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Started my planted aquarium journey yesterday with a 1 gallon small planted tank for a shrimp, following the guidance on Diana Walstad's website! Been reading "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" and many of the very helpful posts on this forum to prepare to start a 20 gallon tank, and figured the shrimp bowl would be a good place to learn and experiment. Any input, suggestions or advice would be much appreciated.

I used "GardenScape All-Purpose Potting Soil" I found at my local flower shop, ingredients listed on the back were: Organic Compost, Peat Humus, Sand, Composted and Aged Softwood Bark Fines, and Perlite. I added water, skimmed off the perlite, put about an inch down in a gallon glass jar I had. Then I planted Sagittaria subulata, Hydrocotyle leucocephala, Anubias barteri, and a Cryptocorene I picked up at my local pet store, added an inch of play sand, then added conditioned water and 4-5 Malaysian Trumpet Snails. I'm in Brooklyn, and my water is quite soft, I got a KH and GH of 2, so I'm planning on following Diana Walstad's "Increasing Water Hardness Recipe" once I get materials in a couple of days. 1 day later, my readings (best I can tell with my test strips) are a pH of 7, 0 ppm Ammonia, 0 ppm Nitrite, 5 ppm Nitrate, and a water temp of 76F during the day, day 2: pH of 6.6, 0 ppm Ammonia, 5 ppm Nitrite, 40 ppm Nitrate. Wondering if the nitrites that showed up on day 2 are from incomplete nitrification, or coming from manure that's part of the organic compost. Should I wait it out to see if it comes down or change out the water?

Been mineralizing a couple bags of the potting soil to prep for the 20 gallon, excited for what's to come! Apologies if I should be starting a new thread, seemed like it would be helpful to add my experience to this existing one.

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Thank you for the advice and your wonderful book! Over the last 6 days, I've been testing levels daily, and have changed the water whenever ammonia or nitrite levels seem high, have done 3 water changes so far. Things have settled down a bit, latest readings were 6.4 pH, 0.25 ppm Ammonia , 2 ppm Nitrite, 5 ppm Nitrate. I'm not sure if my ammonia test is giving me readings for combined ammonia and ammonium or just the ammonia, it's the API test. The slash in the label "NH3/NH4+" is a little ambiguous, I could interpret it to mean it's giving me the ratio, or giving me a combined figure.

If it's combined, and I'm understanding the relationship between pH and the ratio of ammonia to ammonium outlined in Ecology of the Planted Aquarium (10x increase in percentage of ammonia to ammonium for every unit increase in pH, with a pH of 7 having 0.33% ammonia), the percent ammonia from my combined 0.25ppm reading is ~ < 0.1%, or less than 0.00025ppm which is a very different reading than 0.25ppm.

I'm also wondering if there's some kind of threshold for ammonia and nitrite that should trigger a water change, or how much I should leave things be and let the bacteria do their thing.
 
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