Diagnose my nutrient deficiencies! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 55 (permalink) Old 04-19-2019, 08:55 PM Thread Starter
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Diagnose my nutrient deficiencies!

I have a dirted tank that’s been low tech for a couple years but just started injecting CO2 a couple months ago as well as dosing EI, although sometimes I go a little light to keep my nitrates under 40ppm. I have no root tabs because I figured the dirt still has nutrients, but maybe I should add some of those?

pH: 6.6-7.6 ish depending on CO2 levels
CO2: about 1 point drop, green drop checker, but I go more based on fish behavior.
Nitrates: usually about 20 ppm
Phosphate: ~8ppm
KH: 10
GH: 20

Here’s some pictures, kinda looks like potassium but what do you guys think?




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post #2 of 55 (permalink) Old 04-19-2019, 10:43 PM
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HI @scooby2,

Specifically what are you dosing "a little light"? All of the nutrients or just the KNO3?

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post #3 of 55 (permalink) Old 04-19-2019, 10:54 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Seattle_Aquarist View Post
HI @scooby2,



Specifically what are you dosing "a little light"? All of the nutrients or just the KNO3?


All of them. On macro day I often test nitrates and if they’re pretty high already I will dose 1/3 or 2/3 macros, followed up by the same proportion of micros the next day


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post #4 of 55 (permalink) Old 04-19-2019, 10:58 PM Thread Starter
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I also feed pretty lightly and plant heavily. During the whole life of the tank I rarely had measurable nitrates until I started dosing them


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post #5 of 55 (permalink) Old 04-20-2019, 01:47 AM
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Hi @scooby2,

When you reduce the amount of potassium nitrate (KNO3) you also reduce the amount of potassium. When I reduced the amount of KNO3 I dose I increase the amount of potassium sulfate (K2SO4) to offset the reduced potassium. I can think of no reason to reduce the amount of micro-nutrients if the only issue is a concern about nitrates. If it were me I would increase my dosing of potassium nitrate so that the nitrates stay in the 20 ppm - 40 ppm range. If that results in less than doing a full EI dose then add potassium sulfate to make up the difference. Potassium is a macro-nutrient that is utilized by plants in many of the critical functions for growth.

FYI I am not sure that plant in the 4th photo is an aquatic; it almost looks like a prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura). Where was it purchased and did they provide the name of the species?


If it is a true aquatic, the interveinal chlorosis on the older leaf on the left is likely caused by insufficient magnesium.

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post #6 of 55 (permalink) Old 04-20-2019, 02:13 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Seattle_Aquarist View Post
Hi @scooby2,



When you reduce the amount of potassium nitrate (KNO3) you also reduce the amount of potassium. When I reduced the amount of KNO3 I dose I increase the amount of potassium sulfate (K2SO4) to offset the reduced potassium. I can think of no reason to reduce the amount of micro-nutrients if the only issue is a concern about nitrates. If it were me I would increase my dosing of potassium nitrate so that the nitrates stay in the 20 ppm - 40 ppm range. If that results in less than doing a full EI dose then add potassium sulfate to make up the difference. Potassium is a macro-nutrient that is utilized by plants in many of the critical functions for growth.



FYI I am not sure that plant in the 4th photo is an aquatic; it almost looks like a prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura). Where was it purchased and did they provide the name of the species?





If it is a true aquatic, the interveinal chlorosis on the older leaf on the left is likely caused by insufficient magnesium.


I am aware that potassium nitrate has both nitrate and potassium lol. I have mixed my macros and micros in separate liquid solutions, according to the EI recipe on the nilocG website for 15ml for 55gal, I included the KSO4.Im using CSM+B for the micro mix. I understand that all the salts I’ve mixed in the macro mix halve potassium.

So you are agreeing that the plants are exhibiting signs of potassium deficiency?

The plant you’re referencing was bought from buceplant.com as Bucephelandra sp. “dark skeleton king”.

I’ll try keeping micros at full EI, regardless of macros


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post #7 of 55 (permalink) Old 04-20-2019, 04:21 AM
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Originally Posted by scooby2 View Post
I am aware that potassium nitrate has both nitrate and potassium lol. I have mixed my macros and micros in separate liquid solutions, according to the EI recipe on the nilocG website for 15ml for 55gal, I included the KSO4.Im using CSM+B for the micro mix. I understand that all the salts I’ve mixed in the macro mix halve potassium.

So you are agreeing that the plants are exhibiting signs of potassium deficiency?

The plant you’re referencing was bought from buceplant.com as Bucephelandra sp. “dark skeleton king”.

I’ll try keeping micros at full EI, regardless of macros


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Hi scooby2,

I do believe that if you have been cutting back all of your nutrients because of just a nitrogen issue that could be contributing to the problem. I haven't seen that Buce before, interesting plant and very helpful in your case. The interveinal chlorosis exhibited on the leaf at the lower right along with the 'unmasking of colors" on the leaf on the upper right indicate insufficient magnesium. Here is what I suggest:

1) Go to your local drug store and pick up some Epsom Salt (MgSO4 / magnesium sulfate). Buy the cheapest stuff on the shelf with no additives, scents, or perfumes.

2) Do an initial dose to your tank of 1/2 teaspoon per 10 gallons. This will add 5 ppm of Mg to your tank and increase the hardness by about 1.0 dGH.

3) When you do your weekly water change add 1/2 teaspoon of MgSO4 per 10 gallons of new water added to the tank.

4) Now the hard part.............waiting. Watch your the new leaves as they emerge on your plants for the next two weeks. Do not watch the existing leaves, they will not improve and may continue to decline and die. The new leaves should look greener, healthier, larger, and you may see an increase in the growth rate of your plants. Magnesium is critical for photosynthesis which produces chlorophyll, the driver for plant growth and healthy green color. As the new leaves mature they should not develop the interveinal chlorosis you see on that Buce. Post pictures and ask questions as things progress.

Quote:
II. Symptoms do not appear first or most severely on youngest leaves: Effect general on whole plant or localized on older, lower leaves.

C. Interveinal chlorosis. Interveinal chlorosis first appears on oldest leaves.

1. Older leaves chlorotic, usually necrotic in late stages. Chlorosis along leaf margins extending between veins produces a "Christmas tree" pattern. Veins normal green. Leaf margins may curl downward or upward with puckering effect. Necrosis may suddenly occur between veins. Potassium or calcium excess can inhibit uptake of magnesium...magnesium deficiency

When the external magnesium supply is deficient, interveinal chlorosis of the older leaves is the first symptom because as the magnesium of the chlorophyll is remobilized, the mesophyll cells next to the vascular bundles retain chlorophyll for longer periods than do the parenchyma cells between them. Leaves lose green color at tips and between veins followed by chlorosis or development of brilliant colors, starting with lower leaves and proceeding upwards. The chlorosis/brilliant colors (unmasking of other leaf pigments due to the lack of chlorophyll) may start at the leaf margins or tips and progress inward interveinally producing a "Christmas" tree pattern. Leaves are abnormally thin, stems are brittle and have a tendency to curve upward. Stems are weak, subject to fungus infection, usually leaves drop prematurely.

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post #8 of 55 (permalink) Old 04-20-2019, 01:28 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seattle_Aquarist View Post
Hi scooby2,



I do believe that if you have been cutting back all of your nutrients because of just a nitrogen issue that could be contributing to the problem. I haven't seen that Buce before, interesting plant and very helpful in your case. The interveinal chlorosis exhibited on the leaf at the lower right along with the 'unmasking of colors" on the leaf on the upper right indicate insufficient magnesium. Here is what I suggest:



1) Go to your local drug store and pick up some Epsom Salt (MgSO4 / magnesium sulfate). Buy the cheapest stuff on the shelf with no additives, scents, or perfumes.



2) Do an initial dose to your tank of 1/2 teaspoon per 10 gallons. This will add 5 ppm of Mg to your tank and increase the hardness by about 1.0 dGH.



3) When you do your weekly water change add 1/2 teaspoon of MgSO4 per 10 gallons of new water added to the tank.



4) Now the hard part.............waiting. Watch your the new leaves as they emerge on your plants for the next two weeks. Do not watch the existing leaves, they will not improve and may continue to decline and die. The new leaves should look greener, healthier, larger, and you may see an increase in the growth rate of your plants. Magnesium is critical for photosynthesis which produces chlorophyll, the driver for plant growth and healthy green color. As the new leaves mature they should not develop the interveinal chlorosis you see on that Buce. Post pictures and ask questions as things progress.


Thanks! I’ll try adding magnesium. It’s frustrating for me to not be able to diagnose these nutrient deficiencies, since I learned most of them in school (I actually have a BS in Botany), but I guess I never got the “eye” for it since I never used it that often. In gardening I could typically just say “oh theres some yellow leaves, let’s just add more fertilizer” and got by with it lol. Now I’m trying to dial it in a little better.

The quote you posted suggests an excess of calcium inhibits Mg uptake, with my water hardness do you think I could have an excess of calcium?

Also, do you notice any obvious deficiencies in the stem plants? It appears like the lower leaves are browning/developing holes. That points to either a mobile nutrient deficiency or lack of light?




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post #9 of 55 (permalink) Old 04-20-2019, 02:37 PM
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Thanks! I’ll try adding magnesium. It’s frustrating for me to not be able to diagnose these nutrient deficiencies, since I learned most of them in school (I actually have a BS in Botany), but I guess I never got the “eye” for it since I never used it that often. In gardening I could typically just say “oh theres some yellow leaves, let’s just add more fertilizer” and got by with it lol. Now I’m trying to dial it in a little better.

The quote you posted suggests an excess of calcium inhibits Mg uptake, with my water hardness do you think I could have an excess of calcium?

Also, do you notice any obvious deficiencies in the stem plants? It appears like the lower leaves are browning/developing holes. That points to either a mobile nutrient deficiency or lack of light?
Hi scooby2,

Yes, it is possible that you have excessive calcium with a dGH=20. However, I have found it easier to add magnesium to try to remedy the problem than it is to remove calcium. You may need to change over to a tap water / RO/DI mix but let's just try adding additional calcium to start.

Yes, the holes and loss of leaves on the lower parts of the stems can be a nutrient or a light issue; in this case based upon the Pogostemon helferi I am going to say nutrient related. Lack of magnesium can cause premature loss of older leaves and a lack of potassium can cause spots of necrosis on older leaves. If you return to EI dosing, possibly compensating for less KNO3 by increasing your K2SO4, that should improve the potassium levels and adding the Epsom Salt (MgSO4*7H2O) will hopefully address the magnesium issue.

Keep us posted! -Roy

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post #10 of 55 (permalink) Old 04-20-2019, 04:32 PM
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Just wanting to ensure a holistic approach. Do you have your 1 pH drop from CO2 by lights-on time? And do you see the same pH level by lights-off? Just a factor for someone new to CO2 injection. Also, I may be wrong but those stems seem a bit elongated. Do you have a surface film on your water preventing good Oxygen/CO2 exchange? That can also weaken plants just enough to cause a brown algae film to develop in my limited experience. Though, as noted by the experienced SA(Roy), above, your Mg symptoms do seem pretty clearly not the result of gas exchange problems.

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post #11 of 55 (permalink) Old 04-21-2019, 06:34 PM Thread Starter
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Just wanting to ensure a holistic approach. Do you have your 1 pH drop from CO2 by lights-on time? And do you see the same pH level by lights-off? Just a factor for someone new to CO2 injection. Also, I may be wrong but those stems seem a bit elongated. Do you have a surface film on your water preventing good Oxygen/CO2 exchange? That can also weaken plants just enough to cause a brown algae film to develop in my limited experience. Though, as noted by the experienced SA(Roy), above, your Mg symptoms do seem pretty clearly not the result of gas exchange problems.
No, the CO2 is lower at lights on than it is at lights off. Lights off is around 1 pH drop, but this is also using API pH test kit, which I don't trust to give accurate readings, not to mention I suck at reading the colors. I go more off fish behavior/drop checker color right now. I can try turning CO2 on 2 hours before lights on vs 1 hour?

I don't have a surface film, but I did probably 2-3 weeks ago. I've maintained my HOB filter a little better now so it has more flow. I'm looking into getting a power head or second HOB filter to increase flow and surface agitation. My friend gave me a 500gph wavemaker but that was way too much for my 55 gal.

Today is water change day, so I will add some epsom salt today. I'll keep you guys posted, thanks a lot for the help!
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post #12 of 55 (permalink) Old 04-21-2019, 07:06 PM
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I can try turning CO2 on 2 hours before lights on vs 1 hour?
Do that. Ideally you want close to a 1 point drop when the lights come on, or shortly thereafter. It doesnt need to take half a day to get there.

Think the Mg is a good suggestion too. I doubt you need any additional k2so4 dosing EI levels of N and P


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post #13 of 55 (permalink) Old 04-22-2019, 02:46 AM
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Just keep in mind that you should BE PRESENT when you adjust your CO2 schedule to avoid gasing your fish when you aren't home.


If you turn it on an hour earlier, you may find that the CO2 level gets too high by lights-off. Ideally you don't want the level to change much through the period. You can use the API kit to detect this. Ignore the color chart, just take a pH reading at the start, leave the vial sitting out and do a reading at the end of your light period and compare the colors. If the last reading is higher, you need to turn your gas on a bit earlier. If the fish are stressed by the end, you need to reduce input a bit, which, in turn will require turning on CO2 a bit earlier to compensate. I used the API kit in this way, not to specifically measure the amount of CO2, but the amount of change from start to finish by comparing the colors.

One of the better explanations of this process is found in www.advancedplantedtank.com just look for the section on CO2 and read up on flux and how the ideal situation looks.

Lastly, water movement from a filter is great, but a surface skimmer is also great for removing film and oxygenating water.

Lastly, I'm looking forward to hearing more. Congrats on the hard work and successes!

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post #14 of 55 (permalink) Old 04-28-2019, 02:11 AM Thread Starter
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So after a week of:

-Adding 2.5 tsp of MgSO4 after the water change on Sunday

-Dosing full EI

-Attempting to balance CO2 for the entire lights on period. This failed miserably due to running out of one of my bottles due to a leak, accidentally leaving the new bottle closed for part of the next day somehow, and getting a new diffuser and having to dial that in. Next week will be better and I will dial it in using Blacktetra’s advice.

-Realizing I hadn’t properly degassed my pH sample when I was first figuring out CO2 injection, and I was actually getting a 1.5 pH drop instead of 1! This explains my pH of ~6.6 and “liquid rock” water hardness readings. I’m gonna try to balance it at around a 1.2ish drop for now, as I can confidently say that level hasn’t affected livestock behavior, and 1.5 was pushing it.


Here is how things are looking. I have noticed faster growth and more red coloration. Unfortunately I still have some of the same issues in my stem plants. Additionally I’m noticing a bit more twisting of leaves and inrolling of leaf margins, which was happening before but I hadn’t paid it too much attention.

In good news, my cherry shrimp fry have been enjoying hiding in all the hair algae In growing!

My poor Pogostemon helferi “Red”:

Rotala mexicana “Goias”:

AR “variegated” showing inrolled margins:

Ludwigia repens with twisted leaves, inrolled margins:

Rotala rotundifolia showing more color but similar issues as last week:

Limnophila aromatica “Belem” showing browning tips etc., although this one is newly added so it could be melting from moving tanks/shipping:
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post #15 of 55 (permalink) Old 04-28-2019, 05:31 AM
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Hi @scooby2,

Remember, we only watch the new leaves that emerge after changing our dosing for improvement, disregard any leaves that were existing prior to changing your dosing. Although it has only been one week the new small leaves on the Pogostemon helferi “Red” are looking good as are the newest leaves on the Limnophila aromatica and the new side shoots on the Ludwigia repens.
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