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Please Help Starting Eclipse System Six Tank (EI, Excel, Low Light) (Long-- sorry!)

Discussion in 'Are you new to aquatic plants? Start here' started by shelleyevans, Apr 7, 2008.

  1. shelleyevans

    shelleyevans Junior Poster

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    :eek: Hello to All,

    And many thanks in advance. I have read many books (including Greg Watson's guide to dosing) and been all over the internet looking for advice, and this forum is the most grounded, fact-based one I have found for planted tanks. I'm embarrassed to say that I still feel over my head, and would love some advice. I hope this doesn't seem too wordy, or too thick-headed.

    Following Tom's guidelines, I will begin with my goals-- in between low-tech/low-maintenance and C02. I would like to change water 50% once a week. I am happy to dose fertilizers and liquid carbon once a week. I would prefer not to do much testing, apart from standard tests for Nitrites, Nitrates and PH. Low light and slow growing is fine with me, but for the health of my fish and my own peace of mind I do want the water changes.

    Tank: an empty two year old Eclipse System Six, with a substrate of First Layer Laterite and gravel, about 2-3 inches thick. This was not layered, but mixed, as I had already set up the tank and was buying plants when LFS recommended Laterite. At the advice of the LFS (a very good store) I changed the aging Eclipse T5 Bulb to an AquaGlo, which still has only 8 watts but apparently greater lumens (which I later read doesn't make any difference...?). That gives me about 1.5 w/gallon, which from my reading, is slightly less than low light for small tank.

    Water: According to the water department our local water has 25 mg/L of Calcium, 140 mg/L Chloride, less than .01 mg/L copper, 1 mg/L Fluoroide, less than .05 mg/L Iron, 5 mg/L Magnesium, .46 mg/L Nitrate, 79 mg/L sodium, 27 mg/L Sulfate, 1.95 mg/L Chlorine. The hardness is 84, and PH is 9.1 on the website, but I have never tested higher than 7.0 using my home testing kit (which leaves me wondering how different the other numbers would be...). I use Seachem Prime when doing water changes.

    Plants: 1 Anubius Batari, 1 Amazon Sword, 1 bunch Dwarf Ambulia, 1 bunch Anacharis, 1 bunch Bacopa (I think Caroliniana), and one small pot Brazillian Microsword, all recommended by the LFS as good for low light tanks, except the microsword which he said was "worth a try." All plants were growing submerged when I bought them.

    Fish: 4 Orange Von Rio Tetras and one African Dwarf Frog.

    Plants were added last week with Laterite. After a week (I wasn't cycling, just trying to give the plants some time to settle) I added the fish, along with Biospira. For now I am doing daily readings of PH, Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates. If the Biospira doesn't work, I will do daily water changes (40%) and if it does, I expect to start a regular weekly 50% water change starting on Sunday (a week from when I added the fish). I will not feed the fish until tomorrow, as recommended. Current readings are: Ammonia 0, Nitrites 0, Nitrates 20, PH 6.5, temp 80 degrees F.

    Because I want regular water changes I assume that I will be doing the EI with Excel method, which is fine with me. But for some reason I can't figure out from doing searches on the forum exactly what amounts I should be using. I have purchasd Flourish Excel and Flourish Comprehensive supplement (micro and only traces of Nitrogen). The only macro fertilizer I could find was Kent Pro Plant which has Nitrogen but no Phosphates (they claim that as a plus but I know from reading you disagree) and no Potassium.

    What dosing would you recommend for Excel? Would Excel plus micro-nutrients be enough, given my fish load and local water profile, or should I add Macro nutrients as well? If so, what dosing would you recommend?

    Lastly, and less urgently, I have been told to add algea eating shrimp when the tank establishes itself (Amano), but the shrimp websites I have visited seem to feel that shrimp and fish (even peaceful fish) should not cohabitate. Any thoughts?


    Thanks so much in advance for your help. You can probably tell I have been living alone with this information for too long. :rolleyes:

    PS Here's my tank, still looking pretty red from laterite, IMO.

    2008Apr070041.gif
     
  2. fjf888

    fjf888 Guru Class Expert

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    I have a six gallon eclipse running as a walstad style with soil lower light setup. I think you are going to find that the 8-9 watts of light to be inadequate for your setup. I wound up using 27W over my tank with a desk lamp and have gotten much better results. The watts per gallon rule breaks down on smaller tanks like yours and much more then 1.5 watts per gallon are needed even for a low light tank.
     
  3. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    I got my fertilizers from Welcome To The Home Of The Best Aquarium Regulator at a very cheap price. My instinct is that once the tank is established you will be able to avoid much fertilization; but at the beginning I think it's a good idea since you really have nothing built up in the tank to feed the plants. Plus I agree that you won't be able to grow much with that lighting. The anubias will probably live. Java ferns would be a good addition as they do well under low light. Other than that, you are pretty limited. Other plants may survive, but will tend to grow spindly with few leaves and always towards the light. I'm not sure how the ballast is installed in that light, if you can remove it and replace it, it could be worth overdriving your lights to get a 50% boost in effective lighting if you don't feel like buying new lighting.
     
  4. shelleyevans

    shelleyevans Junior Poster

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    Thanks to both for the replies.

    fjf888: by desk lamp, do you mean a regular desk lamp, like people use to study? How did you get the light into the aquarium, which has a hood?

    Carissa: I am intruigued by the idea of overdriving my bulb by 50%, but not being sure what a ballast is, don't really know where to start. Is there a more detailed description out there on the net somewhere?

    At the moment I am much more of a mom than a fish hobbyist, so I may just just go ahead using the 8W with Excel and some Seachem fertilizers (macro and micro) and see what lives and how spindly it gets. Here's what I'm currently dosing:

    Flourish Excel, 5 ml with 50% water changes, and 1/2 - 1 ml a day
    Flourish Comprehensive, 1 ml/week with water changes
    Kent Plant Pro (Nitrogen), 1 ml/week with water changes

    That leaves me no Potassium and no Phosphates. Given my too low light setup, is that okay? Or should I buy some Flourish Macros to add them in too?

    Thanks in advance. Now I'm off to try and find the ADF that has vanished under my driftwood. Hope I haven't bit off more than I can chew! :confused:
     
  5. Carissa

    Carissa Guru Class Expert

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    Ideally you should have all macros. You might get by without them with low light, but then again you might not.

    Here is a link showing how I did overdriving on my lights:

    Overdriving my light fixture

    Basically you have to remove the old ballast and buy a new electronic ballast meant for 2 or 4x the quantity of lights you have now (but same size, so for instance I had two - 18" bulbs so I bought a ballast meant for driving 4 - 18" bulbs). When you wire it in, you put two or four wires meant for two or four different lights to just the one bulb. This increases the light that the bulb itself will put out, since the current is increased. It's not hard, but I would recommend it only for people who have done minor electrical work before and are confident when it comes to simple rewiring and reading a wiring diagram.

    There are other sites that show wiring diagrams etc. and explain exactly what the increase will be in lighting depending on the ballast and type of bulb you have. If you search for ODNO (over driven normal output) you will find lots of information.

    Alternatively, if you can get your hands on a gooseneck lamp that you could use over your tank by removing the hood, you can get a screw-in 23W compact fluorescent. I'm not sure what your hood setup is or how hard it would be for you to do that, but in tanks with no hoods I've done this. The downside of being with no hood is that evaporation can happen much faster. This was annoying to me, but in a tank where you are doing 50% weekly water changes, it may not prove to be much of a problem. I got around the issue of fish jumping out by putting a strip of 2" clear packing tape all around the edges perpendicular to the tank glass. Therefore if a fish jumps within 2" of the glass it won't be able to jump out but will hit the packing tape and fall back into the tank. I never lost a fish by jumping after I did this. However it's not really the prettiest setup, but it does the job in a pinch.
     
  6. shelleyevans

    shelleyevans Junior Poster

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    Holy Moly!! :eek: You sure do have experience with this! I have bookmarked your website, so that if and when I decide to overclock my light I know how to do it. And I have ordered the macro fertilizers from Seachem.

    Came downstairs this morning to find our female Tetra had died. The only thing I can attribute it to is shock, since the water parameters are still fine (0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, 0 nitrates). And I still can't find the dwarf frog. When it comes time to change the water this Sunday I'm going to lift the driftwood just to make sure he's still alive.

    Thank you so much for your interest and feedback.

    BTW just out of curiosity, as long as one is replacing the ballast, why not just use two lights instead of one?
     
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