Resources/Material used in an aquarium play an important role in growing plants. The Carbon dioxide, type of soil, lighting, fertilizers etc. should match the requirement of plants. Some plants require high amount of carbon, high light. Every plant has a specific requirement.
A lush green planted aquarium shows the dedication and hard work of an aquarist. Healthy green plants and crystal clear water are the rewards of hard work. It is also pleasurable for animals in the aquariums. Plants consume the wastes of animals and provide hiding places and food to many animals. All the aquatic plants have some basic requirements which need to be fulfilled to get the desired result. Plants are also the source of some unwanted animals, algae and diseases. So, always introduce plants with caution.
All the problems associated with planted aquariums can be eliminated easily. First of all, however, we have to know the cause behind the problem. Let us identify some common problems and the most effective solutions to address the same.
Algae is the most common problem for a planted aquarium keeper. Low amount of carbon, and high amounts of nitrates, phosphates and silicates are the common factors responsible for algae growth. Imbalance of nutrients and light is another reason. Sometimes, algae come into the aquarium through new plants. You must always soak plants in bleach for 3-5 minutes before introducing them in the aquarium. Some precautions are required to get rid of algae.
a. Remove any leftover food, dead animals, decaying plant remains from the aquariums.
b. Keep algae eating fish, shrimps, etc. in the planted aquarium.
c. Algaecides can be used to kill the algae. However, they are also harmful for the biological processes in the aquarium.
d. Remove algae manually.
e. Check water parameters regularly. Water change helps in eliminating algae.
f. Hydrogen peroxide can be used for spot treatment of the algae. It should be used carefully as it can be harmful for the animals in the aquarium.
Problem: Unwanted Animals
Every aquarist wants a clean and pest free aquarium. But snails, planaria, etc., break the dream of a pest free aquarium. Snails and planaria infestation is a common problem in planted aquariums. These species multiply very fast and, soon, appear everywhere in the aquarium. So, try to remove them as soon as possible.
a. Most of the snails, planaria or other unwanted animals come into the aquarium through new plants. So always check the plants carefully for the presence of unwanted animals, eggs, etc. If there is a symptom of snail eggs, remove manually or chemically. In order to do the latter, make a solution of aluminium sulphate and dip the plants in the same for 24 hours to kill the snail eggs. To make the solution, mix one and a half spoons of aluminium sulphate in one litre of water. While live snails and other unwanted creatures will die within a few minutes once exposed to the solution, it takes at least 24 hours to kill snail eggs.
b. Copper sulphate is another chemical that instantly kills snails. However, it is also harmful for other animals, especially invertebrates. It also kills the eggs of snails, planaria, etc.
c. Instead of killing unwanted animals, try to control their population. To control their birth rate, remove any leftover food, decaying leaves and dead animals. Less availability of food decreases their population.
d. Some fish like puffers are known to eat snails. Introduce snail eating fish into the aquarium.
e. Assassin snails are predators. They eat other snails and help in controlling their population.
f. Dipping plants in marine aquarium solution also helps in getting rid of snails. In saltwater, snails will get dehydrated within a minute.
Problem: Cloudy/dirty water
Sometimes aquarium water can become cloudy, dirty yellow or brown. There may be many reasons for the cloudy or dirty appearance of water, and this is a common problem faced by new comers trying their hand at building and maintaining aquariums.
a. Dissolved organic compounds like uneaten food, decaying leaves and dead animals may be the main source of the floating debris or particles. They should be removed as soon as possible. Presence of these things spoil the water quality and are also responsible for the growth of algae. Availability of excess food also promotes the growth of unwanted animals.
b. Mulm or dirt builds up over time on the substrate of the aquarium. It looks unattractive and settles downs on the substrate and decorations. It should be siphoned regularly at the time of water change. Some fish or invertebrates have the habit to disturb the substrate. As they disturb it, the mulm starts to float in the water.
c. Cloudy water is due to the overgrowth of bacteria. It appears in a newly setup aquarium. Partial water change can be an instant remedy. But the problem of cloudy water fixes itself after the proper establishment of bacterial colonies in the aquarium. Uneaten fish food or physical debris may also make water appear cloudy.
d. Yellow or brown water may be due to the presence of tannins in the water. When driftwoods release the tannins in the water, it may turn yellow or brown. Presence of tannins also lowers the pH value of water. Although it is not harmful to most of the animals, some fish like to live in water with a high pH. So, before using driftwoods in the aquarium, check the pH requirements of the particular fish living in the aquarium.
Problem: Green water
Green water is another common problem which comes in the way of establishing a beautifully planted aquarium. This is caused due to the presence of unicellular algae. The main reason for green water is excess lighting. There may, however, also be some other reasons.
a. Green water may result from keeping the aquarium in direct sunlight or exposing it to too much light. Reducing the light may eliminate the problem of green water.
b. Excess nutrients like nitrates and phosphates may be another reason behind the presence of green water. Maintaining water quality will, thus, reduce the chances of development of algae responsible for green water.
Problem: Stinky water
Stinky aquarium water is very unpleasant for aquarium keepers. There may be several reasons behind the water becoming stinky.
a. Decaying critters may be the reason behind the stinky water. If any unpleasant smell is observed, check if there is a dead fish or plant in the aquarium.
b. Uneaten food over substrate may bloom bacterial growth. This often releases an unpleasant odour. So, always remove the uneaten food.
c. Insufficient filtration may be another reason behind the stinky water. Check and clean the filter regularly.
Planted aquariums look very attractive but unawareness can invite problems. Every problem has a solution. We just need to be able to diagnose the problem and administer the appropriate treatment.
* The Author Rajiv Sharma is founder of online aquarium forum www.aquapetz.com, an aquarium hobbyist and planted aquarium designer.
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