why the water column? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-23-2017, 11:30 AM Thread Starter
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why the water column?

Why is everybody focused on adding ferts to the water column? Wouldnt it be better to fertilize the substrate like any other plant? If you can grow most of these plants emersed then it stands to reason that they a are perfectly capable of pulling nutrient that way. Of course floaters and moss and subwassertangy things and more to the point, algae, would probably need the nutrient in the water column. Why not stress the algae and only fert the substrate? assuming that you have a substrate with lowish water flow and high CEC.


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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-23-2017, 03:34 PM
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Most stem plants take their nutrients from the leaves, not a root system. In fact, most roots you see in aquatic plants are just for anchoring. Don't think of adding fertilizer as helping algae - it doesn't. There are enough organics in a tank to supply all the nutrients that algae needs and you can not remove enough of it to stop the algae. Algae is controlled with a good balance of light for a given CO2 level, becoming optimized once good plant health is achieved. High CEC is only high until it runs out, then you have to change it or adjust your column dosing. In any case, you still have to dose the water column to ensure the correct water parameters.

Additionally, there have been many experiments by respected members, here, that show that plants benefit very little with root tabs and can be completely healthy with column dosing only. Check out these links:

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/8-...er-column.html

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/33...t-fiction.html
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-23-2017, 06:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deanna View Post
Most stem plants take their nutrients from the leaves, not a root system. In fact, most roots you see in aquatic plants are just for anchoring. Don't think of adding fertilizer as helping algae - it doesn't. There are enough organics in a tank to supply all the nutrients that algae needs and you can not remove enough of it to stop the algae. Algae is controlled with a good balance of light for a given CO2 level, becoming optimized once good plant health is achieved. High CEC is only high until it runs out, then you have to change it or adjust your column dosing. In any case, you still have to dose the water column to ensure the correct water parameters.

Additionally, there have been many experiments by respected members, here, that show that plants benefit very little with root tabs and can be completely healthy with column dosing only. Check out these links:

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/8-...er-column.html

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/33...t-fiction.html

Interesting, but what about emersed? Then it would be the air + roots?


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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-24-2017, 02:39 AM
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Interesting, but what about emersed? Then it would be the air + roots?
You still have a lot of it underwater. So the column is still providing nutrients through the leaves, plus it can then access the much greater supply of CO2 in the air.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-24-2017, 04:49 AM
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Yes growing plants in the substrate will reduce algae, mainly because water column dosing is easy to forget a dose and cause feast/famine conditions which algae seems to do well in while soil is very stable & constant. Why don't people do it more? Probably just one of those trends that started a while back and still has a large following. EI & PPS-pro water column fertilization work pretty well and make people tinker more with their tanks, making them feel more involved. Also they allow you to grow plants that don't have access to the soil layer.

High tech soil based tanks are extremely stable long term, extremely algae free and extremely low maintenance. You can grow any species of plant with soil, but of course it does limit your aquascape somewhat especially for the plants without access to the soil.

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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-24-2017, 07:59 AM
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not an EI fan or anything, but i dose water column simply because i see stem plants struggling when not doing so. and i use only nutrient rich substrates like ADA amazonia etc.
dont really care about theory, i believe my eyes when i see plants leaf size reduced by 2 after month without dosing.

to add, i find EI micronutrient dose like 10x too much, macronutrient doses are somewhat fine.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-24-2017, 10:44 AM Thread Starter
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Deanna what do you mean by cec runs out?
Zapins do you have a link to anyone who explained a high tech soil tank you mentioned so i could get an idea of what has been successful? Sorry for the weird sentence.
If you're planting stem plants/ column feeders with root feeders, but are primarily fertilizing in the soil, do you need a full fertilizer regime for the column? I'm not always super attentive to my tanks and am trying to avoid said feas/ famine. Does anybody drop slow release fertilizer into a sump/ filter bag or just onto the substrate?
I would also wonder, how much nutrient actually migrates from the substrate into the column? Any planted tank will have fairly close textured substrate and from what i see not much escapes from there. My amazonia tank isn't always vomiting dust. But god help you if you want to pull a plant out.


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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-24-2017, 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by inclament View Post
Deanna what do you mean by cec runs out?
Sorry, left out the nutrient part: CEC doesn’t run out (unless you remove it), the nutrients in the CEC run out. CEC is the ability of the substrate to absorb nutrients. It usually starts with nutrient rich substrate such as ADA Aquasoil. Over time, the nutrients are consumed by the plants. You have to either replace the soil or, by continuously dosing nutrients, keep it charged. The high CEC soil does not have the ability to manufacture nutrients out of thin air or, in this case, thin water. So, it should be constantly ‘re-charged’ by adding fertilizer to the water column. This is what also happens with our gardens and lawns – we add stuff to make it grow well and consistently well.

We don’t know if your setup is high-tech or not, but if it is and it also has high light, your plants are growing rapidly and consuming nutrients furiously as compared to a low-tech/Walstad-type tank. That will deplete the high nutrient-charged substrate even faster (maybe 18 months?) and, in any case, isn’t likely to completely satisfy the plant even fully charged.

As others have said, you have to supply the plants with an unlimited source of nutrients (soil or water column) or you risk destabilizing the system and that will result in algae as plant health deteriorates. EI helps by loading the water column to give you a buffer against one nutrient falling below the tanks’ plants’ minimum needs, so you have to keep that buffer going. It’s not natural, but neither are our tanks, and we don't let decaying matter sit in our tanks to return nutrients to the soil. Farms aren’t natural either; soil becomes depleted and needs to be re-charged.
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Last edited by Deanna; 11-24-2017 at 01:47 PM. Reason: add
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-24-2017, 03:39 PM
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My amazonia tank isn't always vomiting dust. But god help you if you want to pull a plant out.
Soil is 100% worse if your want to move stuff around. You also have a cap that will be ruined when you do so. Why the water column? If your going to dose one way or the other, your always better dosing the water column since all plants will be feed, from moss to even the mythical heavy root feeders. Plants will take the nutrients anyway they can get it. Whether certain plants prefer getting their nutrients in the soil is splitting hairs.

It's been proven over and over in thousands upon thousands of setups.

Also if your relying on soil to do everything and not dose, many times the plants will run short of nutrients and especially carbon (co2), so there's a limitation there as well. This shortage plus the high organic load that many soils tank rely on make using high-light much more difficult. There are usually limitations to the setup in term of light, type of plants and/or plant mass required to keep it algae clean as opposed to dosing the water column in excess and refresh it with water changes.
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-24-2017, 09:36 PM
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There aren't any good links to how to set up a high tech soil tank. It is basically the same thing as a "natural planted tank" plus high lights and injected CO2.

Put 1 inch of topsoil (not something super rich like miracle grow) in the bottom and cover it with another 1 to 1.5 inches of some inert material like fluorite, eco-complete, sand, etc. This keeps the soil in place. Add high lights, a ton of plants to start the tank off and CO2 injection and you are done. There can be a few weeks of algae if you don't add enough plants. This is from all the excess nutrients leaching out of the soil.

After the initial month or so the volatile nutrients have left the soil and then the soil will leach very little into the water column from then on. This will cause any plants in the water column that aren't rooted in the soil to develop nutrient deficiencies and eventually die.

Good point houseofcards, soil based tanks are difficult to rearrange because plant roots bring up soil and mess the tank up.

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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-25-2017, 12:24 AM
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The water column flows through and is in the substrate. Tough to keep it out!
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-25-2017, 11:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by inclament View Post
Why is everybody focused on adding ferts to the water column? Wouldnt it be better to fertilize the substrate like any other plant? If you can grow most of these plants emersed then it stands to reason that they a are perfectly capable of pulling nutrient that way. Of course floaters and moss and subwassertangy things and more to the point, algae, would probably need the nutrient in the water column. Why not stress the algae and only fert the substrate? assuming that you have a substrate with lowish water flow and high CEC.
There are a number of reasons why we focus on the water and not the substrate. But first let us go a little back and deconstruct this false assumption.

Quote:
Originally Posted by inclament View Post
Wouldnt it be better to fertilize the substrate like any other plant?
It has long been known by plant scientist that terrestrial plants take up nutrients through leaves, also known as foliar uptake. This is not only the case for epiphytic plants. Take for example a table from HudskŠ 1976:

Nutrients Time at 50% absorption

Nitrogen in urea 1/2 to 2 hr.
magnesium 2-5 hr
potassium 10-24 hr.
calcium, manganese, zinc 1-2 days
phosphorus 5-10 days
iron, molybdenum 10-20 days

and this conclusion from
FernŠndez and Brown 2013:
"there is abundant evidence showing the beneficial effect of foliar fertilizers in terms of improving the metabolism, quality, and yields of crops"
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3728483/

The idea is, like any normal plant, aquatic plant take up nutrients trough the leaves as well.

Now back to why the water and not the substrate:

1. uniform distribution -fertilizing the water ( in an aquarium or small pond) allows you to get good nutrient levels to all the plants at the same time. IF you rely on the substrate alone, a nutrient demanding plant might use up the nutrients surrounding its roots before others and starve.
2. quick replacement - in terms of adjusting nutrient levels it is a lot easier to do a water change than to change the substrate
3. regulated amounts - a soil based substrate will leach into water, slower if capped but it will. There will be a gradient of concentrations of course but still some will get in the water column anyway. ( this is also the reason why in some lakes the top part of the water will be sampled and reported as nutrient poor. But nobody samples water from near the substrate where the plants are. And they you get books published showing X plant growing in nutrient poor conditions)

While ammonia can be bound into soil, NO3 cannot so it will all be quickly released into the water. PO4 the same, plus other forms of phosphorus found in soil would need an anaerobic soil depth of ~15cm to be brought in the PO4 form ( this is from a study on the cycle of PO4 in marshes, heavy anaerobic conditions). Iron and other metals also need anaerobic conditions to become plant available. So the soil will provide nutrients to the water column, thus nutrients will be available to algae as well. But at what rate will they become available to plants ? At what rate will they be released from the substrate ? Hard to tell, harder to reproduce.

4. the need to control - there are other reasons but I think it all sums up to our focus as a society and as scientific community to control all and to be in control of what happens. We like a success recipe and we like the guarantee the promise of success. At the same time we fear uncertainty. This all requires us to take an active role in our aquarium keeping instead of just hoping and relying on a soil that it has everything our plants need.

My conclusion is that plants don't really care where they take their nutrients from as long as they are available. It is not wrong to use fertile soil, but better to use it as a backup in case your column dosing is lacking something.

Regards,
duky

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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-27-2017, 01:51 AM Thread Starter
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Well first thing is thank you for all your opinions and for taking the time to address my questions. Its been educational! I think I'm going to start tracking some data in my tanks. I want to know how much fertilizer leaches into the column from the substrate. Imn not sure which tests I'll need but a tds meter will be important. I'm going to track my tanks fora few weeks then applyroot tabs or the results of a pps fert regime packed into gel caps and see if the tds raises significantly. My question isn't whether the plants can be grown with foliar feed, clearly they can, but foliar feed is short term and largely location specific, and wasteful. Especially ei. Ill keep an eye on growth, i think as nutrient depletes in the soil the first deficiencies will be the least mobile mn (not ca which is in my water in abundance) followed by mid level or conditionally mobile "" In relation to their phloem mobility, essential nutrients have been classified as highly mobile (N, P, K, Mg, S, Cl, Ni), intermediate or conditionally mobile (Fe, Zn, Cu, B, Mo), and rather immobile (Ca, Mn; "" as per that article. And who knows maybe the plants will hate it and all the stems will die. It will answer some questions though! At least for my setups. And hopefullyv lead me to a leaner "solution"


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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-27-2017, 08:58 PM
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good to see some experimentation

in my experience I have been able to grow 'heavy root feeders' like crypts, s repens, etc in totally inert sand extremely well with standard dosing of the water column. there are certainly benefits but now I never bother dosing the substrate or using dirt because to me the cons (messy, toxic situations) outweigh the pros (maybe better growth)

right now in my tank with black diamond I have many crypt wendtii (brown) that are easily over a foot tall that have been there for quite some time. I am expecting the root systems to be outrageous when I eventually remove them lol. with dirt I would 100% have to trim the roots to avoid a catastrophe sized mess when removing

I have used dirt before and nothing was 'way better'. plants like hairgrass did do quite a bit better but that was about it.
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-29-2017, 09:05 AM
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If you don't dig around in and vacuum it free of mulm regularly, no substrate will remain completely inert. Small pieces of organic debris will sift down into it, feeding growing communities of decomposers. This is how soil is formed in the first place! You can make any patch of useless sand into soil if you start watering it with a good nutrient solution and avoid removing organic debris. Same would go for aquarium substrate.
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