New to hobby: Am I inpatient or off track? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 09-10-2014, 07:39 AM Thread Starter
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New to hobby: Am I inpatient or off track?

I'm here by accident. An impulse purchase two months ago has been the catalyst for many late nights of research. I backed into the current situation without a plan and made many mistakes to get here. Should I scrap it and start over or can I save this tank? I want to start on a 17 or 20 gallon, but my fear is that I'm making amateur mistakes that need to be corrected.

Here is the current situation.

Aquarium: Fluval Edge
Substrate: Eco-Complete Fine
Lighting: Fluval Edge Stock Lighting and 11" Marineland LED

Narrow Leaf Java Ferns
Echinodorus tenellus
Dwarf Hairgrass
Marsilea quadrifolia
Various stem plants (temporary)

8 Scarlet badis
4 Corydoras plateaus (More on this below)
1 Amano shrimp

Fertlizer & Maintenance:
GLA PPS PRO Micro (.6ml daily)
GLA PPS PRO Macro (.6ml daily)
Seachem Excel (.6ml daily)
WC 2X Weekly
Daily water quality checks

Here are my concerns. I had an Ammonia spike last week that I attributed to over feeding after trying baby brine shrimp for the Scarlet Badis, but it could be from the tank being overstocked or maybe the tank just now cycling. I thought the tank had cycled, but in the beginning (when the tank was empty) I was just following a set of instructions and wasn't testing. Later when I was testing I never had any high readings of nitrates, nitrites, or ammonia. Thus the daily checks.

Overstocking: I took the advice on stocking this tank from an old suggestion on this forum and cross checked it with aqadvisor. It seemed to make sense. And then promptly picked up the wrong species of Cory's (plateus vs. pygmaeus). The Cory's seem to be doing fine in the tank, they get along with the Badis and are still fairly small. I'm hoping that I can move these to a larger tank before they grow much more. That tank would have to be purchased, cycled, scaped, etc. How much time do I have before these entertaining catfish get too big?

Now to the plants.

I didn't have the additional light in the beginning and the hairgrass completely melted. While waiting on the clover as a replacement, I picked up the light and had a "rebirth" of DHG. It has grown back but isn't spreading as of yet.

The stem plants are melting as well (iron deficiency?), but are showing signs of new growth. Are root tabs needed?

The clover was grown emersed, so I expected the melting that I'm currently seeing. At this time I haven't seen any new growth.

The e.t. looks to be doing fairly well, but again no new growth.

So, the plan is to get another tank up and running move the Cory's and maybe replace with just 3 or 4 ottos or just add some shrimp? Hopefully see a nice growth of the ET and DHG.

It's been 4 weeks and I'm not seeing a whole lot of growth. Am I off track or inpatient?
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 09-10-2014, 01:25 PM
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I seem to remember that DHG takes a lot of light or injected CO2/w med light.
I had native hair grass and it did much better/w root tabs than without them.
Not familiar/w some of your plants to say if they are fast growing or slow or in between.
The Java Fern will get a new leaf about every month. Depends on what kind they are if the stemmed plants will grow fast or...
You have the nutrients so you might be low on light. But not knowing if you have any
fast growing plants causes me to not really be able to tell if it's not growing for you or you are in need of some patience. Even for slow growing plants a month is a bit long though.
I have sort of a mis match in my tank right now(one of them) and there are only about
9 plants in there and most are tiny also but there is java moss, Cladophora algae, duckweed, Regular baby tears and one other small plant type that I can't remember the name of soaking up the nutrients in there keeping the regular plants from getting as much as I'd like them to. Then I just changed the ferts to a lighter kind and I am adding to it to adjust it. So my plants are growing very slow right now but I just need to wait it out till I get the ferts right. It's sometimes just a waiting game.

The shortest distance between any two points is a straight the opposite direction...
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 09-10-2014, 02:00 PM
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4 C. paleatus in a 20 gallon is not so bad, but yes, any of the dwarfs would have been a better idea. When fish are young they seem to grow pretty fast, they might outgrow this tank in a couple of months, perhaps less.
I am more concerned about the 8 Badis. Are they getting along OK? Have they partitioned the tank so they all have some territory? The Fluval Edge is not well shaped for this. I think I see problems here.
Only one shrimp? They are a very small bio load, so several would be just fine.

If you like this combination of fish I think I would look into a tank like a 20 long. This is a shallow tank that is 30" long, so there is more floor space for the fish to spread out. It is a little tricky to plant, because it is shallow. You could get the same floor space with a 29 gallon tank, then get a school of something that swims higher in the tank, as well.
I would revise the stocking to something like this:
2 pairs of Badis (if there are enough hiding places) or just one male and 2-3 females.
6-8 Dwarf Cories
Half a dozen Amano Shrimp
1-3 Otos.
If you get a 29 gallon add a school of dwarf Rasboras, Celestial Pearl Danios or other small fish.

Here is the fishless cycle, I am including it so you can better understand about the nitrifying bacteria, and for your next tank.

Cycle: To grow the beneficial bacteria that remove ammonia and nitrite from the aquarium.

Fish-In Cycle: To expose fish to toxins while using them as the source of ammonia to grow nitrogen cycle bacteria. Exposure to ammonia burns the gills and other soft tissue, stresses the fish and lowers their immunity. Exposure to nitrite makes the blood unable to carry oxygen. Research methemglobinemia for details.

Fishless Cycle: The safe way to grow more bacteria, faster, in an aquarium, pond or riparium.

The method I give here was developed by 2 scientists who wanted to quickly grow enough bacteria to fully stock a tank all at one time, with no plants helping, and overstock it as is common with Rift Lake Cichlid tanks.

1a) Set up the tank and all the equipment. You can plant if you want. Include the proper dose of dechlorinator with the water.
Optimum water chemistry:
GH and KH above 3 German degrees of hardness. A lot harder is just fine.
pH above 7, and into the mid 8s is just fine.
Temperature in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) is good. Higher is OK if the water is well aerated.
A trace of other minerals may help. Usually this comes in with the water, but if you have a pinch of KH2PO4, that may be helpful.
High oxygen level. Make sure the filter and power heads are running well. Plenty of water circulation.
No toxins in the tank. If you washed the tank, or any part of the system with any sort of cleanser, soap, detergent, bleach or anything else make sure it is well rinsed. Do not put your hands in the tank when you are wearing any sort of cosmetics, perfume or hand lotion. No fish medicines of any sort.
A trace of salt (sodium chloride) is OK, but not required.
This method of growing bacteria will work in a marine system, too. The species of bacteria are different.

1b) Optional: Add any source of the bacteria that you are growing to seed the tank. Cycled media from a healthy tank is good. Decor or some gravel from a cycled tank is OK. Live plants or plastic are OK. Bottled bacteria is great, but only if it contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. Read the label and do not waste your money on anything else.
At the time this was written the right species could be found in:
Dr. Tims One and Only
Tetra Safe Start
Microbe Lift Nite Out II
...and perhaps others.
You do not have to jump start the cycle. The right species of bacteria are all around, and will find the tank pretty fast.

2) Add ammonia until the test reads 5 ppm. This ammonia is the cheapest you can find. No surfactants, no perfumes. Read the fine print. This is often found at discount stores like Dollar Tree, or hardware stores like Ace. You could also use a dead shrimp form the grocery store, or fish food. Protein breaks down to become ammonia. You do not have good control over the ammonia level, though.
Some substrates release ammonia when they are submerged for the first time. Monitor the level and do enough water changes to keep the ammonia at the levels detailed below.

3) Test daily. For the first few days not much will happen, but the bacteria that remove ammonia are getting started. Finally the ammonia starts to drop. Add a little more, once a day, to test 5 ppm.

4) Test for nitrite. A day or so after the ammonia starts to drop the nitrite will show up. When it does allow the ammonia to drop to 3 ppm.

5) Test daily. Add ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. If the nitrite or ammonia go to 5 ppm do a water change to get these lower. The ammonia removing species and the nitrite removing species (Nitrospira) do not do well when the ammonia or nitrite are over 5 ppm.

6) When the ammonia and nitrite both hit zero 24 hours after you have added the ammonia the cycle is done. You can challenge the bacteria by adding a bit more than 3 ppm ammonia, and it should be able to handle that, too, within 24 hours.

7) Now test the nitrate. Probably sky high!
Do as big a water change as needed to lower the nitrate until it is safe for fish. Certainly well under 20, and a lot lower is better. This may call for more than one water change, and up to 100% water change is not a problem. Remember the dechlor!
If you will be stocking right away (within 24 hours) no need to add more ammonia. If stocking will be delayed keep feeding the bacteria by adding ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. You will need to do another water change right before adding the fish.

Helpful hints:

A) You can run a fishless cycle in a bucket to grow bacteria on almost any filter media like bio balls, sponges, ceramic bio noodles, lava rock or Matala mats. Simply set up any sort of water circulation such as a fountain pump or air bubbler and add the media to the bucket. Follow the directions for the fishless cycle. When the cycle is done add the media to the filter. I have run a canister filter in a bucket and done the fishless cycle.

B) The nitrogen cycle bacteria will live under a wide range of conditions and bounce back from minor set backs. By following the set up suggestions in part 1b) you are setting up optimum conditions for fastest reproduction and growth.
GH and KH can be as low as 1 degree, but watch it! These bacteria use the carbon in carbonates, and if it is all used up (KH = 0) the bacteria may die off.
pH as low as 6.5 is OK, but by 6.0 the bacteria are not going to be doing very well. They are still there, and will recover pretty well when conditions get better.
Temperature almost to freezing is OK, but they must not freeze, and they are not very active at all. They do survive in a pond, but they are slow to warm up and get going in the spring. This is where you might need to grow some in a bucket in a warm place and supplement the pond population. Too warm is not good, either. Tropical or room temperature tank temperatures are best. (68 to 85*F or 20 to 28*C)
Moderate oxygen can be tolerated for a while. However, to remove lots of ammonia and nitrite these bacteria must have oxygen. They turn one into the other by adding oxygen. If you must stop running the filter for an hour or so, no problem. If longer, remove the media and keep it where it will get more oxygen.
Once the bacteria are established they can tolerate some fish medicines. This is because they live in a complex film called Bio film on all the surfaces in the filter and the tank. Medicines do not enter the bio film well.
These bacteria do not need to live under water. They do just fine in a humid location. They live in healthy garden soil, as well as wet locations.

C) Planted tanks may not tolerate 3 ppm or 5 ppm ammonia. It is possible to cycle the tank at lower levels of ammonia so the plants do not get ammonia burn. Add ammonia to only 1 ppm, but test twice a day, and add ammonia as needed to keep it at 1 ppm. The plants are also part of the bio filter, and you may be able to add the fish sooner, if the plants are thriving.
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 09-10-2014, 07:26 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
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Thank you for the detailed responses. I'm amazed at the willingness to help in this community.

I went in to purchase Amano shrimp from LFS, but she only had one left. With everything going on with the tank I haven't went back to get more. I might go with a smaller shrimp, but haven't decided.

The Scarlet Badis appear to have found their spots in the tank. I was really worried at the beginning as they never ventured out from the plants. Most of my time was spent trying to count them and make sure none were missing -- they are great at hiding. But now they venture out into the open spaces. Is there any behavior that would indicate they aren't doing well?

The layout possibilities of a 20 long are very appealing, but I'm having trouble locating one. The only one I've found is at glasscages and they do not have a distribution point anywhere near me.

Your stocking suggestion of the 20L is very similar to my thoughts. In the end I might take the top off of the Fluval Edge and use it just for Shrimp and S. Badis.
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