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Is there a happy medium between Walstad type & high Co2 + high light?

Discussion in 'CO2 Enrichment' started by Flash, Dec 31, 2008.

  1. Flash

    Flash Junior Poster

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    Hello and thank you for all the information on this website.

    It seems the more I read, the more confused I get.

    My 55g planted tank did great with the juice bottle/yeast/sugar Co2 method but I got tired of doing the sterilization, etc. every month so went to a commerical biogenerator for 'up to' 30g tanks.

    There is some algae on the plants: some black and also some very fine stuff.

    I have more plants coming because I thought maybe I didn't have enough plants.

    setup:

    55g tank
    hard, alkaline limestone well water
    2 X 65w SmartPaq 10,000k/460nm (don't even know what this means!)
    Co2 biogenerator for up to 30g tank
    Eheim Professional II canister filter
    Maxi-Jet 400 Power Head 106 G.P.H. w/sponge filter for floaters
    lots of surface agitation for my fishies
    about 1.5 inches of regular gravel (have smaller gravel but never did the change-out)

    33% weekly water change unless neglected (ah, summer and the great outdoors) and this is when it all goes downhill and I panic and do 33% water changes 3 or more times a week for a couple weeks

    dosing 3X per week:
    1.5 capfulls Flourish Potassium
    1 capfull Flourish Iron
    1 capfull Flourish Excel
    1 capfull micronutrient including iron and b1 and manganese and other stuff


    I guess right now the plants are around 15% of the tank:
    Tiger Lotus
    Swords
    Anubia (this has the black stuff that the Platys are now cleaning off)
    Clover (not doing well)
    Limnophila hippuroides
    Water Sprite
    Ludwigia
    Pelia
    moneywort
    others can't remember the name

    Fish:
    3 rainbow
    10 tetras
    1 clown loach
    1 other fish similar to clown loach but black and white
    1 snakey thing
    3 Platys
    1 Demekin goldfish (I know, I know)

    Sorry I can't remember the names of some of those.

    I guess I'm low light? But with low Co2?

    I think I leave my lights on way too much but I just love looking at those fish and plants! Sometimes 12 hours a day because if I'm up late, I keep the light on. I know. I know. But what's the point if you can't enjoy the view?

    Anyway, if anybody else has a similar setup, I could use some guidelines. Or if anybody can advise me on what to reduce or step-up. I don't want to get into a Co2 tank and regulator and all that stuff right now though I might get one of those automated Co2 systems in the future.

    The goal for me is to look at pretty plants and fish. Don't care about awesome growth but don't want a bunch of ugly algae covering everything either.

    Is this possible?
     
  2. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    To answer the question you started with: Walstad type tanks are intended to be a closed system, where the plants get their nutrients from the fish waste, from decomposition in the substrate. And, the carbon needed to build new plant tissue is mostly from the CO2 naturally released by decomposition in the substrate. This limits the amount of CO2 available for plant growth, so all plants grow slowly. Since light intensity is the thing that drives plant growth, Walstad tanks need low light intensity to match the low availability of CO2.

    If you provide a good level of CO2 in the water, using either DIY, for small tanks, or presssurized CO2 for tanks bigger than 20 gallons or so, you can use almost any light intensity to grow plants. You then just have to provide the amount of the other fertilizer elements, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, and various trace elements in sufficient concentrations to meet the plants needs while growing at the rate the light intensity drives them to grow at. So, once you provide a consistent and adequate supply of CO2 you can grow plants slowly, faster, or very fast, depending on how much light you give them, as long as you fertilize adequately.

    Your 130 watts of light on a 55 gallon tank is too much to do without CO2, and DIY CO2 isn't likely to ever be adequate for that much light. You can try raising the light fixture above the tank, to reduce the light intensity, but that will probably not look good to you, with so much light spilling out into the room.
     
  3. Flash

    Flash Junior Poster

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    So I really need more Co2 for my light? I thought my light was low to medium.

    The Co2 setups confuse me. I've read some complaints about these needle valves and found a totally automated Co2 setup using some kind of electronic thing instead of a need valve. Excuse me if this is confusing because I know so little about Co2 systems that it's difficult to explain what I've been looking at.

    Are needle valves really that bad? Do they go bad that often? Is there a lot of junk out there that's going to break? I don't want to purchase something that I'm going to be sorry about later or that will end up in the trash broken.

    Any advice on Co2 systems is appreciated. I like the idea of the automated system where some kind of probe in the water controls everything.
     
  4. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    We all, most likely, would like an automated system where a probe automatically maintains good CO2 concentration in the tank, but there is no such system. CO2 controllers are really just pH controllers. They can maintain a set pH by turning CO2 on and off. But, that isn't enough to maintain good CO2 levels in the tank. For that you need to make sure you have good water circulation in the tank, to get the CO2 to all of the plant leafs in the tank, at all times. And, just measuring the pH, or the pH and KH won't give you the concentration of CO2 in the tank. You need either a $2000 CO2 measurement device, for accuracy, or a drop checker to get you somewhere near the right amount of CO2 at the point where the drop checker is mounted, and if you maintain the fluid in the drop checker, and are good at discriminating between shades of green, blue and yellow. Once the drop checker gets you somewhat near a good amount of CO2, you need to watch the plants and fish, while slowly raising the bubble rate of the CO2, until you reach what is the maximum usable concentration for that tank. Even then, if you don't keep the plants pruned well, to keep enough open areas for the water to circulate well, and to keep the plant mass reasonably constant, the amount of CO2 in the water may not be what you want it to be.

    Most of the above is irrelevant unless you insist on using a high light intensity which drives plant growth rates so high that near maximum concentration of CO2 is essential. A lower light intensity lets you be much more relaxed about how much CO2 is in the water.

    I don't think I have heard of a needle valve failing. They are simple devices with very, very few failure modes. Solenoid valves do fail, much more often than they should, when you use the cheapest ones. Bubble counters leak. Regulators can change settings considerablly as the CO2 tank runs out of liquid CO2. But, needle valves just don't fail.

    I think the best advice on CO2 systems is to get a good quality regulator, not the cheapest one you can find, a good quality needle valve, again not the cheapest one you can find, and ditto for a solenoid valve. You very likely will never regret that expenditure.
     
  5. Flash

    Flash Junior Poster

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    Thanks for clearing that up because I was under the impression from the retailer that I could stick this PH probe in the water and forget about the whole system other than making sure there was still Co2 in the canister.

    I want to make sure I'm getting the principle of this thing.

    Is it correct that too much light for the Co2 is problematic?

    If so, then is it okay to err on the side of too much Co2 for the light provided it's not too much Co2 for the fish?

    Would you know how few watts are needed to keep low-medium light plants?

    I bought 6 months of biogenerator media. Would the biogenerator help or be worthless in a low-medium light situation?

    Right now I'm at 2.46w/g.

    My goal is not tons of growth, just plants and fish and not a bunch of algae. Is that asking too much from a low-tech setup?

    Thanks again for taking the time to help me.

    And HAPPY NEW YEAR! :D
     
  6. Wet

    Wet Lifetime Members
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    It is not too much to ask. What you're asking for, even at more light, is exactly the work Tom and Vaughn have taken such great strides towards.

    But let me show you something. I made this tank a few years ago because I learn best by application/breaking things and I was reading Walstad's Ecology of the Planted Aquarium at the time. This whole tank maybe cost $30 plus crap laying around. It was a 10g with a 13w spiral screw in flourescent in a swinging desklamp by a window with bamboo blinds (lets some, not much, diffused light in). I used Schultz Aquatic Soil with some black decorative gravel (for weight) over a ton of mulm from my established tank and some peat and terrestrial root tabs (which were a bad idea) because back then I was afraid of soil.
    [​IMG]

    It looked like this about a month later: I added at least another bronze C. wendtii to the back right there but still I had never really seen crypts grow so fast.
    [​IMG]


    Then I decided to use DIY CO2 and stick the tube under the floating plants, then add another 23w spiral screw in flourescent in a desklamp. I had a little GW (I think from the root tabs) but I figured that tank could grow lots of stuff and so I moved a couple bits of the carpet I used on my high light tank and they sent runners too (that's Elatine tiandra) and while they grew taller and never filled everything (I was too lazy to keep replanting to bare spots) they grew fine. And I moved in some more Anubias sp. "Petite" that never looked right in my other tank. This is what it looked like a month later.
    [​IMG]

    CO2 is good. Walstad's method of nutrient rich substrate is good. Both with little light means huge margins for error and not caring so much. If a little afraid, set up a little 10 to work it out. Then applying to a bigger tank is only easier.
     
  7. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Too much CO2 means the fish are distressed and possibly killed by it. Other than that you can't get too much CO2 using the methods we use, without doing it maliciously. The more light you have, the faster the plants try to grow, so the more "building blocks" they need, and carbon is the primary building block for plants. When we don't supply those needs of the plants, they don't grow fast enough or healthy enough to keep the tank from experiencing small concentrations of ammonia from fish waste and decay of plant matter. That will start algae growing, and once that happens, with all of that light, the algae will very quickly be the dominant life form in the aquarium.

    You really can't say how many watts are needed for any given light level without also saying what kind of light you are using, what reflectors, and how far above the tank the lights are mounted. Your 130 watts are PC bulbs, the type that looks like two parallel tubes with 4 contacts at the base. Those can have pretty good reflectors, AH Supply light kits, for example, or very poor reflectors, some ebay lights where the bulb barely fits into a recess with no room for a reflector. In the first case, that is high enough light intensity, if the fixture is right at the top of the tank, to grow just about every plant used in an aquarium. But, in the second case it is probably more like a medium intensity light. If it were T5 lights, with a separate high quality polished aluminum reflector for each bulb, it would be a very high intensity. And, if it were incandescent bulbs it would be a heater, with a little light added.

    A "biogenerator" is a bottle with yeast and sugar water in it, so the yeast eats the sugar and gives off CO2 as a waste product. In other words it is a DIY CO2 bottle, costing more money. The supply of media is just a supply of sugar and yeast, possibly with some baking soda in it. It will work fine for a 10 gallon tank, and if you use a couple of them it will work for a 20 gallon tank, but it will be of very little use for a 55 gallon tank.

    With your objectives, I suggest reading http://www.barrreport.com/estimative-index/2817-non-co2-methods.html, and using that method.
     
  8. Flash

    Flash Junior Poster

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    Czado, that is what I'd like to see in my tank. Where is the algae? Yes, yours is to emulate. Thanks for sharing.

    VaughnH, I got better results using a formula I found online and a large juice bottle but the sterilization/measuring, etc. was more than I wanted to bother with. The commercial stuff is pour, shake, replace for $7/month. Not as much Co2 but less time consuming. I've been looking at a 75g setup and using my light would get me down to 1.73 w/g and right in the stated margin for a non-Co2 setup.

    Just ordered Diana Walstad's book. Woo hoo!
     
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