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75 gallon planted tank journal

7983 Views 144 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  rzn7z7
Hi everyone,

I started a new 75 gallon planted tank back in November 2021. I'm retroactively starting a journal here to track the steps I took up to now and what I do going forward. I've learned a lot and received help from forum members, and look forward to whatever advice or criticism I can learn from in the future!

I have an app on my phone called Aquarimate where I started a timeline, store photos, water test results, schedule filter cleanings, etc. I'm mining that app for photos to share in this journal.

Here's the tank on December 9, a couple weeks after setting it up.
Water Plant Pet supply Wood Organism


I previously had a 40 gallon with these plants it in that I had mostly neglected. I hadn't refilled CO2 in a long time, didn't do many water changes, etc. I tore that one down and moved the plants into this one. I started up CO2 again and used the 40 gallon's Eheim 2213 filter to get this started. I also put in a new Eheim 2217 to augment filtration.

For lights, I used the 36" long BuildMyLED fixture I had for my 40 and added a 48" Fluval Plant 3.0. I ran both lights at about half to get started, but moved them up to around 75% pretty quickly thereafter.

Rocks are from my yard. One piece of mopani wood from petsmart in the left side of the tank. Substrate is from aquariumplants.com and I wanted it pretty deep.

I had a couple blue gouramis, some serpae tetras, black skirt tetras, and SAEs I moved over from the old tank.

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
December 16, a week later, things are growing pretty well.

Water Plant Green Pet supply Organism


I got a couple new plants -- some monte carlo, a crypt, and an Amazon sword. I didn't know at the time not to plant the pots, so you can see I did that with the monte carlo and the crypt. (Later I took them out). I am having a hard time keeping my Milwaukee CO2 regulator steady and decide to start researching options. Around this time, I discover this forum, and start reading threads about DIY CO2 regulators. I get inspired and start searching ebay.

Meanwhile, I pick up some more plants and get some guppies and shrimp. I gave my gouramis to a neighbor because they were eating the shrimp. Here's the tank in January with guppies. I have some staghorn algae. I decide I better clean that old 2213 that I brought over from the 40 gallon.

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I found a post body kit from @Bettatail and he helps me assess suitability for some regulators I see on ebay. I end up putting this together with his guidance and parts.



Gauge Automotive lighting Motor vehicle Measuring instrument Gas


I had to take the regulator to my place of work to put it on a vise and get the old gas adapter off and install the CGA320. I installed the post body kit at home without a vise and scratched the heck out of the solenoid manifold. Lucky for me I didn't cause a leak! I did have some leaks in other places and had to tighten down some of the fittings. After doing all of that and soldering the power connectors, etc, everything worked well.

Around this time I also bought a CO2 reactor from GLA. I connected it to the output of my 2217 and injected CO2 via the new reactor.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
My tap water goes through a water softener and when I set up this tank, I mixed some softened water with unsoftened water and some RO and ended up somewhere around 6 degrees KH and 9 GH. I learned that softened water isn't good for plants, so I started doing water changes with plain tap water. That made my KH and GH go up quite a bit. I eventually decided to go the remineralized RO route. But here in the earlier days, water was getting harder with each change. Nitrates were maybe 20ppm in December, but down to 10ppm or below once the plants took off. Ammonia and nitrites never really seemed to be a problem (likely because I brought over a whole cycled canister filter and some substrate, plants, rocks, etc.)

Up to this time I had been using some old Easy Green fertilizer I had. I decided, from things I read here, I wanted to try mixing my own fertilizers. I bought constituent chemicals from GLA and set up a spreadsheet to help me figure out how much to use. I also bought the chemicals I needed to remineralize RO water.

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Since I had KNO3 now, I decided to try and calibrate my nitrate tests, as I was never happy with them. I didn't take it very seriously and didn't have a great scale at the time, so eventually I'll do it again (have a better scale now). And I don't have any good photos of my API calibration, but here's the Sera kit below. I think eventually I'll build a colorimeter to use with these test kits. The API color chart that I have is really bad.


Light Automotive lighting Amber Yellow Material property
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
February was a lot of staghorn algae, some BBA, and the start of more brown diatom algae. I had a 30 hour power outage I think in January (can't remember exactly, don't have it logged) and the tank got down into the low 60s, canisters didn't run, etc, and I lost some fish. After that, algae started to get worse and fish seemed to struggle. The SAE were flashing a lot. Half of my tetras died. I treated the tank with PraziPro and thought it was helping. Later I'd determine that I was almost gassing the fish with too much CO2 and that's probably why the SAE were struggling (as well as the guppies).

I got a Pinpoint pH monitor and started to record pH over time to see how my CO2 was working with the tank.

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I was really only getting the pH I wanted (and thus ppm CO2 I wanted)at the very end of the photoperiod (lights are orange line, CO2 injection is grey, pH is blue). So I kept fiddling with it and would often get too high in the evening, making my fish suffer.

Eventually I increased surface agitation and was able to get a flat pH during the photoperiod at a safe level for the fish, but also good for the plants. Take time tuning your CO2! I think that has been the hardest part of this journey for me so far, but it makes a big difference. Now, in March, I have no more staghorn or BBA growth and I attribute at least part of that to better plant growth due to better, more stable CO2 and higher lighting.

I've kind of taken the "blast the light, blast the CO2, fertilize plenty" approach to combating algae - aiming to have fast-growing plants do their thing and out-compete the algae. I've had mixed success. I'm not obsessed with an algae free tank, but I want the plants and animals to be healthy.

I got some MTS and some nerite snails. Also have some ghost shrimp and cherry shrimp. Guppies are reproducing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
I bought some more plants. I also started using remineralized RO for weekly water changes, so GH and KH are on their way back down. I got a LaMotte Nitrate test kit. I also got some new fish in late Feb/early March. Pretty much everything growing like weeds.
Plant Natural landscape Terrestrial plant Aquatic plant Grass


Water Plant Plant community Light Botany


Plant Botany Terrestrial plant Organism Aquatic plant


I have a hard time trimming my plants aggressively. I know it's good for them, and I know it'll help me get more compact growth, but it hurts! I will have to bite the bullet.

I also have my first baby RCS!
Plant Leaf Terrestrial plant Organism Sunlight


Pretty much all of the plants I've purchased so far have thrived, but I lost a lot of Monte Carlo. It got BBA or something on it and I threw a lot of it out. What I kept is finally starting to take root and grow, but it's a tiny amount.

I find that whenever I get a new plant, or trim and want to replant the tops, I end up removing some of the hardscape to make room.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I changed my lighting to 2 Fluval Plant 3.0s, 48" long. I am running them both at 100% now. I also swapped out my Eheim 2213 for another 2217 and aimed that spray bar at the surface, increasing agitation. This has helped me set my CO2 level and increases flow overall. I am dosing about 11-1-14 NPK and 0.5Fe (and trace) per week. Still learning / fiddling with that, but plants are getting bigger. I think I will increase macros. Nitrates are sitting around 8ppm.

I think I've survived the staghorn and BBA. I made it through the worse of the brown diatom algae. Now I have a little BGA in the substrate against the front glass. Also have some green dot algae starting on the glass. I see this as progress.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
So after struggling with peak CO2 levels going too high (measured by pH drop and corroborated via LaMotte CO2 test kit and grumpy fish), I increased surface agitation and started adjusting CO2 rate again as mentioned previously. In the graph below, the blue line is the first day, where CO2 maxed out around 26ppm but stayed pretty stable through the photoperiod. The yellow line is the next day after I increased bubble count and CO2 ranged from 28-33 ppm during the photoperiod. Fish seem fine and plants are doing great. I could probably bump it up some more.

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So after struggling with peak CO2 levels going too high (measured by pH drop and corroborated via LaMotte CO2 test kit and grumpy fish), I increased surface agitation and started adjusting CO2 rate again. In the graph below, the blue line is the first day, where CO2 maxed out around 26ppm but stayed pretty stable through the photoperiod. The yellow line is the next day after I increased bubble count and CO2 ranged from 28-33 ppm during the photoperiod. Fish seem fine and plants are doing great. I could probably bump it up some more.

View attachment 1039073
Dang, those curves look perfect. Well done! Getting co2 right isn't easy, but it makes everything else easier.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
What do you feel is helping them most so far?
Good question, I don't really know for sure. I've changed so many things in a short period of time -- new lights, new ferts, new water, new filter, new fish, tweaked CO2... Hard to narrow down.

But my guess is that it's mostly the high-ish light and the stable CO2, and the fact that I have a lot of plants. Things visibly turned a corner when I got the CO2 more stable, but that could have been a coincidence because GH and KH were also coming down with each water change, light had just been changed, and I upped my macros a little bit.

I think the hornwort, which I will eventually get rid of, helps out-compete algae because it grows so darned fast. I feel like I'm scooping up and throwing out like a quarter pound of it every week almost.

I did have a really rough go with staghorn algae. And I had two separate brown diatom algae blooms. But fortunately, in spite of existing plant leaves getting trashed by those algaes, new leaves were always coming up quickly, and eventually, they just stopped getting covered.

I do have blue-green algae starting up so I'm not out of the woods yet by any means.

Maybe time is what helped the most, though. If I were being a smart scientist about this, I'd try to isolate variables and change one thing at a time, but instead I'm trying to implement best practices as I see described here as fast as I reasonably can (wallet and time allowing!).
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Dang, those curves look perfect. Well done! Getting co2 right isn't easy, but it makes everything else easier.
Thanks! Yeah, I hope it stays like that. So far so good (although I can't grab data every hour when I'm at work, when I get home the level is where I want it, so that's a good sign). I worry that it's a delicate balance, and as my filters get dirty and flow / agitation decreases, it will change. But that's what maintenance is for!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I charted my CO2 in the beginning as well, and turn on graphing whenever I've going to tweak it. This is old, but this is what my pH looks like during the photo period =)

Nice! Does your pH meter log the data? What kind do you have? For mine I have to go look at it periodically and type the numbers into a spreadsheet.
 

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Nice! Does your pH meter log the data? What kind do you have? For mine I have to go look at it periodically and type the numbers into a spreadsheet.
I have the Edge Blu from Hanna Instruments. It can store a certain number of log points (I think 1000?), and will continue to log for as long as it takes to fill up the memory (or until the battery dies in the probe). I have mine set up to log the reading every 10 minutes, and it will go a very long time at that pace. The probe shows real time analysis, and can be linked to either their monitor or a smartphone.

edge® blu Bluetooth® Smart pH Electrode and Meter - HI2202 (hannainst.com)
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Remineralization time.
I measured out some chemicals to raise the KH and GH of the RO water I have sitting in a Brute trash can. I will use this for my water change later.
Scale Automotive tire Measuring instrument Font Ingredient

This little scale seems to work great.
I put the chemicals into a beaker with some RO water and stir it to help it dissolve before I pour it all into the trash can. I also heat t a bit.
The calcium sulfate takes a while to dissolve. I think pre-stirring it helps a little.
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After adding this to the RO and waiting over night, I have KH of 2.5 and GH of about 7. These are both lower than what’s in my tank, as I’m trying to gradually lower those parameters.
 
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