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First off, sorry for the long post. Thank you ahead of time for those that stick it out and read the whole thing, and anyone with advice or suggestions. :)

So after cycling several takes over the last year I've come to realize that the only time my plants really thrive is during the cycling when nitrites/nitrates are out of control. :icon_cry:

From what I've read all my tanks are low light so there shouldn't be a "need" for ferts and definitely not c02. However I am now pretty positive that I am going to have to start dosing ferts (especially in my 50) due to the fact that no matter how many fish I have I never have nitrates. All zeros, all the time. I have also started having more issues with algae, both hair and green specks on the glass that my lazy algae eating crew won't eat.

I am pretty sure I want to order some "liquid ferts" here: http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/showthread.php?t=195878 to start since I am new to dry ferts and don't want to screw anything up too bad, and I might possibly be a bit lazy, other than my weekly maintenance. :icon_redf

Here are the stats on my 50, which is my main concern right now:
  • 50 gallon Aqueon tank
  • "stock" lights, 2 T8 15w, one on each side, I believe they are 8,000k
  • Recently added 2 Marineland hidden LED 21" fixtures, one on each side to supplement and allow for better viewing along the dark back side of the tank.
  • Substrate is white, very fine, construction sand
  • Fluval 206 canister filter

Since I added the LED fixtures my Aponogeton boivinianus has finally started growing leaves again which are a nice dark green color. Unfortunately I have also noticed some hair algae collecting on my java fern (which is not really growing much.)

Water parameters are: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 0 nitrate, ph is usually around 8, gh/kh are both 7, tested negative for copper. All test are API liquid.

Plant list:
  • Aponogeton boivinianus
  • Java moss
  • Java fern (standard and Windelov)
  • Crypt Wendtii
  • Petsmart random variety Anubias

If it matters my livestock list is:
  • 11 Emerald Eye Rasboras
  • 11 Espei Rasboras
  • 5 Julii Corydoras
  • 1 Corydoras habrosus (he hangs out with the other Corydoras and I don't want to get more due to issues I've had)
  • 2 Otocinclus vestitus (I think)
  • 2 Hillstream Loaches
  • 1 Bristlenose Pleco
  • 1 Zebra Nerite
  • 4 Apple snails
  • 1 Bamboo shrimp
  • 8 Amano shrimp
  • a few RCS as a test
  • large amount of MTS because apparently I overfeed?

Does this fert choice sound like the right direction for what I have going here? I was thinking about Osmocote capsules at first but I want the plants on the driftwood to benefit and I don't want the MTS making a mess and stirring up the Osmocote into the water column. Also my crypts do pretty well, they are the one plant I can't seem to kill. I don't even bother with stem plants anymore, they consistently turn to mush and die on me.
 

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I think it sounds like you are headed in the right direction. I think you will be very happy with your ferts and they will last you a very long time.

Dose weekly. The every other day stuff is for CO2 folks. Enjoy.
 

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Ditto: Seeing the plants thrive when N is present (as ammonia, nitrite or nitrate does not matter) then seeing the plants weaken or die when you test zero N (again, in any form) is a direct indication that the plants are deficient in N and highly likely other things.

Fish food is a pretty good supply of:
N, P, most traces.
But if the N is still testing zero (as NO3 test is showing you) then I would assume the plants are using up all of these.

Fish food has not as much:
K, Fe.
So if the plants are running out of the things you are dosing (as fish food) then they surely are running out of the things that fish food is not supplying much of.

I would start dosing everything, actually.
You could get some liquid ferts and a carbon source and try altering the dosing until you figure out what works, what is in the shortest supply, and how the plants start using more of everything when you start dosing.
Then you should look into buying dry ferts. It is cheaper to refill the liquid fertilizer bottles with dry ferts and tap water than it is to buy bottles of water with just a little fertilizer in them.
I would just go to the local fish store and get the Seachem product line:
N, P, K, Traces, Excel.
 

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All plants need ferts...not all tanks need ferts added. Light can be one indication of a possible need to fertilize but other factors such as growth rate and plant mass (more plants need more ferts), bioload, type of substrate, tap water contents, and water change frequency and %. I'd also suggest the age of the tank and possible build up of nutrients is a factor. Lot easier to start with ferts then reduce them while observing plant growth.
 
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