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First water test

Trakkajack

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28 Jan 2021
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I did my first water test the other day

nitrite was at 0.5
nitrate at 20.0
Amonia 0
PH 7.5
Carbonate hardness 7
General hardness 16

I am doing a 50 to 70% water change every other day and have just one of the 3 lights on for approximately 4 hours of the day.

what else can I do to improve the water?

I am using Seachem stability and prime and liquid fertiliser.

my plants are suffering

no livestock as yet thankfully

any help greatly appreciated
 

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John q

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Well for starters stop panicking. Take a deep breath and smile.

I don’t see anything in those test results that would harm the plants.

Post some pics in your other journal and I agree 4hrs of light isn't enough.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
and have just one of the 3 lights on for approximately 4 hours of the day.
I agree with the others you need a longer light period and probably more light intensity.

The problem at the moment is you don't know whether you have enough <"light energy to support plant growth">. If you increase light intensity and duration and then you get a big flush of green algae it at least tells you that you have the <"basic requirements for plant growth">.

cheers Darrel
 

Trakkajack

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I thought I had added this to my journal. I’m useless. Yes I have a journal on the go ... ok I will increase my light. Thank you. I had it on for more hours and was told to reduce it. Thanks for the feedback.
 

ian_m

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If you have used Prime in the water, then that will certainly negate most of the test kit results as it interfere with the results. Depending on test kit method causes zero results or massive over read. I think Prime can cause zero ammonia readings and overreading on nitrate with liquid reagent test kits (and reverse readings on test strips ?).

Basically, read this and place test kits on shelf of extremely interesting, but not very helpful things I purchased in order to keep fish.
What about Test Kits ?

Then get on keeping plants (and fish), using the water you have, rather than worry about most likely highly inaccurate hobby test kit results.

I have never tested or felt the need to test my water. I know it is hard, from water company website and scale in kettle. Personally I can't see how knowing water parameters is going to make any difference to keeping plants and fish. Plant growth is measurable in cm per day (!!!!) and fish breed like rabbits (fish !!) so must be doing something right....

If you really really really really really feel you must test something then look at lab grade test kits
Colour Disc Test Kits | Hach United Kingdom - Overview | Hach
for instance, these tend to not be affected by other ions in solution, especially ammonia & nitrate which hobby kits are notoriously unreliable.
 

John q

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People often say the trickiest thing to master in a planted tank is co2, I'd argue that light if not equally as important comes a very close second.

You'd be surprised how little light intensity the plants need to survive. I have a couple of stems of limnophila sessiliflora tucked away in the back corner of my tank, its overshadowed by a biggish sword plant, devoid of flow and for all intents and purposes should be dead. The poor thing grows incredibly slowly but its green and algae free.

I think you were right to cut the intensity of your lights but possibly panicked and reduced the duration to much.

I'd slowly increase the duration to 6 or even 7 hours, but keep it to one of the standard two lamps for now. Maybe up it to 5 hrs today, then add 15/20mins each day. Then watch and wait before doing any further adjustments.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
People often say the trickiest thing to master in a planted tank is co2, I'd argue that light if not equally as important comes a very close second.

You'd be surprised how little light intensity the plants need to survive.
I had it on for more hours and was told to reduce it.
Yes, that is it. At the moment we just don't know if your plants are getting enough light energy to grow, we can remove "lack of light" as a variable by ensuring that we definitely have enough light.

I use a floating plant (with access to atmospheric CO2 and therefore not CO2 limited) as a <"net curtain">. Plants like Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) naturally grow in very bright conditions and have first dibs on the light.

If the floating plants <"still don't grow healthily"> then you know that the issue is with the mineral nutrients, because you've taken light and CO2 out of the equation.

cheers Darrel
 

Trakkajack

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Hi all,


Yes, that is it. At the moment we just don't know if your plants are getting enough light energy to grow, we can remove "lack of light" as a variable by ensuring that we definitely have enough light.

I use a floating plant (with access to atmospheric CO2 and therefore not CO2 limited) as a <"net curtain">. Plants like Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) naturally grow in very bright conditions and have first dibs on the light.

If the floating plants <"still don't grow healthily"> then you know that the issue is with the mineral nutrients, because you've taken light and CO2 out of the equation.

cheers Darrel
Ok thanks all. My floating plants are no more. They are not doing well at all. I’m doing my water changes. I’m adding my stuff from the bottles. I’m trying to get the water going back in at around 22 degrees as was told to keep my tank at that heat. I just don’t know where I’m going wrong. One of my plants has got white leaves now. The others are covered in diatoms and most are melting. I will up the lighting today and slowly increase it daily thank you. It’s water change day again today so will be doing say 80% again. What else can I do?
 

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Hufsa

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Try to stay calm, we are here for you and will help you along the way 🤗
You can go right to a 6 hour photoperiod, no need to ramp this up slowly. I dont think ive seen a single person that doesnt agree that 6 hours is the minimum, so its very safe to be at that level and it will make sure your plants get enough hours immediately 🙂 I looked into your journal to try to see why someone suggested 4 hours, and it looks like maybe it was my comment that was misunderstood a bit, im sorry for that and didnt mean for it to be taken that way. It was meant as a reaffirmation of not going full blast 100% intensity yet.

Your pictures are helpful as they allow us to see whats going on, keep them coming if you can but remember to breathe 🙂
I see some crypt leaves that are melting, that is totally fine, crypts are known for taking all their toys and throwing them out the pram when they are moved or disturbed, so this is expected. If a leaf is totally jelly you can safely suck it out of your tank when you are doing maintenance, to keep it from polluting too much.

Now, we know that most of your plants will have been grown out of water, so all their leaves are made for being in the air. Now that they are under water, the plants find themselves with a bunch of leaves that dont work optimally, and will look to absorb the nutrients from the old leaves and put those into making new growth that is adapted to water. So when we try to see how your plants are doing now we need to look at the growing ends, which means tops of stem plants, centers of rosette plants like amazon swords, and growing tips of mosses etc. The old bits of the plants will look tatty for a while until the plant has all converted into being under water, and this is a bit of a messy process.

If you could get another batch of floating plants that would be useful. Do you know if they were battered by the flow on the surface?

The huge influx of brown types of algae that you are getting now is completely normal, they are having a huge party because there are tons of new nutrients and almost no established bacteria and such already living there. Eventually they will run out of pizza and beer and the party will subside, as the permanent residents (beneficial bacteria and archaea) move in.

It looks to me like you have new growth coming in on your plants :) I think you will be just fine, it just looks a bit messy as its finding its balance. This is the part of aquascaping that is rarely shown but important to know about.
 
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John q

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I feel it’s all going downhill eek
I suspect this is a feeling most of us get at some point and probably one that will recur from time to time.
I've spent the last 8 weeks trying to extend my photo period from 8hrs to 12hrs. It was done at a snails pace with tweaks to light intensity, fertiliser dosing and flow adjustments along the way. Its been a rather emotional journey with highs and lows and at one point I also felt my tank was going to self destruct.
Having been through that I think I've now found the sweet spot for my tank which is 10hrs of lightning per day.

Like me in time you'll also find where your tanks sweet spot is, it will be emotional and at times you might even think is it worth it.
Just take small baby steps and try not to change to many things at the same time, at least this way you'll learn what worked and what didn't.
 

Trakkajack

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Try to stay calm, we are here for you and will help you along the way 🤗
You can go right to a 6 hour photoperiod, no need to ramp this up slowly. I dont think ive seen a single person that doesnt agree that 6 hours is the minimum, so its very safe to be at that level and it will make sure your plants get enough hours immediately 🙂 I looked into your journal to try to see why someone suggested 4 hours, and it looks like maybe it was my comment that was misunderstood a bit, im sorry for that and didnt mean for it to be taken that way. It was meant as a reaffirmation of not going full blast 100% intensity yet.

Your pictures are helpful as they allow us to see whats going on, keep them coming if you can but remember to breathe 🙂
I see some crypt leaves that are melting, that is totally fine, crypts are known for taking all their toys and throwing them out the pram when they are moved or disturbed, so this is expected. If a leaf is totally jelly you can safely suck it out of your tank when you are doing maintenance, to keep it from polluting too much.

Now, we know that most of your plants will have been grown out of water, so all their leaves are made for being in the air. Now that they are under water, the plants find themselves with a bunch of leaves that dont work optimally, and will look to absorb the nutrients from the old leaves and put those into making new growth that is adapted to water. So when we try to see how your plants are doing now we need to look at the growing ends, which means tops of stem plants, centers of rosette plants like amazon swords, and growing tips of mosses etc. The old bits of the plants will look tatty for a while until the plant has all converted into being under water, and this is a bit of a messy process.

If you could get another batch of floating plants that would be useful. Do you know if they were battered by the flow on the surface?

The huge influx of brown types of algae that you are getting now is completely normal, they are having a huge party because there are tons of new nutrients and almost no established bacteria and such already living there. Eventually they will run out of pizza and beer and the party will subside, as the permanent residents (beneficial bacteria and archaea) move in.

It looks to me like you have new growth coming in on your plants :) I think you will be just fine, it just looks a bit messy as its finding its balance. This is the part of aquascaping that is rarely shown but important to know about.
Oh thank you. Put in a way I understand too! Ha ha. Ok. I will forget the horrible leaves and remove and look for new growth to spur me on. Yes the floating plants were bounced around by my spray bar I moved to make more water movement on the top of the water as I saw a lot of tanks had a rippling sort of effect and thought I needed it too. I was told the spray bar goes at 45 degrees but I didn’t know if that was from 6oclock or from 12oclock so I had it at 3oclock then saw it wasn’t rippling the water too surface so thought it must be from 12oclock. Oh gawd I hope you understand that..!

Thank you for taking the time to respond. It is very much appreciated.

I will keep breathing ha ha
 

Trakkajack

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I suspect this is a feeling most of us get at some point and probably one that will recur from time to time.
I've spent the last 8 weeks trying to extend my photo period from 8hrs to 12hrs. It was done at a snails pace with tweaks to light intensity, fertiliser dosing and flow adjustments along the way. Its been a rather emotional journey with highs and lows and at one point I also felt my tank was going to self destruct.
Having been through that I think I've now found the sweet spot for my tank which is 10hrs of lightning per day.

Like me in time you'll also find where your tanks sweet spot is, it will be emotional and at times you might even think is it worth it.
Just take small baby steps and try not to change to many things at the same time, at least this way you'll learn what worked and what didn't.
Thank you. It does help to know there are experts out there willing and able to help. You’re all very kind thank you. I am taking it all on board and will follow instructions!
 

Hufsa

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If you imagine the spray bar being on your back glass, pointing directly at your front glass, water going straight forward. You want to tilt it up towards the sky about 45 degrees so you get that nice surface ripple.
If you find your spraybar doesnt make enough ripples for your liking at 45 degrees you can tilt it up even further or play with the height placement a bit. Its not an exact science, we just need "good enough" rather than no ripples :)
The ripple is important because it allows your tank water to get more oxygen and CO2 from the air above the water. The more ripples, the more surface for this exchange. Both of us are running low tech, so we want to make sure our tanks have a lot of this exchange. It is our biggest source of CO2 for our plants, which is the nutrient they need the most.

The flow that goes down in the water then helps to deliver this fresh water replenished with some CO2 to our plants. After that the flow hopefully pushes the water back up again to the surface to get more CO2 and do another lap. This is the basics of why they say flow is so important. Its the nutrient delivery system.

I kept killing my floaters with all the flow, they dont like being dunked under water and while they can take some movement they dont like being blasted around all day. Ive had much more success with floaters after I made a little safe haven for them, im a bit over the top so I made a mesh basket for them, but I think many just use a piece of airline tubing and suction cups or something similar to make a little fenced area for them. Set the fenced area up where the surface is quite calm, but also where they get enough light. Meaning they should not be in a blind spot of your light fixture, otherwise the duckweed index doesnt work correctly.
 

Wookii

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I looked into your journal to try to see why someone suggested 4 hours, and it looks like maybe it was my comment that was misunderstood a bit, im sorry for that and didnt mean for it to be taken that way. It was meant as a reaffirmation of not going full blast 100% intensity yet.

It wasn't @Hufsa - I've just read @Trakkajack's journal, it was someone else - I'm not sure why a 4-5 hour photo period was being recommended, 6 hours should be the minimum in my mind, and on a low tech I'd aim to gradually increase to 10-12 hours over the next 3-4 months. @Trakkajack what lights do you currently use - I couldn't see it specifically mentioned?

Oh thank you. Put in a way I understand too! Ha ha. Ok. I will forget the horrible leaves and remove and look for new growth to spur me on. Yes the floating plants were bounced around by my spray bar I moved to make more water movement on the top of the water as I saw a lot of tanks had a rippling sort of effect and thought I needed it too. I was told the spray bar goes at 45 degrees but I didn’t know if that was from 6oclock or from 12oclock so I had it at 3oclock then saw it wasn’t rippling the water too surface so thought it must be from 12oclock. Oh gawd I hope you understand that..!

Thank you for taking the time to respond. It is very much appreciated.

I will keep breathing ha ha

As @Hufsa has said, melting of crypt leaves is completely normal - though never ceases to be annoying - some people even remove all leaves before planting to avoid the additional biological loading on the tank. If I were you, I would simply remove any leaves that show even the slightest signs of melting - they should put out new leaves in due course - though some plants can take several months to do so.

I note from your journal that you have recently added additional soil to the tank. That is likely the source of your more recent nitrite spike. I would continue with your large bi-daily water changes until your nitrite readings are zero. Then get the plants growing well for a few weeks before starting to add livestock, starting with a good clean up crew.
 

sparkyweasel

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That seems to be a true complete fertiliser, which is good. There are quite a few on the market with 'complete' in the name but are missing vital elements. :)
 

Hufsa

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When you run out of Seachem Stability you dont have to buy another bottle, buy a nice plant you like instead or save your money :)
The jury is very much still out on wether or not bacterial supplements work, but I personally find it unlikely that they would contain the right species of germs that match exactly the natural balance a tank gets on its own. Scientists didnt know hardly anything about the germs that inhabit our tank until very recently, and I ask myself how the companies could have figured it out before them.
I cant tell you if you should stop using it or not, I dont think its actively harmful, maybe @dw1305 has an opinion on it.
A lot of people use these bacteria products and their tanks all find balance, so I think the biggest effect will be on the wallet.

Prime is good, keep using that. Not because it is particularly magical or anything but it does its job well and it is concentrated, so it is much more economic to use than AquaSafe and some other brands.


APT Complete fertilizer is a complete fertilizer, which is good.
That sentence may sound a bit silly but there are several fertilizers on the market sold as "All you need", when they contain no Nitrate or Phosphate!
Both of these are very important for plant growth and must be supplied, one way or another.

In APT Complete, the ratio of Nitrate to other nutrients is a bit lower than in Estimative Index (EI) fertilizer.
This ratio is to bring out extra red in some plants like Rotala, which is done by carefully and slightly starving the plant of Nitrate.
Starve them too much and they wont grow.

The only reason I write this is so that you are the most informed of what is going into your tank.
It will hopefully help you to troubleshoot any issues you might have down the road, and I hope it doesnt sound too scary right now :)

It can be useful to know that you may be running a bit lean on nitrate if the plants that dont have access to the soil starts having any symptoms.
Dont worry about it for now though, your tank is currently chock full of nutrients seeping out from all your fresh soil, so much so that you need to perform water changes to make sure it doesnt overwhelm the plants :)
Later on you can use the duckweed index to determine if you need a bit more nitrate.
If the floaters get plenty of light but remain quite small it means that they could be a bit hungry, and you'll know what you can try first :thumbup:

Dont kick yourself for any purchases you have made, there is a whole wild jungle out there of ferts and products, and each one claims to be the absolute bees knees and essential to have. Navigating it all as a newbie is an impossible task.

You have probably also noticed that sometimes you will get conflicting advice on this forum. I dont have a good solution for this, although it gets easier to navigate the advice as you gain more knowledge. Everyone has their own experience, opinion and view on what works for them. Sometimes its possible to take the average of the replies and go with that. Or the majority vote. I usually try to find a few people that seem very knowledgeable, and listen to how they do things. It also helps if they run their tank in the same style as you. I have found that high tech advice doesnt always translate well into low tech. Post count below their profile image can help sometimes to narrow it down, but cant be relied upon absolutely.
Lastly I like to go with what makes sense to me and prefer posts backed by science, like Darrels posts often do.
Although sometimes they just make me dizzy 😄
Im not sure where im going with this any more so I shall leave it at that 😁
If anything I have written is unclear, please let me know and I will try to elaborate.
 
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