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Before I get started, here's the relevant information for my tank.

Size: 20 high
Ferts: EI and root tabs
CO2: DIY
Light: Finnex Ray 2
Substrate: River stone gravel
Water changes: 50% weekly

OK, so I simply haven't had much success with stems plants in my 20H. Anacharis, wisteria and rotala have lived in my tank but have never thrived. Previously, I had only been dosing Flourish, and I later realized that I needed to add macro ferts.

After switching to EI dosing (bought nilocg's premixed EI liquid ferts), I decided to trim all my rotala down (had grown long but lower sections weren't healthy looking), replant the stems and see if they fared any better. My single stem of wisteria had been in the low light section of my tank (1/3 of the tank sectioned off and covered by frogbit), and I moved it to the non-floater section of my tank thinking that it would now thrive with the new ferts.

Unfortunately, I'm seeing pinholes in my rotala, wisteria and even a couple of my rooted plants (hygro corybosa and crypts). I pretty sure the pinholes in the rooted plants is nothing a few root tabs couldn't solve. However, I'm perplexed by the pinholes in the stem plants. Logic would dictate that I have a potassium deficiency. However, the EI ferts should be supplying more than enough K.

Another thing that makes me doubt that I have a K deficiency is that the shorter rotala stems are showing nice healthy growth. It's only the longer stems that have the pinholes towards the top of the plant. For the wisteria, it's sort of the opposite. The leaves up top look healthier (although not perfect), but the lower leaves are showing pinholes and browning. One other thing worth mentioning is that I have rotala growing slowly but very well in my Fluval Spec 2 with stock light (low light). In this tank, I dose Excel at the recommended dose, and I do about a 20-25% dose of EI ferts (2 drops, recommended dosage is .5mL for 2 gallons or 8-10 drops). If I really had a K deficiency, I'd expect to see it in this tank as well although the low light setting obviously reduces the nutrient requirements for the plants.

In the end, I'm looking at a few areas that may be of concern:

- K deficiency: I have my doubts, but perhaps my floaters are stealing the nutrients in the water column from my stem plants?

- Lighting: The fact that the shorter stems look healthy while the taller stems are struggling leads me to believe that there is some sort of imbalance in the high light area whereas the low light area (lower in the tank) isn't affected by this imbalance.

- CO2: I haven't had consistent CO2 ever since I started using DIY CO2. I know that this problem is inherent with my CO2 method, but it was compounded by the fact that I was using a ladder diffuser. I swapped it out for a chopstick (earlier this week), and although this is a temporary solution, it is working much better than the ladder. My DIY mixture is at the end of it's life as it approaches the end of the 2nd week (using small Hagen cannister), so I'm hoping that creating a new mix will increase the output and effectiveness of my CO2. CO2 circulation might be an issue as well since I use an HOB filter although it is rated for a 50 gallon tank.

Based on the problems above, here are the possible solutions:

- Increase K dosage. I don't know if I need to dose K separately or if I can just increase the dosage of my macros.

- Reduce or completely eliminate the number of floaters so that my stems have more access to the liquid ferts.

- Raise my lights and just go with a low light set-up since this appears to be working for my 2g nano.

- Ditch the small Hagen cannister and run one or two 2L bottles for better CO2 output and longevity.

- Ditch DIY CO2 altogether until I can afford a pressurized system.

- Ditch DIY CO2 altogether and just stick to dosing Excel, which seems to be working well in my 2g nano. I'm getting a 1 gallon bottle of Metricide in a couple of weeks, which I plan to dilute to Excel levels of glut, so I'll have a lot to go around.

I know this is a lot of information to consume, but I'm hoping someone can point me in the right direction. I also apologize for not providing pictures of my plants. I took pictures of them last night with my camera phone, but after looking at them again, the quality isn't good enough to see the deficiencies. Thanks for your help!

FYI, here's the macro breakdown for nilocg's EI liquid ferts (based on 5mL per 20 gallons).

Macros:
N- 7.5ppm
P- 1.3ppm
K- 4.27ppm

I'm not sure how to interpret these numbers, but I'm guessing that each does provides nutrients in those amounts and that on weekly basis, my tank gets 3 times those amount based on my 3x dose of macros per week.
 

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- Increase K dosage. I don't know if I need to dose K separately or if I can just increase the dosage of my macros.
if you increase the dose of macros, your N and P will increase as well, which may lead to an imbalance and algae growth
- Reduce or completely eliminate the number of floaters so that my stems have more access to the liquid ferts.
what kind and how much of the floaters do you have?
- Raise my lights and just go with a low light set-up since this appears to be working for my 2g nano.
if you raise your lights, lower your fert dose as well.
- Ditch the small Hagen cannister and run one or two 2L bottles for better CO2 output and longevity.
in all 3 of my tanks, i run my diyco2 line (with chopstick diffuser) through a submersible filter. provides more circulation for the tanks, and breaks up the bubbles while expelling them with the water. i have 2 2L bottles on my 20L, 1 1L on my 10g, and 1 1L on my 30 (only because it's less planted)

- Ditch DIY CO2 altogether until I can afford a pressurized system.
co2 will help the plants use the ferts. if you get rid of the co2, you should significantly lower, or remove ferts all together
- Ditch DIY CO2 altogether and just stick to dosing Excel
if you plant on sticking to low-tech, this will give you okay results. i've never used Excel, but i've seen great results on tanks that only use it
 

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Thanks for the responses colaudrey.

- I figured increasing the macro dose probably wouldn't be a good idea, but I'm still not convinced that I have a K deficiency although I'd appreciate it if someone could look at the macro data I provided to confirm this.

- I have duckweed and frogbit. It's sectioned off and densely covers 33-40% of my tank.

- I would certainly lower my fert dosage if I raised my light.

- Perhaps I really do need to ditch the Hagen canister and just go with 2 Coke bottles instead. I do plan on getting the Hagen Elite Mini filter in the future to use as a diffuser and to improve circulation in my tanks.

- I don't really want to give up on the DIY CO2, but I may need to temporarily especially if I can't upgrade it right away (better diffuser and bigger bottles).

- I'm definitely going to be using Excel because I do have a bit of algae problem especially towards the top of the tank. I just don't know if I'm going to ditch CO2 altogether.

I'd still appreciate it if someone can tell me whether or not I have a K deficiency. In looking at other threads, some people mentioned that my pinholes may be more related to an imbalance in the lighting and CO2.

OK, so after doing a little reading, it looks like I'm supposed to be providing 30ppm of K per week. Based on nilocg's data, I'm only providing less than 13ppm per week. Is that considered a K deficiency? I know 30ppm is the high end for K using the EI method, and 13ppm is probably on the lower end of acceptable range. However, if my floaters, which are looking healthier than ever, are consuming most of the K, then perhaps it would be best if I started supplementing my macro dosing with a separate dose of K2SO4?

Anyone else have any thoughts?
 

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As everyone have already mentioned u must start dosing K.
And my advice would be remove the floaters. The floaters are nutrient hogs (K hogs). They are not limited by CO2 like the other submerged plants, being exposed to air, they can have all the atmospheric CO2 they need. They are so effective that the floaters especially pistia and duckweed are considered to treat sewage water and polluted water( with proven studies) to remove agricultural fertilisers and metal ions from the water and to reduce the tds.
I learnt this firsthand in my tank. I added lots of Pistia to my tank and multiple pinholes started appearing in many Crypts and sm other plants within 3 days . I then removed all of the pistia and other floaters I already had. Was glad to remove tho. They were such a pain. Getting stuck in my overflow and multiplying like crazy.. Increasing maintenance
 

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If you have a reason for the floaters just reduce them a bit. You can
copensate for them by adding more of either KNO3 or K2SO4. If the
nitrates get too high/w KNO3 then switch to K2SO4.
My TDS are likely off the chart(no kit to test) cause I neither vacuum
nor remove the mulm often if any. In fact, my filters don't have "Pads"
screens, sponges etc for particle removal. They are built in bio-only filters.
But I have found that Wisteria was by far the worst plant for getting
pinholes from lack of K. Which BTW sounds like your problem from what you described.
Which ever course you settle on, do one thing at a time so you can see if/any changes from it and feel fairly sure you know what caused it.
 

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I'm fairly new to EI and planted tanks (1 year experience) but I will share with you my personal experience with floaters. They are nutrient sponges. I had Hornwort in my tank when I first started and they exploded and took over my tank choking out the rest of my plants for nutrients.

Once I removed them, which I was torn up about, the rest of the foliage recovered and is growing without stop!

Not very scientific, but worked for me.

In your case perhaps you can up your K2SO4 or even KNO3 (depending on how your Nitrates are doing) to compensate for the floaters. Or prune them back to a portion of their size? I know how hard it is to say goodbye to them entirely!
 
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