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Running in a New Tank

In a private email note I asked Karen Randall the following question:

>In addition to the on-list discussion of green water, I've gotten a lot
>of off-list notes from folks with similar problems.  Green water must be
>a common problem, especially during the run in period.  Several people
>have suggested that we ought to ask you how you "run in" a new aquarium;
>how your run in strategy compares to your final trace element and
>fertilizer dosing levels?  

Karen's response:

>>>This method has been successful and green water free not only for me, but
for all of the people I've helped set up new tanks.  (not including long
distance help where I can't see what's going on first hand... even among
_that_ group, no one has ever complained about green water to my
but I can't guarantee it )

I use a laterite based substrate set up according to directions (Dupla
laterite, IMO is superior to all other commercial preparations, although
the others work too) Laterite in the bottom 1/3 of the gravel, substrate
least 3" deep in total, grain size about 1mm (max. 3mm).

I know I've talked about potting plants with soil, but this is not a
place for the novice aquatic gardener to start.  You start with the
_safest_ route to success, and then build on that as you gain
The species that will do the most good in a newly set up tank will not
require soil, and by leaving soil out of the tank, you will avoid any
possible leaching of nutrients into the water column.

Between 2-3 w/g of good quality fluorescent light.  At 2w/g I might not
supplemental CO2 depending on water chemistry, at 3w/g I definitely use

I plant heavily at the outset, at least 75% of the foot print should be
planted, of those plants, at least 60% should be fast growing species.
(Some of my favorite run in plants are water sprite, water wisteria, H.
polysperma, H. angustifolia, Rotala rotundifolia, Valisneria,
but if you have plants that do better in your home water conditions, use

I run the filter media to be used on the tank for at least a week on an
established tank.  If you don't own another tank (it does not have to be
planted tank) and don't know someone who will do this for you, ask the
to do it for you.  Most will oblige.

Week 1: Run the tank set up with all equipment (including your
filter material) and fully planted, but no fish

Week 2: Add an appropriate number of algae eating animals.  My personal
picks are Siamese Algae Eaters and Otocinclus.  (use a good sized school
Otos) _DO NOT FEED_.

Week 3:  Do nothing

Week 4:  Do first 25% water change and start using trace element
supplementation.  I like Tropica Mastergrow better than anything else
used, but I have also used Duplaplant tablets and Duplaplant 24
successfully.  (You _must_ use both Dupla products for that system to

At this point, there should be no algae problem in the tank.  If the
is looking good, you can start stocking the tank over a period of time.
Light feeding of the fish, and regular water changes should also
On my personal tanks, I stock a little more heavily and do weekly 25-30%
water changes.  When I am advising others, and particularly when I'm
setting up classroom tanks, I have them stock the tank more lightly, and
25% water changes every 2 weeks.

If there _is_ an algae problem, it is _probably_ because there has been
large die-off of plants, either because they were unsuitable species, or
because they were in poor health when placed in the tank.  In either
do _not_ add more fish.  Remove as much algae as possible manually as it
appears.  Remove all dying plant material as soon as you see it.
sponge prefilters on filter intakes, and rinse no less often than ever
hours to prevent plant material to break down within the tank.  Do water
changes no less often than weekly, no less than 25% per change until the
algae problem is under control.  You can go as high as 50% daily for a
days if absolutely necessary.  I would also not add trace element
supplements until this initial algae problem was brought under control.

The best way to avoid this type of initial die-off problem is to buy
aquarium grown stock that has come from similar water conditions, and
hasn't withstood the trauma of shipping.  This means the best place to
plants is your local aquarium society auction.  The best plants are the
most common, (i.e. rampant growers) and should be quite inexpensive.

As time goes on, and the tank remains stable and in good condition, it
time to slowly cut back these rampantgrowing species and replace them
more choice, slower growing "specimen" plants.  _This_ is when it
makes sense to order from a mail order house if you can't get what you
locally.  At the same time, you can pass on some of your "weeds" to
else who needs to get started!>>>

I suspect it would be helpful to many members of the list if others
shared their successful run-in strategies with the group.  Any takers?

Regards, Steve Dixon