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How do you monitor the nutrient levels on your planted tank

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How do you monitor and keep your nutrient levels, Macro and Micro and N in check?

I test my water for the usual suspects using an API kit and I measure my TDS and PH but I need some feedback on how to better manage my EI dosed planted tanks and appreciate the feedback.

Two tanks are now underway, both 29gal. I'm about 3 months in on tank one and a week into the second tank (honeymoon). So far, Algae is under control. One has tank has ample lighting and one has a whole "lot" of lighting, running CO2 and using RODI H2O in both.
I'd like to start dialing-in my dosing and keep the algae under control and I need some help, probably a lot more than I can say? It's usually just a matter of time before I lose control of the dark green algae on plant leaves.
I've been using the SeaChem Flourish products for the last two years, using their dosing chart, however, I'd like to go with another EI approach, likely the GLA products, something comprehensive system that helps with my GH and KH once the last of my Seachem ferts are depleted, probably have a few more months?
I think I've got good flow and filtration in the tank. No canister or sump in use presently, I'm also experimenting with an under gravel filter in one tank and super low-flow. Using ADA Amazonia Light, Flourite and Fluval Stratum in both tanks.
Right now I'm not keeping any fish in these tanks but I'd like to keep something like some small tetras or rasboras? Fish are not the priority with these tanks, just yet.

I am happy to post picks of the tanks if it helps.


Happy New Years Planted Tank!

DD
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I test GH, KH, NO3, PO4, and Fe every 3rd week.
Dosing to keep fert levels to my liking within the tank.
A much different approach than many here.

Test for Ca and NH3 about every 8 weeks just to make sure.

Quarterly I test for everything I can possibly measure @ home.

I use Colin @ NilocG.com for most dry compounds.
Other oddball items from "The Bay" to fill in micro compounds.
Used the Seachem line once and to continue with it would break the bank.
 

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low cost test kit can only take you so far in monitoring nutrients. Escpacially for the micros There are a few iron test kit. and maybe some copper test kits but that is about it. And some of those are only designed to detect concentrations near the EPA allowed upper limit. They may not work well at the target concentrations typically used in planted tanks.

The best way I have found to measure nutrients is the ICP-OES lab test. You send a water sample in and it will measure all nutrients except nitrogen down to a concentration of 0.001ppm (2 part per billion)d. Triton labs in europe has been doing this for salt water leef aquariums. IN the US I have used ICP-Analysis.com:

https://www.amazon.com/ICP-Analysis-Elemental-Water-Test/dp/B071HVPBVD/ref=sxts_sxwds-bia?
crid=2B2TOCME39Z2C&cv_ct_cx=icp+analysis&keywords=icp+analysis&pd_rd_i=B071HVPBVD&pd_rd_r=e01d4ada-527c-4089-b7dc-3d8371494f82&pd_rd_w=83teT&pd_rd_wg=50ylo&pf_rd_p=1cb3f32a-ccfd-479b-8a13-b22f56c942c6&pf_rd_r=E61TBE7WZXMR2X326GA4&psc=1&qid=1578110540&sprefix=icp-analysis%2Caps%2C216


iT costs $30 and you get the results in a week.

If any plant nutrient has a zero in the test result you have a nutrient deficiency. I first used it when I had a nutrient deficiency I couldn't fix. The test showed I had two deficiecies in my RO water tank. CL and Manganese were zero. I don't know why it happened but the tank was back to normal in a week.
w
one other option for testing are hanna instruments checkers. Each checker detects one nutrient and cost $50. It is an electronic device that anaalies the color and gives you a digital readout. You cannot get a checker for all nutrients but the phosphate, ammonia, alkalinity and iron checkers are very good. They don't have a nitrogen checker. Be advised they sell salt water and fresh water specific checkers in multiple ranges so before ordering one verify the range is what you need and that it is a fresh water meter.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I spent some time reading and researching various tests and then I reminded myself that I'm using the EI approach anyway so, why would I need to dial in my nutrient levels if things are looking good?

My main challenge will likely be figuring out what in the hell is going on with my water and the PH as it affects the consumption of Fe. I'm going to post that though in another post. It should be interesting as I use Potassium Chloride to soften my water. I posted that I live in Davis, CA, but I actually live in the adjacent town, called Dixon, no one around here even knows of Dixon, at least with Davis, you have a general idea, it being a UC Village town. We have groundwater (well) but it's on the hard side, clear, but hard. More to come, stay tuned in another post.

Thanks, everyone, always appreciate the good people in this forum.

DD
 

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How do you monitor and keep your nutrient levels, Macro and Micro and N in check?
Hi DD,

Although I registered on this forum a while ago, I have returned to it very recently. I was drawn to your question quite simply because you take an interest in actually measuring nutrient levels. So do I. But, I'm still trying to determine what we should be aiming for with each nutrient. I have sets of figures from various sources. I should add that I'm in the UK. So, my figures are mostly from German sources. I'll kick the ball rolling with this information from Aqua Rebell:

Deficiency Symptoms - Aqua Rebell

Against each deficiency, there is a recommended range. For each nutrient, this is how I measure them:

N NT Labs or Tropic Marin nitrate liquid test kit

P JBL Phosphate liquid test kit

K JBL Potassium liquid test kit

Fe Hach AccuChek dip test

Mg JBL Magnesium liquid test kit

How do I aim to maintain the suggested levels? It's a combination of Seachem Flourish, Flourish Iron, Seachem Trace and TNC Complete. But, just recently, I discovered that my potassium level had crept up to 90ppm. And I lost a lot of fish but was it because of the potassium? Possibly, from research that I have read.

I also use CO2 injection, which I measure with an electronic 'drop checker' that I have made. I keep CO2 at around 30ppm.

Finally, I can measure O2 using a JBL Oxygen Liquid Test Kit

That's it for now.

Anon

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...why would I need to dial in my nutrient levels if things are looking good?
Hi DD,

I keep seeing this expression "dial in my nutrient levels". Would you please explain what is meant by this?

TIA.

Anon
 
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Although I registered on this forum a while ago, I have returned to it very recently. I was drawn to your question quite simply because you take an interest in actually measuring nutrient levels. So do I. But, I'm still trying to determine what we should be aiming for with each nutrient.
There is a new trend in planted aquarium. Some people are now making their micro fertilizer as well as the macro NPK dosing. The reason for this is that the most popular purchased micro fertilizers didn't work well for everyone. Many purchased fertilizers idon'thave all nutrients plants or they simply don't have enough of another nutrient. Some people may have nutrient rich water while other have soft rain water and others may be forced to use pure RO water. Some tanks may have nutrient rich soil substrates while others have a nutrient poor substrate. Some tanks have a lot of fish and a lot of nutrient rich fish waist while other tanks may have few fish. No fertilizer or fertilizer recipe is going to work equally well in all types of tanks.

You can use this thread to compare your tank to what others are using. And unlike many other threads it covers all nutrients plants need.
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/11-fertilizers-water-parameters/1288329-share-your-dosing-thread-31.html

This thread is more about why people are making there own micro and how they do it.
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/11-fertilizers-water-parameters/1221018-custom-micro-mix-thread.html

testing is helpful to :

1 catch a hazardous condition before it kills your fish.

2 Detect nutrient deficiency. If you are just missing one of the 14 nutrients a plant needs to grow you could end up with a lot of algae and dying plants.

3 to detect a high excesss level in a nutrient that might be harm your plants and fish.

4 Monitor nutrient consumption of your plants and adjust the dosing levels to optimize the overall health of the tank. this is refers to by some as "dial in my nutrient levels"


for a new tank problems are more likely to occur so you will probably do more testing. However as you work through the problems the need for testing should diminish.
 

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If you're doing aggressive enough EI then, in theory, you don't need to monitor.

In practice, I monitor NO3 with the Salifert test, PO4 with the API test, and GH occasionally with the API test. I've confirmed that the Seachem iron test works only for free iron or Fe gluconate; it will not detect Fe EDTA or Fe DTDP.

I'm pretty sure something is being used up as fast as I can add it to the tank, but I don't know what yet. I may take Surf's advice and have the water tested.
 

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I do the typical tests of NO3, PO4, GH, KH, TDS... my pH is monitored by a controller and calibrate ever ~4 weeks or so.

What I have found is consistency is the key to avoiding the algae and having healthy tank. When I test I am not as worried about specific numbers (it can be hard to tell) rather the general range of the NO3 and PO4. Just the other day I noticed some extra GDA early in the week after my water change. I tested my PO4 and it was a might lighter color that I wanted. This gave me the opportunity to add a bump of PO4 midweek, and then adjust my dosing for the next water change.

If you feel you need to make a change, find the one factor that you want to adjust for that week or two and watch what happens. If you maintenance is consistent, and you only change one factor at a time, you can better hone in on effects. I know there are way of experimenting with multiple factors, but is is extremely hard to isolate them in a planted tank (IME), so one factor, patience, and watching for changes has worked for me.

I do weekly 70% or so water changes. I am a firm believer that if you want a high powered tank that the clean conditions are going to be absolutely key.

The other thing you can do if using your incoming tap water, besides testing it, is look at the city water report. This, although a snapshot in time, will give you an idea of what the water is like.
 
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