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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all -

My new 55g tank is moving along nicely, and I've planted some swords, microsword grass and java moss into the 100% flourite substrate. A few pieces of driftwood, a school of 10 x neons, 5 x cory cats, 3 x nerite shrimp ghost shrimp and 3 african dwarf frogs.

The tank is new so I've been doing a lot of water changes and testing, and the cycling appears to be over and the tank is stabilizing. There is a small amount of brownish stuff growing on some of the leaves, which I assume is algae but I'm not sure.

I currently have 1 30 inch Coralife 36w T5NO light on the tank, and tomorrow I'm adding 3 x 4 watt Powerbrite LED strips to help distribute the light to the back of the tank and bring a bit more light to the plants.

So far I am feeling pretty good about the tank, and I'm ready to plan a fertilization regime. I bought some Flourish and some Excel (no CO2 in this tank), but I'm not 100% on how to determine how much to use.

It seems like if you fertilize then change teh water, you really alter the amount of ferts in the tank. The regimes that read about on this [very helpful] forum are mostly for high-tech tanks so I'm not sure how to proceed.

My hope is to come up with a fairly simple approach where I can eventually have a simple schedule for water changes and fertilization. But, where to begin? Is there something I can test for or do I just monitor the health of the plants and adjust the fertilization accordingly?

Any tips much appreciated :)
 

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You need fish in the tank to help with the fertilizing. Fish poop and leftover food can supply a lot of the nutrients for low light tank. Excel should be dosed per the instructions on the bottle - 1 mL per 10 gallons of water every day or two. Flourish, which is just a micronutrient mix, can also be dosed per the instructions on the bottle. It will help your plants if you shove plant tabs under the biggest plants, so they can feed from the roots.

Unless you are using Excel, don't do regular water changes. Each water change introduces CO2 to the tank, which quickly dissipates to the air. This fluctuation can cause algae problems. Just plan on adding water to make up for evaporation losses.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
There are 10 x neons, 5 x cory cats, 3 x nerite shrimp ghost shrimp and 3 african dwarf frogs living in the tank, so there should be a reasonable amount of poop even for a 55 gallon tank that isn't densely populated.

But, shouldn't I be doing weekly water changes for the fish?
 

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not to hijack the thread but why should he do water changes if he is dosing with Excel? I've never seen that mentioned anywhere...could have missed it though.
 

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When you drain off 50% of the tank water and refill the tank with tap water plus dechlorinator, you almost always introduce a lot of CO2. Then the CO2 dissipates from the water through the water surface over the next day or so. That big surge in CO2 followed by having only ambient CO2 in the water, seems to trigger algae growth. So, it isn't recommended that you do big changes like that if you don't have at least Excel to maintain a steady carbon supply for the plants.

Big water changes are good for the fish too, so the best way to handle that, with no CO2 injection, is to use Excel.

With Diana Walstad's el natural method, which is a low light, non CO2 method, she recommends no water changes, just topping off when needed. And, lots of people do have low light non-CO2 tanks where they do big water changes only every few months.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
When you drain off 50% of the tank water and refill the tank with tap water plus dechlorinator, you almost always introduce a lot of CO2. Then the CO2 dissipates from the water through the water surface over the next day or so. That big surge in CO2 followed by having only ambient CO2 in the water, seems to trigger algae growth. So, it isn't recommended that you do big changes like that if you don't have at least Excel to maintain a steady carbon supply for the plants.

Big water changes are good for the fish too, so the best way to handle that, with no CO2 injection, is to use Excel.

With Diana Walstad's el natural method, which is a low light, non CO2 method, she recommends no water changes, just topping off when needed. And, lots of people do have low light non-CO2 tanks where they do big water changes only every few months.
Thanks for the explanation. But, don't we still get an accumulation of organic compounds if we don't change the water? I can see the value of having a stable CO2 level, but plants/algae aside - I thought that you pretty much always accumulate other stuff if you don't change the water!!
 

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With your small fish load do not worry about water changes.

Monitor the NO3, and keep it under about 20ppm. That ought to be really easy. As the organic matter decomposes it becomes fertilizer for the plants. But not all the nutrients are always present that way, so a little bit of fertilizer is a good idea.

Monitor the plants. In a low tech set up you probably won't have to trim too often, but the plants should look rich green (or whatever color is right for them) and new growth should not be deformed (often a sign of deficiency)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Ok, sounds good. I am accustomed to the advice of 20 years ago which was, 'when in doubt change water' :)

My plants have started to have a slight brownish residue on them, especially on the swords. There are brown lines that appear in patters along the leaves, sort of like veins. And on the micro sword grass, a bit of the same but this time small brown spots.

The tank is fairly new (5 weeks) so I'm sure it's still stabilizing as I try to figure out how much light, fert, water changes, etc. will make it stable. But it's tricky and I'm new to the planted tank thing.

I wonder what is the easiest way to determine if this is algae on the plants or are the plants in some kind of distress?
 

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Sounds like diatom algae. If that's what it is, it should rub off really easily.
 

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One thing I see people with great planted tanks do a lot is reach into their tanks and "fluff" plants. Apparently this helps keep the leaves clean, and moves detritus out away from the plants. If you just have diatoms doing this should help lot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
One of the frogs died, to my disappointment. Water paramaters seem ok and I'm not sure what happened. I worry that the frogs aren't eating much as they don't seem to be able to compete with shrimp and fish very well.

Regardless. I did a little fluffing. There are some very small hairs coming off the sword's leaves (not too much) and they can be rubbed off with my fingers. Also a lot of brownish matter which has a sort of sandy feeling, and can be wiped off with fingers although it takes a bit more force.

A lot of leaves came loose and were removed from the tank. I did notice that the plants have quite a few weak/sick looking leaves, but also I can see new roots growing and small new leaves here and there. So, maybe they are still acclimating.

I am still trying to figure out a balanced approach to fertilizing and maintaining this low-tech tank. I'm trying to reconcile these three things:

1) The estimative approach asks for significant weekly water changes.
2) People seem to agree that Excel is good for plants when no other CO2 source exists. Algae is always a problem and Excel has help control it
3) Water changes affect CO2 levels and can cause algae.

So, I'm torn between changing lots of water each week and not changing much at all. My instinct is to try some thing in the middle, something a bit more gentle, and give the tank some time to further stabilize.

For example, I could follow the instructions for the Flourish and root tabs as indicated. Then perform weekly water changes but only, say, 25%. And, add Excel but attempt to stay in the lower end of the range (i.e. it says 1 to 2 capfuls per 50g, so I would use 1) and also lower the dose after each water change.

My hope is to be gentle with the tank and hope of find a nice level of nutrients, etc. that will produce healthy (though slow growing) plants, happy fish, and not too much algae.

I'm worried about the frogs - the one died and I haven't seen the others since yesterday. No ammonia spike but I hope they aren't dead somewhere in the driftwood :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Try a non CO2 approach and leave the Excel and CO2 etc out of this:

http://www.barrreport.com/showthread.php/2817-Non-CO2-methods

EI has nothing to do with non CO2 methods and is not appropriate.

Regards,
Tom Barr
Thank you for your reply. I feel like I'm somewhere in the middle now :)
No CO2, but also my tank isn't planted heavily enough and the substrate isn't the same (I just have 100% Flourite) to compare to what is discussed in that post. I like the idea, though.

I actually sort of like changing the water, if only for the ritual! What I continue to hope for is a sort of balanced approach with fairly low light, not too many fish, routine but infrequent water changes (i.e. every 2 or even 4 weeks) and any ferts/etc. such as root tabs that could help out.

I am starting to think that mine will be a 'less is more' kind of tank, with less 'stuff' (i.e. Excel), less fish, less everything and hope that the plants slowly grow and the tank becomes highly stable.

I know from [long ago] experience that I can get the tank into a sort of equilibrium, but things have changed since I had an aquarium as a younger person - so many new products, information, etc!
 

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Well, you can go a couple of ways then if you like the WC's, you can go like this:



90% emergent and floating,. then it does not matter.

Or you can use the Excel etc.

You'll do about 1/3 EI to 1/4 the % dosing for either of these two methods.


Regards,
Tom Barr
 
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