Plants not surviving - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-04-2020, 11:25 PM Thread Starter
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Question Plants not surviving

I have been struggling to get plants to survive in my 55 g. Perhaps it's because the tank has the recipe for disaster so here's a description of all the factors I think are going wrong. I've tried easier plants such as bacopa, foxtail, and now water sprite but after a few weeks I notice plants are rotting away and going missing. Except for java moss and java fern, nothing grows. The java moss grows too well and strangles any other plants within days and has to be repeatedly cleaned off. I run medium light for 5-6 hrs currently because I had a very bad hair algae problem. I was injecting CO2 but have ran out for the last few weeks and with that things have gotten worse (however these aren't high co2 plants). The water is softened with water softener salt. I also notice plants often start off well, but then get uprooted by probably my pleco and go downhill from there. What of these things could be causing my problems? I was thinking the softener or the moss but am unsure. Thank you for your help.
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 12:24 AM
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Opinions seem to go both ways in regards to softened water and fish tanks. If possible, maybe invest in an RO filter and use remineralized RO water for the tank.

How were the plants doing before you ran out of CO2? What fertilizers are you using? If you had hair algae there's an imbalance somewhere. Too much light and not enough CO2 and lean nutrients are common causes for hair algae.

I guess you'll have to figure out the priority. For me it's the plants so if I had a fish that was uprooting my plants, I'd get rid of it. Same with the moss. If I had moss that was choking out my other plants, it's gone.

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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 05:08 AM
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Medium light for 5-6 hours should not cause that bad of an algae issue. What substrate are you using? Aqua soil, sand, dirted? What are your ammonia, nitrite, nitrate levels? How long has the tank been set up. What types of fish do you have and how many? Also what is your method of filtration for the tank? What temp is the tank at as well, anything above 80 will hurt plant growth due to lack of dissolved oxygen. If you are dosing ferts list that as well. The algae issue is definitely inhibiting your plant growth. It’s taking up nutrients and causing you to keep your light on for less than optimal amounts of time.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-05-2020, 09:09 PM
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Hmm Need info about Nitrate, Ammonia, what PAR level on the light, medium light doesn't mean anything to me, What is inside the filter, what do you use for the flow.
There a unbalance of nutrient vs photosynthetic
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-06-2020, 05:11 PM
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Do you have a TDS meter? It is possible your water is too salty for some plants. I've noted that anything over 700 ppm is tough for some plants to thrive.
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-06-2020, 05:28 PM
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To the OP. Do you have a good idea what your water chemistry is like out of the tap without the water softener filter?

Using one of these salt ion exchange filters is a not a great way to treat your water, at least for a planted tank, as they exchange Sodium ions for Calcium and Magnesium. Ca and Mg are much better plant nutrients than Sodium.

Start with one thing at a time. Was this an already running fish tank that you decided to plunge into changing to heavily planted tank without preparing for the changes needed to grow a lot of plants?

Adding CO2 to an already mature and possibly overcrowded fish tank is a bit of a recipe for disaster, if you're flying blind on what your water parameters are.

You may have to do a complete and more careful reboot of this tank.

Originally Posted by Mark Fisher View Post
Do you have a TDS meter? It is possible your water is too salty for some plants. I've noted that anything over 700 ppm is tough for some plants to thrive.

Using a salt ion exchange filter will definitely make for more salty. If the OP has liquid rock coming out of his house's tap, diluting the tap water with Reverse Osmosis water is a better plan.

Generally, well sourced 'liquid rock' water has a lot of the necessary minerals and some traces for growing plants. You just need to dial the mineralization down a bit with dilution and boost the CO2 up a bit.
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Starting small, keeping it simple..(?)
250 gallon stock tank, "pond"
20 gallon H CBS Shrimp tank

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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-06-2020, 06:50 PM
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All of the above. We need lots of info, which means you need to get some test kits.

Adding CO2, then withdrawing it is like a cold turkey treatment for your plants. I see no comments about what fertilizers you are using so, if you aren't using any, you will be lacking many key nutrients. A water softener removes magnesium and calcium, which are critical to plants. You should have a bypass on your softener. If it were me, I'd start by engaging that bypass on your filter and then doing 2-3 50% water changes over a day or two (remember to re-engage the water softener after you fill your tank).

You would probably benefit from reading some basic guides, such as here:, here: or here:

Here is another list of info that would help us (which may have duplication of the other posters):

- Light (make & model): ideally, PAR and PUR reading at the substrate and photoperiod?
- CO2 setup (if any) and how you measure CO2 levels in the water if you do inject CO2?
- pH difference between fully de-gassed and fully gassed?
- Current NO3, PO4, GH, KH, pH and TDS readings?
- What you are dosing (product and quantity) and how often?
- Substrate type and how long has it been in place?
- What is your filter setup?
- Cleaning regimen (filter and water change frequency and amount)?
- Circulation: surface rippling and are all plants gently moving from top to bottom?

Here is a list of basic test kits that I like:

NO3: Salifert
PO4: Salifert. Note: above 3ppm, dilute 5:1 with RO or distilled water, then multiply result by 5
GH/KH: API or Sera
Total ammonia: Salifert
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