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FAQs on Maintaining Planted Tanks

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

Related FAQs: Water Changes for Freshwater Systems

Hello and Thank You. FW maint.; plt sel.      11/2/16
Dear Neale,
You probably do not recognize my name or email address but you have been in correspondence with my husband Tom Sisk.
<Yes; do recall.>
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your support in setting up our aquarium tanks. It was quite a struggle until you pointed us into the right direction with the filters. Without this guidance I would have given up.
Daily water changes and dying fish was just getting too much.
<Oh boy, yes!>
That is history. No more ammonia, no nitrite just the pesky nitrate. I do water changes once weekly now with nitrates hovering around 10 ppm.
<This sounds much easier to manage.>
We have 6 pretty big baby mollies, big enough to swim around with the big girls. (Big girls equals 5 female mollies; also one male platy named Max; one Pleco of undetermined gender called Harvey). Yesterday I saw a couple of very young fray. Strangely enough they look black even though we do not have a black Molly. We will see...
<Indeed! Being hybrids, Molly offspring can be unpredictable, even more so if you buy adult females that might have mated with males other than the ones in your aquarium.>
Also got my sword, Fred, two female companions which together with the nitrate leads to the question about floating plants. Do you have a recommendation in regards to floating plants fit for a 20g tank and a pretty high pH of 8.2?
<The two I'd look at first are Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) and the floating form of the Indian Fern (Ceratopteris thalictroides). Sometimes the latter is sold in the non-floating form that has fine, ferny leaves rather than the flat, floating leaves we're after. Don't worry, although the finely divided, fern-like leaves won't be happy and may die back, they'll be replaced with the proper floating form. Trim any above-the-waterline fine ferny leaves that appear, and you'll mostly get a lovely green mass of floating leaves extended a couple of inches below the waterline. I like these two species because they do well under aquarium hoods. Most other floating plants get "burned" under the lights, and don't thrive. But these two species are pretty good.>
(The mollies, Max and Harvey share the 38g tank. Fred, his two girls, four Fabio's, and Junior, the Pleco live in the 20g tank. Both tanks are well within the 1 inch fish per gallon rule at least for now. )
<Quite so. Long term though, Bristlenose Plecs are better choices for tanks below 55 gallons; whereas Common Plecs really need more than 55 gallons, if not 75+.>
Regards, Maria
<Thanks for writing back, and glad you're enjoying the hobby! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Hello and Thank You      11/2/16

Thank you, Neale. I will check out the plant suggestion.
One clarification: both Plecos are Bristlenose. I just do not know whether the are female or male. I am suspecting they are both female because they do not have pronounced bristles.
<Understood, and thanks for the clarification. Most people who say "Plec" or "Pleco" are describing the big Pterygoplichthys species. So it's good to know you're keeping the much smaller Ancistrus. Sexing isn't too hard for
adults, but young specimens of either sex can be lacking in the bristle department! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Are the growing conditions right for my plants now? Plt. sel. f'    2/1/14
Cool information. I thank you. We have very hard water though. So some plants that prefer a ph of 7.5 may not make it in our hard water.
<Will not be a problem for most plants. Only a very few specialist species really need soft water.>

But indoors I might take up your suggestion of Anubias. The species Anubias barteri var. nana in my beta's tank might work.
<A classic plant species that can thrive in very hard water.>
Outside  in my pond your suggestion of Amazonian Frogbit may work until winter sets in. But I am afraid that where my goldfish are concerned, a plant that loves soft water and bright light may not be suitable.
<Amazon Frogbit is not fussy... will thrive in hard water.>
And the goldfish may eat the plants.
<May eat the roots, true, but worth a shot. Get a decent big clump to start with and the growth of that clump might offset any herbivory.>
No worries with the beta though,
<Betta... pronounced "better", not "beater"...>
he is a carnivore. That is why I am asking about water lettuce for the pond, and java moss in the tanks. I need a small plant, or one that can be kept small, that is also a fast grower, is not finicky about light levels, and can stand hard water and fluctuating temperatures.
<Good luck on that! You know the engineering expression that says "good, fast, cheap -- pick two.">
There is no plant I know of that has all these traits.
But one that stays small, grows fast, can grow in natural light to low light, and can survive hard water would do.
<See above. Basically, plants adapt to shady environments by growing slowly; if you accept plants need light to make food, if you're a plant in a shady, low-light habitat, you have to be able to get by on very little food, and that means you won't be able to grow quickly. So while there are quite a few shade-tolerant plants in the aquarium hobby, Anubias and Java
Ferns most notably, but also a few hardy Cryptocoryne species too, like Cryptocoryne wendtii, these plants are slow-growing and not much use at controlling algae or improving water quality.>
Unfortunately this limits my choices for my goldfish tank and pond. But I can work with only a few species. Let me know if there are any small hard water plants that tolerate natural light to low light. The only ones I came up with so far are water lettuce and java moss. Thank you for all your help.
<Welcome, Neale.>
Re: Are the growing conditions right for my plants now?   2/1/14

Thank you Neal!
<Most welcome, Neale.>

setting up Walstad aquarium (with pot soil) - plants and PH trouble!     6/6/13
Greetings from Minnesota and of course - thank you for making our hobby better, one advice at a time!
<Salutations from California on this fine day; and thank you for your kind words>
I'm currently setting up my 3rd Walstad tank. I've kept fish for few years now and found Walstad tanks,  with subtropical species quite interesting.
Weather loaches are awesome! (though bad at predictions of weather - they are great at anticipating dinner!)
New tank:
The substrate is made of organic potting mix
(no fertilizers, at least as written on a bag) - about 2 inch thick, .5 inch of fine gravel op top of soil and 1-1.5 inch of smooth white sand (not aragonite)
<Likely silica (Si02) based>
 on top.
Tank is 55g, filtered by Eheim Ecco 2236 (approved for up to 80 g)
PH is a mess, GH is a mess - going from 8.0 in the evening to 5.6 in the following morning. I'm on the first week of this and expect PH to settle eventually.
<Yes; likely "the organics" in your soil are decomposing...
no light phase of photosynthesis to counter as during the day>
2-3 times a week 50% water changes for the first month (scheduled).
Tank is in front of the south-facing window and has a light as well for evenings
The biggest problem for me is the drastic difference between D. Walstad's explanation in the book "Ecology of Planted Aquarium" and my real-life experience. According to author, she is able to set up the aquarium and add plants and fish the same day - and it works!
<Mmm, I wouldn't do this. Diane may well have found a good mix (literally) of soil, sands... but this would be rare for most all>
 No plant die-out, no PH madness, no  crazy algae blooms. But in my experience every single of 3 Walstad tanks I set up goes like this:
Week 1 through 3 - PH is all over the place, any plant I place in the tank dies. Leaves fall off or disintegrate into brown slime. Promise I'm not using agent orange-grade chems in my tanks! :)
<Yes; predictable>
Week 4 through 12 - PH is more stable, plants still die back, but most hardy species (hornwort, Val.s, Cabomba, Anubias) eventually come back. I usually add fish on week 3 or 4. Fish may be stressed out. I also gotten a crazy amount of algae during this time.
 <Also to be expected>
Months 6 and onward - tank is rock solid. Fish are happy. Plants are growing fast and thick! Growth is sustainable for years after. Even moss balls grow faster!
Can you help with this conundrum? Why is my tanks take so long to boot up?, - far longer than "non-Walstad" aquariums, and drastically longer than same-day-add-fish that Walstad describes.
<Likely you and DW's soil sources/types are the majority of difference here... Her's has far less soluble, digestible organic component>
Or would it actually go faster if I break all rules of cycling and add all of the plants and all of the fish now?
<Again; not a good idea>
Would it help to use water from established tanks to top of the new aquarium during the water changes?
<Mmmm, a guess; but this would likely help to shorten the run-in period you describe for your first three systems... But not by much... a day or two>
Or place a plate with crushed coral in the corner of the tank? ( i cannot add it to sand, as the tank will contain Weather Loaches, rehomed from 30 gallon first Walstad tank.)
 <I'd leave off w/ this addition>
Incense, crystals, singing bowls, mood lighting, prayers, motivational poster? I'm willing to try anything! :)
 <Heeeeeee! Ten jumping jacks and barking at the moon at midnight! You might want to read a long while on the Krib... consider experimenting w/ Fe +2 and 3... But really, am a heavy better on the soil... try a different mix... w/ less humic material. Maybe posit your query to Karen Randall, Diana herself...>
Elena E, failed scholar of slow-as-Ramshorn-snail eco-experiment.
<Not a failure yet! Bob Fenner>

Tank Start-up Questions - 1/25/13
Thank you again for your help in planning my 72-gal West African tank. I am moving forward with a stocking plan of 8 Congo Tetra, 6 USD Cats, 2 Kribensis, and 4-6 M. fasciolatum. The tank has had water in it and been running since 1/13. Currently in the tank I have 12 Anubias of 4 different varieties, 1 Crinum natans, and around 15-20 separate bits of Frogbit floating at the top. As far as fish go, I currently have 1 Betta (re-homed when the M. fasciolatum I found on a business trip beat him up) and 6 Danios (starter fish because I was told not to do fishless cycling on a planted tank).
<Fair enough.>
Before adding the fish, I threw some used filter media from another tank in the filter, set up with used gravel from a LFS, and used one of the BioSpira products (I know, not loved around these parts, but I had it on hand). I added the Danios about a week ago, and the plants a couple days before that, and since then the water has tested a steady .25/0/0 (the .25 ammonia is a tap water artifact, I believe, based on my testing)
<Seems likely.>
My first question is that I have never had a planted tank or used filter media to jump start the cycle. So I am familiar with the normal 6-8 wk wait for things to cycle but I am wondering how quickly to expect this to cycle. I would have expected to see ammonia rise by now and I am not seeing it. What should I look for to see if things are ok to start adding fish again? Are there too few fish to see the nitrates rise due to the plants and tank size?
<Yes. Generally, tanks with lots of plants become safe very quickly because the plants use up ammonia as fast as the fish produce it. So while the filter may still take 6 or 8 weeks to mature, it doesn't matter much because your fish will be fine. In any case, the plants carry LOTS of filter bacteria on them, so they do a great job of jump starting the cycle process.>
My second question is that I purchased my Anubias online and I put them in the tank the day they came. Now, I have a few of them with yellowing leaves,
some with all their leaves yellow or translucent and only the rhizome green.
<Fine. Remove any unsightly leaves (they won't get "better") and put the rhizome where you want it. Anubias is very reliable, and assuming the plant hasn't been horribly mistreated, it'll regrown some new leaves within a month.>
I have been removing the dead leaves as they have died. But I am wondering if this is a byproduct of the transit these plants just went through or the cycling the tank is going through?
<Yellowing tends to reflect a lack of some nutrient, though Anubias leaves do yellow when they get old before they start decaying. Individual leaves last around a year.>
Should I be removing these leaves as they start to get brown, or wait until they have died?
<I'm pretty ruthless with my Anubias and remove dodgy leaves!>
Or is this indicative of something else, like lighting, etc?
Thanks again!
<Cheers, Neale.> 
Re: Tank Start-up Questions - 1/25/13

Thank you for answering my questions. I have attached a picture of all the leaves that I culled tonight. Does that match what you said about missing nutrients?
<Can do, but Anubias grow so slowly, I find they usually manage to get all the minerals they need from regular water changes. But adding extra minerals to the water won't do any harm; try using drops at 50% the quoted dose on the bottle and see what happens. I rarely use the full dose (maybe I'm a cynic, but this stuff is pricey and I prefer to use the bare minimum, and figure I can also go the full dose if the plants *still* look off-colour).>
Or does it look like something else? The odd thing is that the worst of the plants are at the front of the tank, also the lowest plants in the tank and the last ones we planted. I don't know if any of that is causal or just noise.
<Hard to say. Anubias prefer shade rather than direct light, and if there's nothing between them and the light, hair algae and other problems like that become obvious. Anubias also hate being buried in the ground, so check how yours are planted. Finally, some catfish (scraping Plec-type things) will damage their leaves, making decay more likely.>
Thanks again for your help.
<Welcome, Neale.>


Black slime algae in aquarium sump, planted sys. maint. f'    12/30/12
I have wrote before about setting up this 125 gallon Tidepool tank as a freshwater planted tank.  Id like to say it has been success so far it has been operational with fish and plants for a three months now.  My next and final step is adding a Co2 system.
<Hmm… do read up on these. Join one of the planted aquarium-specific forums to get help. Automatic systems are fairly easy to use, but the manual systems can be fiddly.>
My question is my filter pads have been turning black with a slime i assume is a type of algae and assume its somehow my fault.
<Algae only if exposed to light. Algal blooms of one sort or another are not uncommon in newly set up freshwater tanks. After a few months things should settle down though. The addition of fast-growing plants under bright lighting does a lot to minimise algal problems.>
Fish, plants, and water conditions good. Nothing seems to mind this black slime in the sumps but me who just spent two hours cleaning it and i worry it will move into the tank.
<If the sump isn't exposed to light, the black slime is more likely bacterial, or possibly decaying plant/algal material washed into the sump. In and of itself detritus in a filter isn't a bad thing, but if it clogs up the filter media it will reduce water flow and possibly reduce biological filtration capacity. More frequent filter cleaning can help, but also look to see what the sources of the detritus might be -- uneaten food, dead vegetation, etc.>
Once again thanks for your advice Jesse.
<Welcome, Neale.>

Leaving Walstad tank unattended over summer. 10/9/12
Dear WWM crew,
I am responsible for a small tank at our local kindergarten (preschool), where my 3 year old attends. I set it up for them about 6 months ago, stocked it, and do all the maintenance. The teachers and kids chuck in some food (measured out by me into one of those weekly pill containers) every now and then (not every day, by any means - I think the tank ends up getting fed 3 or 4 times a week).
<I see.>
The tank is 20 litres and set up in a "Walstad" style arrangement, with a substrate of soil, then gravel, then plants. There is an airstone and a heater but no filter other than the plants. I have planted it with elodea densa, some Hygro species which is called "green temple" around here, but I don't know the real name, Hygrophila difformis (called wisteria around here) and I have Indian water sprite (ceroptris something-or-other?) and a tiny bit of what looks like duckweed but is not growing as fast as I'd expect floating at the top).
The plants are growing solidly but not really fast. Presumably the system isn't getting enough food to fertilise them much, but they are very green and healthy looking, especially the elodea. The tank gets some sunlight in the mornings and a lot of indirect light through the day.
<Sounds nice.>
The tank temperature is around 23 degrees and the last time I checked it the water parameters were ammonia = 0, nitrite = 0, ph 7.0. I haven't checked the nitrate level in months (I tend to be rushing in and out very quickly), and I do water changes very infrequently, to remove tannins that were leaching from the soil. As I am sure you are aware, the Walstad philosophy is to reduce or eliminate water changes and rely on the plants to filter the water.
I have stocked the tank with some small guppies that I believe are a "wild type' guppy, but they look something like Endler's livebearers. Certainly they are smaller than fancy guppies and they have markings a bit like the Endler's but longer tails. I have found them to be hardy fish and they are breeding with enthusiasm, to the delight of the kindly children and their teachers. I more recently added some red cherry shrimp and they too seem to be doing OK, though there hasn't been a population explosion, as far as I've noticed.
<Probably wild or feeder guppies. If any of the coloration is pastel, then it's not an Endler's.>
Anyway, my problem is what to do with the tank over the summer holidays, which are looming.
The holidays are about 8 weeks long. I'm not sure if I can get access to the room to feed the fish every now and then and top up the water. I could tear down the tank, move it, and set it up at home, but I don't have a good spot for it and it would get less light, so there would certainly be some disruption to the "cycle" in the tank, I fear. Also it would be a hassle to have to do this. So I am seriously considering just feeding it well beforehand and leaving it alone for the 8 weeks. Is this idea insane?
<It could make it.>
I think I can cover the tank a bit better to reduce the evaporation to acceptable levels.
<This would be my main concern. As the water level gets lower, the waste concentration will go up. Will the mini-ecosystem be able to handle it?>
My worry is the food. I know both guppies and shrimp will happily eat algae and microfauna, but I'm not sure whether there will be enough in the tank to feed them for several weeks without human intervention.
<As the waste concentration goes up with the lowering water level, the algae growth should increase. I suspect this might be what allows you to leave the tank.>
I think that the system overall is pretty stable (it doesn't get much attention at all
and I've left it for 2-3 weeks in previous holidays with no trouble), but I'm of course a bit worried about the risk of finding it a soggy stinking mess of dead plants and rotting fish after 8 weeks.
<One way to find out.>
I could try setting up an auto-feeder, but I'm worried about the prospect of overfeeding with one of those - the volume isn't big enough to handle a great dump of food nicely.
<I wouldn't do an auto-feeder if nobody will be there to check up on it.>
What do you think? Do I have a hope or not?
<I think you have a fair chance of success, mainly because both species in the tank will eat algae. If you can keep the water from evaporating away, the tank might make it. Keep the airstone running to make sure there is dissolved oxygen in the warmer water, since there probably won't be any cooling in the building. Personally, I think it's worth leaving the tank set up to see what happens.>
<- Rick>

Lighting dilemma, planted tank light holiday    8/10/12
Good evening all,
I hope this email finds you well. Your site helped me a great deal when I was setting up a system that I inherited from a friend six months ago.
Thank you.
My question now is this: One of my two 55 watt compact fluorescent bulbs that are in a hood over my 72 gallon planted freshwater tank burnt out today. I don't have a replacement and I can't seem to find one on the web or in any lfs. I was actually thinking of replacing the lighting entirely, but my problem is that  I am going out of town for one week on Saturday.
<Shouldn't be a real problem>
I want to be able to take the time to make an informed lighting decision, but I am worried about leaving my tank for a week with only 55 watts of light.
<Again... no biggee>
In addition to the plants, I have Platies, zebra Danios, a Kuhli loach, a Pleco, and neon tetras
<No worries>
So, how risky is it to run on 1/2 light for a week?
<Is fine>
If I do it, should I leave the lights on for more hours in the day?
<I wouldn't>
Or should I just buy new lighting tomorrow and make the best decision I can?
<I'd hold off, don't be concerned>
Thanks as always for your help. You really are wonderful.
<Cheers and bon voyage. Bob Fenner>

Planted tanks       8/8/12
Hi Neale and crew!
I've been writing about my plant issues and I again thank you for your help. Current problem tank:
- standard 29 gallon
- Eco complete substrate
- dual T5HO 6500/5000K for total of 48w of T5HO light at 3" above water
- Frogbit, Pygmy Chain sword, Echinodorus parviflourus (Frogbit looks
great; others not so much)
- flourish root tabs bi-monthly
Your advice was to upgrade lighting to 60w of T5HO. I have not followed this yet ONLY because I am changing tanks.
1. Dual T5HO going over 20 tall with crypt wendtii, crypt parva, Hygrophila polysperma, Frogbit. Is this too much and would you dose liquid flourish and if so how often.
<Should work well, though my guess would be that the Hygrophila might be disappointing. Hygrophila likes bright light, and the pretty plants with big leaves are usually grown under intense lighting. Still, worth a shot.>
2. All contents of 29 are moving to 40 breeder. You were targeting 3 w/gallon. The only t5ho hoods I can find are dual or quad giving me either 78w or 156w. Which is better since neither is at 3x and I heard that too much light yields algae or requires heavy ferts or CO2.
<If this was me, I'd go with the lower lighting value, pick and choose plants accordingly, and remove any that aren't thriving. This should certainly be ample lighting for a good collection of live plants.>
I'm not trying to test out my green thumb here. Just trying to use plants from biotope areas. Internet is terribly confusing with every site contradicting each other. The really question here is making sure I plan this right so I don't sink a bunch of money into wrong lighting. Thanks guys and sorry to continually write. Getting WAY too into this aquarium hobby. You guys are going to start blocking my emails lol.
<Hmm… do you know the www.ukaps.org forum? Do think you would find them rewarding people to talk with. I'm very much a dilettante when it comes to aquarium plants; these guys take it serious. They know the technology much better than me, and they'll be able to provide better answers than me. Not shooing you away at all, but do feel these are the folks you'd find most helpful. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Planted tanks       8/8/12

Thank you very kindly Neale. I will check them out. :)
<Real good. Have fun! Neale.>

planted aquarium     5/28/12
Hi Neale, hope you are well, my plants have grown a lot!
<Looks good!>
I am attaching a pic of my aquarium so you can let me know if there are too many plants maybe stealing oxygen from my 4 Angels, 2 Striped Raphael's, and 6 snails?
<Nope, nowhere near "too many plants". I'd add something for the foreground. Since the gravel isn't that deep, perhaps a couple pieces of bogwood with Dwarf Anubias (Anubias barteri var. nana) attached.>
Should I remove some plants? I intend to get a bigger aquarium in the next month or 2, btw, because of what I´ve got I have the water temperature at 77 F, is that ok for both?
<Yes. Apple Snails mightn't do so well in the long term though, so do keep an eye on them. A dead snail can pollute the water pretty badly.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: planted aquarium     5/28/12

thanks Neale, will do,
so about the snails, 6 of them are pretty alive, so you mean I should be checking on them to remove promptly whenever one dies? or should I remove a couple now?
<Either. But the main thing is moribund/dead snails are removed quickly.>
also, every time we do a 50% water change (every 2 weeks) we find a cocoon of little eggs, we obviously remove them, are these from the snails?
<Yes. Apple Snails lay pink clusters of hard-shelled eggs, somewhat like raspberries in size, shape and colour.>
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Re: planted aquarium      5/29/12
me again!
how can I tell if a snail is moribund!?

<Stops moving, doesn't respond immediately to being prodded (gently!) with a stick (chopstick, satay stick, drinking straw all good for this). Healthy snails should immediately pull themselves into their shells.>
also, would you recommend I put them in other tank now that the algae problem is more controlled?
<Your choice. If you have another mature, filtered, suitably warm aquarium (~18-22 C) then by all means keep Apple Snails in their own system. If you leave them with fish, do bear in mind their specific requirements and the ease with which nippy and aggressive fish can damage them. AppleSnail.net is a great site for finding out more about these animals.>
if so, do they need temperature, oxygen, anti chlorine, etc?
I can´t just remove them :-(
<Cheers, Neale.>

freshwater plants, trimming/maint.     2/23/12
Hi Neale its Chris here. my live plants are doing really well. Maybe even too well, am I supposed to trim these plants and if so how would i go about doing that without harming the plants? attached some pictures to show you my different plants. thanks again!
<There's no real mystery to pruning plants, Chris. The main thing is to look at your plant and cut where it looks sensible to do so, and with some idea of what you want to plant to end up looking like. Feathery or bushy plants that have long stems with small leaves can generally be cut anywhere along the stem. If you leave it too late, you end up seeing the lower part of the stem losing its leaves. So you either trim regularly to keep the stem leafy, or else cut the bushy part from the top, remove the bare stem (or else cut it almost down to the ground, leaving an inch or two to sprout new stems) and then plant the bushy stem into the gravel, with the bottom inch shorn of leaves to encourage root growth. Many plants produce obvious daughter plants complete with roots, and these can be simply cut away and their roots pushed into the gravel. Sometimes the "mother" plant becomes too big, so these daughter plants are a good way to keep the species in your aquarium but without the bigger specimens taking over. Does this make sense? Cheers, Neale.> 


Juglone, Live foods, and Aquarium plants   10/21/11
Greetings WWM Crew,
I have a situation and I hope you can help me.
I have a small stock tank outdoors that I tossed some hornwort in during the spring. This stock tank is full of algae, daphnia, seed shrimp, and various other live things such as mosquito larvae. I was considering feeding some of these goodies to some of my indoor fish: Hara jerdoni, Scarlet badis, Badis badis, Plakat Betta, Xiphophorus helleri 'Rio Otapa', Endler's livebearers, Heterandria Formosa, and Hemichromis thomasi (these fish are not all in the same tank).
All of these tanks are densely planted with various plants including:
various crypts, Java Fern 'Windelov', java moss, various Vallisneria, various Anubias, Amazon swords, green temple, Ludwigia, dwarf sag, and water sprite.
Because autumn is beginning, when I went out to check in my stock tank, I noticed it was full of parts of my Black Walnut tree: broken branches, leaves, and a few nuts. The hornwort seems to have disappeared, but the tiny live critters are still there. My question is -- with the Juglone from the walnut obviously being in the stock tank water, will it be safe to still feed the living critters to my fish without killing my aquatic plants?
<I do think you'll be okay... due to dilution>
I generally feed live and frozen foods (after mixing with water) using a 60ml catheter tip syringe. I like using the syringe because I can control exactly how much I feed to each fish. Most of my fish have figured out that food comes out of the syringe tip and will swim up to it and wait for the food to come out. For the ones that don't, like the H. jerdoni, I add a short length of oxygen tubing to the syringe tip so I can deposit the food directly in their face. (I often re-purpose medical products for aquarium use).
If I remove some of the various live critters from the stock tank and rinse them off in tap water before feeding, do you think there is any chance of enough Juglone left to damage my plants?
<I do not... have looked into such issues: http://wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/landpltspd.htm
Thank you for your time,
<And you for yours. Bob Fenner>

Where to start? Cleaning planted FW tank? (okay, that ended up being the end)  9/26/10
Hi Bob and crew,
I have a lot of questions. I am sure some have been answered before.
<Is often the way'¦>
I probably have not searched the right keywords or dug deep enough.
The more I read, the more questions I have. Awesome site. My only complaint is that there is too much info. It is quite difficult to find my answers, since I need to sift thru so much info.
<Google is your friend.>
My biggest question (and probably simplest) is in the last paragraph.
I keep reading that the larger tank is easier.
I am quite confused by this.
<Don't be. It's all about stocking and stability. People with small tanks tend to overstock them, and because small tanks contain less water, environmental problems develop more quickly. This isn't to say you can't mess up a big tank, you can, but for beginners at least, trying to keep 10 gallon tanks tends to be less easy than keeping a 20 gallon one. On the other hand, tanks above about 55 gallons tend to need a lot of filtration and lighting to work properly, and that places steeper financial demands on the aquarist, so if you scrimp, you'll have an aquarium that doesn't work so well. For the average beginner, something between 20-30 gallons is often the ideal in terms of stability and expense. Your own mileage will vary though, especially depending on the fish you're trying to keep. If you have a Plec or an Oscar, then 55 gallons is the minimum, and anything smaller will not work. Conversely, if all you're keeping is a Betta, then a 5 gallon tank can work just fine.>
I had a 20 gal for 3 yr and a 40 gal for 1.5 yr. 20 gal set up; 10 to 30 gal (125 gph, I think) whisper quite in tank filter, air stone, heater, Otos (6 to 8), ghost shrimp (6 to 8), guppies (breeding to capacity), small clown loach
<No such thing, only baby Clown Loaches; since they're social, you shouldn't be keeping one of them either.>
and T-8 light that came with the tank. 40 gal set up; 40 gal (170 gph, I think), 2 air stones, heater, 2 blue Opaline gouramis, leaf fish, clown loach (had a snail outbreak), 2 rubber lip Pleco, brown knife fish, catfish (black w/ white spots, 4 inches or so, don't see him much) and T-8 light that came with the tank. I did not do anything special to either and did water changes to both at the same schedule. The 40 had way more problems than the 20 (nitrate spikes and pH problems).
<Nitrate goes up with stocking and feeding. If the nitrate level is way above that of your tap water, then you either have too many fish, or you're feeding them too much, or you're not doing enough water changes. Remember, a fish twice as long as another fish is actually eight times as massive, so even moderately big fish actually produce large amounts of waste. Plecs, Clown Loaches, and other chunky fish are messy fish that quickly raise nitrate levels. The flip side to nitrate production is a pH drop caused by the conversion of nitrate into nitric acid along with the various organic acids produced by decay. If your carbonate hardness level is low -- as opposed to your general hardness -- the pH will drop between water changes.>
Understanding this may help in my future ventures.
Anyway, that is all background and general husbandry. Side note; I am not on city water (delivery to cistern), my water is very hard and sometimes chlorinated (not heavily).
<I see.>
About 6 weeks ago I began transitioning. I added the livestock of my 20 gal to my 40 (more info later) and turned it into a SW. Currently I have 3 Nassarius, 3 red leg crabs, 2 blue leg crabs, 1 turbo snail, 1 watchman goby, 1 peppermint stripe shrimp, 4 mushroom coral, a lot of hitchhikers on 4 small dirty live rocks and some terrestrial rocks. I am using the same 125 gph in tank filter, added a 160 gph pump for circulation, changed the light fixture to a dual T-5 HO with mirror reflector (1 antic, 1 10k), added timer for 12 hours of light and a blue LED for a few hours at night. The nitrogen (nitrate, nitrite and ammonia) are good. I am keeping an eye on them and doing 15% water change every other week. Adding Kent Purple Tech every other night and Zooplex every fourth night, plus small pinch of flake (or brine or dried bloodworms daily). I plan to run it like this for 4 weeks or so (I will likely get impatient and add something every other week or so). The ultimate plan is to build the ultimate cleaning crew to support a heavy stock of coral (hearty plus some LPS) and one or two showy fish. I may add a skimmer, but I really don't want to get into refugiums and sumps. I really prefer to have a relatively well balanced system. Do you have any suggestions as to my next step, things to be wary of, fish to target, etc?
<I'm leaving this to Bob Fenner; check tonight's Daily FAQs to see what he adds here. In future, try to send freshwater and saltwater questions separately, since different people tackle these questions.>
About the same time, 6 weeks ago, I combined the fish, added a FloraSun lamp and added a lot of plants to my 40 gal. The fish load is high, but the nitrogen elements are doing pretty good (so long as I keep up on maintenance).
<Indeed, and that's the rub. If a tank is only "safe" if you do lots of maintenance, you're like a guy spinning plates on the top of pool cues. Sure, it works, but it doesn't take much disturbance for things to fall apart.>
I already had;
a water lily (bulb with red leaves),
<Does need good light, and generally damaged by big fish.>
6" x 3" Anubias and
two Val.s (one in open pot with rock wool, one in glass jar),
<Would set them free -- they don't like pots, and will spread out of them anyway.>
2 3" blue Opaline gouramis,
3 to 4" leaf fish,
3" clown loach (had a snail outbreak),
<Needs to be kept in groups of three or more.>
2 rubber lip Pleco,
5" brown knife fish,
<Xenomystus nigri?>
catfish (black w/ white spots, 4 inches or so, don't see him much)
<Could be anything. Perhaps Baryancistrus L142, a species that gets to about 25 cm/10 inches long, and tends to be extremely aggressive once sexually mature, so shouldn't be kept with any other Loricariidae.>
I added (after die off and eaten);
corkscrew Val.s (10 or so),
water sprite (5, planted in substrate),
2 swords,
brazil ivy?? (5 cuttings),
<No idea what this is.>
java fern (I strapped them to a rock),
dwarf baby leaves (I strapped it to driftwood),
Otos (6 to 8) and
small clown loach.
I have constructed a 4 cave deep rock structure. The fish love it and spend most of their time hiding in the caves.
My biggest question is actually quite simple. (I added all the extra info for background and to get general guidance.) In my previous setups (FW, mostly fish), I used a gravel vacuumed to dig into the substrate anytime my nitrogen cycle got out of balance. Advice on this site (as well as others) says to vacuumed the substrate, even in planted tanks.
<Quite the reverse. It is certainly true that plain gravel beds used for undergravel filters should be stirred once or twice a month and the detritus siphoned out. But if there isn't an undergravel filter, this step isn't necessary. In fact the detritus helps promote anaerobic conditions that convert nitrate into nitrogen, and there are also additional benefits in terms of nutrient release to the plants, in particular carbon dioxide. This has only recently become understood, so you may find books and web pages written more than a few years ago state the reverse.>
How do I vacuumed the substrate without uprooting the plants?
<You don't. Healthy plants carry oxygen down their roots into the substrate, and that helps to "clean" the substrate to some degree. Burrowing snails such as Melanoides also turn over the top inch of substrate, further improving its quality. All you should do is clean away debris on top of the substrate, more for cosmetic reasons than anything else, though such debris can clog filters so it's worth removing anyway. Other than that, in a planted tank you can leave the substrate alone. Do read here:
How do I keep the nitrates in balance?
<Read the linked article, but also understand nitrates in your tank above that of the tapwater level have more to do with the fish, their feeding, and the frequency of water changes than anything else.>
If I keep a 3 inch substrate depth (not there yet, but considering it), how deep do I vacuumed (in areas 3" x 2" to fit the vacuumed head)? Any other suggestions?
Thank you for your time and patience. This is an incredible site. (Do I look on the site for your reply (where??) or will you reply to my email?)
<Cheers, Neale.>

Planted tank cleaning   4/15/10
I have a 20 gallon planted tank (picture included) that has a female Betta, Bristlenose Pleco and a snail.
<Looks nice. But I suspect the lighting isn't that strong. The plants on the right especially look etiolated.>
It has been going for close to 2 years and it's doing pretty good. The soil is made up of Eco Complete and white rocks and I fertilize once a week with Kent Marine "iron and manganese" and "pro plant".
<Do understand all of these things are icing on the cake; what matters is light intensity.>
The only real problem I have is hair algae which I have to clean out about once every couple weeks and I'm curious if it makes any sense to pull the plants and perform a thorough cleaning.
<No sense at all. Pulling plants up damages the roots, and this sets them back. Pulling away the odd damaged leaf is fine. But don't do anything more serious.>
I can't do much with the Eco complete but I would remove the white rock and clean it good.
I don't want it to be a 100% water change so I would remove at least 10 gallons and put aside to reuse. Is this a good idea or should I just continue with my normal light cleaning with a gravel vacuum?
<I think you need to review light intensity, likely increase it to around 2 watts per gallon, and install some fast-growing species if necessary to provide shade for the plants that don't like direct lighting, such as the Crypt.>
Thank you,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Planted tank cleaning [RMF, is there a WWM article on LED lighting yet?] <<Not yet, no.>>   4/15/10
I've been thinking about the lighting for a while and have been looking at a CF of about 65W. I'd really like to consider LED lighting but the information is confusing. Can you give me an idea of what the proper LED configuration would be?
<Tim, I'm going to have to bounce you to Bob Fenner or one of the other marine experts here. I have zero experience of LED lighting. What I will say is that you'd only need about 50-75% the wattage required for corals.
Brighter lights would be fine too, but without CO2 fertilisation and careful control of nutrients, algae can become a problem in freshwater tanks. Many of the plants we keep most easily, like Cryptocoryne and Java ferns, actually live in shade underneath a canopy of trees, so unlike corals, they don't need, or appreciate, strong overhead light. There are some exceptions though, and things like Bacopa and Vallisneria will take and use all the light you throw at them, CO2 and mineral nutrients permitting. Unlike the situation with corals though, plants can adapt to a broad range of light "colour temperatures", so the precise colour of the lights, whether reddish at the Gro Lux extreme through to blue at the Actinic end doesn't bother them much. Usually the plants will go into shock when transferred to one tank to another, but recover and adapt to whatever colour of light there is. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Planted tank cleaning [RMF, is there a WWM article on LED lighting yet?] <<Still not>> 4/16/10
I found a light that's reasonably priced and wonder if you think it would do the job?
<Well, the user review on Amazon.com isn't very favourable! Unless you have a darn good reason, you may prefer to stick with the inexpensive, fairly efficient fluorescent tubes widely sold. At around 2 watts per gallon for low to mid brightness plants, you should have success. Cheers, Neale.>

Aquarium (plant and fish repro; how to reduce the numbers of fry, plants) -- 04/22/09
Hello again, Neale,
You helped me so much before, and I hope you can help me again.
<Will try.>
I have a 240-liter aquarium, and everything is going well. Too well, for that matter. When I first got the aquarium and didn't know what I was doing, I had a problem with fish and plants dying. Now that I know a little more about how to take care of them, the fish are reproducing like rabbits and the plants are taking over the aquarium.
<A-ha! Yes, this is what should be happening. In the case of the plants, all the plants you cut out and dispose of are removing nitrate and phosphate from the water. You are literally watching the plants help clean your tank! As for the fish, like most animals, if they're happy and healthy, they'll breed!>
I have friends who said that they would be glad to take the excess fish and plants. However, how can I control the excess growth (both fish and plants)?
<There's no advantage to slowing plant growth; simply cut back the excess, aggressively if needs be, and dump the waste on the compost heap. Fast growing plants tends to mean no algae problems; rein back the plants any, and the algae often picks up the slack. As for fish, judicious use of predators can make the difference. Angelfish for example are remarkably good at eating livebearer fry, as are African Butterflyfish and Asian Killifish (Aplocheilus spp.). Turning down the temperature to the lower end of the preferred range for a species will tend to cool their ardour, and stretch out the gestation period of livebearers.>
What am I doing wrong?
Any advice you can give me will be very much appreciated.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Plants and tinted water 3-20-2009
<Hello! Merritt here today helping out!>
I am looking into planting my tank, but I have a question: on the internet, all of these planted tanks look crystal clear and "crisp." They are absolutely gorgeous! At my LFS the tank water where the plants are kept
looks very green and murky. The water just looks gross. I would like to add plants but I don't want my aquarium to look like a swamp. I am planning on brackish plants (Val.s, Anubias, Java fern, Java moss, Wendtii) What would be the reason for the murky water and would mine look like that? How could I avoid that?
<Murky water in planted tanks means that the tank has not had regular water changes, low light conditions and the tank has been neglected. Few LFS take care of their planted tanks that I have seen. You can easily have a planted tank that looks crisp and clear, just with some care and time.
Here are some links on setting up a planted tank and the care required.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/plantedtkssubwebindex/plttkgear.htm ,
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/plantedtkssubwebindex/AGSetUp.htm ,
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/plantedtkssubwebindex/lightingags.htm . Reading
these links will set you on the right path for a great looking planted
<You are welcome! Merritt A.>

Re: 2/16/2009 Bitter odor from fw tank, Stkg, maint - More Info.   2/21/09 Hi MikeV, <Hi Dave, Sorry for the delay in getting back with you.> I know the inch/gal rule is not very accurate... I was using this as a general rule of thumb because most of my fish are fairly "light eaters". Here's what I have, roughly in order of how much they eat (this is a 55 gal tank): - 1 paradise fish (by far the biggest consumer) - 2 pearl Gourami - 2 chocolate Gourami - 4 'ghost' glass catfish - 8 threadfin rainbows - 4 Endler's livebearers - 4 flag fish - 1 Ancistrus I put the algae eaters last because I have no clue as to the actual volume of algae that they eat. I am guessing that their bio-load is higher than the Endler's or the threadfins... <You would be correct> Re/ fertilizer, I use the Seachem products, typically 1x per week but I may do an additional dosing if I notice O2 production is decreasing: <Ahh... so you are testing for O2\CO2. I would assume you are also adding CO2 on a regular basis?> - 2.5mL N - 2mL P - 10mL K - 1mL Flourish... I am very conservative with this since it tends to result in more algae growth <Depending on your substrate, I would cut this back to once every two weeks and see how your plants do. You may be over fertilizing> You mentioned tablets vs. liquid fertilizer. I use tabs as well, but I've heard that "stemmy" plants tend to pick up nutrients better from the water rather than from their roots. Is that correct? <This is true, but with the liquid supplements, they tend to get filtered out quickly, where the fertilizer tablets tend to "stick around" longer. I've stuck to the tablets and have been successful.> I do believe that the odor that I mentioned became more noticeable since I started fertilizing regularly. <Some of them do tend to smell. Again, I'm not a fan of regular fertilizing. With a good substrate, some bio-load in the tank, and the right water conditions, Unless you are shooting for an aquatic jungle, You should be able to get away with supplements every 2 weeks to once a month to keep 5 - 8 plants healthy.> Based on all of this, do you still think I need to increase the size of the weekly water changes? Right now I'm doing 20% weekly (10/50g effective volume). You suggested that I increase to 15g (30%) or 20g (40%) -- doesn't that seem like a lot for weekly changes? <I'm a fan of large regular changes, particularly in a tank with a higher bio-load> I'm also concerned about the pH swing that I'd get with larger changes... currently I see something like a temporary 0.15 pH (or thereabouts) increase with a 20% change, until the CO2 level stabilizes again. Would a larger pH swing be dangerous? Should I think about running a CO2 line into the new water to equalize the pH before doing the change? <Not a bad idea. Or you can just buffer your change water with a commercial buffer before adding it. Thanks again for your help! <My pleasure Dave.> -Dave <Mike>**

Getting better   8/21/08 A quick word to thank you again for the incredible service you offer to the community. I'm an almost-daily avid reader. <Cool!> I also wanted to share -- my plants are finally GROWING!!! <That's nice to hear. What did you think you changed in the tank that helped?> Thanks for all the FAQs and articles... Audrey <Good to hear from you. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Getting better  8/21/08 Well, since you're asking :-) - I have a bigger tank (I had a 10 gal and switched it for a 20 gal) - incidentally, I'm also using two Aqua-Clear Mini instead of one, since I think using only one on a 20 gal tank is grossly insufficient, even if the manufacturer claims it's enough. I kept the existing livestock (two Nerite snails that have been with us for 18 months and a year, respectively - I have yet to get fish after the Camallanus disaster of a few months ago, but I added an Apple snail [most fascinating animal I've ever owned] who's munching somewhat on the plants, but not enough to cause real damage). <Ah, yes, some people do indeed have good luck with Pomacea spp. in planted tanks. It does seem to vary on the species of snail and the type of plants, and perhaps on what tastier foods the aquarist puts on offer.> - I changed the substrate (I'm now using Fluorite, instead of gravel). But what I suspect really made the difference: - Better lighting! I was using the Life-Glo screw-in bulbs, I'm now using two Coralife T5 - one 6700k and one full-spectrum. <Yep! Makes all the difference. Plants are photosynthetic. The more light, the more food they make. There's subtleties to this equation to be sure, but in general upping the light can turn around a tank where plants have otherwise failed.> The BGA is regressing, and that's with plants that had been doing *nothing* except slowly dissolving for weeks and have now been in better conditions for about three and have just started growing - which means I'm starting with unhealthy plants, and it's still having an effect. We'll replace them with healthy plants soon - I expect the BGA to not be a problem anymore. (I don't mind having some. I just mind when it covers everything). <BGA does tend to fade away once the environment is suitable for plants. You can get BGA in tanks with plants, but rarely in tanks with good lighting and healthy, fast-growing plants.> We've tried many different plants, the only thing not dying was the Anubias. The Bacopa, Vallisneria and Amazon Chain didn't survive our previous lighting. Now we have African something (my boyfriend brought it home without a name, Grrrr! - looks a little like mint) and Amazon Swords doing good - and the original Anubias as well. <Hmm... The African fern Bolbitis heudelotii perhaps? There aren't many completely "African" plant genera in the trade (for whatever reason) apart from Anubias and Bolbitis. There are African species of Aponogeton and Crinum though, and lots of species include both Africa and Asia as their natural range, such as various Vallisneria.> I guess I can't say I couldn't have done it without you, because I could have, but it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun! <Heh!> Thanks again! Audrey <Glad we could help, Neale.>

Brown spots on plants, plants not growing -04/22/08 Hi Bob, I have a five gallon eclipse system which has been established for about two years. I recently moved to a planted tank and I have some small driftwood and a white rock (which keeps the pH higher, but still within normal parameters 7.2) My plants aren't growing well at all! I've had them planted for about a month so far. I've got brown spots and others have melted altogether. I have 2 watts per gallon (new bulb a month ago) and I have them on a 10 hour daylight cycle. I dose ½ ml of Flourish, Excel and Iron five days a week (mon-Fri.). I was under the impression that you can use regular coarse gravel and supplement if you have enough light. Am I over fertilizing? I keep waiting for 'new growth' but I'm not getting any! Thank you, Shauna <Shauna, there are several potential issues here. To start with, small tanks need proportionally more light than big tanks for plants to grow well. The science is a bit complex, but basically it works like this: while 2 gallons per gallon is fine for low-light plants in big tanks, there's a minimum wattage you need simply for the light to have enough "punch" to work. So while 10 watts over a 5 gallon tank sounds fine in theory, in practise a 10 watt bulb may simply be too weak to support plant life, period. Another issue is substrate: few plants thrive in plain washed gravel, however much fertiliser you add to the water. Things get even worse if there's an undergravel filter installed. Thirdly, you don't say what the plants are. Be under no illusions about this: some aquarium plants sold in stores are either not aquatic species at all, or simply very difficult to maintain. I have a 10 gallon system with an 11 watt bulb, and plant growth is remarkably good even though that's barely 1 watt per gallon. What's the secret? Firstly a nutrient rich substrate, basically pond soil mixed with silica sand, and then topped with a bit more silica sand to keep things clean. Secondly the right plants: species that need little light to thrive. Specifically, these are Anubias barteri, Java fern, Java moss, and Cryptocoryne wendtii. These give you a lovely mix of plants in terms of colours and shapes. Practically everything else in the trade needs much more light and will not work in this sort of aquarium. All except the Cryptocoryne are attached to rocks and wood rather than buried in the sand. The tank is also understocked, and this helps to keep water quality good, another useful approach when maintaining small tanks. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: brown spots on plants, plants not growing 4/22/08 Thank you Neale, You're response is very helpful - I'll see about getting a retrofit for my canopy and look into removing the substrate and starting over. - Shauna <Good luck, and enjoy your aquarium. Cheers, Neale.>

What to do with Toxic Gas Trapped in Soil? -- 09/19/07 Hi, I wonder if you can help you. (You all seem really busy at WWM.) I did search for the answer, but I only found that gas DOES get trapped in the substrate, not what to do about it. I have a 55 gallon planted tank that has been running for a year now, with 5 year old angelfish (the mated pair is going into the 25 gallon tank soon), 3 nickel sized angel fish (they're doing fine together), 11 neon tetras, 2 swordtails (both male), and a Pleco (5-6"). I have the black EcoComplete substrate, which has worked fine for me. However, I recently went in to replant a couple of the plants, moving them from the end that gets about an hour of sunlight each morning to the side that doesn't. When I lifted up the plant, the substrate was fine, but when I stuck it into the other end of the tank, air bubbles came out. I've read that this is an extremely bad sign, meaning that the plants at the other end of the tank haven't really grown their roots, and that there's some kind of nitrogen compound trapped in the substrate. First of all, is this an emergency-immediate problem? Secondly, is there a way to fix it without taking out the fish from tank or harming the fish? (Can I just poke some holes in the substrate with my finger to let the gas out or is that a big no-no?) And what's the long term solution? Should I switch out the 80W for more light? (The plants are all alive, just not thriving, apparently.) Thank you all for your time and effort and any help that you can provide, Nea <Greetings. The "gas in the substrate" problem is wildly exaggerated within the hobby. Here's the basics: Anaerobic decay can result in the accumulation of a gas called hydrogen sulphide (H2S). In theory, because this gas is toxic to fish, any bubbles of H2S can harm or kill your fish. However, in practise H2S oxidises very rapidly, and once it is in contact with oxygenated water the H2S gets converted to plain old sulphur (or as the Americans spell it, sulfur). This reaction is so fast that it is for all practical purposes instant, so small amounts of H2S will be rendered harmless long before the concentration in the water reaches dangerous levels. Marine aquarists have learned to embrace anaerobic decay, and routinely set up filters (e.g., deep sand beds and mounds of living rock) that perform anaerobic decay. I also have yet to see a pond that *didn't* have masses of anaerobic decay going on in the thick, gooey mud at the bottom of the pond. But for whatever reason, freshwater aquarists are still skeptical. So let's put things into perspective. Anaerobic (or at least dysaerobic) conditions are normal in muddy freshwater substrates, and most plants actually prefer them to the clean, oxygenated plain gravel substrates we usually give them. Under anaerobic conditions the mineral ions they want are "reduced" and more easily absorbed than they would in their "oxidized" states. Plant roots carry oxygen into the substrate via a tissue called aerenchyma, which you can think of as being a bit like a snorkel. Some of the oxygen carried down to the roots escapes and immediately around the roots the conditions are partially, but not completely, oxygenated (i.e., dysaerobic rather than anaerobic). So wherever plants are growing, the actual risk of dangerous levels of H2S developing becomes even smaller. Occasionally poking the substrate with a stick to stir things up a little won't do any harm, and I always add Malayan livebearing snails to planted tanks because they do this automatically, behaving rather like earthworms do on land. In my view, these snails are indispensable and as you probably know they never, ever harm plants. Now, this brings us to the question of why your plants aren't growing. This is almost certainly nothing to do with the substrate. Since you're using a proper plant-growing medium, Eco Complete, and I hope to a reasonable depth (not less than 8 cm, but no more than 12 cm without a heating cable), so that aspect should be solid. No, the problem is almost certainly lighting. For good plant growth you need at least 2 Watts per gallon. You can get by with a bit less in shallow (<30 cm deep) tanks using shade-tolerant species (like Java moss and Anubias) but in all other cases the more light the better. In practical terms, you're aiming for at least 4 tubes that run the length of the tank. Ideally, these should be plant-friendly tubes with a "colour temperature" of around 6000 Kelvin, though to some extent plants will adapt. Fitting reflectors behind the tubes is a cheap way to maximise your returns by directing as much light as possible into the tank. Bright-light plants, which tend to be those species with light green or red leaves, may need even more light than 2W/gal., in which case adding additional tubes or switching to a higher output light source (like mercury vapour lamps) becomes important. I hope this helps, Neale>

Growing Plants w/o C02  7/4/06 Hi, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I have a 20g standard tank, Eco-Complete substrate tank with one 18w Power Glo light in the hood.   Plants are alive but not growing much at all. I do not want to use C02.   If I bought a double florescent light fixture, would I double my plant growth without awaking the algae growth?    <It would be helpful to have 2 bulbs instead of one,  I have a 90g planted tank w/4 bulbs.> I dose with Excel once a week and do a water change as well, 50 percent. <I am not familiar with Excel.  I am having great success using Yamato Green (www.yamatogreen.com) & Jobe's Plant Spikes placed by the roots--no CO2.> I am pretty much looking for a low light, low maintenance 20g tank.   A  friend of mine (we have the same set-up except for the substrate and the plants) are not doing too well.  One tank that I maintain, has one light, no CO2, Fluorite with freshwater gravel and the plants are huge--java fern growing all over Tis a 38g tank, and a power-Glo light, the next size up from the 24inch. What should I do to step my plant growth up a notch, other than CO2, if possible. <I swear by Yamato Green!  (BTW, please try using proper capitalization next time you write, as I had to correct for our FAQs.)  ~PP>

Stem Plants, Roots, Shrimp, Iodine, and Fertilizers - 06/01/2006 Dear Crew, <Hi, Shawn!> I have a couple of questions, but I first want to thank you for the great resource you have created for all of us amateur hobbyists.   <Your kind words are greatly appreciated.> I've spent more hours reading articles and FAQs on your website than I can count.   <Heh, me too!> With that said, there is one thing I can't figure out.   <.... lots of things I can't figure out....> I've got a relatively new 55 gallon tank that is heavily planted.  It's been going for about a month now, and is doing great as far as I can tell.  The tank as a Fluorite base, 4 full-spectrum fluorescent light tubes.  I use supplemented/buffered R/O water to do my water changes, and my water levels all seem good.  I also inject CO2, with consistent levels of about 26ppm.  On to my question....  Many of my stem plants (actually all of them) have grown long white roots from every part of the stem, nearly to the top of the plant.   <This is normal for some plants, like Egeria, Elodea/Anacharis, Limnophilia, Cabomba....> Many of these white roots are easily 10 inches long and they are quickly taking over my tank.   <Today, the tank....  tomorrow, the world!!  If they're terribly annoying, I'd trim them back; otherwise, let 'em have their fun.> Is this normal?   <For some stem plants, yes.  What species are you keeping that are taking over?> I was hoping that they would just go away as the main roots settled better in the substrate.   <Some stem plants will settle down and do as you state, some will just keep up with those shiny white roots.> Okay, two other simple questions.   <No more!  Oh, okay, just kidding.> I am using "Flourish - Comprehensive Plant Supplement" to supplement my R/O water (along with Baking Soda to raise the kH) on a weekly basis.  Is that sufficient?   <As long as your KH, GH, and pH are steady, this is fine.> I am also planning on adding various shrimp to the tank (red cherry & Amano to start with) <Excellent!  May I suggest "zebra" or "tiger" shrimp?  The alpha male of a colony will be a STUNNING blue with brown-black stripes and red tail and rostrum.   http://www.wirbellose.de/arten.cgi?action=show&artNo=156 > and read that they need iodine to thrive.   <Yes.> My Flourish supplement contains 0.0001% iodine in it, but that doesn't seem like enough.  Do you think I should get a separate iodine additive? <I would.  I'm still using Kent marine iodine at a rate of ONE DROP per ten gallons weekly (NOT the marine dose), but most any marine iodine supplement could be used in similarly small quantities.> Thanks for everything you've done. <And thank you, again, for your kind words and encouragement.> Shawn <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> Planted Eclipse Tank  5/31/06 Hello all, I have a freshwater planted tank question which I hope you can assist me with. My current tank is 29 gallon standard with an Eclipse 3 filtration. The current light output is approx. 34-36 WPG <Mmm, not Watts per Gallon... missing a decimal place?> which is less than I'd like to have. The current flora: Amazon sword & its planted baby plants, ruffled sword plant, a narrow leaf red Rubin sword, Bacopa monnieri, purple Cabomba, bronze wendtii, another young and unidentified crypt, Ludwigia repens, jungle Val, java moss on driftwood and lace java fern on driftwood. The current fauna: 6 blue emperor tetras, 4 harlequin rasboras, 1 dwarf Gourami, 3 yo-yo loaches (who like to eat baby Amazon sword leaves and any water sprite I put in the tank) and about 10 ghost shrimp. <Sounds very nice> The tank is a month or so old, with most of the plants and fish moved from a 20 gallon. I have a Fluorite substrate and add Flourish, Trace, Iron & Excel. The water parameters are 0 ammonia & nitrites, 10-15 nitrates, pH of 8 (central Florida tap water), and a temp of 79-80. All the retrofits I've found for Eclipse systems seem to be geared towards saltwater tanks. If I wanted to upgrade lighting from 34-36 to 55-60 WPG, what do you recommend? <I would make/do this upgrade. The particulars of light quality, duration are posted on WWM> Getting rid of the hood is not an option, as it is new and waste not, want not. Since the tank is still relatively new and the lighting is relatively low, I'm also having problems with brown algae. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. <Mmm, I would not "fool" with the pH here... let it drift down, re-bolster with water changes. For lighting, please start here: http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/lightingags.htm and the linked files above... Bob Fenner>

Planted Tank Set Up Not looking Too Good  5/27/06 Dear WetWebMedia Crew, 5/26/06 I am having lots of problems and I'm not sure what to do anymore. Tank Specs; Size: 50gal tank Filter: HOT Magnum Filter Heater: Neptune 110w at 79 degrees Fahrenheit Light: 36", 110w power compact light (with one daylight bulb and one combination daylight/actinic bulb, for the red lotus) Plants: Sagittaria subulata, Amazon Sword, Red Tiger Lotus, Green Tiger Lotus, Ludwigia ovalis, Frogbit (recently added 1 week ago), and Dwarf Hairgrass (which I am currently removing due to problems mentioned below). Substrate: Fluorite Fish: 1 Bristlenose Pleco (female so no bristles); 2 neon tetras; 5 green fire/flame tetras, 2 blue rams (1 male 1 female); 2 Kuhlii loaches (which are very fat and I hardly ever see); 2 guppies (1 male 1 female); 1 red-tailed catfish; 7, 4 month old peacock gudgeons in a breeder net; and 2 Amano shrimp (which I also never see so I don't know if I still have them). I know I have Malaysian snails in my tank, which don't bother me so much, but I do remove them when I see them. My tank has been setup for almost a full year. I use my filtration system mainly for mechanical filtration only. Lately I have had to add some of Seachem's "De-Nitrate" for problems mentioned further on. On occasion, I will also run charcoal in the filter, but for no longer than 2 weeks at a time (depending on the situation). Unfortunately the filter does not seem to run as strong as it did when I first got it. I noticed the change about a month after I owned it actually. I have no idea why it's flow output seems to have changed, as I disassemble and clean it every week so it is never clogged. For the first three or four months the tank looked great, but about 3 months ago I started having algae problems (which are expected I know) which seem to have gotten out-of-hand. The biggest problem algae is a brown/red/black algae that forms on the leaves and stems of the Sagittaria, Ludwigia, Hairgrass, and on the edges of the leaves on the lotus's and Amazon sword. I've tried to rub it off with my fingers but that does not remove it. It formed on the intake tube of my filter and the only way to take it off was to scrape it with my fingernail. It first appeared on the dwarf Hairgrass and my speculation is that because the dwarf Hairgrass and Sagittaria grow so compact and fight for space, they added to the lack of flow at the bottom of my tank and the algae continued to thrive. I have since started ripping out all of the dwarf Hairgrass and all "infected" Sagittaria. It grows all over the Ludwigia, which I fear I may have to remove completely. It also grows on the edges of the leaves on the lotus's and the Amazon sword, and I remove the leaves promptly to avoid it spreading to the other leaves. I stopped adding so much fertilizer in the water (and only plant-tabs to the substrate) to try and "starve" the algae, which didn't seem to work. I ended up with varying green colored algaes, which don't bother me so much but I think they are really destroying the Ludwigia, which doesn't help the other plants. Now the big problem, I live in an apartment in a city, and starting one month ago the nitrate levels straight out of the tap are at 10ppm. I only discovered this because of the giant loss of peacock gudgeon fry after regular tank maintenance. I had a fry tank in which I was rearing 30 or so peacock gudgeons (Tateurndina ocellicaudus), but have since discovered that this species is especially nitrate sensitive and ended up losing all but 7 fry (at the time I lost them they were a little over 3 months old). The nitrates could have been rising to this level over the past couple months and adding to the algae problems (until recently I hadn't really done regular water-testing). Who knows what the phosphate levels are at (I've read that phosphate test kits can be unreliable and therefore have not purchased one). Right now my water is yellowish and somewhat cloudy. Half of me says the yellowness is from the African driftwood (that stuff never seems to fully get rid of its tannins), and the other half of me thinks it may be part of the algae problems I'm having. The cloudiness comes from me adding alcohol to the water to create bacteria blooms and get rid of the nitrates (I have a bubbler running in the tank so the fish don't suffocate). I only feed my feed once a day, or once every other day, but the peacock gudgeons are fed about 2 drops of baby brine shrimp twice a day. I can't do water changes because of the nitrates out of the tap. After relocating the remaining gudgeon fry to the 50 gallon in a breeder net, I setup the ten gallon as a "pre-treated water" tank so that I could do water changes with no worry of nitrates. I add alcohol to that tank too, though I don't know yet if it has actually worked to get rid of the nitrates (had not tested yet). It now seems that I need to stop adding alcohol to the 50 gallon tank, as it seems that the bacteria in that tank may be suffocating or causing my plants to decay (especially noticeable on the Frogbit). And the nitrates are most definitely gone (have not checked it since Sunday 5/21). I think some of the problems are... 1) Lack of water flow. The HOT Magnum is supposed to do 245gph, but as I said it's flow seems to have decreased since the original purchase. 2) I can't do water changes. If you know of a way to turn the water out of my tap into safe water for changes please let me know (but know that I cannot afford RO filtration) 3) I also think my lighting is going downhill. I changed the bulbs about 2 months ago, but I have noticed that the class canopy prevents a lot of light from actually entering the tank. Please help. If this sounds like anything any of you have ever come across please let me know. I would greatly appreciate any knowledgeable input. Sincerely, Jocelyn < The algae usually comes from excess nutrients. If your plants are not actively growing then those nutrients are available to the algae. Plants usually like lighting in the 5500K to 6500K temp range. The stem plants usually need CO2 to thrive.  I would do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Stop adding fertilizers and get lights in the desired color temps. Get rid of the stem plants. They are slowly dying anyway. Get some easy to grow Cryptocorynes and sword plants. If you are not going to get an R/O or CO2 system then you need to go with the plants and animals that will survive in the water and system you do have. The HOT Magnum clogs up quickly, especial with lots of dead plant material being sucked up. Lots of fish can handle nitrates in excess of 10 ppm. In some agricultural areas the nitrates come out of the tap at 50 ppm! They still keep fish. Get an outside power filter that pumps at least 250 GPH. Plants need some current to bring the nutrients to them. Stop adding alcohol, start doing water changes. Get a smaller tank for your gudgeons and keep them with bottled water.-Chuck> Air pumps, aerating planted tanks  - 05/13/2006 I was reading in a book and it said that keeping air pumps on during the day is not really a good idea... if you have plants. <Can be detrimental... as this "drives out" Carbon dioxide, adds oxygen...> It did not really give a reason but it said that since photosynthesis stops during the night hours, <Actually... the dark reaction/s of photosynthesis occur during non-lighted periods...> and everything in the tank gives off carbon dioxide, that it is a good idea to have an air pump / air stone running at night. Should I leave air running all day or do what the book suggests. Thank You <I would likely leave all running continuously... much more to this "story" then stated here... likely other factors are much more important to your overall plant growth, health... Too much chance, possibility of trouble with leaving gear off... Bob Fenner>

Oodles of Planted Tank Questions - 05/10/2006 Hi Crew!   <Hi, Kerry!> Last year I wrote with concerns about the pond fish I was overwintering in my 150 gal tank.  I finally solved the goldfish waste problem by finding a new home for the fish and am now hoping to create a planted freshwater tank.  I purchased the tank used and it came with a UGF, a Magnum 350 and an Emperor 400 for filtration and 2 36" strip light for illumination.  For the goldfish, I added 3 400 gph powerheads, a HOT Magnum with bio-media, 2 corner filters (recommended by Bob) and a double bulb strip light so I could actually see the fish.   <Heh, that always helps!> I have been doing lots of reading and catalog looking to try to educate myself about what changes I'll need to make in order to have success with the plant tank.  I've kept fish as a novice hobbyist for about 20 years and had lots of fun with a 75 gal tank filtered by a UGF and 2 HOT magnums.  It had 120 watts of full-spectrum lighting and I had pretty good luck with my tetras, jungle Val and some crypts.  From my reading I'm guessing most of that success was plain luck, but I certainly enjoyed the experience and would like another beautiful tank.  I guess I'd like to make the move from novice to intermediate hobbyist. <Onward and upward!  Though I'm not exactly sure what constitutes novice, intermediate, and beyond - I guess it's all a matter of perspective.> My questions now are about substrate, lighting and filtration.  The tank has probably 200 lbs of gravel on top of the UGF.  My thought is to add 75- 90 lbs of fluorite to the gravel. Is that adequate or would a different plan be better? <Mm, probably just fine.  Partly depends on your complete "game plan".  What kinds of plants do you wish to grow?> Should I remove the UGF plates or just cap off the riser holes?    <Get rid o' that sucker.  It's a trap for all sorts of awful stuff.  If it's not in use, ditch it - and if you're going plants, for the most part you won't ever want to use a UGF.  I think we had a fun thread on the forums for innovative uses for used UGF plates....  I believe "square Frisbee" was one suggestion.> After all the reading I've done I'm pretty confused about lighting.   <It's a confusing topic, to be sure.> I need to keep the tank covered and I don't have the inclination to suspend light fixtures, so I would like to stick to fluorescent lighting.  I understand the idea of watts/gal, color spectrum and such, but there are so many options to get there!  Are compact fluorescent lamps better than regular lamps?   <Depends on your definition of "better", and (the REAL question) what plants you want to grow.> How would it work to have a combo of compact and regular tubes?    <Depends on what plants you want to grow.  But, for all practical purposes, there's nothing wrong with using both.  My own personal preference is toward T5 fluorescent lighting; I just like the look of it, and you can really pack a lot of bulbs in not much space.> I have seen two and even three lamp strips offered in catalogs and have no clue what would be best.  How many watts per gal do I want to shoot for?  I was thinking between 2.25 to 2.5.  Is that enough? <Guess what?  Depends on what plants you want to grow.> I would like to avoid some of the problems I've read about that are caused by too much light.  Would there be any need for added CO2?   <Depends on....  oh, you know the drill.> I know I'm going to have to invest some $$ into the lighting, but I'd like to do that just once, so I would appreciate any specific suggestions you are willing to make.  Filtration.  I'm gathering from the reading that I should scrap the Emperor 400 because of surface disruption and just use canister filters.   <Probably.  Though I'll admit that I'm guilty of having had a very successful plant tank while using an Emperor 400.  I even had a lowered water level, but got around the "extra splashiness" by siliconing a piece of Plexiglas to the lid for the water to trickle down.> I have the Magnum 350 and I still have the 2 HOT magnums I can use.   <You may very well be able to get by with these.> Would I be better off to purchase another canister filter instead of the 2 HOT Magnums? <Not necessarily.  My preference in plant tanks is the Eheim Professionel II series; these are like the Lamborghini of canister filters.> And is there any use for the powerheads in a planted tank.   <Depends on the plants and animals you wish to stock.  They're certainly not "worthless", nor "necessary".> When initially stocking a plant tank, how many plants should be added at once?   <Can do quite a lot initially, if you fertilize well enough, ultimately meet their needs.> Is it different from the slow stocking of fish?   <Yes.  The plants aren't going to produce deadly amounts of ammonia or anything like that.> I am disciplined (my friends might say compulsive) about proper tank maintenance.   <Disciplined....  Compulsive....  It's all the same!  <grin>> I have always been good about regular water changes and filter cleaning.  From my reading I am guessing that gravel vacuuming can be reduced and after thinking about livestock options the only fish I'm sure to add are Kuhli loaches, just because they are my favorites.   <Hmm....  You might look into "Eco-Complete" rather than Seachem's Fluorite.  It's not as sharp and jagged.> I would guess I might add a few tetras or barbs later.   <You'll have the space for plenty more than a few!> Anyway, thanks for any suggestions and advice you have to offer.  It's been a dream of mine to have a tank this size, I want to do it as best I can.  Kerry <My first, strongest suggestion to you - take a good read through "Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants" by Peter Hiscock and "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" by Diana Walstad.  These will be VERY valuable references to you; especially the former.  You'll learn about how fertilization, CO2, and lighting work together, how overages in any one can cause algae, what plants have what needs, substrates, filtration....  Oh, the list goes on and on and on.  You'll get far more information from these than I can give you in an email.  Read these books, then use them to help you form a "game plan" as to what plants, fish, and invertebrates you might want, and how you should do it.  The research is probably half the fun, here, so enjoy!  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Planted Tank Thanks - 05/11/2006 Hi Sabrina,  Thank you for you kind reply.  Even though I was not specific (because I am truly undecided) about the plants I want to grow, you were very helpful.   <I wish I could have given you something a little more concrete than "It depends...." but much really does depend upon your ultimate plans.  Do please pick up those books, especially the Hiscock book, to help you formulate and execute your plans.> Thank you again,  Kerry <Glad to be of service.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

How to keep live plants cleaner  - 04/27/06 Hi! I really love your web site, so much great information! I have been searching your web site and apologize if I am asking a question you have already answered that I just didn't see. I have read your section about live plants and I don't know what I am doing wrong. Here is a little background and I hope I put in all of the important information. I have a 10-gallon aquarium. I have had this aquarium going for a little over a year. I currently use a filter that hangs off the back, it uses carbon and sponge filters, I believe it is called an Aqua10. I change the filter about every 3-4 weeks. I have a bubble wall. I keep the lights on for about 12 hours a day. The aquarium isn't in direct light but there are windows in the room. I have 7 live plants-4 water sprites and 3 Amazon swords. I have had these plants for about 3.5 months. They appear to be ok in that they have new growth.  I have an Oto, a small green catfish, an African dwarf frog, a few neon tetras, a couple gold skirt tetras, and one dwarf Gourami. I do a 25% water change weekly and when I do the water change I use a scraper to get green algae spots off the glass and try to scrub what looks dirty. Everything has been fine during the year I have had this tank and I dearly love it. I have a question though. The water looks clear but the live plants have green algae spots on them, some leaves seem to get dirtier as time goes on get a brownish build up which I try to scrap off, (at least the worst spots). Is this normal? Do you have any thoughts on how I can keep my plants cleaner? Thanks in advance, Kara <Mmm, the information you present is good, accurate, but incomplete. What re your water quality? Likely something is amiss here. Please read: http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/algcontags.htm and the linked files at top. Bob Fenner>

New Plants Stressed The Fish   4/21/06 Hello there! I am writing on behalf of my fish. Here is what is happening: Yesterday I placed about 13 bunches of Rotala macrandra into my 65g tank. This afternoon I noticed that all of my fish are "gasping" for air. I tested my water and the results as follows: pH 6.7, ammonia 0.25 and nitrite was high as well. There also appears to be a film on the surface of the tank water? The temperature is set at 28*c. The inhabitants are a small angel, 3 Bristlenoses , 3 Cory cats, 2 dwarf cichlids, a black ghost knife. All were gasping and I'm really worried. What do I do? How can I lower the ammonia and nitrite levels. Everything was fine until i added those blasted plants, do you think the plants may be to blame? Just looking now there appears to be white flaky debris coming from the filter and floating in the tank. Please try to help me the best you can, I followed all the rules re setting up a planted tank and now this. I don't want my fishies to die!! Yours thankfully Jarryd <  A couple of things could be going on. If there is lots of junk in the gravel then it became free in the water when you planted the new plants. Bacteria should have handled it but sometimes food/waste become clogged in the gravel and without oxygen the bacteria have a hard time breaking this material down. Try vacuuming the gravel to remove this waste and your waste levels should decrease. When you add plants they increase the oxygen and absorb the CO2 in the water when the lights are on. When the lights are off the process is reversed and the plants absorb oxygen and put out CO2. Too much CO2 creates carbonic acid and can seriously lower the pH in a tank in which the water is very soft. If you added all these plants without turning on the lights then this might just be your problem.-Chuck>

More FW crustacean stocking  - 04/20/2006 Hello WWM Crew!! <Hello, Don!!> I've been reading (and enjoying) the copious information on your website and I'm very grateful that there are people such as yourselves that take the time to further (and better) the aquarium keeping hobby.   <Thank you very, very much for these kind words.> Now that I've gotten the accolades out of the way, on to the questions.  First off, Hi!  I'm Don!   <Hi!  I'm Sabrina!> My partner, Richard and I, are in the process of losing our freshwater, planted aquarium-keeping virginity.   <Oooooh, exciting!> So.... we have a 37 gallon, bow-front, acrylic tank that currently houses: 6 fancy guppies 6 Rasbora tetras 6 Penguin tetras 10 Neon Tetras 6 freshwater clams (I suppose they're there, I've never seen them!) <These actually fare very, very poorly in aquariums....  They need copious amounts of free-floating algae and other micro foods to stay alive....  if they're not gone now, they will be soon, I'm afraid.  I heartily advise against getting these again.> 2 Flower Shrimp (one passed) <Sorry to hear this!  Shrimp are my fave....> 3 (I think, but I've only seen 2 as of late) Cherry Shrimp <The third's probably in there somewhere.> 3 Japonica shrimp 6 Otocinclus catfish (they've been miracle workers when it comes to clearing out all algae growth in our tank!!) and various snails (I believe there are 3 Ramshorns, 3 black mystery and 6 zebra) we have 2 medium sized pieces of natural driftwood, adorned with java moss (that has yet to take root but has been tied/anchored with peat moss) and many many live plants. <So far, so good, aside from that shrimp....> Our water has a pH of 7.6 out of the tap, and in the last few days we have had a measurable ammonia concentration of approx. .25 ppm.    <Disconcerting, but not "deadly" as yet....  do please try to bring this to zero.> Nitrates and Nitrites remain at 0. <Yikes!  Still cycling??> Herein lies the issue.  I've learned from reading on this site about the cycling process that   one should endure when setting up a new system.  We have not followed those guidelines, unfortunately, and are now likely experiencing the fallout from such rash behavior.   <Yup.  But you're learning....  and I'm very happy for that.> Needless to say, we have overstocked our tank (a sign of our eagerness to house and grow live   aquaria) <Mm, I wouldn't say you're overstocked, but stocked too much too quickly.> and after becoming attached to our inhabitants, are doing our best to ensure their ongoing well-being.  So here's where I need a little guidance in the process.  Since the damage is pretty much done and we've overstocked our new, un-cycled tank, what measures are required to keep the aquaria we're currently   housing, relatively healthy and un-dead, for lack of better terminology.  From what I've read on this wonderful site, water changes are pretty much par for the course and we're doing those (approx. 5 gallons a day, sometimes twice a day depending on the ammonia concentration) to keep our inhabitants as happy and healthy (not to mention un-dead) as possible. <Perfect.> We have also used Marineland Bio-Spira (last weekend) and are currently using Fritz-zyme Turbo 700 to hasten the cycling process and as a stop gag measure to stave off any further loss of life. <Perfect again.> We had a blue crawfish (Procambarus sp.) <Yeeeeeee-ikes!  Not with the shrimp, please, nor with any slow-moving or bottom-dwelling fish - they'll all become snacks.> and one of our japnionca shrimp recently pass on (not sure if this was due to the un-cycled-ness of our tank or the trauma suffered during shipping). <I hate to say it, but be glad for the lack of the Cray.  Crays are GREAT, but really ought to be with critters that they can't or won't hurt.  The shrimp and Otos are not in this category.> So I suppose my formal question is:  Should we be doing as many/as frequent water changes as we are doing, in lieu of the cycling process not being completed, even though we've used the previously   mentioned products (Bio-Spira/Fritz-Zyme Turbo Start)? <I would, yes.> I guess I could/should make that a little clearer...  Are we doing more harm than good by changing the water so often, or should we allow the ammonia to build to a level, just shy of tolerable for our   tank inhabitants in order to promote bacterial growth, or should we continue with the water changes to keep the ammonia concentration at a less-than-lethal level for our overly stocked tank?   <Though it will prolong the cycling process, keep up with the water changes....  The cycle will establish, it'll just take a little longer.> Other issues we're grappling with are whether or not the 3" fluorite substrate has a negative affect on our invertebrate aquaria (after-all we did lose 2, I've read about copper being adverse to their livelihood and I'm not sure if fluorite is detrimental to their well-being) <If it helps any, I've used fluorite in plenty of shrimp-containing tanks with no apparent negative results.  I would not be concerned here.  In all honesty, freshwater shrimp are not always cared for properly at stores and wholesalers; these animals may have been doomed prior to purchase.  When you buy shrimps and Crays, you should look for a certain quality of "clarity"....  Hard to describe, but once you've seen/recognized what I mean, you'll understand.  "Cloudy" shrimp should be avoided.  This "clear" vs. "cloudy" can be seen even in totally colored shrimp, like wood/fan/Singapore shrimp.... again, it's tough to explain.> and does iodine (added as a supplement to aide our invertebrates) have any affect on the fish we're keeping?   <Nope, not a problem at all - and of vital importance to the inverts.> We do plan on getting another blue crayfish (Procambarus sp.) to replace our recently deceased <I recommend strongly against this.> and we'd like to add a few more fish (probably compatible tetras or another species you'd recommend that's compatible with the above mentioned, currently housed aquaria and more shrimp (they're too cute to resist)).   <I bet you'd really delight in the antics of a handful of small Corydoras cats, or if you fear outbreaks of undesirable snails, a few Botia striata....> Thanks in advance for your informative response <Glad to be of service!> and sincere thanks for providing a forum for all of the unlearned yet eager novices (such as myself) new to the 'trade'. <And again, thank you VERY much for these kind words.> Don Anderson <All the best to you, Richard, and your new tank!  -Sabrina Fullhart>

FW free floating algae & QT question   1/20/06 Dear WWM Crew,   I'm in the process of setting up a small FW planted tank after moving and losing my Xeniid reef tank -my current apt won't support the weight... I'm up to a very rocky start. My first setup was ruined by a yeast fermentation process that went out of control and ended up in the tank! It lasted 3 weeks. <Can be a real mess... disaster>   Current setup - The tank is a 20 long with 3" of Fluorite and 1/2" sand on top, 130W of 10,000K PC -like the color more than 6,500K! It's been set up for 2 weeks with 4 Anubias sp. and 6 Cryptocorynes that survived the original setup. Not yet cycled... <Leave it be till it is>   The 10G QT is cycled and has one Tiger Lotus, some Microsword and Giant Duckweed and one male Golden Wonder Killi. The fish still needs to spend 3 weeks, but I would like to transfer the Tiger Lotus and Microsword to the display. <Best not to move these Lotus...> I have 130W of 10,000K PC here too. Problem is the QT has green water due to my over feeding of the Killi! Based on what I've read I should solve the green water problem before I transfer anything from the QT to the display, but I don't think the Tiger Lotus is going to be happy much longer not anchored to the substrate. Any suggestions? Opinions? <I would add a sponge filter, keep doing partial water changes... leave all in place for now>   Also, for tank mates for the killie, I was thinking of either a pair of dwarf gouramis or one male Betta, although I am not sure of the latter and want to try their compatibility while still in QT. Thank you, Narayan <Either should work out fine. Bob Fenner> Going From SW to FW  12/16/05 Hello, I have a 38G tank and want to set up a planted tank. I have   kept freshwater tanks for years now but have never tried planted. I   have some questions. I have a 36" Orbit Power Compact fixture with a   96W Dual daylight 6700/10000k bulb and a 96W Dual actinic bulb, from   a failed Saltwater tank endeavor (that's another story for another   time). Anyway would this light be sufficient if I didn't use the   Actinic. Or should I try to replace the bulbs with 100% 6500k bulbs? < The latter would give you the best results.> I'm also a little confused on C02 I have read that if I don't add C02   the plants could use up the available C02 and my pH will rise, but if   I add too much C02 the pH will drop, I don't know what I should do. I   am also considering using Flourish Excel in place of C02, have you   had any experience with this product? Thanks for the help and any   other suggestions you could make would be appreciated. Thanks < Individual stem plants do best with CO2. Plants like Amazon swords and Cryptocorynes really don't need CO2 but do better with it. Go to Aquariumplants.com. They have lots of beginner plants to get you started. Excel adds iron not CO2. Plants require both. I would recommend Fluorite as a substrate, 6500 bulbs, swords, crypts, Anubias, java fern, Aponogetons to get you started. You can still set up a pretty decorative planted tank without using CO2. During the day plants take in CO2 and give off O2. It is reversed in the dark. CO2 generates carbonic acid that affects pH. Usually there is enough minerals in the water to offset or buffer major changes in pH.-Chuck>

Green dots on plants 6/29/05 Hi, <Hello there> Thanks a lot for such a wonderful website. <Welcome> I have four Mickey mouse platies and four black skirt tetra in my 20 gallon tank. My water test readings are as follows: Tank Specs: 20 gallon with BioWheel filtration system. Water Temp: 82 F Ammonia: between 0 ppm Nitrate: 20 ppm Nitrite: between 0 to 0.5 ppm Hardness: 150 ppm Alkalinity: 40 ppm pH: 7.0 Two days back, I have noticed some green dots on artificial and live plants. These green dots are only on some leaves of a live plants and on top leaves of artificial plant. <Ah, yes> I have assumed they would be algae but after researching online, I found that algae has brown like color mostly. <Mmm, no... come in all colors, but most freshwater aquarium algae look/are green> I am worried what these green dots are in aquarium. Is it algae? If yes, then what should I do to get rid of it. If not, then what else it could be? Thanks a lot for your help in advance. Regards, Min <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwalgcontrol.htm and the linked files above, till you're satisfied. Bob Fenner>

Aeration and a Planted Tank - 06/07/2005 Thanks for all the good advice so far. It has been very helpful over the years. <I am delighted that you have found WWM useful; thank you very much for the kind words....> I have a 90 gallon tank...18 months old...with two Emperor 400s, 80 degrees, 5 angelfish, 11 Cory cats, and 7 Bristlenose Plecos...the Plecos spawn constantly. <An excellent bonus, to be sure!> I also have a 30 gallon cube...one month old, but I stole a BioWheel from my established tank...with an Emperor 280, 75 degrees and two goldfish...an Oranda and a moor. I change 10% of the water every day and vacuum the tanks once weekly. <Wow!  You've sure got me beat.  I tend to be a lot more lax about maintenance....  Now, I know we typically crack the whip on folks and tell them to do MORE maintenance on their tanks, but a word of caution, if you plan to plant a tank heavily, you'll not want to vacuum the gravel each week....  and, being that the substrate is where your little nitrifying pals colonize, be sure not to be *too* thorough in your weekly vacuum job.> I have been running air stones in both tanks...2 in the 90 gal and one in the 30 gal...to increase oxygen content in the water. <I'm sure the Plecs and Corys especially delight in this, as they come from areas that usually have high oxygen content,  though it may not be an absolute necessity.> I bought a small piece of Anubis Nana rooted on bogwood for the goldfish tank and some Java Fern and Anubis Nana for the angelfish tank which I tied to existing bogwood so it could root. The LFS told me that I should discontinue the air stones now that I have added plants...something to do with CO2 levels. Is that right? <Well, yes and no.  These VERY hardy plants will take just about anything you can dish up - very low light, low CO2, low nutrient levels, etc., etc....  You need not change anything you are currently doing to please them.  You can keep your aeration, maintenance scheme, and all.> I do not want to stop the extra aeration if I don't have to do so. <No worries.  If you choose to plant the tank heavily with plants in the substrate, you'll want to make some major changes (less frequent gravel vacuuming, for one), but the Anubias and java fern will do fine for you.  You could lightly plant the tank with plants in the substrate, as well - if you do so, I would recommend heavy root feeders like Amazon swords, Crinum or Vallisneria, Cryptocorynes, and Aponogetons, and give them some nice fertilizer tabs in the substrate around them, and you could still keep your aeration....  If you plant the tank heavily, though, you'll want to do some research on how best to change your tank.  Diana Walstad's book on low-tech, low-maintenance planted tanks is great, as is Peter Hiscock's "Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants", which details lighting, fertilizing, adding CO2, and much much more.> James Nyman <Wishing you continuing success with your aquaria,  -Sabrina>

Floral mayhem Hey crew, <David> I am having some serious problems with a number of my plants.  The pattern of symptoms does not seem to correspond to anything I have read on macro/micro element deficiencies. <Okay> Holes in leaves.  This has affected a couple of the broader-leaved plants (e.g. one of the larger Echinodorus [rubin? red flame?]). Stems rotting.  I had a Myriophyllum aquaticum completely fall apart in about 3 weeks.  Now this is starting to affect even my hardy Hydrocotyle leucocephala and Alternanthera reineckii -- both of which have been growing like weeds. <Mmm...> Whitening of leaves: The leaves of the Hydrocotyle also started whitening starting at the edges of the leaves after a couple of months. Some of the leaves which have NOT shown this whitening now have small bright green spots??? <Algal likely here> Browning/curling of leaves: This has affected only my Hygrophila difformis, and only on a few leaves. <Nitrogen, ready solubility issue> Vallisneria fare particularly poorly-- blades start melting within days after I introduce it to the tank.  The smaller spiral variety-of-many-names dies almost immediately.  One of the larger varieties is hanging in there, the root system is actually very well developed and even sending out runners, but most of the blades just melt and/or come off. So-- seemingly different symptoms on different plants, with stems rotting being the most common symptom. <Of the general possibilities... pathogenic, nutrient limitation, environmental... which is it?> The tank is 12 gal, about 3 months old.  Lighting is a 24W "6500 daylight" compact fluorescent.  Generally most of the flora seem to do fine for somewhere between 2 weeks and 2 months before these symptoms begin to show... Overall, given lack of CO2 injection, growth seems very good and consistent.  Even the worst-hit plants (Myriophyllum and Vallisneria) show relatively vigorous growth even as they die! I am using a manufactured substrate called Florabase.   Don't know much about it, other than that it contains volcanic ash (according to mfg), is supposedly high in chelated iron, and is apparently poorly named. <Red Sea product... I like others better> It is acidic -- rapidly and significantly reduces/buffers pH and KH -- but I don't think it contains peat, at least the water doesn't look it. Grains are 1-2mm with a moderate amount of silt (package specifically said to not rinse prior to adding to tank). I am fairly certain that these problems relate to the substrate in some way, just not sure how.  My main reason for thinking so is the extremely fast decline of any type of Vallisneria.  I had a couple of different varieties in another tank with plain old gravel and poor lighting, and they did just fine... and are supposedly very hardy. To give you some idea of the acidic properties of the substrate... Tap water:  pH 8.2, KH ~2.5d, GH ~4d Tank water: pH 7.0, KH ~1d, GH ~4.5d Other stats: NH3/NH4, NO2, NO3 all undetectable.  Free/chelated FE undetectable.  Water temp 79F.  Fauna consists of 1 Betta, 2 Colisa lalia, 1 siamensis, 3 platies, relatively tame snail population. Apologies for the long email, and thanks in advance for any help you can offer... -Dave <Mmm, am given to suggest (due to small size of the system), tearing down, replacing the substrate with SeaChem's (Fluorite) line... and their fertilizer. I do think the substrate is principally at fault here... not supplying carbonate, in fact being too-reductive (acidic), mal-affecting nutrient assimilation.

Phosphates, algae, PMDD, and CO2 injection Hey, WWM-ites, <Glen> Once again, thank you for your time in answering all our questions.  The Wife has OK'd making a donation on your new Amazon Honor System link (at the bottom of the homepage, for those of my fellow readers who haven't noticed it yet) after two more paychecks. <Thank you, and her>   MacL, your answers on the acrylic questions will save me lots of money, and I appreciate it! <Yay!> I've arrived at a few more tentative decisions for near-future directions, and would appreciate feedback. <Okay> We started our 55g freshwater community tank with sodium biphosphate (to drop the pH 9.5+ tapwater here in Austin), <Wowzah! Liquid rock!> phosphate buffers and fake plants.  We've swapped out most of our fake plants for real ones now, and I've stopped adding more phosphates now that we have a luxuriant carpet of algae (more on that in a minute).  From what everyone says, using a phosphate buffer in a planted tank is pretty well guaranteed to cause rampant algae growth. Am I wrong in understanding it this way? <Mmm, can, but not necessarily> Based on this theory, I'm using Poly-Filters (for the last three days) in the Emperor 400 to extract the phosphates.  Doesn't this remove the buffering, as well? <Mmm, no... not carbonates, bicarbonates... unless they are bound with metals> (Seems like a "well, duh" question...)  I monitor the water chemistry religiously; test the pH (7.1-7.15) at least twice a week with a meter (calibrated every few weeks), do reagent-based nitrate tests (never above 20ppm) twice a week, and ammonia and nitrite tests (both 0.0) every time we've added livestock (but we're at max population density now, so those will go to once a month unless something looks awry). <Outstanding>   We change 14+ gallons every week (we make 25 gallons at a time in a dedicated trash can), and with my new phosphate-free regimen the pH is 7.05 to 7.1, but the new-water kH is zero. <I would add at least a few heaping tablespoons of sodium bicarbonate to each batch... or if you'd prefer, a commercial product containing this, some carbonate, borate...> I bring the tap pH down to just acidic with hydrochloric acid, and balance it back to neutral with sodium bicarbonate - fairly easy to achieve, but a bit too much either way and the pH goes to either under 6 or straight to 8.3 (sodium bicarb buffer point). <Oh!> If the Poly-Filter removes all the phosphate ions, and hence all the buffering in the tank, how fast can the dreaded "pH crash" happen?  Hours/days/weeks? <Days, could... likely there is some other buffering mechanism at play here... substrate, decor...>   With the water changing regimen, is it still as big a worry? <Not "that" much>   Should I spend the money for a "system" like Seachem's Acid/Alkaline Buffer additives (chemically almost the same as what I'm doing now, AFAIK), and add the appropriate blend of them after I've achieved neutrality? <Up to you... I'm a cheapskate and so would not>   I've spent hours on the Internet investigating buffers, and there apparently isn't anything remotely as stable as phosphate buffers (without getting into exotic DNA-analysis stuff at $35 per 100 ml).  Right?  Worry or not too? <Not too... do what I would... add a gallon or so of just straight tap to the whole shebang. No big worries re pH...> When we added our first live plants (Vallisneria and Cabomba) we got quite a growth of hair algae on the Vallisneria and a bit on the edges of our silk plants.  (From pictures on the Internet, it looks like Vals are a pretty good growth medium for hair algae.)  We've since added more Cabomba, some dwarf and giant hair grass, a huge planted Watersprite (and some floating), a wad of Java moss, some Ludwigia repens, a cluster of Alternanthera, and we just planted two tiger lotus bulbs which haven't sprouted yet.  All the plants are doing better than I expected them to, especially after upgrading to a 110-watt compact fluorescent fixture (the AGA with GE 9325K bulbs).  The Vals are sprouting nicely at the main plants and sending runners everywhere - we have sprouts coming up nearly two feet away from the main plants. <Neat... and good bio-assay evidence of no outright shortage of macronutrient/s>   I've been cutting out the older worst-covered Vallisneria blades to physically remove the bulk of the hair algae (the scorched-earth philosophy), and am going to see if the color in the silk plants will stand up to a bleach dip to kill the algal inflorescence thereupon. <Should do so... and/or keeping them in the dark for a week or so> Y'all have indicated that patience, rational fish-feeding, and healthy plants will eventually starve out the rest.   <They will> I've just ordered the components for making some PMDD to boost the plants' micronutrient levels (particularly the iron, as I understand it's important to the algae battle) and will let you know how/if it works.  Any other suggestions (other than CO2, the next subject)? <For others reading this PMDD is an acronym for "Poor Man's Dupla Drops"... an ersatz near formulation of Horst and Kipper's business (Dupla) complete plant fertilizer product... you can see more re this on "the Krib" (search via the Net please)> I've pretty well convinced myself to put a yeast-based DIY CO2 injection system in the DIY trickle filter I'm building. <Neat... and some semi-sneaky advice... start hinting that what you'd REALLY like for upcoming birthdays, thank yous are carbon dioxide infusion gear... a five-ten bottle, regulator, needle-valve... as I am VERY sure you will "out-grow" the pop bottle technology but quick> I'm thinking about a forced-water injector in the final sump compartment before the return pump.  The question I have about this concerns our tank aeration.  We have what I call a "wall-'o-bubbles" along the back of the tank - a 36" bubble stick (at my Wife's request - she loves the look). <Wow! And a humong oh air pump I'll wager>   I know that aeration is danged near a cardinal sin in a planted/injected tank, but too bad - the wall stays, don't argue with Mama.  :-) <Hotay!> Will the aeration severely decrease the benefit of an injected system, or is this (1) any CO2 is good CO2 or (2) who the heck knows, Glen, put it in and find out? <It will still be of discernible benefit, bubble wall and all> Will the heavy surface aeration somewhat diminish the pH impact of the CO2 injection (tying this in with my diminishing buffering capacity)? <Yes> Maybe tweak the kH to 90-100ppm or so with sodium bicarbonate after I start and keep an eagle eye on the productivity of the yeast generator (since going from pH7.0 to pH8.3 would be a "bad thing")? <? Yes to raising the KH, GH... the use of CO2 will lower pH, not raise it>   Whaddaya think, any comments/ideas/suggestions? <You're doing fine... are you a bonafide member of the Aquatic Gardener's Association? You might enjoy, benefit from such> I'll say it again, thank y'all for your time and advice! Glen <Thank you. Bob Fenner> Plant Fertilizer Good evening, <Hello...Jorie here> I've been doing a ton of research on planted aquariums recently because I'm  looking to increase my wattage from 1 watt/gal to about 3.2 watts/gal.   I've found the right CF strip light, CO2 equipment, but know I'm real  confused about plant nutrition. <There's tons of products out there, no wonder you are confused!> What complete liquid/tablet plant  fertilizer do you recommend?   <Personally, I use the SeaChem products, the Organic Carbon for the Planted Aquarium (which you won't need, obviously, with your CO2 system), the Comprehensive Plant Supplement and the Flourish Tabs.  These combination has worked quite well for me.> What trace elements would you consider the  most important? <Hard to say which one is most important...there are really many elements essential to good plant health.>   Would you consider 3.2 watts/gal "goosing" the light intensity? <I'm not sure I understand what you are getting at here.  What I can tell you is that 3.2 watts per gallon would be considered "moderate" lighting - what type of plants are you wanting to grow?> Thanks for your help Chris <If you don't already have it, I'd highly recommend Peter Hiscock's Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants - great book! Good luck! Jorie>  

Your plant articles Dear Mr. Bob, <Ms. Daphne> I adore your writings!  Thanks so much for posting these wonderful articles and pictures on the web. <Glad to share> I have been reading what you put down, though, and I still don't have a clear cut answer to a question that is plaguing me.  I have a 75 gallon, peat-filtered, Amazon-ish (we'll call it an ish, I'm no expert here) tank with soft water of about a 6.8 to 6.9 regular ph.  I keep the baddies (ammonias, etc.) down with twice a week water changes, and I have lots of plants.  I'm building up my plant harvest so I can put up a modest 15 tall angel tank (maybe just a mated pair) in the living room with cuttings. <Okay> My question is this.  How DO you keep the tank substrate clean?  I did read much of what you posted, but I still don't get it.  I have a huge bottom feeding community.  I have 12 Cory's, 2 Plecos, a Chinese Algae Eater, 2 porthole Flagtail cats, Kuhli loaches, and the main fishies are Kribensis and Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlids.  I love those little buggers.  (cacuatoides are my favorites).  So, I have many, many bottom loving and scavenging fish just on the lower levels.  I did this on purpose.  I used to have 2 foot long Oscars and an 18 inch Pleco in the tank.  I found a home for them, a nice 200 gallon home (and cried when they left), but I think, now, after reading your posts, I did a bad thing.  I kept the giant stones as the substrate. <Ahh, part of the difficulty... otherwise, doing some surface vacuuming during your water changes, rinsing out or replacing your mechanical filter media at these times, possibly adding some increased water circulation... should be about it> Yes, I have the huge boulder stuff. I added lots of tiny rock, so I have a layered thing going on now, and I am slowly, slowly pulling the large rock out and replacing it (to keep the biological thing going), but I still have a great deal of large rock.  Should I just put the many plants I have in sectioned pots? <Mmm, if you'd like... to facilitate their moving about, re-landscaping, but this is not necessary> I have red rubin everywhere, purple Cabomba, Anacharis, and some pennywort.  I just won a bunch of red and magenta plants off of EBay.  I like the idea of having green all over.  However, I do notice in order to feed the bottom guys, I must often drop flake to the bottom. <Try sinking pellet type foods here... much cleaner, more nutritious... a bunch of manufacturers make them... Tetra, Hikari, Omega Sea...> I like to use a variety for the bottom feeders.  It seems to make them healthy.  So, is a gravel cleaner a bad thing?  Can I use it in the places where the plants aren't? <Just cleaning lightly and not deeply near rooted plants should be fine... is what I do> I've heard tell that if you have a very well planted aquarium and feed correctly, that you don't need to siphon the gravel, <This is so> but I am afraid to ignore it.  What would you do if you were in my predicament? <Do half the tank, around the rooted plants each time you're in it for other regular maintenance, water changes...> By the way, I use the Python 25 foot thing that attaches to my sink, because a 75 gallon tank is easier to clean in this manner. <Understood> Would you be more fierce in getting rid of the big stones?  Please let me know.  And, thanks for so much wonderful information.  You take care. <I would switch out the large stones... you mention ammonia, but should not detect any... I would be bold and pull most all of these rocks> Daphne People come in all shapes and sizes.  Some have two legs, while some have four or six.  Some have tails, fins, or wings.  Some have two eyes, some have more than two, and some have eyestalks.   No matter the number or type of appendages, they are all my friends, and I love them very much.   Please don't eat them.  Daphne and Gator X <Is Gator X a crocodilian? Yikes! Bob F>
Re: Your plant articles Thank you.  I am going to follow your directions to the tee. <Do take a look/read over the "Krib" as well> This is a Gator X. He is my American Bulldog and best friend. <Ahh, he appears to have a very old soul. Bob Fenner>

Goldfish, plants, and substrate cleaning Hello, I have a few questions for ya'll, hoping so much that you can help me out. Tank details: Was a used tank, came with the filter, tank, light, etc.. 60 gallon tank, 304 Fluval filter, Lighting -- not sure except that the bulb is full spectrum light'¦.so not much, help there, unfortunately, Fresh water, live plants (duckweed and Anacharis right now) Substrate is silicate sand, gravel, and a few larger rocks, but no UGF Just bought some peat to try out, as well. tank currently has: 3 goldfish (one 5', one 6 ', one 8 inches long) 4 white clouds 3 Ramshorn snails Tubifex worms (enough for goldfish to eat a few and keep the sand a bit aerated, if I understand right.  I restock the worms when it looks like they've all been eaten) My first few questions are more on method than anything else: I am not sure how to clean the substrate.  I have the sand and gravel mixed, rather than the gravel totally covering it, as it seems to make it easier for the fish to get at the worms.  So, I can't vacuum or the sand is totally sucked up. I wasn't sure if vacuuming was still a good idea with a planted aquarium, either.  What's a good way to try to clean the bottom?  A particular creature, a mechanical device, more plants..?  I really like to try and keep it as natural as possible, so if there was a fish, invertebrate, etc'¦ that I could acquire that would help and not overstock, I would appreciate a finger pointing the way to one!  We also have a 20 gallon warm water planted  tank that I am going to start up, so if a creature could be used, if you have any warm freshwater substrate cleaners, I'd love to hear about them as well. One of the reasons I am concerned is because I HAVE to let the food settle to the bottom or my goldfish do not eat.  They were originally fry from a friend's pond.  The pond's fish population was almost completely killed off by a heron, and honest to God, I swear it's given my fish issues:-P  Without live plants floating on top and many, many around the tank to hide in, even with backing, rocks, etc. on the tank, they will stay huddled together in one corner of the tank, scared to death.  Even when at ease, They absolutely refuse to come near the surface, ever'¦.and we've had them for 2 years now, since they were less than an inch long. They aren't scared in general'¦they'll even come near my hand in the water and seem to rub along it whenever I am doing something inside the tank.   I've tried a lot of different things to try to encourage surface, or at least mid-water eating, but have finally given up and just give them sinking pellets, which they enjoy rooting around for, but don't often eat as they fall, even if I am only feeding very small amounts (tried it to see if I was overfeeding, ya know?)  So, as they don't eat them as they fall, the motion of the water always ends up flowing a small pile of them to some oddball place in the tank.  Usually it's found and eaten, every once in a while it's not.  I worry about any I've missed contaminating the tank! And now, onto what is actually a more vital question for me 'I'm having cloudy water and have recently found a little bunch of food that got shoved under a bit of wood in the tank 'and it's got some sort of white growth on it.  Looks like each piece of food has acquired a white fuzzy outside about a ¼ inch big. once taken out of the water, it seems almost hair like in consistency.  Is this some type of algae possibly?  Or does it sound more bacterial?   Or could it be both?   We were in a bit of a desperate situation with the goldfish, so, background: They were in a 20 gallon tank and had a growth spurt like they were competing in fish growth Olympics or something, jeesh.  I was saving for a bigger tank, but even as I got it, they were really crowded, I was finding it impossible to keep the tank clean enough, etc'¦  Really worried about them.  I fishless cycled the new tank, and when it was ready, I was going to nicely, slowly introduce the fish one at a time.  However, after I introduced the first one, the 20 gallon situation was suddenly much worse, fish gasping for air at the top of the tank, etc'¦so, I decided that putting them in the new tank together, even if the load was a bit high at first, would be less stressful than keeping them in that old one.  The ammonia level went up to .5 ppm, the nitrite and nitrate level is very low (dipstick 'lame test, but the nearest stores were out of the more precise ones).  I am trying to control the ammonia levels with water changes of 2-4 gallons every other day (based on how much water I can let sit at a time with the buckets I have!) which seems to be working all right on controlling the ammonia.  The ph was at 7, but dropped to 6.5. I have been using a ph up (can't recall brand) to bring it up to 7 at the moment.  Had a bit of a brown algae bloom as well.  Now that I can actually see the goldfish better out of the 20 gallon tank, I'm pretty sure they have a bacterial infection, based on reading your faq's on that sort of thing. Doesn't look like they have any fungal infections.  So 'is the cloudy water best taken care of through water changes, or might it be more of an indication of a bacterial problem?  Any suggestions on best way to fix? Now, I want to medicate, but I'm wondered if it would interfere with the biological filter trying to straighten out?  Melaflux (spelling may be wrong) was recommended by our aquarium store owner after hearing our fish's description.     Would it be better to wait for the ammonia readings to stay at 0 without the water changes 3 times a week?  Or is it usually better to medicate first?  Fish look ill in physical appearance, but they are not so ill that their activity levels or swimming ability seems different than normal.  White clouds seem fine.    Thank you in advance for any help you can give me!!! Shauna >>Hello. First, using peat is not necessary with goldfish. Second, Tubifex worms generally come from impure water, are you sure you are using live Tubifex?? Are these cultured? Unless they are being raised in a relatively sterile environment, I would never feed these to my fish. Plants and goldfish are usually a short term arrangement, since goldfish are herbivorous and will eventually mow their way through your plants. They also like to snuffle around in the substrate, I am surprised your plants have not been uprooted yet. You can try adding Malaysian Trumpet Snails, they live in the substrate and are excellent soil-turners. Other than that, I recommend you "surface vac" your substrate regularly. If you can remove uneaten food and fish poop before it has a chance to become "one" with your substrate, all the better. Yes, you will deprive your roots of some nutrients, but you may hopefully prevent future problems this way. It would also be advisable to uproot and re-plant regularly to prevent anoxic substrate problems down the road. I can  hear the plant people wincing when I say that, but this is a goldfish tank, so, you either need to put the goldfish first, and clean it accordingly, or remove the goldfish and make the plants your priority. You can't really do both. Also, why didn't you move the filtration on the 20g onto the larger tank? This would have helped your cycling process. Cloudy water is normal when cycling, also pH fluctuations, do NOT add any pH products, it won't help your fish at this stage! Also, fuzzy, fungus-y food needs to be vacuumed out!!  Keep doing regular water changes, this will slow down the cycle, but it will help keep your fish alive. You can try adding Amrid, or AmmoLock, or any other product at your local fish store, to help with this problem. Please do these things, then describe what your fish look like, their movements, etc. I will try to help you figure out if your fish are actually sick, or are just suffering from the high ammonia problems. -Gwen<< Thank you so much for the reply, Gwen!  Appreciate the advice immensely.   RE: the Tubifex worms.  Actually, I'm culturing them myself.  I started out with live ones from an aquarium/reptile store, and accidentally 'bred' an empty tank full of them, so now I just keep the colony going and gather some up periodically and put 'em in the tank for the fish.   Oh, regarding the plants...yeah, they're mostly for the Goldfish to eat, anyway.  I have enough that they get a chance to grow, but I just add in the cost of plants periodically to the fish food budget.  I just don't want them to start dying before the fish eat them and make everything worse, ugh. I think it's all good now, thankfully. After cleaning out and finding one more spot of yucky white food, I now know where the current seems to be pushing it in the new tank so none gets left behind now, and the water cleared right up in just a few days and the ammonia just a bit after that. Yee ha.:-)  Fish are looking good, too, so that's a relief. Thanks again...any more troubles and I know just who to come and ask now! Shauna >>Thank you! I'm happy to hear things are going well. As always, if you test your water, vacuum, and do the water changes, you should have smooth sailing. If you are concerned about plant matter inside your filters, just add a piece of foam to your filter intake. Then all you have to do is rinse the foam periodically. Best wishes! -Gwen<<

Film on top of the water I have a 72gal fw planted tank that has been established and trouble free for quite a while but lately a "silver" film is coating the top of the water. The tank is open with no type of hood. I do 15% water changes weekly, usually trying to skim all the film off the top but it comes back a couple days later. The tank is heavily planted with a fluorite substrate, high pressure CO2 injection, two magnum 350 canisters (one with SeaChem matrix bio media, and one half filled with SeaChem renew, and the other half with SeaChem phosphate reducing media.), and 260watts of light. The film on the water reflects quite a lot of light back out of the tank and is getting annoying. There are about three dozen Nerites snails in the tank and this morning at least 2 dozen of them are at the top of the tank, and half of those were above the water line. I know this is a sign of trouble so I did a quick water change before work. All water parameters are ideal and the fish (various loaches) don't seem like anything is bothering them. I add a very small qty of iodine at water changes as well as small amounts of liquid fertilizer. I'm at a loss as to what is causing this "film", my HVAC system has not been on for several weeks, no type of cleaner is ever sprayed near the tank, and this problem seems to have come from nowhere. <This film could be caused by any number of things, from aerosols (not only cleaning stuff), kitchen grease 'n' stuff, cigarette smoke, oils from your skin, even some fish foods (have you changed feeding regime lately?).  If you can't or don't wish to put a lid on the tank, you might want to consider a surface skimmer; I believe Hagen, Fluval, and Aqua Clear make them, possibly other manufacturers as well.  The purpose of this device is specifically to remove organic film from the water surface.  If you're able to or don't mind, glass lids would help keep the tank free of stuff that might collect there, but you'll likely lose a little light into the tank - of course, I'm sure the scum on top isn't helping with that a whole lot, either.  Also, though this surface film might not be inhibiting the health of your fish right now, it is undoubtedly hindering gas exchange at the surface of the water, which might end up causing problems for the fish down the road, if not quite soon; lack of oxygen might be what caused the snails to crawl out, perhaps.  Everything else with your setup sounds fine.  Hopefully you can find the source of the film and stop it, but until then, I hope this was of some help to you....  -Sabrina>

Re: sterilizing aquatic plants Hello, I have a question for the aquatic plant expert(s).  I have a 100G planted tank (440 W of VHO, onyx/fluorite/laterite substrate) that had several schools of tetra.  I say "had" because this tank is infected with Pleistophora hyphessobryconis (Neon Tetra Disease) and one by one my tetras kicked the bucket.  This tank has been setup for about 2 years and this is the second time I have had NTD tear through my tank, so I am biting the bullet and sterilizing the tank with bleach and tearing it down and starting from scratch.  Most of the plants are replaceable Val/elodea etc. type bunch plants, but I have three plants that I would like to keep and possibly use in the reincarnation of this tank.  They are a large N. japonicum, a massive red N. zenkeri, and a smaller though growing green N. zenkeri.  Do you have any recommendations for sterilizing these plants?  I have read about bleach, iodine, even hydrogen peroxide.  The weak bleach solution sounds the safest but I wonder if it would be strong enough to kill these damn protozoa's. <I've heard of numerous ways to 'sterilize' plants but the only absolutely safe way is to quarantine them for a full month. The protozoa's won't be able to live on just the plants so if there are no fish in the QT tank for at least a month you should be safe. Also, if you do this you should be able to keep all of your current plants rather than just a few.> Thanks for you advice, Steve Thornton MD <You're welcome, Ronni>

Re: Black Fur Algae (Cyanobacteria in a planted aquarium) I have been reading the faq's on algae control and still don't see a specific answer to getting rid of "black fur algae".  This stuff started appearing on my 40 gal freshwater tank about 2 months ago and now is blooming on all my broad leaf plants as well as the surrounding rocks.  I am very careful on feeding quantities ( mostly flakes twice daily and occasional frozen brine).   I would really like to get this under control. It isn't all that unattractive in limited amounts but it's obvious that it's currently out of control.  I am reducing the amount of light daily and only feeding flake food currently.    Please advise with specifics if you can it would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks,   Bud Palmer Portland, Oregon <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/algcontags.htm and the associated (linked, in blue, at top) FAQs file. This is a tough form/group of "algae" (actually bacteria) to beat, but can be done over a period of time with the stated steps, approaches. Bob Fenner>

- Who's going to eat my dead plants? - Hey guys, hope you had a good holiday:) <It was lovely, thanks for asking. JasonC here...>    I am have been looking for, but haven't really been able to find much info on fish, that will eat dead plant material.  I have a school of 7 Cory cats, but I'm not sure they are eating dead plant or if they are more of a carnivorous fish.  Currently I have about 20 tetras, 3 striped Danios, 7 Corys, 4 Otos (plan to get more of all cept Danios soon) and, a guppy who LOVES to eat off the bottom, the thing is HUGE and fat for a guppy!  But they are rabbits and I don't want to add a 2nd cause I don't want 200 fish in the tank, at least not guppies:)   The tank is coming along really nice.  Some plants aren't doing so well and I'm not sure why, others are thriving incredibly.  I'm still working on getting the setup finalized, I changed to a Reverse UGF the other day to replace the 300gph x 2 powerheads I had.  The only immediate result was the loss of 1 Cory cat (leaving me with 7) and 1 tetra with Ick.   Don't plan to treat or anything, I expect it to clear up soon. <I wouldn't 'expect' that - ich is a parasitic disease and can easily grow to epidemic proportions.>  The day after I added some substrate fertilizers I saw dark algae growth and access material stuck to the uplift tube, thus the change.   Anyways, I understand barbs are ok at eating algae? <That's right.> Would they eat dead plants? <Probably.> A small school of cherry barbs may look nice.  Open to any suggestions if you can think of any fish that may shine in this tank and also any that may assist in eating detritus as the guppy does.  I plan to add about 6 or 7 more Corys, and about 10 more Otos, and a SAE or 2 if I can find one! <Just be careful as the total number of fish increase in this tank, your high bioload will also drive the algae production.> Tank is a 75 gallon, 0 ammonia and nitrite, PH at 7.0 even (thx DIY CO2). Thanks as always! Mark <Cheers, J -- >

Algae Control, Testing the Water Greetings to: whoever isn't lucky enough to be out playing somewhere. =) <It's still early Friday, there's time...> As always, great site, I would still be in the dark ages if it weren't for you guys. (Literally, now I have 220W from A-H supply). Setup is lights, Proquatics canister filter (~160gph), 50gal rectangle (standard 48"). Use potassium based water softener. Been having trouble w/ cloudy algae, and have lost most of my livestock (which isn't much, sort of been starting over with the system). Based on water test at my local trusted fish place, I have elevated nitrates. Been adding Cycle bacteria starter at 1/3rd vol water changes every other day, and been adding an algae coagulant. After 5 days my livestock seem to have stabilized (haven't lost more) but the algae doesn't seem to be getting under control. <Test your source water for ammonia/nitrites/nitrates. Filter the water of any of these pollutants before you add them to your tank. Additives are a poor second to water treatment (RO/DI) Vacuum all waste thoroughly from substrate and stop additives. Clean canister and media in old tank water often to prevent nitrate build-up. It's the nitrate causing the algae bloom.> I guess I have several questions: What sort of water testing kits do you like vs. which ones should be avoided (is it worth it to blow $200+ on a LaMotte kit?).  <The best ones for FW are the least expensive tests that have color samples you can actually match. This is an individual thing. The WetWebMedia.com sponsors have test kits that are not so expensive. I've used "Doc Wellfish" for amm/nitrite/nitrate and hey worked just fine. They don't have to be expensive, especially for fresh water.> At what point is it necessary to do a complete tear down (judgment call I suppose, but is there a rule of thumb), and how do I sterilize the system to remove all the algae if I ultimately have to do a teardown?  <This would be a mistake. The bacteria, flora and fauna you need to process the same wastes the algae use would be killed. You don't want that, you want to export your wastes and prevent them from being introduced. Either the nitrate is coming from wastes or it's coming from your source water. Eliminate these and you will eliminate your algae.> I realize with proper biological balance and cleaning algae shouldn't be a problem, but is there value added in using UV sterilization on a freshwater aquarium garden vs. dangers vs. cost?  <Not necessarily. It's easier to deal with the underlying problem, nitrates.> Also, I hope to convert/upgrade to a reef setup at some time (right now need to learn enough to get this system under control), but was disappointed to learn canister filters aren't a good idea for such systems. Its too late now, but are protein skimmers good choices for freshwater planted systems?  <They are fine for carbon use in reef systems. Nope, for SW they work great though.> I was hoping I was buying mostly stuff that could be pressed into use in a ~150 gal reef system someday.... Live, learn, spend $$. =)Regards, Nate <So far, so good. Craig>

vacuuming gravel Hello, <<Hi Leslie, Craig at your service>> The other day, I was doing a partial water change on my freshwater aquarium (I have a power filter on the outside). Normally, I just poke the surface of the gravel to pick up the waste products. This time, however, I accidentally pushed the gravel vacuumer (don't know if this is the right term) all the way through the gravel (but not through the glass). I was shocked to see the amount of debris I vacuumed up. <<I'll bet!>>  Should I be inserting the vacuumer all the way through the gravel normally? This would be rather inconvenient since I have a lot of plants, but I figure I should be getting rid of as much waste as possible. Thanks, Leslie <<Absolutely vacuum as much of this as you can down to the glass. Be cautious around your plants so you don't harm the root system which can spread and be rather extensive. If this is the case be careful with the vacuum tube and let the siphon do the work. This will use a lot of water at first, but this is good since this waste has been building up. Happy housekeeping! Craig>>

cloudy freshwater (planted tank... new) Good afternoon everyone, <Howdy> I've recently started a 55 gal freshwater planted tank. The tank has been set up for about 4 weeks, it's running with a emperor 400 bio-wheel , and an Ebo-Jager 100 with temp remaining at 76deg and 110w pc daylight. I've planted the tank with 1 Anubias barteri, 6 bunches of Alternanthera reineckii, 6 bunches of Ludwigia repens,2 Microsorium pteropus and 8 Amazon swords, 1 spadeleaf swordplant (Echinodorus cordifolius). I had decided to return the barbs that I had (only two) and attempt a tetra tank. So I did some research on cardinals and did some research and first thing I did was to lower my GH from 7 to 3 using a softening pillow.  <Mmm, this is a lot of change... changing in a short time... I would have and now would leave the tank alone for another month or so to "settle in"> After using this it clouded my water and raised the ph to 8. What I'm wondering is if this is a direct result from filtering with this pillow and what I can do to bring the ph back down. <These are related events... and I would just let time go by... the pH will drift down with the aging/acidification of your system... with use of some of its present buffering capacity> My water is also cloudy and has been since the day after I put the pillow in, I've since taken it out. Will my water clear up on it's own or will I need to do a water change? <It will clear on its own... and I would leave out the pillow and not use chemical filtrants. Please do read through our Planted Tanks Subweb: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html and the link to "the Krib" re planted systems... with a little more knowledge and practice you'll do fine. Bob Fenner> dela

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