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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
Four weeks since I converted to El Natural and things are going pretty good. I added some more plants at the beginning of this week and most everything is doing well. I do have a little green algae on the glass but nothing too bad. I’m gonna scrape it off and do another water change. I’ve also been poking the substrate to help keep things oxygenated. My question is regarding the Hornwort. It’s becoming a many-tentacled mass of a plant and I’m just wondering how much longer I should leave it in my tank? I got it to help the tank get established but didn’t really plan on keeping it unless absolutely necessary.
 

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Hornwort does that. If the other plants are growing well, you can start taking the hornwort out. Remove about 1/3 of it and watch for unwanted changes for a week or two. If everything is good, take another third out, wait another week, then remove any that is left.
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Hornwort does that. If the other plants are growing well, you can start taking the hornwort out. Remove about 1/3 of it and watch for unwanted changes for a week or two. If everything is good, take another third out, wait another week, then remove any that is left.
Thanks for the advice Michael!
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
It's been about two months now so I thought I'd post an update. It seems the plants are struggling a bit. The only thing doing really well are snails and water lettuce. The rest of the inhabitants are doing fine, they just don't seem to multiply over night. :rofl:

Here's my tank as of today:


Quite a few of the foreground plants on the right have melted off which doesn't really worry me too much.

I am noticing some leaves are starting to develop pin holes which turn into big holes.



Since I found a new home for the gourami, my shrimp are out all the time and very active.


I tested my water again and the crushed oyster shell has increased hardness to gH5 and kH7. PH is 6.93.

The water lettuce seems very happy...almost too happy. It forms a carpet on the surface almost as fast as I can remove it so I'm wondering if it's reducing the light too much? How much water lettuce should I keep, or should I keep any at all now that the tank has been going for a couple months?



I removed the Horn Wort a few weeks ago with no ill effect on the tank so I'm wondering if I should do the same with the water lettuce? Any idea what is causing the holes in the leaves of some of the plants?
One of my stem plants tried to escape by uprooting itself and making a break for the surface. I see that the bottom of the stem is black which indicates an anaerobic condition in the soil so I'll start poking it again. Last time I poked it I wasn't getting many bubbles coming out and no foul odor. I also have a very healthy trumpet snail population so that should help get oxygenated water moving in the substrate.
Any suggestions on what else I can do to get things growing again, other than just having patience?

Thanks!
 

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You're right that plants aren't doing that well. Brown-tinted water and that dense floating plant cover is taking up lots of light. If rooted plants don't grow, they cannot protect themselves from an anaerobic substrate.

I would remove one of those two pumps, thin out the floating plants by half, do a 50% water change, and temporarily lower the water level by 1/3. This will encourage emergent growth of your stem plants and get them going.

Finally, you added a calcium source with the soil liming and it seems to have worked to get GH up. Very good! But your very soft water may not have enough potassium, a major nutrient. Symptoms of K deficiency are holes in the leaves. Salt substitute (KCl or potassium chloride) from the grocery store is about $1. I would mix 1/4 tsp of KCl with water and add the solution to your tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Thanks for the suggestions Diana! Regarding the potassium chloride, should I be adding that periodically? Once a week? Once a month? I'm assuming the plants will be using it up over time and depleting it from the water column.
 

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I'd add it once a month or whenever you do a water change. Plants store excess potassium and what you'll be adding is an excess for the tank. I can't imagine that plants would need to be fed more than once a month. This is not a high-tech tank loaded with plants, so no need to fine-tune the dosage.

Main thing is: Let's get those plants growing!
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
It's been a while since I've posted an update so here goes. About six weeks ago I added quite a few more plants. Some of the plants are doing pretty good and others are still struggling so I continue to practice patience while things run their course. ;) Fish and shrimp are all healthy. What I'm struggling with now is algae. I have a little bit of green algae on the glass which I scrape off routinely, but it slowly returns. My main concern is what I believe to be Staghorn or BBA:
73242

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It's only on a few of the plants and I've tried removing it with an old toothbrush but it doesn't come off very easily. My Fluval LED light is on a siesta schedule of 4hrs on, 3hrs off, 5hrs on, then off for the night 12hrs. I'm thinking I need to decrease the intensity so I'm going to drop it down to 80% and see if that has any effect. It also has a "cloud" setting which randomly varies the intensity as if clouds are passing in front of the sun so I may try that as well. My only concern is that I have a lot of water lettuce that already shades most of the tank so I worry that there won't be enough light if I decrease the intensity.
Any suggestions on how to deal with this and how to get rid of it?
Thanks in advance!
Scott
 

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That’s bba. Easiest solution is trim off the affected leaves. It’s good that some of them turned light in color. They’re struggling to live or is dead.
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
That’s bba. Easiest solution is trim off the affected leaves. It’s good that some of them turned light in color. They’re struggling to live or is dead.
Thanks for responding. Any suggestions to prevent it from returning?
 

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The key is to trim dead leaves and keep the plants healthy. Too much iron can trigger bba. An imbalance in calcium, like too much can block nutrient uptake causing the lower stems to be attacked by bba. That’s my experience in my water.

bladder snails and mollies will eat the weakened bba. A water change helps remove algae spores too. Too bad this is.a dirt tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
The key is to trim dead leaves and keep the plants healthy. Too much iron can trigger bba. An imbalance in calcium, like too much can block nutrient uptake causing the lower stems to be attacked by bba. That’s my experience in my water.

bladder snails and mollies will eat the weakened bba. A water change helps remove algae spores too. Too bad this is.a dirt tank.
Thanks again for your response. Why too bad this is a dirt tank?
 

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I'm sorry that your tank isn't filled with rooted plants. If you can't get S. subulata to do better than this in your setup which otherwise seems fine, something is surely wrong. I think I know what's wrong, and I apologize for not catching it sooner. The kitty litter... Clay contains iron and aluminum that will react with an organic soil. Clay slowly released excess iron and/or aluminum into the substrate. Metal toxicity (in the substrate) is probably what is holding your rooted plants back. It could be causing holes in leaves and abnormal growth. In my book (p. 132), I advised against mixing soils because of potential metal toxicity. Folks, please try to keep substrates simple. Use an organic soil alone. When people plant houseplants, they don't add kitty litter to the potting soil. I don't know who started the idea of mixing kitty litter with organic soils for El Natural tanks but it is not a good idea. Attached is photo of my 5 gal tank after a couple months. No kitty litter, just plain old potting soil.
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
I'm sorry that your tank isn't filled with rooted plants. If you can't get S. subulata to do better than this in your setup which otherwise seems fine, something is surely wrong. I think I know what's wrong, and I apologize for not catching it sooner. The kitty litter... Clay contains iron and aluminum that will react with an organic soil. Clay slowly released excess iron and/or aluminum into the substrate. Metal toxicity (in the substrate) is probably what is holding your rooted plants back. It could be causing holes in leaves and abnormal growth. In my book (p. 132), I advised against mixing soils because of potential metal toxicity. Folks, please try to keep substrates simple. Use an organic soil alone. When people plant houseplants, they don't add kitty litter to the potting soil. I don't know who started the idea of mixing kitty litter with organic soils for El Natural tanks but it is not a good idea. Attached is photo of my 5 gal tank after a couple months. No kitty litter, just plain old potting soil.
Thanks for responding Diana. Short of tearing the tank down and starting over, is there anything I can do to mitigate the effects of the clay litter?
 

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I really hate to say this, but I think your best option is to tear down the tank and start over. That way, you will be able to salvage what's left of your plants. There's nothing I can think of that will stop the reaction between the organic matter and the clay. Right now the algae is taking over, because there just isn't enough plant growth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
I really hate to say this, but I think your best option is to tear down the tank and start over. That way, you will be able to salvage what's left of your plants. There's nothing I can think of that will stop the reaction between the organic matter and the clay. Right now the algae is taking over, because there just isn't enough plant growth.
The answer I feared the most..........but the answer I expected. Thanks again Diana. Looks like I may have a free Sunday this weekend so I'll tackle this tank again with nothing added to the soil except a layer of crushed oyster shell between the soil and gravel. Most of my plants are doing ok so I'll have quite a few to restart with.
 

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It sounds like a good plan. I'm glad that you still have some plants to start out with. Let's hope this works and plants take off!
 

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I really hate to say this, but I think your best option is to tear down the tank and start over. That way, you will be able to salvage what's left of your plants. There's nothing I can think of that will stop the reaction between the organic matter and the clay. Right now the algae is taking over, because there just isn't enough plant growth.
Would using OilDri or SafTsorb as a cap (not mixed in the soil) cause any issues like this? Other than the temporary pH and alkalinity drop?

Sent from my Pixel 4 XL using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter · #40 ·
Would using OilDri or SafTsorb as a cap (not mixed in the soil) cause any issues like this? Other than the temporary pH and alkalinity drop?

Sent from my Pixel 4 XL using Tapatalk
My understanding is that anything clay-based has the potential to release bad things into the substrate or the water.
 
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