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Re: Substrate problems
From your description, it sounds like you have a very nice tank, and
you did your homework--heavily planted, some fast growing plants,
substrate additives, CO2 fertilization, Tropica's master grow, etc.
It is no surprise you have not had any algae outbreaks, and your
plants and fish are doing well.
Your gravel is calcareous, as you noted, and is affecting your pH,
KH, (and GH). Weekly water changes on the order of 10-15% will help
attenuate the pH and KH swings you have measured, as opposed to your
twice-monthly 30% changes. The RUGF is accelerating the problem,
unfortunately, because the increased water circulation through the
gravel is dissolving more of it. If you did not have the RUGF, the
water chemistry swings would probably be lessened.
There is nothing wrong with pH 7.5, and I am curious why you want to
get it down to a "preferred" pH 6.5. Preferred by what? I cannot
think of a single plant or fish that requires 6.5, unless you are
planning on spawning your fish. Please, I hope no one responds with
a quote from The Optimum Aquarium!
It is the swings in pH and KH that may give you problems, not the pH
or KH values themselves. Try weekly water changes and see what
happens. Later, you could turn off your RUGF for a week or two, and
monitor your pH and KH. Then, you can decide whether to 1) live with
it, 2) discard your gravel, or 3) keep the RUGF turned off. Either
way, weekly water changes are preferable to semi-monthly changes.
Your plants and your Eheim can easily take up the slack from your
Obviously, 1 and 3 are the simplest, and remember, plants and fish need
some calcium in the water. The extra buffering capacity is also a bonus.