Nutrient deficiencies vs over fertilizing - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-04-2012, 05:19 AM Thread Starter
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Nutrient deficiencies vs over fertilizing

I am new to using fertilizers and I just can't seem to get it right. I have 2 tanks. The first is a Biocube containing HC, Xmass moss, and dwarf sag. It's medium light 10g. I have been dosing seaChem line of ferts and I seem to always be getting algae blooms. Over fertilizing right? I cut the fertilizing all together and doesn't seem to be helping. I have a pressurized co2 system 2.

The other tank is a 20l dirt with cap. Variety of plant including those mentioned above. Pressurized co2. I have never dosed this tank and I am getting green algae on the glass. Medium light 15g volume.

I'm thinking I should drop seaChem altogether, buy some dry ferts, and start ei dosing in the Biocube. What do you think? I'm so lost when it comes to light co2 and ferts. I really need some help please. Looking for a solid clear answer. Something I can apply immediately for eager to see results. What I have been doing doesn't seem to be working.
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-04-2012, 05:22 AM Thread Starter
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I should add, both these tanks are doing very well meaning the algae isn't tanking over and plants are doing well. I just want to get thing balanced better hence getting ride of algae.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-04-2012, 04:54 PM
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Algae don't thrive because of nutrients, but because of light. There will always be more than enough nutrients for algae to grow well, but they do like lots of light with that. If your tank is planted with healthy plants, all growing as fast as the light drives them to grow, algae tend not to start growing. The reason for this doesn't seem to be well understood. Also, clean, well maintained tanks are more likely to not have algae.

Watts per gallon doesn't specify the amount of light you have, just the amount of electricity you are using. Diffeent lights have different efficiencies, depending on the type of bulbs (T5, T8, PC, CFL, MH, etc.), on the quality of the reflectors, and on the ballasts (for fluorescent lights). See https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=184368 for more information.

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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-04-2012, 06:43 PM
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What kind of light bulbs are you using?

I think it's because you have too much light, your plants can't use it all so algae pops up to do the job.

Like Hoppy said, there will always be enough nutrients for algae to grow, no matter if you dose or not. Since you're using co2 and controlling the nutrients there's no other reason I can see for algae to appear.

Reduce the light intensity or duration, do regular water changes, your algae should go away shortly after.

Another thing you should consider is that algae occurs naturally in the wild too, and it's fine to have a bit of algae growing in your tanks, it helps process wastes and excess nutrients in the water column. It also provides food for those that graze on it. It isn't all that bad aesthetically so long as you maintain the balance or light/nutrient/co2 to keep the algae density low.

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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-04-2012, 07:21 PM
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Rearding your read title, neither. Seems more related to an imbalance.

First problem is that both tanks are sparcely planted. To really take advantage of the light and nutrients in the water column there needs to be far more plants soaking it up. There just isn't.

The plant selected are all fairly undemanding plants which normally fair quite well in a mature tank with medium light and no additional fertilzing other than what comes though normal water changes.

Carpet growers who start submerged encounter many many challenges, one of which is algae. This is common for all the reasons states by everyone here.

First fix would be light adjustment. Also keep tabs on gh and kh and understand their relevance in a planted tank.


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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-04-2012, 08:23 PM Thread Starter
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20L - Coralife 36" T5HO - [x1 39w 6,700k; x1 39w Colormax] Currently 15" from substrate which is about 40PAR or medium light. I turned the photo period down from 10 hours to 8 a few weeks ago due to BBA. During this time, I also took all my plants out except for the sag. Trimmed all the BBA infected plants and replanted. I trimmed all the BBA infected sag off as well. Since then, the plants in the back right has been doing extremely well; however the plant in the front right looks like it is nutrient deficient. The Dwarf Sag is sprouting runners too! I want to add that since I have done this the BBA is still growing in this tank. As you can see from the pictures it has spread to the rocks on the left. Do you suggest I suspend this light further or reduce the photo period yet again?

.Full Tank Picture


>BBA On Rocks / Dwarf Sag Sprouts


>HC OK / Flame Moss OK / Some BBA On Slate


>Picture of Plant on the Right Side of Tank


>Close up Front Right Plant Doing Poorly



Biocube has 1 24w 10,000K bulb running 8 hours 12" from substrate 50-60PAR. The photo period was reduced in this tank by 1 hour about 2 weeks ago as well. I cannot suspend this light further but I can reduce the photo period again. In the picture, you can see the algae on the back wall and in the x mass moss.

>Full Tank Picture


>Hair Algae in Moss


>Algae on Back Wall


>Sag Doing Well / No BBA in this tank


>HC Doing Well
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-04-2012, 09:49 PM
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A few years ago I read a magazine article by Amano, where he described doing a major "tune-up" of one of his tanks. In that article he mentioned how much work it takes to control the algae on his rocks - lots of regular scrubbing to remove the algae. And, algae growing on the glass is another inevitable problem, even with low light tanks, but doing weekly scraping of the glass can control it very well. Hardscape items that are up near the top of the tank also seem to inevitably get algae growths, because the light intensity is high there no matter if the tank is low light or high light. All of that is part of why weekly maintenance is necessary.

On the 20L tank photo it looks like you have two hang-on filters which may be depleting the CO2 in the water very fast. You can allow for that by just using a higher bubble rate. Have you tried doing a long drawn out process of slowly increasing the bubble rate until you find the optimum amount? With more than low light, that process is almost essential, and it needs to be repeated as the plants grow in, adding to the demand for CO2. (Or, you can keep pruning weekly to keep the plant mass near constant.)

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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-05-2012, 12:49 AM Thread Starter
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Are you suggesting I don't change the photo period on the 20L?

The problem I have with this tank is that I'm using paintball co2 injection which makes it difficult to keep a constant bps rate. I do keep my drop checker green 24/7 but maybe I should dose excel to supplement. Question is how much? Recommended dosage? I have been increasing bps until the fish surface and then back off.

On the Biocube, I'm thinking the hair algae will never disappear and maybe should come up with another plant for that area. Too bad, I love the moss tree and either way I'm going to keep it for awhile. Algae or no algae.

Sounds to me like half my problem is just part of general maintenance and the other half is co2. I'm not convinced light is the issue but if u guys still think backing off the lights even more will help, then ill give it a try.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-05-2012, 01:31 AM
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Any photoperiod longer than 8 hours a day is probably going to help algae more than plants, but just reducing the photoperiod isn't likely to make the problem go away. Light drives all plant and algae growth. More light means faster growth of both the plants and the algae. However, algae are never going to have a shortage of nutrients, because they require very tiny amounts. Plants will suffer shortages of nutrients unless some care is taken to dose enough for them - using an Estimative Index dosing scheme will eliminate the nutrient shortage problem for the plants, except for carbon, which comes from CO2.

The higher the light intensity, the more carbon the plants need to be able grow at the rate the light drives them to. That means, the more light you have, the higher the concentration of CO2 in the water has to be to supply the plants needs. But, the fish can only tolerate so much CO2 in the water, so that limits how high you can raise the concentration. If you keep the water well oxygenated, by having good water surface ripple over the whole water surface, and, better yet, by using wet/dry water filtration, the fish will have a much higher tolerance for CO2, letting you raise the concentration even more.

Excel is a usable form of carbon for aquatic plants, but only for relatively low light. It isn't anywhere near as effective as CO2, so adding it when you have a good CO2 level in the tank doesn't buy you much.

Those of us who, like me, have a very limited budget for our hobby, can do best by using only low to low medium light, never high light. That makes supplying CO2 by a DIY system work very well, at minimal cost, compared to the cost of a pressurized CO2 system. As a bonus, it also greatly reduces the workload required to maintain the tank well enough to keep from encouraging algae from dirty water/tank/filters. In my opinion, you should use from 20-40 micromols of PAR unless you can afford the cost and trouble for a good CO2 system and the added maintenance that higher light tanks need.

Maybe some hobbyists enjoy becoming expert algae killers, and spending much of their aquarium time on that aspect of the hobby. I can't recall any of those hobbyists commenting here.

Of course high light tanks can be made and kept beautiful and algae free, and there are many hobbyists who have learned how to do that. If you wish to pursue that path, by all means do it.

Incidentally, a drop checker is a good tool for a relative beginner to help him get the CO2 system adjusted to provide adequate CO2 for the plants, but it is worth very little as an absolute indicator of when you have succeeded at that. Once you learn at approximately what bubble rate, with your system and tank, you need to be at, to get enough CO2 in the water, the drop checker becomes almost useless. The real "meter" for adjusting the CO2 is the plants and your observational skills.

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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-05-2012, 03:03 AM
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I did a three black once before and all of my algae died off. My plants looked a little.weak afterward but they recovered pretty quick.

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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-05-2012, 03:12 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoppy View Post
Any photoperiod longer than 8 hours a day is probably going to help algae more than plants, but just reducing the photoperiod isn't likely to make the problem go away. Light drives all plant and algae growth. More light means faster growth of both the plants and the algae. However, algae are never going to have a shortage of nutrients, because they require very tiny amounts. Plants will suffer shortages of nutrients unless some care is taken to dose enough for them - using an Estimative Index dosing scheme will eliminate the nutrient shortage problem for the plants, except for carbon, which comes from CO2.

The higher the light intensity, the more carbon the plants need to be able grow at the rate the light drives them to. That means, the more light you have, the higher the concentration of CO2 in the water has to be to supply the plants needs. But, the fish can only tolerate so much CO2 in the water, so that limits how high you can raise the concentration. If you keep the water well oxygenated, by having good water surface ripple over the whole water surface, and, better yet, by using wet/dry water filtration, the fish will have a much higher tolerance for CO2, letting you raise the concentration even more.

Excel is a usable form of carbon for aquatic plants, but only for relatively low light. It isn't anywhere near as effective as CO2, so adding it when you have a good CO2 level in the tank doesn't buy you much.

Those of us who, like me, have a very limited budget for our hobby, can do best by using only low to low medium light, never high light. That makes supplying CO2 by a DIY system work very well, at minimal cost, compared to the cost of a pressurized CO2 system. As a bonus, it also greatly reduces the workload required to maintain the tank well enough to keep from encouraging algae from dirty water/tank/filters. In my opinion, you should use from 20-40 micromols of PAR unless you can afford the cost and trouble for a good CO2 system and the added maintenance that higher light tanks need.

Maybe some hobbyists enjoy becoming expert algae killers, and spending much of their aquarium time on that aspect of the hobby. I can't recall any of those hobbyists commenting here.

Of course high light tanks can be made and kept beautiful and algae free, and there are many hobbyists who have learned how to do that. If you wish to pursue that path, by all means do it.

Incidentally, a drop checker is a good tool for a relative beginner to help him get the CO2 system adjusted to provide adequate CO2 for the plants, but it is worth very little as an absolute indicator of when you have succeeded at that. Once you learn at approximately what bubble rate, with your system and tank, you need to be at, to get enough CO2 in the water, the drop checker becomes almost useless. The real "meter" for adjusting the CO2 is the plants and your observational skills.
I very much appreciate your helpful and thrall response.

For the Biocube, I have cut the photo period back to 7 hours. All the plants in this tank are thick and lush and therefore, I can afford a slower growth rate by reducing the light. I cannot suspend the light on this tank and therefore reducing the photo period is my only choice regarding lighting. I will however keep pumping Co2 and observe for the next few weeks. As far as fertilizers are concerned, I think I will just stop all together and observe. When plants show deficiencies, then I will does what I think is needed. After all, the tap water, and fish are providing nutrients as well as the substrate (Eco-Complete) in this tank.

For my 20L, I will take your advice and move the light up just a little bit to reduce the PAR to about 30. On this tank, I will just have to keep a close eye on the Paintball Co2 bps rate and make sure it stays high. I will not be adding excel as a supplement because that just sounds like a waste.

Thank you everyone for your input and by all means chime in if you have a thought or a comment.
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-05-2012, 03:36 PM
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I agree with Hoppy and acitydweller. Hoppy has thoroughly covered the lights and co2 issue.

I also believe with that there is some kind of imbalance. I think its actually the ammonia in the soil that is leaching that is causing an algae bloom. How did you prepare your soil substrate? It might be that there is already nutrients in the soil that is leaching which will in turn cause algae to bloom.

Personally I never used SeaChem's fertilizers but kotocat has and he has had some amazing success. https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ad.php?t=69025

The best planted tank I ever seen in person ever period. However, he does use aquasoil and in my experience is the best for growing plants. It was tested once where at the end of the week, there was no nutrients in the water column meaning that the plants have used it all up or the substrate absorbed any extra. In person I can see he had very few algae issues at all. Even when there was, it would disappear relativity quick. Even with his high lights.

So in short, along with changing the lights and co2, we need more information on the substrate to understand whats going on. If it is the substrate, don't worry its an easy fix and you don't have to replace it. Just lots of water changes for a while until the nutrients in the soil tappers off. Or even easier, add a lot more plants.

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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-05-2012, 04:46 PM
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I have plenty of algae in my tank but since I stock otos, ramshorn snails, bristlenose plecos and platies to graze any new hair and sheet algae and dose EI with double the phosphorus I don't see hair algae and I don't have GSA or any other algae on the tank panes. Tell those platies to get to work!

If there is ammonia leaching then that might be the cause of some of your woes. Before I got more biological filtration in the tank via large Poret sponges I kept getting green water to the point I feared moving the substrate around at all.

How often do you do water changes? The cleaner I keep the tank the less debris there is to start a problem. Since you are running on the higher tech side with a good amount light and CO2 you might want to consider using EI, doing frequent large water changes hoovering over the plants to pull out excess mulm and debris and doing the regular pruning and fluffing Hoppy suggested.


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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-05-2012, 06:15 PM
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... If your tank is planted with healthy plants, all growing as fast as the light drives them to grow, algae tend not to start growing. The reason for this doesn't seem to be well understood. Also, clean, well maintained tanks are more likely to not have algae..
Yes, exactly the cleaner your tank the more light you can get away with and more breadth you have in terms of growing plants and creating different types of setups. Light doesn't cause algae any more than a high organic load. I've seen algae in indoor koi ponds where the only light was indirect.

Of course stronger light drives algae, but sometimes you need strong light. If you want to for example create an Iwagumi layout that is going to have very light plant mass but you need strong light for a carpet, you do this by keeping the tank as clean as possible (Water change, light stock, removing dead leaves, carbon, purigen, kitchen sink). For me it's all about organic load. I don't want to be limited by having to throw in plants where I don't want them or only growing certain types of plants, etc.

If most of use kept our tanks the way your suppose to at start up you would not have many issues (regular water changes, carbon/purgien, low stock, <=8 hrs light)
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-06-2012, 12:01 AM Thread Starter
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Substrate is MGOCPM 1" and Black Diamond cap 1". I sifted the entire bag and removed all the large chunks from the finer pieces. I soaked the batch of dirt in water for 2 days removing removing all remaining pieced of wood and changing the water frequently. After day 2, I squeezed all the water from the dirt and put it in the aquarium. Pushing firmly down on the dirt, I leveled everything out and added a capped. Of course, I rinsed the cap well before putting it into the tank. There are lots of bubbles starting to come from the substrate lately; therefore, I have been releasing the bubble pockets with a plastic stake by pushing thought the substrate to the bottom. I was told this is normal maintenance for dirty tanks.

I do regular water changes weekly. Removing 1/3 of the water ever time. That's a 20g long tank with 15 gallons of water volume and changing 5 gallons per week. I siphon the crud off the top of the substrate by lightly touching the top of the Black Diamond. I never dig deep with the siphon.

Currently the bio load is:

-5 small platy's
-3 otto's
-1 pleco
-20 shrimp.

I'm starting to realize that I'm going to have to do a second water change in the middle of the week in order to keep the tank cleaner, but I really rather not have to do that.

One thing I have noticed with the biocube is that the substrate never looks dirty because of the carpet. I mean, the HC / carpet plant uses all the nutrients from the fish droppings. I still siphon the HC, but visually it looks very nice.

Now, on this 20L I am trying to start a carpet in the middle by taking HC from the biocube and putting it in the 20L chunk by chunk. The HC in the biocube fills in fairly quickly so there is no problem there. Eventually, I would like the entire middle to all be HC like 12" across front to back. I think this would both help with the bio load and the over all visual.

I just want to say, I love the challenge. I have come along way in this hobby. I started out not to long ago a total noob and now I feel WAY more confident and love trying new things with these aquariums. I wouldn't have gotten far if it wasn't for this forum and all the helpful people in it. Thanks a million.
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