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Crypt Meltdown - who done it??

Well I experienced a meltdown of crypts in my 5 month old 65 gallon tank.  I
think I know why it happened but perhaps you'll come to a different
conclusion.  It has the 75 gallon base (48" x 18") but it's shorter so I
thought a good choice for some of the "lower light plants".  A bank of 4 4'
T-8's (~128 watts) and reflector keep it well lighted along with CO2, Eheim
diffuser setup.  Filtration includes a smallish sponge filter and a
powerhead to keep the water moving and hopefully dissolve more of the CO2
bubbling below it.  Not a lot of fish, a trio of M. herbertaxelrodi, some
unusual catfish that hide in the rainbowfish spawning mop, a foursome of
SAE's some wild swordtails and a few barbs to boot.  Oh, the substrate is
Onyx sand.  The Crypt usteriana  had been growing and expanding very nicely
as well as the Echinodorus tennellus "micro", medium size 5 " sag,
Heteranthera zosterfolia (stargrass), Amano pearlgrass, and Zosterella dubia
that I put in there to help keep any algae at bay while the crypts grew in.
I also had a really nice stand of a very wide "waffle leaf" crypt with
leaves that were approaching 3 feet in length.  A smallish red lily helped
round out the plant occupants.  Unfortunately hair/mat type algae is still a
problem in this tank which is why some of the non-crypts were added to the
tank.  Cryptocoryne griffithi, Crypt parva and Cypyt. pontederiifolia "type"
were recent additions to the tank.  Water gets changed ~ 1/3 every 3-4

So Monday evening  (9 days ago)  I performed a water change.  I use water
barrels for dechlorination and addition of a touch of sodium bicarbonate to
boost my KH to 3 degrees hardness.  The GH is around 125 ppm  most of the
time out of the tap.  Did a regular 30% water change, with pretty much the
same temperature water.  I have melted crypts in my KISS tanks by not having
proper temp water.  Proceeded to curse and pull out algae stuck to the
gravel.  Recycle gravel stuck to removed algae.  Decided it was time to pull
out the Zosterella dubia  as it now was achieving weed status (see recent
posts) in this tank.  Tuesday evening, plants are still fine as I've got my
hands in there pulling out more algae.  Trying to get it cleared out so that
the plants can get the upper hand.  Add TMG at same dosage  as usual ~ 15
ml.  Plants and fish seem to have enjoyed the water change.  Also was
getting ready for a group of 25 cory hastatus which I hope to use as a
schooling group for eventual use in another display tank.  Wed evening all
is still fine.  I always thought if a water change (either temp or hardness
differential)  would destroy crypts it would happen w/in 24 hours.  Thursday
evening slowly acclimate school of corys overnight to tank.  Friends water
is a bit harder than mine (so I believed) so slow acclimation was thought
the better course of action.  Friday morning top was jostled, corys were
netted and added to tank.  Original water that the Corys were in was not
added,.  I didn't quarantine these fish as they had been in quarantine at my
friends for 6 weeks and looking very healthy.  Also added  3 sprigs of some
very healthy Ludwigia arcuata - needle leaf Ludwigia that I obtained at my
aquarium club meeting.  This planting was a CYA, just in case it doesn't
make it in the big tank.  Friday morning plants are still fine.
Friday is a blur but Saturday morning, all the crypts have now gone the way
of the "Wicked Witch of the West".  Could it be that pulling out a plant
(the zosterella) 2 days earlier caused this?  I really didn't stir up a
cloud in the process or anything.  How could a fish addition cause this, 25
hastatus have the mass of about 1 medium size rainbowfish?  No copper or
treatment of the fish during quarantine.  TMG has never had this effect on
this tank.  Fish are eating but seem a bit bummed by the meltdown too and
not quite as active.  Could it be the revenge of the stargrass, like their
supposed dislike of Eichornia diversifolia (mine turns black too in their
presence)?  Looks like the lily also has some holes in it's leave but it
might be due to all of the carnage going on around it.  The other plants
seem ok.  Recheck KH/GH of this tank and realize that the buffering really
does go up with Onyx sand.  KH about double (6-7) and I think the GH was
also higher.  Still the meltdown occurred ~ 4 days later so I didn't think
it was the problem.  Finally on Monday I decided I had to get into the tank
and start cleaning up the meltdown, removing the melted leaves, not the
roots.  Make fresh water in the barrels, rinse well in case something
dropped in (highly unlikely).  Get siphons and buckets (this tank
unfortunately is close to the floor.  Stick hand in tank and OUCH, feels
like really strong saltwater stings on some of the chaffed spots on my
hands.  When you keep your hands in water as often as many of us do it's
part of the hobby.  Hmm.  Dry off hand and apply other hand - same effect,
different cuts.  Could it be electricity??  Dry off most of hand, put other
dry hand in pocket.  Gingerly touch grounded metal reflector with slightly
damp hand.  Two handed touching can make a really neat circuit and a
possible trip to the hospital, you only do this once and I have already had
the experience of completing the circuit!  No problem, no tingles.  Tank
water still nips chaffed spots, it's not my imagination!  Unplug powerhead,
using dry hands, being very careful.  Stick one hand back into tank, no
sting.  I'm really glad that I have continued to enforce my rule of no
bare/stocking feet in the basement fishroom, (another way to complete the
circuit).  Soooo I think what I have observed is that a slight electrical
leak caused the meltdown of my crypts.  This seems like a weird conclusion
and was hoping that someone else could confirm this from something they've
seen or heard before.  There were other possible factors but most had been
performed before in this tank.  In the past  for me, insulting crypts
usually resulted in immediate meltdown not a 3-4 day delay.  What I think
happened was that sometime on either Thursday evening while I was getting
the drip line set up for the corys or on Friday the powerhead went bonkers
and started to leach some current.  I would have certainly felt it on Monday
or Tuesday if it had been acting up then.

My question to all of you is:  Has anyone ever seen or written about a
meltdown before due to electrical current leaking into the tank?  And, in
case it isn't the current, have your actions (or in this case possible group
of actions) caused your crypts to melt 3-4 days after the fact?  Think it's
time for a trip to the hardware store to buy GFI outlets for each circuit in
the fishroom :-)  Plans for this tank include frequent weekly 25% water
changes for a while and possibly the addition of some fast growers (to be
removed later) to help out-compete the algae while the crypts grow back.
Any other suggestions to speed their recovery would be appreciated.

Gary Lange
gwlange at mindspring_com