Nitrates/Plants/Fertilizer - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 11-13-2020, 06:35 PM Thread Starter
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Question Nitrates/Plants/Fertilizer

Excuse my broad question; In a low tech planted tank, nitrates should be below 20 ppm, but preferably 5 ppm, is that correct? If it drops below 5, is that when I add fertilizer? I totally understand it's a broad question because of other micronutrients but am trying to understand the balance of nitrates.
I consider myself new to planted tanks. I started this a year ago with limited information of: put eco complete in with the plants, and don't add fertilizer for a year because your substrate and fish will fertilize them.
I'm surprised my anubias/buc's stayed alive.
Reboot 2.0: fertilizing, watching parameters and reading a lot on the forum.
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 11-13-2020, 06:51 PM
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Nitrates, even in a low tech tank, can be kept anywhere in the 5-30ppm range relatively safe.

There isn't a right or wrong answer - If you see decent healthy growth running 5-10ppm of NO3 then good. If you see good growth running between 10 and 20ppm then good. In reality, is there really a big difference between 10ppm and 20ppm? Not really....
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 11-13-2020, 07:15 PM
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That's been one of the biggest lessons I've had recently.

The deal is that it depends on the plants in large part. And as far as I can tell there is scant literature that describes ideal water column nutrient concentrations for each plant type. The businesses that sell the plants certainly don't mention it. I had been running lean (running nitrates down to 0 or close to it and then replenishing for the next day). Many of my plants were doing really well like rotala, ludwigia, etc... they got very red and grew super fast. But Java anything was not doing as well, not dying but not looking great and not growing. Also I was ready to tear out my AR mini it because it was never looking good. I then upped nitrates and all the plants that weren't growing or looking good, suddenly were. My java swords for example that sat and did nothing for nearly two months, started growing. The AR that sat and was getting GSA on it, suddenly got larger and lost all the GSA.

To add to the confusion, there is also a lot conflating on these threads of ideal PPM concentrations with weekly dosage measured as a PPM. Sometimes it's not clear which quantity someone is referring to e.g. "I do 10PPM of nitrates" - not clear if they mean they keep a minimum of 10PPM of nitrates in the water column at all times or if every week they are dosing 10PPM worth of nitrates.

What I learned, unfortunately after stocking my whole tank, is that some plants like high concentrations and others don't. If I were to do it again I would do a lot of research into which plants prefer what concentrations and select plants based on that (e.g. not try to force a plant that prefers lower concentrations into a tank where I am maintaining high concentrations or vice versa).
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 11-13-2020, 07:28 PM Thread Starter
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Sounds like it really is a learning experience. I bought Thrive as a fertilizer. No reason why, just did. In the last tank I did one dose and my nitrates went up to 80. I lost a lot of plants which turned to mush, but could have been from anything.
Since I have no way to know what the fertilizer does, thought I would use nitrates as a general gauge.
Just trying to figure this out.
Does anyone make a kit which measures water column nutrient contents?
Also, if doing root tabs, would that also change how much fertilizer to use? I am not doing them yet as this is a new tank. Thanks for all the help.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 11-13-2020, 07:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fishie777 View Post
Sounds like it really is a learning experience. I bought Thrive as a fertilizer. No reason why, just did. In the last tank I did one dose and my nitrates went up to 80. I lost a lot of plants which turned to mush, but could have been from anything.
Since I have no way to know what the fertilizer does, thought I would use nitrates as a general gauge.
Just trying to figure this out.
Does anyone make a kit which measures water column nutrient contents?
Also, if doing root tabs, would that also change how much fertilizer to use? I am not doing them yet as this is a new tank. Thanks for all the help.
No real need to use root tabs if you are fertilizing the water column adequately. You can use them as supplemental fertilizers if you want.

With Thrive, I think the recommendations are based on EI, which calls for 50% + weekly water changes. A lot of the time people do not do that and they notice sky rocketing NO3 levels. Even with 50% water changes, EI dosing can have NO3 well into the 60+ppm range.

You can just dial it back, go to rotalabutterfly nutrient calculator and select "dose to reach target" and figure out how much to add over a week to reach, say 10 or 15ppm of NO3.

There isn't really a kit we can use to measure nutrients in the water - NO3 and PO4 are about all we've got.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 11-13-2020, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Quagulator View Post
No real need to use root tabs if you are fertilizing the water column adequately. You can use them as supplemental fertilizers if you want.

With Thrive, I think the recommendations are based on EI, which calls for 50% + weekly water changes. A lot of the time people do not do that and they notice sky rocketing NO3 levels. Even with 50% water changes, EI dosing can have NO3 well into the 60+ppm range.

You can just dial it back, go to rotalabutterfly nutrient calculator and select "dose to reach target" and figure out how much to add over a week to reach, say 10 or 15ppm of NO3.

There isn't really a kit we can use to measure nutrients in the water - NO3 and PO4 are about all we've got.
Thanks. I'll check it out. I also have a fluval fertilizer but was afraid it might harm the nerite snail. I tried finding out information on that, but with no luck.
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