Changed CO2PRIMARY bottle which emptied at 13:30 02/27. This bottle delivered for 142 hours over 40 days.
I have been pondering aquascape changes, but have been reluctant to get a real start. Finally I began by removing some Sagittaria - again - then more and more. I have left behind only the Sag that forms a solid curtain at the very back of the tank where it hides the in-tank plumbing. Finally I wound up with a 5 gallon bucket full of the stuff and this really cleared out some spaces and let in some light. I think the swords will do better, and they certainly look better.
One reason for my reluctance has been that my plans involve moving crypts. The crypts have done well in this system because I have chosen to leave them to their own devices and refused to interfere with them. This has been the philosophy of the jungle style system in general - let the plants decide. But eventually there must be changes. I expect I may have some losses, but there is little doubt that they will re-establish in this tank just fine.
I have also confirmed my inclination to not return the Ludwigia. I will keep a small amount of it going just in case I want it later on, but I have not missed it lately and I am looking forward to making the space for Anubias and other things.
I have been soaking wood that has not been in a tank for a long time, and have procured quite a lot of Java fern. This is a project I am anxious to see done.
We are seeing new cherry barb fry every few days now.
One of the SAEs has died - cause unknown. The other SAEs are doing just fine.
Hi Walter. Hope to see you again at March meeting.
I have been running the BMLs at 80% of capacity for several days. No hint of nuisance algae, but the aufwuchs on the front glass seems to grow faster. The Gara and the whiptail cat like it. DO exceeds 100% saturation by mid-day. I never see a lot of vigorous pearling on or around any specific plants, but there are a few fine bubbles uniformly distributed in the water column throughout the photoperiod.
With the pH at 6.7 and KH at > 8 degrees, the CO2 is maintained at approximate minimum 50 ppm (by the chart). Today I performed a phenolphthalein titration which indicated that 50 ppm is conservative. This system is not carbon limited with respect to any autotrophs (CO2 users).
I am still tinkering with the GH. The Mg level is now maintaining. The numbers are not ideal, but I catch myself possibly obsessing over minutiae, as the slightly extra hardness is evidently acceptable to the cherry barbs for breeding purposes, they and all the tetras are in excellent color, and, for the plants, it's just luxury secondary macro. Nothing to complain about here, but I will tinker on nonetheless.
I am making gradual changes to the 'scape, placing wood pieces with attached Microsorum. This has been a highly deliberative effort and is taking me far longer to carry through than I like. Each time I turn my attention to it I am faced with the task of clearing out Sagittaria overgrowth first.
CO2PRIMARY emptied at 01:00 4/7. This bottle delivered 129 hrs over 39 days.
At this juncture, an effort must be made to conserve CO2. In the process I will be throttling the drive, and it will be interesting to observe how the growth is slowed. It is not my intention to convert entirely to LL/LT strategy, but I will make a real attempt to find a compromise path. The following measures have been taken.
1.) CO2PRIMARY pH is raised to 6.84, and CO2BACKUP pH is raised to 6.86.
2.) The three BMLs (main lighting - SUN1, SUN2, SUN3) are again reduced to 60% of maximum. This will be further reduced if algae threaten.
3.) SUN4 magenta/white supplementary lighting is disabled completely.
4.) KH will be gradually adjusted to 5 degrees. Target alkalinity will be circa 90 ppm. The sustained CO2 concentration will be halved.
5.) With a reduced rate of carbon fixation, I expect to see a rise in nutrient test values. Dosing will be appropriately trimmed.
6.) I dose Flourish Excel (gluteraldehyde) close to SeaChem's daily recommended. It's both a carbon source and an algacide. I will be making sure I am maximizing its usefulness, taking care to avoid overdosing.
So this is a good setup for encouraging low-light plants just now. The Microsorum will do well, as will the Anubias. The crypts also don't need the amount of light I have been using all along, but there will be an adjustment period for them. It is absolutely essential that the Echinodorus be not adversely affected; I think they will be fine though their growth will certainly be slowed.
Done right, this could be a good thing. Long term, it will probably result in a much needed modernization of the LED systems. I have been itching to replace the Stunner strips with Kessils. Economizing on the CO2 and slowing plant production would also be welcome changes. I will be happy to implement any simplifying and labor-saving steps that preserve the end result artistically, improve operational efficiency and economy, but do not increase risk of algae. This can be accomplished and I expect to learn a lot of new things.
My usual source, M & H in Independence, is open for business. As of right now, I don't see reason for concern as to availability, but I will admit I have concerns. I will take my empties over there and talk with them.
Well, okay. I am pleased to report that beverage-grade CO2 will remain available to the walk-in cash customer. The demand and supply will remain consistent indefinitely, barring a really drastic downturn in the state of things. So I am cautiously optimistic that I can carry on as before.
This is a "work in progress" pic. Having not moved any of the large plants in the setup, the tank's overall appearance has not really changed very much. The Sagittaria has been completely removed in some spaces to make room for Anubias and Java fern. I am also trying to place more flat rocks, and I have been able to add quite a few without moving many Crypts. Only a couple of Crypts were disturbed as I pulled out some Sag because their roots were entangled. I replanted them and they are doing fine. The water wisteria (Hygrophila difformis) and the Hydrocotyle will be returned to the 'scape as soon as the maintenance work is completed. The swords need trimming and I think a lot more Sag is going to be coming out. All this will be done soon and I will put up some decent pics.
I have been tackling a longstanding problem with the dosing system, the GHBOOST function in particular. This mix is calcium sulfate, magnesium sulfate, and potassium sulfate. This is Tom Barr's GH Booster as well as SeaChem's Equilibrium. These salts are water-soluble, but CaSO4 with difficulty. If the mix is stirred, the salt particles will be transferred in suspension, and when discharged to the tank they will eventually dissolve. So, finely pulverized CaSO4 will go into solution over time, but I find it unsuitable for use in automatic doser rigs. In practice it settles and forms sediment in the vat (dosing container). In floor-venting vats, such as the AquaMaxx, this clogs the output. The tubing can become choked with sediment also. Pretty much all standing aqueous solutions, particularly in high concentration mixes, will develop some sedimentation. A magnetic stirrer is necessary for any vat, but it is not a guarantee against failure to dispense when sediment is thick. The problem is obviated when adding manually to the tank from a shaken bottle. But for reliable fully automatic dosing using a peristaltic pump, calcium sulfate is possessed of much hink and bother.
There is an answer for this; and it has the added benefit of dosing Mg and Ca separately - dose calcium nitrate. All required potassium can be provided from the sulfate mix. Although most common, it is not necessary to use KNO3 for nitrate supplementation. Ca(NO3)2 will do just as well. It is easily soluble in water. The dose rate for this solution, now labelled N/Ca, will be recalibrated to deliver the required calcium concentration. I don't know how this will effect the nitrate concentration, but I am very interested to find out. The mix starting out will be 200 grams per 1.5 liters. The dose rate will begin at 5 ml (30 seconds ON runtime) per day. Ca and NO3 will be tested every three days, same time each day.
Calcium sulfate is taken out of the picture entirely. Thus, GHBOOST, containing no Ca, is now named simply Mg/K. The dose rate for this solution will be recalibrated to deliver magnesium such that it is maintained in approximate constant ratio Mg:Ca = 1:2. The K2SO4 concentration will then be adjusted such that K is maintained at 40 ppm minimum. The mix starting out will be 100 grams MgSO4 and 200 grams K2SO4 per 1.5 liters. The dose rate will begin at 5 ml (30 seconds ON runtime) per day. Mg and K will be tested every three days, same time each day.
The whiptail cat has made an appearance. It stayed in one place just long enough for one shot, then vanished.
Yesterday, I removed a total of 20 feet of old LED strips, two Current USA timer/dimmers, and as many feet of wiring. This comprised the whole of the DAWN/DUSK lighting function, the most complicated part of the lights system. These Ecoxotic Stunner strips were getting lots of burnouts and were quickly tiring out. An idea I have been noodling on for a while went to the front burner because something had to be done sooner than later about these failing lights.
So, I installed four Kessil A80 Tuna Suns. This space under the canopy was completely paved with Stunner strips. The A80s are 6 inches above the waterline spaced at 9-18-18-18-9 inches. These are 24V and are powered by the single industrial 10A power supply originally powering the Stunner array, a better way for powering multiple units than using their individual "wall-warts". Their controls are series wired (daisy-chained) and go directly to a single cable connection at the Apex. The brightening and dimming are now programmed inside the Apex system, and the add-on timers and relays have gone away. This has greatly simplified the entire system, freed up three Energy Bar outlets, and significantly reduced the amount of wire.
A big plus using these modern lights is the point-source nature of their radiation pattern. This generates shimmer in the tank. The more surface ripple, the more animated the shimmer. This is a very pleasing effect. It heightens the natural realism. The color temp is adjustable from 6K to 9K Kelvin. I have these set at 6K, giving great color rendition for a planted tank at all brightnesses.
This week I will be making some custom length interconnects and tidying up all the wires.
Here is seen our assistant aquarist monitoring the canopy external temperature.
First of all, very little phosphate is being added in the form of KH2PO4 solution. The mix is 90g/liter and it is dosed for a mere 5 seconds per day, perhaps a little less than 1.0 ml. This has been the routine for many months. The system is approximately 200 gallons, net volume of water. I estimate that not more than 10% water is changed on a weekly basis. The orthophosphate is testing at 5 ppm. This is a heavily planted tank, and phosphate being an important macronutrient, the utilization rate should be high - and I'm sure that it is. But there are quite a few fish and I feed liberally. I provide lots of fresh frozen, such as brine shrimp and bloodworms, with vitamin and amino-complex soak. Plus, there are automatic feeders dispensing high quality flake twice every day. A considerable quantity of sinking food also goes in every two or three days for the loaches and catfishes. I am certain that the greater part of the macrophyte phosphorus requirement is satisfied by the feeding of the fish.
There has been a small uptick in the tested nitrate since the new plan started. While always testing between 5 and 10 ppm, it is now at 10 ppm dead certain. Also, the calcium is at 72 ppm, significantly increased under the new regime. I am cutting the dose rate in half for the Ca(NO3)2, from 30 sec runtime to 15 sec. This should eventually bring the Ca to the target (circa 40 ppm). I am optimistic that the nitrate will then go to around 5 ppm. If nitrate falls below 5 ppm while Ca is being lowered, I will add KNO3 to the N/Ca doser.
Magnesium is now at 20 ppm and potassium at 35 ppm. I will make no further changes to the Mg/K dosing except as needed to maintain this.
Alkalinity is gradually decreasing so I need to bump up the buffer dose. Does this mean that nitrification is producing more H+ than nitrate reduction is consuming? Something like that possibly, but there's more to it probably. In any case, today the KH is 112 ppm, 6.3 degrees, unexpectedly down from the usual 8 degrees. This acidification will, of course, continue to neutralize the buffer, driving down CO2 content. The goal is to keep KH at 8 degrees. For pH 6.6, dissolved CO2 at 6 degrees is about 25% lower than at 8 degrees (45 ppm to 60 ppm). I will increase the KHBOOST runtime from 1 minute (10 ml) to 1.5 minutes (15ml). CO2 instability will not be allowed.
All of the nerite snails have finally died, I think. The last of them were at least a year and a half in this tank, so they had a good run. On the other hand, the pond snails are doing just fine. There was a moment there when I was afraid they would become a plague - it seemed like there were a lot more than a big bunch. But the population has stabilized to just the big bunch and not a lot more. They are everywhere and they are constantly working over every leaf and surface in the tank. They are little buggers and it takes the whole army, but they do their part keeping things tidy. I suspect the loaches snack on them. Likely the gara and the SAEs eat their egg clutches as well. In any event we seem to have struck a balance, so for now at least there is population control.
After all the maintenance work, the pruning, water changes, and chemistry adjustments, I am looking forward to respite and stability. The ORP is persisting over 365 mV, and the water is crystal clear. The fish are frisky and hungry. I repeat myself here: I do not use chemical filtration in this tank. I do use cultured heterotrophs regularly (Dr Tim's). The biggest reason for the good health of the ecosystem lies in the plants, particularly the swords and the lily. They are in control.
You read in the literature that little tetras, particularly cardinals, prefer shade. They do. They zoom into the light when the brine shrimp come, but they are always to be found hanging out under the big and floating leaves throughout the day. I believe the lily is largely responsible for keeping their school tight. I remove a lot of big leaves from the lily regularly so as not to starve the swords and crypts just below, but I won't take so many that the cardinals are deprived of their cover. They will loosen up and spread out without this shade pool. I am considering increasing their numbers, so I am preparing the quarantine tank.
The new Microsorum (Java ferns) have now adapted to the tank conditions and the lighting. The tatty leaves that were not going to do well have mostly all gone. Leaves that promised vigor have delivered, and there are new little ones coming up. It's a slow plant and you have to be patient.
Going after the Sagittaria - again. I'm just at the point where I might yank it all.
I pulled almost all the Sagittaria. Although I was at first eager to eliminate it, I quickly realized I wasn't liking the look of the tank without it. It will fill in again, and I'll have to keep it under control. I have hopes that some of the background cover will again fall to the Hygrophila, which is an interesting contrast to the Sag. It will take awhile to get big Hygro cuttings from this one little sprig, but it's fast and undemanding. In a couple of months, it will begin to add its character to the 'scape. I am also anxious for the Java ferns to grow more imposing, as this is a primary goal for the changes I am making. I finally managed to reincorporate all the Anubias I have on hand. Some of the A barteri pieces are good sized specimens, even with some severe trimming. After tucking them in anywhere I could, the tank looks a little congested. After everything settles in, I will prune for effect then. Another objective was to get more rocks and driftwood into the tank. Previously the scheme was light on hardscape; I wanted the bottom dwellers to have more cover, and just add some features of interest. A multi-level loach hideout was built where it is not easily visible in the pictures, using all the remaining larger flat rocks in my stash.
The GH is high, the KH is a bit low. Some tweaking to do, but nothing to complain about.
I have reduced the lights considerably. The BML strips are set at 50% and the Kessils are set at 70%. Oxygen tension is still coming in at 100% saturation, although a little later in the day. Adding the Kessils has improved the subjective adequacy of the brightness. The overall illumination in the tank is very satisfactory with a substantial decrease of energy input. Using the old Ecoxotic Stunner strips I was flirting with green spot algae, an especially thorny problem for bringing up Microsorum and Anubias. The Kessils are drawing less current and the quality of the light is far superior. In the DAWN and DUSK periods when the BMLs are off, the shimmer effect is at its greatest. It is quite beautiful - and hypnotic. Very rewarding investment.
Preparatory to obtaining some new fish, I am fixing up the holding tank for quarantine. This will be the first time I have done fish-less cycling using ammonium chloride and nitrifier culture.
Today I installed some additional circulation pumps. The overall combined top to bottom turnover rate of the main pumps is about 1200 gph (total tank X 6) and the flow is uniformly distributed. However, there are zones where the water is fairly still. These occur in /around the Echinodorus, the large leaves tending to crowd each other and retard currents. I have lately felt they weren't as healthy as they ought to be, with more than the usual leaf browning and deterioration, even in younger leaves. Perhaps much of this could have been competition with the Sagittaria, which also blocked circulation and light. In the few days since removing most of the Sag the swords seem to look more healthy. But this has made me notice the lack of plainly visible water motion in the swords, and I thought I could do better. I have a few Marineland powerheads not being used, so a small project was undertaken.
First, I replaced the two 400s in the far ends that wash over the sensors with 1200s. Then I put in two 900s at the back behind the larger swords. All were fitted with Hydor rotary deflectors. Now there is some motion everywhere. As a general rule I resist adding in-tank apparatus, and I certainly avoid anything that represents more maintenance than it's worth. Just now, my impression is that the effect is an improvement and the maintenance will be minimal. The fish seem okay with it too.
As I have remarked previously, the swords are keystones. Their vigor drives the ecosystem and they must not be allowed to fail.