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Tetra Guy 12-28-2011 05:51 PM

Stagnant plants: Proper balance?
Hi everyone,

I'm new to this site. I was browsing the web looking for information on my aquarium plants. There's some good stuff on here. I have 3 aquariums; a 2 gallon, 10 gallon, and a 20 gallon. My 20 is the centerpiece, a community tank and live plants. It's filtered through an external forced filtration system using activated carbon. I have a T5 light (it was expensive), full spectrum. Some of the plants seem to be doing good. Swords, and other similar type plants don't seem to do well in my tank. their leaves slowly develop brown spots and eventually die off until only the base is left. I have two plants in that state now, however, new growth is trying to come out. I have a Banana plant that is doing well as well as another who's name escapes me now.

My fish are healthy, and I believe I have a good healthy aquarium.I feed my fish dry flake food I keep in an airtight container, and I occasionally give a frozen baby brine shrimp cube for nutritional balance. I perform regular partial water changes about 1-2 times a month, and change the filter media about once a month. I also test the water for PH, nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, ect... The test kit tests in PPM. My latest test was good. the fish are vibrant and seem happy.

My light is not on a timer, and I'm going to correct that. My schedule is erratic and the lighting my aquarium receives is not consistent. I use Flourish liquid fertilizer about once a week, just enough to cover the bottom of the cap. I just bought several new plants and as I'm putting them in the substrate, air bubbles emerge from the gravel, is this CO2? Some of the info I was reading here states how important that is an am wondering if my plants are getting enough. I have an airstone, but I do not use it. I have no issues with algea, in fact I never have to clean the inside glass. My Clown Pleco is on the ball. I notice guppies also are quite the cleaners, they cleaned up my 10 gallon when I put them in as fry.

Also I have trouble keeping stem plants planted, my substrate is deep enough, it's small gravel, probably an average of 4-6 mm.

Thank you in advance! :smile:

Byron 12-29-2011 04:03 PM

First off, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. Glad to have you with us.

Now to the issues you raise, starting (at the "bottom" ;-)) with the substrate. Bubbles can be a couple things, often just trapped air from when the tank was first filled. I see this fairly often. It could also be hydrogen gas from a dead spot, but that would smell much like rotten eggs, and with larger-grain gravel this is less likely. And it could be CO2 being released by the breakdown of organics (this is essential and good).

Your gravel might be a bit large, sounds like what is called pea gravel because most of the grains are approximately the size of a green pea. It can work OK if you like it; but if you are OK with changing it, go for something smaller. A fine gravel with 1-2 mm grains, or a coarse sand like playsand.

To the light; can you provide more details? I assume a single fluorescent tube, but what manufacturer and name, watts, and length. If it is T5 I assume it is HO (high output)? A timer will be good; depending upon what you tell me in answer to the questions in the next paragraph, I might suggest a duration each day.

Filter: I would not replace the carbon. Carbon removes various substances from the water by adsorption, and some of these will be needed plant nutrients. When you say replace the filter media every month, this may not be necessary; rinsing it weekly should be sufficient. And on water changes, every week minimum is better. You can change 30-50% of the tank, but do it once every week.

The plant issues are as you surmised due to an imbalance. Nutrients may not be sufficient to balance the light. Have you any algae? Algae should be expected in any healthy fish tank, but not excessive. There are many types. Can you give me the hardness (GH) and pH of your tap water? The GH you can get from the water supply folks. This is important for the nutrients, as while Flourish Comprehensive Supplement is a complete balanced liquid fertilizer (which I heartily recommend and use myself) it is lacking in some nutrients which are expected to be in the tap water. I should have more on the plant issues when I know these answers.


Tetra Guy 12-29-2011 04:57 PM

Hi Bryon, thank you for the welcome, and your reply.

Ok, so my light. It's a Solarmax HE, its a single tube. I looked on the bulb itself and found out its daylight deep blue. Input- 120 V- 60 HZ. Output- 14 W. Lamp type- T5 G14 14W. Model- SE 421124. Fixture Length- 24 in. Actual bulb length- about 20 in.

My aquarium is 24" across, 12" wide, 17" deep. Water PH is about 6.5 to 7. I use a PH regulating powder I add during water changes. I also have a piece of bogwood in my tank.

Don't replace the carbon? Interesting. I never touch the bacteria sponge. I replace the filter material, and the carbon pads. The white inert filter pads get dirty though.
I bought a timer for the light on both my 20g and 10g tanks. They are set to run from 10am to 10pm. Just put them on today.

I would like to change the gravel to sand, I think it would look better, but that seems like a huge undertaking, not to mention disturbing my rooted plants. How do you know when to trim plants? I assume when they are starting to get outa control? (I wish I had that problem, lol)

Quantum 12-29-2011 05:45 PM

Regarding the light, I just bought that same fixture in 30" and it has the same bulb, it's regular output T5 at 10000K. Haven't been able to find spectral graph nor I have I set it up yet to test it. As the kelvin number indicates, it definitely is skewed to the blue.

I'm tihinking I will replace it with this I had this same coralife bulb before, but the HO version, it has a nice white light (no pink hue) and a good spectral output.

Byron 12-29-2011 06:33 PM

I am assuming the present Solarmax tube is intended for reef/marine tanks. Terms like "Actinic" indicate this. Quantum has it so he would know more about this, and I would agree with changing to a 6700K full spectrum.

These are both HO T5 which is a lot of light. 12 hours duration may be too much. If all other nutrients are not balanced to that level, the plants will not be able to utilize the light and algae will take advantage. I would reduce the duration to maybe 8 hours max. Monitor from there.

I'd like to sort out the water parameters. What "powder" are you adding? Some of these can be detrimental to fish. And what is the pH of your tap water--let a glass sit out overnight before testing. And we need the GH still.

The filter media, be it sponge, carbon, rocks... should be rinsed to keep it free of excess dirt so the water flows evenly through it. This is important. The carbons as I mentioned previously is removing nutrients too, but as carbon gives out when it has adsorbed all it can, in time that will not be an issue if you just leave it (rinse it still).


Quantum 12-29-2011 06:47 PM

It's actually regular output (14 watts), high output in this size is 24 watts - Deep Blue is the brand, not referring to the color of the bulb, though at 10000K it does have a bit of blue tint. The Coralife bulb at the link is regualr output T5 as well. These non-HO T5s are fairly new on the market, I've only seen regular output T5 lighting available for other purposes like retail display, most for aquarium industry are the HO. I know very little about Deep Blue as a company, I assume it a US design/Asia Manufacture type company.

Tetra Guy 12-30-2011 02:57 PM

I just did a partial water change. you say every week? that seems like a lot. I adjusted the timer on my light to run from 2:00pm to 10:00pm, 8 hours. I also washed the filter pads, not replacing the carbon. I thought that was important to the well being of the aquarium, cool I can do without it, less money to spend.

Alright. So I use tap water out of my faucet for water changes. It's city water so its been treated. I fill a bucket and add API's Stress Coat to detoxify the water. Then I add the ph powder and dissolve it in the water, then I add the water to the aquarium. The powder is safe for fish and live plants. It's Seachem Neutral Regulator. It also detoxifys the water according to the labeling. Adjusts ph to 7.0

As far as GH I still don't know what you mean. also, I treat any new water BEFORE it goes into my aquarium. I will leave a small sample of untreated water and test it's ph. I'm not keen on putting city water straight into my tank.

So changes made so far: Light put on a timer for 8 hour duration. No longer replace the carbon in the filter, just rinse it.

About the light, what is 10000K? On the bulb itself it does say 10KK. as Quantam said it's Deep Blue. Should I replace this light? It's made for saltwater tanks? Sorry for asking the same questions, just a bit unsure in your response.

I really want to tackle these issues and have a plant flourishing tank instead of a stagnant/ little growth. Thank you for your patience and sound advice.

Quantum 12-30-2011 04:08 PM

I know you are mainly addressing Byron here, but maybe I can help clarify some questions about the light. You may be aware of some of this.

1. The 'T' number: For fluorescent tubes/bulbs, this number refers to the diameter of the bulb in 1/8s of an inch, so a T5 is 5/8 of an inch, T8 is 8/8 or 1 inch in diameter. These seem to be the two most common sizes used for the aquarium industry. T5 bulbs don't fit in T8 fixtures or vise versa. Your bulb is T5.

2. HO vs RO: T5 fixtures come in either HO - High Output or RO - Regular Output. High Output is more common, especially for marine aquariums since they need a lot of light for corals and such. The regular output T5 produces roughly the same amount of light as a similar size T8, maybe a little more, but not significantly so. The high output T5 produces about 1.5 times as much light as the regular output. For the 24" (actually about 22.5") T5, the HO will be 24 watts, the regular output is 14 watts. Looking at the box my fixture came in, it says on the front 'T5 System (14 Watts)' - you mentioned before that you saw 14W on the bulb, but if you want to verify look on the box. A single 22.5" regular output T5 bulb is not an excessive amount of light for what you want to do with your aquarium. T5 bulbs of either type may physically fit in either fixture type, but they should not be mixed - HO bulbs in HO fixtues and RO bulbs in RO fixtures, so keep this in mind if you replace the bulb - match the wattage.

3. Kelvin Rating - This is a measure of the color temperature of the light emitted from the bulb - usually expressed as 6500K for example rather than the 10KK on this bulb (don't know why they did this but here the first K refers to 1000s, second K is Kelvin). Technically this is the light color emitted from a back body at that temperature. K = 5/9 ( F - 32) + 273, so 6500K=11240 degrees F, the bulbs don't operate at the temperatures but approximate the color emitted from objects at those temps. The higher the K number the cooler (bluer) the color will appear, the lower the number the warmer (yellow/orange). Generally the higher K bulbs are used for marine applications, but 10000K is usable for freshwater as well. 6500K is often recommended because it strikes a good balance between white light and proper spectrum for plant growth.

Your fixture will not need to be replaced, I'm actually very pleased with mine. The only concern is the bulb and whether it has the proper spectral output for plants. My guess is that it will be fine, I just haven't been able to set mine up yet. Having said that, when it comes time to replace it, or if when I do set it up and don't get good plant growth, I will probably go with the Coralife bulb I linked to (remember regular output-14 watts for 24 inch bulb). I previously had a T5 HO fixture with the HO version of that bulb liked it.

Hope this helps some.

Tetra Guy 12-30-2011 05:03 PM

Quantum, thank you very much. Please chime in whenever you have something to say. I love to hear what folks think and welcome a robust conversation.

I just verified, the light output is 14W and the bulb is 14W. So it's a T5 RO 10000K. Cool, and you say it should work, great! I've got my timer set for 8 hour duration a day. Finally my aquarium will have consistent lighting!

OT: I finally had a chance to fill in some of my profile. :grin:

Byron 12-31-2011 01:31 PM

I concur with Quantum on the light issues. But to emphasize, I agree with him that you should replace your existing tube. The fixture is fine, just get a tube with a 6500K rating. The plants will do a bit better, and the fish and plant colours will be more natural.

Now to the other issues.


I just did a partial water change. you say every week? that seems like a lot.
It isn't; it is mandatory for healthy fish, although the fewer fish and more plants the less water changes may be necessary (volume or frequency). But as they cannot hurt, and there is overwhelming evidence they do benefit, might as well get in the habit of doing one every week. And I would say about 1/3 of the tank volume. I change 50-60% of the water in all my 7 tanks every week, and have done for 20 years. The water change achieves what nothing else can. "Crud" accumulates in the tank--being urine, dissolved waste, pheromones from fish, chemicals from plants--and no filter can remove these. Only the water change. Plants will handle them but the balance has to be right, meaning very few fish and loads of plants. Over time this "crud" builds up and it does affect fish. There are some other threads on this forum where various members have discussed water changes in more detail.


Alright. So I use tap water out of my faucet for water changes. It's city water so its been treated. I fill a bucket and add API's Stress Coat to detoxify the water. Then I add the ph powder and dissolve it in the water, then I add the water to the aquarium. The powder is safe for fish and live plants. It's Seachem Neutral Regulator. It also detoxifys the water according to the labeling. Adjusts ph to 7.0

As far as GH I still don't know what you mean. also, I treat any new water BEFORE it goes into my aquarium. I will leave a small sample of untreated water and test it's ph. I'm not keen on putting city water straight into my tank.
GH refers to general hardness; this is the amount of mineral, primarily calcium and magnesium, dissolved in the water. It varies depending where the water comes from. You can find out the GH and KH [bicarbonate hardness or Alkalinity] from the water supply people, many now have a website. If you find it and don't understand it, post the link and I'll take a look. GH is important; it will not change much in an aquarium, so what comes out of the tap is what you are stuck with, and while some fish can adapt, others cannot so this is worth knowing. KH also impacts pH which can change in an aquarium.

The pH powder--why are you using it? I'll reserve comment on this until I know.

Stress Coat is the water conditioner that detoxifies chlorine, etc. If this is used, then the tap water is safe from that perspective.


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