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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all and good day,

So here's my scenario. Years ago I started a planted tank with some success. I did all the research I could find and while it being my first time ever, of course, I still made mistakes. But in the long run I will say I had success in the end. Maybe not the desired result, but live plants, a forest of crypts and a couple of tiger lotus, with black 8 neon tetras and 5 serpae tetra in a 29 gallon tank. Running low tech, dirted tank with initially a T8 bulb, eventually 2 T5 bulbs. Zoo Med Flora sun plant and Zoo Med Ultra Trichromatic sun daylight, both 24 watts.

8 years later, we arrive to today. Last week I decided to tear down the tank and start over. With fresh substrate and some new plants with the old. In doing so I also decided, from the advice of the aquarium owner to go with RO water this time around. He had mention that our water here in LA County California is to hard for plants. Which got me thinking is the reason the first time around I wasn't able to keep a lot of the plants I selected. It's not like they all die off quickly, but they did die off over time. Leaving only the crypts, tiger lotus, and the constant battle with algae to reign free. But after doing some more research online to make sure I'm doing right by my plants and new tank, I've been seeing not to use RO for the most part or having to reintroduce the loss minerals if I'm going to. So I would like some advice on what should be my next steps, here's what I've done and my time frame so far:

A week ago today, last Wednesday I tore down the tank. I uprooted all my crypts and tiger lotus and put them in a temporary tank with my fish stock.

Thursday, Friday I cleaned out the old substrate and tank.

Saturday I was able to add the new organic dirt (shifted to remove large debris) and gravel. Total height of the 2 combine ended up close to 2.5" and very close to equal parts. I then started to add the RO water that I got from glacier water vending machine. After a couple of inches of water was added I went to add all my plants when I saw my first disaster. Most of my crypts have melted :( But all the tiger lotus still look healthy. So I planted those and the few crypts that look like they would have a chance. I was really disappointed at this point, because I had a lot of crypts (about a dozen fully grown), and they were going to be my bulk of the plants that hopefully met the plant heavy recommendation that people say to do when starting a planted tank. Lucky I had already order more plants on the way, Ludwigia, Christmas moss and Dwarf Sag. I then proceed to fill the tank with RO water and Immediately gave it a 50% water change.

Sunday, water still very cloudy, I gave it another 50% water change and I went and purchased an amazon sword to add to the tank. I would have purchased from the website but they were sold out and since my crypt disaster. I figure it was a blessing in disguise. I was able to break up the amazon sword into 2 plants and add them to the tank.

Monday, waiting on my order with no such luck. Later that evening I did another 50% water change and check to see if any new growth on the crypts. None yet :'(

Tuesday, yesterday. I finally got my order in and planted the rest of the tank with all the plants. I did not do a water change this time around as the water was finally looking clear, still a hint of cloudy but definitely much better. I did do a water test and I'll post those results down below. This is when I wanted to reassure myself I was going about it the right way with RO water. I look up some videos, found this forum and here I am.

Bless your heart if you stuck with me through all that. I tried to be as brief but informative as I can. Now you know what plants I have, my substrate I'm using, the lighting is the same as before, the 2 T5's. I have not add any of my fish back in. They are all still in their hospital tank. I want to wait to add the fish back in until the plants have had a chance to settle in and do their job. As of last night my water parameters are as follow using the API master test kit:

Ph 7.6 ( I tested for high also and ended with 7.4-7.8)
Ammonia 2.0ppm
Nitrite 0ppm
Nitrate 5.0ppm
KH 3 drops
GH never change (this is when I was concern about using RO water)

I was not able to sleep last night think I may have made a mistake with RO water. I started think that maybe I can start doing 20% water change with my tap water. Is this ill advise? Should I continue down the road with RO? Honestly I wouldn't mind going back to tap as it's much cheaper and not as labor intensive. Would a weekly or bi weekly of introducing tap water through the 20% water change be okay? In the end I would like continue housing my black neon tetra (8), serpae tetra (5) and maybe adding cory panda's (4). Unless those of you feel that the cory's would be to much for the tank. Obviously it will be a slow introduction to all the fish into the tank. A couple each week and only after I felt that the plants are in a good place to start to take on the extra work. Thanks again for taking the time to read through my journey and giving me any advise you may have. Here's what the tank looks like currently.
 

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You should have zero ammonia in the water before adding the fish. That's why we "cycle" our tank. To cycle a tank means to wait for the bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrites, and nitrites to nitrates, to grow big enough colonies to keep the ammonia, and nitrite, concentrations down to zero. You can speed this cycle by using some of the filter media in your new filter - assuming you have one. And, you can also borrow some mulm from someones tank, or your old tank, and add it to your tank, to get some of the right bacteria in the tank. I know you didn't ask about that. As far as the water goes, you do need water that has some calcium and magnesium in it, which means a GH of more than about 3 dGH. If you mix about 20% of tap water into your RO water you should have that. Once you do that you don't need to do any more water changes for a month or so. The cloudiness should clear up by itself in a few days.
 

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As hoppycalif mentioned, you will want to have some minerals in the water otherwise going full RO may cause issues over time. Your substrate / soil may contain Ca/Mg, but if not, there can be issues especially if you go 100% RO. Some of these issues may only show up over time (as Ca/Mg gets depleted in the tank using full RO). With full RO, pH fluctuations can also be an issue.

Anyways, looking at the tank picture, I have managed to keep most of those plant species thriving in very hard water.

On the photo, I can see some blurry air bubbles which caught my attention. If you have too strong water flow, that can be not so optimal with such dirted low tech tanks. The main nutrient that plants need most is C which is in CO2 or bicarbonate form. In these tanks, as microbes feed on organic matter (i.e in soil) CO2 is produced, but if you have too strong water flow, the CO2 in the water will de-gas quickly to the air and your plants will not have a chance to use it. (CO2 production in the tank may also depend on its age, in the beginning fresh soil has lots of organic matter.)

If it were my tank, I'd like to see more plants planted. Maybe there are some crypts that melted and are coming back which I cannot see on the picture? Anyways, if there is a good amount of growing plant in the beginning, that may prevent lots of headaches and even failure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
@ Hoppycalif, Thanks for the info. Yeah, that's my plan with adding fish and what I meant by "until the plants have settled in and do their job." I am waiting until the tank has cycled and my ammonia is at zero. The fishes than I have now are in a separate tank and happy. It will be a slow introduction back into the planted tank and that's only when the parameters are met, cycled tank and zero ammonia. I know that probably won't happen for about a months time, give or take. But I'll continue to do my testing and see where we stand. I did do a 25% water change last night with tap water treated with prime and I'm hoping to see some positive improvement in the coming days. Again thanks for the help.

@zolteeC, I have decided to introduce tap water. I figured the tank is still very new, the plants are still in the very early stage of adapting to the new environment. If I was to make this addition, introduce it now rather then later. And it sounds like it would only benefit the plants to get some of the other nutrients that RO water doesn't provided. Also thanks for pointing out about the bubbles. I made sure that the tank is topped off so the water flows in and not pours back in, creating bubbles. And yes, that empty space you see on the left was were I had placed my crypts. If I don't see growth in the next coming days, I'll assume the worst and probably go out and get some new ones.
 
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