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20g high low light plants not doing well

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Hey all, I would appreciate some help with my planted tank. It has been established for about five weeks. Since then the plants have not been doing well.

The tank is a 20gallon high. The plants I have are java fern, amazon sword, cryptocoryne lucent, and an anachris. The only plant that is doing okay is the crptocoryne, yet it still is developing yellow/brownish spots. The java fern is black. The amazon sword leafs look thin and pale. The anachris is fine but it is a new addition. I previously had hornwort in the tank but that has since died.

For substrate I have caribsea eco-complete. For lighting I have the nicrew led and a 15w T8 TropicSun 5500k feature. The lights are on for a 12 hour period. I am also dosing Flourish Excel and aquavitro envy.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!
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Many new plants, especially java fern and amazon sword, are grown emersed at the nurseries. Those leaves eventually whither and die as they are not used to being under water. But be patient, as new leaves will grow in. The new sword leaves will look different; these stem and longer leaves. Crypts are notorious for melting in new tanks, but will recover.
The sword and crypt would benefit greatly from root tabs as they are root feeders, and make sure the java fern rhizome is exposed and not buried.


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Way too long of a photoperiod. You should have started around 6 hours then ramped up to ~8 hours over the course of about 6 weeks.

You are also barely giving them any nutrition, especially with a 12 hour photoperiod. Excel is a carbon supplement. Envy is kind of like a daily supplemental vitamin but without providing actual fertilization (micros and macros), they aren't supplementing anything. Look into the EI method of dosing and buy some dry ferts. $15 bucks will cover all nutrients and last a long time (probably more than a year) with a low light setup.

Eco complete is an inert substrate. It doesn't provide nutrients but it holds onto nutrients that you add (like root tabs or liquid/dry ferts).

Reduce your photoperiod, add some actual fertilization, and start doing weekly 50% water changes at a minimum. The current state of your tank is like running on a treadmill for 12 hours straight it the only nutrition you get is 2 slices of bread and a glass of water. Even the strongest of runners would eventually "die" if that's all they were given.

Light dictates everything a plant does and without a proper balance of light, nutrients, and co2 (gaseous co2, not excel, but excel can work very well in low tech setups not running pressurized co2) we run into issues.

Honestly, your tank could probably do without the led and just run the T8. Leds have the potential to produce very strong light (not always the case though). Don't underestimate the power of led. You could also try and run just the led. Either way, you have too much light for too long without providing your plants with enough nutrition to conpensate for the intense lighting. However, none of your plants need that amount of light so in return, they don't need much nutrients to begin with (which they take in slowly anyways).
 

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Hornwort is a very hard, easy to care for plant that is never sold in emersed form, so I have to disagree with the first diagnosis. It sounds like a nutrition problem for sure. Crypts have robust roots, so they are probably the last holdouts because they still have some reserve energy to draw on. If you don't at least get some nitrogen in there asap, everything will rot.

For a low tech setup with those plants, you would have a much easier time using a dirt substrate. You wouldn't have to worry about fert dosing and you'd even get a little co2 boost.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I have been dosing nitrogen and phosphorus as well as the liquid carbon and envy for about a week now. I am curious how long I should wait for the plants to turn around? Or would it be possible that they are too far gone for the ferts to work? Most of the plants are about half brown/yellowish and green.
 

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Yea, this sort of stuff can take a while. The leaves that have gone bad... there's usually no saving. Try to look for the new growth and see how that's doing whilst making sure that the existing stuff is not continuing in its downward trend. If a plant is ruined at the stem / rhizome level, sometimes, sadly, they may be too far gone to be revived :(
 

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Hi

This is a good article to read about setting up a low tech tank.

How to Setup a Low-tech Planted Tank: Planted Aquarium Guide | Bits and pieces of my digital life


As long as you fertilize the water column properly you do not need to "dirt" the tank or use root tabs so no need to worry about that. The article states that you should not do weekly water changes as this "may" trigger some sorts of algae. I don't follow that and do a 50% water change once a week and have no problems with algae.

Another thing is plant mass. You want to basically cover at least 80% of the floor with plants, fast growing preferred. Last thing is patience, start things going on the right track and all will be fine.

What kind of fish you have there btw?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you both for the replies. I may add another plant or two to increase my plant mass. I read that to about water changes. I have been doing them every other week but I'll start doing them sooner.

As of now I have 5 glowlights and a platy. Once I get this plant stuff figured out I am going to add 2 honey gouramis and 3-5 kuhli loaches, as well as some amanos. Although I may sub something out for german blue rams but not sure yet.
 

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I have been dosing nitrogen and phosphorus as well as the liquid carbon and envy for about a week now.
You are dosing only 2 of the 6 macros and no micro nutrients. Based on the picture I see evidence of calcium and magnesium deficiency.

I would recommend getting Seachem equilibrium, and a micro nutrient fertilizers. Equilibrium is a gh booster that will provide calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. With the NPK you are now dosing that will cover all of your macro nutrient needs. Add enough Equilibrium to increase hardness by 2 degrees GH.

For the micro nutrients I would purchase CSM+B. These 2 plus your NPK should cover everything except chlorine, or nickel. Most tap water has enough of these 2 micro nutrients. If you are not using tap water add 2ppm of sodium chloride (table salt) that will resolve the chloride problem. there should be enough nickel in you fish food to do meet the plant need.

With the above fertilizers your inert substrate will be fine. No need to replace it.

I see no reason to continue using Envy. it is doing nothing for your plant. As to your liquid carbon it will damage and even kill Anacaris. Anacaris on of the few plants that is not compatable with liquid carbon. Liquid carbon if dosed incorrectly can kill everything in your tank. So My preference is to drop it and increase aeration of your tank water.
 
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