Final attempt before I pack it in and start again

Sacha

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Hi all,

I've reached the end of my tether now and am on the verge of tearing my tank down and starting from scratch (new substrate etc.) but just after some final advice before I do so.

My Juwel Rio 240 has been running now for almost 2 years. It has a layer of John Innes soil, topped with gravel. The tank is heavily planted, has never had Co2, always low-tech with a half-dose of EI every day.

For the first year, I had very little in the way of algae problems. I had the usual outbreak of diatoms covering the tank walls for the first few months, but this went away once the tank was established.

Throughout 2019 I have been constantly battling with all different types of algae. Initially the plants started becoming affected, with green spot algae, diatoms all over the walls, green dust algae all over the walls, rocks and wood, but the most persistent of all was lots of hair algae covering the substrate. The hair appears to be growing from out of the substrate itself, and every single week when I do my water change I am pulling out large clumps of the gravel which are completely covered in hair algae and throwing them away. I have thrown so many plants in the bin because the plants no longer grow healthily and quickly become covered in algae. I cant even get my crypts to take now, they are overrun with green spot.

Anyway I have tried pretty much everything now. I reduced my lighting to 4 hours / day for a few weeks but all that seemed to do was damage the plants even more, I have a ridiculous amount of flow with a 1000 internal filter, 1,400 lph external filter and 2,000 powerhead, I dose with Easycarbo every day and half EI.

So based on all of the above, I have come to the conclusion that the problem must be originating from my soil substrate, and that I need to remove it and replace it with something that won't rot.

Does anyone have any final advice before I pack it all in?

Many thanks,
Sacha
 

PARAGUAY

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Start ajournal and the chaps can help as it goes along. It was ok for a while so maybe not to difficult to do again .Try the tutorials and dont pack it in;)
 

Keith GH

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Sacha

My advice would be strip it down and start afresh. This time have every thing planed down to the last detail. Then start be doing it step by step by doing it that way it's going to take a lot longer but there is far less chance of having concerns later on proving you have planned your maintenance program well in advance.

Keith:wave::greenfinger:
 

Sacha

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Thanks for the replies... Tim - I'll get some photos this evening when the lights are on. But they won't tell you much. Just that the tank used to be spotless with zero algae and healthy plants, and then suddenly everything went to s**t... It's infuriating because I changed nothing about the tank. I came to the conclusion that it must be ammonia emanating from the soil substrate (what else could be causing this?) Either that or, literally, 'something in the water'. I've taken out all the wood too, just in case the wood was rotting and leeching organics?
I think at this stage my best bet is to strip it down and start afresh. Obviously I don't want to use a nutritious substrate this time around, I'm thinking i'll just go for inert Unipac sand?
 

Sacha

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Ok... photos below as promised.

The first 2 photos were taken today, and they show green spot algae covering Crypt leaves and preventing the plants from growing; hair algae blanketing the substrate and becoming tangled in plant roots; plant stems rotting and not rooting. The last 2 photos were taken a year ago, and show a spotless tank with health plants, free from algae.

So, am I right in thinking the substrate is the source of all my woes?

IMG_0178.jpeg
IMG_0179.jpeg


Full tank shot 2018.JPG
Stauro carpet.JPG
 

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Sacha

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P.S. I had to remove the java fern and anubias because it gradually became over-run with algae and then died.
 

Tim Harrison

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I'm not so sure it'd be the soil. It's been in use for 2 years and it's likely there won't be much in the way of organics left since most will have mineralised long since. Any organic load is likely to come from the critters and dying plants, and with less plants to mop it up there is plenty in excess for algae. Overdosing fertz won't help in this scenario, it's more likely to reinforce the postive feedback loop. Take a look at Tom's Non CO2 Methods especially the bit on EI, he recommends around 1/10 EI, and dosing fertz once a week. And if using LC only 2-3 times as much.

I don't know what light you're using but the algae could possibly point to it being too intense; not so much the photoperiod which should be 6hrs minimum. Also, in my humble opinion I'd consider your tank to be relatively lightly planted especially now. I always try to plant very densely from the outset, especially in a low-energy tank. It creates instant impact, and compensates for the relatively slow growth in the absence of CO2 fertilisation. Most importantly high plant biomass infers a much greater degree of biological stability, which in turn seems to help prevent algae issues.

However, given the degree of algae infestation and the condition of your plants I'd do what @Keith GH suggested and tear the tank down and start again. But with a lot more plants; at least double, ideally more. Don't let this experience put you off using soil; I still think it's the best option for a low-energy scape.

Relatively densely planted low-energy soil substrate scape...
sideon-jpg.jpg
 

Sacha

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Thanks a lot for the advice Tim, really appreciate it. I agree that I'm past the 'point of no return' now and my best option is to start again. I'll plant as heavily as humanly possible this time around as you suggest.

Re lighting: This is a Juwel Rio 240 and the lights are non-dimmable. So what are my options for reducing light intensity?

That scape is really lush. Is there a tank log thread for me to read? Or can you provide some more details e.g. photoperiod, dosing etc.?

Thanks again.
 

jaypeecee

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This is a Juwel Rio 240 and the lights are non-dimmable. So what are my options for reducing light intensity?
Hi @Sacha

I'd be asking Juwel that question. Not being familiar with Juwel products, they must realize that variable light intensity is a requirement for all aquarium lighting.

JPC
 

Tim Harrison

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Re lighting: This is a Juwel Rio 240 and the lights are non-dimmable. So what are my options for reducing light intensity?
It's one of the reasons that planting heavily from the outset is important. Darrel @dw1305 successfully keeps highlight low-energy tanks but he has massive plant biomass as well and the combination works well, possibly through allelopathy, mutual shading, organic load reduction, and resource competition, etc.

He also uses floating plants which I'd recommend. You don't need so much flow in a low-energy tank, and I've had no problems using the Juwel inbuilt filter on it's own, that is in the 60cm version at least, so floating plants work well.

Or you could plant Vallis or other plants with leaves that grow across the surface like Aponogeton spp. that also produce floating leaves. Vallis is much maligned but I really like it and it grows like mad even low-energy and especially in hard water since it can sequester its carbon from bicarbonates.

Further, if the light fitting is a double T5 unit, some folk have managed to run just one tube, or failing that lowered the intensity placing foil rings over some of the tubes area; about half of it.

That scape is really lush. Is there a tank log thread for me to read? Or can you provide some more details e.g. photoperiod, dosing etc.?
Thanks, I don't have a log or a journal of this tank but it started life as a sort of Walstad tank, no fertz, no additional carbon, just soil. I think 1:1 mix of peat and Westland pond compost. The tank is a customised Fluval Roma 90, lit by 2 T8 bulbs for around 8hrs a day. It was filtered by an Eheim Ecco Pro 300. Later in the scapes life I started dosing TNC Complete, but only a low dose, see Darrel's Duck Weed Index.

Hi @Sacha
I'd be asking Juwel that question. Not being familiar with Juwel products, they must realize that variable light intensity is a requirement for all aquarium lighting.JPC
Good point, I think Juwel may have been listening, the newer versions can be bought with controllable LEDs. I think the older versions can also be retrofitted with the same.

Jungle scapes work particularly well low-energy...
soil1-jpg.jpg
 

Keith GH

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Sacha
It has a layer of John Innes soil, topped with gravel.
Using the information you have supplied. At a guess could you have several causes of your concerns.
Lighting, over feeding, filtration insufficient and/or lack of maintenance, carbon in filter if used?
soil used as there appears to be more than one type of the John Innes soils, and plant fertilizers.

Going back to my earlier posting Start affresh looks like the only way to go.

I only every used 1-3mm river (like you have now) the basic difference was I used UGF plus a large Eheim canister filter. The gravel is worth saving as long as it's washed and left in the sun to dry.

I used several gravel colourings just to make it look more natural. It was a minimum of 10cm deep.
I used Seachem liquid ferts every day as per their instructions and Seachem ferts as per their instructions. No Co2, lighting standard twin tube lighting changed every 12 months.

After all that Soil is not required if you are prepared to do all the extra work.

Keith:wave::greenfinger:



full-tank-shot-2018-jpg.jpg
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
The first 2 photos were taken today,
I'm sorry to hear of your issues, would it be possible to have a full tank shot?

It might give us a bit more idea of what has gone wrong in the last year. Looking at your photos I'm quite interested in the new leaves on the Cryptocoryne spp.
....He also uses floating plants which I'd recommend. You don't need so much flow in a low-energy tank, and I've had no problems using the Juwel inbuilt filter on it's own, that is in the 60cm version at least, so floating plants work well.

Or you could plant Vallis or other plants with leaves that grow across the surface like Aponogeton spp. that also produce floating leaves. Vallis is much maligned but I really like it and it grows like mad even low-energy and especially in hard water since it can sequester its carbon from bicarbonates.
I would really endorse what @Tim Harrison says.
  • Find plants that grew well in your water, and then use them.
  • Have a floating plant (or a plant with floating leaves), they aren't CO2 limited and can use available nutrients. The leaves won't get covered in algae and they have first dibs on the light. Once you've excluded light and CO2 deficiencies any growth problems that occur have to be nutrient based.
  • Have lots of plants, you don't need to have an initial large expenditure, choose a plant like Limnobium laevigatum <"Amazon Frogbit">, or Hornwort which are self propagators. I'm more than happy to send you a starter pack.
  • I can't recommend Hornwort <"Ceratophyllum demersum"> highly enough for the initial "high plant mass", cheap to buy, easy to remove, grows well in pretty much any water. It is one Diana Walstad's "go to" plants.
Once you're back to a position of plant growth and some stability you can start tweaking and trying new plants etc.

cheers Darrel
 

Sacha

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Hi all,

Thanks for the advice, I really appreciate it. Sorry for the slow reply, been a busy week!

Here's a full tank video so you can see the extent of my algae problems... I think the video pretty much speaks for itself! Please note that the large space in the middle of the tank used to be home to a large piece of driftwood but I removed that last week as it was just constantly attracting algae.


Darrel @dw1305 you said you're interested in the new leaves on the Crypt - you'll see that the dark green algae covering the leaves has now spread to the bottom leaves of the Hygrophilia. That particular problem seems contained to the front right corner of the tank...

Lighting, over feeding, filtration insufficient and/or lack of maintenance, carbon in filter if used?
- Lighting as we have established is high intensity but low duration (6 hours), fish fed very sparingly only 3-4 times per week. Massive filtration (upgraded Juwel internal filter 1000 lph, external Eheim Pro 3 1,600 lph, Hydor Koralia 2,000 lph powerhead). No carbon in filter. Massive weekly water changes (70-80%). Every week I am removing huge clumps of algae, all dead leaves / algae-ridden plants, and large portions of the substrate which are completely covered in hair algae.

  • Find plants that grew well in your water, and then use them.
  • Have a floating plant (or a plant with floating leaves), they aren't CO2 limited and can use available nutrients. The leaves won't get covered in algae and they have first dibs on the light. Once you've excluded light and CO2 deficiencies any growth problems that occur have to be nutrient based.
  • Have lots of plants, you don't need to have an initial large expenditure, choose a plant like Limnobium laevigatum <"Amazon Frogbit">, or Hornwort which are self propagators. I'm more than happy to send you a starter pack.
  • I can't recommend Hornwort <"Ceratophyllum demersum"> highly enough for the initial "high plant mass", cheap to buy, easy to remove, grows well in pretty much any water. It is one Diana Walstad's "go to" plants.
This is definitely the way I'm going to go. The problem is that plenty of plants were growing perfectly well in my water for about a year, then one by one they just died and become over-ridden with algae and I had to chuck them out.

I ran a high-tech tank for many years and I know the usual causes of algae (high light, poor flow, lack of nutrients), but even when I was just starting out and had no idea what I was doing and was running my lights for 12 hours a day with no ferts and no Co2, I was getting better plant health and less algae than this. Something has gone seriously wrong with this tank somewhere down the line but I just can't diagnose the cause of the problems. My only option is to start again from scratch with brand new substrate and fill every inch of the sand with plants....
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
I'm not sure at all. The green algae growth looks really good, which suggests that there isn't too much missing in terms of nutrients.
Darrel @dw1305 you said you're interested in the new leaves on the Crypt
If you stop the video at 15 seconds, are the new leaves really as pale as they look on the video?

If they are? I might try a different chelator for iron (Fe), one that is better at higher pH levels, but it would be clutching at straws. You can get FeEDDHA as <"Chempak sequestered iron">.

cheers Darrel
 

Sacha

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Thanks Darrel. I only re-planted those crypts a couple of weeks ago - they are cuttings from elsewhere in the tank. The established crypts on the other side of the tank seem to be healthy enough.

At this point I'm thinking it must be 'something in the water'. Out of the tap, my water is over 400 TDS, pH 8.2, GH over 15 (West London liquid rock). When I rebuild this tank I intend to use pure RO. I used to use pure RO but switched to tap water a while ago after reading dozens of posts on this site advising that 'the fish don't care and the plants don't care'. But now I'm wondering whether that might be the root of all my problems...
 

alto

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Have you always had the same level of flow in the tank?
(It’s A LOT ... not many plants prefer that amount of movement)

Some of the fish look to be in poor body condition - perhaps they were like this when purchased?
I’d try feeding small amounts twice daily and see how fish respond over a few weeks

Perhaps I missed this, but what are the lighting details?
Unless you’ve added additional lighting or reflectors (if fluorescent tubes) I’d be surprised if the Substrate PAR is anything beyond low - moderate (especially given the 4h photoperiod seemed to negatively impact plant growth)
 

alto

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dose with Easycarbo every day and half EI.
That’s a lot of fertilizer going into a closed system with minimal uptake in terms of plant growth ... but you are doing very well by the algae ;)
While many will argue that excess nutrient do not CAUSE algae, they will certainly support algae growth requirements with minimal energy outlay by the algae cells, also most that argue in favour of nutrient excess are basing their conclusions on a thriving planted tank system (which is a very different biochemical environment)

(I’m guessing 50% weekly water change?)

I’ve only experience with Seachem Excel, but assuming similar effects (which may be a unwarranted assumption as changes in compound presentation (the accompanying “salt” or structure of the molecule) may dramatically affect uptake), constant use of Excel seems to reduce the algecide effects
 

alto

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When I rebuild this tank I intend to use pure RO.
I’d suggest a mix of RO and tap - you might check with London/nearby shops with NICE plant display tanks - what are they doing?

It’s possible to grow very nice planted tanks in almost any water, which plants easily thrive tends to vary with water parameters
(eg, my tap is KH 0-1, GH 1-2, most Hygrophila sp do poorly unless I’m willing to adjust water parameters .... I don’t, though I will use a nutrient rich substrate (Tropica fan :D) and water column fertilizers and CO2 (for higher energy tanks, I also run nonCO2 tanks) and then just grow the plants which accept these conditions (and my lackadaisical efforts ... which don’t seem to produce much visible algae so there’s little incentive to up my game o_O ))

If you still want to avoid using any tap, then choose a decent GH/KH remineralizing salt which is affordable and consistent (I’d suggest a commercial mix as while these tend to be more expensive, they also tend to include a more complex blend and solubility/stability issues have been addressed - again look at what commercial shops etc are using for RO + mineral salts as they likely have many more tanks running)
 

alto

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Having seen many failed dirted tanks (my local plant club was very keen on this for awhile) that looked not unlike yours, I’d suggest choosing an Aquarium branded soils

I’ve had excellent results with Sera Floredepot, Tropica Growth Substrate (these are nutrient rich base layers which must be covered with 6-10cm fine gravel/coarse sand - Tropica has several setup videos), Tropica Aquarium Soil (I prefer the Powder for smaller size, more uniform appearance)
 

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