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The otos didn't really touch the brown stuff. That was all manual removal haha. It could have been caused by a number of things:

- inconsistent CO2 - I've been having issues with my flow meter and pH pen
- inconsistent ferts - I've been having issues with my solutions
- too much light too early - I was doing a 5hr photoperiod with all 6 bulbs on for 4hrs.
- unhappy plants - some plants have spent two weeks in a bin with no light, some plants are transitioning from emersed to submerged, and some are TC that need some time to adapt
- possibly something in the new or old sand
- the ghost of Takashi Amano is punishing me for not having any Amano shrimp in there yet

Who knows?? Haha

My attempts to rid myself of the algae:

- I've stopped fussing with the gauge on the flow meter and I'm now just using it essentially as a needle valve while I use my pH pen to see what's going on in the tank. Not my preferred method but it'll work for now.
- I ordered a whole bunch of new ferts a little while ago, including a different Iron. I'm going to try making my standard macro and micro mixes. Macro was just a container issue, so I bought a new one. Micros I keep getting a sludge forming at the bottom. If it happens again I'm going to try making an Iron solution and a Micros -Iron solution.
- I cut the lights down to 4hrs, with all 6 bulbs on for 3hrs. I might increase the hrs but reduce the number of bulbs.
- I can't do much with the plants but trim and wait.
- I'm going to do a few 50% w/c for a couple days or maybe a couple 80% changes over a week. I'm also switching over to RO water.
- I've got a handful of Amanos sitting in quarantine, waiting to get to work on this tank.

It seems like most people on the high-tech side of things aim for around 1.0 drop in their pH by the time the lights turn on. This should give you a ballpark CO2 level of about 30ppm. Because CO2 is so cheap, I want to push it closer to the limits. I've found that at around a 1.3 drop in pH my fish are gasping for air at the surface. So I see a 1.2 pH drop as being a happy medium between pushing the plants close to their limits without stressing out my fish too much. So I'm not aiming for any specific pH level per se, I'm more aiming for the specific drop.
I'm quite apprehensive about adjusting the PH. I've seen people throughout the years crash their PH and have a detrimental affect on their stock so I've always side steped that aspect of the hobby. That said, it's interesting to follow your progression on that front. As for the algae, do you remember how soon after everything was up and running that it appeared?
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