Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Mean Harri 03-08-2011 09:11 PM

Could use some input
Hey everyone. Long time no see.

For those who remember me my 55g planted is still kicking strong. Valls grow like weeds I tell ya.
I've been having green string algae growing for some time now. I usually comb through it and remove it but this is getting old. The algae is green and grows throughout my plants and off the glass but minimally. It's long flowing strands and grows fast. It is not a slimy coat but rather all stringy/strandy.

I have a two bulb fixture. One T8 Aqua Glo and one T10 Life Glo2.
Recently I began losing a fish every week or every other week. They are the fish that I originally started the tank with. My test kit does not test phosphates so I took a water sample to the fish store.

All water parameters are good. However, when charting my ph 7.6 and my Kh 6.0 we come up with a CO2 concentration of 4. That is way low.
All the plants are doing fine except for my swords. They are lacking growth and wilt/die leaved regularly.

I have been keeping my spray bar outlet from my canister filter aimed up to cause a fairly good ripple on the surface. I assume this is somewhat to blame for the CO2 dilution. The reason I do this is because the last two time I cleaned the canister filter my fish were all at the surface of the water surface breathing about a day after the cleaning. That resulted in the loss of one fish, maybe two the one time. I could never figure out why. No ammonia, no nitrite, nitrates livable and consumable by plants. It was a lack of O2 in the water.

I say that because I immediately adjusted the spray bar to shoot stream above surface and shortly after the fish would submerge and all heavy breathing would cease. As a result I set my spraybar to give a fairly good surface agitation and left it.

Obviously the algae is present because the plants are not photosynthesizing properly and the algae gets a foot hold. I know Byron is going to say reduce your light :lol:

Byron, I love ya man. but I have two light fixtures now. One I can't use because it is compact flour. and way too much light. I hate to buy a single bulb fixture. I need to get my CO2 up. I reduced the surface agitation today. I don't know why the fish gulp after canister filter cleanings. Is it low enough O2 in the water that once I clean the filter the bacteria blooms again consuming the O2? I can't figure it out.

Sorry for the wall o' text

redchigh 03-09-2011 09:41 AM

You don't mention your fertilisers.

I would definately not lower the spray bar without changing something else. I value my fish much more than my plants. Also, the Kh and Ph method of calculating co2 is badly flawed. Don't trust those charts.

If you want to lower your spray bar, you definately need to use more fertilisers. As Byron says, balance is key.

You can do some experimenting... If you use this tactic going for a higher 'balance', the algae may get a bit worse before it gets better.

What are your ammonia/nitrite/nitrate levels? I hope you use a liquid kit...

Byron 03-09-2011 12:22 PM

I agree with redchigh.

Light level is not causing the fish issue. But before we can diagnose, we need all the symptoms as redchigh suggested too. Nitrates particularly, what is the number? And what ferts are going in the tank? Any any other chemicals/substances other than these and conditioner?

Also, how many and what type of plants? And how many and which fish? I ask these questions because lack of oxygen simply never occurs in a planted tank, and there is always sufficient CO2 for the plants to live (they may grow slower, fine, but they will live) provided all this is in balance.

The light is probably not a direct factor, since you have not that much. Life-Glo 2 is fine, and the Aqua-Glo has half the intensity of Life-Glo so it is not that much more, not as much as two Life-Glo would be. I doubt this is the issue.

Please provide all the requested info, otherwise we will be missing components of the problem.


redchigh 03-09-2011 04:09 PM

Might actually help to replace the bulb now that I think about it.

Those bulbs rich in blue and red are great for terrestrial plants, but aquatic plants need much less red and more blue. They seem to have less intensity because the human eye is less receptive to extremes in the spectrum (red and blue) and more sensitive to greens an yellow...

Thats why a 15W cool white has so many more lumens than a 'plant' light. They both put out 15W of light, but they just don't appear as bright. I believe the spectrum is the reason they aren't effective with plants... Not the intensity (which is the same from a labratory's standpoint, when measured in uMols or something similiar. Just not lumens or lux.)

Mean Harri 03-10-2011 09:55 PM

Hey guys. Sorry I've been busy with work.

I do use an API Professional liquid test kit. Nitrites and ammonia are zero. I'll have to pull a nitate test but it is generally 10 or less.

The fish are approx 18 silver tip tetras and one bristle nose pleco.

I use Flourish Comprehensive. To be real honest I do not dose regularly. I mess with the tank very little. Even water changes are real infrequent. This could be some of the problem. I don't know. My tap water is quite bad. It's drinkable but the water company here sucks.

Lights are on 8 hrs a day. I did tilt my spray bar down some. I know I had way too much surface disturbance. Fish are still doing ok.

The pet shop recommended Excel @ one cap full which does 60 gallons every other day to see if it helped. He cautioned to watch the Valls as they do not do well with Excel. It clogs their pore-like structure.

This is the list of plants I have in it. It is what I bought initially. The Vallisnaria and dwarf grass have spread and the tank is heavily planted compared to when I started it. Very heavy with dwarf grass and Valls.

1 x Anubias Barteri Var. Coffeefolia Pot
1 x Anubias Frazeri
1 x Bacopa Monnieri Pot
3 x Cryptocoryne Petchii
1 x Echinodorus Bleheri (Amazon Sword) Pot
1 x Echinodorus Ozelot 'Green' Pot
1 x Echinodorus Rubin Pot
6 x Sagittaria Subulata (Dwarf)
12 x Vallisneria Spiralis 'Leopard' (Italian Leopard Val)
2 x Zephyranthes Candida (Dwarf Onion) pot

Byron 03-11-2011 11:55 AM

This information helps, thanks.

First on the swords not doing well: lack of nutrients, plain and simple. Echinodorus are very heavy feeders; if I do not dose Flourish Comprehensive twice a week mine develop yellowing leaves within another week. They must be fed. The recommended dose of Flourish (in a 55g I would use 1 teaspoon the day following the water change, and 1 tsp 3 days after that to spread it out. No more than this. Your swords will improve [unless something else is wrong that is not identifiable here].

Adding Excel is not likely to help. It is liquid carbon [and the store was correct, Vallisneria frequently disintegrate into mush with Excel] and technically should be similar to using CO2. But in either case, without sufficient nutrients to balance, adding carbon is not likely to help. It certainly will not help the swords unless you increase Flourish Comprehensive accordingly, and since Flourish is intended to natural systems I would not recommend using Excel as that sets up a different (higher) level of balance.

The single Life-Glo 2 will be sufficient light for the swords with Flourish twice weekly. The second tube, the Aqua-Glo, is unnecessary but as I mentioned it is half the intensity of Life-Glo so it is not actually adding much. But, it is increasing the light a bit, and in the absence of nutrients (Flourish Comp) the plants cannot use it, hence the algae.

I believe the above explains the plant/algae issue. Now to the more critical, the fish problem. Assuming nitrates are below 10, and with those plants I would expect nitrates to be low, that wouldn't seem the issue. And there should be no shortage of oxygen with those plants. And even during darkness, with so relatively few fish I cannot see the oxygen being low.

If the store numbers for pH and such match yours, and assuming they use a liquid kit, I see no issue there.

I would check the pH and nitrates regularly. Always test the approximate same time each day as both can vary during the day due to normal biological processes (in planted tanks especially), so always first thing in the morning, or at noon, etc. Monitor pH daily, at least for a full week after a water change. Nitrates maybe every other day for the week just to detect anything, if present.

I would also do a 50% water change every week, without fail. While the fish load is no where near capacity for all those plants in a 55g, this will not hurt. Clearly there is something toxic in the water. And a change using a good conditioner [in this case I would suggest Prime since it handles everything] should help whatever it is. Unless of course it is in the tap water to begin with. Do you notice any changes in the fish after a water change, that would suggest this?

Another possibility is something toxic like wood or rock. I went through this in 1997, fish kept dying and nothing could be found to explain it, until all the wood was removed; end of problem. One piece may have contained some contaminant and it was slowly leeching out over time. Any wood or rock in the tank? And what is the substrate?


Mean Harri 03-13-2011 04:09 PM

Thanks Byron.

I have never had an issue nor notice anything odd with the fish after a water change. The surface breathing happened twice after canister filter cleaning. It is quite odd, I must say.

I'm going to step up Flourish use to your recommendation. As for the Aqua Glo bulb, the fixture needs two bulbs in it. Taking one out shuts the other one off. Therefor I may wrap something around the bulb such as sliding empty paper towel rolls over it.

The algae at this time seems to have slowed in growth. The Excel may be causing this as it is the only thing I have changed.

Byron 03-13-2011 04:33 PM


Originally Posted by Mean Harri (Post 617280)
Thanks Byron.

I have never had an issue nor notice anything odd with the fish after a water change. The surface breathing happened twice after canister filter cleaning. It is quite odd, I must say.

I'm going to step up Flourish use to your recommendation. As for the Aqua Glo bulb, the fixture needs two bulbs in it. Taking one out shuts the other one off. Therefor I may wrap something around the bulb such as sliding empty paper towel rolls over it.

The algae at this time seems to have slowed in growth. The Excel may be causing this as it is the only thing I have changed.

I wouldn't risk a fire to reduce the light:lol:. As I said, that is not a lot of light, and once the nutrients are being added I do think that issue will have been resolved.

The canister filter cleaning; if you simply rinsed everything (tap water is fine, I always do this, never mess with tank water in well-planted tanks) thoroughly--meaning wring out the pads until the water basically runs clear, rinse the hard media in a bucket of water--it should be OK. Gasping suggests something toxic--I've had this from chlorine when I forgot to use the conditioner once. Just some thoughts.


Mean Harri 03-13-2011 04:58 PM

Yeah I don't know about the surface gulping. I immediately checked ph, nitrates, nitrtites, ammonia. They were all normal with no ammoania and no nitrites.

My water conditioner of choice is Prime. I thought I had used it. Perhaps I forgot.
I rinse my filter pads in tap water then final rinse them with bottled drinking water to get any chlorine, etc... out of them. Well, this last cleaning I did that with drinking water that I purchase in the big blue bottles from the store. All filtered and chlorine free.

Thanks. I'll see what happens as I go.

DKRST 03-13-2011 05:38 PM

During darkness, plants respire by taking in oxygen from their environment for cellular respiration. If a tank is very heavily planted with minimal surface agitation, the oxygen levels can drop significantly during nighttime hours and CO2 levels will increase. The statement that oxygen can never be low in a planted tank is not, biologically, quite accurate. If you found your fish at the surface in the early morning, before the lights are on, I'd recommend turning on some additional agitation at nighttime to increase the oxygen levels and, just as importantly(!), drive off excess CO2. Having said this, it's does not seem to be a typical problem for folks who don't use pressurized CO2.

If you continue using Excel, it is not driven off by additional aeration. My Vals do well with Excel, but I do not follow the "after water change.." dosing directions. Vals don't like rapid changes in excel concentration, but you can increase it slowly over time.

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