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UNS 90U - 21 gallon low-boy
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone -

So I need some help. Figured a journal is the best way to do this.

This is my current iteration of my tank.

1029969


At the moment it doesn't look like this, hence the challenge in the title.

Attached are my specs and what I'm dosing.

Here's the thing. I'm getting A LOT of GDA and hair algae even on the faster growing stems. Would appreciate your thoughts on how to improve the situation.

Some additional details: I get a 40 ppm TDS right after I water change with 100% RODI water. This is prior to remineralization with Ca and Mg. A week later TDS sits at about 170 ppm.

Challenge points for you to consider:

1. This aquarium gets sun light for about 4 -5 hours in the middle to front of the aquarium. Nothing I can do about it without getting a divorce. I have to deal with it. Honestly, plant growth is great in the sunlit area but so is GDA.

2. These plants sat in a 5 gallon bucket and took a beating for about a week because of delays in my move. So... these plants are fighting back from the brink of death. Yes, I am trimming decayed parts as best I can.

3. The bacterial filter was demolished due to the wait. I restarted it 3 weeks ago and added Dr. Tim's One and Only. Current ammonia and nitrite are at zero.

4. CO2 is via internal diffuser. I'm going to switch that to an inline diffuser in the next week or two.

5. Flow is via a Tunze 6040 powerhead that does create quite a gyre in the aquarium.

6. Substate is brand new ADA Amazonia Ver 2.

7. a pH controller controls CO2 so that it drops pH by 1+ but doesn't let pH get below 5.

Happy to provide any more details but check the attached pdf for more info on dosing.

What I need to solve:

This aquarium is getting more algae than I'm used to. It's mostly GDA on the glass and on the older leaves. Fast growing stems in the back (that don't get direct sunlight) are getting hair algae on them.

I realize that the answer is to find the CO2, light and nutrient sweet spot. Would appreciate your thoughts on how to get there. CO2 is flowing and quickly dispersing in the aquarium. I'm thinking more and more that my fertilization is too rich OR not enough given the sunlight. Not sure which way to go to try to improve things.

Last point: I can try (and did try) blackout and the One Two Punch. Both worked fine. However, algae returned. I'm trying to get to the right balance before another knockout punch to algae.

Thanks for your help and thoughts.

Best,

Art
 

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If the tank is just 3 wks old with full sunlight it will not have the established bacteria to convert the excess waste being produced by the plants and substrate.

Sunlight is actually the best lighting you can possibly have so I would just work with it. It will produce better results than any light.

But you have to keep up with the water changes and cleaning and all your bacteria will establish.

Plants also take time to optimise their metabolism for the conditions in your tank but will eventually soak up excess ammonia (which is what you should aim for with the help of a test kit).

Just keep up with the cleaning and water changes - two / three times a week and you will reach a happy equilibrium after maybe 3 months. It will be worth it.

If you want you can try to accelerate bacterial growth by adding hardscapes or water from external sources like rivers or lakes if you have them nearby.
 
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1. This aquarium gets sun light for about 4 -5 hours in the middle to front of the aquarium. Nothing I can do about it without getting a divorce. I have to deal with it. Honestly, plant growth is great in the sunlit area but so is GDA.
I mean....there it is..

Brand new aquasoil, especially amazonia leeches tons of nitrate.
While NO3 does not cause algal spores to germinate, existing algae can grow and multiply faster in high NO3 environment.
Especially when entire system is off-balance and plants struggle algae just go nuts.

What I would do is just stop macro dosing and do more frequent high% water changes.
See how much NO3 leeches out into water column. I bet it is like 40~50ppm per week.
If it leeches out too much for your taste then very heavy WC schedule like 80% every other day for 2 weeks will quickly get rid of too much nitrate.
Then you can resume your macro and see how it goes.

Cover sunlight with curtain. Or cover sides of the tank with plack towels or somthn. You could make a deal with your wife. Or divorce lol.

I think even if you do all that you'll still get some algae because diffuse sunlight is still quite a lot of light.
Adding some plecos will help.
 

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I've, honestly, never had nitrate leech from aquasoils, just ammonia, though it does get converted to high nitrates eventually in the cycling process. Most of them are pretty much set up so you do 50% changes everyday the first week every other day second week twice a week the 3rd week and once a week thereafter to counteract that. From my own experience there is an issue with nutrients from the column being absorbed (adsorbed ? ) into the substrate, @Quagulator has documented the phosphate side of that very well. I've historically noticed this but have never documented, though my cube journal is starting to show a high rate of nitrate/ phosphate/ iron uptake (that's all the testing I have access to).

I'm fighting my own endless algae battle with my low tech from south facing windows and low light/ slow growth plants and I've just accepted that I'm always going to have to scrub a little more than others. With high tech you can probably counteract with higher co2, precise nutrients and fast growing light loving plants in proper balance. Considering your wife's stance on this issue I think that's probably your best bet... Unless you can talk her into velvet or other opaque type curtains 😉
 

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Hey Art looks like a great start to the tank.

You have a lot going on there.

New Aquasoil soaks up PO4. You might need to add quite a bit more for awhile to keep some in the water column. When I had new soil I was dosing very large amounts of PO4. Every time PO4 bottomed out hair algae crept up. It was very repeatable. As mentioned above if you check out @Quagulator journal he documents the same thing. Same for Burr when he started new Landen tanks.

You also said some of the plants took a beating. That can take a long time to recover from. Keeping things stable so they can adjust will help.

It's interesting your TDS goes up to 175. I'm dosing just a bit more than you and my TDS never gets above 140 ppm. And that's with a tank full of well fed Rainbowfish. It's usually more like 120 ppm or so. Have you tested NO3 and PO4? Curious if the tank is generating NO3 from the conversion of ammonia. And also curious if you can detect any readable PO4 in the water column.

And really all of this is pretty predictable with fresh soil. There is always a bit of bumpy road at the beginning. If it were me, I would be doing water changes twice a week for awhile. That helps any tank. I also might turn down the light a bit. You know I run high PAR, but while getting the tank in balance a little less light will be more forgiving.

And that strong flow may be working against you. A wide gentle laminar flow is what you want. For most tanks the regular filtration is more than enough, and very few need any additional flow from Powerheads.

I doubt your dosing has anything to with it. If anything, the stems might like a bit more NO3, but first you need to figure out what you actual levels are.
 

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UNS 90U - 21 gallon low-boy
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks everyone. Very helpful and I'm taking it all in.

Gregg, you bring up some interesting points and now I'm starting to wish I did test. This is one of those times that the combination of the new soil and the sunlight is throwing me for a loop and I can't read what the plants need.

Nutrients:

I'll look to purchase a NO3 and PO4 test to see what is happening with that. I am suspecting one of those is low.

I am also going to get a new ammonia test kit. My experience is telling me that the tank's bacterial population hasn't stabilized just yet. I keep getting too many signs that point to ammonia spikes. My Amanos dying all of a sudden to name just one. This may also have to do with chloramines getting through my RODI system. I guess a chloramine test and new carbon blocks are in my near future... (thanks @Hendy8888 for highlighting this possibility).

Lighting:


I brought down the light to 5 hours and shifted it to the back half of the aquarium. Only the front half of the aquarium gets the day light. I too think that this will slow things down a bit to give me a bit more breathing room to figure out what's going on.

Flow:

Flow is via the Lily Pipe and the Oase 250. As this is a 3 foot tank and the filter is a bit underpowered, I had some dead spots where detritus was accumulating. I added a Tunze 6040 powerhead that provides a wide laminar flow the compliments that of the Lily Pipe. It creates a gentle gyre that runs vertically around the aquarium and ensures flow to all four corners. The good thing about the 6040 is that you can tune it down to 50 gph if you want and also pulse it. I've dialed it in so that it creates a very gentle swaying of the plants back and forth.

Water changes:

I did the obligatory WC every couple days for the first couple of weeks but switched to once a week since. I do change plenty of water (80-90%). However, until I get a handle on what's going on, I will be going to twice a week.

In the end, I do have a new tank with Aquasoil and a bunch of sensitive plants. Bumps are expected and, honestly, the detective work is something I have come to enjoy as part of the hobby. Once you come to realize that, sooner or later, you will win the war on algae, you find the patience necessary to get to the bottom of the problem.

Thanks again everyone and happy Memorial Day weekend to those in the US.

Best,

Art
 

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Flow is via the Lily Pipe and the Oase 250. As this is a 3 foot tank and the filter is a bit underpowered, I had some dead spots where detritus was accumulating.
For what it's worth I have the same tank and filter as you and don't have flow issues. When flow does slow down, it's usually just a matter of cleaning out the pre-filter. I've cleaned the rest of the media twice in 2+ years but it doesn't seem to get dirty.

The impeller can also get very gunked up. If I'm hearing any noise at all from the filter then I know that is the culprit and I give the impeller and the housing a thorough cleaning.

Sent from my SM-A716U using Tapatalk
 

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Hey Art! Some good discussion so far.

How do the plants look? If the plants are happy, CO2 and ferts should be close enough

The GDA is almost certainly from too much light, especially with ammonia present. Five hours of direct sun might be hard to overcome under the best of circumstances, idk about that...

Hair algae could be from any number of things, ammonia, immature/shocked bio system, decaying old plant matter, light. I doubt you are ODing Fe but that will bring it on too

I think its more or less new tank syndrome aggravated by the direct sun. Id just keep up the good cleaning and pruning and see how it goes as the system matures.

Looking forward to see how it goes! :)
 

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UNS 90U - 21 gallon low-boy
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
For what it's worth I have the same tank and filter as you and don't have flow issues. When flow does slow down, it's usually just a matter of cleaning out the pre-filter. I've cleaned the rest of the media twice in 2+ years but it doesn't seem to get dirty.
Hey thanks. Always good to compare notes with similar gear.

I have two of the containers filled with bio media and the top one has the large foam insert. The lily pipe is on the right front side of the tank. The current moves water down to the far side via the front of the tank. The current, however, doesn’t come around the back far enough. This results in a low flow area in the back right corner.

I placed the Tunze power head in the back left corner. It’s pulsing at a low power so that it creates a gentle back and forth wave that reaches that low flow area and brings detritus slowly forward and up. This Tunze power head uses a propeller that creates a broad flow rather than a narrow jet.

I do clean the pre-filter weekly with the water change.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
How do the plants look? If the plants are happy, CO2 and ferts should be close enough

I think its more or less new tank syndrome aggravated by the direct sun. Id just keep up the good cleaning and pruning and see how it goes as the system matures.
The plants are looking well. As you would expect, new growth seems healthy. The older parts are ragged.

I think you are definitely right in that it’s new tank syndrome especially with how this one went. I think decay is what is causing the TDS to rise as far and much as it is. The old bacterial colony died and is now getting replaced slowly. The plants took a beating and some have to convert from emersed to submersed form. All of this is causing a LOT of organic going into the water.

I will continue to clean, trim and water change more often than usual to see how that goes.

Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Went on an anniversary vacation and came back to an algae jungle. Took most of yesterday to pull most plants, top and replant. Used an algeafix/Excel dip. 90% water change with RO/DI using new carbon block registering 0 TDS and 0 Chlorine/Chloramine.

I took the opportunity that I was on vacation to install filter hose double tap adapters and a Green Leaf Aquarium inline CO2 diffuser to the return. Unfortunately, I busted the lily pipe while doing it...

I also added a 7W UV filter (internal). It's providing a healthy amount of flow and, hopefully, doing a number on the algae spores. I've been battling GDA and hair algae that was kicked loose with the maintenance. The idea/hope is that the free floating spores will be killed by the UV. I plan to keep it going for a couple of weeks then replacing it with a surface skimmer. Let's see what happens.

I also purchased a nitrate and phosphate test kit that I will be using in a day or two. Waiting to see if the AquaSoil is sucking up PO4.

Also, interesting that 90% 0 TDS water turned into 170 TDS water in the tank. I think this continues to point to the amount of detritus in the soil mostly caused by decomposing algae and old plant matter. I'm using the turkey baster technique to kick it up and out with 90% water changes every couple of days.

Maintenance continues...
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Test readings:

NH4 - 0
NO2 - 0
NO3 - 20
GH - 60
KH - 0
PO4 - .5

As mentioned by @Greggz, the Aqua Soil seems to be absorbing my PO4. I will be adding more to bring it up to my target and test again in a few days.

This is a good example of something going on that I would not have suspected given that I'm using RODI and doing 90% water changes. This Aqua Soil is tricky.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Some interesting (at least for me) data points today.

TDS was sitting at 174 and PO4 at .9 PPM (this even after adding 1g of PO4 three days ago). My thoughts are that the tank still has quite a bit of organics driving the TDS up. I hope it's dead algae. And, the Aqua Soil is still sucking up PO4.

I changed about 80% of the water with fresh RODI. The TDS came down to 60 post water change. I added back my Ca to 34 ppm and Mg to 17 ppm. Added enough NO3 to get to 20 ppm and PO4 to get to 5 ppm.

I did the Dennis Wong-style water change (turkey baster + hose) to work on the organics. I took out two buckets like this:

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This really serves as an example of how dirty the substrate can get with decaying matter. Note, this is a relatively young tank and I only have a couple of Otto's in it. So, this isn't fish poop folks.

My Apex DOS is now hooked up and I'm dosing macros and micros daily. On the micro side, I'm using a custom mix.

Observations:
  • GDA is WAY down. A week or so ago I used a razor blade to really peel it off the glass and then ran a 7W UV filter for a week or so to kill any floating spores. I lowered the photo period to 5 hours and made sure my nutrients were spot on. Most importantly, I found out PO4 was WAY low thanks for the Aqua Soil. I am supplementing PO4 by hand to compensate. I hope that PO4 hog gets full soon!
  • Hair algae is less in the tank. It's a pesky, resistant pest. However, although still showing green, it is falling off the plants rather easily. From experience, I can tell it isn't happy and is losing the war.
  • Very little GSA mostly on older leaves of slow growers.
  • Plant root growth is doing well and new growth is healthy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
So a quick update on the tank. It's certainly been one of my more challenging experiences so far. I think the small volume of water coupled with the natural sunlight and low height means that maintenance needs to be spot on. I also wasn't anticipating how much Amazonia 2 soaks up PO4. That caught me by surprise.

I'm in the tail end of an algae battle and coming off of a 3 day black out. I did a 90% water change with RODI yesterday and brought the nutrients back up to normal for the week. I'm targeting 5 ppm PO4 so I added enough to reach that amount in 20 gallons of water. I also decided to bring KH back up to 1 ppm from zero.

This morning, I was surprised to measure PO4 at .9 ppm using the Hanna Colorimeter. This was confirmed by doing the test twice. That's a big drop in 24 hours. I added enough PO4 to bring it back up to 5 ppm in the water column. Will be testing every few days to see if it's still getting soaked up.

Frankly, I'm thinking that I may pre-soak Amazonia in a high PO4 solution prior to using in the future. Something to try to get this to stop being such a PO4 hog.
 
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