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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all! new to the forums but have read hundreds of threads on this forum alone while trying to work my way through a new tank set up.

Thanks in advance for anyone who reads this and especially for any help offered!

So, this started out as a .4 Gal unfiltered tank for a Female Betta (R.I.P. Scarlet, she was a fantastic little pet for the three months we had her, her death two weeks ago remains somewhat of a mystery and occurred after the introduction of Otocinclus catfish about five weeks ago and after she had been in that set up by herself for a month or so).

We (my wife and I) replaced the .4 gal with a 5.5 gal with some plants and it was cycled as best as I could figure (0ppm ammonia and nitrites within 36 or so hours of any given water change; there would be ammonia from the chloramine in the tapwater, which we used prime - eventually - to lock up for the 48 hours it took for the bb to 'eat' that ammonia and it would reliably retreat to 0 within 24 - 36 hours).

I procured a 20gal long and we moved everything from the 5.5 gallon (filter, gravel, plants - at the time some were fake; everything). Through several stages of developments we have come to this setup: (I hope its not too long winded, but I wanted to include a lot of the details).

I tried to include a couple of pictures.


-10 weeks setup
-20 Gal Long with full glass 'versa-top' hood
-Current brand light fixture which sits on the edges and the bulbs are about 6" from the surface of the water it has 2x 65W 22" Power Compact bulbs one is 10K kelvin, the other 6700.
-'bio sponge' (japanese or korean) brand sponge filter with marineland 400 maxi jet powerhead on the top of it pumping left to right at the back behind the plants across the glass.
-AquaClear 50 HOB filter with the sponge and some fluval media and the bio media from AQ placed at the far right back of aquarium, speed reduced to medium or low.
-(kinda thin) Layer of Fluval substrate 'capped' (read: mostly mixed) with black aquarium gravel and some coarser smoother natural colored gravel with some eco complete laid about near the front for some grasses (was my thought).
-2 pieces of drift wood


-Seachem Flourish, the shampoo bottle looking stuff with a separate bottle for N, P, K, 'micro' and 'trace'; following the formulas on the labels, I try to dose about 2x to 3x per week of each and I aim for (N,P,K) about 20-.1-10.
-API and Flourish root tabs which get placed in the aquarium whist i sing alternative lyrics to the Beatie Boys song 'root down'
-CO2 from pressurized system with Milwaukee regulator at about 2.5 to 3 bps when its on.


Lots of unidentified plants.
-Some known are Water Wisteria, Ludwigia, Camboba or Cabomba(?), java fern, amazon sword, anubias, cryptosomething, christmas moss.
-Some probably known are ruffle leaf sword, 'radican' or brazilian sword - not sure - large stems coming off of rhizome and the leaves really like to shoot up to the surface and float there; java moss.
-Some I have totally forgotten or never were identified.

I would probably consider the biomass of the plants to be rather heavy, I would suspect it may weigh close to a pound wet, including the roots and rhizomes.


3 Otocinclus catfish


-Worms: probably more than one type, most about 5mm - 10mm long, "inchworm-like" movement across the glass and flail when free-floating and appear to be able to swim against the current. you can see them in the substrate; looks like and ant farm.

Snails: none purposefully introduced, however have found three very small snails and one that had grown to about 3/8 inch that I believe I correctly "identified" as a 'common pond snail'; the adult was very fast moving and appeared to clean that grass. I killed it anyway, not sure if that was right but I crushed the small ones and froze the big one - sorry if that was wrong, but it seemed reasonable at the time.

crustaceans: various sorts that dart around, looking a bit like fleas, again, not purposefully introduced by me


tap: city water report; highlights: sodium silicate and chloramine; I use prime and sometimes a betta conditioner to condition the tap water; Ph about 6.8

Test kits: 5 or 6 way strips and an ammonia/ammonium regent test kit

Ammonia: 0 to very low, maybe .01 (different shades of yellow, no green in the test, so well below that .25 of the lime green color).
Nitrites: 0
Nitrates: (must raise with the flourish and I aim for about 20, but if left alone, pretty much usually 0).
GH: 75ppm
KH: 60ppm
Ph: 6.3 to 6.5 or so
Temp: 74F (was 80 when Scarlet the Betta occupied, but I've since turned it down to make the otos more comfortable.)
Co2: drop checker gets fully green about 2 hours after the Co2 comes on

The above is about all I can test for.

Water changes + photoperiod:

1x water change of ~20% per week

Light: 11 hours/day with the 6700k and 0 hours/day with the 10,000k.

hopefully, you have some information now and might be able to give me some advice about some nagging issues:

-The worms and crustaceans, I'm not worried about them but they are making my tank look kinda messy when you're up close. I've read that these are propagating because the fish are over-fed but I've really tried not to do that. Their numbers had subsided substantially but I could see them every water change. I only added the powerhead about a week ago to address dead-spots but now they all seem to be out in full force. Is the extra current giving them extra food?

-Thread or hair algae; this was a huge problem when I had fake and real plants so I planted more plants and it became less a problem. I increased the photoperiod to help provide more algae to the oto cats but they don't eat that kind of algae (the mowed down some green algae on the driftwood though) and its really starting to grow, especially on the moss. I've been cleaning it out with a toothbrush but is there a way to grow the good algae and keep this stuff out? After my experience adding the oto cats (which, we of course now love very much and will keep them and care for them best we can), I'm a little concerned about deploying biological controls.

Green Spot algae: Seems to be GSA on the leaves of the plants. I've tried to add more phosphorus to help but I read this causes thread algae (which I kind of ignored that advice for one reason or another). Is this right? Ive been told that the otos don't eat this either. Should I perhaps continue to be aggressive with the P?

Snails? leave them? Kill them? I hated killing him but I don't want a snail farm really either, nor would i like them to be eating healthy vegetation. I don't think releasing them into the 'gully' behind my apartment is a good idea either, but if they are native here, I'm not sure I'd be all that conflicted about it. (this may take a visit to CU biology department to get an actual ID of the snail, and, see, this is getting to be a bit much ado about snails).

Oto food rotting? I have been supplementing their diet with veggies like slices of zucchini, squash and peppers. they seems to like these but only after they are soaked. they ignore algae wafers. I'm going to try some nori. Some of these just rot away (i try to take it out after about 2 days) but the slices are kinda thin and I look for it and can't find it. I read that rotting food can cause an ammonia spike. Is my tank buffered against a rapid ammonia spike from a rotting zucchini slice? (I know this will contribute to the worm problem or lead to unsightliness but I just want to make sure its not dangerous to these oto catfish).

Tank-mates for the oto? I'd really love another betta, but the compatibility of the temp range with the otos doesn't seem that great. I'm also afraid that she would chase them like Scarlet did (which I think made her very stressed) and keep them in a corner (which I think made the otos stressed). I suppose I wouldn't mind an otto tank with just a bunch of ottos (like 3 more or something), but it seems like there won't be enough algae for more than three. Anybody have any ideas of some fishes that could go in there, or do you like the more ottos idea ( I'm not sure I like buying them from the shop after I read more about them and have lost 2 total already, but I would).

Other advice? you've seen my tank and setup, I'm pretty new to the hobby, except I had a 10 gal in Jr. High and High school at my folk's house, that was pretty much a low tech tank with a UG filter.

Sorry if there is a rule about too many questions in the thread; I tried to keep it as organized as possible. Thanks in advance for any help!

Kind regards,



31 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Since posting, I've noticed the worms subsiding near the front glass as I deep-vacuumed where there was no plants in the front.

There are probably, however, over 100 snails and I actually believe they may be ram'shorn snails.

I also acquired a nitrate test kit and it tested at 5ppm 2 days after dosing so yesterday I didn't add the nitrogen

I used a phosphate test kit and it showed the same results as bottled water, so I figure that's about zero so I upped my phosphorus dosing. Continuing to dose the K quite a bit.

Also, my wife is starting to worry that the tank plants are growing "up" and not "out" -- could my light be too weak? do I need to trim more maybe?

If I wanted a more dynamic 'scape, would you all recommend changing sections at a time or a full re-scape?

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