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Discussion Starter #1
The basics:

1 Betta Fish
1 little snail
5 gallon Fluval Spec V tank
Filtered media that came with the tank
Basic black sand substrate I got from Petco (or something like that) when I first set it up because it's all I knew
Fish in cycle was run way back when
Timed light cycle - 12pm until 8pm lights on
Feed fish 1x a day 4 betta pellets

Picture:


The tank has been running for a few years now and I want to know what I should be doing instead of just doing what I think I should be doing. What I am doing is changing out 2 gallons of water once a week, adding new with .5ml Seachem Prime per gallon, and wiping the glass. In the tank, as you can see, are a couple of plants, a rock, and two pieces of wood. I feel like some people, most of you all, have tanks that just run, don't get dirty, and plants are flourshing. As you can see from the picture the plants are just kind of there, and the tank on a regular basis gets cloudy, which is why I am changing the water once a week. It's fine, the fish has been happily doing this thing for years, but I just feel like I can be doing more, or changing something, or adding something, to make this even better. Thing is I don't know where to start or what to do. I added the snail to eat the algae but why is there algae to begin with? Where do I go from here?
 

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Well, try something, and see if it gets better or worse? You could:

Feed the plants- add a root tab or two, or research how to do EI fertilizers
Feed the fish twice a day- more fish waste = plants food
Reduce the light period- cut it back half an hour to start. Maybe too much light is causing algae. But the plants look more like they are a bit hungry to me.
Add a few more snails- I don't know what kind you have or how small it is, maybe a few more would help out.
Add more plants, like crypts or floaters- they will consume excess nutrients instead of the algae.

Try one thing at a time so you can tell if it's working. Be patient for results- sometimes it takes a week to see if anything is changing.
 

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JJ09 gave you great advice. I would add that the first thing I would do with a tank like this is add more plants and/or rescape it. The rescape only if you want to see a different setup. Personally I end up rescaping my Spec V every few months because its just so darn fun. But thats also me so /shrug.

Additionally, the spec V comes with a bag of activated charcoal. The instructions recommend changing the charcoal and ceramic rings out once a month or so if I remember correctly. What you should do instead is throw the charcoal into the trash and never buy it again. Then you should buy another bag of ceramic rings and put it where the charcoal used to be kept. Then never throw away your ceramic rings ever again. Instead once every month or two rinse them in used tank water during the water change process. Then put them back in. Those ceramic rings are good for life you just want to shake off any dead bacteria/unclog them from debris. Hence the rinsing in tank water. If you are following directions provided by fluval then your beneficial bacteria get destroyed every time you throw away those rings. This may solve your water quality issue all by itself if this was not already being done.

Some things to add to the tank if you decide to plant it more heavily, you can easily pull that wood out and tie/glue some moss of your choice to the wood. The moss will look quite lovely as it grows in. You could also plant some easy growing grass like plants. These are super fun to watch your fish weave their way through. Floating plants such as giant duck weed or red root floaters are also super fun to change up the look.

If looking for an easy fertilizer Thrive C is often recommended for low tech plants not receiving co2 of any kind.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
For the question about the snail, I didn't even know there were different ones. I got this one at the local fish store, I think it's a nerite snail? Not sure. I hesitate to add more because this thing is a poop machine. He (or she?) Eats algae but the amount of poop that is produced is intense.

With adding more plants, is the sand on the bottom okay? When I vac it now once a week the plants usually just float around. Nothing ever really rooted. Like the real big on on the right of the picture? That thing just goes whenever. It's roots as you can see add slowly taking over all the water.

With the plants being hungry, would adding more plants make them even more starved if more plants are competing for the same food?

I have cut the light back by thirty minutes so that's done.

Comment about the charcoal, from my tiny starter tank years ago I have these:



in a plastic tub. I keep a few sitting up on the top of the filter compartment and put them in my travel 1 gallon tank when we go away for extended times. Can I put those in the filter without a bag?


My tank ends up getting rescaped not because I want to but the weekly cleaning and all the poop require me to move everything around to suck it all up. Snail will just travel everywhere and the whole floor of the tank gets littered in droppings.

All the suggested plants so far, they should be easy to find at my LFS?
 

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Your large plant looks like an anubias. It will do better if you tie it to the wood so the roots can take hold- and you can trim some of the excess roots off it won't hurt the plant. That kind of plant grows on rocks and things anyway, shouldn't have the rhizome (the horizontal thick stem) buried.

If you have that much waste from the snail, I wonder if it is an apple snail- they poop a lot. Can you take a picture of it? The waste feeds your plants though- I don't usually vacuum a planted tank deeply, just kind of skim the hose near the top of substrate to pick up loose material.

Those pieces in your filter look like ceramic rings. They're usually put in the bottom of the filter (where the water first enters from the tank).
 

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It only looks like most people have beautiful tanks with little to no effort.
But, we all know that appearances in photos are never as effortless and perfect as they seem.
If our lives ( and our tanks) were as perfect as what is captured on social media/forum photos; no one would post. Perfection is really very uninteresting and boring.
What is really interesting and fascinating to follow is struggle/frustration and eventual success.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I think it is an anubas as well, it's always what folks have called it. How do I tie it to the tank? As in what material would be safe to put in the water? Then just let it do it's thing? I will trim some of the roots, the thing is getting out of hand.

For the ceramic comment, right, they are ceramic rings. From the suggestion of throwing out the charcoal in the filter and replacing with ceramic in a bag, could I just use the rings for that or is there something else I need to go get at the fish store?

Is the sand in the tank okay or does that need to be replaced with gravel? I feel like I am doing something wrong because just putting the syphon into the tank and moving it a bit makes those dying plants on the left basically drift. I can't get anything to really take hold.

So the poop helps the plants? But only poop near the plants? With this snail if I don't clean weekly the poo is everywhere. That darn thing poops on the glass! I need to go to the fish store this weekend and see what plants or moss they have in stock.

How often and how much water do people replace here to keep things fresh?

I will try to get a snail pic when I am back home in a couple days so stay tuned for that update.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Sorry for the delay but I am back, had some stuff go on where I wasn't able to get to the forum for a while.

Here is the picture of the snail:


Maybe I need to take a step back and go back to the basics?

Lets start with water changes. On a five gallon tank how much and how often should I be doing swaps? I try to stick with 2 gallons once a week. Is that enough? .5ml Prime per gallon.

If everyone had this much growth no one would be able to keep a tank in order... When I do the water changes I usually try to wipe the inside glass with a paper towel to help get all the muck off.
 

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You have a nerite snail! I rather like them. Are you sure it's poop you're seeing all over? I rarely see snail poo on the glass, but if it's little white things, that's nerite eggs. Not really much you can do but scrape them off. You can tie the anubias down to something with fishing line or cotton thread. If your plants have a lot of melting, dying parts remove those and try to replant the parts that are okay still. I'm not much help when it comes to dealing with sand, I've always used gravel beds. I think some people like it because the fish/snail poo stays on top, doesn't sift down into the substrate, so its easier to see where you need to siphon it off? Do you have a test kit? You can tell if you need to do larger or smaller water changes, by the nitrate levels. My other suggestion is either shorten the light period, dim the light to reduce the algae, or feed the plants- ferts that go in the water or root tabs? but it's hard to say exactly.
 
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