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What is the problem with this planted tank?

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by Martien, Feb 14, 2013.

  1. Martien

    Martien Junior Poster

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    Dear all,

    I've kept this planted tank for about 5 weeks now, and it is not doing well. But before going into the specifics, first all details:

    Dimensions: 100x45x40 cm (app. 150 l netto)
    Lighting: 3x30W Dennerle TL (amazon daylight, color-plus and plant)
    Heating: 20 W heating cable under the substrate, which keeps the temperature between 23.5 degrees Celsius at night and 25 degrees Celcius in the evening.
    Filtration: external Eheim filter, 200l/hour
    CO2: 2 bubbles/second, pumped into the filter, off at night
    Substrate: 30 kgs of Dennerle deponit mix, topped with 2 cms of white neutral gravel
    Water: a mixture of tapwater plus RO water, which yields KH6, GH7, pH6,8, EC around 300 us/cm
    Fertilizing: from two weeks after the set-up untill today, every day 3 ml of Profito, 2 ml of KH2PO4(aq) 7.0g/200ml to raise PO4 0.3 ppm and 6 ml of KNO3(aq) 25g/200ml tot raise NO3 3.3 ppm
    Waterchange: 50% every two weeks
    Fish: 20 Paracheirodon axelrodi, 7 Hemmigrammus bleheri, 2 Pterophyllum scalara, 7 Carnegiella strigata. Fed every day with mosquito larvae.
    NOTE: after installing this tank, I used the old, unrinsed filtre from the pervious set-up. Also I added a dosis of substrate bacteria that came with the deponit mix to get the substate going.

    So what is the problem? Whereas some plants are doing very well (Heteranthera zosterifolia, Hygrophila polysperma, Eusteralis stellata and Riccia fluitans), others are stagnant and barely show growth if any at all (Hemianthus callitrichoides, Rotala sp. 'green', Cryptocoryne wendtii, Limnophila aquatica and Vesicularia dubyana). I believe they may even die off in the next few weeks if the situation stays like this. Moreover, these are now steadily being covered by a growing carpet of darkgreen cyanobacteria, that have started to show up about 10 days ago. There is also some fine green hairalgae now, even on the glass and on the fast growing plants. It is getting worse. I cleaned the glass yetserday and it is already green again. The water isn't very clear either. I suspect Volvox or something like that. But to be sure I should put a concentrate under my microscope.

    Nevertheless I removed a few handful of plants yesterday because trimming of the better growing plants was necesseray. They were all on the surface. In the low-quality picture below you'll see the tank after trimming. If I watch it it I don't feel good. Honestly...I've had really good tanks in the past.

    So...what I would love to know now is how to make it all grow well again. I just cannot figure it out. I'd love to see the dwindling plants flourish again and consequently see the algae disappear. There are a few things that I suspect that could be the problem. But I am not sure. One: there is a nutrient overload from the fat layer of substrate. It is a really fat layer (15 cm at the back, but only 2-5 at the front). So should I emove it? Or should I quit dosing NPK? Or should I turn off the heating cable and go for a watercolomn heater instead? Also the fish get quite a bit of food. But I am afraid turning of the cable will negatively effect the substrate. Dennerle suggests to use deponit mix together with such a heating cable to keep water flowing through it, at a really slow pace.
    Two: should I give more CO2? I must say in the past, so with the old set-up, I gave 1 bubble/second and things grew very well. No algae either. I didn't have a heater cable back then, I should say.
    Three: did I start the EI dosing to soon? I started two weeks after the setup.
    Four: I put in the fish two weeks after the initial set-up. Was that too soon?

    I hope one of you can help me out. It would be much appreciated.

    Best regards from the Netherlands,

    Martien
     
  2. Yo-han

    Yo-han Guru Class Expert

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    Most notable is the filter 200l/h, if that is rated, than after inserting media you have abou 100-150l/h and after 3 weeks dirt collecting less than 100l/h. This is way too low, the water in the corners will probably be stagnant. All the nutrients (including CO2) need to be brought to the plants by this flow, if flow is too low, around the leaves the nutrients may be come very low, although overall there is enough in the water column. Cyano is usually either low oxygen (likely with low flow and bad plant growth) or high PO4 (maybe you should do a water change once a week instead of 2 weeks). CO2 might be high enough if the flow is better, but it might turn out to be too low if it is better available to your plants and they use it faster. Try to use a bigger filter or add flow pumps. Aim for the spots with cyano to see whether this changes something...

    On a side note: not really related to plant growth, injecting CO2 into the filter might kill your bacteria resulting in trouble with your fish later on.
     
  3. Martien

    Martien Junior Poster

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    Thank you Yo-han for your kind response.
    I'll make sure to get more water flowing throughout the tank.
    Do you think the heating cable could me a problem also?
    Should I quit dosing NPK now there is an algae bloom?

    Best regards, Martien
     
  4. Biollante

    Biollante Lifetime Charter Member
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    Algae Just Workin' and Tryin' To Make A Living

    Hi Martien,

    I am with Yo-han on the insufficient filter and water flow thing.:) (Not so sure about high P as a problem.)

    That is a very heavy load for a new tank, especially with an underpowered filter.

    The algae are just trying to help.:eek:

    My advice is do a major (as in 60-70%), skip a day, do another major water change, skip two days and do another major water change. Figure at least one water change per week for the next couple of months.:)

    During the water changes, clean the glass, hard scape as best you can. Suck up or pull out as much algae as you can, this is basic gardening (the quality calls it “horticulture”). Put a good dash of your KH[SUB]2[/SUB]PO[SUB]4[/SUB] solution on a paper towel or clean cloth and wipe down all the glass and hard surfaces, rinsing and adding KH[SUB]2[/SUB]PO[SUB]4[/SUB] solution as required.

    Clean your filter but do not over clean it, get the gunk out to keep the flow going. You will probably need to clean the filter at least once a week for a while.

    If you can, get an additional filter.

    If you have 3% hydrogen peroxide, 10-ml twice a day (morning and evening).

    Generally, I would keep dosing fertilizers.

    I do not think the heating cables make any difference as long as the plants and critters are warm.
    :cool:
    Biollante
     
  5. Martien

    Martien Junior Poster

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    Dear Biollante,

    That is some wonderful advice. Thank you for taking the time to respond.

    Today I went to the shop and bought an extra pump. Water is now flowing very well throughout the whole tank. All plants are swaying gently. Together with the old filter the rate is around 800 l/h now. The tank is 150 l.

    One question concerning your response though...I wonder what I need the waterchanges for at this point? If there is enough macro and micro nutrients in the water, why then remove 70% of the water, and do it again the next day and two days later? Do algae excrete any harmful substances or so? Or is it just to remove algae and other debris by sucking it up?

    If plants lack a nutrient (that is any nutrient at all that stops them from growing, according to Liebig's law) and algae starts growing, then what is it that actually triggers these algae? Do plants start secreting anything in particular when they are hindered in their growth by a limiting nutrient? Is it that they leak sugars or so, as I have obsurely read somewhere once? Or is it the other way around, and do plants produce substances that are harmful to algae when they are at optimal growth?

    Best regards, Martien
     
  6. Biollante

    Biollante Lifetime Charter Member
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    You are Welcome!

    Hi Martien,

    You are most certainly welcome!
    :gw

    The additional filter is a great idea; remember it is still going to be several weeks before it is operating efficiently. It is, in my ever-humble-potted-plant-opinion 6 months to a year before most systems are actually stable.

    • If you are not already, activated charcoal (cheap stuff is fine), Purigen, or ChemiPure is a good idea, for the same reason the water changes are a good idea, not forever, just until things get back on track. :)

    Oddly enough, the “nutrients” (fertilizers) we add are principally salts and have little, directly to do with algae.
    :eek::rolleyes:
    • The main reason to continue the fertilizer dosing is to avoid a bounce,
      • in the short term it makes little difference, especially with the large water changes whether you dose or not.
    • Essentially fertilizers are cheap and it makes sense (to me anyway) to continue the regimen and
      • not play catch-up later.

    Again, I know what I am going to say is counter to what the “Google Gurus” will tell you…

    Algae are neither good nor bad;
    :eek: in fact, they are trying to bring balance and equilibrium to the system, :)the algae are indicators of system health and balance. ;)
    • A trick I use when I wish to set up a high bio-load system without waiting is in addition to seeding or using already mature filters is
      • adding nice fluffy green algae to the tank.
    • This provides a buffer and discourages less desirable algae.

    Some algae, certainly a number of cyanobacteria release nasty toxins, some neurotoxins, but that is not the reason for the large water changes.
    :)

    The large water changes reduce the dissolved organic carbon load.
    :gw

    I think Marcel; one of the brightest folks I know and I hope still a friend of mine has been on the trail of sugars.

    I have not been much of a friend to Marcel as he had asked my opinion on the matter. I will find his post and add my comments. Short answer is I think the sugars are result not the cause.

    The addition of sugar, I used glucose or fructose (corn syrup is a cheap way), (table sugar will work) are appreciated mainly by the microscopic critters and are an easy way to feed fry, especially egg-layers if you want to try to give the fry a chance in a community tank. (Simple sugars and mollases can improve filter health as well.
    :eek:)

    When in doubt, large water changes!
    :cool:

    Biollante
     
  7. Martien

    Martien Junior Poster

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    Hello Biollante,

    In two weeks or so I will let you know how the tank is doing!
    I'll look up Marcel's post. I am curious abourt the sugars.

    Best regards from Europe,

    Martien
     
  8. Martien

    Martien Junior Poster

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    Two weeks later

    Then here's the update on the tank.

    So two weeks ago I put in an extra pump, resulting in a 900l/h flow altogether with the old filter. Additionally, I put in 800cl of charcoal to get the organic material out of the watercolom. I have since done 4 water changes of about 70% each.
    Kept EI dosing as before, but doublechecked the math using different sites to rule out any mistakes concerning the concentrations, but I was nevertheless spot-on. Mind you, I was good at chemistry at school!

    Results: the same as before. Still bad growth, still cyanobacteria, still some green hair algae. The foreground carpet of Hemianthus callitrichoides looks like a zombi now, the whole batch could have screenplayed in The Walking Dead. I used to look at this tank with the eager eyes of Hannibal Lecter (no blinking), now I prefer to keep them shut.

    I figure it must be CO2. A day ago I installed a new diffuser, which produces an extremely fine mist of bubbles right into the hose coming out of the filter (I took out the old Dennerle system where the diffuser was right on the hose going INTO the fiter). That mist now races through the tank thanks to the current and is litteraly all over the place. I read an old post by Tom Barr that had good arguments in favour of this mist versus a situation where all CO2 was in solution.
    If this doesn't do the trich, this tank will soon feature in a 18+ horror movie.

    Any other ideas? Anyone?
     
  9. Martien

    Martien Junior Poster

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    Back on track!

    Since a week the tank has been doing very well. Growth is back, plants pearling. Algae gone. Great.

    So what did it? After doing all of the above (the waterchanges, the recalculation of the EI dosing, installing an extra filter) the adaptation that did the trick was the diffuser. I changed the diffuser. CO2 at 1 bubble per second was still okay (I must have been- I remember it worked very well with the old set-up), but the distribution must have been poor. I took the old diffuser apart (the one on the filter inlet) and I tell you, the ceramic looked terribly worn-out. Next to that it looked like it was clogged with a sort of slimy goop. The bubbles coming through must have been too big, uneven or not coming through well at all. So CO2 was okay, but distribution was poor.
    It was a hard lesson learned for just a simple thing. It took me a lot of time to figure this one out.
    Well, the Dennerle microperlerthing was already 15 years old and I never really bothered to look at it. It was all internal and hidden from view anyway. I changed it for one from a different brand, but this time also on the filter outlet.
    I am very happy with this.

    The water is become a little green though, but I assume it is temporary from the tank reajusting itself and the haze will be gone by next week or the week thereafter.

    Best regards, Martien
     
  10. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I was going to chime in without having read anything further than seeing the picture and tell you this is a nice tank except CO2 is not being used correctly.

    Often the solutions to CO2 issues are simple and hard lessons to learn.

    Make sure you make this clear to other people and those you help, including yourself ...in the future.
    CO2 is 90-99% of the issues most have with poor growth and algae.

    Water changes might be able to get rid of a mild green water, but you might need a UV sterilizer.
     
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