It's been quite a while since I've posted anything here, so lots to talk about.
First, everything is now installed in/on the aquarium. The CO2 injection is working well, I'm now learning how to get my PH stable and at the correct level, while still pumping CO2 into the water. It's a little bit of a struggle to find that balance, but I'm getting there. Having an automated way to cut off the CO2 when the PH gets too low is a great (and safe) way to help manage the process.
I had an a red algae (also known as Black hair/bush/beard/etc) that had overtaken my mopani driftwood and was also starting to take over the plants. On top of that, I had this slimy green stuff on the leaves of the plants as well as on/in the sand on the bottom. And while it looked like an algae, it wasn't an algae at all, it's Cyanobacteria, or more often called Blue-Green Algae. Mike at Aqua Imaginations in Buford gave me some medicine (probably erythromycin phosphate) which totally got rid of the problem. I also scraped almost all of the Red algae from everywhere I could find it, and now it's all but gone too. But the best algae fighter of all... I purchased 3 Otocinclus Catfish, little fish about an inch or so long, and man what a job they did. Within about 3 days, all the algae was gone from the tank. Highly recommended little fish, especially in a planted tank. They literally polished the leaves of the plants. :-)
I have everything on a schedule now so other than feeding, it's all automated. The lights and CO2 come on at 12 PM and run until 8:15 PM. The lights have a sunrise/sunset mode, so they start a 15 minute ramp up at 12 PM and are at full brightness at 12:15. Same for sunset, they begin to ramp down at 8 PM and are completely off at 8:15 PM. I turn on an aeration stone at 8:30 PM and run it until everything turns on at noon, at which time I turn the air off. Right now the lights are running at 80% of their maximum intensity. I had dropped as low as 60% when I was having the algae issues, but now that I know my CO2 levels in the water (finally got a GH//KH test kit), I've been able to bump the lights back up for now.
I'm also going to keep a running post as a log of changes. I should have been doing this all along, but I got lazy. Of course. So I'm back-tracking to about April 1 with approximate dates and I'll keep it up from now on.
I also have lots more pictures to post, the tank looks different from what you see in the pictures that are currently being displayed, so I'd like to get some of these updated.
Here's the log that I promise to keep up, I should have been doing this all along. I'll have to start with what I remember about the last few weeks of April, but I will now updated this as I make changes.
Just can't help myself. I like toys. I guess in a lot of ways you never really grow up, and in some ways as you start to get older, you begin to revert back to your childhood. Luckily I don't need diapers... yet. :-)
Before I get started, we did get one Angelfish yesterday. My wife really wanted one. Normally you wouldn't have an Angelfish in a community tank as they can be aggressive, but introducing a small one in an established tank is fine. They will end up growing up peaceful like the rest of the fish.
Still waiting on my CO2 system to arrive. The company called where I had ordered the 10 lb filled bottle of CO2 and said it was going to be a little late... but that's ok, the CO2 system is on backorder until the 11th. UPS considers a bottle of CO2 hazardous material, so it's more difficult and expensive to ship. Once I get it, I can have it refilled locally as needed. In the mean time, to give the plants the CO2 they need, I'm doing daily doses of Seachem's Flourish Excel.
I wasn't really happy with the lighting system that came with the tank, but I wasn't unhappy with it either. It's about a 10" long LED system, and while it's bright and has good color, I wanted to make sure the plants had enough of the "correct" kind of light to utilize all of the newly added CO2 once I get it hooked up. Plus, being 10" long, it left noticeably darker areas at both ends of the tank.
Today I ordered a lighting system from a company called Current, and they call this system a Satellite +Pro. I purchased this from Amazon for $170 with free shipping. The +Pro is designed for freshwater aquariums and the color spectrum needed for aquatic life, and particularly plants. I've looked at a lot of different lighting systems, and this one sees to be the most suitable for my needs. Many lighting panels or bars are ugly and require some hideous mounting schemes for most aquariums.
The model I ordered fits a 24"-36" wide tank. The bar mounts on the edge of the lip of the tank with adjustable legs. I have a similar light on my smaller aquarium that mounts the same way. It's attractive and unobtrusive, and "the only way it was going in the living room" said the wife. :-) The newer light is about 22" long so it should eliminate, or at least help to eliminate, the darker areas in the 30" wide tank. I should still end up with ~50 PAR on the sides, which is considered bright lighting by most people.
The light comes with 20-6500K/9-RGBW LED's for a total of 29 LED's and 30 watts of light. Compare that to the old lights: 42 White/3 Blue .11W LEDs - Watts- 4.62 LUX - 990 Lumens - 310 @12".
Most reputable lighting manufacturers will also include a rating called a PAR. PAR, or Photosynthetically Active Radiation, designates a spectral range of light that photosynthetic organisms utilize during photosynthesis. It's important to consider this rating when choosing lights for a planted or reef tank. Also know that the PAR rating changes with depth, so as your tank gets deeper, the stronger the light needs to be to achieve the same light intensity. Some lighting systems penetrate better than others, and this is where the PAR ratings come in to play. Here's how the +pro stacks up. My depth is roughly 16".
Now here's the cool part. This light can be custom configured for color and intensity, dynamic modes like lightning and clouds, as well as timed on/off and ramp up/ramp off (sunrise/sunset). Here are some of the features:
"Now you can wirelessly program and control just about everything! Seeing dynamic weather effects over your tank is just the beginning! With the integrated 24-hour timer function, you can also program what time to start a gradual sunrise, gentle sunset and both the color spectrum and intensity of your daylight and moonlight. Easy to program, the controller features:
Pretty cool stuff. The fish are less stressed when the lights gradually go on and off, and did you know that some fish only breed when there are thunderstorms? Watch the video of the lightning effects! :-) .
"Balancing the perfect light spectrum for viewing can be tricky and no one can do it better than you. That’s why we created a higher output light with a fully adjustable color spectrum while keeping your tank (and fish) on a 24-hour rhythmic light cycle. High output, energy efficient SMD LED chips generate high PAR and lumens for strong plant growth and produce stunning shimmer. The 6,500K white LEDs combined with RGB (red, green, blue) provides adjustable color spectrum control for eye-popping color rendition. This powerful combination of color spectrums provides the perfect balance of light for even the most demanding freshwater aquaria and planted aquascapes."
So I'm pretty excited! In order for the new light to go on the aquarium, I'll also be replacing the "hood" that came with the tank with a glass top cover. This cover is a two piece design that is hinged in the middle for easy opening. It also has a 2" strip in the back that is open for water and air lines as well as other things that may need to hang off the back of the aquarium.