Hybrid Method for Dry Ferts and Excel, no CO2?
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Old 06-18-2013, 07:23 PM   #1
lullafishi
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Default Hybrid Method for Dry Ferts and Excel, no CO2?

I'm trying to wrap my head around dry fertilizers and dosing for my non-co2 injected tank. I'm considering using Excel as a source of carbon. I would not mind once-a-week fertilizer dosing and a water change every other week (if possible). Ideally, I'd like something medium maintenance, a middle-ground if you will, that won't crash if I'm gone for a long weekend or can't do a water change one week. I do not mind slower plant growth, as I am planting as densely as I can from the start and already have a scape I enjoy.

My Specs:
40 gallon breeder, moderately planted
Bioload: currently only snails, but will have fish soon
Black Diamond Blasting Grit with Pfertz root tabs
Finnex Fuegray 36" that puts out high 40s PAR according to Lowe's charts, but I have a glass top so I'm not sure how much that brings the PAR down. Do I need to lower the PAR more by raising the height or adding window screen?
Lights are on 8 hours/day
NO co2 injection
pH: 8.0
KH: 6
GH: 10

I read through all of Tom Barr's thread on his non-co2 method (http://www.barrreport.com/showthread...on-CO2-methods) and I think I grasped most of it regarding the correlation between light levels and low co2 environments and plants adapting to low co2 environments. Unfortunately most of the follow-up talk involved the watt per gallon measurement where discussing appropriate lighting levels were involved, which I couldn't understand very well because I have LEDs measured in PAR. So I'm not sure if my lighting is on par (lol, par pun) or too high with my proposed regime.

I was originally going to take an EI approach, but Tom's points on water changes -> introducing small amounts of co2 temporarily -> fooling plants into thinking there is co2 available and not adapting for low co2 environments -> algae adapts faster as co2 levels drop back down = algae bloom… kinda changed my perspective on whether EI dosing was suitable for my tank since weekly water changes and no co2 = algae problems. As I was reading, I was drawn to the non-co2 method but hesitant and nervous about going months and months between water changes. Toward the end, Tom Barr mentioned a Hybrid Method (http://www.barrreport.com/showthread...l-with-non-CO2) that uses Excel instead of co2 injection, but doesn't overdose as much as EI would. This perked my interest… weekly or bi-weekly fert dosing with more forgivable water changes or the option of going longer between water changes? But I am not using a dry start method and am unsure if I would eventually wean the tank off of Excel and water changes altogether like he discusses.

So, my questions:

Does the proposed dosing amounts and schedule below sound good for a tank already limited by no to low co2, but with Excel? I pulled it from Tom's non-co2 thread, where it was very briefly touched upon.
Shouldn't I be dosing potassium as well? Or is there sufficient amount in KNO3 and KH2PO4 for the low nutrient demands of a non-co2, Excel setup?
Do I have too much light for this method?
How do I know if a plant isn't doing well due to nutrient deficiency (adjustable) versus not being able to out-compete other plants for the low co2 levels (plant incompatibility)?
Am I even following the logic of this hybrid method, or am I hoping for something unrealistic?

Proposed Dosing:
Dose 1/8 teaspoon Potassium nitrate (KNO3) 1-2x a week
Dose 1/16 teaspoon Monopotassium phosphate (KH2PO4) 1-2x a week
Dose Traces, 4mls 2x a week (I’ll need to translate this in to CSM+B)
50% weekly water change starting out, slowly go longer between
Dose 1.5-2x the rec dosing for Excel

I understand one of the best ways to determine nutrient uptake and what the plants are lacking is by observing the plants and fish. Well, my plants are already exhibiting some symptoms after a week of being in my tank (with only root tabs). My ludwigia repens x arcuata has brown pinholes that I understand is a potassium deficiency. My dwarf sag and hygro have some yellowing and melting at the tips that I understand may be early signs of nitrogen deficiency. It's also possible that some melting is due to adjusting to new water parameters? I want to order dry ferts so I can keep my plant biomass healthy and stay within a preventative course of action. My tank is only 3 weeks old, just finished cycling, and waiting on a larger bioload to be introduced, but I currently haven't had any algae issues (yay). I'm sure introducing fish plus time can throw my good luck off, so I'm trying to give myself the best starting point with dosing.

Any help is appreciative! Thanks for reading my novel.
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Old 06-25-2013, 11:30 PM   #2
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So I've been doing some more reading, and it seems like it's the general consensus that a non co2 tank can run on 1/4th of EI dosing if Excel is used. If I start out with this schedule, one to two times a week, should I be adding Excel daily? Or every other day?
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Old 06-26-2013, 02:54 PM   #3
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i believe daily is better
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Old 07-24-2013, 08:57 PM   #4
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Hey lullafishi any update on your dosing regiment? I have a very similar set up with my 40 breeder and have been trying to decide how to dose dry ferts with excel. Have you had any success so far with the plants you're keeping?

Last edited by MadRiverPat; 07-24-2013 at 10:10 PM.. Reason: misspelling of OP's username! oops!
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Old 07-25-2013, 02:12 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by MadRiverPat View Post
Hey lullafishi any update on your dosing regiment? I have a very similar set up with my 40 breeder and have been trying to decide how to dose dry ferts with excel. Have you had any success so far with the plants you're keeping?
I ended up using wet's calculator and selecting EI low light/weekly to get my dosing information. Here's what I've been doing:

Dose 1/2 teaspoon (or 2.469 g exactly) Potassium nitrate (KNO3) once a week
Dose 1/16 teaspoon (or 0.277 g exactly) Monopotassium phosphate (KH2PO4) once a week
Dose 1/2 teaspoon (or 3.374 g exactly) Potassium sulfate (K2SO4) once a week
Dose 1/10 teaspoon (or 0.463 g exactly) CSM+B once a week
50% weekly water change, going to start trying every other week
Dose the regular rec amount for Excel every other day during my mid-day light siesta

I had some minor staghorn algae and BBA problems a week or so ago, but I turned off my filter, spot dosed my regular Excel amount on the problem areas with a syringe, and let it sit for 20 minutes before turning the filter back on. The BBA and staghorn was growing on leaves that were leeching nutrients, so I trimmed those off and trimmed the old rotting roots that were the "root" of the problem. Haven't had any signs of algae since.

This dosing regime seems to be working well for my set-up. There are a few plants that aren't quite as happy (rotala macranda, but it's a high light plant and probably wants co2) but otherwise growth on just about all of them has been healthy and faster than I expected.

I do have a very low bioload right now... one guppy, snails, and two Amano shrimp. I'm not sure how adding fish is going to affect the balance in my set-up yet.

Hope that helps you out!
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Old 07-25-2013, 04:48 PM   #6
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http://www.barrreport.com/showthread...l-with-non-CO2

I've fused a few methods together over the years.

You can cut EI but 1/3 maybe 1/4 would be best and then do monthly water changes after your tank is going well after the 1st 1-2 months(weekly or 2x a week for that time frame.).

Pretty easy method.

But many love the gas........
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Old 07-31-2013, 07:16 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plantbrain View Post
http://www.barrreport.com/showthread...l-with-non-CO2

I've fused a few methods together over the years.

You can cut EI but 1/3 maybe 1/4 would be best and then do monthly water changes after your tank is going well after the 1st 1-2 months(weekly or 2x a week for that time frame.).

Pretty easy method.

But many love the gas........
I agree. Just do EI but much less. 1/2 to 1/4. Change water by the same ratio, more or less. Meaning if you do 1/2, water change ever 2 weeks.

If your tank can get away with no Excel but you still use it consistently, you can really go pretty long without ferts. I have done plenty of tanks that were about 1/8 of regular EI dosing or just waiting to see deficiencies because I can be lazy with low tech. It can take a long time, depending on mostly lighting.
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Old 08-07-2013, 02:03 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lullafishi View Post
I ended up using wet's calculator and selecting EI low light/weekly to get my dosing information. Here's what I've been doing:

Dose 1/2 teaspoon (or 2.469 g exactly) Potassium nitrate (KNO3) once a week
Dose 1/16 teaspoon (or 0.277 g exactly) Monopotassium phosphate (KH2PO4) once a week
Dose 1/2 teaspoon (or 3.374 g exactly) Potassium sulfate (K2SO4) once a week
Dose 1/10 teaspoon (or 0.463 g exactly) CSM+B once a week
50% weekly water change, going to start trying every other week
Dose the regular rec amount for Excel every other day during my mid-day light siesta

I had some minor staghorn algae and BBA problems a week or so ago, but I turned off my filter, spot dosed my regular Excel amount on the problem areas with a syringe, and let it sit for 20 minutes before turning the filter back on. The BBA and staghorn was growing on leaves that were leeching nutrients, so I trimmed those off and trimmed the old rotting roots that were the "root" of the problem. Haven't had any signs of algae since.

This dosing regime seems to be working well for my set-up. There are a few plants that aren't quite as happy (rotala macranda, but it's a high light plant and probably wants co2) but otherwise growth on just about all of them has been healthy and faster than I expected.

I do have a very low bioload right now... one guppy, snails, and two Amano shrimp. I'm not sure how adding fish is going to affect the balance in my set-up yet.

Hope that helps you out!
Thanks for getting back to me. The tank is about 3 to 4 months old but I had to move it about 2 months ago and started somewhat over at that point. Just last week I planted it fairly heavily and have been using comprehensive and iron while with excel while waiting on a final decision for how to dose dry ferts. I've got a new set of measuring spoons but am contemplating a cheap scale to make it a bit more exact. I think I am going to start by aiming for somewhere in the 1/3 EI range and adjust from there just as you and Tom have stated. I have what I thought was just diatoms and I know believe is the beginning of bba or hair algae. I'll start spot dosing the excel tomorrow and decide on a fert regiment since I have a feeling the nutrient leeching plants is the cause. They definitely are starving for ferts and the micros in the comprehensive isn't going to cut it for much longer.

I will hopefully find some way to set up a pressurized system but that won't come for another month or so, which means excel will have to do.

I have a decent bioload right now from the congo tetras and cory cats currently inhabiting the tank but hopefully that won't play too significant a role. I have been doing weekly water changes due to the buildup of fish waste in the parts of my tank that the filter won't reach.
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Old 07-25-2013, 05:50 PM   #9
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Thanks for stopping by, Tom! Your article was the one I was originally referencing and I've read your non-co2 and hybrid method articles through twice or more. Both are very informative! I was so happy to discover a method that was middle-ground when it comes to growth and maintenance.

My regime is pretty close to 1/3 of EI. I'm trying to see if I can get away with just the regular recommend Excel dosing instead of 1.5-2x the amount. So far so good, but my tank is still young. I'll up it if needed.
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Old 07-25-2013, 06:16 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lullafishi View Post
Thanks for stopping by, Tom! Your article was the one I was originally referencing and I've read your non-co2 and hybrid method articles through twice or more. Both are very informative! I was so happy to discover a method that was middle-ground when it comes to growth and maintenance.

My regime is pretty close to 1/3 of EI. I'm trying to see if I can get away with just the regular recommend Excel dosing instead of 1.5-2x the amount. So far so good, but my tank is still young. I'll up it if needed.
Depends on the light, cooler temps will also aid in the usage of Excel/Glut and the growth of the plants, growth rates will slow down, so there's more time to develop and grow from the light/ferts/Glut.
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Old 07-26-2013, 01:02 AM   #11
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This is similar to my situation as I save for a quality CO2 system. Im dosing excel everyday and dry ferts once per week. 40% WC every 6 days due to bio load from fish poo. Seems to be going okay ATM.
Q: Would It be better to dose NPK over several days or just once when I do the WC?
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Old 07-29-2013, 03:15 PM   #12
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Q: Would It be better to dose NPK over several days or just once when I do the WC?
I was wondering this myself so I don't have an answer for you. I can't imagine it would make much of a difference to dose NPK all at once vs half doses spaced out during the week. I don't think plant uptake is that fast, and it's not like the ferts become inactivated after sitting in the water column for so long.

Does anyone have an educated answer to this?
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Old 07-29-2013, 03:44 PM   #13
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This is similar to my situation as I save for a quality CO2 system. Im dosing excel everyday and dry ferts once per week. 40% WC every 6 days due to bio load from fish poo. Seems to be going okay ATM.
Q: Would It be better to dose NPK over several days or just once when I do the WC?
Seems fine to me.

With CO2, 2x a week seems to be a min with decent results over a wide range of hobbyists using the gas.

Excel? Not so much.
Uptake is reduced from 10-20x down to 3-4x.
So demand and the amount needed to prevent limitations is also correspondingly lowered.
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:09 PM   #14
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If I may tag-along with a question for Tom (and forgive me if my paraphrasing is wrong): You recommend minimal water changes with non-CO2 so as to avoid algae-inducing spikes in CO2. Does the same caveat apply if using remineralized RO/DI for changes? I've often read that high CO2 levels in tap will deplete a DI resin rather quickly so my assumption has been that it's removing it. Or would water pick up enough just sitting so as to make it that much higher in CO2 than we'd find in a planted aquarium with no added gas?
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Old 07-31-2013, 03:38 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Jack Gilvey View Post
If I may tag-along with a question for Tom (and forgive me if my paraphrasing is wrong): You recommend minimal water changes with non-CO2 so as to avoid algae-inducing spikes in CO2. Does the same caveat apply if using remineralized RO/DI for changes? I've often read that high CO2 levels in tap will deplete a DI resin rather quickly so my assumption has been that it's removing it. Or would water pick up enough just sitting so as to make it that much higher in CO2 than we'd find in a planted aquarium with no added gas?
CO2 is not a salt, so I see little way for the DI/RO to remove it, but I could be wrong.

Not a lot you can do about it unless you want another holding degassing reservoir I'll pass on that. Usign RO is a PITA enough, but if you set up a larger holding tank and a nice auto fill set up, this can be minimal labor and effort, problem is, most do not or cannot set this up like that.

For a 20 Gallon tank, not worth it, but for a 200 Gallon home display? Certainly.

I do not think anyone in their right mind would bother using RO/DI and doing frequent water changes for a non CO2 or an Excel type tank(Excel: most of which are smaller tanks anyway). There are a few cases where doing this might be useful, eg, Discus tank with lots of floating plants.
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