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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi all,

I wanted to share and also get some feedback regarding my first aquarium ever. I did a lot of research while setting this thing up, but would appreciate some feedback. This post may be a bit long, but I figured I'd try to include as much information as possible so that I don't have to answer questions later. Fist let me tell you all about the tank:

5 gallons
over 6 months old
added 7 neons 3 weeks ago along with some anubias and anacharis

1 betta
7 neon tetras

java fern
java moss
marimo ball
1 sprouting unknown store bulb

mix of black and natural gravel.

HOB topfin 10
Large aquaclear foam square (for 70 gallon) on the HOB intake tube to act as a large sponge filter for biofiltration, I added this at the same time as the 7 neons.

50 W Tetra for 5-10 gallons

10 watt cfl 6500 K

So I measured the water daily after adding the 7 neons, then went on a two week vacation, and then measured them again today.
For the readings that were showing ammonia .25, I also tested my tap, and it looked near identical, and my research indicates others also having trouble distinguishing between 0 and .25 ppm ammonia with the API test kit, so I'm not really sure. With the most recent test from today (1/5) it does seem to be more clearly 0 ppm ammonia than it did two weeks ago. You can see that my Nitrates have increased quite a bit in the last two weeks, which I'm not sure if the extra nitrates are good or bad or neither. I also cannot distinguish between 40 or 80 on the API nitrates scale, thought if I had to pick one I would say it was nearer to 40.

Date - pH - Ammonia - Nitrite - Nitrate

12/14/2012 - 8.4 - 0.25 -0 -0
12/15/2012 - 8.2 - 0.25 -0 -0 (before 50% water change)
12/15/2012 - - - 0.25 -- -- (after 50% water change)
12/16/2012 - 8.2 - 0 -0 -0
12/17/2012 - 8.2 - 0.25 -0 -5
12/18/2012 - 8.2 - 0 -0 -5
12/19/2012 - 8.2 - 0 -0 -5
1/5/2013 - 8.2 - 0 -0 -40/80 (water level about 3 inches lower than normal from evaporation)


Here is the tank after being cleaned:


First, I know this tank is "overstocked" but I will not be reducing the tank stock as long as my water parameters consistently test normal, which looks likely moving forward. I am hoping the large sponge filter + HOB + plants will allow me to densely stock this tank while remaining rather low tech and needing little maintenance in the style of a Walstad tank. Now onto the problems I am having...

Green algae is growing on the gravel, small parts of the glass, and also on the java moss. It looks like some kind of brown algae is growing on the anubias leaves. Any suggestions for stopping this algea growth? My light is on a timer for 9 hrs and 15 mins.

I would like to add an algae eating organism, and I am heavily leaning towards a colony of red cherry shrimp for their color, to have an invertebrate for variety, and low bio load. I don't see any down side to red cherry shrimp actually, except that at the moment I don't have a lot of shelter for them. Do you think that red cherry shrimp could solve my algea problem?

My other concern is with the anacharis and java moss. The anacharis is 3 weeks old, but is melting away and right now the leaves are all brown colored but the stem is still green. I added the anacharis because it is supposedly an easy to care for and fast growing plant. I was hoping this would allow it to compete with the algea and also help to more quickly fill the tank with plants, but it looks like it is dieing off. Is this from being a new tank and will it grow back, or should I be concerned? As for the java moss, well it has some algea growing over top of it, and most of the moss is brown in color, but it does look like there are some little green growing tentacles. Is the algae killing the moss, do I need to keep the algae from growing on it?

Thanks in advance for any feedback.

3,350 Posts
Welcome, Gismo!

It's common for a new tank to go through various algae phases (especially the brown fluffy diatom stuff), and maybe some ailing plants, as things settle in.

However, it also appears that your only source of nutrients for the plants is fish food.

In an "overstocked" tank like this one, you get more than enough nitrate from fish food, as you've found out. Too much really, and it has to be removed periodically though water changes. 20ppm is considered ideal, I consider up to 60ppm acceptable. Go much above that and the likelihood of problems increases.

Fish food also supplies a lesser, yet generally adequate amount of phosphate.

But it does not contain adequate potassium, in my experience. Nor does it assure an adequate level of iron and other trace nutrients.

Finally at this light level, although it may not be absolutely necessary, plants definitely appreciate some carbon. Either from Excel or CO2. Note that Excel melts anacharis. I've recently had some luck avoiding this by starting with a fraction of the regular dose and very slowly increasing it.

For off the shelf solutions, covering all these nutrients would require Flourish, Flourish Potassium, and Flourish Excel. I use dry ferts and Metricide, which are functionally equivalent, just cheaper in the long run.

Add those, and you've basically got my 5G tank. Which is "overstocked", same light, inert substrate, has several of the same plants (including anacharis), and no algae problems:


Are these real?
15,740 Posts
To add to DC's excellent reply, if you keep up regular water changes the stocking level should not be a problem.

Keep in mind that in any given aquarium, not ALL available plants will always be perfectly happy. You might dump some and replace them by others. Anacharis grows best in cooler waters, especially if CO2 isn't supplemented. If it keeps dying, pull it out and replace it with some Ludwigia or Ambulia or Wisteria, for example.

While Bettas and Neons have different optimum temps, they are all somewhat adaptable, and keeping the tank around 75-76 should make both more or less happy.
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