'my Failure At Creating A Decent Planted Tank’ Or ‘how I Learned That Lemon Tetra Are Unkillable'

DC2020

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Let me start by saying that this is an account of the litany of mistakes I’ve made and problems I’ve had in trying to get a nice planted tank with schooling fish. I’d love to have any and all feedback, comments and criticisms of what I’ve done and what I’m doing. I really would like this to look better.

I’ve been in the fish keeping hobby for a few years now, starting off with a setup given to me by a friend. My tank is a 55 gallon with an HOB filter, a heater and air. Originally I had gravel on the bottom, but as I couldn’t get that to actually keep any plants I eventually upgraded to dirt substrate. Eco Compete to be precise. I’ve got some driftwood and rocks. I tried to scape. And I put in plants.

I’ve put in some nice LED lighting; a Marineland 48” fixture. I figured that all I had to do now was sit back and wait for beauty to appear. Instead what appeared was algae. Hmmm. I did some reading online and decided that I should add some tank cleaners to give me a hand. I bought a handful of nerite snails and a couple of flower shrimp and thought ‘So Long Algae’. Yeah, no.

I should mention that I did at this point already have several fishy inhabitants. I had two marble angelfish, and a six man school of Lemon Tetra. I also had two German rams and cardinal tetra. With my failure to eliminate algae, I figured that I needed to expand my roster so to speak, add a little depth on the bench. I picked up a half dozen ottos to help carry the load. My algae situation seemed to be getting under control, but I found my plants were looking lackluster. I was definitely seeing melt, which frustrated me to know end, since I had all this nice substrate going on.

At this point I figured it was time to add some CO2. At first I cobbled together a DIY system with a ceramic disk nebulizer, but after a few weeks found that it was staying on for a predictable amount of time and at a predictable flow rate. So I decided it was time to get serious. I went out and bought myself a 10lb tank of gas, borrowed a regulator from work and plumbed everything up. Bob’s your uncle. All went swimmingly for a while, but then I started finding that the regulators output pressure wouldn’t stay constant and the flow rate would drop off. The pressure would drop out, I’d have to adjust the outlet pressure up to get it to come back to the pressure I wanted, and then slowly the pressure would drop out again. Rinse and repeat. I guess there was a sticky valve inside, because one day it came unstuck. The outlet of the regulator pegged at max and flooded my tank with CO2. I lost all the shrimp and all the fish except the lemon tetras.

I sent the regulator out for repair and decided to ease off the gas until it came back. No pun int

In the mean time I restocked with some more Lemon Tetras and some Rummy Nose tetras, but even though I was careful in introducing them to the tank, within a month everything new had died.

A few months later I got the regulator back, installed it and this time it seemed to be working. I adjusted the CO2 to get a decent concentration and then set out to research plant ferts. I found a video that recommended an online calculator build by Rotallabutterfly, which I used to calculate the dry to water mix ratios for several chemicals (KNO3, KH2PO4, K2SO4, Epsom Salts) for an Estimative Index dosing schedule where I would be dosing every other day. I also decided to dose with Flourish Iron and Excel. In the mean time I also decided to add a bunch of Amano shrimp to help with decaying plant matter and the flare up of algae in my tank. It also seemed that during my last restock there was an inadvertent introduction of black beard algae. Because you know… why not.

The ferts seemed to be working as the plants were showing some new growth, but not a ton. The the CO2 regulator seemed to go wonky again. I had another massive CO2 dump and when all was said and done I had lost about half my shrimp and was down to three lemon tetras (I’ve got to give them credit though for being almost unkillable – they were all floating belly up in the tank, but I cranked up my air pump and low and behold an hour or so later they were back to swimming around). What I discovered was that it was algae buildup on my ceramic disk diffuser that was preventing it from working properly. Once I got it cleaned up (hello bleach my friend) everything was copacetic.

My final fail involved trying to rid myself of the BBA. I watched several videos that extolled the virtues of Flourish excel and/or hydrogen peroxide for being the go-to killer of BBA, so I got me a spray bottle mixed up some half and half and sprayed away. I’d say just about all the BBA died off. So did most of my nerites and 90% of my remaining shrimp. And the die off took several days to run its course.

So now when I look at my tank, I see three lonely lemon tetra, a couple of brain damaged snails, and two very wary shrimp. And to top it off my plants look like ****.


So tell me hobbyists… where have I gone wrong? I’m sure the missteps have been many or was it just in getting in to this hobby in the first place. I feel like the angel of death. I really need some advice. I see all these gorgeous tanks online, and just don’t seem to be able to get there.


Pics below.

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BobNJerry

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i have to tell you - i love a planted tank but your journey reminds me of why i stick with easy plants.

what is your PH?
 

Ohio Mark

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I don't have any advice, but allow me to say "welcome" and I like your writing style. I know a tank failure or disasters encountered are not funny, but you still made me laugh. Wishing you better luck and lots of good advice from experts!
 

endlercollector

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Oh, wow, what a painful journey! I really feel for you.

@_Fried_Bettas_ Do you have any recommendations here?

As for myself, I've just kept everything very low tech--no ferts or C02. I used to do Eco Complete but then got rid of it after too many of my fish cut themselves up on it and got infections. I now do an inch of organic potting soil and cap with glass pebbles. I like how the fish and plant waste get filtered down through the pebbles to the dirt, where they act as fertilizer. You could, if you're willing (and after your many misadventures, I would think not), put down an inch of oil and then cap with your eco complete. That way, your plants would have some actual soil to root in.

BBA is a nightmare. I've had some tanks were I just had to do a complete teardown. I'm struggling at the moment with cyanobacteria and hoping not to have to do a teardown as the Micropoecilia Pictas are so much harder to catch than Endlers. Sigh.
 
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DC2020

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BobNJerry said:
i have to tell you - i love a planted tank but your journey reminds me of why i stick with easy plants.

what is your PH?
When my CO2 is running well and consistently, my pH is 7.0. My normal tap water is usually around 7.8.
 
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