Fertilizer regime - is EI over kill? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 06:35 PM Thread Starter
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Fertilizer regime - is EI over kill?

My tank isn't that heavily stocked and not that high amount of light either. It's got a lot of rock work and sand together with some larger Echinodorus and a mix of other plants. I'm considering dosing with EI but I'm not keen on having to do 50% water change every week because I'm using a mix of RO and normal water. Difficult to explain but a 30% water change would be much easier due to the RO needed.

Do I really need to go all out with EI for my type of tank?

Can I dose with a smaller EI dose, if so how do I calculate the dose I need?

Equipment:
  • Tank Volume: 50g
  • CO2: Drop checker is Lime Green (CO2 inline reactor)
  • Temperature: 26c / 79f
  • Light: 40PAR (3x GroBeam 1000 ND LED's at 38% power)
  • Filter: Fluval G6 (650 gph)
  • PH: 5.95
  • Substrate: ADA Amazonia (new)

Plants:
  • 1 x Echinodorus Osiris
  • 2 x Echinodorus Compact
  • 5-7 Different type of smaller Crypts
  • Myriophyllum mattogrossense
  • Nymphaea Lotus
  • 6 x Blyxa Japonica
  • Mayaca Fluviatilis
  • Cladophora aegagrophila

Fish:
  • 3 x Cory's
  • 4 x Oto's
  • 2 x Blue Rams
  • 8 x Dwarf Chain Loaches
  • 10 x Cherry Shrimps
  • 8 x Neon Green Rasporas

I'm not interested in massive rapid growth, but keeping the tank algae free is my main priority.
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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 07:14 PM
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Assuming your plants are now growing nicely, just reduce the dosages of nutrients, and watch the plants to see if they continue to grow nicely. If so, reduce them again, and keep that up until you can see a difference in plant growth. Then you will have found the minimum you can dose for your tank and its conditions. Once you do that you can reduce the water changes to much less than 50% weekly. I would try to dose a little more than the minimum just to avoid dropping below minimum as the plants grow or other conditions change. EI tables were always intended to be a good starting point, to be adjusted if desired. But, if you don't adjust them, the 50% water changes keep you out of trouble.

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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 07:39 PM
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I usually take the typical EI recommendations for high-light, heavily-planted tanks, and cut them in 1/3 for my low light tanks. Could probably be cut more, but I never bothered to find the lower limit.

I've also run the math for 33% water changes. Switching from 50%, any unused nutrients and wastes will rise over a few weeks, gradually tapering off, and leveling out at about double what they were before. I've run all my tanks with 33% water changes for extended periods, even high-light tanks with full EI, and never found it caused any noticeable problems with plant growth or algae. Shouldn't be a problem unless you're overstocked or have TDS-sensitive species.

There's also a reduced dosage form of EI, called EI Natural, designed for minimal water changes. I haven't really looked into it, but it might interest you.
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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-25-2011, 08:16 PM
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You can take another approach which is start off lean and gradually increase until you reach optimal plant growth. This is the approach I took, but as stated above, these fert regimes are not written in stone and you should change them as you see fit. For example, I took the basic PPS Pro formula and increased it to fit my tank conditions. So right now I am dosing the basic PPS Pro dose but I found that I also need to add more phosphate to keep GSA in check.

I test for nitrate and phosphate and with my feeding and fert regimen I keep nitrates around 20-35 ppm and phosphate around 3 ppm. I change 1/3 water in my tank every week or two. I generally test about every 2 weeks but things have been pretty stable for months now.

I think the advantage of EI is that you start off without limiting plant growth and taper down/up as needed whereas the way I went I was/am probably limiting nutrients in some way which limits plant growth. Either way, over time with the proper adjustments, you should end up in the same place.
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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-26-2011, 04:09 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the advice. Will try gradually. Just don't want a problem with algae suddenly.
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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-26-2011, 06:10 PM
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I doubt you are going to get algae due to ferts. It seems to be more related to light. I have 4x54 watt T5ho bulbs and when all 4 were going for 8 hrs a day I got a lot of GSA. This was with just straight PPS Pro dosing. When I cut my lights down it took care of the problem - with the same dosing schedule.

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Originally Posted by Golightly View Post
Thanks for all the advice. Will try gradually. Just don't want a problem with algae suddenly.
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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-27-2011, 07:58 AM
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Hi Golightly.

Say you were going to recommend dosing for, say, 95% of the tanks in the world. Would you recommend less or more dosing, knowing what you know now?

I think the answer is you dose higher, and I think EI is beautiful and logical, and plantbrain changed the hobby with it. So in this sense, I don't think EI levels are overkill at all. It (including water changes, good CO2, adequate light -- EI!) will work with most any tank.

But we're talking about your tank and not all tanks

Another suggestion/way to approach tailoring dosing for your tank (avoiding excess/water changes; a focus on stability) not mentioned is to just play around with calibrated numbers. Let's say you measure the tank (using a calibrated kit -- Hoppy's sticky is of course an authority on this) before a water change. You dose regularly and calculate the addition of your dose. You measure again right before the next water change. You can then do something like

[ second measurement - (first measurement + (dose/day * number of days)) ] / number of days

and you'll figure how much extra you dose per day. You can subtract some reasonable number from this (say, 20%) and you'll probably be good. Keep in mind as your plants grow (and plant mass increases), so will the rate of consumption.

http://ei.petalphile.com is a modelling program that tries to make this easy for you. Check out the Optional area, and don't be afraid to mess with it and just see what happens when you move things around. Still pretty nerdy though. Ultimately it says overdosing with regular water changes makes for a stable tank. (EI!) I'd add that daily dosing at lower quantities makes for a more stable tank, and that it makes me feel better about my pets when a tank stays stable. I humbly add to this that I unintentionally breed fish all the time with such a tank.
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-27-2011, 03:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by farrenator View Post
You can take another approach which is start off lean and gradually increase until you reach optimal plant growth. This is the approach I took, but as stated above, these fert regimes are not written in stone and you should change them as you see fit. For example, I took the basic PPS Pro formula and increased it to fit my tank conditions. So right now I am dosing the basic PPS Pro dose but I found that I also need to add more phosphate to keep GSA in check.

I test for nitrate and phosphate and with my feeding and fert regimen I keep nitrates around 20-35 ppm and phosphate around 3 ppm. I change 1/3 water in my tank every week or two. I generally test about every 2 weeks but things have been pretty stable for months now.

I think the advantage of EI is that you start off without limiting plant growth and taper down/up as needed whereas the way I went I was/am probably limiting nutrients in some way which limits plant growth. Either way, over time with the proper adjustments, you should end up in the same place.

You start off with stunted nutrient starved plants, better to start high at a non limiting level, then reduce. This way you have a reference of what non limiting nutrient dosing looks like, you do not have that reference with PMDD which all pps pro really is.

With EI, you start with a reference (PMDD/PPS you do not start with any reference), then taper down slowly till you hit a point where there's a response.
Both "methods" add the same thing, so the only difference is at what concentration. EI is just an upper bound(non limiting) form of PMDD and assumes that PO4 is NOT a limiting nutrients for algae control.
But with more nutrients, obviously..........we increase the CO2 as well..........and the light starts the CO2 demand, so knowing the lighting is critical since all growth starts there.
You cannot take CO2 out and make it just 15ppm for all tanks cause it feels good or it worked a few times for you, this does NOT work. I also have many issues measuring CO2 critically, and 99.99% of hobbyists do as well, they assume it's good, but often it's not.
I run 45-60ppm in many tanks, others will run to 60-70ppm etc.

Depends on the plant species involved also, not all plants have the same CO2 demand and constants for uptake over a range of light intensities.
In other words, we cannot piece meal CO2 and light, they are the main drivers of nutrients and uptake.



Also, GSA is not a PO4 issues with EI. I modify this and add even more PO4. Likewise PMDD can be modified and more PO4 is added(generally 2-5ppm ranges) now suddenly PMDD is exactly PPS pro without any citations or credit given to PMDD which predated PPS by 8 years curiously and everyone was well aware of.
Unless you have non limiting nutrients, you cannot also have independence with CO2 or with light. So if you are only dosing barely enough CO2 for a strongly limited PO4 system, adding more PO4 will lead to strong CO2 deficiencies. This is tougher to balance and slows growth with more management issues, than say, simply using something far more stable, like....... less light. All growth starts with light, then goes to CO2.........lastly......nutrients.
So management, slowing things down, should be best done with that in mind, not 100% nutrients. No dosing should be that critical or micromanaged.

It's just not practical.

PPS classic attempted to test the snot out of everything and while it's relatively easy for myself to achieve this, for many, it's a daunting task and a hard sell. So PPS devolved to PMDD basically and made it simpler, but when it did that..........it took credit for someone else's prior work and ended up being the same thing. Any/every method needs to be simple and easy for the user. But many try to play this game with less is better somehow, playing upon the old Myths, but plants grow best when the ferts/CO2 are non limiting. Liebig clearly stated this law in agriculture 170 years ago. No way around it.
Our goal is a simple easy way to manage gardening/scaping for horticulture.

So the goal is really to grow plants well. That's what I do.




Regards,
Tom Barr
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-27-2011, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Golightly View Post
Thanks for all the advice. Will try gradually. Just don't want a problem with algae suddenly.
I think most of the issue for you will be more with adjusting as the plants grow in.

UK tap water often has a fair amount of ferts in it already,,,mostly NO3, if you live in Scotland or Wales..........etc....then maybe not......

Light is plenty.
CO2.....this is much more the management issue, nutrients/lights we can rule out easily, but CO2 is a bit more tricky and as the tank fills in, the CO2 demand will go up and up.

Current is good now, but when the tank it full of plants?
Much less so, so prune and trim well.

Do not trust the drop checker. CO2 is much more one of those things where you eyeball and adjust. Too much= gas your fish, not enough= algae.

Adjust it slow and progressively, much like the EI tapering off.
CO2 will be far more tricky than any water change or dosing and much more critical to long term success.

Do not assume that the CO2 is good with a drop checker..........ever.
This is a bad assumption.

Many do not know what non limiting CO2 looks like in an aquarium, sometimes, after a large 40-80% water change, you get an idea.
All plants will grow nicely and full etc with good CO2.

I would also suggest adding maybe 20-40 Amano shrimp, these guys will pick and clean algae really well and prevent algae from starting. Otto cats or pitbull plecos also are real good for glass algae. Water changes are good. 2-3x a week in new tank set ups is a good standard rule, or if there's an issue. Dose immediate thereafter.

I think you'll end up doing roughly 1/2 EI once the tank fills in since roughly 1/2 is planted once it fills in more.




Regards,
Tom Barr
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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-27-2011, 05:11 PM
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Excellent point regarding establishing a reference point!

Quote:
Originally Posted by plantbrain View Post
You start off with stunted nutrient starved plants, better to start high at a non limiting level, then reduce. This way you have a reference of what non limiting nutrient dosing looks like, you do not have that reference with PMDD which all pps pro really is.

With EI, you start with a reference (PMDD/PPS you do not start with any reference), then taper down slowly till you hit a point where there's a response.
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post #11 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-27-2011, 05:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by farrenator View Post
Excellent point regarding establishing a reference point!
Yes, many seem to miss this point.
It's easier in that respect than any other method to add just enough, or , the critical point.

I mentioned this back 15 years ago, but no one listens, they think it and all methods are rigid and must be strictly adhered to, mostly because those are the folks telling others what amd how to dose, not knowing much themselves....they take things as the word of God or something, rather than the word of man with some salt added.

Fear, not knowing........these things breed myths and cause folks not to think.

Here's the graphical interpretation: EI is the D range, clearly the easiest target to hit. Most have the goal of that C range.........and most fert dosing except EI targets A and B ranges.

Adding sediment ferts complicates, but you can push the concentration up higher with less reliance on the water concentrations. Except over time, N is depleted from sediments moire than the other nutrients.






Regards,
Tom Barr
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post #12 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-27-2011, 05:32 PM
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Plantbrain, if one is to start on EI, how long does it take to estalish the benchmark before beginning the tapering regimen? 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, more?

Assumption: fast/medium growing plants such as
1 hygro polysperma
2) valineris
3) limnophila aromatica
4) stargrass
5) Staurogyne repens
6) amazon sword


Quote:
Originally Posted by plantbrain View Post
Yes, many seem to miss this point.
It's easier in that respect than any other method to add just enough, or , the critical point.

I mentioned this back 15 years ago, but no one listens, they think it and all methods are rigid and must be strictly adhered to, mostly because those are the folks telling others what amd how to dose, not knowing much themselves....they take things as the word of God or something, rather than the word of man with some salt added.

Fear, not knowing........these things breed myths and cause folks not to think.

Here's the graphical interpretation: EI is the D range, clearly the easiest target to hit. Most have the goal of that C range.........and most fert dosing except EI targets A and B ranges.

Adding sediment ferts complicates, but you can push the concentration up higher with less reliance on the water concentrations. Except over time, N is depleted from sediments moire than the other nutrients.

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post #13 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-27-2011, 07:33 PM
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When you first start the tank, the plants are very likely small, so the need for ferts and CO2 is also small. As the plants grow in, they need more ferts and more CO2, and you start doing pruning. Eventually, if you are a very conscientious aquatic gardener, you will hit a somewhat stable point. How long that takes is probably a big variable. But, if you are able to keep enough CO2 going, and use the full EI dosages during that time, you should by then have a very good idea what good healthy plants look like.

Hoppy
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post #14 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-27-2011, 07:53 PM
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If this post was aimed at my situation, the tank has been running for about 2 years, CO2 injected with ferts for about the last 4 months. Conscientious gardener for about the last 2 months . And by that I mean dosing every day.

I don't want to derail this thread so anyone can PM me if they feel it is appropriate.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoppy View Post
When you first start the tank, the plants are very likely small, so the need for ferts and CO2 is also small. As the plants grow in, they need more ferts and more CO2, and you start doing pruning. Eventually, if you are a very conscientious aquatic gardener, you will hit a somewhat stable point. How long that takes is probably a big variable. But, if you are able to keep enough CO2 going, and use the full EI dosages during that time, you should by then have a very good idea what good healthy plants look like.
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post #15 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-28-2011, 09:35 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plantbrain View Post

Do not assume that the CO2 is good with a drop checker..........ever.
This is a bad assumption..
Wow, a lot to think about! Thank you very much.

You mention not to assume CO2 is good.. I also have a PH controller installed, I don't use it for anything other than measuring PH. But it's hard to calculate exactly how much CO2 by PH..the substrate seems to be lowering the PH and maybe something else too.

How would I know if I have enough CO2 if I can't rely on a drop checker or the PH?
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