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Hello! Looking for new tank setup critique, plus a couple of questions

This is a discussion on Hello! Looking for new tank setup critique, plus a couple of questions within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> Ok Lee, here we go. After much discussion we all have our theories as to why your tank is in this situation,and each of ...

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Hello! Looking for new tank setup critique, plus a couple of questions
Old 03-04-2010, 07:36 PM   #111
 
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Ok Lee, here we go. After much discussion we all have our theories as to why your tank is in this situation,and each of them has merits. The nice thing is that each of our theories has a common solution. So, rather than focusing on the past and the boring explanations of how we arrived at where we are today, lets focus on a solution.

For starters, lets change water. LOTS of water. You need to get the ammonia levels down to a reasonable level so that the bacteria bloom goes away, allowing the plants to do what they do, and allowing the nitrifying bacteria to grow. The suggestion is a 40% water change on 3 consecutive days. When you do these water changes use Prime as your only water conditioner. Dose by the recommended dose on the bottle. Do not overdose and do not use anything to adjust pH. We understand there will be a temporary pH fluctuation. Don't worry, it will settle out over time.

After the 3rd water change we are suggesting that you stop and let the tank run. Test the water every 3rd day and post the test results for us. We do not expect an immediate result and fully expect the tank to take a couple weeks to stabilize. During this 2 week period do not do more water changes and do not add any chemicals to the tank. Just let things ride. You need to allow time for the plants and bacteria to settle into the tank.

You may want to very carefully watch your feeding levels. Any excess food at all during this time is a bad thing. I would even consider only feeding every other day, or very light feedings.

We also need to discuss the ammonia pillow. You should leave it in place for now, as long as the ammonia is high. As soon as the ammonia settles down we want you to remove it so that the plants can benefit.

Another thought is the benefits of activated carbon. If you have carbon on hand, go ahead and use it now. This will help to keep the tank stable during the cycle process. Long term, don't use carbon, because it remove nutrients the plants crave.

Please do not by any means assume that I am providing this solution. This was a massive team effort and we had a lot to discuss. I am just giving you the summary of our thoughts. Your tank is a live plant tank, so I will move out of the way now and turn this back over to Byron.

Good luck and keep us posted on those test results!
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Old 03-04-2010, 07:37 PM   #112
 
Well, I bought the kit about the same time I set up the tank back at the end of January. There's no expiration date on the bottles, but there's a Lot# - 83A1009. Manufactured 10/09, maybe?

I went to the LFS. This was an actual fish store, not PetCo/PetSmart/etc... Only fish, and they've been there 35 yrs. The guy at the counter tested my pH and Ammonia and got 7.2 and 8+ using his own API kit. He sounded like he knew what he was talking about (i.e., he knew off the top of his head what parameters the fish in my tank like). He was also wondering the same thing I am... how are the fish still alive? (Zombie fish, maybe?) Since his results were pretty close to what I was getting, I didn't buy another test kit.

I'm testing about the same now that I'm home, pH 7.4, Ammonia 8+, no Nitrites, and Nitrates maybe a hair above 0. Doesn't seem to have moved much all week. If I had to guess, it looks like it may be a little cloudier than last night. Fish are still active, tetras have color, and the plants seem to be doing real well, with good color in the leaves, and even the melted Crypts seem to be putting out new leaves.

The LFS guy said it may take another week or two (or more) to clear up on its own, and that the cloudiness won't clear up until the ammonia levels go down. He recommended a course of action of a 50% water change and 3-4 capfulls of StressZyme, Cycle, or similar bottled bacteria per day, saying they use it all the time (he didn't seem to really be 'pushing' his products, though). I'm not using it....just saying what he said, but I'm still getting real worried about the ammonia levels... Maybe the bottled bacteria might not be such a bad idea? Maybe it'll process some of the ammonia and kick-start the cycle, which seems to me to be stuck in a rut?
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Old 03-04-2010, 08:36 PM   #113
 
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Originally Posted by LMychajluk View Post
The LFS guy said it may take another week or two (or more) to clear up on its own, and that the cloudiness won't clear up until the ammonia levels go down. He recommended a course of action of a 50% water change and 3-4 capfulls of StressZyme, Cycle, or similar bottled bacteria per day, saying they use it all the time (he didn't seem to really be 'pushing' his products, though). I'm not using it....just saying what he said, but I'm still getting real worried about the ammonia levels... Maybe the bottled bacteria might not be such a bad idea? Maybe it'll process some of the ammonia and kick-start the cycle, which seems to me to be stuck in a rut?
Lee, you name it, we've discussed it at a high level. Bottled bacteria is not practical today. Adding more chemicals to this tank is the exact wrong solution at this point. StressZyme and Cycle contain living bacteria, in addition to other chemicals. These bacteria will die instantly when added to your tank with 8ppm ammonia and then the existing bacterial bloom will increase in duration and intensity.

The reason your ammonia is not killing your fish is that it is currently bonded in ammonium form. This is a weak bond that is at some point going to break, and then you will have toxic ammonia which kills fish. Doing 3 water changes of 40% in 3 days is designed to reduce the ammonia level by almost 95% without causing great stress to the fish or pH levels in the tank.

You probably had over 100 years of fishkeeping experience involved in the discussion on your tank. Probably longer because i'm pushing 25 years on my own. Roll with us on this one.
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Old 03-04-2010, 08:45 PM   #114
 
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Just to add my 2 cents- I've been watching and reading about what's being discussed about your tank behind the scenes and I'm impressed with the research and priority that Byron, batman and Pasfur have put into this problem. I could live to be one hundred and fifty and that wouldn't surpass their experience. To now not follow their advice over the LFS seems fool hardy.
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Old 03-04-2010, 08:50 PM   #115
 
Sorry...must've crossed posts...I didn't see your post at 8:36 until after I posted my 8:37 post...

I like the water change idea. Anything that gets the ammonia down at this point sounds good to me. I'm going to start tonight.

I don't know if I have enough room in the baskets to use both the carbon (I have a couple of pillows that I never used) and the ammonia pillows, so I'll leave the ammonia pillows in tonight. If the ammonia is down some by tomorrow night, maybe I'll look to swap them out. I think I may have one or two of the pillows with the mixed carbon/ammo remover as well.

Again, thanks Passfur and Byron for all your help and wisdom. Please pass along my gratitude to the others that were involved as well!
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Old 03-04-2010, 08:59 PM   #116
 
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Originally Posted by LMychajluk View Post
I don't know if I have enough room in the baskets to use both the carbon (I have a couple of pillows that I never used) and the ammonia pillows, so I'll leave the ammonia pillows in tonight. If the ammonia is down some by tomorrow night, maybe I'll look to swap them out. I think I may have one or two of the pillows with the mixed carbon/ammo remover as well.
Agreed. Ammonia is priority 1.
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Old 03-04-2010, 09:20 PM   #117
 
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Sounds like things are on track, especially since the LFS's tests match up with your own.

Keep us posted!
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Old 03-05-2010, 01:24 PM   #118
 
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Can we get an actual alkalinity test done on the display? Not Hardness. Alkalinity. I found something today that might be relevant.
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Old 03-05-2010, 02:41 PM   #119
 
kH, right? I haven't been testing it as often as pH and Ammonia, maybe twice a week, but it's always been in the neighborhood of 2-3 (maybe a bit higher, ~5-6, when I first set up the tank IIRC), with gH 9-10. I'll confirm the original and current values when I get home tonight.

BTW, I did the WC last night, ~40% (6 x 3g buckets, or 18/45). 2 drops of Prime / gallon in the bucket before going in the tank. The water was much clearer after the change. Ammonia was still testing high, somewhere between 4-8ppm, but not off the chart, and pH was still about 7.4. Will do another 40% tonight.

Now that I could see a bit better, I saw one of my Giant Hairgrass plants in the back of the tank wasn't doing as well as I thought and many of the 'blades' were dead. I cleaned it out a bit (it was doing so well, too...). Tonight, I'm planning a more thorough inspection and clean up of bio-matter, vac'ing the crypts as well. Also, I think the local PetSmart has Hornwort relatively cheap, which I've read is very good at using ammonia - would it help/hurt to add another plant or two into the tank now? BTW, I've been using Flourish Comp, a capfull once a week on Sundays, for the plants, as per Byron's suggestion. Should I continue with the Flourish this weekend, or hold off on the ferts as well for a bit?
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Old 03-05-2010, 02:57 PM   #120
 
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Originally Posted by LMychajluk View Post
k BTW, I've been using Flourish Comp, a capfull once a week on Sundays, for the plants, as per Byron's suggestion. Should I continue with the Flourish this weekend, or hold off on the ferts as well for a bit?
I have no idea. This is for Bryon or Jim to answer.
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