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Plants hate me

Karen B.

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For about 2 years now, I have aquariums with live plants. I have never been good with normal plants, but the curse didn’t seem to apply to aquatic plants until recently.

I have 8 aquariums - some are practically algae free, others have a few spot here and there of BBA, others are just completely invaded by hair algea.

This is my betta tank. He is alone with 3 nerite snails. 10 gallons, heated, 1 HOB filter and 1 sponge filter. 3-4 days ago I removed everything, scrubbed the glass, plants, changed my sponge filter as it was full of algae, removed all the plants, bathed them for a little while in water with double dose of excel and put back the aquarium. I made sure not to disturb the media in the HoB filter too much as to not lose my cycle.

Some plants were thriving but are now dying (like the Egeria densa on the left) since I replanted them. Yet it’s considered an easy plant, basically unkillable.

Same happen with my 1-2-3 grow tropica plants. I put them in an aquarium, no fish, with root tabs (flourish), excel, thrive as fertilizer and a sponge filter but most end up brown, soften and just rot away. 

It’s getting to the point I am no longer enjoying the hobby seeing either plants dying or algae growing.

I know the answer is balance but HOW do I achieve it. I am willing to buy test kit, anything. But I am not a good »go with your feelings » kind of person regarding plants.

I have Hyger lights, on for about 6-8 hours.

Plus, I am wondering what is the white stuff on the ground? Is it not enough flow? How come some people ONLY use sponge filter and do not have this problem and I do with 2 filters?

My substrate is sand.




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So I'll kinda spitball some ideas, but I'm not an expert in any of it.. 

The white stuff on the substrate looks like some kind of biofilm or fungus? Or maybe some of the root tab fertilizer leaching up? 

The plants that turn brown & rot away sounds like melt. Basically when conditions change drastically for the plant, it might sacrifice it's leaves while it's roots get reestablished, then it'll grow new leaves. That can happen from transplanting. It can also happen if the plant was initially grown partially out of water but then you fully submerge it. The leaves that grow above water are different than the ones that grow underwater. Generally, plants that are grown for the aquarium trade are grown out of water, so that's why brand new plants can melt once you put them in your tank. If the plant is strong & the tank conditions correct, it should have no problem regrowing. 

Regarding algae, it's a delicate balance between nutrients & light. Too much of either will favor algae growth. It can just take time to dial in how much is ideal for your plants without extra for algae. Do you test for nitrites & nitrates? This is one nutrient needed for plants and/or algae. If you have a high amount, the plants aren't using it fast enough & there's extra for algae. Conversely, if you have lower nitrates, but lots of light, again algae growth. You can dial your light period down to 6 hrs & see if that helps. Or split the photoperiod, on for 3, off for 3, on again for 3. 

Hope something in there helps 😅 

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@Karen B. Can we start with your water - what’s the pH, kH, gH, and nitrate out of the tap and in the tank? @Anjumbrought up some great points. 

Light siestas can be helpful several threads on the forum on this. Look up @dasaltemelosguyand @Guppysnail’s work on use of seltzer water to help with algae issues and plant acclimitization. @Bentley Pascoehas some excellent videos on growing plants in aquaria. He’s the reason I float a lot of plants before planting especially stems to get the roots growing prior to planting. 

In general, I have always tried a sort of shotgun approach to planted tanks. I buy a ton of plants, plant them all and then see what sticks. My goal is to bat about .600 or at least .300 in terms of plant growth. I try to get a combination of slow, medium and fast growing plants. I use floating plants to soak up excess nutrients as the tank sets up and settles in. 

Where are you sourcing your plants from? if you can get them locally that might help with their adaptation to your tank. If that’s not possible consider floating them initially so that they can get access to a bit more CO2 and light then plant them. Another trick is to use plant weights to keep them low to the substrate but then let them sprout roots and plant themselves just put them where you want it. Some of us have plant tanks that we use to raise plants. Often these are high light and I use either aqua soil or organic soil topped with gravel or sand. You could do this semi-emersed or submerged. 

Good luck and I hope you don’t give up. I set goals for myself when I started with planted tanks - I am going to try one new plant each time I set up a new scape. But walk before you swim and get 2-5 plants you can grow on the regular first then try this kind of approach. 

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I do the same as @Beardedbillygoat1975. Floating helps especially if you buy online. As get plant I buy from one place which  can’t mention. I will say since I have been buying from them no issues. I can say they ship from Ca to Fl and no problems. I do keep things pretty simple. I do add and try things. I have one tip that I didn’t see here and that was to know your plants nutrient basic uptake. I tend to have swords as most are easy to grow. I have to use a lot of root tabs on them. On a few breeder tanks I only have swords and I don’t use any liquid fertilizers only root tabs. The there a couple that I have no swords with things like Anubis that aren’t not root plants and grow on drift wood that no root tabs are used. For the longest time I under fertilized the swords and I wasn’t getting the best out of them and some other fast growing rooted plants. So once things start going don’t be afraid of good root tabs.I to over plant and if things go well I will move things that don’t fit to a. Different tank. If I have to move some I try not to disturb the substrate around the plants I’m going to keep in the tank. It’s not always possible but I have had better luck that way. 

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Hello Karen,

I feel your pain, knowing your parameters will definitely help us help you. EveryOne above has excellent advise. I struggled at first with aquatic plants, I killed everything or grew algae really well. My success all came from lowering my light duration & intensity, floating plants, and lowering the flow in my aquariums. I was pushing water around way to fast. 
Stay with it, you will get there. 

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On 9/18/2022 at 3:13 PM, Karen B. said:

the curse didn’t seem to apply to aquatic plants until recently.

The first question to ask yourself is: what changed?  Balance can be elusive for many of us.  I don't use Excel, so I don't know if a double dose was a good or bad idea.  Sponge filtration is largely a matter of choice.  The biggest benefit is extra beneficial bacteria.  They are both easy and cheap to maintain.  In addition to biological filtration, the HOB is providing mechanical filtration as well as water movement.  It is important to change only one thing at a time or you may never identify the problem.  Plant death/melt at this point could be a result of being transplanted.  Some plants do not like to be disturbed.  Already mentioned above, My best suggestion for the algae is to cut back on the light duration or intensity. I have one algae prone tank that seems to be doing well on 1/3rd as much light as it was getting.  It will be weeks before I am sure if the plants are ok with that.

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