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Old 08-30-2016, 08:14 PM   #1
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Exclamation Need Help Figuring Out What Went Wrong...

Hi all. I'm a seasoned fish-only aquarist whom recently began to embark aquascaping. I spent quite a number of weeks researching which course was best to set up my newly heavily planted aquascape. I made adjustments accordingly, based on my budget. Unfortunately, after 2 months of hard work, all of my plants died in lieu of a rancid algal outbreak.

Aquarium Setup____________________________________________

No Fish

Tank: 29gal (30 x 12.5 x 18.5)

Light: 1 Finnex Planted + 24/7, using the 24 hour feature

RO/DI Water with .5 teaspoon of Seachem Alkaline Buffer. GH (1-2) KH (1-2) Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates (0 at end of day) Phosphates (0.5) pH (Flux 6-7)

CO2 Injection with Atomizer (2 bubbles/sec), Daily dose 5ml of Excel

Bubble Diffuser: To prevent surface bio film from forming

Filtration: Sun Sun 504B filled with 3 trays of Greatwave Engineering Biohome Mini and 2 Filter Bacteria Starter Balls in three trays. The base tray contained course, medium, and fine filter sponges.

Substrate Base to Top (3 inches total)
a) Osmocote Plus in 00 sized capsules. Each spaced 2 inches from aquarium glass and 4 inches apart from each other.
b) (2 in) Miracle Gro Organic Soil mixed with Eco Complete and pea-sized baked red clay spheres.
c) (1 in) Seachem Flourite Black Sand

Plants: Monte Carlo, Lobelia cardinalis, Rotala macranda, Ludwiga peruensis, Crinum calamistratum, Christmas moss

Column Macros (Made My Own): K (20 ppm from KCl), P (2 ppm from Monobasic Potassium Phosphate) N (2 ppm introduced to tank via ammonia while Cycling)

Column Micros (Made My Own): Plantex CSM + B and Chelated Iron

Decorations: Very Large Lava Rock

What Happened__________________________________________ __

I decided to conduct a fishless cycle with the new aquascape setup, because the addition of ammonia would supply the plants with Nitrogen. The substrate was fertilized with osmocote plus, and I also column dosed (1x a week) non-nitrogen macros and micros for the stem plants. I also dosed 5mL of excel daily, in addition to CO2 injection, which was delivered at 2 bubbles per second. Injection would start at 9 am and end at 4:30 pm (to correspond with the Finnex Planted + 24/7 twenty four hour setting).

The first two weeks, all plants thrived. My stem plants grew in a weed-like manner, the moss multiplied, and my carpet Monte Carlo began to spread, although none of the plants pearled via gas exchange. Just like clockwork, at the two week mark, algae (green dust, green spot, hair thread and blue green) and diatoms began to grow and overtake the tank. Upon initial setup, I did 50% water changes every 4 days, but then increased to 30% changes every 2 days, when algae began to grow.

At the 6th week mark, I conducted a black out period of four days. The blackout seemed to hinder algal growth, but the plants seemed to have suffered irreparably. They were just not melting, they were just "mush". A day later, the substrate was so densely covered in algae (2mm thickness), it was no longer visible. At this point, I took down the entire setup.

My Guess To What Went Wrong_______________________________

1. The fact the bio filter was not cycled prior setup.
2. The substrate
3. The light was not strong enough, in lieu I never saw pearling

My Next Setup_____________________________________________

1. I'm looking into Contro Soil or Brightwell (its been documented their aquasoil doesn't leach ammonia into the column.

2. Cycling the filter before aquascaping

3. May need a stronger light - any suggestions???? Or maybe make a more elevated substrate???





Any help or suggestions is greatly appreciated
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Old 08-30-2016, 10:39 PM   #2
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Not an expert. But my opinion is the 4 day black out was what did the plants in. I would have decreased the lighting to 6 hours or so. 3 hours then dark 3 then on another 3 and then off for the night. Diatoms would usually have died off on their own. And the infrequent light would have kill the rest of the algae.


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Old 08-31-2016, 01:00 AM   #3
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My sympathies. I'm currently battling my own algae outbreak in my planted tank. I hope this doesn't discourage you from continuing.

I'm certainly no expert, particularly in dirted tanks (your organic soil), but I wonder if there wasn't an overload of nutrients from the soil. I seem to recall reading that that can be a risk with the dirted method. And, if so, I wonder if blending it with eco-complete amplified the problem.

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Old 08-31-2016, 02:58 AM   #4
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Sounds like the ammonia as you are thinking.

Yes, so sorry, these kinds of things are disheartening. Sometimes we can't know everything in advance even though we try, we are still human and experience can be a sharp teacher. It sounds like you put an incredible amount of time and thought into your plan.
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Old 08-31-2016, 12:34 PM   #5
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Hi bio chem.

I feel for you. You obviously did lots of research to try and make this work.

Most algae's can be remedied by either reducing the light intensity or by increasing carbon injection rate or amount of available carbon.

Soil is a great substrate to use in my opinion. It has all the nutrients your plants need and has the ability to sequester those nutrients for when the plant requires them. This ability is call the cation exchange capacity.

As far as I am aware. Eco complete has a high CEC but does not provide any nutrients to the plants. Flourite is also unnecessary because the soil has ample nutrients. Especially iron which has also been increased by the addition of your clay balls. Normally just capping the soil with either sand or gravel is enough. Root tabs can be used at a later date if the plants show signs of any nutrient deficiency.

In addition to feeding at the root I recommend adding fertilisers to the water column so you are covering bother nutrient uptake sites. Excess nutrients do not cause algae provided the carbon availability is non limiting.

Newly submerged soils will leach ammonia in to the column. Ammonia is said to trigger certain algae outbreak coupled with high lighting too.

I would suggest turning your co2 up. There is no fish so why not?

You can manually remove the algae. In my opinion there is not enough carbon in this tank.




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Old 08-31-2016, 04:08 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by TMaier View Post
Not an expert. But my opinion is the 4 day black out was what did the plants in. I would have decreased the lighting to 6 hours or so. 3 hours then dark 3 then on another 3 and then off for the night. Diatoms would usually have died off on their own. And the infrequent light would have kill the rest of the algae.


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Thanks for the input. I'm also wondering if the single Finnex Planted + 24/7 is suffice - I never witnessed any pearling. I'm contemplating purchasing an additional one, or maybe changing this one for another.
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Old 08-31-2016, 04:11 PM   #7
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My sympathies. I'm currently battling my own algae outbreak in my planted tank. I hope this doesn't discourage you from continuing.

I'm certainly no expert, particularly in dirted tanks (your organic soil), but I wonder if there wasn't an overload of nutrients from the soil. I seem to recall reading that that can be a risk with the dirted method. And, if so, I wonder if blending it with eco-complete amplified the problem.

I didn't know about the overload, via soil. Many thanks, I'll look this up! I agree I may have overdosed, but I was focused on meeting the requirements of the different types of plants I had setup (column and substrate).
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Old 08-31-2016, 04:12 PM   #8
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Sounds like the ammonia as you are thinking.

Yes, so sorry, these kinds of things are disheartening. Sometimes we can't know everything in advance even though we try, we are still human and experience can be a sharp teacher. It sounds like you put an incredible amount of time and thought into your plan.
I'll definitely keep this in mind. Thanks!
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Old 08-31-2016, 04:22 PM   #9
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Hi bio chem.

I feel for you. You obviously did lots of research to try and make this work.

Most algae's can be remedied by either reducing the light intensity or by increasing carbon injection rate or amount of available carbon.

Soil is a great substrate to use in my opinion. It has all the nutrients your plants need and has the ability to sequester those nutrients for when the plant requires them. This ability is call the cation exchange capacity.

As far as I am aware. Eco complete has a high CEC but does not provide any nutrients to the plants. Flourite is also unnecessary because the soil has ample nutrients. Especially iron which has also been increased by the addition of your clay balls. Normally just capping the soil with either sand or gravel is enough. Root tabs can be used at a later date if the plants show signs of any nutrient deficiency.

In addition to feeding at the root I recommend adding fertilisers to the water column so you are covering bother nutrient uptake sites. Excess nutrients do not cause algae provided the carbon availability is non limiting.

Newly submerged soils will leach ammonia in to the column. Ammonia is said to trigger certain algae outbreak coupled with high lighting too.

I would suggest turning your co2 up. There is no fish so why not?

You can manually remove the algae. In my opinion there is not enough carbon in this tank.




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Thanks so much for your input! I did consider increasing CO2, but I thought it to be a "Catch 22". In essence, I didn't want my plants to become dependent on such high CO2. Eventually, I would have introduced fish to the tank and I didn't want to reach toxic CO2 levels, just to keep the plants thriving.

I have been torn, regarding my lighting. I read some PAR data on the Finnex Planted + 24/7, reaching a max of about 59. I only have one of these, and I feel the light wasn't strong enough, because as I mentioned in my original post, I never witnessed any pearling. I'm not sure if I should add an additional light, or go with something else completely different.

Lastly, I decided to use Flourite Black Sand for the carpet Monte Carlo. I wanted these plants to have a rich substrate for optimal growth. I thought regular sand just wouldn't cut it and the Monte Carlo would suffer.
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Old 08-31-2016, 04:58 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BioChem View Post
Thanks so much for your input! I did consider increasing CO2, but I thought it to be a "Catch 22". In essence, I didn't want my plants to become dependent on such high CO2. Eventually, I would have introduced fish to the tank and I didn't want to reach toxic CO2 levels, just to keep the plants thriving.



I have been torn, regarding my lighting. I read some PAR data on the Finnex Planted + 24/7, reaching a max of about 59. I only have one of these, and I feel the light wasn't strong enough, because as I mentioned in my original post, I never witnessed any pearling. I'm not sure if I should add an additional light, or go with something else completely different.



Lastly, I decided to use Flourite Black Sand for the carpet Monte Carlo. I wanted these plants to have a rich substrate for optimal growth. I thought regular sand just wouldn't cut it and the Monte Carlo would suffer.

The Monte Carlo would be fine In soil and sand or even just sand with root tabs pushed near them. You would be fertilising the water column anyway so in essence the Monte Carlo would receive nutrients. The nutrients within soil that are most abundant are the micro nutrients or 'trace' elements and the plants need only very small quantities of these. The soil will last for years in terms of micronutrients. You would just need to add the macro nutrients, nitrogen (potassium nitrate) phosphorus (potassium phosphate) and potassium which is provided in the latter two. That's it.

I forgot to add that you need to forget the 24/7 feature of the 24/7 fixture. You need one eight hour photoperiod at whatever percentage intensity you desire.

As for co2. I can't count the bubble rate in my tank because they are moving so quickly. The drop checker is lime green in my tank and the ph drops to 5.9 at the height of co2 injection yet my fauna are fine. That includes ottos and shrimp.

You need to tweak the co2 up. This will help the plants draw on the excess ammonia being leached by the soil.

As the bacteria begin to breakdown the organic matter and ammonia in the soil the oxygen levels will decrease. So it's really important to try to keep o2 levels stable by creating a soft ripple at the surface. A strong flow rate will also help deliver oxygen and nutrients around the tank and aid the plants in terms of co2 delivery and uptake.

Edit: also do not chase the 'pearling effect' pearling just means that the plants are producing oxygen faster than it is able to dissolve in the water. Whilst it is true higher light intensity aids this phenomenon it doesn't mean that your plants are not healthy if they do not pearl. Better to have slow growing healthy plants than fast growing unhealthy plants. More light means you need more co2 and nutrients so you could turn the 24/7 fixture to maximum but you need to tweak the co2 up slowly until you see healthy new growth sprouting from the plants.

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