Green Water & Red "debris". Help Me, Please!


May 7, 2013
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I have been trying to resolve a terrible tank crash for several days now.  Nothing I've done seems to help at all.
**What is happening: within 2-3 days after a partial (~10gal) water change my water went from pH 6.2, kH 1, ammonia 0.25, nitrite 0 ... to pH 6.6, kH 1, ammonia 1-2, nitrite 2-5.  I have done many significant and partial water changes (from 50% to 5-10gal here and there; this is several times a day).  None have even touched this issue.  I believe the initial cause was: (1) I wasn't changing the water enough, (2) I assumed my fish's high activity level and my many, many trumpets were sifting the sand sufficiently - it was not, (3) my filter was clogged and not working for at least a few hours while I was not home.  I have very thoroughly cleaned my substrate with a gravel vac (at least 5 times), I tried keeping the light off for a half day worth of the lighting cycle, I have added materials from my other, stable and established tank, and I have squeezed my other tank's filter foam in it to add bacteria.  I also noticed that all of my java moss died - not sure exactly when, as it is mixed in with several other plants, which are not doing as well as I would expect.  I used to have a lot of really healthy, abundant java moss in this same tank setup.  Almost too much!
**Notable symptoms: the water looks green or blue-green, and no mater how many times I clean there seems to be some red 'debris' everywhere, particularly on my plants.  I'm assuming these are both algae?  I even tried rinsing off my plants, and picked through them and removed anything that wasn't doing well.  If I wait a little then shake the plants around, the water gets mucky and dirty looking, and it looks like the sand is covered in waste.  I clean it, and then this happens again over and over.
**Tank details:  I have a 55gal freshwater tank, water established for ~half year, filter/etc established for ~1.5 years, one large catfish, planted.  This tank has been on a timed lighting schedule since it was first established.  I have one "regular" light and one "plant light".  My substrate is sand.  I have trouble with my region's water so I have several scoops of aragonite in the filter.  I also add extra filtration beyond what's "required" because there's plenty of room.  Despite great effort my kH remains around 1-2.  My pH is also a struggle, and I'd like to raise it, but right now is just below 7.  I will be installing lots of extra aeration tomorrow, because when my filter stopped my fish began suffocating.
What are the next steps I should take?  Should I turn my light on or off?  Should I try to shine a blacklight into the filter?  Removing the fish to drain everything and start over is not an option, unfortunately.


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