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Barr Method and Correcting pH for Water Changes



I have been using Dupla stuff for some time and have had good results.
Mostly I use it because it is easy to apply (a few drops a day and a
tablet at water change).  However, I am becoming convinced that either
the concentrations of elements in their mix are not in line with the
needs of my high light (3.6 w/g) / high fish load tank or I am not
dosing enough.  I get good growth with about anything I try but some
plants look a little more yellow than those I see in pictures and I have
some longevity problems with some plants.  Assuming that the Dupla
tablets I add at water changes are contributing the macros and the
micros are the daily drops, I upped the daily dosage and the tablet
dosage at water changes.  That did fix a lot of it but one crypt I have
still looks a little yellow.  The older leaves on this crypt show some
small pin holes that grow with age, some are turning a little brown in
places and the really older ones die and drop off.  However, these are
on leaves that sprouted before I increased my fertilizer dosing.  Leaves
appearing since that change are growing faster and only look a little on
the yellow side.  Also, I used to get about a leaf a week, now I have
about 12-15 coming up at once.  This is since the change I mention
below.

Recently we went on vacation and my tank cratered while we were gone.
We got stuck an extra day or two in the big snow in CO.  When I returned
I discovered that the CO2 had run out (thought I had more than enough),
the filter had clogged dropping circulation to almost nil (I cleaned it
the day before we left), and what the clogging didn't stop the drop in
the tank level due to evaporation did (put the in-tank filter back in a
little too high).  I guess I should be glad the glass did not break
because everything else sure went wrong.  There was bright green alga on
the glass, some slimy brown stuff on most plants (many plants were
completely covered) and some signs of the hair stuff (looks kind of like
green plant roots) here and there, but fortunately most of it was on the
glass.  Basically, my tank looked a lot like a green swamp.

Well I went back to the basics I have seen here so often.  Got the
filter cleaned and working, restored the CO2 and upped it a little,
cleaned the glass, and did a major (40-50%) water change followed 5 days
later by another (perhaps a little less).  It's been 10 days and all but
a little thread algae is completely gone.  Most of the algae were gone
before the second water change but it seemed like a good idea from what
I have read here.  Today there is still some of the hair stuff in a few
places but nothing else and the water is crystal clear.

What really got me thinking about this happened sometime after the
second water change.  I do not remember exactly when since I have been
very distracted with the uncontrollable urge to keep the IRS extremely
happy I usually have about this time every year, but I did get my head
up enough to notice some extra pearling on the plants.  My plants have
pearled but not this much and not coming from all over the tank.  I
disturbed some Micranthemoides cleaning the glass and got the champagne
effect though it looked more like an air stone - lots of bubbles of all
sizes everywhere.  After reading the Barr Method threads I am beginning
to think it is related to the extra macro dosing (again assuming that
the tablets are mostly macros) the plants got from the water changes.  I
would also suspect that the NO3 levels went way up with the filter off
and the high fish load.  I have been dosing the daily pretty heavily and
suspect there may be an excess of them.  This makes me think that I am
macro limited.  I just did a water change and am paying a little more
attention to what is going on trying to figure out why I got the good
results.  I am also getting the standard dosing chemicals (see the end
of this post).

Whatever it is that I did, it had a nice affect on the plants.  With the
help of all the people here and the wonderful resources on the web they
have mentioned I think I can figure it out.  My problem is one I noticed
doing so many water changes in a short period of time.  

I try to keep my pH around 7.0-7.2.  My tap is hard (GH & KH 12-13) and
fairly basic (pH 8.2-8.4).  I have not checked it in a while because it
was always the same every time I did.  When I do a 40-60% water change
(not always real accurate in how much, just guess by tank level) the pH
rises to around 7.7-8.0.  It takes a day or better to get the pH down to
where my test kit will read it, longer to get it back to around 7.1-7.2.
Other than pH I have not done much testing lately.  As you will note I
have already adopted a major part of the Barr method. :)

The pH swing does not seem like a good idea to me but then again I am an
EE - I had a lot of chemistry in school but once you get over to biology
side none of this is really intuitive to me.  Is the long time my tank
stays at a high pH a problem?  That would seem so since with a 40-60%
water change my CO2 is going in a couple of minutes from 22-30 ppm down
to about 5-7 or less.  Could the slow response time of my CO2 system be
due to some problem with my CO2 reactor or pump, like perhaps the water
flow rate is too high or not high enough?   How do I correct this or do
I need to?  If I continue with 5-7 day water change cycle my CO2 will be
below 10 ppm for around 1/4 of the time.  Do I need to do something to
alter the pH of the water I add - like put some CO2 in it?  If I
increase the frequency of water change I could see the CO2 level never
getting up to where it should be and spending most of the time well
below an acceptable level.  I realize that if I can get the dosing right
this would probably not be necessary.

Regarding the dosing - 
To try to identify what I am missing dosing wise, I have started trying
to get the macro and trace chemicals to supplement my dosing.  I am
having trouble finding the trace mix in the proportions mentioned in the
Sears-Conlin paper.  Anybody know of a good online source?  I probably
should get out my test kits and measure things but I work with them so
little it seems to take forever plus I do not like having all of those
chemicals out with my boys around.  Some of those are some pretty nasty
stuff.  Besides, I really like the part of Tom's method that I have
already adopted so much it is hard to go back and do the hard work.  ; )
I know though that to really get it where it should be I will either
have to get lucky and stumble into the right amount via trial and error
(dosing of the Dupla stuff and/or home brew) or get out the test kits
and do it right (quantify where the tank is and the results with changes
in concentrations).  With all the help from you guys here and on the
various websites you have I think I have gotten to where I can recognize
some of this and keep the test kits put up.

Thanks
Charles Kuehnl