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Plants falling apart -- Please help

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I have an ongoing problem with my tank that I cannot figure out what to do with. I have read many online articles and did the things that were suggested but it does not seem to help. Let me give an idea of the latest "episode" I have had. I am hoping some of you can give me other suggestions that might help me fix this issue once and for all.

I have a 40 odd gallon tank with a variety of fish, mostly small ones, and snails. All of the fishes are supposed to be beginner fishes such as tetras', cory catfish etc. I did have 3 ghost fishes but 2 of them died recently. I do have one plecostamus that has grown pretty big. I check my water regularly and change 10% every week most of the time, worst case I may land up skipping a week. The water quality is good with nitrate being sometimes on the borderline. The water I get in CA is acidic, so the pH tends to go low. I use neutral regulator once a week and it seems to maintain the pH right around 7.

About 2 months back, after lots of frustrating year or so of fish deaths and plants dying off, I moved the surviving fish to a temporary tank, completely cleaned my tank, used bleach to kill off any spores (theory), put it out in the sun for a day or two, got new substrate, new equipment for the tank, got new plants from Aquarium Coop and started the tank again. I waited for a few days, tested the water, ensured it was all good and then reintroduced the fishes back. Everything was going great -- I even had couple of guppies give birth to little ones, plants were growing well and spreading (suggesting the lighting and water quality was good).

Then two weeks back disaster hit again -- the fishes started dying off, and the plants started falling apart. The sick plants started getting a black coating (?) as if there is some fungus growing in the tank. I also see green "bearded" algae growing on some of the decorations in the tank. IMG_0110.jpeg.8e99db54788d415ddaedd42ef35c43a4.jpegSee the attachedIMG_0111.jpeg.277e0b04d7d90b5b5aa2eb16279e55ab.jpegIMG_0112.jpeg.accaaa3a7af2389effe3557508aa0d25.jpeg pictures. This is the same problem i have had for more than a year now. The two small guppies I moved over to my quarantine tank are doing great and growing rapidly so the issue seems to be with my large tank.

I am completely at a loss on what to do...You guys are the experts...Please give me suggestions on how I can fix this problem..


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Hi Travis,

I did check for ammonia. It was not zero but slightly above. I did a water change. The fish seem to have issues like a bladder disease and can't straighten themselves. I have (not this specific time) treated with the routine Aquarium Coop blog has recommended (with Ich-X, Paracleanse, Maracyn) but that did not help. When the issue starts I generally lose about 3-4 fishes.. ūüėě

Any suggestions or ideas on what could be wrong?


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It will take a while for the tank to balance out. Algae can live with nothing and flourish with all the things. If you're not running a high tech setup, you will have some kind of algae. The plants are in competition with each other and the algae for nutrients. Maybe they need some fertilizer? Some of your new plants may be melting because they are converting to underwater or new conditions in general. Like your pennywort. If it was grown as a floating plant, then sometimes when it's submerged it will shed the leaves to grow new ones that are adapted to underwater life. Young/small cryptocoryne are notorious for melting over small things like a sight change in lighting. Substrate rooted plants are similar to your lawn or garden plants outside. When transplanted they need time to adjust and mainly focus on root production which can take from the leaves and delay flowering. Keep trying and eventually things will level out. It takes time. Plants are really strange when you think too hard about it. For a living thing that has no brain they sure seem to think and problem solve just slow to act. I'm sorry I am of no help with your fish. That may be an unfortunate side effect of ammonia spikes like Travis said. Cory from aquarium coop said in a live stream (or 2 or 4) that maybe sometimes we are doing too much. Try tackling one problem at a time. Spend a couple months focusing on just the plants. That way you're not risking your fish, wallet and sanity while the plants figure out what they're doing. It all takes time unfortunately.

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