My first battle with transitioning from depleted aquasoil to water dosing - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-29-2020, 08:14 PM Thread Starter
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My first battle with transitioning from depleted aquasoil to water dosing

For the past couple months I've been trying to figure out what was happening to my tank. I had an idea: aquasoil ran out if nutrients. My plants weren't growing much anymore and their lower leaves were turning darker and slowly rotting away. Growth was fantastic up until tbis point.

However, up until a few weeks ago I didnt have proof. A couple months ago I started by dosing the water column but wanted to keep fertilizers low. Afterall, whenever I had dosed alongside aquasoil I always got algae quicker and it didn't increase the growth by any. The growth was already great due to the aquasoil!

So now I'm doing full, or close to full EI dosing. The algae growth is quick, but the leaves are looking much better. Look at the top three layers in my picture to see.

The biggest realization I've had is that ferts in the soil is far superior to column dosing. Column dosing forces me to water change once or sometimes twice a week due to how quickly algae shows its face. Aquasoil never gave me this issue before.

Maybe it's nitrate vs ammonia. Maybe it's nutrients being taken up by the roots instead of the leaves. Whatever it is, soil is the way to go. Sadly, high co2 and light means the soil can't keep up with the growth and supply roots with nutrients forever.

I wonder if there is a solution to pushing nutrients back into the soil. I wonder at what rate soil can be reinvigorated with nutrients.
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-30-2020, 02:01 AM
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Hi @Ddrizzle,

I'm pretty new to this planted tank lark, but what I have quickly come to realise is the importance of finding balance and stability in a tank (especially in my very small planted shrimp tanks where everything seems very much on a knife edge!).

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Originally Posted by Ddrizzle View Post
The biggest realization I've had is that ferts in the soil is far superior to column dosing. Column dosing forces me to water change once or sometimes twice a week due to how quickly algae shows its face. Aquasoil never gave me this issue before.
I get the idea of EI dosing if you want to maximise growth as top priority (e.g. agriculture) , but it seems you are fighting yourself here. Dosing lots of fert's at EI dosing, then having to do big water changes which then drop the nutrient levels back down again, the adding more fert's again... and so on. I just don't get the point in this!?!

Algae is (according to what I have read here on the PT forum and elsewhere) a result of some imbalance within the tank. Finding that balance is of course the difficult bit! But is alternating between big fert doses and big water changes the best way to do this?

Good luck! James


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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-30-2020, 06:30 AM Thread Starter
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Hey James, part of the reason I think column dosing isn't as ideal as soil is partly due to exactly what chemicals we are adding via EI. Nitrate is not ideal and plants much prefer ammonia to it. Also, the sulfate in potassium sulfate destroys the soil balance at high levels.

Soil also provides an extremely potent way for plants to take up nutrients as well, while keeping it away from algae.

I think all of this leads to higher dosing needed and a tighter balance to keep algae growth at bay.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-30-2020, 02:33 PM
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The way I view it is that, in these unnatural environments that we create for our fauna and flora, we have to provide fuel for the health and growth of each. In the case of plants, we either do it in the substrate (which also leaches into the water column) or directly into the water column.

The various active substrates provide a package of nutrients that is consumed over time and then the entire substrate needs to be changed, which can be done in phases. The various AIO fertilizer packages do the same thing, but are much smaller packages requiring more frequent administration. Both approaches attempt to simplify success and are particularly good in low-medium light setups. However, high light setups usually require much more active participation on our part to establish a balance that works in our individual tanks.

There are many of us that use inert substrate only and have no algae and excellent plant health. It allows us continuous nutrient consistency and control via column dosing and the substrate almost never needs to be changed. However, active substrate is as close as we can get to a set-and-forget approach …but, as you know, it still needs to be watched for the gradual fuel loss.

You don’t need to follow EI. It is an attempt to get closer to a dosed set-and-forget approach, but isn’t the only method. There is the PPS approach, which is a minimal nutrient and w/c regimen. Many of us settle somewhere in between.

You can add the plant-preferred nitrogen via urea (many threads on this on TPT). I currently add only urea for nitrogen (fish food, of course, is another source) and do a 50% w/c bi-weekly. Many of us believe, strongly, that water changes provide far more benefit than just nutrient resetting. There are high CEC substrates that can absorb and release some nutrients but, again, you still have the control issue where you don’t know how much is actually being released. In a high light tank, it is a matter of finding the right balance of light, CO2 and fertilizers for your particular tank no matter what the substrate approach.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-30-2020, 04:39 PM
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I heard it mentioned in one of the Green Aqua videos that after a while substrate loses nutrients and you need to add root tabs.


I've seen several posts on this forum where folks do both (fertilized substrate AND water column dosing) and get good results. I remember one post from the legendary Tom Barr saying should do both as plants get nutrients both ways. Do a search.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-30-2020, 05:12 PM Thread Starter
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Agreed on the points all around. My next phase is to reduce my dosing so that algae comes less often. To be ear, I get the algae quicker with EI which of course could just be because of too many nutrients.

Maybe soil played better with the nitraye released from fish poop or something and was easier to balance out. Jist not sure.

As for root tabs, I wonder if the soil reabsorbs them at all or at what rate, or if they go straight to the roots. I'd think our natural problem is that soil can only be recharged at a single, slow rate no matter what we do.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-30-2020, 06:23 PM
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I had the same problem awhile back, with algae on the leaves, string algae, bba, plants growing generally unhealthy. Running full ei dose and algae was rearing its head. I thought it was the aqua soil being depleted as well but the solution was to check my organic matter and flow. I'm running an eheim 2215 and it was not enough to just clean the filters/replace pads every month. I had to completely clean out the filter, impeller, hoses of all the organic matter stuck on it. This in turn improved flow and got rid of decaying matter in the system. A week later, all algae was gone. Maybe look into that?
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-30-2020, 07:44 PM Thread Starter
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Yeah I mean it's under control, I just need to find a balance. At this point, I've just found that the aquasoil somehow balanced itself out whereas I need to be very careful with column dosage and water changes. I wasnt prepared for such a change.

This post wasn't so much about algae or fetilizer issues as much as it qas a comparison to nhtrient rich soil vs column dosing. Soil was way, way easier to not get algae and keep high plant growth and im wondering why.
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