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2 month old tank (noob) - fish are fine, plants are not


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Hi All. Here's the situation: Simple 15G tank setup (Fluval Flex), 4 platys + 2 more fry that we managed to save in a breeding tank that are doing well. My main concern: My plants don't seem to be thriving, and I'm afraid the newly appearing algae is possibly out-competing them. Tank is about 2 months old. Nitrogen cycle seems well established (near-zero ammonia, low-to-zero nitrites, and nitrates range from low to up to 30/40 ppm, depending on fertilizer dosing. I currently have some moss, which is doing fine. 2nd plant that's "probably" something like hygrophila polysperma, although I honestly don't know. This one is interesting - the bottom leaves look pretty bad, covered in black/brown spots and some holes, look like they're dying away, but the top is looking great, new leaves growing in emerald green. I also pruned and replanted a couple stems from this, and the new plants look to be doing ok thusfar. Last plant - star grass. It was growing like crazy at the start, but now seems to be slowing down and looks......... unhealthy. This seems to have coincided with a lot of algae (pretty sure it's diatoms - brown gunk covering the walls and the gravel). I just recently started fertilizing a week ago (that "one step" or whatever it's called from Aquarium co-op). Interestingly that's when the star grass seemed to have taken a bit of a dive. Gravel on the bottom is quite coarse, because 5-year old girls like florescent fun stuff, not proper substrate. Any suggestions? Should I try to clean all the algae off surfaces during weekly water changes? Should I continue to fertilize or is that making it worse? I was hoping the star grass would eventually achieve a carpet-effect through pruning and propagation, but now I'm worried they aren't going to make it! Lights are on about 10-12 hours a day - too much? Any tips much appreciated (fish are doing fine - it's just the plants that are a concern). Thanks!!!
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I went through the same growing pains with a similar sized tank. I watched a bunch of videos from Aquarium Coop and Girl Talks Fish and learned some solutions that work for me. 
1. less light - about eight hours of medium light seems to work for my non Co2 tanks.                                                     
2. Clean up crew of Otocinclus Catfish and Amano shrimp.                                        
3. Trimming and replanting the tops of dying or melting stem plants. They mostly seem to come back quickly.

 

 

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Remove old and dying leaves. Make sure you vacuum the substrate when you do water changes, and if you can, increase the frequency/size of water changes. You should be able to remove diatoms pretty easily. It will look better if you wipe everything down, but make sure to get the plant leaves so the algae doesn't hinder plant growth. The diatoms will die out as your aquarium matures, it just takes time (like 2-4 weeks). Cut lights back to 8 hours a day, and put them on a timer.

 

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Definitely cut lights back. Or add co2 Some have to go to 6hrs without co2. I was running a finnex stingray 2 on my tank with my first bout with algae.  It was putting out way too much light for my low tech setup. I  had to cut back to 7hrs AND tape over some LEDs to make it basically a original finnex stingray. Try cutting back the timer first if that fails maybe try to reduce intensity also.

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