"No fertilizers" - pictures of extremely healthy plants - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 272 (permalink) Old 05-27-2016, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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"No fertilizers" - pictures of extremely healthy plants

I'm posting this in the "Fertilizers" forum because it has to do with NOT using fertilizers. And it has to do with using the natural variations of the tank's environment for an extreme benefit to the plants.

What you see is a tank without any fertilizers, even in the substrate. Very low CO2 levels - maybe 5 ppm. Light is about 50 PAR on the bottom, about 110 on the surface (tank is 24" tall).

Algae: You got to be kidding.

More and more people are starting to be interested in better ways to maintain a planted tank. Namely using less fertilzers. Excess fertilization has been a problem in this hobby and that can't be denied.

The pictures below do not prove that it is possible to have extremely healthy plants without any fertilizers. What it proves is that if a tank is run in such a way that the plants have time to "rest" and accumulate nutrients they can grow healthier than we normally think. That is the same principle used by ADA, but not popular in the US. It is about what is known as "permaculture" - using the natural trends of a system.

Yes, it is hard to believe that this sword grows in a tank with the parameters described above:


This Crypt is 12" tall.


I do not have more pictures of the tank. It was dismantled in 2007. These were the times when high fertilization tanks were all the rage. People had not caught up to the demanding care they need and the constant balancing on the edge of developing issues. Ten years later this mentality is slowly starting to change and this is why I bring up this topic.

--Nikolay
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post #2 of 272 (permalink) Old 05-27-2016, 02:43 PM
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How established was this tank out of curiousity? Did it already have a good amount of mulm in the substrate?
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post #3 of 272 (permalink) Old 05-27-2016, 03:15 PM Thread Starter
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Tank was setup for 2 years. Yes, it did have mulm but not a lot - when you vacuumed you didn't remove massive amounts of dark brown muck.

And that is really the secret to such tanks - the microorganisms must establish properly. Then the flow of nutrients is what it is supposed to be. It is not forced, it is not supressed, it is not instable. These are all typical for a high fertilizer tank.

The above means that yes, there is mulm, but it is being processed properly. That involves not just mineralization. It involves the nutrients and other factors being in a state that is dynamic. This is a big thing that is never discussed and it does not just mean chelation (as in chelated Iron). The same fertilizer can act very differently depending on how it is processed - both biologically and inorganically.

The simplest, cheapes, and best example of the above is adjusting the Ca:Mg ratio. It is very easy to do and to see the difference. Once you get close to the proper ratio (4:1) AND with the proper fertilizer you will see very fast and very positive changes in the plants. You will find that the plants actually need way less of the other fertilizers too which is only a good thing - leading to a more natural and stable system. The "secret" proper fertilizer is very simple - Dolomite. Dolomite powder to be exact.

So yes, after 2 years, that tank had mulm but it was minimal and if stirred it settled very fast. The fish were 6 discus. So you see that the pollution of the tank was not low. But it was handled the right way.

And no - this tank did not get 50% water changes a week. This is reserved for high fertilizer tanks in an effort to combat accumulation of nutrients and waste. But as more and more people now see that does not work as drawn on a chart because the tank is a dynamic living system

--Nikolay
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post #4 of 272 (permalink) Old 05-27-2016, 03:16 PM
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Nice pictures Niko, I do not find it hard to believe that that sword can grow in those conditions.

Can you explain more this plant permaculture and resting...?
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post #5 of 272 (permalink) Old 05-27-2016, 03:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by niko View Post
Tank was setup for 2 years. Yes, it did have mulm but not a lot - when you vacuumed you didn't remove massive amounts of dark brown muck.

And that is really the secret to such tanks - the microorganisms must establish properly. Then the flow of nutrients is what it is supposed to be. It is not forced, it is not supressed, it is not instable. These are all typical for a high fertilizer tank.

The above means that yes, there is mulm, but it is being processed properly. That involves not just mineralization. It involves the nutrients and other factors being in a state that is dynamic. This is a big thing that is never discussed and it does not just mean chelation (as in chelated Iron). The same fertilizer can act very differently depending on how it is processed - both biologically and inorganically.

The simplest, cheapes, and best example of the above is adjusting the Ca:Mg ratio. It is very easy to do and to see the difference. Once you get close to the proper ratio (4:1) AND with the proper fertilizer you will see very fast and very positive changes in the plants. You will find that the plants actually need way less of the other fertilizers too which is only a good thing - leading to a more natural and stable system. The "secret" proper fertilizer is very simple - Dolomite. Dolomite powder to be exact.

So yes, after 2 years, that tank had mulm but it was minimal and if stirred it settled very fast. The fish were 6 discus. So you see that the pollution of the tank was not low. But it was handled the right way.

And no - this tank did not get 50% water changes a week. This is reserved for high fertilizer tanks in an effort to combat accumulation of nutrients and waste. But as more and more people now see that does not work as drawn on a chart because the tank is a dynamic living system

--Nikolay
Thanks for the extra info. You mentioned something I've thought was the cause of a lot of problems with my tank here. The Ca to Mg ration. I have a GH of 4 and KH is non-existant. I think my Ca to Mg is off, and I often have stunting and crinkled leaves.

I now add a teaspoon of GH booster to the tank at water change. Is that enough do you think to get the proper ration? My thoughts are plants don't use a ton of this, so adding that extra bump weekly should in theory work, assuming the GH booster is mixed to a proper ration.

Any thoughts there or should I just get Ca and Mg separate and mix my own?
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post #6 of 272 (permalink) Old 05-27-2016, 03:26 PM Thread Starter
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Here are pictures of a tank from 2015. An example of how the state of the tank makes all the difference.
For years I ran this tank with water column fertilizers. It was up and down. Since it was a service tank I was there every Wednesday, no questions asked.
Everything that could be done to keep this tank clean was done. Will not describe all the products and practices. They were dumb because the basics were not in place.

The tank transformed to a very clean, very fast growing tank once the water column nutrients were reduced, and the Ca:Mg was adjusted properly with the proper material (Dolomite). Prior adjustments of the Ca:Mg ratio with CaCl2 and MgSO4 were borderline successful.

Once the tank gets in the "proper mode" you can see it - the water becomes extremely clear, the plants start to grow very healthy looking, and the stability of the system is unbelievable. And this is all done with LESS fertilizers, LESS water changes, and way less other maintenance as a result (removing old leaves, scraping algae here and there, filter maintenance, etc)









--Nikolay

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Originally Posted by bsantucci View Post
Thanks for the extra info. You mentioned something I've thought was the cause of a lot of problems with my tank here. The Ca to Mg ration. I have a GH of 4 and KH is non-existant. I think my Ca to Mg is off, and I often have stunting and crinkled leaves.

I now add a teaspoon of GH booster to the tank at water change. Is that enough do you think to get the proper ration? My thoughts are plants don't use a ton of this, so adding that extra bump weekly should in theory work, assuming the GH booster is mixed to a proper ration.

Any thoughts there or should I just get Ca and Mg separate and mix my own?
I hope you see were I'm going with that post - I'm looking for the people that have started to see the new direction of this hobby - the real Natural tanks, not what ADA promoted as such so they can sell their products.

Help me out if you feel so. Get some powdered Dolomite powder off ebay. It is a supplement for humans - some kind of health benefits from eating it. If you buy that powdered Dolomite you will have a guaranteed clean product AND I guarantee you that you will see amazing change in your tank.

An easier way to get Dolomite is to go to a pile of rocks that road workers place under asphalt. That is dolomite. But it is in form or rocks and you can't control the amount you add very well. Years ago I had setup a tank with these rocks as a substrate. Out of ignorance I learned a lesson - these rocks grew plants at an amazing rate. But they fogged the water - I had too much of it. I could not see but 4-5 inches into the tank. But the plants grew super fast - 6-8" sword leaves in 6 hours! I also had other plants, stems included (Rotala, and others). In a month and a half I trimmed so much plants that the local pet store gave me $40 credit as soon as they saw them. That is a story about the benefits of Dolomite.

So give Dolomite a try.

GH booster is a mix of chemical that will supply Ca and Mg but not in the proper form. Yes, it will work in some tanks - mainly tanks that do not have critical organics accumulation. I've ran such tanks in the past and the growth rate of stems was unbelievable (some plants shot 16" in 36 hours!). But the tank required constant maintenance. And as usual - shutting down if you can't take care of it for several days. That is the ultimate proof of an unstable tank. Believe it or not at least some of the ADA distributors have the same instability problems. These are the guys that show cool looking showrooms full of Japanese copy-cat tanks.
And yes, a tank that runs fast and healthy with the incorrect nutrient dynamics will be inferior to a tank that is properly supplied with nutrients - because of the work involved to maintain the tank in a good shape and because of the inherent instability of such improperly run tanks.
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Last edited by niko; 05-27-2016 at 03:39 PM. Reason: Thought of more stuff
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post #7 of 272 (permalink) Old 05-27-2016, 03:49 PM
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Nice looking tank. Of course your choice in plants are limited and also goes to show you how important CO2 is even in small amounts.
Most of the nutrients are coming from fish poop.


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post #8 of 272 (permalink) Old 05-27-2016, 04:13 PM Thread Starter
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Nice looking tank. Of course your choice in plants are limited and also goes to show you how important CO2 is even in small amounts.
Most of the nutrients are coming from fish poop.
True. If you don't know anything but 8 fertilizers that is.

Plus - that was not my tank. Not my choice of plants. Or fish.

So if I took 5 lbs. of fish poop and dumped in a new tank and put some good LED lights on it and 0 fertilizers I'd have a perfect planted tank? No. I will have an algae heaven for sure. It is the way everything works together.

And one more argument: Can you tell me why these same plants you see on the pictures did not do that well with high CO2, N=20, P=2, and all kinds of Fe chelates + traces, + GH Booster? Plus big water changes, plus Purigen, plus a brand new huge Eheim filter, plus the best lights money can buy? Please give me some idea, I'd like to know.

And what "high demand" plants are we always bringing into the conversation? If we start to name them we may also provide information about their natural environment. Which is never what a high tech tank is - CO2=30, Nitrate 10-20, Phosphate 1-2...

A guy that grew Erios for sale told me some years ago how much light he blasts them with. All I wanted to know is if that's how they grow in nature - with 14 hours of 200 PAR. But he sold them for good money and most people would call him "smart". The plants grew, he made money - for most people that is the end of the line. And that is why this hobby has reached an end line some years ago too.

So how do these "special" plants do it in Nature? Definitely not they way we are growing them. There are things we are missing. Things we've neglected for 10+ years now. Is it some kind of special mud they live in? Is it the soft water? A critical micronutrient? No. Again - it is the way everything works together.

--Nikolay
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post #9 of 272 (permalink) Old 05-27-2016, 05:00 PM
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Can you tell me why these same plants you see on the pictures did not do that well with high CO2, N=20, P=2, and all kinds of Fe chelates + traces, + GH Booster?
--Nikolay
What case where these plants don't do well with those parameters?

High demanding plants require high light, meaning high CO2 and nutrients as well. Yes, natural systems do provide high CO2 and nutrients in the substrate/sediment. CO2 is produced by bacteria eating on the organics and in turn release nutrients. Bacteria are single cell creatures but they do a lot of work. Just look at yeast in a DIY CO2 situation.

Walstad tanks mimmic this natural system.

btw. Some plants in the wild grow emerged. Plants access CO2 from the air easier than water.
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post #10 of 272 (permalink) Old 05-27-2016, 05:04 PM
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I don't see any difference in adding CA and Mg in other horticultural forms. This is basically saying that this particular tank (and I'm sure many others like it), had the necessary nutrients in the tap water and fish poo and were under the correct amount of light to utilize the nutrients most efficiently. A balanced tank.

I submit that same exact tank with LED lights, or less fish, or a different water source may not be balanced, no matter the dolomite & CO2.
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post #11 of 272 (permalink) Old 05-27-2016, 05:14 PM
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How do you use the powdered dolomite? Do you just dump it in the water, put it in the substrate, below the substrate, etc.? And, do you dose it on a schedule or just when you set up the tank?
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post #12 of 272 (permalink) Old 05-27-2016, 05:31 PM
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"No fertilizers" - pictures of extremely healthy plants

Nikolay I have a window sunlit tank I set up after reading Walstad's book which has even more par that grows very well with no water changes, an hob producing laminar flow and natural fertilisation from fishfood. And as we can see here it works under artifical lighting too (although I don't know why with such nice natural light in the room the back of the tank is blacked out) Over time the healthy plants survive and the weak ones don't. sort of like - natural selection taking its course.

But with this approach I had to let the plants decide whether to grow and where to grow and didn't feel like I had much say over the evolution of the tank. That's not necessarily bad and in some ways it's a purer more natural and holistic form of aquascaping I feel, but If I wanted to go real bonsai and exert more precise control (i.e. everything must grow where i put them when I put them during my weekly maint.) and there's a lot of rescaping then its back to pressurized co2 and dosing because the tank doesn't have time to settle.

Is that your experience or do you think it's still possible? I'd be interested in pushing that boundary..
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post #13 of 272 (permalink) Old 05-27-2016, 05:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by niko View Post
The pictures below do not prove that it is possible to have extremely healthy plants without any fertilizers. What it proves is that if a tank is run in such a way that the plants have time to "rest" and accumulate nutrients they can grow healthier than we normally think. That is the same principle used by ADA, but not popular in the US. It is about what is known as "permaculture" - using the natural trends of a system.
--Nikolay
I'm having a hard time understanding how this is like ADA Japan. ADA uses an extremely nutrient rich substrate that will grow pretty much anything for probably a year without even adding water column dosing, yet they're system still requires you dose on a regular basis to make sure the plants aren't lacking in anything. In addition they require large regular water changes to reduce nutrients and other organics in the range of 30%-60% weekly.

So far all I've really seen is a couple of very limited setups with easy to grow plants. If you could grow what has been traditionally high demand carpets with showy stems like most of the ADA tanks using your method I would be more than willing to listen.
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post #14 of 272 (permalink) Old 05-27-2016, 05:39 PM
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above question also interests me

Bump: the dumping of dolomite one

Water, water everywhere...
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post #15 of 272 (permalink) Old 05-27-2016, 05:54 PM
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This makes a lot of sense....I have one tank plants seem to just thrive in,if a plant isn't doing well,I put it in my spec v and it goes nuts,along with everything I put in it.It had 1 O+ cap 6 or 7 months ago,since then,all I do is drop in about .25 ml of ammonia for the bio filter and the plants grow.

MTS? no,I just need one more tank...
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