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How long without rescaping? Old tank syndrome

reefaddict

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15 Jul 2020
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Italy
Sometimes I wonder... how many tanks are more than a couple of years old? Do you rescape for aesthetic purposes or because you have "old tank" symptoms? And in case, which ones? How do you manage high CEC soils in the long run? Do you think planted tanks have a sort of life cycle like, say, a break-in period, a golden age and a decline?
Sorry, too many questions, but I just wanted to clarify the idea behind all this: given due maintenance, do you think a tank can become too old?
 

Big G

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Sometimes I wonder... how many tanks are more than a couple of years old? Do you rescape for aesthetic purposes or because you have "old tank" symptoms? And in case, which ones? How do you manage high CEC soils in the long run? Do you think planted tanks have a sort of life cycle like, say, a break-in period, a golden age and a decline?
Sorry, too many questions, but I just wanted to clarify the idea behind all this: given due maintenance, do you think a tank can become too old?
Excellent questions (if you don’t mind me saying so)
Be curious to see what comes back.

Think I read somewhere that CEC diminishes to basically ‘inert’ given enough time and no replenishment but don’t take my word for truth.

All the best

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Sarpijk

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11 Jan 2015
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Very interested to see the answers. Personally I try to keep long term scapes mainly focusing on the fish rather the aquascape.

My current 2 year old tank is dirted and not planning to tear it down unless I get sick of looking at it but again I could go as much as changing some plant species in order to get a new look.

The only time I really had to tear down a tank and start with new substrate was when I had added too much Osmocote to my inert substrate rendering it toxic to plant roots.
 

mort

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15 Nov 2015
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My tank is 8 years old but not sure you would call it an aquascape really. It is based around the fish and not manicured in anyway apart from taking some plant growth out from time to time, so the fish have some room. I have never vacuumed the substrate (tropica soil under jbl manado) simply because the plants cover it all. This works for me and I see no deterioration in the health of the tank over this time and have never suffered from any algae (even though it gets full direct south facing sunlight) apart from some cyano in the substrate layer at the back and some minimal black brush algae on the older anubias leaf edges.

Do I think it would be the same in a more competition type aquascape? To that I'd say no as I have much lower expectations and can easily let plants run wild if I like.
 

Wolf6

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18 Dec 2014
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My tank is now 3 years old and I'm noticing its become more prone to spots of GBA over time as detritus builds up in the soil. Some plants dont grow as fast as they used to, despite light and co2 staying the same, possibly due to depleted soil. I dont always add clay so after a few years its done. I usually use ADA or glassgarten soil. I also have to admit I'm a lazy maintainer, so I'm sure someone who is more diligent can probably stretch it a lot longer/indefinitely without issues, and even the soil being depleted could be resolved by using roottabs or something. But much like our interior and garden, we like to switch it up every now and again. Same goes for my tanks, its great to see something grow and mature, but after a while you want to see something new :) I'm fine with having to redo every few years. No wait, that suggests its passive and I respond. But its not me responding, I actively want to redo my tank every few years.

My main issue with that is always, what do I do with the leftover fish from the old scape. This far, they've been staying with me, but you get a lot of small groups/lone survivors that way in the end.

But yeah, I do believe tanks have a break-in period (ranging from the first month till about half a year depending on skill of the maintainer/owner, then a golden period that extends from the moment its stable till... maintenance is dropped due to boredom or necessity, or something changes that disturbs the balance (lights go bust or something) or something like the soil gets depleted (but I think owner getting bored/too busy and dropping maintenance levels is a far greater cause of decline). Then there is the decline state, where people just let it run its course till rescape :)
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
how many tanks are more than a couple of years old?
Personally I try to keep long term scapes
My tank is 8 years old but not sure you would call it an aquascape really. It is based around the fish and not manicured in anyway apart from taking some plant growth out from time to time, so the fish have some room. I have never vacuumed the substrate (tropica soil under jbl manado) simply because the plants cover it all. This works for me and I see no deterioration in the health of the tank over this time and have never suffered from any algae
Same for me, they aren't scapes, but I never deliberately break them down, I just do a little bit of plant thinning every now and then.

cheers Darrel
 

Tim Harrison

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Sometimes I wonder... how many tanks are more than a couple of years old?
I guess the answer is, if properly maintained they can potentially go on for ever, especially low-energy scapes. Certainly I've had low-energy soil substrate tanks in the past that have been a year or so old and remained very healthy.

In soil tanks the substrate can become depleted of nutrients, but then all you need to do is water column dose fertz and/or add root tabs. Many tend to use fertz throughout a scapes life so the soil could potentially hold nutrients indefinitely.
How do you manage high CEC soils in the long run?
Not quite sure what you mean, but I don't think the CEC of a substrate diminishes too much over time. More that nutrients bound to the particles become depleted. If you add more nutrients to the water column or via root tabs nutrients will usually bind to the soil particles again, where they become available to plant roots.
Do you think planted tanks have a sort of life cycle like, say, a break-in period, a golden age and a decline?
Sure, a planted tank can take time to mature, for the plants to grow in, often around 3 months or so. But once it matures it becomes very stable biologically and will often look after itself to a greater extent, sometimes with minimal intervention, even a high-energy CO2 injected system.
Do you rescape for aesthetic purposes or because you have "old tank" symptoms?
Personally, I always rescape for the sake of change, or because I want to try something else. I've never experienced "old tank syndrome", even in some of my veteran soil tanks, probably for the reasons above.
 
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The only time I really had to tear down a tank and start with new substrate was when I had added too much Osmocote to my inert substrate rendering it toxic to plant roots.

I always thought Osmocote just left inert resin balls once the nutrient coating had been used up!

All my tanks get left running for years although I've never tried soils. Probably left years because it takes me that long to get it the way I envisaged it then decide I'd like it to look differently and change stuff about. There certainly is a running in period but the Golden stage lasts forever I would suggest. I can't say I've ever had a tank that has hit a point where there was nothing I could do with it any more. My current setup is probably about 5 years old, at one point I had all intention of stripping it down just because I was fancying a smaller tank so I just left it for months until it was a total mess trying to find the time for strip down down. It never came so I ended up getting a schedule together, a good clip out and hoovering of the gravel and it's now turned into one of the best tanks I've kept IMO. I just simplified what i was aiming for so no need for a smaller less labour intensive tank.

Learned a helluva lot about what one can get away with too. To be fair the tank seemed to be getting along fine without me :D
 
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How do you manage high CEC soils in the long run? Do you think planted tanks have a sort of life cycle like, say, a break-in period, a golden age and a decline?
Coincidently I was reading up on Walsted tonight and came across something that may have some relevance to whether substrates decline. It was to do with allelochemicals, i.e plants that produce chemicals to prevent other plants growing round them as a sort of defence mechanism. It suggested that these chemicals could build up in the substrate faster than bacteria can decompose it having limited depth and the chemicals restrict plant growth reducing oxygen coming down through the roots and ultimately the soil going stagnant and plant death.

Like I said though I've never used soil before so I can just deep hoover substrate, you're sort of stuck with soil under sand.
 

ForestDave

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12 Nov 2020
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Forest of Dean
Very interested to see the answers. Personally I try to keep long term scapes mainly focusing on the fish rather the aquascape.

My current 2 year old tank is dirted and not planning to tear it down unless I get sick of looking at it but again I could go as much as changing some plant species in order to get a new look.

The only time I really had to tear down a tank and start with new substrate was when I had added too much Osmocote to my inert substrate rendering it toxic to plant roots.
Hi.
I was contemplating using some Osmocote after reading about @Tim Harrison suggesting it as an option.
How much was too much please? Or was this applied in capsule form to the substrate of an up and running tank?
Cheers!
 

Sarpijk

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11 Jan 2015
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585
Hi.
I was contemplating using some Osmocote after reading about @Tim Harrison suggesting it as an option.
How much was too much please? Or was this applied in capsule form to the substrate of an up and running tank?
Cheers!
Hi it was my first time using it and I had acquired some Osmocote in capsule form. Having an inert gravel substrate I had attributed the dire situation of my plants to malnutrition so went on and buried quite a few capsules in the substrate. The plants gave up and besides a few crypts maybe all stems withered and the roots looked burned.

Only after a few years I read that Dennis Wong would use only a few little balls of Osmocote rather a full capsule so I realised that it is safe but not to be overused.
 

Big G

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Only after a few years I read that Dennis Wong would use only a few little balls of Osmocote rather a full capsule so I realised that it is safe but not to be overused.
Really wish Dennis would do more videos. I learnt loads of stuff from them and occasionally go back for review as well as check his new site. Informative, clear and peppered with evidence. If his comprehensive ferts were widely available in the UK I would try them. Apologies to OP.

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Only after a few years I read that Dennis Wong would use only a few little balls of Osmocote rather a full capsule so I realised that it is safe but not to be overused.
I think the problem with Osmo if firstly there appears to be numerous mixes of it under one name, I bought some stuff a long time ago just in loose stuff rather than capsules but when I looked at what other people were buying mainly in here theirs appeared to have different ratios of ferts in them.

The problem with all these types of products is they're intended for terrestrial plants and tend to use Ammonia as their source of nitrogen also you don't know if the capsule they come in is fish safe when it disintegrates so better off removing them from the capsules or stick to ones that are designed for aquarium use and use nitrogen as their source. The main brands should be fairly safe like Tropica etc. Some of the ones I've seen on ebay etc I suspect are ones where someone had bought the caps and filled them themselves with gardening ferts.

I've only used the loose balls in small amounts, there is ammonia in them and plants will primarily scavenge the ammonia as its go-to food, the leftover ammonia should quite quickly be converted into Nitrate by the bacteria. The key is to not add that much that the plants/bacteria can't strip out the ammonia before it has the chance to deal with it and best done in a well cycled tank. I would only put two or three balls around the base of a heavy root feeding plant or in an area where there are a lot of root feeders. Maybe 10 balls Max in a 50ltr tank every couple of months. Their effect on the likes of Swords and Crypts are nigh on miraculous. New large leaves will bolt to the surface in a matter of weeks.

They are also quite good for getting a new tank cycling just don't don't add any fish until all the ammonia has gone.
 
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tiger15

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USA
The answer to the OP question depends on the set up. If you use Walstad method or ADA approach that relies on rich soil, there is life cycle to mature, get old and decline due to depletion of nutrients and/or soil generated CO2 over time unless you dose the water column , replace soil or insert root tabs. If you use the EI method or something similar that doesn’t use rich substrate but relies solely on water column dosing, you are growing plants hydroponically and it will never get old or decline.

I do not use soil in my high tech tanks, mainly because I keep cichlid that dig and hate to rescape soil that gets the water dirty. I don‘t even have substrate plants as all my plants are epiphytes attached to rock or potted so rescaping for me is as simple as moving furniture around. I rescape often to change the perspective due to plant grow in size, shape and form and the last scape is nit satisfactory until the next one.

I also have zero tech planted bowles set up in Walstad style. They do get old and decline after about a year, and now I have to dose weekly to rejuvenate them. I have done regular pruning but have never rescaped if it meant breaking down, replacing soil and replant.
 
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