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Could I request help from you tank balancing experts?


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Posted (edited)

I’ve been trying to balance my 75 gallon, and I’m constantly unsure what I should be doing. I’m going to share my parameters and I hope someone more advanced might be able to help me along. 
 

Tank is a 75 gallon. 
Light: 48” NICREW Plus Planted. Currently set at 40% light. Comes on with a 30 min sunrise and 30 minute sunset. Total time on is 9 hrs. 
 

Fertilizer: Easy Tabs about 30 every 3-4 months plus an additional 6 every month for three Amazon Swords. 
 

I dose Easy Green. I was dosing every week, but I stopped that when someone recommended that I stop dosing liquid fertilizer because the majority of my plants were root feeders. I recently dosed to get to 20 ppm (slowly over 7-10 day), but it has been two weeks since I dosed and nitrates are rising instead of being used. 
 

The tank is heavily stocked. I have livebearers in the tank and there are fry everywhere. I also have Otocinclus, Neon Tetras, Rasboras, snails, and Cherry Shrimp. 
 

As for plants I have the Amazon Swords, crypts (lots of crypts), Crypt Parva, Dwarf Chain Swords, Pogostemon Stellatus Octopus, Anubias, Anubias Nano Petite, Water Sprite, and some Java Moss. 

Here is a recent update that I posted in my journal that provides an update on where my tank is and the decisions that I am trying to make to create balance in this tank. 
 

 

E1B41A2D-5FE9-4BCF-90D4-FF2AB3C0B50E.jpeg

Edited by Mitch Norton
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Posted (edited)

First for a tank that is 21 inch deep and a relatively low powered light i'm not sure why you are running it at 40%. 

 

I'm not even sure from the description you gave what problem you are trying to solve but I will make a few comments:

 

First i don't think you should use nitrate level to determine your level of dosing - the fertilizer has instruction on how much to dose per gallon and that is what i would follow. Generally nitrate level can be quite misleading for many reasons. Also for the api mater test kit shaking of bottle 2 is critical - as well as the mixed solution (after you add the drops to the test tube for bottle 2) and is a frequent cause of mis reading - when you said api master i presume you are using the liquid tests. 

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None of the plants you are trying to grow 'cept for maybe the pygmy sword are particularly sensitive but the crypts and swords will start pretty slow in a low tech tank - the pygmy is likely going to struggle with that low light.

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The Pogostemon Stellatus Octopus can be a nice plant but I would place it along the back edge. 

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I think you are putting in way too many root tabs - i've used sachem and more recently nilog - but i never put in anywhere to that many tabs.

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One area of contradiction is when people get algae they start reducing light - but that usually increases the algae growth because the plants have a more difficult time. You should not expect 'fast' growth in a low tech tank - and should be patient and happy with slow steady growth.

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If your nitrate level gets too high (I consider above 20 high but many people consider 40 and even 80 as fine) the best solution is to use water changes to control it. On my 29 which is massively over populated with swordtails and guppies I do 2 50% water changes a week  - the plants grow well in that tank and the guppies keep it clear of algae so it does ok for a low tech tank. 

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Edited by anewbie
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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the suggestions and advice. I’ll try to answer some of your questions. Sorry that there wasn’t enough info, but this tank has been going a year and a I’ve been trying to find balance in for a few months now. I added a Tiger Lotus and then everything went crazy. Before that I wasn’t struggling with algaes. As for my goal, it’s a balanced tank free of Black Beard algae and as little Green Spit algae as possible. I’m not trying to crank out plants or anything. I just want to balance things. 
 

I lowered the intensity on the light because I was seeing a lot of green spot algae on my Anubis and Crypts. I searched this forum and found a lot of people finding success with dialing their lights back to 35%. When I did this I also experienced a reduction in green spot algae growth. I have increased the light intensity some to see if it would increase the use of nutrients to help balance things, but that is part of my question. Will increasing my light bring about a positive or negative result? 
 

I gave nitrate readings as an indicator because I know that most people ask where they are whenever someone asks about plant growth and algae growth. I did shake the dickens out of the bottle. I also tested using Aquarium Co-Op’s new test strips and had a similar reading. The tank is quite full of plants, but I’m more than willing to try to find room for a few more. Haha. Part of my problem when I tried to starve off the algae was that I melted my stem plants and removed them. I wish I hadn’t tried that, but you live and learn. I have a cheap source for them and would be willing to add stems if it would help. The only problem is that they like the higher light and my Anubias prefers the light to be lower. 
 

I’ve had the chain swords for a long time (three years or so) they aren’t doing as well as I would like, but I am not sure how far to turn up the light at this point to promote their growth and not to create more green spot algae on my Anubias. I’ve had this Anubis for years and hate to see it covered in GSA. 
 

Sorry that it wasn’t clear. My goal isn’t fast growth. I just want balance. I’m fine with everything growing slow and steady, I am just trying to feed these plants and feed less algae. 
 

You are right about the root tabs. I botched that explanation. I am putting extra tabs under my Amazon swords every month, but I am putting the 30 tabs in ever 3 - 4 months. Depending on how my crypts are doing. I think that might match the recommendations on the package. Similarly with the Easy Green I didn’t mean that I pour Easy Green into the tank to hit 20ppm. I was doing weekly dosing for a while, but hen I starved off the GSA and Black Beard by not dosing for a while. My nitrates fell below 5 ppm. When I decided to abandon this “method” I slowly added Easy Green until I reached 20 ppm. I did this over a week. I did 8 pumps the first day. A couple of days later I did 4 pumps and so on until I read 20 ppm again. I have not dosed again in two weeks and after one water change I am back to above 20 ppm (around 50+ ppm at this point). I am more than willing to do the water changes, but I have read that frequent water changes can lead to BBA, and although I have found where people say just about anything leads to BBA I feel that Ali have actually experienced this in my tank. That was why I had hoped to include less frequent water changes, but it is likely my tank is too stocked to do that. 

I hope that offers a better idea of what I am trying to accomplish, and where I am at in the process  I’ve kept an aquarium for almost 10 years at this point  about three years ago I started trying to keep plants  it was bumpy in the beginning, but I did eventually get things going pretty well for a while. thanks again for your insight and time  


 

 

Edited by Mitch Norton
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@Mitch Norton sorry to hear about your go of things lately, but from reading your journal I think your tank has been shaken up to much  to try to do the less frequent water change method for the time being. I saw that you treated your tank recently and as a result it looks like it might have caused your tank to do a mini cycle, especially if your getting nitrite readings. I do have a couple of additional questions though. 

- According to your journal you are running 2 large sponge filters and a canister filter? is that still the case and if so when was the last time you serviced your canister filter? You said you starved off the BBA and GSA, just wondering if you removed the BBA manually or if your canister filtered it out and is now decomposing and causing a nitrate spike?

- What is your water source and what is the reading from it? any nitrites or nitrates in your water source? 

 

Also I think as far as dosing goes once you get your nitrites/nitrates under control I would go to a steady routine of dosing. Easy green says its suppose to be 1 pump / 10 gallons, so I would dose 8 pumps per week for low light and then go from there. I'm assuming that you are getting the 20PPM nitrate from this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWBBtV6mAvw&t=94s) which I take as not dosing till you hit 20ppm nitrate, but dosing 20ppm nitrate of easy green. so if you test your water and you have 10ppm nitrate then dose till you get 30ppm nitrate? 

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for your response @Duke Silver

The test strips are showing high nitrites, but when I test with the liquid test kit I am not seeing any nitrites. I’ve emailed the Co-Op for advice on that. 
 

I did experience a hiccup in my cycle after dosing levamisole almost a month ago, but it corrected quickly. I did check ammonia today since the strips were showing nitrites and ammonia was a definite zero on the strip. 
 

As for the dead BBA being a source of fuel for the nitrates, that is entirely possible. There wasn’t a lot of BBA, and I caught tank inhabitants eating it when it would turn brown. That doesn’t mean some didn’t make it into the filtration. The canister filter was last serviced on February 28th and I had planned on cleaning it the first water change of this month (which is looking like it could be tonight. Haha). Oh, and I also have a medium sponge stacked on one of the large. It was my seeded sponge from when I moved everything over from my previous 25 gallon planted tank. I’ve just never removed it. Figured it could cycle a tank someday. Haha. 
 

Water source is tap. I’ll have to look at my log under my tank, but the nitrates register on my tap, but under 5 ppm on the API Master Test Kit. I haven’t checked it recently, it has been a few months. When I say dose to 20 ppm I was basing that off of checking my tank’s nitrates and dosing to that. But that was just to get back to normal after “starving” the tank for a few weeks. Before this I was dosing 7 - 8 pumps each week. With the full light intensity I started seeing BBA and GSA. Again, this was after I added a Tiger lotus, which I no longer have. 
 

Thanks again for the help!

Edited by Mitch Norton
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I would stop roots tabs immediately. It looks like you are using a larger pea size gravel. Those roots tabs are most likely leaching into the water column and probably the major source of your rising Nitrates. I would stop them indefinitely as they offer little to improving plant growth (I'm in camp, "Root Tabs are Hocus Pocus). Plants that are heavy "root feeders" want a rich aquasoil, and roots tabs will never be a substitute for a rich substrate. Proper water column dosing is more than enough for most plants and striking that balance is not as hard as it seems.

Can you find the PAR of your light? They usual have this information somewhere. It's a selling point for most light.

I would pump your light back up to 60-70% intensity and watch.

Change one parameter at a time and watch the effect. Then later change then next parameter.

As far as GSA goes, this is usually a Phosphate deficiency and I would recommend bumping that up after you bump your lights for 2 weeks. However, other issues can be at play. To quote https://www.2hraquarist.com/

Pulled from here:

https://www.2hraquarist.com/blogs/algae-control/how-to-control-green-spot-algae

common causes

  • Poor/stressed plant health (Poor CO2 primarily, or poor nutrient parameters)
  • Old damaged leaves
  • Plant stress due to unstable tank parameters or poor nutrient parameters
  • High organic waste levels if present on hard scape rather than plants

solutions

  • Prune off old/dead growth, replant new tips
  • Address plant health issues
  • Spot-dose APT Fix
  • Clear organic detritus in planted tank
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Good observation on the gravel, but the larger gravel is only on the top in certain areas. The majority of the substrate is regular sized gravel (Top Fin 25 lb bags) and maybe 1/3 sand on one side. I bought the larger gravel to be decorative around larger rock and wood. It’s just in the front and on top of smaller gravel. 
 

The NICREW Plus Planted advertises 70 PAR 12” in air. I believe I’ve read that it is around 35 - 40 PAR at 18” in water. But I’d have to research. I remember seeing it when I was shopping a year ago. 

The strange thing about the GSA is that my phosphates are at 2 at all times. 

Ive been trying to make changes slowly and watch to see how it helps. What aim trying to determine is what my next step should be. I felt that turning my light intensity up could be the next step, but I was hoping to confirm that by talking with others  since all three of you have said the lights are to low I believe that will be my next step. 
 

Thanks again for the help, everyone  

 

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Hi @Mitch Norton, given that you are heavily stocked and nitrates are rising (which typically means you dosed too much easy green plus the stocking level is more than the plants can use), I would use more fast growing plants. If this was my aquarium, I would begin with adding pothos with the roots in the aquarium and a floating plant. Having a floating plant would also help diffuse the light so you would be able to increase the light while protecting your low light plants from high light. If possible, I would also reduce how much I am feeding and even skip a day during the week. 

This is how I would begin the process. By maximizing the amount of nutrients being removed while slightly reducing the nutrients being introduced. After a month of this and weekly testing, I would adjust as needed. 

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Thank you @Isaac M! I do believe the tank is heavily stocked and I need some fast growing plants. I believe the Pogostemon Stellatus Octopus and Water Sprite just need some time to catch up. They were both damaged in the starving of my tank. Hopefully others can learn from my lesson. I did starve off all of the GSA and most of the BBA, but it did not lead to balance. I do have the Water Sprite concentrated over my lowlight plants. The past couple of weeks I have had to clean out a lot of dying Water Sprite. I’m sure that is fueling some of the nitrogen. 
 

I decided to do a water change and canister cleaning yesterday. All I did was rinse out my media in the water I removed from the tank and clean the propeller. I also removed the floss and added two more sponges. Although they are fine sponges. I did not need to pull out any damaged Water Sprite. 
 

Great thoughts on the feeding. I did skip feeding yesterday, and I’ll be sure to feed sparingly until I see the nitrates go down. I have an abundance of fry right now, and I will try to resist over feeding. 

Would you turn up the lighting? I already did, but that is my main concern right now. Will increasing the light intensity help the pogo and water sprite process more nutrients? Or do you think I’ll sabotage the tank with so many nutrients in it and grow more algae  I understand too much and too little will both fuel algae if not balanced  should I focus on nutrients first? And then light? Or could more light be key to fixing things at THIS point?

 

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On 5/3/2021 at 12:01 PM, Mitch Norton said:

Good observation on the gravel, but the larger gravel is only on the top in certain areas. The majority of the substrate is regular sized gravel (Top Fin 25 lb bags) and maybe 1/3 sand on one side. I bought the larger gravel to be decorative around larger rock and wood. It’s just in the front and on top of smaller gravel. 
 

The NICREW Plus Planted advertises 70 PAR 12” in air. I believe I’ve read that it is around 35 - 40 PAR at 18” in water. But I’d have to research. I remember seeing it when I was shopping a year ago. 

The strange thing about the GSA is that my phosphates are at 2 at all times. 

Ive been trying to make changes slowly and watch to see how it helps. What aim trying to determine is what my next step should be. I felt that turning my light intensity up could be the next step, but I was hoping to confirm that by talking with others  since all three of you have said the lights are to low I believe that will be my next step. 
 

Thanks again for the help, everyone  

 

Agree.

 

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@Mitch Norton I was focusing on simply removing nutrients in my comment. I was doing this because your fish are having more fry and will only add more and more nutrients into the water through feeding and ammonia as they grow larger. Lighting will only cause your plants to grow so fast but will be limited by carbon dioxide. I was recommending floating plants and pothos because they have access to more carbon dioxide. If you find that the floating plants are not growing fast enough but you have a lot of nutrients in the water, then lighting is the likely limiting factor.

For the aquatic plants, most often people are limited by carbon dioxide, not lighting or nutrients. Just ask anyone with a carbon dioxide system how much faster their plants grow with a co2 system than without one. From everything I have read here, I do not think more light will balance your aquarium. It may or may not help, it is tough to say if you do not have enough light. However, pothos and floating plants will definitely help in nutrient removal. At that point I would agree that maybe more light is needed for the floating plants and the plants below covered by the floating plants. 

I hope that helps! 

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It does help @Isaac M! I do understand what you have been saying about the bio load. I do believe you are right that right now my bio load is greater than my filtration capacity. I believe that changed after I killed off so many of my plants trying to starve the algae. I’m not really trying to grow plants super fast, I just want to strike a balance. I will be removing the Mollies when they get a little larger. My local store prefers them at 3/4” I have some that large, but I also had to treat for livebearers disease and I don’t want to spread that in my community until I’ve had a chance to watch it. 
 

Because I turned the intensity of my light down I’ve just been curious if I should try to bump it up. I am hoping that will allow my plants to increase their nutrient consumption. But if they will consume the same amount of nutrients at 70% as they will at 35% then there is no need in adjusting. 35% definitely produced less algae, but it also killed most of my stem plants. Haha. 
 

Thank you and everyone else for your help. I’m thankful to have experienced hobbyists along for the ride. 
 

An update: I changed 50% of the water yesterday because my test strips read greater than 5 ppm nitrite. I checked with two separate API Master Test Kit nitrite tests and had zero. Either way nitrate were up to 50 so I wanted to change it anyway. I also cleaned my canister. Nothing too intensive. I just squeezed out the sponges. It was curiously dirtier than normal. I tested using the strips this morning. Nitrates and nitrites were lower. I’ll test after work, and if I’m still seeing nitrites at 1 ppm I’ll change water again.  

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@Mitch Norton I am glad it helped. As far as the light goes, if your stem plants have struggled since you turned it down, then I would without a question turn it back up(maybe not all the way back to when it gave you problems though, again, its a balancing act haha). Usually the fastest growing plants also serve as great indicators for what is happening in the aquarium. So if they are showing you that they need more light, I would not hesitate to make that adjustment. Likely the rest of the plants(slower growers) need more light as well, they just take longer to show it. 

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