200 GALLON JUNGLE STYLE

Paul G

Active member
There has been considerable emphasis in this journal on water column composition and very little discussion concerning substrate. The Echinodorus and Cryptocoryne are root feeders. I have probably been remiss in not establishing a more rigorous fertilization program that accedes to the demands these plants make. Recent developments suggest to me that the root feeders, while doing really well generally, could be suffering some marginal effects of nutrient deficiency. That is to say, without delving into tedious details, there is room for improvement.

I chose a substrate that consists of natural rounded-grain 'very coarse sand' to 'granular pebble' (1 mm to 4 mm on the Wentworth scale) washed river gravel - pretty much what is sold as "aquarium gravel". The chemical composition and natural color of river gravel depends on the source rock from which it is eroded. Typically these are clastics from plutonic rocks such as granite, so the grains are largely quartz (silicon dioxide) with some feldspar and amphibole. This stuff is insoluble in water and is chemically inert. That is the key feature - it does not change in the aquarium, either physically or chemically. It is a constant. It has no nutritive value as a result, but it never decomposes or exhausts either. Over the years I have used SeaChem Flourite so have accumulated considerable quantities of it. This is a fracted porous clay gravel with high metal ion exposure that provides some enhanced cation exchange capacity (as opposed to inert river gravel which has no CEC). It does not decompose or break down. So I just threw it in with the river gravel. I also had quite a bit of granular laterite, an iron-rich fracted clay, so in it went too. I will never worry about this substrate exhausting after a few years because I am not using it for that purpose.

The logical conclusion here is that you make up for the lack of nutritive value of this substrate by pushing fertilizer tablets into the gravel. I use SeaChem Flourish Tabs which is a comprehensive "full spectrum" formula containing secondaries and micros. In principle, these are eventually consumed completely and you simply stick in new ones regularly. I have not approached this in regimented fashion and that is going to change. SeaChem suggests every three months, but, as with everything else, there are variables. I placed several this week around all the swords and in among the Crypts. Depths vary depending on best guess where the root zone is densest. The roots will find the fertilizer.

So the swords and Crypts will get full benefit water column + substrate fertilization. I am purchasing Flourish Tabs in the 40-pack.

I am using arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM), which is a group of fungi that function symbiotically with plant roots to deliver minerals to the plant; i.e. they facilitate nutrient uptake and in return the plant feeds them carbs. This is not a novel idea; it is commonplace in nature. CaribSea sells this as Flora-Spore. It can be used in dry-start, or it can be injected in suspension in existing submerged substrate. These fungi are ubiquitous, like bacteria. Eventually, where there are plants there are AM, but Flora-Spore is a rapid starter culture. You only need to use it once. In major uprootings and re-plantings I will inject some AM for good measure just to make sure the substrate is rich in it, but it probably is not necessary. It can do no harm and is inexpensive. I am doing this now in the area to where the Crypts were moved.
 
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Paul G

Active member
Today's numbers

pH: 6.85
ORP: 532 mV
NO3: 4.9 ppm
PO4: 1.58 ppm
Fe: 0.23 ppm
K: 35 ppm
dGH: 3.1
Ca/Mg: 36/20 ppm
dKH: 6.7

Phosphate recently rising; big jump today. I have been feeding very generously for the last four days, so I am not surprised.

I am gradually increasing the pH of the system. I have set the CO2PRIMARY solenoid for 6.89. With the aquascape opened up more, SUN3 in particular seems overly bright, so I have reduced it to 70% and broadened the ramp timings. If the carbon availability is reduced, the energy drive must be throttled to suit. Generally, it is desirable to be satisfied with lower light whenever possible. Limiting carbon could invite algae problems if the drive is too high. Given correct proportions of all factors, growth rate can be slowed without ill effects. I have played with the idea before. After a re-scaping and major maintenance, this seems the ideal time to make a serious effort.

For various reasons the air pump has been going full time for the last three days. This is moving 65 liters (2.3 cu ft) of air per minute through six 1" airstones at depth. This has raised the DO floor to an average of 7.5 ppm. I think I like the effect of continuous fine-bubble aeration, but I will wait to describe these impressions until they are more fully formed. The CO2 injection system is keeping the set pH okay, but ultimately a lot of CO2 will be blown off. The plants will get carbon, but I am interested to see what effect is wrought in the hours/bottle stat as a result of these changes.
 

Paul G

Active member
Today's numbers

pH: 6.83
ORP: 532 mV
NO3: 5.8 ppm
PO4: 0.83 ppm
Fe: 0.35 ppm
K: 40 ppm ppm
dGH: 3.1
Ca/Mg: 36/20 ppm
dKH: 6.7

After contemplation on continuous aeration I concluded that the cons exceed the pros. I have the air pump on automatic, retaining a DO floor at 5.5 ppm just as before. This is the right way to do it and there will be no changes. The air pump must be run on days when heterotroph culture is dosed, but otherwise it will stay on AUTO.

The aeration was blowing off CO2, bucking overshoots. I moved the pH controller to 6.89, but when I stopped the aeration, the average pH actually descended. The CO2 solenoid is open for less time at > 6.88 than it was for > 6.84, but more CO2 is retained without aeration. The swings are also larger. Aeration tended to regulate the pH, but it is clear that this method is necessarily very lossy. I previously used small powerheads with Rota-Flo attachments to improve circulation around the probes. One will go back in for awhile for a reassessment. I would like to have more control of the swings and the problem lies in the speed of current to the controller probe.

The problem of the wide discrepancy between pH-L and pH-R was pretty much solved with the re-scaping which showed that it was due largely to impediment to circulation. Better regulation should close the gap further. Adding a powerhead is contrary to my desire to avoid in-tank apparatus and it is an extra maintenance item. This is why I removed them before, but I will accept this if it proves useful.

I am pleased that all the Cryptocoryne are doing really well. They are in excellent color. I am anxious to see them grow larger. All the Anubias that were fit after pruning were returned to the tank. The amount of wood returned was minimal, but I have some nice pieces in reserve should, in future, I want to attach Microsorum or Anubias.







 

Paul G

Active member
Today's numbers

pH: 6.84
ORP: 532 mV
NO3: 5.5 ppm
PO4: 0.62 ppm
Fe: pre-dose 0.23 ppm, post-dose 0.31 ppm
K: 40 ppm
dGH: 3.0
Ca/Mg: 36/18 ppm
dKH: 6.7

This AM all filters and the intakes were changed. I installed a 25 micron cartridge in stage two of all four filter loops. I added some flocculant clarifier. No chemical media were replaced. For a time we will go without GAC or Purigen. Reef Reactor went into Stage 2 LOOP1-L.

Filter change means a largish water change, so of course the numbers for today have probably dropped some. I installed the powerhead as discussed in the previous post.
 

Paul G

Active member
Today's numbers

pH: 6.85
ORP: 530 mV
NO3: 2.7 ppm
PO4: 0.49 ppm
Fe: pre-dose 0.11 ppm, post-dose 0.22 ppm
K: 40 ppm
dGH: 2.9
Ca/Mg: 36/16 ppm
dKH: 6.5

Both the GH and KH are spot on. The water holds at dGH 3, answering strictly to a softwater habitat; the Streaming Water Change Regimen (hereafter SWCR) and the SeaChem Reef Reactor, about 500 grams, in LOOP1-L, 140 gph, are balancing nicely. I have not done any compensating CaCl2/MgSO4 supplementation for several days. With the prevailing dKH, CO2 is just under 30 ppm. Oxygen tension continues to reach saturation daily, so this carbon delivery is adequate under the present pH and lighting scheme. The PO4/NO3 macronutrients are still fully autochthonous at the current bio-load and feeding patterns. I have done no supplementation here either; in fact, as the redox just stays phenomenally high, I remain encouraged that the system could support a modest increase in fish population.

As of about 13:00 yesterday, the pH excursions and discrepancies have abated. The powerhead washing the control probe, pH-R, was started at about 09:30. After the filter changes, the system settled down and pH traces began stabilizing. pH-R swings between 6.87 and 6.89, exactly the desired effect of the > 6.88 set point, and pH-L is following within -0.03, dwelling mostly on 6.85. It's early days yet, but I am optimistic that the issue has been resolved. The powerhead will remain.

Yesterday I put 25 micron mechanical filtration across all four pump effluents and treated once with Acurel-F. The clarity this AM is outstanding. Almost certainly, these filter cartridges will require more frequent changing, but I might decide it's worth the effort.

As I am investing materially in maximum dose rates of Flourish Comprehensive, Excel, and Advance, all of which contain organic ingredients, and am confident of my reliance on the SWCR to control waste organics, I am returning to a NO chemical filtration media policy pending further assessments.
 

Paul G

Active member
Today's numbers

pH: 6.85
ORP: 527 mV
NO3: 0.4 ppm
PO4: 0.28 ppm
Fe: 0.17 ppm
K: 40 ppm ppm
dGH: 3.0
Ca/Mg: 36/18 ppm
dKH: 6.7

A couple of times a day I have been removing stray debris. Most of this is fragments of Water Wisteria, to be expected. Very happy to report that I have found no Duckweed. I will not declare victory just yet, but I am optimistic.
 

Paul G

Active member
Today's numbers

pH: 6.85
ORP: 525 mV
NO3: 0
PO4: 0.13 ppm
Fe: 0.11 ppm
K: 40 ppm
dGH: 2.9
Ca/Mg: 38/14 ppm
dKH: 6.7

Cleaned periphyton off the front glass this AM. This is something that could be done every day; it is not a difficult task using the big mag scraper. It should be done every day and that would probably prevent stubborn spots building up. Netted out floating bits and encountered no Duckweed. I think we got it all this time.
 
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