So as an obsessive ammonia tester, I've learned that it does not take a week for my platies to completely contaminate their 16g tank- in fact, it barely reaches the stressful point in that time. So, after an extremely exhausting week in Illinois (I live in Maine, had to go out for a funeral. Not the point), I decided to stay at the college and go back home the NEXT weekend, at which point I would clean the tank.
I wasn't counting on one of the fish dying while I was away.
Nor was Ken, my bf's father, and tenant of the apartment where my 16g resides, counting the platies when he came in to feed them. He didn't notice one was missing, nor did he notice the brown growth spreading in the tank, perhaps assuming it was something I had intentionally grown. After all, I spent $10 on a ball of moss.
I come home to my platies after two weeks and find my tank horrendous, brown, and completely contaminated. As I was frantically changing the water and scrubbing down my plastic plants and structures, I noticed something squishy and shapeless in one of the pink lilies. Thinking little of it, I simply washed it down the drain and assumed it was a growth.
And then I counted the platies. One was missing.
I did not eat lunch, by the way.
All I can figure is that the dead platy accelerated the accumulation of ammonia and other gunk in the tank, hence the completely freakish amounts of what I can only assume was algae.
So the water was still somewhat cloudy, but I'd replaced most of it, and have since added the marimo and two other live plants. Yes, I have gotten in to live plants! Additionally, I now have room enough to stock one more fish, and I'm thinking about a cory catfish to help keep future outbreaks of algae under control. I also gleefully added two rosy barbs that I bought before the discovery of the brown icky stuff, and they're all getting along very well. So it's not a total loss- my adventures in aquatics continue, I'm learning, and my understanding and mastery of aquatic ecosystems is progressing. Happy day.
Oh, and some pictures of the tank, now harmoniously restored!
A shot of the torii gate with my live plants, and several fish. It is sideways.
This one is not sideways, and you can see more fish.