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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I recently switched my halfmoon Betta's tank (5.5 gallon) to sand substrate (Caribsea) from gravel. I left just a bit of gravel to make a small "river" in the tank for decoration. I did do a 100% water change to get all of the gravel out, though I realize now I should have kept some of the water in a bucket to put back in the tank. I didn't have an issue the first couple days with the substrate, but when I went out of town and came back my water was horrible. had a lot of aquatic plants (some of them new, others not) and a few died when I was gone. There was a large bush-like plant (I wish I knew the name of) that completely fell apart. I removed everything I thought was dead and did a water change. Later, a lot more of my plants started dying.

I bought a new light bulb (I had a crappy Petsmart incandescent light that I assumed wasn't enough for all of my plants), the Sunlite SLT7/27K on Amazon. While waiting on the bulb, I took out all of the plants. I put the living plants in my other Betta's tank and threw away more dead ones. When I did a water change, the water came out a black/brown color and smelled absolutely awful. Over the past week, I've been doing water changes every few days. The water is still cloudy and yellow and while it still has a smell, it isn't nearly as bad.

The tank currently has two mystery snails, the Betta, a piece of driftwood (I soaked it before putting it in the tank), and dwarf grass (alive). What could be causing the nasty water and how do I fix it?

Water treatments used:
Prime
API Leaf Zone
API Stress Coat
API Aquarium Salt
API Bacteria Supplement

(I am intermediate with fish. I have a 15 gallon tropical, and four Bettas.)
 

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What substrate did you switch to? Are you vacuuming the gravel often?

If you can post a picture of the plants, that might help. Some plants don't like having their roots/rhizome buried and can rot very quickly when this is done.

As for the yellow water, that could certainly be from the driftwood - how long did you soak it? Driftwood can release tannins for several weeks.
 
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Discussion Starter #3
What substrate did you switch to? Are you vacuuming the gravel often?

If you can post a picture of the plants, that might help. Some plants don't like having their roots/rhizome buried and can rot very quickly when this is done.

As for the yellow water, that could certainly be from the driftwood - how long did you soak it? Driftwood can release tannins for several weeks.
I switched to Caribsea black sand. I'm not sure if I have a picture at the moment, but I can certainly post one later. The piece of driftwood was small and presoaked. I soaked it again overnight and the water was not discolored the next day, which is why I went ahead and stuck it in the tank.
 

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Hmm. I have Caribsea substrate in all of my tanks, and I've never had a problem with discoloration. Decaying plant matter can give your tank a yellow/cloudy tinge. Does it come back if you do a water change?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Hmm. I have Caribsea substrate in all of my tanks, and I've never had a problem with discoloration. Decaying plant matter can give your tank a yellow/cloudy tinge. Does it come back if you do a water change?
Yes it does come back with a water change. I've done about 3 50% water changes. It's improved significantly from the beginning. At first the water was coming out of the tank nearly black and now it's just tinted yellow. I noticed when I vacuumed last the water foamed slightly in the bucket.
 

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Foaming usually means dissolved organic waste in the water. Sand can really hold stuff in. Changing the water isn't going to make a huge difference all at once unless you get the bad stuff out of the sand. Have you tried agitating the sand while you're doing the water change. It sounds like you're on the right track if it's improving each time! I know some people put a fine piece of mesh or a nylon stocking over the end of the gravel vacuum to strain the sand.

OR If you are overdosing the stress coat, it can also cause foaming.
 

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My water was not very clear after being setup a couple weeks or more. Couldn't figure out what it could be, thought it was the Carib sand, but turned out to be a bad sword plant that was in the tank. It even has some kinda clear/white slimy stuff on it. Took it out and threw it away, did a water change, and the tank has been crystal clear since.

Moral: Check all your plants to see if one of them is causing it.
 

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It's the aquarium salt.

You posted that you're putting aquarium salt in there?

That's your problem. The salt is killing your plants, which then rot and cause that singularly nasty stink (I've had it before when a large mother potted plant died...it was unreal it was so nasty) and the dirty-brown water.

STOP the aquarium salt. It's only for use when treating for disease, and even then shouldn't really be used in anything other than a QT tank. :)

I hope that helps, and hopefully this will cure your plant losses! Those are rough!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I'm going to check the dwarf grass today and see if it's what is rotting in the tank.

One of my friends puts salt in her tank and her plants are fine, but I guess every tank is a little bit different! I'll try stopping the aquarium salt and let you guys know how it goes!
 

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Ooh I missed that! Good call on the aq salt!
 

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I think you're putting too many chemicals into your tank as well. Besides the AQ salt, you don't need API bacteria supplement. And you may be using too much API Leaf zone for the amount of light you have. And your snails hate the salt also.

And, speaking of light. I think you just ordered a bulb with a color temperature of 2700K (Kelvin). That's about the color temp of your average incandescent indoor light-bulb. Plants grow best under 6500K lighting (sometimes called "daylight" or maybe "cool white").
 
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