This is a "thinking post."
I made a fruitless trip to the pet stores the other day. Looking for meds to treat my tank again- I suspect some of the fish have internal parasites. One of the remaining platies has stringy white poo, like the one that got thin and died. I thought I saw the same symptoms on a female barb. Neither store has any medication for this. At the second place, my favorite fish guy was in working. He's a wealth of information and even though I failed to find meds, got a lot of my questions answered.
He said the restrictions on medicines sold for fish in stores is getting tighter; you can still get them online, but soon might only be able to acquire from a vet. I was surprised and dismayed. It's bad enough that I'm going to spend ten dollars on a bottle of medicine, plus the cost of shipping, to save a $3 pet! But I would hate it if the parasite got to my cherished betta or killed off my kuhli loaches.
The list I had in hand of meds advised to me on the fish forums where I posted queries about my tank symptoms, he said they are all excellent options and will work, if I can find them. I moved away to browse and showed my kids some of the fishes I really like the looks of- eventually back at the large tank near fish counter where the scalare are. "These are the fishies I want to get someday, when I'm a good fishkeeper. Right now I suck- my fish keep dying and my plants are doing terrible." Fish guy chimed in and said actually angels are easier to keep than my livebearers- platyfish in particular tend to get a wasting disease, tend to be inbred, tend to have problems because they are popular and breeders manipulate their genetics to get the pretty colors- like the very blue I admire. Whereas fishes closer to their wild origins, the barbs and silver angels, are heartier in general. Good thing I find the silver angels (wild-type) most attractive and not the veiled or fancy ones with different colors! Encouraging for my future fishkeeping dreams- that angels might not be so difficult- but I do want to solve my issues with balance in this tank first, getting the plants to grow nice and the fishes to stay healthy.
I was advised on that matter, too. That I need better light- more watts per gallon- contrary to some other info I've read online, more light does not necessarily mean more algae problem if it makes the plants healthy enough to outcompete the algae. That makes sense- but would mean I have to replace the hood (again) for a glass cover which can support any kind of light strip I choose. I would not have to buy more bulbs, I still have the original 17 watt full spectrum bulb the tank came with, I'd just need a new glass cover and new light fixture to hold two bulbs. Gah. More cost. Can't do it now....
At least I know- if the plants are responding to something I did (new light, root tabs) but aren't great yet, do more of that. So- plan is- get new cover lid and strip for two bulbs. Add more root tab. Maybe get ferts that just provide macronutrients; I think from seeing a diagram of plant symptoms that mine are deficient in potassium, and the liquid plant food I got doesn't supply that.
Also: maybe the cherry barbs were the best choice after all, if I want healthy fish. They do have a lot of good points- they seem to be tough (I haven't lost one yet), they eat anything, they clean up after themselves, they do have some interesting behavior, they don't aggravate the betta. I have seen Pinkie lunge at the platies a few times, and although one barb had an injury I never saw who did it... I'm sorely disappointed to not keep my pretty blue platies, but my end goal is angelfish after all.
Now I think I will see if I can cure these platies of parasites, and then perhaps rehome them. And move the lone kuhli Sammy and the two smaller cherry barb out of Oliver's tank into the twenty-gallon. Then leave it alone regarding fishies and focus on getting the plants healthy, the whole tank balanced. Not sure who would go into the tenner with Oliver if that's what I do. I don't want it to just be him and some snails. I would love get a little group of otocinclus again, but have had terrible luck keeping those alive....
Here it is almost a year later, and I'm still on a learning cuve. No wonder so many people give up fishkeeping!
I added four more broken up root tabs, making it a total of five throughout the tank. Still a fourth the recommended application. Have identified the deficiency (I think) symptom of black marks on the leaves, yellowing and foliage bleaching out, then dying off. Potassium. Reading online articles on aquarium plants until my head hurts. It can get very complicated. I'm trying to keep it simple. This is what I understand now: the liquid plant food I've been buying is crap. It has a very short life in the tank, you'd have to dose every day or every other day to keep it in there, useful to the plants. It's all micronutrients which are usually provided by the fish waste anyways. What I need are macros- I think potassium in particular. On the forums highly recommend buying dry ferts- you can dose it very precisely and one purchase will last a lifetime. That's sure. I bought a pound of the stuff (the smallest quantity available) and I will probably use a fraction of a teaspoon per week...
The fish have made the decision for me. About who to keep. I was leaning towards the barbs, but they are the ones who are tearing up my water sprite! (or is it wisteria- still confused on that point) I saw them today, grabbing at the bits that are floating (which never grow, always disappear), nibbling and chewing and spitting out and eating again. Even if they're just going after algae they do it with enough force to tear the plant (suffering already) to pieces, and it's a plant I particularly want- I like the delicate lacey foliage in contrast to all the solid, oblong leaves in my tank (java fern, aponogeton, crypts... )
So yeah. The tough, stolid fishes will go so I can keep my pretty plant alive and get the striking blue platies which might not be as tough, but I think there's another benefit to having platies. They're not as thorough picking through the gravel for food bits, and will leave more for the kuhlis to eat. I won't have to try sticking food under the kuhli log (scaring them in the process, and the barbs always find it and go seeking in there anyways).