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Nano Walstad
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Discussion Starter · #243 ·
Why do you say that? Wouldn't zeroes indicate that it has? Plenty of ammonia sources going in and being generated, yet it's all gone before it can register. Especially in such a small volume of water. Isn't that the result of being cycled? Bacterial populations are converting ammonia to nitrite to nitrate before any of it can build up in the water?
Plant Terrestrial plant Twig Evergreen Arecales

Finally managed to find the shrimp! You can see how he's more translucent than cherry red... REALLY hard to find in a heavily planted tank with lots of reds and browns! It looks like he might have some food in his gut, so hopefully that means he's eating, and indicative that whatever was making the shrimp unhappy previously has been taken up by the plants.
 

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Discussion Starter · #245 ·
I wasn't worried. Not sure why one would think the tank isn't cycled to begin with. The bacteria live in the substrate, which is 50% garden soil where it spent some 4 years partially submerged. Seems like nitrifying bacteria had a long, long head start on the rest of it.

Great news! You can see in the shrimp photo above the opacity/transparency in the shrimp's gut, indicating when it has hasn't been eating (although, it doesn't tell me much without knowing the rate of movement). I just sat down to check on it after moving it's little floater raft toward the front of the tank where it was easier to see from a comfortable vantage point. I saw the little thing eat! That was the piece that seemed missing from the first two shrimp. The first one was all over the place, the second one mostly hung out in the floaters, but I never saw it eat. Not only did I finally see it eat, but it's gut is now completely full from front to back! Now it just needs to stick around a while!
 

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The floating plants are eating up any ammonia so I wouldn't worry.
They're really his only line of defense. Three quarters of his substrate is taken up with aquascaping and slow-growing submersed plants.

I have a much bigger tank with a lot more floaters and roughly the same bio-load. It will be interesting to see how quickly the nitrates become measurable. His regularly trimming the water lettuce roots is the same as throwing away handfuls of spangle/salvinia/frogbit before they carpet the surface - as long as they're growing, they're doing their job.

I wasn't worried. Not sure why one would think the tank isn't cycled to begin with. The bacteria live in the substrate, which is 50% garden soil where it spent some 4 years partially submerged. Seems like nitrifying bacteria had a long, long head start on the rest of it.
Cycling doesn't begin until the bacteria has something to work with. Your "potting soil" was pretty worn out before the water hit the tank. And even then, it was a month before you added your first fish. No wonder it wasn't registering any nitrates.
 

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Discussion Starter · #247 ·
You don't think 7 fish and probably a hundred snails aren't producing some ammonia? Especially for the volume of the tank. I intentionally set this up and introduced things in a way that everything had a chance to ramp up at the speed it's capable of without anything overwhelming anything else. The plants are taking the time they take to grow, fill in, and eventually grow emersed. I'm gradually introducing fauna along at a rate that will sustain the plant base without overloading it. The bacteria are there, and they're doing their thing just fine. Ideally, multiplying at a rate to keep up with the rest of it. As the bioload is ramped up, the plants ramp up, and the bacteria ramp up. I can think of no reason to suspect this hasn't been occurring in that exact manner. One of the big takeaways I got from the book was that this whole thing is an intricate balancing act, and it seems to be balancing out quite nicely.

The frogbit is growing super fast (aerial advantage), and has covered most of the surface. Soon, it'll have covered all of it, and I intend to pull the larger/older clumps to make room for more growth. If the tank isn't cycled, as you say, I should see some ammonia compound spikes when I do so. I'll be sure to test it when I do for this purpose.
 

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You don't think 7 fish and probably a hundred snails aren't producing some ammonia?
Oh, I know they are. We're both speculating as to when it will reach a detectable level. A tank is considered "cycled" when the nitrate level becomes detectable for the first time, followed by a similar "spike" in the ammonia level. It can take up to six weeks in an unplanted aquarium so, who knows - it might take twice as long in one that is heavily planted but with not so terribly fast growers.
 

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Spectre6000
Nice job with your tank. Glad to finally see a picture. Those floating plants look good.
Your tank chemistry is fine. Cycling is not an issue in this situation. Apparently, the plants--not nitrifying bacteria-- are getting the ammonia. That's great! Suggests healthy growing plants, sucking up their preferred form of nitrogen (ammonia) before the bacteria can get it.
(My 9 tanks with potted plants and no filters also have zero nitrates, ammonia, and nitrite.) Cycling is irrelevant.
 

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Discussion Starter · #250 · (Edited)
Spectre6000
Nice job with your tank. Glad to finally see a picture. Those floating plants look good.
Your tank chemistry is fine. Cycling is not an issue in this situation. Apparently, the plants--not nitrifying bacteria-- are getting the ammonia. That's great! Suggests healthy growing plants, sucking up their preferred form of nitrogen (ammonia) before the bacteria can get it.
(My 9 tanks with potted plants and no filters also have zero nitrates, ammonia, and nitrite.) Cycling is irrelevant.
I'm certainly glad to hear that! Thank you! Is there something I'm not seeing that would tell me that it has cycled? I had a blip of nitrate in the very first few days, and it's been 0s across the board since. It seems to my mind that the bacteria are present, and they'll expand to the availability of their food source naturally. An event where things get out of balance and some nitrogen compound or another spikes doesn't seem like it should be necessary, but I'm no microbiologist.

Meanwhile, I tested the chemistry... yesterday or the day before. Full panel because I had half the stuff out already and on the same floor for work stuff.

Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrate - 0
GH - 8.4°
KH - 5.8°
TDS - 245
pH - 7.4

Also, last I checked (a few hours ago before 2yo's nap), the shrimp was still alive. I've never kept a shrimp and don't know much about them save their role on the cleanup crew, so I don't really know how to tell if he's doing well or not outside of the binary dead/alive. I HAVE seen him eat, and the transparency gift/curse means I can tell when he has eaten or not. I have seen signs that he's eaten, but more often than not his gut appears empty. He's SUPER hard to find... Fortunately, he seems to pretty much always be hanging out in the floater roots, and doesn't seem too concerned with me moving the floaters around looking for him. Still... Super hard to find...

Speaking of hard to find... One of the guppies went MIA this morning. I saw him around 7am, but later in the day wife was doing a guppy inventory, and he was missing. Wife found him just now laying on the ground in the back being eaten by snails. Of the 6 mail order guppies, there were two that never seemed quite as hale and healthy as the others. The first one that died was NOT one of these two. This one was. There's one more that I'm hoping catches up, but... I guess we'll see. The mail order guppies cost something like $0.33/ea. Expectations weren't super high, but I'd say they've mostly been exceeded. I'm now down to the number I was actually shooting for. From here, if any more die, I'll replace them with guppies from whichever LFS I find them at.
 

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Well, in my defense, this is the first I'm hearing that there was a "blip in nitrate in the very first few days". Nitrate is an indication that there were enough bacteria present at some point to convert ammonia into nitrites and enough to convert the nitrites into nitrates. For all intents and purposes, your tank has cycled. Plants were melting, snails were dying. It's a small tank; anything might have been the catalyst. The good news is as @dwalstad wrote, your plants appear to be outcompeting the bacteria well enough to keep the ammonia undetectable. For now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #252 ·
View attachment 75325
Well that's a little unexpected, though maybe it shouldn't be. I expected ammonia to be pretty high, a little nitrate, and not a ton of nitrite, but... Everything seems to be starting in a pretty happy place. I guess since the soil is pretty mature, and has had good bacteria doing their thing in a moist environment for quite a while, it's just kinda doing its thing. It hasn't even been set up for a day, so that will obviously change over time, but that's a pleasant surprise!
There were trace ammonia and nitrate (enough to be not 0, but not quite the first color graduation on the chart), and nitrite continues to be zero.
pH - 6.8
TDS - 34ppm
Temperature - 76°F
Calcium hardness - 10-20ppm as CaCo3 (I haven't converted units here yet, but that's really soft; converts to just over a grain, but that's also not an aquarium unit)
Edit: that's about 1° KH
Ammonia - 0
Nitrite - 0
Nitrate - ~4ppm
It's come up... As drawn out as this has been, and as verbose as I can get, it probably got lost in the weeds.

I think tomorrow is frogbit culling day. It's pretty much 100% of the surface at this point. When I lopped all of the roots off wholesale, it triggered the larger clumps to spawn new mini-clumps en masse. Then, they all went and shot the usual 1"/day+ shoots that trigger the frequent trimming. I might do a little with the stem plants as well. I don't want any more of the Rotala nanjanshan than I already have, so it can get to the surface if it wants to. I might also move a few of the stems around.
 

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It's come up... As drawn out as this has been, and as verbose as I can get, it probably got lost in the weeds.
You (@johnwesley0) suggested testing it (the potting soil leachate) for ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite. Is the intent to see if the levels are high in a very conventional aquarium maintenance way? In which case the remedy, as I currently understand it, is to perform frequent water changes until those levels stabilize. If, however, there's something else to be gathered from those numbers, I'd love to know it. It's entirely possible I'm overthinking it, and the conventional parameters are all you're suggesting I take note of. That's what I've been trying to ask.
I remember. :giggle::)
 

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Quote: I think tomorrow is frogbit culling day.
Don't overdo pruning. I would never trim Frogbit roots. In your tank, they are taking up all that ammonia very efficiently. Just remove some of the entire plants. That way, the water surface gets thinned out a little, allowing light and oxygen to penetrate into the water column.
 

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Discussion Starter · #255 ·
@dwalstad, @maico996 I've received conflicting information from the two of you re: frogbit maintenance. Initially, I removed a few clumps, but was informed that trimming the roots was preferable. Now I'm getting the opposite advice.

In practice, the frogbit roots are growing at least an inch a day, with one to two root shoots per plant. Trimming these results in another root shoot taking over the 1"+/day regime, and the root cluster gets thicker and thicker. Left unattended, the roots reach the substrate in a hurry, and visibility is gone in days. Lack of visibility is obviously undesirable, especially when I'm trying to resolve the Schrödinger's Shrimp paradox a few times a day. An additional and more recent observation re: root trimming is that when I trim a bunch of roots at once, new plant shoots are sent from probably 75% of the plants. In one case, multiple shoots.

I started out with a handful of frogbit (the amount sold as a bunch at the LFS), and prior to last night they were covering 100% of the surface such that the stem plants that would otherwise have emmersed themselves were kept from doing so. I trimmed the roots in the more aggressive fashion again as that method maximized visibility and seemed to have no ill effects other than increasing the number of frogbit I have to trim the next time, and removed about half by coverage area, focusing on the older plants.

I tested the water chemistry after that initial major root trimming, and everything was good as usual. I'll test again today, and report back.
 

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Discussion Starter · #256 ·
Reporting back. Zeroes with an asterisk. The ammonia test might have had a hint of green. The sort where I was walking around the house checking it under different light sources to try to tell if it was 0 or somewhere along the way to 0.25, because it's a super rainy day and we're in a cloud right now (aka, ultrafog; mountain weather, ammirite?) so no meaningful daylight to work with. Zero enough for practical purposes, but I'll probably test again tomorrow to make sure it stays that way and isn't on its way to a problematic state.
 

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Discussion Starter · #257 ·
:-( My favorite guppy is sick. He's floating vertically. Seems it's due to bladder disease from overeating, and the fix is to lay off for a few days. Hopefully that does the trick and he makes it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #258 ·
Good news! Guppy is back the right way up this morning! I guess he had a good poop overnight. I'll probably keep this evening's feeding light for his sake. Don't want to starve the others, but also don't want to exacerbate things before we're fully in the clear.

Meanwhile, water tests this morning the second day after the 50% frogbit cull:
Rectangle Road surface Wood Asphalt Font

Similar scenario to yesterday with the semi-ambiguous near binary reading on the ammonia test. I have proper sunlight this morning for comparison. It actually looked pretty spot on for total zero in person, but the photo makes it look about as ambiguous as it did without decent light yesterday. If you cover the green (0.25ppm) swatch with your finger, it looks 100% like the yellow (0ppm) swatch, and if you cover the yellow swatch, it looks like there's a hint of green. I always hated these semi-subjective color comparisons. Especially the ones in the green/red spectrum (which seem to be the majority). Still. Close enough to zero to call things happy and healthy, and without any movement, stable. Looking back at the previous test photos, the same general relationship seems to exist, and at the time I didn't second guess the zero interpretation. I'm wondering if I'm not just being much more careful after the frogbit cull, and seeing things that aren't necessarily there...

I'm curious to know how others feel about the proximity of the ammonia test to the 0/0.25ppm swatches. Feedback appreciated.
 

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@dwalstad, @maico996 I've received conflicting information from the two of you re: frogbit maintenance. Initially, I removed a few clumps, but was informed that trimming the roots was preferable. Now I'm getting the opposite advice.
Keep in mind that my advice to trim the Frogbit roots was an alternative to removing them completely while your tank was just starting. As I mentioned, you needed as many plants as possible to absorb excess nutrients in your water that could've contributed to algae, as well as excess ammonia that would've been harmful to your fauna. Now that your tank seems to be doing well, as Diana suggested you can remove some of them to allow more light into your tank. It's always a good idea to keep some floaters but as your tank progresses and finds balance, their role will become less critical in the ongoing life of your tank. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #260 · (Edited)
Well... I for sure have a problem now... I think my mail order guppies brought some sort of badnasty with them. One died pretty early, but I figured that's why they sent a spare. After a week or so went by though, the mail order guppies started slowly kicking it one by one. The LFS guppies didn't seem to be affected at all, so I chalked it up to poor breeding practices a la @dwalstad 's article on breeding for longevity. I was just going to replace them with the healthier LFS guppies as time went on. Just now though, one of the LFS guppies died... They seem fine and dandy, then get sort of mellow, then suddenly they're just dead. No outward symptoms other than a general slow down. Once they're dead, they noticeably lose color, but I don't know if that's a symptom or not, and it doesn't manifest until they're already dead. Everything else seems perfectly fine.

I don't think it's likely a good idea to dose the tank with anything, especially given the role the invertebrates play, and given that I have no idea what I'd be dosing for. I read some articles on guppy diseases, and the only thing that rings remotely possible is overfeeding... We feed them once a day, and as discussed give a little extra for the plants. A lot of this extra necessarily gets eaten, obviously, and this is what I attributed to the one guppy's swim bladder issue. Update on that guppy since my last post is that he died a day or two later after recovering from that. Only idea I have at this point is to not replace any more guppies, assuming the two remaining are doomed, and give the tank a while to let whatever it is die off, and try again eventually.

EDIT: I tested the nitrogen compounds just now, and everything is a firm zero (so the doubt over the 0 ammonia readings earlier were likely warranted). Also, I found a shrimp molt, so he's doing well. Wife pointed out just now that whatever it is is likely biological (virus/bacteria), because the standard measurements come back good, and the shrimp is going to be more sensitive to environmental issues... So I guess the question is what to do about an unknown virus/bacterium, and is there any way to save the remaining guppies?
 
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