Root Tabs and Liquid Fert - Page 3 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #31 of 45 (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Phil Edwards View Post
cl,
It's easy for those of us with more experience and/or more detailed knowledge of biology and/or chemistry to say "Use product XYZ" or "Do ABC, not DEF." because we have a deeper information base on which to draw....

If I hadn't done my master's thesis in substrates for growing aquatic plants then I would still be leery of adding a rich terrestrial fertilizer to my tank.
It nice to see people who actually studied in this field in academia participating on this board regularly. My PHd was in Physical and Organometallic chemistry. My publications are on Researchgate, they are in Organometallic synthesis and Physical Chemistry particularly SSNMR (J. Geller et. al McGill). Did you by any chance publish anything during your Masters or beyond?, I'd be interested in reading your research on substrates if you have anything you would like to share.

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I agree with you, Osmocote is the superior overall nutrient supplement; particularly for high-demand systems. It's also very rich and can cause significant problems if used improperly or when something goes wrong.
I don't understand the speed of release of Osmocote Plus (gel cap) versus Fluorish tabs, versus Thrive Caps for that matter or comparatively how efficient tabs are used by plants versus column dosing. Do you have any specific information on that or research studies or guidelines?

How do you know how much the plant is uptaking, how do you control the release?
What do you expect to see in plants that are showing a toxicity from root tabs?

Quote:
The Flourish Tab + Flourish liquid combo has worked well for me too in "low tech" low demand systems. It all depends on the needs of the system. If nutrient demand is modest and the plants are doing well with the macros they get from other sources, the combination of Flourish Tabs and Flourish liquid can work very well to supplement minor and micro nutrient needs.
Both Fluorish and Fluorish tabs are significant sources of Micros not Macros. Just reading even the commentary from Seachem on the Fluorish liquid bottle confirms this.

Fluorish liquid has even less Nitrogen in it than the tabs 0.07%!, and that is why you then have to dose Fluorish Nitrogen and Phosphorus if using the Seachem system.

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To distill the answer down; even experienced people use them because they work.
The videos I watch are dominated by aquascapers sponsored by Seachem, I am sure many people use it but I wonder if they would continue to do so if they understood how diluted and expensive comparatively the whole product line is.

If you can grow your tank with 1ppm N every two weeks and that is enough, your problem would be potential overdosing not underdosing as long as you knew that, any fertilizer should work.

At least Seachem doesn't hide the ingredients used to prepare like other brands like Tropica. Seachem Nitrogen is KNO3 and salts including Urea which by looking at N:K is like ~60% Urea/Ammonia and ~40% Potassium Nitrate if I did my math correctly. When you dose lean it seems important that the plants uptake what little Nitrogen their is efficiently so using reduced N as opposed to Nitrates is important as long as you don't add too much Ammonia to cause Bacteria or Algae Bloom.

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If they didn't work then folks who know what they're doing wouldn't use them. It's also about a system's needs. Sometimes a system needs a high nutrient additive and sometimes it doesn't. In the end, it all comes down to the individual aquarist's needs and comfort level with a given product. "Sometimes we feel like a nut, sometimes we don't.".
I struggle with this often. My LFS owner who I trust is convinced that its important to add Seachem Stability to prevent algae and diatoms at the beginning of a tank setup. At startup he says even with cycled media from a well established filter, he still would add Stability initially and for the first few months. Even after years he adds stability to his shrimp tanks for "strengthening" the bacteria monthly. I have no idea if this is by tradition or if there is any benefit to it whatsoever.

If someone who I didn't know tried to sell me Seachem stability the Scientist in me would say, I already have sufficient bacteria in my filter why would I add dormant spores to my tank, bacteria will grow rapidly without adding something much more dilute than what is already in the filter.

The hobbyist thinking however might be is something like, "Well this guy knows what he is doing and he reccomends it and I don't want to take a chance with Algae so I'll buy the 10 dollar bottle of bacteria even though I will never know if it helped or not".
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Last edited by cl3537; 05-14-2019 at 06:48 PM. Reason: ...
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post #32 of 45 (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 06:36 PM
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As i was saying, just look up one.

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Originally Posted by Phil Edwards View Post
You're absolutely right about over all experience being important, that peoples' individual experiences vary, and I agree with what you've said. You got into the installation/maintenance side of the industry after falling in love with the hobby and I fell down the rabbit hole of plant and aquatic sciences to get into the technical side of the industry after falling in love with the hobby. I think we're both coming from similar backgrounds that are different sides of the same coin. I've experienced too many people who followed poor, but well intentioned, advice and have had so many problems that they almost quit or did quit to not be blunt about it. Does that make me an [censored][censored][censored][censored][censored][censored][censored]? I hope not, but I'm certainly more curmudgeonly than I used to be.
I think your tone and the way you share your experience is excellent. Unfortunately all too often newbies come on and are bombarded with scientific theory/conjecture that complicate things far too much for them to digest and they run for the exit. It's a wild west show and it's hard for some to know who actually is simply talking the talk and who has actually walked the walk.


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post #33 of 45 (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 07:22 PM
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It nice to see people who actually studied in this field in academia participating on this board regularly. My PHd was in Physical and Organometallic chemistry. My publications are on Researchgate, they are in Organometallic synthesis and Physical Chemistry particularly SSNMR (J. Geller et. al McGill). Did you by any chance publish anything during your Masters or beyond?, I'd be interested in reading your research on substrates if you have anything you would like to share.
You've got some experience that's way beyond me. Anything dealing with Organic chemistry in a directly applied setting is beyond me. My main chemistry background is in biogeochemistry and aquatic stuff as it pertains to aquatic ecology. I'm sure you could teach me a thing or fifty about the more detailed aspects of chemical mechanisms and such. I was working with the Army Corps of Engineers at the time of the gov't sequester and we lost our soft funding, meaning no PhD for me. The day we got that news was one of the saddest of my life. I envy you folks who have been able to pursue your curiosity as a career.

Sadly, the tissue digester crapped out on me in the middle of a digestion and I lost an entire species' worth of samples so the work was unpublishable. I'll be happy to answer specific questions as best as I can via PM. I don't want to derail this topic more than I already have.

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I don't understand the speed of release of Osmocote Plus (gel cap) versus Fluorish tabs, versus Thrive Caps for that matter or comparatively how efficient tabs are used by plants versus column dosing. Do you have any specific information on that or research studies or guidelines?
I don't have any experience with Thrive's tab/cap product so I can't really speak to that. In my practical experience with Flourish Tabs vs. DIY Osmocote gelcaps the Flourish Tabs dissolve and distribute faster than the Osmocote since they have no coating. This is purely observational and not quantified.

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How do you know how much the plant is uptaking, how do you control the release?
What do you expect to see in plants that are showing a toxicity from root tabs?
I don't have any numbers about uptake or release rates. I wish I did! To the best of my knowledge I haven't experienced toxicity issues using tabs as I bury them as deeply as possible and and generally 1/2ish inches away from an individual plant such as a sword or bunch of stems with the intent of avoiding damage from direct contact and letting diffusion bring the nutrients to the root zone. If there were to be toxicity issues I would possible root damage or stunting relative to nearby plants. With nearly every treatment I did that had direct nutrient supplementation the root systems stayed in the sand cap rather than extend deeply into the substrate as the material got severely reducing. Aquatic plants have adapted so well to rooting into pretty hostile environments and aquatic soils have such complex biogeochemical processes going on that I wouldn't expect there to be much damage to the plants overall. So many of the toxic chemicals get oxidized and effectively neutralized as they diffuse into an active and healthy root system that I wouldn't expect significant concentrations of harmful materials.


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Both Fluorish and Fluorish tabs are significant sources of Micros not Macros. Just reading even the commentary from Seachem on the Fluorish liquid bottle confirms this.

Fluorish liquid has even less Nitrogen in it than the tabs 0.07%!, and that is why you then have to dose Fluorish Nitrogen and Phosphorus if using the Seachem system.
Absolutely true. That's what I was talking to when speaking about high vs. low demand systems and the need to change supplementation to meet demand. In a low-light (low-tech) system with low demand for nutrients input from fish and decaying organic matter is often sufficient. Once someone's cut their teeth and wants to start doing things that require increasingly complex nutrient supplementation then their regimen needs to change.

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The videos I watch are dominated by aquascapers sponsored by Seachem, I am sure many people use it but I wonder if they would continue to do so if they understood how diluted and expensive comparatively the whole product line is.
Nearly all of the major manufacturer's goods are aimed at the general aquarium keeping populace. Dedicated plant hobbyists are a teeeeeeny tiiiiiiny fraction of the industry's overall market. Not only are we small in number relative to the general aquarium keeping populace, but we usually find other ways of supplementing our tanks; baking soda for carbonates and dry chemicals for nutrients, for example. Complete plant nutrient lines such as the Flourish and Florin (Brightwell) are more geared toward the casual or intermediate hobbyist and/or are only made because the people who run the company either a) believe in the plant hobby or b) need to continually introduce new products to stay relevant and compete with other companies. The owner of the company I used to work for flat out told me that he wouldn't do a plant line if he didn't need to stay competitive as the money it made was minuscule.

This also gets into the realm of subjective value. Their AquaVitro line was developed in part to address the needs of the higher demand systems of intermediate/more dedicated plant hobbyists require and I know a lot of people who have found value in that. Other people find more value in dealing with the more labor intensive and twitchier approach of dry chemicals. There's no disputing that dry materials provide more of a desired material per unit of currency spent, but they're also easier to screw up. For some people the extra buffer of dilute solutions and less worry is more valuable than the additional cost vs. dries or highly concentrated solutions. Liquids are also good for the general maintenance industry as it's easier to tell a client to add a cap of this and a cap of that every couple of days rather than dealing with varying amounts of six or seven different specific additives.

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Originally Posted by cl3537 View Post
I struggle with this often. My LFS owner who I trust is convinced that its important to add Seachem Stability to prevent algae and diatoms at the beginning of a tank setup. At startup he says even with cycled media from a well established filter, he still would add Stability initially and for the first few months. Even after years he adds stability to his shrimp tanks for "strengthening" the bacteria monthly. I have no idea if this is by tradition or if there is any benefit to it whatsoever.

If someone who I didn't know tried to sell me Seachem stability the Scientist in me would say, I already have sufficient bacteria in my filter why would I add dormant spores to my tank, bacteria will grow rapidly without adding something much more dilute than what is already in the filter.

The hobbyist thinking however might be is something like, well this guy knows what he is doing and I don't want to take a chance with Algae so I'll buy the 10 dollar bottle of bacteria even though I will never know if it helped or not.
The company I used to work for was one of the first to provide concentrated bacterial suspensions and I was able to get some pretty specific answers to the questions I had. My take away was for general freshwater use they're good for supplying the initial microbial population and for use after water changes since most people over-clean their filter media and/or use chlorinated water. Their also good for helping mitigate unexpected spikes and, depending on the microbe blend, targeting different sources of nutrients. My old company used a blend that was more effective at dealing with dissolved materials whereas the other blend was more effective at dealing with particulates.

With all of the extra attention dedicated hobbyists give their systems and what I expect to be higher frequency water changes coupled with proper hardware maintenance practices I don't feel that microbial suspensions are as useful to us as they are to the general hobby population.

You wouldn't be surprised at how many manufacturers out there put out products that "don't hurt anything" but give some perceived value even if they don't provide practical benefits. Seachem and Red Sea are the only two major manufacturers that I know of who actually have scientists on staff and proper labs. Cobalt's got a marine biologist with a Master's on staff and one of the owners has a background in aquatic sciences and years of experience working in a lab setting, but they don't make the liquid products they sell, so they only half count. As far as companies that actually put their analyses on their label, Seachem and NilocG are the only ones I know of who do that. Just like with terrestrial fertilizers such analyses are required by law and I have no idea how other supplement manufacturers get away without them.

I've never regretted over engineering a system, but often regretted under engineering one.
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Last edited by Phil Edwards; 05-14-2019 at 07:58 PM. Reason: Added some things I remembered after the original post.
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post #34 of 45 (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 08:00 PM
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@cl3537

McGill's a great school! My thesis advisor did some of his advanced studies there. I can't remember if it was his MS or PhD though.

I've never regretted over engineering a system, but often regretted under engineering one.
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post #35 of 45 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 12:10 AM
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Dedicated plant hobbyists are a teeeeeeny tiiiiiiny fraction of the industry's overall market. Not only are we small in number relative to the general aquarium keeping populace, but we usually find other ways of supplementing our tanks
This whole conversation has been a good one Phil. Very interesting to hear your perspective, especially given your experience.

As you said above, it's a very small world of planted tankers out there. And high tech CO2 injected tanks even smaller. We do get caught up in a lot of gobbledygook, but a high tech tank full of fast growing stems IS pretty complicated (at least for me!).

As to root tabs, I agree they are a good thing for a low tech tank that is not water column dosing. And that is the vast majority of folks who keep plants in an aquarium. I used them when I kept a very low tech tank for many, many years. In a higher tech tank, probably of little value if dosing anything remotely like EI.

You might remember Joe did an experiment a long time ago with them. In a high tech tank, he seeded one half with osmocote, and the other without, then planted the exact same plants in the exact same spots on either side. In general there was very little appreciable difference between the two sides. But keep in mind that was with heavy water column dosing.

Then you have the other extreme. I am sure you have been following Vin Kutty's latest experiment. Basically an active substrate LOADED with ferts (and whatever else he could find to dump in there). Almost no water column dosing, and he has said it's the easiest tank he has kept. Go figure, huh?

So like pretty much everything else in this hobby, no way to know what work in a tank until you try it. Much like your current tank, which will be a very interesting experiment in it's own right.
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post #36 of 45 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 12:21 AM
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Then you have the other extreme. I am sure you have been following Vin Kutty's latest experiment. Basically an active substrate LOADED with ferts (and whatever else he could find to dump in there). Almost no water column dosing, and he has said it's the easiest tank he has kept. Go figure, huh?
I haven't seen that thread, but super loading an active substrate sounds an awful lot like DIY (or recharging old) Amazonia. That's pretty much the goal with larding mine up with Osmocote.
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I've never regretted over engineering a system, but often regretted under engineering one.
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post #37 of 45 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 12:30 AM
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The shear amount of energy regarding typing seems extreme today.

Good thing no one met in person, it'd be an all day event!


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Growing is not that difficult.

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post #38 of 45 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 12:47 AM
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I haven't seen that thread, but super loading an active substrate sounds an awful lot like DIY (or recharging old) Amazonia. That's pretty much the goal with larding mine up with Osmocote.
It's in the Rotala Kill Tank thread.

Starts on page 46 on 8-29 last year.

Given what are you trying now, I think you will find it a very good read. He puts everything in there but the kitchen sink.
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post #39 of 45 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 03:44 AM
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Im going to take my GED and stay at a Holiday Inn .......
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im going to take my ged and stay at a holiday inn .......
lol!
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Im going to take my GED and stay at a Holiday Inn .......
Does it have a planted tank in the lobby?
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I've never regretted over engineering a system, but often regretted under engineering one.
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post #42 of 45 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 12:13 PM
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Does it have a planted tank in the lobby?
Does it comes with little bags of root tabs instead of mints being left on the pillows? LOL!
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Does it comes with little bags of root tabs instead of mints being left on the pillows? LOL!
They have one of those near me... I was frustrated to find that the continental breakfast didnt have spirulina... only brine shrimp and bloodworms. However the complimentary potassium and magnesium bevvies were nice.
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post #44 of 45 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 01:29 PM
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@cl3537

McGill's a great school! My thesis advisor did some of his advanced studies there. I can't remember if it was his MS or PhD though.
Yes its a good school or a great school depending upon the program.
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post #45 of 45 (permalink) Old 05-15-2019, 01:33 PM
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I will say getting back into aquariums a little was an eye opener. Nothing compared to how it use to be thats for sure. Have a drawer under my tank that looks almost like a chemistry lab. Still trying to find a balance without using Co2. The oldest girl (5) is really liking the tanks. She checks on the fishes/shrimps/snails everyday and has most of there common names down. Makes figuring everything out worth it. Now if I could just teach her to do tank maintenance I would be set lol.
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