Why aren't my plants thriving?? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 02:58 PM Thread Starter
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Why aren't my plants thriving??

Hi Planted Tank members!

This is my first time on this forum - I have an issue with my tank that is niggling at me so I thought I'd come here for some advice.

Both myself and my brother keep aquarium tanks - I have concerntrated on discus with great success, and he has been more into plants, also to great success.

In the last couple of months I converted my tank to be more plant-friendly. Previously it had sand for substrate and low lighting. But after helping my brother with his tank and seeing how well his plants were growing (like seriously rapid!) I figured I could do the same. So I opted for the same fertilised substrate as he used - Tetra CompleteSubstrate - with the same sort of thickness, and a similar gravel over the top.

In terms of lighting, our tanks differ. He is using 2 x T5 daylights (about 6mnths old) in a Juwel Rio 180. I am on 2 x T8 30W Daylight + UV light (I think it's UV, its a reddish colour) (about 3wks old).

As for tank sizes, his is 180L, mine is 200L. Although mine goes deeper than his.

We both use RO water from the same system, but we add our chemicals slightly differently, mine is:

Tropic Marin Pro-Discus minerals & Trace elements (for gH)
API proper pH 8.2 (don't freak out - only a small amount to raise kH to 2-3!)
JBL Ferropol weekly fertiliser
JBL Ferropol 24 daily fertiliser

I also run a CO2 injection system on a timer
My pH is 6.5, kH 2-3, gH 10, Nitrates <15ppm, temp 27degC

He is using:
Tropic Marins Re-Mineral Tropic
SeaChem Flourish

Also has a CO2 injection system, not on a timer
His pH is 7, not sure on kH & gH but i'd guess slightly higher kH than mine, Nitrates will also be low, temp 25-26degC

Some other information that might be relevant - we both run our lights for about 10hrs, I run 2 x external filters, he has just 1, both use air pumps, both have similar plants (half of mine came from his tank!)...we do most things the same really, we just vary slightly on equipment and water softness.

So my question to you guys/girls is - how is it that his plants are growing like crazy, but mine barely get by?

Like seriously, every couple of weeks he throws/gives away clumps of cabomba's and valis, he has a meaty amazon sword that has grown the height and depth of the tank, and his plants are all ridiculously green -it's almost blinding!

In contrast - my cabomba's look thin and are a yellowy/lighter green in comparison, the valis leaves are going transparent, and some of the longer leaves that stretch across the top of the tank are a dark brown/red colour. Any new plants I introduce seem to go from a nice green to a pale, week green. I exaggerate a bit, they're not quite as bad as it sounds, and they do have some growth, particularly on the roots. But in comparison to his tank its pretty crap.

Do you think I should change my lights to T5's? Or is it maybe to do with my pH/kH? FYI I can't really change these.

Any suggestions would be much appreciated!
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post #2 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 03:43 PM Thread Starter
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I'll post some pictures of our tanks in a minute so you can see the difference. I'd also be interested in knowing what you think of them, and if you have any suggestions for improvement. Bare with me while I get the photo's...
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post #3 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 03:46 PM
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Upgrade your lights. T8 lighting is rather outdated. Not only are you getting less intense light than him with that fixture, you are using it on a tank with greater depth!
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post #4 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 03:49 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by pmcarbrey View Post
Upgrade your lights. T8 lighting is rather outdated. Not only are you getting less intense light than him with that fixture, you are using it on a tank with greater depth!
Thanks. Yeah I'd read in a couple of places that T8's were inferior to T5's. Do you think the lack of growth and plant vibrancy is a result of inadequate lighting?
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post #5 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by willwilson28 View Post
Thanks. Yeah I'd read in a couple of places that T8's were inferior to T5's. Do you think the lack of growth and plant vibrancy is a result of inadequate lighting?
I would say that is the most likely culprit. It is the only difference between the two tanks, and t8's are a very sad substitute for t5's.
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post #6 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 03:54 PM
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Without seeing the photos T8 lighting is much weaker than T5 lighting. Depending on the depth of the tank and type of plants it could be just fine. You might be okay with Anubias, ferns and mosses but maybe it isn't enough for the plants you are getting from a much brighter tank. The reddish bulb, check its name. Some target the spectrums plants like best and some don't.

Plants grow much faster with CO2.

Water changes you do for the discus could be removing nitrate and phosphate the plants use for nutrients.


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post #7 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 03:59 PM
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Light and ferts are one factor... the other could be a difference in substrate...


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post #8 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 04:00 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, so here's my brothers tanks:



And mine:

http://cl.ly/image/400M330x3e1z/IMG_0533.jpg

FYI the foreground plants are only a few days old in my tank - don't be misled by their healthy look
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post #9 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 04:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acitydweller View Post
Light and ferts are one factor... the other could be a difference in substrate...
Quote:
Originally Posted by willwilson28 View Post
So I opted for the same fertilised substrate as he used - Tetra CompleteSubstrate - with the same sort of thickness, and a similar gravel over the top.
...
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post #10 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 04:03 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by acitydweller View Post
Light and ferts are one factor... the other could be a difference in substrate...
We're both using the same substrate - Tetra Complete Substrate
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post #11 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 04:08 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Kathyy View Post
Without seeing the photos T8 lighting is much weaker than T5 lighting. Depending on the depth of the tank and type of plants it could be just fine. You might be okay with Anubias, ferns and mosses but maybe it isn't enough for the plants you are getting from a much brighter tank. The reddish bulb, check its name. Some target the spectrums plants like best and some don't.

Plants grow much faster with CO2.

Water changes you do for the discus could be removing nitrate and phosphate the plants use for nutrients.
The bulb is an Arcadia original tropical FO30. The other is a tropic sun.

I think you're right about the type of plants. You can take a look and see what you think, but my thoughts are that the lighter green or high light req plants are doing significantly worse than the low light reqs.

I've got CO2 on the go - when my brother installed his the plants grew amazingly, but since i've added mine i've not had the same success. It's sounding more and more like a lighting issue to me...
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post #12 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 04:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willwilson28 View Post

In terms of lighting, our tanks differ. He is using 2 x T5 daylights (about 6mnths old) in a Juwel Rio 180. I am on 2 x T8 30W Daylight + UV light (I think it's UV, its a reddish colour) (about 3wks old).
Explain the underlined part in more detail. Why do you think it's UV since UV is invisible ?
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post #13 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 04:18 PM
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How long have the plants been in the tank? They don't look too miserable to me. They will grow slower than in your brother's tank because he is using bright light.

Looks like your reddish bulb is designed for photosynthesis. You could just leave it alone for another month to see if you like how it is going and upgrade to T5 or add more T8s and start some comprehensive fertilizer at that point.

Also plants will be shocked going into another tank so you will lose some leaves. Vals can die back to the roots and you might see new plants before the old ones recover. Take off the dying leaves and watch for new growth.

The plant with heart shaped leaves on the left is Anubias. The plant just behind the bristlenose pleco and on the left is Java fern. Both need to have the rhizome out of the substrate and would love to be grown on that nice wood. You can glue them down with super glue gel, tie them or carefully wedge into a crevice. Or attach to a rock so you can place them anywhere you like in the tank.

If the new ground cover is hairgrass it may not survive the low lighting. Even though I have bright light and CO2 my new hairgrass plantings usually turn brown before recovering. Give it a chance and don't remove it if you see any green threads coming up. They are tiny and easily missed.


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post #14 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 04:20 PM Thread Starter
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Explain the underlined part in more detail. Why do you think it's UV since UV is invisible ?
Yeah i'm probably wrong in saying that. I guess it's just more towards the red end of the light spectrum. I threw away the packaging so I can't remember where the peaks in the colour spectrum are. You get the idea though?
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post #15 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-10-2013, 04:57 PM Thread Starter
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How long have the plants been in the tank? They don't look too miserable to me. They will grow slower than in your brother's tank because he is using bright light and CO2.

Also plants will be shocked going into another tank so you will lose some leaves. Vals can die back to the roots and you might see new plants before the old ones recover. Take off the dying leaves and watch for new growth.

The plant with heart shaped leaves on the left is Anubias. The plant just behind the bristlenose pleco and on the left is Java fern. Both need to have the rhizome out of the substrate and would love to be grown on that nice wood. You can glue them down with super glue gel, tie them or carefully wedge into a crevice. Or attach to a rock so you can place them anywhere you like in the tank.

If the new ground cover is hairgrass it may not survive the low lighting. Even though I have bright light and CO2 my new hairgrass plantings usually turn brown before recovering. Give it a chance and don't remove it if you see any green threads coming up. They are tiny and easily missed.
I didn't know much of any of those plants, even their names, so first of all thanks for educating me

The anubias have been part of my tank for a good few years - they were the only plant that survived in the sand substrate. I didn't bother much with plants at that point, as the sand was in constant movement by the large sailfin plec (who is managing to hide in that picture).

I think I've had the java ferns for about 2 months - they also seem to be doing quite well. I wasn't aware about the rhizomes - I'll expose these and maybe tie one of the ferns onto to some wood, that might look quite cool. Will the roots still need to be buried in the substrate? My tank occupants have a habit of munching on exposed roots, so that might be an issue?

The valis, cabomba's and hairgrass are the ones that seem to suffer more. You can't really make out the cabomba's because of the amount of light shining off them, but they're looking a bit limp. They've probably been there for about 2 weeks? I was given a bunch before I brought new bulbs & co2 and they disappeared within 3-4 days (most likely as lunch) so i guess they're doing better.

The hairgrass are only a few days old (i did actually know their name). They have withered a bit since I got them.

The plant you can't see is the madagascan lace! There are 4 bulbs (or rhizomes?) under the substrate - one that has been there for a few months and grown a lot of roots. I randomly found it when I planted the 3 new ones the other day, and I exposed the tops of them as per what I'd read online in hope that they'd grow. These plants are probably the one's i'd most like to cater for - which brings me onto this question - would upgrading the lights have a negative effect on the anubias and java ferns? I'm quite attached to both, but the madagascan lace is on another level in terms of coolness!
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