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Thread: Planted Tropheus Tank - Doomed from the start?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    San Diego, California
    Posts
    136

    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


    Goals

    • 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


    Concerns

    • 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!
    Last edited by Cyclesafe; 04-01-2011 at 03:08 PM. Reason: 4/1/2011 update
    125G Planted Tropheus / Epiphyte: 9hr 156W T5's; KH12; CO2 inj; UGJ's supplied by an Eheim 1262; Eheim 2128 filter; automated WC system; Aquacontroller Jr..

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Surprise, AZ
    Posts
    3,210

    Smile Bike Racks?

    Hi,

    It sounds as though you have given quite a bit of thought to this and your plan seems reasonable.

    I have no experience with Tropheus moorii Ilangi and little experience with Lake Tanganyika any things… My African Cichlids come from 220 miles (350 km) southeast of yours.

    Have you considered plants of Lake Tanganyika?

    Perhaps Riccia fluitans, Crystalwort or Ceratopteris cornuta would be good for starters. I have had good success with Ceratopteris cornuta, it is a fast grower sucks up a lot of Nitrates, both of these are floating plants, but the R. fluitans can be tied down and C. cornuta can be planted.

    Sorry, I have more but it will have to wait for tomorrow…

    Perhaps one of the smart folk will step in.

    Biollante
    The first sign we don't know what we are doing is an obsession with numbers. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Disclaimer: I am not trying to make you mad, it is just what I am, an evil plant monster, 'nuf said.

    • I believe the information I am giving is sound, I am not a veterinarian, professional chemist or particularly bright and certainly not a "Guru.".
    • I assume you are of legal age, competent and it is legal for you to acquire, possess and use any materials or perform any action in your in your jurisdiction.
    • When in doubt "don't."

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    San Diego, California
    Posts
    136
    I have thought about this tank quite a bit, but I will always not know what I don't know.

    Riccia fluitans (aka crystalwort) is a contender, but I am concerned about its need for light if secured submerged and then also its liklihood of clogging the overflow box if floating. (Sorry, I didn't mention in my post that I feed my canisters through an internal 6"x6" overflow box.)

    I am familiar with C. thalictroides' use submerged, but I hadn't considered the other more-commonly-used-floating C. coruta and its kissing cousin, C. pteriodes. Thank you for that. I can't find any of the former to buy (which I think I would prefer because of its broader leaves), but I will add the latter to my plant order. Nutrient-sucking C. pteriodes will join hornwort and pennywort in being cast to the tropheus!
    Last edited by Cyclesafe; 01-30-2011 at 02:01 AM.
    125G Planted Tropheus / Epiphyte: 9hr 156W T5's; KH12; CO2 inj; UGJ's supplied by an Eheim 1262; Eheim 2128 filter; automated WC system; Aquacontroller Jr..

  4. #4
    I saw a nice Troph tank usign Anubias, as logn as they are fed, etc, and the plants are done right, this can work. You have limited plant species options.

    Vals also work.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Antwerp, Belgium
    Posts
    399
    I'm not an expert but personally I wouldn't increase lighting. 1.6 WPG is already more than enough imo, especially since you have a lot of slow growing plants/plants that do not require much lighting. My bolbitis did well with less than 1 WPG. Lowering your lighting will also decrease the need for CO2.

    As for as I know, high levels of NO3 won't harm fish, 40ppm isn't too much either (I have 30-40ppm). How do you know your fish produce 20ppm? Not sure about the lower Ph and the fish ...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    San Diego, California
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    Hi Gilles:

    Yes, each of two bulbs gives 0.8 wpg, so I have an option. There's about 24" to the gravel and all plants will be on rocks higher than that. I don't have any equipment to measure actual light, so I'm waving my hands a little here.

    I believe that <30 ppm NO3 is harmless to fish for sure; I've measured roughly 20 ppm difference between two week water changes - with no plants. I used a calibrated LaMotte kit, but still don't have 100% confidence in the number's accuracy. That's why I'm going EI....

    I am completely on board with the belief that pH changes due only to increases in CO2 are harmless to fish. It's CO2's toxicity at higher partial pressures that is relevant. But I'm going to stay at 0.5 bps - above pH 7.8 - for the time being and non-limit carbon with Excel. I will slowly increase to maybe 1 bps. My tank at lights out (without plants) is at pH 8.3 with a KH of 10.
    Last edited by Cyclesafe; 02-02-2011 at 02:35 PM. Reason: grammar
    125G Planted Tropheus / Epiphyte: 9hr 156W T5's; KH12; CO2 inj; UGJ's supplied by an Eheim 1262; Eheim 2128 filter; automated WC system; Aquacontroller Jr..

  7. #7
    As far as the Trophs, since you already have them and they eat well etc.
    Excel ought to do the trick if you are unwillign to adjust pH with CO2.

    Note, the CO2 is NOT a salt.
    KH and GH are.

    GH can be kept very high without issue to plants, KH is fine for most plants you are interested in.
    Adding CO2 will knock the pH down about 1 full degree or thereabouts.

    This does not affect the fish much, the KH is still the same and the buffering in their blood is the same.
    CO2 moves in/out of the fish very easily.
    Excel is a decent option if you can dose daily.

    Vals seem less munched upon, they should do well.
    I have mini twister in a few AF Rift tanks.
    It's a shorter twisted Val, and seems resistant to Excel melting.
    Ferns etc are fine, Anubias etc.

    I'd suggest going to a Wet/dry for this tank. Better for the fish, you should get 1-2ppm high O2 consistently.
    Sell or save the canisters. If you like them, well....keep them.
    I like cleaning the foam blocks vs taking the canisters apart, and no differences in the water level in the tank.
    Heater, CO2 etc, all out of the tank.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    San Diego, California
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    136
    Tom thank you very much for your response. For me, your critical (as in involving skillful judgment as to truth, merit, etc) approach has cleared away some fog, a good thing, and introduced some fog, also a good thing. Now I feel that I don't need to suppress my common sense.

    A wet/dry would indeed be the way to go. Improved aeration, larger working volumes, more turnover with more powerful pumps, greater accessibility for more frequent maintenance and water changes, and as you mentioned, less junk in the main tank. One of my two canisters, an Eheim 2229 , is touted as a wet/dry. So I get some benefit, but not nearly as much as I would get with a real wet/dry system.

    Plants come this friday. In the meanwhile, I have begun startup on my CO2. I have a 10 lb cylinder, a no-name dual stage regulator with no-name needle value, an Atomic bubble counter, and an Atomic in-line diffuser. I seem to have bps precision, but little or no bps accuracy. In other words, I can have a consistent bps, but it's not been possible to set bps where I want it. It's either too little or too much. Of course, if I had to choose I'd prefer precision. And I am fed up with trying to finese infintesimal tweaks to the needle valve only to over-shoot - badly. When's Christmas?

    I'm also calibrating my Eheim Liquidoser. I seem to get nearly 1 ml of water per revolution, so at its maximum of 8 revolutions per day, I can dose Excel (with dissolved CSM+B, Fe/DTPA, MnSO4) within the recommended 1X dose - albeit in the lower part of the range.

    As an aside, I was thrilled to rescue a female sub-adult when I was cleaning out the overflow box. She must have been in there more than a year!
    125G Planted Tropheus / Epiphyte: 9hr 156W T5's; KH12; CO2 inj; UGJ's supplied by an Eheim 1262; Eheim 2128 filter; automated WC system; Aquacontroller Jr..

  9. #9
    Well, at some smaller scales, the wet/dry is not the best option or where noise must be minimized, eg bedrooms.
    If CO2 gas is used.........the sump needs sealed (use duct tape etc to seal the air vents and the lid in the dry section only) and the over flow spill height reduced to about 2-3".

    I would spend good $$$ on nice top of the line CO2 equipment, reg, valve, check valve, solenoid etc.
    One time purchase and a critical part of the risk to fish is CO2 over dosing.

    Too little CO2?
    Algae, which can be resolved.
    Dead stressed fish?

    So you can skew things to the fish's favor and go very slow and incremental, observe a lot and close, do not rush this process.
    I cannot stress these issues enough and also add CO2 only during the day.

    The WD filters also use less energy than the pressurize for equivalent flow rates. I can use about 1/2 the energy for comparable filtration systems.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Burlington, NC
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    ... I have begun startup on my CO2. I have a 10 lb cylinder, a no-name dual stage regulator with no-name needle value, an Atomic bubble counter, and an Atomic in-line diffuser. I seem to have bps precision, but little or no bps accuracy. In other words, I can have a consistent bps, but it's not been possible to set bps where I want it. It's either too little or too much. Of course, if I had to choose I'd prefer precision. And I am fed up with trying to finesse infinitesimal tweaks to the needle valve only to over-shoot - badly. When's Christmas? ...
    You can't go wrong with an Ideal needle valve. You can easily fine tune it. It has 22 to 24 turns from fully shut until wide open. They have 1/8" NPT ports.

    The V52-1-12 (angle flow, micrometer handle) or 52-1-12 (angle flow, knob handle) work terrific. These are the brass models.

    If you need a brass straight flow needle valve, the part numbers are V52-1-11 and 52-1-11.

    http://idealvalve.com/52-series-forg...le-valves.html

    This Ideal needle valve along with your two stage regulator will give you great precision and service.

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