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Old 02-27-2008, 08:48 PM   #1
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Planted Tank Neophyte Needs Assistance!

First off, a little back ground. Its a 29 gallon with 65 watts of 6700k light on it. Currently there are a couple of anubia (both seem to be stalled, growth wise) and a couple of crypts. One is monstrous (although it looks a bit pale), the other is tiny and doesnt grow at all. No CO2, no regular airstone... no pump at all. Lots of community fish including Mollies, Endlers, Corys, Otos, and SAEs (Probably a bit overstocked, I know. I'm taking all but 2 of the Endlers back to the fish shop to get store credit).

So I've just done some tests and here is what I've got...

KH - 9 - I believe this is high... Correct? What "SHOULD" this be and how do I get it there?

GH - 3 - I believe this is on the low side... is that correct? Again, what "SHOULD" this be and how do I get it there?

PH - Regular PH reading shows on the high side of the card at 7.6 or maybe a bit higher, so I tried it with the high range PH test and that showed about 8.2. Should this be as close to 7 as possible or does that depend on the plants I'm keeping?

Ammonia - 0

Nitrite - 0

Nitrate - 10 - 15

Phosphate - 0.25

How does all of that look and what do I need to change? HELLLLLLP!
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Old 02-27-2008, 09:05 PM   #2
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With that much light, you really need CO2 supplementation IMO. If you don't do CO2, put an airstone in or do something to create disturbance on the surface. The gas exchange will get at least a little more CO2 into the tank.

Are you dosing any fertilizers?

As for the kH and gH, my opinion is that it's better to work with what you have rather than attempt to force it somewhere else. Changes in hardness are really tough on your fish, and if you try to maintain it somewhere else you're going to inevitably have shifts in it, which isn't very good.
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Old 02-27-2008, 09:16 PM   #3
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Ok, yeah, I figured CO2 is the next step and have been looking into pressurized systems. Hopefully I can get one on there in the next couple of weeks or so.

Not dosing any ferts... should I be?

Interesting about the hardness levels... so things like Equilibrium, Acid Buffer, and Alkaline Buffer shouldn't be used?

Thanks for the reply! Any others?

BTW neilanh, your avatar has got me psyched for my Bahamas diving trip in June!
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Old 02-28-2008, 12:15 AM   #4
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I agree that your KH and GH are fine along with your pH.

With NO3's of zero, you really need to be dosing ferts.

At a minimum you should be dosing Nitrates, Potassium, and Micro's. I would also suspect that as soon as the plants start growing with the addition of ferts, you are also going to have to dose phosphates as well.

There is no need for CO2 as long as you don't have a problem with algae. CO2 would benefit your plants, but as long as everything is fine you don't 'need' it.
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Old 02-28-2008, 12:40 AM   #5
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I'm sorry, I lied. Nitrate should have read 10 - 15. Original post edited.
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Old 02-28-2008, 01:00 AM   #6
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Reguardless, at a minimum you'll need to be dosing Potassium and Traces. Once those are in sufficient supply it's likely you'll find you need to dose Nitrates and Phosphates as well. You'll definately need to dose all of them if you get around to adding CO2.

The transparency and lack of growth is a sign of deficiency, which is why we're pointing you towards dosing ferts. Even in aquairums with less light than yours, it's normal to need to dose Potassium and Traces since these aren't usually in sufficient quantities out of the tap and aren't provided by the fish waste.
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Old 02-28-2008, 01:34 AM   #7
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Awesome. Is there somewhere you can point me to reading on all of these ferts? I checked the stickies, but the links are busted. Any linkys much appreciated.

Thanks all,
-Brad
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Old 02-28-2008, 05:31 AM   #8
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Here is a good start:

EI "light" for the less techical aspects of the Estimative index - Aquarium Plants - Barr Report

That would be more inline with someone running CO2. It's generally better if you don't do massive water changes every week if you are not running CO2. The information on the target levels still apply, reguardless.
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Old 02-28-2008, 09:34 AM   #9
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What exactly are the trace elements? Where do you get them and for how much? Do you need to buy special testing kits (other than strips) to measure em?

I only have anubias and a java fern right now. The java fern takes to rocks, but all the large leaves eventually die off (except tiny little yellowish green ones) but the roots keep spreading. The anubias grows, but slowly.

At only 1 wpg there isn't much I can do so I was thinking of getting some new lights. A while back I remember there being a DIY kit you could order online to save some dough, anybody still have that link or know what thread it was in?

EDIT: Okay, did some digging. That EI link is really great. Thanks! It says:

40-60 Gallon Aquariums
+/- 1/2 tsp KN03 3x a week
+/- 1/8 tsp KH2P04 3x a week
+/- 1/8 tsp K2S04 3x a week
+/- 1/8 (10ml) Trace Elements 3x a week

So I guess trace elements come in a package?
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Old 02-28-2008, 09:56 AM   #10
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There are several good products for dosing Traces. Flourish "Comprehensive", Tropica Plant Nutrition, and CSM+B are all good choices. Please keep in mind that with as little light as you currently have you would not want to dose nearly as frequently as the EI article suggests. Dosing Trace and Potassium right after your water change should be sufficient unless you see Nitrate or Phosphates start to bottom out or other deficiency symptoms.
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Old 02-28-2008, 12:01 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Purrbox View Post
Please keep in mind that with as little light as you currently have you would not want to dose nearly as frequently as the EI article suggests. Dosing Trace and Potassium right after your water change should be sufficient unless you see Nitrate or Phosphates start to bottom out or other deficiency symptoms.
Good point Joy.

I really should have touched on that in my post, but I thought this information was enough: "The Estimative Index method works best for a high light and well planted aquarium. However it is not limited to higher light setups, smaller quantities of fertilizers can be dosed if low light is used. Also, the frequency may be reduced to 1-2x a week at low light(1.5-2w/gal)."


As always, Joy is on top of things and keeps this forum running smoothly.

I would really consider what Joy has said since you do not have very many plants, let alone non-fast growers.
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Old 02-28-2008, 01:09 PM   #12
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I believe you're probably referring to HelloLights or AHSupply. I've used AHSupply before and was very pleased with them.

For a 55 gallon I wouldn't even consider DIY CO2. It's enough of a pain on smaller aquariums, I can't even imagine how annoying it would be to try it on that large of an aquarium. Definately consider Pressurized CO2 if you're going to try CO2 on that large of an aquarium. You can save yourself quite a bit of money by DIY the regulator and picking up a used CO2 cylinder. Long term it will be less expensive anyway. If you really can't stand the idea of springing for Pressurized CO2 I really do recommend keeping your lighting under 2WPG. You can still have a very nice planted aquarium with great plants that way.

For Glosso and other popular ground covers you're going to want more light, probably somewhere between 3-4WPG. You wouldn't need to run the full lighting your entire photoperiod, but you'd need at least a few hours midday of the higher light. If you decide to stick to the lower light route, you can still have a very nice carpet by going with one of the Marsilea sp. (clovers).

There are some excellant substrates out there that are very inexpensive. Turface MVP is only $10 for a 50lb bag. The hardest part is figuring out where to buy it from, but the manufacturer is very good at helping to locate local resellers. Another inexpensive option is Pool Filter Sand. While it doesn't hold nutrients as well, it's nearly as inexpensive.

Dry ferts are dirt cheap and last a very long time. Definately the way to go on higher light aquariums, especially the larger ones.

Total cost will vary a fair amount depending on the amount that you're able to DIY your setup and how many of the bells and whistles you want. It's also good to note that a lot of times with the light fixtures you can run only part of the lights (low to medium) while assembling everything you need for high light, then finally turn on the rest of the lights when you've got everything that you need. So you could do the upgrade in phases if you wanted.
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Old 02-28-2008, 01:21 PM   #13
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Joy it was AH supply and I can't thank you enough for helping me remember that. It is definitely what I was looking at and a good option for getting up into teh 3 or 4 range.

The more I talk about it and teh more opinions I seek, the more i hear: "Shut up. Bite the bullet and get a pressurized CO2 system! You won't be sorry." It usually comes from those with beautiful tanks too, which is my main system of judging cedibility.

I really don't believe in "the magic touch" or plant whisperers just "havin' it". T. Simonson pointed out that if you're good about it, put in teh effort, stay on top of it, anybody can grow beatiful aquatic plants.

My only concern right now is figuring out if I want to jump in with both feet (not just lights but CO2, ferts and substrate), which is what it seems must be done if I want my beloved glosso. As my ol' pappy said "If you're gonna do something do it right!"

Going in half-assed seems like a waste, I suppose it is good to at least consider sticking around 2 wpg to be able to avoid co2 altogether but, as I mentioned before: It's not that I'm unhappy w/ my lowlight anubias and java, it's just that I want that glosso! It looks so beatiful.

Admittedly though you should have some info about me as it relates to my tanks: I get streaky. I'm always good w/ pwc and feedings but there will be months where I don't restock or move anything around at all, and other months where I re-arrange and spend at least an hour watching my tank every day (e.g. this month...lol).

So it seems that a very-high wpg planted tank w/ the entire system in place wouldn't take kindly to neglect. Once your planted tank "hits its stride" do you have to measure and adjust chems daily/weekly/monthly? The substrate and lighting investments are once and done I assume, so it seems the work lies w/ the co2 and chems, though the pressurized co2 system is pretty much once and done too isn't it (other than the easy refills)?

HOw much is a pressurized co2 system?

Thanks again for teh AH supply link, that seems like the place to go for DIY minded aquarists lookin for lights huh?
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Old 02-28-2008, 02:17 PM   #14
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I've heard of people setting a pressurized system for somewhere between $100 - $150. Of course this was a very bare bones system with a DIY regulator. I think mine cost about $250, but I had Rex Griggs custom build my regulator and it's setup to feed CO2 into three of my aquariums. It's still a pretty barebones setup, just able to use it on multiple aquariums. It goes upwards from there if you want more of the bells and whistles. Check around to the local gas supply and beverage supply places for quotes on the CO2 Cylinders, as you'll probably want to get yours locally and this will have a descent impact on the total price. I paid probably $30 more here than people pay other places. This article might be what you need to get a better grasp on the possibilities, it's what I used to figure out how to hook up my pressurized system.

I find that I can neglect my aquariums a fair amount now that they're well established. While they show the neglect (mostly increased algae and slower growth), it doesn't take much to get them back into shape when I'm of a mind to spend more time on them. Really it's a matter of getting a feel for what each aquarium needs, learning to diagnose symptoms (deficiencies and algae), and knowing how to tweak things in response. After awhile it becomes second nature and you really don't have to think about it too much. I rarely bother with testing anymore, although it was very helpful in the beginning. And I've got a standard amount and frequency that I dose. I just tweak it slightly as needed.
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Old 02-28-2008, 02:32 PM   #15
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Oh no, thats around 200 for the CO2 and 200 for the lights (assuming two 96 watts in a 55 gal to put me around 4 wpg.)!?? Ouch. That may be simply too much for me. Thats not including the substrate (cheap I know but still), the plants themselves and the chems (cheap I know but still). Sounds like it'll cost around $500 to get into a really nice well-planted tank.

Isn't Rex Griggs some military guy that wrote a really fantasticly detailed how-to about planted tanks covering everything from substrates to lights and CO2? I remember seeing it (and laughing at how he cussed in it if I remember correctly), can anybody link this too?

Sorry to be a pain, findng the AH supply link was great but I'd really like to read Rex's thing once more. And Joy the info you gave was precisely what I was looking for. Thanks again.

EDIT: I googled rex grigg and found his site. Man is that a great source of information or what? I've been reading for hours (lol...not gettin much work done today).

2nd EDIT: Another question: What do you think about two 96 watt bulbs from AHsupply? Thats 192 which / by 55 gallons is 3.5 wpg. My main concern is that the tank is four feet long and the light fixture is only 3 feet long so six inches on either side wouldnt be getting the direct light. No big deal right?
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Old 02-28-2008, 05:46 PM   #16
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You could either stagger the lights to get better coverage on the ends, or simply plant lower light plants on the ends. Either way would work. Personally I'd probably go for two of the 2x55watt kits instead.

Rex Griggs certainly is a good read. I do try to be careful who I link him to as some would be offended by his bluntness.
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Old 02-28-2008, 07:55 PM   #17
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I love his bluntness, he is no nonsense and tells it how it is, plus there is a disclaimer at the bottom (with a link to a barney website??) so you know what you're getting yourself into.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure this weekend will involve some order placing at AH supply, a trip to the LFS, and a some driving around to find a CO2 supplier. I'm not 100% yet, it sure is a lot of money. I'm pretty indecisive about stuff so who knows.

Why would you prefer the 4 55 watts instead of the two 96? It would be considerably more expensive...is the extra WPG worth it? THe two 2x55 would fit a 4 foot tank nicer.
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Old 02-28-2008, 09:30 PM   #18
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Mostly it's just because the 4 x 55 watt would fit the aquarium better. I like fixtures that fit the width of the aquarium and are evenly light it. For only $15 more, I know I'd be a lot happier in the long run.
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Old 02-29-2008, 12:47 AM   #19
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Is there a reason you would do PC instead of HO? i'm pretty new to this so not sure about all the ins and outs of everything. I just got a 2 x 39 watt 36" HO fixture for my tank from Aquatraders and saved a lot of time and money (which was then put toward other aquarium related things of course) even with having to switch out a bulb since they're set up for sw instead of fw. It seems like a decent fixture to me, but again i'm just a newbie so i don't have any experience with other fixtures except the cheap old plastic one without even a reflector in it which i just replaced.

Any reservations to the Odyssea brand name? And if you do go with them i'd recommend keeping an eye on the number of power cords so to simulate the day. some of them only have 1.
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Old 02-29-2008, 06:21 AM   #20
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A HO would work just as well. Mostly it's just about getting enough light over the aquarium in the space available. Second is making sure that you can readily get replacement bulbs. Really the only lights I would recommend against are Incadescents and other similar lights that put out more heat than light.

While I've never tried Odyssea, all the reports that I've heard from the people that are using them that they are noisy at best and have lots of mechnical problems at worst. I'd avoid them for a brand that I've heard good things about or DIY my own.
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