My 20g tank build: it's finally coming together

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  • #81
Clearly I'm doing this whole aquarium thing wrong.

At this point, the only animals I have left in the tank are 4 shrimp and 3 of the mystery snails. The bamboo shrimp have died; the nerite snails have died; the japanese trapdoor snails have died; one of the mystery snails has died.

My tank is out of balance and everything I try seems to fail me. I've been doing 5 gallon water changes daily for the last week, and my nitrates still were in the 40+ range; yesterday I did a 10 gallon water change (when there's only about 12-14 gallons in the tank), and this morning, it's still registering at 20.

I did add (about 2 weeks ago now), some java fern mats (on coco fiber) and some monte carlo (also on coco fiber). I saw where the fibers may leech tannins into the water and can affect pH, which is why I started monitoring things even more drastically. Other than that, I'm just doing my maintenance, and I honestly feel like I've failed big-time on this tank.
  • #82
  • Thread Starter
  • #83
So, water quality is seemingly starting to stabilize, which makes me feel better. I'm thinking of upgrading the filter after I go back to work and have things normalized in my house, so hopefully I'll continue down the path of better water, flow, and circulation for my critters.

I did set-up my APEX over the weekend, and I'm very very very happy about that. Now I don't have to use timers on my phone to go remind me to turn on/off the Co2 or the lights. It's a pretty sweet system and it's working just like I have it programmed. Though, the system is set to run heaters on an "on/off" cycle based on temps. When it gets to 79* turn on; when it drops to 75* turn back on. I don't know if that's better than just having my programmed heater say plugged in and "on" and set to 79* and let it do it's thing. I suppose time will tell.

As of now, I'm starting to see some exciting plant changes: it appears that my phoenix moss has colonized a rock, and the mini pellia has colonized one of the pieces of driftwood. My current intention is to let the tank grow and mature of the next 6 months or so, and when we get to Spring, perhaps restock the tank with critters. My hope is that with the improvements and "dialing in" over the next 6 months, that I'll have a very happy home for any critters that come home with me.
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  • #84
So, as I mentioned with the APEX, it's having my heater turn on & off based on a set of parameters between 76* and 78*. Below you'll see the temperature graph of the last 24 hours.

With my Co2 injection, I'm having it turn on at 10:30 and reach a target spot of 6.55. Once it hits 6.55 it shuts of for 20 minutes before coming back on and injecting Co2 back to a target of 6.55pH. Rinse and repeat. My concern is that the pH curve during the change from no injection to injection to the target zone is too steep. You'll notice that below in the curve. So today, I've both dialed back the speed of Co2 injection to give a slower downward curve, and decreased the time off to 10 min in hopes of keeping the tank closer to the target pH during the lighted portion of the day.

I'm to take any feedback or advice y'all may have.


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  • Thread Starter
  • #85
Well, now I'm at a loss. I seem to be getting a creeping pH.

About a week ago I had an upper range of pH of 7.5-7.6. This would be the range after having the CO2 off all night and running a bubbler in the tank. With CO2 running I was down to about 6.4.

Over the course of the week, the overnight upper range of pH has increased to being 8.04 as a high last night. CO2 is now getting it down to about a 6.9.

I have checked and my alkalinity is at 6 dKH in the tank, which is a bit lower than that 8 dKH water I do WC with. (note: my water is naturally 2 dKH and raise it with Alkaline buffer).

So, my alkalinity is decreasing over time from WC's, but my pH is gradually rising. I'm at a loss. Anyone got any thoughts?
  • #86
What is your tap water pH? Sorry forgot most of the details
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  • #87
What is your tap water pH? Sorry forgot most of the details


Which kind of explains why my tank seems to be creeping up, but I don't understand why it's been consistently about .8 or .9 below that until now.
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  • #88
I did some creative programming on the APEX to try to make the pH drop more gradual when the CO2 comes on in the morning. As you can see from the graph below, I manage the drop to only be about .25 before cutting it off and letting it rise some; then another .25....this means it takes about 2 hours to get the pH completely down to my target of 1.0 below the high-point.

At least, I hope that's better than just turning it on and letting it drop to the low point, which can happen in about 30-45 minutes. I feel like that qualifies as a "drastic change" and I don't want to stress the critters.


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  • Thread Starter
  • #89
Crazy pH again!!!!

Previously, I had a stable degassed pH of 7.5/7.6; then it started creeping up to a stable degassed pH of 8.0-ish. All cool and well: I adjusted the CO2 to bring it down to about 6.8 over the last week, and things have been stable for awhile now. CO2 off, goes up to 8.0; CO2 on, comes down to 6.8'ish.

I looked at the data from last night: when the CO2 went off, the pH did not rise back up to went up a bit, but not much at all. I did a water change on Sunday, but the pattern didn't change until last night. I truly am at a loss. I will leave things as is for a day or two and see if the new state is a new norm, of if it goes back to the 8.0'ish degassed state overnight.

Why is this so hard?!?!


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  • #90
When co2 is off it makes sense the pH would rise... I think that’s simply how it works?
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  • #91
When co2 is off it makes sense the pH would rise... I think that’s simply how it works?
Yes, and it happens when the CO2 is off. But last night when the CO2 went off, I didn't see the rise. I need to validate that the CO2 is, in fact, turning off, or something happened and the CO2 ran all night.
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  • #92
So, it's been a bit since there's been an update on this.

The APEX has worked wonderfully; everything has gotten dialed in, and my only hiccup now is that my CO2 solenoid sometimes doesn't "turn off" when the power is cut (gets stuck in the open position). Luckily, thanks to the APEX alarms that text me, I immediately know to go and check on it. Since I'm working from home these days, it's not a big deal. I do, however, have to invest in a new/better solenoid valve before I go back to work to prevent CO2 deaths. The stability to the system this brings is just beautiful, and the ability to not worry about lights/co2/heater/air pump/etc while I was recovering from surgery was a god-send.

I upgraded the filter to a Cascade 1000. Yes, I'm sure it's overkill, but having a full tray of ceramic biofilter pieces is AH-MAZING. I finally have a working tank. The process of killing everything but a SINGLE hardy mystery snail was traumatizing (and expensive), but I feel significantly better now about water quality and managing the nitrogen cycle.

The benefit of all this: my plants are really starting to come into their own. The monte carlo is slowly starting to spread; the phoenix moss is really coming into it's own and has started to colonize other parts of the tank; the cryptos are just going gang-busters! The mini pellia didn't survive the re-build earlier over the summer, but there are 3 or 4 little colonies that I've found hidden which may eventually be beautiful.

And today I stocked again, after feeling comfortable about the home I can provide. I have 7 panda cories (OMG!), a dozen or so kubotai rasboras, bloody mary shrimps, and more snails (thorn nerites, nerite limpets, and mystery).


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  • #93
Tank is looking great!
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  • #94
Tank Update

Bad news:
  • All but one hardy dwarf shrimp has died; this is the 2nd attempt with those and frankly, I guess I'm just not cut out for them.
  • I lost 3 of my panda corys; I'm down to only 3.
  • I have scuds.
Good news:
  • All of my kubotai rasboras have lived and are thriving.
  • My tank is growing and looks very good, IMHO.
  • My WQ is good and the Apex keeps everything humming along nicely.
  • 3 assassin snails have all but eliminated my pest ramshorn snail problem.


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  • Thread Starter
  • #95
Spring has sprung early in my aquarium!

My Alamanda V2 blue buce is about to bloom for the first time. This is the second time I've had a bloom in my tank - the first being an anubias bloom last summer.


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