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  • battling algae in non-CO2 tank (LONG)

    Hello all,

    Thank goodness for this site. I have been floundering in my attempt at a planted tank for 4 months now, based on questionable advice obtained from other sites. I am having big problems with my tank and would like some direction on how to establish some balance. I am ready to comply fully with one of Tom Barr’s newbie rules—“Pick a method and learn it well”—but need help to get through the rough spots.

    History of the tank: I have had a 55 gallon freshwater tank for 9 months now (since April 7). I started out with white gravel, plastic plants, stock lighting, a Penguin 350 Biowheel filter and a Stealth Visitherm heater set at 75 degrees (confirmed by digital thermometer). I use tap water, treated with Prime; KH and GH are moderate at around 80 ppm/4.5 dH each. It took two months to cycle the tank using platies and mollies (the mollies have long since been moved to a brackish tank). The tank was fully stocked over the next month with rainbowfish, gouramis, cardinal tetras, kuhli loaches and apple snails. Neither ammonia nor nitrites have ever been a problem in this tank; even during cycling, ammonia of 0.5 ppm was noted only once (on day 30) and nitrites were never detected. A substantial diatom bloom was noted after the tank cycled, which resolved only with the addition of a common pleco for one week (long since returned to the LFS).

    I converted the tank to live plants on Labor Day weekend. I removed the gravel and replaced it with Eco-Complete. I also upgraded the lighting to 96 watts of T-5 HO lighting (1.75 wpg). I retained the filter media and no ammonia or nitrite spikes were observed. Another diatom bloom was noted in October, followed by the onset of a good deal of green dust algae throughout the tank, and a small amount of black and red brush algae on the glass.

    I started with the following plants: Ceratophyllum demersum, Hydrocotyle leucocephala, Hygrophila corymbosa, Limnophilia indica, Bacopa monnieri and caroliniana, Nymphoides aquatica, Ecinodorus bleheri, Microsorum pteropus, Taxiphyllum barbieri, Vallisneria Americana, Marsilea quadrifolia, Sagittaria subulata, Rotala rotundifolia and Hemianthus callitrichoides. Both HCs (H. corymbosa and H. callitrichoides) and the vals died in the first two weeks. Much of the bacopa, rotala and M. quadrifolia has died over the past 4 months, only a few sprigs left. The sag and sword are alive and well rooted but most of the leaves have succumbed to algae or diatoms and have been trimmed off. The H. leucocephala is growing but is covered in diatoms or algae except for the newest leaves; it has been heavily trimmed at least twice to get rid of the algae. Neither the L. indica and java fern did well at first but then started to rally with a bit of new growth. The hornwort grew like a weed for the first 2 months but has died off over the past month. A couple of months ago, I added Echinodorus tenellus, Anubias barteria, Egeria densa and Hygrophila difformis to replace the plants that died. All of these have done fairly well (the E. tenellus has had two “babies”, the H. difformis has fully rooted and the anubias and E. densa have all had new growth) but all have had problems with yellowing and algae, requiring heavy pruning to remove dead leaves and stems.

    Fertilization has been somewhat random since the plants were added as I read about various methods and tried to find a balance between the plants and algae, without success. I added no ferts the first week. Over the next 3 weeks, I started dosing Excel weekly, inserted Flourish root tabs under the swords, and started dosing a liquid potassium/iron supplement at ¼ to ½ the recommended dosage. I started dosing nitrate (KNO3-based stump remover), phosphate (Fleet’s enema) and potassium (Morton’s No Salt) around week 3 or 4 in small, weekly doses. DIY CO2 was started about 6 weeks after adding the plants. I have been doing 30-50% water changes and gravel vacuuming lightly every 1-2 weeks, rinsing the filter media in old tank water. Whenever I have tested (API or Red Sea test kits), nitrates are between 5-15 ppm, phosphate runs between 0.5-1 ppm and pH between 7.2-7.6.

    There have been some births in this tank. There was a large apple snail infestation and the platies gave birth twice. The apple snails have been removed and there are six surviving baby platies between ½-1 inch long; the LFS will take them as soon as they are big enough. There have been some deaths in the tank as well. Two dwarf gouramis succumbed to dwarf gourami disease (one within a week, one several months later). One cardinal tetra disappeared, most likely consumed by another fish. One rainbowfish perished due to unknown reasons. Both apple snails died after fertilization began, but their offspring have flourished; perhaps they could not adapt to the nitrates or Excel dosing? Ammonia spikes were not observed in any of these cases.

    About three weeks ago, I decided the DIY CO2 was hurting more than it was helping (unstable CO2 levels resulting in algae blooms) and stopped it. I also read up on Tom Barr’s non-CO2 method and decided it was worth a shot. I have no high light plants and have no desire to add pressurized CO2, high light nor engage in heavy routine fertilization. So, I stopped all of the ferts (didn't find Sea Chem Equilibrium until today), stopped the Excel and didn’t do any water changes for two and a half weeks. Green and brown algae appared in abundance, otherwise there were no big problems until I came home one night to find all the the fish at the bottom of the tank looking extremely stressed out (they are normally very active fish). I tested the tank and found no ammonia or nitrites. Nitrates were at 5 ppm, phosphate 0.5 ppm and pH 7.0. Nevertheless, the fish were not looking good at all so I did what is always recommended when something’s not right with the fish. I did a 50% water change. I also gravel vac’d lightly and scraped the algae off the sides of the tank at the same time. I added a small dose of KNO3 and KCl after the water change. This was about 5 days ago. As of this morning, what I thought was a third diatom bloom is now, quite obviously, an outbreak of red brush algae, which is rapidly overtaking the rocks, driftwood and plants. I am guessing this is related to reintroduction of CO2 with the large water change. The java fern appears to be dying off completely.

    I obviously have no idea what the heck I am doing and have never really achieved a good balance in this tank since I added live plants. I don’t know how to resolve the problems I’m having without risking the health of my fish or starting pressurized CO2 which I would really rather not do. I am still interested in a low-tech non-CO2 approach but I’m clueless about what to do when crises occur in the transition (such as the fish looking uncomfortably freaked out). I am close to tossing in the live-plant towel and have joined this group as a last resort for advice on what to do at this point.

    Thanks for reading my novel and for any direction you might provide.
    "Water which is too pure has no fish." Ts'ai Ken T'an

  • #2
    I think your problem was the introduction along with removal of co2. Plants get used to having a certain amount of co2 (they produce an enzyme called Rubisco to get co2, if co2 is in abundance, they don't need nearly as much of this enzyme and thus reduce their stores and use all their energy for growth instead of producing this enzyme..one of the reasons why co2 adds so much growth). If co2 is suddenly reduced, you have a bunch of very crippled plants. They no longer have enough of that enzyme to get carbon so not only can they not grow, they can't make more of the Rubisco. It's a long, slow process for the plants to get themselves back into condition to grow again. Sometimes the plants will start pulling carbon from other leaves on the plant, so you'll see leaves getting holes in them and dying off while others may appear ok. During this time, algae just starts running rampant, there is absolutely no competition. The process of converting back to non-co2 can take up to 6 weeks.

    For a non-co2 tank, you need to stay with low light, and therefore you need to stay with low light plants. Any plants you have that are higher light will die off. Some of the lower light plants may die off too due to the unstable conditions. At the least, they will lose a lot of leaves.

    In the meantime, you should keep things stable - get yourself a dosing schedule, fertilize 1x/week with EI as you normally would in a non-co2 tank, and I would go with about a 30% weekly water change. Personally, I would reduce the photoperiod to about 6 hours/day to limit the amount of algae outbreaks. Keep removing the algae as fast as you can. Perhaps reducing the lighting intensity could help too....I'm not sure but someone else might know if this will have an adverse effect on the plants or not. Get lots of algae eating fish. Keep ammonia at 0 at all times, it triggers algae to grow. Clean up dead leaves quickly to avoid decomposition in the tank, this can also feed algae problems. Keep dosing Excel.

    I'm sure someone else will come along with some further insight for you but realize that you are looking at a couple of months before you really get things back in shape, so be patient and don't give up. Your tank is in transition phase now, you just need to keep it as healthy and stable as you can until it sorts itself out. As things improve and some plants die, you can start adding more healthy plants. Also realize that die off of leaves is pretty normal for most plants when they are planted in a new tank. They too are going through a transition and it takes time for them to get adjusted and start growing.
    Last edited by Carissa; 12-23-2007, 12:14 AM.
    Check out my site www.beginneraquarist.petfish.net

    Comment


    • #3
      Carissa, thanks!

      I think your problem was the introduction along with removal of co2.


      I agree. I don’t know what I was thinking.

      Plants get used to having a certain amount of co2 …if co2 is in abundance, they don't need nearly as much of this enzyme and thus reduce their stores and use all their energy for growth instead of producing this enzyme. If co2 is suddenly reduced, you have a bunch of very crippled plants.

      This makes sense. I have seen leaves with holes in several plants, and several species dying off altogether, while the alga grows at will. However, I’m certain the DIY CO2 I had running did not provide an abundant or stable amount of CO2. The levels may have been sufficient for a day or two each time I changed out the sugar/yeast mix, but I imagine it dwindled to almost nothing over a week’s time. Therefore I think it’s interesting that the plants would need 6 weeks to adapt to the loss of highly variable CO2 levels.

      For a non-co2 tank, you need to stay with low light, and therefore you need to stay with low light plants.

      I’m prepared to do that. I bought some healthy-looking crypts today (“My First Crypts”)—a red, a bronze and a green—in anticipation of more stem plant die-off.

      In the meantime, you should keep things stable - get yourself a dosing schedule, fertilize 1x/week with EI as you normally would in a non-co2 tank, and I would go with about a 30% weekly water change.

      My plan is to add Sea Chem Equilibrium at a dose of 1/2 teaspoon per 40 gal weekly, along with 1/8th tsp. KNO3 and a few drops of monosodium phosphate once a week or two, as per Tom Barr’s non-CO2 article. As for water changes, the same article specifically recommends no water changes (an extremely appealing idea, I must admit). As I understand, weekly water changes "fools" the plants into thinking “hey, the CO2’s back!” which helps encourage algae growth, because algae are faster to respond to CO2 fluctuations than plants. It seems that a better course of action might be to just bite the bullet and do no water changes until the plants adapt to no CO2 and no Excel over the next few weeks—except that feel compelled to do a water change if the fish appear significantly stressed or uncomfortable. The fish are much more important to me than the plants. This is why I did the large water change at the beginning of this week.

      Personally, I would reduce the photoperiod to about 6 hours/day to limit the amount of algae outbreaks.

      Currently it’s at 10. I suppose 6-8 hours might help dissuade some forms of algae, but I can’t imagine it would help lessen brush algae or diatoms that thrive in low light levels. In any event, I’ve been thinking about two-4 hour photoperiods with a 2-hour break in between.

      Keep removing the algae as fast as you can.


      I did another clean up today (without a water change). I gave the swords and java moss another “buzz cut”. I took out all of the dead java fern. I removed, bleached (19:1 solution) then dechlorinated the H. leucocephala and the anubias—I see no visible algae on them now. I removed the rocks for cleaning; they are being soaked in 19:1 water:bleach solution as we speak. I scraped most of the algae off the glass, and spot treated the largest red algae colonies on the driftwood with Excel. Alas, I expect it’ll be back with a vengeance next weekend.

      Perhaps reducing the lighting intensity could help too....I'm not sure but someone else might know if this will have an adverse effect on the plants or not.

      I was hoping 1.75 wpg was within the realm of low light. Perhaps I should get more floating plants…frogbit, perhaps. Not duckweed.

      Get lots of algae eating fish.

      I’d like to, but I’m fully stocked at 1” per gallon. In fact, I wonder if my relatively heavy fish load is part of the problem. The platies and gouramis frequently peck at the algae but they can’t keep up with the onslaught. I did get 2 bristlenose plecos but they are still in quarantine. I hope that with the proper balance of light, ferts and plants, I wouldn’t need lots of algae-eating fish.

      Keep ammonia at 0 at all times, it triggers algae


      Never have had an ammonia problem since the tank cycled, luckily.

      Keep dosing Excel.

      Really? Is that necessary?

      Your tank is in transition phase now, you just need to keep it as healthy and stable as you can until it sorts itself out.

      I'm trying but it's hard to remain patient. Thanks for your recommendations.
      Last edited by gingerinaustin; 12-23-2007, 05:27 PM.
      "Water which is too pure has no fish." Ts'ai Ken T'an

      Comment


      • #4
        Dear Gingerinaustin:

        I read your post with all the distress in which you put it down. I have been in a similar situation with my fish tanks. I've had fish since I was 12 and actually tomorrow I'll be 51. For all of those years I had a low tech tank, most of them with live plants. I'm sorry you are having such troubles!

        Even though your tank has been set up for 9 months, you did a major renovation when you switched over your entire gravel and went to live plants. All your nutrifying bacteria and mulm that was in your old substrate was gone. I know that Eco-complete is supposed to have all sorts of wonderful nutrients in it but as I read about people who have used it, (I haven't), there seems to be a new tank syndrome associated with it too. If you do a search on this forum, the Aquatic Plant Central forum, and the planted tank forum, you will come upon problems others have had IN THE BEGINNING with that substrate. I think with any new substrate there will be an adjustment period. It may be that the Eco-Complete was absorbing the nutrients that existed in your water column to begin with and not enough were left for your plants.

        I do think that starting with the hardier plants is a good idea. Crypts, Java ferns, Wysteria, you've already found. You can find others which are easy to grow by looking at the plant criterion at Aquatic plant central plant finder, or Aquarium Plants, Pond Plants, Freshwater Aquarium Plant & Aquarium Accessories – Arizona Aquatic Gardens. The later sells plant habitats such as easy life habitats that require low light and no CO2. You could either buy from them or just get ideas of easy plants.

        BTW your light is not high light. While limiting your light will help stunt the algae the idea is that your other plants are healthy enough to endure less light and hold out until the algae dies. If your plants are dying I'm not sure it is a good idea to do this. I have seen suggested to do a break in the photo period. At least then you will still have light for the plants.

        When my tank is in transition, I get fish loss as well. Since you are setting up a little eco-system everything gets affected. A dead fish can spike the ammonia quickly. I wonder if your test kits are correct. (I just exchanged a $100 kit because the reagents were giving false readings!). Or perhaps with the new fish some pathogen was brought in that affected everyone, something that was not visible, nevertheless still there.

        When I have had algae outbreaks and/or fish deaths the first thing I always have done is to change water. The more frequently I changed water the more under control was any algae outbreak I had. I have gotten rid of the Brush algae many times with water changes and Flourish excel. I found a direct correlation between neglecting my water changes and algae. I know that is not your case but the reverse is true for me as well. Water changes = no algae. It was always "dilute the pollute" I don't think water changes add CO2. Anytime you change water you are disturbing the surface and that adds oxygen. I also don't think its a good idea to be sifting/vacuuming your gravel. I believe you need the "dirt" in there as this is a new substrate. That will help feed your plants and establish the good bacteria.

        The old adage of 1" fish per gallon is antiquated. With the wonderful filters, and a planted tank it really is meaningless. I have FOR EONS had many many more than 1" of fish per gallon. I end up trading fish just to have a change as they continue to live so long in what should be a severe overload by that old measurement.

        I do think some fertilizing is a great idea. The root tabs are really great for rooted plants. It might be easier and more balanced for you to do a combination fertilizer like Flourish or something just until you get all the problems under control. I have found it difficult to know how much of each to put in unless following the EI dosing amounts for specific tanks. (I went high tech 3 months ago.) The low end of that regimen is for low light non-CO2 tanks. It's easy to just follow the dosages. You can find them at http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/f...ing-guide.html

        Don't give up. The tank just needs to settle down. While you're thinking 9 months - it really has been just since the switch over - and then the diy CO2 addition and removal... You'll get the hang of it. Even if you were putting in a flower bed outside there would be a lot of hit and miss at the beginning as you learned your area, your plants, your soil, your fertilizers, etc. You will find it very rewarding as you begin to see your sucesses!! Hang in ther!
        Last edited by Tex Gal; 12-23-2007, 06:40 AM.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by gingerinaustin View Post
          Carissa, thanks!

          I think your problem was the introduction along with removal of co2.


          I agree. I don’t know what I was thinking.

          Plants get used to having a certain amount of co2 …if co2 is in abundance, they don't need nearly as much of this enzyme and thus reduce their stores and use all their energy for growth instead of producing this enzyme. If co2 is suddenly reduced, you have a bunch of very crippled plants.

          This makes sense. I have seen leaves with holes in several plants, and several species dying off altogether, while the alga grows at will. However, I’m certain the DIY CO2 I had running did not provide an abundant or stable amount of CO2. The levels may have been sufficient for a day or two each time I changed out the sugar/yeast mix, but I imagine it dwindled to almost nothing over a week’s time. Therefore I think it’s interesting that the plants would need 6 weeks to adapt to the loss of highly variable CO2 levels.
          If you had a high co2 level at all, the plants would have immediately and quickly started to adapt to the higher co2. When the co2 level would then drop, the plants would simply slow down in growth and algae would have a chance to start. Then with the reintroduction of co2 again the plants would start growing again. It takes much longer for plants to adapt from co2 to non-co2 than from non-co2 to co2. I actually did the same exact thing as you - tried co2 for a about 6 weeks and couldn't get it to work so I stopped. Then I had a month of constant die-off until I bit the bullet and did co2 again and everything went well after that.

          For a non-co2 tank, you need to stay with low light, and therefore you need to stay with low light plants.

          I’m prepared to do that. I bought some healthy-looking crypts today (“My First Crypts”)—a red, a bronze and a green—in anticipation of more stem plant die-off.

          In the meantime, you should keep things stable - get yourself a dosing schedule, fertilize 1x/week with EI as you normally would in a non-co2 tank, and I would go with about a 30% weekly water change.

          My plan is to add Sea Chem Equilibrium at a dose of 1/2 teaspoon per 40 gal weekly, along with 1/8th tsp. KNO3 and a few drops of monosodium phosphate once a week or two, as per Tom Barr’s non-CO2 article. As for water changes, the same article specifically recommends no water changes (an extremely appealing idea, I must admit). As I understand, weekly water changes "fools" the plants into thinking “hey, the CO2’s back!” which helps encourage algae growth, because algae are faster to respond to CO2 fluctuations than plants. It seems that a better course of action might be to just bite the bullet and do no water changes until the plants adapt to no CO2 and no Excel over the next few weeks—except that feel compelled to do a water change if the fish appear significantly stressed or uncomfortable. The fish are much more important to me than the plants. This is why I did the large water change at the beginning of this week.
          The reason I suggested doing water changes was threefold:
          1. Keeps your fish healthy.
          2. Easy to keep your fertilizer levels up without the worry of an overdose.
          3. Reduces organic nitrogen waste from the fish which is probably one of the single biggest contributors to algae. Especially important in a tank that is anything more than lightly stocked.

          I don't think co2 levels fluctuating from a 30% water change will cause nearly as much trouble for you than leaving excess waste in the tank to feed the algae. The single biggest thing I can do that will cause algae in my tanks is stop doing regular water changes. It's only a very short time before I will start having some pretty serious algae problems, both in my co2 or non-co2 tanks.

          Personally, I would reduce the photoperiod to about 6 hours/day to limit the amount of algae outbreaks.

          Currently it’s at 10. I suppose 6-8 hours might help dissuade some forms of algae, but I can’t imagine it would help lessen brush algae or diatoms that thrive in low light levels. In any event, I’ve been thinking about two-4 hour photoperiods with a 2-hour break in between.
          Any algae will usually only grow while the light is on. Low light levels and a shorter photoperiod are two different things. The rationale for reducing the photoperiod is that it simply allows less algae grow per day, making it easier on you maintanance-wise for keeping on top of the removal. It won't kill algae that is already growing if conditions are good for it.


          Keep removing the algae as fast as you can.


          I did another clean up today (without a water change). I gave the swords and java moss another “buzz cut”. I took out all of the dead java fern. I removed, bleached (19:1 solution) then dechlorinated the H. leucocephala and the anubias—I see no visible algae on them now. I removed the rocks for cleaning; they are being soaked in 19:1 water:bleach solution as we speak. I scraped most of the algae off the glass, and spot treated the largest red algae colonies on the driftwood with Excel. Alas, I expect it’ll be back with a vengeance next weekend.

          Perhaps reducing the lighting intensity could help too....I'm not sure but someone else might know if this will have an adverse effect on the plants or not.


          I was hoping 1.75 wpg was within the realm of low light. Perhaps I should get more floating plants…frogbit, perhaps. Not duckweed.
          It is low light. But you are not in regular low light mode right now, you are in algae battling mode.


          Get lots of algae eating fish.

          I’d like to, but I’m fully stocked at 1” per gallon. In fact, I wonder if my relatively heavy fish load is part of the problem. The platies and gouramis frequently peck at the algae but they can’t keep up with the onslaught. I did get 2 bristlenose plecos but they are still in quarantine. I hope that with the proper balance of light, ferts and plants, I wouldn’t need lots of algae-eating fish.
          In most planted tanks, especially non-co2 tanks, you need some algae eating fish. You can stick with smaller ones like otos, they don't bump up the stocking level much. The higher stocking levels will be adding more organic nitrogen faster, as I already mentioned, and this is a huge factor in causing algae problems.


          Keep ammonia at 0 at all times, it triggers algae


          Never have had an ammonia problem since the tank cycled, luckily.

          Keep dosing Excel.


          Really? Is that necessary?
          I've never used it myself, but everyone tells me and the science seems to agree that it works as an algaecide to some degree. Plus your plants need all the help they can get right now. It will only help you.


          Your tank is in transition phase now, you just need to keep it as healthy and stable as you can until it sorts itself out.

          I'm trying but it's hard to remain patient. Thanks for your recommendations.
          I know how frustrating it can be...sometimes you think you'll never figure it out...but you will if you keep trying...
          Check out my site www.beginneraquarist.petfish.net

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks Tex Gal. I know I wiped out a lot of my biofilter and nutrients during the gravel/live plant renovation. I'd hoped I had retained enough of my biofilter by keeping my filter media as it was, without rinsing, as evidenced by no ammonia spikes. I have three different ammonia tests (Mardel, Sea Chem and API) so unless all three are faulty, I'm certain my ammonia levels have consistently been zero. I have read about some Eco-complete startup problems and perhaps that was a factor three-plus months ago but I would hope any substrate-related changes would have sorted themselves out by now. I've looked at the AZ Gardens site and would like to get some of their low light plants but will need to wait until I can satisfy their minimum order requirements.

            I reset the timer today to keep the lights on for a total of 10 hours but with a break in the photoperiod mid-day; if nothing else, I'll be able to keep the lights on later in the evening after I get home from work. I also got the Eheim 2213 filter I bought two months ago hooked up and running today; in addition to the Penguin 350, that should improve the circulation in the tank, particularly given my fish load. I am not gravel vacuuming heavily; only lightly in areas with visible dead plant matter on the top (around the hornwort in particular).

            The one big question that remains is in regard to water changes in a low-light, no-CO2, lightly fertilized, fully stocked but well-filtered planted tank, because I am getting different answers. There seems to be two schools of thought. One is that weekly water changes are absolutely necessary no matter what, which is what you guys seem to be saying, as well as my LFS (tho they recommend smaller 10-20% changes every 1-2 weeks). The other side says that frequent and/or large water changes can actually make things (including algae) worse by upsetting the balance in a low-tech tank, as discussed here. I do understand the need for balance, I'm just not certain how to achieve it in my case, particularly given this significant difference of opinion. I really want to develop one plan and stick with it--but which plan?? Would really like a definitive answer, but maybe there isn't one...?
            "Water which is too pure has no fish." Ts'ai Ken T'an

            Comment


            • #7
              Well I think you pretty much have two choices here and the choice you make depends on what you want.

              If you follow the link to the site by Steve Hampton about the low tech planted tank, you will have noticed that he says you have to stay with a low fish load and have lots of algae cleanup fish. So if you want to do this, you'll have to do a cleanup of your tank to remove the algae and much of the waste from your fully stocked fish load (that will be feeding your algae), throw out any dead/sick plants, and add in a very large quantity of fast growing stem plants, as well as reduce your fish load and include a lot of algae eating fish.

              If you prefer to stick with what you have now, a full fish load and plants that need to be nursed a bit back to health, you'll have to go the water change/EI method. I don't think there's any difference of opinion here, it's just two different methods for two different setups.

              Low tech and non-co2 are not quite the same thing. A low-tech tank is non-co2, but usually what's implied is that it's low maintenance, meaning few water changes. These tanks required a low fish load and a very high plant load. Basically what you're doing is reducing the net waste produced over x amount of time to reduce the amount of water changes you have to do. Plants take in waste, and fewer fish obviously produce less waste. You're just stretching out your time factor.

              Whereas a regular non-co2 tank can be fully stocked and you don't need it heavily planted if you don't want, it usually will be fertilized although not as frequently as a co2 tank, but weekly or every two weeks (in a well established tank) water changes are done to keep up with the amount of waste being produced by the full fish stocking. You're reducing your time factor between water changes, but you get to keep more fish and the health of the plants is easier to maintain since you can fertilize well and you are also removing the organic nitrogen that contributes to algae on a more regular basis. And the fish are usually healthier too.

              I hope this helps clarify the options for you. If you want an approach that definitely works every time, the EI way does work, always. The other way is a bit more tricky because the additional organic nitrogen that builds up often leads to algae problems, and so much really rides on whether you have healthy plants in that system and due to the amount of variables, you may or may not have healthy plants. Either way you are not any more or less in balance, an aquarium is a man made idea and we pack in far more fish than you would ever see in nature in that amount of water even in a low stocked tank. We are maintaining an artificial system by doing water changes, the method you choose simply determines how often you have to do a water change to keep the fish alive in the artificial environment you've created for them.
              Check out my site www.beginneraquarist.petfish.net

              Comment


              • #8
                Hi gingerinaustin, I suggest that you check out this link in which Tom lays out the steps to a successful low light, low tech, non-c02 tank. Things need not be all that complicated and quite honestly, doing a low tech, non-c02, low light maintenance tank right from scratch rather than spending countless months trying to fix a tank gone wrong, may be a better option. There comes a point, where you have to decide if it is better just to tear a tank down and start from scratch start fresh to avoid with dealing all the issues not to mention of pocketing additional expense due to having to double dose or triple dose things such as excel for months on in to fix the problem.

                Here is Tom's Link and suggestion for setting up a low tech, non-co2, low light tank. I have had great success with it and it is something certainly worth looking into.
                http://www.barrreport.com/articles/4...2-methods.html

                Personally, I would not go more than one month without a water change, unless you are running a UV sterilizer. And not to confuse matters anymore, but there are people (e.g., Diana Walstead) who have kept minimal algae(which mostly served as food for algae eaters and did not overtake a tank) tanks without water changes for 3 months or longer. I think that it all comes down to achieving a balance and maintaining it whether you choose the high tech or low tech road. Water changes in my opinion cannot really hurt as long as you add some ferts, assuming a low stock level of fish, after the water change, especially in the case of a low tech tank, at least that is my experience.

                Good Luck.
                Last edited by Homer_Simpson; 12-25-2007, 05:36 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Carissa, thanks for clarifying. I do want to keep the fish I have, so it looks like water changes are mandatory. I will also stick with standard daily dosing pf Excel to help out the plants (and aggravate the algae). Perhaps you or Tex Gal could help me figure out the correct EI dosing for a low-light, non-CO2, 55 gallon tank (containing probably only about 40 gallons of water)--the articles I've read say to dose "less often" for low light/no CO2 but don't give specifics on how much less often.

                  Homer, thanks for your input. I read the post of Tom's that you linked, several weeks ago; it's the post of his I mention in my first post in this thread. It seems a lighter fish load than I currently have may be necessary to be completely successful with that method. Since I tore down my tank completely in September to convert it to live plants, I would rather not tear it down again unless I have no luck in getting the BBA under control with more conservative methods. I've cleaned up and pruned away all the visible BBA, added more plants, added a bit of Sea Chem Equilibrium and KNO3 to the tank, added another filter, and will go back to weekly water changes. Everything looks pretty good right now; time will tell if more drastic measures will be needed.
                  "Water which is too pure has no fish." Ts'ai Ken T'an

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                  • #10
                    For a low light tank, you would usually go with 1x/weekly dosage. It's not really the dosage that varies from non-co2 to co2 methods, it's the frequency. With a high light tank, you have to fertilize at least 3x/week to keep up, but with a lower light tank 1x/week can usually suffice. The other very large variable is the amount of plants you have and whether they are fast growers. What I have done in the past was to just dose 1x/week all nutrients as per the recommendations, and the day before I would dose again I would test nitrates. If they were at 0, I would assume that I wasn't adding enough and would start dosing 2x/week. If they were high, I would assume I was adding too much of everything and scale back the dosage a little. It's not one standard dosage that fits all tanks since the amount of plants and fish and lighting all plays into the fertilization needs. When I had a large amount of fast growing plants in my tank, I would have to dose 3 - 4x/week just to keep some nitrates in the tank. Now that I've pruned it back, 1x/week is fine.

                    I made up a fertilizer calculator to calculate how much of each thing you have to add to get x ppm in x gallons of water, if you want it it's in Excel format on my website, http://beginneraquarist.petfish.net under fertilization I think...

                    When I run the numbers for 40 gallons of water, I get the following recommendations:

                    KNO3: add 2/3 tsp to get 15ppm nitrate (and 9.4ppm potassium)
                    KH2PO4: add 1/8 tsp to get abot 1.8ppm
                    K2SO4: add 3/4 tsp to get another 12ppm potassium (giving you a total of 22.4ppm)
                    Plantex CSM+B: add 1/8 tsp to get 0.25ppm of iron

                    As your plants recover and start growing you may have to increase this to 2x/week but just try 1x/week and see how things go.

                    If you're fighting bga, I would definitely recommend at least a 24 hour blackout to put a nice dent in the bga, followed by a 50% water change/gravel vac, repeating if necessary. This along with the correct fertilization and water changes should really turn things around. BGA will die quickly without both light and the organic nitrogenous compounds from the breakdown of excessive waste in the substrate.
                    Check out my site www.beginneraquarist.petfish.net

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                    • #11
                      I just left for almost two weeks. I left my son dosing my ferts and feeding my fish. He also monitored my CO2. I did a water change before I left. I came back to plants floating all over the top blocking out the light to the rest of the tank. I had tons of dead leaves all over. I am sure if I had tested I would have had ammonia. My son said I lost 3 fish. One was a molly and they are particularly sensitive to high ammonia so.... I have BBA beginning to grow in several places. The cause, I believe, no water change, not enough lights to grow the plants underneath, dead leaves. So I just changed water and cleaned up the dead leaves, pruned heavily. I will test now and fertilize again. In two weeks it can get out of control. Next time I'll prune heavily before I go, turn my lights way back, dose 2Xs excell and do a low feed and then won't have this happen. Thought my son could do it but he didn't want to fiddle with the plants. (Don't blame him, it's my passion, not his.)

                      Did you look at Carissa's web site? http://beginneraquarist.petfish.net Look under her fertilization section. If you have excell you just plug in your tank size and it tells you what to dose. It also has some great basic into.

                      Here is another site which tells you how much to dose for different size tanks. I like this because you can just follow the low dosage for a low tech tank.
                      http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/f...ing-guide.html

                      You can also look here. This is Rex Griggs site. He sells dry ferts. He tells you how much for a 20 gallon and you would just do 2x times to start.
                      Rex's Guide to Fertilizers

                      Since fertilizing is not an exact science and depends on how many plants you have you should start shy and then bulild up to what your plants are using. By changing water you are also removing any excess fertilizers you have built up.

                      Since I found out about water changes using 2 hoses I don't dread them at all. In a 125g tank it takes me 15 min tops. That includes rolling up both hoses and putting them away. I love to see how happy it makes the fish!

                      I think your on your way! Enjoy your fish and your plants at the same time. It's like having your cake and eating it too!
                      Last edited by Tex Gal; 12-26-2007, 05:36 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by gingerinaustin View Post
                        so it looks like water changes are mandatory. I will also stick with standard daily dosing pf Excel to help out the plants (and aggravate the algae). Perhaps you or Tex Gal could help me figure out the correct EI dosing for a low-light, non-CO2, 55 gallon tank (containing probably only about 40 gallons of water)--the articles I've read say to dose "less often" for low light/no CO2 but don't give specifics on how much less often.
                        Hi gingerinaustin
                        Sorry to hear about the problems with your tank. About 3 months ago I started resurrecting my 50 gallon tank which had developed a horrible infestation of Cladophora after a long period of neglect. After removing as much as I could manually I added a number or Rosy Barbs to help eat the rest. I once again started weekly water changes, replaced my aging PC bulbs and started dosing the tank EI style along with daily dosing of Excel. I had used Excel and added micros before but never tried EI style dosing. I have a bit more light than you (2.6 wpg — 11 hour photoperiod) but since I am not planning to add pressurized CO2 at this point I also found myself wondering at first how much to dose since I don't quite have a high light, high tech tank yet I don't have a low light tank either. The EI dosing guidelines are simply guidelines, the main thing is to always have enough nutrients available. What I did was start out using the dosing amounts for a 20-40 gallon aquarium and then increased dosing a bit over time to get to where I am now. It is best to wait at least 3 weeks to see how one dosage level works before adjusting. Following is my current dosing schedule. With your light levels and if you don't add CO2 or Excel you may only want to dose once or twice a week ( I started off dosing 2x a week before increasing to 3x). I recommend considering Excel dosing if you are not going to run CO2. My tank has always done much better when I am using Excel but in my case I believe that is because I have just enough light that a carbon source becomes an issue. You could probably add it every other day or twice a week and still get a growth benefit. My tank now looks the best it has in its 6 year odyssey and so far no algae.

                        Sat. 50% water change, 3/8 tsp KNO3, 1/8 tsp + 2 nips K2HPO4, 4 nips K2SO4, 20ml Excel
                        Sunday 5 ml Flourish, 5 ml Excel, 2.5 ml Flourish iron
                        Monday 3/8 tsp KNO3, 1/8 tsp + 2 nips K2HPO4, 4 nips K2SO4, 5ml Excel
                        Tuesday same as Sunday
                        Wednesday same as Monday
                        Thursday same as Tuesday
                        Friday 5 ml Excel only

                        The 20 ml of Excel after the water change is based on Seachem's recommendation for dosing after a water change of 40% or more. I add potassium and iron since a few plants were yellowing and developing pinholes, no longer an issue. I bumped up my Phosphates a little ( 1 extra nip at a time) since I was getting a light dusting of GDA each week and I no longer have a problem with it. The nips I am referring to are the smallest sized measuring spoon from a set with nips, dashes, etc.

                        I also have a 12 gallon stock Eclipse tank with 1 wpg, a sword, crypt and java fern, 3 Cardinals and 2 Pelvicachromis teniautus. Originally a breeding tank which I never paid much attention to. I have always had diatoms covering the sword leaves and a small amount of GSA on the glass. Recently started dosing the tank once every week or so... 1/8 tsp KNO3 and 2 nips K2HPO4 just to see what would happen. It has been about a month or so since I started doing this and almost all of the diatoms and GSA is gone. I also add 1 ml of Excel per day to this tank now. I consider this tank to be as low tech as you can go yet it appears to respond quite nicely to being dosed from time to time. I do a very small water change every few weeks for this tank.

                        Carissa has given you some excellent advice hope the info as to how I dose my two tanks is helpful too.... best of luck getting your tank back into shape. Pick a plan, follow it, make changes slowly and you should be fine.

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                        • #13
                          Captain bu brings up a good point, algae eating fish are always an asset. Even if you have to bring some fish back to the pet store for a trade, you do want to get some. Six to eight oto's or three bristlenose plecos, or one regular pleco of moderate size, 4" or so (you can trade him in later on if he gets too big) would be good for your size tank. It cuts down on manual labor dramatically.
                          Check out my site www.beginneraquarist.petfish.net

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                          • #14
                            Thanks, you guys! This is really helpful information. I have hope now. Carissa, thanks for the link to your site, I've read through it all. I'll start with the once weekly doses to start, test at the end of the week before the water change and see how it goes. I guess I should get some "real" dry ferts from Rex or Greg instead of the stuff I've been using i.e. stump remover, No Salt, Fleet's, etc. so I can dose it correctly. Thank god I don't see any BGA. Of course, just because I can't see any BGA doesn't mean it isn't there, I'm sure it's there, waiting for its opportunity to strike, just like a bacterial cobra...! I did have a fair amount of GDA on the driftwood and rocks, which would start showing up on the glass over time; I honestly didn't mind it, in fact I kinda liked it's mossy look, but it all got bleached/scrubbed/pruned away along with the BBA. I've also seen a tiny amount of GSA on the pennywort and Marsilea (and the glass at times); I've scrubbed and pruned off every bit I could see, there's hardly any Marsilea left now. The only BBA I see left is in a couple of spots on the driftwood, and on the tubers of my banana plant. I can pull the driftwood out again and treat those spots again with Excel or H2CO3 (I've been shooting the daily Excel dose directly on those spots using a pipette but it doesn't seem to be getting rid of it). I'm debating whether to pull up the banana plant and treat the tubers properly; I suppose I should.

                            Tex Gal, sorry to hear about your tank woes. Can you tell me more about the two-hose water change technique? I've been using the Python, it's way better than buckets but it's still kind of a drag. I feel like I waste a lot of water especially while siphoning. During the summer I can use a regular gravel vac to siphon and the garden hose on the back patio to refill, which seems a lot easier, but it's too cold right now for the garden hose, so I'm stuck using the Python to refill, and it seems to take forever to get the temperature just right.

                            Captain_bu, thanks for your input, I appreciate hearing about your experience, clado is a big fear of mine. I'm resigned now to dosing Excel daily, it really isn't all that expensive if I get the big bottles online. I do have two baby bristlenose plecos in quarantine right now, they'll be ready to go in the big tank in a couple of weeks. They do impressive work; in a matter of days the two little fellers scrubbed off all the GDA off the driftwood in the quarantine tank, leaving nothing for the apple snail! Hope they like BBA...
                            "Water which is too pure has no fish." Ts'ai Ken T'an

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by gingerinaustin View Post
                              Tex Gal, sorry to hear about your tank woes. Can you tell me more about the two-hose water change technique? I've been using the Python, it's way better than buckets but it's still kind of a drag. I feel like I waste a lot of water especially while siphoning. During the summer I can use a regular gravel vac to siphon and the garden hose on the back patio to refill, which seems a lot easier, but it's too cold right now for the garden hose, so I'm stuck using the Python to refill, and it seems to take forever to get the temperature just right.
                              I have taken a regular gravel vac and attached it to a garden hose. (I used about 1 inch of the clear tubing it came with and got an adapter in the sprinkler system aisle to fasten that to my hose.) I put the other end in a shower. It doesn't matter how long the hose is as you're just siphoning. I got another hose and hooked it up to the bathroom sink. You can get the adapters to screw into your sink faucet and your hose at Home Depot or Lowes. I got the kind that you can snap your hose onto it. I think it's easier. Anyway, I start my siphon to the shower drain. You only need to suck on the hose to get it over the bend at the tank of your hose, (below surface water level). Gravity takes care of the rest. I dose the tank where I am going to put my fill hose in with prime measured for the 100% water replacement, (i.e. 10 gallon tank, I dose prime for 10 gallons). After I have removed about an inch of water I turn on my sink faucet to my fill hose and start filling. I try to match by simple feel the temperature of my tank water. I am removing water at one end (or all over to keep surface of substrate clean) and filling at the same time. No water is wasted. First, I stop my siphon hose when I think I have exchanged about 50% of my water. Then I remove the fill hose. The only thing to remember is to take the end of the fill hose out of your tank before you unhook it from your sink or that hose will start to siphon your water out. It goes really easy and I got cheap hoses for about $5 each. The faucet adapter cost me about $9. Easy!
                              Last edited by Tex Gal; 12-27-2007, 05:34 AM.

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