How can I improve my plants' health? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-23-2011, 02:01 AM Thread Starter
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How can I improve my plants' health?

Hello everyone! I have been silently reading the forums for a long time. I figured it was time to finally start posting as well

I apologize in advance for the length of this post. I am hoping that you might be able to help me with one of my tanks. I have had this tank for a little over a year now. I have always had issues with algae and plant growth. The plants have never grown in as lush and healthy as I would have liked them to. Generally, the tops look great, but the bottoms tend to become covered in algae and slowly begin to decay. I seem to have a lot of trouble getting certain species to take root. I used to think this was a light problem(that I did not have enough light), but now I'm thinking it is due to a nutrient imbalance.(I've included photos at the end)

My very first tank was a 10 gallon. All of the equipment was taken from it and used for my 29 gallon. Because of this, my current light fixture does not extend the full length of the tank--it's about 5 inches shy of the edge on both sides. I know it is not ideal, but I initially didn't want to buy a brand new light for the 29 gallon when I already had a light. However, I am reconsidering this now.

Tank: 29 gallons
Lighting: 96W, 6,700K compact flourescent coralife fixture. The lights are on 9 hours each day, though the tank recieves a lot of indirect sunlight.
Substrate: Mostly eco complete, with some flourite sand mixed in.
Plants: Ludwigia repens, Cryptocoryne Wendtii, rotala indica, christmas moss, hydrocotyle verticillata, water wisteria, and small form lobelia.
I dose flourish excel every day. I also just bought dry ferts but have not yet begun using them.

These are my questions:

1. Should I change my light fixture to something that extends the entire length of the tank? If so, what are your suggestions as far as wattage and type of light? Right now, the ballast in my light prevents me from using bulbs with different wattages(in other words, I can only ever have a 96W bulb. I can't change to a higher or lower wattage). I think it would be nice to have the option to be able to change bulbs if I decide to go higher tech later on.

2. Should I be using fertilizer when my only carbon source is flourish excel? I was planning to use the EI method of dosing, but I don't know if that is a good idea since I do not have pressurized CO2 right now...

3. Are there any other changes I can make to improve the health of my plants and have them grow in more healthy/lush?

Thank you for any help!
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-23-2011, 08:39 AM
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I think that some of your plants need more light then you are giving them. I have never used PC lighting so I can't say much about it, but out of curiosity-how old is the bulb? If you were to upgrade your lighting, I would go with a 2 t5 bulb fixture-you will have all the options available as far as species of plants you can grow. If you wanted slightly lower light; with a fixture like that you could just run one of the two bulbs. You can also go with DIY CO2 on that size of a tank fairly easily.

Are your crypts, moss, and water wisteria showing deficiencies? If they aren't, I don't know how much of a benefit you would get from upping your ferts with the amount of light and carbon you have.

For the time being, you could put the light directly on top of the tank (looks like yours is raised a few inches) and you may be able to squeeze a little more intensity out of it. Also if the bulb is old, replacing it with a new one should help also.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-23-2011, 01:27 PM
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EXCEL....You have bad BBA, and I am sure the indirect light doesnt help. 2 things you might need to do..
1. Raise your light fixture (how many bulbs? T5's?, Whats the K rating?

2. Lower your Photoperiod to 7hrs

AND dose the crap out of Excel. You also might want to try dosing H2o2 directly to the infected areas of BBA.

ALSO BBA is a symtom of inconsistant Co2.

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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-23-2011, 02:04 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks so much for your responses!

Nyrecruiter- The bulb is about a year old now. I agree that it does need to be changed, but since I might getting an entirely new fixture soon, I don't want to replace it right away. Are you suggesting a T5HO fixture, or T5NO? Also, what wattage would you suggest, assuming I start with only flourish excel and no injected CO2(though I will eventually upgrade to CO2)?
None of the plants are showing deficiencies that I recognize right now. However the wisteria has been growing incredibly slow. I'm not sure if that's a sign of deficiency or general poor health...It used to grow like crazy.

Jason- I'm afraid I can't raise the lighting. The wall over the tank is curved and puts a limit on the total height. I can and will reduce the photoperiod, though. The light fixture contains one CF bulb, 96W, 6700K. Do you think this is too much light?
I've tried H2O2 in the past, and it has worked, however I'm looking for a more long-term solution to my problem. The algae always comes back, so I'm assuming that something(light/nutrients/carbon) are out of balance. Since I don't have the funds for CO2 at the moment, I'm trying to adjust the nutrients/light.

It sounds like you're indicating I should reduce my light, but nyrecuiter suggested increasing the light. Is 96W of CF lighting too much for a 29 gallon tank, or not enough? Maybe it's just too concentrated on the center of the tank...
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-23-2011, 02:09 PM
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Improving Aquarium Plant Health

Good morning oven...

Didn't read your entire post. Just a little long for me, but that's fine. I can tell you what I do and I have large, well planted, low light tanks. If you don't have time to read, just print and keep for later.

You need to match the plants to your lighting. If you have 1 to 2 watts of light per gallon of tank size you can grow most aquatic plants. You need to mimic natural daylight, so 6500 K bulbs are best. I use T8s for taller tanks and T12s for shorter tanks. Contrary to popular belief, you don't need CO2 to have success with plants. I have multiple tanks and CO2 is too expensive for me.

In addition to the right lighting, you need to dose some form of fertilizer on a regular basis. I prefer liquids, because they're inexpensive and easy to dose and I dose different kinds of liquids too. The reason is plants do best if you provide a variety of foods.

I like to try different substrates and liquid ferts with organic potting soil and the plants grow very well attached are some pics.

PM me anytime if you have questions.


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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-23-2011, 03:18 PM Thread Starter
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I apologize for the length of the post, I was trying to be as thorough as possible haha. I appreciate your response! It is nice to know there are planted tanks out there without CO2. Since I've never used fertilizers with this tank before, I'll give it a try and see how everything does. It's not like my algae problem can get much worse than it is, haha. Hopefully the plants will benefit in a noticeable way.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-23-2011, 03:30 PM
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ok he doesn't ave bad bba he has hair algae... also a good fertilizer routine with tank maintenance will help your plants.. REDUCE LIGHTING... i cannot stress this enough.. light controls the plants "metabolism".. more light means more need for nutrients and C02... there is no replacement for c02 in a planted aquarium. excel works. but healthy plants require more c02.. or less light

balance everything out and you'll have lush plants and no algae

also... ur algae is not that bad... you didnt see my tank when i first started

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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-23-2011, 03:56 PM
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All that you need to grow plants well is adequate light and a source of all of the nutrients the plants need to grow, which include nitrates, phosphates, potassium, trace elements (including iron) and carbon dioxide (Excel is a alternative to CO2, but not a great one.)

That light is not a good one, because it has a very poor reflector, but it should be giving you enough light for a non-CO2 tank. Since the plants used to grow well, but now don't, that suggests that you don't have adequate nutrients left in the substrate. I would buy potassium nitrate, mono-potassium phosphate and CSM+B from or one of the other online stores, and dose them per the sticky in the fertilizing forum. That would eliminate fertilizers as a problem. Then, if you still have problems, it will be easier to figure out what the cause is.

If you want a new light for the 29 gallon tank - 30L x 12D x 18H I assume - don't get a T5HO light. T5HO is too much light for that size tank, unless you hang it high above the tank, which you can't do. Get a 2 bulb T8 light made for a 30 inch long tank, assuming you won't be using CO2. If you will be using CO2, a good light would be an AH Supply 55 watt one bulb light kit, fitted in a box type enclosure holding the light about 3-6 inches above the top of the tank - I believe you can buy such an enclosure from AH Supply. Or, you could get a two bulb T5NO light to sit right on top of the tank.

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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-23-2011, 05:44 PM
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I'd add pressurized CO2 before adding more light. More light w/o co2 is asking for trouble (algae).

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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-24-2011, 03:14 AM
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I have a 55g planted tank. I dont have pressurized CO2. I have eco complete as a substrate that I dont vacuum. I have a java fern, dwarf sag, some kind of apongetons ( walmart bulbs), crypts, water sprite and a couple anubias. All of my plants are thriving and all I do is a DIY CO2, squirt in a little Fleet enema liquid a couple times a week, a little Flourish Excel a couple times a week, about 1/4 teaspoon salt substitute (for the potassium) twice a week, and a about a couple tablespoons of that Leaf Zone a couple times a week.

I dont have any problems with algae. My light is a AquaticLife dual light fixture. One is 6500K and other is a roseate bulb. Its on 9 hours a day. My plants are thriving. I see a lot of growth from one day to the next! lol

Something as simple as this can be good enough for your plants. I am very happy with how well my plants are doing, and I did it all on the cheap!! lol
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 08-24-2011, 03:33 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for all of your help and suggestions! I think my plan now is to start dosing my fertilizers and see how things go. Then I will think about new lighting for the tank(a T5NO or a T8, per Hoppy's advice). Thank you all again!
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