type of tiny snail that only come out at night

Fert dosing schedule

day 1 50% water change & macros
day 2,4,6 micros
day 3,5 macros
day 7 rest

see attached jpg for dosing quantities. i reduced tank volume to 17 to compensate for displacement from substrate, driftwood, etc. I dose a lower amount of KN03 and KH2PO4 because of my high bio-load.

Observations

I can't seem to get my plants to truly flourish. All of them grow, but most of them seem to have some sort of deficiency in some way. The main observation is that most don't grow lush and thick.

Up until about a month ago, I had my light about 6-8" above the tank surface. Needless to say, I was battling algae like you can't believe. Entire plants would be overrun by some form of hair algae on established leaves. My ludwiga and hygro being the most affected, I would end up trimming leaves until only the tops of the plant remained on the stalk. My java moss is beyond established and spreads along my driftwood, but mostly gathers green/brown hair algae on top of it and never really gets green and grows outward/gets bushy like in most pictures I've seen. A lot of the stem plants grew very lanky, branches very spread out until it got near the surface. My italian val, after struggling in the back of the tank for the first few months of the tanks life, had started to spread like wildfire.

About a month ago I raised my light to about 15-16" above in an effort to address my lighting needs. This drastically helped with algae growth, but now alot of the stem plants have started to rot at the base telling me they don't have enough light. My anubias and java fern are doing well however. Java moss has shown no change. Italian val is doing well in some places, but others leaves are dying and decaying. I have since lowered the light back down to about 13-14".

Phosphates have always been a consistent 1-2ppm and nitrates 30-40ppm during my tests throughout the week. As I said earlier, I always make adjustments to my co2, increasing it until I see my fish start to have trouble breathing, then dialing it back a bit to ensure maximum co2 output. This has always ensured my drop checker is yellow with a hint of green. I've always done my best to trim and expose of dead plant matter.

I have a few "easy" plants and I can't seem to keep some of them alive (wisteria), telling me something is definitely off.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 05:07 AM
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I like your charts.

So by your testing you have adequate macros. You are dosing micros appropriately. You have good lighting. You seem to have adequate CO2.

You didn't mention what the GH of your water is. If you do not have hard water most people add GH booster with water changes. Mg deficiency could be a possibility.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 10:20 AM
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30-40ppm nitrates is fairly high, especially for a planted tank.

I had a 29g that was planted, decently stocked and the nitrates rarely went above 0ppm.

But yours doesn't seem that overly stocked, so I'm wondering if your water starts out with high nitrates? Because when you have algae in a planted tank something is wrong. Too many nutrients/ too many fish/ high nitrate levels originally.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 05:40 PM Thread Starter
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My tap has a GH of 10-11, so I've always assumed I don't need to worry about Ca and Mg since I do a weekly 50% WC. But does that necessarily mean I have adequate Mg?

Should I go ahead and cut my nitrate dosing in half for the coming couple of weeks and re-assess?

I'll try to post some pictures of my tank tonight along with some detail of deficient plants.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 06:22 PM
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I don’t test anything in my tanks so I don’t know if I can be much help. What I do is measure the frets and observe the results. So when I see a problem I start to vary what I am dosing in the tank. For instance I might increase the phosphate for a week and see if that helps, or I might decrease the amount of mg and calcium I am adding.
Recently for instance I had a green spot algae problem and I increased the phosphate. A couple of days later I noticed things were improving. After a week or so of doing this you get a pretty good idea about whether or not things are improving. It is gradual and it is easy to reverse. I used to keep a record of what I was putting in with notes about the results. Now I have a basic ei recipe and vary it only when I seem to be having problems.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 06:30 PM Thread Starter
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Even though I am not injecting enough CO2 to gas my fish, is there a possibility that I am injecting TOO MUCH CO2?
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 06:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pelicanincident View Post
My tap has a GH of 10-11, so I've always assumed I don't need to worry about Ca and Mg since I do a weekly 50% WC. But does that necessarily mean I have adequate Mg?

Should I go ahead and cut my nitrate dosing in half for the coming couple of weeks and re-assess?

I'll try to post some pictures of my tank tonight along with some detail of deficient plants.
It is possible to have high GH and have either low Ca or low Mg, but it isn't that common to my understanding.

I've always run my nitrates that high in my high tech tanks and I know some people go even higher so I don't think that is likely the issue.

Post some pics and see if that helps anyone diagnose the problem.

Am I reading it right that your light is now 27ish inches above substrate? I missed that on my first read. 15-16 inches above surface with then about 12 inches to substrate. That would put your PAR fairly low but should be plenty for the plants you have I believe.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-09-2014, 09:59 PM Thread Starter
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Overall shot




Wisteria tall and lanky




Rotalla in background, ludwiga in foreground. You can see how spindly the Rotalla looks.




Java Moss just won't thrive.




Another overall shot. I turned up the shutter speed on the camera so the pic isn't so overexposed. The hygro and Java fern in the middle and the anubias on the left are doing well.



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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-10-2014, 03:37 PM Thread Starter
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I measured my light to substrate and it was waaay too high. I moved my light back down so it is now 21" from light to substrate. However, I am in fear of the algae onslaught...
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-10-2014, 03:51 PM
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Water change, water change, water change. You need to get those nutrients out of there. But first, get in there with an algae scrubber. From there, I'd just build up the parameters again.

That green algae is the worst. But light shouldn't be a problem if the plants soak up the nutrients first. Once that WCs are done, you'll start to see the algae retreat, almost as if peeling away in big splodges.

edit: Nice setup btw. It's gonna look great once the plants fill in.
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-11-2014, 03:37 AM
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Hard to tell from a photo but it does not look like you will not have much circulation. Do they move? Also, do they pearl? Maybe not enough co2... Not enough co2 + too much nutrient in water column + low circulation = great habitat for algae and bacteria. Just an idea.

Last edited by jeremy va; 01-11-2014 at 03:37 AM. Reason: typo
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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-11-2014, 07:17 PM Thread Starter
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I do have a Aquaclear 20 and 50 both running on the tank, seemed to me like enough circulation, but maybe not. I went ahead and added a hydor koralia nano to increase circulation. Just did a big clean and WC this morning. We'll see how this week goes.
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-11-2014, 08:20 PM Thread Starter
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One other thing I'd like to mention. After the WC I did a Nitrate and Phosphate test. N still read 20ppm and P still read 2ppm. On a hunch I performed those tests on my tap water, and my tap water came up N 0-5ppm and P 1ppm.

Knowing that I do have a level of P in my tap, is there a different strategy for dosing to account for this? Also, the fact that I have a heavy bioload and have never seen my N drop below 10 ppm, I question whether I need to dose N at all.

Here's a picture of the cleaaaaan tank

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