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Discussion Starter #1
I've been considering making my tank somewhat of a blackwater planted tank, but I'm not sure if that'd cause any issues with the plants, specifically with the lighting.

I've got a 38 gallon tank with various swords and pennywort planted in the tank. It's a South American themed tank with cardinal tetras, hatchets, and a whiptail catfish. I feel like the fish would like the blackwater..

Also not sure if those blackwater extract / additives are safe or actually worth it, or if I should try something like almond or oak leaves. I honestly don't know where to get any leaves though.. There's mostly pine trees, and other random trees around here (dogwood.. Willows..) We have live oaks around here, but I'm not sure if those oak leaves would be safe. I know they have different leaves than the oak trees up north, cause they are green year round.
 

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This is something I have not tried. Generally speaking, most blackwater streams are devoid of aquatic plants. These streams occur deep in the rainforest and are shaded by overhanging forest canopy and vegetation in the water is primarily vines and marginal vegetation. One notable exception is the world's largest blackwater river, and the sixth largest tributary of the Amazon--the Rio *****, whose name in Spanish of course means Black River. As Heiko Bleher has told us, this river is thick with aquatic plants in areas, but of course it receives direct sunlight being so broad.

True blackwater is crystal clear, but the colour is that of strong tea. Light can get through, so you can have plants with no problems.

Using dried leaves is the easiest and least expensive method. Oak leaves are ideal, but these are the true oak that drops its leaves in the autumn. I have one of these trees in my back garden, and I collect hundreds of leaves. I use a few in one of my tanks just for appearance, but my 10g is full of the leaves; I am raising Farlowella vittata fry in this tank, and they have a ready source of food from the biofilm on the leaves. When I siphon out the water at the water change, it is amazing how dark it is in the pail, yet I don't really notice it in the tank. Beech is another tree, and Indian almond. I'm sure there are others, but these are the three I have read about. Green maple was mentioned in one article in TFH. Avoid conifers, and any thick, waxy leaves.

The advantage of blackwater is the tannins; these clearly affect fish somehow, as some species just won't spawn otherwise.

Byron.
 
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I use Live Oak leaves in my tank, and they work great. I boil mine before hand, so I don't really get tannins, but the boiled water is quite dark by the time I'm done.

Indian Almond Leaves can be bought off of eBay. I've also heard people use Alder Cones, but I'd be careful if you go that route. They're supposed to be very potent.
 

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Many pet stores sell peat in a pellet form that works well.

I use oak and maple leaves, but I'm pretty sure my driftwood releases more tannins than the leaves. Driftwood is great for blackwater tanks, by the way.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
My driftwood released a small amount of tannins, but it hasn't in over a year.

I was going to ask about using the peat pellets.. I run a canister filter, would it be wise to use those in the filter?

I honestly don't know where to find safe leaves to use.. and certainly not on a consistent basis. Nor would I have any clue if they were sprayed or not. I live in a townhouse and we have landscapers out here like once or twice a week and they clean up any leaves.

I'm also reading a lot of good reviews on Kent's blackwater product.

Byron, I actually had the Rio ***** in mind when I was thinking of making the water black. We've actually got a blackwater river that is local to where I am, so I know that the water is relatively clear.. I just wasn't sure. I've read a few people saying that blackwater does inhibit the light getting to the plants, but unless it were as dark as coffee, I don't see how that would make much of a difference. I've seen the blackwater river in real life though, and you can see right to the bottom even at a few feet deep, even if the water looks dark.
I just wasn't 100% sure, because most of the plants I had seen were marginal plants . I hadn't looked too much into the deeper areas because there are gators & sharks haha.

I guess I'll look into my options, but I'll probably give this a try.. I'm reading a lot of good things about the effect of tannins on fish. :) As long as it won't kill my plants, I'd like to give it a try.
 

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You could put the peat pellets in one of those little baggies they sell for filter media (like carbon and such). Like these...Fish & Aquarium Supplies: Media Bags for Bio-Filter Carbon & Phosban

You could probably make something like those, too.

The thing that makes me nervous about blackwater extracts is that you have to 'dose' them. I could never figure out how to do it safely and consistently, with water changes and such. But that's just me, I'm sure there's a formula to it :)

If you decide to go blackwater you should post a thread on it! I've been wanting to do it for awhile but just haven't gotten around to it. Would be lovely to see someone transition to it!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
On the Kent Bottle it says to add 1tsp per 10gal once a week and/or during a water change. I figured if I use this I'd just use 3tsp.. Since I'm not trying to breed or anything, I'm sure the fish will be fine with less. I'd have to see what sort of changes there may be with the pH.. Barring any extreme pH flux, I think the fish would survive gradual inconsistencies with the intensity of the blackwater... Certainly would want to overdose, but they should be fine if there's an under dose. The product says to use double the amount if breeding or if using in hard water. I have soft water, and I'm not breeding, but there's obviously some wiggle room on the dosing.

I worry about how to 'dose' with the pellets.. Seems harder to control. It's probably cheaper though. I think I will try out some extract or pellets and if I like it I might order something like some almond leaves from online.

I read several people use this in planted discus tanks. Here's hoping it works. :) I will certainly take pics! Possibly a video, I've heard fish are generally more active in blackwater..
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I'm really glad you made this thread! I was thinking about doing a lightly planted blackwater tank, too. I'm aiming for SE asian blackwater, but the principles are still the same. I never knew about Kent's Blackwater extract and that sounds like a much more exact way than just tossing in a bunch of oak leaves. I have an oak tree (unsure of species) whose leaves give a really dark blackwater. My pond gets a brown tint in the fall when they drop and when I used them in my gourami QT tank, the gourami spawned twice.
 

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Don't know how exactly this would apply but I use peat moss under sand in my tanks.

I have found that prevents KH and GH (hardenss) from increasing and neon tetras do seem to do much better then without the peat moss.

I think that kinda sounds like a black water tank only using the peat moss.

With my heavily planted tank with no circualtion, no water changes, and not mechanical filters pH does rise to above 8.0. Yet the fish do fine including those fish where recommended pH values are much lower. My way of thinking is the pH rises because carbon dioxide is low which can hardly be harmful to any fish.


my .02
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Yeah, I know peat can make the water softer. My water is usually like 3dGH (if I remember right.. Not sure if that's the correct way to say it. I'm not at home so I can't look it up), but at any rate it's very soft. My pH is also usually around 6.6, sometimes it's been 6.4... I've been meaning to test the pH more often now that I've switched to this tank. It's so tall, and last night I was reading about people who were worried about their tank not having a sufficient gas exchange and worried about too much CO2 and/or pH fluctuations overnight. I've got a small sponge filter running on an air filter so I'm not really worried right now, but I am curious how everyone might fare if I had to remove the sponge filter. Or course, I could always just run an air stone in the tank if I were too worried..

I didn't know low CO2 levels increased the pH.. Although I know adding CO2 to a tank decreases the pH so that makes sense.

I think I remember reading the the blackwater sort of makes the fish's vision seen.. Blurry? And so they feel safer? Maybe I'm wording it wrong, or totally wrong.. But at any rate I want my tetras to be happy, and everyone else in the tank. And since they are all from the Amazon region, I know they all need soft & acidic water.. I feel like the tannins will only help, hopefully.
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the

Pellets are meant to dissolve slowly.

I'd just start with a couple teaspoons to the filter.
If it gets too dark, remove some.
During maintenance to the filter, add a little to keep about two teaspoons.
 

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Jennesque....I have nothing to give as far as info...but I am Soooo excited to see how this turns out. I've been thinking about doing this for a long time, but never had the guts to try it.... Blackwater tanks look sooo beautiful, even when not having any vegetation (except fallen leaves)... With unique wood, they just seem so realistic... Just my 2 cents. If you would....please please please consider walking us thru ur experience and pics every step of the way would be awesome... Best of luck and best wishes!!!! -Mike
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Yes, I will be sure to. I am going to try to go to the fish store today but we're getting hit by the tropical storm so I'll have to see how bad the rain is.

Man, I wish we were getting out of work. :p the storm doesn't sound too bad though.
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Well we hardly got any rain here around Charleston. It's windy and there were some down trees, but nothing as bad as I expected! I haaate driving in the rain, so I was not looking forward to running all those errands in the rain.

We've also had rain for like the last week.

I actually went to the fish store during my lunch break yesterday. They were out of the Delta product and did not have anything as far as peat pellets or anything. They did have the tetra product and I thought I'd try it out. It's a pretty big bottle and it was $7. The directions give the dosage and say to add it once a month and/or during water changes. I added half the dose, well enough to treat 20 gallons (I've got a 37gal tank) and I didn't notice much of a difference for the short while I was home. I could see some coloration to the water, but not much. By the time I got home the lights in the tank were off so I just checked really quickly to make sure everyone looked alive. I'll have to wait until I get home.

My new swords have really been taking off, growing a new leaf at least every other day. Which is good, cause I tore up a few of the leaves on one of my swords trying to net the cories, I had in there. I'm giving those to my mother. And the pennywort starts to take off once it's established some roots. :)

I will see if it looks much different tonight (not sure if it gets any darker with time) but I probably won't add anymore til after a PWC on Sunday. I will post pics then.
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Ok, as promised.. here are some pictures. Crappy, quick cell phone pics. My bad, deal with it. :p hehe.

First is a before shot, this is shortly after adding the new swords and planting the newish pennywort into the substrate.



Then, I started adding the Tetra product.. I am an idiot and was putting in like a quarter of the suggested dosage instead of the half that I intended. And this is why when I posted last time I didn't notice much of a change. I only dosed for 10gals... derrr.. There's a very slight color difference. Not at all what I was hoping for.



So yeah, today I'm all angry about what a "total waste that crappy tetra product is" when I decide to give it one more go, read the directions again, and realize this was my fault. I added the correct & full dosage to the tank as per the plainly written directions.. Noticed much more of a difference. I took this shot before it fully mixed in, you can sortof see the left side of the tank has the product, vs the right side. I thought it looked pretty neat.



I'm not sure my pictures really show a difference, but it definitely has a light tea color to the water compared to before. It makes my two swords look more brown, which is fine, and the pennywort seems brighter to me for some reason. Also, I added some frogbit so I'm hoping that takes off! :) I will try to get a picture of it tonight when the house is dark so there's less reflection.. I really like that the water darker though, my light seems like it's 'leaking' less into the living room.
 

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The leaking light is partly (and probably mainly) due to the lower water level. If you raise the water level up just to the frame, you will not notice this much, and it will be easier to view the tank which means the water staining will be more effective (to your eyes).;-)

I realize you may have the water level down due to the floating Frogbit...? In my 20g I did this, and while the plants might be marginally better than in my 70g, I'm not sure it is much. This plant seems to have seasons whatever the tank. But then, I do not have the true Amazon Frogbit, I have the temperate species and I'm now (since learning this) fairly sure this explains the growth/die back cycles I see.

Byron.
 

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I just had it down out of laziness. What you say about the water level is completely true but the darker water still makes the tank darker over all. Which also makes sense.

But now you've got me wondering if I should keep it lower for the frogbit. I actually just got it yesterday so I'm not really sure what it needs. Does it need more air? Or is it the light being so close that I should worry about. I have the water just to the very bottom of the rim. And how do you know if it's real or not?

I have never had luck with frogbit. This shipped in a day since it was from someone in my state, and for the first time for me, still had the roots attached so I'm hoping these will make it. They usually arrive in poor condition, but also have had a much longer shipping time.
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