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New to the fish keeping hobby, so please forgive me for the mistakes I have made, the ones I will continue to make, and anything I ask that makes me sound like the completely inexperienced hobbyist that I am.

We started with a 10 gallon community tank about a year ago with a dwarf gourami, 4 guppies, and a platy. Only lost one guppy in the year.

Recently upgraded to a 20 gallon PLANTED tank, dwarf gourami, 3 guppies, 2 platies, 2 shrimp. We are using Fluval Stratum substrate, Flourish tabs, and have Easy Green fertilizer from aquarium co-op. No CO2 system, not ready for that just yet. I do plan on getting about 8 more shrimp for a total of 10 and a few otocinclus for a cleanup crew…sometime very soon.

With the 10g we were testing with the API 5 in 1 test strips (pH, kH, gH, NH3, Nitrate, Nitrite) and NONE of the parameters ever changed. Liquid ammonia and nitrate tests showed spikes here and there that we controlled. We have had the planted 20g for about a month now and have had one ammonia spike, now a nitrate spike, and algae is beginning to show up (because of the nitrates, probably). I did the 5 in 1 test strip the other day and the kH was at ZERO, pH was low. We did water changes and I brought the pH and kH back up slowly using baking soda one teaspoon at a time over the course of a few days. My understanding is that the spike of nitrites and nitrates are acidic, causing the drop in pH which used up all the kH as it was trying to buffer the acidic environment.

Anyway, I have a few question I was hoping someone with much more experience than I could help me with so that my next few months of planted tank life goes smoother.

  1. What all should I be testing? I will keep the 5 in 1 test strips, but the liquid tests are much easier to read. (I see a lot of people advocating for the API master test kit, but I already have the ammonia and nitrate tests and I don’t think the pH and high range pH tests would be that useful….but I may very well be wrong) Should I test for nitrites, nitrates, or both? Should I test for kH, pH or both? Should I test for phosphates?
  2. Has anyone had experience with the API CO2 liquid booster, does it work, is it worth it?
  3. How do I go about fertilizing? The bottle says dose 1x/Wk for low light, 2x/Wk for medium light….I don’t know if my light is considered medium or low. We are currently doing 10 hours of light per day on a timer. Or should I test for certain parameters before adding fertilizer?
  4. Do you think my tank will support any more fish? And, if so, how many/size? PS I am NOT getting any fish for probably 4+ months, until I feel like the tank is ore stable…aside from the shrimp and otocinclus.
  5. Also, we tried a “small” circulation pump that puts out 480GPH, but it blew a lot of the plants over and seemed way too powerful. Not sure if it was just the direction of the pump or if it was too powerful for our tank size.

Thank everyone for your help!!!
 

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1. Keep testing for Ammonia just in case. The Nitrate test will be helpful. The pH test will be good to use when you get CO2. My Phosphate is almost always in range. You should probably have a GH test IMO.

2. Liquid CO2 is not as good as the gas. You don't need a controller or even a solenoid. Just keep it simple. I've been getting by with a basic regulator and a not so great needle valve for years.

3. Don't get me started. It's too late. Maybe tomorrow if nobody else answers.

4. Don't get anymore fish until you learn some of the ropes growing plants.

5. The pump is too strong.

You have a big cleanup crew. Keep the GH up for your shrimp. You can try growing some algae on pebbles for them. My gouramis eat all the algae wafers.
 

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20210529_175158.jpg
If you are running low tech this is what I would do.
1. I would only test the water for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate and do a water change if any of those read.
2. Glut products work, but not as well as co2.
3. In a low tech set up I would dose 2 drops of your fertilizer in a 20 gal daily. You can add more if you need to.
4. You can add more small fish. Use your best judgement.
5. You probably don't need powerheads in a 20 gal. The filter should cover it.

I put in a pic of my 20 low tech for reference.
 

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They are 10w flood lights I bought on Amazon. They cost less than $20 per unit. The bracket is homemade welded from angle iron and conduit.
 
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