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Discussion Starter #1
It's been 3 years now with planted tanks, and it is getting exhausting and frustrating. My discus, frontosa, cichlid tanks, and my koi ponds are all doing great, but this planted stuff is more difficult than saltwater, in my opinion. I used to think discus were hard, now they are easy once I get a certain routine down. So I've got a 75 gallon with two HOB filters and a primary sunsun 704b, a 20 lb co2 from airgas with a good quality regulator plus two bubble counters. Right now I am not running the co2 since all i get is bba with it, so I assume the plants are not health and not growing. I've got my main light as a giesmann super flora with red and blue, and a finnex fugeray. I only run the t5 right now. My amazon swords show very little growth, staurogyne repens just rot, amania just rot, java ferns have no growth whatsoever, and the only thing growing are my anubias nana, nancons, and my tiger lily seems to be doing great. I get a new anubias leaf every two days, but two days later I have to chop it because it grows nothing but BBA on it. I also have a giant bag of peat moss in own of my hob filters, but it does absolutely nothing in terms of lowering the PH. I live in a chicagoland suburb, and our water has so many buffers in it that the only way I can lower the ph in this tank is by injecting the co2. Not even discus buffer or seachem acid buffer does anything, it doesn't do a single dent in the ph!! I'm not concerned about the ph, I just want a stable tank with healthy plants, so far, non of them are growing healthy, except for the tiger lily, vals, and thats about it. I can't even get the lucky bamboo or the pothos in the hob to grow, the bamboo simply dried out and turned into balsa wood. I've got very little green hair, no cyno, but from the photos, you can see I have a bba problem. There are about 19 fish in there, 5 angels, 7 bosmani rainbows, two gouramis, and about 6 or so Siamese algae eaters. Obviously I have some sort of deficiency or abundance of nutrients, and just can't get the balance and lighting right. If I turn on both the gisemann t5 and the finnex, the tank turns into a bba buffet. It's been 3 years of research, reading, and trying different co2 bubble counts, diff fert regimes, diff light fixtures and bulbs, diff fixture heights over the tank. I honestly don't understand how my friends grow beautiful amazon swords without doing anything and even adding fertilizers, all my do is collect crap on em and rot away. :( :( :(

This is what I dose as of right now:
30% water change every weekend
seachem iron twice a week, at 5ml
Nilocg thrive at 5 ml, twice a week
excel twice a week
liquid amazonia tannin extract once a week, which in my opinion does nothing and clears up the next day

I also have fine powder phosphate, potassium sulfate, and potassium nitrate in bags which i currently don't use


Water parameters are pretty much the same every week
PH 7.5 with co2 off, straight tape water ph
79 degrees
KH buffer at 4 to 6 degrees, or around 80 to 120ppm
GH at about 180 ppm
nitrate and ammonia always zero, nitrates at around 20 ppm
 

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That's not a bad looking tank, I have far more bba and I enjoy mine. My swords do grow like crazy, so it's just a matter of not focusing on the algae. There is a lot of algae in nature.
Agree that I spend far more time on my planted tanks than my reef tank, but I'm satisfied with nsw and mostly softies.
I would say turn on the co2 and turn it up!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I had it running before, but the bba was far worse with the co2 on. My guess is if the low light plants aren't growing right without co2, then co2 will just make it worse, since you are supplying more co2 than the plants are demanding, and feeding those black beard bastards. Ohh believe me they love co2!
 

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Hello, I think your tank looks great !
I can barely see any algae .
I’m no expert but maybe adding another canister filter or a Fluval FX 4 or 6 might help.
I have been unsuccessful at growing stem plants for the past 4 yrs and when I tried CO2 my plants would be covered in algae also .
I would do 2-3 X a week water changes and physically remove algae but it keeps coming back.
From what I have learned , the key is to get the balance between the lights, Co2 and fertilizers.
It could also be your substrate and/or your tap water.
I’m still trying to find the balance and somedays I just want to give up, especially when I think of all the $$ I have spent on aquatic plants!
I keep trying though hoping one day I will be successful.
Hopefully someone with more experience and expertise will chime in and be able to give you better advice and suggestions.
Good luck


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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That's strange that you say you get more bba with co2. Most of my tanks these days (see signature links) are low-light type plants like ferns, anubias, buce and moss and with the co2 their growth rates increase which combined with increased uptake keeps bba away.

BBA for me and most is usually a result of the organic load that remains in the tank too long and the lighting (assuming ferts are there.) The key for me which you've probably read is to reduce the organics in the tank as much as possible. So we do that by:

-Water changes (I would increase to 50%-60% weekly)
-Use co2 to increase uptake of decomposing waste. Plants like ferns, anubias should be pearling (good indicator that co2 is good), but use ph drop/drop checker for fish safety.
-Remove any dead or algae-ridden leaves on a regular basis
-Add a substantial amount of carbon to the filter (Yes carbon, ignore BS that carbon removes ferts)
-Most of your no3 numbers should be coming from your ferts and not naturally generated from waste, food. There is a difference
-It's beneficial to run a short peak of strong light and the rest lower viewing light.
-I'm not sure about iron dosing. I never dose extra iron over what's in Seachem Flourish or CSM+B

If you choose to do these things, see if new growth stays clean longer then you know your on the right track.
 

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Off hand I can see that your fertilizer regime and your co2 are way way out of line for a 75 gallon.

If this were a 10 gallon tank you would be in good shape.

Thrive uses a 5ml pump (from memory) which treats 5-10 gallons once a week. You are doing that twice a week, sooooo... yea you are a bit low for a 75 gallon.

Additionally you have what looks to be a ceramic diffuser in your tank for co2. You see these used in videos online a bit because either 1) they are for small tanks, or 2) the people using them are sponsored by people that make them. For a 75 gallon you really need a reactor of some kind. You can buy a reactor or build one but that diffuser is not going to cut it.

I would definitely stop worrying about ph and never put anything in the tank (chemical wise) to affect it. 7.5 is great, I wish I had 7.5. Mine is 8.2 out of the tap and I have no problems growing... well almost anything.

Additionally be aware that once leaves are affected by algae they do not really get better. You must manually remove affected leaves once the plant has grown new leaves. For stems this typically means cutting the tops off. Cutting the plant at the base, and replanting the tops. For things like anubias you can manually remove algae by rubbing it gently between your fingers. Once balance is achieved you will get minimal regrowth of algae. (notice I said minimal not none, because algae will always be in the tank it just won't be very much).

Oh and definitely definitely definitely stop dosing iron. An excess of iron is probably the easiest way to grow algae. You are dosing Thrive which is an EI method system. It has all the iron your plants will need. Doing a 50% water change once a week is a necessity with it but it does not need iron added.

Speaking of water change if you are still using buckets, then definitely invest in a python or similar water change system. It will make doing a +50% water change a week super easy.

Oh and when you do a water change the only thing you should be dumping into the water is your dechlorinater. Consistency is the most important thing when doing water changes and unless your water is so crazy soft you don't need to introduce other additives.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited by Moderator)
Thanks for all the info minorhero, lots of data here. Yeah I've got water changes down to routine, I use 3/4 horse sump pumps to do changes on my big pond and have 3 python adapters with a custom hose and pvc system I use, believe me I figured that out years ago. I've got multiple tanks and my biggest is a 240 frontosa tank. But this planted tank is making me pull my hair out! Do you have a recommendation when it comes to co2 reactors? I don't care how much it cost just one that works. What would you recommend I dose every week? The thrive instructions says 1 pump is 2ml per 10 gallons. I'll try and dose 12ml twice a week in my little 12ml dosing cup. I don't understand why asteroid recommends loads of carbon, if we are doing 50% WC a week, then what good does the carbon do? I don't even use it in my discus tank, I don't see any difference from it, but that's just my observation.

Looks like I'll be building cerges or griggs style reactor. All the store bought premade ones are garbage and overpriced. I can build a high quality DIY for half the price, some of the parts of have lying around the garage.
 

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Looks like I'll be building cerges or griggs style reactor. All the store bought premade ones are garbage and overpriced. I can build a high quality DIY for half the price, some of the parts of have lying around the garage.
Firstly have you measured co2 levels via a drop checker or PH drop to see what your levels are. You said you got BBA when running co2, what were the levels? Co2 definitely helps, but in a tank with many low-light slow growers you'll only get so much out of co2. You don't have the plant mass for it to make a huge difference so you need other means to remove organics that's where bigger water changes and carbon comes in. Preventive redundancy is king. Just because you do weekly water changes doesn't mean you don't need the other methods or organic removal for your setup. What do you think is happening between water changes.

Secondly there is no reason you can't have good co2 levels with an in-tank diffuser, in-line or reactor. There is no reason you have to use a reactor it's merely preference and adjusting co2 output. I would agree the diffuser looks like it's on the small side usually for a 4 foot tank you want around a 2" diffuser disc. I only use in-tank diffusers and I've done many 4 foot tanks. I've attached this video for your enjoyment. Skim through it and notice the method of co2 distribution.

 

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Discussion Starter #9
awesome video. Yeah I'm still going to build the reactor since I"m a psycho and need something to do. I've noticed though with the diffuser aimed right under the output, many of the co2 bubbles still go right to the surface and offgas, so to me that's wasted co2. Seems like injecting it into a long cerges style water filter housing which i plan on using, the co2 dissolves into the water more thoroughly without releasing any co2 bubbles into the tank, seems like it's wasting less co2 and more efficient. plus I'm also tired of replacing diffuser disks, those ceramic disks only go a couple of months and they get clogged, least mine do. The other problem I have is when the disks get clogged over time, you could get very little bubbles coming out or too much, and I've killed fish in the past from failed diffusers pumping too much gas. From an engineering standpoint, the inline reactor seems like the way to go with less potential problems. I have a drop checker, but most plant guys told me to use as a reference, not to rely on drop checkers because, the 4kh solution inside isn't always accurate. Mine is blue at night, green during the day, and I've measured the ph many times. I give the carbon a try, I have a big bag of reactive carbon i could put in one of the hob filters.
 

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To start with I would just follow the directions on the thrive bottle. Basically you need 7-8 pumps once a week, or 15ml once a week.

And yeah you already figured out the reactor. The diy ones are just better.

Carbon pulls stuff out of the water we don't test for. In theory this can be things that cause algae. Asteroid has had great success with it. I don't do it but I am lazy and have found success without it. Anyway as the saying goes 'when you hear hoofbeats don't look for zebras.' Maybe you will need carbon but before that point I think you should try a few months (yes months, plants only grow so fast) with proper ferts and co2.
 

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Nothing wrong with going the reactor route, just pointing out that go can go many ways and have success as you saw in the video. I still don't know what your ph change was from the co2. A drop checker is a good passive visual (assuming you have the solution correct) but the better measure is the ph drop. Wasted co2 means very little since co2 is cheap. There's also alot misinformation about co2 distribution in the tank. If you don't overdue the surface agitation and your surface is calm the co2 isn't really wasted even when it goes to the top. In my tanks there's only a slight disturbance to the co2 bubbles and my tank's drop checker is yellow. When I turn my co2 off at night most of it is retained in the water as my drop checker is still slightly yellow in the morning. I double checked this with a calibrated ph probe and my ph went from 6.5 (peak co2) to 6.7 (morning after co2 off for 10 hrs) My tap is 7.5

When you don't have the stem mass and you have easier less picky plants like you have, your goal shouldn't be to grow plants, your goal should be to keep the water clear of organics. Algae is the main impediment to them growing as long as you have ferts in the water. Because the plant mass isn't there for uptake of decomposing organics, things like water changes, carbon, removal dying leaves, less feeding, etc. become that much more important.

BTW all the things I'm mentioning in terms of carbon, water changes, removing dying leaves are preventive. You don't know how much of it you need to do, but I do them, because once you get algae, now your doing reactive measures which are more difficult. So I err on the side of caution and don't deal with issues, I prevent them.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
All good points. I've got two hob filters on the surface and i made a custom splash downflow for them so the water doesn't splash in as much. Still if i crank the co2 up to 5 bps, it takes a few hours to drop the ph and turn the indicator green and then after a few hours after it turns off, it turns blue again. A lot of the co2 bubbles just shoot straight to the surface, that's why I'm going the reactor route. I also forgot to mention, I have glass lids over the top, and that doesn't help me as much as i need to keep the co2 contained. I know everybody tells me to take off the lids, and that it lowers PAR photon ratings and all that jazz. I was picking up dead fish from the carpet cuz i have some avid jumpers in there, especially my gouramis, so taking the lids off is out of the question.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Bam! Cerges reactor. I used all brass fittings after finding 3/4 gas valves in the garage, with regular npt threads same as water components. People say don't use copper or brass that it leaches into the water, and I tell people all the time, well what do you think your house water is run with ? Drilled holes at the bottom of a 12inch grey PVC riser, added a sponge, and damn this thing I'd mega efficient. Before I needed at least 10 bubbles a sec to get the drop checker to turn dark yellow, now i only need a couple bubbles and an 1/8 of a turn on my reg to get it in the green. No bubbles in water column either. I'm seriously impressed!
 

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In my old tank I used to fight BBA quite a bit and was only able to get ahead of it with by using purigen and weekly aggressive rinsing of part of my filter media. Both of these things are supposed to help reduce dissolved organics. The filter rinsing is somewhat controversial as it seems like a lot of people don't like to disturb there bio filter, but I had a separate set of filter media I didn't rinse much for nitrofying bacteria. The theory, if I remember it correctly, is that the by having a set of sponges or other high porosity filter media that you rinse a lot you are given fast growing heterotrophic bacteria a place to live without competition from nitroyfing bacteria. The hetorotrophic bacteria than grow fast and eat organic material out of the water. So in my old tank with HOB filters, I had sponges that I rinsed and squeezed out every week, I often would even rinse them with water straight from the tap. Unfortunately I have long since lost my source that talked about rinsing filter media but I beilieve it was an older discussion either on here or APC.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Good to know. I rinse all my sponges, even in my discus filter, and never lost a single fish. Been doing it for years, as long as you have lots of gravel or loads of media in the filter, rinsing the sponges does minimal to your bio bacteria, if anything at all. They recolonize really fast on the sponges since technically, there isn't enough chlorine in tap water to kill a lot of bacteria and the contact time isn't long enough either. But you still get people that grill you for it. Even if you did a 20% water change and didn't add prime, it still wouldn't kill off enough bacteria, there simply isn't enough chlorine in the water, but people will still argue about it. I love purigen, it polishes the water just ass good as using a diatom filter, only problem is the stuff is expensive and only lasts a week, which is why i stopped using it.
 

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only problem is the stuff is expensive and only lasts a week, which is why i stopped using it.

You can regenerate purigen by soaking it in a concentrated bleach solution to burn the organics out of it. Then soak it water with a strong dose of decholorinator and your good to go. Doing this I was able to keep using the same bag for well over a year. I suspect there is some some limit to how many times it can be recharged but probably a good amount of times.
 

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Just over the boarder in Indiana and I've noticed both of my tanks having BBA issues this year after years of stability. Did something happen with the water chemistry in Lake Michigan this year?!?!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
could be more iron and phosphates and junk, especially if its not regulated through a second stage water treatment plant. People run straight lake michigan water for discus tanks and haven't had any issues. Could be more silicates too. I've always had BBA issues, I don't know how the high tech guys with those awesome grasscape aquariums do it. I've even tried all RO planted tanks, and still get loads of BBA. I just suck at plants.

Bump: COOL! thanks noob for the tip about purigen
 

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Have you thought about adding some weedy fast growing stems and some floaters? Good thing about floaters is they're not carbon limited and fish like the roots. They also quickly show you if you have a nutrient deficiency (since they're not light limited (closest to lights) or carbon limited, if they get yellow or grow poorly that leaves nutrients as the most probably cause). Everything I've read has said the more plants the less algae. Too few plants and they can't outcompete the algae. From everything I understand EI and high light is only designed for a tank that is 60-70% fully planted. Underplanted slow growers seems like a recipe for algae. Also may want to lower your photoperiod if its above 8 hours. Everything I'm reading suggests 8-10 hours max. George Farmer talks a lot about all this. He added like 20 pots of stem plants in to clear up a tank that had a stubborn algae problem. He also swears by frequent large water changes, as others have said, and cleaning the substrate. Take your hand or a credit card etc and wave over the substrate to light up mulm on the surface and then suck it up as you're doing water change. helps keep organics from building up. Also as others have said manually remove as much algae as possible, and make sure to do a water chnage directly after you remove it (otherwise you will have just released tons of algae into the water column to settle and grow). Highly recommend his and his wife's planted tank podcast btw, if you haven't already I'd def check it out. Very meaty, no long meaningless rambles, and a very enjoyable listen.
 
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