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How to Keep Plants Alive


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Hello all,

My tank is 29 gallons. It contains community fish: Cardinal tetras, guppies, endlers, blue and green rasboras, runny nosed tetras, celestial danios, Japanese algae eaters, bristle nosed plecos, and cory.

I used black controsoil as the substrate with driftwood and stone.

I use two foam filters for filtration and aeration.

I use a Fluval 3.0 light.

The fish are thriving, but the plants struggle and die.

I feed my fish only what they can eat in a matter of 2-3 minutes. I use flake food for tropical fish.

I own the following Seachem supplies:

Prime, Trace, Pristine, Flourish, Stability, and Flourish Excel

Currently, I am set at:

84 pink, 5 blue, 50 cool white, 100 pure white, 80 warm white

The lights are on for 8 hours a day.

It is 15 inches down top of water of top of the substrate.

Please help!

Questions are as follows:

1) Which Seachem products should I use? When? How often? In what amount?

2) What settings should I set my lights at that will grow the plants?

3) Should I use a different kind of filtration system? *Of note, I would love to introduce shrimp, but want to get the plants in order and thriving first.*

4) Should I aerate the tank differently? 

I would love to see my plants thrive and grow, and make sure I have the healthiest tank possible.

I am not a rich man, so being able to use the Fluval 3.0 light and Seachem products I already own first would help immensely.

Thank you!

- campingdude84

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Your Java fern and Anubias are planted into the ground, whereas they usually do much better with the rhizome (roots) free. Try attaching them to the rocks and wood with superglue. 
As for the other plants, I’d consider leaving the lighting on for another 2 hours or so to give them a boost. Maybe also remove some of the floaters which are blocking the light
Do you have a way of testing the water for nitrates? 
Welcome to the forum btw! 

Your fish look great anyhow 😅

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Thank you for the responses.

I do use a syphon to clean the detritus from the bottom of the tank.

I clean the tank once every 10-14 days.

The tank has been set up for 3 1/2 years.

I used two separate test kits this morning to see the current numbers:

 

Saysummer 9 in 1 aquarium test strips 

Iron - 5mg/L
Copper - 0
Nitrate - 10mg/L
Nitrite - 0
Chlorine - 0
Total Hardness - 150
Total Alkalinity - 180
Carbonate - 300
PH - 8.0
 
API freshwater master test kit
 
PH - 7.6
Ammonia - 0
Nitrite - 0
Nitrate - 20ppm 

The PH seems to be somewhere between 7.6 and 8.0, and the carbonate is high in the 300s. This is the norm for water from the tap treated with Seachum Prime.

I just place the Java fern and annubis and the red plant in the tank last week. The only plants that seem to grow are on the right side of the tank and the grass on the bottom. (Sorry, I don’t remember the plant names.)

As I mentioned before: The fish do well in the water as is. I never have fish kill or sickness. Many of the fish are original to the tank when I first set it up over three years ago.

I just can’t seem to dial in the Fluval 3.0 light, and I don’t know what I should add to the tank and when/why to add it.

 

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First, I would stop gravel vacuuming. Planted tanks are essentially self contained eco systems that require bacteria & mulm to help feed the plants. In-turn, plants (that are growing well) clean the water by removing waste & heavy metals protecting your fish. You vacuuming detritus is interfering with this process. Your tank wont be pretty as this process occures, but you will have a stronger eco system in the long run. If anything get some otos and snails as cleaners & let that eco system grow! Which will take some time, but worth it in the long run.

As far as your lights, I would turn them down, its not for algaes sake, it's more to encourage your plants to grow to get more light! Also blasting them with light forces plants to essentially consume themselves in search of nutrients If said nutrients aren't being provided.  My tank is 21" to substrate, when I reentered the hobby my 3.0 would hit 33% max for a few hours, over time, as your plant mass grows then increase the light.

As for fertilizers im sorry to say your current supplies aren't ideal. Plants need a full spectrum (also called comprehensive) fertilizer. Seachem is lacking some of the essential nutrients plants need to grow. In this case I would recommend Easy Green and dose to recommended levels.

Lastly is placement, as mentioned above some of your plants should be glued to rocks or wood, and your anubias looks to be placed in your brightest spot. Thats a low light plant and would do best shaded, glued/attached to wood or rock.

I'm sure there is more to comment on but im kind of running out of time! If i think of anything else ill comment but this should get you headed in the right direction!

So in summary, turn lights down, get a comprehensive fertilizer and grow that eco system! Good luck

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Also in my bio is a link to Bentley Pasco fluval 3.0 day Sim settings. I made a spreadsheet that allows you to easily manipulate it according to output percentages. It might be worth checking out, but you might need to adjust the day length to a shorter day. I think originally its set to a 14h day

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On 10/15/2023 at 3:10 PM, campingdude84 said:

Questions are as follows:

1) Which Seachem products should I use? When? How often? In what amount?

I own the following Seachem supplies:

Prime, Trace, Pristine, Flourish, Stability, and Flourish Excel

There's a lot going on here so let's break it down!

Prime:  Water conditioner you use each time you change water, before adding in your tap water
Flourish + Trace:  BOTH of these are your Macro and Micronutrients for your plants.  You would dose these 1-2x a week depending on plant demand.  Per seachem, don't dose them on the same day.
Pristine:  Not necessary, this is a chemical cleaning product which may or may not be helpful.
Stability: Bacteria starter.  You would keep this in the fridge and it would only be used if you ever run into something like ammonia, nitrite issues, or following treating with medications to build back up the beneficial bacteria
Excel: This is an algaecide that you would use as directed for major issues.  You will have the most success dipping plants as oppose to treating the tank itself directly.  There is a lot of consideration here towards your own safety using the product (gluteraldehyde) as well as general safety long term of the livestock in the tank.  Just something to research and consider.  I have used it in the past and it is a nice tool for treating BBA.

On 10/16/2023 at 12:49 PM, campingdude84 said:

I’m having trouble locating your bio to find those spreadsheets. Can you help point me to them please?

On 10/16/2023 at 12:51 PM, JoeQ said:

Right in my signature below 👇

If you're on mobile I think sometimes it won't show up.  There's two threads we have that can be of help, one of them is specific to the fluval 3.0 lights and the other is the sheet mentioned.

DaySim Reducer
 

 

On 10/15/2023 at 3:10 PM, campingdude84 said:

2) What settings should I set my lights at that will grow the plants?

3) Should I use a different kind of filtration system? *Of note, I would love to introduce shrimp, but want to get the plants in order and thriving first.*

4) Should I aerate the tank differently? 

I can give you a general idea of where to start based on the sheet above as well as my own setups.  Essentially there's a few key things going on here. First of which, mentioned above, is going to be layout and placement.

First and foremost is to pull up any Java ferns, anubias, or other epiphytes out of the substrate.  They should be tied or glued to rocks or wood.
 


The next thing would be to try to setup the tank for high vs. low light regions.  I'll give you a map, but here is a video example as well.
 


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It's not a hard and fast rule, but larger leaves plants generally don't want to be right under the light or they will get a lot of algae.  You can have them slightly off center in the medium-high regions.  The ferns and anubias just don't grow quickly enough to handle being right under the light.  The swords or any sort of bigger leaved stems can also do fine as more of a background plant just due to how big the leaves get.  The stems you'd want to give more light to than other plants and so that is where the placement of everything really matters.  That being said, your light at 100% is guaranteed to be causing issues.  Partially you can see this in your floating plants.  Those plants will take up a lot of nutrients, light, and will shade out the plants below.  This just means that you want to keep the floating plants with ~40% of the water surface opened up to allow light to get to those plants below properly.  Each week when you do your water changes, you'd want to pull floating plants out as you need to. 

I would start the light somewhere around 50-60% power intensity.  Especially given the algae things, it might just be a balance of tuning the light, dialing in the ferts, and then dialing in your placement.  You have a lot of good things going on, but it's just a situation where there is that final little tweak to get things working well for you.

I would also suggest moving your filtration down as much as you can to increase the airflow / circulation in the tank.

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On 10/16/2023 at 8:47 AM, campingdude84 said:

Saysummer 9 in 1 aquarium test strips 

Iron - 5mg/L
Copper - 0
Nitrate - 10mg/L
Nitrite - 0
Chlorine - 0
Total Hardness - 150
Total Alkalinity - 180
Carbonate - 300
PH - 8.0
 
API freshwater master test kit
 
PH - 7.6
Ammonia - 0
Nitrite - 0
Nitrate - 20ppm 

I think one final note here is your GH vs. KH ratio.  Generally you would want GH to be higher thank KH.  Finding a way to reduce KH for your tank might be helpful for the plants.  seachem has a product called acid buffer which will drop the KH/PH.  They have equilibrium which will raise your GH.   More on this here.  But the ratio of GH:KH can play a role with plant health and their ability to properly function in your tank.
 


I would recommend getting a liquid GH and KH test kit, especially for the care of the shrimp.

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I took as much advice from everyone’s responses as possible.

I removed 2/3 of the top water plants. I built a dam of sorts out of clear straws to keep the top water plants covering roughly one third of the tank.

I glued the annubis and ferns to the driftwood. I rearranged the driftwood so that the ferns and annubis plants are in the lower light section of the tank.

I added some structure, including a tube for the bristlenose to chill out in.

 I put the lights that can withstand direct light on the right side of the tank where there are no floating plants at the topcoat.

I made the driftwood structure a place where the Japanese algae eaters can chill out and burrow under.

I added five nerite snails to the tank to help eat the detritus and any algae that may grow (I currently don’t have any algae problems.

I raised the Fluval 3.0 light who about four inches using unused building blocks my daughter used to play with.

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As far as the lighting goes, I am following the advice of Bentley Pascoe. I am starting off with lower light, controlling the blue light, and ramping up the lights every two weeks.

 

I am including the video I watched.

 

also, I am including a picture of my lighting setting so for the first two weeks.

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I can’t lower the filters because the tube that blows out the filtered water in both od them is too short. I I lower them, the bubbles get ridiculously loud.

I don’t know how I would extend the filter tubes, or lower the filters without the air bubbles making too much noise.

if anyone has suggestions, let me know.

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On 10/20/2023 at 3:48 PM, campingdude84 said:

And just because, I am sharing a short video of my tank and fish in action after doing all the work to set it up differently. Excuse the cloudiness of the water because I just added the stone and rearranged the driftwood.

 

 

Looks good! Pay attention to your plants leaves, particularly at first light, mid day and just before your light goes off. This tells you if your plants are photosynthesizing probably.  On anubias / Lillys the reaction is a slight bit different with their leaves angling towards or away from the light. You might still have to come up with a good nutritional plan (as im not a huge seachem fan) others around here are more versed on their confusing dosing regimen. 

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On 10/21/2023 at 11:26 AM, Tanked said:

I like the rock choices.  Is the square piece resembling a slab of bacon petrified wood?

Yes it does. I have a couple pieces like this, but the tank is too small to include them all. I used the other rocks that I got for free that have holes and crevices in them so the fish have places to hide or swim through as cover.

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