My plants seem deficient not sure what to do- please advise - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-22-2014, 10:49 PM Thread Starter
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My plants seem deficient not sure what to do- please advise

I have a 20gal long with 12 fishes (cherry barbs, platies, kuhli loaches, one betta) and some snails. I'm struggling with getting the plants healthy. It's low-light, no CO2. I switched the light source to a "full daylight spectrum" bulb a few months ago, some plants started doing better. I started putting root tabs in (just gravel substrate) and others started improving. I've been dosing with Seachem comprehensive once a week, realize now I should be dosing that every day?

I have java fern, rotalia, water sprite, aponogeton, vallisneria and crypt wendtii. The crypts are doing the best, the rotalia older leaves are small and dark, new leaves growing bright green, much bigger on the top since I added root tab. Apono the leaves get a certain size and then start to turn brown and die away- but it keeps growing new shoots still. Nothing will stay full-size on that plant though. The water sprite it grows leaves continually but the stems rot away. I have pulled it up so the crown is out of water (pegged it with a plastic twist-tie) maybe that will help? Java fern the leaves get little holes in them, get black spots, then turn yellow to white and die. That plant is always growing new leaves too- they look fantastic for a while but when get bigger start to get the splotches.

I read on a chart somewhere that these symptoms (the yellowing and pinholes) can be potassium deficiency so I bought some dry K2SO4 from GreenLeafAquariums but now not sure what to do with it. I read one one of these posts a chart that the dry dose for my tank size should be 1/16 tsp- do I just sprinkle that into the tank, 3x a week? Should I up the dose of Seachem to once a day, see if that helps before I start putting in the dry fert? Or try Leaf Zone and see if that helps... (it sounds easier)?

I was trying to keep this simple (low tech) but now it's getting more complicated and I'm a bit confused. However, I don't want to loose my poor plants! Please can someone help me understand if I'm getting things in the right direction or should do it differently. Thanks.
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post #2 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-22-2014, 11:24 PM
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Look up Estimative Index (EI) dosing practices. Since I started, my 50 gal has been no mess, no hassle. Just a 50% change every couple of weeks.
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post #3 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-22-2014, 11:36 PM
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Originally Posted by JeffHerr View Post
Look up Estimative Index (EI) dosing practices. Since I started, my 50 gal has been no mess, no hassle. Just a 50% change every couple of weeks.
Good advice. Do that, or go proper low tech using soil as your substrate.
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post #4 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-22-2014, 11:53 PM
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Without pictures it's hard to say but Potassium is on the top of my list for the problem. The Flourish Comp takes care of most everything except the Potassium. Has very little of that. Leaf Zone does have it but since you have the good stuff just use that. Try the 1/16 tsp once a week for a month. If it's not enough you will need to increase it by one more dose later in the week but then you get into a need to do 50% water changes each week.
Follow the directions on the Flourish. It is pretty diluted and after you start using the K2SO4 in a couple of weeks(3 is more like it) you may notice a new issue as the use of the correct nutrient(Potassium in this case) will cause better growth but may result in something else not having enough of. So start by using the directed amount of Flourish once a week but be ready to increase it to a couple of times or Mon/Wed/Fri
if necessary.
EI is mostly used by people who have injected CO2 but a lower version of it is on the calculatoe under EI Low light/weekly or you could just use one dose of what they reccommend for three doses a week.
On this link there is a liquid fert that would make things simple to use.
Listed under"Liquid ferts"
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=168153
You would only need to dose it once a week and as such it would last you three times as long as it says it last.

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post #5 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-23-2014, 12:35 AM Thread Starter
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Why the need for 50% water changes? I usually do 25% once a week. Does something about the ferts require a bigger water change?
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post #6 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-23-2014, 12:57 AM
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Why the need for 50% water changes? I usually do 25% once a week. Does something about the ferts require a bigger water change?
When you start dosing fertilization (Ei method) you do water changes on a schedule to "reset" the dose. The system of EI (estimated index) is to provide easily as much stuff as the pants need...by estimation. Without high tech measurement, one cannot easily know exactly which nutrients are in deficiency and which are in excess. EI provides them all at reasonable levels. The water changes reset things to an extent, so nothing gets to the excessive stage.

Make any sense?
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post #7 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-23-2014, 02:45 AM Thread Starter
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Yes, thanks. I don't have anything to measure the elements with anyways.
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post #8 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-23-2014, 02:56 AM
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Yes, thanks. I don't have anything to measure the elements with anyways.
Hardly anyone does...or if they do, they would rather simply do a water change, lol
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post #9 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-23-2014, 03:48 AM Thread Starter
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I got a few pictures











When the watersprite stems decay pieces start floating and I thought they could grow that way but my barbs tear them apart and the platies nibble the roots off.
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post #10 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-23-2014, 04:30 AM
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Wow! I've grown water sprites in my low light tank with almost no fertilization and they never looked that bad. I remember certain stems will just die and turn brown but they never deteriorated in that manner.

I would dose Potassium, Phosphate and micro nutrients including iron. Pretty much dose all the nutrients. Don't even bother skipping any because the plants will just continue to die. I would do one recommended dose for the phosphate (3-5 ppm) and micros for the size of your tank ONCE a week only.

Also check the nitrates if you can. It might be very low. If not then your plants are wanting the other nutrients.

For potassium, I would use a nutrient calculator to dose enough for 20 ppm. No need to worry on overdosing on potassium because it will not cause algae. You can even overdose on the micros and do 2x the recommended dose.

Why dose all of these? Well because once the potassium deficiency is gone then other deficiencies will show up or will still be present and your plants will just keep dying.

Bottom line is that plants need all of these nutrients to keep growing. Anytime they run out they will just keep dying.


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Last edited by PortalMasteryRy; 10-23-2014 at 04:31 AM. Reason: Typo
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post #11 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-23-2014, 05:32 AM
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I totally agree,you hit the nail on the head...


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post #12 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-23-2014, 05:54 PM
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A 20L tank is only about 12 inches top to bottom, so any light you lay on top of the tank is likely to be about 10 inches from the substrate. Even a single T8 bulb light can give you medium to high light, and all T5HO 2 bulb lights will give you high light. This means your plants need a source of carbon to keep up with the growth rate the light drives them to. CO2 is by far the best source of carbon for plants, but with medium light you might get away with using Excel at twice the Seachem recommended daily dosage. You seem to be using neither one, so that may be what the plants lack.

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post #13 of 30 (permalink) Old 10-23-2014, 07:39 PM Thread Starter
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Oh! So I've got the light level higher than I thought. If it's medium. I thought it was low. I'm looking back on photos of when I first set up the tank and actually the plants were doing great then- but I didn't realize it- they grew so slowly. I thought they needed more so I changed the light and started giving the liquid ferts. It used to be like this:

I think maybe my first move will be to put that first light back in (T8 17 watt) and see if things improve?

Regarding the nutrients- my Nitrates are usually 20-40ppm. And would the root tabs alone provide enough iron or should I buy that supplement as well? I have so far only put in half the amount of tabs were recommended on the package.
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post #14 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-11-2014, 07:09 PM Thread Starter
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I'm happy to report that my plants are recovering. I put in a lower light bulb and bumped the photoperiod to 9 hours, am dosing EI method with liquid micronutrients and dry ferts potassium sulfate (going to buy the other two macros as soon as I can) once a week. Everything in the tank is responding for the better. I just wanted to say thanks for the advice I got here, and show some pics for comparison.




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post #15 of 30 (permalink) Old 12-11-2014, 08:58 PM
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That is looking much better!

A lot of people are confused about 'low tech', thinking it means 'no ferts'.

A much better description (and a bit longer):
The tank is set up with all the things the plants need in a way that the aquarium keeper does not have to do very much very often.

One of the most important things is a high quality substrate which will hold fertilizers, and make them available to the plants. Gravel is practically worthless this way.
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