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Old 08-22-2008, 03:13 AM   #1
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Questions that need answers?

Hi Everyone,
Got a few questions that I cant seem to answer, have tried a lot of different things, thought the good people out there might be able to help me out.
Thanks Kate

1. My Gh level is consistently low and I have NO idea how to get it up, Ive tried a few different methods to no avail.
2. My Kh and Ph probably drop to low every 2-3 months, otherwise they are always at the right level....?
3. Whenever I buy snails they die? Why?
4. I have a crystally build up around the top of my tank (I assume caused by water evaporation) it doesn't taste overly salty, I am wondering if it is calcium build up? if it is, is it harmful to the fish?
5. Although my driftwood plants seem fine, all other plants tend to die and I replace them every 3-4 months, my local aquarium owner suggested these C02 tablets, which made very little difference, Im not sure if I want to go the whole hog and buy a co2 distributor...
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Old 08-22-2008, 08:09 AM   #2
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Hi there Kate. Welcome!

okay a few questions for you.

1. What's your tank size?
2. How long have you had this tank set up?
3. What are your Ammonia, NitrITE and NitRATE levels?
4. How many and what type of fish?

This info will help us figure out where your tank is at now.

Re your points:

1. Welcome to my life. My Gh is low too and my KH is non existent,but that's the nature of the water here in Melbourne, and I think it's much the same in Eastern Australia. My question to you is what makes you feel the need to change it? Unless you have a specific reason (such as breeding) there shouldn't be a need to try to shoot for "ideals" and you're far better to work with what you got. As long as things are stable, your fish will be fine. Chemically or other manual intervention of these things is fraught with danger.

2. What's the "right" level? There are ideals for some situations but as I said, you are better off working with what you have and if you don't have a problem, you don't need to fix anuthing. This is very much the case with pH too. Don't mess with it if you don't have to.

3. Would want to know your other water parameters. What kind of snails are you buying?

4. If it's white salty-looking stuff, it's fine. I have a sponge (Chucks Super wipe) I use exclusively for the tank. As it builds up, you can wipe it off.

5. If you're not using any fertiliser atall, you will need to. Just like garden plants, aquatic plants need food. At the minimum you will need a macronutrient fertiliser such as Seachem Comprehensive or Dinosaur Pee from AquaGreen. Dose as instructed. If you have basic gravel and stem plants you might also want to suppliment this with root tabs which are tablets you bury in the substrate where the roots of the plants are.

Another factor here might be the gravel itself. If it's too large or too coarse, you might struggle to grow anything.

Assuming the gravel is not an issue, if your plants don't grow or get yellow leaves and die, you have some type of deficiency. There are sites that can help you identify nutrient deficincies and tell you what to do about each one. A light deficiency is caused by not correctly matching the right plant to your lighting. If you are choosing plants that require high-light conditions and you have basic stock lights from your LFS, then no matter what you do, the plants won't live.

What kind of lighting do you have over the tank? How many hours is it on?
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Old 08-22-2008, 10:08 AM   #3
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1. Welcome to my life. My gh is low too and my kh is non existent,but that's the nature of the water here in melbourne, and i think it's much the same in eastern australia. My question to you is what makes you feel the need to change it? Unless you have a specific reason (such as breeding) there shouldn't be a need to try to shoot for "ideals" and you're far better to work with what you got. As long as things are stable, your fish will be fine. Chemically or other manual intervention of these things is fraught with danger.

not true. Fish, especially young ones, need some hardness to the water in order to grow properly. It's actually been suggested by jack wattley to grow out baby discus in well water that is hard in order for these "soft water fish" to maintain an ideal structure. The low gh may be exactly why her snails aren't living for long in her tank. A higher kh is generally better as it prevents deadly, massive ph swings. A lack of kh is setting your tank up for failure. Adding baking soda will increase your kh. Adding a product like kent ro right will increase your gh.

2. What's the "right" level? There are ideals for some situations but as i said, you are better off working with what you have and if you don't have a problem, you don't need to fix anuthing. This is very much the case with ph too. Don't mess with it if you don't have to.

that's the thing! If she doesn't adjust her kh her ph is far more likely to change and cause catastrophe. Imo something should be done...add baking soda.

3. Would want to know your other water parameters. What kind of snails are you buying?

all snails need calcium to build their shells as far as i know. Since gh is a test for calcium and magnesium and her gh is low, this indicates there may not be enough calcium for the snails to build their shells and stay healthy.

4. If it's white salty-looking stuff, it's fine. I have a sponge (chucks super wipe) i use exclusively for the tank. As it builds up, you can wipe it off.

it could be nacl or lime. I'm guessing it's lime, which is calcium carbonate. I'm sure calcium could be harmful to fish in extremely high levels but you would have to add lots of it to the tank in order for it to be harmful. As i've stated already, it is beneficial to snails for shell building and fish for bone growth. It is something that needs to be present.

5. If you're not using any fertiliser atall, you will need to. Just like garden plants, aquatic plants need food. At the minimum you will need a macronutrient fertiliser such as seachem comprehensive or dinosaur pee from aquagreen. Dose as instructed. If you have basic gravel and stem plants you might also want to suppliment this with root tabs which are tablets you bury in the substrate where the roots of the plants are.

why add fertilizer at this stage? We first need to know what type and wattage of lights she has on the tank and what size it is. I'm guessing she has anubias/crypts on the driftwood, which are all lowlight plants and would do well in almost any light. The "bunched plants" she most likely has are medium-higher light plants and they obviously don't do well under low light conditions. Adding nutrients does nothing if the plant can't use them due to a lack of light.

another factor here might be the gravel itself. If it's too large or too coarse, you might struggle to grow anything.

not true. All the gravel does is anchor the plant. Many people use pool filter sand as a substrate in a planted tank and it does nothing but anchor the plants...it provides nothing the plants can use. Some substrates are designed for plants and are rather coarse. I know of several people and have seen in a lfs where they use "river rock" substrate in a planted tank with good results.
hth
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Old 08-22-2008, 08:22 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bs6749 View Post
Fish, especially young ones, need some hardness
to the water in order to grow properly.
true and I did say that "unless there's a specific reason" of which this would be one.

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Originally Posted by bs6749 View Post
The low gh may be exactly why her snails aren't living for long in her tank.
I don't keep snails (MTS excepted) so I certainly won't argue with you there.

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Originally Posted by bs6749 View Post
A higher kh is generally better as it prevents deadly, massive ph swings. A lack of kh is setting your tank up for failure. Adding baking soda will increase your kh. Adding a product like kent ro right will increase your gh.
Where I was coming from is that if her only issue is dying plants, and not dying fish and there is no other reason to alter it (i.e breeding or alike) then it is working for you, so why mess with it. Non-existent Kh and Gh is common here (I deal with it myself) and have wondered myself about adding a buffer. However since I have a happy healthy tank of fish, I am adopting the modus operandi "no problem, no fix".


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that's the thing! If she doesn't adjust her kh her ph is far more likely to change and cause catastrophe. Imo something should be done...add baking soda.
True. It will. She can certainly take that advice. But it is not unsafe to leave it alone, as long as ypu are mindful of the fact that the tank has no buffer, so the potential for Ph swings is there. The answer to that is to test everything before you add them in to a tank and know how it will make the water react.


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why add fertilizer at this stage? We first need to know what type and wattage of lights she has on the tank and what size it is.
I wasn't explicit but I have lived in Sydney. I know the water... I'm willing to bet my new tank you need a macronutrient ferttiliser if you want any plant to thrive.

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Originally Posted by bs6749 View Post
I'm guessing she has anubias/crypts on the driftwood, which are all lowlight plants and would do well in almost any light. The "bunched plants" she most likely has are medium-higher light plants and they obviously don't do well under low light conditions.
Agree.... it would help knowing what they are and the lighting as you say. LFSs here also have abad habit of selling a lot of plants that aren't actually true aquatics

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All the gravel does is anchor the plant. Many people use pool filter sand as a substrate in a planted tank and it does nothing but anchor the plants
I use sand. One of the reasons I swapped out (not the only reason) becuase I was having no luck with a gravel that was very coarse and had very sharp edges. Perhaps it was in my planting technique but I believe that this was a potential factor in why my stem plants always died and I thought it might be a possibility in Kate's case.
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Old 08-22-2008, 09:02 PM   #5
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True. It will. She can certainly take that advice. But it is not unsafe to leave it alone, as long as ypu are mindful of the fact that the tank has no buffer, so the potential for Ph swings is there. The answer to that is to test everything before you add them in to a tank and know how it will make the water react.
It actually IS UNSAFE. It's about as safe as sitting in the middle of the road and assuming that everyone will see you and will swerve out of the way. Sooner or later something bad WILL happen and the person it happens to will feel stupid because it was an easy fix in the first place. Quit playing in the road...ADD the baking soda. It'll take 30 seconds to do and then it's done with. Then if something DOES happen, like a water change has to be done where bare arms are in the tank, the pH won't shift. VERY important to have a decent KH.

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I wasn't explicit but I have lived in Sydney. I know the water... I'm willing to bet my new tank you need a macronutrient ferttiliser if you want any plant to thrive.
That may be the case but if the lighting isn't sufficient the plants won't grow. It's like adding high octane gasoline to a low compression engine. It isn't necessary and the engine may not run on it. Things need to be balanced and surely there is little need for fertilizers if the plant can't photosynthesize.
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Old 08-22-2008, 09:29 PM   #6
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I can't tell you how many countless people have said that adding Baking soda is not as "easy" to use as you suggest and can cause PH swings, the very thing you are trying to avoid.

If you believe differently, then by all means, please expand on that. Perhaps you'd could include the process. How to add baking soda safely, amount per gallon, how often, how to avoid swings etc.

I am interested in this myself. I never said I'm happy with having no GH/KH but I am used to it as are so many local fish-keepers. You believe its unsafe... okay.... but this is normal down here.
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Old 08-22-2008, 09:31 PM   #7
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Old 08-23-2008, 07:11 AM   #8
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Hi Guys!!
Thanks for all of your advice! I really appreciate you guys taking the time to write to me, you both have such different and varied opinions and I guess I will try to take all into account when sorting out my problems.
I'll try and answer all of the questions you guys asked as best as best as possible.

Ok, my tank is about 220 litres.
I moved into my current residence just over a year ago and it has been set up since then.
I have about 25-30 fish, there are 3 angel fish, 5 tiger barbs, one bristle nose, 2 yellow sucker fish, 3 or 4 neon tetras, 5 rummy nose tetras, 4 zebra danios and 4 other fish that look like black widows but are different coloured ( excuse me Im not up with their proper names)

I have 2 lights, a UV light (supposedly for the plants, its an 18" glo tube) and just a normal white neon light. The lights are only on for 5-6 hours a day.

I have a range of plants, there are three attached to drift wood, they have large broad leaves, one of them has yellow tinges to the ends of the leaves and the others are just stalk plants and some long grass looking plants.

I have small trumpet snails which just have always seemed to be there, and the ones that always die are the apple snails, I recently bought 10 and now there is only 4 left!

I dont fertilize my plants and I only ever check the tanks levels when the water level drops and needs more water. I will do a set of levels for you in the morning, but generally when I add whatever, I let it rest for a few days, then I generally add some stress coat to remove chlorine etc, some Kh PLus if the Ph is low and sometimes a little aquarium salt. Thats it!!

I rarely do water changes.

I probably vac the gravel every 3 or 4 months.

In terms of the filter, its a 3 level filter with so called 'live rocks' in it, to be honest, I have never ever changed the rocks and I have been using the filter for almost 4 years. When I clean the filter, I generally rinse the material sponges in tank water, then rinse the rocks with tank water and tip the sludge out of the bottom. I have never cleaned the in/out pipes running too and from the tank and I have never cleaned out the UV filter. Like I said before, I only ever clean the filter once or twice a year.
Is that wrong?

So Im not too worried about my tank, I just love it and figured you can never have too many helpers and I thought I'd just get some insight into whether I can do anything better. Ill do a set of levels in the morning and post them up for you both.

Ill also try and upload some photos of the tank once I have posted this message. Let me know what other information I can give you
and THANKS AGAIN
Kate
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Old 08-23-2008, 07:23 AM   #9
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Ok photos are up on my profile
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Old 08-23-2008, 09:57 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by TigerKate View Post
1. My Gh level is consistently low and I have NO idea how to get it up, Ive tried a few different methods to no avail.
2. My Kh and Ph probably drop to low every 2-3 months, otherwise they are always at the right level....?
3. Whenever I buy snails they die? Why?
4. I have a crystally build up around the top of my tank (I assume caused by water evaporation) it doesn't taste overly salty, I am wondering if it is calcium build up? if it is, is it harmful to the fish?
5. Although my driftwood plants seem fine, all other plants tend to die and I replace them every 3-4 months, my local aquarium owner suggested these C02 tablets, which made very little difference, Im not sure if I want to go the whole hog and buy a co2 distributor...
What are your actual test results for GH, KH, pH, and Nitrate?
1. & 2. Did the GH/KH start crashing before or after the CO2 tablets? There are several things that can cause GH and KH to crash. Overly high Nitrates, CO2 tablets/devices that work by breaking down the KH releasing CO2, Plants or Snails that use the nutrients that make up the GH and KH.
3. Snails need calcium to thrive. If you're GH is overly low, you probably don't have enough calcium for them to survive. A GH booster may be in order if you want to keep snails.
4. This is just the minerals in the water percipitating out as the water evaporates. Perfectly normal if unsightly. Easily removed with some vinegar and/or a razor.
5. You have extremely little light over the aquarium. As a result there are very few plants that will survive. Anubias, Java Ferns, Java Moss, and Crypts are about your only options. I suspect from your description that you ahve Anubias tied to the driftwood. Upping your light period to 8-12 hours would help some, but if you want to keep a greater variety of plants you'll need to upgrade your lighting. If you check out the planted tank forum there is a sticky at the top with links to threads and articles on keeping plants, I suggest that you read them for more information. Oh, and don't wast your money on the CO2 tabs again. The are useless at best, and dangerous at worst. Until you get more light over the aquarium, carbon supplementation of any kind will be of little to no help.
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Old 08-23-2008, 09:27 PM   #11
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Hello everyone!!
I have tested my water today and to be honest I am shocked by some of the results
They are as follows:
Ph= 7.0
Gh= 8dkh which is actually much higher than normal!!
Kh= 3dkh low as per usual
NH4/NH3= 0.5mg/l which converts to 0.003 with my ph value which is ok
NO2= 0.00mg/l
NO3= >100mg/l !!!!! This would explain why I have spot algae etc. Any ideas for lowering this level?
PO4= 10mg/l !!! This is also abnormally high for my tank but I dont fed the bottom feeders last night so I expected them this test to be up there. Any ideas? should I attempt to lower this or just re-test in a day or two?
Fe= 0.0mg/l
CL=0.0mg/l
I dont have a calcium test but I think I will invest in one this week.

So thats it! Looking forward to hearing back from you all!
Thanks
Kate
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Old 08-23-2008, 09:43 PM   #12
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From the results I'd say that you need to up your water change percentage and/or schedule. For your Phosphates and Nitrates to get that high, means that your current maintenance isn't keeping up sufficiently. By improving your water changes you may find that most of the issues you're currently seeing resolve themselves.
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Old 08-23-2008, 10:22 PM   #13
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Thanks Joy! I guess I have been a pretty lazy fish keeper and seeing as they never seem to die I have never really worried about it. So seeing as I am a little inexperienced in this whole water changing thing, a few questions, How much? How often? and what should I add to the new water before putting it into the tank?
Thanks for the advice and sorry to keep asking so many questions
Kate
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Old 08-24-2008, 12:01 AM   #14
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Thanks Joy! I guess I have been a pretty lazy fish keeper and seeing as they never seem to die I have never really worried about it. So seeing as I am a little inexperienced in this whole water changing thing, a few questions, How much? How often? and what should I add to the new water before putting it into the tank?
Thanks for the advice and sorry to keep asking so many questions
Kate
10-25% once a week or every other week. This is kind of a general range. You need to find out what works for you and your tank.

You'll want to add a good dechlorinator like Seachem Prime to the water you add to your tank.
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Old 08-24-2008, 12:50 AM   #15
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just dont get in my boat and have to do 25% almost daily roflmao

How often are you doing your pwc now? and how many gallons are you removing each time?
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Old 08-24-2008, 02:31 AM   #16
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just dont get in my boat and have to do 25% almost daily roflmao

How often are you doing your pwc now? and how many gallons are you removing each time?

This appears to be the issue, I dont do partial water changes, I wait until enough water has evaporated and then I add new treated water, Now I know I guess.
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Old 08-24-2008, 06:31 AM   #17
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PWCs should be part of your normal maintenance regime of any tank and your fish will love you for it.

Also, don't shoot for an "ideal" pH by using pH up/pH down. Just use a good dechlorinator. Your fish can tolerate almost any pH as long as it has been acclimated properly and the key to a happy tank is a stable pH, not an ideal one.

I'd do a 50% PWC now to get those nitrates down. You might want to do another 20% PWC a few days later. For nitrates, 40ppm is a good benchmark. If your nitrates go above 40ppm, do a PWC.
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Old 08-26-2008, 07:44 PM   #18
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PWC completed

Hello,
This morning I have completed my PWC as suggested so hopefully my nitrates will come down. My phosphate levels are still as high as my initial postings...should I be concerned? I am looking into buying a better light set up and have increased my light time to 8 hours per day.
Im going to invest in a calcium tester and I am wondering what kind of products everyone uses to boost calcium?
I use prime or stress coat to remove chlorine and nitrates from new water and generally dont add much else except the occasional Kh booster.
I have a bit of spot algae on the glass, so I am worried that the extra light will increase the amount of algae I have in my tank, does anyone have any suggestions to get rid of algae?
Wow, you must all be getting bored of my questions, but I appreciate the input and Ill leave it there.
Thanks
Kate
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Old 08-26-2008, 10:05 PM   #19
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I have a bit of spot algae on the glass, so I am worried that the extra light will increase the amount of algae I have in my tank, does anyone have any suggestions to get rid of algae?
Welcome to my world. I have not been successful in treating the underlying cause of green spot algae. If you find the answer, please let me know! Many resources I've looked at suggest it's a low phosphate levels but that makes no sense to me as my phosphate levels are pretty high too (albeit not as high as yours).

here's a good page on algae. Aquaticscape.com

There are others. Just google around.

You might see a small increase in GSA due to the increased lighting, but if you use a steel wool pad (new and rinsed and ONLY assigned for fish use) it works a treat in removing it from the glass. Ignore that sugestion if you have an acrylic or plastic tank.
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Old 08-26-2008, 10:36 PM   #20
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GWAPA:
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Green spot algae is very commonly seen on the glass of tanks when there hasnít been a water change in awhile, or when an inadequate fertilization scheme has been conducted. GSA also appears on long lasting leaves, such as Java Fern, Anubias, and Bolbitus.
Algae in a Planted Tank
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I mention this one first because it's the most common, and the simple fact is, you can't do much about it. I clean my glass weekly to take care of it. I noticed some growing on the older leaves of my Anubias coffeefolia. To control that, I re-arranged some plants, so the slow-growing anubias doesn't get so much direct light. This has greatly decreased the green-spot algae on the plant leaves.
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