I ordered from green leaf, the macro/micro pack & "Epsom salts"
I will start with EI, how long to see "changes" in my plants? or should I just target certain PPMs?
any suggestions for a first timer with EI?
You can simply do more water changes to reduce any error.
This is common sense for anyone that keeps fish and cares about them.
Likewise, once you gain more skills, you can slowly reduce the ppm's, the amount of dry ferts/liquid, they still add the same things.........
If you slowly and progressively reduce the dosing over say 2 week increments, then you can see and note any changes to the tank.
Done stepwise, this allows you to see and know what the deficiency starts to look and appear like before strong limitation occurs. If you start real low with dosing, then the potential to stunt a species and have in not recover is much higher. Since we KNOW that higher levels are NOT detrimental to all aquatic plants(I've not found any yet, on over 400 species and types now), this is a safer place to start.
ADA/Amano also suggest as do ADG and all ADA vendors.....to do large weekly water changes and perhaps as many as 3-4x a week in the first 1-2 months of a new set up. I also agree strongly with this.
However, with good management, ANYONE and any tank can certainly be dosed with less. Also, we can grow aquatic plants without CO2 also. But few seem to take this philosophy of less is better all the way, they take it liek a buffet, taking only what sounds good.
Still, you can dose less EI, or more PPS, they add the same things after all.
Liquid or dry.
Low or high light, DIY CO2 of gas tanks, etc.
With something like ADA aqua soil which has loads of nutrients in it......then you can have more wiggle room with dosing and not fear running out of nutrients, and once in place, it's going to last for years except for N.
So that's a no brainer, DIY soil and MTS can be done also with similar results.
Then you can worry less about dosing.
If you use LESS light, then you can also dose less with less issues and less CO2 demand also, so this helps most cases for management. Some folks like higher light and want to garden more, but most really do not, particularly when starting out.
So now you have a better more wiggle room method regardless of the dosing routine. Less light, better CO2, and less nutrient demand from the water column.
I do once a MONTH water change(50%) on the tank below using moderate light and CO2 gas, and I feed the fish very well:
My 120 gal dutch display gets 70% weekly water changes and got every 3rd day water changes for the 1st 1-2 months.
Different goals, different methods and labor input. This is why each group thinks their method works and they are correct. What we see much less frequently are folks who are able to do several methods
This way I can have a nice looking tank with less work, as well as a nice garden where I prune and trim more. Or a tank which requires no water changes or much input of any kind, but is still very easy to care for and looks good, here's a non CO2 tank of mine.
So once you figure out how much work you wanna do and what the scape design goal is.....then you select the light/CO2....or not....then lastly , the fert routine.
I'm not saying ferts are not important.........just that they are pretty forgiving and wide ranging. There is little risk if you over do them.
Also, making the water change easy or automating it is a good thing.
It need not be a hard chore or involve any buckets.
I can change 60-70% on every tank I have, about 480 Gal worth of my 5 tanks, in about 1.5 hours and refill them using this:
Filter cleaning, shrimp culling, trimming, any other maintenance including dosing is all done while the water drains or fills. Pretty easy given the level of scaping and and sales of the trimmings I do. I do put in some work and I'm pretty good at it since I've done it for decades, but others can do it also.
I'm FAR from special. Mostly do what others before me already have done.