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Old 04-07-2012, 10:28 AM   #1 
SpookyTooth
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NPT Pruning, Cleaning & Snails

As some of you may be aware I recently set up an NPT (roughly 6 gallons in size) with a soil substrate capped with sand. All's been going well; plants are exploding into life and putting out noticeable growth every day. I've been trimming back dead leaves as needed and keeping a close eye on all new growth and water parameters.

I have approximately six adult Malaysian Trumpet Snails in there alongside some of their newly hatched offspring. There is also a Ramshorn Snail that hitchhiked with the plants who I have decided to keep. And... of course... I have pond snails. They are everywhere. At first it was a couple of individuals, I removed them as I saw them but I must have missed a large adult as babies are coming out of my ears at the moment.

I'm sat with a bucket and a turkey baster right now removing them as I see them... I have a few questions regarding not just the snails in my NPT but general maintenance and I'm wondering if anyone could please help me. I'm feeling a bit... overwhelmed. I did the research but really want to clarify a couple of things I'm curious about. Up until two days ago I've been doing daily water changes due to nitrite/nitrate spikes (which have since stopped, nitrites are 0 and nitrates are ... I can't see the test tube from here, but I'm also getting ammonia readings (between 0.25 and 0.5ppm), hence my concern). Please bare with me while I get my thoughts together.

- Baby pond snails. I'm removing them (as mentioned) but they keep showing up. I can only assume that this means there is an excess of food. I'm pruning the plants regularly and have missed a couple of leaves here or there - are the dying plant leaves the food source of my snail population explosion? I've been trying to reach the denser areas of the tank but it's difficult pruning when I run the risk of uprooting plants.

- Snail poop. It's everywhere. Of course, I used light sand so I see it more; I don't honestly care about seeing it, but there is a lot. I've been siphoning some of this up and out of the tank but from what I've read and been told the poop serves as a natural fertilizer for the plants. Should I leave all of it? Could this also be a food source for the snail explosion I'm witnessing?

- Pond snail removal. Is there any other way I can remove the smaller of the pond snails? The large ones are easier to gently dislodge and siphon out but the little'ns... I've tried the "lettuce in a jar" method but there's not enough ground space for me to place this and I woke up only to find my MTS in there...

- I believe one of the reasons for my nitrite spikes was courtesy of two species of plants I had chosen (Twisted Vallis & Hygrophila Corymbosa). They started to rot under the substrate (they were removed early in the week after I discovered this). I have some Echinodorus Tenellus in the aquarium at the front and I honestly can't tell if it's doing okay or not. There are a few dying leaves but there are also green leaves. Does anyone have any idea how I can really check the state of these plants without uprooting them? Do I just need to wait a little longer? With the snails moving through them it's impossible to tell if they've grown or expanded. I'd rather remove them if they are causing some of my ammonia problems.

- I have a group of 10 red cherry shrimp in temporary accomodation right now, waiting to make sure the NPT is safe before adding them. Will they be able to help with the cleaning up of the plant debris? I have food for them and know they are scavengers but I guess I'm looking to have a few facts spelled out for me. I'm completely exhausted from all the water changes... though I expected them and won't let maintenance slide.

I just... need a little help. I won't say I've bitten off more than I can chew; I'm confident that things will turn out okay. The tank is looking great and I know the shrimp and Kaze will love it when it's finally ready for them... I just have to get passed these first two months without losing my arms and head. I also feel sorry for my trumpet snails. One of them currently has a baby pond snail sat on him while he's climbing the side of the tank (my MTS prefer to be out during the daytime... is that odd?).

I am sincerely sorry for the sheer length of my post. The species in my tank are as follows:

Cabomba Caroliniana, Echinodorus Tenellus, Hydrocotyle Leucocephala, Hygrophila Rosanervis, Lemna Trisulca, Ludwigia Repens, Süsswassertang, Willow Moss (too tired to find the scientific name at the moment)
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Old 04-07-2012, 10:49 AM   #2 
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If the tank is dense with stem plants you shouldn't have any ammonia, nitrite or even nitrate especially if they are all actively growing and you have a good floating plant too.....rosette plants, moss, fern aren't big feeders but if you have at least 75% of the floor covered with stems you should have been safe to add livestock on the same day you set the tank up.

How deep is the soil layer and sand cap and what kind of soil did you use.

I have thousands of common snails in my NPT's and remove at least over 100 weekly and have never tested positive for ammonia, nitrite or even nitrate reading even in my small tanks without filters-some going into their 7th year.

If stem plants or roots, stems are rotting in the soil-the soil may have gone anaerobic.....stems/roots shouldn't be rotting......

What kind of lights are you using, age of bulbs, kelvin, watts and photoperiod..
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Old 04-07-2012, 10:58 AM   #3 
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Thank you for the response.

The soil (taken from my back yard) is one inch deep with the same of sand (which is standard aquarium sand). I don't think I have enough of the tank planted, to be honest. I'm using a CFL 6500k 11watt bulb in a homemade lampshade (heh) lined with reflective foil. The photoperiod averages 12 hours a day. The bulbs are brand new (have been used for approximately 3 weeks).

The only plants that have been giving me problems (as far as rotting is concerned and not normal leaf loss) are the two I'd mentioned. All stem plants seem fit and healthy and are pumping out new growth.

I had initially used water lettuce as my floating plant but replaced it with duckweed (for reasons I can't actually remember)... I think it may be worth adding some water lettuce back to the tank. I might also remove the Echinodorus Tenellus and buy another batch of stem plants (maybe some more Hygrophila as they seem to favor my water)... do you think this may help?

Is there any way I can test the soil to see if it has gone anaerobic? The tank water doesn't smell (bad) but I don't know if that means anything. The plants I removed didn't look healthy but everything else is fine... I'm really beginning to worry that the soil might have gone bad... I don't know what I'm going to do if it has.

If it has, it has but I'd seriously have to consider where to go from there.
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Old 04-07-2012, 11:08 AM   #4 
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It sounds like you are doing everything right....usually if the soil goes bad you will get a rotten egg smell and sometimes you can see the soil turning black at the edges of the tank-but I had one do this on me and it didn't cause any problems-but it was a big tank too.....

Its not uncommon for some plants to do better than others-sometimes you have to let them decide-there are a few species I can't get to grow in some tanks but thrive in the exact same setup sitting next to it......

Your trumpet snail should help-but you say they stay out during the day....do you ever see them burrowing in the soil-some of mine are out during the day too and so I don't think its uncommon-but I do see them burrowing......Go and peak at your tank in the middle of the night with a flashlight and see how many MTS you can see crawling up the walls-sometimes this is a better indicator.

How strong is the water flow on the filter.....
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Old 04-07-2012, 11:14 AM   #5 
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Oh what a relief! I'll keep an eye on the soil anyway just to be on the safe side and will likely order some more stem plants to replace the plants I'm not sure about. I'd rather have a healthy jungle than an unhealthy "I want THIS to go HERE" (though I love jungles... so best of both worlds!).

I have seen the MTS burrow several times - the babies are doing the same as I type this (it's very sweet actually). The adults just seem to be happier staying out and about during the day. I'll be sure to keep a flashlight on-hand (I usually wake up about midnight anyway)!

The filter is a foam (sponge) filter. I have the bubbles from the air pump running up quite quickly but they slow down by the time they break surface and there isn't much of any water disturbance caused by it (any disturbance is solely at the surface of the water and is miniscule at best). I did have a canister filter to help remove large sand particles that was rather violent - it was replaced with the sponge filter (old filter media was saved and rubber-banded to the sponge).

I can't thank you enough for your help!
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