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What am I doing wrong?


Piscarius
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Hello my fellow piscatorial patrons. I have 1 or more issues going on that I can not pin down, and I have learned of 1 mistake I have to deal with. So I will give you the foundation, and then I have several questions that I will try to catalog in a logical manner. I was very active in the hobby years ago (my degree is in Aquaculture), but life, kids, 7 moves to 6 towns in 3 states, and the aquarium hobby has taken a hit.

SETUP: I have a 55 gal tank that I sat up in April. My plan is to have a large tank with a lot of nano fish. I originally was thinking about Kribs, a pair of Apisto's, or a pair of Nanochromis, but I don't want to sacrifice my shrimp.  It is sort of a peninsular arrangement and viewable from both sides because behind the couch was the only space available.  I used black sand for my substrate (mistake 1 above), an AquaClear powerhead 50 (about 200gph wide open - which it is throttled down a bit) with the polishing attachment filled with a sponge filter and floss - basically a powered sponge filter, and currently a Green Killing Maching 9W UV filter which I want to eleminate. It is planted with: Ambulia, Water Sprite, Water Wisteria, Crypt Wendtii, Crypt Lutea, Anubias Nana Petite, Red Flame Sword, Red Melon Sword, Anubias Gold Coin, Java Moss, Java Fern, Apongeton Crispus/Ulvaceus, and some duck weed that I have decided to eradicate. It is scaped with local river rock, some cured local wood, and a large piece of Mopani Wood. It is currently stocked with 6 Threadfin Rainbows, 5 White Clouds, 3-4 Otto's, 4-5 Ammano Shrimp, 5 Nerite Snails, 40-50 red cherry shrimp (I started with 6), 1 SAE (which will be coming out), and a battalion of bladder snails. When I sat it up, I used 2 packets of Aquarium Coop root tabs, and have added about 20 more of API and another brand I don't remember the name of that look like dark rabbit pellets. I also use Easy Green weekly. Lighting started with 1 Stingray 2.0, but I added a second about a month ago. They are both on a timer and are on for 10 hours. I do not have a heater, but my temp stays around 72 - 75. Ammonia is 0, NO3 is10, NO2 is0.5, ph is 7.5, kh is120-150, gh is 80. No CO2.

ISSUES:

1] I'm having a problem getting any height on my plants. I know that not everything I have planted is a tall variety, but it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the Ambulia, Water Sprite, Water wisteria has shown any interest in the upper reaches. I had thought that 1 Stingray fixture was not enough, so that is why I added a 2nd one.

Right decision or some other variable I'm missing? Other plants that might work better?

2] My water is always cloudy/green. The fourth photo is looking from one end to the other - the length of the tank. It has never been "crystal clear." That is the reason I added the UV filter. Whenever I would add Easy Green, I would get an algae spike, but without it my Java Fern and Crypts would start getting holes in the leaves. My goal is to get enough plants going to out compete the algae, but see issue 1.

DEDUCTIONS: I know that sand is not the best substrate, but it is not very thick and the plants seem to be rooting in it well. I had a Dwarf Red Lilly (Nymphae) but I took it out because it was sending up a couple of Lilly pads every 2 days such that they were covering the top and blocking all the light. The point is the root system was huge and covered the middle third of the tank.

I'm really not sure what I have as far as lighting. Too much, too long, too little, wrong spectrum, .....

I think that I am really going to have to stay up on the root tabs...maybe. But how much, how often? But I also think that I may have too much fertilizer as evidenced by the algae blooms.

I am thinking about switching the filter to a Sicce Shark ADV 800 internal filter (211gph max) with a couple of the refill cartridges stacked with bio rings - sponge - and floss. I'm not wild about a HOB because it would have to go on the end, I have a glass top that would have to be re-cut, and I like the quietness and obscurity of the internal filter.

So, since I want to go with a lot of Nano fish and most of them like well planted tanks with lots of hiding options, what are your ideas, suggestions, critiques, scoldings?

Thank you all in advance for your time, insights, and suggestions!

May all your fish stay right-side-up!

 

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Edited by Piscarius
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I suspect your light duration is too long.  There are smarter people than me that can give you advice on types of lights, spectrum, etc.

Have all the plants been in since the beginning?

The swords typically need more time to settle and really start growing and certainly they tend to be slower growing that most stem plants.  The size quoted for sword varieties seems to often just be a general sword size, not actually specific to the variety.  Many of the varieties don’t get as tall, especially not as quickly, as the quoted numbers say (at least not without CO2 supplementation).

Aponogetons often follow their own little time frame and it’s very hard to know how long it will take them to grow.  I have discovered that most, if not all, of my Crypt ‘Green Gecko’ is actually an Aponogeton that was apparently mislabeled.  It took about a month before it started growing differently and I realized it didn’t really look like my other Crypts anymore 3 months before I could be completely certain it was an Aponogeton, and likely crispus.  Just in the last week another plant that’s supposed to be Crypt ‘Green Gecko’ is looking like it was another juvenile crispus.  That’s now 4 months since it was planted.  I’m thinking I might not have any Green Gecko at all and I need to move another Aponogeton toward the back of my tank.

AND there’s nothing wrong with a little green tint to your water.  It doesn’t hurt the fish in any way, so don’t think you’re doing it wrong.  My clearest water (after the first, no fish at all, period) doesn’t seem to show up until the tank’s been running at least 5 months.

Edit to add, notice I didn’t give any advice on stem plants since I’m lousy at them.  Your Java ferns will keep plugging along and one day you’ll be like, “Wow, those are really doing well”.

Edited by Odd Duck
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Bear with me im going to totally fan girl out here but I learned something that may help you. A bit over two weeks ago i started using the siesta method of dual light periods. My tanks are bare bottom or less than 1 inch of inert gravel. My roots are entirely exposed. I never fertilize or root tab ever. My plants have done good my whole life but grow SLOWLY and i used 10-11 hours of light with hygger plant lights and uv on all 6 to combat green water. I started using the split photo period dropping to 8 total hours 7-12 on 12-5 off 5-8 on. My plants are going bonkers. My hornwort pearled at 5:35 this evening. My plants do not pearl EVER. Shutting the lights off allows co2 to build back up. No matter how much fertz and lights plants cant grow without co2. My ludwiga is turning red and sending new plants. Last week i got new plants that have just started the melt transition and sending new leaves at the same time. This never happened before. All this is courtesy of @Torreyshe may be sble to explain better. Fan girl episode is now complete i hope this helps 🤣😁B2976CAD-7A02-49F5-A129-EBE0EB13CE58.jpeg.a88b46cd82d64238c5cef253cdc3fcd4.jpeg

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On 9/27/2021 at 4:53 PM, Piscarius said:

DEDUCTIONS: I know that sand is not the best substrate, but it is not very thick and the plants seem to be rooting in it well. I had a Dwarf Red Lilly (Nymphae) but I took it out because it was sending up a couple of Lilly pads every 2 days such that they were covering the top and blocking all the light. The point is the root system was huge and covered the middle third of the tank.

I'm really not sure what I have as far as lighting. Too much, too long, too little, wrong spectrum,

@Guppysnail did a great job above, actually. 

I would add a couple of tweaks, but the fact that your lilly plant was doing so well says you are off to a great start. 

From April to now isn't even a fully seasoned tank yet, and your growth is ahead of schedule + you are doing a great job 'reading' your plants. 

An all sand substrate is not a problem, imo.

I literally used my spouse's 4' long 55 gallon to test 3 different substrates and maintain all other parameters as identical.

Left side is 3" of sand at the shallowest, slopes up to 5" of sand in the back/ far left side.

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Middle is gravel. 

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Right side is river rock on top of a ug filter, with a pond pump powering the 'water feature' on the far left of the tank. 

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This tank was set up about the same time you set up yours, the biggest difference is this tank has been rotating through floating plants while the rooted plants get established, and I accidentally killed my lilly bulb.

I also use the siesta method Guppysnail explained so well because plants in the aquarium will use up all the available CO2 in the first 5 hours of the photoperiod (lights on for photosynthesis) unless we want to run CO2 on our tanks.

Lights off stops the plants' attempts at photosynthesis with inadequate resources of CO2, and allows CO2 to build back up from fish respiration (takes ~ 4 hours to hit max).

Lights off for 4 hours after being on for a maximum of 5 hours, also inhibits algae growth. 

So programming lights for a siesta allows plants to grow more efficiently, which uses more nitrates, which starves algae, and will require the use of more ferts.

The tweaks:

1. Add some Malaysian trumpet snails and some blackworms to turn up the substrate, and to mix mulm from fish into your sand.

2. Don't gravel vac if you add the MTS and blackworms, because you don't want to remove the mulm (free plant food from fish poop).

3. Add a siesta

4. Patience, and maybe return the lilly as long as it was a dwarf variety (a dwarf won't cover more than a third of the aquarium, and allows lower light plants to flourish.)

I think you are doing a lot better than you give yourself credit for, I can't grow greenwater to save my life 🤣

It's a very valuable fry food.

 

 

 

<I will try to get pictures of the tank tomorrow, so you can see what daily ferts do for growth>

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Hello @Piscarius! Welcome to the forum! You’ve gotten some great advice so I don’t have much to add. I’ll just throw this out there:

Plants grow taller to reach light. This can be unhealthy, when there’s too little light and they get all stringy and pale, but I think your hunch is right and you’re having the opposite problem. You have two super bright lights, and your plants look GREAT—just short. 😄 They’re lush and green and full of leaves, but they don’t have to grow taller because they’re getting all the light they need where they are.

Adding a siesta may help, but if it doesn’t, you may have to reduce the light intensity. Maybe bring back that aquarium lily! 😉 

If you want to do a deep nerd dive, look up etiolation, which is the other extreme from what you have—way too little light causing plants to elongate past what’s healthy.

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I'd suggest that you need a bit of patience with the tank. It will take some time for the plants to root and really start to take off. 

To add to this, fertilizer. Make sure you are following the Easy Green instructions, it shouldn't be a once a week event to add it. Many say root tabs every 3-6 months, maybe on the more frequent side with the sand as your base. 

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I apologize for the delayed response - had a banquet on Tuesday evening and another meeting last night. First time I've had time to sit down and study your replies.

I knew it, I knew it......I just knew someone was going to suggest patience! I do sooo well with that!

Odd Duck - no, not all the plants were installed at the same time. I tried to add new plants as I added fish. I knew to balance was not perfect, but I tried to keep it close as things matured.

Guppysnail - it's ironic that you mentioned a siesta as I just read about that last weekend.

Torrey - I was thinking about adding something to burrow in the sand. Years ago a friend had added a couple of freshwater mussels to his tank for that. I will get some trumpet snails. I have not heard of blackworms. I will have to research that. Really sounds intriguing.

DavidR - the pump on my Easy Green malfunctioned and only spits out a drop on each pump, so I have been adding a scant teaspoon twice a week on Saturday and Wednesday.

PROCEEDING:

I will change my timer to include a siesta.

I think I will leave both lights on the tank, but I will change one to moonlight (all blue) to run in conjunction with the other light. Your opinions on this?

I will get some trumpet snails and look into adding blackworms.

I do think that I will replace my current filter with the Shark ADV, unless someone has an insight as to why that is not a good idea. It is a little larger and it is easier to run multiple medias.

Thank you all for your comments, suggestions and support!

 

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On 9/30/2021 at 3:22 PM, Piscarius said:

I apologize for the delayed response - had a banquet on Tuesday evening and another meeting last night. First time I've had time to sit down and study your replies.

I knew it, I knew it......I just knew someone was going to suggest patience! I do sooo well with that!

Odd Duck - no, not all the plants were installed at the same time. I tried to add new plants as I added fish. I knew to balance was not perfect, but I tried to keep it close as things matured.

Guppysnail - it's ironic that you mentioned a siesta as I just read about that last weekend.

Torrey - I was thinking about adding something to burrow in the sand. Years ago a friend had added a couple of freshwater mussels to his tank for that. I will get some trumpet snails. I have not heard of blackworms. I will have to research that. Really sounds intriguing.

DavidR - the pump on my Easy Green malfunctioned and only spits out a drop on each pump, so I have been adding a scant teaspoon twice a week on Saturday and Wednesday.

PROCEEDING:

I will change my timer to include a siesta.

I think I will leave both lights on the tank, but I will change one to moonlight (all blue) to run in conjunction with the other light. Your opinions on this?

I will get some trumpet snails and look into adding blackworms.

I do think that I will replace my current filter with the Shark ADV, unless someone has an insight as to why that is not a good idea. It is a little larger and it is easier to run multiple medias.

Thank you all for your comments, suggestions and support!

 

If you notice algae growth, blue lights are frequently the cause. 

 

Or at least there have been a lot of people who add blue light, and notice an increase in algae, and the algae seems to stop growing when the blue light is decreased. May only be correlational, I have not found any science to explain why this is a big complaint. 

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