Getting an Iron reading (any at all)
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Old 09-22-2004, 03:25 PM   #1
scolley
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Getting an Iron reading (any at all)


I'm in my 6th month of my first planted tank. What great fun! Made all the typical start-up mistakes, and been through all the usual trauma's (algal blooms, snails, pH swings...) and the tank is excellent now. Stable and lovely.

I've held off on serious dosing, as it is clearly non-trivial, and until recently just did weekly doses of Seachem Flourish with each 1/3 water change. I have recently switched to Tropica Master Grow, and moved to daily dosing.

I've been trying get to the point where phosphate is my limiting nutrient to better control algae. A post on the Krib suggest a path to doing that, but the first step is getting your doses set to keep an even iron reading at something like 0.1 ppm, or just above that. Thus my problem. I can't get an iron reading from tank samples.

I had a Red Sea iron test kit - worthless. Could not get a reading from the tank, and could not even get a reading with a concentrated Tropica Master Grow solution. Into the garbage with that kit...

I switched to a Seachem Iron test kit, and cannot get a reading out of my tank water. It reads the supplied 0.4 ppm reference solution perfectly (once 1 drop is mixed w/ 1L of distilled water). And a test Master Grow solution reads off the chart. But it does not read at all from samples from the tank.

I even diluted the supplied 0.4 ppm reference sample with 3 more parts distilled water to come up with a 0.1 ppm reference sample. That reads wonderfully.

So to get my iron up to 0.1 ppm, I spent a week dosing the Master Grow at 1ml daily - no iron to be found. The next week I dosed at 2ml daily, more than twice what Tropica recommends, and still no iron. Now I've started 4ml daily and am still waiting on that iron! My 0.1 Fe reference sample still reads great.

I'm worried about OD'ing my tank on other nutrients before my iron comes up to the proper level.

Any advice? Can I just keep on daily dosing with Master Grow until my iron is OK?

Thanks in advance,

PS - this is my first post, anywhere, so apologies if I've violated any rules of decorum.
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Old 09-22-2004, 03:59 PM   #2
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No one I know tests iron. It's basically impossible to get an accurate reading when your at levels as low as we desire.

I didn't even know SeaChem made an iron test...that's interesting. Basically from what I've gathered, the iron in Flourish Iron can't be read by any iron test kits out there. They might use the same iron in their comprehensive plant fert too.
i've never used TMG so I don't know what they use.

I've heard that UV sterilizers can strip nutrients from the water (the UV light breaks em down)...and Iron has problems staying in solution as it is.

Also, you have 4wpg, and CO2, which is great...but it seems like a lot of your plants are low-low/medium light (riccia's the only high light plant I see). You shouldn't be tearing through nutrients like crazy.
I think if you got some flourish Iron and just dosed a little every other day, you'd be fine.

If the plants aren't showing signs of a deficency, i wouldn't freak over iron levels
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Old 09-22-2004, 04:19 PM   #3
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If you want to get a reading from the seachem kit, you need to let it sit for an hour up to a day? More on the APD about this.

Quote:
"I've been trying get to the point where phosphate is my limiting nutrient to better control algae. A post on the Krib suggest a path to doing that, but the first step is getting your doses set to keep an even iron reading at something like 0.1 ppm, or just above that. Thus my problem. I can't get an iron reading from tank samples."
This is old ways of thinking. For more current ways of fertilizing read these,
http://www.sfbaaps.com/reference/barr_02_01.shtml
http://www.aquatic-plants.org/est_index1.html

I wouldn't worry about Iron until you get the macros under control, NPK. Us a calculator to figure out how much iron you are adding,
http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forum/fertilator.php
Target levels,
http://www.aquascapingjournals.com/j...llon_setup.htm

How is the tank doing, any problems?
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Old 09-22-2004, 05:49 PM   #4
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Thanks for the quick response folks. I must admit, on my first post (ever) I neglected to do something that is really important - thank everyone! This site, the excellent posts by memeber, and the very active planted tank community on the web in general, have all been a HUGE help. Thank you.

What I now is humble, but it is a lovely and thriving small tank. Loaded with plants, loaded with fish, and a true joy to have. Thank you all for your posted wisdom and guidance, without which, this would have been impossible for me.

Now back to the blank iron test problem...


Malkore, I certainly cannot tell you that the UV is not stripping nutrients. But I can tell you that I let the tank run with zero changes (other than my long established maintenance schedule) for several weeks prior to the UV going in, and several weeks afterword. And for the life of my I could neither observe, nor measure, any change. But the periodic free floating algal blooms stopped - haven't seen one of those since.

As for the 4wpg, I kept upping the wattage until I got everything pearling pretty much every day. The only thing that really seems to dislike the light is the Dwarf Anubias. I would swear everything else enjoys it. But who knows...

Thanks for the good advice.

IUnknown, I didn't mention the timing on the test kit. To get a good reading, I found I had to let the color saturate for several (4-6) hours before it finally stabilized. Even then, it was a bit less than the kit showed. So I've been proceeding with more faith in the 0.1 ppm reference sample I made up, than the colors in the kit. So to test, now I'm just waiting for test sample vial to get as pink as the 0.1 reference vial. Except of course, the tank water never turns the test vial pink at all, even after 36 hours.

I took a gander that the links you provided, and they are clearly much in advance of what I'd seen to this point. Thanks a mil! I'll post a response after I've had a chance to absorb all this new information.

I should mention that I've been using TMG only because I don't trust my ability to accurately mix my own batch (or PMDD). I'd hate to kill my tank because I got the concentration wrong on something by a factor of 10, 100, or 1,000. Which looks kind of easy to do for a newbie.

Thanks for asking about the tank. It's pretty good. No algae free, but low algae. The plants are pretty healthy, thought with all of the light, some are tending heavily toward red/maroon leaves, which I love. The fish seem really low stressed too - very little darting about - and spending a lot of time out in the open.

Thanks for the great advice. I'll respond again after I have a chance to absorb all this info!
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Old 09-22-2004, 09:58 PM   #5
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A UV light breaks down the chelated iron molecule and causes the iron to not be biologically available.

Limiting any one nutrient to limit algae is an idea that has been disproved. If you read further into the Sears and Conlin paper you will find that in the end they had to add phosphates to keep plant growth going.


PMDD is pretty easy to do but not the path I chose to go. I prefer to dose each nutrient as needed. With Chuck Gadd's nutrient calculator it's pretty hard to make a big mistake.

4 wpg on a 20 gallon tank is really not that high light. It's only 80 watts and might IMO make a medium light tank.
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Old 09-22-2004, 10:36 PM   #6
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Thanks Rex. I've visited your site in the past, and it's been really informative. Thanks.

I'm sure your right about the the lights, just from simple observation. Every day, for about an hour, the noon sun shines into my tank. Pearling action really picks up then. So when the ballasts start humming on my cheap NO strips (I gather that's inevitable), I'll be off for some power compacts with a bit more juice.

I'll take the advice, and give up the single nutrient path. Too bad though - sounded easy. But I'm really hessitant on dosing on a per nutrient dosing. I'm scared of messing someting up, now that the tank is smooth and happy. Dosing with something like TMG seems so idiot proof. I 've seen Chuck G's calculator, and I don't mind saying that it seems foolproof, provided you have the base set of knowlege to acquire and mix the required set of chemicals.

I guess I've got no choice but to keep on learning...

And if UV does indeed destroy the iron, that would explaing my inability to detect it in the water column. Does that mean that I either need to supply it in root sticks (tabs), or give up the UV? Oh, and I should have mentioned, I have a flourite substrate. Maybe that makes the roots sticks unnecessary.

Thanks again,
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Old 09-22-2004, 10:47 PM   #7
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Sorry, Rex, in my last reply I forgot to thank you specifically about your discussion about smaller tanks and the breakdown of normal WPG rules. (I think that was your site).

When I was convinced I was not running with enough light, the normal stuff about topping out at 3 WPG had me concerned. Your info on your site convinced me to plow ahead, and it was absolutely the right thing to do, for most of the plants anyway. They were clearly hungry for it, and they demonstrated it. Thanks,
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Old 09-23-2004, 03:46 PM   #8
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dosing individual ferts is actually more foolproof than trying to make TMG fit all your needs. you could easily start by dosing 1ppm of nitrate, every other day, and test nitrates prior to dosing. that'll give you a sense of how quickly the plants use it up.

speaking in general terms if you keep your nitrates to phosphates ratio at 10:1, you shouldn't run into problems. If you're still nerverous, go for 15:1 or even 20:1.

Like Rex, I don't do PMDD...that doesn't give me enough control, and it feels lazy to me. Occasionally my plants need PO4...sometiems they need NO3. They can usually benefit from K, iron, and traces. A single mix isn't gonna satisfy all those needs.

I too was very wary of dosing raw macros. the important thing to remember is that everything happens slowly. If you monitor the water and look at the plants daily, you'll see signs of pending problems before they reach a disasterous level. The simple solution would be a few water changes to export the excess nutrients, adn then try again.

Just to give you an idea...I got lazy on my 75gallon in August. no testing, just dosing some macros.
about 10 days ago I tested my water: 40ppm nitrate, 2.5ppm phosphate. But..no algae. Still, I did about a 70% water change, and the plants went nuts over it! I had pearling like I haven't had in months.
I by no means consider myself an expert...but I've got enough confidence to tinker around and see what works...and that's a huge part of the plant keeping hobby.
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Old 09-23-2004, 05:53 PM   #9
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Thanks Malkore. I've had similar water change experiences, wish I knew what that is about.

This thread has started with the "why can't I get an iron reading", and has turned more into an education for me (Thanks). I think I'm going to open a new thrread with my outstanding questions on the "how-to"s of dosing,

But to be true to the intent of this thread, I think I'll do a little experiment with my 1/3 water change Friday, to see if UV really does break down the detectable iron.

I do 25 to 50% water changes every Friday (depending on how far I want to shift my KH down - we have real soft water). My target iron level in the water column is just over .1, call it 0.15 ppm. So, I'll mix enough Flourish Iron with the new water to bring it, not the tank, up to that level. That way, if I've already got too much iron in the tank (but something is wrong with my measuring) it won't get worse, and if there is no iron in the tank water, I should at least be able to detect something.

Then turn off the UV and measure Iron for a few days, see if it remains, not declining too fast. If the plants don't rip it down to unmeasureable levels, I turn on the UV and see if it magically disapears.

Any thoughts on that?

And I'm taking everyones advice, and will start to doses as required, per nutrient. But I want to close off on the question of whether UV destroys iron in the water.
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Old 09-23-2004, 06:02 PM   #10
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When I was using UV, I would only run it for a day after the WC. This kills free floating algae, and after that, there is no reason to use the UV. But, yeah, I thought it was a problem with Iron.
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Old 09-23-2004, 06:18 PM   #11
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IUnknown, I really have it for the algae too, but I keep reading anecdotal evidence that it keeps the fish healthier too. I don't know if that is true, but I do know that my fish always appear very healthy. No exceptions, except of course the clams, who may not be getting enough to eat. But they are a clam. How would you know.

So I can't claim great fish health due to full time UV. But I'm not sure it hurts, and until the concensus is in on this question, I'd just as soon leave it on. If I have to, I'll just get the iron in the substrate (which is already flourish, so I assume that wouldn't have to me much).
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Old 09-24-2004, 01:46 AM   #12
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Finding what to dose is easy. www.gregwatson.com
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Old 10-01-2004, 03:02 PM   #13
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Quote:
Like Rex, I don't do PMDD...that doesn't give me enough control, and it feels lazy to me. Occasionally my plants need PO4...sometiems they need NO3. They can usually benefit from K, iron, and traces. A single mix isn't gonna satisfy all those needs.
I'd like to help clarify the above comment ...

This is one of the most common "modern" misconceptions ... that is, that PMDD is a rigid fixed "recipe" ... PMDD is a philosophy of dosing the right ratio of ingredients to meet the unique nutrient uptake requirments of each individual planted tank.

The "current" recipe is simply a starting place ... not a rigid fixed ending place.

So for example, back when I was keeping a 180 gallon planted show Discus tank, I was getting all of the nitrate I needed from a heavy beef heart diet and fish waste ... I dosed lots of Potassium Sulfate, Plantex CSM, and periodically additional Iron and Phosphate ... this is a PMDD philosophy of dosing ... dosing the right ratio of nutrients to meet the unique uptake requirements of a specific planted aquarium ...

Both Sears and Conlin were very reluctant to publish a "recipe" because they understood that it would be easy for people to follow a "recipe" without understanding the underlying relationships and ratios between the various macro and micro nutrients requirements of individual tanks, water conditions, lighting conditions, and plant requirements ... the key concept that is often overlooked, is that the PMDD Philosophy is designed to adjust those ratios of nutrients to meet the unique nutrient uptake requirements of your plants.

Greg
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Old 10-02-2004, 12:56 AM   #14
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Greg,

You are totally correct. But way too many people follow the recipe without further study. In fact many people are unaware that Sears and Conlin actually ended up adding phosphates to keep the plants growing. PMDD works quite well as long as one understands that the published recipe is not the end of the journey but the beginning.
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Old 10-02-2004, 01:04 AM   #15
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Test you water, and adjust based on test results, not an empirical formula.

I find my tank barely needs phosphates, but chews through nitrates like they are going out of style.

I dose NO3, PO4 and Plantex individually. It is my opinion that most people under dose traces. When I doubled my trace dose, the plants responded with colors never seen before.

Of course you can't test for trace elements, but I belive a balance can be achieved by looking at your tank and plants and using Chuck's calculator.
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