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nmurphy at gis_net

> > NOREEN A. MURPHY wrote:
> > >
> > > I would appreciate any advice on re-starting my tank.

> > > 1) First some basic info:
> > >                 Old                             New (projected)
> > > 55 gal                                  same
> > >
> > > substrate: #3 gravel                    # 1 sand and/or #2 sand
> > >
> > > fertilizer: none in substrate           Sera floredepot - to go under                                           sand
> > >
> > > filter: Eheim 2113 canister             same
> > >
> > > light: (4) 36" tubes/total 120 watts    (4) 48" under hood 10,000K                                       Coralite
> >    combination of 50/50, full spectrum
> >
> >   CO2: homebrew                            Tetra system

OK Noreen, I'm going to take a shot at this. First, I have no idea about
#1 or #2 sand, or even if sand has a universal numbering system, so
let's skip the sand. Sera floradepot, I've never used either. The
lighting is another story though. Are you sure about the 10000 K? That
would be an awfully blue light. Most folks use 5000k-5500K lighting. Who
makes these bulbs? Are they full spectrum or actinic?
    I haven't personally used the Tetra system, but I haven't heard a
lot of good things about it either. If you haven't already bought the
Tetra system, you should strongly consider building your own. It's not
that hard, and you will probably end up with a higher quality system.
> > > 2) Water info:
> > > Hardness: out of the tap, the water is very soft. In fact it does not
> > > register on the hardness scale. I have since raised it to about 4 in the
> > > tank

How? What did you use?

> > > Ph: I think I kept it too high: about 7.0 in the tank

7.0 is not too high

> > > Phosphates: off the chart

Here, is a major problem. Where does the phosphate come from? Have you
tested your tap water? Are you over-feeding? Are you using a fertilizer
that contains PO4?

> > > Nitrates: very low. This confuses me because the phosphates are so high.

Have you read the Sears-Conlin paper? Plants need nitrogen, phosphorus,
and potassium to grow. Also, they need a full range of micronutrients
too, but N-P-K are the big players. If one of these is limited, the
plants cannot grow. Thus, if your plants are nitrogen limited, they will
not do a good job of removing phosphates from your water.
> > > 4) Plants: <snip> One problem is that I did not know to plant heavily at the
> > > beginning. I will rectify this on the re-set up.
Great, this will help a bunch. Use cheap fast growing bunch plants.
These are good nutrient removers. You can add the more expensive ones

> > > 5) Fish: mostly algae eaters. 10 Otocinclus, 2 Flying Fox, 3 sword
> > > tails, 3 mollies, 2 Clown Loach, and 2 cat fish.

Sounds dull, but reasonable.

> > > 6) Maintainance: I have changed at least 30% of the water every weekend.

You could possibly slow down here a little. Maybe 15% every week.

> > > 7) Biggest problems: ALGAE! Everywhere. Turning to hair on the edges of
> > > the plants.Just a real yucky situation.
> > >
> > > My main issues are that since I am starting again, I want to do it
> > > correctly this time. Questions are:
> > > 1) Should I throw away all my plants and start anew?

If you can afford it, it might be best. That way you are getting a clean

> > > 2) If so, where can I get decent plants? I was not overly impressed with
> > > Horizon. I live in Mass.

I can't help you here. Mail-order seems to be a hit and miss business. 

> > > 3) I have been following the bleach discussion, and am questioning
> > > whether or not to bleach the tank.

If the algae is as bad as you say, then again, go for the clean start.

> > > 4) Sould I start with new filter media, or keep the same to help the
> > > tank cycle?

No. If you are going to bleach, then you have to bleach everything. Your
filter has algae in it too. The same goes for the hoses, the heater, any
driftwood, any rocks, and anything else that touches the water. Bleach
everything or bleach nothing! Some people even quarantine the fish for a
while to get the algae out of their digestive system, but this seems a
bit extreme to me. 
    BTW, a heavily planted tank doesn't cycle. The ammonia is consumed
by the plants, so planted tanks are fish friendly from the start.

> > > 5) I bought a water pump to increase movement, and am thinking of using
> > > it to help the CO2 dissolve in the tank. Is this a mistake?

As long as you are not disturbing the surface, probably not. Disturbing
the surface increases the loss of CO2. 

> > > Basically, I have tons of questions. The local per stores are not too
> > > helpful. (e.g., I was told to start with only 5 plants to see what
> > > happened. This was at an aquarium store. Another told me to only have my
> > > lights on 6 hours per day. Another told me that if I have plants and
> > > CO2, I could only have a few very small fish. As I read and surfed the
> > > net more, I realized they were wrong)

Local fish stores seem to be clueless about growing plants. Ask them how
many planted tanks that they have kept before accepting their advice.

> > > I am ready to go this weekend. I have set up a small tank with gravel
> > > and water from the larger tank, to hold the fish. I have washed 60
> > > pounds of #1 sand, and 50 pounds of #2 sand. Should I mix these or just stick with one size?

I don't think that it matters much. They will probably get mixed over
time anyway.

I decided to e-mail you off-list because of the size of this reply. If I
can answer anything else for you just let me know. Pat Bowerman