So in an attempt to build a self sustaining (or close to it) planted aquarium, as most of you know I built myself a 20L planted beta sorority close to 3 months ago. Just updating you all on my observations and progress :)
I made the decision right off the bat to let the plants do their own thing, and after much reading (thanks byron) I opted to go the water change-less route. Every couple weeks I add straight tempered tap water (its from a well) to keep the levels up. my initial intention was to make a soft water haven for my rams, but one didnt survive long, though the water conditions werent the best when they were moved. Gaz is still going strong though, and hes gorgeous!
now 3 months after no water changes my GH is down around 5 and has stayed there for the last month and a half to two months. I like steady. The only flux now is a minor ammonia spike which i attribute to two things. The first... I use a cheap azoo sponge filter kin to a hydrosponge. The base, no matter what i did, leaked a ton of air. so the filter was out and dried up for a couple days waiting for the silicone i put around the base to dry :( I have an AC20 as a back up that just runs at its super slowest setting to keep the fine needles and leaves out of the water, but dont think its enough to replace the sponge.
The second factor to the spike I believe is I had run out of Plant-Gro, and just decided to stop using it to see what happened. What I saw happening was plant growth slowed to a crawl IF that, and thats about the time the ammonia began creeping up. I suspect the high level of light combined with the low level of ferts slowed the metabolism of the plants to a crawl as well putting a thumping on water quality :( Fortunately the spike never climbed over .25ppm and the fish look great so im riding it out for now. Plant gro begins again tomorrow, and for my 55g too. Prior to stopping the plant gro I had to trim my wisteria and ambulia twice a week to keep it from pluming at the surface!
anywhoo current plans consist of removing the AC20, and experimenting with different comprehensive ferts over a period of time. There may be some minor rescaping to put my java moss under the shade of a sword... and im researching the heck out of different softening methods of softening the water using natural methods. long term I may consider a second ram, and replacing the female bettas with rummy nose or cardinals if I can attain the softness I want.
anyone curious about hardware its a 20 gallon long tank, with an azoo sponge filter and an aqua clear 20 HOB filter (getting shut off and only used for periodic mech filtration), normal 100watt heater. Lighting is 3 curly Q compact florescent 14 watt lights in a rain gutter housing. The only fert I use regularly is Plant-Gro (dont remember the maker). I noticed minimal difference if any using excel every other day so I stopped that too.
thanks for reading :)