I can't find the balance between healthy plant growth and algae and it is driving me crazy. - Page 4 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #46 of 94 (permalink) Old 07-22-2020, 10:38 PM
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I have a similar concern about nutrient exhaustion with active substrates. I'd rather not have to change out my substrate every couple of years. Although it can be mostly "charged" by EI-type dosing for many nutrients, it will lose most nutrients if water column dosing is not high (but why would anyone dose EI with ADA?). In any case, it will run out of nitrogen. Nor would it be dramatically observable. Nutrients would start to vary gradually, probably unnoticed. For the same reason that I use RODI water, I use inert substrate: consistency of nutrient control.

I don't see it as more work (my tank doesn't seem to be on a fine line with algae) and I do miss water changes sometimes with no effect. It takes me about a half-hour / week to do everything I have to do to maintain my 29 gallon. In fact, I am about to start an experiment with increasing time gaps between w/c's to see how well things go, but I run nutrients much lower than EI.

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My light is 8" from the substrate, and this is from Current USA's website. Are you saying this is inaccurate?!
Based upon, at least, those two links I provided: yes, I believe that Current's specs are overstated for real time use. There are different factors that impact these measurement and manufacturers are going to pick the best possible data sets.
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post #47 of 94 (permalink) Old 07-22-2020, 11:23 PM Thread Starter
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Based upon, at least, those two links I provided: yes, I believe that Current's specs are overstated for real time use. There are different factors that impact these measurement and manufacturers are going to pick the best possible data sets.

Hmm, interesting. I wish I had PAR meter to test myself. The first link you posted cites 120 par at 9" about 1" away from mid-line, so it doesn't seem like a stretch that it would be 135 par at 8" directly below the fixture. Again, wish I could measure it myself!
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post #48 of 94 (permalink) Old 07-22-2020, 11:31 PM
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Hmm, interesting. I wish I had PAR meter to test myself. The first link you posted cites 120 par at 9" about 1" away from mid-line, so it doesn't seem like a stretch that it would be 135 par at 8" directly below the fixture. Again, wish I could measure it myself!
Depending upon where you live, you may be able to join a local aquarium club. They often have things, such as PAR meters, to loan to members. In any case, I wouldn't worry too much about it. It is really only a matter of finding the right balance with the photoperiod. Lower intensity, up to a point, means that longer photoperiods will benefit plants. However, some plants do need PAR well above 100 to perform at their best.
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post #49 of 94 (permalink) Old 07-22-2020, 11:50 PM Thread Starter
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Depending upon where you live, you may be able to join a local aquarium club. They often have things, such as PAR meters, to loan to members. In any case, I wouldn't worry too much about it. It is really only a matter of finding the right balance with the photoperiod. Lower intensity, up to a point, means that longer photoperiods will benefit plants. However, some plants do need PAR well above 100 to perform at their best.

Oddly enough over the last two days of running 100% for 2 hours, and upping the phos dosing/lowering the Fe dosing, the top 1/2" or so of my rotala look super healthy and are turning red and without algae. The algae that was there previously is still there, but the plants have been pearling strong during those two hours and appear to be growing. Wondering if things are going to start to turn around. I also started dosing excel today.



2 hours seems like such an unnaturally short photoperiod, but maybe it is worth giving it a try for a week or two to see what happens... can always increase incrementally at this new dosing regimen, I guess?
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post #50 of 94 (permalink) Old 07-23-2020, 12:42 AM
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My light is about 4 inches to the top of the water, and then about 9 inches of water to the top of the substrate for that 65/70 par when the light is at 100%

As for the photo period, I'd argue that plants don't get sun shining straight down on them for 6 hours a day. It just depends on the environment surrounding the water and the angle of the sun.
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post #51 of 94 (permalink) Old 07-23-2020, 06:24 PM
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@Deanna Osmocote+ is my go-to for "recharging" soil, much less fertilizer in the water column and less of a risk of algae. Plus the ammoniacal nitrogen in Osmocote is like rocket fuel for plants. It's funny that you mention inert being more forgiving to lax maintenance, as I've found the opposite with aquasoils being more forgiving if you forget to fertilize or change water.

I had a lot of trouble keeping the substrate clean in my tanks that were running BDBS, though I will say it is very easy to plant in to. I still haven't tried inert gravel for growing plants, that's next on my to-do list. Do you have a favorite inert substrate?


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post #52 of 94 (permalink) Old 07-23-2020, 07:01 PM
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There is a product made by aquaforest that I have been thinking about trying called AF Natural Substrate which they say it's basically a sponge for nutrients that you put a 1-2cm layer on the bottom of the glass, then your power sand and then your Amazonia or whatever other soil you like. The AF stuff is supposed to just soak up all the excess nutrients in the water and store it to keep your active soil going for a very long time.

Thinking theoretically you can supercharge your soil with nutrients and then just do very minimal water column dosing which would complement the ADA way.
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post #53 of 94 (permalink) Old 07-23-2020, 07:28 PM
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@Deanna Osmocote+ is my go-to for "recharging" soil, much less fertilizer in the water column and less of a risk of algae. Plus the ammoniacal nitrogen in Osmocote is like rocket fuel for plants. It's funny that you mention inert being more forgiving to lax maintenance, as I've found the opposite with aquasoils being more forgiving if you forget to fertilize or change water.
Actually, I didn’t say that inert substrate is more forgiving to lax maintenance (lax maintenance is not ever easily forgiven in this hobby). The only maintenance aspect that I mentioned involves water changes, where I have not had problems as the result of missed w/c’s. In fact, I do agree that active substrates offer more protection if consistent water column dosing is not possible …for a year or two.

I see value to active substrates for beginners as it will compensate for errors during the learning process, but I don’t want to have to start guessing with problems due to the inevitable fluctuations from various degrees of nutrient exhaustion due to a dying substrate, even if it can be given life support for an additional year or so. In the case of ADA AS, doesn’t it, essentially, turn to mud in 3 years or so, requiring full replacement?

I have to say that I am also not a fan of root tabs. As mentioned in my post, I strive for consistency and root tabs are not predictable enough, IMO, to satisfy my nutrient consistency goals. All nutrient needs by virtually all plants we typically see in our hobby can be serviced by water column dosing.

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Do you have a favorite inert substrate?
I’ve tried many different inert substrate over the decades. Currently (for about 3 years), I have 2 inches of CaribSea "Super Naturals" Peace River over an inch of CaribSea Sunset Gold (sand). The only reason that I chose the Peace River was primarily the look I wanted and, secondarily, the weight (to hold plants in place) and diameter of the particles (for circulation).
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post #54 of 94 (permalink) Old 07-23-2020, 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by gus6464 View Post
There is a product made by aquaforest that I have been thinking about trying called AF Natural Substrate which they say it's basically a sponge for nutrients that you put a 1-2cm layer on the bottom of the glass, then your power sand and then your Amazonia or whatever other soil you like. The AF stuff is supposed to just soak up all the excess nutrients in the water and store it to keep your active soil going for a very long time.

Thinking theoretically you can supercharge your soil with nutrients and then just do very minimal water column dosing which would complement the ADA way.
Hmm, interesting product. It is a peat and clay mix with some sort of micronutrients mixed in. The product website recommends not laying aquasoil over it, but gravel. I think this is supposed to replace soil itself? I wish this had more information about the nutrient content, but also I wonder about how the peat would affect the pH.
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post #55 of 94 (permalink) Old 07-23-2020, 07:45 PM
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@gus6464 do you have any pics of the tanks you run ADA style?

It would help to see what mix of plants you are keeping to put things in perspective.

IMO, different tanks with different mixes of plants and different goals respond best to different approaches.
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post #56 of 94 (permalink) Old 07-23-2020, 09:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Deanna View Post
I see value to active substrates for beginners as it will compensate for errors during the learning process, but I donít want to have to start guessing with problems due to the inevitable fluctuations from various degrees of nutrient exhaustion due to a dying substrate, even if it can be given life support for an additional year or so. In the case of ADA AS, doesnít it, essentially, turn to mud in 3 years or so, requiring full replacement?

I have to say that I am also not a fan of root tabs. As mentioned in my post, I strive for consistency and root tabs are not predictable enough, IMO, to satisfy my nutrient consistency goals. All nutrient needs by virtually all plants we typically see in our hobby can be serviced by water column dosing.
I agree that aquasoils are easier for beginners. They can definitely build up a good amount of mulm and experience some breakdown, but I think a lot of the "mud" that people experience with aquasoils are due to never gravel vacuuming/cleaning the substrate. Felipe Oliveira and Dennis Wong both have good videos about cleaning aquasoils.

I can't comment on the longevity of aquasoil. I haven't had it turn to mud, but I also haven't had any aquasoil tanks for more than 3 years due to the frenetic pace at which I rescape my tanks.

Root tabs are a valuable tool IMO. With water column dosing, you just have to hope that your plants, as @Greggz likes to put it, "like the soup you're serving." Root tabs allow you to target dose certain plants while keeping the water column lean for others. In terms of consistency-- well my plant mass varies greatly from week to week and throughout the week as things grow. I probably take close to a pound of plants out of my 22 gallon every two weeks. The nutrient demands of the plants are constantly changing, so I am not so worried about making sure the amount being dosed is consistent so much as watching for deficiencies and addressing them as needed.

It seems like you've been in this hobby for a quite a bit longer than I have and therefore think of things at a longer time scale with regards to substrate lifespan, consistency etc. Not trying to say you're wrong, just that we have different approaches.

That Peace River gravel looks pretty perfect. As I mentioned before I struggled with BDBS and I think part of it was limited root growth due to compaction/small grains size and a lack of circulation in the substrate. I'll have to try that out next time I try an inert substrate!
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post #57 of 94 (permalink) Old 07-23-2020, 09:21 PM
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Originally Posted by cab395 View Post
2 hours seems like such an unnaturally short photoperiod, but maybe it is worth giving it a try for a week or two to see what happens...
Something to think about is that many tropical aquatic plants are growing in rivers and streams with dense vegetation along their banks. So they might only be getting direct sunlight when the sun is directly above them from 11 am- 1 pm daily, and the rest of the time they are shaded by marginal vegetation and the river banks themselves.

Granted it's not a perfect comparison since your aquarium light is not nearly as strong as sunlight, but you can still see how a 2-hour photoperiod would not necessarily be "unnatural."


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post #58 of 94 (permalink) Old 07-23-2020, 10:21 PM
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I find it interesting that high PO4 in reef tanks will always cause an algae farm yet people say the opposite in planted tanks. I have two tanks going right now with 2 different fert methods and the amount of interaction required of both is night and day.

ADA way - no N or P dosing but lots of nutrients in soil with low water column dosing
The rest way - heavy water column dosing with weekly resets required via water change

Both are high PAR and in fact the ADA way has ~30% more PAR

The tank that's not ADA way is always in a fine line between algae and no algae and in order to stay in the right side of the line it requires more work. Basically miss a water change and I'm screwed.

And yes the ADA way can grow stem plants no problem as evident by the stem heavy tanks they've shown off recently. Even Filipe Oliveira has said recently that unless you are into planted tanks for a living the ADA way is considerably more manageable when it comes to long term upkeep for a normal person who just likes to have a tank in their house.

Needless to say I am now switching all my tanks to the ADA way since I like having multiple tanks and keeping my sanity along with them. Started the PO4 stripping on that one with GFO as for some reason stripping that out of the tank has been a pain unlike nitrate which has just been huge water changes.
How much Ca and Mg do you have in the ADA tanks? Reason I ask is because low dosing routines or ADA style dosing just doesnt work for me. Even a recent 20L I set up with, at the time a lot of crypts and slow growing stuff, few stems here and there...it just doesnt work until I start pouring in the nutrients.

After several attempts over the years with similar results, the only thing I can think of as to why is because my tap comes with 40 ppm Ca. I can drop everything else but not that. My theory is because Ca is fairly high, other nutrients have to be dosed at higher levels to achieve the right balance. Maybe if I could roll with 10-15 ppm Ca it would work.

Because I believe you. I believe everybody else who reports good results with low routines. It just doesnt work in my tanks. None of them, never has, and it's always been a mystery to me why.

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Originally Posted by gus6464 View Post
I think the whole running out of nutrients with the ADA way is overplayed as well. I mean ADA has you pack the crap out of the soil with nutrients from the get-go. There's no way that stuff is going to run out that quick and you are a recharge away with some tweezers and fert sticks anyway.
The only thing aquasoils really run out of is NH4. Everything else (sans a few anions which arent there to begin with) gets replenished from the water column dosing via the high cec. Unless a person is barely dosing the water column, then its a different story.

But with decent water column nutrients it will last years. I have a 4 year old ada as tank that grows plants just as well now as it ever did. The soil is dusty as hell from degrading a good bit. Nevertheless I can take a plant thats not doing well in sand stick it in there and it'll take right off
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post #59 of 94 (permalink) Old 07-23-2020, 10:34 PM
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Originally Posted by gus6464 View Post
I find it interesting that high PO4 in reef tanks will always cause an algae farm yet people say the opposite in planted tanks. I have two tanks going right now with 2 different fert methods and the amount of interaction required of both is night and day.

ADA way - no N or P dosing but lots of nutrients in soil with low water column dosing
The rest way - heavy water column dosing with weekly resets required via water change

Both are high PAR and in fact the ADA way has ~30% more PAR

The tank that's not ADA way is always in a fine line between algae and no algae and in order to stay in the right side of the line it requires more work. Basically miss a water change and I'm screwed.

And yes the ADA way can grow stem plants no problem as evident by the stem heavy tanks they've shown off recently. Even Filipe Oliveira has said recently that unless you are into planted tanks for a living the ADA way is considerably more manageable when it comes to long term upkeep for a normal person who just likes to have a tank in their house.

Needless to say I am now switching all my tanks to the ADA way since I like having multiple tanks and keeping my sanity along with them. Started the PO4 stripping on that one with GFO as for some reason stripping that out of the tank has been a pain unlike nitrate which has just been huge water changes.
How much Ca and Mg do you have in the ADA tanks? Reason I ask is because low dosing routines or ADA style dosing just doesnt work for me. Even a recent 20L I set up with, at the time a lot of crypts and slow growing stuff, few stems here and there...it just doesnt work until I start pouring in the nutrients.

After several attempts over the years with similar results, the only thing I can think of as to why is because my tap comes with 40 ppm Ca. I can drop everything else but not that. My theory is because Ca is fairly high, other nutrients have to be dosed at higher levels to achieve the right balance. Maybe if I could roll with 10-15 ppm Ca it would work.

Because I believe you. I believe everybody else who reports good results with low routines. It just doesnt work in my tanks. None of them, never has, and it's always been a mystery to me why.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gus6464 View Post
I think the whole running out of nutrients with the ADA way is overplayed as well. I mean ADA has you pack the crap out of the soil with nutrients from the get-go. There's no way that stuff is going to run out that quick and you are a recharge away with some tweezers and fert sticks anyway.
The only thing aquasoils really run out of is NH4. Everything else (sans a few anions which arent there to begin with) gets replenished from the water column dosing via the high cec. Unless a person is barely dosing the water column, then its a different story.

But with decent water column nutrients it will last years. I have a 4 year old ada as tank that grows plants just as well now as it ever did. The soil is dusty as hell from degrading a good bit. Nevertheless I can take a plant thats not doing well in sand stick it in there and it'll take right off
In walstad's book there is a page or so about hard vs soft water plants. The theoretical conclusion was that plants that require hard water will suffer in soft water, but soft water plants will not suffer in hard water.

I'm sure there are extremes that would damage any plant, but it might be worth a read if you're interested due to the explanation within.
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post #60 of 94 (permalink) Old 07-23-2020, 11:04 PM
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In walstad's book there is a page or so about hard vs soft water plants. The theoretical conclusion was that plants that require hard water will suffer in soft water, but soft water plants will not suffer in hard water.

I'm sure there are extremes that would damage any plant, but it might be worth a read if you're interested due to the explanation within.
Anything in the book is only relatable to an 'el natural' tank. I don't believe it translates to other methods.
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