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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all!
I have a 55gallon aquarium that's been set up for over a year now. Recently, I have had quite a problem with algae, and my nitrates have been reading high. I've been having to do 20% water changes every 2-3 days. I know I've got something wrong (i.e. out of balance) with this tank, but I'm not really sure what, as I don't think it's overpopulated. I could really use some advice on what I could do to correct the problems with this tank as it is becoming a big chore to have to change the water so regularly.

Inhabitants in the tank:

  • 5 pearl gourami (1M, 4F). The male is about 4.5" long, the females range between 3-3.5" long.
  • 10 cardinal tetras
  • 2 otocinclus afinis
  • 1 red wag platy
  • 3 bolivian rams (roughly 2-2.5" long)
  • lots of malaysian trumpet snails

For plants, I have:

  • 1 amazon sword
  • 1 crinum calamistratum
  • 1 crinum aquatica
  • 1 anubias
  • 1 moss ball
  • several pieces of trident java fern
  • a piece or two of java fern windelov
  • a piece or two of java fern needle leaf
  • lots of italian val - all of which are under 3" tall, which I find to be very frustrating because I wanted to use them as a background plant
  • Amazon frogbit
Tank specs:

  • 55 gallons
  • 1 4' T5HO light that is on from 9am-11:30am and 4:30pm-8pm. This bulb has been on the tank since the tank was set up in November of 2011.
  • ph: ~8.0
  • Ammonia:0ppm
  • Nitrite:0ppm
  • Nitrate:20-80, depending on how often I clean the tank.
  • Temp: 80*F
  • black diamond blasting sand substrate with seachem root tabs for plants that need it.
  • I dose with seachem flourish 2x weekly, as directed on the bottle
  • I have but do NOT use, seachem flourish excel, thanks to the vals in the tank.

Problems with the tank I need opinions on:

  • Algae!!!!! And, therefore, an overabundance of MTS.
  • Java Fern Trident dying while the other two varieties seem to be doing okay... At one time, I had a tank full of trident, and it has slowly been wilting away. The other two varieties in the tank, I only had one or two pieces of to start off with, but I haven't lost very much from them.
  • Italian Vals don't get any taller than 3", even though I've read that they're supposed to be 12+.
  • High nitrates - This is the most pressing issue
I would appreciate any input I can get on this issue!
 

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Some questions...

First - what kind of test kit are you using? Strip? Liquid?

If it's liquid, be sure you're shaking those bottles vigorously for as long as one minute before using. Sometimes the API nitrate kit can be difficult to read and very tricky to use if not shaken well.

What kind of algae do you have?

Filtration?

Brand of lighting? Reflectors? How many inches from the substrate?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Some questions...

First - what kind of test kit are you using? Strip? Liquid?

If it's liquid, be sure you're shaking those bottles vigorously for as long as one minute before using. Sometimes the API nitrate kit can be difficult to read and very tricky to use if not shaken well.

What kind of algae do you have?

Filtration?

Brand of lighting? Reflectors? How many inches from the substrate?
I'm using the API test kit. I am following the directions and am making sure to shake for the prescribed amount of time.

The algae is the kind that sticks to the walls... It isn't the hairy kind. Sorry, I'm not very good with types of algae.

For filtration, I have an HOB filter that says it's for a 40-60g tank. I also have a homemade sponge filter in the tank. The sponge filter is being run off of a bubbler that also says it is for this size of tank.

For lighting, I purchased a 1x54W kit and made an enclosure for it. The light sits on top of the tank, and is approximately 18" from the substrate.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
What are your tank equipment? I assumed no c02? Can we get a picture of your tank?
You are correct, I am not using any c02.

Here's my attempt at a picture of the algae:


Here's a picture of the tank itself. I apologize for the hard-water stains on the outside of the tank. Apparently, I didn't wipe them off the last time I cleaned the tank.
 

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If that green easily wipes off the glass with just a rub of your finger then it's GDA (green dust algae). My tanks have it pop up when I'm low on phosphate and high on nitrates. Suggest if it's not a huge PITA to clean the glass and do a large >50% WC right after. Change the bulb in the fixture. Some bulbs shift value faster than others, cheaper fill gas and the spectrum changes within a year while others seem to hold value for several years (save the old bulb in the tube supplied with the new one).

HTH
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
If that green easily wipes off the glass with just a rub of your finger then it's GDA (green dust algae). My tanks have it pop up when I'm low on phosphate and high on nitrates. Suggest if it's not a huge PITA to clean the glass and do a large >50% WC right after. Change the bulb in the fixture. Some bulbs shift value faster than others, cheaper fill gas and the spectrum changes within a year while others seem to hold value for several years (save the old bulb in the tube supplied with the new one).

HTH
The algae doesn't come off that easily. I have to use quite a bit of "elbow grease" and scrubbing to get it to come off.
 

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Algae Problems

Hello Cowgirl...

You'll get a different answer from everyone answering this post, but to maintain stable water conditions, you need to flush a lot of pure, treated tap water through the tank every week. Your tank is really an "unflushed toilet" and by removing and replacing half the tank water weekly, you prevent nitrogens from building up in the tank. Some may disagree with such an aggressive water change routine, but the bottom line is "water changes work" and are the most important step toward a stable water chemistry, regardless of fish load.

This is how nature does it. The fish and plants get a constant supply of new, pure water and the old water is removed.

I would recommend addressing the water chemistry first and proceed from here. Start a sound water change routine and follow it religiously.

Just a thought.

B
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Nitrates of 20-50 isn't a huge deal as long as your other levels are in tune, is it?
Yes, my other params are in tune (0 ammonia, 0 nitrite). However, I've been dealing with sick fish (mostly ich) if I don't clean the water multiple times per week. The issues seem to go away if I clean the tank several times per week, but I prefer to keep a weekly routine and not have to change the water daily.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Hello Cowgirl...

You'll get a different answer from everyone answering this post, but to maintain stable water conditions, you need to flush a lot of pure, treated tap water through the tank every week. Your tank is really an "unflushed toilet" and by removing and replacing half the tank water weekly, you prevent nitrogens from building up in the tank. Some may disagree with such an aggressive water change routine, but the bottom line is "water changes work" and are the most important step toward a stable water chemistry, regardless of fish load.

This is how nature does it. The fish and plants get a constant supply of new, pure water and the old water is removed.

I would recommend addressing the water chemistry first and proceed from here. Start a sound water change routine and follow it religiously.

Just a thought.

B
I have been doing ~30% water changes weekly, but this results in algae growth, dying java fern (which I had previously thought was impossible to kill), high nitrates, and problems with ich and, occasionally, fin rot. The problems seem to go away if I clean the tank more often (with no other treatment).
 

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Yes, my other params are in tune (0 ammonia, 0 nitrite). However, I've been dealing with sick fish (mostly ich) if I don't clean the water multiple times per week. The issues seem to go away if I clean the tank several times per week, but I prefer to keep a weekly routine and not have to change the water daily.
I wasn't really directing that question at you, I was actually asking as a general question to see if I am right about that.:icon_conf Good luck to you!
 

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i had the same thought as wkndracer... change your bulb. One year can make a very big difference in terms of light spectrum and strength. On my old saltwater tank I always knew when to change the bulb because red macroalgae would start growing. As soon as I'd change the bulb it would wither and die.
 

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Hmmm... I'll throw some thoughts your way...

Is there any reason why you keep your tank at 80 degrees?

Your lighting isn't high, and I see you are not dosing N, P, and K... this should be fine. Is there any chance your nitrate is coming from your fert tabs? I'm not sure what is in them... do you disturb your substrate a lot?

Have you calibrated your test kit? Tested your tap water?

I agree with the others who have suggested one large weekly water change is likely to be more beneficial to several smaller ones throughout the week (not meaning to belabor the point)...

I agree with racer... clean off as much as you can, then do large WC, and make sure your filter is clean (of course you know to preserve your biofilter... I'm just including that for others).

HTH
 

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I have sort of the same problem...except without the algae and dying plants. I've been doing a 50% water change very 3 to 4 days to control high nitrates. In my case I believe it to be overstocking (I'm not familiar with your fish so I can't say in your case) and root tabs. Have you checked to make sure you are not overstocked?

Do you use root tabs?

Do big water changes. Clean water will help your fishes heal. I understand those big water changes are a pain in the butt.....but those water changes will keep your fishes alive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
My thoughts/answers inline in red....

Hmmm... I'll throw some thoughts your way...

Is there any reason why you keep your tank at 80 degrees?
Yes, there is. I prefer cooler water tanks, but I really like the gouramis, and 80 degrees is at the low end of what the gouramis are comfortable with.

Your lighting isn't high, and I see you are not dosing N, P, and K... this should be fine. Is there any chance your nitrate is coming from your fert tabs? I'm not sure what is in them... do you disturb your substrate a lot?
This is an interesting point. Come to think of it, I had been using Seachem Root Tabs, but ran out and didn't realize I was out until I went to use them again just recently. So, I used some other root tabs I had on hand that I didn't like as well. I do not know what ingredients are in these alternate root tabs.

As for disturbing the substrate... yes, I do. Very few of my plants are root feeders (namely just the vals and the amazon sword). So, to keep the gravel in the rest of the tank clean, I do vacuum the gravel. I do my best to stay away from the areas that I've put root tabs in though. Could this be part of my problem?

Have you calibrated your test kit? Tested your tap water?
To my knowledge, there is no way to calibrate the API test kit. If I'm wrong on this, please let me know.

I just tested the tap water. I got distracted and let it sit for 10 minutes instead of 5, but the tap water registered at between 10-20ppm. What is normal for tap water? Is this reading high?

I agree with the others who have suggested one large weekly water change is likely to be more beneficial to several smaller ones throughout the week (not meaning to belabor the point)...
This is my preference, but from what I've read a 20% weekly water change is usually sufficient. In my case, it is not. So I increased the number of water changes per week. I will do a large water change today and then keep an eye on the levels throughout this coming week and see what happens. Thanks for the input!

I agree with racer... clean off as much as you can, then do large WC, and make sure your filter is clean (of course you know to preserve your biofilter... I'm just including that for others).
Saturdays are the day I prefer to do water changes, so I will do that today and see how it goes this coming week.

HTH
I have a limb from a hedge tree in the tank. Could that be causing problems? Hedge is a very hard wood and is often used for fence posts here.

Also, I have a 3g bucket full of trident java fern that I have been considering adding to this tank. However, I would rather sell the java fern and buy a different plant(s) if the trident java fern is only going to melt away and die in this tank. I had it in my 29g tank that I am taking down, and it did fine in there. Thoughts/suggestions?
 
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