I have a (currently empty) 55 gal planted tank with T5 6700K in 2 24" standard hoods. Lights are on for 9 hours. I had 2-3" of gravel, and used only distilled water. Had mostly Java ferns (only thing that seemed to survive). Marineland canister filter 350 with double bio-wheel.
I had a very bad algae problem, a thick spider web type that (I think) came in when I purchased some live plants. Never had an issue before that. Initially used some fertilizer pellets, but nothing after that.
Water testing always showed everything normal, even PH. I never had a large number of fish at any one time. I've had this setup for more than 10 years and never had an algae issue til I brought in live plants.
I completely emptied my 55 gal., flushed it, then added 6-8 oz of bleach, let it soak overnight then flushed again. I trashed all the ornaments, gravel and all the plants (still have 3 fish, lost several during the winter power failure!)This is not something I wish to do again.
Here is my question (finally): I would add water when the level went down, I would remove about 10% during filter changes, but never vacuumed the gravel. Can someone define a proper water change? Or do I have light/nutrient imbalance. Or should I go back to plastic plants?
I read some stuff about people putting sand, top soil, etc. Don't think I would mind sand, top soil?....Can someone help?