I tend to be really wordy to the point of being pedantic, so I will try my best, but this will likely be overly wordy and rambling.
Tank: 180g volume
--Red Sea Reefer 750XXL
--Display: 6'X2'X2' ~170g
---(Somewhere between 160-180g of water I think. I use 180g for dosing and whatnot.)
--Modified return and plumbing with a Varios 8. 4X4" filter cups filled with poly. 2 6"X15"X12" medium PPI sponges before and after the filter cups. Also, an FX6 compliment of sponges in case I need a backup.
Flow: There are two returns directed at either side of the tank. All plants in the tank have a slight sway. It is hard to guess, but with head loss and plumbing restrictions, I would say I am close to 750gph.
Lights: Fluval Plant 3.0
--2 X 36" hung just above the tanks surface.
---(I have a total of 4 of these lights, but only 2 are on the tank now)
Light Schedule: I have tried everything over spans of months. I started with a pre-programmed planted tank schedule. I tried FULL intensity for 12hrs a day for weeks. I am current doing a 50% to 100% ramp up and then ramp down to 50% over the course of 8hrs. This doesn't seem to really matter that much. I've also had all 4 over the tank.
--GLA reactor (the largest they make)
----It is 15" long and 4.5" round
----I have a 500gph mag pump pushing through that and through an aqua UV light
--GLA drop checker stays yellow/green, changed every week like a religion with new 4°dKH solution
----except I busted it a few days ago, so now I am waiting on a new one - still, this was consistent for a few months
--Milwaukee PH controller used mostly to avoid over-gassing.
----My method for degassing was to take water from this tank, water from a smaller tank, and water from the tap and leave it all overnight in similar containers with similar volume. My reading with the controller right after 2-stage calibration (high and low) was an average of 8 with several measurements in each container and rinsing with distilled water. My conclusiong was to try and hit 7 for ph. I ended up at about 6.7 with denisoni barbs at the top towards the end of the day if I went higher(CO2). 6.7 is very light yellowish green on the drop checker.
--The tank hits 6.9 in about an hour
--There is no bubble counter, because I couldn't even see them
Substrate: BDBS with flourish root tabs ever 4" or so where there are plants
Ferts: EI Dosing
--I have modified this recently somewhat, because nothing is growing, so I didn't see the point in keeping it that high.
(I do not dose in grams because it is accurate, but because it is easier for me. I set up equal size tupperware containers at the beginning of every week and mix macros in them for odd days. I just set them on a mini-scale and get it close (i.e. 9g could be 8.7 or 9.2) and then tare it for the next fert.)
== KNO3: 9g (N ~7.3ppm, K ~4.6ppm)
== K2SO4: 5g (K ~3ppm)
== KH2PO4: 1.5g (PO4 ~1.3ppm, K ~.5ppm)
== MGSO4: This is part of my questions, but I was chasing a general ratio here, which did seem to help, but I put 30g in every week at WC (Mg ~3.9ppm).
==Micro (GLA EDTA Micromix) (Says it is Plantext CSM+B for the purposes of dosing)
I don't even know anymore. I started by buying a bunch of plants from aquarium co-op and using PPS-PRO. Now I am just trying to grow stem plants from the local LFS. I have wisteria in there, 3 kinds of swords, and some ludwiga repens.
--7 Clown Loaches (none over 2.25")
--2 Dojo/Weather Loaches (neither over 4")
--3 Denisoni Barbs (max 3.5")
--5 Gold Denisoni Barbs (max 1.5")
--1 BGK (maybe 5")
--1 Bristlenose (4.5")
--2 Panda Garra (1.5" and 2.25")
--2 Rosy Barbs (2")
--Bunch of Rainbows, all small
--2 Oto Cats
--1 SAE (4.5")
Tap Water Hardness:
161.1ppm KH (I believe this is 9dKH)
If that 60ppm is calcium. At the tap, that leaves 10mg/l of Mg. I am keeping 19mg/L in the tank for a 3:1 ratio.
It won't let me post a link, but if you google "polk county southwest water treatment report” it will be the PDF
I WISH I could grow some other kind of algae. I've tried. 12hrs of 100% light every day for a few months, with CO2, and EI dosing. Dusting of diatoms, slow to non-existent plant growth, and very little algae of any other kind.
I never even wanted plants. I am at this point fighting diatoms. They haven't fluctuated, deviated, or disappeared. Over a year ago, this was a 120g tank, over-filtered, and under stocked with a few cichlids - no plants, just fakes - and sand bottom. This was with a Beamsworks and then a Fluval Aquasky light. Get a bigger tank and go in a different direction... more filtration, smaller fish (keeping in mind we started with just the clowns), different substrate (BDBS), same diatoms. Not for a few months, the whole time.
Fine, I'll get plants to outcompete the diatoms (my understanding was even more limited at this point). Some anubias and swords. Swords are fine, anubias get covered in diatoms.
Fine, I'll get more plants. Order plants, ferts, get new lights. Diatoms.
Fine, I'll do CO2. More plants, same diatoms.
Things that don't make a difference:
More filtration (I've nearly doubled my filtration twice - FX6 on 120 to sump, and then replumbed and added more media - at one time I had 20lbs of lava rock)
Stocking (lightly stocked or heavily stocked)
Feeding (I've fed small and twice a day for months - diatoms, every other day - diatoms)
Water changes (a few weeks without - diatoms, several a week - diatoms)
I can spot treat with peroxide, and that lasts the longest.
Plant baths in peroxide will work, but the diatoms are back by the time the plants recover.
Bleach will keep the diatoms away longer, but usually kills the plants because it can't recover fast enough for the diatoms.
The thing is, the plants won't grow. When I first get plants, like the ludwiga, they grow fast, and I take out buckets every week for a few weeks. Then, it just stopped and started succumbing to diatoms. It had huge glossy dark red leaves at the top. Leaves at the bottom started rotting out, and then it just stopped. Now it is a pathetic bleached husk.
The only plants I can grow are swords. I have massive swords. Like 20" tall and 12" round. I "found" an 8" last weekend. I have a red melon sword that grows really well and has dark red and dark green leaves.
I absolutely can't grow parrot feather in there. The invasive weed that they can't get rid of? Come study my tank.
Water wysteria, left in the pot it came in, where it was 18" tall... already dying. This is wysteria - the plant that takes over tanks. Covered in diatoms in a week.
Cabomba I am having some luck with recently, but it grows slower than it does in my non-tech, non-worry 15g.
Dwarf sag I've been trying to grow for over 6 months. It roots and then it stays. Doesn't die, doesn't thrive. That's if I scrub off the diatoms every week.
Scarlet Temple? Forget it.
Now, this really pretty red tuft algae that ONLY grows on slightly shaded RED rocks in the tank? That I can grow, but it isn't anywhere else in the tank but on the red rocks.
I get maybe 2 or 3 spots of GSA on the glass every week. I can increase this by pulling back on the ferts (as expected).
I've tried no gravel ferts (as an experiment), flourish root tabs, and homemade pills with osmocote. The plants seem to prefer the flourish, but it doesn't seem to matter.
The biggest problem is that I am a prolific reader of literature for any of my hobbies, which normally serves me well. Unfortunately, in this hobby, it is not only sometimes contradictory, but it seems to be a rule that two people cannot agree.
So, why can't I grow regular algae?
I'll get a little green algae on the leaves of plants that have been bleached and don't recover.
I get the pretty red tufts, ONLY on the RED rocks (I believe this is just red BBA which is just red algae itself).
I can grow GSA on the glass and even some sword leaves if I limit PO4
I have not ever seen BBA (black, stringy or tuft) unless it is on the outlet of the return right under the light. This was with CO2 closer to 7.2 though and it was stringy.
See, I did not succeed at avoiding to ramble.
Most of what I have now are stem plants and they are weeds that I am overfeeding with everything I can think of. However, things are either barely growing after a few weeks in the tank or dying. With the exception of the swords, which love it in there (although I removed them to trim everything and clean and they are shooting out some clear swords now).
Now, something is either limiting, which seems unlikely, or they are being poisoned by something (e.g. copper?). That might explain the lack of algae competition for the diatoms. I have slate running down the middle of the tank right under the lights. 12hrs a day with light. Barely a covering of algae. I cleaned them 2 weeks ago to get what little was there (after months), and there is a faint dusting of diatoms and that is it.
The reason I was at 12hrs a day is because I read somewhere that diatoms grew well in low light. My plant performance made me think that might be the case. The Fluval can MAYBE do 40-50 umols at the substrate at that height, and I kind of doubt that. I was looking at Kessil A360Xs for the last couple weeks. Maybe blast the tank with light? My 8 hour, lower light experiment is a week in and the plants are still crappy, and the diatoms are still going. Although, my pathetic scarlet temple survivors do seem like they have 1 or 2 new leaves (tiny). I generally try to go 2 weeks unless something is going badly quick.
It should be noted that I have a small 15g with khulis, snails, and shrimp. I just throw clippings in there when the plants first come in and are growing "like weeds". It is a Fluval Flex with stock light. Sometimes I have the light on for 14hrs, forget about it altogether, and forget to turn it on. I sometimes throw some dry ferts in, there are no root tabs, and sometimes I use a bottle of easy green I have. No CO2. Plants grow like mad. I've gone a month without a water change and done two in a week. I have never even strived for consistency. Cabomba looks good, other weeds look good. Substrate is just cheap blue LFS sand. I can grow algae in there if I overdose ferts A LOT or forget to dose for a couple weeks, but it isn't bad and I don't mind it, cause the snails and shrimp dig it. There were diatoms in this tank for about a month when I first got it as a quarantine tank - then they were gone. (Scarlet temple still won't grow in this tank)
If I put plants covered in diatoms in that tank, they will disappear. The snails! No way. 3 nerites and some rando MTS can't kill diatoms in a few days and keep it gone. They'd clean it and make it look splotchy, sure, but not the entire plant back to green and happy.
This is why I think there is something in the tank that is causing this. Like copper or some other thing that has leeched from the decor or something. If I could get the big tank to be like the small one, at least it would be easier to diagnose and make better (if I wanted to). But, I can't even get to "poorly maintained, bit of algae on everything, thriving plants".
I will post pics in a bit. I have to figure out the best way to do that on here.
If Tom is willing to take a crack at it, I am willing to pay (and I saw some of his rates already I think) for him to video conference and show him what is going on.
I have thought about moving from a reactor to diffusion, but I do not want lines in my tank. I got the red sea for the clean lines and I don't want tubes everywhere. I have a 1" return and I am willing to plumb into that, but I don't want a little diffuser that will restrict that flow.
I am willing to get more powerful lights or change the schedule.
The only thing I DO NOT want to do, which I have considered, is going RODI. Storing water would be a problem. It gets VERY hot here, so I'd have to keep it inside and I do not have a convenient place to store 100g of RODI water inside, nor do I really want to.
This is the parrot feather. Not the best pic. The shorter branches are about where it started, so it shot up on some, but it is already starting to die and break. This was a beatiful light green with bright red stems in the store. (You can see the cabomba in the last pic ever so slowly staying ahead of the diatoms)
This is the only plant that Sgt Major Blaine (bristlenose) has ever liked. He ate a couple of the leaves and I suspect these holes are from him. Otherwise, it is just sicklier than when I first put it in there a couple weeks ago. Don't even remember what it is.
Oh, I forgot the params. I never measure any ammonia or nitrite. Not to say there isn't any, but I've never had a test pick it up. Nitrates were at 0 for a while, when all I had were swords and I wasn't dosing. Lately, I've gotten into the 60ppm range at the end of the week, so I've backed off on my nitrogen dosing just a tad. I did read Tom's article on diatoms and I have taken steps to try and eliminate ammonia, if that is my problem. Including less feeding and the addition of a LOT of purigen. Doesn't seem to make a difference.