Algae, poor growth, drama

LarsB

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I've kept aquariums for many years and finally started using CO2 since about 6 months. Always had larger blackwater tanks but decided it was time for a nice, small planted aquarium.

One of my tanks is doing very poor, the other seems to be doing okay, they're both the Superfish Qubiq 30 with the stock lighting. I'll refer to them as tank 1 and tank 2. Also another clarification, because both tanks were badly affected by staghorn and bad growth, I couldn't take it anymore and did a complete restart. Cleaned all surfaces and substrate thoroughly and bought new plants.

Plants:
Tank 1: dwarf hair grass, Cyperus helferi, Pogostemon erectus and some Cryptocryones. No problems here. Grass is doing really well, as are the Crypts. The Pogostemon isn't doing anything. Not dying off, not losing any leaves but not growing either.

Tank 2: Pogostemon helferi, Limnophila sessiliflora, Hygrophila corymbosa, Alternanthera sessilis (not 100% sure if it's sessilis) and again some Crypts.

What are the problems I'm seeing?
- Algae: tank 2 has some staghorn that simply won't go away. I decided to keep 1 plant that seemed to be doing well and had just a tiny bit of staghorn left. Figured it wouldn't be that problematic because of the restart. There's quite a lot of current throughout the tank, no junk at the bottom and the filter is only cleaned when it's drastically affecting the current. It seems to be growing on 1 plant only at the moment and not spreading towards other surfaces.

- Plants: tank 2: helferi is turning yellow and losing lots of leaves. Corymbosa also has some yellow leaves, algae and small holes in it. Alternanthera again has holes in it and leaves are melting. Limnophila is growing fine but they aren't nice and 'full', there's quite a bit of space between leaves.

I'm aware that these plants still need time to acclimate, since it's been only 2 weeks. However, the problems I'm seeing now are the same I've seen for months. Eventually plants just stopped growing and seemed to not be dying either. They just did nothing.

Dosing
Alright, for dosing I'm using the EI method:
Mondag - Wednesday - Saturday: trace elements (1 ml per dosing, used to be 2.5 ml)
Tuesday - Thursday - Sunday: KNO3 & KH2PO4 (1 mp per dosing for each, used to be 2.5 ml each)
I'm doing weekly 50% water changes on friday. Used to dose 2.5 ml each dosing, but that caused my Po4, NO3 and Fe to explode. Since it wasn't causing nice plant growth and did seem to cause algae, I toned it down a bit.

I'm using pressurized CO2 at about 3 bps which shuts off at night and the lights are on for 11 hours a day.
Substrate consists of plain gravel with homemade clay (mixture consisting of Fe, loam (?) and minerals) and laterite pellets.

Both tanks are in the same room and get the same amount of indirect light from outside (never direct sunlight). Tank 1 honestly doesn't have that much problems. I included it though, because it's basically the same tank, same care, just different plants. Never had any problems with it until a sudden staghorn out break that didn't go away.

Apologies for the huge post, I tried to include all necessary information. Hopefully someone can help me, everytime I tried asking for help (not on this forum) people simply told me they didn't know either.

 

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ian_m

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Any magnesium dosing. EI required MgSO4, you are not dosing EI. May not be the issue but in 100% of cases where someone invents their own dosing scheme, algae and poor plants is the result.
 

Jayefc1

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Just had a quick read through and it seems to me that because the tanks are new 1 water change per week isn't enough the light period is far too long for new tanks no more than 6 hours the plants are struggling as your trying to force them to grow with high light long hours co2 and cutting back on there food source with the ferts can you dim the lights? Up the ferts and cut back on the photo period by 1\2 the time
 

LarsB

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Any magnesium dosing. EI required MgSO4, you are not dosing EI. May not be the issue but in 100% of cases where someone invents their own dosing scheme, algae and poor plants is the result.
Although I'm not dosing magnesium specifically, it is included in the trace elements (Plantex CSM+B). I can run a magnesium test somewhere this week though.

Just had a quick read through and it seems to me that because the tanks are new 1 water change per week isn't enough the light period is far too long for new tanks no more than 6 hours the plants are struggling as your trying to force them to grow with high light long hours co2 and cutting back on there food source with the ferts can you dim the lights? Up the ferts and cut back on the photo period by 1\2 the time
Thanks. Yes I can dim the lights, but it's either 100% or 50%, can't regulate it any more precise unfortunately.
So, more ferts, shorter photo period as well as dimming the lights and more water changes?

I'm realizing now that plants take quite a lot of effort. Just to make my life a bit easier, what would be the optimal parameters to aim for? At least then I know when to add more or less ferts.
 

Jayefc1

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I would dim the light to the 50% for at least 2-3 weeks let the plants adjust to being emmersed shorten the photo period to allow the roots to establish and you will need to let them recover so the nutrients are essential

The first months is a slow process letting them settle and getting the balance of light co2 and ferts correct most problems seem to stem from co2 and flow if you provide the correct ferts my new set up is almost 4 weeks old and I still do 3 water changes a week because plants love clean water and helps with the cycling

With a traditional EI dosing if the mix is correct 1ml of each macro and micro alternative days per 10ltrs of water

Have a look at this for ferts
http://www.theplantedtank.co.uk/allinone.htm
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Always had larger blackwater tanks but decided it was time for a nice, small planted aquarium.
Do you know how hard your water is?
Although I'm not dosing magnesium specifically, it is included in the trace elements (Plantex CSM+B).
Where are you located? If you are <"in the E. USA"> (or the Dolomites etc.) you may have magnesium in your water supply, if you aren't you probably won't. There isn't really a down-side to dosing more magnesium. If you look at the chlorosis on the Pogostemon helferi, it is on the old leaves, which makes a deficiency in magnesium a distinct possibility.

You can use Epsom Salts (MgSO4.7H2O) as a Mg source, they are 10% Mg and available widely.
Used to dose 2.5 ml each dosing, but that caused my Po4, NO3 and Fe to explode.
I can run a magnesium test somewhere this week though
Do you have access to <"analytical equipment"> (MS, ICP or AAS)? If you do, the metals are pretty straight forward, flame photometry is another option and will give you a ball-park figure for magnesium (Mg). Nitrate is tricky without an ion-selective electrode, but PO4--- is possible via spectrophotomety or colorimetry.

cheers Darrel
 

Zeus.

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All the above OFC :thumbup:
Cleaning the filters only when flow is reduced is asking for trouble esp with your Staghorn outbreak! Clean them weekly to keep flow maximum and reduce the detritus buildup in the filter media. I clean my filter weekly. What media have you got in your filters? Medium and course is all I use FLOW is KING in a CO2 injected tank are your plants waving about slightly?
The Scape design and plants location can effect the flow/tank turnover which may be why one tank has issues and the other doesn't.
Have you done a pH profile? A stable tank pH once the lights come on is the ideal goal with CO2 injection as it is a reasonable indicator of stable [CO2] - fluctuating [CO2] during photoperiod with inadequate tank flow/tank turnover are the main causes of issues in CO2 injected tanks compounded by too much light.
What's your filter outputs and tank size? The goal is X10 filter output for tank size so 50l tank should have filter output of 500lph, some do get away with less OFC
 

LarsB

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@dw1305 I'm located in the Netherlands. I believe we have magnesium in our tapwater though. I'll have it tested, as well as the hardness.

@Zeus. Really, weekly cleaning? I always assumed that would ruin any bacterial culture in there, since it keeps getting disturbed. As for filter material I'm using about 70% blue sponges and 30% small ceramic rings. Pretty sure that my filters are way insufficient though, I'm nowhere near 10x filter output. Probably more like 3x. I'll get new ones with a bigger volume today, never been really happy with the minimal flow throughout the tank anyway. The tanks are both 30L and I believe both filters are capable of 80l/h

I'll run a pH test later today as well :D

Thanks again everyone, appreciate all the help! I'm heading down the store in an hour or so, so I can run a few tests.
 

Zeus.

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I do mine weekly in my 500l but I do turkey blast the carpet which picks up lots of detritus which then gets trapped in the sponges so they always benefit from a weekly clean, but do my 50l much less often.
If the tank is stable and no issues then less frequent is fine IMO it's finding what works. But if issues more frequent cleaning is you first line of attack, plus depends how dirty the sponges are when you clean them ofc.
As for filter media surface area it's not so important in a planet tank as the plant roots provide a massive surface area for biological filtration.
As for reducing the bacteria in the filter they multiply so fast it's not an issue IMO and I always clean the sponges in old tank water.
Your filter outputs are on the low side. The output is the total of all filters powerheads etc that's important in CO2 injected tanks the reason is because diffusion is 10,000 slower in water in air so water movement in the tank is the key the amount needed is tank/Scape/plant dependant OFC.
 

LarsB

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Alright, just went to the store, which was closed because of Easter. I did manage to buy 2 new 400 l/h filters.

Got a nice current all over now. Starting the new lighting and dosing today as well. I'll have the parameters tested later this week.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
I always assumed that would ruin any bacterial culture in there, since it keeps getting disturbed
You don't need to worry, it is a bit different with planted tanks. <"Plant/microbe biofiltration"> is much more efficient than "microbe only" biofiltration. As well as direct uptake of all forms of fixed nitrogen by the plants (and their net oxygen production), they create a much larger volume of substrate where nitrification can occur.

We also now know that the linear view of cycling and nitrification, with a relatively small number of very specialised bacteria oxidising ammonia to nitrite, followed by the development of another specialised set of bacteria that oxidise nitrite (NO2) to nitrate (NO3), doesn't occur in aquariums. Have a look at the links to Stephan Tanner and Tim Hovanec in <"this thread">.

Before the development of RNA libraries we were reliant on culturing bacteria (from sewage treatment etc) to find out what organisms were involved in nitrification, which led to many of the assumptions about aquarium cycling that we now know to be incorrect. It isn't surprising, if you look at raw sewage it is a very different medium, from even very polluted, aquarium water. There are a number of papers specifically on the nitrifying organisms in aquarium filters which suggest that their assemblage shows a fluid response to varying ammonia loadings, with a stable core of archaea and an ever changing cast of nitrifying bacteria. This is described in <"Freshwater Recirculating Aquaculture System Operations Drive Biofilter Bacterial Community Shifts around a Stable Nitrifying Consortium of Ammonia-Oxidizing Archaea and Comammox Nitrospira">.

I use a pre-filter to stop organic waste ending up in the filter. Ideally, with an external filter, you want any mechanical filtration outside of the filter body . All you want entering the filter is ideally water, oxygen and ammonia. If you run an internal filter you don't have much alternative to regular cleaning, but you can always only clean half the media each time.
I believe we have magnesium in our tapwater though.
If you have hard water you may have some, but you could still have issues from the Ca:Mg ratio. In NW Europe most of our water is low in magnesium, because the limestone aquifers haven't under-gone dolomitization, and the there are relatively few rocks that were formed in evaporite basins.
I'll have it tested, as well as the hardness.
Can you get figures from your water supplier? They are likely to be much more accurate than the ones you can get from other sources.

I have access to water testing lab., but I very rarely run any of the tank water through it.

cheers Darrel

.
 

LarsB

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Can you get figures from your water supplier? They are likely to be much more accurate than the ones you can get from other sources.

I have access to water testing lab., but I very rarely run any of the tank water through it.

cheers Darrel

.
I do!
pH: 7,8
Hardness: 8,5
Magnesium: 6,7

Anything more needed?
 

LarsB

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Quick question: I'm about to order a new bag of trace elements, however they have a new recipe, which requires to add magnesium (mgSO4) and potassium (K2SO4).

I'm already dosing potassium-nitrate (KNO3) and potassium-phosphate (KH2PO4). Would it still be necessary to add extra potassium to the trace elements mix?
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
potassium-nitrate (KNO3) and potassium-phosphate (KH2PO4). Would it still be necessary to add extra potassium to the trace elements mix?
No.
pH: 7,8 Hardness: 8,5 Magnesium: 6,7
That is quite a good start, a bit of buffering, but not excessively hard water. You are pretty safe in assuming that you have an equal amount of dKH, with both dGH and dKH coming from dissolved calcium carbonate (CaCO3). That also accounts for the pH value, that is close to the carbonate ~ CO2 ~ equilibrium point (with 400 ppm atmospheric CO2).

I'd try adding some more magnesium, it is cheap as "Epsom Salts" (MgSO4.7H2O & 10% Mg) and you can't really over-dose with it. If you don't get a fairly quick growth response you can discount it as a cause of your yellowing.

cheers Darrel
 

LarsB

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Alrighty, both tanks have had only 6 hours of light at 50% intensity since monday.

My newly planted Ludwigia (bought it last week) is losing quite some leaves but looking alright.

I'm a bit worried about the helferi though, they're losing all lower leaves and some smaller plants seem to be melting. Is this normal or is it better to run the light at 100% again? The hair grass in my 'okay' doing tank is looking fine.
 

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