Plants not growing. Need advice. - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-09-2019, 05:48 PM Thread Starter
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Plants not growing. Need advice.

Hi All

I've been in the hobby for over 40 years, and african cichlids mostly for the last 20 or so. A little history on my planted tank experience, back in the mid 80s, I had a 30 long with plants and a 29 gallon. Both tanks just had natural aquarium gravel with some tetra brand red clay mixed with it and I also dosed the water column with some liquid tetra fertilizer. both tanks had glass covers with 2 cool white fluorescent tubes. My plants flourished. I had jungle val, swords, crypts, banana plants, maybe a few I can't recall but both tanks thrived. I had to cull the jungle val often. I used well water without any treatment other than liquid fertilizer.

Fast forward to last summer, different house but same general area. Using well water with PH about neutral, must have lots of calcium as there are white deposits around all my filters, africans thrive and breed in my water. I decided to start a plant tank again using a 29 gallon tank. I'm using seachem flourite as a substrate (Red), Beamswork DA 6500 plant LED (Had good reviews on Amazon from PLanted tank users). Tank is open, no cover. Just a small back filter with inert media. I'm currently on my second round of plants from Dustins, Jungle val, various supposedly grow in a toilet swords, elodea. I dose the water column per instructions with Dustins growth juice. Now to the problem, plant growth is almost non-existent. The vals died back and new growth is only 3". They send out runners but the baby plants open up and lay flat on the substrate and that's about it, 2" of flat vals. Sword plants start to send up new leaves and then quick growing entirely. elodea is the only plant growing ok. Everything is now covered in fury algae (For lack of a better term). I keep thinking this shouldn't be this hard since I had great results in the past. My nitrite reads zero, and so does my nitrate. Not sure how accurate the test kits are.

Two things come to mind, lighting seems much stronger than my old school setups. Maybe plants are nutrient deficient?
No glass cover allowing what minimum co2 I get in a low tech tank is escaping?

I'm at wits end with this tank but don't want to give up. Whatever the solution is I feel I should purchase another batch of plants since my seem in kind of sad shape right now. I was thinking of using a more comprehensive liquid fertilizer like thrive for low tech tanks. I also entertained removing substrate and adding a base of soil ala Walstad....

Let me know your thoughts please....
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-09-2019, 07:19 PM
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Originally Posted by KLRCris View Post
Hi All



I've been in the hobby for over 40 years, and african cichlids mostly for the last 20 or so. A little history on my planted tank experience, back in the mid 80s, I had a 30 long with plants and a 29 gallon. Both tanks just had natural aquarium gravel with some tetra brand red clay mixed with it and I also dosed the water column with some liquid tetra fertilizer. both tanks had glass covers with 2 cool white fluorescent tubes. My plants flourished. I had jungle val, swords, crypts, banana plants, maybe a few I can't recall but both tanks thrived. I had to cull the jungle val often. I used well water without any treatment other than liquid fertilizer.



Fast forward to last summer, different house but same general area. Using well water with PH about neutral, must have lots of calcium as there are white deposits around all my filters, africans thrive and breed in my water. I decided to start a plant tank again using a 29 gallon tank. I'm using seachem flourite as a substrate (Red), Beamswork DA 6500 plant LED (Had good reviews on Amazon from PLanted tank users). Tank is open, no cover. Just a small back filter with inert media. I'm currently on my second round of plants from Dustins, Jungle val, various supposedly grow in a toilet swords, elodea. I dose the water column per instructions with Dustins growth juice. Now to the problem, plant growth is almost non-existent. The vals died back and new growth is only 3". They send out runners but the baby plants open up and lay flat on the substrate and that's about it, 2" of flat vals. Sword plants start to send up new leaves and then quick growing entirely. elodea is the only plant growing ok. Everything is now covered in fury algae (For lack of a better term). I keep thinking this shouldn't be this hard since I had great results in the past. My nitrite reads zero, and so does my nitrate. Not sure how accurate the test kits are.



Two things come to mind, lighting seems much stronger than my old school setups. Maybe plants are nutrient deficient?

No glass cover allowing what minimum co2 I get in a low tech tank is escaping?



I'm at wits end with this tank but don't want to give up. Whatever the solution is I feel I should purchase another batch of plants since my seem in kind of sad shape right now. I was thinking of using a more comprehensive liquid fertilizer like thrive for low tech tanks. I also entertained removing substrate and adding a base of soil ala Walstad....



Let me know your thoughts please....
Plants need light + CO2 + macro (NPK) + micro + calcium & magnesium

Vals can make use of carbonate hardness (KH) instead of CO2.

My guess is that you need to dose a macro fertilizer and/or reduce your light / schedule.

I think you would want to target 5-10ppm Nitrates. With 0 ppm you are probably deficient.

That seems consistent with the type of algae you have:

http://www.theplantedtank.co.uk/algae.htm
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-09-2019, 07:30 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your input. I have a bottle of Thrive on the way. I currently have my light on a timer set for 8 hours. Do you feel I should cut that down or add a glass top maybe to reduce intensity (May keep more Co2 in also?) My light does not have dim capability. I was really scratching my head on the Vals though, previous experience had them thriving in a dimly lit African cichlid tank with dolomite substrate where they were constantly uprooting them. I always though of them as indestructible.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-09-2019, 08:43 PM
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Vallisneria is pretty darn indestructible. Only times I've seen people have trouble with it is when dosing with excel, it doesn't seem to react very well it and causes it to melt for a short time.

When your plants aren't growing and algae is there is usually a pretty prevalent limiting factor that isn't allowing your plants to flourish. Your nitrate levels are the current smoking gun here and until those are amended the plants will only grow as more nitrate is readily available. That's where I would definitely start in combating the issue.
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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-09-2019, 10:30 PM
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Originally Posted by KLRCris View Post
Thanks for your input. I have a bottle of Thrive on the way. I currently have my light on a timer set for 8 hours. Do you feel I should cut that down or add a glass top maybe to reduce intensity (May keep more Co2 in also?) My light does not have dim capability. I was really scratching my head on the Vals though, previous experience had them thriving in a dimly lit African cichlid tank with dolomite substrate where they were constantly uprooting them. I always though of them as indestructible.
I would probably just dose Thrive for now unless the algae is taking over. Easier to change one thing at a time.

I have a glass lid so my fish don't jump out and it reduces heating cost and evaporation, and also reduces light a little.

I do not expect it to have a CO2 Impact unless you inject. You can get higher than atmospheric CO2 either through injection or from an organic soil layer (walstad tank). I would not recommend glutaraldehyde as it doesn't really add CO2 and in your case could melt your Val's.

Side question - the neutral pH of your tap surprised me. Do you have a KH/GH test? Some people have GH and no KH, also it is possible to have magnesium w/o calcium and vice versa - as GH measure the sum of both.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-10-2019, 04:12 AM
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I dose the water column per instructions with Dustins growth juice.
Quote:
My nitrite reads zero, and so does my nitrate.
Do you have any information as to what is in the bottle (ingredients for example). There is no information on the web site. Plants need 14 nutrients to grow. IF just one is missing you might get no growth. Most fertilizers on the market are missing at least one nutrient (typically calcium). Most fertilizers really on you water source to provide the the nutrients the fertilizer doesn't have.

Dustins growth juice is listed as an all in one fertilizer on Dustins web page. However you arn''t detecting any nitrate in your tank. That tells me growth juice is an incomplete fertilizer because you should be seeing some nitrate. Hopefully the Thrive you have ordered will work.

The other possibility is that your water might have too much of some nutrient that is preventing plant growth. Do you have any lab data that lists what is in your water? If not you could send a sample of your water to ICP-Analysis.com.It will tell you what is in your water down to a level of 0.001ppm. It will detect all plant nutrients except nitrogen.
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-10-2019, 12:58 PM Thread Starter
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First, thank you all for your insight!

I really have no idea what is in Dustins growth juice as it does not seem to be listed anywhere. Dustin is a dirt tank enthusiast so it may be the growth juice is incomplete. I'm not on a municipal water supply but a deep well as I live in the hinterlands of RI. I've never had the water tested but that may be a good idea as pointed out above. I think now there is little doubt that there is a deficiency of some sort. I've watched quite a few of the waterbox vids on youtube about driving plants hard with strong light but not enough nutrients which seems like my situation to some degree. Again, I'm still baffled by the Val not growing as I've seen it thriving at my local retailers in dismal lighting with only inert aquarium gravel. My thought is to clean up as much algae as I can, try to clean the plants off, maybe add some new ones and dose with Thrive and see what happens. do you feel I should cut the photo period down to 6 hours? Currently at 8. Is there a decent test kit that can measure the water parameters that would benefit plants?
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-10-2019, 04:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KLRCris View Post
First, thank you all for your insight!



I really have no idea what is in Dustins growth juice as it does not seem to be listed anywhere. Dustin is a dirt tank enthusiast so it may be the growth juice is incomplete. I'm not on a municipal water supply but a deep well as I live in the hinterlands of RI. I've never had the water tested but that may be a good idea as pointed out above. I think now there is little doubt that there is a deficiency of some sort. I've watched quite a few of the waterbox vids on youtube about driving plants hard with strong light but not enough nutrients which seems like my situation to some degree. Again, I'm still baffled by the Val not growing as I've seen it thriving at my local retailers in dismal lighting with only inert aquarium gravel. My thought is to clean up as much algae as I can, try to clean the plants off, maybe add some new ones and dose with Thrive and see what happens. do you feel I should cut the photo period down to 6 hours? Currently at 8. Is there a decent test kit that can measure the water parameters that would benefit plants?
I think most people just use the API freshwater master kit + GK/KH.

If you see specific deficiencies the you may want to get a test kit for those:

* Calcium to test MG and CA
* Iron test kit

The PPS PRO site has detailed instructions on how to test those:

https://sites.google.com/site/aquati...ts-and-testing

If you want to see the rest of the site you need to click the little door on the top left to open the side bar.

Three thoughts (If increasing nitrates doesn't solve it - which my guess is it may).

* Do you have a whole house R/O system with the well? That can cause issues because it removes all GH/KH from the water and the salts that it should add back in for human consumption are bad for plants and fish - so you would need to get water before the R/O system
* Throw in some carbon - just for a few months to see if it makes a difference - maybe the water has something inside the plants don't like
* Check some deficiency charts and their description (that is important because sometime the pictures are only a part) such as https://arbeitskreis-wasserpflanzen....tome&sprache=E (that is how I found out I had iron + mg deficiency in my first tank)

Last check tap water a few times, it may change values seasonally e.g. with rain
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-11-2019, 01:32 PM Thread Starter
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No RO unit in use on my water supply. Using some carbon is not a bad idea.I ordered test kits yesterday so I will wait until they arrive before proceeding further. I looked at a few deficiency charts and I find that what most closely relates is tiny new leaves that fail to mature and grow once the pop out. The sword plants new leaves start growing from the center of the plant and then stop dead in their tracks. Pretty much the same for everything else with the exception of my elodea. The mature, original leaves do not show much of anything other than they get completely covered with brownish, red fuzzy algae as well as the stems on the plants. As I mentioned above, the original val plants only grew to about 3" and stopped. They keep sending shoots that open and lay flat on substrate and grow no further. It like I'm trying to grow plants in a vat of acid. Anecdotally, my fish are all thriving and breeding in my other aquariums so at least I know the water can support animal life. It does seem like a severe deficiency of some sort. I'll test the water once the kits arrive, clean up the Algae, partial water change and does with thrive. Keeping my fingers crossed.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-12-2019, 02:20 PM Thread Starter
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A little update

After some reading on this forum, I realized I was not shaking the API nitrate bottle #2 vigorously enough. I retested for Nitrate last night and found them to be between 60-80 PPM Yikes!!! No wonder Algae has gone crazy. I'm still waiting for my other tests kits but I guess a nitrate deficiency is not the cause. The plants I have in there seem to be pretty much toast at this point so I'm thinking of a large partial water change, new plants, test and dose as necessary with Thrive. I do appreciate everyone's help here. I'm still hoping for a tank full of thriving plants.
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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-12-2019, 05:44 PM
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I do not expect it to have a CO2 Impact unless you inject. You can get higher than atmospheric CO2 either through injection or from an organic soil layer (walstad tank). I would not recommend glutaraldehyde as it doesn't really add CO2 and in your case could melt your Val's.
Excel/glutaraldehyde isn't necessary incompatible with vals. I use it at the recommended dose, and my val actually started growing better because it helped with the algae--and it soon started taking over the tank. Many others on here have also reported they've successfully acclimated their vals to glut. You might start at a half dose and slowly ramp up (though I just started at full dose and they did fine) The only minor problem I noticed that if I had to trim the leaves, the trimmed ends would die back. Seems the cut ends were susceptible to the glut, but intact leaves weren't.

I'd definitely cut back on the light as others have suggested. I have the same Beamswork light and made the same mistake when I started up my tank--and had huge algae problems as a result. Floating plants could help both cut the light and soak up all your nitrates. Red root floaters are my favorite, as is water sprite since you can also plant it in the substrate when you don't need the shade anymore. And hornwort supposedly has an alleopathic effect against algae--though it may just be the shade and nutrient removal.

Hope this helps. Good luck, and keep us posted.
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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-12-2019, 09:51 PM
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A little update

After some reading on this forum, I realized I was not shaking the API nitrate bottle #2 vigorously enough. I retested for Nitrate last night and found them to be between 60-80 PPM Yikes!!! No wonder Algae has gone crazy. I'm still waiting for my other tests kits but I guess a nitrate deficiency is not the cause. The plants I have in there seem to be pretty much toast at this point so I'm thinking of a large partial water change, new plants, test and dose as necessary with Thrive. I do appreciate everyone's help here. I'm still hoping for a tank full of thriving plants.

Be aware that if you’ve done enough tests without shaking bottle properly (say 20-25 or more of the 90 tests in bottle) that the ratio of compounds in that bottle are now off and tests will now always read higher than they actually are.
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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-16-2019, 01:21 PM Thread Starter
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Update

Received my other test kits.

The readings so far

PH = 7.6
KH = 53.7 PPM
GH = 143.2 PPM

Above are in the tank and also the same coming out of my well.

Nitrates coming out of my well read between 5-10 PPM? Could be my test kit as mentioned above but I did not really do many tests before figuring out I was not shaking it enough.

Is the GH number a concern for live plants? I've read differing opinions on that number. I guess if it is, I could lower it using API softening pillow in my back filter.

I did a 50 % water change yesterday and cleaned the plants that looked fairly healthy and tossed the rest. My plan is to purchase enough plants to plant heavy and dose weekly with thrive and weekly partial water changes as they recommend.

I've also considered using root tabs. Again, I do not have soil under my red fluorite. Would root tabs be a good idea or should I start with just thrive dosing?

Would CO2 be a good option without soil substrate? (I'm an Engineer so I love gadgets....lol) It seems like this shouldn't be necessary with so called easy plants like val and swords. I had some water sprite and it just got covered in algae, shriveled up and died. No growth at all much like all the rest.

My swords do not look to bad since cleaning the algae off of them. They just do not produce any new growth.
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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-16-2019, 05:16 PM
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3 dKH is great and 8 dGH is within reason.

Nitrates in the well would indicate agricultural run off. Would it be easy to run the tap through a carbon filter?

There is a desired Nitrate to Phosphate ratio between 1:10 - 1:15. So you may want to get a test and dose say 1-2 ppm Phosphate to get a 1:10 ratio. I wouldn't dose higher than 2-3 ppm Phosphate.

For water changes I recommend to look at this calculator to figure out your optimal schedule:

https://rotalabutterfly.com/accumulation-calculator.php

Swords like root tabs, so get some for the sword.


CO2 is great - If that is an option. I bought a used dual stage regulator and built it up, similar to https://www.diyco2regulator.com

It definitely helps, but also you end up having to trim every week...

That said, I am not sure CO2 is the issue.

I would dose Thrive at the recommended dose - you basically want make sure you have all the necessary nutrients available.

Also check multiple deficiency sites, like the one I linked before. The new leaves that stop growing should be a good indication on what the deficiency is.
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post #15 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-17-2019, 01:25 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks FPN

I ordered some root tabs and dosed with Thrive last night. I have my lighting set to 6 hours (Dustin recommends 6 hours as a base time) currently and will monitor. I'll stay on the weekly 20-30% water change recommended on the Thrive bottle for now.

I'm still considering CO2. I am clueless about this but Amazon has some well rated regulator setups for around $60.00 shipped. FZONE is the brand. I comes with bubble counter so looks like I'd need a diffuser, drop checker and tubing. I have an Air Gas down the street from where I work. What type of bottle would I use? I'm assuming food grade 20 lb? (If I decide to go this route anyway)

I won't go crazy making changes just yet. I should be able to get some positive results with root tab's an thrive I'm thinking. May add CO2 once I get a better handle on things as it seems to really create lush growth.

I did check numerous deficiency charts but they can be a little ambiguous (At least to my plant newb brain)
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