The Planted Tank Forum banner
1 - 20 of 46 Posts

Registered
Joined
20 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everybody! I'm new to the forum. It's about time I joined one! I really need help with my java ferns. I got some about 15 years ago, and they've been going strong all these years, no problems whatsoever. They've changed tanks and houses with me multiple times. They currently live in a 30 gallon tank with some swordtails, mollies, corydoras and snails (mystery and nerite). The tank has a LED aquarium light which is on for 12 hours a day (the snails do a great job with any algae). I've had this particular tank and light for over half a year, an upgrade from a 15 gallon with a fluorescent aquarium light that I had for about 14 years before that (I had a 2-gallon tank before that, and that's when I first got the ferns). These ferns have been through a lot and have always survived and looked healthy, which is why I'm worried about them now.

First, here's a general view of my tank:
1030797


Here are some of my java ferns that look good (some are rooted in the substrate, and some I've attached to the faux rocks and faux driftwood):
1030798
1030799


And here are the ferns that are dying. They are turning brown from the center of the plant out:
1030800
1030801


It's not the usual occasional brown leaf - this is the whole plant, and it looks like the brownness starts at the core and radiates out, spreading through the whole plant, with the tips of the leaves and the outer leaves still green. I've never seen this in the 15 years I've owned these plants, and it only started happening last week. Within about a week several plants started quickly turning brown like this! The only big change that has happened, and which has coincided with the browning, is that about a week ago I bought new live plants - amazon sword, angustifolia, dark ludwigia, and dwarf sagittaria. I've never had these plants before. Could they have brought something to my ferns? I didn't quarantine the plants... which I now see as a mistake. I quarantine new animals (fish or snails) for at least a month, but didn't think to do the same with the plants 馃槥 A couple of weeks ago I also added new fish to this tank - a few swordtails and mollies - but I quarantined those for about two months before that. Other than the new plants and fish, there's been no change in the environment since the tank upgrade last fall.

Does anybody know what could be wrong with my ferns? I tried googling and searching this forum but can't find anything that sounds exactly like this particular problem. I've kept a planted tank for a combined 17 years now, but it's always been low tech and beginner level - easy fish and easy plants that do well with a busy working person's life 馃榿 So I don't do anything extra like fertilizing the plants or using additives to control parameters and such... What I had worked well enough for many years, and that's about the extent of my experience. That's why I'm stumped right now. I would really appreciate your help. I don't want to lose my ancient plants! Thanks in advance.
 

Registered
Joined
2,141 Posts
Have you checked the rhizomes? I have an ancient java fern as well and it looks like that when the rhizome strangles itself. Not necessarily the same issue but that was my first thought.
 

Registered
Joined
20 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Have you checked the rhizomes? I have an ancient java fern as well and it looks like that when the rhizome strangles itself. Not necessarily the same issue but that was my first thought.
Hmm, what do you mean the rhizome strangles itself? I just checked the rhizomes - there are a lot of roots all over them and it's hard to see what's what, but the rhizomes themselves feel straight, like they haven't twisted in on themselves or anything like that. Or do you mean that the roots are strangling them? The roots are sort of flowing freely as usual... I have some ferns with this problem that were rooted in the gravel, and some that were floating freely, if that helps. So far it doesn't seem like any of the ferns I attached to the rocks/driftwood are having this issue. Though I've always had all three types - in the substrate, on rocks, and free-floating, and the ferns never seemed to care either way.
 

Registered
Joined
2,141 Posts
Mine is wrapped around itself tied to a driftwood branch (it was a large cutting from a clearanced Home Depot terrestrial plant). The roots on mine strangle the rhizome itself. This probably isn't your issue but it confused me when it first happened to me (6 years ago) so I figured I'd mention it. Good luck!!
 

Registered
Joined
2,600 Posts
It looks like there may be multiple issues developing as I look at your other plants, including the severe fern issue. Despite wanting to keep things simple by avoiding nutrient dosing, I suspect that you may have to start dosing fertilizers. It may be that your light is an upgrade from a rather poor light source and, in addition to being on for a very long time each day, is now driving your plants to grow more rapidly. This will cause them to falter, as they consume all nutrients and then begin to starve.

I won鈥檛 ask for all sorts of test results or suggest focused dosing. In the interest of simplicity, it may be enough for you to dose an AIO package, even just once a week (better to follow manufacturer鈥檚 recommendations). You may want to look at products such as can be found with Seachem, NilocG, 2Hr Aquarist, etc.

Be sure to remove the dead leaves.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ribka

Registered
Joined
20 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Mine is wrapped around itself tied to a driftwood branch (it was a large cutting from a clearanced Home Depot terrestrial plant). The roots on mine strangle the rhizome itself. This probably isn't your issue but it confused me when it first happened to me (6 years ago) so I figured I'd mention it. Good luck!!
This is good to know, thank you for sharing!

It looks like there may be multiple issues developing as I look at your other plants, including the severe fern issue. Despite wanting to keep things simple by avoiding nutrient dosing, I suspect that you may have to start dosing fertilizers. It may be that your light is an upgrade from a rather poor light source and, in addition to being on for a very long time each day, is now driving your plants to grow more rapidly. This will cause them to falter, as they consume all nutrients and then begin to starve.

I won鈥檛 ask for all sorts of test results or suggest focused dosing. In the interest of simplicity, it may be enough for you to dose an AIO package, even just once a week (better to follow manufacturer鈥檚 recommendations). You may want to look at products such as can be found with Seachem, NilocG, 2Hr Aquarist, etc.

Be sure to remove the dead leaves.
This is very useful, thank you! I just ordered Seachem Flourish. You are right, the previous light I had in my old tank was a lot dimmer than this new light. It was an older light that's not sold anymore, so I had to get a new one, and specifically looked for one that lets you control the light levels. It has 5 brightness settings and I have mine set on the lowest, and it's still brighter than my old bulb. I actually had to return one light because it was even brighter than this one at its lowest level. Don't know why the new lights are all SO bright! For a while I had a piece of paper under it to diffuse some of the light (it's LED so it doesn't get hot). So I expected the plants to react to the light change, but what I did not expect was for the reaction to take more than half a year to take place! Do you think it could still be the new light, even though I've had it since last fall, and the problems only started occurring last week?
 

Registered
Joined
2,600 Posts
This is very useful, thank you! I just ordered Seachem Flourish. You are right, the previous light I had in my old tank was a lot dimmer than this new light. It was an older light that's not sold anymore, so I had to get a new one, and specifically looked for one that lets you control the light levels. It has 5 brightness settings and I have mine set on the lowest, and it's still brighter than my old bulb. I actually had to return one light because it was even brighter than this one at its lowest level. Don't know why the new lights are all SO bright! For a while I had a piece of paper under it to diffuse some of the light (it's LED so it doesn't get hot). So I expected the plants to react to the light change, but what I did not expect was for the reaction to take more than half a year to take place! Do you think it could still be the new light, even though I've had it since last fall, and the problems only started occurring last week?
It's possible. There is a thing called "luxury uptake" that can help a plant through a crisis. Plus, there are still nutrients being added by fish and water changes, although potassium and iron were probably always deficient.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ribka

Registered
Joined
1,903 Posts
@Deanna brings up some good points. Since it's the ferns closest to the light, my suspicion is their metabolism is being pushed faster than nutrients are supplied to the tank. Since you've already got them attached to their home, I'd second the suggestion of trimming the plant, but in this case I think a wholesale hack would be beneficial. Cut off all but the newest, smallest leaves and let it grow back. Don't worry too much about this; plants like scissors and a good hack can be beneficial to them at times. It takes quite a bit of energy and nutrients for plants to maintain tissues, so by doing a major cut and increasing your nutrient input, you'll be giving your ferns the opportunity to save energy in tissue maintenance and put it all to new growth.

Regards,
Phil
 

Registered
Joined
20 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
It's possible. There is a thing called "luxury uptake" that can help a plant through a crisis. Plus, there are still nutrients being added by fish and water changes, although potassium and iron were probably always deficient.
Just looked up "luxury uptake"... That makes sense and explains the delay. Thanks!

@Deanna brings up some good points. Since it's the ferns closest to the light, my suspicion is their metabolism is being pushed faster than nutrients are supplied to the tank. Since you've already got them attached to their home, I'd second the suggestion of trimming the plant, but in this case I think a wholesale hack would be beneficial. Cut off all but the newest, smallest leaves and let it grow back. Don't worry too much about this; plants like scissors and a good hack can be beneficial to them at times. It takes quite a bit of energy and nutrients for plants to maintain tissues, so by doing a major cut and increasing your nutrient input, you'll be giving your ferns the opportunity to save energy in tissue maintenance and put it all to new growth.

Regards,
Phil
Actually... What you see in the tank right now is after a major cut back that I did a couple of weeks ago, where I removed about 1/4 of the plant mass. I guess they are growing a bit too vigorously 馃榿 Interestingly though, the ferns closest to the light - at the top of the large triangular rock - are the healthiest. Their leaves are HUGE and bright green, and I haven't seen the browning on them yet. The plants with the most browning were either free-floating (so, yes, up by the light) or rooted in the gravel at the base of the large triangular rock and in the shade of the ferns attached to it (so farthest from the light). So the location of the dying plants with respect to the light isn't showing a consistent pattern... I just removed all brown leaves and some clusters (the ones that looked the worst) and will give them the fertilizer when it arrives tomorrow. I didn't even realize that aquarium plants needed fertilizing! (though it makes sense, of course...) I'll make this part of my care routine now. Thanks everybody for your help!
 

Registered
Joined
1,903 Posts
Ah, that's a clue I missed. Java Ferns, and other epiphytes like Anubias and Bucephalandra prefer to have their rhizomes and roots in the water column. In the wild they grow on rocks and wood in streams with their roots in the water and the rest of them in the air. Java Ferns in particular have a hard time getting nutrients from the soil since their "roots" aren't the more evolutionary advanced kind like Anubias and Bucephalandra have. If you want to have Java Fern growing on the substrate, attach them to a rock and bury just the rock, not any of the plant itself.

They also appreciate a good amount of flow, so don't be surprised if some that are in areas with less circulation don't grow as fast or as well as those in higher circulation areas.

Don't be afraid to cut them down to the rhizome if upping nutrient input doesn't help.

Hope this helps!
 

Registered
Joined
20 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Ah, that's a clue I missed. Java Ferns, and other epiphytes like Anubias and Bucephalandra prefer to have their rhizomes and roots in the water column. In the wild they grow on rocks and wood in streams with their roots in the water and the rest of them in the air. Java Ferns in particular have a hard time getting nutrients from the soil since their "roots" aren't the more evolutionary advanced kind like Anubias and Bucephalandra have. If you want to have Java Fern growing on the substrate, attach them to a rock and bury just the rock, not any of the plant itself.

They also appreciate a good amount of flow, so don't be surprised if some that are in areas with less circulation don't grow as fast or as well as those in higher circulation areas.

Don't be afraid to cut them down to the rhizome if upping nutrient input doesn't help.

Hope this helps!
Thank you for your help and input! I'll keep a close eye on my gravel-rooted ferns for any signs that they don't like that. Honestly I didn't even know what type of plant I had until just now, when I had to look it up to be able to properly ask for help 馃榿 Should've done that a long time ago and read about what it likes and doesn't like. Somebody just gave it to me so I didn't even have a tag with a name. And the ferns were doing so well for so many years (including rooted in the gravel!) that I never thought to read about them. Now I've learned a lot and will try to take better care of them. I have some flow in the form of the water falling down from the filter in a little waterfall and adding movement, and I also have a bubbler at the opposite end of the tank. The giant fern on top of the fake rock is right in the path of the bubbler... maybe it likes that, and that's another factor in why it's so big and luscious? I want to try everything else before a hard cut down to the rhizome though, because they look SO beautiful right now, it hurts to think about chopping all that down 馃槃 They've never been this lush and large before, so I want to see if I can save the current foliage first before I have to cut it down.
 

Registered
Joined
1,903 Posts
I want to try everything else before a hard cut down to the rhizome though, because they look SO beautiful right now, it hurts to think about chopping all that down 馃槃 They've never been this lush and large before, so I want to see if I can save the current foliage first before I have to cut it down.

I feel your pain! When I was first starting out with high(er) growth tanks and finally succeeded in getting good growth, good color, and that much-desired pearling I was hesitant to cut my plants for fear of causing problems. An old hobby friend of mine said "Plants like scissors", which gave me the gumption to do a hack. Lo and behold, all the plants came back just fine, sometimes even better looking than before. I understand that it's a mental hurdle to jump, but once you feel comfortable with the idea, a good trim often helps.

Here's a before and after look at my tank on Monday when I did a big hack to send stuff off to a lab for analysis. Granted, it's well lit, has high CO2, and lots of nutrients so I'm not worried about things not recovering but it's a good illustration of just how severe one can get with weed-whacking.

1030811


1030812



Most important of all- this is your tank for your hobby enjoyment; so don't let others pressure you into something you're not comfortable with. You'll eventually learn how your unique tank operates and with that experience will come greater comfort with making changes if needed.

Regards,
Phil
 

Registered
Joined
20 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I feel your pain! When I was first starting out with high(er) growth tanks and finally succeeded in getting good growth, good color, and that much-desired pearling I was hesitant to cut my plants for fear of causing problems. An old hobby friend of mine said "Plants like scissors", which gave me the gumption to do a hack. Lo and behold, all the plants came back just fine, sometimes even better looking than before. I understand that it's a mental hurdle to jump, but once you feel comfortable with the idea, a good trim often helps.

Here's a before and after look at my tank on Monday when I did a big hack to send stuff off to a lab for analysis. Granted, it's well lit, has high CO2, and lots of nutrients so I'm not worried about things not recovering but it's a good illustration of just how severe one can get with weed-whacking.

View attachment 1030811

View attachment 1030812


Most important of all- this is your tank for your hobby enjoyment; so don't let others pressure you into something you're not comfortable with. You'll eventually learn how your unique tank operates and with that experience will come greater comfort with making changes if needed.

Regards,
Phil
Whoa!!! That's quite the hack! There's barely anything left :eek::D I think the biggest mental hurdle for me isn't really a fear that they won't grow back. I'm sure they will. It's the selfish desire to have something pretty to look at, and the lack of patience to wait for an extended period of time until I have something pretty to look at again after they grow back 馃榿 If it comes to that, maybe I'll cut them down in a staggered manner, instead of all at once. Cut some, let them start growing back, then cut others, etc. so I don't have to do a buzz cut over the whole tank :D

Thank you for your kind words and your encouragement!
 

Registered
Joined
1,903 Posts
LOL, the selfish desire to have something pretty to look at. Boy do I understand that! Unfortunately, my scientific curiosity gets the better of me at times and causes me to do drastic and sometimes stupid things to satisfy my brain. You're right on the money with trimming select plants, or groups of plants, to keep things looking how you want them at all times. To be honest, that's the best way to do things to keep the tank from getting seriously out of balance with potential nasty consequences. Me? I just can't keep well enough alone. Thankfully, as @Greggz says "It's good to get paid to do research". I'll modify that to "It's good to get paid to do potentially stupid things with my tank.". ;)

I look forward to seeing how your tank progresses!
 

Registered
Joined
400 Posts
Trim away the dead leaves and clean up the plant...then dose them with Potassium gluconate. Really,its about the only addition to water that makes a difference to them in growth.
With all aquatic ferns,trim away what's rotting and whats covered in algae..those leaves will never recover and they just hold the plant down from sending out new leaves.
 

Registered
Joined
20 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Guys!!! The next plant to go down crashed HARD over the course of a single day!!!! The tank photo I posted above was taken Tuesday night, and the fern in question was all green and healthy. I didn't do a thorough check on Wednesday, and by Thursday it was almost completely brown!!!

1030842



This one is anchored to the big fake rock. You can see the thread where I tied it up a while back, but by now it has firmly rooted itself onto the rock's surface. So now I've had plants turn brown that had 3 different kinds/locations of attachment - anchored to a surface mid-level in the tank, rooted in the gravel at the bottom, and free-floating. Attachment doesn't seem to make a difference.

Could a nutrient deficiency, which I imagine would be building up gradually over time, result in this kind of sudden and fast crash? A day!! I can't believe how quickly this thing is progressing! My fertilizer arrived today and I added some to the tank, following the directions, but I'm really worried about my ferns now! 馃槶
 

Registered
Joined
1,903 Posts
I've had that happen in the past. Given the quick nature of the downturn, I've believed it to be due to deficiencies that lead the plant to be susceptible to a pest. Looking at the fronds, the plant is absolutely deficient in at least a couple major nutrients. No joking now, drain the tank below the level of that plant, cut it to the bone; everything down to the rhizome, spritz or brush it directly with hydrogen peroxide, let it sit out of water for 30 seconds then refill the tank.

Increase your N, P, K, Ca, Mg, and Fe asap. I'd go so far as to say start dosing your fertilizer mix every day as a start. You may get algae, but that's a lot easier to take care of in the long term than dying plants.
 

Registered
Joined
20 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I've had that happen in the past. Given the quick nature of the downturn, I've believed it to be due to deficiencies that lead the plant to be susceptible to a pest. Looking at the fronds, the plant is absolutely deficient in at least a couple major nutrients. No joking now, drain the tank below the level of that plant, cut it to the bone; everything down to the rhizome, spritz or brush it directly with hydrogen peroxide, let it sit out of water for 30 seconds then refill the tank.

Increase your N, P, K, Ca, Mg, and Fe asap. I'd go so far as to say start dosing your fertilizer mix every day as a start. You may get algae, but that's a lot easier to take care of in the long term than dying plants.
This makes sense and explains the suddenness. The plant was weakened and succumbed to whatever crap the new plants brought in (ugh I've been so diligent quarantining fish and snails, now I'm kicking myself for not thinking to quarantine the plants!!! I had such a beautiful lush jungle going for 15 years and am now killing it with oversight!!!)

Is there anything I can treat the plants with, the way there's malachite green, methylene blue and the like for bombing fish for potential issues? I have a second tank - my old 15 gallon - which I'm currently using to quarantine some new fish. That tank has not had live plants in it since I brought it out of storage a couple months ago, so it's "clean" as far as this new pathogen/pest is concerned. Can I use this second tank as a hospital tank for my ferns? Take them out one by one, wash them with peroxide, let them sit out for 30 seconds like you said, and then put them in the second tank, with fertilizer, and leave them there until they recover? Can I still spray them with peroxide if they're not cut down to the rhizome? Or do I have to preemptively cut all of them, even the ones not looking sick yet? Draining the tank below the level of that one plant and the process you describe for it might help that one plant, but what about the others? I'm thinking I should probably do something for all of them, and do it fast... How can I use the second, "clean" tank to help the ferns? (so I'm not disrupting the main tank's balance too much).
 

Registered
Joined
243 Posts
I have had this exact issue with my trident fern on multiple occasions, and each time, it was because I disrupted the tank in a way. What I have noticed is any time my submersed leaves are susceptible to the open air for a period of time, this will happen. They cannot be allowed to dry out. A change in lighting can also cause this stress. What I can say is that the plant WILL recover. Remove affected leaves only, you do not need to trim down the whole plant. When you see the first sign of the decay, immediately remove the leaf. Consistency in the tank is what keeps them happy. Recovery takes a little while due to the nature of their growth, but it will fill out again in a couple months time.

I personally would not hit the rhizome with H2O2 or excel, this could potentially kill your plant unintentionally. Just snip the affected leaves and let it do it鈥檚 thing.
 

Registered
Joined
1,903 Posts
If you've got the capacity to take your plants out, give them an H2O2 bath, then put them in a quarantine tank for a bit, that would help a lot. The best option in this case would be to remove all of them, hack them back to the rhizome, soak in standard 3% H2O2 for 20 seconds, rinse them in clean water, then put them in a clean holding tank. You may need to do additional H2O2 baths/dips so be prepared, but we'll hope that one's enough.



What you're seeing on those ferns is likely a fungus or other sort of rot-pest. Removing all of the effected tissue then disinfecting them with H2O2 should help curb the issue.
 
1 - 20 of 46 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top