Need help with 20 gallon planted tank

FishAreFriendsNotFood4U

New to the fish keeping hobby, so please forgive me for the mistakes I have made, the ones I will continue to make, and anything I ask that makes me sound like the completely inexperienced hobbyist that I am.

We started with a 10 gallon community tank about a year ago with a dwarf gourami, 4 guppies, and a platy. Only lost one guppy in the year.

Recently upgraded to a 20 gallon PLANTED tank, dwarf gourami, 3 guppies, 2 platies, 2 shrimp. We are using Fluval Stratum substrate, Flourish tabs, and have Easy Green fertilizer from aquarium co-op. No CO2 system, not ready for that just yet. I do plan on getting about 8 more shrimp for a total of 10 and a few otocinclus for a cleanup crew…sometime very soon.

With the 10g we were testing with the API 5 in 1 test strips (pH, kH, gH, NH3, Nitrate, Nitrite) and NONE of the parameters ever changed. Liquid ammonia and nitrate tests showed spikes here and there that we controlled. We have had the planted 20g for about a month now and have had one ammonia spike, now a nitrate spike, and algae is beginning to show up (because of the nitrates, probably). I did the 5 in 1 test strip the other day and the kH was at ZERO, pH was low. We did water changes and I brought the pH and kH back up slowly using baking soda one teaspoon at a time over the course of a few days. My understanding is that the spike of nitrites and nitrates are acidic, causing the drop in pH which used up all the kH as it was trying to buffer the acidic environment.

Anyway, I have a few question I was hoping someone with much more experience than I could help me with so that my next few months of planted tank life goes smoother.

  1. What all should I be testing? I will keep the 5 in 1 test strips, but the liquid tests are much easier to read. (I see a lot of people advocating for the API master test kit, but I already have the ammonia and nitrate tests and I don’t think the pH and high range pH tests would be that useful….but I may very well be wrong) Should I test for nitrites, nitrates, or both? Should I test for kH, pH or both? Should I test for phosphates?
  2. Has anyone had experience with the API CO2 liquid booster, does it work, is it worth it?
  3. How do I go about fertilizing? The bottle says dose 1x/Wk for low light, 2x/Wk for medium light….I don’t know if my light is considered medium or low. We are currently doing 10 hours of light per day on a timer. Or should I test for certain parameters before adding fertilizer?
  4. Do you think my tank will support any more fish? And, if so, how many/size? PS I am NOT getting any fish for probably 4+ months, until I feel like the tank is ore stable…aside from the shrimp and otocinclus.
  5. Also, we tried a “small” circulation pump that puts out 480GPH, but it blew a lot of the plants over and seemed way too powerful. Not sure if it was just the direction of the pump or if it was too powerful for our tank size.

Thank everyone for your help!!!
 

carsonsgjs

Hi there!

So i think your understanding around the kh/ph is correct. Your kh has been eaten away to nothing leaving your tank vulnerable to ph swings. Regular weekly water changes will remove the nitrates in your water and replace the lost kh. Using baking soda should therefore not be necessary unless of course your tap water has 0kh too - have you tested that to make sure?

in terms of what you use to test, id recommend the api master kit as would many others. I know you have some of the bottles already, but they get used fairly quickly if you carry out regular testing (more so during the early stages of the tank). The kh and gh kit arent included and arent completely necessary, but i test them nonetheless. Totally up to you.

as for adding otos and more fish generally, id leave that for now until you get the tank parameters stable. Otos in particular are fairly fragile little fish and wont appreciate the fluctuations with water parameters, and need a biologically mature tank to be at their best.

finally, make no apologies for being a beginner and making mistakes. We have all been there so feel free to ask lots of questions as there are plenty on fishlore who will help you get things right.

hopefully someone will offer their insight into your other queries.
 

FishAreFriendsNotFood4U

Hi there!

So i think your understanding around the kh/ph is correct. Your kh has been eaten away to nothing leaving your tank vulnerable to ph swings. Regular weekly water changes will remove the nitrates in your water and replace the lost kh. Using baking soda should therefore not be necessary unless of course your tap water has 0kh too - have you tested that to make sure?

in terms of what you use to test, id recommend the api master kit as would many others. I know you have some of the bottles already, but they get used fairly quickly if you carry out regular testing (more so during the early stages of the tank). The kh and gh kit arent included and arent completely necessary, but i test them nonetheless. Totally up to you.

as for adding otos and more fish generally, id leave that for now until you get the tank parameters stable. Otos in particular are fairly fragile little fish and wont appreciate the fluctuations with water parameters, and need a biologically mature tank to be at their best.

finally, make no apologies for being a beginner and making mistakes. We have all been there so feel free to ask lots of questions as there are plenty on fishlore who will help you get things right.

hopefully someone will offer their insight into your other queries.

Thank you so much for the advice. Especially about the otos. I really want them to keep the tank clean, but patience it key. Can you help me better understand why it is necessary to test for both nitrites AND nitrates if one turns into the other? I would presume that nitrite testing would give me an earlier warning sign that something is off, but then why would I need to test for nitrates? Do you know the difference between the pH test and the long range pH test and why both of those are necessary?
 

carsonsgjs

Thank you so much for the advice. Especially about the otos. I really want them to keep the tank clean, but patience it key. Can you help me better understand why it is necessary to test for both nitrites AND nitrates if one turns into the other? I would presume that nitrite testing would give me an earlier warning sign that something is off, but then why would I need to test for nitrates? Do you know the difference between the pH test and the long range pH test and why both of those are necessary?
So when a tank is cycling you will need to test for ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. In a fully cycled tank you should only be seeing nitrates, but it doesnt hurt to test for all three during the early stages of the tank being set up.

the two ph tests are for two different ranges - the high range tests for higher ph and the other bottle tests for a ph of 7.4 and under. So if your ph was 8 you would only really need the high range test, for example.
 

Azulaqua

You need to check for ammonia nitrate and nitrite. If you have no ammonia or nitrite then u better have nitrates and if you don't got them your tank isn't cycled or on the less likely side its perfectly balanced at the moment. If u have enough plants they would eat up most the fish waste and nitrates but from my experience they don't go for the nitrites. I use a dose of stability a day for a week after I see nitrite spike ( I have bacteria that can turn ammonia to nitrite but not enough to turn nitrite to nitrates.)
 

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