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Amateur's planted tank - progressing slowly towards Hi-tech tank

2866 Views 26 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  codetiger
How I got into this hobby?
During my childhood, we visit our aunt's house where a neighbor had many betta fishes and I use to spend most of the day there just sitting and watching the fishes. As I grow-up, I never had a chance to own a fish tank.

Recently, my daughter had an assignment at school to showcase aquatic plants in a school exhibition on flora and fauna. So my wife search around our place and found a LFS that sold planted tanks. She bought a small 8 liter well-planted tank. After she came home, we thought something is missing, and added 3 molly fishes from a LFS. That's were it all begun.



As with most first timers, we overstocked the tank with fishes. Out of 3 mollys, 2 were females and we bought a pair of Guppies as well. So you know what happened after that. Fries, fries and fries all over.

So we decided to buy a new Tank:
After many mistakes, I started learning a lot about this hobby (mostly from this forum) and convinced my wife to buy a new bigger tank. We bought a 160 liter (42 gal) tank in Jan 2019. This time we decided to ourselves try aquascaping.



Without much knowledge, we bought a lot of different plants, rocks, driftwood, substrates and started scaping. We started setting up the whole tank and this is how it was after the initial setup.



Yes, again we made some mistakes of not thinking about where to plant what. :laugh2:

Also learnt that plants needed CO2 to grow :wink2:. So decided to buy an expensive CO2 system after a week of discussion with my wife and finally convincing her on why we should invest in this system. Over time, after trimming and replanting every week, now it looks like this.



The tank has not yet reached where we want to take it. Am still planning to add a lot of things to this tank in future.

Setup:
1. 160 liter (42 gal) Tank
2. Powerhead Pump with sponge filter (came alone with the tank and not enough filtering)
3. CO2 system with ceramic dispenser.
4. In-built LED light (12w)
5. Additional submersible LED light (15w)

Fishes:
1. Molly (3)
2. Guppy (4)
3. Platy (1)
4. Cardinal Tetras (10)
5. Rummy-nose Tetras (8)
6. Tiger Barbs (2)
7. Chinese Golden Algae Eater (2)
8. Zebra Danios (5)
9. Harlequin Rasboras (6)
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I've raised a complaint in the helpdesk forum for admins to help on the image issues.

Meanwhile, I bought a Canister filter (Eheim Classic 250) for our tank last week and had it setup over the weekend. My initial feedback on the filter goes below.




Pros:


  1. One thing, I immediately observed. Compared to my top filter that came along with the tank (Chinese manufacturer), Canister filters are far better in water clarity. Within 2 hours after the installation, I could see the difference.
  2. The entire system is completely silent, however the water circulation is much better.
  3. When I saw the rating as 8w in my canister filter, I doubted if this will work for my 160 liter tank, as my current powerhead pump was rated 24w but was very slow.
  4. Quality of the product is Superior.
Cons:

  1. Despite the quality of the product being really good, I found it very hard to install. I would blame the manual not giving enough info.
  2. Especially the hose pipe that came along was not long enough. It was exactly enough to place it the tank with a precision of few cms, I was not able to place it where I wanted but forced to place it in the shortest distance.
  3. Some instructions were missing and I ended up leaking water when I set it up for the first time.


Overall, once you setup the filter successfully, you will love it. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Update on the new filter:

After adding the new filter and topping 5% water to the tank, we found 2 Neon Tetras and 1 young guppy dead. I did test the water parameters and found there was a Nitrate spike and fishes started gasping.

To comfort the fishes, I increased the bubble flow through venturi in our powerhead pump. This fixed the issue, however, I am still working on fixing the source of the problem. Today I added some bacteria solution to the new filter.

Next step is to add more light and chiller.
 

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Nice tank. I particularly like the floating mountain of pandora!

Perhaps it's a co2 spike?

Not meaning to be insulting but since you mentioned a nitrate spike and adding bacteria you do know that the kinds of bacteria you have in your filters don't eat nitrate. A better way to deal with high nitrates is to do a 50% water change. If that's not what you meant than please disregard. :grin2:
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Nice tank. I particularly like the floating mountain of pandora!
Thanks a lot. :grin2:



Perhaps it's a co2 spike?
After seeing fishes gasping, I reduced the CO2 considerably. It is at 1 bpm and the fluid does not even change color. So CO2 spike is ruled out.


Not meaning to be insulting but since you mentioned a nitrate spike and adding bacteria you do know that the kinds of bacteria you have in your filters don't eat nitrate. A better way to deal with high nitrates is to do a 50% water change. If that's not what you meant than please disregard. :grin2:
My Bad, I didn't give the full details. I added the bacterial solution, thinking that it was ammonia spike. Now, am doing a complete test again. Will share the results in an hour.



Meanwhile, the Nitrates are always above 40 ppm in my tank. I've a hard time bringing it down. I've check the level in water source as well today.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
After the water parameters test and found high nitrates, I suspect the plants are not using nitrates much and we are overstocking fishes. To get nitrates under control, we have planned for the following.

  1. Added new lighting (Sunsun ADS-700c) for plants to do better photosynthesis and absorb more Nitrates. (Done)
  2. Water changes (Planning to do 10 ~ 20% water changes every day. (Yet to start)
  3. Add Seachem De-Nitrate filter media to our canister filter. (Planning after few water changes)
Obviously not doing everything at the same time. Lighting is pending for a long time, so added that last night.

Before Changing the lights: (6k Lux)


After Changing the Lights: (86.5k Lux)


I shall be sharing the updates on Nitrates and plant growth after 12 hours of installation.


Note: The light brightness was measured using Galactica Luxmeter app on iOS.
 

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It looks like 80 ppm to me. Planning to do a 25% water change today and tomorrow. The other issue is the temperature which is at 31c and I don't have a chiller yet.
Welcome to TPT! I like what you have started here. Lots of potential.

I can see your photos on my desktop just fine. I have not tried to see it on my phone yet so I cannot speak on that.

I was dealing with very high nitrates as well. Part of my problem was that my water already had ~5-10 ppm nitrites out of the tap. Might want to check your tap water just to know if you are fighting an uphill battle. As many others will tell you, the best way to fight high nitrates is to do water changes. Increased plant growth will help, but there is no substitution for water changes.

I did not notice you mention fertilizer dosing. Fertilizers are an essential part of the planted tank triad. Light, Ferts, and CO2.

One thing to keep in mind when increasing water changes is that the ferts need to be replenished to compensate for large changes of water.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Welcome to TPT! I like what you have started here. Lots of potential.

I can see your photos on my desktop just fine. I have not tried to see it on my phone yet so I cannot speak on that.

I was dealing with very high nitrates as well. Part of my problem was that my water already had ~5-10 ppm nitrites out of the tap. Might want to check your tap water just to know if you are fighting an uphill battle. As many others will tell you, the best way to fight high nitrates is to do water changes. Increased plant growth will help, but there is no substitution for water changes.
Thanks very much for your support. I’ve been reading a lot of your posts in this forum. I am planning to do water changes today after checking the nitrate in water source. Will give you an update in few days on this nitrate level.

How ever, after adding new lights, I can already see fishes are happy again. That gives a good sign that my tank is getting better.
 

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If it was me I would skip the 10%-25% water changes and do a 50%-75% water change. When changing such a small amount of water each day you aren’t really changing 10% you are changing less because you are also removing some of the new water you put in the day before. But again fish shouldn’t really be effected by 80ppm nitrate in the short term unless you have some very delicate strains. Just make sure when doing larger water changes you have already dechlorinated and the temp is close to the same. With my planted tanks my nitrates range from 20-40 ppm with no issues to even my caridina shrimp.

Also try feeding every two or three days instead of everyday. Fish will be fine as long as you feed enough during the feeding and remove what is not eaten.


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Hi Aguascape,
Yes am adding local made ferts for Micro and Marco nutrients. Am adding 10 drops every alternative days. Other than this I’ve not yet put much time in understanding the fert needs of plants yet.
I did some calculations based on the recommended doses on the bottles. Your tank @ 42 gallons = ~159 liters. The glass thickness and substrate volume will partially compensate for the volume of water in your filter and hoses so I stuck with that number. I also used the conversion of drops from a dropper to ml @ 20 drops = 1 ml.

According to the light dose recommendation you should be dosing 1.35 ml. or 27 drops of micros and 2 ml. or 40 drops of micros daily. If you are dosing on alternating days you should double that to 2.7 or 54 drops micros and 4 ml or 80 drops of macros. This is probably a bare minimum. and since you are already running some tech, I would start off with more than that. Once your plants start growing in, you will want to graduate towards medium and then higher dosing.

Medium dosing comes to 2 ml or 40 drops micros and 4 ml or 80 drops macros daily. Dosing on alternating days, that comes to 4 ml. or 80 drops of micros and 8 ml. or 160 drops of macros.

Once you get to the point of counting that many drops it would be easier to just measure ml.

I am not suggesting that you go full on high tech. I am suggesting you up your dosage and experiment a little to see what works for you.
 

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How ever, after adding new lights, I can already see fishes are happy again. That gives a good sign that my tank is getting better.
Nice to see your fish doing better! I too think 80ppm nitrate isn't the worst. Maybe you have a lot in your tap water like AguaScape? Of course it should ideally be lower. Hopefully your new light will help with that. Time will tell. Water changes will help reset the tank.

As Aguascape said, dial in your ferts. Especially if your running co2.

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
If it was me I would skip the 10%-25% water changes and do a 50%-75% water change.
Yes, am aware that small water changes are not as effective as large changes for the reason you have mentioned, however, the last time I did more than 50% water change, our Neon tetras died. And I read somewhere saying drastically reducing nitrates might shock the fish. That's why I did only 30% water change today. Will do another 30% change over the weekend. Then do the tests again.

Also try feeding every two or three days instead of everyday. Fish will be fine as long as you feed enough during the feeding and remove what is not eaten.
Yes, I've already reduced feeding to once every day. And often put them on fasting for 24 hours. I shall go for a alternate day feeding as you suggest. :)

I did some calculations based on the recommended doses on the bottles. Your tank @ 42 gallons = ~159 liters. The glass thickness and substrate volume will partially compensate for the volume of water in your filter and hoses so I stuck with that number. I also used the conversion of drops from a dropper to ml @ 20 drops = 1 ml.

According to the light dose recommendation you should be dosing 1.35 ml. or 27 drops of micros and 2 ml. or 40 drops of micros daily. If you are dosing on alternating days you should double that to 2.7 or 54 drops micros and 4 ml or 80 drops of macros. This is probably a bare minimum. and since you are already running some tech, I would start off with more than that. Once your plants start growing in, you will want to graduate towards medium and then higher dosing.

Medium dosing comes to 2 ml or 40 drops micros and 4 ml or 80 drops macros daily. Dosing on alternating days, that comes to 4 ml. or 80 drops of micros and 8 ml. or 160 drops of macros.

Once you get to the point of counting that many drops it would be easier to just measure ml.

I am not suggesting that you go full on high tech. I am suggesting you up your dosage and experiment a little to see what works for you.
Thanks a lot for doing the calculations for me. This is exactly what I wanted to do, and verify with someone, before going on prescribed dosage. However, since the ferts are from a local manufacturer, I wanted to double check with experts if this has everything that my plants need and whether this will further increase NO3.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Nice to see your fish doing better! I too think 80ppm nitrate isn't the worst. Maybe you have a lot in your tap water like AguaScape?
I am using can water from RO system, however I have started doubting their quality. I think I should do all the test on the can water before wc.

Hopefully your new light will help with that. Time will tell. Water changes will help reset the tank.
Yes, am planning to wait and see. Already all my Neon Tetras are dead, we had 5 of them. The other fishes are not weak anyway, I think they will manage.
 

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Welcome to the hobby codetiger! It sure is a fun game/hobby to learn and you are going with the goodies right off the bat! LOL Be warned most neon tetra's are raise with a UV sterilizer so most of them get away from that and see any sort of "bugs" and they die as they have like zero immunity (or something along those lines).

As long as you don't have what they call "old tank syndrome" then doing larger water changes shouldn't affect your fish from the water changes. For fish that get weekly, biweekly, or even monthly water changes a good 50% shouldn't cause any fishues (I crack myself up for that word LOL). Of course the more frequent water changes the larger you can go. I sometimes have been known to do a good 80-90% water change with absolutely good results. Just think in nature a stream is getting a 1000x a day water change for the water they are surrounded by. Lakes of course is another story.

Can't wait to see where you go with all this!
 
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