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Old 06-16-2017, 03:03 AM   #1
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Need advice, tank is a mess

Hello fellow fish people, hope your day is well! I'm in dire need of advice, hope you can help me.

I'd like to start by explaining my tank, and what I know about it:

I inherited it as a fully planted and established tank a year ago.
it came as/with:
-16 gallons rimless
-soil substrate and rocky top layer
-a driftwood piece, two largish rocks
-an aqua clear pump and filter set up (polywool, ammonia filter and carbon filter)
-aquaworks led light, 5x3w-17vdc-700mA
-java ferns
-2 shrimps and about 5 neon tetras

When i acquired the tank, it was moved in to my place with the plants already in the substrate...when it was in the spot we wanted it to be we put the rocks back in and refilled with water/dumped the fish back in.

Everything was going great, and I bought a small ancistrus pleco (was told they are fine solo, his name is Lord Xenu), 3 guppies and a snail. I also jammed 5 lucky bamboo shoots at the back of the tank, with the foliage growing out of the water (they are still looking great).

I ended up moving apartments about 6 months ago, and it was a total stress bomb getting everything out. We moved the tank to the new place the same way it was moved into my place initially...put fish in a holding container...drained almost all the water, took out bigger rocks and wood, and the rest is a combo of moving slow with fingers crossed. I know this isn't recommended, but all that is behind us now.

When we finally had the tank where we wanted it, the ferns got pulled out of the substrate somehow (which I didn't notice) and the rocks and wood were put back in not in the best positions...everyone was tired and I could have been more careful, but i wasn't.

Everything was flourishing just fine...every once in a while I would trim the long hairy algae off the wood and rocks, and scrub minor hard algae off the tank. But then my light blew out, and it's discontinued (would have had to order the transformer thing from korea for a million dollars). So I just bought a new one, which I am using now.

New light: Fluval aqua sky LED (Aquasky® LED | A3997 | Lighting | Fluval)

Since the light change the algae has been a mess..and the java ferns look like crap (lots of brown spots and holes)..I have to scrape the glass with a razor every week or it becomes opaque with hard algae..and the hair algae is growing everywhere!! I've limited the light intake, even though it's weaker than the old light that blew out..guhhh

The worst is the rooty mess that is growing under the ferns that are sitting on top of the gravel. I've tried burying them into the substrate, but it just makes a mess and they won't stay put. I've tried pulling them out to trim them back and attach to an anchor..but the roots have grown everywhere and it just kicks up a huge black cloud of substrate...I feel like I have to make sure the soil stays under the gravel, and digging around in the tank freaks me out.

I'd like to pull everything and start from scratch, but I don't know how to do that with the fish that I have. I know keeping an ecosystem like this is complicated, but I inherited it without the experience. I feel pretty horrible for letting it get this far, and will feel like a let down if I allow this mess to make me complacent and...therefor give up. My fish are my buds and I want to give them a better environment.

I try and vacuum the gravel once a week, and rinse my fllters in tank water as I need. I have limited the food I give them to every other day or so, however I do forget the fert the plants..I am think the bamboo is stealing the nutrients, but also have no way of knowing.

I would attach pics, but I'm not sure how..please be gentle. And thanks again.


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Old 06-16-2017, 04:13 AM   #2
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Hey mate, your main concern is your lighting. That fixture is far too bright for a low light non co2 setup. Aquaskys are pretty intense especially in a small tank.

Is it dimmable at all? I'd run it almost at the lowest setting to be honest. Also reducing your lighting period to 6-8 hours should help fight off the algae.

It sounds like your soil's capping is rather small? You would want an inch to 1.5 inch atleast covering of normal gravel or whatever over the top.

The main way to beat the algae and maintain an algae free tank is,

Lowest light possible, consistent fert dosing, weekly water changes of 50%. If you follow those golden rules you shouldn't have any issues.

A good place to start would be to remove as much algae by hand and dim your lighting (if you can) if you can't then you will need to raise your fixture above the tank. Reduce your lighting length to 6 hours for a few weeks. Dose ferts (seachem flourish I'm guessing you use?) and also dose some seachem excel to recommended on the label.

Hope I've helped

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Old 06-16-2017, 01:43 PM   #3
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Having good tools helps in the planting.

I bought an aquascaping kit off amazon.com with 5 stainless steel tools. It helps considerably in getting plants to stay in the substrate

Also do some research on Hydrogen Peroxide (H2o2) treatments for algae. There are plenty of tutorials on youtube and google

This won't solve the algae issue which is clearly an imbalance because your new light is more powerful than your last, but it will help you clean up the mess as you work out your imbalance.

Without CO2 injection your only recourse is to dim the light or move it further away from the waterline. I recommend that if you hang your light you design in the ability to continue to adjust it till you find your sweet spot

Since you are not injecting CO2 look into adding a liquid CO2 regimen like API Liquid CO2 or Excel
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Old 06-22-2017, 07:51 PM   #4
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You can use some screen material like for window screens and sew a couple pieces together if additional light blocking is wanted and do a quick stitch across or use some velcro.

Another option is the needle point plastic mesh found at craft stores. About 89 cents a sheet use some fishing line to tie on.

Personally I would opt for removing the soil and either starting over with new soil or using a planted tank substrate. It seems to get too messy if you ever disturb it, like moving and not ending up being too careful. I bought an established tank once with soil and it drove me nuts. Never could ever get it clean enough where there weren't dirt particles somewhere.

Some people love the capped soil and yes as mentioned the thicker capping would be a huge help. Also a trick for getting plants to stay put more easily in the substrate is to hold them straight but insert them at a 45 degree angle, that way the soil gravel falls in behind the insertion and helps hold it in place.

Long tweezers are really helpful. Hardware section (SS cheap at harbor freight), reptile section (plastic), craft store, planted tank area of course in the fish stores. A chop stick or 2 can be really useful too.
Favorite tank right now - 12G Edge nano fish

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Old 06-29-2017, 10:24 PM   #5
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The Java Ferns should not be buried in substrate. Tie them to driftwood with thread or fishing line. Don't trim the roots unless you absolutely have to. I battled algae in my 16g as well... tested for phosphates today for the first time... therein lies the problem.... high phosphates = mucho algae... especially the stuff you have to take a razor to. I am tearing down that tank to start over, but will start exploring ways to control the phosphates in my new 20g in case they get elevated too.
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tank, advice, tan

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