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Help My Poor Plants!

2602 Views 9 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Zapins
Hey there! I've been a longtime lurker of this site. I've had a 45 up and running as my first time experience with live plants in the aquarium. I thought I was off to a good start but I think I've spent more money on plants than I'd like to admit.

Here's the setup.

Size: 45g
Substrate: Sand
Filter: 2 HOB's. Aquaclear 70 and a Penguin Biowheel 200
Lighting: AH supply 96w bright kit retrofit into the old hood.
Plants: Moneywort, Java Fern, Anubias, Swords, Cabomba, Ludwigia, Java Moss ( small amount )
Ferts: Seachem Flourish Comprehensive dosed as recommended. Flourish Tabs.
Fish: 2 angelfish, 4 sterbai cories, 4 kuhli loaches, 2 angelicus botia. 2 honey gourami. 2 oto cats
Setup time: 1.5 years
No Co2 but I dose excel every day. And between excel bottles I used a similar product from API, it's in the pic but it's currently gone and I'm back to excel.

Water changes are bi weekly, 80% and has been as such since I got the tank.

Here is the tank. Be warned, it's not pretty right now.

Now, I have problems. The plants are leggy at best, dead at worst now. I have brush algae and I'm thinking of upping the dose on excel. It's growing on the edges of some of my anubias and my moneywort.

Now, plants have never really thrived in this tank. I had a period at first where growth was well but they always seemed to crash and melt back after a time. I was learning and never gave ferts to the rooted plants. After a period where personal life got in the way of tank maintenance and the plants suffered even more, I got flourish tabs a couple of months ago and placed them as suggested on the box near the rooted plants. No effect. But the plants did start growing very slowly again when I picked up the excel/flourish comprehensive routine again.

I'm trying to get a handle on this tank and finally whip it into shape and I feel like I've hit a wall! It's hideous! It's ugly! The poor plants are bad and I need help lol.

I suspect the bulb needs replaced so one is in the mail now. It hasn't been changed for the duration the tank has been running.

I made osmocote plus and made my own out of gels caps and have buried them every 6 inches ( near rooted plants ) these capsules are lightly packed as I didn't want to overdo it. ( maybe 5-8 granules in each )

I'm looking into DIY co2. I have a 10g I'm experimenting on with high light and just made my first co2 project. The plants in that tank are doing great so far. If this works out I want to try a larger setup on the 45 for co2.

I feel like I need better ferts. The plants are never lush and some of the java ferns have black mottling. Deficiency? I have stunted, hole-y swords that sprouted a few measly tiny leaves and are trying hard to live but get no further. I hope the new osmocote tabs help them.

The cabomba grew fast at first, became spindly, then slowly got ugly and fell apart. I think the same is going to happen to this moneywort.

I want to try dry ferts but I feel very intimidated by the guide's I've seen. I almost bought some from but I'm hesitating because I just don't know what to buy for my tank and how to apply it all. If I go this route, what should I buy and how much of it do I use? I'm afraid I will get it all wrong and the plants will do even worse ( is that possible? :icon_mad: )

If anyone can help, you have no idea how appreciative I would be!
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· Registered
1,949 Posts
I thought dry ferts would be intimidating as well. You have to remember they are just guides. Your tank is different and will need different amounts of ferts. Start with your basic Kno3, kh2po4, k2so4 and csm+b. I started with EI method, now that my tank has started to mature I dose based on what my plants tell me. Doing this, you need to know the different deficiency. Zapins has a very nice site with most of them listed.

There is no one size fits all in this hobby. But, the planted tank sure does make up for it.

· Registered
492 Posts
You definitely look to have BBA in there, here is a long, long thread of folks talking about using Excel to get rid of it

I was trying to figure out from what you talked about what the problem may be. It could be your expectations. The pic dosen't look bad for a low maintenance tank and you say the plants are growing again slowly. Maybe that is all you should expect from your current setup.
After 1-1/2 years your bulb would have become much less efficient and your tank appears tall so the light getting to your plants is fairly low. You say you aren't running co2 so be careful of too much ferts as it may lead to even more algae. You don't mention how long your light is on each day.
If you are looking for faster growth then I suspect you are going to have to invest in both more lighting and in co2. You may be able to get improved growth with some ferts, a new bulb, and the Excel (which you're going to need to use to reduce the BBA). All depends on what your expectations are and how big your wallet is.

· Banned
5,927 Posts
Contain simple explanation of each kind of fert. PS and EI. (in red)
This last one has a kit of liquid EI ferts and Osmocote+ capsules. Don't overdo those.
Never less then 6" appart from each other.
You do not have complete ferts. Plants stop growing when they run out of the nutrient that is there the least. DIY likely is not enough for any large tank/w actual high lights
and injected CO2 is needed for those. Med level lights grow most plants except for brght reds(and some of those can be grown in med )and a few of the carpet type.
Ei is designed for but need not be used/w CO2. The calculator has a section for "Low light EI weekly" which you only dose once a week.

· Plant Whisperer
2,547 Posts
I buy my ferts from this site:

If you want to know what you need to get, buy CSM+B, DTPA chelated iron, KNO3, K2SO4 and KH2PO4. You can also get CaCl2 and MgSO4 with your order, you'll probably never need them, but they are only a dollar or two more, you might as well have them too and save on shipping for the next time.

Dying_Phoenix can you post a few more pictures?

I'd like to see the holes you mentioned. Please try to get some focused close up pictures of the holes. They look like they might be potassium deficiency holes.

I can't see your java fern clearly enough to be sure but this is an example of potassium deficiency in java ferns, notice the yellow margin around the holes. No margin = not potassium deficiency. This is in the old leaves ONLY.

You can read more about potassium deficiency at my site: I haven't added a description for java fern yet, but it is similar to other potassium deficient plants.


· Registered
67 Posts
Everything said above is great. Use the dry ferts. I bought big bags (not expensive either as they last years) of straight up chemicals and use a table for the appropriate amounts. They're easy to mix and easy to add each day (1 ml per 10 gallons, either with a dropper, or the fert bottles(2 chambers). Once you get a hang of it, it's like ZERO work. Also your lack of real dissolved co2 wil retard growth. From experince, the sugar/yeast DIY system is unstable and not worth the effort. Look into a paintball system if you want to stay cheap. You could make one for around 60$ if you use a used PB tank.

Add these two things and your tank will grow like a wizard came and added magic lol... good luck!


P.s. I use the PPS system. Main ferts( kno3, kh2po4 and k2so4 in one bottle) csm+b(trace elements) in the other and it's worked like a charm for years now. Here's a link to the table I have downloaded and used:

· Registered
66 Posts
Can you be a bit more specific about your light? It might not be powerful enough, that looks like a pretty deep tank. Poor plant growth, decaying leaves and algae can all be caused by too little light as well as by a fert issue.

· Registered
2 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thank you all for your replies! I will try to answer all your questions. I'm going to get the dry ferts listed and plan on looking into doing the extra doses of excel to get rid of the BBA.

Steve, it may be my expectations. But I just wasn't getting how my plants end up dying. They do grow slowly, on a good day. All plants end up withering away over time. All except the java fern and anubias that is. They are the only ones that have lived the entire duration of the tank's time set up. Everything else lived for awhile then either died off or died back and seem stunted now. This is the issue. I don't mind slow growth at all! I just want to see them keep growing.

Raymond, thank you for the links, I will look into them. I suspected incomplete ferts but just wasn't sure.

Zapins, I appreciate the help! I jotted all the ferts down and grabbed one of the ferns to take pics.

Here they are:

I see no yellow in them. But they do have very small pinholes as you can see. This is in front of my planted 10g.

Burr: It's just how I've always done it. There's no real reason, I just make a day of it. The fish don't struggle with it and in fact seem to pick up in energy. Many of them spawn right after I do water changes. ( I have 6 tanks ).

Ebandman: The DIY was just an experiment in my 10g to see how well it worked. I have it bubbling into a submersible filter and the bubbles are chopped and blown all over the tank. The tank is full of tiny silvery bubbles. I never thought of using a paintball system. I will look into that for sure! Thank you!

Careful: My lights are on..probably too long. I leave them on 10hrs. The bulb is a 96w 6700k compact fluorescent. From this setup

If I was to upgrade my lighting for this tank, what would be a good route? I could buy a glass lid and see about fitting a second 96w kit up there one right next to the other but that's my only idea for now. But I prefer to keep this one out of the co2 game for now anyway.

· Plant Whisperer
2,547 Posts
Can you take a few more photos of your other plants? You mentioned they aren't doing well. Nice photos of the Java fern BTW. This species is difficult to use for diagnosing deficiencies on its own because old leaves often deteriorate in patterns that mimic fertilizer issues. The holes might be potassium deficiency. They have a black necrotic boarder rather than a yellow one. This might just mean the deficiency is more severe than my photo above.

While I am generally in favor of adding more lights - plants love light - your really want to add pressurized CO2 and dose proper ferts if you add a second 96w bulb. More light drives plant metabolism faster and without CO2 and other ferts your plants can't take advantage of the extra light. This seems to promote algae.
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