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55g planted tank

Discussion in 'Are you new to aquatic plants? Start here' started by Dingsda, Sep 1, 2009.

  1. Dingsda

    Dingsda Junior Poster

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    Hi, I have a couple questions about the EI method. First, some background:

    I've been keeping fish since early 2007, have had four tanks so far, and am now back down to one: a 55g planted community tank. I got the 55g nearly a year ago but have only had it set up to keep plants since the end of August. Here's what I have on/in my tank:

    55g tank
    4x65w (can turn off half)
    75 lbs. onyx sand
    10# CO2 tank
    Eheim 2236
    Penguin 350 HOB (temporarily on there to keep the surface of the water clean)
    Potassium nitrate, Potassium phosphate, and Plantex CSM+B (using EI method)

    I've been having some problems with algae...specifically the brown stuff that forms in clumps around my plants. Thus, I turned down my lights (using only half of it) and leaving them on only 5 or so hours a day. The CO2 is running at about 2 bps. I've been fertilizing consistently. Also, there is a weird film of something on the surface of the water when the HOB isn't on, so it is running 24/7 along with the CO2.

    I'll have to post pics of the tank later on; I'm at school (college) right now and have no access.

    1. What can I do about the algae problem? (I've read a couple articles here, but they are way over my head at this point.)

    2. What can I do about the weird layer of stuff?

    3. How do I know that my CO2 is at the right level? (I have a drop checker, but I was told to test the pH...however, I don't know what it should be at.)

    I'll probably come up with more later. I can also list the plants I have, but will have to wait until I get home. Thanks.
     
  2. dutchy

    dutchy Plant Guru Team
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    Although I'm hardly an expert like some people here, I think your CO2 is low at 2bps. My tank is the same size and I'm running around 3 times that much, keeping my 4 dKH dropchecker at a constant of 40 ppm.
    I was doing around 2 bps too and had BBA and staghorn algae. Tom gave me the advice to increase the flow and the CO2. I had around a 100 gallon per hour effective flow (not pump capacity) and I increased it to 500 gallon per hour effective flow (10 times my tank volume) and doubled the level of CO2 injection. I used Excel to get rid of the algae in normal dosage.
    I'm 99% algae free now. No new growth.

    Determining CO2 levels by Ph/KH is not very accurate, since these values can be influenced by other factors. I use a dropchecker with a 4dKH solution, which I think is more accurate and I can move around the tank to see if levels are consistent. Still, I only use it as a consistency check, watching my fish, pearling of my plants and the development of any algae as the main factor.

    There are different kinds of surface film. One that creates a kind of whitish transparant film is a Fe bacteria. You can break the film by creating enough surface agitation. (not just temporary) Anyway, that's all what I do.

    Regards,
    Dutchy
     
  3. Dingsda

    Dingsda Junior Poster

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    Thanks for the info. How do I know what my drop checker is at? I was only told green is good, blue is too little and yellow is too much, lol.

    What should I do about the film? I really don't want to leave my HOB on there since the whole reason for getting a canister was so that I wouldn't use it. Plus, it's evaporating a ton of water and CO2.

    I'm at school again (lol, I'm here way too often,) but I'll get pics tonight or tomorrow.
     
  4. Daniel Morris

    Daniel Morris Lifetime Charter Member
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    1. Agree with Dutchy - low CO2 and perhaps not enough water flow. Do you have powerheads in the tank? Whats the water flow like?

    My solution is usually to research the hell out of these things. There are some really fantastic threads that have been posted re CO2.

    Here is my go to CO2 post that may be a good starting point for you Dingsda:

    CO2 issues? Read this


    2. As for the surface slime - yikes... I'm not sure what that is, and perhaps some of the more technically proficient members such as Dutchy and others may be able to help identify the issue and solution there. The only thing I'd say about surface agitation is that I believe that may complicate your CO2 problem, because, as I understand it, surface agitation may result in faster CO2 release from the water into the air above your tank (as you have noted). I'd put the penguin to bed and keep it for a hospital tank - i used to have one b4 i got a canister and thats what i did ultimately.

    When i have mysterious film buildups, I generally do large water changes (within reason) and make sure there aren't any unfortunate fish that may have sunk to some corner of the tank to die. I have also partially* cleaned the filter in these cases. Want to make sure not to over do the filter cleaning in my opinion though. There are a bunch of good critters and bacteria in the filter that are critical to the health of the tank in there that you don't wanna wipe out.

    3. Again I always have to research these things because I haven't internalized the information like many of the experts here have done. I'm also getting back into the hobby after a 1 year respite. Check this out re Drop checkers


    Drop Checkers/CO2 Indicators-Why and How


    Here's the same post (i think) but with some discussion afterwards that may be poignant


    Hopefully the links above contain some discussion that relate to your issues with measuring.


    -Daniel
     
  5. dutchy

    dutchy Plant Guru Team
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    You can get the dropchecker to turn kind of lime-green, so almost yellow. That should be enough. More important is that you watch your fish and plants.

    About the film; Enough surface agitation will dissolve the film. I'm using an extra filter just to create surface agitation. At the same time in increases the flow in the entire tank. Create agitation, but don't break the surface. That way you don't waste to much CO2.

    Regards,
    Dutchy
     
  6. Dingsda

    Dingsda Junior Poster

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    No powerheads (wanted to have at least one, but I haven't been able to save enough...then again, if I really need it, I can get one now.)

    Basically, the intake for the canister is in the middle of the tank (back glass, of course) and the output is in the right corner. I set the output so it blows across the diffuser bubbles so they spread around the tank. So the current is flowing across the back of the tank. Then the HOB sits on the left and creates a current that goes foward, down, and then back to the HOB.

    The surface doesn't break (because it's filled up all the way, I have too much evaporation going at time, yay for living in AZ) but the agitation doesn't reach to the right side of the tank. So basically, the right side of the tank is a huge dead spot...

    I really want to ditch the HOB...would getting a power head and turning the output of the canister toward the surface replace it? But then the diffuser's CO2 bubbles won't spread...

    Gah, so complicated! I wish I had more time to read up on these things, but with school and everything, I've resorted to only asking questions. However, I will take a peak into the links posted tomorrow.
     
  7. dutchy

    dutchy Plant Guru Team
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    Well, I'm doing it this way. Maybe I'm even overdoing it, but I get results. I have three pumps, of which two are external filters, and one an external pump that's driving the CO2 reactor.
    One filter is blowing down the background straight to the substrate to get flow to the lower leaves.
    The other filter is creating surface agitation in manner of a real good ripple and a circular surface flow
    The external pump from the CO2 is blowing diagonal through the tank. I can see the bubbles even hit the substrate and they don't come up until the hit the other side of the tank.

    So maybe you ask yourself, why not one big pump. I chose this setup because I can use more smaller pumps, so I don't bend my plants to one side. I can use multidirectional flow patterns which are easy to change if I don't like it or plants grow higher.

    Plants grow like crazy, no falling lower leaves and no algae.
     
  8. Dingsda

    Dingsda Junior Poster

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    Hmm, that's an interesting solution. Got some links of what you have (pumpwise) and an estimate of the cost? :)
     
  9. Dingsda

    Dingsda Junior Poster

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    As promised, here are pics.

    My tank: (I would like to point out that this is a little old...some of the plants on the left are nearly twice as tall, and the unidentified plant (below) has been cut and replanted four times now.)
    [​IMG]

    My algae:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    My unidentified plant (if you know what it is, tell me, that'd be great!):
    [​IMG]
     
  10. dutchy

    dutchy Plant Guru Team
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  11. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Hi,

    Your mystery plant is mexican water oak..........Shinnersia rivularis
     
  12. Dingsda

    Dingsda Junior Poster

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    Thanks for the article, will read between homework.

    Woot! Thanks, gerry!!! :D
     
  13. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Hi Dingsda,

    Perhaps you can try a needle wheel powerhead where the c02 input is connected directly to the intake of the powerhead. The needle wheel then chops the c02 into mist and being a powerhead already, spreads the mist around.

    Please note that c02 is most likely the most challenging aspect of the planted tank. Getting sufficient and stable quantities is a journey not a destination:)

    A drop checker gives an APPROXIMATE value based on the color of the checker fluid. You compare this color to the ph chart where you got the solution from. So it may read 6.6 or 7.2 based on the chart and your interpretation of the color. It is just an estimate. This then correlates to the 4 or 5 dkh solution in the checker and gives you a c02 ppm reading with the ph/c02 table. eg you have N ppm of c02 at PH value of X.

    This is a crude way to do it and the changes may take up to 2 hours to be reflected in the checker.

    Far better is to watch the plants and fish:

    Fish:

    Are they discolored?
    Are they at the surface gasping or more than normal? Hatchets and other fish are surface dwellers so being up there is normal for them.
    Are they hiding more than normal?
    Are they breathing rapidly?
    Any unusual behavior?

    Any of the above may indicate high c02 and the rate should be dropped. Add an airstone or such to oxygenate the water which should be done anyway. You can always increase the c02 a bit more, but the extra 02 will NEVER HURT.

    Plants:

    Pearling?
    Good leaf formation?
    Good color?
    Algae free leaves?
    Branching?
    Observable growth after 1-3 days?

    All plants should do well. If algae keeps increasing or poor growth continues, you can raise the c02 a bit.

    I assume that you are dosing EI regularly and keeping up with the water changes and general maintenance?

    Do this SLOWLY and wait 2-3 days between each adjustment watching the plants ad fish. Just increase a bit at a time. No rush.

    BTW, the water oak is a WEED if given half a chance. It got HUGE in my 180....

    Dutchy,

    You can always use one large pump and then flex PVC and loc-line to run the inlets and outlets as you want. Just a thought..
     
  14. Dingsda

    Dingsda Junior Poster

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    Will check into the needle wheel.

    I found this chart CO2 KH/PH Chart, by Giancarlo Podio but it uses kH for which I don't test. Is there one for pH only?

    I add 1/2 tsp. of KNO3, 1/8 tsp. KH2PO4, and 1/8 tsp. CSM+B on MWF and do a 50% water change (3/4 tap with dechlorinator, 1/4 RO) every Sunday.


    Fish:

    Are they discolored? No, only my GBR keeps getting light during the day (I think he misses the female that died recently)
    Are they at the surface gasping or more than normal? Nope
    Are they hiding more than normal? Nope
    Are they breathing rapidly? Nope
    Any unusual behavior? Nope

    Plants:

    Pearling? Only after a water change
    Good leaf formation? Yeah, except on one species where the new leaves keep curling...
    Good color? Mostly, except one plant that has gotten new lighter leaves
    Algae free leaves? Mostly, now that I cut off the ones that did
    Branching? On most, yes
    Observable growth after 1-3 days? Hard to tell, except on the "weed" of course


    Air stone? I was told not to have one because it causes surface agitation and decreases CO2. Plus the bubbles are too large to do much, IME. I'm confused, but what's the point in adding CO2 if you're also adding oxygen, but then increasing the CO2 because there is too much oxygen, etc.?


    I don't mind having a "weed" at this point because I just need the tank to fill up. I was told that I was having algae problems because I had too few plants to start with.
     
  15. dutchy

    dutchy Plant Guru Team
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    Hi Gerry,

    Thnx for your advice. I thought of that, but I had the filters already so that covers 2 out of 3, and I couldn't find an external pump with 500 gph pump capacity here.
    The maximum was 300...

    Regards,
    HJ
     
  16. dutchy

    dutchy Plant Guru Team
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  17. shoggoth43

    shoggoth43 Lifetime Charter Member
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    You can pull the film out with a simple water glass. Submerge the glass upright into the tank and until the lip is just below the surface and water pours in. If you barely submerge it most of the film should be drawn into the glass. Do this a couple of times and see if the film comes back. It may just be some crud that doesn't come out in a water change. Both of my discus tanks do this, as well as my biocube when something blocks the overflow, and other than appearance doesn't cause too many issues but may cut down on some gas exchange so it's best to remove it just in case.

    You can also put the cannister spray bar just at the surface level so the jets break this up but depending on the film and how much this may not work as well as you'd like. This will assist with gas exchange and will also drop your CO2 levels so you'll need to add more to bring it back up during the day. I usually have the spraybar at one end or right next to the intake pointing down the long edge of the tank away from the intake. This tends to at least provide the most mixing of the tank water but depending on your cannister really may not give too much flow as you can safely assume half the rated flow on your cannister.

    Needlewheel CO2 delivery at the moment seems to be the preferred method. It's cheap and easy to move around and provides some visual cues as to flow and delivery of the CO2. It also provides some, usually needed, flow to the tank. Some people don't like the bubbles and prefer the reactors instead. You can easily convert the needlewheel into a reactor just by adding a chamber onto the nozzle. Depending on the pump this may be an intank only mod though and you may find it a bit harder to direct the flow from this depending on what/how you build it. If you are concerned about CO2 usage, put the unit on a timer for the solenoid and/or the needlewheel. The solenoid kills the flow of CO2, the needlewheel would just allow the CO2 to bubble out as larger bubbles into the tank which will likely just go right to the surface with very little absorbtion and dissipate out harmlessly. Not as good from a CO2 waste aspect but still good from a not gassing your fish while they sleep standpoint.

    The brown algae part of your post makes me suspect diatoms but it's a complete WAG without a photo or more details. That part is usually dealt with by increasing water flow in the tank. If you still need flow outside of the needlewheel mentioned earlier, you can look into the prop type pumps like the koralia ones. They're relatively inexpensive and move massive amounts of water for their size. You'll probably do fine with a relatively small needlewheel powerhead though.

    -
    S
     
  18. Dingsda

    Dingsda Junior Poster

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    Some of this is a little over my head, so I need to look around first. Thanks for all the info! :)

    In the meantime, I have a little snail problem, hehe. I got three snails in on my plants and they have multiplied like crazy and now my tank has about 50, I'd say. I already got rid of the big ones, but now I have a ton of tiny ones. They don't go for the algae wafer in a cup thing, so I heard one can use hydrogen peroxide.

    I have not inverts in the tank, so would this work? How much do I use and how do I use it?
     
  19. jazzlvr123

    jazzlvr123 Guru Class Expert

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    brown diatoms - usually happens with new tanks, high silicates contribute to this its very easy to remove just do more frequent water changes till things even out.
     
  20. Dingsda

    Dingsda Junior Poster

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    Umm, do you guys think I can ditch one of the water changes? I should be doing one today, but I have a weird fungus/bacteria thingy on my right thumb and thus can not stick that arm into the tank or carry buckets of water...

    Also, any ideas on the hydrogen peroxide idea?
     
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