struggling with my tank--advice needed! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-01-2014, 05:37 PM Thread Starter
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struggling with my tank--advice needed!

Hi all,

I hate writing threads like this, but I'm really at a loss for what to do with my tank. This is not my first planted tank setup, but after a series of failures, I'm feeling like a noob again! I could really use some direction.

The biggest problem is that nothing seems to want to grow. I have tried planting DHG several times (both Top Fin in the gel and submerged pots from a LFS). I split up the plants into small plugs about the diameter of a pencil or less. I have tried planting them directly and then trimmed them a week later. I have also trimmed them and then planted them.

I have done this probably three times and every time, the plants melt back and never send up new blades. I've dug around and anything I find has no new growth and basically just falls apart. Even the hydrocotyle I added to soak up the excess ferts got covered with algae and never showed new growth--and that has always grown like a weed!

What is really frustrating is that the DHG was my backup plan. I originally tried to dry start some HC that I had been growing. I had a tanks worth and it all melted away.

Here are my specs. Please let me know if I've left anything out!

Tank: 17 gallons
Lighting: Aquaticlife t5HO, 2 x 6500k, 11 inches above tank
Substrate: ADA Aquasoil Amazonia with ADA additives, Seachem root tabs, and reused powersand
Filtration: Eheim 2217
CO2: pressurized with Rex Grigg-style reactor
Flora: DHG
Fauna: otocinclus and a dozen small tetras
2 ml excel/day, three times a week alternating micro/macro: 1/8 tsp KNO3, 1/32 tsp KH2PO4, 1/32 K2SO4, 1/32 tsp CSM + B

water parameters at end of EI week:
pH: 6.6
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 5
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-01-2014, 06:10 PM
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If it's not working it's time to change some things in an attempt to pin down the culprit.

Your nitrates are low by the end of the week, should be up around 40 or more before a water change so perhaps try waiting an extra week or two before performing the water change. May want to try not using the excel as well, it's not really needed with CO2 except as an algaecide for an unbalanced tank.

The only other issue may be the age of your bulbs, t5ho bulbs lose their growing ability after 9 months or so even if they seem just as bright. If they are new then try lowering the fixture to just above the tank and see if that sparks growth. I like using too much light with fast growing floaters (frogbit) which cuts the light within the tank and soaks up nitrates.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-01-2014, 06:40 PM
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Don't get discouraged, Dave. I have been in the same boat as you before and let me tell you, there have been countless times when I have wanted to throw in the towel. Don't do it! This hobby has a steep learning curve in the beginning. Over time it gets significantly easier and much more enjoyable.

First, try to narrow down the probable cause(or causes) of your aquarium woes. It sounds like your CO2 is not where it should be. I would up the dosing. The trouble you are having with DHG and HC tips me off that it's a CO2 issue.
You have the ground cover flora planted in amazonia soil, so I am assuming adequate nutrients are available to the roots.
Back in the day when I used to grow tons of HC, whenever melting started to occur, CO2 was always the culprit.

Also, the distance of your light is pretty far from the bottom level of the aquarium. Don't expect explosive growth at that light level. Patience may need to be exercised when waiting to notice new recovery growth.

As far as ferts go, I am feeling a little lazy to do the calculations to see whether or not you are dosing enough. I use to do my ferts calculations. It's very handy!

Hope this helps.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-01-2014, 07:17 PM Thread Starter
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Oxl and FreshPuff, thanks for the encouraging words! I'm glad there are always people around to talk me away from the planted tank ledge!

Both of you had suggestions for the lighting, so some more info on my fixture. Both bulbs are new within the month and the fixture is on an 8 hour photoperiod. I had been running the fixture closer to the top of the tank, but I was struggling algae (I am still seeing BGA in a few spots). Everything I have read suggests that two T5HO bulbs over a 14 inch deep tank is more than enough PAR.

I think that my CO2 is adequate. As a very rough indicator, I do see my drop checker swinging from blue in the morning, to green when the lights come on, and ultimately greenish yellow at the end of the photoperiod. I also seem to be at the maximum my fishes can tolerate. I had slowly raised my bubbles per second until the fishes started gasping, and then I backed it down just slightly.

I am hesitant to lower the lights since I cant raise the CO2 any more. It seems like that would just put things out of balance.

So, in my mind, if the CO2 and lighting are adequate, the nutrients are the likely culprits. I'm using measuring spoons, so I may have to check my math. I am using the same amounts that I used on my last setup in this tank. I just have to remember how to convert milligrams on the petalphile calculator to tsp.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-02-2014, 11:25 AM
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How quickly did your DHG & HC melt away?
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-02-2014, 03:21 PM Thread Starter
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The HC melted over a period of days to weeks. There was a melt back during the dry start and then the rest didn't take the flood. I knew there would be some loss during the transition, so I really cranked up the CO2.

The DHC usually melts back within a week or two. Again, I expected it because most of it was grow emersed but I expected some growth below the substrate. But I haven't seen it.
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