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Too low phosphates?


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I'm starting to suspect that I don't have enough phosphates in my tank. My dosing routine has been so-so for quite some time. I haven't been dosing super consistently and in general I've been underdosing. A month or two ago I checked my nitrates and they were at like 80+ ppm. I was a bit surprised since I do have a decent amount of plants. My first thought was that probably some other nutrient than nitrate was the limiting factor. So I ramped up my dosing schedule. So for the last two months or so I've been dosing regularly and a bit on the heavy side.

The liquid fertilizer I use consists of micros and potassium. That should take care of it I thought, since phosphates and nitrates probably are abundant just from feeding.

And the plants did perk up. New shoots and buds all around... but then nothing. It's like they want to and they push but they don't really take of. And when they do push out new shoots I see the older leaves kinda decay.

So even though I've been dosing micros + potassium the plants don't take off and the nitrates stayed high. In my mind that leaves phosphate as the likely limiting factor.

I cut down on feeding and increased water changes and now I'm at about 30 ppm nitrates.

Then the other day I stumbled over this article by Tetra.

Especially this paragraph:
"In lakes and rivers the enrichment of the water with nutrients is termed ‘eutrophication’ and this can lead to heavy growth of algae or aquatic plants. These nutrients are mainly nitrate and phosphate, with phosphate being the limiting factor in freshwater environments. In other words it is the presence of phosphate that triggers the plant growth, and it is phosphate that most commonly runs out first."

So I'm thinking that I may run low on phosphates. I don't have a test for phosphates and I'm not sure I can be bothered to get one but I have a phosphate fertilizer in the mail. Once I start dosing phosphate in addition to my micros + potassium, I expect the plants to take off and the nitrates to start dropping. I'm really curious to see if that will happen.

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Thanks @PineSong.

I agree, it looks nice from a bit afar. But up close I can't help and notice these stem plants having bright shoots on the top but the leaves just below already turning dark/decaying. Also, especially since they are stem plants I should have to trim them regularly. However, they grow super slow.

But like I said, what I really would like is for the plants to take up more nitrates.

BUT, having said all that, maybe I'm expecting too much. After all, I don't dose co2. 20240120_070828.jpg.eb761a5d102f9e48dc0eba2e0e035892.jpg20240120_071117.jpg.3e252ef477f3e6eb6313218b3519ade3.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...

A quick update.

I'm cautiously optimistic. I've been dosing phosphate for a little more than a week and the nitrates are dropping. After last week's water change the nitrates were at around 30 ppm. I tested almost every day and the other day they were around 10 ppm. Right before today's WC I measured around 15 ppm. The big takeaway is this might be the first time that I've had nitrates actually fall between weekly WC.

Another thing I noticed is that the hygrophila has started pushing new shoots further down on the stems (even though it's difficult to see in the pic). This is also new.

The most important thing though is the geo. I want to say that the pits/holes on his head have stopped progressing. And he looks better. At least it seems so to me. Obviously, he is scarred but I really hope it stops here.

I can't back this up but I'm slowly becoming convinced of two things.

1. I need to dose phosphates to have my plants growing properly and actually consume nitrates efficiently.

2. High nitrates, if not cause, at least contribute to HITH.

But I'm still only cautiously optimistic. It's still very early.

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Edited by Robert K
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  • 4 weeks later...

I may have been too optimistic.

The good: Plants are doing great and showing a lot of new growth, nitrates are under control (around 20 ppm before the weekly water changes), I keep dosing phosphate and it works great.

The bad: The geo isn't doing better, in fact he's worse. It's so frustrating and stressful seeing him like this.

The other day he started breathing quite rapidly and intensely, which got me thinking. Could this be flukes?

I mean, based on google searches to me this totally looks like HTIH. And when it comes to HITH most of the time it's treated like this mysterious affliction without exactly known causes or cures. It's not often I've seen it connected to flukes, while to me it makes a lot of sense. Flukes feed on the skin/gills of the fish.

Hexamita parasites are mentioned as possible causes. But how reasonable is that? Hexamita is an internal parasite, these are external wounds. But OK, maybe there is a connection. I have therefore treated my tank with Hexamita meds a couple of weeks ago, didn't help.

Meanwhile, could it be just flukes?

I really hope so. I've got some fluke meds in the mail which should arrive by middle of the week. At the same time, if it is just flukes, I will be kicking myself for not picking it up earlier. Man, i hate to see the geo like this.

Well, we'll see. Hopefully, I'll learn something from this.

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Edited by Robert K
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Best of luck with the HITH issue and your poor Geo 😥. As for phosphates, that is the stimilant element for nitrate uptake.  If you do not have enough (and maybe in the correct ratio?) a plant will not start processing nitrates, or any other element for that matter. This continues down the plant food pyramid. 

Here is a chart of elements that affect each other.MuldersChart_NutrientChart_LondonGrow-01_480x480.png.43dfa2b0098b765a58a653d0bc15532c.png

Take potassium for example,  it affects calcium and magnesium.  Too little results in a potassium deficiency.  Too much prevents calcium from being absorbed.  Making many people think they have a calcium deficiency when what's really occurring is a potassium overdose!

Edited by JoeQ
changed antagonistic to stimulant
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On 2/25/2024 at 3:53 PM, Robert K said:

Thanks! Yeah, I think I've seen these charts before and they're busy to say the least. 😅 But absolutely, it's a complex system where no single component is independent from the rest.

This is the truth! One of these days I need to sit down and write out what interacts with what, or create a hybrid Muller chart/food pyramid.

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Hitting the tank hard with flukes and Hexamita meds. I'm really crossing my fingers now, because I don't know what to do if this doesn't work.

This thread seems to have evolved more towards diseases/meds than plants and fertilizers. Anyone know how to move a thread to another category?

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@Guppysnail hopefully she can help move the thread, I haven’t had much experience with HITH except for years ago when I kept cichlids.  I think back then the question of diet and a HITH connection was the going topic.  Was there any development with this theory?

Edited by JoeQ
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On 2/27/2024 at 7:35 PM, JoeQ said:

@Guppysnail hopefully she can help move the thread, I haven’t had much experience with HITH except for years ago when I kept cichlids.  I think back then the question of diet and a HITH connection was the going topic.  Was there any development with this theory?

Ok, thanks!

Yeah, diet is still being mentioned quite often, as are activated carbon and stray current (which I am particularly sceptical about). But overall, there doesn't seem to have been a whole lot of development. It's still pretty much a mystery.

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On 2/27/2024 at 1:35 PM, JoeQ said:

Was there any development with this theory?

Last I know they discovered HITH and lateral line erosion to be a group parasitic protozoans in the Heximita family. 
 

All the food, current carbon etc were just stressors that lowered immune systems in fish allowing the protozoans to gain a strong hold over the fish immune system. 

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On 2/27/2024 at 8:02 PM, Guppysnail said:

@Robert K you’re better off starting a dedicated thread under diseases to get the help you need specific to HITH.

In the meantime I will tag @Colu

Thanks, I might do that. No stress in the meantime, I'm all right with having it here. 👍

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That looks like HITH can be linked to nutritional deficiency poor water quality Hexamita active carbon can play role so if your using active carbon I would stop using it look at his diet to see if he's missing anything the most effective treatment is metronidazole in food that's the active ingredient in metroplex or fritz metrocleanse feeding a small amount twice a day for upto 3 weeks 

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