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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey, this seems like a good way to keep track of my progress; victories and failures (the latter of which I'm sure will be many). I set up a 20 gallon high low tech tank three days ago. I'm using an Aquaclear 50 filter, Aqueon 100w heater that comes set to 78 degrees. Eco-soil substrate with 10 API root tabs (it's all they had at the shop), Finnex Planted+ led's, over a bunch of anacharis, crypts, anubias, java moss (that's turning dark brown, probably dying?), java fern, and other various plants I'm not completely sure of what they are. No fish yet, haven't quite figured out when it's time to cross that bridge but I know its a ways away.

So far daily readings are:

2/20/16 Day 1
pH: 6.9
HR pH: 7.8
ammonia: .5ppm
nitrite: 0ppm

2/22/16 Day 3
pH: 6.8/7.0
nitrate: 10ppm
ammonia: 1.0 ppm
nitrite: 0ppm

Started dosing per this guide (How to Setup a Low-tech Planted Tank: Planted Aquarium Guide ? Welcome to Sudeep Mandal's spot on the net) but have only done macros. Waiting for my hardness test kit before I start adding Excel or whatever else for traces. Advice here would be appreciated.

Images:
Hour 1
24 Hours Later...

Right now as it is, am I missing any steps? Do i need to add a piece of prawn or something in there to get the cycle going or can I just kind of... wait? Should i definitely be doing water changes because of the current bacterial bloom? I'm not adverse to doing them, just not if they aren't necessary.

Let's see how this goes!
 

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Welcome to the addition. Beware this hobby can get expensive. You buy a few things for a few dollars and before you know you have spent a few hundred dollars.

A long time ago when I cycled my 1st tank I used Ace Hardware Ammonia. I wish I had not for I used so little of the gallon of ammonia. Then read some were using a cocktail shrimp. I tried the cocktail shrimp with my next tank and had to remove it after 2 days because it stank. Now I use API Quick Start with a filter pre-filter from another seeded tank. So now if I started a tank without seeded material I would use Quick Start with frozen shrimp food from a pet store. I find dosing with Quick Start when I add fish to a tank prevents any spikes.
 

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Finnex Planted+ led's, over a bunch of anacharis, crypts, anubias, java moss (that's turning dark brown, probably dying?), java fern, and other various plants
Seems you are starting off wisely for you got a great light.

Ferns and moss like phosphates. In most cities the water is dosed with phosphates thus most do not dose ferts with ferns and mosses. Dosing with Mono-potassium Phosphate will probably bring the moss back. For it is hard plant to get rid once you have it. The other plants look like the root tabs are sufficient for them.

I took all off the moss out of my main tank for I could get it to stay in 1 spot. Now I have a clump which is attached to a piece piece of wood. Must have grow from a strand left behind.
 

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You may want to dim that light by raising it or putting screen under it. Planted + is a bit much for a low tech on a 20 high.
+1:thumbsup:

If you didn't have anacharis, java moss you could dose with excel. It so nice to have a tank which you don't have to dose excel though. I have 1 I dose with excel and 1 i don't.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I'll look into this. I'm not opposed to eventually getting a co2 set up, definitely DIY in the sense I'd get the tank and gauge etc separately and id imagine save some money in the long run. For now how overkill would you say this light is? I'm running it for 6 hours a day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I noticed my water level is getting a little low (just at the bottom lip of the rim), if I'm filling up I feel like I might as well do a pwc I was thinking 25%. Is that a smart idea or no? The tank is still super cloudy from the bacterial bloom.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Update end of Week I

Things are coming together. Everything seems to be settling in. The anacharis is looking a little rough but I don't plan on keeping that forever anyway. Would love to eventually start working on a carpet of dwarf baby tears starting in the center, and replace the anacharis for rotala rotundifolia. Starting to get an idea of stocking it, basically would like 2 schools of 6-8 of something small (silver tip tetra's caught my eye), a pair of badis badis (preferably not the red variant), and then ?? for algae control. Let me know what everyone thinks. Here is the first week of levels. From the information I've gleaned I can add a couple "hardy" fish once everything settles down "in a week or two" as it says in the sudeepmandal.com guide. Is that correct, what would be a good fish/invert/whatever to stock first to help establish everything? I'm going to begin dosing excel and a pared down EI starting this Monday. Considering DIY paintball co2 set up but want to give it a few months to make sure it's an additional thing I'm willing to take on.

One novice mistake I made was planting my Java Fern. Didn't realize that would kill it off very quickly but think I remedied the situation quick enough for them to come back. Ended up tying them to some small rocks I have left over from a terrarium, which was a very unpleasant experience to say the least. My big fat fingers have a hard time with thread haha.

Levels:

2/20/16
pH: 6.9
HR pH: 7.8
ammonia: .5ppm
nitrite: 0ppm

2/22/16
pH: 6.8/7.0
nitrate: 10ppm
ammonia: 1.0 ppm
nitrite: 0ppm

2/24/16
pH: 7.0-7.2
ammonia: 1ppm
nitrate: 15ppm

2/26/16
pH: 7.1
ammonia: 1ppm
nitrate: 10ppm
nitrite: .75ppm

Photos: http://imgur.com/a/33Als
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
This will be the dosing schedule I'll be following:

1/8 teaspoon of KNO3, 1x a week
1/16 teaspoon of KH2PO4, 1x a week
1mls of Seachem Flourish, 2x a week
SeaChem Equilibrium 1/8th once a week (Immediately after weekly water change)
25% weekly water change
Dose 1-1.5x the recommended dose for Excel (1 ml for every 10 gallons on a daily basis and 5ml for every 10 gallon after 40% or more water changes)

Does that sound okay? I am dosing on the low end in exchange for only doing 25% weekly wc. I'd definitely prefer that but if it will have negative effects I'll do the full 50%
 

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I'll look into this. I'm not opposed to eventually getting a co2 set up, definitely DIY in the sense I'd get the tank and gauge etc separately and id imagine save some money in the long run. For now how overkill would you say this light is? I'm running it for 6 hours a day.
Here is a cheap Co2 system. Those with a solenoid are around $200.

I think if you have a 3hrs siesta with lights on 2hrs you will be alright.
Something like this - on 2hrs/ off 3hrs/ on 2hrs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Here is a cheap Co2 system. Those with a solenoid are around $200.

I think if you have a 3hrs siesta with lights on 2hrs you will be alright.
Something like this - on 2hrs/ off 3hrs/ on 2hrs.
I've been doing 3 on, 3 off, 3 on. It seems to be working for me, if I see some algae blooming I'll cut it down. Hoping excel helps. Definitely not dropping $200 on anything else for this project any time soon. I'll either do the diy paintball rig for like $75-80 including the filled tank or just stick with excel. What I can't seem to figure out about running one without a solenoid is how harmful it is if I'd run it at 1bpm or so 24 hours a day. That's down the line for me anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Made some changes today, added a pre filter on the intake, and got rid of the charcoal filter in favor of a second mechanical. Still cloudy and I think the drift wood may be leeching tannins but it will come along eventually. Excel is doing a really good job. Didn't expect it to make growth noticeable after only using it for three days. Today was fertilizer day, just dumped them in dry but think I will mix them with water in the future. Don't like seeing the granules on my plants. Probably will go get the first fish next week. Just got a floating thermometer, I'm right on the money at 78 degrees.
 

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This will be the dosing schedule I'll be following:

1/8 teaspoon of KNO3, 1x a week
1/16 teaspoon of KH2PO4, 1x a week
1mls of Seachem Flourish, 2x a week
SeaChem Equilibrium 1/8th once a week (Immediately after weekly water change)
25% weekly water change
Dose 1-1.5x the recommended dose for Excel (1 ml for every 10 gallons on a daily basis and 5ml for every 10 gallon after 40% or more water changes)

Does that sound okay? I am dosing on the low end in exchange for only doing 25% weekly wc. I'd definitely prefer that but if it will have negative effects I'll do the full 50%
I'd test your nitrate levels after dosing and right after a water change to see what that dosing gives you. I think most folks try to stay between 10 and 20 ppm, especially with livestock. Also, once you have cycled the tank and added fish, you'll want to back off the nitrate dosing, maybe altogether, depending on how much is added by fish food/waste. Just keep testing to see what levels you're at once you have fish.

For the Excel, I'd do a double dose daily unless you have species that tend to be sensitive to it. (Anacharis may be one, I can't remember; just keep an eye on it.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I'll test the levels in just a bit. Next water change will be in a week. I've been dosing what I assume is the normal daily dosage of excel. I need to get a more precise way of measuring it besides "I think that's half a capful"
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Today's levels:

pH: 6.8
Ammonia: 0-.25ppm
Nitrite: 5ppm
Nitrate: 40ppm
KH: 53.7ppm
GH: 107.4ppm

Now the KH/GH levels may not be totally correct. It's the first time I've done those tests. Where does this put me in the cycle? Ammonia is obviously down very low, but nitrate and nitrites are sky high.
 

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Today's levels:

pH: 6.8
Ammonia: 0-.25ppm
Nitrite: 5ppm
Nitrate: 40ppm
KH: 53.7ppm
GH: 107.4ppm

Now the KH/GH levels may not be totally correct. It's the first time I've done those tests. Where does this put me in the cycle? Ammonia is obviously down very low, but nitrate and nitrites are sky high.
The high nitrite means you're making progress... bacteria are converting ammonia to nitrite. But it often takes weeks still to get from there to cycled, i.e. to build up the bacteria that converts nitrites to nitrate. It takes much longer to get that colony established. Go easy on the ammonia from here on out -- just enough to keep the ammonia above 0. People often have issues with the cycle stalling here if you keep larding on the ammonia.

As for the nitrates, have you been dosing with KNO3? If so, that's what they're from. Don't dose anymore, and I'd probably do a water change if that level gets much higher.

pH is fine.

I don't know what those KH and GH numbers correspond to... my test is in degrees, not ppm. I'm sure there's a conversion somewhere online.

On the Excel, it doesn't have to be exact. Plus or minus a mL or two isn't going to hurt anything. It essentially breaks down in 12 hours anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I see. I haven't been adding any ammonia or anything to boost ammonia. Should I be to keep it above zero? I'll back off the KNO3, thought that was an important macro nutrient tho. I'll look at the chart on my KH/GH test kit again. I know it took 3 drops for KH and 6 for GH.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Trying to figure out if it's okay for me to completely cut out the KNO3 and switch equilibrium out for something that won't raise my hardness. Today my nitrates were still at 40ppm KH at 3 and GH at 9dKH (sorry if this is the wrong unit of measurement. I'm having a hard time figuring out this kit. It took 9 drops for GH and 3 for KH). Any ideas for me? I also am going to start adding a tiny bit of fish flake food to "feed" the bacteria through the cycle. Just a little pinch? I havent added anything save for ferts and excel so far.
 

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Trying to figure out if it's okay for me to completely cut out the KNO3 and switch equilibrium out for something that won't raise my hardness. Today my nitrates were still at 40ppm KH at 3 and GH at 9dKH
How about mono-potassium phosphate and Iron sulfate? Phosphates powder form is Monopotassium Phosphate or KH2PO4 Here you see phosphates can lower nitrates. Iron for the plants that have color

So the Excel did not kill the anacharis and java moss?
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
How about mono-potassium phosphate and Iron sulfate? Phosphates powder form is Monopotassium Phosphate or KH2PO4 Here you see phosphates can lower nitrates. Iron for the plants that have color

So the Excel did not kill the anacharis and java moss?

So far the Java moss is actually looking better. Think it was phosphate deprived. I've been dosing KH2PO4, flourish and doing 1.5 excel every morning. I think over all the tank is LOOKING better but I want to make sure I'm not messing up the levels by either not doing something or doing too much of another. Would be bummed to have to start the cycle over again or however that would work. Getting fish food tomorrow to boost ammonia a little, that seems to be the consensus of what to do. So far I've added nothing but prime to treat the water, fertilizers and excel. I've been doing lights from 1-4 then 6-9.
 
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