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Need help finding what's out of balance!

Discussion in 'CO2 Enrichment' started by Trivr, Mar 23, 2008.

  1. Trivr

    Trivr Prolific Poster

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    Hello everyone,

    I've kept fish for 15 months now and I'm addicted. About a month ago, I thought I'd try my hand at a planted tank and I can't believe how much difficulty I'm having. I've read, and read, and read and I still can't seem to have any success. Over the last three or four weeks, my relatively minor BBA growth has gotten a little worse, but I have seen this green, whispy algae takeoff! It's all over the glass, floating plants and my large piece of driftwood. Any ideas would be GREATLY appreciated. I've visited this site before and I respect the knowledge here.

    Some of the information I include may not be necessary, but I'm just gonna throw it all out there since I'm the rookie here.
    TANK: I have the typical 55g. 48"x12"x21".

    LIGHT: A month ago, I upgraded from two t12 40watt bulbs to two 54watt t5 ho bulbs. I keep them on for 10 hours a day.

    SUBSTRATE: A month ago, I switched from a sand/natural gravel combination to black moon gravel. I have no fertilizer in the substrate. This tank has been up for a year, I changed the substrate while maintaining the tank with the fish staying healthy.

    FISH: I have 15 fish and most would probably be considered about double the size you would buy them at. 3 black skirt tetras; 3 congo tetras; 2 clown loaches; 2 barbs; 1 austrailian rainbow; 1 ram; 1 angel; 1 gourami, and 1 angelicas catfish. They're all healthy and I almost never lose fish anymore. (until I found my chinese algae eater outside the tank a few days ago after I left a floating strip of cucumber at that end).

    WATER: I have the home test kit using drops. I've never had any elevated levels of ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and my ph is pretty consistently at 7.2. I have no idea what my level of hardness is. (It's city water minus the chlorine). I have a regular airstone that is on all the time except for the 10 hours/day I have the light on. I do about 20%/week. Temp averages 78-80F.

    CO2: About a week after I upped the light to 1.96wpg, I added a 2 liter bottle diy. I have an airstone on the end and it bubbles inconsistently. I don't have the tester to determine ppm, but I did test my ph at 6.8 (lower than I've ever seen it).

    PLANTS: I probably doubled the plants I had a month ago. Many are floating and if they were all planted, they would cover about half or more of the substrate. My floating hornwort and raised amazon sword are pearling alot a few hours after the light comes on. They're covered in tiny bubbles! Many of my plants are not doing well. They develop thin, leaves with holes in them, or the plants do not grow at all! My anubias, amazon sword, dwarf hairgrass, borneo fern, java fern do not appear to be growing at all. After I clip the mature algae infested leaves from my anubia, a new shoot will sprout, but it will stay tiny, short, and furled up and develop holes in the leaves. I also have some java moss, mondo grass, anacharis, and a few others I don't know the name of.

    FERTILIZER: I have Seachem Flourish bottle which I've used as directed. (once/week). It says "comprehensive supplement", but I guess it's just the micronutrients? It's due another dose, but I'm afraid to continue as the green algae has gotten so bad. Once I learned what all the acronyms were for fertilizer, I've looked for them at the local fish supply, but can't find any. N,P, and K, I guess. But, I'm not sure that's what my problem is.

    I've read enough to know that one of the three - light, fertilizer, or co2 must be way out of wack. Please help, as this is no fun!

    Sorry about the lengthy post, but I wanted to give a complete picture. Hope I didn't forget anything.

    Trivr
     
  2. tedr108

    tedr108 Lifetime Charter Member
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    Trivr,

    You are surely not getting enough CO2, mostly likely because of the following 2 reasons:

    1) One DIY CO2 bottle is not enough for a 55G tank. Two of them might do the trick, but even then you are not going to get 30ppm -- probably more like 15ppm. That being the case, you might have been better off without the lighting upgrade, because lower wpg would be better for 15ppm CO2 levels.

    2) You are not even getting the most out of your DIY CO2 by using a bubbler/diffuser. Look at the DIY internal reactor thread in the Articles forum. With that reactor, you will get almost 100% of your CO2 dissolving.

    Here's the link to the mentioned thread: http://www.barrreport.com/articles/41-diy-internal-reactor-great-yeast-co2-users.html.

    That's my 2 cents worth ... hopefully some others will give some advice.
     
  3. Trivr

    Trivr Prolific Poster

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    Thanks Ted,

    I had read somewhere else that one bottle would not be enough for 55g, but there was opposing views posted, so I made no conclusions concerning it. You've read what I've got, so this is very helpful. I'll begin right now to reduce the lighting until I can get more effective co2 in there. Or...maybe reduce the lighting permanently. The whispy green algae is pretty bad, hope I can turn this around without having to do a 3 day blackout.

    Trivr
     
  4. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    What stands out in reading this is the shortage of CO2, the shortage of macronutrients (NPK), and the air bubbler, which contributes greatly to the shortage of CO2.

    You have enough light now to require good CO2 dosing, and a full EI fertilizer dosing schedule. So, first I would add a second 2L DIY CO2 bottle, with its start date a week later than the other one, then replenish them after 2-3 weeks, one at a time. Then I would get rid of the air pump entirely. It isn't needed for a planted tank. Finally, I would buy KNO3 and KH2PO4 from either Planted Aquarium Fertilizer or Fertilizers For The Planted Tank | Ferts and begin dosing them per the EI method. Flourish is good for trace elements. It would help you to get a drop checker and fill it with 4 dKH distilled or deionized water so you can see when you have 30 ppm of CO2. If you don't think you will be able to reach 30 ppm, change the 4 dKH water to 3 dKH water, which should let you see when you have about 20 ppm. With a HOB filter you have to use an in-tank method for adding CO2 to the water - a powerhead with the rotor modified to be a semi-needle wheel rotor, and the CO2 going into the inlet to it, is a good method. If you have a canister filter you can use an external reactor, making a DIY version very cheaply.

    Finally, and probably this should be first, spend some time reading a primer on planted tanks, such as the Rex Griggs website I linked above.
     
  5. tedr108

    tedr108 Lifetime Charter Member
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  6. Trivr

    Trivr Prolific Poster

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    Thanks Guys!!

    That's what I needed to know. I'll checkout those links.
    I googled most of my questions and I frequently found answers that were for a much smaller or larger tank, or opposing points of view. Or...the blanket suggestion that if you're 2wpg or less, you don't need co2. I guess the better way is to get involved in a community like this.

    The planted tank is pretty new to me, and while I have some very knowledgeable fish retailers, I couldn't find anyone who knew anything about the planted tank locally. I'm still suprised that even those who sell live plants wouldn't carry the supplements which seem to be crucial to their success.

    Trivr
     
  7. Trivr

    Trivr Prolific Poster

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    Ted - I love that article you linked to about algae. It's great!

    I'm convinced my main problem is too little co2 (or too much light) as you guys suggested. I have some BBA, but the new whispy, slippery green one appears to be green beard algae. Both of which are said to be result of too little co2.

    Also learned that that film I once had on my tank was surface scum. I was a newbie fishkeeper then. I lost eight fish in ten days and most of the others had some type of visible disease. All I was told is that "your water is perfect!". Wish I had found this site then.

    Thanks,

    Trivr
     
  8. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    If you want some more help with co2, I did an extensive write up on diy on my site. I can pretty much guarantee that you're not getting near enough co2 with 1 - 2L bottle on that size tank, unless you are changing it out every three days and adding at least 1 tsp of yeast to each batch. I recommend two bottles and in my personal experience, I have to add 1/2 tsp of yeast to each bottle after the first week, then after the second change them out entirely (preferably staggered). Yes it will produce co2 longer than that, but after the first few days co2 production really slacks off and then what you end up with is a co2 roller coaster which is the WORST thing you can have if you're trying to get rid of algae. I have a drop checker and have verified this time and again, even though it is still producing bubbles the co2 levels drop very quickly after a few days of production. If you have a drop checker you can rely on that to tell you when it's time to do something, but if not it's better to change it out more often than you think you might need to. The key is stability when it comes to co2, high if you can keep it stable, but if you can't keep it stable, go lower but stable.

    http://beginneraquarist.petfish.net

    Hope this helps!
     
  9. Trivr

    Trivr Prolific Poster

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    Thanks Carissa,

    I'll check it out. I had been looking for more info on diy systems. I'm gonna do an update next week or so. I've started making changes toward what has been suggested and I've already seen improvement in *some* of my plants. The growth of algae has slowed but not stopped yet as I've noticed a little regrowth on areas of glass I've cleaned.

    Just minutes ago, I checked water hardness and co2 levels for the first time. They are the cheap paper strips, but that was all I could find. My gh is: about 10; my kh is anywhere from 4.47 to 6.70 dh which gives me (if I figured this correctly) a co2 ppm of somewhere between 12 and 20. This is higher than I thought it would be considering my 2L bottle was made on March 12, three weeks ago.

    I'm learning alot and it's fun to see the improvement in my plants. Just hoping my learning curve is sharp enough so I don't harm any of my fish. My beautiful catfish was expensive! Also hope to include pictures later.

    Oh yeah...ph was 7.0
     
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