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EI dosing Questions and concerns with plants & algae

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So I’ve been trying to encourage dense plant growth while getting rid of algae and bring out the color. This has mostly worked for me, but my plants really don’t have quite the color that I want. My Starogyne Repens have some green spot algae on their leaves, some have holes, some are yellowing. My Hygrophila pinnadifida has some missing leaf tips, too, despite the fact that it still grows (although only horizontally). My Fissidens moss is also a bit brown in some areas and lacks the deep green that lots of other Fissidens has.
My algae issues are nowhere as bad as others, but I still notice algae on my rocks, plants, and glass and would rather try to get to the root of the problem.
I have a 40 gallon breeder with a fluval 206 canister filter, surface skimmer, and a hydor 240 powerhead for water circulation.
For lighting, I have a Finnex Planted + with medium-to-high light (I don’t know how I would measure par)
For my CO2, I have a diffuser with about 1-2 bubbles per second.
pH: 7.0 (w/o CO2), ~6-6.2 w/ CO2
Temperature ~23C (~74F)
GH: 35.8 ppm
KH: 3 dKH

I originally used pps pro, but got sick of the liquid dosing and I expected that my plants weren’t really getting all the nutrients that they needed so I have been dosing the following dry EI dosing for about 2-3 weeks now:

MgSO4 (1/4 teaspoons)
KNO3 1.8 gm (approximately 1/4 teaspoons)
KH2PO4 282 mg (approximately 1/16 teaspoons)
Plantex CSM+B 1.2 gm (approximately 1/4 teaspoons)
Just started: K2SO4 754.5 mg (approximately 1/8 teaspoons)
I add 5mL of Excel daily or every other day and dose Aquavitro Envy once a week.
So here are my main questions:
1) Are there any parts of my dosing that I should change? Should I be adding MgSO4 even though most EI recommendations don’t include it? Should I decrease my Plantex dosage at all? Do I need to dose KNO3 even though I have nitrates from fish
2) Should I think about changing my flow in any way since some of the lower leaves seem to die off?
3) Should I try to buffer my pH, GH, or KH in any way?
4) Should I increase/ decrease my lighting and/ or CO2?

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I think you're in pretty good shape. Your aquarium is very lightly planted though, so adding more plant mass will help combat algae breakouts. Also, your GH is pretty low. 2 dGH is roughly 36 ppm, if you shot for around 6 dGH it might help your s. repens and h. pinnadifida. I would recommend Seachem's Equilibrium for this. You could also skip the Excel and Envy if you added more plant mass.
 

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Holes, yellowing, missing leaf tips … sounds like multiple deficiencies. I suggest that you go to Rotala Butterfly | Planted Aquarium Nutrient Dosing Calculator and put your data in according to the calculator. It’s fairly simple to do.

Just adding the K (via the K2SO4) may help some of the issues and it looks like you need to add a GH booster such as a NilocG GH Booster or Seachem Equilibrium and put the one you select into the Rotala Butterfly calculator to determine dosage. GH should be, at least, in the 4-5 dGH (70-90 ppm) area. You may also want to match the KH to the GH and then take another CO2 reading based upon pH (I’m concerned that the low buffering – KH – may be misleading you on CO2 levels). I prefer a drop checker, such as a Fluval. I would definitely push my CO2 to the limit – where fish begin to gasp at the surface - then back off a little.

I tried the Aquavitro Envy for about 4 months, last year, and wasn’t impressed by the results. It’s expensive and you can get the same (possibly better) micros from Seachem’s Flourish (just plain “Flourish”) or CSM+B.

PPM’s will be revealed in the Rotala Butterfly calculator, so you can compare your actual measurements to those, but be aware that our hobbyist test kits aren’t nearly precise. They are good enough for ballpark estimates though. Work the Rotala Butterfly calculator in-depth. It’s a great tool that simplifies the nutrient aspect of EI.

Healthy plants will inhibit algae growth longer term. You don’t need the Excel once you are sure of 30-35 ppm CO2, unless you are trying to kill algae. Then you only dose Excel heavily 2-3 days and check results, repeating weekly as needed but, again, better to get plants growing rather than leaning on the Excel crutch.

Flow, from combined sources, should sum to at least 10 times your tank size. If you need to add some, I like the Hydor Koralia pumps which create a softer-wider flow pattern. Your plants should be swaying in the breeze from top to bottom.

Your light is fine for your setup. However, you didn’t note the photoperiod. Start with 6 hours and gradually increase, if you want more light time, once your plants show signs of growing well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Holes, yellowing, missing leaf tips … sounds like multiple deficiencies. I suggest that you go to Rotala Butterfly | Planted Aquarium Nutrient Dosing Calculator and put your data in according to the calculator. It’s fairly simple to do.

Just adding the K (via the K2SO4) may help some of the issues and it looks like you need to add a GH booster such as a NilocG GH Booster or Seachem Equilibrium and put the one you select into the Rotala Butterfly calculator to determine dosage. GH should be, at least, in the 4-5 dGH (70-90 ppm) area. You may also want to match the KH to the GH and then take another CO2 reading based upon pH (I’m concerned that the low buffering – KH – may be misleading you on CO2 levels). I prefer a drop checker, such as a Fluval. I would definitely push my CO2 to the limit – where fish begin to gasp at the surface - then back off a little.

PPM’s will be revealed in the Rotala Butterfly calculator, so you can compare your actual measurements to those, but be aware that our hobbyist test kits aren’t nearly precise. They are good enough for ballpark estimates though. Work the Rotala Butterfly calculator in-depth. It’s a great tool that simplifies the nutrient aspect of EI.

Flow, from combined sources, should sum to at least 10 times your tank size. If you need to add some, I like the Hydor Koralia pumps which create a softer-wider flow pattern. Your plants should be swaying in the breeze from top to bottom.

Your light is fine for your setup. However, you didn’t note the photoperiod. Start with 6 hours and gradually increase, if you want more light time, once your plants show signs of growing well.
My flow rate should be at least 446 gph (my tank is a 40 breeder). I just don't know if I should change the set up of my power head. Should it be angled directly at my plants making them "blow" with the current or would that just add too much flow
Rotala butterfly can be a little confusing. If I'm trying to get my GH to 4-5 range, how much do I add.

My photo period is 8 hours. The CO2 comes on an hour before the lights and turns off an hour before the lights turn off. I've heard some have the CO2 come on 2 hours before the lights do, would you recommend that?

Also, my GH appears to actually be around 71.6 ppm according to my test kit. Like you said, it may be inaccurate, but should I still add Equilibrium? I'm guessing the MgSO4 is responsible for my GH levels.
 

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My flow rate should be at least 446 gph (my tank is a 40 breeder). I just don't know if I should change the set up of my power head. Should it be angled directly at my plants making them "blow" with the current or would that just add too much flow
Rotala butterfly can be a little confusing. If I'm trying to get my GH to 4-5 range, how much do I add.

My photo period is 8 hours. The CO2 comes on an hour before the lights and turns off an hour before the lights turn off. I've heard some have the CO2 come on 2 hours before the lights do, would you recommend that?

Also, my GH appears to actually be around 71.6 ppm according to my test kit. Like you said, it may be inaccurate, but should I still add Equilibrium? I'm guessing the MgSO4 is responsible for my GH levels.
At first, the nutrient calculators can be confusing, but if you play with them for a while, they will start to make sense and will become indispensable …like anything new. I strongly suggest that you get to know it well, especially when a high-tech setup is involved, such as yours.

Based upon your dosing Mg only, my guess is that most of your GH is Mg and that you are very short on calcium. So, yes; I think you should start using a GH booster-type product and you can then stop dosing Mg separately. Pick the one you want (Seachem Equilibrium (LFS or Amazon), Nilocg GH Booster (nilocg.com), or GLA’s GH Booster (greenleafaquariums.com) and then use the nutrient calculator to determine dosing levels. These products will also add a lot of potassium (as you will see in the calculator results) so you may not need to dose potassium separately as you are also getting it in the KNO3 and KH2PO4.

Sounds like you might have barely enough flow, but remember that rated flow on filters is not what you actually get. Even though the minimum is 10x tank size, I’m a strong believer in combined flow being double that. It’s really important to get the nutrients, including CO2, into contact with every leaf and sweeping the substrate. I don’t point my pumps at anything in the tank. If you point it toward the surface to get good rippling, without breaking the surface, you get maximum gas exchange (more O2).

Regarding CO2 timing, I do the same as you: 1 hour before lights on and lights out.

GH of 71 ppm is bare minimum and, as above, is probably mostly Mg in your case. The GH test kits aren’t so far off that you won’t get a good-enough reading, so the 71 is probably very close to accurate. Make sure that the reagents haven’t expired.
 

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At first, the nutrient calculators can be confusing, but if you play with them for a while, they will start to make sense and will become indispensable …like anything new. I strongly suggest that you get to know it well, especially when a high-tech setup is involved, such as yours.
Just to be clear, when it says how much to dose, are the results those of a one-time dose, or do I need to divide by 3 to get what I should really dose?

If I take the amount of PO4 I dose and multiply times 3, then my resulting concentration is 3.94 ppm, which is too high. By this standard, the dosage of K gets 23.34 ppm and NO3 gets 4.68 ppm. Does this sound right?

Sounds like you might have barely enough flow, but remember that rated flow on filters is not what you actually get. Even though the minimum is 10x tank size, I’m a strong believer in combined flow being double that. It’s really important to get the nutrients, including CO2, into contact with every leaf and sweeping the substrate. I don’t point my pumps at anything in the tank. If you point it toward the surface to get good rippling, without breaking the surface, you get maximum gas exchange (more O2).
That sounds like a good idea then. I guess I'll upgrade my Hydor to one of the more powerful models, given that mine is probably way too weak, considering what I want it to do.
 

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Just to be clear, when it says how much to dose, are the results those of a one-time dose, or do I need to divide by 3 to get what I should really dose?

If I take the amount of PO4 I dose and multiply times 3, then my resulting concentration is 3.94 ppm, which is too high. By this standard, the dosage of K gets 23.34 ppm and NO3 gets 4.68 ppm. Does this sound right?

That sounds like a good idea then. I guess I'll upgrade my Hydor to one of the more powerful models, given that mine is probably way too weak, considering what I want it to do.
Generally speaking you want less PO4 (1-2 ppm) and more NO3 (10-30) in a high tech tank. K is about the is about the same as N (10 to 1) to P. These are wide ranges and it' really not that important in the scheme of things.

IMO your filter is more than adequate. And you have a powerhead. All you need is gentle flow. These 10x are not minimum requirements. I never run powerheads (hate the look) and usually run 2x effective flow. Keeping very intense light to a short burst, making sure the ferts are there, good co2 and consistent water changes have always been the key for me.
 

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So here are my main questions:
1) Are there any parts of my dosing that I should change? Should I be adding MgSO4 even though most EI recommendations don’t include it? Should I decrease my Plantex dosage at all? Do I need to dose KNO3 even though I have nitrates from fish
2) Should I think about changing my flow in any way since some of the lower leaves seem to die off?
3) Should I try to buffer my pH, GH, or KH in any way?
4) Should I increase/ decrease my lighting and/ or CO2?
You state your water gh is 35. That is about the same as New York city water. That water from what I have seen on line works fine for most low tech tanks. But you have CO2 injection. At least one person with a CO2 tank on this forum I know had problems due to insufficient calcium and magnesium. So you might not have enough Calcium in your water to support plant growth. looking at your photos I don't seen any obvious symptoms of any of these deficiencies but your description does indicate several deficiencies may be present. And Calcium, magnesium, sulfur, and chloride are almost never included in fertilizers. From my own experience with RO water and and innert substrate these nutrients are essential for good plant growth.

To get good plant growth I use CSM+B, A GH booster (I make my own using Calcium chloride, Calcium sulfate, and Magnesium sulfate) potassium nitrate, and potassium phosphate. Most of the time on this forum I recommend Sachem Equilibrium for a GH booster. Chlorine is generally not an issue for tap water (since it is chlorinated).

In your case you could drop the potassium sulfate and add in calcium chloride. In general you want about 4 parts calcium to 1 part magnesium. I generally mix my calcium and magnesium dry and then gradually add it after a water change until I reach my target TDS reading. Increasing the GH about 2 degrees above the tap water GH should insure sufficient calcium, magnesium, sulfur, and chloride if you decide to add calcium chloride. The potassium nitrate and potassium phosphate should then supply enough nitrate and phosphate. I typically check my phosphate and nitrate levels with test kits to insure I have enough of those. When fertilizing this way you typically have more potassium than needed. The CSM+B will then handle the micro nutrients.
 

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Just to be clear, when it says how much to dose, are the results those of a one-time dose, or do I need to divide by 3 to get what I should really dose?

If I take the amount of PO4 I dose and multiply times 3, then my resulting concentration is 3.94 ppm, which is too high. By this standard, the dosage of K gets 23.34 ppm and NO3 gets 4.68 ppm. Does this sound right?
Let me explain by way of an example:

I have a 29 gal tank, so I put 26 gallons into the calculator (estimate of actual water volume). I select KH2PO4 and leave the "I AM CALCULATING FOR" drop-down on "Estimative Index" and "Dry Dosing" for simplicity sake in this example. Hit "Calculate" and the results appear on the right, which include how often to dose the amounts.

Now, you note the ppm level for each dose (these are single-dose numbers). So, e.g.; PO4 is 1.3 ppm. Then, you go to the "Accumulation Calculator." Once there, you put the 1.3 ppm into the "Dose' section, select your dose frequency (2 days, which is every other day), water change amount (50% as per EI recommendation) and how often (every 7 days which is once a week). Hit "Show" and you will see the range of PO4 that this dosage will build to, in your tank, after a few weeks.

In the "Accumulation Calculator", you can now decide if that is the level you want. In this case, it is showing an average in the 6 ppm area. However, let's say you want it to be in the 2 ppm area. So play around with different "Dose" levels here. Finally, you find that .4 ppm gives you the 2 ppm average you want.

Now, you go back to the "Nutrient Calculator" and set everything as before. However, this time you select "Dose to reach a target" instead of "Estimative Index" in the "I AM CALCULATING FOR" drop-down and put the .4 ppm that you found in the "Accumulation Calculator" into the "MY TARGET IS: PO4" section. Hit "Calculate" and the amount to dose each time is shown as 72 mg. Recall from the "Accumulation Calculator" that you chose three doses per week. So, you now know to dose 72 mg, 3x per week, and you will achieve roughly 2 ppm with 50% weekly wc's. Of course there will be plant uptake that is not accounted for, but this will get you into the ballpark of where you want to be.

If you want to put the PO4 into a solution for easier dosing (where you can also combine all three macros), you can just select "A Solution" instead of "Dry Dosing" and rework the numbers.
 

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IMO your filter is more than adequate. And you have a powerhead. All you need is gentle flow. These 10x are not minimum requirements. I never run powerheads (hate the look) and usually run 2x effective flow. Keeping very intense light to a short burst, making sure the ferts are there, good co2 and consistent water changes have always been the key for me.
I don't disagree on the flow. I think it's more a matter of personal taste. My view is that flow is a lot like CO2 dosing; get it as high as you can tolerate it. For me, that point is just short of where plants are bending over and where fish aren't tumbling head-over-heels. I use a couple Hydor Koralias, pointed at the surface, to get that very gentle, but strong flow. The fish have other options, but many do seem to intentionally move into the heaviest flow areas. Plants are clearly gently swaying at all levels. In my 29 gal, I have rated flow of about 1,000 gph between the two Hydro's and the canister. Of course, actual flow is somewhere below that.
 

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I don't disagree on the flow. I think it's more a matter of personal taste. My view is that flow is a lot like CO2 dosing; get it as high as you can tolerate it. For me, that point is just short of where plants are bending over and where fish aren't tumbling head-over-heels. I use a couple Hydor Koralias, pointed at the surface, to get that very gentle, but strong flow. The fish have other options, but many do seem to intentionally move into the heaviest flow areas. Plants are clearly gently swaying at all levels. In my 29 gal, I have rated flow of about 1,000 gph between the two Hydro's and the canister. Of course, actual flow is somewhere below that.
I agree it's personal taste. I don't think the extra flow is a negative unless it's obviously too strong. My disagreement is in the 10x minimum on the GPH. I've done too many tanks to know this really isn't necessary. Might have been when you had a fish only tank and your trying to move larger waste into the filter, but with planted the majority of filtration is usually in the tank and the fish usually aren't as big.

I've used an an eheim 2215 on my 72g, a 2213 on my 46, and am currently using a 2211 on my 20g long. Out of the box these filters only have around a 2.5.-3 times turnover for those tank sizes. All these were setup WITHOUT any powerheads to move ferts/co2 around and there was no difference in plant growth anywhere in the tank. You just don't need alot of flow to move dissolved co2/ferts around a 2-4 foot space. When I measured the actual GPH on the working filter it was less than 2x.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Let me explain by way of an example:

I have a 29 gal tank, so I put 26 gallons into the calculator (estimate of actual water volume). I select KH2PO4 and leave the "I AM CALCULATING FOR" drop-down on "Estimative Index" and "Dry Dosing" for simplicity sake in this example. Hit "Calculate" and the results appear on the right, which include how often to dose the amounts.

Now, you note the ppm level for each dose (these are single-dose numbers). So, e.g.; PO4 is 1.3 ppm. Then, you go to the "Accumulation Calculator." Once there, you put the 1.3 ppm into the "Dose' section, select your dose frequency (2 days, which is every other day), water change amount (50% as per EI recommendation) and how often (every 7 days which is once a week). Hit "Show" and you will see the range of PO4 that this dosage will build to, in your tank, after a few weeks.

In the "Accumulation Calculator", you can now decide if that is the level you want. In this case, it is showing an average in the 6 ppm area. However, let's say you want it to be in the 2 ppm area. So play around with different "Dose" levels here. Finally, you find that .4 ppm gives you the 2 ppm average you want.

Now, you go back to the "Nutrient Calculator" and set everything as before. However, this time you select "Dose to reach a target" instead of "Estimative Index" in the "I AM CALCULATING FOR" drop-down and put the .4 ppm that you found in the "Accumulation Calculator" into the "MY TARGET IS: PO4" section. Hit "Calculate" and the amount to dose each time is shown as 72 mg. Recall from the "Accumulation Calculator" that you chose three doses per week. So, you now know to dose 72 mg, 3x per week, and you will achieve roughly 2 ppm with 50% weekly wc's. Of course there will be plant uptake that is not accounted for, but this will get you into the ballpark of where you want to be.

If you want to put the PO4 into a solution for easier dosing (where you can also combine all three macros), you can just select "A Solution" instead of "Dry Dosing" and rework the numbers.
Ok thanks, this all makes sense now. I think my issue has been the proportions/ ratios of each fertilizer I?ve been adding. I?m sure a lot of the gsa has spread because of the surplus of micros.

The only thing is that I would make a liquid solution instead of dry dosing, but whenever I?ve made a solution in the past, I get this fungus or water mold in my fertilizer. I?m pretty sure that throws off some of the nutrients I?m dosing, like phosphates.
Do you get this problem, and if so how do you handle it?
 

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The only thing is that I would make a liquid solution instead of dry dosing, but whenever I've made a solution in the past, I get this fungus or water mold in my fertilizer. I'm pretty sure that throws off some of the nutrients I'm dosing, like phosphates.
Do you get this problem, and if so how do you handle it?
Are you adding both macros and micros to the same solution? Each should be in their own bottle. You can add some Excel/glut to your solution to inhibit mold growth. It's also a good idea to store your solution out of direct sunlight.
 

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Ok thanks, this all makes sense now. I think my issue has been the proportions/ ratios of each fertilizer I?ve been adding. I?m sure a lot of the gsa has spread because of the surplus of micros.

The only thing is that I would make a liquid solution instead of dry dosing, but whenever I?ve made a solution in the past, I get this fungus or water mold in my fertilizer. I?m pretty sure that throws off some of the nutrients I?m dosing, like phosphates.
Do you get this problem, and if so how do you handle it?
If you scan through this forum, you will soon come to the realization that the old wives tale of fertilizers causing algae has been debunked. In fact, in the case of GSA, increasing PO4 into the 3-5 ppm area is recommended for GSA inhibition. Algae is caused by a lot of things going wrong. It starts with too much light for the plants we have in a given tank. If light is balanced with CO2 and plant health, algae can’t get a good foothold. If plants aren’t healthy, the algae will be. So, ignore algae as much as possible and focus upon maximizing plant health. It will slowly disappear. When algae is triggered to grow by some disruption to plant health, there will be more than enough nutrients for it, no matter what we do. Algae will use the organic phosphate (which we can’t measure separately) and nitrogenics (such as ammonia) created by food, fish, detritus, etc. We dose inorganic phosphate (orthophosphate) in our fertilizers. In a sense, fertilzers that we dose can cause algae …by limiting fertilizer, we make plants unhealthy and that helps algae, so keep doing the EI levels.

Measure your nitrate and phosphate levels and you can then decide if you need to add more of those, but you will have to keep adding potassium and micros. Ferts are simple and EI assure us of preventing them from being limited.

The main nutrient required by plants – and it determines the fertilizer dosing we do – is CO2. Push it to the limit. BPM is useless as a measure. Increase CO2 to the point that fish are gasping at the surface, then back it down a little. Leave it there a day or two and then do it again. The idea is to adapt the fish to the highest level they can stand. Once you do that, you’re still not done because your plants will start to grow rapidly and you will have to increase your BPM (which you won’t be able to count) again until you finally get to an optimized level where plants continue to grow steadily and fish are happy.

Regarding the fert mixes. I used the dry dosing example only because it’s a little easier to understand than creating the solution. But solutions will become easy as well. As @MCFC mentioned, you have to keep two bottles: one for macros (N-P-K) and one for micros. The mold is common and I add 5 ml of Excel to each 250 ml of solution I make up to inhibit mold growth.
 
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