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FAQs on Water Quality and Planted Tanks

Related Articles: Water Quality for Freshwater Planted Aquariums, Planted Aquarium Maintenance

Related FAQs: Water Changes for Freshwater Systems


Water changes question!   11/18/11
Dear WWM
I have a 90G with 7 Discus, 5 Rasbora, 5 Cory (heavy Feed) Loaded with all sorts of plants (I mean Jungle type) a 250W MH/10K
<10,000 K colour temperature not ideal for plants.>
over the middle with Led bars for the corners. Eheim canister, DIY Co2.Substrate is Seachem Flourite, over a mix of small natural gravel, Schultz(small brown rocks) and a bit of sand. Under all of this is a mix of pond mud, aquatic mud. (3 Inch+ Total)
I have a Ro filter on a timer who comes on a night for 4/5hours = 5Gallons+/Day. Of course there is a drain at the other end who keep this setup spill free!
<RO is going straight into the tank? So how do you keep the hardness and pH steady? What are the hardness and pH values?>
My questions are:#1: Why is my aqua still plague with heavy algae localized on the bottom and around the plants (green bush/Hair)
<Need information on hardness, pH, and nitrate level to answer this. My assumption would be some combination of poor water flow at the bottom of the tank; unstable water chemistry values; not enough fast-growing plants; too much/wrong wavelength light.>
Substrate problem???#2: Is this small flow water-change help in anyway or there's is something I am not understanding?
<You shouldn't add RO water directly to the aquarium. That would be very bad. Put RO water into a bucket, stir in Discus Buffer salt mix, then add to the aquarium. 10-25% water change once/twice per week should be ample.>
Thank you (Reading daily FAQs)
Q's Daily) Phil
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Water changes question! 11/20/11

Hello again. Thanks Neale.
<Glad to help.>
I guess between the Reef, Shrimps, Fowlr, Guppies fry, mudskippers and switching everything to Led I forgot all about ph/gH/kH.
I will mix the Ro with tap (tap+3 pre-filter water isn't the best around here) 50/50 this should allow me to keep the automatic water changes.
<I agree. For general fishkeeping, including planted tanks, a 50/50 mix of hard tap water with RO or rainwater does produce something that works well.>
Values were...Ouch! Ph:6.8, GH/Kh:1.
<Oh dear! Basically pure water. Not really what most fish want, and very few plants appreciate this either. Do recall that pretty green plants are nearly absent from very soft blackwater habitats. Between 5-15 degrees dH is perfect for most plants.>
Tap is 7.5, Gh:1, Kh:15 (seems very High)
<Hmm'¦ well, yes, you have high carbonate hardness but little general hardness. But overall, nothing serious. Lots of plants prefer this sort of environment. Vallisneria spp., for example, are plants that enjoy high carbonate hardness.>
Of course Led 6500K is coming my way EBay speed'¦
<Right ho. There's no need to throw out the 10,000 K tube. It'll do for now, and the plants will thrive. But when the tube needs replacing, which it will do after 6-12 months of use depending on the brand, then swap it for the 6,500 tube.>
Thank you Phil
<Cheers, Neale.>

Buffers for Planted Aquarium   2/13/06 Hi, <Hello there> I have a 36 gallon planted aquarium with guppies and Otocinclus. I have had problems with algae since I set up the tank. I've made adjustments to the lighting cycle and it has helped, but still have a decent amount of algae. I keep the ph at 7.5 and hardness around 120. I had been using Seachem's Alkaline Regulator to set the ph, but was concerned that since it is phosphate based, it might be promoting algae growth. <Possibly, yes> I switched to their Acid Buffer and Alkaline Buffer, but have had difficulty keeping the ph stable (it keeps going over 8.0). I've tried adding Acid Buffer to the tank to get the ph down, but it seems to go back up within 24 hours. Would I be better off going back to the Alkaline Regulator? Is there something else I should be considering that may be impacting the ph? Thanks, Rob Heuser <Mmm... best actually not to use these at all... Do re-consider your situation here... if indeed your source water has too high a pH, considerable alkalinity, I would blend it with water more to your desire... Possibly buying/installing your own reverse osmosis device (this is what I have done for many years... for pet-fish and potable purposes... more and more important with questions/issues re tap. Alternatively, I would study up a bit and treat your new water outside the system (with an organic acid) ahead of time, and store it ahead of use. Alternatively, peat moss could be used for a filter... or just making smaller changes... the plants will/would modify pH over time... Bob Fenner> Converting to a planted tank - 29/11/05 Hello, <Hello Sean, John here this evening, answering your query from overcast Shanghai.> First of all, let me thank you for the site, lots of valuable info about my fish and their home. <More than a lifetime's worth!> I've had my first tank set up for two months now, and everything has been going quite smoothly. So naturally, I'm considering changes. <But of course!> Here's the set up: 10 gal, 1 Betta, 5 Agassizii Cories, 50w Visi-Therm heater, Whisper power filter, bubble wand on a variable output air pump, aquarium gravel (the coated stuff), small drift wood, silk plants, lit with 2 15w incandescents. <OK> PH 7.0, ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate between 10-20.  Bi weekly water changes of 3 gal treated with Jungle Start Right, aquarium salt (at 1tbl per 5 gal) and Wardley PH down. <not a fan of such pH altering products myself> I would like to add some live plants, and seem to have a poor set up for it. <A worthy goal... and agreed, some changes will be needed> I am planning on switching to a 15w fluorescent, and am willing to build a DIY CO2 injector, but otherwise would like to leave the tank as is. <15W of fluorescents is a bit on the low side. I would use a minimum of two such bulbs to allow you to keep medium-light plants> I would hate to see recently purchased equipment go unused, as well as monetary and spousal concerns. <understood> I would like to plant some vals and baby tears as background, and then some combination of Anubias, Crypts, Java fern, and Java moss or Riccia tied to driftwood. The main issue is keeping my water healthy. The town water I'm using has a pH of 9.2, and a KH of 2.5! <<Good lord!  Does that water actually run through pipes??  Sounds like the making of a Lake Victoria tank.   MH>> <Wow! The stability of this is questionable. Try vigorously aging <<Did you mean "aerating", perhaps? Vigorous aging would take time travel, but we have yet to resolve the interaction of Brownian motion with General Relativity.  MH>> the tap water for 24 hours, leave it to sit for a further hour or two, and then test again. You may find the pH down product is unnecessary. As for the plants, you will need to research their requirements a little. With 30W of light of the appropriate spectrum, you could keep all those mentioned, with the exception of the Riccia, which needs more light. The baby tears will work, but will reach for the light. Fine as a background plant.> I'm concerned that when I switch to better lighting I'll get algae problems because of the phosphate in the pH down. <a real concern> Would a clown pleco be a solution to this? <likely not> I'm concerned about the pH changes I'll get adding CO2, and I'm scared of a pH crash if the plants use up what little carbonate is in the water. In order to stabilize the water in the first place, I had to let it dip to 6.6 and raise it back up again. How fast can the pH crash to dangerous levels anyway, hours, days? <Not a major concern with DIY CO2. Your KH should be sufficient at 2.5 dKH to buffer the water between water changes.> Any help would be appreciated, thanks.  -Sean  <Good luck! John>

Mystery Readings? Planted Freshwater Aquaria 11/28/2005 Hello <Hi CJ.> I am having some weird nitrite readings in a 10 gallon tank that has NO fish, some aquatic plants, and piece of drift wood. My current test results are 0ppms ammonia, 5.0 ppm of nitrite, 20 ppm of nitrate, and I have soft water. <How old is the tank? Has it gone through its nitrogen cycle phase? Have you tested your source water? How old is the test kit? I see you have no fish, but is there any chance of decaying organics in the system? Is the drift wood cured? In the mean time I would start with some water changes, to rid the nitrites, the nitrates are fine for just plants. > Any help would be appreciated <Any other info you can provide so I/we can help you would nice, sorry I couldn't be of more help.> thanks, CJ <Adam J.>

Re: Mystery Reading in Planted Aquaria  11/30/05 The tank is two years old and normally has fish but when my ammonia spiked (the tank was over crowded but I fixed that problem). The plants I rescued from my pond and appear to be covered in dead and some living hair algae.  <Possibly some die of from these specimens.> When I put the fish back in they will be a Caracidium fasactium, 2 Corydoras pleatus, one Corydoras aneus, a betta, and a cat fish that was sold to me as a Corydoras aneus but I believe it to be Brachyrhamdia marthae (see http://www.planetcatfish.com/catelog/heptapte/brachyrh/851_F.PHP). <That all sounds okay. Be sure to quarantine.> My test kit is brand new. The drift wood I have used before in other tanks and had 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and 10 nitrate with fish. My source has 0 nitrites. <At this point I would continue with water changes until chemistry returns to "par" levels, Adam J.>  <<Adam, Clarence; it takes a long time to correct emails sent in all lowercase letters.  Please, one of you take care of correcting this stuff for me.  Marina>>

Will my live plant die? <Salt, Betta Treatment> 9/8/05 Hi Bob (or whoever), <Jeff> I have a 3 gallon freshwater tank setup with one red male betta that I just bought about two weeks ago. It's equipped with a 25-watt Visi-therm heater and a 15-watt incandescent light bulb (no filter). <Does need one> Inside is a substrate of 1/2" to 1" in depth (it varies), one plastic plant and one potted live plant. There's also a thermometer hanging in the tank.  Just a few days ago, I noticed that my betta was acting rather odd, swimming erratically and scratching himself against the plants, the in-tank thermometer, and the marbles.  Then about 3 days ago, I saw small white dots all over his fins. <Oh oh> I researched this in your website and concluded that he was infected with ich, and that a simply treatment is to add some (uniodized) salt and raise the temperature to mid-eighties. <One approach... I would remove the live plant...> So after I did my regular 50% water change, I added 1 tablespoon of aquarium salt (the carton recommended 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons) and then over the course of about 12 hours raised the temperature from 79 F to 86 F.  I read some more articles and FAQ's to learn more, and to my horror I discovered that salt treatments are deleterious to live plants. NO!  I don't want to lose my beautiful live plant.  It's been in the salt treatment for about 20 hours now, as I write this e-mail.  Can I still save it by changing the water to reduce the salt concentration? Or will it die? <I would place this plant in a "jar", container large enough... outside the tank during treatment> (I don't know the plant's name, sorry, so let me just describe it to you the best I can.  It's a rooted plant about 8 inches tall; its leaves are each about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide (at its widest part) and have an interesting pattern: in the middle of the leaves right from the root to the tip runs a wide, bright green stripe, which is about 1/3 of the width of the leaf. There are sharp dividing lines between the outer, darker green edges and inner, brighter green stripe, so that there is NO gradual transition from bright green to dark green edges.  Do you have any idea what plant this is?) <Perhaps a type of Echinodorus... swordplant> Thank you for your help. T. J. Rexton <Please do add a purposeful filter... and read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/bettasysart.htm Bob Fenner>

Ram question, peat in a bag I've been wanting to get into cichlids because I like their color but lack experience.  I was wanting to put my tank to the test as far as tankmates goes; I've got long-finned danios, angels, balloon-belly mollies, an opaline gourami and a peacock eel.  I saw that danios were in the "tankmates" section to get the rams out but I wasn't sure about the others.  Water maintenance is no problem; I work at a pet store where we do free water testing so that shouldn't be hard to do at all. <Should get along if the system is large enough> I also had a question about peat, though.  I've seen that angels like peat as well in their water but I didn't know how to make a bag.  I don't want to order online but I want to make my fish happier.  Is there a way to prepare a peat bag (or even a way to install it into the substrate/filter)?  Or do you have it posted somewhere and I just haven't found it? <Mmm, you can/could buy, use a Dacron bag made/sold in the trade for containing such chemical filtrants... but pantyhose, stockings can work here as well... and yes to "just" placing the boiled peat and bag in the tank, under the substrate, though placing it in an area of water flow is better for more rapid effect. Bob Fenner> Thank you for your time, Sarah

Plant Supplements and Shrimp - 04/04/2005 I've been using Kent Freshwater Plant Supplement in my 5.5 gallon aquarium and recently bought a few algae eating shrimp (I believe they're the Amano something type).  <Likely Caridina japonica, "the" algae-eating or "Amano" shrimp.> I noticed that this supplement contains (min) .00001% copper as well as .24% chelated iron. I've been using a little lower dosage, just in case, but I was wondering if these metals would adversely affect my shrimp... <Having wondered the same thing myself, and having used similar supplements on my planted tanks with shrimp, I feel safe in saying that I really doubt that the supplement you are using, at or below the recommended dosage, will cause the shrimp any harm. I think your shrimp ought to be just fine.> ...and would the use of iodine supplements improve the situation?  <YES! Oh, yes. Absolutely, yes. I use Kent Marine iodine at a rate of ONE DROP per TEN GALLONS every week. For your little tank, you could do one drop every two weeks. DO NOT use the marine dose printed on the bottle.> Oh! I was also planning on putting some Triops in there (although I don't know if you folks know a lot about them) <I sure do! I *love* Triops!> and was wondering whether they would eat the shrimp, the shrimp being about 1.5 or 2 inches long.  <.... I don't think they would. I certainly can't guarantee anything, but I don't think they would. You might try getting a couple of el-cheapo shrimp (like ghost shrimp, often sold as feeders) and put those in with the Triops - if the Triops don't eat them, the japonicas should be safe. I've always wanted to put Triops in one of my tanks; I just need to hatch a few more. Awesome little boogers, aren't they??> Thanks a bunch for your help! <You bet. I have great interest in hearing how things go with the Triops. Please do let us know how it works out, and how well they do in the tank! Thanks, and good luck! Wishing you and your adorable inverts well, -Sabrina> 

Plants Dying - Suspect Water Conditions? Hi there - I'm a frequent reader at your site which has been immensely helpful to a newbie.  It's great to have an expert "on call" - thanks for caring so much about all the anonymous fish out there.   <Welcome> This note is pretty long but I'm trying to think of anything that may have an impact on the failure of my plants and the appearance of slime algae in my tank.  I've tried to find an answer through reading but am getting confused.  It appears that what is a good solution in one situation is not so good in another. For example, it appears that I might be cleaning too much and that I don't need ferts.  Here's my diary:     <Okay> Nov 7 - Set up 15 gallon tank with an Aquaclear filter rated for 30 gallons, heater set to 79, a canopy with a 14W Power Glo (there's no natural light source) <This is very little light energy> set for 13 hours, Fluorite, and a couple of pieces of drift wood that extend down the length of the tank and possibly block the filter intake a bit.  Chose Java fern, Java moss, anubias, water sprite, water wisteria, a stem plant of unknown antecedents (can't find a Web photo of it either), and frogbit, all of which do very well in my 7 gal Betta tank. <A nice selection> Nov 26 - Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate all stable at 0. <No nitrate? A bit odd and maybe an indicator...> pH stable at 6.2, lower than I expected since my tap water pegs out at 7.0 and is stable in my Betta tank but I attributed it to the effect of the driftwood.  There was a slight blue haze in the water.    <pH and to some extent haze likely due to the influence of the driftwood> Nov 27 - Five 1 inch Black Neon Tetras join a dozen infant pond snails who had hitch-hiked in.   Nov 30 - Tank cleaned:  3-4 gallons removed via vacuum; new water conditioned with AquaPlus; added 1 tsp. Kent Blackwater Extract and about a .5 tsp of Kent Freshwater Plant (a lower dose than recommended because I wasn't sure I needed it in a new tank - some information said yes, some said no) and sodium biphosphate to lower the pH of the tap water so that it matches the tank's. <Good> This will be my standard cleaning regimen.  Frog-bit roots rotting, leaves developing holes and turning to yellow mush. Bottom leaves of stem plant dying back but lots of new leaves coming.  No trace of any snails? <Another good clue> Dec 3 - Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate all 0.  pH 6.3. Dec 7 - Tank cleaned. Dec 10 - Large, clean-edged holes appearing in the bright green leaves of the mystery plant.  Looks like caterpillar damage.  Snail patrol turns up nothing?  New leaves still coming - they get to about 1.5 by .5 inches before holes start to appear.  Some minor black spots on about 10% of the leaves.  Mature leaves are 3 x 1.5 inch ovals and pretty tough. Dec 13 - Move three .75 inch Gold Tetras out of Betta world into the tank, much to the delight of my female Betta Dec 14 - Tank cleaned. Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate all 0.  pH 6.3. Dec 15 - Move one 2 inch Bolivian Ram from quarantine to tank. Dec 17 - Add two 1.5 inch Otocinclus without quarantining.  Willing to take a chance rather than subject them to another change in conditions in a few weeks.  Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate all 0.  pH 6.3.  (I realize I will be overstocked once everyone is fully grown but I really wanted a small school of tetras and one larger fish and am willing to put in the extra effort to keep them healthy.  I also see a larger tank in my future.) <Very good> Do a little reading, decide a bit of Flourish Excel might be good, but at a lower dose than recommended and every other day rather than daily due to low light.  Switch ferts to a couple of drops every other day, rather than a larger dose when cleaning. Dec 18 - Tested again due to all the activity over the past week - no change in readings. Dec 24 -  Tank cleaned, filter media rinsed in aquarium water because filter output seemed to have slowed down due to muck in foam.  Dec 25 - Anubias stems rotting, leaves turning yellow.  Stop Flourish and the ferts due to anxiety over use. Dec 29 - Tested - no change in readings. Dec 31 - Tank cleaned.  Haziness still present, research indicates might clear up if I give the bacteria a better chance to develop.  Swap out the filter's carbon pack for another pack of the little ceramic doughnuts or whatever they are since reading indicates carbon could cancel blackwater effect.  Was this a bad idea? <No, fine> Jan 5 - 24 hour plant death in the Java Ferns -  I got up this morning and the base of the leaves had turned brown on several of the plants and within 24 hours it had progressed right up to the tips.  Trimmed the leaves off but have left the roots in the hope that they may re-grow.  Some of these are attached to the wood, some have their roots in the Fluorite but I was careful to ensure the corms were well above ground.  Bought KH/GH test kit - KH is below 10ppm and GH is below 20ppm (both too low for the kit to measure). <Yes...>   The readings are higher when my tap water is tested but still below the 10 and 20 ppm of  the charts - I live in Vancouver if that makes a difference. <Only in so much as this indicates a natural/source water softness> I'm confident in my other test kits as they show different readings for my 7 gallon and for the tap water.  This morning's research would indicate Java ferns do not like soft water. <Yes... can even live in brackish conditions>   and that it can dissolve the shells of snails.   <Yes, more so at lower pHs>> Jan 13 - Tank cleaned and tested.  No change in any of the readings.  Found two patches of the dreaded slime algae embedded in the floating plants - one 2 inch and one 3 inch.  Seems to be a variety of causes for a visit from this stuff, but only low nitrate/possible lack of water flow seem to match my situation? <Mmm, Cyano not to be "dreaded", but water flow a factor, yes> Removed it and the bulk of the floating plants.  Nothing is visible on any other surface but I know that it's in there.  Added a small microbubbler since I thought more surface movement might discourage a reappearance but don't really know if that will help - not a good idea in a low light situation? <Ah ha! Now we're getting to it... the bubbler is fine though> The tetras have coloured up nicely.  The otos are into everything. <These all REALLY like soft, acidic water...> The Ram is greyer than those in the store which are almost pearly, but he has bright orange/red/blue/black in all the right spots.  They are all active, interested in their tank mates and attacking their food.  But now I am concerned that they are not as healthy as they look.  They are fed 2 kinds of flakes, shrimp pellets, a bit of algae tab or zucchini once per week since I don't have much algae, and frozen and freeze dried blood worms in small enough quantities that nothing gets to the bottom that wasn't designed for the bottom feeders.   Given that I would like my plants to be as content as my fish appear to be, what should I do (or cease doing) now? Many thanks, Evelyn <Evelyn, your message shows you to be compassionate, a thinker and have spent considerable time investigating the hobby... As you remark early on, there is no one set of conditions that generally apply to a given situation... cause/effects of apparent resultant appearances. The "roots" of your lack of success with the plants are principally anchored in having too little intensity of light (you really want a good 3-4 times what you state for some of the higher light-use plants like Anubias, and the lower-use ones (e.g. the ferns) can/could use/tolerate the same... you would do well to look into upgrading to powercompacts/compact fluorescents if you want to grow plants in this 15 (or hold off and place your emphasis on the new/larger system). Secondly, and just as important, the driftwood is proving to be more of a liability than an asset... it's dissolving is lowering your pH, coloring the water, taking up nutrient (surprising?) and hurting your already under-illuminated plants... as well as indirectly causing the demise of your snails... I would remove this, save it for the larger system, where it will have less/diluted effect... and use slate, shale, other material that does not lower your water pH... Other than these two items your set-up and maintenance is fine as listed. Bob Fenner>

Re: Plants Dying - Suspect Water Conditions? Hi Bob <Evelyn> Thanks so much for the assistance.  I had been regarding the driftwood with a jaundiced eye but didn't want to pull it out without good cause because all the fish love it - the otos hang out on it, the ram scoots under it, and everyone naps behind it. <Some animals "like" what it does, others...>   Plus the moss and ferns growing out of it are the only (seemingly) healthy plants in the tank... The compost effect, no doubt. <Yes> It's in a couple of pieces, so I won't take it out all at once.  Now that I know the fish really are OK I can remove it over time and work on changing the water parameters gradually too. <You will see, and remove bits of it by way of gravel vacuuming months from now> The damage to the plants is already done.  The lighting situation should be an easier fix.  I did think 14W was odd when I bought it (I was looking for about 45W) but it was standard for a 24" canopy and the next step up was a 65W CF.   <This would not be too much> That seemed a bit much given a water depth of 9-10 inches.  I'll find a solution.  If not "off the shelf" then that's why my husband has all those tools, right? <Ahh, another "honey do" project.> Thanks once again for steering me on, Evelyn <Clarity is pleasurable, as is sharing. BobF>

Planted Tank Water for Sea Salt Mix?? Hi Mr. Fenner, <Hello Jose> Let me start by saying I really appreciate all you do for the hobby.  Your site is wonderful.  One of the things I like most about your site is the philosophy of keeping things natural and balanced. That said, let me tell you about my tanks: 1 outdoor 55 gallon rectangular tank with lots of anacharis and Vallisneria, several livebearers and a 1 inch dovii, <Ummm, did you put this last fish/mention in to see if I was awake?! Hee hee! Am sure you know how large... this cichlid will become> no heater or filtration except for the plants; 1 outdoor 165 gallon pond with several lily pad plants , 1 pair of blue eyed cichlids, 1 ?? inch dovii ( I wanted to compare growth rates with outdoor aquarium dovii), a feeder goldfish that grew to 5 inches and a butterfly Koi of 4 inches, plus a lot of anacharis for oxygenation, there isn't any filtration in this pond except for the plants; indoors I have a 55 gallon rectangular tank with a pair of 4 inch discus, 7 German rams , and a pair of double red Apisto.. agassizi( I'm getting more females soon), 4 huge Amazon swords, 6 giant cryptos , 10 small cryptos, java moss, micro sword, fluorite over sparse layer of laterite, 20 pounds of driftwood, large lava rock with lots of caves, and a centerpiece Madagascar lace plant, <Sounds very nice... but will be very crowded> mechanical hardware consists of a small air pump to a 10 gallon sponge filter , and heater; I also have a 12 gallon eclipse with 4 inch sand bed, 10 lbs of premium Fiji live rock, 10 lbs base rock which has turned premium, 1 peppermint shrimp, 1 emerald crab, 2x13 PC , 1 fire fish goby, 1 small orange starfish, 30 medium brown w/green center zoanthids, 1 frag of zoanthids w 8  bright orange & green polyps, 1 red finger gorgonian,  sun polyps (about 10 individual polyps), 1 small red hermit, 2 small blue hermits, 2 medium Mexican turbo snails, 2 large Mexican turbo, 2 smaller Astraea?? snails, small blue sponge, several purple sponges, lots of pineapple sponges, bristle worms, fan worms, macroalgae (Caulerpa), and lots of pods. the mechanical hardware consists of a high quality submersible heater and an medium powerhead.   <Good descriptions> Now most places I research tell me discus , rams, Madagascar lace plants, and apistos are really difficult fish and plants to keep. <Mmm, these are likely older references... this life is much easier to keep than it used to be... due to captive bred efforts, shipping improvements mainly.>   Yet , I perform  hardly any maintenance on my tank and everything has thrived since 1/2/03 without any loss of life or illness.  I have turned the heater off and left it off for several days and the fish still never became ill, even in temperatures below 70.  I have neglected water changes for a months with no ill effects (not doing that anymore). Its a beautiful tank that gives me lots of pleasure with low maintenance demands. I should add that I throw in a pinch of regular peat after a water change to soften the hard water local to my area and started a compost bin to feed the fish earthworms regularly. I was nervous about starting a nanoreef because of everything I  read.  Maybe the experience with planted tanks helped me out because my tank is going great.  The only deaths (2 small damsels) in the tank I've suffered were from aggression caused by a yellow tail damsel I had. Everything else has thrived and most of the stuff I have was given to me by LFS because it was in bad condition ( this hobby is expensive and I have to cut corners where I can) or sold cheaply. Since money is a factor in how far I can lose/or find myself in the hobby, I look for ways to save.  Since I don't have a R/O unit and have to purchase DI water at the LFS.  I was wondering , What if I used the water from the discus tank to mix the sea salt???  rivers flow into the ocean right? and most reefs are near land right?  I tell you, the water I siphon out during water changes grows my terrestrial plants like nothing else. I hoping it does the same for my soft corals.  The people at the LFS think I'm slightly crazy for some of the stuff I do, but my stock never seems to get sick( knock on wood) and grows and glows , and I think you have to be bold sometimes to learn new things. Thank You for your time, your site is great! Jose Saldana <Mmm, in general I would not do this... for fear of introducing more organic and inorganic nutrient material than you likely want... I do suggest you do the math though re buying, running your own RO or DI water purifier. Some of these units are under a hundred dollars... and considering the cost of transport, your time... it's not long before just buying your own makes sense. Cheers, Bob Fenner> Allelopathy in Freshwater Plants, and Other Planty Schtuff Hey crew, this is an awesome site!  Read and read, and keep reading.  I'm a glutton for information. <Me, too - thanks for the kind words!> I have a question about allelopathy in planted freshwater tanks.  I currently am running a 10 gallon planted tank and everybody in the tank (fish and plants) are doing ok!   <Wonderful to hear.> The plants thrive, the fish thrive, nothing is going wrong!  It's a dream! <Delightful!> I recently got in touch with my local aquarium society and will be starting to attend their meetings next month; they have access to fish auctions, plant auctions, tours, guest speakers, and the like, <You will have great fun with this, truly.> but in the mean time I have a dilemma.  Well, more a ponderance than a dilemma.  Here's the story.  The person I was talking to was a plant person and warned me about certain plants not being good with other plants.  I've also done some reading at http://www.tropica.com about allelopathy, and its making my head spin.   <Easy enough, when dealing with such a topic.> I'm having a 60 gallon tank custom made for me, will be going through the cycling process etc before setting it up with the fish (still not sure what kind of fish I'd like, but am having a ton of fun doing the research), <My favorite part, as well!> but one of the things I've played around with is trying out a regional biotope scenario....all Amazonian basin plants, all African plants, or all Asian plants with fish.   <A very fun prospect.> I'm also falling in love with the nature aquarium:  Takashi Amano is my god. :O) <Heh, another fun prospect, of course.> So my question is this:  are there absolute plants to avoid in combination?  Common sense is telling me that if I go with all Asian plants, chances are they'll be ok together.   <I would consider that a safe assumption; however, chemical warfare amongst plants is not my strong suit....  I would like to recommend "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" by Diana Walstad; this book does have such scientific information as allelopathy, and a great deal of info on doing low-tech planted aquaria.  Granted, I'm not so much into low-tech plant tanks, but there is a wealth of info in this book; very well-worth the read.> Then again, common sense long ago told me that putting goldfish and tetras together was ok in a 10 gallon tank.   <LOL!  Well, we learn as we go, yes?> Right now the 10 gallon is a lovely jungle with a couple of Amazon swords (unsure of the genus), <Swords fall under the genus Echinodorus; most plants sold as "Amazon sword" are usually E. bleheri or E. amazonicus, to give you a bit of a start.> Java fern (which to my delight is starting to send off small plants from the tips of the leaves, this is so cool!), <Indeed, a fun plant.> java fern ( which is starting to grow, and grow, and grow!), <Uhm, since you already said java fern, I assume you mean java *moss* here?  It certainly does like to grow.> a Microsorium pteropus "Windelov", <A very fun java fern> some chain swords (unsure of the genus) that are sending off shooter all over, <Perhaps Echinodorus tenellus?> and some foxtail (genus I suspect as Ceratophyllum demersum) that won't quit growing, <I am more familiar with the common name "foxtail" as Myriophyllum species;  Ceratophyllum usually comes with a common name "hornwort" in my area.> and a Hygrophilia corymbosa "angustifolia" which I pinched off and re-planted in the strata about two weeks ago (two new plants from the clippings, rooting and going crazy), and a very small, slow-growing, but doing well Ludwigia glandulosa ''perennis".   <Always fun> Current residents include 3 lemon tetras, about 6 red-neon tetras, a male beta who likes to spend most of his time viewing himself in the side of the tank, and a very, very, very old Cory (11+ years old).   <Holy mackerel! - er, holy Cory?....  either way, WOW.> I'll be moving some of the fish into the new tank also when it's ready for them. <Excellent.  I'm sure the social Cory would like more of its kind to play with.> I've noticed that the chain swords do seem to yellow off, but I've accredited that to lighting and have moved Ceratophyllum over to the opposite end of the tank, and they seem to be coming back. <Though this could be related to plant chemical warfare, I suspect it is more related to lighting and food issues; was the Ceratophyllum shading the chain swords at all?  They do not tolerate low light well.  Also, they are heavy root feeders; giving them an aquarium plant fertilizer tab in their roots may help them recover/grow very nicely.> Am I worrying over nothing?   <Of course not.  It's always good to learn more on something that interests or concerns you.> Most of the articles I've seen on WetWeb regarding allelopathy are geared towards salt water tanks.  Clarity please. :O) <Well, allelopathy amongst corals is definitely a major issue in our tiny (as compared to the ocean) tanks, and so can be a much more difficult issue to manage than with plants that often grow entangled with other plants naturally.  Usually simply moving the offending plant to a different corner of the tank will cure any troubles.> Also, any heads up on good plant suppliers in Canada?  So far the one mail-order/online company that seems to be promising is Ottawa Aquatics ( http://www.ottawaaquatics.com/index.htm ), but it'd be really nice to have some options... <I'm afraid I don't have much I can help with on that.  Please do drop by our forums ( http://www.wetwebfotos.com/talk ) and post to see if you can find such sources from other hobbyists.  There are also a few good plant forums that may have someone with such info, including the AquaBotanic forums, http://aquabotanicwetthumb.infopop.cc/6/ubb.x?a=cfrm&s=4006090712 .> Shipping from the states is an option, but very costly due to the permits involved.  The LFS does supply plants from Tropica, and I trust the brand name so I'm more likely to buy the Tropica plants even though they are more expensive, and I'm also waiting to see what the fish club will have to offer, along with advice on planted tanks etc. <Definitely do check out your local fish club; often one can find great plants, or exchange clippings with other plant-nerds - good stuff like that.> WHEW!  Off to work!  Buying more stuff for the soon to come 60 gallon tomorrow. <Yippee!> Cheers!  Pete on the Prairies of Saskatchewan,  Planted Tank Nut and Newbie <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Need Clarity, Continued Hi Sabrina. <Hi, Don!> Just a quick update on my green water problem. I took your advice and planted the tank. <I do hope you're having fun with it!> About 15 assorted plants that the LFS nerd recommended, considering only one 40 watt full spectrum tube. <The best options, in my opinion, are water sprite (floating or planted), anacharis/elodea, any Vallisneria, floating water lettuce, possibly swordplants.  There are many slower-growing plants that would do well in your tank, like Anubias sp. and java fern, but these won't do much for the algae battle, as they do grow so slowly.> I drained about 80% of the water, planting while shallow. I removed the solid background to take advantage of about 1 hour of early morning sun, then bright indirect natural light the rest of the day.   <Though the plants probably enjoy that, I'm betting the algae does, too....> Well, it seems I have the perfect conditions for plants! One Sword (placed in the sunniest corner) seems to be throwing a flower stalk! <They do reproduce by sending out runners - watch this runner, the "flower" will become a small plant, and it will keep growing - when it's got four or five little plantlets, cut the runner and plant them.  I usually wait until the plantlets have a significant amount of root growth before I cut them, they seem to grow faster after that.> (Last dying attempt to reproduce?) <Reproducing, yes - but hopefully not dying!> Only been about 10 days. I see roots growing everywhere, not much top growth yet. Sure that will come as they settle in.   <Yes, just a matter of time.> I kept a close eye on the ammonia and nitrite levels when I added the plants and did the 80% WC. Wasn't sure if these changes would or could harm my filter. Both stayed at zero. Water is much lower in nitrate. Not zero, but below my ability to get an accurate reading. I estimate around 5 ppm. That's down from 20, right out of my tap! <Plants do a wonderful job of eating nitrates!> Nitrates go up to 10 ppm after a 50% water change, but crash back to around 5 in a day. <Good.  If you like the plants, you could even add more....> Not sure if it's the plants or the algae that's eating the nitrate. <Both, undoubtedly.  Some floating plants, like water lettuce and water sprite, will help cut down on light getting to the algae, further starving it.  As the plants settle in and grow more, you should start to see a decrease in the algae - hopefully a very significant decrease, and hopefully very soon!> I still have to do 50% water changes every two or three days since the water still turns green. <Let the tank sit for a while without the water changes.  The plants should start to starve the algae.> So green it blocks the little overhead light I have. Do you think I should put the background back on? <For now, while the plants are just starting up, yes, I would.  Leave the background on until the algae is dying out and the plants are taking off.> Maybe too much sun, powering the algae. I assume as the plants start to take off they will out-compete the algae for nutrients and the water will clear either way. <Exactly.  Unless the background takes away so much light that the plants begin to suffer, try leaving it on for a bit.> Hope so, getting tired of my Emerald Aquarium. <Understandable!  I've got my fingers crossed for you!> Don C. <Wishing you well for the holidays,  -Sabrina>

Hazy Water Hi Bob, <Hi Ken, Sabrina here again> I have a problem with hazy water (not cloudy).  My 75 gallon planted tank has been set up for 4 weeks. I probably have easily 175-200 assorted plants (mostly fast growing). Plant growth is excellent.  Algae is basically non existent. <All sounds good (uh, minus the haze, of course).> I  have 7 true SAE's as well as 6 Lemon Tetras. There has never been any ammonia or nitrite and I wouldn't expect to have any with the amount of plants I have. <Agreed.> I have had the SAE's since day one and hadn't fed them. I just got the Tetra's and have fed them lightly.  With regards to the tank itself, I have 4" layer of fluorite with Duplarite G (Dupla's laterite) mixed in the bottom 1/3 layer. <Sounds great.> - Heating cables under substrate. - Eheim 2217 canister filter. - Water is 100% RO/DI with Seachem Equilibrium and Alkaline Buffer. PH= 6.9, GH= 6-7 dkh, KH= 4 dkh. The other parameters are: -Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate all = 0. - Compact lighting- 260 watts. Presently have half the wattage on 8 hrs a day and the full 260 watts on 4 hours a day. - Pressurized CO2 system with controller. <All excellent.> I did the first water change at 2 weeks (15%) and have done the same each weekend and the water looked crystal clear. I started dosing small does of Seachem Flourish and also their iron about 2 weeks ago. A week ago (on Saturday) I added their potassium (also like a half dose to start). At that time the water was crystal clear. On the following Tuesday the water looked a little hazy (3 ½ weeks after tank was set up) and still has. <Sounds perhaps like a bit of a bacterial bloom, likely nothing to worry about.  It might be an indicator that you don't need to fertilize quite as much just yet.> It is not cloudy at all and really to consider is hazy you need to look at the side of the tank looking long ways. I did another water change yesterday and added  the fertilizers mentioned above, but I also added Seachem Flourish root tabs to the substrate. <In that case, I'd back off on liquid fertilizers for a little bit.  This should clear up on its own before long.> Would you have any idea as to why the haziness? <As above, probably a bacterial bloom taking advantage of what little tiny bit of nutrients were in the water.  Not a big concern at all, at this point, and likely won't *become* a concern.  Hm....  I *think* I saw this in the forums, as well, and IIRC, StevenPro responded that he thought it was bacterial as well, yes?> Could the potassium be the problem? <Not sure, really.  If it is an abundance of bacteria, they've got to be feeding off *some*thing.> I kind of sounds like a bacterial bloom <Heh, you beat me to it, apparently!  ;) > but why now instead of the beginning? <Introduction of fertilizers, IMO.  While the tank's getting "settled in", this might happen the first few times you fertilize.  It should clear up on its own with no problem.> I appreciate your help. <Sure thing.  Wishing you and your plants/fish well,  -Sabrina> Thanks,  Ken

RO Info Hi Sabrina, thanks for the help. I decided to plant the tank. Heading off to the "not so" LFS this weekend. <Yay!  Be forewarned - you may enjoy plants as much as fish....> But, I'm also considering a small RO/DI unit. Enough output for water changes and to make little clean drinking water. Have to say I'm upset at the water readings coming out of the tap. We drink this stuff, or did! <Hah!  I understand, completely!> I would like to keep the cost under a $100 or so and found this unit on eBay: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=20756&item=2364796206 .  I have no experience with this type of equipment, so I thought I'd ask an expert. <Mm, to be honest, I'm no expert on these, myself.> Good value for the small output I'll need, or waste of money? Does it have everything I'm going to need to succeed, or am I dooming myself to ad-ons and replacement parts? <My best recommendation to you, come on over to our forums:   http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/index.jsp and ask in the "equipment/dry goods" section.  There has been a lot of discussion on RO units, what's good, what's not, etc.  You might want to ask on other forums as well, like reefcentral.com or reefs.org.  If you can find a fish nerd who uses this unit, ask them the plusses and minuses, and compare to other top brands.  I understand units from http://www.airwaterice.com are considered excellent.  Look under "Reefkeepers" there.> Hoping you can steer me in the right direction.  Don C. <I hope so, too!  Wishing you well on the path to plantiness,  -Sabrina>

Plantification Hello everyone, <Hello, Jeremy,> I have recently taken the dive into the world of the planted freshwater aquarium.  My tank is as follows: 46 gallon aquarium Emperor 400 3 - 30 watt "plant" bulbs. Hagan CO2 plant grow system 79 degree's, Ammonia - 0, Nitrite - 0, Nitrate 15ppm, ph 8.3 1 medium piece - driftwood java moss java fern assorted swords assorted grasses Assorted fish (this isn't about the fish). <So far, so good> My major concern is the ph.  My tap water comes out at about 8.2, and I just think that's too high.   <Deja vu.> I've been beginning to go to the locale grocery store and getting 10 gallons of r/o water from the Culligan machine, 29 cents per gallon.  The Culligan water tests at just about neutral.  Would this be an effective long term, stable way to reduce my ph to a more acceptable range?   <Long term and stable, no.  One can never be certain if a filter has failed, or what other problems might have occurred with store-bought water, so it's kinda like water-based Russian roulette.> Is there a better alternative.   <You really might want to consider investing in your own RO unit.  High initial cost, but it will pay for itself in water that you don't have to buy from the store.  You can use the wastewater from it to water your plants/garden/what-have-ya.  Otherwise, there's always peat!> I don't know that I want to try peat moss, as I like the clear look of water.   <Oh.  Well, so much for that idea, eh?  Really, though, the stain from the peat should be filtered out nicely with activated carbon, you really might want to give it a try.  And who knows?  Maybe you'll get hooked on that rich, natural, amber color, as well!> With the ph so high, might that be affecting the amount of co2 the water can contain?   <Not really.  It kinda works the other way around; the CO2 will affect how high the pH is.  In fact, the CO2 alone may very well bring your water down to a manageable pH, but you need to be sure to keep it stable.> Should I add a diy co2 reactor to the Hagan to increase the co2 supply.   <I would, especially since then you can stagger when you replenish the generators' yeast/sugar supplies, and thereby keep the CO2 output more stable.> Do you have any additional suggestions to help my plant growth while not negatively affecting my fish?   <Definitely look into aquarium fertilizers.  Kent has a great line of such products, and Seachem makes some great stuff, too, and there are more options, besides.  Iron is one crucial thing that you should be adding to ensure healthy plant growth.  Also, here's some great reading for you:  http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/ .> Thank you for your help.  Jeremy <You bet.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

CO2, GH, and KH - oh my! Dear WWM Crew, <Hello!  Sabrina with you today> I'm a little confused about the whole relation of KH, GH, and CO2 in the planted aquarium and was wondering if you could set me straight.   <Oh boy, have I got a fun link for you....   http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/CO2/  Oh, so much information there....> I am in the process of setting up a 65 gallon aquarium as a mixed community with live plants and would like to incorporate a CO2 system for the plants.  From what I've read so far it would appear to me that in order to maintain a pH value in the 6.5 to 6.8 area and maintain a good level of CO2 (20-30 p.p.m.?), <I'd stick closer to 15-20 ppm; more room for error - over 30 ppm can start to cause the fish to stress> that I would need to keep my KH on the high side around 6 to 7 degrees dKH.  Is this somewhat correct?   <This depends on what pH you're aiming for.  Here's a great chart (can find it on that link above, as well):  http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/CO2/kh-ph-co2-chart.html > Certainly in a normal community aquarium without CO2 injection a KH this high would raise the pH considerably.  Is the lower KH that I've been keeping my freshwater fish at all these years just something that I've been taught to compensate for the unnatural situations of the home aquarium and a fishes natural environment would normally carry a much higher KH?   <No, not necessarily; there are many other factors in nature that affect these relationships.> Also, what effects would raising the KH (if this is what I should do.) have on the GH of my future planted/community aquarium?   <Can also find loads of info on this topic in that link> Lastly, I've read a lot about how it is not easy to provide the necessary amount of CO2 by the respiration of the fish in the aquarium.  How do plants in their natural environment get the CO2 that they need?   <Again, there are lots of other things to factor in; vast amounts of surface area, vastly larger volumes of water, vastly brighter (sun) lighting....  more animal life (not just fish) more available nutrients, so on, so forth....> Thank you in advance for your advice, and I hope that you can set me straight on this.  If you have any recommendations on further reading on these topics and on planted aquariums in general it would be much appreciated as I would like to be sure to have a game plan before I begin my project. <Those links are probably the best reading available on these topics (that I have found) all lumped into one place - follow the links within that page, and you'll find more info than you can shake a stick at.> Thank You,  Myk. <Sure thing.  -Sabrina>

Discus, peat and carbon Hi Guys, <Hello Adam> I am about to setup my first discus tank! I hear peat is a good thing to add in the filter system. <Can be, yes... as a "natural" source of pH, alkalinity adjustment, addn. of tannins, flavines...> But, as with most things, there is a down side - the yellow colour it turns the water. If I use carbon as well will I get rid of the colour AND the other good stuff as well. If so then the carbon will defeat the purpose. <Mmm, only to some extent. Fine to use both> Some people suggest that peat leaches ammonia and phosphates. Is this true? <Not "good" peats (non-alkaline treated, well-decomposed, "darker" types), that have been properly prepared (lightly boiled, left to cool)> Also, if I do use peat how long should I use it before replacing? <A month or so is about right. Best to place in (Dacron polyester) bags that you can easily place, remove... twixt mechanical filter media... as in in-between "fiber" in a corner, outside power or canister filter> Some suggest only a day or two and others about a month! I tend to think that more regular changes would be best otherwise the peat will act as a bio filter (I'm assuming that is a bad thing ... is it?). <Really best to "just experiment" here. For your type of source water, substrate in the system, other interactive effects, to see what "goes on" over time> I know that the fish don't mind the yellow colour of the water but I do and I want to have my cake and eat it too. Are there any additives that you recommend in place of peat. <A few "black water tonics" (e.g. those by Tetra, Dupla, others) that are "extracts" from peat> Thanks for having such a great site. Cheers, Adam Langman Australia <Thank you for being part of it. Bob Fenner>

Freshwater plants again Hi guys, <Hi! You get Ananda tonight...> Thanks for the reply. Could you name other solutions that can be found in aquarium shops other than aluminium sulphate that is not easily available. <Look for alum in the spice aisle at the grocery store. I usually find it in small, rectangular, white cans. If you can't find that, another solution is to quarantine your plants. Then you can manually remove any pests that you see in the plant quarantine tank.> Thank you. <You're welcome. --Ananda>

Green With Something Other Than Envy (07/26/03) Greetings O' Learned Ones! <Hi! Ananda here tonight, thinking "O Learning Ones" might be more accurate...> I have been diligently reading through your various articles on "bad" algae, yet I am still unsure how best to proceed.  My fiancée and I are having a discussion so we're turning to you as the final authority.  We have string algae and the ubiquitous green algae that discolors the water. <Ugh. I've had both of those, too.> We're relatively new to the aquarist group and we've been dealing with our first serious outbreak of algae.  We refuse to treat the symptoms, e.g., use chemicals, and want to try to get at  a more systemic solution.  Here's my data: Tank:    Oceanic 37 gallon Show Filtration: Currently an Emperor 280 and a brand new Fluval 304 <Sounds good...if you are using any bio-media in the Fluval, make sure to rinse it in old tank water every once in a while -- if the bio-media catches detritus, your Fluval just might end up contributing to your nitrate levels.> Livestock: 7 Danios, 12 Neon Tetras, 4 Gouramis, 4 German Rams, 1 Gold Nugget Plecostomus, and 1 Dwarf Angelfish (the Angelfish was put into the tank yesterday). <The only dwarf angels I know of are saltwater... what species is this?> Plants: 2 Amazon Sword Plants, 1 Anubias, 4 Pygmy Chain Swords, 6 Rotala indica, and 6 Anubias frazeri.   <Nice selection.> The plants have a Coralife fluorescent lighting system, 28 inches and 65 watts.  Up until this past weekend, the light was running for 12 hours a day.  I have since cut it back to about 7 hours per day. <Might help the algae problem....> Here's the latest chemistry: pH = 7.25, NO3 = 5.0, NO2 = < 0.3, PO4 = 1.5, <There's your culprit! Your phosphates are WAY too high... check your source water (tap water?) for phosphates. Phosphates and nitrates are algae food. Also check what the phosphate levels are in the fish food you're using -- freshwater fish food often has fairly high phosphate levels. Any uneaten food turns into extra phosphates for your tank.> KH = 7, GH = 13 The Nitrate and Phosphate testing equipment is from Red Sea and the rest is from Tetra. <Your water is fairly hard, too... BTW, Phil says he's gotten some crazy readings from the Red Sea phosphate kits. I use the FasTest or SeaTest kits for "high range" phosphate testing, and the Seachem test kit for "low range" phosphate testing. Of the two, I'd suggest the FasTest/SeaTest for you right now.> For the last week I have been using Kent Marine's pH Minus to try and bring the pH below or around 7.0.  Interestingly, the pH is always lower in the morning than in the evening. <That's normal. Plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen by day. At night, they take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. The increased carbon dioxide decreases the pH. So if you use any CO2 supplementation for your plants, that would help decrease the pH.> I have a gravel substrate.  If I have left any pertinent facts out, please let me know.  I was thinking a couple of Platies might be in order for the string algae. <What you really want for hair algae is a Florida flagfish or two. For the rest of the algae, get those phosphates down. My favorite thing for that is Seachem's Phosguard, as it can be left in the filter for a long while. Additionally, it won't fall out of the media container in the Emperor. You might also consider some algae-eating shrimp or a Siamese algae eater (the true SAE, not its impersonators... see http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/saes.htm for details). They aren't the most colorful fish, but they are always active and quite fun to watch. --Ananda> Re: Green With Something Other Than Envy (part 3) (07/27/03) <Hi, Ananda back again...> The gravel is pretty ordinary.  I bought it at my LFS.  I can't tell you what kind it is.  I have some slate/rock for decoration and the only other items in the tank are gravel and the plants. <Is the rock that you have "just" slate, or something else? If it's mixed with something else, that could be a partial cause of the problem. Also, I have seen at least one sort of gravel sold at an LFS that raised the pH and hardness somewhat alarmingly. So much so, in fact, that the store in question has a warning taped to the shelf where it sits ("Caution! Will raise pH to around 8.2! Cichlid tanks only!"). So I would suggest taking some of your gravel and putting it in a clean plastic container with some of your usual RO water. Let it sit for a couple of days, then test the hardness and pH. That will help determine if the gravel is the culprit. You could do the same with each of your rocks. It's a long process, but should help you figure out what's causing your high pH. As for the phosphates, I suspect that's from the fish food. --Ananda>

Re: It's a jungle in there! Ronni, I forgot to include one thing in my last email- my nitrate levels are always low- between 2.5 and 10, because I do the weekly water change and I've read everywhere that "a serious fish hobbyist wants low nitrate levels" - could this contribute to poor plant growth- the disintegrating leaves, yellow tips, etc. If yes, what do I do? Rosa <Hmm'¦high nitrates are certainly not desirable but yours might be bit too low. To be perfectly honest (and probably make a few people cringe!) I have never once worried about nitrates in my freshwater tanks and until this minute I have never even tested for them! Now that I have tested, my reading is about 25ppm, much higher than yours. But I've been having more success with my plants so I wonder if this has something to do with it. If you want to experiment with this a bit you will need to allow your nitrates to come up some (it won't harm your fish). To do that, try cutting your water changes in half. Either ½ the amount weekly or the same amount bi-weekly. Also, are you vacuuming the gravel every time you do a water change? If so, stop doing this and only vacuum it once a month or so. I rarely actually vacuum my gravel in this tank. About once a month I will stir the top layer of gravel and then let my filter suck up the particles that start floating but that's all I do. This might give you something to experiment with to see if your plants start doing better. Ronni>

RE: peat substrate Hello! I have been communicating a bit regarding an algae bloom in my tank. Setup is planted 50 gal rectangle w/ Proquatics ~150gph canister and 220W of light. Substrate is mixture of laterite, black onyx sand, fine gravel, and (stupid me) some fine sand that I pulled from an arroyo and rinsed. <Nothing wrong with experimentation.> I have been fighting an algae bloom for about 1 month, and am getting no where.  I have a couple questions, first, my pH from the tap is about 8.2-8.5.  I have been trying to lower is slowly using small water changes and RO water at about pH 6.5, and nitrites/ates are very low (approaching 0).  No luck reducing algae. <Patience.> I am to the point where I am considering a complete substrate change to get rid of the sand I used.  I am thinking of mixing laterite and black onyx on a bed of peat (to help drive down pH). Any suggestions on how (or if I should) I can do this without harming my livestock (right now just 2 Apistos)? Thanks for all your help! Nate <Hello Nate.  Have we determined what type of Algae we are dealing with?  Maybe we can introduce some natural competitors.  If you keep up with your current routine, ensuring that water parameters are good, the Algae may go away on its own, it takes time.  If you would like to change your substrate now may be a good time, with only two fish.  They would need to be moved to a separate tank during the process.  I would continue to watch the water parameters and determine what type of algae you are dealing with.  Have you checked out our pages on Algae?  The Krib and Aqua Botanic may also have some good info for you.  Adding the peat to the filtration instead of the substrate may allow you more control. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwalgcontrol.htm http://www.thekrib.com/ http://www.aquabotanic.com/ Best Regards, Gage>

RE: peat substrate Hi Gage! <Hey Nate> Thanks for the info/links. I have looked through the info on WWM regarding algae.  Its basically a very cloudy green bloom, with a filamentous growth on many of the plants and on the glass.  Today I finally broke down and decided to do a complete teardown and get rid of the old substrate (some of which is ~4 yrs old).  I rinsed peat and packed a bed about 1.5" thick, then a layer of laterite, the a layer sand, and finally a fairly fine filter gravel with the plants (total substrate is ~4" deep).  My plan is to add a filter bag with peat to the filter next time I have to get into it (I try to avoid opening it up as much as possible) <The filter? maybe this is the problem, should have regular maintenance.> I currently already have foam, carbon, ceramic media and a filter bag of barley straw. <Carbon needs replacing every couple weeks, and I would get rid of the barley.> I was told the straw should help fight the filamentous algae.  Once I am sure the water is stable, I plan to add some algae eating stock.  Unfortunately, I now have to start over with the RO water.  Hopefully the peat will help reduce the pH. <maybe injecting some C02 would help as well?  check out some of the DIY methods.>   I will continue to monitor water conditions and attempt to be patient if/when the algae returns.  Thanks for the info! You'll be hearing from me again I am sure. =) <Sounds good, Gage> Regards, Nate

Peat Media... for what ails fishes that hail from such waters Thanks again Gage, sounds good.  I was going to add some more plants today (I'm on vacation!) to compete with the algae, I'll pick up some clean carbon. While I'm in there I'll ditch the straw and add a filter bag of peat.  It seams like the substrate is working, pH is now about 7.6 (down from ~8.2). My plan is to pick some algae eaters today as well, prolly some Otocinclus as SAEs are very hard to come by here in Albuquerque. I'll start looking at CO2, last time I tried it I came home to yeast on ceiling and a house that smelled like a brewery, thank god it was a rental. =) <Next time my house smells like a brewery I will use that excuse, thanks.  Otos are a great choice, but I would wait a little while so the tank is nice and established for them when they move in.  Best Regards, Gage> Cheers, Nate

Distilled H2O, KH & GH Hi there, <Howdy> Last Christmas, I became "born-again" in the fishkeeping world with the purchase of a 30 gallon tank for our kids. (Turned out to more of a gift for me!) Your simply AWESOME website has filled my NUMEROUS voids in biology knowledge...many thanks! <As many welcomes my friend> First the details: I am keeping a variety of blackwater/softwater species, along with several live plants in this tank. I use distilled water, which is continuously filtered through keta-peat nuggets in a power filter. I strive to keep the pH around 6.5 - 6.8 and GH & KH around 4-7. Also, about once a month I use conditioned tap water instead of the distilled as a hardness buffer.  <interesting... good points here> Two questions: 1) I normally use just a small amount of the peat nuggets continuously, adding a small amount with the water changes. I realize that carbon or other media will negate the effects of the peat nuggets, but if I HAVE to use carbon (say, after medicating) will the pH jump? <Should only a smidgen... perhaps a tenth of a point or two> 2) (My REAL problem) Using the tap water to keep the GH & KH from falling to zero is fine, but our tap water's Nitrate level ranges from 20-50 ppm. (farming community)  <What?! Wow!... I would filter this further ahead of use... if the resulting amount of nitrate in your system approaches 10 ppm... And do tell me that you're not drinking or cooking with this water w/o filtering it... I would look into a reverse osmosis device... and channel the waste water if this bugs you... out to a pond/cistern of sorts to re-use for gardening> As suspected, our presently growing family of hair algae just LOVE it when I use tap water. So, what can I do to keep the GH & KH up while not adding the algae diet supplement? <Try just using sodium bicarbonate for now (baking soda)... a teaspoon per water change... and adjust (likely add more) as the weeks go by and you see if there is an incremental increase in hardness/alkalinity> Perhaps a small amount of crushed coral? Adding more plants?  <Mmm, both good ideas... do you supplement with carbon dioxide? You might want to investigate this... even as a simple example/experiment of possibilities/adventures> (I've considered this, but with a VERY large Amazon sword as a center piece, not much else gets light beneath it, hence not much room left!) <Mmm, I sense a larger tank in your near future... now, what are those darn lottery numbers!> Some specifics: Water quality is very good with Ammonia/Nitrite continuously at zero, phosphates at a "trace" (I can barely see the tint in the test tube), temp at 78°, and lit with a 65W compact fluorescent at 8500°. (I know that's a bit high).  <Still okay> I'd certainly welcome any advice! Thanks! Michael <Do try the baking soda and consider a 2 liter CO2 experiment. Bob Fenner>

Soft Water/ Cloudy Water <Chad... Anthony Calfo here, answering mail for the inimitable Bob Fenner. Well... maybe, not INIMITABLE to everybody...but I know that I could never drink that much beer and still stand> i have a 29 gal. that i just filled with softened water. <what kind of display? Freshwater, cichlids, tetras, etc?> it has been treated <what kind of softening treatment...R/O, resins, salt pillows, etc?> and is up to temp, but looks a bit milky... <what kind of gravel or substrate and how long has it been set up...any fish?> any thing i should be concerned about? or treatments recommended? i live in the country if that means anything...thanks <could be a normal "biological" bloom, could be sediment...most likely nothing to be concerned about but don't add anymore fish until you determine the nature of it. Should clear either way in 3-5 days. Anthony>

Fwd: Dear Mr. Fenner...sorry to disturb you once again but... (% water changes) i am going to have a 55 gallon like i said before..there will be maybe 2 fish at first...how much % of water should i change weekly to establish clear healthy water?  <About ten percent a week> i have another tank and it gets cloudier everyday then my mother does a 60% change at it clears then cloudy again its like i chain?  <It is... indeed a chain... too much change is killing off beneficial and benign microorganisms... Please show this note to your mother and encourage here to make smaller water changes. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm Bob Fenner>

Using rain water for changes Good web site. <Thank you> Just a question re water changes. Is there any potential problems with using the water collecting rain from the roof of my house into a covered water butt for the water changes? <Yes, unfortunately... dust et al. coming off the roof area with the water, the aggregate pollution that such rain can contain, problems of storage (bugs, algae...) and moving such saved water about are the principal downsides of such collection practices. OTOH sometimes this water is superior for particular ornamental aquatics uses... I have saved such "free water" around the world for potable purposes as well as breeding, rearing soft, acidic water organisms, foods... Do get, use test kits for aspects of water quality that concern your applications. Bob Fenner> Cheers Martin

i need info on substratez (and Strunk & White) hey was up i was wandering if i could use the fish waste as a substrate too, <Substrate for?> i have a 125 gallon tank thats planted i have natural gravel with fish waste is dat good or wat oh yeah i also have a under gravel filter all of my plantz seem to be good but i need some advice. thank u , i hope u can help me <I would consider using some of the water and solids vacuumed from the substrate as a worthwhile experiment... if this tank is growing aquatic plants fine. Bob Fenner>

fish tank cleared Hi again. My tank cleared up all of a sudden. I did put something in it for the algae. Velvet clear. I treated it twice in 48 hours and did 3 water changes. About 2 weeks later my tank cleared up. I do have live plants in there and now I'm using a new water source with 7.0 pH. I also cut the feed in half. The pH is staying stable. Now I've gotten a 55 gallon and I just want to put what I have in the new tank. My question is how many inches of rock am I supposed to have? <Please take a read over our site here, under the "Planted Tank Index", "Substrates"... depending on grade/size of the material, a couple of inches or so...> and can I use new clean rock.  <Yes, along with replacing a good part of your "old" water, the beneficial bacteria will re-situate themselves quickly in the new rock> My rock is blue and I want to change to a neutral color. And, my fish are still very skittish. <They will settle down shortly... as you know, this is a very trying experience for them as well> I've looked through your website for a book on freshwater tanks - do you have one I could order? <Unfortunately no... but the e-tailers listed on our "Links Page"  http://wetwebmedia.com/links.htm certainly do. Bob Fenner> Thanks - Bonnie

Black Water (Planted tank crash) I have a 29' freshwater plant tank with yeast co2 injection and a dirt sand mix substrate. I only use a power head to disipate the co2 and move the water around. Everything was working fine with zero nitrates and ph of 7, the plants are growing almost out of control. The problem is that four days ago the water started to stink and two Siamese Algae Eaters died.  <Oh, oh... and I think you know what the cause is> I removed the bodies and did a partial water change. Two days ago the water turned black and the stink increased. The only other fish are guppies and a corey cat. When I can see them when they swim near the glass they seem fine and are looking for food.  <Or to escape the noxious deeper water...> I haven't feed them since the algae eaters died. <Good... Your livestock would likely be dead otherwise> What happened and how can I fix it?  <"Age", "maturation", exhaustion of certain "balancing" matter in the substrate mix, and succession (evolution as in the true meaning of the word, "unfolding") with anaerobic microbes succeeding the more aerobic to hypoxic types... and their byproducts furthering the anaerobes "cause"...> I have increased the aeration by disconnecting the co2 to the power head to let room air into the tank and adding an external filter with no filter media. The water seems to be changing to more of a gray since yesterday but it still stinks. <Ah! Good idea, move. I would consider the "ultimate" change here: to break down and re-set-up this system (rinsing old substrate, removing old dirt), replacing the soil with your choice of material, placing it all back together, this time with a "gentle" outside power filter in addition to the powerhead. Wait for a few days, a week to place the fishes back in...> Thanks for the consideration Eric Vance <Thank you for your input, well-thought out query. Bob Fenner>

BGA (freshwater, antibiotic... collateral benefit) Antibiotic Control Cautionary Remarks There are numerous products promoted as chemical controls of BGA, some erythromycin antibiotic based, others of copper, sugars, even pepper sauce... All should be avoided on two counts: Though they (the antibiotic based ones) may apparently work, the materials that make up the BGA frequently poison the system within minutes to days of their "dissolving". And, adding insult to injury, unless you change the circumstances/conditions in your system, the cyanobacteria very often "reassemble" in a short while if chemically treated." Hey Bob, I set up a new tank recently and noticed a small patch (1-2 sq inches) of BGA starting to grow. Coincidentally I had a kissing gourami in the tank that got what appeared to be a bacterial infection. After treating the tank with Marcyn (erythromycin I believe) and Marcyn 2 the fish was well and the patch was gone. Maybe the toxic effects of the BGA decomposition were too small to be a problem. What do you think. P.S. Nice site Jef <This is my friend Hawkeye from the Hash House Harrier groups in San Diego... Do agree with you Jeff/Hawk all the way around... the Maracyn is indeed the antibiotic listed (their/Mardel's first product, came out in 1969), the II, minocycline... Bob Fenner>

Well water Dear Mr. Fenner, I've written you before and I do hope I don't become a pain, but you are reliable and so quick to answer. Presently we have a 75 gallon with live rock, some corals, and a cleaner crew(no fish due to a previous ich problem). We have recently purchased a 120 gallon tank and plan on transferring everything from the 75 to this one.  <Ah, good> I've read your opinion of city water, understandably, but we have well water. Is it just as bad?  <Hmm, biologically? Use-wise? Only you and your water quality test lab can tell for sure... If you have a concern, do get/use a reverse osmosis unit for pet-fish and cooking/drinking uses...> We are going to transfer the water from the 75, so we are going to have to make up some water to reach 120. Do we have to let the mix sit for a week, being its well and not city water?  <Don't "have to"... but pre-mixing is suggested (by myself)... And not so "big a deal" if this is just "additional water" (as opposed to all-new)> And then how long before we can add fish? ( I have the CUTEST Red Lipped Blenny, with personality, in the quarantine that I am just dying to put into the bigger tank). <Patience is a big virtue, as you know...> Also, we have a ETS Reef Devil 3 for a protein skimmer on the 75 and the stand for the 120 is going to have to be modified for it to fit. IYO, would it be worth it to modify, or better to get this TurboFloter you have been raving about? <Hmm, both are good products, appropriate for the application... Can you use the ETS elsewhere (like the 75?)... > After reading all the recommendations you have been giving for this skimmer, I expected it to cost a fortune. I was surprised to see how cheap it is compared to some others(I actually called up one company to make sure the price was what they said it was on their site).  <Yes, a nice group of people making them in Europe, and also reselling/distributing them here in the U.S.> Well that's all I can think of for now! Thanks so much, Mercedes <You're welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

Chlor/am/ine Good morning Bob!! I love your website, and have learned a lot there. <Ah, great> I do have a question, though!! I have found that water drawn out of my hot water tank has no chlorine, and the cold water from the tap has high chlorine. If I use hot water and areate while it cools down to the proper temperature, and then add my salt, is this acceptable?? I was putting out cold water and areating, but it seemed to take a long time for the water to give up the chlorine. Thanks Pat Marren <Good question... a few possibilities here... maybe your municipality is still using chlorine... but doubt it if you're in the USA... since the late eighties chloramines have been employed... and the old OTO (ortho-tolidine... yellow indicator...) test kits are actually deceiving in rendering false negative results here.... But if you're referring to a practice of storing the water in either case (starting with cool or hot water)... in both/either you can dispense with using "dechlor(am)inators" if a several days go by before actual use.  Sorry this is so darned wordy (haven't quite woken up)... Put in some other ways: chloramine doesn't dissipate easily like gaseous chlorine of the days of yore. The new sanitizers persistence can be masked by old chlorine test technology... as is likely the case here... You can get "newer" chlorAMine test kits... and this will reveal the new sanitizer's presence in your warm or cold water source... All these considerations can be ignored if you mix, store your new water for a week or more (which is what I do) or treat the new tap with a dechlorAMinator (AM emphases mine). Bob Fenner>

Re: Chlor/am/ine OK. The test kit I have is a combination test kit made by Aquarium Pharmacuticals. Forgive my spelling. It tests for chlorine, and tests for chlorimine by testing for ammonia. Is this a reliable kit?? I just bought it for this purpose, because I do not want to use water conditioners anymore. <Hmmm, "semi" reliable... i.e. it should render you a "yes/no" window into whether there is some "substantial" partial ppm of these sanitizers... Would not bet my livestock's lives on the results> Thanks again..... Pat <Do understand, and agree with water conditioner use... haven't used them in many years... some are dangerous, expensive, all unnecessary given proper water preparation... As posted in the "Synthetic Seawater" section on the www.WetWebMedia.com site, develop and adhere to a system of storage of new water and you'll be fine. Bob Fenner>

Re: Chlor/am/ine As an aside, I checked with a friend of mine who is the shift supervisor for our water purification plant, and is responsible for what is going into the water, anda he assured me that they are not using ammonia or chlorimine. Strictly chlorine. (I happen to live in central New York State, near Syracuse, in case you were wondering). Pat <Amazing... was/am under the impression that the use of chloramines was a universal mandate in the US (EPA from 1984... all phased in by now...) in relevance of colonic cancers and chlorine/organics resultant contributions to tri-halomethanes in potable waters... At any/all lengths, I should (if only the 1,3,7 tri-methyl xanthine would kick in, that's the xanthophyll caffeine, and I do need this world's most widely abused psycho-active drug this AM for sure) I'd just cut to the immediate chase and strongly encourage you to employ a Reverse Osmosis water treatment system all the way around (for your pet fish, drinking and cooking uses)... as this would easily, cheaply exclude both these sanitizers from the get go. Be chatting (and waking up) Bob Fenner>

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