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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So a couple weeks ago, I ended up scrapping my entire 10 gal because of a reoccurring issue with the water. When I first planted it, all of the plants in there were doing really well and just taking off. I was lighting using one 6500K CFL bulb in a clamp light. However, suddenly, all of my plants started to melt and die off for no apparent reason. I also noticed that the water took on a stained tea-like color. This was not attributed to tannins, however, as I did not have driftwood in the tank. This was a low-tech tank and I was not dosing with ferts of any kind.

Eventually, when all of the plants died, I ended up removing everything. I did a ~70% water change, and just threw some fake plants in there as temporary cover for the fish. Even with the fake plants though, the water was still staining. After another week or so, I decided to scrap the tank altogether. I dumped everything left that was out. I kept the filter media but removed the substrate (Fluval Straum) and did a thorough scrubbing. I have no had any problems with it since using regular gravel and fake plants. I did not want to attempt to replant it at the moment seeing as I am moving in less than two months and will have to tear everything down when I do.

So this brings us to my current problem. My other planted tank is a 5 gal. I am using a mixture of Fluval Stratum and Mr. Aqua Aquarium soil as substrate. I have a fleeting suspicion that it may have something to do with the substrate since I no longer had the issue with my 10 once it was removed. Same thing... my plants are suddenly dying off very quickly and the water has been stained a dark brown color. I have a 16" Finnex FugeRay Planted+ on this one and dose with 11 drops of Excel (I found the information for dosage on a chart online somewhere for this tank size) on a daily basis. I do have driftwood in the 5 gal by the way, but I do not think that is what is causing the dramatic water staining and killing the plants.

My water parameters are as follows:
pH: 7.6
ammonia: 0ppm
nitrates: 0ppm
nitrites: 0ppm
temperature: 78F

I am afraid that the same thing that happened to my 10 gal is happening to my 5 gal. I discussed the issue with some people and one suggested that perhaps the substrate is leaching excess nutrients that could be killing the plants but I am not sure. Excess or lack of nutrients? Or something else? Please help!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
So, you have a tank with 0ppm of Nitrate... That should be 100% fatal to plants. Assuming your test isn't lying to you (nitrate tests are notorious for being off-calibration)

Nitrogen is an essential macronutrient for plants, they cannot live without it. They need it in the form of ammonia/ammonium, or nitrate... Since ammonia is toxic to fish, we usually try to keep our nitrates up enough to feed the plants.

That said, your plants look like they are currently exhibiting severe potassium deficiency. Since plants can only suffer one deficiency at a time, fixing that will probably cause the Nitrogen deficiency to show.

You probably need to look into fertilizers of at least some form if you want to grow plants. Your fish waste can often produce enough nitrate and phosphate for plants to live on if you change your water less often (or you can just add phosphate/nitrate fertilizers), but potassium is usually required.
I will perform another nitrate test when I get home! I may be reading it wrong, too. Thank you for all of your help! I have the full like of sea chemistry ferts that I won from a raffle my LFS had but I don't know exactly where to start since I am new to planted tanks and don't want to end up overdosing or anything.

So just to double check, this is what I need to do:
1) fix the potassium problem
2) fix the nitrate problem

Also, another question I have is why is this only happening in my tanks with enriched substrate? Is there a nutrient imbalance? I have a planted sand tank and had a planted gravel tank in the past with no problems. And why is the water staining so badly??
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
My gravel tank was a 3 gallon stocked with 1 betta and my sand tank is a 20 gallon community. whatever I have in there was moved over from the 10 gallon after I scrapped it.

And yes, I do have driftwood in the 5, currently (where the pictures are from), but that wouldn't explain the staining in my old 10 gal since there was no driftwood there. I suspected that it could have been browning from all of the decayin plant matter, but it continued to stain even after all traces of live plants were taken out.

Thank you so much for your help troubleshooting my problem! :)
 
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