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Plant fertilization advice


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Hi all. So I've read through several posts/articles here, 2HR, ADA, UK forums, etc and was hoping to get a little input as I'm new to planted aquariums. I currently run a 20 gal long, pretty heavily planted (photo from my intro post attached and yes I went too far in with plants too soon..bad habit of mine).

What I'm struggling with is the amount of AC liquid fert to get my nitrates in gear as my AR, AR mini, and Pink Panther aren't doing well. Signs of micro and macro deficiencies, but mostly Nitrogen and phosphate. My rotalia, lagenandara meedboli, Sword and Anubias, weeping moss are doing ok. Brazilian swords are exploding and the monte carlos are growing, just slow (which is fine with me). I use ADA Amazonia 2 for substrate along with the substrate ferts that came with it. The ARs were hit the hardest. Darkening leaves, chlorosis, and signs of calcium/magnesium problems (twisted leaves some new growth turning white). They both got overrun by green dust algae so I had to trim down. 

Did a water change yesterday (20%) and pumped 6 pumps of AC today and the nitrate levels only got up to 5ppm. Trying to hit at least 10, but not sure how to go about it.  Here are the tank's current parameters:

pH: 6.6-6.8 depending on time of day.
Ammonia/Nitrites: 0
Nitrates: 5ppm
Phosphates: I didn't measure this today, but last time I dosed it was around 0.25
Stock: 8 neons, 2 ottos, 5 amano shrimp.

Lighting: I run 2 fluval nanos, pro mode, with a break around noon for 1.5 hours (siesta I think it's called?). Total light at max (67% warm white is the highest) is about 8 hours in total.

Thoughts? I have a feeling that my weeping moss (there's a good amount of it) is sucking the column dry as the stem plants seem to be the ones taking the hit.....


 

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Red plants, especially AR (just ask @Mmiller2001 he loves the stuff 🤣) are going to do best in co2 set ups. I have a tiny piece of AR (I'm super low tech, no ferts no heaters, just lights and fish poop) that is sort of hanging on because it has a high intensity plant light and a siesta period. Other than that and Ludwigia Super Red I don't have much luck with red plants in my set up. 

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Haha. I was really trying not to C02 because I figure if I can't get a low tech tank thrive, what makes me think C02 will solve my problems. Haha. I could bump the light, but the tank suffered brown and green algae bloom a couple of weeks ago (you can see some of it in the pics). So I had to dial down a bit. 

@Seattle_Aquarist pics attached. The algae bloom covered the leaves and likely prevented growth. Dunno why it's sideways. As for hardness levels, my KH is 3. Not sure about GH as I ran out of test solution and need to get more. I was topping off with RO/DI water and doing half tap/half RO/DI for water changes but realized that because my KH is so low, it made the pH unstable. So I started to use tap, which has a GH of about 10 and PH of 7.6. My driftwood and soil then soften the water. The pH finally stabilized last week.  IMG_0526.JPG.7a259994b8e7b9721586ace841c1f6d3.JPGIMG_0527.JPG.0b682591e3d3c03c9dde3acba2c0c699.JPGIMG_0528.JPG.17677c6559e9c4c61cbc8797784f1dcb.JPG

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@Cbass, how old is the tank? It looks pretty new so don’t feel bad as it goes through the award teenage stage. Some plants will thrive and some won’t do as well, I like to try a lot of different ones and keep the ones that thrive. I’ve found that AR wants a lot of light. I happen to have the same light and tank that you do, just not together as a combo. My gut tells me that you might need a bit more intensity to keep those AR red and healthy. I’d like to hear @Seattle_Aquarist’s opinion but I think it might be a good idea to trim off the healthier looking top parts and replant them. 

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On 4/4/2022 at 5:13 PM, Cbass said:

@Patrick_G it's pretty new. 2 months and 2 days old. I have a spreadsheet with charting the cycling period and kept going. I figured that the ARs want a ton of light. Will likely increase the intensity once I get the fertilization and Nitrates at a better level. 

It seems like you should have plenty N from 6ml Easy Green, you have a moderate plant mass and nothing that seems to be a nitrogen hog. You should see at least 9ppm in a 20 gal after dosing 6ml. What kind of test kit are you using? It’s very easy to get a false positive with the API liquid kit, you need to follow the directions carefully. I’d also double check to make sure your pump is dispensing 1ml per pump. My current one dispenses about .5ml 

here’s a chart that @Mmiller2001made 

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I almost forgot, but it’s a great looking tank! 

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Yep. It's the API test and I shake that nitrate test tube as much as possible then wait 5 mins. The only time it got to 10ppm was during the dark cycle. My pump is the same. Dispenses 0.5ml to 0.7ml which is why I try to use a 1ml eye dropper to dose.

I should have N from the soil. But when the tank was done cycling it barely registered a 5. Since the plants were smaller (mostly tissue culture) they were happy, but of course they grew. 

Will try again tomorrow, remeasure and see what happens, but will take a pre-test of N before I dose so I have a base. 

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On 4/4/2022 at 5:34 PM, Cbass said:

Yep. It's the API test and I shake that nitrate test tube as much as possible then wait 5 mins.

I think the most important step is shaking the #2 for 30 sec. Skipping that step is what caused me to get false negatives for a few months. 

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On 4/4/2022 at 4:50 PM, Cbass said:

Haha. I was really trying not to C02 because I figure if I can't get a low tech tank thrive, what makes me think C02 will solve my problems. Haha. I could bump the light, but the tank suffered brown and green algae bloom a couple of weeks ago (you can see some of it in the pics). So I had to dial down a bit. 

@Seattle_Aquarist pics attached. The algae bloom covered the leaves and likely prevented growth. Dunno why it's sideways. As for hardness levels, my KH is 3. Not sure about GH as I ran out of test solution and need to get more. I was topping off with RO/DI water and doing half tap/half RO/DI for water changes but realized that because my KH is so low, it made the pH unstable. So I started to use tap, which has a GH of about 10 and PH of 7.6. My driftwood and soil then soften the water. The pH finally stabilized last week. 

Hi @Cbass,

With a dGH of 10 or more it is important to check it periodically.  Please replace your kit.

With relatively new (2 months) ADA Amazonia II aquasoil attaining a nitrate (NO3) level of 20 isn't that important.  You plants should be able to receive sufficient nitrogen from the substrate.  Since ADA Amazonia has a relatively high cation exchange capacity (CEC) it is very possible your AC Easy Green is being absorbed into the substrate.

The use of two Fluval Nano lights concerns me in that there may not be sufficient light getting to the AR mini.  I did not see any information on the tank (nice one btw) but it looks like it is about the size of a 20 long, if so that is good since the PAR output of the Fluval Nano is about PAR@100 at a 7" depth.  At a 14" depth the PAR would like be PAR@25 which is fairly low.

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I took your pictures and adjusted the settings.  In the first picture you will see two arrows.  Arrow #1 shows what appears to be healthy growth above arrow #1 but about where the arrow is the leaves loose color and show 'cupping' where the leaf margins turn either up or down.  If this tank has been set up for two months I have to believe that the leaves immediately below arrow #1 and likely further down than that grew after being planted in your tank so the 'cupping' is a result of growing in your tank.  Arrow #2 in that same picture with the arrow showing what the 'cupping' looks like.

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The second picture is the AR mini and it too shows the cupping.  I see very little evidence of new growth or new leaves.

Since the new leaves seem to emerge healthy and then shortly afterwards start the downward spiral the likely culprit is one of the mobile nutrients.  Mobile nutrients are nutrients a plant can move from older growth to new growth if an insufficient amount of that nutrient is not available in the substrate or water column.

There are a couple of nutrients that can cause the 'cupping' of leaf margins we see here, the most likely is insufficient available magnesium (Mg).  Along with leaf 'cupping' you may lose older leaves prematurely and have slow growth.  Notice I said insufficient available magnesium.  This can be caused not enough magnesium being present or by too much of another nutrient (most commonly calcium or potassium) impeding the normal uptake of magnesium by the plant.

With the 10 dGH tap water I would suspect most of that is calcium as it is in most parts of the country where water has elevated levels of hardness.  I don't think your calcium level is high enough to impede the uptake of magnesium so lets just add a little extra magnesium and see how the plants respond after a month.

1) Go to your local drugstore and pick up some Epsom Salt (MgSO4).  Get the cheapest stuff on the shelf with no scents or additives.  Should cost $1-$2 for a pound.

2)  Do an initial dose of 1/2 teaspoon per 10 gallons, this will add about 6.6 ppm of magnesium to your tank.

3)  When you do weekly water changes add 1/2 teaspoon of Epsom salt per 10 gallons water removed and new water added.

4)  Watch your new leaves as they emerged and mature.  Do not watch your existing leaves they will change little if any.  Do the new leaves look healthier? For green plants do they look greener?  Do the new leaves that emerge seem to stay 'flatter' as they mature?  You may notice an increased rate of plant growth as well.  If things remain the same it would be obvious that magnesium is not the issue but it were my tank that is what I would try first.  Hope this helps! -Roy

 

Edited by Seattle_Aquarist
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@Seattle_AquaristThis is SUPER helpful. What I forgot to mention was this: The regular ARs were stem cuttings. So it makes sense that the leaves at the top look better as the leaves at the bottom. I also noticed that a few of my lagenandaras are starting to pale (white). So if it is magnesium, the entire tank will likely show something. 

I actually have a ton of epsom salt on hand, so I'm good to go and will try tomorrow morning. Question about that. I've read that it will change parameters of the water (pH I believe)? 

As for the lights and tank (thanks btw...it took awhile to get that size). The tank is 12" tall, 36" wide but the substrate is between 1.5-3" inches deep. It's ramped toward the back and sides. I've never used the light at 100 percent intensity in fear of algae bloom and have been gradually working up to it. I have a 3rd nano on standby, but honestly, I've been thinking about getting a long strip light, even if it means sacrificing the convenience of the bluetooth and app. Do you recommend kicking it up? Max intensity is currently 67%.

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On 4/4/2022 at 7:51 PM, Cbass said:

@Seattle_AquaristThis is SUPER helpful. What I forgot to mention was this: The regular ARs were stem cuttings. So it makes sense that the leaves at the top look better as the leaves at the bottom. I also noticed that a few of my lagenandaras are starting to pale (white). So if it is magnesium, the entire tank will likely show something. 

I actually have a ton of epsom salt on hand, so I'm good to go and will try tomorrow morning. Question about that. I've read that it will change parameters of the water (pH I believe)? 

As for the lights and tank (thanks btw...it took awhile to get that size). The tank is 12" tall, 36" wide but the substrate is between 1.5-3" inches deep. It's ramped toward the back and sides. I've never used the light at 100 percent intensity in fear of algae bloom and have been gradually working up to it. I have a 3rd nano on standby, but honestly, I've been thinking about getting a long strip light, even if it means sacrificing the convenience of the bluetooth and app. Do you recommend kicking it up? Max intensity is currently 67%.

Hi @Cbass,

I only recommend changing one parameter at a time; judge the effect; and then do the next.  That way I can tell if the one change I made had no effect, positive effect, or negative effect.  If I change more than one parameter I cannot tell the effect of the change.  First do the Epsom salt, wait 30 days and judge the results, then maybe play with the lighting parameters starting with keeping just two lights increasing the light intensity.  Planted tanks are all about balance and patience and for me a lot of learning.

Epsom salt should have no effect on your pH (aka dKH) because it contains no carbonates.  The dose I recommended will increase your general hardness (dGH) by about 1.5 dGH.  Keep us posted as things progress! -Roy

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Quick update: The AR's are starting to show signs of new growth. The existing leaves on the AR mini have also grown a little and a few seem flatter. No new growth just yet. One of my pink panther crypts is showing new growth and its pink (before new growth was coming in white). The other bunches are still struggling, but the old leaves seem to be growing slowly. 

Also, in other news my pregnant amano dropped her eggs somewhere and I have a female neon that has paired off with a male. Looks like she's ready to mate (stomach is big). Lots of action going on in this tank. Haha. 

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@Cbass you have a gorgeous tank, and if you don't want to mess with CO2 right now, don't.

Roy is right: Only change one thing at a time. If you are using a spread sheet, add pictures to your spreadsheet so you can compare the growth. I'm betting in a month, your new growth will look much better than what you are seeing right now.

@Guppysnail, @Atitagain, @Streetwise and many others in here have found a good amount of success with red plants by following Roy's explanations regarding nutrients (especially iron availability!), @Mmiller2001's dosing suggestions, and a siesta light period. Wait a month before changing your lighting, and don't get discouraged if you get a little algae growth. As @Patrick_G said: You are currently in the awkward teen stage. Tanks aren't really 'seasoned' for 6 months to a year. From set-up to that 1 year anniversary, you will go through a fairly predictable cycle of melt, various algae (brown diatom, then greens of one kind or another, and eventually tweaking will find the perfect balance for *your* tank and plants will outcompete algae).

I set up the tank for my spouse last spring (it's almost a year old!) and we have almost achieved a very happy and balanced tank... just getting the TDS down to control some cyanobacteria outbreaks we've had... and got my co-op large net so I can catch fish and take about 100 endlers to my LFS😅

You will get there, just have a little patience.

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@Torrey Thank you! Agree. I read a lot about C02 when I was cycling the tank and the best thing I read was to start low tech and learn how everything works and interacts before making a huge investment. I don't think I've ever learned so much about water chemistry in my entire life. Haha. And to your point, yes, patience. It's so easy to get sucked into "I want this all green right now" but everyone here has been so helpful to give me a better perspective. 

The algae right now is tolerable and I have my cleanup crew pretty happy since they have a ton of food to graze on. Will definitely keep a close log and let everyone know how it goes!

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On 4/7/2022 at 10:23 AM, Cbass said:

@Torrey Thank you! Agree. I read a lot about C02 when I was cycling the tank and the best thing I read was to start low tech and learn how everything works and interacts before making a huge investment. I don't think I've ever learned so much about water chemistry in my entire life. Haha. And to your point, yes, patience. It's so easy to get sucked into "I want this all green right now" but everyone here has been so helpful to give me a better perspective. 

The algae right now is tolerable and I have my cleanup crew pretty happy since they have a ton of food to graze on. Will definitely keep a close log and let everyone know how it goes!

Look forward to following along!

I used to say I wouldn't do CO2 because I am too lazy to mess with the regulators... now, at 13 tanks, I don't think "lazy" is necessarily the correct response... I'm simply not interested in going that high tech. I enjoy learning how to "listen" to each plant, and learn what it needs, and figure out how to put the best plants together in tanks for the greatest success. My AR v. "roseafolia" does great in my tiny 2.5 gallon tank with a simple Aqueon submersible LED white light overhead.

It died in my 10 gallon with an Aquasky overhead.

I suspect this is the genius behind Dr Diana Walstead recommending the use of as many different plants as possible in the initial dirt based set up: Greater potential for success!

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Almost 2 weeks, so I figured I would give a quick midpoint update and post some pics. Not much change, but I'm a data analyst by trade so I like making a chronicle of changes (even if they are minor). Apologies in advance for the long post.

Current water parameters
pH: 7.2 (did a water change over the weekend and my tap is very much on the alkaline side)
Ammonia/Nitrite: 0
Nitrates: 5ppm
Phosphate: 0 (will likely have to address this later?)
Gh/Kh: 7 and 2 respectively
Added 1/4 teaspoon to epsom (changed out 5 gals of water exactly).
AC fert dose this week: 6ml on Monday

Plant update
AR mini - New growth coming in slowly.
AR - slow recovery. There's some new growth (mostly near the bottom) and that's good because I worried that the stem cuttings weren't rooting. 
Pink Panther Crypt: 2 of the 4 rosettes are showing signs of life finally. New growth is pink on one of them. I have a feeling I may lose the other 2, but that's ok. 
Lagenandaras - Weird, but the ones on the right side of the tank are melting. Not really alarmed yet as there is new growth and the leaves are the older leaves from when I first planted (tissue culture). My Amanos are doing a pretty good job clearing some of it up, but I've also been removing them. 
Weeping moss - growing well again. Looks like it's going grow out of the tank. Lol. 
Rotalia R. - Growing faster. The fact that they are more yellow/orange is expected as my nitrates are low.
Monte Carlo - starting to carpet. Some melt, but lots of new little ones coming through

Observations: Other than above, That the right side of my tank (where the ARs, Crypt and melting Lagenandaras are) is reacting differently than the left. Note that on that side is a sidelight window (annoying glass pane next to a door). When the season changed I had to block the tank because it was getting a ton of ambient light, which would explain why the algae is heavier on that end. But to @Seattle_Aquaristpoint, will mess with the lights later as I can now see that this is very much the awkward teen stage.

Pics attached. Shot of my female koi betta in her own tank for kicks. She's a brat but we love her. 

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Edited by Cbass
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On 4/12/2022 at 10:57 AM, Cbass said:

Almost 2 weeks, so I figured I would give a quick midpoint update and post some pics. Not much change, but I'm a data analyst by trade so I like making a chronicle of changes (even if they are minor). Apologies in advance for the long post.

Current water parameters
pH: 7.2 (did a water change over the weekend and my tap is very much on the alkaline side)
Ammonia/Nitrite: 0
Nitrates: 5ppm
Phosphate: 0 (will likely have to address this later?)
Gh/Kh: 7 and 2 respectively
Added 1/4 teaspoon to epsom (changed out 5 gals of water exactly).
AC fert dose this week: 6ml on Monday

Plant update
AR mini - New growth coming in slowly.
AR - slow recovery. There's some new growth (mostly near the bottom) and that's good because I worried that the stem cuttings weren't rooting. 
Pink Panther Crypt: 2 of the 4 rosettes are showing signs of life finally. New growth is pink on one of them. I have a feeling I may lose the other 2, but that's ok. 
Lagenandaras - Weird, but the ones on the right side of the tank are melting. Not really alarmed yet as there is new growth and the leaves are the older leaves from when I first planted (tissue culture). My Amanos are doing a pretty good job clearing some of it up, but I've also been removing them. 
Weeping moss - growing well again. Looks like it's going grow out of the tank. Lol. 
Rotalia R. - Growing faster. The fact that they are more yellow/orange is expected as my nitrates are low.
Monte Carlo - starting to carpet. Some melt, but lots of new little ones coming through

Observations: Other than above, That the right side of my tank (where the ARs, Crypt and melting Lagenandaras are) is reacting differently than the left. Note that on that side is a sidelight window (annoying glass pane next to a door). When the season changed I had to block the tank because it was getting a ton of ambient light, which would explain why the algae is heavier on that end. But to @Seattle_Aquaristpoint, will mess with the lights later as I can now see that this is very much the awkward teen stage.

Pics attached. Shot of my female koi betta in her own tank for kicks. She's a brat but we love her. 

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Hi @Cbass

Actually, for a tank without CO2 I am seeing substantial improvement.  Look at the top 1/2" or so of the Rotala leaves verses the ones below there.  The new leaves on the Crypt look good.  And I think I see a new leave on the sword plant looking good as well.  I don't know how well the Lagenandaras will do in a non-CO2 tank, I have not keep any of the species but I understand that CO2 is strongly suggested.  Also it looks like there is a lot of new growth on your moss as well.  Patience is a virtue!  lol -Roy

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Thanks @Seattle_Aquarist! Yes. Patience is definitely something needed here. The sword plants I've never had an issue with. Super hardy. As for the Lagenandara, they are supposed to have a low C02 requirement (if you believe the Tropica website). Only issue with them right now is that they are attracting green dust algae, but it's the worst. 

Will keep everyone posted after the 1 month mark!

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