Starting Out with PPS-Pro - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-14-2020, 10:11 PM Thread Starter
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Question Starting Out with PPS-Pro

So with my 45 gallon tall office aquarium I'm using PPS-Pro for the first time and I'm beginning to wonder if I'm missing something...

I mixed up the macro and micro components as described (I'm using Green Leaf Aquariums products), made sure I used distilled water, double checked my measurements etc. (I'm a laser physicist my profession, so although I'm no chemist, my measurement techniques are at least decent!). I've been dosing daily since first introducing plants about 4 weeks ago, 4.5ml of macros, 2.2ml of micros. I'm currently doing two ~25% water changes per week and am dosing 9ml of macros and 4.4ml of micros after the water change. But, when I test the tanks nitrates and phosphates, they are consistently reading zero. Nitrates went through the roof (>160ppm) while the tank was cycling, but once the filter kicked in, they dropped top zero in the space of about 3 days (including one ~50% water change).

My understanding is that I'm looking to "limit the water column nutrient levels" (I'm interpreting this to mean peak concentrations) to ~30ppm for nitrates and ~3ppm for phosphates, for a brightly lit tank. I don't have a way to measure PAR, but I have three 24" Finnex 24/7 Planted+ CC lights (running in 24/7 mode). The tank is 28" deep, and its about 25" to the top of the substrate so, just visually, I'd say the light is "bright" but not ridiculously so.

I'm getting a pretty serious growth of brown "hair algae" which I think is actually diatoms, as the strands disintegrate on touch and are only very loosely attached to the plants (and glass). Its easy to syphon it out, but obviously I'd rather get things balanced. I'm guessing the imbalance here is in the nutrients, as obviously the plants aren't going to thrive with (literally) zero nitrates or phosphates!

So, what am I doing wrong? I can't find any advice to suggest I need to dose much higher to get things going, but as the goal is to dose just the nutrients that the plants will metabolize in 24 hours, I'd assume I must have to dose more to get the concentration up to start with?

The plants are doing ok, they are starting to grow, nothing dramatic, but they are growing. The KH is 4dH, GH is 7dH. I have the CO2 running at ~2 bps and limited by a Milwaukee controller to a pH of 6.6, which by my maths gives me a CO2 concentration of 30.1mg/l, which should be just about right (much higher would be toxic to the fish, and I had to add air at night as the fish were gasping at the surface in the mornings).

For completeness, ammonia and nitrites are both zero. Temperature is 78F. Substrate is ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia Ver. 2.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-14-2020, 11:25 PM
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You said you mixed up Macro and Micro nutrients. Where did you read that this is a good thing to do? I personally know that Phosphorus from Macro can react with Iron from Micro, which is not good. This why not only Macro and Micro should not be mixed but they also should be dosed on alternate days.

Regarding Nitrates and Phosphorus reading zero sounds strange since you are dosing. I would suspect that your test might not be accurate. What do you use for testing? Can you try something else?

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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-14-2020, 11:26 PM
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I did PPS pro in the beginning too. Couldn't get Nitrates above 5. Bumped up closer to EI and things got better. My fish load is quite low though.

Couple things I didn't understand in your post...

Ada Aquasoil.. did you follow recommended water change schedule first 4 weeks? What is it now?

Nitrates went thru the roof until filter kicked in. Can you explain? Typical mechanical filters don't remove nitrate. Plants do though. Of course water change schedule would affect this as well.

And are you sure you have 4 dKh in a new tank with Aquasoil? Any Siryu stone used? Starting out higher? Aquasoil tends to do a good job of removing kh. Which would affect pH which with a controller especially would affect co2.

And my advice on diatoms, other than wait it out, is lower light duration (How long are they on now?). Not necessarily intensity, although maybe play with that too? Depends.

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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-17-2020, 02:42 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vanostav61 View Post
You said you mixed up Macro and Micro nutrients. Where did you read that this is a good thing to do? I personally know that Phosphorus from Macro can react with Iron from Micro, which is not good. This why not only Macro and Micro should not be mixed but they also should be dosed on alternate days.

Regarding Nitrates and Phosphorus reading zero sounds strange since you are dosing. I would suspect that your test might not be accurate. What do you use for testing? Can you try something else?

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Sorry, I obviously wasn't clear. I didn't mix the macro and micro nutrients together. I mixed the separate macro nutrients and added to distilled water in one container, then did the same with the micro nutrients in a separate container, both according to the recipe provided here: GLA PPS-PRO AQUARIUM FERTILIZER PACKAGE - MIX & DOSING INSTRUCTION

I have never seen advice to not dose macro and micro nutrients together for PPS-Pro, only for EI dosing (where you are dosing much higher and then flushing excess nutrients with a large weekly water change).

I am testing using an API Freshwater Master Test Kit. The nitrates measurement increased as I'd expect as the filter started to cycle, converting nitrites to nitrates, so I have no reason to believe the test is not working. With this test, a zero reading is pretty obvious, as the reagents do not change colour at all while you are shaking for 60 seconds. I am open to suggestions if there is a better / more accurate test available?

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Originally Posted by pauld738 View Post
I did PPS pro in the beginning too. Couldn't get Nitrates above 5. Bumped up closer to EI and things got better. My fish load is quite low though.

Couple things I didn't understand in your post...

Ada Aquasoil.. did you follow recommended water change schedule first 4 weeks? What is it now?

Nitrates went thru the roof until filter kicked in. Can you explain? Typical mechanical filters don't remove nitrate. Plants do though. Of course water change schedule would affect this as well.

And are you sure you have 4 dKh in a new tank with Aquasoil? Any Siryu stone used? Starting out higher? Aquasoil tends to do a good job of removing kh. Which would affect pH which with a controller especially would affect co2.

And my advice on diatoms, other than wait it out, is lower light duration (How long are they on now?). Not necessarily intensity, although maybe play with that too? Depends.

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I did follow the recommended water change schedule.

Sorry, I worded that comment poorly. Nitrites were high and as the filter started to cycle, the nitrates increased as you'd expect. When the nitrites dropped to zero, I did a large (~75%) water change to get the nitrates down. The nitrates were ~20ppm after that water change, but over the space of three days, they dropped to zero, despite the PPS-Pro dosing.

The KH has been consistently testing at 4į for 6 weeks now. It was a little higher (about 5į) when I was doing regular water changes initially (the tap water is ~5į).

The lights are running on their automatic 24/7 mode at present, so they are on much of the day, but at full brightness for ~3 hours. As I have the CC (customizable) model of the lights, I'm thinking of changing the profile (full brightness for longer, but also much longer total darkness - the default has a very long fairly bright twilight and is only fully dark for 3 hours).

Thank you both for the advice!

Paul
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 07-18-2020, 05:36 PM
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Forgot about substrate. It might be pulling nitrates as well.

And I see now where I missed your current water change schedule :-)

I have 2 thoughts...

Most ADA tanks I follow dose ferts around EI levels. If you want to stick with PPS-Pro then maybe consider modifying it a bit by dosing all of your Macros for the week/half week up front? See what happens. If you see Nitrates fall way off at the end of the week/period you know to add more.

3 hrs of light at full power is pretty good. Not the 8-12 that most people do in the beginning, lol!
It will be interesting to see what happens by reducing overall light duration. Diatoms are tough, though, maybe consider 1 day completely off during the week? If the diatoms are quick to cover everything that is. I did this in the beginning for the tank I mentioned and it did wonders keeping algae at bay. I didn't have diatoms though, and they are a different beast.

You just need to get the plants growing strong and those Diatoms will go away.




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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-31-2020, 05:44 PM Thread Starter
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So, the saga continues...

I've been dosing at double the PPS-Pro dosage now for almost 6 weeks. I'm still measuring zero nitrates and phosphates!

The good news is, the diatoms have gone. The bad news is, I now have a slow growth of furry dark green algae. KH is steady at 3 degrees, GH at 6 degrees (I'm keeping the KH up with weekly ~35% water changes). Ammonia and nitrites are both zero. The pH is limited to 6.5 by the CO2 controller (which should work at at ~30 mg/l of CO2 at 3 degrees KH). I could probably drop the pH to 6.4 if necessary. The lights are at full intensity for 6 hours per day.

The plants are growing, but slowly. The giant Vallis is doing pretty well, everything else is growing slowly and gradually getting covered in algae (which neither the red cherry shrimp nor the Otocinclus seem to be touching, or at least they aren't making any headway).

So, what to try next? I could increase the fertilizer even further, as there is obviously an imbalance, and if both nitrates and phosphates are reading zero, I'm guessing that's the problem (though I usually associate algae growth with excess nutrients). I did buy a TDS meter, but I haven't been able to find a tutorial online for PPS-Pro dosage using TDS that makes any sense to me. I was hoping for a "measure tap water TDS, measure tank TDS, here's what to dose" calculator but I can't find one.

I guess the other question is, why am I having to dose so heavily? Can the substrate really be sucking all the nutrients up like this, even after almost 3 months?

I'm very much open to ideas!
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-31-2020, 06:06 PM
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One really common problem I’ve seen is people not using the test kits correctly. When the test kit instructions say to shake the bottle, it means SHAKE THE LIVING HELL OUT OF IT!! Like, shake it hard enough that you need to change hands every 10 seconds because your arms starts to burn. If you haven’t been doing this, then I recommend getting new kits. The components inside the bottle easily separate, and if you used separated test reagent even once, then what remains in the bottle is no longer the correct formula.

If I were you, I would recommend new test kits, and shake the absolute living hell out of them before you check, then again when the kit instructions recommend it.

Edit: I forgot to add that Oto cats really love diatoms. They'll devour it really quick if it's in the tank.

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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-31-2020, 06:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jellopuddinpop View Post
One really common problem Iíve seen is people not using the test kits correctly. When the test kit instructions say to shake the bottle, it means SHAKE THE LIVING HELL OUT OF IT!! Like, shake it hard enough that you need to change hands every 10 seconds because your arms starts to burn. If you havenít been doing this, then I recommend getting new kits. The components inside the bottle easily separate, and if you used separated test reagent even once, then what remains in the bottle is no longer the correct formula.

If I were you, I would recommend new test kits, and shake the absolute living hell out of them before you check, then again when the kit instructions recommend it.

Edit: I forgot to add that Oto cats really love diatoms. They'll devour it really quick if it's in the tank.

You mean shake it like this...
LOL
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-31-2020, 06:26 PM
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You mean shake it like this...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lc3zN4UaozQ
LOL
Yes, exactly like that hahahahaha

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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-31-2020, 06:50 PM
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I got similar problems recently, my tests kept showing 0 nitrates, until I realized I left the master test kit for too long (haven't used it for a year) and didn't shake well enough when I tried again. Had to go buy a new test kit.
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-31-2020, 08:32 PM Thread Starter
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That's an interesting thought. I've been shaking the bottle and the test kit is well in-date (expiry is 12/2024), but I can get a new kit to see if it makes a difference. I'm a little suspicious as I'm also reading zero on the phosphates and the instructions for that test don't tell you to shake either of the bottles. But, I'll give it a try, thank you for the suggestion.
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