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another "why are my plants dying?!" thread


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hello! i was wondering if anyone could offer me some guidance on keeping my plants alive... this is my first tank and i'll be honest, the chemistry(? lol) part of taking care of plants confuses the heck out of me so if someone can put their advice in dummy terms i would appreciate it so much!!

tank info:

  • 10 gallon up since october 2023
  • 1 betta
  • substrate: 80% this soil, 20% this sand
  • aco light on from 7AM-12PM (80% brightness)
  • water change every 1-2 weeks

my plants:

  • anubias barteri (small but my only plant that's NOT dying strangely enough, not even browning)
  • 3 small bundles of windelov java fern (doing okay, i still get brown leaves from them often but they are alive)
  • i bought 2 aco java ferns, both died completely 😞 (yes i cut the strings on them and roots were above soil)
  • 1 amazon sword barely hanging on
  • 1 mystery plant i was told is an amazon sword but it doesn't look like one?
  • i USED to have vallisneria which was alive and spreading but i had to remove it sadly
  • hair algae. so much algae

water info:

  • nitrate usually 0-10
  • nitrites 0
  • very hard water ~300GH (i live in colorado)
  • buffer 80KH
  • pH 6.8-7.2
  • ca/mg unknown, i don't have a test kit for them 😞

i fertilize every time i do a water change. 20 drops of the aco fertilizer per the instructions. i tried fertilizing twice a week for a month before but all it did was give me a MASSIVE amount of hair algae. my plants were still dying. 😕 i attached a before & after pic (feburary this year vs today) i know my tank is a mess i thought it would probably be useful to have a picture of what it looks like before a water change!!

TLDR: plants dying with fertilizer every week. also dying if i fertilize MORE than usual. but i get hair algae galore. what do?

dhsjakfhak.jpg

Edited by speepy
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On 6/4/2024 at 6:31 PM, lefty o said:

well, there's always disagreement on this, but here's my take. fertilize more, and less light. about 8hrs of light total with enough fertilizer to bump your nitrates up a bit.

i currently have my light on for 5 hours at 80%, are you saying i should increase the time and fertilize more then? i'm confused because you said "less light" but said i should do 8 hours when i'm only doing 5 right now

thank you for the reply also!

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i read 7am-12pm as 7 in the morning to 12 at night, ie midnight. if you only have light on for 5 hrs, then you will want to increase it. 6-8hrs is a good starting point, and you need some nitrates.

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On 6/4/2024 at 7:09 PM, johnnyxxl said:

I try to keep nitrates at 20 or 30

And lights running for 8 hrs at 100 percent and 2hrs ramp up and down 

so do you do 6 hours full 100% and the other 2 are the ramp up and down? 😮

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And don't fret too much about some plants dying or underperforming. Geroge Farmer is a world-renowned aquascaper who recently oversaw the planting and preparation of multiple tanks for Europe's Interzoo 2024. With the best possible plants, the best possible lighting and care, and the most knowledgeable aquascaper around, multiple plants failed and needed replacement. You can do everything right and a plant will just say, "Nope! Not for me." Plants that thrive in one tank in your water may struggle or die in a neighboring tank with the same water, soil, and everything. Aquatic plants are just as quirky as can be. Find out what grows for you and stick to those plants. 

I had a tank (a thirty-tall) filled with Jungle Val. It was absolutely thriving. A local pet store got a beautiful Madagascar Lace Plant that I added, and the Val all melted. Within a week it was all gone. There are plants I can't get to grow no matter what and others that some people have a hard time with that grow like weeds for me. I've had plants thrive in one tank and die in the adjacent tank. When it comes to aquarium plants, just hope for the best and grow what grows for you. And understand that no matter what, some plants just won't like something you're doing. Until the plants develop language skills, it's anyone's guess as to what went wrong.

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Sometbing that also might help would be adding a couple more fast growing plants (something like Water Sprite, Hornwort, Guppy Grass, Pogo Stellatus Octopus, and probably the best, floating plants). I’ve found that the more plants you have, the less “food” there is to go around, meaning the algae will be outcompeted and die. 
I had your same problem - so much hair algae. It’s a pain, but I actually increased my light and it helped a ton. If your lighting and fertilizing amount aren’t basically “matching up”, that’s when algae starts to take advantage. 
Id probably increase your lighting period, add more plants if at all possible, and go from there. And when you water change, try to manually remove as much of the algae as possible! Best of luck!🙂

 

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I second the notion to add plant biomass, especially fast growing plants like floaters and stems. You can always put fast-growing plants in now and remove them later, especially floaters, if you don't want them there long-term or don't like the way they look. And there are a fair few stems that can grow floating, too: Pogostemon stellatus "octopus", hornwort, and I think guppy grass counts as a stem.

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sorry for my late reply, but i really appreciate everyone's advice!! it was really encouraging! i will try to increase my nitrates and add more fast growing plants! i tried pogostemon stellatus octopus before however it unfortunately also died 😞 but that was back when i first started the tank so maybe i'll have better luck this time. i'll get a pogostemon and hornwort/maybe water sprite 🙂 i also changed my lighting schedule to be on for 8 hours at 100%. thank you everyone!!

Edited by speepy
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On 6/7/2024 at 8:10 PM, speepy said:

i tried pogostemon stellatus octopus before however it unfortunately also died 😞

Same here. Some people can get it to grow like weeds and for some it just dies off. Ugh, I wish I could grow it! I think it can sometimes pretty demanding of having higher lighting when it gets started? But I wouldn’t discourage you from trying it again! Water sprite is a good one. Guppy Grass is another one that’s done well floating for me. Any other floating plants like dwarf water lettuce, salvinia, and Amazon frogbit and red root floaters would all be good choices. 

Another option would be to get a pothos plant from your local nursery or hardware store, rinse off the roots really good, and stick the roots in the tank. Pothos are crazy at eating up those nitrates!

Best of luck! 🙂

Edited by EricksonAquatics
Holy pothos autocorrect
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On 6/9/2024 at 1:34 AM, EricksonAquatics said:
On 6/7/2024 at 9:10 PM, speepy said:

i tried pogostemon stellatus octopus before however it unfortunately also died 😞

Same here. Some people can get it to grow like weeds and for some it just dies off. Ugh, I wish I could grow it! I think it can sometimes pretty demanding of having higher lighting when it gets started?

I'm growing PSO in a tank with 14 hours of  low -medium light, almost zero maintenance, and totally random fertilization.  As soon as I move it to a properly tended tank, it dies!  It's very frustrating.😖

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I'm a total newb so take everything I say as extremely relative, I have a full aquarium of thriving plants though and learned something which is:

  • Too much light at the beginning of a setup might lead to algae taking over while your plants are getting comfortable, my plants partially acclimated after 2 weeks, but the real growth started after 3 months, I'd consider shortening the photoperiod to 4 hours and adding 1 hour each 1/2 weeks depending on results until reaching 8 hours and lowering the intensity.
  • You have mostly epiphytes which grow very slowly and don't pull many nutrients from the water column, you also have (like me) a lot of aquasoil, I'd lower the light intensity to 30/40% for a couple of weeks (8 hours photoperiod) and then ramp it up slowly to the point you see plants are doing well and algae are not taking over.
  • Some plants just die, in my setup I had a lot of plants deemed "difficult" or "slow growing" which just took off and never looked back and plants which were labeled as "easy", "hardy" and "fast growing" which just died off and needed manual removal by my side, each tank is different and sometimes some plants don't work.

What I did with my tank when I had issues was basically manually remove all the leaves which were beyond salvation, sometimes even removing everything but the roots altogether, lower the light intensity (I can't so I just reduced the time the lights were on), reduce fertilization (aquasoil still leeches nutrients in the water column) and do small frequent (10% every other day for a week) water changes (I just put 1/3rd of the reccomended fertilizer dose in the water I changed each time). Also some waters (like mine) are very rich in silicates by my online researches those can feed algae a lot, I switched to RO/DI but maybe you can find a solution to just remove the silicates.

Also if I have to be completely honest, I'm pretty sure the key to the success of my plants is the fact that I have an enormous Limnophila Sessiliflora (I believe Ambulia nana is the name which is more common in the USA) sucking up a lot of nutrients from the water column, I sincerely recommend it, but if I were to re-scape from scratch I'd put it in a ceramic vase, burrow it halfway in the substrate and cover it with some rocks because that plant grows so fast and so much it's a pain to keep in check. If that's difficult to find or you don't like it floating plants like Water Lettuce, Frogbit or Red Root Floaters are excellent at removing nutrients from the water and your Betta would love them (all the info I have on floating plants is from research, I don't currently own any).

Hope I've been at least a bit useful, don't get discouraged you'll be amazed at how good plants are at coming back from apparent death, good luck with your tank!

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