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Tank Hex

4590 Views 27 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  C_perugiae
I'm blaming my title on this website for my cyano problems. :) Just kidding... I'm sure it's my fault it's there.

I have a 50B (36"x18"x18") with a 2x96W PC fixture, kept on for 11 hours a day. This tank has been officially set up since early December, but after a heater malfunctioned and killed my favorite fish, causing an immeasureable nitrite spike two weeks after cycling, it stayed empty until the arrival of six Congo tetras at the end of January. I filled it with municipal water because I didn't want to carry that much RO into my second-story apartment, but I usually use treated RO because there's a lot of "extra" stuff (like phosphate) in the tap water where I live. I figured I'd do enough water changes before I got the "big" lights that most of the nutrients in the water would be gone by the time algae could really have a party in that tank. NOT! Yeah, it's starting to show up now...

Here's my tank right before I added the hairgrass a couple weeks ago: It's full of Anubias barteri and congensis and has a couple onions hiding in the back as well. I pull about five or six handfuls of water lettuce out every couple weeks, but I keep them in there because I don't have stem plants to pull nutrients out of the water column.

Now that I've added the final plants, I've noticed some cyano growth in the hairgrass and on the sand in the front of the tank. I've cut feeding to every other day and there's enough current in the front of the tank to help keep the spread under control, but it's definintely not going away and I'd like some ideas on how to kill it before it goes nuts. I do water changes (with treated RO) every couple weeks and plan on stepping that up asap, so I think that'll help, but I'm just wondering if there's anything else you guys can think of that I can do.

Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to include as much info, initially, as possible. Let me know what you guys think... here's a closeup of the growth so far:
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A couple more things...
*I'm not adding ferts to the tank and don't really see the necessity of them with these plants (I have 2" EcoComplete under 1" of sand for the hairgrass) Will a bit of Flourish or Flourish Excel help at all?

*I have access to a really great phosphate adsorber that might help the water lettuce chew up extra nutrients in the water (Rowa Phos) Should I chuck that in my filter or should I be trying to get the water lettuce whatever other nutrients might be limiting it from doing its job? (I'm a little new to the fertilization thinking because historically, I haven't used them at all)

*There's a pressurized CO2 canister hooked up to my 16" tall 65 gallon (the one that Eheim makes). I could move that to the 50 to kick the Anubias into growing an appreciable amount, but I'm a little leery of pulling it off my 65. Right now, the other tank doesn't look like much because I'm about to move in a month and am going to wait to reaquascape it, but it's got 285 watts of VHO lighting on it and I'm afraid pulling the CO2 would throw stuff out of balance. The tank is doing well at growing out vallisneria and Ammania gracilis (they're making me a load of store credit) so unless it's totally worth it, I'd like to leave the CO2 where it is.
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Sorry for the length of the previous posts. I figured I'd update if anyone was reading my terribly long questions. :)

I've decided to leave the CO2 tank where it is. I don't want to screw up my other tank.

I also did a 30% water change with buffered RO water and just scrubbing all the cyano off carefully, sucking up any extra that fell off the pad has helped a TON. I haven't added the Rowa Phos yet... I'm just going to see how it does without the Rowa. So far, the cyano remaining in the tank has shriveled a bit, so I'm hoping it'll go away for good. I also started dosing the tank with Flourish Excel every few days.

Hopefully, I've fixed my own problem well enough... I'm going to do another large RO change here in a day or so and that should kick the last of my unwelcome invader. :)
I am not a expert on blue-green algae but I do have some in a tank that had a lot of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in it from plants rotting. I was also getting an organic scum on the surface. I removed the decay, and vacuum the soil once a week, added a bunch of E. berteroi, and fertilize per Tom Barr.

I see the cleaning you are doing is good, but I wonder about using 4 Watts/gal PC on the tank with slow growng plants. It sounds like you are trying to starve the algae. I have never heard of not fertilizing a high light planted tank without a soil substrate. I would think, as is true for most other algaes, that you will certainly kill all the plants before the algae dies.

I would certainly consider going to 2 W/g by turning off one of the 96W bulbs. Other than fertilizing and adding fast growing plants I'm not sure what would work. I think there are several other threads on blue-green algae that mention blackouts and H2O2, but I think they are for normally fertilized tanks. I assume you've read those threads.

If your PO4 is less than 4 ppm you should use the tap water. You also need a KH of 4, GH of 4 (preferably higher).

Good luck; I am interested how you beat this one, as I could use the info myself.

Steve Pituch
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Cyanobacteria, aka blue-green algae, occurs from an imbalance between phosphate and nitrate. I believe that if you tested your water, you would have either 0 ppm and very high nitrate or 0 ppm nitrate and very high phosphate (~3 ppm).

I would lower the amount of lighting you are using to about 2-3 wpg. Either that, or start fertilizing nitrates, phosphates, and iron/micros. Your plants look starved.

Why did you place sand over your eco-complete? Hairgrass does not seem to need very fine substrate to grow well. My Eleocharis acicularis roots just fine in Florabase, and I had Eleocharis parvulus grow well in straight Flourite. I fear that your substrate may become anaerobic from lack of circulation (the sand acting as a cap, preventing any flow to and from the substrate).

Yes, remedy that situation not PACK your sand over your eco=complete....that will spell big trouble in days to come.

also, I've found that a nice flow will take care of cyanobacteria. The only times i've had it is when my flow was low.
BGA is caused by a high proportion of phosphates to nitrates.
Check out the Redfield Ratio
I have never seen an explanation for the basis of the Redfield ratio or buddy ratio except somebody tried it and it worked for them. I am fighting blue-green (cyano) algae in one of my tanks by adding more PO4, and its working.

Steve Pituch
Steve, are you adding PO4 so that your ratio is 10 nitrate ppm to 1 phosphate ppm?
No, I am adding 10 ppm NO3 and 2 ppm PO4 (5:1), twice per week with a 50% weekly water change. That's supposed to increase the cyano problem, but with weekly removal, water changes, lots of plants, and heavy fertilization, its going away along with the brown algae I had with it. I've even tried 4 ppm PO4 with no adverse effects.

I was trying to grow Wild Rice in 1/2 of my 125 gal tank for a biotope experiment, but I was getting a lot of DOC in the water and surface scum. Most of the Rice was not growing well and the decay of some of the rice plants I think was causing it. At one point I had about a 1/8 inch thick carpet of brown (diatom) algae over the whole bottom of the tank.

I got rid of the rice and starting vacuuming the tank once a week. The tank looks great at at this point and 95% of the cyano and diatom algae is gone.

Tom Barr is right. I didn't believe it the first time he told me to try not to limit PO4, but having an excess of P, N, K, or Fe does not hurt the tank. (Having one of them absent is probably a big problem). I just can't afford the good test kits to keep the ratios of these 4 elements constant in the water, and also I don't have the time. I think at this point in time the best in the state of the art for the hobby is T.B.s Estimative Index.

If someone can give us a scientific explanation for the Redfield or buddy ratio, fine, but I don't think I could ever make it work. Having a specific concentration of nutrients in the water has nothing to do with a plants capacity to take those nutrients in (including algae). I've heard of % ratios of these elements in plants and animals but again I don't think it has anything to do with how a plant will suck in those nutrients.

Steve Pituch
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The thing that I have a lot of trouble with is the 50% weekly water changes.... and the whole idea of putting in tons of ferts then restarting and doing a big water change, then adding more....

and then I read about it in Diana Walstad's book and I thought and she doesn't do water changes for 6 months and her tanks are fine....

So you see there are two extremes...At this point, honestly, i don't know what to believe.
Walstad uses a soil substrate and fish food for fertilizer. She never uses more than 2W/g, and doesn't inject CO2. The carbon is from the decaying matter in the tank. CO2 must be conserved so she covers her tanks and does not agitate the water. The longer between water changes the better. The biological activities in the tank are going on at a normal rate. It works. You can't grow everything but you can grow quite a lot.

If you add CO2 and ton of light you will need to add more nutrients because the metabolism of the plants is greater. The aquascaper generally wants to grow the plants as quickly as possible so they are adjusting all the inputs: CO2, light, nutrients for maximum growth (maximum potential growth for algae too).

I am more of a biotoper than an aquascaper. I like to play with growing different plants, and am not concerned as much with aquascaping. So I have used both methods. You should always have at least one Walstad type of tank. It is a more natural way of keeping plants. I won 1st place in the biotope category in the AGA contest a few years ago with a Walstad tank, so anything is possible. Just remember to enjoy the hobby.

Steve Pituch
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Wow... yeah, this is what I wanted. A really great exchange about fertilizing tanks. Thanks guys! :)

Here are answers to your questions:
*My tank parameters are KH 4, GH 6, no NH4 NO2 NO3 (according to Tetra and Aquarium Pharmaceuticals for each parameter)
*I was starting to think that the 4 wpg might be too much, but I popped the light on there at first because I was worried about the hairgrass not getting enough with just the single bulb. It's on a timer and I suppose I could just turn on the second one for a few hours every day or leave it completely off.
*With the Anubias being so slow, I didn't think it'd be a huge issue if I didn't fertilize the tank. I was going to see how things went with them and if they started looking a little pale or weren't developing, I'd start adding Flourish. Does the hairgrass need much fertilization in the water column? I figured the Eco Complete would be enough, but I do have some Flourish I use in my other tank, so I can start adding it.

As far as the sand thing goes, I did it for experimentation. There was a lot of talk on another forum about doing the layering thing, so I wanted to try it as well, just to see what all the fuss was about. I'm moving at the end of this month and decided that, if the sand got too compacted in areas where I couldn't stir it a little during water changes, I could change the tank around a bit and get rid of the sand. The kribensis that live in the tank spend a lot of their time poking around in it, as well, and I'm impressed that they're doing such a good job of mixing it around.

I've read the info on fertilization that I was linked to in another post, but I'm still not sure how that would work in some tanks, especially this one. It seems like, in this case (with Anubias and hairgrass) that I should keep the water column bare of nutrients, other than fertilizer. However, I'll concede that I'm really new to the idea of dosing anything other than a regular fertilizer, so if anyone has any specific guidance for this tank, it'd be much appreciated.

The cyano that had started to shrivel yesterday is almost completely gone at this point. I think, at this point, I'm going to start with Flourish and look around for some good test kits. The Lamotte ones are off limits (dunno if I can make the next rent payment, even) but if anyone else has any suggestions, I'm open.
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I don't think that 4 wpg is too much. I've seen some of Luis Navarro's tanks and they start at 4 wpg and go up to 8 wpg...

more light just means more work, but if you are up to it, then go for it, cuz the rewards are worth it.
Dear C_perugiae,

I don't know about eco complete but most special plant substrates you can buy help a little with iron, but thats it as far as nutrients go.

You can go two ways:

Test kit way:
Buy some really good test kits ($200-$300) worth, LaMotte, Hach), and maintain 10 ppm NO3, 1-2 ppm PO4, and 1-2 ppm Fe with traces added. You wil have to test every day until you see the trend in the tank. There should be plenty of K in the tank from KNO3.

Tom Barr's Estimative Index:
Add 10 ppm NO3, 1-2 ppm PO4, and 1-2 ppm Fe with traces twice per week. Do one 50% water change once per week. Test kits are optional. Per the math, the 50% water change limits the max of what you put into the tank to twice the weekly amount. So asuming the plants won't take in any of the nutrients (they will, you just don't know how much) the maximum concentration in your tank will be 40 ppm NO3, 2-4 ppm PO4, and 2-4 ppm Fe and traces. These are the max that can occur in your tank, but since the plants will absorb some of this the actuall ppms for each nutrient will be less. These maximum amounts are OK. So what you are doing is providng the plants with more than enough nutrients to grow without over doing it. These excess amounts will not produce algae. What you are doing is providing nutrients for your plants without using test kits.

I would order chemicals from Greg Watson's web site (very cheap): 1 # of KH2PO4, KNO3, and CSM+B.

If use use Flourish for the iron be sure to put 1-2 PPM in the tank! There is .39% iron in Flourish. Do not follow the instructions on the bottle, otherwise your plants will not have enough iron. Florish does not have NO3, or PO4.

Steve Pituch
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C_perugiae, drop the lights down to 1.5w/gal for a tank like yours. Since you have decided on no CO2 for this tank, you do not need to dose nutrients except for having decent fish load (source of nutrients), thick substrate (mulm, peat and flourite) and no water changes except maybe 3-6 months later or when pruning is needed.

Now, you need to get rid of the current BGA which means a manual removal of as much algae as possible followed by a large water change and then a blackout of 3-5 days. After the blackout, add more algae eating critters and main fish to the tank. Balance the critter load and fish feedings such that the plants gets enough nutrients but not too much to cause algae issues.

If you want to speed things up, you can always DIY the CO2 for the first couple of weeks but do note that fertilizing is required for such methods. Do not mix CO2 and non CO2 methods together.
Peter has good advice for a low light tank. In order for it to work the substrate needs to be an established one if it is going to be a substitute for a soil substrate..... but it will work. You will probably need to feed extra food, more than the fish need, to supply the plants with what they need. If you go this route you really should buy Diana Walstad's book, Ecology of the Planted Aquarium. It will be very helpful.

Steve Pituch
I would like to say that if you decide to go soil substrate, know that it works, real well, the plants grow in nice and green and spread like crazy the need for fertilization. Remember not to have a deeper layer of soil than 1 inch ok? and you'll be good to go. Best wishes, bro.
Again, thanks for the replies, guys. I know I could figure this stuff out if I did enough homework, but I'm already carrying a full load at college and working a ton, so this really helps me out. I also get personal experience, which runs circles around most research I could do.

I decided to go with the approach that Spituch has suggested, by dosing nutrients and doing heavy water changes.
*Should I be adding stem plants to this tank? Right now, it's the hairgrass, Anubias, a little Bolbitis, and a couple onions (C. natans). Oh, can't forget the water lettuce :)
*I am kicking around the idea of trying DIY yeast just for the experience. Does anyone have any tips besides the usual recipes that are all over the internet? Anyone have luck adding a check valve to the line, or am I asking the bottle to blow up if I stick one on there?
*I'm also prepared to trade in a ton of crypts and some Ammania gracilis for store credit to get a CO2 system. I know the LFS owner well and he's going to try to cut me some deals (like wholesale prices) so I can get another pressurized system and grow some Anubias for the store. He's also well aware that the system may someday fuel a calcium reactor and they're always looking for frags... ;)

Just wanted to add that the kribs are death on shrimp... absolute death. They think it's fun to team up on ghost shrimp, so I'm not going to gamble the money on Amanos at this point. Mr. Death pulls off their legs as the Mrs. holds them by the face. I have a few otos that the Congos and kribs leave alone, so I could stick a couple more of those guys in there, but I know they're not going to touch cyano. No one likes that stuff, IME.

I have the Walstad and read it last summer. I'm not too hot on her methods... they work wonderfully, I'm sure, but that's not really the artistic impression I'm looking for. I don't think that what I try to accomplish, aesthetically, is going to happen with a low-tech tank. That's what happens when a newb pulls Amano books before anything else. :)

As far as Eco-Complete goes, it's some pretty amazing stuff. I has more nutrients in it than Flourite does and some of the small tanks I've set up for the LFS have had amazing results with little fertilization and no CO2. I'll link you to the one that comes to mind right away... this nanocube has just the regular 24 watts of PC that it comes with:

When I get a chance, I'll find an ad for Eco-Complete or type out the label on the bag. I really like this stuff (I know my opinion doesn't hold a lot of clout; I'm a newb with the advanced plant stuff :))
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Oh, hey... one more thing, just for clarification. No need to apologize or anything, just didn't wanna lead you guys astray.

<----- Not a "bro". ;)

Thanks again, everyone! I'm so glad I signed on here...
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