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Old 11-14-2019, 05:39 PM   #1
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Having trouble keeping my plants looking good.

Good afternoon, lovely people. I'm having some trouble keeping my plants looking healthy and I'd like some help.

First, the tank:
20 gallon long, freshwater community (dwarf gourami, 3x harlequin rasboras, cory cat, otocinclus, guppy, and a platy). 30 gallon Top Fin power filter (replaced monthly with my big water change), 30 gallon air pump running to a bubbly clam and an air stone. I do 10% weekly and 20% monthly water changes. I use seachem prime for water changes, and seachem flourish root tabs + seachem flourish liquid fertilizer (2 doses per week). I don't remember every plant in the tank, but there's a sword, bacopa, cardinal plant, java fern, and some other guys. I'm not seeing great growth and I'm picking leaves out of the filter intake almost every day. They're all looking a little ragged. I have LED lights and a a T8 fluorescent designed for plant growth. They're on a 9hr timer. I see a little algae growth, but it's pretty sparse and I'm not concerned, as it's food for my oto.

My water chemistry is great, with two very notable exceptions. My hardness and alkalinity are through the roof, maxing out my test strips at GH 300 ppm and KH 200-300 ppm respectively. It's unfeasible for me to get a water softener for my water supply, so I wanted to know if there was a liquid water softener that's safe for use in aquariums. As for the alkalinity I'm a little stuck. I have no experience with RO filters, so am I basically just going to need to add purified water to the tank with every water change?

Any help is appreciated, guys
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Old 11-14-2019, 10:02 PM   #2
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You maybe dosing to much ferts and to much light for just low light plants. You're doing way more than I do for my low light plants and I have a taller tank. Hopefully ZXC chimes in here. He's the plant guru.

With the Exception of your gourami you have schooling fish but not enough of each to school. And your water change should be 50% weekly. This eliminates the possibility of waste and nutrient build up in the tank water. It also replenishes the minerals in your tank water for your fish and plant health by adding more from your tap weekly.

Why is your water level so low in your tank?
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Old 11-14-2019, 10:53 PM   #3
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You maybe dosing to much ferts and to much light for just low light plants. You're doing way more than I do for my low light plants and I have a taller tank. Hopefully ZXC chimes in here. He's the plant guru.

With the Exception of your gourami you have schooling fish but not enough of each to school. And your water change should be 50% weekly. This eliminates the possibility of waste and nutrient build up in the tank water. It also replenishes the minerals in your tank water for your fish and plant health by adding more from your tap weekly.

Why is your water level so low in your tank?
Hmm, so cut back to dosing 1x a week with the flourish? If I was dosing too much, wouldn't I see an algae bloom?

The three rasboras school with each other just fine, but I'm planning on picking up a few more once I get my water issue figured out. I was unaware that guppies and platys are schooling fish, but I know that the otos and corys are social. I just don't have the tank space to have schools of all of them.

What waste and nutrients am I messing up with my current water changes? I do a gravel vac weekly to get crud out of the gravel, and my water is always crystal clear. I haven't noticed any issues with the water chemistry that could be caused by insufficient changes (eg nitrates).

The water level is low because I took the pic mid-water change. Not to worry, another 2 gallons were added to the tank shortly after taking the pic.
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Old 11-15-2019, 03:32 AM   #4
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Does the clam just open up every now and then to let out some bubbles?
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Old 11-15-2019, 02:35 PM   #5
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Not sure from the pictures but do you plant the Java Fern and Anubias buried in the substrate or tie it on something. Those plants are good to tie on small piece of lava rocks/driftwood.

The bacopa looks like in emerged form, did you just plant recently. It normally takes them a while to get established underwater if in emerged form.

Your dosing and lighting is good for those plants. Also look for Seachem Excel as an addition for CO2.
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Old 11-15-2019, 03:15 PM   #6
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Lighting is fine for low light plants, like the ones you've selected, all good there.

Water changes should be a little larger, do you know your NO3 reading? How are you topping off the tank? If you are using tapwater for top-offs that will be the cause of your hardness.

Flourish alone is an incomplete fertilizer, root tabs don't offer much (they are 70% inert ingredients). I would also dose some Excel at the "after water change" rate daily. It gives a rate on the bottle for dosing after a big water change, dose that amount daily regardless of a water change being performed or not.

Check out PPS-Pro dosing, Thrive liquid fertilizer too. That would be a more complete dosing regime.

Gravel vacuuming is good. Looks to me like a low light tank with not enough available nutrients for the plants. Expect slow growth, but slow healthy growth will still look good, and not cause leaf shedding / die back.
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Old 11-15-2019, 05:12 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by sterfri99 View Post
Hmm, so cut back to dosing 1x a week with the flourish? If I was dosing too much, wouldn't I see an algae bloom?

The three rasboras school with each other just fine, but I'm planning on picking up a few more once I get my water issue figured out. I was unaware that guppies and platys are schooling fish, but I know that the otos and corys are social. I just don't have the tank space to have schools of all of them.

What waste and nutrients am I messing up with my current water changes? I do a gravel vac weekly to get crud out of the gravel, and my water is always crystal clear. I haven't noticed any issues with the water chemistry that could be caused by insufficient changes (eg nitrates).

The water level is low because I took the pic mid-water change. Not to worry, another 2 gallons were added to the tank shortly after taking the pic.
Not absolutely necessary to school guppies or platys but the Cory cats, rasboras and otos you should.

My recommended stocking for your tank size..........

(10) Harlequin Rasboras
(5) Cory cats
(5) Otos
(1) Guppy
(1) Platy
(1) Gourami

50% weekly water change.
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Old 11-16-2019, 01:23 AM   #8
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Does the clam just open up every now and then to let out some bubbles?
That is correct. It's not the most efficient O2 delivery system, but I've always wanted a bubbly clam and having a fish tank allowed me that opportunity.
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Old 11-16-2019, 01:26 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by junglefowl View Post
Not sure from the pictures but do you plant the Java Fern and Anubias buried in the substrate or tie it on something. Those plants are good to tie on small piece of lava rocks/driftwood.

The bacopa looks like in emerged form, did you just plant recently. It normally takes them a while to get established underwater if in emerged form.

Your dosing and lighting is good for those plants. Also look for Seachem Excel as an addition for CO2.
Roots are in the substrate relatively close to flourish tabs. I'll take the suggestion and find something to tie them to.

The bacopa is about a week or two old, and seems to be doing okay. Had decent success with it in the past, and so far it's the only plant that's remained green and looks healthy.

That's where I think I'm gonna go. I have enough light and fertilizer to warrant some CO2 supplementation.

Thanks, mate
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Old 11-16-2019, 01:34 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by ZxC View Post
Lighting is fine for low light plants, like the ones you've selected, all good there.

Water changes should be a little larger, do you know your NO3 reading? How are you topping off the tank? If you are using tapwater for top-offs that will be the cause of your hardness.

Flourish alone is an incomplete fertilizer, root tabs don't offer much (they are 70% inert ingredients). I would also dose some Excel at the "after water change" rate daily. It gives a rate on the bottle for dosing after a big water change, dose that amount daily regardless of a water change being performed or not.

Check out PPS-Pro dosing, Thrive liquid fertilizer too. That would be a more complete dosing regime.

Gravel vacuuming is good. Looks to me like a low light tank with not enough available nutrients for the plants. Expect slow growth, but slow healthy growth will still look good, and not cause leaf shedding / die back.

NO3 readings are between 0 and 20 ppm (no nitrites or ammonia). I use tapwater that I condition with seachem prime for my water changes. I just have really hard water in my area, hence why I'm looking for solutions to that. Just start buying jugs of filtered/purified water?

I'll pick up a bottle of excel then, give that a shot. I thought flourish and flourish excel were a "one or the other" type of deal tbh. Dosing that often won't be bad? I don't want to deal with an algae bloom.

I'll look into Thrive. Will that replace flourish+flourish excel combo?

I'm seeing some active plant death at the moment, not just slow growth.

Thanks for all the input, I appreciate it!
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Old 11-16-2019, 01:41 AM   #11
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Not absolutely necessary to school guppies or platys but the Cory cats, rasboras and otos you should.

My recommended stocking for your tank size..........

(10) Harlequin Rasboras
(5) Cory cats
(5) Otos
(1) Guppy
(1) Platy
(1) Gourami

50% weekly water change.
The rule of thumb I always gave people when I worked at petsmart was approximately 1 inch of fish per tank.

10x rasbora @ 2 inches= 20
5x corys @ 2-3 inches= 10-15
5x otos @ 1.5 inches = 7.5
guppy= 2
platy= 2
dwarf gourami= 3
(rough estimates based on maximum size, not current size)

I'd be looking at around 40-45 inches of fish in a 20 gallon tank. I do have the 30 gallon PF and the 30 gallon air pump, so that buys me some breathing room, especially with the plants. I'm just afraid of overstocking in this small-ish tank, since the water quality can tank (pun intended) quickly. I'm also trying to minimize maintenance since the tank is set up in a rather inconvenient area and water changes involve going up and down the stairs with a bucket. Might go with 5 rasboras and 3 of each of the other schoolers.

Thanks dude
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Old 11-16-2019, 12:39 PM   #12
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Outdated rule of thumb. If that were the case you'd be able to put a 14 inch Oscar in a 15 gallon tank. Lol

Size of the fish and bioload are more important. I think you'd be fine. It would require you to change out more tank water a week than usual but it's very doable.

I like to have 10x tank turnover per hour with my filtration.

Either way I hope you get your tank where you want it.
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Old 11-16-2019, 02:08 PM   #13
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Corydoras & Otos should always be kept min of 4, 6 is better. Corydoras prefer to be with *their own kind* (all the same variety) but will *sort of* school with different varieties if given no choice
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Old 11-16-2019, 02:23 PM   #14
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Outdated rule of thumb. If that were the case you'd be able to put a 14 inch Oscar in a 15 gallon tank. Lol

Size of the fish and bioload are more important. I think you'd be fine. It would require you to change out more tank water a week than usual but it's very doable.

I like to have 10x tank turnover per hour with my filtration.

Either way I hope you get your tank where you want it.
True. The "rule" was meant to prevent stupid people who've never had fish before from overstocking. I'm comfortable increasing the number of fish, just don't want to overdo it. Tank was empty for a while and I just got it back up and running not too long ago, so I don't want to go too fast too quickly.

Thanks, I'll definitely get them some buddies next weekend maybe, depending on what's in stock at LFS
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