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pikovsg - hate to tell you but I had the same problem with Amazonia II. I fought it for 4-5 months. I eventually switched over the Amazonia regular. Nothing helped. I was NOT moving plants around causing dust. You can click on my 125g link at the bottom of my sig for the full story. It was horrible. I think they made some bad batched of the stuff, because some say they have not had any problems.
I guess i am a member of this club. For me, it was with regular amazonia and PowerSand special. Fortunately, i heard that Amazonia II had some issues, but note that Amano is still recommending it for hard water areas (which is what i believe he said at the Atlanta AGA meeting). My tanks had no measureable NH4 on or before week 4. I changed water very very frequently-- 50% per day for the first week! Every other day for week 2-3. I did this mostly to help clear the water and naively thought that the plants wouldnt mind the ammonia Even with all the water changes they took 4-6 weeks to clear.
I introduced a lot of plants initially, including many fast growing species. This helps alot. Many of the plants did well and there was limited algae (mostly dust and brown algae which was not troublesome).
Although i didnt get the algae from hell, I now believe that i lost several plant species which were sensitive to NH4+. I tested NH4 and then added fish at week 4. However, I wish i tested all along to monitor the change. It would be good to know if levels were low enough to add algae eating fish during week 2 or 3. Perhaps because of the water changes, i didnt have too much algae.... I also got and white fuzz on some of the wood.
In retropect, i should have used zeolite to help suck up the ammonia. I ignored this good advice that i got from Tom Barr. I really thought that water changes would be sufficient. There is always something new to learn!
To control other algae that developed during month 2, i decreased the light during and intensity. I should have done this from day one. Initially i was running 4 T5HO's for 12hrs. I changed to two @ 10 hours and four at 5 hours. This abated some of the algae. I didnt realize how much light i was getting from my Tek lights. Reduced lighting is important as Zapins recommends. Less light helps stabilize the nutrient levels and prevent stuff from running out. That is another complication with the ADA setup which does not encourage adding nutrients for the first month. I finally added 2 SAEs to one tank during month 2. SAEs are highly recommended for red and other hair algae. A few more algae eaters in all my tanks on or before 4 weeks would have been better. Ramshorn were all i had been using in 2 tanks. Now that i am upping light and nutrients, i am adding ottos and more SAEs.
 

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This is a bit overwhelming. As this is my first fish tank since childhood (20 years ago), I don't think I should have gone with the ADA setup. I've done a ton of research prior to getting the aquarium, but it seems like the research I've done is not enough for an ADA setup. .
I agree that it is complicated. More information is needed even for the seasoned gardener. I certainly could have benefited from better and more accessible info. I understand that ADA is working on that thru their new web site.

So with that said, I feel like I should take the soil out and restart again with Flourite or Eco-complete.
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I dont recommend it at this point. You may be over the hump. Now you can take advantage of some of the other advantages of that substrate.... unless the particles are decomposing and are not retaining their physical structure.

I still would very much like to keep a lot of plants in the tank. What do you think? What kind of substrate would you recommend? What kind of additives? I have a "Jungle" brand tablet CO2 system in the tank, but it's hard to measure it and I'm not sure if I'm ready for CO2 with my experience. Any advise would be huge.
You definitely need to get the algae under control. It means a lot of trimming, adding algae eaters, doing large and frequent water changes, reducing light, adding more algae free plants, etc. Something else not mentioned is to be sure that the plants have sufficient nutrients -- of everything, including the major macro nutrients (NPK), hardness minerals(Ca, Mg) and then the suite of traces. Dose small at first. Some of these may be in your tap water, supplied thru water changes, but maybe not. Of course the no. 1 macro nutrient is carbon. I am not sure whtat you get with Jungle. Sufficient carbon or CO2 is critical , so you may also look into Seachem excel (which i personally have not used), or CO2 injection. Adding baking soda can also supply carbon, since the substrate makes the water acid. Low pH shifts the carbonate equilbrium from carbonates /bicarbonates to CO2. Less light will make the plants less needy for C and the other nutrients which helps something from running out. Algae can do better in imbalanced nutrient situations.
--Neil
 

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Do note that too much water change can be bad. This is particularly true with new setup using Amazonia. Amazonia will make the pH very low. I would normally get 6 or below, sometime even close to 5. Most everyone change water using neutral (pH = 7) water. This causes sudden fluctuation in pH level in the tank, damaging the micro bacterias. This will prolong the bacteria colony from growing, consequently prolonging the cloudy water. This is why it is recommended to use activated carbon or zeolite.
The zeolite is a good idea for the ammonium. Carbon to help remove dissolved organics. However,
I never heard that such pH swings could be bad for the bacteria. The only concern i might have is if the tap water were pH >> 7 and then that shifts some of the more harmless NH4+ (ammonium) to NH3 (Ammonia).
Quetzalcoatl, can you provide more details or point us to the source of that statement.

You know, the frequent water changes have other benefits.
Thanks, Neil
 

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In regards to the light, I checked and it's a 96W 12000K lighting system. There is also a second light (white and blue), also at 96W. Can you advise as to how much light I need? (38gal 20" high tank) How long should it be on for?
If you have 2 bulbs burning at the same time, that is a lot of light.. more than i would use. That drives the plants to grow faster and can make it more difficult to keep some nutrients from running out.... thereby making it more favorable for algae. First, 96w total would be much better. Secondly, replace the blue bulbs with "white" light (6500-1000K). .... like a mid-day light closer to 6000. High kelvin rating by itself , however, doesnt actually say that the bulb is too blue or bad. I recall that my old 40" Triton bulbs were rated over 10000K.

When you get the tank algae free and you know you are suppling sufficient nutrients including carbon, then you can up the light. I know some people love to bath there plants in light and are successful at it. A bright tank does look nice. Regarding duration, keep it at 8-10 hours. (I personally have trouble doing that because i like to see my tanks in the morning and the evening :)) When you do add the 2nd 96w, start it at a few hours during the middle of the cycle.
--Neil
 
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