Fertilization, Excel, and Water Changes - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-09-2009, 09:20 PM Thread Starter
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Question Fertilization, Excel, and Water Changes

Hello..,

My normal water change regime on my tanks is about 35-50% water change once every week to nine days or so. This change is either broken up in two small changes or done at once as one large. I also add a gallon or two of fresh conditioned water every two to three days due to evaporation, though at this time, I remove no water. The large change I do with a gravel siphon. I use the siphon every time I do a major water change.

Most of the time, with regards to fishkeeping alone, it is recommended not to change such large volumes of water in one go, but to break them up into two smaller water changes instead of one large. I did this mostly when the tanks were newly set-up, but now all three are well-cycled, and I am leaning more towards one change per week. Now that I'm reading up on planted tanks, a large 50% change is stressed to reset the tank's conditions. If I were to do any more than this, in the form of 25% change ever four or five days, I'm thinking it could get expensive to re-dose every time, as I am using Flourish and Flourish Excel. Some of the dosages recommend a larger volume if a water change has been done. Would this be necessary with such a small change?

I am not one of those people who wants to skimp on water changes. I have no fear of doing them, but rather I have a fear of not doing them. I am a working Mom with a young daughter, and sometimes, life gets in the way. I am planning on stepping up my fertilization process even more, by adding some of the other trace and essential elements, one at a time as I collect them. I will be using the Seachem line unitl I can get a good supply of dry fertilizers. I have also yet to remove the carbon from my filters, but I will do so once I can find an alternative material for my HOB filters. I will be using the Excel until I can get a good CO2 reactor.

I guess my question stems from the fact that it seems the "rules" for fish and plant keeping sometimes seem to run counter to one another. How does one deal with these discrepancies? How detrimental would it be if a water change did not get done? If I were to do the smaller water changes recommended in fish keeping, how much would this change the effectiveness of the fertilizers? I would like to settle on one method and continue with this consistently. I did read another thread that explained that Excel dissipates in 24 hours or so, with or without a water change. This helped to put my mind at ease that I won't be killing my fish if I happen to get busy. But what about the other fertilizers? If you can make sense of what I'm saying and offer up some advice,(I'm confused myself) or recommend links for further reading on this subject, I would be grateful. Thanks very much...

leafshapedheart
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-09-2009, 10:07 PM
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Hi leafshapedheart!

I have just started using Flourish Excel in a 10gallon to see if it's all it's cracked up to be. (So far I like it - 3 weeks of dosing and there's already a real difference.)
The bottle reads: "On initial dosing or after a large (>40%) water change..." use a bigger dose.
Every other time, use the regular dose. ^^ It'd get expensive really fast otherwise.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the 50% weekly change seems to be a real factor when using EI dosing - I don't, so I don't know much about it, but don't see why it's necessary if you're not using EI.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-09-2009, 11:35 PM Thread Starter
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Hi Sixwing..,

I'm glad the Excel is working for you. So far, it seems to be working for me, too.., at least for the time being. I haven't really decided on a particular method of fertilization as of yet. I have been doing some research, and have decided one thing, however. I think if you are using only basic ferts such as Flourish and a trace, the water change would not be so stringent. But I think once you start adding other things to the mix; iron, magnesium, potassium, nitrogen, etc; the water change would become especially necessary for the health of the fish, regardless of whether or not you choose EI or another method. This is what I'm trying to figure out on my own, because although it can be nice to have a method to follow, the beginning stages will involve some trial and error with different methods. I guess my main goal is to figure out the basic things that remain true through all methods across the board and use these basic principles to custom-fit a program that is right for me. There is so much information out there it can be hard to separate the crap from what's real and true. I believe that by looking at all the options, coupled with gaining a little personal experience, you can figure out not only what works, but also separate fact from fiction, kind of like when you go out searching for a religion. Some things ring true and some do not. And other things are just universal.

Best of all with places like this, we have the opportunity to share information with others who have already tried and tested these things. Or in the case of you and me, who are basically in the same boat, we can compare notes. It would be excellent for me if we could do this from time to time.

Bye for Now
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-09-2009, 11:57 PM
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FWIW, my understanding is that if ever want maximum growth and the ability to grow a wider variety of plants and you decide to go with all the bells, toys, and whistles with respect to decent(3 watts +or higher lighting) and pressurized c02,, then you will get maximum results using Estimative Index fertilization. Add ADA Aquasoil to that mix, and you will pretty much get as good growth as you will ever get. Estimative index will ensure that your plants do not run into nutrient deficiencies as they will soak nutrients up like a sponge. If there is a deficiency in any nutrients, then it will be quick to show up and the ultimate opportunist algae, will capitalize on the situation. So, the goal is to dose more nutrients then the plants will utilize and as near as I can see, your fish will not be harmed if you do the 50% weekly water change to get rid of any excess and to keep it from building up in the tank. Estimative index is just that and you may have to tweak and fine tune it depending on your tap water parameters. Obviously if you have high phosphate levels in your tap water or high nitrates, you probably would not need to dose those. You may already know this, but if you plan to dose Seachem Excel for carbon, some plants(elodea, riccia, vals) may not tolerate it well and could melt on you. There are many methods of fertilization, and I have tried various ones, the one that worked best for me has been Estimative Index(I have been using it for 2 years and all my fish are healthy and active and it looks like my Kribensis cichlid may even be spawning).

If you are not as concerned about rapid growth and you keep lighting to 2 watts per gallon, you will get slower growth, you may be limited to the types of plants that you can grow, and algae will have a hard time capitalizing as light levels will not be sufficient to cause the spores to replicate. As far as fertilization, if you have a nutrient rich substrate and or sufficient fish stock, you likely will have to fertilize minimally if at all. Water changes do not become as crucial and you can get away with less frequent water changes or smaller water changes.

There is whole forum dedicated to the Diana Walstad's Natural Planted Tank method. It is quite interesting. Diana Walstad herself moderates that forum. Although I never had any success with the method, you can read about many peoples' experiences that setup tanks using this method and have had shrimp and fish breed and good plant growth, some for years without any water column dosing.
http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forumapc/el-natural/


When I first got into this hobby, I was always making things more complicated than they needed to be. The biggest lesson I learned is that if you keep it simple and stick to the basics and learn to remain patient, success is guaranteed. I believe that this hobby is only as complicated as people make it.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-10-2009, 02:23 AM Thread Starter
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Hello, Homer..

Thank-you very much for the thoughtful and detailed answer. This is exactly what I have been looking for. A method and its principles can speak volumes, but they mean much more when accompanied by descriptions of personal experience from those who have been there. I can definitely see that one could make this hobby as simple or complicated as they would like it to be. In all areas of life, I am a person who looks at the big picture and has trouble narrowing things down to view with a smaller lens. That is where your help comes in, and I appreciate it very much. Patience can be so underrated in so many things, and that is what it has come down to for me as well. It helps to be reminded of that, too. If I can understand one thing correctly, it is that the light level drives the plant growth. The method you use, if used with inappropriate levels of light, could turn out to be either detrimental, or at least, counterproductive. Therefore, if you know what level of light you have, it can help in choosing a method that matches and reflects it in other respects. At this time, I do have low light levels. Although I would like to use EI and see the rapid growth, and would be prepared for the maintenance and challenges it presents, without the proper lighting, I wouldn't have the results I'm looking for anyway. So until I am able to provide better lighting and co2, it may be wiser to choose a method that would keep all things in balance. I have read an article by Diana Walstad in TFH magazine. It sounded really interesting. I will definitely go to this site and have a look around. I have also read your journal on your two low-tech tanks. It was actually one of the first things I read when I came to this site, and I found it very interesting as well. Very well-done! High-tech and high growth is essentially what I want, but it might be better to keep this as a goal for the future and stick to something that is more affordable at the moment. Then by the time I have collected all the equipment for a high-tech set-up, I will have gained some more experience. That's partly where the patience comes in! Sometimes it's hard to remember that Rome wasn't built in a day, and that tomorrow isn't going anywhere!

Thank-you
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-10-2009, 03:07 AM
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Parents = go non CO2.

Unless you let them kids run wild(like mind did)

With Excel, you can sort of do a little of both, as long as feed the fish daily, you will be okay, since you can dose the ferts/Excel daily also.

If you miss a day or two, no big deal.

This way you have more gardening choices, better growth(not fast however), more plant options and it's pretty easy to use.

Dose about like EI, but just 1-2 a week, you can still do the water changes 1-2x a month etc.

The key difference is really the rate of growth and light. More light= more growth/more CO2/more nutrients.

Less light= less growth= less work.

Most want a balance in between. So the Excel choice sounds good given your goal and routines.

EI is geared for CO2 gas enrichment, which increases the rates of Growth by 10-20X. Excel? About 3X. Non CO2? 1x.

This is why they seem contradictory etc for each method............but they are all the same for the most part, just the rate of growth changes. For a non CO2 tank, most of the nutrients come from fish waste. If you increase the rates of growth 10-20X, you cannot put 10-20 X more fish obviously, so folks add KNO3 etc.

I detail out some Excel dosing methods on my site, also, a sediment based ferts can help most every water column dosing method also, a backup in case you forget, likewise, adding water column ferts extends the life of the sediment source etc.

Regards,
Tom Barr




Regards,
Tom Barr
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-10-2009, 04:19 AM Thread Starter
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Hello, Tom, a.k.a. Plantbrain..,

Thank-you for responding to me. I repect your opinion very much. My kids do run wild... it worked for the first one, but with this second little one, I need to take a different approach...a firmer hand. As it stands, not many things are ever exactly the same, but like a puzzle, once a piece fits, it fits very well.

It certainly makes sense to calibrate light levels with fertilization, CO2, and also, my own budget and schedule. I would be willing to give up the fast growth if all the other pieces fit. My tanks are now lightly stocked, but knowing me, that will not be the case for long. I am faithful with daily feedings, but also have Reverse Osmosis water, which I am learning now needs to be conditioned. I will definitely go and check out the information on your site, especially pertaining to EI with Excel. I have added Laterite to my existing gravel, in hopes that it will help while I decide on a new substrate. This is another area where there is a lot of infomation, and I would have a very open ear to any recommendations.

Thank-you
Erin a.k.a.leafshapedheart
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-10-2009, 04:20 AM
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Originally Posted by leafshapedheart View Post
Hello, Homer..

Thank-you very much for the thoughtful and detailed answer. This is exactly what I have been looking for. A method and its principles can speak volumes, but they mean much more when accompanied by descriptions of personal experience from those who have been there. I can definitely see that one could make this hobby as simple or complicated as they would like it to be. In all areas of life, I am a person who looks at the big picture and has trouble narrowing things down to view with a smaller lens. That is where your help comes in, and I appreciate it very much. Patience can be so underrated in so many things, and that is what it has come down to for me as well. It helps to be reminded of that, too. If I can understand one thing correctly, it is that the light level drives the plant growth. The method you use, if used with inappropriate levels of light, could turn out to be either detrimental, or at least, counterproductive. Therefore, if you know what level of light you have, it can help in choosing a method that matches and reflects it in other respects. At this time, I do have low light levels. Although I would like to use EI and see the rapid growth, and would be prepared for the maintenance and challenges it presents, without the proper lighting, I wouldn't have the results I'm looking for anyway. So until I am able to provide better lighting and co2, it may be wiser to choose a method that would keep all things in balance. I have read an article by Diana Walstad in TFH magazine. It sounded really interesting. I will definitely go to this site and have a look around. I have also read your journal on your two low-tech tanks. It was actually one of the first things I read when I came to this site, and I found it very interesting as well. Very well-done! High-tech and high growth is essentially what I want, but it might be better to keep this as a goal for the future and stick to something that is more affordable at the moment. Then by the time I have collected all the equipment for a high-tech set-up, I will have gained some more experience. That's partly where the patience comes in! Sometimes it's hard to remember that Rome wasn't built in a day, and that tomorrow isn't going anywhere!
Thank-you
leafshapedheart
You are welcome and I apperciate the compliment. But Plantbrain deserves the credit for sharing his knowlege and educating me about a lot of this. I remember when I first got into this hobby, I came in with a lot of untested preconceived ideas based on what I had read. Like you know, the stuff that says don't dose phosphates or nitrates or you will end up with an algae bloom. All kinds of myths and fallacies still circulate out there. If you go back to some of my earlier posts, I even lashed out at Plantbrain for trying to help and even challenged and assertively questioned him. Lol, I am surprised that the guy was ever still willing to help me or assist me. I finally decided in the interests of fairness that I should really put his recommended methods and other methods to the test and draw my own conclusions,as skeptical as I was. And to be honest, I was shocked and surprised as it was not the result I expected. Then when I converted my 40 gallon unplanted to a planted tank, I got the worst case of algae you could imagine. It was so bad and the tank looked so ugly, that I made a 3 month commitment to fight the algae and was prepared to tear the tank down and forget about keeping live plants in my aquarium if I failed. As skeptical as I was that PlantBrain's proposed solution(s) would work, I was floored when I decided to try and watched the algae literally disappear. To this day in that 40 gallon, the water is sparkling clean, the plants are growing faster than I could trim them(heck if you were in my city, I would give you a whole bunch for free as I will likely end up throwing them out), the plants and tank remain totally algae free. Today for the first time, I saw the plants pearling and this is usually a sign that the plants are happy and the everything(c02, light, and nutrients are in balance). The only regret I have with that 40 gallon is not using quality substrate from the start. I mixed Schultz Aquatic soil with the existing gravel(when the tank was unplanted), I am now finding that the plants are not rooting into the substrate. Many of the plants are doing really well,but many are not rooted. The crypts that were planted went downhill and there is maybe one or two surviving leaves(they don't die but don't grow and there is no new growth). If I could do it all over, I would have gone with Eco-Complete or started with pool filter sand capped with Schultz Aquatic Soil to give the plants a good rooting based and anchor. I have tried to get around this issue, by running another experiment, potting some some of the free floating plants in small plant pots containing ADA Aquasoil and concealing the pots in the jungle. It should be interesting to see if these plants fare any better. My next project is a mineralized topsoil tank. The ultimate goal to determine how long a tank like this can withstand no water column dosing(excluding potassium) before major plant deficiencies materialize. You will sometimes find lots of contradictory and conflicting information in this hobby and I found and still find this the most frustrating part of this hobby. The only way to get to the truth and facts is to try something for yourself and see what happens.
.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-10-2009, 05:54 AM Thread Starter
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Fortunately for those of us who assert our opinions, there are also those who love debate and will not shrink away from a challenge. Mr. Plantbrain appears to be one of those people who understands that playing the "Devil's advocate", whether you're doing it purposefully or not, can be an excellent learning tool. I have joined his forum tonight and there appears to be a lot of great information there, as well as an atmosphere of understanding and open-mindedness. It is good to hear up front that everyone had to start somewhere, for not all of us seem to know right off the bat that the only stupid question is the one you don't ask.

I very much enjoy hearing about the trials and experiences of others, and I'm not shy about sharing my own. I will look forward to hearing more about your soil experiments, and how they progress. Experimentation is the one sure way to figure things out for yourself. But since I don't have the money for such experimentation, I will take my time and learn from others before I learn for myself. This is very important. That is why I heartily believe in thanking others for sharing what they know.

I would certainly take plants from you if you were closer. I'm right near Saskatoon. But Canada is so big that some of us are closer to our neighbours in the US than we are to eachother.LOL! It seems to create a major problem when it comes to trading or shopping. Where do you get your plants from? Do you ever order them from online? I have found it hard to find the plants I want even in the city, which is why I don't have a whole lot of plants. Do you think it would be better to plant more heavily in the future?

Bye for Now
But not for Long
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-10-2009, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by leafshapedheart View Post
... Where do you get your plants from? Do you ever order them from online? I have found it hard to find the plants I want even in the city, which is why I don't have a whole lot of plants. Do you think it would be better to plant more heavily in the future?

Bye for Now
But not for Long
leafshapedheart
I used to order my plants from aquariumplants but stopped for a couple of reaons. I found the plants arrived healthy but often did not fare as well in my tanks over the long run. They also really jacked up their shipping costs, so it is more expensive for me to order from them than to purchase locally. I was also buying a lot of my plants from the local shops in the city but they were so expensive and in such pathetic condition that they often did not rebound in my tanks. When I finally discovered some planted tank hobbyists in my city with very healthy plants that they were selling privately my plant costs dropped from double to single digits and the plants did remarkably well in my tanks. This led me to believe that starting with healthy plants vs unhealthy plants can contribute in some small way to success or failure. Also, healthy plants already acclimitized to the local tap water would do better(just speculating here, I have no hard science to back this up)

As far as heavily planting the tank, the idea is that heavily planting greatly minimizes your chances of getting algae at startup. The problem I find with this is that it restricts you to a jungle theme, something I am really trying to get away from. One way around getting the benefits of heavily planting without heavily planting is to add a lot of floaters(riccia, water lettuce, etc.,) from the start and slowly remove them as the other plants get established. This allows you to better aquascape your tank.

Last edited by Homer_Simpson; 03-10-2009 at 03:50 PM.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-10-2009, 03:43 PM
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There are a few Canadian plant clubs BC Aquarium I think?
A state or two over from you.

They might help you out there.

I think you ought to be able to avoid the RO with planted tanks unless you have some real softwater species of fish and a maybe a few species of plants(2-5%).
Then it's really just a KH issue. Unless you have salt water for a well, or copper pipes etc...........

Using RO for water changes is a huge hassle unless you have a reservior and a hard plumbed valve system to drain and refill, then it's pretty easy.
This is what I set up for clients.
Makes both of our lives easier.

But that's only if they need the RO, you need to make sure that's the case.
It could save lots of time and labor.


Regards,
Tom Barr




Regards,
Tom Barr
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-10-2009, 04:14 PM Thread Starter
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Hello...

Sounds like the majority of plants are no better in Winnipeg than they are in Saskatoon. One of the major chains sells mainly houseplant clippings for 7 or 8 dollars apiece. They might have stopped carrying plants altogether, because last time I was there, all there was was a pile of mush sitting on gravel. A couple of the other stores don't sell many plants at all; there might be a handful of java ferns and java moss. At Wal-Mart, the plants are cheap, but the selection isn't so good. The two stores that have a better selection of plants keep fish in the tanks as well, and if the fish have ich, I won't buy any plants in those tanks either. I think you are right about water conditions affecting the initial health of the plants, and about the condition of the plants contributing to failure or success. Since I live out of the city, I have different water. My community uses RO water, and it is much softer in GH and KH than the water I have tested in bags of fish. I would like to try going to Aquarium Society meetings, but have not yet been to any, though I am an online member of their site. There is a swap n' shop forum I visit occasionally, but living a half-hour drive from town and working weekends does not help in terms of arranging to meet people. But I do plan on moving back to the city in the not-too-distant future. This town is so small, and I have never been out in the country for one of our long winters before! (I'm originally from BC). In the summer I had my garden to keep me busy, but this winter has been very long indeed.

Thanks for explaining the reason for heavily planting. It makes sense to have lots of plants to soak up the nutrients you're dumping in at the outset. I know what you mean about the jungle look being restrictive, but I have never had a jungle yet, so it is still a novelty to me. But I think the floating plants are a great idea.

Well, I have to go to work today <sigh>, so got to go for now.

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