Jul 17, 2017
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Ontario
I'm starting this journal ~140 days into my first real planted tank. My priority with this tank was to learn how to grow plants. Later I will try to use my acquired experience to make a more sophisticated aquascape in a bigger tank.

Tank: 20 gallon HxLxW = 16" x 24" x 12" inches. Old and scratched up tank that was kicking around.

Light: 24 inch Satellite Current LED + (not planted or pro) that I think gives about 30 par at the substrate.

Substrate ferts: Sprinkled Miracle Grow slow release fertilizer over the bottom of the tank. I couldn't find Osmocote locally and refused to pay exorbitant prices to ship from the States. Unfortunately, the fertilizer I started with didn't have any micronutrients. This may turn out to be relevant. Since then I've bought a different MG slow release that's 9-4-12 NPK plus micros.

Substrate: Safe-T-Sorb cap over Scott's Organic Potting Soil (no sifting, blending, or mineralization). Both are sloped (although that hasn't lasted well). I only used about 2-3cm of soil in the back to about 5mm in the front. In retrospect I wish I used a bit more.

Water: I live on a limestone plain and am on a well, so it's hard. From the tap GH = 13.5 dH (240 ppm), KH = 10.1 dH (180 ppm). Ca2+ ~85ppm, Mg2+ ~ 10 ppm. These numbers based on test kits so might not be super reliable likely fluctuate somewhat anyway. I started with just tapwater and eventually moved to 50% dilution with RO water.

Filtration: Two internal filters: a Whisper and an even cheaper knock-off, both rated for 10-20 gallon tanks. They are set in opposite corners so that they rotate the water (i.e. they don't fight each other). Yes, they are ugly and obstructive.

Tank at day 15:
UIFA7Uv.jpg


Hardscape: A weathered buckthorn Ramnus cathartica root "tree" soaked ~3 weeks with a piece of schilt for weight, a couple smaller pieces of bogwood, and another piece of shilt laid flat at the front.

Plants: Dwarf Sag (native, but this came from Tropica), Crypt. wendtii "Green", Java fern, Java moss (on the tree), a local aquatic moss from a pond (on the bogwood), local Willow Moss (Fontinalis antipyretica) tied to the front rock and a bit on the tree, "Red Ludwigia" (so L. repens ?) on the right, and Cardamine lyrata at the rear middle. On the left is an unidentified, hideously ugly, stem plant from a creek.

I will continue this journal in pieces to get to the present state of the tank which, on day 139 is:
rgVdinc.jpg
 
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Jul 17, 2017
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Day 21:
HSYba2F.jpg


The willow moss at the front was too thick when I tied it and the bottom rotted. I removed it and the rock. I replaced it with hair grass (Eleocharis ? acicularis ?) collected locally. I also added some local milfoil (more on this later). The crypt had three daughter plantlets that I placed around the tank. At this point the Ludwigia is transitioning (ie the stems keep melting).

The fauna at this point is 2 baby BN plecos, 6 RCS, 4 Neon Ramshorns, and a handful of MTS. Also a lot of rhabdocoel flatworms and detritus worms. A few unknown Lymnaeid snails as well but I was able to pick them to extinction.
 
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Jul 17, 2017
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Began dosing excel at 1/4 dose (to allow Val to acclimate) on Day 10, increased to half dose by day 15 as algae started to appear (Oedogonium-like green fuzz mainly, some GDA and GSA as well). Full dose starting day 20.

Day 17: Reduced light from 9 to 7.5 hrs. Began dosing Flourish Trace at bottle recommended amounts.

Day 22: had to salt dip RCS for Scutariella.

Day 25:
ndgSbPV.jpg


There are couple of new additions: 2 small stems of local Ludwigia palustris and the grass-like plant in front of the tree. That plant is probably floating burreed but I'm not sure. There is also a petsmart special half dead corkscrew Val behind the tree. Added 3 more collected milfoil. Dwarf Sag is spreading well and hair grass is growing.

This is the last progress pic that I took for a while. Algae got bad and then got worse and I unfortunately I wasn't exactly inspired to document it visually. The fall and recovery will be the subject of the next installment which will be short on photos but long on fretting over ferts and deficiencies (sorry in advance).
 
Jul 17, 2017
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Trouble began in earnest after the first month. I began to get a green felt-like algae covering plants, glass, and hardscape. Plant growth slowed - the heavy root feeders (dwarf Sag and the Crypts) did OK, the Ludwigia kept growing but slowly and all lower leaves were consumed by algae and/or falling off, the Cardamine was full of holes in the older leaves, the Val was frozen in time, and milfoil essentially stopped, got clogged with fuzz, and all died. The moss was fuzzy and barely growing. I began studying plant deficiency posters. I wondered if my light was too bright for low tech.

I decided I needed to cut the light. To do that I added dwarf water lettuce and European frog bit. As the floaters grew and spread, everything got worse. Algae got worse, milfoil died, the glass was hairy. I tested nitrates and phosphates. Nitrates were 0 or close to it.

I had planned on ordering dry ferts but assumed I had plenty of time given the fertilized soil substrate. But, I didn't add a lot of soil, and the substrate ferts lacked Fe and other micros. Instead I quickly hurried out and bought Flourish Trace, N, and P. I acquired a free bottle of API Leaf Zone (Fe EDTA and K). I intended to follow the low light EI protocol via Rotala Butterfly. An error I made was that Flourish N and P don't have much K (they're meant to be used with Flourish K). I intended to make that up with the API LZ but followed the calculator amount without thinking. Rotala Butterfly gives the amount based on the Fe dose, not the K in leaf zone. I should have been dosing twice as much.

The water column ferts may have helped, but not drastically. I probably didn't wait long enough to find out for sure before I pulled the floaters. Things continued for a couple more weeks. I went away for a week, left my partner dosing instructions (basically Excel daily and had her double the API LZ mid week). I got back and there was a big improvement! The Vals, which had done nothing but not die, shot up and algae had noticeably declined. Did the tank just need a break from me?

That week my dry ferts arrived. I got an EI blend of KNO3 and KH2PO4 and CSM +B. I figured it would be a cinch, that all I really needed was enough K and I was good. Things stalled. Improvement slowed. There was regression. What was going on? I started staring at deficiency infographics again. :(

The Cardamine was still full of holes. I trimmed all the old leaves. Waited. Oldest leaves developed holes again. But I was dosing plenty of K. Eventually realized the ramshorns were the culprits. Staring at leaves again. Here's what new Cardamine leaves looked like:
gnYrIV2.jpg


A new Java fern leaf:
vYSqdj2.jpg


Maybe Fe deficiency? But I was dosing EI low light levels, 0.2ppm/week. It's not a ton, but this is not a high energy Dutch tank. I started reading about chelating agents.

I mentioned in the first post that my tapwater has high KH (13.5 dH). In my 35G turtle tank the pH is typically about 8.2-8.4. However, the Safe-T-Sorb substrate buffered it quite a lot and lowered KH. A month in pH was about 7.4 before the weekly 50% WC. KH in the tank was 6.8 dH (so about half what the tap water is). However, the buffering capacity was being exhausted by the weekly WC. By day 73 the KH was still lower in the tank (7.3 dH) but pH was high, about 8.1! I read that this would make Fe unavailable by disassociating the chelating agent (especially EDTA).

To fix this problem I ordered Fe DPTA and started doing waterchanges with 25% RO and then 50% RO water the next week. Here's the tank from about that time (Day 97):

axkuSbz.jpg

The old Java fern leaves still have furry green patches. These were trimmed off. I also collected a single replacement milfoil stem to see if it would do well now that things were improving.

Day 101 (not a lot of changes except some trimming but the photo is better):

0Azo8Qf.jpg


I started dosing Fe DPTA on day 130. I was planning to add more K as well so I used FeDPTA and KH2SO4 to make a clone of API Leaf Zone (but with DPTA instead of EDTA as the chelating agent). I increased the dose after the floating Riccia started melting (the "duckweed index" - floaters as water column nutrient indicators) and growth of moss and milfoil seemed sluggish. These are my current dosing levels:

yZ5ifka.jpg
 
Jul 17, 2017
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Mermaid weed (Prosperpinaca palustris 'Canada'). Plentiful in a certain southern Ontario marsh:
w050PCT.jpg

2MTyPSr.jpg
qkWEmTa.jpg
ZCAfu90.jpg

wyIrNcH.jpg


I tried four stems in my tank that I planted on Day 98. Here they are after 20 days:
J0TOdHi.jpg


Position in the tank (day 139):
9p58Lpt.jpg


Close-ups from today (Day 143):
2bXjGqM.jpg
4cHGfpy.jpg


OK, so I'm low light so what I have is basically green milfoil. The great thing about being a noob are the modest expectations. I still think it looks cool. Plus, I think that there's a blush of colour appearing, right? Maybe you have to see it in person...
 
Jul 17, 2017
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Another native plant I've mentioned is milfoil. I'm not quite sure on the identification but I believe it's most likely Myriophyllum heterophyllum or M. verticillatum. I initially collected it in early spring as turions which are winter buds that form as propagules. They sprout roots and leaves very quickly:
DfaJzkQ.jpg

The red part is the turion.

Unfortunately, it all died when tank conditions got bad (described above) so I recollected another stem. Now it's been trimmed and replanted once (and I will probably do it again today) and I quite like it:
qxOWCTH.jpg
OY5nxfm.jpg


The plant is about 5 cm wide (2") and has a golden/straw colour. Here it is in the FTS:
rgVdinc.jpg


I'm hoping it will send of some side branches after I trim it today. I'm still not sure where to place it. I think a group of it would look good behind the wood but the flow there is too strong. For now, I'm just growing it.
 
Jul 17, 2017
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Other plants I have tried:

When I started I bought one Crypt. wendtii 'Green' from LFS. There are three daughter plants as well as the main plant which got a lot bigger than I thought. I would have placed it farther back but it would be a nightmare to move now. I have moved the daughters around a bit though. No melting which was nice. This plant has been a rock even while everything else was crappy. It is immune from hair and fuzz.
e2cc6edb-b103-4295-abda-99dce03629e2
PERBIja.jpg
mZI6816.jpg


I've got some willow moss (Fontinalis antipyretica) which is hard to attach, but attaches very strongly when it does. I got it below a dam spillway where it grows thickly on limestone in fast water. I've had it since the start and I'm still trying to get it right; it is prone to green fuzz algae.

I've tried other found mosses too. An aquatic moss that didn't work out refused to attach and instead grew straight up in spindly, unramated strings. I removed it early on but still haven't managed to get rid of all of it. More recently, I tried some moss from a vernal pool that seemed clingy. There turned out to be two species mixed in, one didn't do so great but the minority moss has worked out well. It's a fresh green colour, grows quite quickly, and forms loose bushes:

80AaOLy.jpg


I got a tiny fragment mixed in with stuff I bought from LFS that I let float around until it grew roots. I still didn't know what it was when I planted it. It tuns out it's Hygrophila corymbosa 'Kompakt' (as far as I can tell):
9DMUy4G.jpg

Also you can see in that photo that dwarf Sag. likes my tank. It sometimes gets some algae but my biggest problem with it is weeding the runners.

A couple shots of LFS Ludwigia repens (this definitely had a rough transition but is doing well now) and local swamp Ludwigia palustris (the taller one at the moment):
t9e8kj8.jpg

j01O8He.jpg


I have one Sagittaria cuneata in this tank (see my vase journal for information on it) but it's small and tucked away for now and I can't get useful photos.

Currently, I am starting to try another found moss (just tied today). It's terrestrial so it's a long shot (but it looked sooo good). I am replacing some of the snail-bitten Cardamine for some golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea') from my yard. I floated a sprig in the tank for a few weeks while it sprouted roots and aquatic shoots, planted those, and discarded the old stem.

3ojZDVJ.jpg


I've also put in a few stranded plantlets from Ranunculus (flabellaris?) - Yellow Water Buttercup - from a vernal pool.
mUOqkUF.jpg

They've been putting out rootlets but haven't done much else yet so are still pretty small and hard to see. They very well could be a bad idea as this species shoots around a big area. This is it in the wild:
irNzAVu.jpg


Floating leaves:
281EShS.jpg


Plants that have failed: Scirpus or Eleocharis that I hoped would look similar to giant hair grass - I picked young clumps that were free floating or in sand in deep enough water that I thought they would do well. I've tried this three times, all three times they did not grow at all. Also variable leaved pondweed, Potomogeton gramineus that I was convinced would look really cool. Both times it has just melted. However this time I took young runners and parts of them (like 1-2 cm chunks) are still alive and have put out a couple little roots... so maybe.
 

Dale Hazey

Junior Poster
Feb 18, 2017
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Excellent journal.
I love how you harvest wild native plants. Someone suggested to me, before I bought plants and fish, to get them locally from the waterways. Your journal makes me regret not following her advice.

Tank looks good man. Well done. Love the vase too.

Dale.
 

DutchMuch

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@Dale Hazey same I agree, the way he harvests the wild plants is awesome to me, on a radical level! I wish I had plants in my lakes, we do, but... idk what exactly they(it) are/is, its just 1 plant... Very slow grower.
 
Jul 17, 2017
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@Dale Hazey @DutchMuch Thanks guys!

One collected plant that I forgot to mention is a little Vallisneria that was dropped on a boat ramp in a mass of weeds off someone's prop. I thought it might turn out like Jungle Val but so far it has narrow leaves (about 1/2 the width of the corkscrew Val) that curve around instead of reaching for the surface. I don't know if it will stay that way but as it is the placement behind the wood means it's not visible at the moment.

A nasty consequence of my collecting is that I have managed to get Cladophora. That is a regret. This is the last FTS (Day 131) before I pulled up all my hair grass to get the Clado out of it:
yjA8ikd.jpg


That's why there's a bare spot there that I'm waiting for the dwarf Sag to fill in. I cleaned and H202'd the hair grass and placed it behind the left side of the wood. I will let it get as tall as it can to fill in the gap left by my failed "giant hairgrass" experiments.
 
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Let's bring this sucka up to date. On day 112 I got in some Buce. 'Brownie' sp. from theplantguy.ca on sale for $14. I feel like I got a lot but it was only my second time ordering a plant. Most of it went in my turtle's 35G but I put a few pieces in this tank. This scrap was mostly roots/rhizome with almost no leaves but a bunch have sprouted now:
A7qHue7.jpg


On days 130 and 137 I added floaters again. The first bunch were dwarf water lettuce from the turtle's 35. They slowly go extinct in that tank (possible reasons are the filter is too hard on them, lack of nutrients, and they are always getting dragged onto turt's basking platform). The next batch was a tiny piece of Salvinia (nana or minima?) and three sad, yellowing Limnobium (Amazon, L. laeviatum or possibly North American L. spongia). I got these from my local plant nursery, they charged $2 for whatever left over floaters were still alive that I could scavenge. The Salvinia was mislabeled as red-root floater and the Limnobium was mislabeled as European frogbit Hydrocharis morsus-ranae. They've all been recovering and have begun to multiply.

usDUPXy.jpg

BiikQey.jpg


Finally, on day 145 I raised the light 4 cm (it had been resting on the rim).

Day 149:
Obr7c9m.jpg


I forgot to remove the zuccini + clip :oops:
 

Lovebug

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Jun 25, 2017
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I love how you experiment with local plants from the wild. That milfoil is a beautiful plant. You call yourself a 'noob,' but you should be proud of your results with a low tech tank. You're a natural! I'm new to the hobby as well, but my aesthetic skills are pathetic lol.
 

Mike k

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Jul 23, 2017
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I love how you experiment with local plants from the wild. That milfoil is a beautiful plant. You call yourself a 'noob,' but you should be proud of your results with a low tech tank. You're a natural! I'm new to the hobby as well, but my aesthetic skills are pathetic lol.

As I read this thread I have been thinking about how to say what you just did

Great work!! I love this tank


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
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@Mike k @Lovebug Thanks! That's very nice to hear.

Today I trimmed a lot (for me) of the Ludwigia. Also, I have a but on the stump of the milfoil so I should be going from 1 to 2 stems.
GRapDMg.jpg


In this thread I tentatively ID'd this moss,
80AaOLy.jpg

as Leptodictyum riparium (Streamside Leptodictyum moss, Wet Thread Moss).

I don't have much room in this tank and it's already awkwardly crammed with different species, but I do have that bare patch so the experiments continue. Today I planted three small Alisma gramineum:
gziFsy6.jpg

As a way to shut the barn door after the Clado has gotten in, I H2O2 dipped them (1.5% for 5 min) which may have been a mistake as they already look a bit melty :(. This is what it looks like in the wild. I also decided to try some of the so-far-unidentified "stream moss" so I added a little branch and also tied some to a small piece of slate. Finally, I stuck this small sprig of Potomogeton in the back:

mLlF1M4.jpg


Tentatively, I'm IDing it as P. pusillus (slender pondweed). Hopefully it does better than the last Potomogeton I tried...

Day 154:
KePAesE.jpg
 

Kyalgae

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I was bored today so I went out hunting for plants in some nearby ponds. I couldn't resist, you inspired me. I grabbed 4 different unknown species, if they end up doing ok I'll be sure to post pictures. It's really interesting to see plants growing under tank conditions, it's almost like a surprise when they change morphology.
 
Jul 17, 2017
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@Kyalgae Curious to see what you've got!

My Potamogeton cf. pusillus immediately melted so yesterday I added a similar Potamogeton which I think is P. zosteriformis. I'll work harder to ID it if it lives. No peroxide bath this time.

I've had this little plant that I scooped up incidentally with the stream moss sitting in tupperware and I had to either get rid of it or plant it. I planted it. I think it's Lobelia cardinalis.
lrt9HQt.jpg

I don't know why I think this because when I'm aware of this plant in the wild it's because of the flowers. It's not common in this area. I've never grown it but I know it's popular with the dutch style folks so maybe someone will agree or disagree. The photo shows a little daughter plant that is appearing at the base of the larger (but still only about 6cm tall) parent.

Mo' moss. Without too much difficulty, I managed to find four Fissidens species locally. I'll put some pictures in my Moss ID thread tonight. We've had a ton of rain all summer (apologies to those in Florida or Houston right now; it's all relative) so I have F. osmundioides growing in my driveway so that was easy. It's a long shot because it seems pretty terrestrial but I added it two weeks ago and it still seems to be doing OK. Yesterday during my WC I moved a mat of Buce. and removed some Java moss and then added F. bryoides (Pixie Pocket Moss) which is so tiny I sort of had to just smear it on and wrap a lot of thread... I'm hopeful it will take because it's a streamside species adapted for occasional submergence (and I've found it growing underwater). I also added some F. fontanus which is the familiar, 100% aquatic "US Fissidens". Well, familiar to others, I've never grown it before. I also found Fissidens adianthoides (Maidenhair Fissidens) but haven't added it. I also tried reattaching some of my Fontinalis dalecarlica (Slender Willow Moss) after dividing up the loose tree of it I have been growing in the back for a couple months. So I've kind of got a moss sampler tree going on now:

d5aW7rY.jpg


I ran out of time and patience and made a real mess with the crazy glue with the willow moss. C'est la vie.

Floater's are going ganbusters. Frogbit and dwarf Water Lettuce seem more competitive than Salvinnia. I've increased macros by 50% to compensate for floaters. I'm concerned they are just taking up too much light - it doesn't help that the current seems to pile them up over my Ludwigia and Mermaid Weed.

Day 161: Check out the nice long wild Valisneria leaf that popped up in the last couple days:
kL8YSqo.jpg
 
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