Struggling with my planted aquarium. - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-25-2017, 01:02 PM Thread Starter
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Struggling with my planted aquarium.

Hi all, first time poster and have decided after 10 years it's time to seek out some help with my planted discus aquarium. I've never had much luck, despite my efforts, to successfully grow lush aquarium plants. It's frustrating to say the least.

I stick to basic Anubuis on drift wood and Amazon Swords. They tend to look great for 3-4 weeks after purchase, and grow quite well. However, they gradually run out of grunt and grow small leaves and dwarf out on me! Eventually I have to pull the plants out because they look terrible and get black leaves.

I run 2x 55cm x 24w 10000k sunlight T5HO globes. The globes sit within a hood and are approx 3 inch above the water surface and approx 60cm from the bottom of the tank. I can't raise the lights under the current hood. I run the lights for approx 7-8hrs daily. In my opinion the globes seem bright, so to avoid algae blooms I cut the light timeframe down.

I use a pretty standard aquarium sand and add some root tabs to the substrate.

I have an external canister filter which creates a flow rate of around 8 times. It's a bit of an over kill but I rarely have an issue with water quality with such high filtration.

I unfortunately have limited test kits, but ph is 6.2 - 6.5.

Things I've tried:
- dosing with flourish excel
- dosing with flourish
- removing the metal reflector (didn't notice much difference)
- removing a light bulb (plants didn't seem to like that)

I'm concerned if add increase the rates of flourish and excell I'll create hassles for my discus.

Anyone out there can coach me through where I seem to be going wrong?

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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-25-2017, 01:50 PM
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Well,many plant's must go through transition from partially submerged growth (most grow this way in the wild) to completely submerged growth and this can take a few week's.
The plant's like the amazon swords may shed many leaves and new leaves will form that are better adapted to submerged condition's assuming light and nutrient's are available.
The Excel is carbon supplement which is also good for the plant's but not as favorable as CO2 injection.
Still,the plant's can perform well with the carbon supplement assuming all nutrient's are provided.
Flourish comprehensive can be used twice or thrice weekly and sword plant's in my view need at least three inches of substrate for good root development.
The Sword plant's can benefit from the root tab's replaced monthly but most root tab's are comprised of mostly iron by % I believe.
I might look to purchase some macro nutrient mineral salt's Nitrogen,Phosphorus,Potassium, and try adding a pinch or two once a week after water change in addition to daily Excel, and add the flourish comprehensive once or twice a week a day after adding the macro nutrient's.
With all this said, many are those who are willing to try what is needed for plant's to perform but worry for the fishes is also a concern .
So it was with me in the beginning.
After much researching,reading,I became willing to try what I was told in non fish tank (just plant's) and was not long before I tried same with fishes present,and have never looked back.
If the Discus are young juveniles however, and considering the frequent feedings needed for good growth, and subsequent frequent water changes needed, I might grow out the discus in one tank, and train my effort's on growing the plant's in another.
Many thing's I was willing to try in plant only tank that I was not so keen to try with fishes present.
In the end,my worries were largely unfounded.
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Last edited by roadmaster; 07-25-2017 at 02:01 PM. Reason: additional
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-25-2017, 02:37 PM
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In my opinion the globes seem bright
Your eyes are a very poor way of measuring brightness. If you put a light sensor on a sidewaylk at noon on a clear summer day it will read about 20,000 lumens. Inside a home the light levels are about 1000 lumens. So the light may seam bright to you but it might be inadequate for your palnts. There is insufficient information in this post to judge if your lighting is sufficient or not. We need to know the size of the tank (length X Width X deapth) and the lumen output of the bulbs

However, they gradually run out of grunt and grow small leaves and dwarf out on me!
This sounds like nutrient deficiency. There are 15 nutrients plants need. If you defycient in one or more you likely will have problems with plant growth. The type of water you use can play a big role in nutrient deficiencies. Do you know the GH KH of your water or are you using RO or distilled water. RO and distilled water have no nutrients while tap water has some. We need to know a lot more about your, How much fertilizer you were applying and how often you were changing your water and how much water you were replacing.

Also no fertilizer has all the nutrients plants need. In many cases tap water has enough Nickel, cobalt, chlorine and calcium for plants. So many fertilizer manufactures omit these nutrients. Excel only provides one nutrient carbon. Flowrish comparehensive has 13 (no nitrogen and nickel). While it does have sulfur and copper, in my experience with RO water it doesn't have enough of these to fully satisfy the needs on the plants. Flourish typically does well in low tech low light tanks but if you have high light it probably will not work well.Even the popular EI fertilizers used today are typically deficient in Calcium, chlorine, nickel, and cobalt and sulfur.

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-25-2017, 03:18 PM
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Have had good success with macro/micro package from Planted Aquarium Fertilizer - Home
Contains everything but phosphate, which can be supplied with daily feeding of fishes.
lot's of folks grow plant's just fine with EI method, in both hard water and soft water but with softer water, one might need GH booster.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-25-2017, 04:11 PM
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Hi HungryDiscus,

First, welcome to TPT! Discus tanks present certain challenges when it comes to growing healthy plants. The first two items that come to mind is the need for a healthy environment for the discus and the second is the temperature at which most discus tanks are maintained. I am certainly not an expert on Discus nor planted discus tanks but there is a member on the forum that seems to do well with both - @discuspaul. Here is one of his threads that I like. Hopefully he will see this post and offer some guidance.

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-25-2017, 11:57 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for responding.

Apologies for missing out on any critical information. The tank dimensions 62 x 39 x 72cm (L x W x H).

I have around 2 inches of substrate at a minimum.

I also use a spray bar that sits just above the water surface, which does aerate the water somewhat.

I don't understand Lumens, in fact my knowledge of lighting is minimal and not something i can quite get my head around, but as stated i have 2x 55cm x 24w 10000k sunlight T5HO globes.

I'll endeavour to get some test kits and get those results up soon. What tests would you recommend?

I agree with the comments thus far and also believe it's a Co2 and nutrient deficiency. I would like to try one of the basic and relatively cheap Co2 systems as a trial. Co2 95g Premium Kit Complete - Disposable . I feel the plants could be spoilt for light and don't have the nutrients or Co2 to keep up.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-21-2017, 02:44 AM Thread Starter
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Hi All,

Bit of progress on my journey. I ordered some test kits, one comprehensive for general water parameters and another for Phosphate levels.

The Phosphate test kit arrived first and i was quite shocked by the result. It was very high, off the chart! I've always maintained a very strict regiment of cleaning my tank. Canister filter changes monthly and 20% water and vacuum the substrate weekly. I tested the tap water and that returned a mid range, so i suspect that's why the high phosphates are hard to control in the tank. I stepped up the cleaning for a couple of weeks with no luck of decreasing the Phosphate level, so i opted for some phosphate pads. Within 24hrs it was 1/3 the original level and after a week the phosphates are at the lowest reading 0.1mg per 10ml. I'm sure that is probably too low now for the plants, but hopefully Flourish at a slightly higher dose will fill the void.

What i have noticed straight away is the amazing clarity of the water and the black beard algae, which i have struggled to eliminate appears to die off. I was also able to wipe off the black algae on the Anubias leaves and the drift wood with ease, before it was on like glue! So i've seen some significant improvement already.

I'm keen to to test the other water parameters.

In the mean time i still have holes in the leaves of my plants so i have ordered some seachem potassium - from all the reading ive done, where there is holes in leaves that is a starting point. I understand you cant really overdose with potassium?
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-21-2017, 03:02 PM
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I have also had some concerns about adding excessive ferts and it's potential negative effect on my fish. (My perspective is that I have a fish tank with plants to aid purifying the water, NOT a planted tank with fish.)
I discovered that Seachem markets a product called Fresh Trace. It's purpose is is to provide necessary nutrients for fish (through osmosis). It's ingredient list is quite similar to Flourish Comprehensive!

In any case, I use ferts in my low tech tank very modestly, however my tank has turned into a grow out tank for numerous fry so there are many fish. This means a large amount of fish food and some of this food, along with waste, becomes plant food....expedited by numerous Malaysian Trumpet Snails.

I [also] think your Amazon Swords may need a deeper substrate to root properly (mine do great, but I have about 4" of silica sand). Also, as mentioned, Flourish Comp is good, but along with Excel and root tabs, you may need a bit more. Something like Easy Green, Thrive, or other aquatic NpK fertilizer in modest amounts.

I've learned that most hobbyists with Discus do frequent, large water changes and I've always wondered how one would manage ferts. Are you in this camp?

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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-21-2017, 03:27 PM
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Id step up fert dosing and start doing 2x weekly 30% water changes, or at the least 1x weekly 50% which should be practiced with discus planted or not, dosing ei it will be pretty much mandatory. 20% is a small water change for what you are trying to accomplish and usually the norm for lightly stocked fish only tanks on monthly maintenance schedules. Your plants and fish will benefit from this change.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-22-2017, 01:52 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the advice all.

I've doubled the intake of seachem flourish after a 40% water change on the weekend, so will see how that goes.

Abbeysdad, i've also wondered about removing the ferts from the water with frequent water changes. Seems like i'm wasting money on Ferts at times. I guess solution is increase the dose of ferts when the water is changed.

At this point, if i can maintain plants, that don't get attacked by black algae and the leaves stay strong for longer periods i'll be happy. I'll then push for more denser, taller and faster growth next, which i'm pretty sure will only work with Co2, rather than Flourish Excell with my lighting.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 08-29-2017, 12:22 AM Thread Starter
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To continue on with the journey lol

Another test kit has arrived - this time Iron (fe). The results, Iron levels reading zero. This was a surprise to me. I had a iron test kit i bought years ago and consistently had a high reading. I've dosed with Flourish Iron, so will see how things go and test frequently to get the levels up. What do people recommend for Iron levels?

Also arrived is Flourish Nitrogen. I don't have a test for Nitrate/Nitrite yet, so reluctant to dose that yet, but being impatient i put the minimum dose in, so hopefully no damage done.

I've cut back on the phosphate removers and at this point the black algae is still holding off.

I only have three plants - 2 swords and a anubias. I'm still having problems with leaves growing with holes and a bit pale in the swords and anubias doesn't look like its shooting any new leaves anytime soon.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-03-2017, 07:16 AM Thread Starter
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Three of my own posts in a row probably means i'm having a conversation with myself lol

That aside, i have all my test kits and results ready.

Ph = 7.6
NH3/NH4+ Ammonia = 0
Nitrite = O
Nitrate = 20ppm
KH = 3-4d
GH = 8-9d
Fe = 0
Po4 = 0

Now, the Nitrate was 80-160ppm until i did a 50% water change. I suspect this is high because i was double dosing Flourish Comprehensive and added a bit more Nitrogen. 180 seem to be on the high side. What is ideal Nitrate?

Po4 is low because i have a phosphate pad in the canister filter. I was having trouble with the plant leaves turning black. This has solved that problem to some extent. If i dose for phosphates whilst the pad is in i suspect that's a bit counter productive.

Iron result is zero, which is strange because i have dosed flourish iron three times a week.

I have noticed the new leaves on both swords are growing without holes, so that's a tick but the Anubais looks pretty ordinary. The swords are still growing leaves in the smaller side.

The only changes i've made at this point is:
- increased the amount of water changed to 40% weekly
- higher dose of the Flourish comprehensive
- doubled up on the root tabs
- added some iron
- added a bit more nitrogen (although reluctant to more since my reading was so high)

Any thoughts on what to do next?

Waiting on the potassium to arrive.
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