finding balance in a planted aquarium - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 8 Old 02-15-2010, 08:01 PM Thread Starter
beetlebz's Avatar
finding balance in a planted aquarium

Hey guys,

I have been doing alot of reading as well as reviewing old posts trying to figure out my 20 long planted tank. Originally my reading was towards finding a balance of nutrients and lights to get some of my plants looking healthier, namely my red ludwigia and my ambulia. all the plants in the tank look great (water wisteria and two different types of swords) with the exception of those two. all in all heres what I got;

ambulia (brown, but lots of green and new growth at the water surface)
red tiger lotus (doing amazing)
two different swords (doing fine)
java moss (doing well enough)
java fern sprouts from my 55 (meh, still growing, if not silly slow)
water wisteria (amazing)
and red ludwigia (doing just awful)

I spoke some with byron about finding a balance between light and nutrients in the tank, shortly there after the tank exploded in what I believe is green hair algae (thank you google images!), which only encourages my search for balance. funny thing is, the algae is concentrated for the most part on the back wall of the aquarium, and also mixed among the top growth at the water surface of my ambulia.

if my reading, and my thinking is correct.. (which my gf can tell you is rare at best).. the problem for both stems from having too much light (in this case 72 watts at 6500k through 4 CFLs) provided to the plants and not enough of a nutrient supply to enable the plants to make optimal use of the available light. IF im correct, and i may not be, I could A) increase the available nutrients or B) decrease the lighting.

the thing is, im not really sure how to accomplish this mission. the nutrients currently offered are API root tabs once a month (just last week added the 2nd round of tabs), API leaf zone liquid fert once a week, and seachem flourish excel 1/4 capful daily. I dont see how I can really increase the nutrient levels without it coming to the point of sillyness.

would i be smarter to place a spacer between my lights in the tank to raise it up a few inches? remove a couple CFLs from the fixture?

I have read people dosing 5x the recommended daily dosage of excel every 3 days, which im not opposed to trying, however i believe without finding a balance to the aquarium the plants and algae will go south again once i stop super-dosing.

oh, and filtration is a tetra 10, with a one week old 25 gallon air powered foam filter thats seeding to replace the tetra HOB filter. bio load is 14 female bettas, 2 german blue rams, 6 spotted/peppered corys.

Dedicated, converted, lowes / home depot bulb buyer!
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post #2 of 8 Old 02-15-2010, 08:22 PM
Mean Harri's Avatar
With 72 watts of high intensity lighting such as you have over a 20g you are going to have to switch lighting to more like 30 watts or less. no more than 40 watts of T8 or T5 normal output lighting or put co2 on that tank.
That's hella lot of lighting on a 20. While you may be albe to keep that lighting and shorten the lights on time, my opinion is it would have to be reduced significantly making viewing having a short window.

“He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors”
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post #3 of 8 Old 02-15-2010, 10:02 PM Thread Starter
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i replaced the 4 18 watters with 3 14 watters at 5000k color temp, the difference is DRAMATIC. hopefully for viewing sake i wont have to knock it back anymore than that to see a change but here is hoping that its still enough light for the higher light requiring plants! thanks harri :)

Dedicated, converted, lowes / home depot bulb buyer!
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post #4 of 8 Old 02-15-2010, 10:21 PM
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72 or 42w CFL is a lot light over a 20g....Just food for thoughts but you're having more then double the wattage on your 20g then I have on my 55g (and check the pictures for plants there spc my Ludwigia thrives nice and green-red mix).

You may like to read over this and its follow up report here

Was this my tank I'd mix a 5000K and a 6500K @ one 14w and one 18w over that tank and be done.

Also that particular type algae you're handling there loves high lights and high nutrition so you're feeding it well.

Why are you using Excel on that tank, no fish in it?

~ Life Is Too Short, Break The Rules, Forgive Quickly, Kiss Slowly, Love Truly, Laugh Uncontrollably And Never Regret Anything that Made You Smile.
Life May Not Be The Party We Hoped For, But While We're Here, We Should Dance. ~
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post #5 of 8 Old 02-15-2010, 11:11 PM Thread Starter
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ill have to find bulbs smaller than 14 watt. the reason i used 4 bulbs was to spread the light out as much as possible, it looks spotty and dull with missing bulbs the way i have the sockets arranged. i might have to design a double socket configuration for that tanks finished fixture. I went with such high lighting to maintain high light plants, but 72 watts on a 20 LONG (shallow) just proved to be much more than i anticipated.

I started using excel to hopefully boost growth and plant health to the level of the lighting, but that was just too much to overcome. with 42 watts instead of 72 its a HUGE difference, in the mean time ill set to work tracking down more ceramic fixtures and building a double. maybe ill switch to two bulbs and go back to the huge metal reflector for light coverage. we will see how it goes with the 42 watts though.

currently I have 40 watts (2x24") over my 55 growing java fern and red wendtii (spelling?) just fine... just wanted more pizazz, but i overshot the mark lol

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post #6 of 8 Old 02-16-2010, 08:22 AM
Angel079's Avatar
If you (eventually) wanna rebuilt anyway why not add a florescent tube the lengths of your tank and then something like 15-20w if its T8? So you don't have to deal with the "dead" spots.

"Overshot the mark"....just a lil I'm honestly surprised with that kinda lights you don't have issues of some plants melting there. (not a joke they actually do that).

~ Life Is Too Short, Break The Rules, Forgive Quickly, Kiss Slowly, Love Truly, Laugh Uncontrollably And Never Regret Anything that Made You Smile.
Life May Not Be The Party We Hoped For, But While We're Here, We Should Dance. ~
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post #7 of 8 Old 02-16-2010, 12:31 PM
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You've reduced the light so that is step one to resolve the problem. No one has mentioned step two.

You are not providing the correct fertilizer. Leaf Zone I do not recommend, it is only iron and potassium and that is not sufficient. There are 15 minerals required by plants, this only provides two of them, and probably in far more supply than they can use given the lack in the others. Remember, the balance is critical.

I would change to a good comprehensive liquid fertilizer, any one of:
- Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement for the Planted Aquarium
- Kent Freshwater Plant [this is not their Plant-Pro stuff]
- Nutrafin's Plant-Gro [the liquid]

Use as directed on the label. I have looked into Leaf Zone concerning a couple of other former threads and find it to be lacking, and where they have stopped it in favour of one of the above they say it improved the plants.

I also do not recommend Excel. It is a carbon supplement, and with fish and normal biological processes in the tank not necessary if you are balancing a natural low-tech system.

The red-leaf plants you hare having difficulty with need these nutrients. I believe you will see a difference within 2-3 weeks.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #8 of 8 Old 02-17-2010, 08:02 PM Thread Starter
beetlebz's Avatar
ok as of last night, I switched to nutrafin plant-gro once a week, dropped the excel, and like I said the lighting has already been lowered. skimmed the gravel to remove all the gunk in the tank from the algae, ammonia was up a little this morning as a result id assume of the excel killing off the algae but who knows...

heres hoping. I wanted to buy the Kent stuff, but they only had plant pro... we will see what happens :)

Dedicated, converted, lowes / home depot bulb buyer!
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