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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi everyone, decided to keep a sort of online journal here, if that's ok! Wanted to share how it's been going, now that it's been...oh dear, a few months now? With my El Natural set up.

How it started:
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I quickly realize there wasn't nearly enough plants, I had to resort to putting in carbon in the filter to help stabalize everything. I haven't had to change it yet, the idea is that as the carbon wears out/gets old, there will be enough plant growth to really put things in check.

So this is how it's going:
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I get some light nitrite readings (below .25 ppm) after I clean any part of my filter, which I have to do every so often because it gets so gunky, the flow starts being too weak.

I have new lights which are probably considered medium intensity because even the red plants in the middle foreground (not sure the name of them!) are starting to perk up and stopped loosing leaves.

At first there was some brown "algae" but that went away a few weeks ago and now with the new lights there's been a growth of hairy/stringy algae. It's not too intense, but I did do a manual clean up and shortened the light schedule by two hours (one in the morning and one at night, continueing with a 4 hour siesta inbetween)

I think things are going along quite well, the fish are doing wonderfully, however they seem skittish around me, I think they are a bit traumatized with my constant hands in the water, always planting new things from the last couple of months but I'm slowly gaining their trust again with every feeding, heh.

Edit.
Wanted to share something interesting, I read that cutting jungle val at the top of the leaves doesn't mean it grows back, but mine have almost with every trim!

Also these two leaves which are particularly dark (excessive nutrients??), I thought were dieing but after cutting them they are already back at the surface.

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Thank you Diana for your feedback! My water hardness (i only found the Gh test at my local petstore) is 3-8 dH, it's soft water. The ph is around 7.3. I haven't had too many problems with plants uprooting actually. The soil I used is what is called "organic worm hummus" here in Brazil, hummus de minhoca. It was a risk because they don't say what is in it at all.

Let me see if I can recall a timeline to get a better picture because this current set up with all the plants has been recent actually.

-April I bought the stand, May I bought the aquarium.

May 16th, with no fishes, testing the water to see if the soil would release scary chemicals, ammonia, or surprise bugs. All went well!
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May 29th, added the pothos

June 12th I added the Swords.

June 13th: I added the new lights except they only have half the led-bulbs that they have now and added new purple-ish (under the leaves) plants to the left corner. They eventually get replanted, distributing it all over the foreground since the little dwarf hairgrass wasn't really going forward (no surprise there, this isn't such a bright light!).

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June 15th I added all the sag subulata which now have a toooon of runners everywhere. I also added water sprite (which has been trimmed and replanted once already.)

July 25th A new strip of LED is added to the light fixture. A couple weeks afterwards hairy algae started showing up, mostly on the jungle val on the surface, which is where I did the clean up last week but after diminishing the lights by two hours last week, I already don't see it growing anymore!

The photo of the cut jungle val is from last week, august 3rd. This is how it is now, the dark stripes seem to have dissipated now that it's longer (the longer leaf dipping into the water is that same one!)

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The Elodea, one of the first plants in the aquarium, has been trimmed about three our four times now, and replanted (the new bunch you see in background of the picture above was from replanting last week).

So now that I hunted down all my pictures and figured out exactly how long this has all taken, I have to admit it's felt liked WAY longer since I first set this up. But it's only been 3 months, holy cow!

I've been dreaming of this tank since at least February, panicking about the fact that my 11 gallon wasn't enough for my 5 rosy barbs and wondering how I was going to pay for a new tank.

In the last three weeks my sword two of these two "runners":
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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Bubbles come up still, most of it doesn't smell but once in a while bubbles come up with a sort faint fart-like smell, for lack of a better description :oops:


The brand was something like this, they don't specify much of anything besides being organic...

 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you again for the feedback!

While I'm tempted to leave things as they are, I`m also interested in seeing if I can help the jungle val grow a little better. I have rosy barbs, corydoras, a bristlenose pleco, and a TON of snails (i've counted over 10 ramshorns, around 5 or so pond snails which I think my pleco has snacked on because I've found some empty shells around... and 3 or 4 trumpet snails, but there could be a lot more hiding), so I think they are fairly flexible in terms of water hardness - snails for sure won't mind wonder shells!

I managed to catch my biggest trumpet snail on camera, in the corner where I'm pretty sure the ramshorns eggs are because they are constantly springing up from there:

As you said, I have been through quite a lot with this tank!! I didn't mention the day I finally understood the concept and consequence of anaerobic substrate and, in a panic, needed to solve the problem which was my black rocks on top of the substrate. I had to convince my boyfriend to help me dig a hole into the substrate to place them in contact with the glass, so they wouldn't smother bacteria. We managed to create a circular dam, creating a barrier so we could take out the water where the hole needed to be while preventing water from the rest of the tank from flooding it! It was mostly a success; some dirt did get lifted, leaving the water foggy for a couple of days.

I was wondering about the bubbles, so I have to keep poking to let the co2 out every so often?
Is there a moment where I don't have to do that?

Bubbles to come up by themselves sometimes, although much less now though than in the first few weeks. I usually poke around when I see the pockets forming through the glass.


Here`s a picture of that mysterious purple plant (which a snail hanging on), if anyone could help me ID it?

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I looked for something like Wonder Shell around here, found this:

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Cálcio ( calcium ) 21,50%

Sódio (sodium) 1,10%

Vitamínica B1 (vitamin B1) 0,25%



It`s not quite the same, but I wonder if it will do the trick??
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Good morning!

Last night I raised the water level right up to the spout of the filter so it wouldn't splash and create so many bubbles. I`ll have to wait until the weekend to test turning it off during the day so I can keep an eye on the fish (I work from 1pm till 10pm).

Today I woke up and found quite a bit of surface scum (if I remember what I read correctly, it's bacteria/lipids?) I cleaned a little bit of it up and did a water test. Results:
0 ammonia
Somewhere between 0 and 0.25 nitrites (less than the last few readings that were squarely at 0.25 ppm, hurray!)
7.3 or 7.4 ph

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The only dedicated fish store in my area don't have anything like wonder shells, not even crushed seashells, only calcium in liquid form, a supplement for marine aquarium. I'm going to have to do some reading in your book!

Sodium bicarbonate I do have, I`ll try it out, thanks!

I'm currently re-reading the chapter on bacteria, to understand more about the role of doc/poc and humic substances. There's a lot of floating particles around my tank and the last time it was this visible, I mistakenly did a partial water change because there was also lot of algae growth, so I thought there were excessive nutrients in the water, but turns out maybe just shortening the light duration by two hours did the trick.

In doing this, I had over-cleaned by vacuuming the mulm in the corners because the nitrites, which were at 0 (this was a few weeks ago) spiked to 0.50 so I did partial water changes (less than 10% every few days) until it went down to 0.25. This whole week I didn't mess with the water, and the nitrites are finally going down on their own. Just as the mulm and particles in the water are building up again. I assume it's POC I see in the water, but wasn't sure if it was supposed to be this visible.

Now I know mulm is a big source of nutrients so I haven't cleaned it up since. Despite having read the book once before setting all this up, I still have to keep going back and find myself understanding more as I gain hands-on experience!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
So just an update. Tomorrow I plan on dosing the tank with sodium, haven`t done it yet because I wanted to be around to test the water every couple of hours, make sure the ph doesn`t fluctuate too much too fast.

Now that there isn't much surface agitation, there's been quite an explosion of surface biofilm.
The hair algae/brown algae seems to be creeping back after all. Gonna do a manual cleaning of it and then wait it out. Hopefully withe the sodium bicarbonate helping the plants, it will in turn help the algae.

I admit I am tempted to put more filter floss to try to take care of some of the particles in the water... it seems a bit intense or maybe I'm not used to it? I'm wondering if doing this type of tank means not having clear water (doesn't need to be crystal clear, but a little clearer than this...) or if it`s because I have lots of bottom dwellers, who constantly kick up the mulm around the tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Fun comparison photo:

July 15th:
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A photo from August 28th:

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I took the purple plants from the middle and replanted them over the right corner near the branches because the sag is taking over the middle foreground, so many runners!!

The lovely light green plant in the left corner has just recently exploded as well in size, it's so exciting to see everything fill out like this!

I dosed the tank with sodium, the PH did go up a bit, but the fish didn't seem to mind, so I'm not worried. From 7.2 it's around 8 now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I'm wondering if it's a good idea to try to lower the pH back to under 8. I tested it again and it looks to be around 8.6.

These liquid tests color sheets don't seem entirely accurate to me so it's hard to make a reading. I have two ph tests- one only goes up to 7.5 and I can tell the blue is a bit more intense than the 7.5 and the other tests up to 8.6 and it seems to be reading right around that spot.

Anyways, I've been reading about ways to lower the ph but most of the solutions seem to be ways that eliminate the minerals as well, creating soft water, which is obviously not what I want to do.

I'm just worried on the long term effect of my fishe's lifespan with such high pH, considering the fish I have (rosy barbs, corydoras, bristlenose pleco...)

In other news, I started setting up an 11 liter tank in the natural method, for shrimp (there's only snails in there at the moment). So I went and bought a ton of plants and the fishstore gave me a mystery snail, after I stopped to admire them.... so I added him to the this 120 liter tank.

I'm wondering if the bioload might be on the limit....5 rosy barbs, 7 corydoras, 1 bristlenose pleco and who knows how many trumpet snails, ramshorns, and now my mystery snail!

I mean, ammonia and nitrites are 0 as of tonight, and have been this way for weeks, so maybe the plants are handling it all after all, adding one mystery snail probably won't create a problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Today I found a KH test at the fishstore, yay! Where I also bought crushed coral (with aragonite, I hope this isn't an issue? From when I read online briefly, it's not?).

Definitely low on CO2!

5 KH, with 8 pH = 1.47 ppm CO2.

I left the filter off today (but left a tiny pump on inside to create water flow), tonight I'll turn it on and I already placed a little bag of the crushed coral in the filter and tomorrow I'll do a complete water reading to see what`s changed!

Thanks for all the advice! I'm re-reading the chapter on carbon and the different ways plants absorb it, it`s fascinating but I admit being new to this I can get a bit confused!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
I've tested the waters two mornings in a row - KH reading is 6, with the pH 8.2, the CO2 reading is about the same I guess.

I'm honestly considering ditching my HOB filter for an internal sponge filter (I only have a small internal pump) because I think the bacteria source in the filter is doing a lot of the work right now. Since turning it off during the day, my nitrites and ammonia went up, both up to 0.25 which happened once after cleaning my filter, but it went down on it`s own in a week after getting no higher than 0.25 - I'm not sure this will be the case now, either way, today I'll keep the filter off again and see what reading I get tonight.

Crossing my fingers that things will adapt soon and balance out. In the meantime, I'm reading about and trying to fully understand the CO2 reading and how it relates to pH. From what I understand, once there's more CO2 available, the pH will go down a little?
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
Today is victory dance day! This morning the nitrites were starting going down, almost to a clear reading, while ammonia was still high but less so. Tonight both were at solid 0! Success!

Product Rectangle Azure Font Parallel



I'm wondering if I shouldn't dose the tank again with sodium bicarbonate or if need to be patient and let the coral start to dissolve.


Off topic -

This past week I set up my 4.5 gallon aquarium with soil, sand cap, some of the crushed coral as part of the substrate, added plants (trimmings from my other aquariums together with some new ones), a small pump and snails. The readings are off the chart naturally, I'm surprised the snail population has not died but thrived this week. So many baby snails hatching all over the place!

The plan was a shrimp tank, but I'm wondering if maybe a Betta wouldn't be appropriate too? It would help keep the snail population down and eventual shrimp population....perhaps? Pictures to come soon!
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 · (Edited)
Hurray for you!. This is one of the best journals on APC and it's hard to believe it's only one month old! Fascinating struggle between keeping the beneficial bacteria uploaded via a filter and keeping the dissolved CO2 from escaping during the day. I'm no expert, but I have found that over time, beneficial bacteria will find a home inside the tank wherever they can get a foothold, so running the filter less and less may be a worthwhile experiment.
The aquarium itself is four months old, with a slow and steady process of adding more and more plants, which is why I had to put in a filter, becuase I wasn't able to have a heavy plant load off the bat.

I guess tt's technically been only a month since I've started the transition to being filterless, so I think in another month, by comparing the plant growth, I`ll get an idea of how much this is helping them!

I'm going to try to find another way to put calcium in the water, in a way that won't also be dependent on the filter (which is where the crushed coral is placed right now).

I wonder if maybe crushed eggshells dissolve a little better in this situation? Or if I tried crushing it into a fine powder? I tried making the coral into smaller, finer pieces, but they are way too tough! Eggshells are probably easier.


EDIT - Ok, so after reading people's experiences on this site with eggshells, apparently even in powder form, due to my high pH, it might not actually dissolve into the water as I was imagining. I looked up CaCl2 directly on some popular brasilian websites and found a few interesting products...

First one is liquid form, found as a baking ingredient?? Not sure what "40%" means though, but their ingredient list only has calcium cloride? Pão de Açúcar | Supermercado Online
Liquid Bottle Fluid Solution Drink



Same concept in this link, used to make cheese apparently.. 2 Cloretos De Cálcio Líquido 200ml Para Fazer Queijo Caseiro - R$ 29,99
Liquid Bottle Solution Fluid Plastic bottle





Other than these products, I'm finding some chemistry kits, in powder form, but also include other things (magnesium and sodium bicarbonate, which is an interesting kit, but it's not clear if they are sold separately or mixed all together...Brazil has terrible advertising skills.)

The search continues!
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
So I found something very interesting pertaining the black marks a couple of my jungle vals. I have two varieties, one thinner and one thicker, which is the one that is showing the black stripes, turns out it might be natural to the plant! There is such a thing as a "tiger" variety:

 

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
Thanks everyone for the information, this is truly all very new to me! I bought the liquid form, because of the quantity.

Last night I put in one teaspoon, which really didn't do much to the gH reading but I decided to go slowly, so this morning I added another teaspoon and the reading budged a little. Probably due to being 40%, so it's very diluted. Last night it turned blue at a solid two drops of the solution but this time it would be close to two and half, because at two it was sort of blue but not persistently blue.

Tonight I'll add another teaspoon and onward we go! I made a video of my Corydoras this morning during feeding, as it's so rare to see them all at the same time, though it's hard to count all 7 of them in the video. I am just so smitten by them!

New video by Laisa Bellomo-Johnson

I also managed to catch my bristle nose on camera, except using my real camera, with a telephoto zoom from the other side of the room, a real wild-life type filmography!! Otherwise she would run away if I held my phone up the tank. So I have to upload that from my memory card still.
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 · (Edited)
Edit- I forgot to mention, I left the filter off last night, ammonia/nitrite readings stayed zero! I'm wondering if I shouldn't just leave it off from now on, make it an officially filter-free Certified Organic Aquarium?! 😁

15 teaspoons later (next time I'm buying the concentrates powder! On the otherhand, this allowed for a much more controlled rise) I managed to get the gH up to roughly around 8-9, so I stopped there.

I think I read somewhere that this will last quite a few months, if I'm not mistaken? Either way, I'll keep tabs on it for a while and see how fast the plants are going to be absorb it considering they are probably missing it right now.

So I've been thinking about the possibility of adding spring/mineral water, as it usually has a lot calcium, magnesium, etc. Although what concerns me is the levels of other stuff like nitrates, sodium, etc. I looked up a few brands and seems like nothing is really 100%. (For example, Nestlé Pure Life). Here in Brazil we have a lot of options for natural spring/mineral waters, so I'm wondering if it's worth the trouble looking into this option.

Decided to place this question out here because my boyfriend is keen on the idea (me, not so much because I haven't really read anything about it.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
Hello all, just posting an update! I officially took out the HOB filter, it had been off for over a week now basically. I turned it on for a few minutes each day just so the water inside wouldn't stagnate and I was a bit nervous taking it off completely, but now I made the full transition.

I`ll post a picture of the plant growth in another couple of weeks for a better comparison.

It's made it easier to keep the lids on too, one of my Rosy Barbs jumped out! My luck we were next to the aquarium when it happened, managed to put him back in quickly. He went all bug-eyed for a couple days from the stress and maybe dirt from the ground irritated his eyes, but he's back to normal now, thank god.

I've got my little shrimp tank up and running with 4 shrimps. There were 5, but one shrimp got stuck in the pump sadly but my boyfriend managed to fix it up with sponge pieces. One of them is berried so that exciting! This is also a dirted tank.

Water Pet supply Organism Plant Wood






And for the sake of sharing photos, this is my boyfriend's aquarium, which is planted but not dirted. It has Mbreda Amazonia substrate for plants with a sand cap, with 5 rummynoses and 1 blue gourami, who we are trying to decide if he just scrapped his head on the rock, or might be developing "hole in head"....not fun.

Water Plant Green Pet supply Fish supply
 
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