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.
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.