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Need advice (5-year old AS soil, BGA more common, plants not that well)

Discussion in 'Talk to Tom Barr' started by uimike, Jun 8, 2011.

  1. uimike

    uimike Lifetime Charter Member
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    Hi Tom,

    I've been a regular member for quite a while, but always reading the amazing insightful stuff from you, Dutchy, Gerryd, others. I finally had the time (2 whole weeks in between jobs) to read more, become a lifetime member, and try to fix my aquarium.

    I'm not far from you (San Jose) and I am a research biologist (from Brazil) by training (and work), but currently I'm in my second incarnation, as a software engineer :) Never lost my love for freshwater fish, though.

    I could use your generous advice - may I tell more about my setup, and get your feedback about what I need/plan to do in the future?

    many tx,

    mike cytrynowicz
     
  2. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Hi Mike,

    I have a few tricks to help with the ADA AS. It loses most of it's N after a year or so, but the other nutrients are still fairly well supplied.
    You will find a lot of correlation comparatively with low/absent NO3 dosing and BGA blooms.
    This is independent of sediment enrichment, type etc.

    Plain sand to ADA AS to top soil.......

    This increase in KNO3 dosing will help considerably.

    Give me some more details about the tank in this thread.
     
  3. uimike

    uimike Lifetime Charter Member
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    Hi Tom (btw, do you still have the manzanita #11, left branch?).

    Here are the details of my tank:

    Tanks is 5 years old, a 120cm Amano, I think it adds up to about 104 gal, with ADA soil type 1 (which _still_ leaches tannins) and a fair helping of power sand.
    I went through a few lightbulb changes, currently I have 2 x 54W T5 Coralight, a a 10K and a 6.7K. These are in an Archaeon hood with reflector, hung 12" from the tank cover, which is 1/4" acrylic. The cover is about 2" from the water surface.
    Filter is a 2026 Eheim, with a spraybar sub-surface, flow parallel to surface longitudinally.
    Once in a while I add an AquaClear 70W with purigen/charcoal to de-yellow the water (I may be doing something stupid here?), and recently I added a Hydor 750, creating a current diagonally. Fish seem to like it.
    I don't often do water changes, I usually add the water that evaporated (with fresh tap water), but I do replace water after syphoning, which happens, oh say, every other month.

    Fish: 5 Clown Loach (1.5"-2.5"); 4 corys, 6 harlequin rasboras, 3 striped rasboras, 3 otos, a few glow-light tetras, 4 kuhlii loach, 3 Amano shrimp, 3 nerite snails. Tetra crisps, Hikari wafers, occasional live food.
    A few Amano rocks from the SF store (beautiful rocks these...).
    Plants varied a lot in these 5 years, but mostly included 3-4 Anubias species, 3-5 Crypt species, Amazons (which have been generating runners and "children") plus Aponogeton, Crinum, Tiger Lily, and, in the past, duckweed.

    I use tap water, which is quite hard, with a pH 8.6

    I never used CO2. In the first years, the aquarium was doing very well, plants looked pretty lush. I guess at some point I started slacking a bit in terms of filter maintenance (been opening the filter every 4 months recently), and I am sure I must have been overfeeding the fish. In the past 18 months or so I've been having more frequent BGA, which goes away after a 4 day blackout. On-and-off, I add Seachem liquid ferts (N,P,K, Fe, trace, just because I bought a fair amount from Drs F&S 2-3 years ago :). I started keeping a diary as soon as I got the tank, with pH, CA, Fe, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, etc - but I don't really trust the stuff too much - especially after reading and re-reading your recommendations along these past few years - I totally understand and agree with you, no calibration, no controlled experiments, cheesy kits (although I do have 2 LaMotte), well, hard to extract any serious conclusions from _these_.

    So plants started to thin, now I have maybe 1/3 of the biomass, and the tank looks quite empty. The plants do not look sickly, though, and I see no obvious signs of mineral deficiency (chlorosis, stunted growth, etc), but they do look starved. And the BGA recurs.

    I have a feeling that I am taking too long to syphon the fish poop + plant matter, maybe I am overfeeding the fish...
    So I decided to introduce a lot more plants again (basically same species and vars. as I already have), and do something about the poor growth - and this is where I am now.
    In preparation, I added the Hydor 750, did a really serious syphoning, used a diatom filter I had.
    Re-reading a zillion great threads from you, the masters, I started wondering whether even my roughly 1 W/gallon was already a bit too much, and I had too much light for perhaps not enough minerals + CO2? I mean, am I starving my plants? So today I moved the lights up 8 more inches.
    The poor syphoning, coupled with infrequent eheim maintenance, could be responsible for a fairly high organic load, and thus BGA, right? - especially if the plants are starved?
    So what would be some sensible things to do?
    Add excel? Add pressurized CO2? Continue non-CO2? Reduce lighting further? Do EI? Do weekly % water changes? Top off evaporation with RO water only?
    On top of it, the ADA soil N exhaustion you mentioned.
    So many variables, what does your experience say?

    many many tx for listening!

    mike
     
  4. Crispino Ramos

    Crispino Ramos Guru Class Expert

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    Interesting topic, waiting for more comments.
     
  5. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Hi Mike,

    I would say that the original ADA has exhausted much of the macro nutrients. I think that some light EI dosing would work well.

    You can also increase the filtration if maintenance schedules are difficult to manage or adhere to :) Tanks suffer from insufficient filtration and a high organic load...Perhaps a swap to a wet/dry sump is something to consider?

    Have you read the non c02 threads yet? They detail keeping non-co2, lower light tanks that may be right for you.

    What are your goals and time limits? How involved do you want to be? What do you want the tank to be?

    using lower light is always a good thing initially as you can always increase it. Using lower light drives less demand for c02 and other nutrients. Also, please note that plants have differing intake rates, so having many types of plants w/o c02 can oftentimes lead to poor growth for some species but not others.

    Many low-light beautiful plants out there. anubias, crypts, ferns, mosses, etc will all do well w/o c02.
     
    #5 Gerryd, Jun 9, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 9, 2011
  6. uimike

    uimike Lifetime Charter Member
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    Hi Gerry,

    Appreciate your feedback!

    Yep, I've been reading the non-CO2 threads, or at least I was, until my head started spinning :)

    So, my goal(s): to have a beautiful, heavily planted (but certainly not high-growth) tank, with a kind of a moody/shady light; feeding the fish 2x /day, keeping the fish I listed above, which I believe is not an excessive load, plus adding another group of (12-15?) some small tetra; not doing water changes (a la Walstad) - is it possible in my setup?; topping off to replace evaporation; doing minimal syphoning.

    In other words, being very lazy and contemplative (just like Tom said somewhere ;-)

    I calculated the light I have right now to be 1.5 W/gal. Being about 14" to the water, and reduced to, perhaps, 90% by the acrylic, does that look like medium light or low?

    Tom and you mentioned AS exhaustion - so I understood I will have to dose - perhaps 1/4 of the regular EI - is it too much?

    Should I also do stuff like Tom's Osmocote ice cubes in the soil, throughout?

    Filtering: would it be wise to discontinue the Eheim, considering competition for N by the bacteria in the biological media - or would that be foolish considering I have fish?

    Topping off: do I need to get an RO, or can I top off with distilled water (I know if I top off with tap water the hardness is going to creep up)

    And, finally, because the AS apparently still leaches tannins, maybe I can keep the Purigen (or at least carbon), but I would need to account for the removed DOC, right - I mean, thinking about the plants...

    Today I got several new Crypts, some Aponogeton undulatus bulbs, and several bunches of wisteria. I moved the Crinum to a corner of the tank (the @#$ thing is a BGA magnet) and got rid of a few Amazon swords - they are such heavy rooters, they seem to crowd other out. Moving and planting all the stuff raised an enormous amount of silt (that correct, Tom?) so I ran my diatom filter until the water cleared. My fish must be cursing me he he.

    So that's the plan, and I certainly do appreciate feedback in terms of the filtering, dosing, syphoning, topping off, etc.

    mike
     
  7. uimike

    uimike Lifetime Charter Member
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    Hi Gerry, Tom - any thoughts?

    tx,

    mike
     
  8. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Hi Mike,

    What about replacing the ADA with new?

    Since your goals seem to be low light and low maintenance, Walstad method, I think the substrate is vital. Especially since you want a wider variety of plant species...

    No need to dump a canister if it does the job, eheims are good filters..I think you can use carbon or similar to help with leaching issues...I just think a wet/dry and sump is a nice long term option is all...Especially for maintenance goals..

    It is impossible to quantify the light getting to your plants w/o a PAR meter. Is it possible to beg, borrow, or buy one?

    If you are close to Tom and the local fish club, perhaps someone can measure your PAR for you?

    I would see if you can measure your light as that is critical to your goals. That being said, you can also use floating plants instead of the acrylic tops to filter light. This make be more aesthetically pleasing as well.

    Hope this helps.
     
  9. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Well, you could switch over to a liquid dosing non CO2 method, see EI and non CO2 methods.
    Same thing, just different location, you'll dose about 1-2x a week at most.
    And about 1/10th EI.


    Stick with the non CO2 method.

    You'll have some strong plant-plant competition for CO2/light, keep those plants hacked back, otherwise they will smother the others.
    You can add some stuff to the soil, but most of N is gone.
    Like most weltands, they run N limited, not PO4 limited, there are certainly some glaring exceptions(Everglades etc in a PO4 limited system......or was till we mucked it up and made it a gaint toilet dumpign ground from sugar cane production).
     
  10. uimike

    uimike Lifetime Charter Member
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    Lots of changes being implemented, taking the advice above very seriously - thanks guys!
    I will be posting soon about what I did, and the initial results (which so far are great - and why would they not be, with Barr & Gerryd??)
    Got ferts, additional water flow, lowered light, am planting more, etc. :)
    Ah - created control KNO3 solutions to check accuracy of LaMotte - seems on top, but will post results to make sure I did the right thing.

    mike c
     
  11. uimike

    uimike Lifetime Charter Member
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    Ah, one question for you guys - btw, do you prefer me to post it on the general forum for the benefit of all?
    Questions is about which dyes can I use to check the water flow in the aquarium - and do you have a favorite way of doing it - pipette, syringe, etc?. I plant to release the dye at each 10cm approx. (sorry, I was born metric)

    tx!

    mike
     
  12. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    While you can use many dyes, the one that's used in research is Rhodamine.
    Micro bubbles work well with CO2. I'd go this route.
     
  13. uimike

    uimike Lifetime Charter Member
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    Tom, how do I set up the micro bubbles - I've been googling it and am not very sure - did you mean using a diffuser or something to release the rhodamine?
    (kind of dense here)

    mike
     
  14. uimike

    uimike Lifetime Charter Member
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  15. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    You simply use a needle wheel impeller and a small power head, then feed the gas of interest into the suction side, it'll atomize the bubbles into a froth mist.
     
  16. uimike

    uimike Lifetime Charter Member
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    Update here...
    I'll try and post a few images later. In the meantime, I'm a pretty happy camper - after reading hundreds, maybe a thousand or more posts, and trying my best to follow what Tom, Gerry and masters have been saying for quite some time, I believe I have a better grasp of the whole tank x light x plants x fish x substrate x CO2 x ferts interactions.

    I planted the tank way more heavily, moved the lights up, added tons of gentle water movement (2 hydors), added a school of black neon tetra, have been toping the tank with distilled water and adding a fraction of EI per week (KNO3, Phosphate, Tropica Plant Nutrition; feeding the fish generously, and

    wow. 5-6 weeks have gone by, no algal blooms, no BGA, I haven't even had the need for vacuuming the substrate, and my Anubias(es), Crypts, Ferns, Apos, etc are very happy, and sprouting beautiful green leaves - one at a time, slowly as Tom mentions, but surely. The fish seem extremely happy. My 5 clown loaches are happier than ever. I am quite proud of my tank, its been nicer than ever.

    All this is because of your advice guys!

    I am learning!

    Many many thanks!

    mike
     

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