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What is the tan layer in my substrate ???


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Any clue as to what the tannish-brown layer just beneath the surface is? 

When I gravel vac, a lot of tan-brown debris can be sucked up.  The substrate was formed from only Eco-complete substrate about 3 months ago.   I planted root tabs only at the beginning of the plant in November. I've been inconsistent with liquid fertilizers as when I was adding weekly it seemed to cause more algae growth

All the stem plants I put in the tank seem to develop thinned out, translucent rotting bases that eventually become a white string.  . . . Scarlet temple, Bacopa caroliniana, Ludwiggia natans. . . all with rotting bases. 

I am battling staghorn and hair algae as you can see in some of the photos, but it is SLOWLY improving with liquid carbon.  But everytime I gravel vac, there's a significant amount of brown debris.  Is that brown stuff a contributor to lack of stem plant flourishing?  What is it?  HELP?  

Tan layer in aquarium 1.jpg

Tan layer in aquarium 2.jpg

Bacopa 1.jpg

Bacopa 2.jpg

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Without fully knowing your water parameters, I'll give you a very general explanation to what I think might be going on.

I think it's fair to assume you have fish, so I think the tan layer you're referring to is fish waste that has settled. If not fish waste than iI'd assume its organic buildup from dying leaves of melting stems etc. 

Eventually all the buildup will find its way to the very bottom of the eco complete, which you do want because it will eventually be reused as nutrients for you your plants. If you take a closer look at the substrate some of your plant roots will be making its way to the spots where it builds up.

I would recommend against gravel vacuuming as you might be pulling all the nutrients out of the substrate but you can try to siphon the top layer of organics by gently fanning the substrate with your hand to kick up the debris (I use a turkey baster).

As for your stems, two things come to my mind about why the bases are melting.

While planting you could have damaged the stems trying to stick them in or the base of the stems were already rotting. My recommendation is to pull up all your stems that have melting bases and cut off the bottom node and replant. What I like to do is actually feel the stem and cut off all the parts that feel mushy.

The other would be lack of nutrients. You did mention that you inconsistently dosed and without knowing how you gravel vac, Im assuming you took out root tabs in doing so. All I can really so is to think about just adding the fertilizer. I would not worry about algae at this point, all new tanks get it. Better to get it over with now then have it strong later.

Get the plants to grow so that way you don't have to buy more and address the algae after. Once you get your plants to grow and you fill out your tank the algae will slowly go away.

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18 hours ago, crashnburn55 said:

Any clue as to what the tannish-brown layer just beneath the surface is? 

First of all, I second everything @Koi said above.

I call it mulm. In my aquariums it is a mixture decaying plant materials, fish waste, baby cherry shrimp, etc. Recently, I looked at some of it under a microscope and here is what I found.

 

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IMG_2321.JPG.37f12c2e0f59ef8b493e0309bd78654b.JPG

This is a nice pile of mulm. It was probably collected there because of where I poured-in top-off water. This is a an organic soil tank, so some of this could have come from my last addition of plants, but I don't tend to make a mess anymore, except by choice.

I actually think most of it comes from the wood in my tank, especially with snails, shrimp, Otocinclus, and most of all, my Yoyo Loach eating away at it to build-out his fortress of solitude.

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8 hours ago, Koi said:

Without fully knowing your water parameters, I'll give you a very general explanation to what I think might be going on.

I think it's fair to assume you have fish, so I think the tan layer you're referring to is fish waste that has settled. If not fish waste than iI'd assume its organic buildup from dying leaves of melting stems etc. 

Eventually all the buildup will find its way to the very bottom of the eco complete, which you do want because it will eventually be reused as nutrients for you your plants. If you take a closer look at the substrate some of your plant roots will be making its way to the spots where it builds up.

I would recommend against gravel vacuuming as you might be pulling all the nutrients out of the substrate but you can try to siphon the top layer of organics by gently fanning the substrate with your hand to kick up the debris (I use a turkey baster).

As for your stems, two things come to my mind about why the bases are melting.

While planting you could have damaged the stems trying to stick them in or the base of the stems were already rotting. My recommendation is to pull up all your stems that have melting bases and cut off the bottom node and replant. What I like to do is actually feel the stem and cut off all the parts that feel mushy.

The other would be lack of nutrients. You did mention that you inconsistently dosed and without knowing how you gravel vac, Im assuming you took out root tabs in doing so. All I can really so is to think about just adding the fertilizer. I would not worry about algae at this point, all new tanks get it. Better to get it over with now then have it strong later.

Get the plants to grow so that way you don't have to buy more and address the algae after. Once you get your plants to grow and you fill out your tank the algae will slowly go away.

Thank you for the in-depth response.  Let me tell you some of the paramaters of my tank to see if it adds any refinement to your suggestions:

I have a 60 gallon pH of my tank is 7.8, ammonia 0 ppm, nitite 0 ppm, nitrate 40 ppm, temp 77'F.  I do have an airstone.  I have one guppy, 7 glo-fish tetras, 10 amano shrimp, 5 cherry shrimps, and 4 nerite snails.  

I started with my Fluval 3.0 light at 90% intensity of 6 hours + 1 hour ramp up and 1 hr ramp down.  I only did root tabs at the very start when I planted about 5 bunches Scarlet temple and about 10 bunches of tissue culture dwarf hair grass.  For the next 4 weeks I dosed with liquid iron and Easy green weekly.  Doing weekly water change of about 30% comprised of (50% dechlorinated tap and 50% RO).Then the algae exploded and coated the Scarlet temple and most of the hairgrass.  The stems did keep floating up every so often so I did have to try replanting several times so the stems could have been less than optimal.  Soon the base of the stems became translucent and then white and stringy, the leaves also became translucent and wilted.  I read that too much iron spurred algae growth so I stopped the liquid iron and dosed Easy Green every 2 weeks. 

Algae raged on and eventually covered what was left of the first planting so I culled them all and replanted with another 7 bunches of Scarlet temple, 5 bunches of Bacopa and 10 new tissue culture cups of dwarf hairgrass.  I decreased lighting intensity to 75% for 5 hours+ 45 mins ramp up and 45 mins ramp down.  I decreased my water changes to about 40% every 2 weeks and then dosed Easy green every 2-3 weeks.  

Wondering if my plan going forward is appropriate:

1) trim back the stems like suggested to get rid of thinned out areas, very few salvageable survivors at this point I think

2) get additional plants to help consume some of the nitrate down to 20 ppm

3) keep dosing Easy Green 6 pumps weekly

4) do 25% water change weekly with less gravel vac disturbance of mulm (I like that turkey baster idea!)

5) decrease lighting intensity to 50% but increase duration to 8 hrs with 1 hr ramp up and 1 hr ramp down

6)  try replacing root tabs every 2-3 months

7) try add a large sponge filter with airstone (to replace just the airstone) to add to my canister filter 

8 )  continue spot treating algae areas with liquid CO2

 

Should I be adjusting my plan any?

 

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4 hours ago, Irene said:

And here's a blog article we wrote about mulm! 🙂

https://www.aquariumcoop.com/blogs/aquarium/mulm

I missed that article. . . duh. . . you already answered my question and more even before I asked. 

Oh and my kids watched your cherry shrimp video and LOVED it.  Hence I now have some cherry shrimp.  Keep up the inspiring videos!

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5 hours ago, Daniel said:

First of all, I second everything @Koi said above.

I call it mulm. In my aquariums it is a mixture decaying plant materials, fish waste, baby cherry shrimp, etc. Recently, I looked at some of it under a microscope and here is what I found.

 

Wow, that is intriguing!  Was that tadpole looking like critter a baby cherry shrimp? What were those clear oval shaped organisms vibrating?  Unique perspective on mulm.  Amazing.

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4 hours ago, Streetwise said:

IMG_2321.JPG.37f12c2e0f59ef8b493e0309bd78654b.JPG

This is a nice pile of mulm. It was probably collected there because of where I poured-in top-off water. This is a an organic soil tank, so some of this could have come from my last addition of plants, but I don't tend to make a mess anymore, except by choice.

I actually think most of it comes from the wood in my tank, especially with snails, shrimp, Otocinclus, and most of all, my Yoyo Loach eating away at it to build-out his fortress of solitude.

THAT is a sizeable pile of mulm.  In my naivete, previously I would have sucked that sucker up with my gravel vac thinking my tank was being invaded.  Now, after being enlightened, I would probably just re-distribute it to make it less . . .obvious. . . 

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I'll start by addressing your question about the iron. It could be that the extra iron is the culprit so I would say hold off on the easy iron for now. You will need a little extra when your scarlet temple is doing better but easy green should offer enough since it sounds like most of your plants are still struggling at the moment.

Another concern I have would be looking into if you have adequate flow within your tank. As long as you see all or most of the leaves from your plants gently moving around, that should be good enough so that we can rule nutrient export out as a possibility.

I'm guessing you are mixing ro water for gh/kh . If your gh is somewhere between 3-10 dGH and kh is 3-8 dKH, it shouldn't be a point of concern. Those aren't really set numbers but I have tanks within those parameters I haven't had any specific issues in that regard.

As for you general plan of attack overall I think it's a very good start. I'll suggest a few options you have or possible things to look into.

1) trim back the stems like suggested to get rid of thinned out areas, very few salvageable survivors at this point I think

If you have some pictures of your whole tank or at least the stems it would give me an idea of the severity. But I would say if you have new growth cut the tops off, replant, and throw out the bottom. If you see aerial roots, cut below that. But before you do that send a picture if you can because your tank didn't look that bad and a lot of your plants may still be salvageable.

2) get additional plants to help consume some of the nitrate down to 20 ppm

Definitely, this will probably be the funnest part. Look into fast growing plants like hornwort or elodea( if you like the look).

Another option is getting floating plants. They will help disperse some of the light and since they are on the top with the most light they will eat up a lot of nutrients. Be sure to not let them fuly cover the top of the tank because that will choke out your plants from light and even gaseous exchange. Just make sure there isn't an oil film on the surface of your water

Some floaters are water hyacinth, water lettuce, or duckweed( warning on duckweed, if you never had it, some people find it quite intrusive and a pain to get rid of)

If you like the look, growing pothos out of the tank is an option.

3) keep dosing Easy Green 6 pumps weekly

You could even do half of that but be sure to slowly add on more once you start seeing new growth.

4) do 25% water change weekly with less gravel vac disturbance of mulm (I like that turkey baster idea!)

I would say try to fit some 50% water changes here and there. Looking at your stocking you shouldn't really have that high nitrates which leads me to think this has been building up over time. 50% every now and then will help reset your parameters so nutrients don't creep up on you.

You could hover your gravel vac over the substrate to pull the waste and dead leaves out just try not to pul the gravel up.

5) decrease lighting intensity to 50% but increase duration to 8 hrs with 1 hr ramp up and 1 hr ramp down

I really like this. I think this is a solid baseline you should start with for a few months. It shouldn't be too much and it allows you room to either increase intensity or time in the future when your tank fills out. I would say once everything starts growing well, you can incrementally start raising the intensity or duration, but if you like where its at just keep it.

6)  try replacing root tabs every 2-3 months

You could do that or just put it near the hairgrass. You could actually just put it all over the tank but for a money saver just place them where plants are.

7) try add a large sponge filter with airstone (to replace just the airstone) to add to my canister filter 

no problems here

8 )  continue spot treating algae areas with liquid CO2

If you don't mind the hassle sure. From the pictures you have it doesn't look like its really necessary. I usually do spot treating for plants with bigger leaves or slow growers. For stems I usually just remove the leaves or cut out any part cover in algae. 

For you hair grass at least, once you start seeing runners or it a decent amount of new growth, just trim it to the substrate but be sure that its good a decent hold/roots in the substrate. This part is a little more difficult to gauge so I would do it in sections.

Try trimming one clump of hair grass and when you start seeing it grow back, trim the rest. I would section out all my plants like that just so you don't cut everything and they all die.

If you have a picture of the tank/plants I could try to be a little more specific but if you are ever unsure what you're doing just try some of your plants so that way you don't lose everything.

Edited by Koi
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7 hours ago, Koi said:

I'll start by addressing your question about the iron. It could be that the extra iron is the culprit so I would say hold off on the easy iron for now. You will need a little extra when your scarlet temple is doing better but easy green should offer enough since it sounds like most of your plants are still struggling at the moment.

Another concern I have would be looking into if you have adequate flow within your tank. As long as you see all or most of the leaves from your plants gently moving around, that should be good enough so that we can rule nutrient export out as a possibility.

I'm guessing you are mixing ro water for gh/kh . If your gh is somewhere between 3-10 dGH and kh is 3-8 dKH, it shouldn't be a point of concern. Those aren't really set numbers but I have tanks within those parameters I haven't had any specific issues in that regard.

As for you general plan of attack overall I think it's a very good start. I'll suggest a few options you have or possible things to look into.

1) trim back the stems like suggested to get rid of thinned out areas, very few salvageable survivors at this point I think

If you have some pictures of your whole tank or at least the stems it would give me an idea of the severity. But I would say if you have new growth cut the tops off, replant, and throw out the bottom. If you see aerial roots, cut below that. But before you do that send a picture if you can because your tank didn't look that bad and a lot of your plants may still be salvageable.

2) get additional plants to help consume some of the nitrate down to 20 ppm

Definitely, this will probably be the funnest part. Look into fast growing plants like hornwort or elodea( if you like the look).

Another option is getting floating plants. They will help disperse some of the light and since they are on the top with the most light they will eat up a lot of nutrients. Be sure to not let them fuly cover the top of the tank because that will choke out your plants from light and even gaseous exchange. Just make sure there isn't an oil film on the surface of your water

Some floaters are water hyacinth, water lettuce, or duckweed( warning on duckweed, if you never had it, some people find it quite intrusive and a pain to get rid of)

If you like the look, growing pothos out of the tank is an option.

3) keep dosing Easy Green 6 pumps weekly

You could even do half of that but be sure to slowly add on more once you start seeing new growth.

4) do 25% water change weekly with less gravel vac disturbance of mulm (I like that turkey baster idea!)

I would say try to fit some 50% water changes here and there. Looking at your stocking you shouldn't really have that high nitrates which leads me to think this has been building up over time. 50% every now and then will help reset your parameters so nutrients don't creep up on you.

You could hover your gravel vac over the substrate to pull the waste and dead leaves out just try not to pul the gravel up.

5) decrease lighting intensity to 50% but increase duration to 8 hrs with 1 hr ramp up and 1 hr ramp down

I really like this. I think this is a solid baseline you should start with for a few months. It shouldn't be too much and it allows you room to either increase intensity or time in the future when your tank fills out. I would say once everything starts growing well, you can incrementally start raising the intensity or duration, but if you like where its at just keep it.

6)  try replacing root tabs every 2-3 months

You could do that or just put it near the hairgrass. You could actually just put it all over the tank but for a money saver just place them where plants are.

7) try add a large sponge filter with airstone (to replace just the airstone) to add to my canister filter 

no problems here

8 )  continue spot treating algae areas with liquid CO2

If you don't mind the hassle sure. From the pictures you have it doesn't look like its really necessary. I usually do spot treating for plants with bigger leaves or slow growers. For stems I usually just remove the leaves or cut out any part cover in algae. 

For you hair grass at least, once you start seeing runners or it a decent amount of new growth, just trim it to the substrate but be sure that its good a decent hold/roots in the substrate. This part is a little more difficult to gauge so I would do it in sections.

Try trimming one clump of hair grass and when you start seeing it grow back, trim the rest. I would section out all my plants like that just so you don't cut everything and they all die.

If you have a picture of the tank/plants I could try to be a little more specific but if you are ever unsure what you're doing just try some of your plants so that way you don't lose everything.

Thanks for the additional thoughts Koi.  

I will try to trip back the bases to healthy stem and try replanting, but not sure there's much to trim from the tops of the stem plants

Picture 1 is a distant view of what my tank looks like.  Pretty sparse.  (Yes, I know, my airstone is flipped over and the two light green balls in the foreground on the right are unsightly--but I am planning to add those two to my quarantine filter media.)

Picture 2 is of the hair algae encasing my bacopa.

Picture 3 is of my uprooted ludwigia with algae connecting to my bacopa. (all of my Scarlet temple dropped all their leaves after being covered by the green algae and have since been removed from the tank.)

Picture 4 is a view of what the rest of my remaining stem plants look like in the tank.

Picture 5 is a different view of the rest of my remaining stem plants.

Picture 6 is a sad view of my remaining dwarf hair grass and the surrounding green algae on the substrate.

The nitrates are around 40 ppm because of my tap water.  And I do a 50/50 mix so I can have pH of 7.8

My tap water parameters are:

pH: 8.0, Nitrate: 40 ppm, phosphate: 1-2 ppm, GH 30 ppm, KH 240 ppm

My RO water parameters are:

pH: 6.6, Nitrate: 0 ppm, phosphate: 2 ppm, GH 30 ppm, KH 0ppm

I am planning on adding a couple of water sprite (planted or should I keep floating?), 2-3 cryptocoryne wendtii, 2-3 pogostemon stellatus octopus, and would like more easy to care red plants. . . maybe retry the ludwigia or scarlet temple or maybe try rotala (any thoughts?)

 

current appearance 1-30-21.jpg

hair algae on bacopa  1-30-21.jpg

uprooted ludwigia with hair algae 1-30-21.jpg

view of remaining stem plants 1-30-21.jpg

different view of remaining stem plants 1-30-21.jpg

remnants of dwarf hair grass and surrounding green algae 1-30-21.jpg

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Thats a really nice tank, is that 4 feet long? It looks like its gonna be real fun planting.

Your bacopa is definitely salvageable, the you should be able to pull the hair algae off by hand. For each bacopa I would cut 2-3 nodes from the last leaf and just replant. I think I see some roots coming out from them so those should be fine.

As for the ludwigia, no real hurt in trying to cut the tops off and see if it grows but I wouldn't blame you if you didn't. That one looks like it will be a tough one to bring back.

And I'm just gonna say right now you got some crazy tap water haha. So this last part maybe just take it with a grain of salt and sorry if it's of no help. Ive never experienced that kind of water so any plant I mention is totally speculative, I have no idea if they will work but they are plants I choose If I want immediate success.

All your plant choices are good, most of them are my "go-to plants". I think they are good mix of fast and slow growing plants.

For the water sprite If its big enough try splitting it in half do some floating and do some in the substrate. That and the pogostemon stellatus are both pretty fast growers so they should help with your nitrates.

I love crypts, they are super easy and hardy but keep in mind they will take a little time to get settled in your tank. Don't be scared when it melts, thats totally normal, be sure to give it a root tab and space and it should fill out nicely. Amazon sword as well is a nice big plant that will fill out space (look up red melon sword as well)

I think really good red plant would be a red tiger lotus if you can get a hold of some. I personally like that over dwarf lily but both kinda serve the same purpose. both would need root tabs as well.

Both jungle valisneria and dwarf sagittaria are fast growing as well. It may take a little from them to grab hold but when they are happy they will shoot runners all over the place.

A lot of the plants I chose tend to do well with root tabs. Because of your water parameters I feel like other plants might require you to buy separate bottles of potassium or phosphorous. I picked plants that would use the kinds of fertilizer you already have so you don't need to spend more money on these nutrients then try to figure out how to use them.

I think thats a pretty good list that should give you success and once you get those down and you wanna take on another challenge then maybe look into the stems you mentioned.

But don't listen to me, if you like the look of those stems, get them and try. Who knows, maybe they'll work out for you the 2nd try. I'll mention scarlet temple is a rather slow grower compared to ludwigia and rotala

I just remembered, one last thing. If you can try putting the intake and output of your canister filter on opposite ends of the tank for circulation.

Btw early apologies for this being so all over the place I usually try to organize my writing but I had a long day haha

 

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On 1/30/2021 at 8:10 PM, Koi said:

Thats a really nice tank, is that 4 feet long? It looks like its gonna be real fun planting.

Your bacopa is definitely salvageable, the you should be able to pull the hair algae off by hand. For each bacopa I would cut 2-3 nodes from the last leaf and just replant. I think I see some roots coming out from them so those should be fine.

As for the ludwigia, no real hurt in trying to cut the tops off and see if it grows but I wouldn't blame you if you didn't. That one looks like it will be a tough one to bring back.

And I'm just gonna say right now you got some crazy tap water haha. So this last part maybe just take it with a grain of salt and sorry if it's of no help. Ive never experienced that kind of water so any plant I mention is totally speculative, I have no idea if they will work but they are plants I choose If I want immediate success.

All your plant choices are good, most of them are my "go-to plants". I think they are good mix of fast and slow growing plants.

For the water sprite If its big enough try splitting it in half do some floating and do some in the substrate. That and the pogostemon stellatus are both pretty fast growers so they should help with your nitrates.

I love crypts, they are super easy and hardy but keep in mind they will take a little time to get settled in your tank. Don't be scared when it melts, thats totally normal, be sure to give it a root tab and space and it should fill out nicely. Amazon sword as well is a nice big plant that will fill out space (look up red melon sword as well)

I think really good red plant would be a red tiger lotus if you can get a hold of some. I personally like that over dwarf lily but both kinda serve the same purpose. both would need root tabs as well.

Both jungle valisneria and dwarf sagittaria are fast growing as well. It may take a little from them to grab hold but when they are happy they will shoot runners all over the place.

A lot of the plants I chose tend to do well with root tabs. Because of your water parameters I feel like other plants might require you to buy separate bottles of potassium or phosphorous. I picked plants that would use the kinds of fertilizer you already have so you don't need to spend more money on these nutrients then try to figure out how to use them.

I think thats a pretty good list that should give you success and once you get those down and you wanna take on another challenge then maybe look into the stems you mentioned.

But don't listen to me, if you like the look of those stems, get them and try. Who knows, maybe they'll work out for you the 2nd try. I'll mention scarlet temple is a rather slow grower compared to ludwigia and rotala

I just remembered, one last thing. If you can try putting the intake and output of your canister filter on opposite ends of the tank for circulation.

Btw early apologies for this being so all over the place I usually try to organize my writing but I had a long day haha

 

Thanks, yes, it is a 48.5 inch 60 gallon tank.  I definitely had high hopes in my mind of how it would look at its zenith, a live-bearer, Zen-type of aquascape. . . . but that seems to be a fading dream given the difficulty of just trying to get the carpeting plants going and keeping any type of stem plant from rotting away.  Guess we all have to adjust on the fly in this hobby.

I am trying to salvage the Bacopa. . . fingers crossed. . . yeah, the ludwigia is. .  *gulp* another member of my compost heap.

Thank you for the plant recommendations.  I'll see what I can fit into my budget this month and what is available.   Dreams, dreams, dreams. . . . if only I had an unlimited budget and a "green thumb!"

Is the opposite corner placement of the intake and output the best way to get complete tank circulation?  

If I am able to get some additional dwarf hair grass, any ideas on how, with my Eco-complete substrate, to keep the new dwarf hair grass from floating up?  I had read somewhere about using push-pins, but does that really work with a larger gravel substrate like mine?

I really appreciate the advice and wisdom!

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I wouldn't say putting the input and output being on opposite ends is the best way just visually for me I know water from one side of the tank is reaching the other side. Your filter might be strong enough to do that already i'm just going off a picture.

For something like hairgrass I personally need tongs not sure if you have that. But I like to break apart little chunks (probably an amount you can pinch with your fingers) and plug it into the substrate to the point where almost none of it is showing. Pretty much bury it with just the tips showing. This part might sound a little confusing but before you release your grip on the plant shake the tong a little so the gravel will settle around the plant. Then loosen your grip slightly and pull the tong away.

Ill also mention that I don't plant with my tongs pointed straight down, its more of a 45 degree angle  or even parallel to the substrate not sure if that matters too much

This is a different plant but I plant it in the same style just to show you how close to the substrate.  

rannunculus.jpg.405069c830dd69904b171aa9888c5cbf.jpg

  

Here is another plant that I completely buried and it started to grow up and out. 

glossostigma.jpg.142fa114dcf71687154c7b2706fbbd02.jpg

Don't worry too much about your tank, it will come to shape in time. Once you find success in one plant, it becomes a lot easier to figure out how handle other kinds. You just need to find that one plant that really works for you first. It all is a matter of time really.

I won't push this on you but maybe reconsider dwarf saggitaria, you only need one of this plant and it carpets pretty quickly too. And it's a lot of easier to plant into the substrate. I have a love hate relationship with this plant because it tends to grow out of control but it might be the problem you want haha.

This is an old picture of my 5 gallon with it in the middle1918781266_dwarfsag.jpg.46e164225e31d12709b899e723518ac2.jpg

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22 hours ago, Koi said:

I wouldn't say putting the input and output being on opposite ends is the best way just visually for me I know water from one side of the tank is reaching the other side. Your filter might be strong enough to do that already i'm just going off a picture.

For something like hairgrass I personally need tongs not sure if you have that. But I like to break apart little chunks (probably an amount you can pinch with your fingers) and plug it into the substrate to the point where almost none of it is showing. Pretty much bury it with just the tips showing. This part might sound a little confusing but before you release your grip on the plant shake the tong a little so the gravel will settle around the plant. Then loosen your grip slightly and pull the tong away.

Ill also mention that I don't plant with my tongs pointed straight down, its more of a 45 degree angle  or even parallel to the substrate not sure if that matters too much

This is a different plant but I plant it in the same style just to show you how close to the substrate.  

rannunculus.jpg.405069c830dd69904b171aa9888c5cbf.jpg

  

Here is another plant that I completely buried and it started to grow up and out. 

glossostigma.jpg.142fa114dcf71687154c7b2706fbbd02.jpg

Don't worry too much about your tank, it will come to shape in time. Once you find success in one plant, it becomes a lot easier to figure out how handle other kinds. You just need to find that one plant that really works for you first. It all is a matter of time really.

I won't push this on you but maybe reconsider dwarf saggitaria, you only need one of this plant and it carpets pretty quickly too. And it's a lot of easier to plant into the substrate. I have a love hate relationship with this plant because it tends to grow out of control but it might be the problem you want haha.

This is an old picture of my 5 gallon with it in the middle1918781266_dwarfsag.jpg.46e164225e31d12709b899e723518ac2.jpg

Thanks for the tips regarding the planting.  I do have aquascaping tools although my proficiency is significantly lacking.  Working at it slowly.  I think I've been planting my hairgrass all wrong.  I buries just the root parts with most of the grass sticking out and lo and behold. . . . floating islands of hairgrass.   Scores of grumbles later and I still have some issues with it not firmly adhering to the substrate.  So mostly submerging it and at an angle. . . now that sounds like a better recipe for success!

I like the theory of the dwarf saggitaria (who can argue with being set up for success?) . . . but my better half vetoed the plant . . . wanting finer bladed carpeting and other plants. . .hence the narrow leave stem plants that I've been trying.  

Wow either you have very nice contrast lighting, or your plants are pretty darn lush green!  Both aspects I am aiming for.  Kudos to you either way.

When I barely touch into the gravel I get a lot of miniature log-like solid debris.  If I just hover over the gravel, a little bit comes up.  About 1/8 inch into the gravel the debris comes up in the amount shown.  I don't think it's mulm right?  Mulm should be more cottony and cloud the water.  This stuff just comes out as solid debris.  This essentially coats the substrate top layer.  This stuff should be cleaned up. . . shouldn't it?

debris.jpg

debris2.jpg

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I forgot to mention once you plant the hairgrass, try not disturb it too much so it doesn't comeback up. Once it grows a few inches cut it back so that it will spread quicker. Do that a few times and the hairgrass will pretty much have a good hold on your substrate. By constantly cutting it you will eventually train the grass to grow low and sideways.

Sometime later this week I can make a quick video  or take some pictures of the planting if visual aid will help you since its tough to fully explain the process in writing. But spectrum in lighting will help bring out the colors of plants and use of a background too. I am injecting co2 so I am kinda of cheating. Not to say that you need co2, it can be done without it just takes a little longer.

Since your tank is already in place plastidip might not be as feasible but lately Ive been using privacy window film as of lately for ease. That probably wont work for you either as you will need to move the tank and stand so cutting out cardboard to shape and taping it might work to. I do notice your tank seems to be in front of a window so maybe all these suggestions might not be of use to you.

I have to say you are a trooper if you do maintenance with a nano python vac on that tank haha. You are pulling up mulm it probably is newer fish waste that hasn't started breaking down. At this point since your plant stock is low go ahead and pull it out if you want as long as the gravel isn't being tumbled in your gravel vac. I will mention that newer tanks tanks require a little more attention in maintenance at the start but don't get discourage. At around 6 months or when plants begin to fill out more you can start backing off on the water changes and you don't necessarily need to pull all the mulm from the substrate. Personally I still like to clean the top layer of my gravel but it is not out of necessity its more of people trying to keep my water polished.

Edited by Koi
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Wow, 8 little fish make THAT MUCH POOP?  If what I pull up is all poop, they must be going constantly, there is so much everywhere.  I never see them poop, although honestly I don't watch them for hours at a time so maybe they do their business in when prying eyes aren't staring.  

Yeah, I guess my obsessive compulsiveness allows me to use the nano python.  I used it for my 10 gallon tank, now my quarantine tank, and I got proficient with it so I figured why change . . . save some $ that I could devote somewhere else.  

Whenever you have time for the planting video, thanks.  No rush, whenever it is convenient for you. 

Cutting back after a few INCHES of hairgrass growth?  Most have negative (death) growth.  The ones that remain, I don't think it's even grown 1 cm yet.  At this rate, I won't be cutting anything.  My best bet is replanting with new purchases.  

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It could be other organics like your plants but I can't imagine it being anything else but fish waste. I keep guppies and even the babies poop all day so I must imagine your glofish will have substantially a lot more. If you ever keep a bare bottom tank you'll be surprised how much fish poo in one day

hahah you're right I totally forgot I'm talking about dwarf hair grass, if anything it will probably be an inch or two most. If you completely given up on the hair grass you have now, I say cut all of it to the substrate now and see if any comes back by the time you buy more. Couldn't hurt to try and I imagine at least a few strands will make it. This is where sharp curved scissors will come in handy cause i always pull stuff up if I use straight scissors for any kind of carpet.

When you get your new hair grass give it like 2-3 weeks maybe to really settle in before cutting. I wouldn't even bring the gravel vac close to those plants for the next few weeks until you're sure its stuck there. And then as I said before just keep cutting every few weeks and it should grow thicker. I will mention I haven't done hairgrass in a while or without co2 so I'm not sure how this timeline will work for you but if you have good fertilization and a strong light, I can't see why you shouldn't be able to pull this off.

Keep updating this thread I wanna see you come out on top of this!

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I decided to try a DIY CO2 system with the 2L bottle citric acid bottle connected to a 2L baking soda bottle then connected to the tank.  Not sure if this will do anything really for the size of tank (60 gal) that I have.  I'm hoping even a little CO2 would be helpful to the plants that I have remaining and the new ones I hope to get?  What do you think?  

 

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Sure, you'll definitely see more improvement with supplemental co2. I personally couldn't stand having to mix the bottle every week or two but knowing that you use that small gravel vac, this should be a walk in the park for you. Try putting your diffuser under your filter output so that the water helps push the bubbles around the tank. And something to consider, your sponge filter might off gas any co2 that dissolves in the tank. 

Other than that that my main warning with diy co2 is that its a slippery slope to going full on injection haha

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You've gotten very good advice so far, but I'll add a few more tidbit I'd follow if it were my tank. 

1 manually remove as much algae as possible. The green hair algae should come off almost completely by just pulling it off. 

2 do a few large water changes to cut nitrates to below 20ppm.

3 dose easy green daily rather than weekly. 1 pump daily (none on water change day) will help keep your nutrient level more stable. Algae out competes plants when nutrient levels fluctuate because it adapts more readily. 

4 increase the size of water changes until plants establish then gradually reduce to 20% weekly. Recently started doing this because I've been struggling with BBA since I redid my hex and it seems to be helping. Got the tip from listening to the George Farmer podcast. He recommends large frequent water changes in the begining stages of a planted tank to give you more control over the available nutrients in order to control algae until the plants can outcompete it. 

That's how I'd handle it

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Great tips from Koi and ChefConfit.  I will try implementing those recommendations.

So I did the DIY CO2 and. . . I think there's a mild amount in the aquarium, not to where I'd like it to be, but better then having none, I guess.  Second, the decrease in intensity of lighting to 50% for longer periods of the day (8 hrs now) seems to be helping some.

I did manage to get some additional plants (a few Pogostemon, Watersprite, and a couple of Cryptocorynes) so will need to see if I can keep battling that 

The Ludwigia. . . . succumbed.  The Bacopa seemed to be developing some good roots and the plant looks healthy, no more "strings" at the bases. . . woohoo. . . . BUT, here's the problem. . .now I think I see black-beard algae. . . $@&^$*!  

I just started to use some Seachem Excel squirted directly onto the largest patches. . . but any other tips?  

I did remove the one shown in the picture and may consider transporting all of them out, treating with H2O2 and then replanting if they survive?  

Should I have held off on the new planting until I got rid of the blackbeard algae? 

What do you guys think?

Blackbeard algae1.jpg

Blackbeard algae2.jpg

Blackbeard algae3.jpg

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