Best substrate enricher for a retrofit?
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Old 01-18-2003, 06:14 PM   #1
lanstar
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When I initially set up my first planted tank, about 4 years ago, I used natural colored gravel and Tetra Initial Sticks. Depth is about 3". Over the years with the planting and vacuuming, a lot of the Initial Stick stuff has been removed. I think its time to try to re-enrich my substrate.

I would like to NOT rip everything out and start over.

I've found a substrate retrofit kit from PlantGuild that consists of an applicator made of an 18" long, 1/2" hollow tube with a push rod in it. You also get a pellet maker that lets you compact moist material into batches of 1/2" diameter pellets that you let dry and load into the applicator.

You put a pellet in the applicator and push the end of the applicator way down into the substrate. Then you use the push-rod to eject the pellet below the surface.

My question is: What do you suggest I use as a compactable (i.e. pelletizable)substrate enricher?

Laterite?

I've got various swords, hygrophila difformis, moneywort, ricca, and some vals in the tank right now.

Thanks!

Tim
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Old 01-19-2003, 01:10 AM   #2
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You can use laterite,kitty litter, Peat. You could soak the pellets with Flourish or some similar tank fertilizer. I've never done this myself but I've read about it on other boards.
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Old 01-19-2003, 02:01 AM   #3
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If you don't have much plants try to take out about half of the gravel and replace it with some Flourite.
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Old 01-19-2003, 03:43 PM   #4
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I would also reccomend flourite. It would be more disturbing to your tank to add flourite, but well worth it.

However, if you aren't interested in doing that, then m.Lemay's advice is good.

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Old 01-19-2003, 05:28 PM   #5
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I'd like to do Flourite but it would literally tear heck out of things to go that way.

The tank bottom is 24" X 72". There's about 200 pounds of gravel/substrate in it now. There are only a few small areas of exposed gravel. Everywhere else, there are plants.

That's why I was wanting to use something I could "inject" into the existing substrate. I know that's going to be a lot of injecting! But I'd planned to do it a little area at a time during water changes... Starting with areas around the heavy root feeders. (Which are beginning to look unhappy.)

Dupla sells pre-made laterite balls that you can press into the substrate by hand. But... they want a small fortune for it. To make it affordable, I think I'm going to have to buy in bulk and make my own. Time consuming, but MUCH less expensive.

To give you an idea of the nutrient consumption... The tank has CF lighting @ 4.8 WPG and about 40ppm CO2. I'm adding 10 ml of Yamato Green-N concentrate (regular Yamato Green + Nitrate) every day. When I test the water in the morning, before adding the Yamato, iron reads zero and nitrate is usually between 0 and 1.5 ppm (virtually zero). I've started adding a capful of flourish-iron as well. So far, the plants are still sucking all of it up each day. I'm guessing that these are indications that everyone is getting almost all of their nutrition from the water column... and could use more since algae growth is minimal.

Plant species that can feed through the leaves are thriving. For example, I throw away/give away a 1/2 trash can full of hygrophila difformis every couple of weeks to keep it in check. However, root feeders are beginning to look puny.

In addition to the laterite, I had planned to either use some Jobes fragments and/or make some PMDD+clay pellets and place them around the root feeders.

This tank grew swords and other root feeders like crazy for a long time, but it appears that they have finally sucked up everything they can find.

Is my diagnosis reasonable? Is my remedy reasonable?

Thanks!

Tim
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Old 01-19-2003, 06:50 PM   #6
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IMO, you should feed your root feeders with some jobes sticks for palms and ferns and feed your micros thru the water column. Up the dosage on your micros for a couple of weeks and see how that works.
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Old 01-20-2003, 05:26 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by m.lemay
IMO, you should feed your root feeders with some jobes sticks for palms and ferns and feed your micros thru the water column. Up the dosage on your micros for a couple of weeks and see how that works.
That's certainly a lot less work!

I'll give it a shot and see what happens.

Thanks!

Tim
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Old 01-20-2003, 01:59 PM   #8
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Jobe's Fern sticks will definitely boost growth on any root feeder, but in a well-established tank, part of what contributes towards root feeders to becoming somewhat dormant is a clogged substrate. Simply distrubing the substrate near my largest Amazon Sword was enough to bring it out of a slump. I then uprooted it altogether and trimmed the roots slightly and the difference in the leaves is amazing. Much thicker and fuller.

Laterite and Fluorite will definitely help by increasing Cation Exchange, but neither Laterite (CEC = 2.7 me./100g) or Fluorite (CEC = 1.7 me./100g) have even close to to the Cation Exchange Capacity of Tetra's Initial Sticks (CEC = 83.0 me./100g). Initial Sticks also have a 1-0-25, supplementing only minimal nitrogen, neglecting phosphorus (leaving that to the prodigious decay and detritus that accumulates in an established substrate) but supplements significant potassium, which most planted tanks lack. You really can't have too much potassium anyway.

So if I were you, I'd just stir up and vacuum the gravel around your root feeders, and then inject an entire package of Initial Sticks. Then after a few months, slide a few Jobe's sticks in there. That should get those root feeders to come right back to life!
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Old 01-20-2003, 04:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by GulfCoastAquarian
Jobe's Fern sticks will definitely boost growth on any root feeder, but in a well-established tank, part of what contributes towards root feeders to becoming somewhat dormant is a clogged substrate. Simply distrubing the substrate near my largest Amazon Sword was enough to bring it out of a slump. I then uprooted it altogether and trimmed the roots slightly and the difference in the leaves is amazing. Much thicker and fuller.
Thats a very good point Sam. My swords seem to get root bound fairly quickly which can stagnate the substrate in that area. Simply pulling it out and replanting it gives them a nice boost. I think I'll do mine this week.


Marcel
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Old 01-21-2003, 03:14 AM   #10
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Thanks for all the replies and ideas!

I've ground up some initial sticks, added some water, and used the pellet maker to make some bigger 1/2" diameter x 1" long initial stick plugs. They're drying on a plate now. When they get dry enough to handle, I'll stir up/vacuum the gravel around the root feeders and zap some "initial plugs" under them and we'll see what happens!

Thanks again!

Tim
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