Lighting? Ferts? Help! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-15-2017, 10:07 PM Thread Starter
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Lighting? Ferts? Help!

*EDIT* had issues with getting pictures into the post so I had to just link to them*

I feel like my 55g is slipping away from me and I don't know what my issue is. To start here are tank specs..

Tank has been running since July 2017
55g 18" tall
lighting is 4 T8 fluorescent tubes, 2 are 32W 5000k and 2 are 32W 6500k
its a dirted tank capped with sand
Flourite root tabs spread throughout under root feeding plants
I dose Aquarium Co-op Easy green and Easy Iron once a week and Excel daily (capful)
parameters have been mostly self maintain for several months. I do partial water changes once a weekish just when I clean or trim

So now the problems. (incoming long post with pictures)

Approximately a month ago my Rotalla started growing horizontally across the substrate. I planted the Rotalla when I started the tank and it never really showed much growth, in fact I have only trimmed it one time and that was a couple months ago. I have done some research but it seems to be up in the air what causes this kind of growth. Although its kind of neat, my hope for the Rotalla was a thick background plant in the center of my tank. Here is a picture for reference.

The next problem I am having is with my Java Fern. The whole world talks about Java Fern being such an easy beginner plant that requires nothing, well within the last month or so I have started getting numerous leaves that just turn black and I trim them off assuming they are dead. I feel like I am losing leaves faster than they are growing. Any tips? I circled a black leaf and a leaf that is entirely yellow turning black.

Next I have some Jungle Val that is refusing to grow upwards! I planted this when I started the tank back in July. At first it all melted back which I expected but when it started growing again it stopped around 4 inches tall. It propagates well and has spread over a corner area of the tank but refuses to grow upwards.

Lastly as you can see in the pictures a lot of my plants are brown/black around the edges of the leaves. The new growth on all my plants looks healthy its just older leaves that look this way. When my city got its first cold spell I feel embarrassed to say I was not prepared. I did not have my heater in my tank because the temp was staying consistent with my house however when the outside temp dropped so fast I did not have my furnace on in the house and thus the tank temperature and the house temperature dropped approximately 10 degrees overnight. Would this be the cause of the leaves discoloration? It was that day I noticed the leaves were different and then realized the temperature in the tank was around 62 degrees.

Here is an overall of the tank, not sure whats up with the coloring of the photo.

I guess my questions would be are my problems related to too much light, not enough light, bad ferts, or anything else I am not thinking of? I am gonna take a few pieces of the Rotalla and Jugle Val and put them in my fry tank which has much less lighting and no liquid ferts to see if that makes any difference. Thanks for any tips or advice in advance.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-16-2017, 01:18 AM
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Ok so after taking a look here is my 2 cents. I think that the majority of your problem is lack of proper light and fertilization. You have a pretty heavily planted tank so there is a good chance that your dirt is spent now and needs to be replaced. Your lighting is only using two bulbs that are proper for planted aquariums and they are all old technology. I would honestly start with changing your lighting to something better. You can get a t5ho fixture for pretty cheap for that tank probably around $80 - $100. You can even get a cheap led light for around the same price.

The one common thing I noticed was the majority of your plants have very faded leaves and don't look very healthy. That could be why some of them are growing along the substrate due to not being healthy enough to support their weight. Just a theory. Do you do any Co2 in the aquarium? So in conclusion I would recommend getting a better light and continue what you have always done. Try this for a few weeks and if it is not up to what you think it should be then go from there (co2, change dirt, etc.). Just do things in baby steps because you don't what to make any drastic changes quickly and risk crashing the tank.


This tank is doing just what I suggested (co2, good lighting, etc.) so this could be a good person to message since they have the same tank and setup.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-16-2017, 03:07 AM Thread Starter
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I would love to add CO2 I am just nervous of the investment and where to start. I think upgrading to a nice LED light could be done though. Would it be worth it to start the tank over removing all the dirt and using new substrate?
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-16-2017, 08:01 AM
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Invest in co2 before getting new lights. It will answer more than you expect and will be necessary with stronger lighting either way.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-16-2017, 09:39 AM
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I suspect/ theorize nitrogen deficiency judging from what I could find on the co-op easy green fertilizer,photo of tank, and maybe would dose the stuff twice a week.(Or are you supposed to dose it daily?)
Vallisneria does not always do well with Seachem Excel for whatever reason.
Lighting is fine for lower light near the substrate ,and medium light further towards the surface.
Spectrum of bulbs fine also IMHO, I use three T bulbs over 55 gal. for eight hours a day.
Doubt that the soil has given up the ghost after four month's with plant mass in photo.
Without moderate number's of fishes to feed,could very well be that nitrogen is being used at a fairly good rate and simply maybe plant mass is calling for a bit more of everything.?
Don't know how long the lighting period is but if more than eight,, I might lower the light period to eight hours total for the day ,at a time which provides the most view time.
My two cents.
Need to choose between low energy tank and plants suited for them or high energy tank with CO2 injection.
The two methods do not work well together IME
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-16-2017, 01:20 PM Thread Starter
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photo period is currently about 8-9 hours but its split. 4 hours in the morning with about a 3 hour break in the afternoon then the lights come back on around 4pm for viewing when I get home. I can try changing it to just 8 hours straight and see if that changes anything.

The Aquarium Co-op Easy Green bottle suggests dosing 1-2x weekly and the Easy Iron suggests 1-3x weekly. Should I try 2x weekly?

With the exception of the Rotalla and Jungle Val not growing vertically the rest of the tank has been looking/growing great until about a month ago thats why I am so perplexed.

Also I'll pause the Excel dosing to see if that changes anything with the Val
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-16-2017, 02:08 PM
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I would try the fertz twice weekly, and keep up with the Excel but choose another plant other than vals.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-16-2017, 02:30 PM
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Here's my thoughts:
1) The dirt is fine, don't change it.
2) Flow looks good with the 2 HOBs.
3) Glad you have a heater, might help the Vals get going with some warmer temps.
4) Idk how large of water changer you are doing but bump them up to 30 - 50% WCs.
5) Ferts seem meh, they need to be balanced with your water changes to keep good levels.
- 5x pumps of the Aquarium Co-op is dosing 10 ml or a increase in you tank of:
~2.8 ppm of NO3 (assuming all N as NO3)
~ 0.03 ppm PO4 (assuming all P as PO4)
- I would shoot for 10-20ppm NO3 and 5ppm PO4(I suggest adding PO4 from another source)
- Couldn't find the conc. for Fe in the Easy Fe...
6) If your bulbs aren't new, they could be putting out less useful light for the plants.

Overall, I would increase PO4 dosing (maybe go dry ferts) and look into new bulbs or upgrade you lighting. CO2 would help you plants grow, but you will need to have your nutrients and lights in check first to seem the maximum benefit.

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Last edited by Vinster8108; 11-16-2017 at 02:46 PM. Reason: accidental early posting...
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-16-2017, 03:02 PM
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What kind of dirt did you use? The idea of using dirt or more likely garden soil is it has many nutrients in it so you don't need to dose as much. The plants feed off the nutrients in the dirt. If it's capped and not alot of leaching the Java Fern would not benefit from that. Are the damaged leaves with the black original leaves? Java Fern is the kind of plant you want to cut off many of the existing leaves when you first get the plant and let new ones form under your tank conditions.

The black on the leaves looks like the beginning of BBA. Which is common on slow growing plants in tank where the organic load is high, which is usually the case with soil, since that's why people use it.

The rotala even the ones growing straight don't look good, probably inadequate light. the one crawling is that Rotala green, that species is know to crawl. Even lower light situations, co2 helps a lot, but as @roadmaster pointed out you could just stick to certain plants, but either way faster growth through co2 keep algae and other issue away.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-16-2017, 03:40 PM Thread Starter
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The dirt is organic potting soil, not sure the brand.

The bulbs in both fixtures are new within the last 2 months, I actually dropped one fixture during a water change right onto my hardwood floor shattering both bulbs so I had to replace those just a few weeks back.

Ill try the things most of you suggested before taking the plunge into CO2. The hardest part will probably just be convincing my wife that I need to spend the money for it. Wish me luck on that!

Ill also do more research on the dry fert threads here. If I can get a good grasp on what I need to do for those I may switch over from the liquids. Are they inexpensive or relatively the same as buying the liquid ferts?
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-16-2017, 04:33 PM
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I have used similar lights and this is what I would do. I would stay low tech. With dirt you can have awesome growth and stay low tech. Remove one of the lights and keep the other. If it were me I would keep the one I like the color of the best. I had massive growth with one light fixture (two 32 watt 48" t8's) on a 75g which is a deeper tank than your 55. I would recommend keep root tabs at the base of your root feeders and stop dosing anything except the daily excel. Maybe I missed it but I did not see a photo period listed. I would recommend starting with 8 hours split how you like. I used 4 early morning and 4 of an evening. I would do a 50% water change, go a week and do another. Make sure to follow excel dosing when you do your water changes.

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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-17-2017, 03:53 AM
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One common problem with many fertilizers is that they are often not complete and may be swimming some nutrients plants need. Frequently these nutrients are in tap water but not always in the amount needed. Frequently fertilizers are missing Calcium, sulfur, and chlorine. I have no experience with Co-op fertilizers but looking at the web they don't have calcium or Chlorine. If you have soft or very soft tap water lake of these nutrients could be a problem Looking at your pictures I don't see enough to point to any one nutrient. Also the easy green fertilizer has iron so I don't thin you need to add additional iron. To much iron can cause plant growth problems. So you might want to try stopping the additional iron.
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fertilization, growth rate, lighting, plants

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