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Until now, I've had an absolutely beautiful aquarium. All live plants, and MANY of them. They've grown so lush, I've cut off trimmings and planted more around the tank. I always got many compliments by visitors, and the fish had so much to swim around and hide behind. My brother had given me his background canvas because it didn't look good in his very modern-looking, simple tank...but blended with all my greens so well, it looked absolutely fabulous.

History: My tank has been up-and-running from brand new for about 2.5 years now. It's a 29-gallon community freshwater with stock equipment (LED lighting, heater). I [had] several air stones and an upgraded filter (a 2-cartridge versus the 1-cartridge that came with the "kit"). I had a 5-inch pleco, a 6-inch featherfin cat, and upside-down cat, a ghost cat, and then about 10 fish of various breeds no larger than 1-1.5 inches each.

I only do water changes about every 3-6 months, because the tank functions soooo well without them. The water's always crystal clear, the plants lush and healthy and the fish happy. I feed flakes and pellets once at night before bed, and lower the lighting to "night" illumination. My timer shuts the air pump and light off completely overnight for about 8 hours.

I do what I call a "clean-out" every 4 months or so. I take out all plants and decor, vac the gravel, trim all the dead or wilting parts off the plants, and put everything back in (having a chance to move things around and change the appearance). Usually lose about 25-30% of water. I always add conditioner to the water as it's filling in the bucket, so the water's free of chemicals before it even hits the tank.

I did a clean-out about 2 months ago, and it has all been downhill since. First, I noticed my plants were not faring well. Then I lost my pleco. Plecos are very hardy fish!! I had him for about 2 years. I was very surprised, for I hadn't lost any fish in a long time. Then, about a week later, I lost a small pink fish (I think was a type of tetra). And the featherfin seemed agitated, because he had white spots and white lines all over him, which means he was injuring himself against the decor (he does this from time to time by accident, and the wounds heal completely). But the main thing I noticed was that all my plants were dying...rapidly. The ones with stems started dying from the bottom up - the leaves and branches were falling off rising to the top (or getting caught by the filter), and the stems were starting to turn brown. The other leafy-type plants, half the leaves were becoming colorless and transparent.

So, I did a clean-out again about 2 weeks ago. I took the healthiest plants, trimmed off the bad stuff, and replanted. Now, ALL the stem plants are completely dead (I had almost a dozen) and the leafy plants are not far behind. The tank is so empty and barren. I also just noticed that the featherfin seems to not be eating as much as he normally does, because I see some of the pellets left on the gravel, and they have gotten "fuzzy".

Here are the two things that I believe are worth mentioning about the clean-out that started this:
1) During the clean-out, I removed the airstones (as they fall apart after so long), and replaced them with one long, pose-able rubber air tube. Bought it from Amazon, and it got many rave reviews.
2) I believe (but not sure) I may have put my arms in the water while they were covered in bug repellent (Deep Woods Off) that had been applied several hours earlier. I'm not sure, but it's more probable than possible.

If I did indeed contaminate the water, how long should it take to recover? I've tried adding the CO2 and fertilizer (same stuff I've used in the past that never caused any harm to these same plants), but no help. Temperature is in my tank's normal operating range (84deg).

UPDATE: While typing all this, I decided to test my tank and include the results here in this post. After testing my tank, I believe I know exactly what happened.

Ammonia: 2.0 ppm (high for my tank)
Nitrite: 0 ppm (normal for my tank)
Nitrate: 160 ppm (VERY high for my tank)

My tank has been perfectly balanced for 2 years now, so why so off balance?? I'll tell you. I'm convinced I most certainly had the bug repellent on my skin, and maybe it wasn't enough to kill the fish, but I believe it was enough to be a severe detriment to my plants and more importantly, all the BACTERIA in the tank. I believe my tank became destabilized and is now on the mend, as if starting from scratch. Unfortunately, too late for my plants.

I just added some Ammonia detoxifier as I type this, and will perform a 50% water change tomorrow (to dilute as much remaining chemical as possible), as well as clean out all my dead plants (and trim the ones still hanging on), which there are now many. I will buy a bottle of bacteria supplement to aid in getting my bacteria back as quickly as possible (I know there's mixed opinion about that stuff).

I will post updates. The reason I still am posting this is so others can hopefully avoid this catastrophe. WASH YOUR ARMS AND HANDS BEFORE ENTERING TANK!! Below are pictures, one before, and one now. :(
 

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Yup, that sounds logical. Sorry for your troubles. It was very nice looking, you will be able to make it nice again. The plants you have look like they will come back.

84 seems a tad high for temp unless you are fighting Ich. Harder to keep oxygen in the water at higher temps.
 

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I have successfully used Tetra Safe Start.
Water temp 76-78F.
Pleco's need wood for their digestive systems. Not all of them but most.
Not good to pull plants out on a regular basis.
Fish food/waste has many nutrients that plants need. But not enough of a couple of them.
So you need to add ferts when you have many plants as they use up all that is there
plus you still are short a couple. They are there but very low amounts of them.
The light that comes/w those kits is usually not enough for most plants. Borderline
at best.
 

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TLDR (to long didn't read) I stopped at the point where you said " I take out all plants and decor"... Your plants are experiencing transplant shock IMHO. Any time I uproot and replant plants in my tanks it takes a bit for them to bounce back again.
 

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TLDR (to long didn't read) I stopped at the point where you said " I take out all plants and decor"... Your plants are experiencing transplant shock IMHO. Any time I uproot and replant plants in my tanks it takes a bit for them to bounce back again.
How can you have an HO without reading the entire post?
You missed the point, and some very good advice.

Bump:
Until now, I've had an absolutely beautiful aquarium. All live plants, and MANY of them. They've grown so lush, I've cut off trimmings and planted more around the tank. I always got many compliments by visitors, and the fish had so much to swim around and hide behind. My brother had given me his background canvas because it didn't look good in his very modern-looking, simple tank...but blended with all my greens so well, it looked absolutely fabulous.

History: My tank has been up-and-running from brand new for about 2.5 years now. It's a 29-gallon community freshwater with stock equipment (LED lighting, heater). I [had] several air stones and an upgraded filter (a 2-cartridge versus the 1-cartridge that came with the "kit"). I had a 5-inch pleco, a 6-inch featherfin cat, and upside-down cat, a ghost cat, and then about 10 fish of various breeds no larger than 1-1.5 inches each.

I only do water changes about every 3-6 months, because the tank functions soooo well without them. The water's always crystal clear, the plants lush and healthy and the fish happy. I feed flakes and pellets once at night before bed, and lower the lighting to "night" illumination. My timer shuts the air pump and light off completely overnight for about 8 hours.

I do what I call a "clean-out" every 4 months or so. I take out all plants and decor, vac the gravel, trim all the dead or wilting parts off the plants, and put everything back in (having a chance to move things around and change the appearance). Usually lose about 25-30% of water. I always add conditioner to the water as it's filling in the bucket, so the water's free of chemicals before it even hits the tank.

I did a clean-out about 2 months ago, and it has all been downhill since. First, I noticed my plants were not faring well. Then I lost my pleco. Plecos are very hardy fish!! I had him for about 2 years. I was very surprised, for I hadn't lost any fish in a long time. Then, about a week later, I lost a small pink fish (I think was a type of tetra). And the featherfin seemed agitated, because he had white spots and white lines all over him, which means he was injuring himself against the decor (he does this from time to time by accident, and the wounds heal completely). But the main thing I noticed was that all my plants were dying...rapidly. The ones with stems started dying from the bottom up - the leaves and branches were falling off rising to the top (or getting caught by the filter), and the stems were starting to turn brown. The other leafy-type plants, half the leaves were becoming colorless and transparent.

So, I did a clean-out again about 2 weeks ago. I took the healthiest plants, trimmed off the bad stuff, and replanted. Now, ALL the stem plants are completely dead (I had almost a dozen) and the leafy plants are not far behind. The tank is so empty and barren. I also just noticed that the featherfin seems to not be eating as much as he normally does, because I see some of the pellets left on the gravel, and they have gotten "fuzzy".

Here are the two things that I believe are worth mentioning about the clean-out that started this:
1) During the clean-out, I removed the airstones (as they fall apart after so long), and replaced them with one long, pose-able rubber air tube. Bought it from Amazon, and it got many rave reviews.
2) I believe (but not sure) I may have put my arms in the water while they were covered in bug repellent (Deep Woods Off) that had been applied several hours earlier. I'm not sure, but it's more probable than possible.

If I did indeed contaminate the water, how long should it take to recover? I've tried adding the CO2 and fertilizer (same stuff I've used in the past that never caused any harm to these same plants), but no help. Temperature is in my tank's normal operating range (84deg).

UPDATE: While typing all this, I decided to test my tank and include the results here in this post. After testing my tank, I believe I know exactly what happened.

Ammonia: 2.0 ppm (high for my tank)
Nitrite: 0 ppm (normal for my tank)
Nitrate: 160 ppm (VERY high for my tank)

My tank has been perfectly balanced for 2 years now, so why so off balance?? I'll tell you. I'm convinced I most certainly had the bug repellent on my skin, and maybe it wasn't enough to kill the fish, but I believe it was enough to be a severe detriment to my plants and more importantly, all the BACTERIA in the tank. I believe my tank became destabilized and is now on the mend, as if starting from scratch. Unfortunately, too late for my plants.

I just added some Ammonia detoxifier as I type this, and will perform a 50% water change tomorrow (to dilute as much remaining chemical as possible), as well as clean out all my dead plants (and trim the ones still hanging on), which there are now many. I will buy a bottle of bacteria supplement to aid in getting my bacteria back as quickly as possible (I know there's mixed opinion about that stuff).

I will post updates. The reason I still am posting this is so others can hopefully avoid this catastrophe. WASH YOUR ARMS AND HANDS BEFORE ENTERING TANK!! Below are pictures, one before, and one now. :(
Sorry about your troubles and thanks for the advice, I frequently forget and stick my hand in the tank. Luckily I haven't had any problems yet.

You might could go to the Deep Woods Off website and check their MSDS sheet to get some insight on what might be done to neutralize the DEET and/or Pyretherins they use. There is usually a toll free number for questions and such on the package. Perhaps they might have some info that might be helpful.
 

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Well, I did read the whole thing and there's two issues I see.
First, I agree that pulling the plants every few months is stressful at best. They've just settled in and totally disrupting their root systems isn't advisable.
Second, ammonia reading of 2.0 only confirms that the tank went through another cycle and had as much to do with your fish losses as the OFF on your arms. The sizes and quantity of fish in a 29G was beyond the limits of a 29G that had so infrequent water changes. Having disrupted the plants' ability to absorb nutrients just started the ball rolling.
The water changes you've done coupled with running fresh carbon should take care of whatever effect the OFF had, but I can't be sure.
 

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Ammonia: 2.0 ppm (high for my tank)
Nitrite: 0 ppm (normal for my tank)
Nitrate: 160 ppm (VERY high for my tank)
After that 50% water change i would advise doing a 20% every month at the least. I think when you take everything out of the tank you might be sending the plants into shock and killing off a lot of your good bacteria. One of my tanks i have had up and running for almost a year and all i do is change the water, it could crash any day and i'd be way off, but i find the best way to keep things going well is to change that water. I do a 30-40% water change every week on all of my tanks, but that may be over kill.
 

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How can you have an HO without reading the entire post?
You missed the point, and some very good advice.
To the OP in specific, please do not take this post as insulting towards yourself it IS NOT intended to be such.

@ MJB13 I typically don't read entire posts if they run a page and a half, I learned a long time ago how to scan and remove bits of information that are pertinent, AND I'm fairly good at it mind you. I read enough to know, having kept tanks myself for 20+ years and planted tanks in specific for the last couple of few years. I didn't miss any point, if any point was missed it is you that missed the point I made, and having gone back and re-scanned the ENTIRE OP so as to make this response I didn't really see any advice that was made.

First and foremost running a tank that long without water changes just top offs, while doable is ill advised. That being said, IF one were to run a tank in such a manor the last thing one wants to do is remove everything at once and do a major clean and water change. Even in fish only tanks such action can stress and kill fish, in planted tanks it sends the plants into transplant shock. It's a major blow to the biological filter all around, it's a sudden reduction in its' population AND it removes most of what it's been feeding on.

Having read the responses and the comments towards the Off bug spray, I seriously doubt that what little the OP had on their arms amounts to much if anything upon the impact that such drastic tank husbandry actions had. That being said a filter bag of charcoal in the canister if they have one, if not a charcoal insert in their HOB will be sufficient to remove any unwanted chemicals that is diluted into the water.
 

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To the OP - why did you decide you should up root & change everything every 2-3 months?

It's a lot of work.

Do you like re-arranging things often?

Many people do - although not to the point of taking all the plants out.

I'm wondering of you read it somewhere or just thought it was a good idea?

Just curious as it would never occur to me.

A weekly water change is enough for me!

I'd like to change my tank (replace old 20g long with a new one) but the thought of what it would take :eek5: keeps me from doing it:biggrin:
 

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Great...

To the OP in specific, please do not take this post as insulting towards yourself it IS NOT intended to be such.

@ MJB13 I typically don't read entire posts if they run a page and a half, I learned a long time ago how to scan and remove bits of information that are pertinent, AND I'm fairly good at it mind you. I read enough to know, having kept tanks myself for 20+ years and planted tanks in specific for the last couple of few years. I didn't miss any point, if any point was missed it is you that missed the point I made, and having gone back and re-scanned the ENTIRE OP so as to make this response I didn't really see any advice that was made.

First and foremost running a tank that long without water changes just top offs, while doable is ill advised. That being said, IF one were to run a tank in such a manor the last thing one wants to do is remove everything at once and do a major clean and water change. Even in fish only tanks such action can stress and kill fish, in planted tanks it sends the plants into transplant shock. It's a major blow to the biological filter all around, it's a sudden reduction in its' population AND it removes most of what it's been feeding on.

Having read the responses and the comments towards the Off bug spray, I seriously doubt that what little the OP had on their arms amounts to much if anything upon the impact that such drastic tank husbandry actions had. That being said a filter bag of charcoal in the canister if they have one, if not a charcoal insert in their HOB will be sufficient to remove any unwanted chemicals that is diluted into the water.
Wonderful insight and explanation! That would have been useful to the OP in the first place. When you know as much as you apparently do, you sometimes take for granted what the rest of us may or may not know.

Although I had tanks for years, but as relative noobie to planted tanks, and it can be frustrating to get vague answers to questions. Were I the OP, your first post would have been no help all, and kind of annoyed me that you would put so little effort into explaining it, without any advice on how to fix it.
That being the case, why even answer at all.

The last post contained a lot of good info on what the problems are and how to fix it. Thank You very much, but why a kick in the shins to get it?
 

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Wonderful insight and explanation! That would have been useful to the OP in the first place. When you know as much as you apparently do, you sometimes take for granted what the rest of us may or may not know.

Although I had tanks for years, but as relative noobie to planted tanks, and it can be frustrating to get vague answers to questions. Were I the OP, your first post would have been no help all, and kind of annoyed me that you would put so little effort into explaining it, without any advice on how to fix it.
That being the case, why even answer at all.

The last post contained a lot of good info on what the problems are and how to fix it. Thank You very much, but why a kick in the shins to get it?
Sorry to have offended or annoyed you, though I think it would be up to the OP to raise the concern if they wanted me to elaborate more, not you. Yes some times I'm short, others curt, but I was just trying to wake up and hadn't had a lot of coffee when I made that post this morning, there are others on here far worse than I. But don't worry I'm not upset or devastated that I offended or annoyed you at all, that like so many other things is just one that I do and do well, just ask any of my clients, it's part of my job ;)
 

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To the OP - why did you decide you should up root & change everything every 2-3 months?

It's a lot of work.

Do you like re-arranging things often?

Many people do - although not to the point of taking all the plants out.

I'm wondering of you read it somewhere or just thought it was a good idea?

Just curious as it would never occur to me.

A weekly water change is enough for me!

I'd like to change my tank (replace old 20g long with a new one) but the thought of what it would take :eek5: keeps me from doing it:biggrin:
I have a method that keeps my tanks completely clean, and I can rearrange all of the plants any time I want. You may want to incorporate some of my methods. Check out my website: aquariumexperiments.com.
 
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