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saulat 07-04-2009 09:50 PM

Questions on my water conditions. Advice on water changes and liquid fertilizer
Hi, new to a planted tank and had a few questions, I'll put a dash by my questions for easier reading. I am going to take my water in to the store tomorrow as my test strips are unreadable for ammonia. I believe my tank is finally cycled or very close to it. Here are my readings.

10-20ppm Nitrates
Ammonia and Nitrites low to none that I can tell
200ppm General Hardness
80ppm KH
7.2-7.4 PH

I have one unidentified plant that tagged along with my amazon swords. I also have flame moss, some sort of crypts, java fern, straight vallis, hornwort, anacharis, dwarf anubias, a floating banana plant I think is the name, and water wisteria.

--->I have read that I want a certain GH and KH and was curious if someone could tell me what I want parameter wise? I get confused with the degrees, ppm, and names for GH and KH.

--->Also I was wondering if someone had advice on adding water during water changes? Everytime I add water from a kitty litter bucket the flow disrupts my arrangement and gravel and I have to fix things by hand and pick out loose plant matter knocked around. I don't really have room for a bowl and have no desire to fill the tank much slower. It is a 55 gallon.

I went about planting backwards, having not known better. I got a 35 hex tank, switched to a 55 and then started adding plants and planning and then mixing in some flourite to the regular gravel however it is not at all done well since I had a layer of gravel, then some flourite, then some more gravel.

--->What fertilizer or fertilizers should I use for all the micro and macro nutrients the plants need? I am using Plant Gro Iron enriched once a week. I don't plan on doing more than a 25% percent water change weekly once things are established, preferably less. I have T5 flourescents 28 watts x 4 - 2 6700k bulbs and 2 freshwater bulbs.

One last thing. I plan on doing some sort of Co2 injection, possibly a DIY version as from what I have read I don' t have time to do 50% weekly water changes and constant pruning that go with high lighting and high Co2. I am not sure how to tell my lumens and whether my lighting falls at medium lighting or not at about 2 watts x gallon. Probably replace one of the freshwater bulbs with a 10k when one goes out.

Byron 07-05-2009 09:44 AM

Quite a lot of issues in your questions, but here goes.

Your readings (nitrate at 10-20 ppm) do suggest that the tank is cycled, but the store's test will confirm. Your substrate is fine, no worries there; many put a layer of gravel over the flourite, and they will mix together a bit but that is OK. When you vacuum the substrate during the weekly partial water change, don't go down in the gravel, just run along the surface to pick up the mulm, and it will avoid further mixing.

Some thoughts on pH and hardness (kH and dH). dH refers to general hardness, and kH to carbonate hardness; the hardness of the water has a buffering action on the pH, so they are related. Best thing is to go with what comes out of your tap, especially since in your case this is not too bad for a planted tank. A pH of 7.2-7.4 is OK, and the gH and kH numbers show slightly hard water. Most of your plants will do well. Trying to change the hardness could cause pH shifts which is very stressful to the fish in the tank. For info, here's a link to an article that explains this in more detail: Aquarium Water Hardness The tank when it is biologically mature (usually after 3 months) will have a steady hardness and pH that will be somewhat affected by the natural biological processes in the tank, but the weekly partial water change works to keep all this stable and constant (relatively so).

Which brings me to the partial water changes. This is the most important aspect of tank maintainance. A pwc of 30-40% every week is in my view the best, but you can manage with 25% so long as it is every week. There is much more than just the pH at stake here. Nitrates will rise and the plants consume some of them but the pwc is the main way of diluting them, and this is very important to prevent shifts in the ph and stress on the fish. No filter can remove urine and waste products from the water, only the pwc can do this.

When I had a 55g I did the pwc with buckets and a small plastic hose, very cumbersome. You should invest in a Python or Aqueon Aquarium Water Changer; both are similar, being a plastic hose that connects to a water tap with an assembly unit that has a valve so you can syphon water from the aquarium using the water flow, and then reverse the valve and fill the tank. Makes the pwc a breeze; don't forget to squirt the water conditioner in the tank at the start of re-filling. You need a sink with a faucet that has threads, usually like a laundry room sink or kitchen sink. If this is not possible in your case, the other option is to use a pail with a short bit of plastic hose. Place the pail of fresh water slightly above the top of the tank (use a small step ladder, etc) and with the hose syphon the water into the tank. You have a smaller flow and can direct it away from the substrate.

Your fluorite substrate has nutrients but this usually has to be supplemented with liquid fertilizer. Plants require many macro- and micro-nutrients and in the correct balance, otherwise they will not grow well and in some cases will die off from too much or too little of certain nutrients. A balance liquid fertilizer ensures they get what they need in balance. Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Plant Supplement is very good, as is Kent's Freshwater Plant Supplement. I've experience with both. Add the recommended dose weekly right after the pwc; sometimes you need twice a week, depending upon the plant's response.

Stay away from CO2 especially if you don't have time for water changes. The plants will require more maintainance if they have added CO2. The CO2 produced by the fish is sufficient for most rooted plants and some of the stem plants [these latter being faster growing generally require more CO2, nutrients and light]. Now we come to the light.

You have 112 watts of high output [T-5 tubes are high output] light. This will be plenty over a 55g. You will have to control the light and experiment to find the balance between how much the plants need compared to the available nutrients; if there is more light than the plants can use (and this is determined soley by the nutrients being CO2 and macro- and micro-nutrients) for photosynthesis, algae will take advantage and become a mess. T-5 light is very bright. Eight hours a day is the usual minimum for good plant growth, but you may be able to extend this to suit your viewing times; just keep an eye on the algae. If it becomes rampant you will really have tank maintainance. Here again, the weekly pwc of 30-40% has a big effect on algae and will help you.

Use a timer for the lights, as plants (and fish actually) are healthier with a natural regular light/darkness schedule. The 6700K tube is a good one; Kelvin is the measurement of the colour of the light, and 6500 is the sun at mid-day at the equator. Over a planted tank, tubes with a K rating around 6500 are generally considered the best.


saulat 07-05-2009 11:50 AM

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I went up to Petland and the 50ft system that I would need was like 90$. I will shop around and try to find one if my sink will take it. I am not sure if I have threads on the sink, none that I can see. I think I would need to remove the head that is one it to get to it but not sure, I'll see if I can figure that out lol. My time for water changes is dependent on the ease with which I can do them so I guess the Co2 will also depend on whether I can come up with an easier system for water changes. I should be receiving my time in the mail tomorrow, I ordered it over a week ago. It has the digital reading and 2 day and 2 night plugs plus 4 regular plugs.

Oh, and thanks a lot you've been much help.

Byron 07-05-2009 01:01 PM

You're most welcome. It looks from the photo that the head of your faucet will unscrew (the filtering screen is in there, don't lose it, they tend to fall out I found out), just make sure before buying the Python. It is well worth the money; I've had mine since 1995. The faucet assembly broke twice during that time, the second time about 2 months ago. No Python parts available in the lfs so I got the Aqueon one which fits, and in my view it is much better made. What gave out on the Python twice were the threads that wore out, as they are plastic; the Aqueon seems a bit sturdier, and I certainly prefer their valve to Python's.

If you've read any of my other plant-related posts you'll know that I consider additional CO2 an unnecessary expense. It is possible to have lush planted tanks without CO2 diffusion [see my tank photos]. Depends upon what you want. If you want mostly stem plants that grow like weeds mega-light and CO2 are usually necessary. But the swords, crypts and even wisteria I see in your 55g photo do not need CO2 added, once there are fish in the tank to supply it in balance with the light and nutrients added via fertilizer. Good luck.


aunt kymmie 07-05-2009 01:09 PM

Saulat- I think your tank looks very nice. I agree with Byron as far as the Co2 issue.
Are you able to order on-line? The Python (50ft) is $57.99 at

saulat 07-05-2009 01:31 PM

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Suuccess, found the threads. I may skip the Co2 either way then. My anacharis has some new green growth on it but I think I'll steer clear of the stem plants. Every anacharis I see in a LFS and in my tanks seems somewhat unhealthy, alhtough mine seems to be coming back some. Now just to be sure stem plants are the type I get from cuttings? I can order online and may bid on one I found on ebay. Hopefully this post doesn't create a price surge lol.

Python Siphon No Spill tank cleaner 50' & 20' Hose = 70 - eBay (item 330341859974 end time Jul-09-09 08:38:11 PDT)

Oh and nice tanks, I am jealous of the both of you lol. Can or will my Flame moss take to the gravel and provide a carpet??

Byron 07-05-2009 02:54 PM

There you go. WhenIi had to attach my Python to the kitchen faucet, similar to yours, I had a devil of a time keeping it on. The threads on the Python adapter were so thin, and being made of plastic, gave way. But if you can get a Python for a good deal, you can always buy the Aqueon adapter. Of course, Python may be making better quality adapters now; mine came from 1995. Or maybe there's an Aqueon unit online.

Stem plants are the ones that come as stems bunched together without a major root system, unlike your swords and crypts which are rooted plants. Anacharis never grew for me; I don't even bother with most stem plants, althoughIi have good success with Brazilian Pennywort (in the back corners of my 90g). However, it takes a bit of pruning every week to keep it from covering the surface and blocking out light. That's an advantage of rooted plants--they tend to remain much as they are when you get them.

I can't advise on the Flame Moss as I've never had it (never even seen it). I did a quick bit of research and it looks like a very attractive moss. General info seems to suggest it grows in a sort of clump rather than spreading, and is best on driftwood.

Kym, I like your 55g tank, very nice. Don't know if I noticed it before or not--had a look just now thinking there might be some Flame Moss. Well done.


aunt kymmie 07-05-2009 03:12 PM

Humm...I don't have a 55. Whose tank were you looking at?? I'm not sure if I've ever seen flame moss either :-?

saulat 07-05-2009 04:13 PM

I found the flame moss on ebay and thought it was the neatest looking out of the mosses I checked out. I was amazed it arrived alive from I think Hong Kong or Thailand. It was moist and pretty green after over a week in an envelope. This is their website.


Went back to the shop and had my water tested. A little unsure about the GH and KH because it was a different person in the fish area and apparently 1 drop = 1 degree of hardness until the water changed color.

Ammonia = 0.25
Nitrites = 0
Nirtrates = 5.0 or less
PH = 7.4
GH = about 11 degrees
KH = 9 degrees
Phosphates = 0-0.25

Had another question. I have the Plant gro fertlizer and picked up the Kent marine pro plant for freshwater plants. The Kent suggests using Kent Iron and Manganese in conjunction, should I be safe mixing these two different brands.? The plant Gro has .15% nitrogen, Boron 0.0005% , copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. The kent has 1% nitrogen, magnesium, sulfur, and boron 0.0002%. I guess experimentation is key here but should I be safe adding both of these to compliment each other?

Byron 07-05-2009 04:14 PM


Originally Posted by aunt kymmie (Post 212205)
Humm...I don't have a 55. Whose tank were you looking at?? I'm not sure if I've ever seen flame moss either :-?

Oh, I meant the 100g with barbs and loaches. Put it down (again) to my advancing age (or some might call it senility).:oops:

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