March 13th, 2011

Underwater garden still not dead yet

The water pH sank steadily, and stabilised at just below 7, which should have been OK for all the plants. Sadly, one of my favourites, the Limnophila aquatica never recovered from the combined shock of my brutal planting technique and the initial alkaline water conditions, and has been gently biodegrading ever since, along with the Glossostigma elatinoides that has no longer got a single leaf, but perhaps something will sprout from the mass of roots?

Meanwhile I decided to combat the growth of grey beard algae on the wooden root by adding a potion to the water that provides carbon in a form that is easily used by aquatic plants. This is supposed to help them suck up the nutrients in the water and out compete the algae. I had read that doubling the recommended dosage has an algaecidel effect. When searching for this magic potion I discovered that it was available at a bargain price in a set alongside a potion the provides basic nutrients for aquarium plants and another one that gives them an iron tonic. So after reading the instructions on the bottle I carefully measured out double the recommended dosage and sat back to await the imminent death of the grey beard algae.

Not that I have anything against grey beard algae. Yet. At this stage it is still a pretty pearlescent growth, beaded with bubbles, nestling sweetly in the nooks and crannies of the tree root. I just don't want to watch it spread to the plants, which are already struggling to recover from being bent and battered by my hamfisted planting. So I dosed the potion, and continued to top up with double doses all week. Measuring the water quality every day. I was surprised to see the nitrate levels rising, but pleased too, since I assumed this was the elusive nitrite processing bacteria on the job a week earlier than expected. Until Saturday, when I wore my glasses to dose the potion and realised that I had been using the wrong bottle. Instead of flourish excell, the carbon supplying potion, I had been dosing plain flourish, the plant nutrient solution. Oops. No wonder it hadn't been doing anything to discourage the algae, I'd been feeding the bloody stuff.

I thought the plants looked a lot happier once they got the extra carbon potion, and breathed a great sigh of relief. I'd lost the limnophilia and probably the glossostigma too, but it looked like everything else was starting to recover and show promise.

Meanwhile the ammonia eating bacteria have been coming along in leaps and bounds. They got through so much of the ammonia originally added to the tank for their delectation that I had to start topping it up. Just a millilitre a day at first, but they were getting through it so quickly that I began to worry they would starve and the colony would collapse, so today I gave them 6ml to bring the level back up to 4ppm. Guess what happened? The pH of the tank water shot up, from 6.8 to 7.6 in a few minutes, and it may well be back around 8 again. Buggrit.

I fear this sudden change in pH has done for the Rotala wallichii , I can almost see the spines along the lower part of it's stems turning pale and loosing the will to live. I expect they will start drifting off into the soup like pine needles in a stormy wood some time soon.

Then there are the amusingly twisted leaves of the vallis plants, I doubt they are supposed to be taking on this transparent look, did I damage them by planting them too deeply? Recommendations were to leave the top part of the root showing above the gravel, but when I tried that they just drifted away so I jammed them down into the substrate and perhaps now they are getting even by expiring slowly while I watch? Bah, see if I care, there are plenty more plants in the shop, amusingly twirled leaves or not! Let the weak die. Bwa ha ha!