Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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thespiff 05-20-2008 01:47 PM

Planted tank frustration
OK, so my planted tank is causing me frustration, I thought I'd ask here about it...

I have a 30 gal community tank. It's planted with 1 medium sized amazon sword, a big clump of java fern tied to driftwood, a couple water sprites, and a big clump of java moss tied to a plastic decoration.

Hardware is as follows: Aquaclear 50 Power Filter. Cheapo hood DIY modified with an AH supply kit and a 55W GE 9325K bulb as per Rex's guide. Medium-sized plain gravel substrate. Tank temperature kept ~78 degrees. I dose weekly with a liquid fertilizer called "Leaf Zone." I was running lights 10hrs each day but I turned it down to 9hrs because algae was taking over. No direct sunlight.

Fish are 2 pearl gouramis, 3 green swordtails, 2 bosmani rainbows, 6 otos. Fish are all very well established, gouramis have been in there since October, Swordtails were born in the tank an are now about full grown, everybody is getting along nicely. Water quality is good.

My plants, however, refuse to thrive. All of them have mostly died off, with algae growing on most of the browning leaves. All of them do have fresh sprouts that have grown a few inches, but those tend to die off and be replaced with new small sprouts. My Java moss is doing ok, but even it has a bit of brown in places.

What am I missing here? All of the plants have been in the tank at least 4 months. Am I not using the correct type/quantity of fertilizer? I've heard of "fertilizer tabs" that go in the substrate, but I've never found them in a LFS. And those won't help my java fern on the driftwood. Should I do something about the substrate, maybe buy some eco-complete? I'm moving in a couple of weeks, so if I'm going to do a substrate change now is the time.

Any advice is appreciated.

thespiff 05-20-2008 02:00 PM

Haha ok so your answer is gonna be DIY C02 ain't it?

herefishy 05-20-2008 02:40 PM

Nope. CO2 will not be my answer, but it would help. So, I guess we will call your premonition half right.

Amazon swords are heavy roof feeders. I would suggest root tabs. I use API root tabs. Also start using Flourish Excel and increase the time the lights are on. I used to use Leaf Zone, but I now use the Pfertz program. It comes in a four bottle set and is very user friendly, one squirt for each 10g of water daily. It is a little pricey but just recently introduced a new formula that made it much more economical. They actually doubled the concentration. Great deal for us consumers.

I also think that you lighting is a little "heavy". My 30g tank is using a 7200K bulb, don't ask me where I got it because I don't remember. It is an "odd-ball". I also have another 30g planted tank that utilizes power compacts. That tank is pretty much dedicated to medium to high light plants.

You also did not relate what substrate you are using. I would recommend Eco-Complete for Planted Tanks. I have found it to be a very good product albeit a little higher priced than some of the others. I am using it in one of the 30g's, while the other was converted to a planted tank and uses a 50/50 Fluorite and a gravel mix.

Amphitrite 05-20-2008 03:43 PM

I would just like to echo herefishy's reply. I was having a terrible time keeping my plants alive and changed the substrate to eco complete, and started adding API root tabs. The difference within just a few weeks was phenominal and now I can't get the plants to stop growing.

Each tank is different, but I have never used Co2 and don't find it necessary.

thespiff 05-20-2008 04:52 PM

I did mention that my substrate was just plain old aquarium gravel. So maybe eco-complete will be my next step. How many of the 20lb bags should I put in a standard 30gal. with a 30" x 12" footprint? Is it ok to just put it on the bottom and layer normal gravel on top? That stuff is expensive.

As for root tabs, I guess I'll just need to online order them, as I can't find them in the several LFS's I've checked.

And here I had just convinced myself that I guess DIY Co2 would be a fun project and not too expensive. My real gripe is having to change the mixture every 2 weeks though...

herefishy 05-20-2008 06:10 PM

40# of EcoComplete should do the job. That would be,....let me find my abacus....ah, yes, two bags.

fish_4_all 05-20-2008 11:22 PM

Here is my setup for 2 ten gallon tanks side by side.
Lighting, shop light with 2, 40 watt bulbs, one 6500K and one plant gro bulb.
Substrate is regular river run gravel, no LFS epoxy junk
I use root tabs religiously, put them in when it says to and under every plant that has roots.
I dose micro ferts 3-4 times a week.
Macro ferts are minimul right now as I am waiting for my gravel to get seeded.
I recommend more light, 10-11 hours a day, more micros with leaf zone or switch to Pfertz ferts. IMO, I owuld switch to a different bulb also with a 6500K or close to it.

Remember this: When I started to keep plants seriously, I took a lot of advice from a lot of different people and made different things work for me. Not a single setup worked but a combination of 4 of them was what finally got me to where I can grow plants the way I wanted to grow them.

Amphitrite 05-21-2008 03:29 AM


Originally Posted by thespiff
As for root tabs, I guess I'll just need to online order them, as I can't find them in the several LFS's I've checked.

I couldn't get hold of them from any of the LFS either. I got mine on eBay for a very good price.

GeegaFish 05-21-2008 01:51 PM

I too have experiences your frustration with plants. Over time with experimentation and input from many different sources, I am having more success.

As with fish, it seems that plants from some sources are more hardy than others. I haven't tried online stores, yet, but after seeing the appallingly sad looking plants at the store, I'm going to!

Some plants like more light than others...meaning that I have some that just do better in a shallower tank, no matter what the light! I also found that the root fertilizers help the plants a lot, especially to get established. Don't forget that light bulbs need to be changed (yearly?) also, because they lose power over time.

Right now I have Java moss, Java fern, crypt, Lutea, Elodea and a Banana plant thriving in a 20 gallon guppy tank with a lot of "mulm" on the bottom. In contrast, the java fern and Hornwort in my 46 are the only things that stayed alive so far and are doing ok. The amazon swords, onion plants, Bacopa and Elodea all died. I have to try some of the other tips posted here!

Keep asking questions, gathering info and experimenting. Don't give up and good luck!

thespiff 06-09-2008 07:12 AM

Ugh, so I bought 40# of flourite from the LFS because I couldn't find EcoComplete anywhere and didn't want to online order it. I rinsed it for maybe 20 minutes, then dumped it in, and oh boy did it ever turn my tank into a big mud puddle. I wasn't really prepared for that.

It sat overnight with the filter on and this morning I could barely see the silhouttes of the plants I shoved in there blindly yesterday to prevent them from drying out. This morning the fish had to go back in, I hated leaving them in tupperware overnight and couldn't let that go on any longer.

I thought dealing with the sand substrate on my other tank was stressful. Boy I had no idea. On the plus side though, I found my Green Lace Shrimp that I haven't seen in 4 months. Here I had thought my Syno got a nice gourmet meal several months ago.

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