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Discussion Starter #21
Thanks for the suggestions and encouragement, folks!
@Asteroid, I took your advice and continued dosing ferts. My photoperiod is now a 1-hour sunrise, 4 hours at full strength, and a 1-hour sunset (I need to find out what strength sunrise and sunset are on the Fluval 3.0 - I'm pretty sure it's <50%). I've also been doing 50% water changes every other day for almost a week now.

Despite these changes, the algae has continued to spread. The ammonia has dropped from 4 PPM a few days ago to 0.25, but nitrites still register at 5.0 and nitrate is at 0, so clearly, there's still some progress to be made in cycling the tank. I dosed Seachem Stability to try to move things along, not out a desire to speed up the cycle, but out of a desire to get the ammonia under control to slow the algae. I've read mixed reviews on the stuff, particularly in planted tanks, but ultimately I decided it couldn't hurt. This was 3 days ago, so I'll give it a few more days to see how it's moved along.

Today, however, the algae spread from the hardscape to affecting some of the plants, something I was really hoping wouldn't happen. In response, I gave @DarkCobra's One-Two Punch a shot this afternoon. I removed the filter socks and media and added 100 ml of H2O2. DarkCobra revised the original recommended amount from 4 to 2 tbsp per gallon. Considering I don't have any fauna to worry about, I figured I'd split the difference and 100 ml works out to be pretty close to 3 tbsp per gallon (the hardscape takes up about 8 or 9 gallons of space, so I'm basing this on an estimate of 22 gallons of water). I also added the 200 GPH fountain pump that I have to create more flow which was a terrible decision with plants that have only week and a half's worth of roots. I blew plants all over the place! That said, it turns out I had algae in places I had no idea I had algae! The false pearling really highlighed it:
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After 30 minutes I did a 50% water change and dosed 12 ml of Metricide 14 (about triple an initial dose of Seachem Excel). I built a super-simple water change setup over the weekend using a leftover 5-gallon homebrewing fermenter bottle, a 15 gallon, wheeled rubbermaid container and a pond pump which makes dosing really easy. This is probably overkill at this stage, but when I've eventually got shrimp in the tank, I can easily pre-filter the siphon and mix water in the rubbermaid to keep tank parameters (temp, TDS, etc.) consistent through water changes.


Lastly, the reduced photoperiod has really slowed the growth of the plants, but most of them are doing really well regardless. The Vals have sent out a lot of runners, the Ludwigia Senegalensis already needed a significant trim, and the AR mini and micranthum umbrosum have grown substantially. The Monte Carlo continues to put out new leaves but still hasn't spread and some of it has died off completely. I think that it's going to turn the corner here shortly though.

The Rotala Macaranda has struggled the most by far. At least 75% of it has wilted and died off now. I have no idea what's holding it back so much. I removed all of the decaying tissue today and temporarily moved what was left to the front of the tank where it'll be easier to keep an eye on and where there is no shade whatsoever from the hardscape. If it doesn't turn around in the next few days I'm going to have to pull it and find an alternative for that portion of the scape.

Ultimately, I think @Asteroid was right - I wasn't preventative enough from the very beginning. After the initial planting, I didn't do a water change for 5 or 6 days which is where things probably got out of hand. Perhaps I didn't run into this with previous Aqua Soil tanks because they were extremely heavily stocked with plants from the get-go. The scape I have in my head for this tank relies heavily on the MC which just hasn't taken off like I expected it to. The additional MC I ordered should be here in 2 or 3 days, so hopefully that gives the flora the boost that it needs.
 

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What a bummer, JBigz.
I hope thing turn around quickly.
 

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Discussion Starter #24
The good: the One-Two Punch looks like it knocked out 80+% of the algae.

The bad: the Vals took a beating from the OD of Metricide. I think they'll recover. The new shoots still look strong, just the old shoots are a little worse for the wear.

Another day or two will determine how effective the H2O2 was....

I've decided to bump the full-strength photoperiod up to 5 hours and will keep dosing 2 ml of Metricide for the foreseeable future to try to keep the algae at bay. Fingers crossed!
 

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Discussion Starter #25
Vals are getting worse but I still think they'll pull through the Metricide overdose.

At this point I'm just beyond frustrated with the Monte Carlo. After a few days of looking better it's back to looking like crap and still not spreading whatsoever. It's been three weeks and everything else except the Macaranda (and now Vals) is doing well (the Macaranda is much happier in the front of the tank. I may swap location with the Senegalensis long term...more light there). I have two more pots of MC arriving tomorrow. Hopefully now that my water parameters are stable, the new stock will take better.

Any thoughts on what might be limiting it?


Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk
 

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Yeah, that is a total bummer. Hopefully things will come around. From what I've seen on here the vals should recover. Key word, should. :)

One thing that you might think about on lighting is to provide a complete day with no light. I have a tank at work that I let go. Hair algae everywhere. Plants were still growing but things like anubias couldn't keep up. I turned lights out for the entire weekend, every weekend and its like night and day (pun intended, lol). It's been 4 weeks and plants are doing well. Anubia new growth has no algae. Fissidens moss has lost all algae growing amongst it and the algae that was buidling up on driftwood is now sluffing off. Not saying that it will solve problems in your tank but maybe worth a look. Of course these are all low light tolerant plants so in your case one day would be what I would start at.
 

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Any thoughts on what might be limiting it?


Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk
You have a lot of soil in this tank releasing nutrients into the water but not (at this point) enough fast growing stem plants to use that nutrients. So you are cutting your light period to give the algae less light to grow. Unfortunately monte carlo likes a lot of light. So your desire to fight the algae is likely limiting your monte carlo.

You should try increasing your light cycle and splitting it up. The ramp up and ramp down is likely not helping the situation. Algae is not as good at adapting to varying light conditions as plants are. This is why split light periods are so popular. Try doing 3 to 4 hours in the morning and 3 to 4 hours in the evening with a break in the middle of 4-5 hours. Drop the ramp up and ramp down.

It would also help to plant a bunch more fast growing stems. Or if you prefer some floating plants. Red root floaters, giant duck weed, salvinia, are all relatively short rooted floating plants and would absorb a lot of the excess nutrients. Obviously they block light which your tank needs but /shrug can be accounted for.
 

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I mean from my experience growing carpets. Always done a short photo period 4-5 hours and no problem growing in a full lush carpet of HC, DHG, etc. I haven't grown MC but can't imagine it's more fuzzy. And this many times is without a ram up/down just 4-5 hours straight. I've done as little as 2 hr burst with low/medium light the rest of the way and good results with no algae.

Question. Why are your nitrates zero? Also don't know if I missed this, but what is the kh with all that Seiryu stone in there?
 

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Got no good answers beyond what has already been posed on why your monte carlo isnt working, but a suggestion for your new batch. Try floating a clump near the corner of the tank, or near the intake, closer to the light. Or wedge some in the cracks of the hardscape. See if that takes off. If it does, might just provide enough insurance to not have to buy more pots. Also may need to suck it up and split some of those bigger clumps into smaller ones of two or three plants. Yea, its backbreaking, but for some reason, carpet plants respond a little better when you put in that hard work.
 

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Discussion Starter #30
You should try increasing your light cycle and splitting it up. The ramp up and ramp down is likely not helping the situation. Algae is not as good at adapting to varying light conditions as plants are. This is why split light periods are so popular. Try doing 3 to 4 hours in the morning and 3 to 4 hours in the evening with a break in the middle of 4-5 hours. Drop the ramp up and ramp down.
Thank you, minorhero! I'll give this a shot today as soon as I can figure out the "Pro" settings in the Fluval 3.0 app (the default only lets you set sunrise, daytime, sunset, and night periods. I'll see if I can get some temporary fast-growing plants from my LFS today to help soak up more nutrients as well.

Asteroid said:
Why are your nitrates zero? Also don't know if I missed this, but what is the kh with all that Seiryu stone in there?
Nitrates was a typo - it should have been 40, not 0! :grin2:
Despite all the Seiryu, the kh is only 2.

ipkiss said:
Also may need to suck it up and split some of those bigger clumps into smaller ones of two or three plants. Yea, its backbreaking, but for some reason, carpet plants respond a little better when you put in that hard work.
I originally had a lot of smaller clumps (and the large ones you see now) but almost all of the small ones have wilted and died. I've been nervous to break up the larger ones fearing they'd suffer the same fate. When the new MC arrives today I'll try to keep the clumps smaller - thanks for the advice!
 

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Discussion Starter #33
I planted a ton of potted MC on Friday. The stock I'd ordered before were tissue cultures. Since I'd had little luck with that route the last two times, I decided to go with good old fashioned plants in pots. It was much easier to separate so I've got much better coverage this time around, but part of the nature of these plants are that the stems are much longer. Despite draining 2/3 of the tank and spending an hour planting the two pots (planting an end and mid-stem where possible), many of the stems are still sticking straight up an inch or two. I feel better about these ones taking despite the fact that they'll need a haircut after they're established!

I've added a siesta to my photoperiod and will watch the algae closely. I now have 4 hours on, 4 off, and 4 on. We'll see how the MC and algae react and adjust as necessary. I've tweezed most of the remaining hair algae out but there's still plenty I haven't gotten to. The plants are all rebounding from the One Two Punch. I cut out most of the melted tissue from the Vals today and am happy to report that there is a lot of new growth at the bottoms. The Senegalensis and AR Mini are the happiest and are growing quickly, but the L. Palustris and Tonina Belem are my favorites so far.

I'm also excited that ammonia and nitrites have finally hit 0. Nitrates look a bit over 40 on the API kit, but if that drops and ammonia and nitrites stay at 0 through the week, I'm excited about picking up the first of the fish next weekend. I think I'll start with a small school of 6 or so Otos and build slowly from there. I'm still torn on the open water schoolers that will centerpiece the tank.

Lastly, the only in-tank equipment besides the returns and drop checker is the CO2 line and diffuser which I have positioned at the bottom of the tank, right under one of the returns. The good about this placement is that the microbubbles rise into the stream from the return and get shot all over the tank which gives them more time to dissolve and makes it easy to spot dead spots in the water flow. The bad is that it blows microbubbles all over the tank and looks crappy. I'm toying with the idea of moving the diffuser behind the overflow wall into the pump chamber and letting the bubbles get sucked through the pump and shot out of both returns. I think I'll get better dissolution and distribution that way with the added bonus of less in-tank equipment. I've read that I may be asking for trouble and damaging my pump this way. Any thoughts from you guys one way or the other?
 

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Discussion Starter #34
Nitrates dropped to somewhere between 20 and 40 on the API kit a few days ago, so a quick trip to the LFS resulted in the first of the critters. I added three Otos on Thursday to see how they took to the tank. After they settled in nicely, I added three more for a small school of a total of 6 Otos that have been hard at work cleaning the wood of biofilm and algae. Despite there being plenty of algae for them to munch on, I'm offering a couple of slices of blanched zucchini every few days just to make sure they're getting plenty to eat. My wife has been pretty indifferent to the tank thus far (besides being happy that I'm happy), but now that there are some critters in there, she's become quite the fish watcher. I think we'll convert her to the wet side after all!

I'm still not thrilled with the MC growth, but I'm trying to be patient. The rest of the plants are doing well with the AR mini really filling out, the Tonina Bellum starting to reach for the surface, and the Micranthum Umbrosum filling in nicely. Last week I moved the Rotala Macaranda to the front to get it more uninterrupted light. It's growing slowly but much more healthily in its new spot. I think I'll alter the scape a bit and make some space for it in the back left corner (the whole left side was originally just going to be carpeted). Everything has put down really solid roots (well, except for the MC which has put "out" really solid roots but few of them seem to be getting into the substrate). I'm also considering attaching some Buce Brownie Purple to the wood smack in the center of the tank (updated, old picture below).



Looking forward, I've got 5 zebra nerite snails on order. I'm debating between a school of 15 or so neon green rasboras (my preference) or cardinal tetras (wife's preference). I think I'm leaning toward the rasboras because I see them less than I see the cardinals, but I'd be happy with either so my wife will probably get her way (happy wife...). When things stabilize a little more, I'll also add a few Amano shrimp as a precursor to a handful of CRS or Blue Dreams or something like that. I'm really excited about a shrimp colony soon (I miss watching the CRS from my old nano tank terribly), but I've got TDS of 70 coming out of my tap before jumping up to 130 by the end of the week with evaporation, so I've got some stabilization to do before I get there.

Speaking of stabilization, the new water change setup is working beautifully. I've estimated there's actually just a touch over 20g of water in the tank after the hardscape takes its share, so my water changes are about 9 gallons these days. I can pre-mix 10 gallons of water, add 2 ml of Prime, 4 ml Metricide 14, and let the water circulate using the pond pump for a few hours while an old heater matches the water temp in the tank perfectly. This will provide a good solution for matching water hardness when shrimp enter the picture as well. I've also added some old panty hose to the water extractor now that I've got critters to be concerned with.



I've repurposed some more old homebrewing equipment (an autosiphon handle) to add the of the return hose. This is actually really nice. It's a ~30" piece of hard acrylic tube that I can wedge in between the hardscape which makes it really easy to fill the tank quickly without disturbing anything (it blasts straight at rock).
 

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Discussion Starter #35
Forgot to mention, I did wind up moving the CO2 diffuser into the pump chamber to try to get more contact time with the water and eliminate the bubbles all over the tank. Well, all that did was shoot microbubbles out of both returns rather than just blowing them around from just one return. I've ordered and old-school D-402 reactor to see if that helps. I have no idea how I'm going to squeeze it into the pump chamber, especially since I have limited room to work under the built-in shelf, but we'll see how it goes. Fingers crossed....
 
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