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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,
Just wondering on some opinions of weather or not I should add some iron. The plant growth rate is great, tank balance great, everything has been running for about a year.

However, as you can see in the pictures my Ludwigia, Crypts, and H’ra are missing some of that red/brown. Not sure if it’s a slight iron deficiency, or just something I should accept and move on. Thoughts?

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The Ludwigia looks leggy to me, indicating it’s not getting enough light. Rotala also likes light and slim nitrates to get nice and red.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the feedback. I am using GLA PPS-Pro(micros and macros) fertilizer on a medium dosage, with my light(finnex stingray planted+) on for 6 hours. I do run co2 as well. I would love to bump up the lighting and dosing, but really struggled with hair algae a few months ago. I decreased both, and have had stability for a while now. However, it could’ve been bc the tank was at that finicky 5-6 months range. Let me know your thoughts plz
 

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I would love to bump up the lighting and dosing, but really struggled with hair algae a few months ago. I decreased both, and have had stability for a while now.
IME light is the catalyst/regulator of plant metabolism and higher light means upping your CO2 and ferts, too....the plants are 'hungrier' as a result of higher light and ya gotta feed 'em....if CO2 and ferts aren't raised in kind algae will step in

Tank looks good BTW
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you very much! Here’s a picture of the whole tank. As you can see, growth seems to be pretty good. I’m trimming every week and it has been balanced. Just not quite that color pop… are you saying I should try just raising everything(light, ferts, co2) a little bit?

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You could upgrade or you could increase your lighting if you want. But you have good growth from the other plants in your tank. Is it necessary to increase a major parameter for better Ludwiga growth or to reconsider the Ludwiga all together and maybe pull it and grow more of what’s working. Maybe replace the Ludwiga with a different stem plant. IME growing red stems requires a lot of light but in doing that you need to be careful as your other plants will suffer if you don’t stay on top of co2 and frets. Also a lot of plants in this hobby don’t need a lot of light…so when you up your lighting you need to keep in mind those low light plants. Crypts, buces, ferns, Anubias etc do much better in low light conditions…swords will adapt as well…and when you up the lighting you are putting them into overdrive and upping the work you will have to do on your end. I would just pull the Ludwiga and replace it with something that will grow better in your current conditions.
 

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So the theory that extra iron dosing induces deeper reds in plants has long been debated as a myth. There isn't much evidence out there to suggest extra iron dosing does indeed bring out more red coloring. I don't dose any extra iron myself and have gotten some great colors to come out in my plants by doing a few different things.

For most red plants, they key with lighting is 2 main components. First would be lighting intensity. If you notice most red plants have the most red or pink coloring at the tips of the plants that grow closest to the surface, because the light is more intense there. I run about 150 PAR at the substrate and over 200 at the water surface which brings out a lot of deeper reds and pinks. Second and less mentioned is the color spectrum. A heavy red and blue light spectrum will make the reds visually pop more and appear more intense, but it will also grow the plants more red. I started off my dutch tank with a twinstar WRGB which does have a good amount of RGB diodes, however I decided that I wanted to be able to customize the intensity of each individual color so I could bring out more red. I went with a chihiros vivid mini and set my red and dark blue intensity high. It completely changed the visual color rendering of my plants making them appear EXTREMELY red/pink/purple, but also they started to actually grow deeper in color (I check weekly by balancing out the color spectrum on the lights to be more white and then turning it back to my red/purple color rendition settings) so the proof is in the pudding. A wider color spectrum, emphasizing on red and blue will not only better accentuate the reds but will actually allow the plant to naturally grow more red.

And the other important factor which is only true with certain plant species like rotala, nitrate limitation like another member suggested to you. This is especially true for hra. You will not ever see that deep red/pink/purple on rotala hra without keeping nitrates extremely low, between 0-5ppm consistently for at least a month. Dennis wong wrote a great article about practicing nitrate limitation on 2hr aquarist, I suggest you take a look at it, it's a great read! I have been limiting nitrate in this tank for about 6 weeks now, but it's a constant tweaking thing because some other plants in the tank can't handle steep nitrate limitation and will start to stunt or grow deficiencies. So if you were to try and get your hra to be that intense, you would need to ensure that your other plants are able to accommodate these kinds of parameters. Finding a middle ground is hard. So far I've gotten the tops of my hra to get a dusty red/purple but not nearly as vivid as I've seen it. It may also be because I still have somewhat fresh aquasoil which may or may not be contributing an extra load of nitrate into the water column.

It is important to note with nitrate limitation, this is only speaking for the nitrate in the water column. It is advised when practicing nitrate limitation to keep either fresh aquasoil or root tabs in the substrate so that your plants can get the nitrogen they need without having nitrate in the water itself. Again, this is limiting nitrate in the water column, not limiting nitrogen.

Some easier rotala variants that can grow deep red without super strict nitrate limitation would be blood red variant, which has had no problem growing red/magenta for me regardless of the nitrate. Rotala yarabje is another good one although rare and hard to find, I managed to snipe some off another hobbyist and while it did have a nice dusty rose color with nitrates at EI levels, once I got nitrate down to 5-10 it exploded in deep red and purple. Ludwigia super red is another good plant that exhibits reds regardless of nitrate levels, although IMO you will get the best reds out of this plant with higher lighting.
 

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So the theory that extra iron dosing induces deeper reds in plants has long been debated as a myth. There isn't much evidence out there to suggest extra iron dosing does indeed bring out more red coloring. I don't dose any extra iron myself and have gotten some great colors to come out in my plants by doing a few different things.

For most red plants, they key with lighting is 2 main components. First would be lighting intensity. If you notice most red plants have the most red or pink coloring at the tips of the plants that grow closest to the surface, because the light is more intense there. I run about 150 PAR at the substrate and over 200 at the water surface which brings out a lot of deeper reds and pinks. Second and less mentioned is the color spectrum. A heavy red and blue light spectrum will make the reds visually pop more and appear more intense, but it will also grow the plants more red. I started off my dutch tank with a twinstar WRGB which does have a good amount of RGB diodes, however I decided that I wanted to be able to customize the intensity of each individual color so I could bring out more red. I went with a chihiros vivid mini and set my red and dark blue intensity high. It completely changed the visual color rendering of my plants making them appear EXTREMELY red/pink/purple, but also they started to actually grow deeper in color (I check weekly by balancing out the color spectrum on the lights to be more white and then turning it back to my red/purple color rendition settings) so the proof is in the pudding. A wider color spectrum, emphasizing on red and blue will not only better accentuate the reds but will actually allow the plant to naturally grow more red.

And the other important factor which is only true with certain plant species like rotala, nitrate limitation like another member suggested to you. This is especially true for hra. You will not ever see that deep red/pink/purple on rotala hra without keeping nitrates extremely low, between 0-5ppm consistently for at least a month. Dennis wong wrote a great article about practicing nitrate limitation on 2hr aquarist, I suggest you take a look at it, it's a great read! I have been limiting nitrate in this tank for about 6 weeks now, but it's a constant tweaking thing because some other plants in the tank can't handle steep nitrate limitation and will start to stunt or grow deficiencies. So if you were to try and get your hra to be that intense, you would need to ensure that your other plants are able to accommodate these kinds of parameters. Finding a middle ground is hard. So far I've gotten the tops of my hra to get a dusty red/purple but not nearly as vivid as I've seen it. It may also be because I still have somewhat fresh aquasoil which may or may not be contributing an extra load of nitrate into the water column.

It is important to note with nitrate limitation, this is only speaking for the nitrate in the water column. It is advised when practicing nitrate limitation to keep either fresh aquasoil or root tabs in the substrate so that your plants can get the nitrogen they need without having nitrate in the water itself. Again, this is limiting nitrate in the water column, not limiting nitrogen.

Some easier rotala variants that can grow deep red without super strict nitrate limitation would be blood red variant, which has had no problem growing red/magenta for me regardless of the nitrate. Rotala yarabje is another good one although rare and hard to find, I managed to snipe some off another hobbyist and while it did have a nice dusty rose color with nitrates at EI levels, once I got nitrate down to 5-10 it exploded in deep red and purple. Ludwigia super red is another good plant that exhibits reds regardless of nitrate levels, although IMO you will get the best reds out of this plant with higher lighting.
Do you have any livestock? Will their waste affect the nitrate level in the water column? How do you limit it?

I have Rotala bloodred and I'm still waiting for the reds to come out. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the whole light game but from what I gather, I'm using moderate light. CO2 is at about 30ppm.
 

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Do you have any livestock? Will their waste affect the nitrate level in the water column? How do you limit it?

I have Rotala bloodred and I'm still waiting for the reds to come out. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the whole light game but from what I gather, I'm using moderate light. CO2 is at about 30ppm.
I have one betta, so the bioload is very low. I think the majority of people who are serious enough to practice nitrate limitation use their plants as the main focal point of the tank and the fish as an accent, so the stocking of fish is very light and the stocking of plants extremely heavy. I dose APT complete from Dennis Wongs 2 HR aquarist 4 times a week per the bottle directions. I never have any measurable nitrate with the API kit since I switched to APT from running full EI with thrive +. APT complete is very lean with nitrogen much like the ADA line. So minimal weekly nitrogen dosing with weekly 50% WC with RO to reset the dosing cycle. And again, low bioload although I think there are ways to work around a more heavily stocked tank.

I would imagine if there was an instance of someone using nitrate limitation with a high bioload, they would be using nitrate free tap or RO strictly for water changes, and doing multiple small water changes weekly instead of only one 50% WC in order to keep nitrate consistently low. This would over complicate fert dosing though since you would constantly have to be doing math for fresh WC water plus what's already in the tank every time you do a WC.

Lighting is rather simple if you understand the needs of your plant selection and what you would like to get out of it. Like I said earlier, it's a common misconception as with the iron theory that cranking the lights to crazy amounts on its own will make your reds explode. This just sounds like an invitation for hair algae. In my opinion color wavelength is just as, if not slightly more important as intensity when it comes to plant color (not growth). For example, with my twinstar I was running 180 PAR at the substrate which is very intense, anything over 200 PAR at the substrate is insanity (unless you are a wizard or Dennis wong who executes it flawlessly). I had some pretty nice coloring coming in on my hra finally, but only the undersides of the leaves were neon pink and only the very tips of each stem were starting to become yellow/orange/pale pink. When I switched over to my chihiros I actually lowered the light intensity to 150 PAR at the substrate, but had a much wider wavelength of color emphasizing on the red and dark blue with no white light at all, and the colors I've gotten sense are very nice. So in short, yes all red plants need high light to be there best and will not achieve peak color with low or moderate light. However you can have the bare minimum light intensity for that particular plant but with a more broad color spectrum and achieve better results than you would blasting full light intensity with a narrow spectrum.

As for co2's part in all of this, typically I don't think co2 by itself whether high or low can drastically change the color in which a plant will grow. It will however drastically change the form it grows, like leaf size, shape, height. The easiest way I can explain the balance between light and co2 is high light means more demand for co2, so you when you adjust light intensity up, you need to do so with the co2 in conjunction. The same goes with low light, then lower co2. O2 saturation is also an easily forgotten part in balancing a high tech tank. O2 saturation benefits your livestock and plants, by allowing you to run higher co2 saturation without negatively affecting livestock. Your plants will also be happier with more dissolved oxygen. Co2 and o2 are independent of each other, so it is possible to have both high co2 and high o2 saturation at the same time which is ideal. So in my tank I've found what works best for me so far is:

The middle area of high light. Not overly intense but definitely high. Broad color spectrum aimed at pleasing red plants. Very rich co2 injection (2-3bps on a 5 gallon) and very high surface agitation doubled with a shallow tank footprint for maximum oxygen exchange. Active aquasoil with lean water column dosing.

Not sure if this has anything to do with how my plants are growing but just to note I also have very soft acidic water in this tank. PH is unmeasurable with API so below 6, kh 1 and gh 5.
 

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I have one betta, so the bioload is very low. I think the majority of people who are serious enough to practice nitrate limitation use their plants as the main focal point of the tank and the fish as an accent, so the stocking of fish is very light and the stocking of plants extremely heavy. I dose APT complete from Dennis Wongs 2 HR aquarist 4 times a week per the bottle directions. I never have any measurable nitrate with the API kit since I switched to APT from running full EI with thrive +. APT complete is very lean with nitrogen much like the ADA line. So minimal weekly nitrogen dosing with weekly 50% WC with RO to reset the dosing cycle. And again, low bioload although I think there are ways to work around a more heavily stocked tank.

I would imagine if there was an instance of someone using nitrate limitation with a high bioload, they would be using nitrate free tap or RO strictly for water changes, and doing multiple small water changes weekly instead of only one 50% WC in order to keep nitrate consistently low. This would over complicate fert dosing though since you would constantly have to be doing math for fresh WC water plus what's already in the tank every time you do a WC.

Lighting is rather simple if you understand the needs of your plant selection and what you would like to get out of it. Like I said earlier, it's a common misconception as with the iron theory that cranking the lights to crazy amounts on its own will make your reds explode. This just sounds like an invitation for hair algae. In my opinion color wavelength is just as, if not slightly more important as intensity when it comes to plant color (not growth). For example, with my twinstar I was running 180 PAR at the substrate which is very intense, anything over 200 PAR at the substrate is insanity (unless you are a wizard or Dennis wong who executes it flawlessly). I had some pretty nice coloring coming in on my hra finally, but only the undersides of the leaves were neon pink and only the very tips of each stem were starting to become yellow/orange/pale pink. When I switched over to my chihiros I actually lowered the light intensity to 150 PAR at the substrate, but had a much wider wavelength of color emphasizing on the red and dark blue with no white light at all, and the colors I've gotten sense are very nice. So in short, yes all red plants need high light to be there best and will not achieve peak color with low or moderate light. However you can have the bare minimum light intensity for that particular plant but with a more broad color spectrum and achieve better results than you would blasting full light intensity with a narrow spectrum.

As for co2's part in all of this, typically I don't think co2 by itself whether high or low can drastically change the color in which a plant will grow. It will however drastically change the form it grows, like leaf size, shape, height. The easiest way I can explain the balance between light and co2 is high light means more demand for co2, so you when you adjust light intensity up, you need to do so with the co2 in conjunction. The same goes with low light, then lower co2. O2 saturation is also an easily forgotten part in balancing a high tech tank. O2 saturation benefits your livestock and plants, by allowing you to run higher co2 saturation without negatively affecting livestock. Your plants will also be happier with more dissolved oxygen. Co2 and o2 are independent of each other, so it is possible to have both high co2 and high o2 saturation at the same time which is ideal. So in my tank I've found what works best for me so far is:

The middle area of high light. Not overly intense but definitely high. Broad color spectrum aimed at pleasing red plants. Very rich co2 injection (2-3bps on a 5 gallon) and very high surface agitation doubled with a shallow tank footprint for maximum oxygen exchange. Active aquasoil with lean water column dosing.

Not sure if this has anything to do with how my plants are growing but just to note I also have very soft acidic water in this tank. PH is unmeasurable with API so below 6, kh 1 and gh 5.
That makes sense. I suppose. While I was trying to dial in my CO2, I really wasn't taking into consideration the light intensity or spectrum. I bought a used setup from somebody and it was working for him, but obviously we have different goals. The light I have is a nicrew 95 par at 12 in of air. My substrate is roughly 18 in. By my calculation that is roughly 50 par at the substrate. Would you agree? With my limited knowledge on lighting, the "of air" part throws me off. At 30 PPM of CO2 and a 75 gallon tank, maybe I need more light or less CO2. CO2. It is a full spectrum light, but I don't have any way of adjusting what spectrum's I'm using and at what intensity.
 

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That makes sense. I suppose. While I was trying to dial in my CO2, I really wasn't taking into consideration the light intensity or spectrum. I bought a used setup from somebody and it was working for him, but obviously we have different goals. The light I have is a nicrew 95 par at 12 in of air. My substrate is roughly 18 in. By my calculation that is roughly 50 par at the substrate. Would you agree? With my limited knowledge on lighting, the "of air" part throws me off. At 30 PPM of CO2 and a 75 gallon tank, maybe I need more light or less CO2. CO2. It is a full spectrum light, but I don't have any way of adjusting what spectrum's I'm using and at what intensity.
If you are more interested on coloration of your plants than anything else in the tank, then I would consider different lighting although lighting is almost always the most expensive piece of hardware on a high tech. I can't tell you what your PAR is, I'm not sure if there is an actual formula to convert PAR between submerged measurements and "in air" measurements. I rented a PAR meter from my LFS to measure my lights on my own testing different color combinations to get the color rendering and PAR I wanted for my tank. I think 150 at the substrate is excessive for most people, I'm actually only keeping the light that intense for my hygrophila chai which does best center stage in the foreground where the light is highest. It does better with 150-200 at the substrate to be that flourescent pink. For others I think the 90-120 range at the substrate is sufficient enough to be high lighting.

If you aren't having any algae problems I wouldn't concern yourself with the lighting/co2 balance. Getting that balance right with your lower light won't gain you any coloring on your plants, it will just balance the health of your tank as a whole. If you don't have algae issues and have good plant growth without deficiencies then I wouldn't bother adjusting anything. I only blast the co2 because of the intense light, and I only have intense light because of my plant species.

If you are dead set on chasing the red dragon, then I would consider upgrading your light and then make adjustments to your co2.

Back to OP however, just for examples here is the differences on my red plants along the way while I made different adjustments just to show what making different kinds of changes will do to certain red plants. Left to right in the very back row of the tank, rotala yarabje, ludwigia super red, rotala hra.

The bottom pictures show with 180 PAR at the substrate with a twinstar E series WRGB which I could not alter the coloring on. This was before I was limiting nitrates strictly, they were around 10-15ppm here. The middle picture is still with the same light setup, but lowered nitrates to 5-10. In the top picture, this is with a wider spectrum light but lower intensity by 30 PAR and very strict nitrate limitation at below 5 consistently.

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
@Newbie283 your plants look great! I love those colors. I may experiment with some different lighting and dosing, but also may just accept the colors won’t be perfect. I have been interested in Ludwigia Super Red for a while now, so if I can get my hands on some I may try that. Or will I end up with a similar experience, where I don’t get much color?
 

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@Newbie283 your plants look great! I love those colors. I may experiment with some different lighting and dosing, but also may just accept the colors won’t be perfect. I have been interested in Ludwigia Super Red for a while now, so if I can get my hands on some I may try that. Or will I end up with a similar experience, where I don’t get much color?
Yeah you have some pretty macro demanding plants in there to try anything as drastic as nitrate limitation tbh. I think you actually have the hra looking really nice for the fact that you weren't monitoring nitrate. Look at how green my hra used to be in the bottom pics even with a higher end light, yours looks better than mine used to. I would accept it as it is, you have great growth, a healthy algae free tank, and the hra adds a natural looking pop of color in the sea of green. If you were still very interested in the reds, I would consider changing the light to something with more RGB diodes first before anything else.

If you were to try Ludwigia super red in your setup it would still stand out. The color takes on a more natural coppery brown red tone when under lower/whiter light instead of the flourescent red it is in my tank. I'd imagine it would look something similar to my bottom pictures in your setup.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Cool! I really appreciate the help and feedback. Your knowledge is great. Thank you for explaining the different options in depth, and telling of your experience. I think I will accept things as they are right now, and maybe try some of the super red if I can get it.

Thank you again to everyone!
 
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