EI doesn't work and is killing my plants - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 126 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 02:25 AM Thread Starter
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EI doesn't work and is killing my plants

Click-bait title but it may be true. I've posted a lot on this forum over the past few months and I've repeating dosing with I'll effect. I've read and watched guides for AGES it feels. It's time to get to the bottom of this. Following EI has done nothing but ruin my plants and I need help to figure out what is causing this. Either I'm missing something stupid or I have a variable that is messing with a common and trusted fertilization method. PLEASE HELP!!

My current tank and close ups of all of the issues: https://imgur.com/a/DwrAsR0. What you see is basically what I saw when I started down my quest of fertilizing correctly over four months ago. I went through MANY issues and am now starting back at square one with pictures and logging because it didn't work. I'll probably copy this to a log and keep that going. For now, I ask the community: do you know for certain if I'm missing anything weird right now?

As you can see, there are issues all over the place:
- My plants in the front left have their bottom leaves constantly dying. This is the most common shared issue between all of the plants.
- My plants in the back left have holes and lightening (see-through) of the leaves.
- My red plants in the back middle show the common sign of old leaves dying as new ones arise. Same for the baby rotala to their left. The older leaves turn yellow too.
- My java moss seems to attract hair algae unless I have a powerhead on right side of the tank (opposite lilly pipes)
- If I don't overdose phosphate by about 3-5x I get green spot algae on the glass.
- My carpet grows slow as hell or simply shrinks.
- I have BBA everywhere, even after I destroyed its presence via hydrogen peroxide two months ago.

Dosing (3x a week each):
- Nitrate - KNO3 - 7.5ppm
- Phosphate - KH2PO4 - 1.3ppm
- Potassium - K2SO4 - I don't dose this due to the two above
- CSM + B - 1/64 tsp or 0.1ppm Fe
- Fe - Flourish Iron - 0.15ppm
- Magnesium - MgSO4 7H2O - 5ppm once per week after water change
- Calcium - From Seiryu rocks - Don't need to dose and hovers around 50ppm as long as I keep up with water changes

Parameters as of 4 days ago when I reset with water changes:
- Nitrate - 10ppm~
- Phosphate - 1ppm~
- Potassium - Likely greater than 30ppm, possibly 50ppm (read Unique Things below)
- Ph - 6.6 with Co2 is on, 7 or 7.1 when it's off
- Kh - 5
- Co2 - Around or slightly above 30ppm via drop checker and ph/kh readings
- Gh - 8
- Calcium - 50ppm
- Magnesium - 12.5 ppm
- Fe - 0.05ppm
- TDS - 257

Parameters today, as of dosing twice since hard reset: (COMING)

Tank setup:
- 22 gal long tank
- RO water
- Permanent temperature monitor connect to heater, heating at a constant 78 degrees Farenheit
- Permanent milwaukee Ph probe.
- 12 neon tetras, 4 scarlet badis, 1 pea puffer, 12 amanos
- Current LED Plus Pro light at 100% (60-70 par at bottom measured with par meter)
- Lights on 8 hours a day
- Injecting Co2. At max level before lights come on for the day. Turned off when lights go off
- Eheim pro 4 canister filter. No carbon pad
- Lilly pipes
- Vortech MP10 powerhead for opposite side of tank
- Rocks are Seiryu and bleed calcium
- Amazonian aquasoil substrate

Unique things:
- Seiryu rocks had my GH at 16 at some point and calcium at 100 ppm. It was probably like this for months but I did 5 water changes over a few days to get it down to 8gh and 50 ppm for calcium.
- For some reason I need to overdose phosphate by about 3x to get it to constantly measure above 1ppm and not get green spot algae
- I've been seeing the pinholes and lower leaves dying for months and I haven't been able to figure out the issue. Adding extra potassium directly related to more bubbles appearing but that meant my tank had over 50ppm of potassium in it. I've stopped doing that but the tank is worse now.
- Almost all of the original plants have been removed and replanted due to the point above.
- Hair algae will grow on the big rock with java moss if I don't have a powerhead on the other side, but this also means plants right under the powerhead do not grow much
- I murdered the BBA with back to back mass dosings of hydrogen peroxide over two days but it also killed a few shrimp and both of my snails. This was two months ago. The BBA is still coming back.
- Co2 is always light green and I measure the Ph and Kh every once in a while, especially after I got my calcium ppm down.

Update-------------------------------------------------
Lots of discussion. The key points that some people can agree on are:
- Lights and ferts are simply too strong and high for the lower plant mass
- Flow may not be strong enough, especially with the rock on the right. (I have a powerhead on the right pushing water back but it may not be getting down in the middle)
- High calcium may have been messing with the other ferts before I got it under control
- Substrate is too deep in some areas without something like powersand under it

Tank in the state it was in before I removed most of the plants: https://gfycat.com/remorsefulhorribledesertpupfish. If you look closely, you can see holes in the leaves of the red plants in the middle right once the camera pans down. This was happening on ALL plants but was most obvious on those. This was taken AFTER my initial issues of older leaves having pinholes, yellowing and algae appeared. The plants you see here were recently trimmed and stayed stunted. It's bubbling so much because I just added the daily dose of 1/8tsp of K (because that's what I thought my deficiency had been). Again though, they were still growing slow.

My plan forward is to simply reset as best as I can with water changes and peroxide doses to kill the algae, while going back to 4 hour light periods or less until the new plants I get grow out. This time I'll be better prepared to deal with unforseen issues.

Last edited by Ddrizzle; 06-13-2019 at 03:12 AM. Reason: update
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post #2 of 126 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 04:58 AM
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It is late and I may have more to say but.

This makes me wonder, what is your de-gassed pH reading?
Quote:
Ph - 6.6 with Co2 is on, 7 or 7.1 when it's off
This is not a full point pH drop, how is 30ppm CO2 justified?
Please don't answer the pH vs. KH chart.


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post #3 of 126 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 06:01 AM
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In my experience full EI dosing requires a lot of plants a lot of light and alot of co2. If any of these are lacking EI would be too much and would cause more ill effects than positive. With your ph drop and plant load I would decrease the amount your dosing. Goodluck and enjoy the ride
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post #4 of 126 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 06:07 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maryland Guppy View Post
It is late and I may have more to say but.

This makes me wonder, what is your de-gassed pH reading?
Quote:
Ph - 6.6 with Co2 is on, 7 or 7.1 when it's off
This is not a full point pH drop, how is 30ppm CO2 justified?
Please don't answer the pH vs. KH chart.
Drop checker and ph/kh chart. I'll have to double check the ph tomorrow morning before the co2 turns on. It's always fully degassed by then.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KZB View Post
In my experience full EI dosing requires a lot of plants a lot of light and alot of co2. If any of these are lacking EI would be too much and would cause more ill effects than positive. With your ph drop and plant load I would decrease the amount your dosing. Goodluck and enjoy the ride
Yes, its not heavily planted. How much should I dose then? I've tried laying off or adding more but I still have random ass issues that seem like every deficiency in one.
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post #5 of 126 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 06:20 AM
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Hate to be cliche but everyones tank is different and I or anyone here could tell you how much you should actually be dosing. I would suggest, finding an accurate ph drop. If you aren't achieving atleast 1ph drop without fish stress, that typically means circulation is an issue. Lack of co2 will/could/can show the same fert like deficiency symptoms. The amount of co2 will typically be judged by the amount of light your pushing. Sorry if my reply is of no help
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post #6 of 126 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 07:09 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KZB View Post
Hate to be cliche but everyones tank is different and I or anyone here could tell you how much you should actually be dosing. I would suggest, finding an accurate ph drop. If you aren't achieving atleast 1ph drop without fish stress, that typically means circulation is an issue. Lack of co2 will/could/can show the same fert like deficiency symptoms. The amount of co2 will typically be judged by the amount of light your pushing. Sorry if my reply is of no help
I appreciate the co2 concern but I was getting 1 ph drop for months when my gh
(and kh) was high. 7.6 down to 6.6. Same issues. I also have a powerhead to make sure there is strong flow even at the opposite end of the tank's outflow


As for recently, the drop checker is always a light green after a few hours of my ph sitting at 6.6.
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post #7 of 126 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 08:21 AM
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Yes, Seiryu stone alters water parameters. I have some in my tank, but they are small stones that were sold for a nano tank ( I have a 40 breeder) so they haven't caused problems. Since you knew these stones were causing a problem, why did you keep them? Keeping for the sake of not having to dose calcium while they are reeking havoc on the rest of your water parameters is not a good idea. It is easy enough to remineralize RO water and for a small tank, it will cost next to nothing to do so. Planted tanks like stability.

As for the green spot algae, this isn't always a phosphate problem. If you have high organics in your tank from dying plants, that too can cause green spot.

While it is true that plants melt and go through awkward phases as they adjust to new environment, sick plants are algae magnets. Mosses in general tend to be algae magnets because they collect stuff that is floating around in the water column. Vacuuming them or using a soft toothbrush to remove the detritus they collect once a week during a water change keeps them algae free. Some mosses also need to be trimmed as the base layer will die off without light which causes more problems with organics in the water column.

What does your tank maintenance schedule look like?

As for EI itself, I'm not willing to go into that rabbithole, but I will say that it is meant to be modified. My bottle of orange water from Tropica is also EI, but it doesn't contain nitrates or phosphorus. I don't dose my tank what Tropica recommends as I don't use CO2, I don't have stems to feed and my fast growers Vals and Giant Hairgrass are given root tabs which contains some phosphates, but most of the phosphates in my tank comes from fish food.

There is no true definition of 'heavily planted', but usually that means more than 75% of a persons' tank is covered with plant mass. Your tank does not meet that so-called standard.
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post #8 of 126 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 12:26 PM
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Amazonian sucks up PO4, among other things.

10 ppm NO3 and 1 PO4 my tank would crash.

60 PAR is on the low side for fast growing flowery stems. And light spread/PAR drops off quickly off center with LED's. PAR at edges might be significantly lower.

CO2 still seems on the low side.

BBA usually related to high organics, not enough maintenance, and unhappy plants

I would find journals of tanks you want to emulate that started up with Amazonian.
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post #9 of 126 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 01:22 PM
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If you want to eliminate that it's EI dosing just use some K and micros for the next few months and see what happens. Every tank I started with aquasoil that's all I did for the 1st 6 months and everything started up clean. Granted all tanks are different but the AS is so loaded that you don't really need much else in the beginning.

If your getting BBA that quickly to me that's an organic / light / co2 imbalance.
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post #10 of 126 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 04:00 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smooch View Post
Yes, Seiryu stone alters water parameters. I have some in my tank, but they are small stones that were sold for a nano tank ( I have a 40 breeder) so they haven't caused problems. Since you knew these stones were causing a problem, why did you keep them? Keeping for the sake of not having to dose calcium while they are reeking havoc on the rest of your water parameters is not a good idea. It is easy enough to remineralize RO water and for a small tank, it will cost next to nothing to do so. Planted tanks like stability.

As for the green spot algae, this isn't always a phosphate problem. If you have high organics in your tank from dying plants, that too can cause green spot.

While it is true that plants melt and go through awkward phases as they adjust to new environment, sick plants are algae magnets. Mosses in general tend to be algae magnets because they collect stuff that is floating around in the water column. Vacuuming them or using a soft toothbrush to remove the detritus they collect once a week during a water change keeps them algae free. Some mosses also need to be trimmed as the base layer will die off without light which causes more problems with organics in the water column.

What does your tank maintenance schedule look like?

As for EI itself, I'm not willing to go into that rabbithole, but I will say that it is meant to be modified. My bottle of orange water from Tropica is also EI, but it doesn't contain nitrates or phosphorus. I don't dose my tank what Tropica recommends as I don't use CO2, I don't have stems to feed and my fast growers Vals and Giant Hairgrass are given root tabs which contains some phosphates, but most of the phosphates in my tank comes from fish food.

There is no true definition of 'heavily planted', but usually that means more than 75% of a persons' tank is covered with plant mass. Your tank does not meet that so-called standard.
Seiryu - ita not cuasing problems anymore now that I do more water changes throughout the week.

Green spot and maintenance - Water change used to be 30% a week but now it's definitely 50%. I scrub the glass clean as well but explicitly didn't scrub the tank for my pictures so people could see what it's like at the end of one week cycle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greggz View Post
Amazonian sucks up PO4, among other things.

10 ppm NO3 and 1 PO4 my tank would crash.

60 PAR is on the low side for fast growing flowery stems. And light spread/PAR drops off quickly off center with LED's. PAR at edges might be significantly lower.

CO2 still seems on the low side.

BBA usually related to high organics, not enough maintenance, and unhappy plants

I would find journals of tanks you want to emulate that started up with Amazonian.
PAR has shown it can grow plants just fine so I'm not sure it's that.

I can turn up my co2 but it's already near the point where it makes my fish grasp. My puffer will start gasping when he starts running around chasing bloodworms.

As you saw, TDS was o ly 257 and I'm doing at least 50% water changes each week to keep the calcium at 50ppm and gh at 8.

I'll have to check out journals that use this substrate. I thought amazonia was the too tier substrate that everyone wanted to use.

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Originally Posted by Asteroid View Post
If you want to eliminate that it's EI dosing just use some K and micros for the next few months and see what happens. Every tank I started with aquasoil that's all I did for the 1st 6 months and everything started up clean. Granted all tanks are different but the AS is so loaded that you don't really need much else in the beginning.

If your getting BBA that quickly to me that's an organic / light / co2 imbalance.
So I had stopped dosing everything except co2 out of frustration and what you're seeing is what happened. Holes came back and lower leaves died within a week. Before, I had to dose 4-5x phosphate and potassium to get the tank to bubble.

I thought me overdosing compared to EI was way off, but from what people are able to tell me so far in this thread (basically nothing, sadly except I have calcium rocks and aquasoil) the extra dosing may have been warranted.
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post #11 of 126 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Ddrizzle View Post

So I had stopped dosing everything except co2 out of frustration and what you're seeing is what happened. Holes came back and lower leaves died within a week. Before, I had to dose 4-5x phosphate and potassium to get the tank to bubble...
That doesn't sound right to me, because we are talking about a loaded substrate directly available to the plants. If it makes you feel any better about EI in my new setup (see link in sig) I also have a ton of Seiryu stone and very little plant mass and dosing normal EI levels using NPK and Seachem Flourish Comp. I have a Finnex 24/7 CC light that provides just 3 hours of max light and my plants are all clean even the slow growing Anubias and Ferns.
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post #12 of 126 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 04:21 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ddrizzle View Post

So I had stopped dosing everything except co2 out of frustration and what you're seeing is what happened. Holes came back and lower leaves died within a week. Before, I had to dose 4-5x phosphate and potassium to get the tank to bubble...
That doesn't sound right to me, because we are talking about a loaded substrate directly available to the plants. If it makes you feel any better about EI in my new setup (see link in sig) I also have a ton of Seiryu stone and very little plant mass and dosing normal EI levels using NPK and Seachem Flourish Comp. I have a Finnex 24/7 CC light that provides just 3 hours of max light and my plants are all clean even the slow growing Anubias and Ferns.
Indeed and thanks for the reminder - I didn't dose anything but micros the first three month and the tank was doing awesome. Then, what I assume happened is that the fertilizers ran out in the aquasoil. That's when I started having problems and also began attempting EI. This tank has been up for about 7 or 8 months now.

Also, its degassed ph is actually 7.5, and it drops to 6.6 with co2 on. Just checked.
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post #13 of 126 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 05:13 PM
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You have a host of problems the major one being Algae.
Your secondary one is old leaf loss in Ludwigia(?).

You are too focussed on ferts, yes you don't need 'Classic EI' or anything close to that level of dosing, but you have to deal with Algae first.

I would start with good husbandry. Scrub glass, take out all stone and scrub it. Remove the worst algae infested leaves/plants and then do 3X 50% water changes in succession to reset things as best you can.

Then I would stop dosing for a week, lower light duration to 4 hours/day and see if your tank adjusts and algae stops growing.

I would do that first before considering any other changes. The substrate may be loaded with ferts and this excess may take a long time to deplete so I wouldn't worry about dosing for a while. Even afterwards with your hard water I would favor Osmocote plus sparingly near hungry stems over caking on ferts in the water column.

Last edited by cl3537; 06-11-2019 at 05:27 PM. Reason: ...
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post #14 of 126 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 06:03 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
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You have a host of problems the major one being Algae.
Your secondary one is old leaf loss in Ludwigia(?).

You are too focussed on ferts, yes you don't need 'Classic EI' or anything close to that level of dosing, but you have to deal with Algae first.

I would start with good husbandry. Scrub glass, take out all stone and scrub it. Remove the worst algae infested leaves/plants and then do 3X 50% water changes in succession to reset things as best you can.

Then I would stop dosing for a week, lower light duration to 4 hours/day and see if your tank adjusts and algae stops growing.

I would do that first before considering any other changes. The substrate may be loaded with ferts and this excess may take a long time to deplete so I wouldn't worry about dosing for a while. Even afterwards with your hard water I would favor Osmocote plus sparingly near hungry stems over caking on ferts in the water column.
I suppose I could try this as I have nothing else to lose. It doesn't necessarily help me understand what has been going wrong though. My best guess right now is that EI is causing all of the issues because my tank isn't planted heavily.

Also, I've been performing your suggested cleaning and husbandry for months now. What you see is what I get after 5 days after cleaning with the current setup and plant mass.
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post #15 of 126 (permalink) Old 06-11-2019, 06:31 PM
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If you believe that your substrate is depleted than not dosing anything and doing big water changes will surely deprive the plants more than the algae. It's pretty much impossible to rid the water of all nutrients that algae won't grow. I think there's still some life in the AS after 4 months so I would at least dose K and micros which you would not be getting from the substrate or the tank.

If you started the tank with 8 hours light that would have been a problem, so I would definitely reduce that or if reduce your peak lighting to 2-3 hours and doing regular large water changes.


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