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My low tech tank

bsagun

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20 Nov 2020
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17
Location
West Midlands
Hi all,
Im fairly new to all this, having only set this tank up in March this year, my first tank. Its low tech/no CO2. Have been reading up as much as i can on here, but i guess with every tank/situation being slightly different, i thought i'd post, say hi, and see what you all make of my efforts so far! Would welcome any advice on how i can improve things or anything obvious im doing wrong.

The plants were added straight away, then left to cycle. All plants grew fairly well and fish were added. Guppies bred and multiplied massively :D, probably resulting in overpopulation over the summer. Numbers have now reduced a lot after returning about 200 to my LFS over the last 3 or so months. Struggled to keep nitrates down during this period, and they're still remaining 40+ at the moment.

Main issues im having at the moment are that plants just seem quite drab/slow to grow (some more than others). Maybe im expecting too much being low tech, but am sure they should look more lush. Also have what i think is BBA, which i guess i not helping the plants.

Tank details are:

1. Size of tank plus age/duration of the set - up. - 230l Aqua One. 38cm (D) x 116cm (W) x 60cm (H), so quite tall and narrow. About 8 months since set up
2. Filtration. - Ocellaris 850 external filter
3. Lighting and duration. - 30w LED. Dont know any more about intensity etc
4. Substrate. - Prodibio Aqua Growth Soil in planted area, ADA Colorado Sand for rest
5. Co2 dosing or Non-dosing. - No C02. Have been adding TNC Liquid Carbon @ +25% of their recommended dose
6. Fertilizers used + Ratios. - NT Labs Plant Boost @ their recommended dose
7. Water change regime. - 30% once per week. Filter + pipes about 1 per month. Only clean the sand during WCs, not the soil.
8. Plant list + When planted. -
Planted in March:
> crypt tropica
- seems to have grown ok
> crypt wendtii green - seems to have grown ok
> crypt usteriana - hasnt really done much, is alive but not thriving growing new shoots
> crypt balansae - similar to usteriana, but what is there looks healthier
> christmas moss - done very well
> ludwigia palustris - grew well but not pruned properly so went very leggy, now removed
> java fern - grew well initially, recently BBA taken hold and seems stunted, with lots of dark green patches on leaves

Planted in September:
> hygrophila costata -
hardly growing and rusty colors on leaves
> hygrophila salicifolia - melted almost instantly! haha. Think water temperature was too high for this according to the label
> echinodorus ozelot red - looks to be doing well
> amazon frogbit - looks to be doing well

9. Inhabitants.
Maybe 50 guppies. 13 cardinals. 10 corys. 1 bristlenose plec. 3 amano shrimp. 2 assassin snails

The flow with the filter alone is not great, and reduces further between cleaning. I have increased flow somewhat using the small pump in the top left corner, most plants have a small sway now. Tap water in this area is very hard.

I imagine most of the plant problems are caused by the BBA, but perhaps there are other things that i am doing or not doing that will help the plants. Am thinking

- get drastic and trim all leaves with algae on
- increase frequency of water changes further
- change the ferts. The NT Labs bottle doesnt even have ingredients on it, so who knows whats going in :/ Was thinking for now to use a ready mix fert like TNC, until i get my head around EI and understand what ratios my tank needs. My question is, would you use TNC Complete or Lite given the number of fish in there? As Nitrate and Phosphate should already be available from food/waste?

The other thing that is confusing me, is that the amazon frogbit appears to be doing well? So perhaps nutrients are ok and it's lighting/CO2 that needs looking at.

Apologies for the essay! Just want to include all info i can. Have so many things swimming around my head from what i've read :p

Am pleased with how its turned out so far though! Just want to see if i can make it better :)

Thanks,
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bsagun

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West Midlands
Hi all,


That is some <"very healthy Frogbit">. Have a look at <"The Scientific......">.

cheers Darrel

Hi Darrel, that is good to know, thanks.

Have been reading through your links, still more to go through, but if i've understood correctly, given the frogbit is ok, any plant issues (and associated onset of algae) is likely caused by wrong CO2/lighting ratio? ie not enough CO2, or too much light. Reading elsewhere, this could be caused by poor flow, or build up of organic matter.

My current fert bottle is running low and am planning to replace with TNC Lite, bit risky given the ferts/frogbit seem ok at the minute but would be nice to know exactly what im putting in (current bottle doesnt contain ingredients). Also planning on getting some more background plants at the same time to fill gaps and increase plant mass...any excuse for more plants right :D
 

Sarpijk

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11 Jan 2015
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Hi, nice low tech, a black background would make the colours pop!
 

dw1305

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nr Bath
Hi all,
Also planning on getting some more background plants at the same time to fill gaps and increase plant mass...any excuse for more plants right
Yes, you can never have too many plants. We don't know what <"causes algae "outbreaks">, we know tanks with low levels of organic debris and a high plant mass are less likely to have algal issues, but we don't really know why.

One problem is the the green algae have the same photosystems and photosynthetic pigments <"as all the higher plants">. If you like they are all "plants".
given the frogbit is ok, any plant issues (and associated onset of algae) is likely caused by wrong CO2/lighting ratio? ie not enough CO2, or too much light.
Sort of, the Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) has access to atmospheric CO2, so if it looks unhealthy you know that it isn't a CO2 issue, but a mineral (fertiliser) nutrient one.

Light is a funny one, because it is sometimes quite difficult to judge light intensity (unless it is really bright). A floating plant has "first dibs" on the light. I like to run the lighting at <"full intensity"> initially, it takes not reaching <"light compensation point (LCP)"> out of the equation.

After that it is all really down to staying in the <"Goldilocks zone">.
My current fert bottle is running low and am planning to replace with TNC Lite, bit risky given the ferts/frogbit seem ok at the minute but would be nice to know exactly what im putting in (current bottle doesnt contain ingredients)
I'd buy a more <"complete fertiliser">. "TNC lite" doesn't contain nitrogen (N) or phosphorus (P), two of the three elements <"that plants need most of">. I have a real problem with lot of these companies, they are, at best, disingenuous about what their products do.

It is a bit like advertising a beer by saying it doesn't contain any malt or hops, and to be honest what you would get in both cases is similar, <"99.9% water">.

@Zeus. can give you a <"breakdown of why">.

cheers Darrel
 
Last edited:

bsagun

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20 Nov 2020
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Location
West Midlands
Hi, nice low tech, a black background would make the colours pop!
Thanks Sarpijk, yes we did wonder about that, think i might have to give it a go. I did have an aquascape background on it from the start but was told no background would make a narrow tank seem wider, which it has. Black background should make it all stand out more, might be fun fitting it situ though :p
 

bsagun

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Sort of, the Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) has access to atmospheric CO2, so if it looks unhealthy you know that it isn't a CO2 issue, but a mineral (fertiliser) nutrient one.

Light is a funny one, because it is sometimes quite difficult to judge light intensity (unless it is really bright). A floating plant has "first dibs" on the light. I like to run the lighting at <"full intensity"> initially, it takes not reaching <"light compensation point (LCP)"> out of the equation.
I was thinking in terms of the other plants not the frogbit.... so if the frogbit is ok, but the plants arnt, it suggests either light/CO2 as the possible cause..?

I'd buy a more <"complete fertiliser">. "TNC lite" doesn't contain nitrogen (N) or phosphorus (P), two of the three elements <"that plants need most of">. I have a real problem with lot of these companies, they are, at best, disingenuous about what their products do.

It is a bit like advertising a beer by saying it doesn't contain any malt or hops, and to be honest what you would get in both cases is similar, <"99.9% water">.

@Zeus. can give you a <"breakdown of why">.
Thanks, i'll have a read through the links tonight. Only thing putting me off the complete version is that with fish in the tank Nitrogen and Phosphorous should already be accounted for in the fish food/waste? I know test kits arnt great, but i always measure 40+ Nitrate and Severn Trent website shows average of 25ppm Nitrate from the tap. Didnt want to 'overdose' if not needed, but recognize elsewhere here i've read excess nutrients dont cause plant harm/algea (fish health a different matter i guess), so maybe i'll go with the Complete.

Also understand i'll mostly be buying water :D but until i get my head round what to buy individually/quantities, ready made is easier and should still last 2 or 3 months, giving me time to research salts etc. and give me time to gauge changes based on known quantities going in.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
but the plants arnt, it suggests either light/CO2 as the possible cause..?
It does.
Only thing putting me off the complete version is that with fish in the tank Nitrogen and Phosphorous should already be accounted for in the fish food/waste?
I know test kits arnt great, but i always measure 40+ Nitrate and Severn Trent website shows average of 25ppm Nitrate from the tap
Yes, you probably have got a reasonable amount of NO3- and PO4--- in your water. Severn-Trent have an analytical lab. with a lot of expensive kit and scientists who can use it, so there values will be pretty accurate

Personally I don't <"regularly add fertiliser">, and one of my main aims is to use the <"plants to improve the water quality">. I'm not interested in <"optimal plant growth">, I just want some plant growth.

cheers Darrel
 
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Also understand i'll mostly be buying water :D but until i get my head round what to buy individually/quantities, ready made is easier and should still last 2 or 3 months, giving me time to research salts etc. and give me time to gauge changes based on known quantities going in.

Hiya mate, there's not too much to get your head round. You can use the APF video as a guide, unfortunately it looks like their starter kit is out of stock but those are the dry salts you need, just use your own spoons and bottles.
Their recommended dosage is.

Macro 3x a week. (10ml per 50ltr of Aquarium water)
Micro 3x a week. (10ml per 50ltr of Aquarium water)

All you have to take into account is this dosage is for E.I style dosing or in other words the theoretical maximum your plants need. You just need to find where your particular tanks sits somewhere between the 1 and 10ml and dose accordingly. A good place to start in a low tech tank would probably be around a quarter or a third of that dose and monitor your duck weed which as previously mentioned looks in good health. Try and keep it looking that way but just cheaper ;) I find flow is of less importance in low tech non injected tanks.

Ei Starter 1 Kit with Bottles - Starter Kits - Dry Chemicals - Fertilisers
 

sparkyweasel

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30 Jun 2011
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As the Frogbit looks so good, and with the tank being 60cm tall, I suspect the light may not be bright enough for the other plants to flourish. If you could find any more info on the light it might help, but most manufacturers and suppliers are not good at giving useful information about their lights.
You could try something like this;
Plant cup
to grow one of your crypts high up in the tank and see if it does better than the others. If it does, you could think about adding more light.
 

bsagun

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Hiya mate, there's not too much to get your head round. You can use the APF video as a guide, unfortunately it looks like their starter kit is out of stock but those are the dry salts you need, just use your own spoons and bottles.
Their recommended dosage is.

Macro 3x a week. (10ml per 50ltr of Aquarium water)
Micro 3x a week. (10ml per 50ltr of Aquarium water)

All you have to take into account is this dosage is for E.I style dosing or in other words the theoretical maximum your plants need. You just need to find where your particular tanks sits somewhere between the 1 and 10ml and dose accordingly. A good place to start in a low tech tank would probably be around a quarter or a third of that dose and monitor your duck weed which as previously mentioned looks in good health. Try and keep it looking that way but just cheaper ;) I find flow is of less importance in low tech non injected tanks.

Ei Starter 1 Kit with Bottles - Starter Kits - Dry Chemicals - Fertilisers
That is a great summary and link/video, seems fairly straightforward, thanks. Back in stock now too.
Would you be concerned about possible high nitrates and adding more in with the ferts, with regards fish health? Doesnt look like you can reduce nitrogen dose with this kit without also reducing potassium?
Im probably over thinking it! I bet the current ferts im using contain nitrogen, and the original bottle/brand i had definitely did.
When i get some better background plants established, i guess this wil help reduce nitrates further.
 
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An excess of Nitrogen isn't usually an issue with planted tanks, nitrogen and potassium are up there as the two elements plants consume the most, you may even find if you provide all the macros and traces required they consume even more nitrates than they normally would. Best not to get bogged down overly much with it, most people will ignore what might or might not be coming out the tap as it might be higher some days than others but you are right reducing nitrate also knocks some potassium out of the equation as it is potassium nitrate after all a combination of the two. If you don't want to add as much nitrate but keep the balance of potassium you could either add potassium in the form of potassium sulphate either in the bottle or separately dry direct in the tank to make up the short fall.
 

bsagun

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As the Frogbit looks so good, and with the tank being 60cm tall, I suspect the light may not be bright enough for the other plants to flourish. If you could find any more info on the light it might help, but most manufacturers and suppliers are not good at giving useful information about their lights.
You could try something like this;
Plant cup
to grow one of your crypts high up in the tank and see if it does better than the others. If it does, you could think about adding more light.
Hi Sparkyweasel, yes I think you may be on to something there, my design doesn't help with that either having an overstory of branches/ferns above parts of the planting. No further info about the lights unfortunately.

Great idea about the pots! Ordered straight away and now in the tank, a good experiment and look good too. Just put some of the very small crypts in there as they wernt doing much so may take a while to get full size. Thought I'd try a stem plant too, will trim down once more established.
 

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bsagun

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An excess of Nitrogen isn't usually an issue with planted tanks, nitrogen and potassium are up there as the two elements plants consume the most, you may even find if you provide all the macros and traces required they consume even more nitrates than they normally would. Best not to get bogged down overly much with it, most people will ignore what might or might not be coming out the tap as it might be higher some days than others but you are right reducing nitrate also knocks some potassium out of the equation as it is potassium nitrate after all a combination of the two. If you don't want to add as much nitrate but keep the balance of potassium you could either add potassium in the form of potassium sulphate either in the bottle or separately dry direct in the tank to make up the short fall.
Great, so there is a way around nitrogen if needed, but doesn't sound like it will be an issue. I used the calculator to work out doses for TNC complete for my tank, and if I've used it properly, says only 1.5ppm nitrogen would be added a week anyway.

So i have ordered the salts starter kit and looking forward to seeing what, if anything changes. Just waiting for the postie to deliver!

Now want to try and get some background plants established.
Cheers
 
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if I've used it properly, says only 1.5ppm nitrogen would be added a week anyway.
You tend to find that most commercial products are either very week in Nitrate or Phosphate or omit it all together. That's why a lot of planted tank keepers move on to dry salts especially when using high light and co2. To achieve the levels associated with EI style dosing or making sure a lack of nutrients doesn't occur in a tank over 50 litres would require deep pockets and the majority of the product is the water and the bottle it comes in.
 

bsagun

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Hi all, just a little update as its been a while now, though im coming to you seeking advice on small issue with the frogbit as its taken a turn for the worse for some reason - would appreciate any help...again!

As you can see from the pictures, its deteriorated quite a bit from my original post, lots of tiger striping and just wasting away, the roots are noticeably shorter/thinner too. Seems that both new and old leaves are affected. Condition of the other plants has not changed as far as i can tell, still slow-ish to grow but still the same (the plants in the cups higher up the tank are still very small).

Apart from adding some new plants, the only thing i've changed is the nutrient dosing. I started using APFUK salts starter kit on 10th Dec, at about 37.5% of their recommended does (which i understand is full EI), which is 15ml macro/micro every other day in my 200 litre tank. All seemed good until a few weeks ago, when the frogbit started to turn.

We have very hard water, and PH is about 7.6. This post suggests both magnesium and iron uptake is reduced in hard water, and this post suggests that in hard water either DTPA or EDDHA iron chelate should be used, not EDTA which i understand is in the APFUK micro mix.

I might be putting 2 and 2 together and coming up with 5, but im thinking it may be an iron deficiency? Though its strange how it seems to be affecting both new and old leaves of the frogbit.
Could i just increase the amount of the micro fert, or if it is precipitating out due to high PH, will it just do this more and the plants be left with the same amount?

Will soon be mixing up new bottles of salts, so would be interested to hear if i should change any of the quantities, or add something different that may help

Thanks
 

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Hufsa

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It could be iron but another likely candidate would be Magnesium, what are you dosing per week of Mg?
Asking since it looks like it may also have chlorotic old leaves, and this could indicate a mobile nutrient like Mg
 

bsagun

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It could be iron but another likely candidate would be Magnesium, what are you dosing per week of Mg?
Asking since it looks like it may also have chlorotic old leaves, and this could indicate a mobile nutrient like Mg
Yes good shout, though am sure its affecting at least some new leaves too. The macro solution contains 6tsp of Magnesium Sulphate in 500ml of water, plus the other macros. From this i dose 15ml every other day, so 45ml per week.

Also, i forgot to add above, the only other thing i changed was to add 10 cherry barbs and 3 gouramis, at almost the same time as changing the ferts. Maybe the cherries have been eating the frogbit roots without me noticing! :D
 

Hufsa

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Your gouramis are very likely to enjoy a little nibble of floater roots, so I wouldnt rule them out either. But it shouldnt make the leaves chlorotic I dont think, so theres still something underlying here.
Im not sure how many ppm of Mg that is but if youre confident youre adding enough Mg then the next logical thing to try then would be some stronger chelated iron. Your previous ferts may have had chelators more effective at your PH. Its what I would try
 

bsagun

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Your gouramis are very likely to enjoy a little nibble of floater roots, so I wouldnt rule them out either. But it shouldnt make the leaves chlorotic I dont think, so theres still something underlying here.
Im not sure how many ppm of Mg that is but if youre confident youre adding enough Mg then the next logical thing to try then would be some stronger chelated iron. Your previous ferts may have had chelators more effective at your PH. Its what I would try
Ok i will keep a closer eye on the gouramis, and probably put some frogbit in a plastic breeding cage to see if theres any change. Not sure how many ppm of Mg that is, i'll have a play with the calculators in a bit to work it out. I'll also have a read up on different iron chelates and where to get them in the meantime. Thanks
 

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