View Full Version : Need a little Light advice

04-06-2003, 11:04 PM
Been lurking for awhile reading, learned alot, but i need some input.

Ive got a 75g planted discus tank thats been running since november. Fine Sand substrate, planted with 5 amazon swords (10" tall) and about 20 tiger vals (2-24"). Water paramaters are as follows...

PH 6.6
Temp - 30'C (86'F)
KH 3dh GH 5dh
Ammonia/nitrites - 0
Nitrates - 10mg/L (before wc's)
Phosphate - 0.25mg/L
Fe - 0.1mg/L

WC water is regenerated RO, ph adjusted with Peat. Changed about 40% twice a week. One fluval 404 (didnt read before buying), and 2 48" twin bulb fluorescent strips across the top of the tank.

I had a cyanobacteria break out about 2 months ago. ive been trying to reduce it using wc's and monitoring nutrient levels to try and let the plants outcompete the cyano for nutrients. So far i havent had any luck, and since playing with my nutrients some of my plants have slowly started to fall, yellowing leaves on the swords and brown clear leaves on the vals.

Been trying to read everything i can come by across this forum, (found the "answers to some algea questions" by Biotypical was a great help), but i havent had any luck finding a balance.

I dont have any co2 injection, light period is 12 hours a day, have two 12" air stones on either side of the tank, and my light strips have 4 Sylvania Gro Lux bulbs. I came across a thread yesterday that suggested some types of bulbs help contribute to the growth of cyanobacteria. Off the top of my head, sometihng like 680-800 was ideal for plant growth, but from 400-620 as some cheaper bulbs produce only aid in the cyanobacteria growth, and sorry i cant remember the units this referred to.

Any suggestions for another brand of bulb to replace the gro lux's? i admit im very new to worrying about light and plant needs, this is my first planted tank. They give off a very pink glow, and was thinking about replacing two of them with something whiter or bluer, again, suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

If possible this week i was going to do a tear down and move my discus to a second tank ive readied for them and clean all the cyanobacteria from my driftwood, sand, and plants. Any thoughts on the substrate as well, and id greatly prefer to keep the sand, love the look, but do i need a layer of flourite or peat/clay beneath it?

This site has helped with a good deal already, and im open to any suggestions and comments, and if you have anymore questions just ask.

Edit: Discus are fed frozen Blood Word/Brine shrimp/mysis shrimp mixed together, and i use Tropica Master grow fertilizer to keep the Fe at 0.1mg/L.

04-07-2003, 12:57 AM
There are a few things that you can do that may help you.

With respect to your lighting situation, you have just over 2 watts per gallon which should be OK for the plants you are growing. Not tons of light but should be enough. If 4 gro-lux's are too pink for you, you should try varying the light. Plus these gro-lux's are also great IME for growing algae. To save money, you can try replacing 2 of the lights with 6500k daylight bulbs from your local hardware store. This will also improve the look of your tank and make it less pink.

If you bg algae (cyano) is really bad, you can try a few things. One is to black out the tank with a very thick blanket for 4 days. Remove the blanket at the end of the 4th day and suck up all the dead algae.

Another thing you can try is try lowering your lights levels down to 8-10 hours a day. At the same time, you can try daily water changes and try and suck up all of the cyano during the water changes. I also notice that you use RO water. When you regenrate it what do you use? Some products are high in phosphates. I notice your tank does have measurable phosphates. This to me may be a big contributor to your algae. How is your tap water?

One way to get rid of Cyano (it works well for me but some don't like it) is to treat your tank with Erythromyacin anti-botics. Use 1/2 the recommended dose. I usually dose, wait 24 hours, dose again, wait 24 hours do a large water change.

Sometimes co2 injection helps plants grow and outcompete algae for nutrients. One thing you can try is turning off the airstones. Airstones promote the degassing of CO2 out of the aquarium. This may help increase CO2 levels. You can also try do-it-yourself co2 using the sugar yeast method.

You can also try to add human iron and calcium supplement pills deep below the sand underneath the swrds. Swords are root feeders, so using so these may do better than tropica mg for you.

The above are some suggestions which you should of course not try all at once. They may or may not work. THey are all stuff I have tried at one point or another. Try one or two and see if they help. Remember that change to a tank (especially dying leaves, poor growth, etc.) will not happen overnight but will take a few weeks.

04-07-2003, 11:18 AM
One of the things to remember with cyano is the fact that it is not an algae but a strain of bacteria. The common name is blue green algae but the real name is cyanobacteria. Therefore, the remedy is slightly different than fighting algae.
The best way to get rid of cyano is using Erythromyacin. I have used it quite a few times already without any side effects to plants and fish. The bad news is if you are Canadian, you can not buy it in the petstores. This entails a different method which is many water changes and always cleaning the cyano up everytime. Im actually at the tail end of a cyano out break. So far so good.

I would not recommend using the 'blackout' method. This is only setback the plants causing algae problems later. You need to continue to keep your plants happy for them to out compete the algae. This means keeping up lighting conditions and fertilization schedules. This may sound ironic. The worst thing you can do is change one or more factors as algae can respond to changes quicker than plants. Believe me, Im still battling algae out break because I switched fertilizer brands and concentrations.

I hth! ;) And as mentioned, it takes time. Im already at week 4 with enough algae but it has improved a lot and every week I see an improvement. Patience!

04-07-2003, 11:20 AM
You need CO2 and Potassium. The reason you're getting the algae is all the free Phosphate and Nitrate in your system. The addition of CO2 will benefit your plants greatly and in turn will benefit your aquarium with reduced algae.

04-07-2003, 04:12 PM
K let me grab these in order...

I dont really care about the pink glow from the gro lux's, only reason i bought them was as a cheaper solution to plant lighting than the 40-50 dollar bulbs. But at the moment id take some recommendations for good bulbs to put in my strips, and where to get them.

I dont like the black out idea, my plants will probably react worse to 4 days without light than the cyano will. thats why i wanted to adjust my water params to make it more plant friendly, just gotta make sure its good for the discus first of all ;)

For my RO regen, im in the middle of switching over to Kent RO right from RO vital. and no phosphates in my wc water.

i was going to use Erythromyacin, aside from trying to get a hold of it, i was worried about it affecting my biological filter.

I may turn off the airstones, maybe at the next water change, and wont change anything else just yet. if the plants are in good health i wouldnt need them anyway.

Id like to hear some more on supplements or additives for the water or for the substrate. Im still thinking about tearing the tank down to clean it up and take out most of the black sand substrate and throw a little white in with it.

Ronrca, im trying to be as patient as i can ;D ive tried adjusting too many things all at once and everything has gone to hell.

Biotypical, i should have cleared it up, i have no algea, small amounts on my glass that my pleco cleans totally off every night. The cyano is my only problem at the moment.

Ill have to check my potassium, dont have anyway to check for it, and bring it up to the 15-20mg/l in the next couple weeks. Ill look into the Co2 but at the moment its not likely. anybody else second removing the airstones?

im still not sure about tearing the tank down, time permitting. Dont have nearly enough.


04-07-2003, 05:23 PM
If you are not fighting algae just cyanobacteria, use Erythromyacin! It will not affect your bio! I have used it a couple of days with no side effects, just dead cyano! Other than that, if your plants are growing, you are doing fine!

04-07-2003, 05:48 PM
Just you to show you fellow ... BARE BOTTM is the wya to go. lol. ;D ;D ;D


04-07-2003, 06:39 PM
Bare Bottom IS the way to go in some cases but nothing lights up a room like a nice Showtank!! ;D

04-07-2003, 07:01 PM
Yes... Nothing is more magnificent than watching adult discus swimming in between the plants..... A lot of work, of course... but I think it is all worth it.

I am fighting hair algae at the moment, what a pain... but getting there, and hopefully in the next week or two... my plants will thrive again :).

Regards, Ari :)

04-07-2003, 08:51 PM
I had some serious green water and when that went away I had to deal with heavy algea. I took bio's advice and added co2 and 1/2 teaspoon of K/3 times a week. It's been 3 weeks and the plants arer starting to win over the algea. Patients and persistance. :)

04-08-2003, 01:42 AM
Ive got one BB and two show tanks. BB is easy to care for, but the beauty of a planted discus tank is worth the extra work. Seems to keep the water quality up to.

Ron, next time around if i have another cyano problem ill give the Erythromyacin a shot if i can get my hands on some. Im still thinking im gonna tear my tank down and change my substrate to something a little lighter. probably a 60/40 mix of white/black sand. the white really lightened up my other show tank and i love the look of it, i gotta clean up all the cyano so i might as well do everything at once.

Biotypical or anybody else that wants to chime in, can a put a layer of something under my sand to encourage my plant growth? I dont know which type of substrate would be best in my situation.

btw, all my yellowed and browned leaves have come back, took a couple days, probably from when i changed my fertilizer doses. Everything is in decent shape, just slow growth.

Ill probably pull my air stones when i do the cleanup as well.

Thanks to all

04-08-2003, 09:33 AM
If you're going to use sand put Laterite under it.

Keep in mind that a light substrate will wash out your fishes' color. If you want a brighter tank add more light. It's easier to keep clean and your plants will appreciate it. :)

04-08-2003, 09:39 AM
You can also go with flourite mixed with gravel/sand or as a layer under gravel/sand. There are many, many kinds of substrate materials that will encourage plant growth, even using potting soil (so Ive heard)! However, as far as I know, flourite is the easiest to work with imo though I have not tried laterite yet!

You may also want to check out Dave's site! He had a tank with white sand.

Click planted tank in the left menu! ;)

Very cool! Someone from Edmonton! Where abouts in Edmonton! Btw, if you find some Erythromyacin, let me know! As far as I know, we cant get it in Canada anymore! :(

04-08-2003, 06:41 PM
Just noticed your up here too Ron ;D

Right by Beaumaris, spittin distance from St. Albert. PM me ill buy ya a beer.

i love the look of that white sand, and i wanted to make my tank look a little more like my discus' natural home, but its only gonna be about a 50/50 or 60/40 white/black. Ill give the flourite a shot, how much of a layer under the sand? inch? half inch?

Im runnin around to get my 20 set up and running between work, pair of my blue rams spawned during the night and are driving everybody else in the tank nuts.

04-08-2003, 09:42 PM
It's good to see some more disc freaks in northern alta, i'm in Grande Prairie ;D

04-08-2003, 10:58 PM
Flourite doesn't work as well as a base layer like Laterite. It was designed to be a substrate in and of itself. It's best used if mixed at least 60/40 throughout the entire substrate. I've tried it as a base layer and wasn't too pleased with the results.

If you are going to use Flourite it's best mixed with a like size gravel. If you're going to use sand, get Laterite. It's MUCH cheaper.

04-09-2003, 12:57 AM
Thanks Biotypical

im reading up on laterite in another window as i type this.

I would like to keep the sand on top, i prefer the look over courser gravel, and wanted to lighten the tank up a bit. While i have everything ripped up would you recommend anything else for the substrate?

since i read your article about algea and nutrient levels, ive adjusted most of my levels to what you recommended in the thread, and ive got a very noticable decline in my cyanobacteria. I dont need to tear my tank down anymore as the large patches are now broken islands of green, but im getting eager to try a lighter substrate and add the laterite to encourage my plants while im down there.

worked very well, thank you

04-09-2003, 09:59 AM
If you're looking for a lighter red substrate try Shultz Aquatic Plant Soil aka "Profile". You can get it in 10lb bags at Wal Mart for about 7.00. If you want something even lighter take a trip to your local pool supply store and ask for coarse filter sand, it's cool stuff. Just make sure you don't make it too thick, three inches is enough. Anything deeper and it may start to get anaerobic patches...:(

BTW, don't thank me for the algae post. Thank Tom Barr, most of what I wrote is based on his ideas about the nutrient levels plants do best in.

04-09-2003, 10:35 AM
Walmart? There is some substrate base at Walmart? Cool! I do not like buying from petstores as it really hurts the wallet. I'll have to visit Walmart again! I may have to tear down my 90 and start over with this Profile stuff! ;D Hmmmm! It has me thinking!

04-09-2003, 09:39 PM

Profile's lighter than regular gravel....buyer beware. :) It's not bad stuff though if you're on a budget.

04-10-2003, 11:21 PM
I just heard Joe (Echanted Discus) speak this past weekend about his trip and competition in Duisburg, Germany.

He showed a lot of pictures and the dealer display tanks were to die for!! (well you know what i mean)

Picture this; eight to ten red melons cruising around over white sand substrate past large green swords in a bow front tank. A lot of the tanks had the white sand. They favor that there he said. Looks extremely bright.

Backgrounds--those high buck Back to nature ones with the built in filtration. Again, very pretty. Stands were also a treat. Really nice woods. Some of them made the tank look like it was suspended in air!

It was a very nice presentation. Joe will give it again at the ACA convention in Cinci. I hope to be there to see it again.

Good luck with your tank Blk wolfe. Sounds like you're well on your way. :D Jen K. P.S enjoyed this thread

04-12-2003, 05:46 AM
Thanks baglady, but ive still got plenty to learn and experiment with :o

Biotypical, thanks for the lead on the laterite, but im thinking it would probably be a PITA for me if i ever wanted to move any of the plants around. How about 1-2" of sand with fertilizer sticks embedded by the plant roots? Anything you recommend for it?

Do the plants require a certain amount of KH in the water for some processes? i swear i read this somewhere, and from the co2 buildup during the night and photosynthesis during the day there is a good bit of ph swing between night and day cycles.

Im going to pull my air stones morrow when i do the cleanup, hopefully my fish will provide enough co2...but it should be more than current if the airstones were just stripping the co2 from the water. this may make the ph swing a bit worse...

and one last thing for tonight...at www.sfbaaps.com theres a co2 reference chart for ph/KH. Is this accurate at all or just under ideals or max capacity of the water?

04-13-2003, 09:03 AM
Blk Wolfe,

If you want to use 1-2" of sand Laterite is needed, especially with swords. I've used it with sand and it doesn't leak out if you're careful to move slowly when removing the plants. Also, if you have a large sword to remove it's wise to trim the roots in the gravel before pulling it out; they can reach the entire length of the tank in a year.

I would steer well clear of Jobe's fertilizer sticks for aquarium use...they're a disaster waiting to happen. Flourish Tabs are better, but they can still cause anaerobic patches in sand if you're not careful. I wasn't, and had huge black patches all over the place and dead plants.

The referrence table at the San Francisco site is exactly what I go by. Think of KH as the waters CO2 buffer. The higher the KH the more CO2 the water can hold, but also the more you'll need to add to get enough for your plants. A KH of 3-4 degrees is ideal and will prevent wild swings.

A swing of 0.2 in a twelve hour period is the norm. For example, you've got a pH of 6.6 right when the lights turn on and 6.8 right when the lights go out. This is due to the fact that plants don't use CO2 at night so the buildup causes the water to go a little acidic until the lights turn on and the plants start using the CO2, causing the water to de-acidify a little. With a 12hr photoperiod this fractional swing is easily taken into stride by your fish with no problems at all.

I kept my discus tank at a KH of 1 with CO2 going all the time and they did just fine so you don't need to worry overmuch. As long as your KH isn't too high (meaning you have to add a lot more CO2) you'll be all set.

04-14-2003, 07:05 PM
Thanks alot biotypical

I talked to Ron a bit, and after your earlier post, and im staring to lean towards the flourite now ::) sounds cleaner when moving plants around than the laterite, and im fine with the higher initial cost, ill just see how it turns out mixing it with the sand

i found some here it wasnt too expensive, Ron suggested and im probably gonna go with it: have the flourite mixed with the sand, then let the sand settle on the top as its vacuumed, light sand on top but still mixed with the flourite below.

I just noticed this but my orginal question never got answered yet :o

My lights. after some reading, i was just gonna pick up a couple from home depot, maybe a blend of a full sunlight bulb and something with a blue tinge? More reds/blues than the pink now

04-14-2003, 08:05 PM
Aim for around the 5500K! YOu can get some lower and higher but keep it around 5000K!

More important is intensity, not color!

04-14-2003, 10:50 PM
Thanks Ron, im making a run to home depot morrow, they're starting to know me by name in there

the 5000K refers to intensity right? Ive seen a few recommend 6500K bulbs, and some that go up to 9500K. Is more better for this?

i wanted to try a bulb with a little blue tint to see if it would bring out the fishes color a bit, and i read somewhere plants like a little blue light along with red spectrums.

When the hell am i gonna get to buy you a beer? im busy this week so might be my turn to throw a wrench in things. Was gonna head out to Big Als for an aquaclear to replace my fluval sometime this weekend ill be halfway out there :P

04-15-2003, 09:23 AM
5000K refers to the color temperature measured in Kelvin! Has nothing to do with intensity rather the color appearance. For intensity, you need to look for the Wattage or W (not ideal but thats a different topic). So, yes, you can get some 6500K and higher if you want but be sure to mix them up with some 5500K lamps!