Java Fern/amazon Sword/java Moss Help Please

r_e_g

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The java fern and Amazon sword in my 10 gallon RCS tank don't be seem to be growing very much and don't look great and I'm hoping you all can provide some suggestions. The java moss is fine but it doesn't grow much either. I'm also wondering what the bare tendrils are.

Background: My S.O. set up this tank in summer 2015 with Ecocomplete as the substrate; it was initially capped with white gravel but we recently removed most of it. There's a Matten filter that has never been cleaned in any way because we're not sure how to remove it without having all the substrate fall. These shrimp (we started with only 6) have been in the tank since January. The initial colony eventually dwindled and we were only left with snails. I gave away most of the snails ~1 year ago but 2 ramshorn remained, 1 of which died recently (I found an empty, very thin shell). I've attached a picture of it because the shell looks horrible and I think that's a pretty good indicator that something is up with my water. We have 2 BorneoWild Minerocks in the tank because S.O. was initially using D.I. for the tank. We change ~20-25% of the water about every 10 days and add Mosura Mineral Plus Ultra and Minerax powder (because I suspected that the snails' poor shell condition stemmed from low minerals). I'm not sure that it's a good idea to keep adding the mineral supplements though in the name of keeping water parameters stable. We've never added any fertilizers and I am guessing that I need to start. Lighting is a basic Marineland LED hood that's on for about 16 hours a day due to my work schedule but I'm planning to finally get a timer for it.

I just did a 25% water change on Wednesday and I tested the water this morning. Here are the parameters:
pH: ~7.9
KH: 5
GH: 9
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrates: 40

Yikes! The nitrate level scares me. I just checked the nitrate level of our tap water and it's 0 ppm so that's not the problem. Maybe there's too much rotting vegetation in the tank? Some of the cholla has been in here since the tank was set up, so almost 3 years. There's also alder cones, almond leaves, the dying plant leaves, and a TON of detritus that seems impossible to vacuum up during water changes (and gets stirred up and blankets everything for a while afterward).

What can I do to help out these plants? (And the snail, if you have ideas for that) I know that anchoring the java fern to some wood would help aesthetically and that I should probably reanchor the sword in the gravel but I'm mostly concerned about the health of the plants themselves. The java fern haven't sent off any babies in a long time; they're only growing along the rhizomes.

Many many thanks for any advice!! I was way too busy with other things to spend much time on this tank initially (it was S.O.'s project) but I now have the time and desire to really make it a nice, lush habitat for the shrimp.
 
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r_e_g

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Ava quallen said:
I’ve been having similar issues but also with slime alge so I’m interested to see what others say
Ah bummer; that's one thing I'm thankful for-the algae in this tank isn't so much that it bothers me.
 
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r_e_g

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Maybe my question was too broad. The brown spots on the java fern leaves-are these the result of some sort of deficiency? Would fertilizers help my tank? I was thinking of trying Easy Green but I won't if it's likely to causes problems. Honestly, any input you all can offer would be very much appreciated.
 
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