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FAQs on Aquarium Plant Nutrition

Related Articles: Aquarium Plant Nutrition, Major and Macro-Nutrients of Aquarium Plants

Related FAQs:

Platies, plants, and hard water  3/26/13
Greetings, WWM folks.
I am a decently experienced fishkeeper- about 10 years under my belt, although I've been without fish for about a year and a half now. I recently decided that I needed to "get back in the game", as it were, and dug out my old 15 gallon tank.
<Ahh, welcome back!>
When I first started as a fishkeeper, I was living in South Carolina. I now call South Texas home, and there's a *slight* difference in the hardness  of the water. In some ways, this has made my stocking decision easier- I want platies, and I'm picturing a fairly heavily planted tank. I'm unconcerned with breeding, so I plan to go with all- or at least mostly- females.
I have three questions. First, what (if anything) would be an appropriate bottom-dweller for this tank? I've had Plecos and Corys in the past (the Plecos were in 60 and 55 gallon tanks, I wouldn't dream of putting one in a 15),
and while a gang of peppered Corys would look awesome, I'm concerned about keeping them in hard water. Or should I just have plants and platies?
Perhaps shrimp?
<Most cultured species of Corydoras would/will do fine here, including C. paleatus. Alternatively, as you mention, there are some really neat shrimp nowayears that would also do>
Second, what's the best way to fertilize live plants in hard water?
<Great question... Best is a bit of material (organic and/or not) mixed/blended in deep and fine enough substrate to keep it in place... barring this are good ole' "plan-tabs" (a commercial product, but there are others that do the same)... Lastly, just "fish wastes">
And what do I need to look out for to ensure fish health while also growing verdant plants?
<Good observation really... frequent small feedings (a few times daily)>
Third, in the interest of overall tank health, I assume it would be best to purchase all my platies from the same dealer, and add at the same time-operating under the assumption that if one is diseased, they're all exposed to it already? Or is that too much of a risk? (The tank having been fishlessly cycled by the time they are added, of course.)
<Also insightful... if you can be assured (in judging conversation w/ the dealer/s) that the Platies are clean... I'd go straight from purchase to direct placement. If not, a small regimen (one shot) of feeding foods laced w/ Metronidazole and Praziquantel is a good idea, insurance>
<Thank you for sharing John. Bob Fenner>
Re: Platies, plants, and hard water     3/27/13

Thanks for the reply! One more question, and this may be a case of me erring too hard on the side of caution. In the depths of Summer, I keep my home cooled to a pleasant 79F/ 26C. When it's 107 outside, that's a very comfortable home (and for your British readers- yes, humans can actually survive at such temperatures).
While my tank will stay at a very constant temperature, this is a little warm for both Cory cats and platies. Would that be a long-term issue?
<Not an issue. Will be fine>

Fresh Water Planted tank fertilization. 10/26/10
Hello once again! I have come back with a couple of questions, but first a little information. I currently have a 10 gallon planted tank (crypts, hornwort, java moss) with red fluorite gravel, about 2 watts per gallon, Malaysian trumpet snails, ghost shrimp, 1 Indian dwarf Puffer, and 3 Otos. I was wondering which would be better. Flourish plant nutrient which you dump the dose into the tank (of course the proper amount), or I also have seen little pellets which you can insert into the gravel right by plants. Which would be best if there is a dominating factor of one over the other?
<Actually, there's no simple answer here. Hornwort and Java moss both extract nutrients from the water column; hornwort because it's a floating plant with no true root system, and Java moss because it's an epiphyte. Crypts, on the other hand, have quite large root systems and get their nutrients from the substrate if they can. So the best way to work would be to alternate between the two, placing a nutrient pellet among the roots of each clump of Crypts every couple of months, but otherwise dose the tank sparingly use the liquid fertiliser (since none of these plants grow that fast, you'll likely only need half the recommended dose unless you see obvious yellow patches on the plants). Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fresh Water Planted tank fertilization. 10/26/10

Thanks Neale! I forgot that I also had a type of sword plant, but anyways my LFS is having their sale soon and I ordered in some java fern, and nana Anubias. other crypts and other Anubias plants. Do the Anubias NEED to be strapped to rocks or driftwood or are they good with being planted into the soil?
<Plant them in the substrate and the rhizome will die, and eventually so will the Anubias. Never, ever put Anubias in the substrate. They send out little roots that anchor themselves in the substrate, but the green rhizome -- the horizontal stem -- must be on a rock or bogwood root.>
And lastly are there any fast growing low light plants that you know of?
<Unfortunately no. Fast-growing plants by definition need strong light. So if you have mediocre lighting, floating Indian Fern is the best choice because it's up at the top of the tank where it gets the best of what light there is. It's a SUPERB companion for Anubias, which without shading tends to become either burned or algae encrusted. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fresh Water Planted tank fertilization.   10/27/10

So planting Anubias in the ground is a NO unless I want to kill the plants.
I just read about this type of plant that is interesting and was wondering if you know anything about it, Sagittaria subulata. Apparently its a fast paced low light growing plant, as that's what the chart on the website said, but you never know with the internet, or with one specific source of information..
<A fine plant in many ways, notably tolerant of hard, even brackish water.
But I think the "low light" description is optimistic; this species needs moderate to bright lighting, I'd say at least 2 watts per gallon. The true low light plants are things like Anubias, Java fern, Java moss, and the hardier Crypts, notably C. wendtii, a very variable species. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fresh Water Planted tank fertilization.   10/27/10
Thank you once again Neale for putting up with all my questions. I apologize for getting a bit off topic, but it was really helpful! By the way my hood and lights on my 10 gallon put out 2 watts per gallon ha-ha so I'm not sure if I really want to try that plant with the bare minimum or probably lowest to go lighting. Thanks once again! -John
<Two watts per gallon is a good starting point, and it's worth seeing what grows. I'd try a few of the moderate light plants like Aponogeton hybrids and Cryptocoryne lutea to see how things go. If these thrive, you can then try something a little more demanding, like Hygrophila or Sagittaria. There's a lot to be said for starting with reliable, shade-tolerant plants first, perhaps using Indian Fern for algae control, and then phasing in steadily more demanding plants as your experiences warrant. Happy plants spread quickly, so even trying one or two new plant species every few months won't be expensive and if they settle down, should add plenty of extra greenery. In the meantime look out for Peter Hiscock's excellent Mini Encyclopaedia of Aquarium Plants. For £10 it's one of the best value planted aquarium books out there and written by someone I know to be very expert at aquatic plant growing. Cheers, Neale.>

Adding plant fertiliser to an existing substrate  8/18/09
Hi I need to know if there is a substrate that I can add to my pea gravel.
I have Discus in the tank and don't know what if anything could be added on top of gravel to help my plants grow.
<You really can't add anything on top of your substrate that would help.
Most plant-friendly substrates are used *under* the top layer of gravel or sand. For example, in my planted tanks, I use a mixture of pond soil and gravel from a garden centre, with some silica sand on top of the catfish to root about in. A plastic mesh keeps the two layers apart, while allowing plant roots to penetrate from the top to the bottom. About the only thing you can do to help your plants is to add plant fertiliser tablets. There are various brands. Simply push a single tablet into the gravel close to the roots of the major clumps of plants. Typically, you need to do this once a month, sometimes more often, depending on how "hungry" your plants are. It's a somewhat expensive approach, but can work very well.>
Thanks for all you do. you guys are a huge help.
<Glad to be of use! Good luck, Neale.>

Trace Minerals in Freshwater 1/14/09 Hello Crew, Hope all are having a good day. <Yes, thanks for asking.> Just waiting for cold weather to come through tonight. Down in the 20s. But I think that is the way is should be in winter. Anyway, I would like to know if there is any reason to add a trace mineral supplement to a freshwater tank. <None at all, at least not for the fish. A balanced, varied diet should take care of all their requirements. Plants are different, and they will need periodic supplements, particularly of iron.> I use regular city tap water. I don't know how trace minerals get deleted and didn't know if on occasion I needed to put some in. I do have a little java fern and moss, but not sure if they take trace minerals out of the water or not. <They will take some, but slowly, and your water changes will compensate.> Thank all of you for your knowledge! James <Cheers, Neale.> Re: Trace Minerals in Freshwater Thank you. <Most welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Activated carbon & liquid fertilizer  7/19/08 Hi, just want to know if I add a liquid fertilizer to my freshwater aquarium with an activated carbon in my canister filter, will the fertilizer still be effective? Or should I remove the carbon? Thanks <Activated carbon only removes organic molecules (with a few exceptions like iodine). Since plant fertiliser contains inorganic forms of nitrate, phosphate, iron, etc. you should be fine. So go ahead and use them both! Though as I've commented elsewhere on WWM, the use of carbon in freshwater aquaria is generally redundant and arguably a waste of money and filter space. Cheers, Neale.>

FW hazy tank and plant fertilization, AGA referral   12/28/07 I sent a message earlier regarding a hazy tank (same subject heading), I forgot to add an additional bit of info: I perform a 25% water change every 3 weeks and the water does not clear up afterwards. Hopefully you can piece my two emails together. <Have done so> Thank you Brent Hey, your website is absolutely amazing, I have spent hours reading your FAQs and find them incredibly helpful! However, the situation in my tank does not quite add up. Here's the run-down on my tank: Freshwater, 90 gallon, 2 Fluval 305 filters (no carbon media used), 100% Fluorite based, heavily planted, water test levels: 0 for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, pH 6.6 - 6.8, CO2 injection, KH 40 ppm, 270 Watts compact fluorescent lighting, temperature 79.8 - 80.3 F. Fish: 1 Pleco (6"), <Yikes... what species? Some of these will "bother" to consume most all plants> 1 redtail shark (4"), 5 Neons (tiny), 5 black skirts, 2 flying foxes (3" each), 3 clown loaches, 4 honey dwarf Gourami, 1 Danios (a lone survivor of a former school of 5). My tank has been running a little more than a month. I fertilize regularly (every two days) with flourish excel and iron and I use flourish (containing other trace nutrients) twice weekly. <Mmmm, okay... I do wish there were simple, available test kits (of use natch) to test for the principal ingredients in these mixed fertilizer products> Also, I inject CO2 into the tank and diffuse it with an airstone and the canister filter (seems to be about 90% efficient for diffusion). Also, there is minor minor algae on the glass, and a little amount of beard algae on the edge of one of my plants leaves. All the fish seem happy: no disease, no weird behaviour, excellent colouration, etc. I feed once every 2 days (4, 1cm diameter algae discs, and a pinch of granulated fish food). All the plants seem happy: excellent growth, thick stalks plenty of leaves, nice and green. Ok on to my question: My tank is still a little hazy (white) and I would like crystal clear aquarium water. I think the haze is from a bacterial bloom, will that go away with time? <Hopefully so... can be more of an unsightly nuisance... such microbial populations can "lead" to changes in water quality that are detrimental...> Also, if it is a bacterial bloom, and the nitrate levels are so low (zero), why exactly are they blooming (their nutrient sources should be all used up by the plants)? <Mmm, a bit of a conundrum, but likely what available Nitrate there is, is being "taken up" rapidly here... So, not that there is no NO3, but that it is concentrated...> Also, my nitrate levels are at 0. In a tank that is heavily planted, should I be fertilizing with nitrates (NPK fertilizers) or is this going to cause the bacterial bloom to get out of hand? <This form of Nitrogen is supplied via fish wastes and in the SeaChem products... sufficiently here> Thank your your help! Brent <I'd bet most anything that you'd gain by reading Diana Walstad's works... do a search and scan when you have some time on the Aquatic Gardener Association's website: http://www.aquatic-gardeners.org/ Bob Fenner>

Plant growth and Iron   3/31/07 Hi Crew! After days of research I'm back again with another question. I have a 55 gal tank/ 2 months old/ light fish load at the moment with freshwater shrimp/ lots of plants/ home-made CO2/ 240 watts of 6700k compact fluorescent light/ about a 50 50 mix of Fluorite and eco-complete substrate. Tank is usually 6.6 to 6.8Ph Nitrate 5.0( lowest my kit can measure), Phosphate .5. Iron .1 and ammonia and nitrites are 0. I've been alternating adding Flourish Iron and Red Sea Flora Fe, which came with the Iron/ co2 test kit. My plants are growing well, algae is at a minimum now (finally!). My question concerns the growth of the Cabomba and Anacharis.  They seem to be very leggy or a lot of stem between leaves, <Yes... conditions here are driving them so...> but they grow probably an inch a day! My thinking is a lack of Iron for chlorophyll and leaf   growth. <Mmm, you could... have you read re DIY supplements... on the krib (.com)?> How can I get denser growth? <Likely cooler water, lower light intensity...> Look forward to your answer! One more thing, I stopped adding Flourish trace elements due to its Copper content and my shrimp. Thanks a bunch! Bob <Not a worry really... this is such a small amount... and actually a necessary micro-nutrient for your shrimp... and plants! Bob Fenner>

Low-tech planted aquarium fertilizers  2/19/07 Hi WWM Crew, <Katie> I've done research on all sorts of low-tech aquaria (read Walstad's book as a start, although decided against the soil substrate), <Really? Is one of my fave approaches... though not for all types of planted set-ups admittedly> and finally decided to go  more with Rhonda Wilson's approach, if you're familiar with her. <Ah, yes: http://naturalaquariums.com/ for browsers, and folks who want to "be in the know"> In any event, what I now have is a 5-gallon tank planted with mostly low-light plants.  Additionally, I have a full-spectrum GE 15 watt bulb, so 3 watts-per-gallon, a regular gravel substrate, and no CO2 supplementation.   Haven't added fish yet, but plan on 2 panda Corys, 1 Oto, 6 cardinal tetras  (please tell me if you think that's too many). <Should be fine... and their addition will supply the CO2, much more>   Here is my question:   What about added fertilizers?  Ms. Wilson doesn't use them, and I'm  wondering if I should "see how it goes" before going that route. <I would... there is much that can "go sideways" (and quickly) in such a small volume...> I've been  considering the SeaChem products:  Flourish Tabs, Flourish, and  Flourish Excel. <These (as the entire co.) are excellent... SeaChem warrants praise as doing "real science", providing real products (woefully this is not nearly the case with much of our interest)>   Your thoughts would be so helpful.  I started  searching your FAQ just to find out about Flourish Excel, and ended up  interested in the Tabs and the Flourish as well, and I'm a little overwhelmed by  all the opinions and info and how it would relate to my "low-tank" small  setup.  Many thanks, Katie <Mmm, I do wish (as in "If wishes were fishes, we'd all have full tanks", actually one of my (maybe) few original spiels...) that you had replicate systems... to try these various ideas out on... I would proceed with the fish stocking for now... try a minimal amount of the Flourish... as time goes by... Am sure you're familiar with "the krib" (AGA) site as well... though I am decidedly NOT a big fan of BB's by and large, there are many excellent "voices" there. Bob Fenner>

Re: Low-tech planted aquarium fertilizers   2/20/07 Dear Bob, <Katie> Hmmmm, now you've got me thinking.  While replicating a 5-gallon tank wouldn't be a huge undertaking, it just may blow my cover regarding telling my husband that it's really the kids' hobby, not mine. <Heeee!> However, I love to experiment, and so let's say I add the products one-by-one, then take time (2-3  weeks?) <Mmm, more like twice this time> to note the changes, if any, that occur.  For instance, start  bare-bones setup, as I am now, then in a few weeks start using the Flourish,  then wait, observe, then start using Flourish Excel in addition to the Flourish,  wait, observe, then add in the Flourish tabs.  That way I could see if  there's a change that I notice with the addition of each product. <Mmm, to some degree... Of course we can speculate just how many "sets" of trial tanks it would require... mix up the order of introduction of variables, timing... and have "placebo" set-ups with "none of the above" additives... and replicate sets of all... and even vary env. factors like lighting...> Ok, so  pardon my thinking aloud to you, but do give me your opinion on that, plus  please advise your recommendation on how long a time period should I wait  between additions?   <At least a month> Lastly, one more product I forgot to ask you about  is the Flourish Iron--I ask this specifically because in your article "Growing  Aquatic Plants" you list iron as a "critical exception" to the "don't bother  with supplementation in most cases" advice.   <Mmm, yes... but is an essential material... Just that it is supplied sufficiently w/o supplementation... from substrate/s, foods/feeding, water... But in real science does require testing for...> If you recommend, should that  be the first to start my experiment with, or stick to the broad spectrum  Flourish? <I would add the ferrous material if you already had/purchased it... won't very easily be "over" supplied> Thanks!    Katie <Be chatting! BobF>

Stem Plants, Roots, Shrimp, Iodine, and Fertilizers - 06/01/2006 Dear Crew, <Hi, Shawn!> I have a couple of questions, but I first want to thank you for the great resource you have created for all of us amateur hobbyists.   <Your kind words are greatly appreciated.> I've spent more hours reading articles and FAQs on your website than I can count.   <Heh, me too!> With that said, there is one thing I can't figure out.   <.... lots of things I can't figure out....> I've got a relatively new 55 gallon tank that is heavily planted.  It's been going for about a month now, and is doing great as far as I can tell.  The tank as a Fluorite base, 4 full-spectrum fluorescent light tubes.  I use supplemented/buffered R/O water to do my water changes, and my water levels all seem good.  I also inject CO2, with consistent levels of about 26ppm.  On to my question....  Many of my stem plants (actually all of them) have grown long white roots from every part of the stem, nearly to the top of the plant.   <This is normal for some plants, like Egeria, Elodea/Anacharis, Limnophilia, Cabomba....> Many of these white roots are easily 10 inches long and they are quickly taking over my tank.   <Today, the tank....  tomorrow, the world!!  If they're terribly annoying, I'd trim them back; otherwise, let 'em have their fun.> Is this normal?   <For some stem plants, yes.  What species are you keeping that are taking over?> I was hoping that they would just go away as the main roots settled better in the substrate.   <Some stem plants will settle down and do as you state, some will just keep up with those shiny white roots.> Okay, two other simple questions.   <No more!  Oh, okay, just kidding.> I am using "Flourish - Comprehensive Plant Supplement" to supplement my R/O water (along with Baking Soda to raise the kH) on a weekly basis.  Is that sufficient?   <As long as your KH, GH, and pH are steady, this is fine.> I am also planning on adding various shrimp to the tank (red cherry & Amano to start with) <Excellent!  May I suggest "zebra" or "tiger" shrimp?  The alpha male of a colony will be a STUNNING blue with brown-black stripes and red tail and rostrum.  http://www.wirbellose.de/arten.cgi?action=show&artNo=156 > and read that they need iodine to thrive.   <Yes.> My Flourish supplement contains 0.0001% iodine in it, but that doesn't seem like enough.  Do you think I should get a separate iodine additive? <I would.  I'm still using Kent marine iodine at a rate of ONE DROP per ten gallons weekly (NOT the marine dose), but most any marine iodine supplement could be used in similarly small quantities.> Thanks for everything you've done. <And thank you, again, for your kind words and encouragement.> Shawn <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> Hardy Plant Health Mystery - 12/13/2005 Dear Mr. Fenner, <Actually, Sabrina with you today, in his stead> Please help, upon research, I can find no solid information or logical conclusion as to why my current batch of Elodea densa turns brown at the tips, roughly three inches back. this comes after a long growth period under "prime" conditions (see specs below) with no other problems to any of the other plants.  The anacharis is not growing but are not falling apart, they appear stunted, my only hypotheses is, after the long growth period the original stems (rooted) have up to five consecutive side shoots and combined are roughly two feet in length. In conclusion I ask for your advice, do I need to prune, <I would.> raise temp, <No, your temp is fine.  Warmer would be bad for E. densa.> or anything else you may know, that I have overlooked (29gal, 36wt. 67k, 36wt. 10k, <Tank size would be helpful to know, with regards to your lighting amount....  and type of lighting is more useful to know than just wattage alone....> 62f-72f. hang-on refugium, 5lbs. miracle mud, <This is almost starting to sound like a salt tank....  How is the miracle mud working out for you in a freshwater system?  I didn't realize there was a miracle mud product marketed for freshwater folks.> C02 setup, laterite base, api iron supplements, heavily stocked with fish and plants).  I appreciate your time and expertise, <The only other thing that I can think of (and this really is entirely likely) is that the other plants may actually be outcompeting the Elodea/Egeria for food/nutrients.  Otherwise, it is also possible that your various plants are engaging in allelopathy....  I would google "freshwater plant allelopathy" for more information, and might look at Diana Walstad's plant book.> Eric Lammers <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> Cabomba  11/19/05 Hello Bob, <Biologia... good name> I have a fresh water aquarium of 500L with PL lights and different species of plants, at the beginning they did well, but a month ago some started getting yellow, <Usually indicative of nutrient shortage, particularly nitrogen...> I found that the water was around 23 ºC, nitrates very high and I had lots of algae. I put a heater and anti nitrates <Oops... this is likely your answer> so temp and nitrates are ok now, but the Cabomba has only branches on the top tip of the stem. Do you have any idea what's going on? Thank you very much <Mmm, well Cabomba is one of the more "touchy" genera used as aquarium plants... sometimes "falling apart" due to small changes in water movement, nutrient unavailability. Do you use (provide from outside) fertilizer? What re your water testing, Carbon dioxide infusion? Have you read through our Planted Tanks subweb? Bob Fenner> 

Planty Problems - Imbalance of Nutrients - 08/23/2005 Hello.   <Hi.> This is a loaded question. <Uh-oh.> Hope the answer is here. <Might be a loaded answer.... <grin>> You've been reliable in the past.  I have a 108 gallon tank up and running for the past 2 months. I put in several species of plants from the start and the tank is broken in nicely. pH from my tap is about 6.8 but the water in the tank was about 7.6 which is now about 7.2 and I am trying to get it down below 7. I attributed the increase in pH to the new gravel (geo systems brown river) and thought it would decrease and stabilize over time.  I removed all questionable rock and added Fluvals peat chips to an AquaClear 300. That's all that's in the filter. <This should help immensely.> I also have two 500 AquaClears with the ceramic rings and sponges. I removed the carbon as I am using plant Gro. I also have just added a huge piece of driftwood.   <Also will help.> I have used blackwater extract but am almost out of it and don't plan on buying anymore (no need I feel.) <Agreed; the wood and peat will do this for you.> Here's the problem- My Amazon swords and Anubias nana are gathering a dark green fuzzy algae around the rims of their leaves.  I have 3 Chinese algae eaters and just added 10 otos and 6 flying fox to keep algae in check. However nothing is touching this particular algae. <If possible, you might try "algae-eating" shrimp, Caridina japonica.  Very efficient munchers of algae.> I do 1/3 water changes every week or so and as I say the water is crystal. The lights on the tank are two 36" flora Glos and two 36" SunGlo that go the length of the tank. The spectrum is ideal to look at but are the lights the right spectrum? The plants are growing nicely. I feel the tank is planted heavily enough, but wouldn't consider it "heavily planted". Don't really want to add more plants because of the algae. <More plants will help outcompete the algae....> As I say the pH seems to be dropping - am I on the right track regards to pH? <Yes.> Does a high pH contribute to this particular algae growth? <Unlikely.> Should I discontinue the plant Gro and put the carbon back in? <I would for now, unless you start adding CO2.> Will CO2 help? <Quite possibly.> Do I need more light? - the fixtures are the Hagen 72" that takes two 36" tubes. <Yes, very, very likely.  Those "normal output" bulbs don't do much for light output.  Unless you stick with strictly low light plants (I don't think the swords will last long in this!), do NOT add CO2, and cut off all ferts for now, you're going to continue with algae problems - and difficulties with your plants.  Please look for Peter Hiscock's book "Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants", and also the book by Diana Walstad on low-light, low-tech planted aquaria....  the name of her book escapes me at the moment.> So I have two fixtures on the tank.  Don't really want the expense of changing that over. As you can see I have many questions regarding this. <I see ;)> Temperature in the tank is 78-82 degrees depending on humidity. What should I do? <Just as above.> Is there a fish that would eat this?   <Those that you have may, but you really need to get to the root of this....  there is probably too much fertilizer in the tank, vs. not enough light or CO2, so the plants can't use enough of the fertilizer to inhibit algal growth.> Please tell me the problem can be solved? <Likely!  But it might be a bumpy road!  You'll get there, no worries.> Thanks again for any and all help!!!  Regards,  Craig P. <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> Carbon and plant fertilizer products 7/17/05 Hello and thanks  for all your help in the past. Quick question. Will I remove carbon from my filter if I am using Plant Gro. <Yes> I say yes, the aquarium staff at local store say no. Which is it? Can't find anything regarding instructions or anywhere on the net......................Regards  Craig P. <Carbon of any quality, freshness will remove some of the fertilizer. Bob Fenner> Freshwater planted 45 gallon high Dear WWM, I have a 45 gallon high with a SMARTLITE 96-watt (U-shaped) bulb which I keep on for about 11 or 12 hours a day. The substrate is a medium-sized gravel, I use the relatively new Turbo CO2 biogenerator, maintain a pH of about 7, GH about 4 and KH about 2, and a temp of about 79-80. I do water changes weekly filtering tap water through an Aquarium Pharmaceuticals resin filter to remove phosphate (which was a problem before), and add iron and other trace nutrients. Java ferns are the only plants to really thrive in the tank. Other plants, including swords seem to just hang on with little new growth, with leaves losing some of their green luster. Grasses tend to stagnate and turn a bit yellow at the edges. <Good clues> I buy plants that are supposed to be tolerant of various water chemistries and lighting conditions (Anacharis, Rotala indica, Blood Stargrass, Japanese Fans, Dwarf Lily Plants, Dwarf Onions, Asian Ambulia, Sagittaria subulata, red-spot Ozelot swords, and Crypt walkeri) but the plants are not thriving as  I hoped they would. Any suggestions? <Yes... your system has an nutrient deficiency, most of all in terms of available nitrogen... but possibly rate-limited by other matter. I would add to your otherwise excellent set-up, protocol a complete fertilizer... that you can buy ready-made or DIY (PMDD). Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/aqpltnutritients.htm and the linked files above where you lead yourself. Bob Fenner> Many thanks Mark Dorfman Auto doser Bob, Some time ago someone wanted to know if anyone made an automatic liquid doser.  I've found that Eheim just came out with one and thought I'd forward this info to you. Regards, <Thank you for this. BobF> James New 3585 LIQUIDOSER For luxuriant growth of your aquarium plants Aquarium plants take in their nutrients continually through both their roots and their leaves. This is why plant fertilization is best achieved through regular daily doses. The new EHEIM Liquidoser, has been designed to do the job for you by automatically dosing EHEIM plant supplement. The Liquidoser doses 1 ml per rotation with up to 8 rotations per 24 hr. period. It has an optional push-button for manual dosing, electronic programming for precise dosing based on aquarium size. It is battery-operated with two stage low-battery warning and safety cut-out function with an LCD display with clock. The batteries are included. Electronic programming control for daily precise dosage, to suit the actual size of your particular aquarium. Option of manual release button operation. Visible filling level through transparent supply reservoir. Two-stage battery alarm with safety shutdown, LCD programming display and clock time. James Gasta Planted tank, nutrient-growth Hello <Hi there Lukas> I was reading the article by Alesia Benedict on her planted discus tanks.  I just wanted to say that that it gave me a idea for a future tank set up. But it also got me thinking about my tank now.  I have had some moderate success with plants but not the greatest.  I recently purchased 3 bunches of Bacopa plants.  They looked really nice in the store but after about 3 weeks in my tank they don't look so good any more.  I was wondering if you could suggest some things for me  to try with this plant.   And if you could give me a couple of suggestions on some plants to place in the tank that are relatively easy to take care of.  I have a 90 gallon tank with, 4 clown loaches, 5 golden barbs, 7 cherry barbs, a rope fish, 4 danios, about 5 Neons, I believe that the rope fish has been having snacks. 1 common Pleco, 2 glass cats 1 platy. about 5 ghost shrimp and 2 rams horn snails <Quite a mix!> The clown loaches are still little guys no bigger then about 1 and a half inches. The loaches are what I want the tank to be for in the future.  once the other fish have gone to the next big tank in the sky. The tank is filtered by a Fluval 403 canister filter, with mechanical media, charcoal and sponge. I have a bubbler on the back wall and temp at 79 degrees all the time. Water changes are done every other week  with 16 gallons per change, with a minor addition of aquarium salt.  PH is steady at 7.5. <Ahh... could well be the salt> I also have in the tank what I have been told are crypts,  I haven't been able to locate a pic on the net of the plant I have in there.  But they are doing sort of ok.  They have been turning a little brown lately but seem to be sprouting new leaves. <Mmm, do you purposely fertilize your plants? What sort and age of lighting?> Would you be able to give me a idea as to what I could place in there for, plants and not have them melt away or get eaten to death by the barbs. Thank you Lukas <Sounds to me like you may have a nutrient deficiency going here... the "slow boat to China" approach of having fish fertilizer supply your plants will work... but I would do away with the salt additions. Bob Fenner>

Re: Planted tank I have just replaced the light with a new, aqua Glo bulb.  I wasn't too sure about the other one, and I have had it for at least 3 months now.  My brother in law had it before that and I am not too sure as to when he replaced it.  I have not been fertilizing my plants at all is there some thing that you could suggest? <Look into SeaChem's line... thorough and safe> And should I have the bubbler on all the time? <Yes>   Or can I turn it off at night? <Best to have on at night>   I live in Calgary Alberta.  Would you be able to suggest some thing that I can get up here? <Get?> Thank you Lukas <Welcome. Bob Fenner> Question about freshwater plants I supplement my tank with a liquid fertilizer (I had made sure it was iron enriched).  Is this a good alternative to altering my gravel substrate? < Not really. The iron supplement works better if it is continuous but the liquid form is better than none at all.-Chuck>   A friend had suggested to me to try and keep my tank on an 8 hour photoperiod (I don't have a timer yet) so I'm glad I'm doing something right.  :) Sarah

Freshwater Planted Tank Good morning crew, Hope you had a restful evening. I have been keeping Fresh and Brackish tanks for the past 3 years or so with pretty good success (a lot of which I owe to you fine folks!) Am having an ongoing problem with my 55 GAL though.  I have been struggling with trying to get plants to grow.  Have tried everything from fertilizer tabs and liquid (the algae LOVED this stuff!) to "sort-of" upgrading my lights to 80 W N.O. fluorescent (DIY Hood), to CO2 injection, to pulling out all plants and potting them in soil/sand/gravel.  And still the plants I try will hang on for a few months then get brittle and eventually beard algae will set in and I will pull them out...Anyhow, you get the picture. I am thinking I still simply don't have enough light.  It is 55 GAL (48X13X20), Canister Filter (cleaned bi-weekly), Pea Gravel Bottom (vacuumed weekly with 20% water change), 80 W N.O. Fluorescent Vita-light (?).  Ammonia - 0, Nitrite- 0, Nitrate - ~10.  Inmates:  3 Clown Loaches (5"), 2 Black Kuhli Loaches (3"), 1 Black Ghost Knife (10"), 1 Fire Eel (6").  Yes, plan on moving Fire eel to a bigger tank within the next year or so.  Pretty sure I am underfeeding the tank.  Cut back from 2X a day to 1X a day, then cut that in half again to keep up with the algae.  (Fish are still sleek/full bodied and healthy though) Now, on to the question:  I am going to be buying equipment for a new 150 Gal Marine tank and ran across some Freshwater lighting that I might could "sneak" in the order and want your opinion on which you would suggest for keeping Swords, Red Rubin (Echinodorus rubin), and Ludwigia (Ludwigia repens). I am deciding between a Dual Power Compact hood with 130 W 6700K  or  a Dual VHO Fluorescent hood with 220 W 6500K. Any thoughts on this? Thank you for your time and patience.  I LOVE this site and spend hours on here a day.  (Drives the people at the LFS nuts when I go in there now...HAHAHA!)  So many Latin Names, so little time! Take care and have a good day/weekend. Tom < Either light system would work and give you plenty of light which may be the problem in your case. With the lights on the plants are working hard metabolizing the nutrients in the water. I think you are running out of nutrients in this system. Plants need three major nutrients that are listed on every fertilizer as such 10-10-10. This means that the fertilizer is 10 % Nitrogen, 10% phosphorus and 10% potassium. The nitrogen is usually no problem and comes from the fish. Usually the phosphorus is readily available in the sand and water. Some water systems are lacking potassium and can be replenished with an aquatic plant fertilizer. Try planting one plant in a pot with Fluorite and another in the sand and see what happens. The Fluorite by Seachem adds the needed iron and I think you will be more successful.-Chuck>

Plant Problems - 08/01/2004 Hi, <Hello.> I really appreciate the help that I get from you guys.   <Always glad to be of service.> Now I have encountered another problem with my plants.  I have Echinodorus, Aponogeton bolivianus, cryptocoryne, some sort of a purple plant.  The problem is mostly with Aponogeton plant because its leaves turn brown and get holes and then just die off pretty fast.   <Sounds perhaps like a lack of iron, other possibilities.> It tried to bloom, but the flower just fell off before that turning all brown.  Now my Echinodorus seems to get holes in leaves. I have 55 gal tank, with added light, so total of 120 W per gal.   <Somewhat low on light for some Echinodorus species to thrive, but otherwise should be acceptable (not knowing what the purple plant is, I can't comment for it, though).> I have African cichlids in the tank and I also started putting Epsom salt to prevent Malawi bloat. <Er, this might be shedding some light on the problem.  At what pH do you maintain the tank?  Many plants prefer a neutral to acidic pH (though you've picked some resilient plants), whereas rift lake cichlids require extraordinarily high pH to do well - in many/most cases, 8.3 and up.  Assuming the pH is acceptable for the cichlids, I figure it's probably a bit high for a lot of success with plants.... this may be the Apon's problem.  Hardier plants, like java fern and Anubias, are better choices, if your set in having plants with rift lake cichlids.> I suspect that it might be a nutrient issue (I fertilize the plants with tablets like once in 3-4 months), <I'm guessing it's likely an iron deficiency, then, perhaps coupled with other problems.  Do you test for iron?  Add any liquid aquatic plant fertilizers?> and I have a CO2 generator on for couple hours a day. <Yikes....  Are you testing for CO2?  And testing rigorously for pH swings while using it?  CO2 can cause significant drops in pH - which would be bad news indeed for your high-pH-lovin' cichlids.> The interesting thing happened though, I had green algae growing (it is in control because of pleco) and out of a sudden, it practically disappeared and brownish algae started growing?! <Perhaps caused by a change in nutrient levels....  really, I can't give you a precise reason without knowing pH, hardness, CO2, iron, perhaps also phosphate levels.  At this point, I would recommend that you discontinue use of CO2 for the safety of the fish, and work with plants that require only low light and are very tolerant of water chemistry (perhaps you would need to actually cut back on light if you do this....  watch for algal blooms, adjust lighting as necessary, and/or add more plants).  Anubias species, Microsorium pteropus (java fern), Vesicularia dubyana (java moss), Crinum thaianum ('onion' plant), and some species of Vallisneria would serve you well if you choose this route.> But basically, I cannot successfully grow Aponogeton, the leaves grow fast, but they die off fast too.   <Do keep in mind that some Aponogeton species go through a 'dormant' phase, in which they do not produce leaves at all, and can benefit from being partially dried.  Is it perhaps this dormant phase that you're observing?  pH, nutrient deficiency (especially iron), dormancy - all can be considered possibilities for what you're seeing.> I just hope you have some answers to that.  Thank you a lot. Lina    <I hope this helps shed some light (pun heavily intended) on your Apon troubles, and wish you, your plants and fish well.  -Sabrina> Itty bitty bit of copper and itty bitty fish? Hi WWM Crew! <Hi! Ananda here this morning...> I have a 12 gallon planted tank with 6 dwarf puffers in it. <Nice stocking level.> I would like to add some Kent Freshwater Micronutrient Plant Supplement to the water to keep the plants healthy. The bottle says that the plant supplement contains 0.00001% copper in it. I've heard that copper is dangerous to puffer fish. Would it be OK to add this supplement or should I avoid it because of the copper? <I think that by the time this very dilute concentration is further diluted by tank water, it should be mostly harmless. If you're still concerned (and if you already have the product), go ahead and start with a half dose when you can watch the puffers for a bit. If they react poorly, then you know to use a different product.> Do you know of any other live plant supplement that does not contain copper? <Check the SeaChem line.> Thanks for your help! Susan <You're quite welcome. --Ananda> 

Questions About Planted Aquaria I have had a planted tank set up for over half a year now. However, none of the plants (except for the java moss and wisteria) have gone through periods  of noticeable growth. I use FloraBase as the bottom layer with a top layer of laterite. I have 130 watts of 6500K light in my 40 gallon tank and run a Nutrafin CO2 system. I use Kent Freshwater Plant and Pro Plant weekly as per instructions. I have about 20-25 small fish in there. My pH is 7.0, ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 50 mg/L, phosphate 5 mg/L (without Phos-zorb), non-chelated iron 0, and chelated iron 0.5 mg/L.  There are several factors that I think may be affecting plant growth. First my CF light sits about 7 inches above the water. Will this reduce the light intensity? Second I have three bio-wheels running off of my canister filter.  Can they be outcompeting the plants for nitrite? I also read somewhere that Novaqua should not be used in planted tanks because it does something to the iron? Please help, I want my plants to grow already! Thomas <<Thomas; Your BioWheels are doing their job, which is creating nitrate, which your plants will use up. A good thing. But the problem is that the surface turbulence from these filters may be driving off most of your CO2. A better system might be a canister filter with the return hose set beneath the surface of the water to minimize surface agitation. Your lighting seems fine, but how deep is the tank? Unless it's 24 inches, I doubt there is much of a problem. Is the pH relatively stable? Do you have any algae problems at all? If you do, it may be time for you to do a bit of substrate cleaning. You don't want out-of-control anoxic areas in the substrate. -Gwen>> 

Plant Problems Bob, <Sabrina here, this fine evening.> How are You? <Very well, thank you.  And yourself?> I have a couple of questions but I first want to say thank you for your website.    <And thank you for your kind words!> I had a 90 gallon freshwater planted tank.  It had been set up for a year and I changed it over to a 125 gal about a month ago.  I have several tetras, a skunk Botia, some sort of feather handed shrimp, 3 rosy barbs etc.  All of which have been in the tank all along. I added a couple more hatchet fish, and a few more assorted tetras and a yoyo loach.  Half of the new fish died and an array of problems sometime during this time frame.   <Ugh, sorry to hear that.> I was losing a fish a day, although 15 fish later that has stabilized. But now the plants are disintegrating.  At the leaves and at the root it looks like the plants are rotting.  I am using ECO type black gravel for substrate. It was live in the bag when I bought it.  All chemicals are all of the Seachem plant products.  I keep the PH at 7.0. nitrate, nitrite and ammonia are 0. KH is 60 to 80 GH is about 100. The phosphates where at 2.5 but I did a water change and added Seachem PhosGuard and that has dropped.  I use RODI water. I have two power heads so circulation is good although I did not use the power heads in the 90 gallon.  Any ideas what might be eating away at my plants?   <Well, a lot of that depends upon what plants you have, and what your lighting is.  My first guess would be that you have plants that have a higher demand for light than you are currently providing - that is very common, unfortunately.  If that is not the case, there are a lot of other possibilities, here.  Iron deficiency, perhaps too many plants and/or not enough CO2, perhaps improper planting techniques for particular species (e.g.., do not bury the rhizome of Anubias, etc.) - really, there are too many possibilities to explore.  Please to reply, try to include what plants you have and what kind/how much lighting you have on the tank.> Once again, thanks a million for all of your time and help with all of our problems.  You make bad things good many times over... <And again, thank you for the kind words.> Chris, Atlanta <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Your Plant Nutrition article reprinted Hi Bob, This is to advise that your "Plant Nutrition" article was reproduced in The Fishmonger, on-line newsletter of the Vancouver aquatic Hobbyist Club. Congratulations! - and thank you for letting me post some of your articles on Aquarticles. Regards, Howard Norfolk. Aquarticles.com <Real good. Thanks. Bob Fenner>

Iron in a Plant Tank - and N, P, and K Hi Sabrina, <Hi, Ken!> Thanks for your comments. <Any time.> With regards to your comment about maybe holding off on adding phosphate and nitrate until the plants take hold better as I have some hair algae, this is where the confusion comes in. I had seen in the forums where (in high light with CO2 injection tanks such as mine) a reason for hair algae is due to the plant growth slowing down and the need to add N,P,K. <Wonderful point!> You see the dilemma?  Since I have no P and N readings on my test kit, I would imagine that anything that is being added by the fish and food is being used immediately by the plants. <Yes, very likely.> I'm thinking I could slowly add some P and  N and monitor with the test kit. I think the target is somewhere around .50ppm for P and 5.0ppm for N. <That sounds like a great plan.> On the other hand I'm thinking that I could get more hair algae. <And if you do, you can cut back again, no worries.> What do you think? <I think it's an excellent plan.  Add slowly, and if you see an increase in algae, back off some.> Thanks, Ken <It really seems you've got quite a handle on things, Ken!  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Water changes and fertilizing Hi Bob, <Sabrina here this time around> I have set up a freshwater plant tank 4 days ago. I have the 75g tank pretty well stocked with plants. I also have 5 true SAE's. I have 4" depth of Fluorite with heating cables underneath. I am also using a pressurized CO2 system and compact lighting (260 watts). <Sounds excellent.> In the 4 days and I have decent growth already, especially with the stem plants. <Great!> I know that fertilizer is of course needed at some point and too much will cause an algae problem. I thought that I had read that or the first month not to add anything but I don't know if that is a hard and fast rule. <Well, not necessarily a rule set in stone, no.  If you're experiencing excellent growth, though, I see no reason not to wait a while.  Here's a page with some excellent links for plant fertilizing info:  http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/Fertilizer/ > I had also wondered when the first water change should be? Is after the first week to soon? <Yes, too soon, unless you're experiencing ammonia or nitrite dangerous to the SAEs.  I would wait a couple of weeks, perhaps a bit more, before doing the first water change, unless you experience ammonia or nitrite.> By the way, I am using RO water with Seachem's Equilibrium and Alkaline Buffer. <Sounds like you're well on your way, great job!  Wishing you and your plants well,  -Sabrina.> Thank you for your help Ken

Grow, plant, grow!  Hi. my name's Rob, I live in Australia.  <My name's Sabrina, I'm in California :) >  I have a friend, who is mutually interested in hydroponics and fish keeping. He's more interested in plant keeping than actual fish though however. He has convinced me he is pouring hydroponic nutrient into his fish tank, and that his plants are subsequently growing famously. With no harm to his fish. I have a few Archer fish, and don't want to do anything to hurt them.  <Understandable. I would advise to find out what exactly the nutrient is, and compare that with the things available for the aquarium hobby - perhaps this stuff is all one in the same?>  I've also been told that using phosphoric acid (81% v/v) is ok for lowering the pH in fish aquariums. It's also a hydroponic agent, used for pH adjustments. Is this true?  <Yes, *BUT* there are much safer, more natural ways of doing this. Adding peat moss in the filter is one such method, or simply having a lot of bogwood in the tank. The problem with using acids (including the pH altering stuff marketed for aquarium use) is that they can cause some serious pH roller-coaster effects, depending upon the hardness/buffering capacity of the water - that is pretty darn unsafe for the fish. A stable, though not quite exact, pH is far better than a fluctuating pH.>  I used to be very keen on breeding Australian and New Guinea Rainbows and fondly remember adding a few drops of some kind of plant food to a tank with a large java fern in it, growing on a log. The plant exploded with loads of "puos" (small plantlets) growing all over the leaves of the adult plant.  <There are many, many fertilizers marketed specifically for aquarium use available now - my favorite being the new Kent line. Worth looking into, at least. You may also wish to consider CO2 injection to boost plant growth considerably.>  (I've been away from fish keeping for quite some years until just now)  <Welcome back!>  I have just bought two lovely sized java ferns, and would like to multiply them as quickly as possible in the manner I just described. If it's easier to do this in a tank without fish, then I have no hesitation setting up tanks or drums to grow aquarium plants specifically, with no fish in them.  <It'd actually be no easier than growing them in a tank with fish; think of all the yummy fish poo for the plants to sink their toes in!>  If the acid is ok for archer fish (regarding pH adjustment), will it hurt bristle nose catfish?  <Again, better to reduce pH with peat and/or bogwood. The plants would appreciate this method far more, as well, and java ferns root beautifully on wood, so you could create some fine designs. Also of note, archer fish are really brackish animals, and prefer hard, alkaline water; this might be an issue....>  I'm sure there's more I want to ask you, but the PH acid and the hydroponic nutrient is the most important questions thus far.  thanks.  PS. if the hydro nutes aren't a good idea, what is a good idea to feed the plants on?  <Personally, I use the Kent plant line, and have had good results.>  I've been having the emails appear an unusual return address lately. the right one is XXXXXXXX  <Hopefully this gets to you properly! Wishing you well, -Sabrina.> 

Re: What fertilizer? Thanks for the quick and informative reply...and yet I have another question...in your opinion, what is the best plant fertilizer or supplement on the market? <You're welcome. I don't have any experience with fertilizers because I don't use them on my planted tank but go to http://www.wetwebmedia.com and use the Google search box to search for fertilizer and see what others recommend. You can find the answers to many questions this way. Ronni>

Puffer Power- Or Fertilizer...? I plan to put only one figure-8 puffer and one bumblebee goby in my 45 gallon tank.  I wonder if they will make enough waste to help my java fern grow well? <Well, these little guys do give of copious amounts of waste if well fed, so you may want to see how things go before adding any supplemental fertilizers to the tank.> Would it be ok to put a little Plant Food for house plants in the aquarium - it contains nitrogen (ammonia , Nitrate and Urea), phosphate, soluble potash, iron, chelated manganese and chelated Zinc - ? <I'd really recommend using one of the commercially-made liquid products specifically intended for aquatic use. They really seem to work well if used properly! Good luck! Scott F.>

Hygrophila polysperma Hi Rob, I've been having problems with my Hygrophila polysperma recently. I have 3 40watt tubes in my 170L tank and the H. polysperma is growing well at the top near the light but lower down the leaves have small black holes in them and seem a little thinner. <Yes... a not uncommon situation with "Hygro's" in aquarium use> I've recently started fertilizing with Dupla plant and Duplaplant 24 in hopes to rectify this. <A good choice in complete fertilizers> What advice can you give me? <Do check on the "age" of your fluorescents... they may be "too old" (phase shifted, lost luminosity), and read over our site (WetWebMedia) and links to "the Krib" re use of carbon dioxide and nitrates in planted aquariums. You have a deficiency syndrome going here... that is easily solved once identified. Bob Fenner> Keith :)

Re: question (TMG?) Bob, TROPICA MASTER GROW. Would the rest of the 98% go to water? <Ah! Likely so. You can contact them re: http://www.tropica.dk/fertiliz.htm> BTW I got the info in "the krib" on "Tropica fertilizer. <The Krib is an excellent source of information on all aspects of aquatic plant biology, husbandry. Bob Fenner> Leo

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