Five days ago, I started up my first planted tank, a 20gallon long NPT, hoping to eventually have a very low maintenance setup (and right now I'm frustrated and it's looking like the only). Here are my most pressing questions. Experience, information and opinions very much appreciated! [Please let me know if this belongs in the low tech forum instead].
I'll start with the Q's; tank specifics are below.
Q1: Black spots on Ludwigia leaves (please see pic). Doubt any of these have grown roots yet. Looks like decay rather than algae. Why would the leaves decay? Should I remove the entire plant when this happens, or just the leaf?
How many leaves can remain on a plant and still keep trying with it?
Q1.5: Tiny black spots on the java fern leaves (which look different than the ludwigia ones; please see pic). Do I need to remove the leaves that look like this? The plant has so few leaves…
Q2: Brown tips on Vallisnaria leaves (please see pic). Just cut off the tip of the leaf? Or do I need to remove the whole leaf from the plant base (again, plants have few leaves)?
Q3: How often do I need to bamboo-skewer poke the soil to avoid the dreaded anaerobic startup pitfall? Daily, or every other day is OK?
Q4: I did 50% WC d 2 and 3, nothing d4, and 25% WC day 5 (today). Is 25% every other day for the first week, then 25% every third day a good schedule? I've heard so many different ones, and 25% is one bucket, so much easier than two buckets.
Q5: As of d3 (before the water change), params were ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 0. Of course, cycle hasn't started...when should I expect ammonia to show up?
Q6: I've scoured the web and know the copious white stuff on the driftwood is likley normal and not harmful. But should I attempt to remove it with my water changes, or just ignore it and it'll go away?
Equip:20 gallon long with glass lid; Finnex stingray light (starting with low photoperiod; 3h on, 4 h break, 3h on; will build up to 8h on total); Hydro III sponge filter (rated <40 gallons) run by Aquaclear powerhead 20 at low setting (hoping to have betta eventually); Aqueon Pro 100W heater
Substrate: MGOPM soil w sticks/clumps removed ~ 1" (I shot for 1", might be more or less in some places as everything went wrong with the soil/cap/tank filling process), Black Diamond 20/40 sand ~ 1/2" (again, that was my goal, but it's likely more or less in some places)
Water: Hard, pH ~ 8+
Livestock: Added nine Malaysian trumpet snails on day 2. No fish yet; I am waiting until cycled and stable.
Plants: All newly purchased. My plan is “try a variety of different stuff and see what lives, most probably won’t." Nothing is looking good, except for the lily. Working on getting floating plant (that'll be a separate post).
Ludwigia repens; Nymphaes stellata (red lily); Jungle val; Echinodorus tenellus (small chain sword) x 3; Microsorium pteropus (java fern) x 2; Monoselenium tenerum; Lysimachia nummularia aka Golden lloydiella (Gold Creeping Jenny); Staurogyne repens
Thanks so much for slogging through this long post and helping me get started in the planted tank world!