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El Natural Diana Walstad's low-maintenance, soil-based 'El Natural' method for keeping plants and fish.

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Old 09-22-2019, 01:19 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default persistent white clouds

Dear group,

After trying everything I found in Diana's book, on this site and others, I come to you for help. My 45gal aquarium has developed a persistent white cloudiness. It doesn't seem to harm my fish, but it's not pretty and it does have me worried. The cloudiness directly increases after a wc (normally 50%, but I did some naive 80%wc as well) After about 6 hours the aquarium is very cloudy (see images below taken 1 hr and 6hrs after 80% wc). The sponges of the uv-filter(s) collect a brownish drab, which under the microscope looks like tiny wood fragments and some green-brown mucus. It does seem to be an algae, as I *think* I can see those under a 1200x enlargement, but I'm not sure (and sure am no expert on determining algae). The water values have all been fine since initial setup in April this year and the fish are happy. There is a self-balancing snail population and reproducing shrimps. No fish have died in this tank. Plants are growing steadily. What did happen was that the filter for preventing fast flow during refill came loose and that created a massive upheaval of soil. It seems the problems started after that, but I'm not entirely sure. This is about 6 weeks ago, the tank has been running since April this year. Here's the rundown of my setup and what I've tried:




setup:

250Liter (65 gal) tank
4cm (1,5") of low-fertilizer potting soil
2cm (0,5-1,0") coarse gravel (~2mm)
26 deg Celcius (79 F)
CO2 injection
LED lighting 54W 7000K ~3200lumen

watervalues:

NO3- <10 ml/l
NO2- 0 ml/l
GH 8*d
KH 6*d
PH 6.8
CL2 0mg/l

livestock:

8 otocinclus
14 corydora pygmea
50+ ghost, cherry, amano shrimps (from 5 introduced)
14 neon cardinals
~20 snails Melanoides tuberculata (from 0 introduced
~20 nerite snails "
~10 ramshorn "

plants:

echinodorus bleheri
echinodorus tenellus
cryptocoryne walkeri
cryptocoryne becketii
egeria densa
anubia barteri/nana
echinodorus amazonicus
anumanis gracilis
cladophora aegagroplia
pogostemon quadrofolius

what I tried:
  • regular waterchanges (50%)
  • sometimes naively 80%
  • cleaning sponge-filters of uvfilters every time
  • vacuumed
  • tried 2wks regular light regime (2x6hrs)
  • tried 2wks of less light (2x5hrs)
  • tried 2wks of more light (2x7hrs)
  • added in an extra uv filter (7 watt each)
  • added extra plants to outcompete if it's algae
  • removed one piece of driftwood that came in later, ~2wks before the white cloudiness started

None of these things did anything at all to reduce or change the speed with which the cloud appeared. As you can imagine, I'm at wits' end, and any help is very much appreciated!

thanks,

Jonathan
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Old 09-22-2019, 06:03 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: persistent white clouds

I'm going to guess that your accidental boring of a hole into the soil half of the substrate is the problem. That allowed the very fine particles of the soil to float around in the water and settle on everything. Now, any disturbance, such as a water change will shake them loose again so they spread around again. This also releases the bacteria in the dirt into the water, where it may be reproducing and making the cloud.
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Old 09-22-2019, 08:05 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: persistent white clouds

Also could be nutrients in the tap water

* CO2 - more common in the winter, where tap water can bring in quite a bit of CO2
* Ammonia / Nitrates from agriculture runoff
* Ammonia if you use an old style water conditioner that doesn't bind the Ammonia from the chloramines (used instead of chlorine to treat water)

Unless you have a specific issue it is more common to do smaller (<= 25%) water changes for low tech tanks. The CO2 alone can cause algae issues.
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Old 09-22-2019, 08:33 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: persistent white clouds

I sometimes see long term water haziness in my no filter, no CO2 NPTs (new setups). Its not the usual new setup haze that comes and goes relatively quickly. It can persists months and months. Water is not extremely hazy, but quite annoying.

My guess is, that for whatever reason, the conditions are right for a long term bacteria bloom in the water column. Bacteria blooms are somewhat normal with new setups, but usually it should be gone relatively quickly.

My observations, which may or may not help on the condition (I did not have enough occasions to really test this yet):

- Water changes do not help
- Fish and plants are OK, no gasping whatsoever
- If I add a filter, no matter how small, the haze tends to go away after a while. I have seen this long term haze in no filter tanks.
- Normally there is absolutely no need to add micro ferts in this stage to the tank, but when I added a particular K + micro liquid fertilizer, haziness seems to be reduced
- Few times I added some root tabs that are used for terrestrial plants (it contains N in ammonia form, so super dangerous to fish), and then haze was gone

Again, these observations above can be totally random and nothing to do with the hazy water.

@jochemspek, does your tank have any filter?
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Old 09-22-2019, 10:25 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: persistent white clouds

Quote:
Originally Posted by hoppycalif View Post
I'm going to guess that your accidental boring of a hole into the soil half of the substrate is the problem. ...where it may be reproducing and making the cloud.
I was afraid that might have caused a problem. However, the water itself does not seem to carry largish pieces of debris, so it seems reasonable that it's indeed the bacteria producing the cloud. Is there a way to stop the cloud from forming?

Quote:
Originally Posted by fpn View Post
Also could be nutrients in the tap water
I can vouch for the tapwater here, I'm in Amsterdam, where the water is filtered through the dunes and is extremely clean, without added chemicals. It's soft and PH neutral.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fpn View Post
The CO2 alone can cause algae issues.
I'm not injecting much, about 1ml every half minute. To be honest I haven't tried stopping the CO2 injection as I was afraid it'll reduce plantgrowth and give the algae even more of an upper hand. I'll read up on the effects of CO2 injection and perhaps reduce/stop it for awhile to see if it does anything.


Quote:
Originally Posted by zolteeC View Post
@jochemspek, does your tank have any filter?
Only internal, the ones that come with the UV filter. No external filter.

Thanks for all your quick replies!!

Jonathan

Last edited by jochemspek; 09-22-2019 at 10:43 PM..
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Old 09-23-2019, 08:36 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: persistent white clouds

The El Natural method doesn't include CO2 being added to the water. And, it works best if you don't have a lot more light than the slow growing plants need. A 54 watt T5HO light would be too bright, so I suspect a 54 watt LED light would be even brighter.

A good suggestion would be to follow the instructions in Ms Walstad's book. Some of the instructions are there for reasons not immediately obvious unless you thoroughly understand the method. I have read her book several times and I'm still learning about it.
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Old 09-23-2019, 12:25 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: persistent white clouds

Sorry didn't realize you are injecting - in that case CO2 from tap should not be an issue.

You can easily test your treated tap for nitrate & ammonia to exclude that.

Are you also running a medium or high light?

I think mixing high tech + walstad is possible, but really then you may need to treat it more like a high tech dirtied tank.

Dennis Wong (https://www.advancedplantedtank.com/) for example uses a dirt soil layer in his tanks (plus aquasoil).

I would not expect such a tank to work well w/o good mechanical + bio filtration.
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Old 09-23-2019, 12:57 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: persistent white clouds

Quote:
Originally Posted by hoppycalif View Post
The El Natural method doesn't include CO2 being added to the water. And, it works best if you don't have a lot more light than the slow growing plants need. A 54 watt T5HO light would be too bright, so I suspect a 54 watt LED light would be even brighter.

A good suggestion would be to follow the instructions in Ms Walstad's book. Some of the instructions are there for reasons not immediately obvious unless you thoroughly understand the method. I have read her book several times and I'm still learning about it.
It's true I started injection earlier to give the plants a head start, and planned to stop after a couple of weeks, but since the tank seemed to do well, I never really thought about it anymore, but you're right. I'll go through the book again and see where I drifted off, thanks for the suggestion.

Jonathan
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Old 09-23-2019, 12:59 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: persistent white clouds

Quote:
Originally Posted by fpn View Post
Sorry didn't realize you are injecting - in that case CO2 from tap should not be an issue.

You can easily test your treated tap for nitrate & ammonia to exclude that.

Are you also running a medium or high light?

I think mixing high tech + walstad is possible, but really then you may need to treat it more like a high tech dirtied tank.

Dennis Wong (https://www.advancedplantedtank.com/) for example uses a dirt soil layer in his tanks (plus aquasoil).

I would not expect such a tank to work well w/o good mechanical + bio filtration.

Yeah, as per @hoppycalif suggestion as well, I guess I have to be much more strict in what I do, I'll dive back into the book and see where I can correct my setup, thanks.

Jonathan
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Old 09-23-2019, 03:58 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: persistent white clouds

That looks to me like it's a a bcterial bloom. If it is it will go away on its own. A UV sterilizer helped when I had this happen.


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