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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone,

I am new to this forum and am hoping you all can provide some assistance.

I am not new to keeping an aquarium but new to keeping a planted aquarium. I quickly discovered you can't simply plop in a few plants in a 55 gallon aquarium with 30 watts of total light and expect them to live. I have been working on catering to the plant's needs but I am beginning to think I am spending more than the whole idea of a planted aquarium is worth and seriously considering putting the lace rocks back in and be done with it. Before throwing in the towel, I thought I would ask for some advice and figure out some things I may be doing incorrectly.

First things first, here is what I have:

55 gallon aquarium with black gravel that it came with (I purchased it used)
48" Coralife CF light with 130 total watts (recently purchased as an upgrade to the original 30 watt fixture)
Two water sprites, several anacharis, several cabomba, one java fern, one lace java fern, dwarf baby tears growing on driftwood, java moss, an anubia of some sort and some swords which look so bad they will soon be taken out anyway.
Assortment of platies, guppies, zebras and some ghost shrimp

I do not have CO2 and have no plans to use it. It's too expensive and involved. I do however use Seachem's Excel and Flourish with their recommended dosages.

Some history of the tank: As mentioned I bought it used and didn't have to cycle it completely. I did let it sit three weeks as a precaution, added the zebras and monitored the water until the levels were consistent for a few more weeks. Upon adding the platies, I added a plant collection I purchased online. Of the 30 plants purchased, all that remains are the anubia, the java ferns, java moss and the swords mentioned. All else perished. When researching why, I came to the conclusion I had to upgrade my lighting and provide some nutrients and CO2 in some form.

Lighting upgraded, Seachem Excel and Flourish purchased, I decided to buy the cabomba and anacharis. They seemed to be doing okay so I purchased the water sprites and the baby tears. All was fine UNTIL brown algae appeared EVERYWHERE. It was on the glass, covering the gravel and of course the plants. I have cleaned the glass but it remains all over the plants. I bought some Ottos but they don't seem to like the brown algae. So that is my first problem. I work in the I.T. industry and in the course of troubleshooting a computer problem, I always ask what changed. In the case of the sudden appearance of the brown algae, the thing that changed was the stronger lighting. I turn the lights on at 7:00 in the morning before leaving for work and consequently don't turn it off until about 8:00 p.m. I believe the brown algae is a result of too much strong light. Correct me if I'm wrong.

So that's the first problem.

The next thing is browning of the leaves in general. Take the cabomba for example. It is growing (and quickly I might add) but ALL the leaves are brown. Further, the java moss has more brown than green and from what I have learned, java moss is pretty indestructible! The anacharis looks good but it is a boring plant and I actually want to get rid of it.

I called the guys over at aquariumplants.com today to inquire about a driftwood centerpiece and I asked about their own substrate -- asking if it can be applied to an existing aquarium by just pouring it in. The answer was no of course and we got to chatting about a plants likelihood to thrive in normal gravel. Hardly any was his answer. He recommended I drain the tank, remove the gravel, apply a good substrate (his or any other), plant the plants, add the fish back and go from there. I do NOT want to do that. It is not worth it to me. Here is a link for their substrate by the way: http://www.aquariumplants.com/product_p/ss.htm

So, that is the next thing. Should I even bother keeping plants in a normal gravel? I ask because on their site they have nutrients you can inject to the root area that should give the plants what they need to thrive. Here is a link for that: http://www.aquariumplants.com/AquariumPlants_com_s_own_SUBSTRATE_VITALIZATION_p/fert.htm

So, I now look to all of you for advice. I welcome your ideas, comments and suggestions. I don't think I have chosen difficult plants to tend to. I just need to know how to keep them happy without completely overhauling my entire tank set-up.

I thank you all in advance,
Ben
 

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Hey Ben, first off, welcome to apc. I moved your thread here figuring it would get more views on a topic which is more general than you might think. :)

Yes, your photoperiod is too long. Cut it down to 6-7hours, and observe, and adjust upwards later on IF needed.

Adding Flourish and Flourish Excel only adds a carbon source and a source for micro nutrients. You also need to add N (nitrogen), K (potassium) and P (phosphates). Flourish adds a very small amount of these, not enough. You may purchase the Seachem liquid ferts or buy the solid stuff. The liquids are much more expensive.

You do NOT have to change your substrate. You can grow plants in sand if you have the right conditions in the water column. Granted, the 'plant friendly' substrates are better, but not a necessity.

Here's a couple of references you might find useful:
http://www.aquatic-plants.org/articles/basics/pages/index.html
http://www.rexgrigg.com/

Cabomba and anachris are often sold as 'easy' starter plants. Personally, I have never been a fan of these, they require good lighting and nutrients to thrive.

Hope that helps, and welcome aboard!
 

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I may be in the minority here, but I do not think high light levels cause algae - it is almost always high nutrient levels IMO. I would think brown algae (is it slimy) is either diatoms or some kind of cyanobacteria that can arise in a new tank. Try doing some pretty agressive water changes or add some low-phosphate carbon temorarily. It also might be worth checking your nitrate levels as a proxy for high nutrient levels.

Most of the plants you have chosen will do just fine as long as you are adding ferts to the water. The sword plants need a more nutritious substrate, but i think you can accomplish this by pushing in a few gravel fertilizer tablets/balls/sticks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hi there Bert,

Thank you for the welcome. I appreciate it. Also thank you for moving my question where it should go. I wasn't sure so I really appreciate you doing that.

Great advice and it is a relief I don't have to change out the gravel! I was dreading it. I am going to get the injection system, cut down the light and see what happens. I am also getting rid of the cabomba and getting some other plants for the background. This is a live bearer tank. I will be moving the zebras to their own tank shortly. I say that because I was wondering if you or anyone has a recommendation for a good, TALL background plant (not jungle Val) but anything else?

I appreciate the links and will be checking them out later. I appreciate you help and I really do appreciate the welcome!

Hi ca1ore: I appreciate your input. I am thinking it is indeed diatoms. WhenI us the algae pad it seems to come off as a powder if that makes sense?? I am just worried it will kill the plants. I am pretty certain it isn't high nutrient levels. The reason I say that is because I don't add any, and do a pretty thorough weekly water change. Not to mention, I vacuum up excess food so there is nothing for the plants except fish waste which I am going to amend post haste. I keep hearing about diatoms and new tank as a reason which comes up frequently in Google searches. Perhaps it will go away on its own?

It is interesting you mention nitrates. They are high! My water is clean. VERY clean as in good enough to drink clean. Yet nitrates are high. Everything else is normal. PH = neutral, no nitrites, etc. I thought perhaps it was my water? I am going to start a course of these injections and go from there.

To both of you: What are your thoughts on my lack of CO2?

Thanking you VERY much!

All the best,
Benh
 

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What are your thoughts on my lack of CO2?
With 130W on a 55gal tank, personally, I would go with CO2. A one time investment, and on that size tank, you should be able to get 6-9months out of a 10lb CO2 cylinder. CO2, whether pressurized or diy, is probably the greatest benefit you can do for a planted tank - be it low, medium (and especially) on high light. DIY can get old quickly, and if you're going there, save the pennies and go pressurized.

My 2 cents. :)
 

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Agreed. I've been using CO2 on plant tanks since 1986, and I can't remember anything before that, so a 'yes' from me!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks guys,

I am going to be saving my money to set a system up. It isn't cheap but as you say Bert, it is a one time investment.

I really thank you all for your help and advice!

Wishing you the very best,
Ben
 
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