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UNS 120U Build

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One of the very first things I've always wanted to do when I bought a home is getting a big tank. My largest tank so far was a 60 starfire glass reef ready cube. Having lived in apartments most of my adult life, I've always been limited to smaller sized tanks. I bought my first home back in July last year and took down my last reef tank. I had 3 reefs going for about 10 years with only one left up and running until the move last year. My last foray into planted tanks ended in 2012 or so and it was always something I wanted to keep going but couldn't due to lack of space.

I really hemmed and hawed over the decision for this tank. I initially was set on a standard 125 gallon. I began planning the build and created a spreadsheet with all of the equipment and accessories I'd need, and then I saw a 125 in person at Petsmart when I went to get some dog food for my pup. The length was great, but the tank just seemed really long and narrow which limited my options as far as scanning.

I saw the UNS 120U's dimensions and a few YouTube videos to get a sense of what the tank looked like, but I wasn't totally in love with it being only 48" long. I think an ideal tank size is 60X24X24 but there aren't many options out there. I did find one like that from a company SC Aquariums. Pretty nice tank with Starfire glass and an overflow. One of the main reasons I didn't go this route, which would have been less expensive than the UNS tank was that it had an overflow. The overflow opens up the possibility that a year from now I tear down the planted tank and set up another reef tank.

While I loved my reef tanks, they were just obscenely expensive. It was a huge toilet that I flushed money down. You can have a plant melt on you in a planted tank and you can just buy another. But if you buy a $120 acropora colony and it dies on you, that stings a lot more lol.

Anyhow I settled on the UNS. After bring the tank into my basement and waking up this morning to back pain, in hindsight I maybe should have gone with acrylic lol. The back pain will go aways in a couple days though.

This will be a slow build since the tank wasn't inexpensive and the equipment isn't inexpensive either. In the past I'd get inpatient and charge everything on my credit card, but you wind up paying way more for your purchases if you're not paying the balance off right away. So I'll take my time and acquire the equipment a piece at a time until I have everything. The one thing I will do is pick up any hardscape that catches my eye as I stop by all my local shops.

The first project is to build a stand. I'll reserve post #2 for the stand build.

Tank: UNS 120U
Stand: Custom build
Filtration: GLA 15L Infinite Nature Filter. Oase 850 Biomaster Thermo. Stainless lily pipes, one set with build in surface skimmer to be used with the Oase, the second set is without surface skimmer to be used on the GLA
Lighting: Twinstar 1200SP
Heating: Heater included with Oase controlled by Inkbird
UV: Decided against this but it can always be added on later. I'll account for adding one on in the way I plumb the return if I change my mind down the road.
CO2: GLA Pro DS 1 Dual Stage regulator with two 10 lbs tanks along with a NilocG Advanced reactor.
Substrate: Pool filter sand
Hardscape: Two xl pieces of spider wood. About 90 lbs of dragon stone.

I'm 100% open to feedback, ideas, or alterations I should make to my plans.

This week I'll begin acquiring lumber and paints/stains and hardware for the stand.

My plans on stocking are up in the air. There are a whole bunch of different stocking plans I have, but I really need to settle on one. Back in the day I would buy 2 of each fish until I realized it seemed like I was stocking Noah's Ark lol. This tank will have fewer different species and more schools of fish.

I'll get a pic of the tank once the stand is built and it's sitting on it. I'll also do the leak test when I get the tank on the stand. I may as well do that sooner rather than later.

I did want to thank everyone who has provided help thus far. There are so many things I hadn't considered that were a HUGE help so I appreciate it greatly!
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Discussion Starter · #741 ·
@Asteroid

I've been thinking about what you mentioned regarding the amount of CO2 that is being injected. Should I increase the PH on the controller to target 6.8 rather than 6.4 as it's currently set?

It's just one more thing that isn't exactly right so I figured it might make sense to adjust that while I'm at it.
 

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@Asteroid

I've been thinking about what you mentioned regarding the amount of CO2 that is being injected. Should I increase the PH on the controller to target 6.8 rather than 6.4 as it's currently set?

It's just one more thing that isn't exactly right so I figured it might make sense to adjust that while I'm at it.
Oh, are you referring to what I said about the co2 chart showing too much. I wouldn't put much faith in the number from the chart as many factors can interfere with kh/ph and alter the number. If the fish are fine I don't think there's any advantage to lowering co2.

I doubt the monstera is adding to the problem, unless the waste from the leaves decaying is making it into the water through the roots and/or if the roots are decaying. A botanist I am not.

One thing I thought about since you mentioned your PH is that certain cheating agents are more effective at higher PHs, so if the cheating agent breaks free from less say FE then the FE might combine with another compound. I think 6.5 is kinda borderline for the EDTA agent and anything higher would be worse. So if your PH is higher than you should probably be using a micromix with DTPA. Again this might not have anything to do with your situation, but I actually use the micromix that has both agents. This one, because my PH can go anywhere between 6.0 and 7.5.

When the cheating agent separates from the element, that element can attach to a different element and supposely make them both unusable by the plants.
 

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Discussion Starter · #743 ·
Oh, are you referring to what I said about the co2 chart showing too much. I wouldn't put much faith in the number from the chart as many factors can interfere with kh/ph and alter the number. If the fish are fine I don't think there's any advantage to lowering co2.

I doubt the monstera is adding to the problem, unless the waste from the leaves decaying is making it into the water through the roots and/or if the roots are decaying. A botanist I am not.

One thing I thought about since you mentioned your PH is that certain cheating agents are more effective at higher PHs, so if the cheating agent breaks free from less say FE then the FE might combine with another compound. I think 6.5 is kinda borderline for the EDTA agent and anything higher would be worse. So if your PH is higher than you should probably be using a micromix with DTPA. Again this might not have anything to do with your situation, but I actually use the micromix that has both agents. This one, because my PH can go anywhere between 6.0 and 7.5.

When the cheating agent separates from the element, that element can attach to a different element and supposely make them both unusable by the plants.
If I didn't buy 5lbs of each of the ferts from NilocG, I'd try the GLA stuff you linked. I currently have 5lbs of their Plantex CSM+B.

Typically when my CO2 kicks off for the night, the highest it gets is 6.9-7.0.
 

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Discussion Starter · #744 ·
If I didn't buy 5lbs of each of the ferts from NilocG, I'd try the GLA stuff you linked. I currently have 5lbs of their Plantex CSM+B.

Typically when my CO2 kicks off for the night, the highest it gets is 6.9-7.0.
@Asteroid, regarding the swings in PH, should I just remove the timer from my CO2 and let the controller keep it at the PH I'm targeting, even with the lights out? I did bump the CO2 up a hair to 6.6 last night, but kept thinking about higher PH and figured it might make sense to keep PH at night the same as where it's at during the day.
 

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@Asteroid, regarding the swings in PH, should I just remove the timer from my CO2 and let the controller keep it at the PH I'm targeting, even with the lights out? I did bump the CO2 up a hair to 6.6 last night, but kept thinking about higher PH and figured it might make sense to keep PH at night the same as where it's at during the day.
As long as your PH is dropping sufficiently at lights on you don't have to worry about what happens at night. I always shut my co2 off at night, I don't use a controller. You could keep it on at night, but I would run airstones to make sure the fish are OK.

I think you have a good plan, just thinking of other things you could check in regards to the micros and cheating agents. So I'd go with lots of new stems and see how they do. Easier stems are good indicator plants of light, ferts, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #746 ·
I didn't have a chance on Saturday to go to the LFS, or remove the four large rocks in the back of the tank because I had company over. I more or less just did a standard water change and pre filter cleaning on the Oase while entertaining guests.

The potassium test kit arrived Saturday and I was very tempted to run a test but figured I'd wait until Wednesday night when I'll run nitrate, phosphate, and potassium at the same time.

This coming Saturday I'll be pulling the four rocks and doing some trimming and replanting. The one plant I'm not sure where to move is the microsorum trident which is in between the spider wood on the left, and the large rocks I'm going to remove. I'll need to figure out a spot for it.

Aside from that, the same CO2 tank is still running lol. That's probably the one thing about this tank that is blowing my mind. I would have thought that I'd have had at least two tank swaps by now, but the gauge still hasn't moved. I might pop into the LFS tomorrow and get an order in for a few bunches of stem plants, or at least see if he can get them. Alternatively I might just get an order in online so that I don't need to wait.
 

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I didn't have a chance on Saturday to go to the LFS, or remove the four large rocks in the back of the tank because I had company over. I more or less just did a standard water change and pre filter cleaning on the Oase while entertaining guests.

The potassium test kit arrived Saturday and I was very tempted to run a test but figured I'd wait until Wednesday night when I'll run nitrate, phosphate, and potassium at the same time.

This coming Saturday I'll be pulling the four rocks and doing some trimming and replanting. The one plant I'm not sure where to move is the microsorum trident which is in between the spider wood on the left, and the large rocks I'm going to remove. I'll need to figure out a spot for it.

Aside from that, the same CO2 tank is still running lol. That's probably the one thing about this tank that is blowing my mind. I would have thought that I'd have had at least two tank swaps by now, but the gauge still hasn't moved. I might pop into the LFS tomorrow and get an order in for a few bunches of stem plants, or at least see if he can get them. Alternatively I might just get an order in online so that I don't need to wait.
do PH as much as your fish need air lol
 

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Discussion Starter · #748 ·
After speaking to my LFS, I wouldn't be able to get on their order for a couple weeks so I just went ahead and ordered online. I should have Limnophila Hippuridoides and Pogostemon Erectus coming by the end of the week, hopefully.

Hopefully they arrive on Friday so that I can get them in the tank when I remove the 4 rocks behind the spider wood and do a water change on Saturday.

Last night I removed and potted the two monstera and the Swiss cheese plant. I really want to understand how much my plants are using so that I'm not overdosing various ferts. I'll test the water tomorrow after work to see how the changes have effected things.
 

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Discussion Starter · #749 ·
Just finished running nitrate, phosphate, and potassium tests.

Nitrates have come down a bit...they were roughly 40 ppm.

Phosphates are still sky high, well over 10ppm.

Potassium was 45ppm.

I'm going to reduce KNO3 to 3/4 tsp from 1tsp. KH2PO4 will be reduced from 1/4 tsp to 1/8 tsp. I'm also cutting out the K2SO4 because it seems like there's a bit too much K in there.

The only two things that seem like may be the cause of this long hair algae I'm dealing with is the sky high PO4, which is the most likely culprit, and to a lesser extent more K than I really need.

I was going to clean the GLA, but I'm just going to let it go until the last Saturday of the month when it was due for a full cleaning anyway and see if ferts dosage changes have any effect. It definitely seems like nitrates came down a little with the change, but phosphates didn't change at all.

Out of curiosity I'll test my tap water just to make sure that I'm still getting .25ppm of PO4.

This is a very strange issue in that I haven't been dosing PO4 in crazy amounts, at least to get them to well over 10ppm. I don't overfeed the fish...they only get a bit of food every other day.

I'll test again next Wednesday and see if cutting PO4 in half brings those levels down a bit. If not, I might just cut KH2PO4 out completely until I see the levels come down to a more reasonable level.
 

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Discussion Starter · #750 ·
I tested my tap water and it's roughly between .25 and .50ppm of PO4

After thinking about this all night and this morning, I decided to eliminate KH2PO4 completely.

I also noticed that my dose of micros was double what Rotala Butterfly recommends. I was dosing 1/2 tsp and the calculator recommends a hair under 1/4 tsp.

Today is macro day so the tank will get the 3/4 tsp dose of KNO3 and tomorrow is micro day so it'll get the new dose of that.

Now over the next couple weeks if PO4 doesn't fall, it's not the ferts, or at least the ferts aren't the whole cause of this issue. The good thing is if that's the case, at least I've eliminated that from being the problem and can start exploring other potential causes. Next would be full maintenance of the GLA canister, and then the Oase. But one step at a time.

There definitely is more hair algae and it's affecting more than just the moss. This is one of the reasons I decided on a more drastic change like eliminating PO4 dosing completely. I'll test everything again next Wednesday and see if there's any change.

The stem plants I ordered should be here by either tomorrow or Saturday, which will be perfectly timed. I'm planning on redoing the whole back of the tank and moving stem plants around to different areas. I'll likely need to add more sand since the removal of the four large rocks will leave hollows back there.

ETA:

One question I have is I still don't really understand the ideal parameters for phosphates and potassium. What is considered the best practice for this. With nitrates it's generally keep them somewhere between 10-30ppm, but PO4 and K I've been reading wildly varying accounts from people. If I can understand this, it would help a great deal so that I can adjust dosing to hover around the ideal mark.
 

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Your levels are what you'd expect from typical EI dosing levels, 50% weekly water changes, and no uptake. So, it seems like your tank isn't utilizing most of the fertilizers you're putting in every week. That could be a plant load that is too low, or something out of balance with your lighting and/or CO2, or both.

If plants aren't taking up your fertilizers, they're also probably not effectively taking up free ammonia, which I suspect is probably a bigger driver of your algae woes than are unused ferts.

So, I think reducing your fertilizers alone probably won't get you where you want to be. Increasing uptake would be my #1 goal. If your hardscape won't accommodate the plant mass in the tank you'd need to achieve that, you could consider transitioning to a low-ish light setup.

I haven't been following all the twists and turns here, but it seems like you're working on increasing the plant mass, so that's good. But you could end up chasing your tail with testing and fertilizer changes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #752 ·
Your levels are what you'd expect from typical EI dosing levels, 50% weekly water changes, and no uptake. So, it seems like your tank isn't utilizing most of the fertilizers you're putting in every week. That could be a plant load that is too low, or something out of balance with your lighting and/or CO2, or both.

If plants aren't taking up your fertilizers, they're also probably not effectively taking up free ammonia, which I suspect is probably a bigger driver of your algae woes than are unused ferts.

So, I think reducing your fertilizers alone probably won't get you where you want to be. Increasing uptake would be my #1 goal. If your hardscape won't accommodate the plant mass in the tank you'd need to achieve that, you could consider transitioning to a low-ish light setup.

I haven't been following all the twists and turns here, but it seems like you're working on increasing the plant mass, so that's good. But you could end up chasing your tail with testing and fertilizer changes.
More or less what I have in mind is getting the plant mass up, while also getting the ferts to a level where I'm at the lowish end of EI, basically providing the plants with what they take up in a week, with maybe a 20%-ish buffer.

CO2 has been stable since adding the controller way back in the beginning of the summer or late spring. I've been calibrating the probe monthly and at most it's off .1 - .2 when I recalibrate.

My lights start coming on at 5pm but don't ramp up until 5:30pm and then run until 11pm when they begin ramping down and finally shut off at 11:30pm. So I have 5.5 hours at full blast with an hour where it's ramping.

I think what you're saying regarding the plants not taking up enough nutrients makes a lot of sense, and since my CO2 dosing is definitely at the ideal (40+ppm), I'm wondering if I should add another hour of full blast light to the schedule.

I have about 36 new stems arriving tomorrow or Saturday so after removing a little hardscape in the back (four large rocks behind spider wood), that'll give me some more room to pack the back with stem plants. I'm just wondering if I should add another hour back onto the full sun lighting cycle to help amp up photosynthesis a bit more.
 

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More or less what I have in mind is getting the plant mass up, while also getting the ferts to a level where I'm at the lowish end of EI, basically providing the plants with what they take up in a week, with maybe a 20%-ish buffer.

CO2 has been stable since adding the controller way back in the beginning of the summer or late spring. I've been calibrating the probe monthly and at most it's off .1 - .2 when I recalibrate.

My lights start coming on at 5pm but don't ramp up until 5:30pm and then run until 11pm when they begin ramping down and finally shut off at 11:30pm. So I have 5.5 hours at full blast with an hour where it's ramping.

I think what you're saying regarding the plants not taking up enough nutrients makes a lot of sense, and since my CO2 dosing is definitely at the ideal (40+ppm), I'm wondering if I should add another hour of full blast light to the schedule.

I have about 36 new stems arriving tomorrow or Saturday so after removing a little hardscape in the back (four large rocks behind spider wood), that'll give me some more room to pack the back with stem plants. I'm just wondering if I should add another hour back onto the full sun lighting cycle to help amp up photosynthesis a bit more.
When you say "full blast", do you mean your light's full output, or just the highest you run them at?
 

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Discussion Starter · #754 ·
When you say "full blast", do you mean your light's full output, or just the highest you run them at?
They're at 100% during the full sun cycle.

A few months back when I was dealing with GSA, I reduced the length of the full sun cycle by one hour.

ETA: the fixture is the Twinstar 1200 SP. I have it hung about 6" above the water surface. It was a bit closer, but only by an inch to inch and a half since I also raised it when I cut the full sun cycle down by an hour.
 

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Hmmm. I think you're probably in the zone on duration, but may be really high on intensity based on what you have in there. Are you running the light that high trying to get a carpet?

One of the best pieces of advice I've read on here is "it's almost always too much light".
 

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Discussion Starter · #756 ·
Hmmm. I think you're probably in the zone on duration, but may be really high on intensity based on what you have in there. Are you running the light that high trying to get a carpet?

One of the best pieces of advice I've read on here is "it's almost always too much light".
Perhaps before adding an hour, I could raise the fixture a bit more? I would definitely help with the spread a bit.

Regarding the carpet, I originally planted the tank around Memorial Day weekend give or take a week or two. I planted tissue cultures of Montecarlo and only within the last month have I begun seeing them spread the way they're supposed to (bright green, typical sized leaves versus darker green, small leaves). It's entirely possible that the plants on the mounds of the tank are getting too much light, while the plants furthest from the light source are barely getting enough. The thing that throws me though is that as Rotala get closer to the light, growth really amps up...I start seeing them sprout new offshoots. I think the only real way to know for sure is to finally get the PAR meter from my local club and test PAR. Temporarily what I can do until I get that PAR meter is position the lights a bit more in the center of the tank (from front/back) and see what that does, along with raising the fixture another inch. When I raised the fixture and reduced the photoperiod I also positioned the lights a bit closer to the back where the stems are.
 

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Discussion Starter · #757 ·
Okay quick update.

All four rocks that were behind my spider wood have been removed. I pulled every stem plant out, culled what needed culling, and replanted the existing plants in new locations. I also received 18 stems of pogostemon erectus and 18 stems of limnophila hippuridoides. The latter is one of the most pretty stem plants I've seen thus far. I wouldn't at all be surprised if down the road the only stem plants I have are those.

Initial thoughts after removing the rocks.....it's BRIGHT. Super bright. I'll get some pics up tomorrow or the day after but OMG is the tank bright. It's amazing how removing four large stones would lighten everything up. I'll likely move my light a couple inches forward because now the rocks aren't blocking the light from reaching the bases of the stem plants.

It'll probably be Christmas by the time stuff really starts growing in nicely, but I'll at the very least get an FTS up every week.

The tank is looking good though and I'm excited to see what it looks like once everything begins filling up the back of the tank.

I plan on running tests again on Wednesday.

I made up my Tupperware containers of dry ferts and have 3/4 tsp of KNO3, 1/4 tsp of K2SO4, and 1/4 tsp of micros. On Wednesday I'll see what the lack of KH2PO4 does to the PO4 levels in the tank. If I can get it down to 1-2ppm, I'll start dosing it again, but adding only a little at a time to make sure I understand what the uptake of the plants is like.

I probably did an 80-85% water change so hopefully that helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #758 ·
Quick FTS from a few minutes ago.

Had something weird happen earlier today. I added the dose of micros and kept hearing what sounded exactly like water dripping. I began investigating and couldn't figure it out so I sat there quietly and kept listening for it. It was regular noise so I sat down and just observed. I noticed something move on the floor to the right of the tank and there was what looked like a dried up rasbora. Had it not moved, I was certain that just by the looks it was a rasbora dorito. I quickly wet my hand, picked it up and carefully put it back in the tank. For a good 5 minutes it looked like it wasn't going to make it, but now 4 hours later, he's swimming around, looking a little rough around the edges but doing well.

I'm still not quite sure what to do with the Pogo Helferi. It's been in the exact same condition for months, with smaller growth emerging from below that hasn't changed in at least 3 weeks now.

The options I've had running through my head are:

1. Leave it
2. Dwarf hair grass
3. Buy more Montecarlo and plant it in that sand path while removing and tossing all the Helferi.

Plant Plant community Branch Wood Botany
 

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Discussion Starter · #759 ·
So far the tank has been looking great since the changes. It's very clear and one thing I didn't anticipate is how much more pearling I'd see. Last night there were a ridiculous amount of oxygen bubbles being released by the plants.

Today is testing day so I'll be running nitrates, phosphates, and potassium for good measure.

If I were to make some predictions, I think realistically the following would prove to be true:

Nitrate: around 25-30ppm

Phosphate: it'll finally be readable, a hair under 10ppm

Potassium: perhaps around 30ppm

I still have no idea and haven't been able to find a straight answer for how much K is ideal.

There has been no growth yet, but I wasn't really surprised. I don't expect to see any noticeable growth in the new stem plants until Thanksgiving week.

The one bummer is it'll take a while for all the stems to be trimmed up equally so that the growth looks the same. I figure at least a couple months of the ugly phase until I get a handle on their growth rates and trimming. The Rotala, at least before the problem I had would reach the surface within two weeks of trimming. The Ludwigia Arcuata I haven't seen really grow very much, but it was also quite shaded since adding it. I don't know how fast Pogo Erectus or Limno Hippuridoides grows so it'll be interesting to learn more about these plants and factor in their growth rates in comparison to the Rotala.

I moved the whole light roughly 1.75-2" closer to the front of the tank from where it was. So basically now the fixture is just about dead center of the tank. I'm hoping that'll give some additional light to the Montecarlo and that will take off.

I was enjoying the tank last night before bed and the one thing that jumped out at me is the lack of pink/reds around the left spider wood. What I might do is take a bunch or two of the Blyxa and move them elsewhere and transplant one of the Pink Flamingos and Crypt Spiralis Tigers over there to mix in with the remaining Blyxa. I think that'll give some nice color contrasts on that side.

I'll report back a bit later this evening with the test results. I'll probably also test again on Saturday depending on tonight's test results.
 

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Sounds like your making the right moves. If there's one important thing to understand is your light. Light drives the demand for everything, co2 and ferts. So if you can't get a PAR meter see if you can google more. I'm sure someone has used that light at the depth you have and you can get a feel for it.

Plants generally are good indicators of light. Rotala R is a prolific pearler, so yes you should see lots of pearling if the plant is happy. Mermaid weed should be red not only on the top but have some nice color down the stem under good light. Blyxa turns reddish, gold and bronze under high light. Your's looks healthy but it looks green in the pics, nothing wrong with that, but it does give an indication of light. The Pogo H needs pretty good light, is it blocked by the wood or any other plants. Long spaces between nodes of stem plants usually indicates not enough light, more compact, fuller growth means good light and the plant is not "reaching" for the light.

In a fairly tall tank with so much hardscape and light demanding plants it's more difficult to give lower lying plants like carpets enough light without algae issues unless you up the stem count. Nothing keeps algae away and plant leaves clean like stem plants. Not flow, not gph, not even water changes. Plants constantly uptake waste/toxins that cause algae.

I think I might have mentioned when you setup the hardscape to remove some rocks, most notably the ones behind the wood to make more room for stems and light. Poor light causes algae issues too, as the plants don't grow properly. Once this happens plant tissue dies and the resulting waste is algae food. If you need to do 80% WCs to keep algae away until things take off do it. You could do 80% anyway, bigger water changes only make things easier.
Or you go the other way and get lower light epiphytes, ferns, buces, mosses and lower the light. Don't worry about the po4, no3. That is the not the problem.
 
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