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Old 12-19-2010, 02:34 PM   #1
Detroit Tank
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Fertilizer Headache (rookie tank owner)


I am new to the planted tank world. About 4 months ago, I started up my first planted tank - 90 gallon with compressed CO2 and 4 T5HO bulbs. Ever since, I have been learning as I have gone and trying to overcome issues.

Until about a week ago, I was only dosing Seachem Flourish and some Flourish Excel. The plants were not doing too well and growth was stopped. Then I was told that in addition to those 2, I needed nitrogen, potassium, and phosphates. The fish store owner sold me Flourish Potassium and Nitrogen and said that flake fish food should suffice for the phosphate needs. All these fertilizers are adding up in cost, but I want to do this right to get a lushly filled-in tank.

I guess my questions at the moment are as follows:

1. If flake food is fed, is it necessary to dose phosphates?
2. It seems that dry fertilizers are a cheaper route. Green Leaf Aquarium's Green Fertilizer Package seems to be pretty all encompassing. Does their CSM+B have iron in it as well?
3. If I go the dry fertilizer route, it seems that one must be able to test the water to find parts per ### to determine the amounts to dose. I haven't been able to find affordable test kits to do this. Any suggestions? What are desirable levels of NPK that I should attempt to maintain?
4. How much of each of the dry fertilizers should be mixed into distilled water to make the solutions?

Thank you so much for your assistance. I am very confused on all of this and still struggling to get my tank off the ground. Just this week, my fish are experiencing a bit of a fungus outbreak that makes things even more convenient. I started them on Pimafix yesterday because I am not sure if Malachite Green kills plants....

THANKS!
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Old 12-19-2010, 02:39 PM   #2
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Do you want to do it the easy way? Without testing? Use Estimative Index or EI. Check out the first post and use this system. http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/fe...-regimes_.html

It is not the only way to have a nice planted tank. In my opinion it is the easiest.

CSM+B does contain iron. If you are ordering dry ferts for the first time I would forego CSM+B and choose Miller's Microplex -- more complete trace mix.

Yes, dose phosphates and don't worry about the levels.

Don't make solutions, dose dry. No problems with it.
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Old 12-19-2010, 02:51 PM   #3
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That EI method looks great except for the 50% water change. I have to change the water by hand and haul the water up from the basement. 45 gallons changed per week would kill my back!
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Old 12-19-2010, 02:58 PM   #4
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Consider some hose arrangements to remove and supply water. Tank maintenance will suffer otherwise. Lots of folks will give you suggestions if you post your tank placement and potential drain and fill locations.

Phosphate can be easily supplied temporarily with Fleet Enema, comes in a squeeze bottle.

Good luck

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Old 12-19-2010, 04:17 PM   #5
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Agree that EI is a good choice for a dosing regime and that you should replace the Seachem liquids with dry ferts.. Do a search on the forums here for "python". It makes it easy to do large water changes but you need to have a sink or shower nearby to run the python hose to in order to drain and fill. Buckets are not the way to go with a large tank.

Can you turn off two bulbs in your fixture? You will have a much easier time providing adequate levels of ferts and CO2 to give you healthy plant growth without algae if you reduce the amount of light you use. You do not need to run 4 T5HO bulbs to get good results.
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Old 12-19-2010, 06:38 PM   #6
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I've been running 2 bulbs for 10 hours and then the other two bulbs in addition for only around 3 hours mid-day.

Regarding the Python system, I checked the two faucets nearest my tank, and they do not have very many threads on them...maybe less than a centimeter. Are many needed? I have absolutely no experience with systems like that.

Also, it would make me nervous changing out 50% of the tank's water with chlorinated tap water. Wouldn't that kill the bacteria in the tank and overstress the fish?

Has anyone found a good testing kit for NPK?
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Old 12-19-2010, 07:40 PM   #7
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If you want to test for nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium you will have to spend a lot of money for a test kit, then buy some standard solutions to use to calibrate the 3 tests. That can be a fun thing for a few months, but eventually it will be a job that you will begin to find excuses not to do. That's why the estimative index method is so good - easy to follow, little work, no test kits. You need to be able to make big water changes easily for any tank, no matter how you fertilize it. If the water supply is in the basement, and if there is a drain there, it is very simple to install PVC piping up to the tank, through the floor, so water changes involve nothing but opening and closing valves. When you add more than 10% roughly of the tanks volume with tap water you need to also add a dechlorinator, with Seachem Prime being a very good and economical one. Many, many people do this without problems.
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Old 12-19-2010, 07:46 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Detroit Tank View Post

Regarding the Python system, I checked the two faucets nearest my tank, and they do not have very many threads on them...maybe less than a centimeter. Are many needed? I have absolutely no experience with systems like that.
You probably have something like this



Its fine, just get something like this



Quote:
Originally Posted by Detroit Tank View Post
Also, it would make me nervous changing out 50% of the tank's water with chlorinated tap water. Wouldn't that kill the bacteria in the tank and overstress the fish?
Get temperature of new water close to temperature of water in aquarium and use water conditioner like Seachem Prime.
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Old 12-19-2010, 10:50 PM   #9
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Thanks everyone for your advice. I just ran out and bought the Aqueon version of Python. I'll order dry chemicals online and start the EI system. I just noticed that the EI system guide linked above's highest tier is for 60 - 80 gallons. For my 90 gallon tank, should I make any adjustments?
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Old 12-19-2010, 10:58 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Detroit Tank View Post
Thanks everyone for your advice. I just ran out and bought the Aqueon version of Python. I'll order dry chemicals online and start the EI system. I just noticed that the EI system guide linked above's highest tier is for 60 - 80 gallons. For my 90 gallon tank, should I make any adjustments?
Start with what's recommended, then you can tweak it to suit your tanks needs. Give the plants a month or two to adjust and grow in with the new nutrients, then just watch your plants to see if they are developing any tell-tale symptoms for deficiencies. For example, I have to dose extra iron and magnesium on top of the recommended EI, because my plants were displaying those deficiencies.

Your plants will tell you what they need, if you know what to look for. If you can't identify a certain problem, just take a picture and post it on the forums. We'll help you out
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Old 12-20-2010, 12:33 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Detroit Tank View Post
Thanks everyone for your advice. I just ran out and bought the Aqueon version of Python. I'll order dry chemicals online and start the EI system. I just noticed that the EI system guide linked above's highest tier is for 60 - 80 gallons. For my 90 gallon tank, should I make any adjustments?
Off to a good start. Don't forget to pick up some Prime to condition your water during water changes. When you use a Python or hose to fill a tank you need to dose Prime for the total volume of water in the tank not the amount changed.

Since the EI guidelines don't specify anything for tanks over 80 gallons you can just add a bit more. Look at the amount suggested for a 10 gallon tank and add that to the amount suggested for an 80. It does not have to be a precise dose.
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Old 12-20-2010, 12:40 AM   #12
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The EI system recommends CSM+B, KNO3, KH2PO4, and GH booster.

The fertilizer at http://www.greenleafaquariums.com/aq...rtilizers.html also has K2SO4. If this is important to add for the potassium, in what quantities should it be added? The same as the KNO3?

In addition to the Flourish prime to dechlorinate the 50% water change water, what is a recommended GH booster?
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Old 12-20-2010, 03:29 AM   #13
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K2SO4 is useful if you find that despite dosing KNO3 and KH2PO4, that you still lack potassium.

It is hard to overdose potassium, so you can probably be quite liberal with it. The GH booster that Tom Barr uses for the EI actually contains potassium sulfate (amongst other things), so you could use that as a starting point.
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Old 12-20-2010, 04:48 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Detroit Tank View Post
The EI system recommends CSM+B, KNO3, KH2PO4, and GH booster.

The fertilizer at http://www.greenleafaquariums.com/aq...rtilizers.html also has K2SO4. If this is important to add for the potassium, in what quantities should it be added? The same as the KNO3?

In addition to the Flourish prime to dechlorinate the 50% water change water, what is a recommended GH booster?
When dosing the full recommend amounts of KNO3 and KH2PO4 you don't need to add any extra potassium (K). But as Darkblade points out it is hard to overdo on potassium so adding more if you want is not a problem. Generally you do need to dose extra potassium if you run your EI amounts lean since that will limit the amount of potassium being added by the KNO3 and KH2PO4.

If the GH of your tap is fairly high you don't need to use GH booster. If the GH of your tap is low it means you probably don't have enough calcium and magnesium for your plants and should add GH booster. Barr's GH booster which is available from:
http://www.aquariumfertilizer.com/
contains calcium, magnesium and a healthy dose of potassium. If you decide to use that you definitely do not need to add any additional potassium.

Adding GH booster when you don't need it won't cause any harm, it just wastes money.
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Old 12-20-2010, 09:15 PM   #15
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I just ordered the whole mess of chemicals from Green Leaf, including the GH booster. I'm not sure if I need GH, but like Captain Bu said, as long as it doesn't hurt... I guess the plants will get potassium out of that fertilizer at least.

Thank you everyone for your input on this!!!
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