Getting plants to thrive/killing algae (dosing with Excel/Thrive daily) - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 03-25-2019, 01:48 AM Thread Starter
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Exclamation Getting plants to thrive/killing algae (dosing with Excel/Thrive daily)

Question: Am I dosing with too much Excel/Thrive? Plants in sudden decline the last week after dosing daily, algae still thriving off dead plant matter.

CO2: No/Low tech
Tank: Fluval Spec V (5 gallons)
Planted: Moderately
Substrate: ADA Aquasoil
Filtration: Carbon, Sponge
Light: 7500K LED (on for 6 hours)
Water Changes: 30%, weekly
Water Change Dosing: Excel (daily), Thrive (daily), Stress Coat, Nite-Out II, GH+ Mineralizer
Occupants: Male betta, Female horned nerite snail
Features: Heater, Airstone, Pre-filter sponge, Driftwood

Unlike my lush 2.5 gallon, this tank just struggles. Plants always just slowly die over time, rather than put out new growth/propagation.

Past problem: Algae from sunlight, but I boarded up my window ages ago to stop this.

Last year it was advised I dose the tank with Excel and Thrive when I started having hair algae issues. I was told to dose daily but I was forgetful and would dose a few times a week; the last few weeks I buckled down and have been dosing every single day. I was hoping to see immediately growth but instead today I noticed a sudden decline in the plants, both in established and new plants. I tested my parameters and it was:

Nitrate: 40 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
GH: 8.4
Chlorine: 0
KH: 0
pH: 7.2
Ammonia: 0
TDS: 244
Temperature: 75.4 (usually it's 78F but the water was a little low in the compartment)

I acted right away and went to work getting rid of any dead or decaying plant matter I could find and then did a water change, so hopefully that brings the nitrates down. I just don't know why the plants would suddenly deteriorate faster in this last week.

Am I dosing too much Excel/Thrive? My daily dose is 1ml Thrive and 0.5ml Excel. The plants that are nearly done for/on their way out are weeping moss, dwarf sag, monte carlo, and hydrocotyle tripartita. The newer plants are bacopa caroliniana and amazon sword. The only established plant that isn't on its way out (yet) is the frogbit. The cryptocoryne are established but they're kind of small and pathetic compared to how well they do in my smaller nano tank.

I've always wanted to supply a lush and productive tank for my betta. I worry that this sharp decline in plant health and the Nitrate spike is going to hurt him.

Date: 03/25/19 Tested parameters again

Nitrate: 20 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
GH: 8.4
Chlorine: 0
KH: 0
pH: 7.2
Ammonia: 0
TDS: 204
Temperature: 78.3

Nitrates have gone down but I'd prefer they be at 10 than 20. I'm guessing I'll have to do another water change soon. KH has been at 0 for weeks.

The back of the Thrive bottle says to dose 1-2x per week, a 20-30% weekly water change is suggested with a dose of 1 pump (2ml) per 10 gallons.

Though originally told to dose daily, would it be better to just start dosing twice a week? Am I over-fertilizing my plants to the point of dying faster? Am I dosing too much Excel? I am definitely struggling to find the proper balance here.

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Last edited by Ryan Mosby; 03-25-2019 at 07:19 PM. Reason: Added today's parameters
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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 03-26-2019, 04:20 AM
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Nitrates at 20 (or 40) are perfectly fine as far as betta (and majority of aquarium fish) is concerned. Frankly, betta will be fine even with 200 ppm - as long as it is not an immediate change. Not that I recommend this level but bettas are resilient. For plants - the higher, the better. 10 ppm may be too low actually.




Standard Excel dosage is 1 ml for 10 gallon, so your 0.5 ml for 5 g is not higher - it is standard. Note that I dosed up to 10x that much to kill algae without harming the plants. Some plants, however, react very badly even to standard Excel dosage, for example, vallisneria, ambulia.


IMHO you problem is not in Excel or fertilizers, it is something else.
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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 03-26-2019, 05:16 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the reply, Oso. I'll continue dosing with Excel and Thrive for now, then. My lighting period is still 6 hours, my substrate is aquasoil--I'm just not sure why the plants are suffering more than before.

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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 03-26-2019, 05:22 AM
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I agree with the above, it must be some other factor that's causing these issues. I have the same tank setup and dose the same amount of excel daily. I also have some similar plants. However, I only dose about one pump of thrive per week, as I believe its very concentrated. Even so, excess nutrients wouldn't cause stunted growth necessarily. I've quickly realized as an owner of low tech, that pushing plant growth is difficult. I've resided to slow healthy growth, rather than faster mediocre growth.

Anyway, there must be something else here. What's your WC schedule? When did you plant? What's the temperature of the tank? etc.

Also, with that dosing schedule you could probably use more light. I leave my lights on (the fluval spec v2 light) for about 8-10 hours per day, with no algae.

- T

Last edited by tjtobias; 03-26-2019 at 05:24 AM. Reason: added lighting point
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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 03-26-2019, 05:38 AM Thread Starter
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I do a 40% water change once a week.

I planted the bacopa and amazon swords a week ago, the monte carlo 3 weeks ago, the hydrocotyle tripartita 6-7 weeks ago, some more monte carlo, dwarf sag, and weeping moss 7 weeks ago. The crypocoryne has been around for longer, and the frogbit has been established for longer than that.

I keep the temperature of the tank around 78 F, for the betta.

Does that mean it's okay if I don't dose Thrive every day, but maybe every other day? Like 2-3 times a week?

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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 03-26-2019, 03:20 PM
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Probably. IIRC, the dose for regular thrive AIO is 1/2 pump (1ml) 2-3 times per week. So you should definitely be fine by not daily dosing. I have monte carlo in my tank, and if it was grown in an emersed pot I've noticed it takes quite a long time to transition over to submersed growth. I had entire clumps melt away and am only now beginning to see new healthier sprouts. However, with 6-7 weeks for the other plants, I'd expect them to be doing better.

This is strange considering you also have a good substrate. Again, I would suggest bumping up the lighting. Excel and high fertilizer use require more lighting than 6 hours.
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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 06:20 AM
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Ryan,

Your Kh is too low. Calcium carbonate is the most common carbonate in tap water and not only plays an important role in buffering the ph, it is also the main source of calcium for the aquatic plants in a planted aquarium. Calcium is necessary for the formation of the cell wall during mitosis in plant cells, and they cannot thrive without it. Signs of calcium deficiency include deformed new leaves that fail to grow properly and die back. As most sources of tap water include some carbonates, I find your Kh values very strange. Have you been using distilled water that you remineralize? or are you using some buffer agent that precipitates the carbonates? It is possible for plants to deplete the calcium in the water column, but it would take a very low Kh in your water source and an incredibly dense amount of plants in your tank (which is why calcium deficiency very rarely shows up in the hobby). If you are using distilled water, I would recommend that you include at least 25% tap water (dechlorinated) in your water changes, or consider adding some crushed coral/shells to your aquarium, although the later will not only raise the kh and ph but also the gh.

Cheers,

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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 12:50 PM
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@Ryan Mosby

I think I answered this in another thread. Thrive every day is TOO MUCH. Once a week (in my case 1/2 a dose once a week) and excel (small amount daily). Your tank is running too rich and potential for overfeeding your betta (hence the fin rot, etc).

KH of 0 means you also will get swings in pH, etc which can also contribute to issues. I would get an amano shrimp, add crushed coral to your filter, and stop overthinking your dosage. You see my crazy lush tanks? Nano, low tech, low light with rare fish.... and I dont even use half of what you have. lol.
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 02:04 PM
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Are you using the Thrive low-tech version, in which case following the directions should be fine? Excel is a good way to supplement carbon in a low-tech tank. Has this tank always struggled or is it a new issue (I see two different statements regarding this)?

Light is among the most important aspects. Can you tell us what your PAR is at the substrate? You can read about PAR here: https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...ml#post1951160. To find your PAR, you may have to search the forum, for your particular light, to see if others have quantified it. It could be that you have too much light for a low-tech tank.

Your KH, if it is actually zero (test kits can fool you) would probably be better a little higher. I would check your water source to see if you get the same results and let us know what you find. It is not critical to the plants what the KH is (calcium is measured within the GH, not the KH). However, if you actually have no bicarbonates, your BB could be struggling. You don’t need much. Many of us, including me, have KH less than 1 dKH. To raise it, add either sodium (baking soda) bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate.

Unless you are willing to change the carbon every week (it only last about that long), you may want to try Purigen to help remove the organics that can make algae harder to control. Long term, it is healthy plants that control algae.

You should have enough circulation that the plants can be seen moving from top to bottom, very gently. You should also have the surface of the water rippling (not breaking) well to encourage gas exchange.

Make sure the tank is free of detritus and clean your filter weekly until you get a handle on how often it is needed.

Nitrate is ok. Many of us run in this area, although many of us also run in the 10 ppm area. Given your low bio-load (1 fish), 40 ppm NO3 does indicate that you may be overdosing the Thrive. You may also want to pick-up a PO4 test kit.
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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 02:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deanna View Post
Are you using the Thrive low-tech version, in which case following the directions should be fine? Excel is a good way to supplement carbon in a low-tech tank. Has this tank always struggled or is it a new issue (I see two different statements regarding this)?

Light is among the most important aspects. Can you tell us what your PAR is at the substrate? You can read about PAR here: https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...ml#post1951160. To find your PAR, you may have to search the forum, for your particular light, to see if others have quantified it. It could be that you have too much light for a low-tech tank.

Your KH, if it is actually zero (test kits can fool you) would probably be better a little higher. I would check your water source to see if you get the same results and let us know what you find. It is not critical to the plants what the KH is (calcium is measured within the GH, not the KH). However, if you actually have no bicarbonates, your BB could be struggling. You donít need much. Many of us, including me, have KH less than 1 dKH. To raise it, add either sodium (baking soda) bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate.

Unless you are willing to change the carbon every week (it only last about that long), you may want to try Purigen to help remove the organics that can make algae harder to control. Long term, it is healthy plants that control algae.

You should have enough circulation that the plants can be seen moving from top to bottom, very gently. You should also have the surface of the water rippling (not breaking) well to encourage gas exchange.

Make sure the tank is free of detritus and clean your filter weekly until you get a handle on how often it is needed.

Nitrate is ok. Many of us run in this area, although many of us also run in the 10 ppm area. Given your low bio-load (1 fish), 40 ppm NO3 does indicate that you may be overdosing the Thrive. You may also want to pick-up a PO4 test kit.
He says he's using ADA Aquasoil, wouldn't adding KH be a bad idea as it would simply get absorbed by the soil resulting in a shorter buffering lifespan for the soil?
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post #11 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 02:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by varanidguy View Post
He says he's using ADA Aquasoil, wouldn't adding KH be a bad idea as it would simply get absorbed by the soil resulting in a shorter buffering lifespan for the soil?
Yes: good catch. I didn't notice the substrate. That is, obviously, what is drawing-down the KH.

OP: ignore the KH comment in my post. With the 30% water changes, expect that the buffering effect will last about a year or two. You can also expect that the substrate will contribute to the nutrient load, reducing the need for full dosing of the Thrive.
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post #12 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 05:09 PM
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Your KH will be low with AS. The dosing of thrive shouldn't hurt, but with AS all you really need is K and micros for quite some time. Without co2, I would reduce lighting to maybe 5 hours.
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post #13 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 05:56 PM
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Red face

I agree with Deanna, however, I need to add to the kh and gh discussion as there is a lot of misconceptions in the hobby. Kh measures only the bicarbonate hardness, whereas gh quantifies the minerals ions dissolved (Ca, Mg). In real life, Calcium carbonate exist in an equilibrium when dissolved in water (in the chemical sense) and interacts with CO2 (hence the buffering properties). When you add calcium carbonate, it dissociates in Ca2+ and HCO3-, therefore you are raising both the kh and the gh because the kh will measure the change in carbonates and the gh will measure the change in the mineral ions dissolved. The fact that you have a zero kh and some gh means you have minerals in the water, but we cannot say exactly which kind).

It is possible to have Calcium dissolved if you add some calcium salts (that do not raise the kh). I noticed you used GH+, however I could not find the composition of that product. They do claim it allows plants to grow tho.

I would remove the carbon for it removes nutrients that can be used by the plants.

Do you have any pics of your plants? It would be easier to diagnose a deficiency from looking at them as the water parameters do not tell use anything about nutrient or light availability.

Cheers!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Deanna View Post
Are you using the Thrive low-tech version, in which case following the directions should be fine? Excel is a good way to supplement carbon in a low-tech tank. Has this tank always struggled or is it a new issue (I see two different statements regarding this)?

Light is among the most important aspects. Can you tell us what your PAR is at the substrate? You can read about PAR here: https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...ml#post1951160. To find your PAR, you may have to search the forum, for your particular light, to see if others have quantified it. It could be that you have too much light for a low-tech tank.

Your KH, if it is actually zero (test kits can fool you) would probably be better a little higher. I would check your water source to see if you get the same results and let us know what you find. It is not critical to the plants what the KH is (calcium is measured within the GH, not the KH). However, if you actually have no bicarbonates, your BB could be struggling. You donít need much. Many of us, including me, have KH less than 1 dKH. To raise it, add either sodium (baking soda) bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate.

Unless you are willing to change the carbon every week (it only last about that long), you may want to try Purigen to help remove the organics that can make algae harder to control. Long term, it is healthy plants that control algae.

You should have enough circulation that the plants can be seen moving from top to bottom, very gently. You should also have the surface of the water rippling (not breaking) well to encourage gas exchange.

Make sure the tank is free of detritus and clean your filter weekly until you get a handle on how often it is needed.

Nitrate is ok. Many of us run in this area, although many of us also run in the 10 ppm area. Given your low bio-load (1 fish), 40 ppm NO3 does indicate that you may be overdosing the Thrive. You may also want to pick-up a PO4 test kit.
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post #14 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 06:09 PM
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Having used Aquasoil in more than 10 setups I can assure you, you don't need to add any Ca or Mg. Using Carbon with aquasoil will only add in removing toxins and there is really no issue with it removing nutrients.


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post #15 of 24 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 06:19 PM
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You increased ferts and things got worse, right? So go the other way. Fresh aquasoil doesnt need anything close to Thrive at the recommended dose, which is basically EI.

A low tech tank with fresh aquasoil definitely doesnt need that much. Half strength 2-3x week should be plenty, or if it gives a "low tech dose" do that.

Otherwise the problem is most likely a deficiency of light or co2.

Forget KH, that's the aquasoil doing its thing. GH, which is Ca and Mg, should be fine if 8.4 is correct

Double the Excel and make sure to dose it daily just prior to lights on
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