Too Much of Some Fert? Update with Lab Test Results - Page 2 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #16 of 28 (permalink) Old 04-21-2020, 08:47 PM Thread Starter
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Well, I'm still scratching my head over why certain stem plants aren't growing at all - Hygro Corymbosa, AR mini and regular and Limnophila Belem, and some Acmella Repens stems. L Rugosa has stalled out again as well.

This week I made a tweak to macros, increasing PO4 and planning three doses of 8/2/8 for the week. Hours after the second dose I saw clear tip stunting and shriveling in tips of AR mini, plus some wrinkling in Ludwigia Palustris that I usually don't have. Could PO4 be upsetting Fe/micros? In the lab water test, P came back at 2.29, but I never converted that to PO4, which is a factor of 3 if I'm not mistaken. So I really had over 6 ppm at that point, which was mid-week between water changes. And I was experimenting with fairly low traces then too. I took that 2.29 P figure and ran with it, doubling down on more PO4. And with the low traces I was dosing at the time, of course things were probably out of whack. Wish I had a PO4 test kit on hand right now...

Anyway, I read Burr's 75 gallon journal again today from end to end, and he ran into a point where increased PO4 combined with low CSM-B trace doses caused issues in some plants. And I recall Deanna saw much better growth and NO3 consumption when PO4 lowered to the 1-2 ppm range. Anyway, something new to try. Although dry fert dosing for PO4 has been within reasonable limits, I use regular Osmocote in the substrate, which is 14-14-14 - high in P. There has to be an explanation why Hygro won't grow At ALL in a high-tech tank, in the spot where CO2 and flow is the best.
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post #17 of 28 (permalink) Old 04-23-2020, 09:15 PM
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Thanks for the PM directing me to this thread. Its a good discussion with lots of useful input from people who know what they are talking about. I'll share a couple of thoughts based purely on my own experience.

Unless you were calculating PO4 based on P instead of PO4 (as you mentioned in pm) I do not believe 4-6 ppm/week is enough to cause problems. Back when higher PO4 caused issues in mine I was still using csmb and dosing extremely low levels - .00187 3x per week + the same ppm of DTPA and later gluconate at the same along with it. Yes those zeros are correct. Some plants grew wonderfully at that level but many did not. I was never able to strike a good balance using csmb, but that is a different subject

Since rolling my own micros the sweet spot for most of the 120+ species I keep seems to be in the .1-.2 ppm Fe 3x week range. This in both sand tanks with KH 5-6 and aquasoil tanks with KH 0-1 (all the time because I lower it with HCL)

The soil tanks can get by with less micros and they can also tolerate more without causing issues. I dont know why, but there is a much narrower margin for error in the sand tanks. its not entirely related to KH either because I ran 1 and 2 in the sand tanks for proably a year as well. Didnt change the result as far as that goes.

Back to PO4, since ditching the csmb Ive been able to use higher (and more efficient) micros, and limiting PO4 is not shown to be a good thing at all, quite the opposite actually. 4-6 ppm/week tends to be the sweet spot.

When you mentioned the plants that are currently having issues - "Hygro Corymbosa, AR mini and regular and Limnophila Belem, and some Acmella Repens stems. L Rugosa"

Those exact plants are the first to go south for me when K is too low. Me, Vin Kutty and a couple others went through some lower K experiments last year and all got the same results. It didnt help the species we were trying it for (sensitive Lythraceae) and we all saw issues with the plants you listed in particular. It was uncanny to read that list just now because those exact ones are the first to go south when K is too low. The main thing we all learned from the low K experiments is that those plants specifically are great indicators for having enough K. I can add Buces to the list as well.

And interestingly enough, the problems with low K rarely show up as the familiar pinhole symptoms we were all taught to look for. Except for Hygro sp which are already going south at the tops before it happens. For years I always assumed no pinholes meant there was plenty of K in the system. Not true. The first sign the K is too low is usually pale and stunted new growth

But I will say this, larding on the K isnt good either. Did that for years too because, well we all know K isnt "toxic." But too much starts to interfere with the plants ability to utilize other nutrients. All nutrients compete with a few specific other ones for uptake by the plants (thats a broad generalization as far as exactly what happens in every case)

To put in ppm terms, 35 K per week was causing various issues that I always thought were due to something else. Going down to 20-ish flipped a switch where several things got immediately better. Including species that I didnt even realize were sub par in the first place. But then say 15/week or less, that's not nearly enough.

Im not a big believer in specific ratios beyond more than a general guideline. But there is a definite balance to strike between everything. Its a main reason why @Jeffww has the best results with 1 or 2 ppm Fe per week, and somebody else might have better results with 1/10 of that. They have both struck a balance. When the low dosing guy tries Jeff's level and things go south, its not because X ppm is toxic or whatever. Its because raising it that much threw things out of whack. I guess you could say 'toxic' is as good a word for it as anything but that's not actually the problem.

This is also why Jeff sees issues when he tries to dose less. Balanced is balanced whether its high or low. And because everyone's parameters are so different, what equates to balanced in one tank doesnt always translate to another one. And of course there's always the underlying factor that certain plants simply need more of a particular nutrient than others, or may have a low tolerance for high levels of something. When it comes to fish and livestock we gladly accept that different species need different parameters. The plant crowd has a harder time accepting that different plants can have different requirements too.

So there's a War and Peace novel of anecdotal experience and idle musing. Maybe somebody will find a thing or two useful in it. @aclaar877 Keep us posted how it goes!


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Last edited by burr740; 04-24-2020 at 02:42 AM. Reason: fixed tag
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post #18 of 28 (permalink) Old 04-24-2020, 12:32 AM
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@burr740 great post......lots to take in there.

FWIW, my results have been similar to yours regarding micros, PO4, and K.

When I lowered my K from sky high amounts, tank took a turn for the better. Too little PO4 is more of a problem than too much (within reason).

And dosing custom micros is a different animal than dosing CSM+B.

Great read and really enjoyed the post.
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Last edited by Greggz; 04-24-2020 at 11:48 PM. Reason: typo
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post #19 of 28 (permalink) Old 04-24-2020, 08:10 PM Thread Starter
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Joe, that's wild, that it was the same exact plants reacting in your low K experiment! I've had the hygro pinholes before, but not lately, which added to my confusion. In the lab test K was 40, so I figured that was probably too much and brought it down. But, the K likely wasn't getting used due to the zero Mn test reading. I've tended to think my tank just liked lower ferts, since I could grow these plants before with CSM-B and about 1/2 EI macros just fine--even lythraceae for a while, before they stalled out and I got rid of them. But the different traces really make the two approaches apples and oranges, with different balance points as you and Gregg say.

It still baffles me that I could sell $50 of plants locally the past two weeks, but not grow Hygro of all things! Ludwigias, crypts, anubias, sagittaria and bacopa grow great for me.

I'm still going to lower PO4 for now - I'll try increasing K, NO3 and dose traces at 0.15 Fe 3-4 times a week. If that doesn't help I'll bring PO4 back up.

It might also be helping to have Mg drop to 10-11 ppm. In the past the tap is usually around 20 Mg, but I think it drops seasonally. Some annual reports have a range of 2-28, but latest report has the tested range of 10-11, and that's what I calculate from Ca and GH. I hope it stays there! I wonder if Mg of 20 was driving the need for more macros as well.
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post #20 of 28 (permalink) Old 04-24-2020, 08:54 PM
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Higher Mg is usually a good thing ime. As a matter of fact I think the hobby in general severely under doses it.

.15 3x is pretty strong with that custom recipe, dont be shy about going to .12 or even .1 if things dont get immediately better.
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post #21 of 28 (permalink) Old 04-24-2020, 11:06 PM
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How has your nitrogen been doing? I spent the past 1-2 months dosing reduced nitrogen like Dennis does and got very poor results. Been dumping nitrates back to 20ppm weekly again and things are doing much better. All other holding the same. I've lost some color though but I think if I increased lighting intensity I could get it back.
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post #22 of 28 (permalink) Old 04-24-2020, 11:54 PM
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Originally Posted by burr740 View Post
Higher Mg is usually a good thing ime. As a matter of fact I think the hobby in general severely under doses it.

.15 3x is pretty strong with that custom recipe, dont be shy about going to .12 or even .1 if things dont get immediately better.
What is your GH Ca:Mg these days?


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post #23 of 28 (permalink) Old 04-25-2020, 03:22 AM
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What is your GH Ca:Mg these days?

The water column stays around 40 and 20. Tap comes with 40 ppm Ca and 4-5 Mg. I add an extra 10 ppm Mg with water changes.

Plants dont really use up a lot of Mg like they do NO3, K etc. But for whatever reason the water column level matters. The last ICP I had done Mg and K were both around 20. Its good to have those two fairly equal. I dose about 21-22 ppm K per week.
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post #24 of 28 (permalink) Old 05-21-2020, 07:06 PM Thread Starter
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Plants dont really use up a lot of Mg like they do NO3, K etc. But for whatever reason the water column level matters. The last ICP I had done Mg and K were both around 20. Its good to have those two fairly equal. I dose about 21-22 ppm K per week.
Interesting point about K - increasing it the past month appears to have helped Acmella Repens a bit, but L Rugosa, L Belem, Hygro, AR and AR Mini have struggled as much as ever. They just aren't growing. O+ root tabs don't help at all, nor do the usual checks on CO2, flow and cleanliness. The K/Mg ratio is interesting. A year ago the tank looked pretty good. I checked my notes, and dosing was 10/2 NO3/PO4 weekly, with no added K2SO4, for a while. Everything was growing OK except Ammania Senegalensis and Pogo Erectus.

These two plants were the reason I started this "Too Much of Some Fert" thread, and the problems expanded to other plants over that timeframe, which did not have trouble last March.

Now I've gone about a year without needing to trim AR, AR Mini and Hygro. Running K at 30-40 ppm hasn't helped Hygro one bit, but that level would put it at a 2:1 to 3:1 ratio with my Mg levels, so maybe it's too much. Last week I got some urea to see if it can help get some growth, and it did. AR and AR Mini started to grow a little better, but can't tell yet for the other problem plants. It makes me think the ratio of K to other elements was too high, and plants couldn't get as much nitrogen and therefore wouldn't grow. This week I'll add 15 ppm NO3 from KNO3, no extra K, and 1 ppm NO3 from urea daily. I was surprised to get no algae trouble from the urea, so I might bump it a little higher to see if it helps spur some growth. I have some "before" pics of the AR and AR Mini, so if they turn around I'll do a separate thread on resurrecting these plants after over a year of struggling with them.
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Last edited by aclaar877; 05-21-2020 at 07:08 PM. Reason: Added word
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post #25 of 28 (permalink) Old 05-22-2020, 05:06 PM
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Glad to see an update on this. Im very interested to see how these new adjustments work out


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post #26 of 28 (permalink) Old 05-22-2020, 06:32 PM
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post #27 of 28 (permalink) Old 05-24-2020, 12:59 PM
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Interesting point about K - increasing it the past month appears to have helped Acmella Repens a bit, but L Rugosa, L Belem, Hygro, AR and AR Mini have struggled as much as ever. They just aren't growing. O+ root tabs don't help at all, nor do the usual checks on CO2, flow and cleanliness. The K/Mg ratio is interesting. A year ago the tank looked pretty good. I checked my notes, and dosing was 10/2 NO3/PO4 weekly, with no added K2SO4, for a while. Everything was growing OK except Ammania Senegalensis and Pogo Erectus.

These two plants were the reason I started this "Too Much of Some Fert" thread, and the problems expanded to other plants over that timeframe, which did not have trouble last March.

Now I've gone about a year without needing to trim AR, AR Mini and Hygro. Running K at 30-40 ppm hasn't helped Hygro one bit, but that level would put it at a 2:1 to 3:1 ratio with my Mg levels, so maybe it's too much. Last week I got some urea to see if it can help get some growth, and it did. AR and AR Mini started to grow a little better, but can't tell yet for the other problem plants. It makes me think the ratio of K to other elements was too high, and plants couldn't get as much nitrogen and therefore wouldn't grow. This week I'll add 15 ppm NO3 from KNO3, no extra K, and 1 ppm NO3 from urea daily. I was surprised to get no algae trouble from the urea, so I might bump it a little higher to see if it helps spur some growth. I have some "before" pics of the AR and AR Mini, so if they turn around I'll do a separate thread on resurrecting these plants after over a year of struggling with them.

Good discussion on K here....I found this test kit helpful....it was an eye opener how high K had crept up


https://www.fishtanksdirect.com/sali...-test-kit.aspx


Have you considered RO water?
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post #28 of 28 (permalink) Old 05-26-2020, 05:40 PM Thread Starter
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Have you considered RO water?
I've thought about doing RO, but haven't done it for several reasons. It's a big hassle for a 155 gallon tank, and my tap water should be pretty good, at GH of around 6 and KH around 3-4. Plus, I've grown plants better in the past with same substrate, lighting and CO2 setup, so I should be able to do it again. If I change anything it would probably be the substrate. I'd like to try something with good CEC like Safe-T-Sorb. But, that's also a big project on a big tank.
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