Advice for growing plants in gravel? - The Planted Tank Forum
 8Likes
Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
post #1 of 37 (permalink) Old 11-28-2017, 03:21 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: Jan 2017
Posts: 27
Advice for growing plants in gravel?

I've got a pretty low tech setup in a 36 gal with Anubias, Javas, Amazon Swords, Melon Sword, and a new Crypt. The thing is, way back when I didn't know what I was doing and used gravel substrate. I now get that my root feeders would be way better off with planted substrate, but I'm headed off to college in less than a year and I just don't want to spend $50-70 when it won't last long. I'm trying to make the best with what I have. I'm using flourish tabs, potassium, phosphorous, and liquid CO2 but the swords aren't doing so well. The Melon sword grows a lot but the leaf ends go yellow and then brown after a little while. Meanwhile the Amazon swords are light green and sometimes almost clear. I rarely get a leaf beyond 4 inches before it starts dying off. I've heard that gravel plants are possible with the right ferts, but my current regimen just isn't working. What can I do to perk up these swords and not kill this new crypt?
Niccoj and Niccoj like this.
atyshka is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #2 of 37 (permalink) Old 11-28-2017, 03:30 PM
Planted Tank Guru
 
Quagulator's Avatar
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: May 2015
Location: Forest City ON, Canada
Posts: 2,164
Quote:
Originally Posted by atyshka View Post
I've got a pretty low tech setup in a 36 gal with Anubias, Javas, Amazon Swords, Melon Sword, and a new Crypt. The thing is, way back when I didn't know what I was doing and used gravel substrate. I now get that my root feeders would be way better off with planted substrate, but I'm headed off to college in less than a year and I just don't want to spend $50-70 when it won't last long. I'm trying to make the best with what I have. I'm using flourish tabs, potassium, phosphorous, and liquid CO2 but the swords aren't doing so well. The Melon sword grows a lot but the leaf ends go yellow and then brown after a little while. Meanwhile the Amazon swords are light green and sometimes almost clear. I rarely get a leaf beyond 4 inches before it starts dying off. I've heard that gravel plants are possible with the right ferts, but my current regimen just isn't working. What can I do to perk up these swords and not kill this new crypt?
Regular gravel has basically no cation exchange capacity meaning the gravel particles do not have charged, porous surfaces capable of exchanging (storing and releasing) nutrients. Therefore root tabs are needed in your case. Try adding them when you see limited or damaged growth. Likely the nutrients do not last long, the sword and crypts will uptake a lot, and microbial activity will uptake a lot, limiting the longevity of nutrients available for plant growth. This is really important for micro nutrients, as root tabs may not be able to supply enough and many plants will really on micro nutrients being taken from soil particles.
DaveK and DaveK like this.
Quagulator is offline  
post #3 of 37 (permalink) Old 11-28-2017, 03:51 PM
Banned
 
PTrader: (73/100%)
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: New York
Posts: 5,942
In terms of ferts, all you need to do is supply everything via the water column. You don't need anything in the gravel. If that's what's available the plants will take it that way. This whole "heavy root" feeder thing is a myth and has been disproven over a over thousand and thousands of time by people growing swords, crypts etc, in sand, gravel and only dosing the water column.

Just make sure you have NPK and micros going in, and doing water changes to keep the water clean and the ferts in range.
houseofcards is offline  
 
post #4 of 37 (permalink) Old 11-28-2017, 03:52 PM
Planted Tank Guru
 
Nubster's Avatar
 
PTrader: (17/100%)
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Romney, West Virginia
Posts: 4,376
The other option is to choose plants that are column feeders or do well as column only feeders. Then substrate choice won't really matter. That's what I'm going to attempt to do with my upcoming build because:

1. Plant substrate is pricey. Although in reality the tank I'm doing won't need a large amount of substrate as it's only a 24x18 tank...so by the calculators I've tried...9L is about all I'd really need. But see #2 as my primary reason.
2. I don't like the idea of the substrate needing replaced eventually when it stops providing nutrients and/or turns to mush. I figure if I'm going to eventually have to use root tabs anyways...why not do that from the start and save a lot of money using a cheaper substrate. My goal is to not even have to use root tabs...unless there's a plant that I just MUST have and it needs to root feed.
3. I don't really need an active substrate to buffer my water.
4. More choices to get the look that I want.
5. I'm not one of those folks that likes and enjoys tearing tanks down and rescaping over and over again. I'm one of those that once it's setup the way I like it...I just want to leave it like that. So reason #2 concerns me most. If that concern can be dispelled...I'd certainly reconsider using a more plant specific type substrate over inert gravel/sand/crushed lava rock.

Of course if any of my reasons are flawed...I'm all ears.


***Edit...I was typing as houseofcards was posting so he beat me to the punch and actually went a step further.


To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.



To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
Nubster is online now  
post #5 of 37 (permalink) Old 11-28-2017, 04:05 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: Jan 2017
Posts: 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by houseofcards View Post
In terms of ferts, all you need to do is supply everything via the water column. You don't need anything in the gravel. If that's what's available the plants will take it that way. This whole "heavy root" feeder thing is a myth and has been disproven over a over thousand and thousands of time by people growing swords, crypts etc, in sand, gravel and only dosing the water column.

Just make sure you have NPK and micros going in, and doing water changes to keep the water clean and the ferts in range.
I'm doing NPK. One problem I have is bad BGA. It's a bit of a circular problem: I have very little biomass but high ferts which leads to BGA. I've tried using stem plants like anacharis to use up excess nutrients but the stem plants get coated in the stuff and die. Advice?
atyshka is offline  
post #6 of 37 (permalink) Old 11-28-2017, 04:08 PM
Planted Tank Guru
 
Quagulator's Avatar
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: May 2015
Location: Forest City ON, Canada
Posts: 2,164
While the availability of nutrients is a topic for a different thread (it has been the topic of numerous past threads) ideally you would want to supply the plant with sources of nutrients that are easily up taken to achieve its best growth. Plants like swords and crypts, when forced to, will utilize nutrients dosed into the water column, and vise versa will use substrate derived nutrients. Is this better/worse/the same as having nutrients readily available near the root? We won't know unless we dive into a full experimental procedure to find out.

Nutrients dosed into the water column are also not always taken in through plant leaves. Many nutrient particles are adsorbed by the substrate, and is dependent on the CEC of that substrate. So in a gravel/sand substrate there will be far less nutrients taken from the water column, and bonded to the substrate particles. So having both easily available macro and micro nutrients in the substrate, along with in the water column should provide appropriate amounts for your plants OP. It will be up to the plant to uptake which is more readily and easily available for it.
Quagulator is offline  
post #7 of 37 (permalink) Old 11-28-2017, 04:08 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: Jan 2017
Posts: 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by houseofcards View Post
In terms of ferts, all you need to do is supply everything via the water column. You don't need anything in the gravel. If that's what's available the plants will take it that way. This whole "heavy root" feeder thing is a myth and has been disproven over a over thousand and thousands of time by people growing swords, crypts etc, in sand, gravel and only dosing the water column.

Just make sure you have NPK and micros going in, and doing water changes to keep the water clean and the ferts in range.
My other issue: nitrate get thrown off a lot with water changes. I try to overfeed a bit after water changes to recover nitrate a bit but I have accidentally mini cycled doing that. Do I get more fish or supplement with chemical nitrate?

Bump: Here's a pic of my amazon. A lot of browning and very little growth despite water column and tab ferts. I should also mention I have to scrub bga off it at least twice a week.
atyshka is offline  
post #8 of 37 (permalink) Old 11-28-2017, 04:12 PM
Planted Tank Guru
 
Quagulator's Avatar
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: May 2015
Location: Forest City ON, Canada
Posts: 2,164
Quote:
Originally Posted by atyshka View Post
My other issue: nitrate get thrown off a lot with water changes. I try to overfeed a bit after water changes to recover nitrate a bit but I have accidentally mini cycled doing that. Do I get more fish or supplement with chemical nitrate?
I experienced exactly the same scenario as you. Out of whack nitrate levels, high fert dosing and low plant mass and I got a bad outbreak of cyano. What I did was increase flow, do a 75%+ water change, black out the tank for a few days to a weak, do another 75%+ water change, cut back ferts, removed as much dead plant matter and cyano as I could and reduced my photo period and it cleared up.
Quagulator is offline  
post #9 of 37 (permalink) Old 11-28-2017, 04:12 PM
Banned
 
PTrader: (73/100%)
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: New York
Posts: 5,942
Quote:
Originally Posted by atyshka View Post
I'm doing NPK. One problem I have is bad BGA. It's a bit of a circular problem: I have very little biomass but high ferts which leads to BGA. I've tried using stem plants like anacharis to use up excess nutrients but the stem plants get coated in the stuff and die. Advice?
If you talking about "high ferts" from dosing this does not cause BGA. BGA is caused by high "organics" in the water and the tanks inability to process the organic load either through the bio-filter and/or the plants. You said your dosing flourish tabs, potassium, phosphorous. Where's the nitrogen? Are you getting that from the dosing or from the tank itself?

Bump: I just saw this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by atyshka View Post
My other issue: nitrate get thrown off a lot with water changes. I try to overfeed a bit after water changes to recover nitrate a bit but I have accidentally mini cycled doing that. Do I get more fish or supplement with chemical nitrate?
Getting nitrate from fish waste is the worst thing you can do. Not that it can't work in certain tanks, but there is a HUGE difference dosing inorganic salts like kno3 and getting nitrate from fish waste. In the latter case your purposely keeping your tank 'dirty' this gives you much less wiggle room with light and stocking to avoid algae issues. The nitrate is there because things are decomposing and releasing ammonia into your water. Algae doesn't care if it doesn't show up on your test kit.
Kubla and Kubla like this.
houseofcards is offline  
post #10 of 37 (permalink) Old 11-28-2017, 04:34 PM
Banned
 
PTrader: (73/100%)
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: New York
Posts: 5,942
@Nubster

You brought out some good concerns. I haven't seen a plant that needs to have a fertile substrate yet, as long as your feeding the water column. I've had swords for like 8 years, huge crypts, etc all in substrate lost most of it's nutrients or never had any. It's not to say that a plant doesn't get a boast from a fertile substrate like AS or even soil, but you can't rely on just that long-term anyway so the water column is the key.
Kubla and Kubla like this.
houseofcards is offline  
post #11 of 37 (permalink) Old 11-28-2017, 05:12 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: Jan 2017
Posts: 27
Photo period has been at 6 hours, can't go much lower. I'm trying a blackout but I'm worried that it will melt my crypts.

Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by houseofcards View Post
If you talking about "high ferts" from dosing this does not cause BGA. BGA is caused by high "organics" in the water and the tanks inability to process the organic load either through the bio-filter and/or the plants. You said your dosing flourish tabs, potassium, phosphorous. Where's the nitrogen? Are you getting that from the dosing or from the tank itself?

Bump: I just saw this:



Getting nitrate from fish waste is the worst thing you can do. Not that it can't work in certain tanks, but there is a HUGE difference dosing inorganic salts like kno3 and getting nitrate from fish waste. In the latter case your purposely keeping your tank 'dirty' this gives you much less wiggle room with light and stocking to avoid algae issues. The nitrate is there because things are decomposing and releasing ammonia into your water. Algae doesn't care if it doesn't show up on your test kit.
Thank you, I have always been told by unknowledgeable employees that nitrate is nitrate and it's a waste of money to buy nitrate if the fish will just make it. I will try some nitrate and see how it goes. Also, iron? I know there is some in regular Flourish but my plants (especially Javas) seem like they are deficient in something. The javas die off faster than they get new growth and the new growth comes in slow and crinkly.
atyshka is offline  
post #12 of 37 (permalink) Old 11-28-2017, 05:52 PM
Banned
 
PTrader: (73/100%)
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: New York
Posts: 5,942
Quote:
Originally Posted by atyshka View Post
Photo period has been at 6 hours, can't go much lower. I'm trying a blackout but I'm worried that it will melt my crypts.

Bump:
Thank you, I have always been told by unknowledgeable employees that nitrate is nitrate and it's a waste of money to buy nitrate if the fish will just make it. I will try some nitrate and see how it goes. Also, iron? I know there is some in regular Flourish but my plants (especially Javas) seem like they are deficient in something. The javas die off faster than they get new growth and the new growth comes in slow and crinkly.
The best lighting scenario is dim light and just a few hours of intense. this way you get to see the tank and any demanding plants get the intense light they need for a few hours without a huge algae problem. More and more lights are capable of this now, but of course many aren't.

In a way the employees are right nitrate is nitrate but the nitrate in the tank comes with excess baggage. I don't dose extra FE. I only use what is provided in either Flourish or in CSM+B (micro mix). The micro-mix is a dry fert and is much cheaper than using Seachem's line, but sometimes I run out and just buy the Flourish. I have never seen any issue with my Java Ferns and I"m running high light, faster growth.
houseofcards is offline  
post #13 of 37 (permalink) Old 11-28-2017, 06:09 PM
Planted Tank Guru
 
Nubster's Avatar
 
PTrader: (17/100%)
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Romney, West Virginia
Posts: 4,376
So I wonder if it's worth giving some plants a root tab to get them going and by the time the tab is exhausted and the plants are big, let them transition over to column feeding. Or would that end up not working well? Or even sprinkling something like Osmocote + under the substrate in a new tank and then doing the same...just letting it exhaust and then just continue column feeding from there on out adjusting as needed to meet the needs. Just thinking that it would be a good boost in a new tank with new plants...help them establish faster and stronger. I admit I'm lost when it comes to plants and ferts...but I'm reading and trying to figure it out for when I get this new tank set up after Christmas.


To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.



To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
Nubster is online now  
post #14 of 37 (permalink) Old 11-28-2017, 06:54 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: Jan 2017
Posts: 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by houseofcards View Post
The best lighting scenario is dim light and just a few hours of intense. this way you get to see the tank and any demanding plants get the intense light they need for a few hours without a huge algae problem. More and more lights are capable of this now, but of course many aren't.

In a way the employees are right nitrate is nitrate but the nitrate in the tank comes with excess baggage. I don't dose extra FE. I only use what is provided in either Flourish or in CSM+B (micro mix). The micro-mix is a dry fert and is much cheaper than using Seachem's line, but sometimes I run out and just buy the Flourish. I have never seen any issue with my Java Ferns and I"m running high light, faster growth.
Thanks! As a matter of fact I have two lights. My marineland is pretty bright for no CO2 and I was getting algae issues so I switched over to a cheap LED bar off Amazon. I'll try two hours of the marineland and maybe 4 to six of the dim. The tank looks more showy with the marineland too. I also might try that micro mix. That is a trace product, what do you use for macros? Also, you said you're running high light with it: with or without CO2?
atyshka is offline  
post #15 of 37 (permalink) Old 11-28-2017, 07:22 PM
Wannabe Guru
 
dukydaf's Avatar
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Rome
Posts: 1,273
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nubster View Post
So I wonder if it's worth giving some plants a root tab to get them going and by the time the tab is exhausted and the plants are big, let them transition over to column feeding. Or would that end up not working well? Or even sprinkling something like Osmocote + under the substrate in a new tank and then doing the same...just letting it exhaust and then just continue column feeding from there on out adjusting as needed to meet the needs. Just thinking that it would be a good boost in a new tank with new plants...help them establish faster and stronger. I admit I'm lost when it comes to plants and ferts...but I'm reading and trying to figure it out for when I get this new tank set up after Christmas.
At the start they are more likely to benefit from column dosing as the root system is not spread, absent or damaged from planting. Root tabs would be my first recommendation to the OP. In slow light,non-CO2 tanks with sparse plants formed mainly by plants with heavy root systems... putting a root tab that says it contains N and P would be an easy way to fertilize. My personal favorite are the clay balls available for pond lilies. Osmocote and other tabs would work as well. Even bits from a fertilizer stick if you feel brave. But it has to say it contains N and P, otherwise no buy.

Anoter DIY trick is to mix (mineralized) dirt with water, put in a cube tray and freeze. Next you take the cubes and push them deep beneath the substrate. When the plants hit that region with their roots, you will notice.

Also have a read here : https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/11...er-column.html
Quote:
Originally Posted by atyshka View Post
I also might try that micro mix. That is a trace product, what do you use for macros? Also, you said you're running high light with it: with or without CO2?
KNO3 is a good source for NO3 and KH2PO4 for P. There are some ready made mixes like Thrive from NiloCG. It is also way cheaper and easier on the system to dose the powders than to dose fish food and wait for it to be converted to what you need.

Quote:
Originally Posted by atyshka View Post
I'm trying a blackout but I'm worried that it will melt my crypts.
Thank you, I have always been told by unknowledgeable employees that nitrate is nitrate and it's a waste of money to buy nitrate if the fish will just make it. I will try some nitrate and see how it goes. Also, iron? I know there is some in regular Flourish but my plants (especially Javas) seem like they are deficient in something. The javas die off faster than they get new growth and the new growth comes in slow and crinkly.
Java ferns are happy when there is something in the water column for them to eat. If they strugge it means the water column is poor. Since they are needed in more quantity it makes sense to start with the macros N, P, K and if it dose not recover , then go to the micros.

I did not have any luck with BGA and black-outs, as evidenced by a sample of BGA that was able to survive 6 months in darkness and then regrow once exposed to light. I suggest removing as much as possible manually and addressing the fertilizer issue. If ti does not stop, spot dose with hydrogen peroxide. If this does not work, erythromycin will.

On hiatus till later this year
dukydaf is offline  
Reply

Tags
fertilizer, gravel, sword

Quick Reply
Message:
Options

Register Now



In order to be able to post messages on the The Planted Tank Forum forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.

User Name:
Password
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.

Password:


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:
OR

Log-in










Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page
Display Modes
Linear Mode Linear Mode



Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

 
For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome