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Hi Everyone,
OK, I'll admit it, I've been lurking. I am absolutely amazed and astounded at the wealth of knowledge and experience some of you have related to this awesome hobby. But now I have decided to be BRAVE and actually make a post, as I think I'm in trouble and need some help before it's too late....
Here's my story:
I began this hobby about two years ago with the purchase of a 20 gallon tank and Eclipse hood. At that time I was simply interested in having a few nice fish. During one of my several visits to my local fish specialty store, I began admiring some of the planted tanks. Despite what I had heard, I was assured by store staff that as long as plants aren't completely neglected and their basic needs are met, they can be quite simple to grow. That was all I needed to hear and that officially marked the beginning of my disease.... :wink: I immediately replaced all of my natural gravel substrate with Flourite, and even bought a small CO2 system which consists of a canister to which I add sugar, water, and activator (yeast) & stabilizer packs. CO2 then bubbles up a grid which is suction cupped to the back of my tank. I then allowed my tank to cycle for a couple of weeks, and ventured out to buy some new plants. Understanding that light was my limiting factor (Only about 1.5 watts/gallon) I stuck with those plants described as "low light". I brought them home, planted them in my tank, and kept them fertilized with Flourish Excel Comprehensive and those Flourish tablets that you push into the substrate every three months or so. To my utter amazement, my plants actually grew beautifully, my fish were thrilled, and I had water clarity which I never dreamed possible. Please don't flame me for this, but in this entire time I have never performed a single water test of any kind. I figured if it's not broken, don't fix it. My plants were happy, my fish were happy, everything was fine. This has been the scenario for the past 18 months.
Then I started admiring the medium-high light plants. (Big mistake :wink: ). I figured it was time to upgrade and get a bit more serious about this addictive hobby. (Any of you who, like me, can spend their entire morning and a whole pot of coffee just sitting and watching your tank know what I'm talking about! ....And mine's only 20 gallons! :D ). Anyway, I purchased a new hood which has two 40 watt dual daylight (6,700k & 10,000k) PC bulbs and a new Penguin 125 filter with biowheel. I figured that I could recycle my Eclipse hood onto a second low light tank where I could grow my low light plants and raise my shrimp. I also figure that since I was getting "more serious" about this that I should go out and buy some basic test kits just to make sure everything is in line. My tank has been running for about two weeks now with the new hood and filter. Please note however that it has only been running on half of it's light capability (20 watts dual daylight) as I am waiting for the other dual daylight bulb to arrive so I can replace the actinic one that came with the hood. So far, everything "seems" to look fine. Plants appear happy and have really started growing like crazy and my fish are quite happy too (except for my two clown loaches who seem less than pleased with so much light and now spend most of their time underneath the driftwood).
But now my distress begins.... Last night I performed my first ever water tests and was shocked to find out that my KH isn't even on the scale! :shock: Confused and frustrated, I have been frantically trying to figure out what to do. Although I have not yet added any new plants, I have several on order which are scheduled to ship next week some time. I certainly don't want them to come to a "bad home" and die. PLEASE take no offense to what I am about to say, but after reading several of the posts on this forum searching for answers, I am now more confused than ever. Phosphates, nitrates, buffers, additives, abbreviations I have never seen..... my head is whirling. Despite the fact that I am college educated, I am beginning to think that this hobby is best left the the organic chemistry PhD's of the world! What should I do? Can you help? Should I cancel my plant order? What specifically do I need to do, both immediately and as a routine long term? I LOVE this hobby and don't want to give up just yet.....
Here are more specifics about my situation:
Test results:
KH: 15 :shock: (Not on any chart I can find in instructions or at thekrib.com)
GH: 5 :?:
PH: 7.2 or so (This test is a bit more non-specific as I am trying to differentiate barely different shades of blue)
Other info:
I use my tap water for water changes which lately I have been doing almost daily (20%). I figured (probably ignorantly so) that water changes are like light, if some is good, more must be better. We have well water but it is run through a softener. I keep the temperature at 80 degrees.

I apologize for being so long winded here but you're my best hope at this point as the fish store people are, well, not much help. Thank you so much for your time!!
Kindest regards, Michelle
 

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Oops, I should have said that my tank is currently running on 40 watts of dual daylight (not 20), soon to be 40 watts once the other bulb shows up. And, to make matters worse, according to a KH chart in the instruction pamplet which I just looked at, I should be raising Goldfish. :cry:
 

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What kind of test do you use? It should tell you if that measurement is ppm or degrees of hardness. Also, if you are using well water and a water softener you may not have enough hardness. Planted tanks arent really as complicated as it may seem from reading everything you see online. Once you figure out what you need to do for your particular setup you should be fine, and thats what we're here for :) You test kit booklet should give you some kind of info on how it measures hardness.
 

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The test results that are given are being measured in degrees. According to the instructions, multiply by 17.9 for ppm. In my case, 15 x 17.9= 268.5 ppm :shock:
The test itself is a simple one purchased at the local fish store. It's a 5 ml tube to which I add, drop by drop, a reagent that turns the water from blue to yellow. 1 drop= 1 degree or 17.9 ppm KH. My water took exactly 15 drops. What should I do?
Thanks so much!!
 

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Michelle,
Don't panic. At least your water isn't soft. First call up the water company and ask for a report, or go online to try to find it. You actually have been doing very well without the test kits, which is something that takes a while to master. Don't be panicked by one reading.

My KH is 7 and my GH seems to be off the scale >20. The plants love the hardness. You situation is a little different but still probably fine. You just need to have someone verify the KH. But its a lot better than having zero KH.

Be careful about using 4 Watts per gallon. Everything accelerates including use of the nutrients etc. Algae grows quicker too. I would stay at two Watts per gallon for a while since you were so successful with 1.5 W/g.

Also pH=7.2, KH=15 gives 28 ppm CO2 which is very good. per Chuck's online calculator.

Regards,
Steve
 

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OK, I'm not going to panic. We had our water tested a while back for flouride (important since I also have three small children) and I'm sure several values were measured, one of which I hope was the KH. I will call to see if they still have the report on file and can fax it to me. If not I will have to take another water sample for testing which may take a few days....
I can definitely stick with the 2 watts/gallon, esp. since the hood has seperate switches for each bulb. My only worry is regarding the plants I recently ordered as they are defined as having medium-high light requirements. Should I just cancel the order? (Hopefully they would let me if necessary). The only thing that bums me out about doing that though is that it kind of defeats the purpose of me having purchased the new hood in the first place. I was kind of hoping for some new types of plants. I also respect the fact that I am obviously a beginner and need to get a handle on things before I should "advance". Unfortunately, I don't remember the names of all of the plants that I ordered because the names are all in latin. I just read their requirements and ordered only if they fit the bill. I do remember (and please pardon me as I will surely botch the spelling) luwigia- red variety, gloss??? (a beautiful carpet-like forground plant), baby tears, and a fine grass-like forground plant. I can get the exact names if it helps. Would these grow with 2 watts/gallon or should I bail for now?
Once again, thanks SO much for your help!!
 

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Let me interject, and say that the chemistry you learn here wouldn't even be enough to get a foot into an organic chemistry class in college. :) At least mine, anyways.

Although all the information we've been dispelling here may seem overwhelming, it's really pretty simple if we break it down into separate categories.

Lighting. You have that. For a 'high light' tank, I think 2.5-5 wpg power compact lighting is a good rule of thumb. You have that. Cross that off the list.

CO2. Your CO2 system may not be enough to keep up with the plant's demands at these lighting levels. I would consider building a DIY CO2 system with at least two bottles, refreshing one of them every week. Even better, get yourself a pressurized CO2 system to get consistently high levels. Using your KH and pH levels, you can look at a KH-pH chart and see your CO2 concentration. You can feed your CO2 airline into a reactor which will break up the bubbles and mix them into the water column for you. You'll want it between 25-35 ppm.

Nutrients. At these lighting levels, you will need to dose much more. There are four nutrient 'categories' that you pay attention to: Potassium (K+), Nitrate (NO3), Phosphate (PO4), and Fe/micros. You can add NO3 with stump remover --you can find this at your home depot. You'll want the levels to be between 5-15 ppm. You can add PO4 with fleet enema, which you can find at your local pharmacy. 1 ppm is a good level to aim for. You can figure out how much to add of the NO3 with Chuck Gadd's excellent calculator:

http://www.csd.net/~cgadd/aqua/art_plant_dosage_calc.htm

I don't personally use fleet enema. If you do a search on the forum, there was a thread just a few days ago where someone stated how much fleet enema was necessary to add to get 1 ppm in a ten gallon aquarium. Just double the amount to add for your 20g. You don't have to worry about K+, since the KNO3 (stump remover) will add plenty.

You'll want test kits to know what is happening with your tank. I like AP's Nitrate test kit and Seachem's Phosphate test kits --they are more than accurate enough for our needs. A nice schedule would be setting your nutrients at 10 ppm NO3 and 1 ppm PO4 at your weekly 50% water change. Midweek, you test to see where you are at and dose the NO3/PO4 accordingly to get them back up to 10 ppm NO3/1ppm PO4.

Finally, Fe/traces. Flourish, TMG, Kent Botanica are all good products. Try adding 2mL Flourish (or other product) daily for a start for 14mL weekly.

If you have any more questions, let us know. :)

Carlos
 

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WOW! Thank you for your replies :!: Everything is making much more sense to me now. I have to admit that some of the articles on thekrib.com had me a bit overwhelmed but since you have simplified things for me I'm feeling much better. :) Now I have to figure out where to buy (and how to use) a pressurized CO2 system. Any advice on where to buy one for my 20 gallon tank? Hopefully instructions are included... I have also printed your instructions regarding the other parameters and will follow them exactly. Here's hoping that all goes well! Thank you, thankyou, thank you!
Kindest regards,
Michelle
 

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Try a local welding supplier or home brewing company for a co2 tank, regulator, and needle valve. Some places will rent the tank to you. For a cheaper option you might use Carlos' DIY suggestion. A couple 2 liter bottles, sugar, yeast, airline tubing and your set.
 

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OK, I have been looking for a pressurized co2 system. Since I'm not much of a DIYer, I'm thinking that I will just have to suck it up and buy a ready to go system. The problem is, by reviewing the photos only, I'm not sure how to get the Co2 into the water. Do I have to buy some tubing or something? Does it just bubble into the water like my current system? Is this even what I'm looking for? (I'm going to try and attach a picture). I know, I'm wearing you guys out with all of the questions... I'm learning a lot though so thanks for your help!
 

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That looks like it would work. You attach just regular airline tubing or silicone tubing to the needle valve. These can be found at your LFS. I would go with silicone because it will last longer compared to the regular airline tubing. This goes either into some sort of diffuser or into the intake of your filter. The filter impeller will chop up the bubbles and mix them with the water. I use an ehiem diffuser i got from drsfostersmith.com that works very well.
 

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Yup, Thats the regulator. Both JBJ & Milwaukee make them for aquariums. You'd hook up some CO2 safe tubing to the needle valve, and run that to your tank. You could use the "ramp" from your current system, and if you want, eventually get a better diffusor.

The pressurized systems have a higher startup cost, but are only $11 to refil the CO2 tank. I prefer it as I hate messing with the yeast mixture, especially the stink when changing out the mix.
 

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I'd get a CO2 regulator minus the solenoid gizmo. Not needed IMHO as I run CO2 24/7 in all my tanks and never have a problem. All that

If all you have is a 20 I'd go with DIY CO2. If you get a pressurized outfit -- you may as well buy more/bigger tanks. That's the progression of this disease anyway. Why fight it?

Need to check that KH/GH ratio - something's screwy. Best bet is the water company.

Carlos and the others have given you great advise -- take it. Relax and do a little reading of the Krib. You may need to read it twice for it to take. Have any questions bring them here. You, or anyone else that's new couldn't be in better hands.

You should hear what we had to go to make plants happen in our tanks even ten years ago!
 
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