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Trying Again With Plants In My 150g Discus Tank

Discussion in 'Journals' started by Stacie McMullen, Dec 8, 2019.

  1. Stacie McMullen

    Stacie McMullen New Member

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    I am starting this journal with three purposes:
    1. Document what I am doing so I can fix things when problems arise... and I know they will.
    2. I am hoping to receive constructive criticism and advise from you folks here at BarrReport to avoid some of the pitfalls newbs like myself run into. I have done research, but feel like there is so much to know and many things seem to be so much based on individual tank parameters that it is difficult to gauge.
    3. I am hoping to "pay it forward." I have received so much guidance from reading others' experiences that I would like to share mine in case it may be of help to another person wanting to convert their discus aquarium into a planted tank.
    History
    I have been keeping discus for about 4 years now, fish for about 20 years. I am just beginning my second attempt into a planted discus tank after a first failed attempt at aquascaping/ planting about a year ago. Unfortunately, on my first try I spent hours gluing moss to create a tree and planting a few stems and swords without heading the advice of how heavily I needed to plant or knowing enough about lighting and CO2 needs. My current tank has been running for a year, but I just enriched the soil and added plants and CO2 a week and a half ago. Hopefully, between what I have learned, what I am learning, and advise from you all I will be successful this try.

    I will post pics once I am granted privilege to post the share links. The plants at this point are only organized by foreground, midground, and background. I purchased a variety pack from a local seller (free of snails!) and don't really know what the plants will grow in to look like. Thus, I plan on moving them and getting rid of them as needed. The idea is to have low carpet in the front and around the wood for the discus, with taller growth in the back. I love bright greens, reds, oranges and purples. I know most go for a plain background, but I like to change the background by season for my kids.

    Current Tank Specs
    • 150 gallon bowfront tank- 72" long x 24" deep x 18" wide
      • Water kept at 83 degrees
      • Ph 6.7, 0 ppm Ammonia, 7 ppm Nitrate, 0 ppm Nitrite after 75 % water change yesterday. Normally, I change 30% every 3 days, but I needed to remove a bunch of wood dust and debris and the yellow water from the tannins was bothering me.
      • Currently dosing Seachem Flourish, Potassium, and Iron each water change.
      • Will add ADA root tab ferts in about a month. I didn't want to overfertilize with Eco Complete already having fertilizer in it...
    • 2 Aquaclear 150 HOB filters
    • ADA CO2 Diffuser beetle hooked up to a 20lb CO2 tank (Merry Christmas from my awesome husband!)
      • Just brought it up to "green" level on the CO2 indicator because I was trying to gradually adjust for the discus. My old Ph was 8.2 and the CO2 and inert sand have brought it down to 6.7. Change is very stressful for discus, as evidenced by the stress bars they are showing right now. The huge water change yesterday brought them out more because of the extreme difference in Ph from the tap, so I will have to be sure to just do the frequent small water changes from now on.
    • 1 24" NCrew LED in center of tank
    • 72" off-brand LED light bar in back of the tank
    • 2 Current USA Satellite light bars at front of the tank angled on the bow (I turned the blue diodes down to the lowest level on the advise of a nice man at Aquatic Warehouse in San Diego.)
    • Fluval Stratum + Ecotech Complete base of substrate (2" depth at back of tank, none in front and middle)
    • CaribSea Super Naturals inert sand layer on top for discus coloration
    • CO2 set to 3 bubbles per second (I think); indicator is bluish-green
    • Current fish:
      • 4- 5"+ discus
        • Currently quite stressed with all of the changes in water parameters
        • I know discus are usually kept in larger groups. My tank was just Thanos-snapped a month and a half ago. I woke up to find one sick and did a large water change before work. By the time I got home from work, all of my fish were on the sand except 1. I medicated with General Cure and was able to save 4. After having raised them from babies, I don't want to start over. Right now they get along, and I don't want to add any new ones who might be picked on or upset the peace.
      • 1- Golden dwarf ram
      • 1- Female betta
      • 2- Singapore shrimp
      • 3- Glass shrimp
    • New fish that will be in quarantine & dewormed for a month once they finally arrive:
      • 30 cardinal tetras (expecting to lose 5 because I have heard they have trouble with shipping)
      • 12 blue cochu tetras
      • 5 otocinclus
      • 6 Amano shrimp
      • 1 dwarf electric blue ram
      • Dwarf Triple Red Cacatuoides Cichlid Pair
    • Plants (that were supposed to come in the pack, but I think some were not there, or I already had):
      • 2 Amazon sword
      • 1 dwarf water lily
      • BACKGROUND
        1. Acmella Repens (Rare) ....................................5 Stems
        2. Hygrophila Brown..............................................7 Stems
        3. Alternanthera Reineckii Cardinalis ...................7 Stems.
        4. Hygrophila Difformis........................................ .7 Stems
        5. Ludwigia Repens...............................................7 Stems
        6. Lindernia Sp India.............................................7 Stems
        7. Rotala Colorata ................................................7 Stems
        8. Rotala Coin Leaf (Rare) ...........---....................5 Stems
        9. Clinopodium cf Brownei ....................................7 Stems
        MIDGROUND
        1. Hygrophila Corymbosa Compacta .........................5 Stems
        2. Persicaria sp, Porto Velho...... ...............................7 Stems
        3. Ludwigia Need Leaf................................................5 Stems
        4. Lindernia Rotundifolia.....................................................7 Stems
        5. Alternanthera Reineckii Variegated (Rare) ............5 Stems
        6. Rotala Najenshan, .................................................7 Stems
        7. Persicaria sp 'Kawagoeanum' ...............................7 Stems
        8. Alternanthera Reineckii Ocipus .............................7 Stems
        9. Cardamine Lyrata...................................................15 Nodes
        FOREGROUND
        1. Pogostemon Helferi Downoi...........................2 Stems 2" to 3 " long not crown
        2. Hemianthus Callitrichoides HC......................1" diameter
        3. Lobelia Cardinalis, Small Form.......................5 Stems
        4. Hydrocotyle, Dwarf Pennywort.......................10 Nodes
        5. Alternanthera Reineckii Mini ..........................7 Stems
        6. Dwarf Hairgrass .............................................1.5" diameter
        7. Staurogyne Repens, Tropica 049 ...................5 Stems 1" to 2" in length
    Plans & Questions
    • I am not seeing my plants pearling or the bright colors I have seen in YouTube videos and picture posts. I think my par at the substrate level is too low, so I purchased 2 AI Prime HD Freshwater lights (one for each side where the plants are). I'll post a pic and update on the difference the extra lighting makes!
      • While I have such low lighting I am currently running them from 6 am to about 9 pm and not having algae issues. I know I will need to lessen this to about 6-8 hours daily once the new lights arrive. Any other advice?
    • I bought a Fluval FX6 (50% off on Black Friday :D ) because I was going to attach an inline UV sterilizer and CO2 reactor. The UV sterilizer doesn't fit and is getting returned. I was advised to not do the inline CO2 because it will not be as good for the beneficial bacteria in my filter vs just running an ADA CO2 diffuser. I don't know whether to hook up the FX6 to increase filtration (always good) or if that will create too much flow for discus, as I have never used a canister filter before. Right now, I am getting a lot of sediment junk on the sand and the water is cloudier than I like, but the wood is still 1 week new.... What would you do?
    • I have no idea the gh and kh and other such levels in my water, other than I have somewhat soft water from the tap. Is that something I need to start tracking or do you all just go by how the plants and fish are looking?
    • I have heard of the wonders of ADA products but don't want to pay the extra if it is snake oil. Do the Seachem products do just as good of a job? Do I even need to use ferts (aside from the ADA root tabs) once I have the heavy bio load I will have once all of the fish are out of quarantine?
    • Would like to add Bloody Mary shrimp eventually, but they will need enough carpet plant growth to hide from the cichlids before I do. I may end up finding that the tank is busy enough, or even too busy to where I change my mind.
    • Any thoughts or advice on scaping and plant placement is welcome! I plan on updating weekly to monitor growth and changes and discover/ share the best regiment that I find.
    Happy planting!
     
    snarkingturtle and Scott Gilmour like this.
  2. Stacie McMullen

    Stacie McMullen New Member

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  3. Stacie McMullen

    Stacie McMullen New Member

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    I forgot to add the Christmas moss on the driftwood and a small colony of Frogbit to absorb excess nutrients in the water. I just cut everything back yesterday during the large water change, as there was growth from the stem plants having been in for a week. Hopefully week 2 will be brighter and bushier!
     
  4. Phishless

    Phishless Lifetime Member
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    Welcome Stacie:

    Eco-complete is pretty much an inert substrate with no CEC value added.

    Seachem makes quality products, doubt you need to add root tabs.

    Seachem can hurt your wallet, buying dry compounds is much more cost effective.
     
  5. Stacie McMullen

    Stacie McMullen New Member

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    Thank you! I haven't looked into dry ferts yet. Good tip!
     
  6. Allwissend

    Allwissend Article Editor
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    sound like your your restart is going well. The discus will adjust to higher CO2 levels, easy steps forward, give them time to adjust their metabolism.
     
  7. Stacie McMullen

    Stacie McMullen New Member

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    Thank you for the advice! My husband told me he thinks I am trying to move forward too fast, so I am slowing it down a bit. I just saw the first algae growth just on top of the wood piece where it is close to the light that my small group of shrimp aren't keeping up with, so I am dialing back the lighting even though the new lights haven't yet arrived. If I see the plants not doing as well, I'll just unplug that center bar right over the wood until my otos and amanos are out of quarantine.

    Speaking of which, I have read mixed reviews about the need to quarantine shrimp. Some folks have commented that shrimp don't carry much to make fish sick, while others have said the exact opposite. Any advice on whether the shrimp can go straight in to combat algae growth? (The internet is great for information, but also full of misinformation!)

    A new snag has developed, though. When I was taking the pictures, I noticed a bunch of scratches in the glass. At first I thought I was just being hypersensitive from holding the camera right up to the glass, but no. I just purchased a magnetic algae scraper after watching a guy's maintenance routine with his planted tank on YouTube and it scratched up ALL my glass. I did rinse it first; it did not have sand in it. So, this weekend my husband and I are taping and tarping off the substrate and pulling out the orbital polishers to try to repair it. If the scratches won't come out, it looks like I'll be rebuilding the entire thing. I'll update with pictures this weekend as to how good of a job the cerium oxide glass polish does at getting out the scratches in the glass. I'm hoping I don't kill all my plants in the process!
     
  8. Stacie McMullen

    Stacie McMullen New Member

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    So I have been reading a LOT and looking at the beautiful pictures of the Dutch-inspired aquariums that have been posted, and I think this site is both amazing and a bad influence. While I never plan on entering contests or fully following a set of rules, I would like to experiment with some of the tips and strategies with creating focal points and "streets" once I get the scratches out, find a balance, and see what grows well in my tank.

    To accomplish such beautiful growth and in response to the tip from Phishless (thank you again), I read the article about EI dosing and ordered the dry ingredients along with 4 weeks of pill containers for monthly dosing. I will be using the following quantities at the start of this experiment, based on Barr's advice (thank you for sharing your knowledge, as well!):

    120 - 165 Gallon Aquarium
    +/- 1 ¾ tsp KN03 Potassium Nitrate 3x a week
    +/- ½ + 1/16 tsp KH2P04 Monopotassium Phosphate 3x a week
    +/- 1.75 tsp GH Booster once a week(at 50% water change only, Seachem Equilibrium)
    +/- ½ tsp (30ml) + 1/16 (5ml) Trace 3x a week
    50% weekly water change

    I am concerned about increasing hardness of my water with the discus and rams, however. I ordered GH and kH test kits to see if I need this, but don't know yet what my GH needs to be for the plants to be healthy, while being lower for my discus. More research to come!
     
  9. Phishless

    Phishless Lifetime Member
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    Most plants appreciate a lower KH, I stay right around 1dKH.
    Grow everything in a GH of about 4dGH.
    What do your phish require???
     
  10. Stacie McMullen

    Stacie McMullen New Member

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    Good to know and thank you! Since I keep captive-bred discus, they are actually much more versatile than many people think. What's most important is stability, but they prefer under 10dGH. It sounds like it won't be a problem at all!
     
  11. Phishless

    Phishless Lifetime Member
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    Was wondering if you use RODI water for your tank, went back to an earlier post and found this.

    A reactor would always be better than a diffusor on this size of tank.
    Reactor on the discharge of canister filter has no effect on what's in the filter???
     
  12. Phishless

    Phishless Lifetime Member
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    So you are running a 150 gallon tank
    1-1/4 tsp. KNO3 / 7 grams (x3) equates to 22.5ppm NO3 per week.
    1/4 tsp. KH2PO4 / 1gram (x3) equates to 3.9ppm PO4 per week.
    These two seem reasonable unless phish waste is already providing some.
    Lightly planted as you are these numbers would be high until plant density fills in.

    A water change of 75 gallons with 1.75tsp of equilibrium adds the following in ppm.
    Divide all by two for the 150 gallon total.
    Ca 2.606152582
    dGH 0.55
    Fe 0.035567839
    K 6.30520786
    Mg 0.779259023
    Mn 0.01940064
    If this is RODI water you will need more, would suggest NilocG GH Booster.
    What is your tap water GH & KH if using tap?

    35ml of Seachem Trace will add the following in ppm per dose, remember x3 for week.
    B 0.001725911
    Co 0.000018492
    Cu 0.001972469
    Mn 0.005239372
    Mo 0.000184919
    Ni 0.000001849
    Rb 0.000004931
    V 0.000001233
    Zn 0.010417104
    105ml per week, 5 weeks from a large bottle.

    pH is under 7.0, have you considered using CSM+B for micronutrient dosing?
    1/4 tsp. or 870mg will delever this per dose, remember x3 for week.
    B 0.012251149
    Cu 0.001378254
    dGH 0.017911315
    Fe 0.1
    Mg 0.02143951
    Mn 0.02863706
    Mo 0.000765697
    Zn 0.005666156
    Equilibrium is rather low on Fe content and rather costly.

    All numbers from Zorfox.com planted tank calculator.
    Download calculator and it resides on your computer, easy to use too.
     
  13. Stacie McMullen

    Stacie McMullen New Member

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    Thank you so much! I will definitely download that calculator. After reading the EI dosing articles, I ordered the CSM+B with the dry goods because it seemed the best fit for the dosing I would be doing. Glad to hear it was a good choice!

    I do not use RO water, just tap with Prime and, now that I have the plants, ferts. RO water would reduce my husbandry because of the amount of complication it would add. My husband and I looked into adding an RO/ soft water system for the house with the amount of gallons I was changing while growing out the discus and decided good old-fashioned Python is doing its job after getting the report that our tap water is fairly soft. I just received the kH/ GH test kit, so I will post the tap and tank numbers when I get home from work tonight.

    I will lower the dosing on the macros then because I have A LOT of fish waste from the 3x daily bloodworm feedings. It's awesome seeing the little ram dive right in with the big discus to devour those things! Discus are huge waste producers from the high-protein food they eat.

    In regards to the reactor vs diffuser, that is what I read about my size tank and I probably should have gone with that and just exchanged the FX6. The 1" hosing on the FX6 was really causing a problem with hooking up inline items because of the severe reduction in flow to the filter from a reducer. I am thinking I will remove one of the HOB Aquaclears and add the FX6 to try to create laminar flow and better move the CO2 around the tank, after researching flow for planted aquariums last night. As it is currently set up, I have some "dead" spots where the plants are not waving and I am seeing detritus build up very quickly on the sand. I think, based on what I read, that this is being caused by the placement of the 2 filters. My tank has a large glass section on top of the middle to support the bow, however, so I cannot move the filters.

    I really appreciate you sharing your experience and guidance with my science/ art project! It's exciting, but intimidating with the amount I need to learn and having the articles to read and input from people more knowledgeable than me really helps.
     
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  14. Phishless

    Phishless Lifetime Member
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    Keep us posted on your journey, Enjoy!

    A nice pic of one of the discus for your avatar would help! :D
     
  15. rtbarr

    rtbarr New Member

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    I am an older person who has kept various fresh and marine tanks for over 50 years. I tried discus about 12 years ago, and got discouraged. Finding good hatchlings locally is not possible, and most stores do not stock them. I am interested in a planted discus tank as well. Please keep posting.
     
  16. Stacie McMullen

    Stacie McMullen New Member

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    Will do! I am updating and catching up today after being busy with multiple doctor visits for my son and celebrating my 20th anniversary. I'll post pictures of the nasty algae that I have been fighting and the progress.

    The discus that are being bred now are much easier to keep than those available 12 years ago, so long as you don't get the wild caught ones. That being said, they are still extremely susceptible to disease and require very clean water. They don't, however, require the fine tuning of pH that they used to. Mine are still upset, though, from adjusting to all of the changes in their tank and pH after adding the CO2. I am doing a lot of water changes to try to prevent illness.
     
  17. Stacie McMullen

    Stacie McMullen New Member

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    I worked on the tank for 4 hours yesterday. Cleaning up all of that brown goo (I think it is called red algae) was like trying to remove spiderwebs from the thin, fragile stems. I had to vacuum so much around the base of the plants that the sand needed to be refreshed. While I had wanted to wait so the discus could finish getting settled, I added in 12 otocinclus to help with the algae. It seems like after I did the big cleaning yesterday, they were better able to keep up last night. Time will tell with the new lighting.

    I have the new lights set to come on very low in the morning for about 2 hours when I am drinking my coffee and enjoying the fish. They turn off, rank up for an hour starting at 1:00, and come on full between 2:00 and 7:00. I have them programmed to a lunar cycle for evenings, which means they will come on the strength depending on the phase of the moon that night. The AI lights are beautiful but I have had 2 problems with them so far: setting them up was a real pain and the color tone of the two lights should be the same (I have a parent/ child setup) but is very noticeably different. The first 2 I ordered included one that didn't work, so only the left side has had the working light until yesterday. I'll watch today and see if maybe it was just the first evening and improves. (You might be able to tell in the pictures since I took them last night.)

    My husband made an interesting observation: the plants on the side with the working AI light (left side of the photos) had a LOT more growth than the plants with the old LED strip lights on the right.

    Tank parameters are fantastic, but I am starting up the FX6 to help with some of the detritus and additional fish load and improve flow. After the FX6 builds up a supply of good bacteria, I will remove the HOB Aquaclear that is causing a problem with the laminar flow.

    I noticed after reading the articles on planting tips that I have too similar leaf types together (now that the plants are growing more and I can see which is which). I also don't like the unnatural symmetry of the two swords, but don't know what to do about it because their roots spread so wide. Aside from the swords, I only have stem plants growing, so I will likely add in some crypts or buce. Again, now that I can see more what the plants look like, I also noticed that I have a lack of dark green plants, as well. I decided to only get rid of one species yesterday and let the rest grow out a bit more and see the adult form better. I moved 2 other stands, cut back the foreground plants, and topped off a bunch to replant. I remember one article saying to be pretty rough from the get-go so that your plants don't get spindly-looking.

    Th dry ferts came in, so I will begin using them today. I tested my phosphates and had 0 ppm! I was surprised because I have been dosing with the liquid Seachem ferts per directions, have big messy fish, feed frozen bloodworms 3x daily, and don't use any chemical filtration. I'm at a loss for explanation, but am hoping the EI dosing will help my plants have the nutrients they need.

    I added in some cardinals that I got in a fresh shipment with the otos from Petco. I am currently having to file a credit dispute with the first company I ordered from, though. I paid $50 for Express Air shipping from AZgardens.com and they shipped standard priority mail. 27 of the 30 cardinal tetras, 4 of 5 amano shrimp, 1 of 1 electric blue rams, and 1 of 5 otos died and were dissolving in the bag and they still haven't issued a credit/ refund. The remaining 3 cardinals died 36 hours later from being in that bag. I also ordered triple red apistogramma pair, and it appears they sent me a golden pair of juveniles about 2 months old. They won't answer phone calls or return texts or emails. Just letting you guys know so you don't make the same mistake of ordering from them like I did. Needless to say, I won't be ordering my future plants and fish from them. I'll let you all know if they end up making it right, though.
     
  18. Stacie McMullen

    Stacie McMullen New Member

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    I realized I forgot to post pics when I cam on to write about the addition of the FX6. What an improvement now that there is not conflicting flow! I can see the circular movement around the tank, the water is clearer, and there is less waste on the sand already. The FX6 is also MUCH quieter because it does not have the water cascade. The pics really show how bad the algae scrubber scratched up my glass. My husband and I will tackle that after Christmas. Fish 20191220_193118.jpg Fish 20191220_193145.jpg Fish 20191220_193240.jpg Fish 20191220_193359.jpg
     
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