Planted Tropheus Tank - Doomed from the start?
Amano’s Natural Aquarium World entices from the coffee table, my bare tropheus tank mocks me in my man cave, and abandoned planted tank gizmos piteously whine from their banishment in the garage.
Three years have dulled the frustration, so I subscribed here to learn the good stuff, to relish an oasis free from the windbags and posers lurking elsewhere. (That alone is worth the 12 bucks). Urban legends got me in trouble before, so this time I’ll move more slowly with consistent purpose to meet the challenge: create a beautiful planted tank.
My wife and I have degrees in alchemy and have often been troubled by conventional wisdom. “Why?”, my wife would ask. “I dunno”, I would reply. “Several Thousand Postings says it works for him”. Not an answer, but it’s all I got. So, as my tank became my sewer, my wife thinks I don’t got much.
She's picky about what’s in her house and as she also holds a black belt in ikebana from the Sogetsu, she insists on doing all the cleaning and ‘scaping. My job is just to keep the plants growing, the algae at bay, and the water odor-free. Oh, and I am to haul the water. In that, at least, I have met her standards.
Current Situation : Minimal algae and diatoms
- Tap – GH 15, KH 6, pH 8.2, NO3 & P04 zero, K 4.5 ppm. Water company data.
- Tank – KH 10, pH 7.9-8.1, NO3 15-20, P04 0.8-1.0, K 20-30. Calibrated LaMotte kits.
- Lighting - 0.8 wpg, 6700nm; expandable to 1.6 wpg.
- Substrate - CaribSea African Cichlid Mix (aragonite) and slate rocks
- Fish Food - 11g per week of NLS Cichlid Formula (34% protein)
- Water Changes - 50% every two weeks, SeaChem Tanganyika Buffer as needed for pH
- Healthy, breeding tropheus
- Healthy epiphytes (anubias, Java fern, bolbitis; willow, flame, & Taiwan mosses)
- 50% WC every two weeks (Installed a daily water change / top off / dosing system on 4/1/2011)
- Clear water, minimal algae, and minimal detritus
- Infrequent testing
How I Propose to Get There
- 1.6 wpg, 6700K, compact fluorescents
- Carbon – Low bps CO2 injection (off at lights out), plus Excel at 1X dose.
- NPK – EI, 1/3X per week (determined right away that 11g of food per week results in plenty of NO3 and PO4; still dose K as K2SO4)
- Trace – DIY TPN
- Stock with stem plants until epiphytes take off (hornwort & Brazilian pennywort) (Never used any stem plants - no issue)
- 50% WC’s and pruning every week, until epiphytes are established
- Tropheus shredding the plants (especially the bolbitis) (Actually bolbitis did the best. All mosses were clipped by the fish to the nubs)
- Too much NO3 harms the fish (EI max 20 ppm + fish poop max 20 ppm = 40 ppm) (Apparently no issue)
- CO2 reduces pH and damages fish (old boys continue to harp about ideal pH for species) (Apparently no issue)
- pH / KH / GH too high for bolbitis (TPT claims pH 7.2 max) (pH 7.0 to 8.3, no issue.)
- CO2 dissolves aragonite, raising KH & GH (scary intimations from x-reef keepers) (GH and KH did increase slowly, but were ameliorated by frequent WC's)
- 1.6 wpg not enough for bolbitis (how low can you go?) (Plenty of light)
Plan to Ameliorate
- Pennywort is my canary for nutrients and is the most likely snack for tropheus. (not used)
- The hornwort ought to ensure that I’ll have at least some NO3 uptake. (not used)
- Until epiphytes are established, I will change 50% of the water every week.
- pH changes from CO2 are natural; CO2 partial pressure is more relevant to fish toxicity.
- My 9X powerhead and 2.5X wet/dry canister filter ought to provide ample O2.
Since my mind has been poisoned by urban legend / conventional wisdom / old wives’ tales / yada yada, I don’t know if I am inherently making assumptions about my tank that will doom me from the get go. If so, please be kind to me and let me know before I once again make a fool of myself. Oh, and any less dramatic help would be greatly appreciated too. Thanks in advance for your help!