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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Total newbie to planted tanks here! Did a lot of reading but at this point have information overload and having trouble wading through it all to figure out what the issue might be with my plants. Any advice is appreciated because I’d love to learn! Tank was planted 2.5 months ago and fish were added 2 weeks ago.

Tank info:
15 gallon Fluval Flex
Substrate: Fluval Stratum topped with EcoComplete, and a bit of pool sand at the front
Stock: 5 zebra danios, 9 neon tetras, 1 tiny zebra nerite snail, 10 cherry shrimp
Plants:
Java moss, Java fern, Lilaeopsis brasiliensis, Hottonia palustris, Staurogyne reopens, Ludwigia palustris
Water parameters:
pH 7.0
Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 5 ppm
GH 40 ppm
KH 30 ppm
Fertilizer: Flourish once/week and Excel once/week

The plants did well at first, very little melting. I’m not sure when they started to go downhill, but here’s where they’re at now:
Java moss and Lilaeopsis looking good and getting new growth. Java fern is getting brown spots and brown edges on the leaves. Staurogyne are growing very slowly but old leaves are turning yellow. Ludwigia grew a lot in height but lost its bottom leaves and looks stringy. Hottonia was supposed to fill in the center back of the tank but has mostly melted away, one bunch on the right side of the tank is showing new growth.

Where am I going wrong?? I’m running the light on a timer for 6hrs/day. Do they need more light? More fertilizer? How do I test for macros or figure out which levels are too low or high? Help! Sorry for my cluelessness...I’m trying to learn lol. Pics included to hopefully show what’s going on
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This is a good thread. You've provided plenty of information. Your GH should be 71.6 ppm or more. Add some GH booster to correct this. You might have a Potassium deficiency. A lot of the GH boosters have Potassium. Add even more Potassium if you see holes in leaves. Consider adding more Nitrate because 5 ppm isn't very much. 3 ppm Phosphate would be good if you're deficient in that. Dose your Flourish three times a week alternating with your macro dosing days. Dose trace elements with your macros. CO2 and lighting aside, dosing these nutrients on schedule at appropriate concentrations will help your plants. Do a water change at the end of the week to flush out excess nutrients.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you for taking the time to answer, and for the details! Do you suggest individual fertilizers (to be able to control dosage) or an all-in-one type product for macros (for simplicity)?
 

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Your dosing schedule needs to be more frequent and dosage needs to be in line to provide nutrients. I think your Carbon is through Excel which also needs to be dosed daily.
Some of the plants may do well with out CO2 injection where as some would need them.
 

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The ludwigia suggest your light is a bit weak - usually stem plant will drop lower leaves if they don't get enough light. I get this problem a lot when they are crowded and the bottom are shaded.
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Excel is a useless source of carbon - only use it if you need to control algae - otherwise give your fish a break and stop using it.
 

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Thank you for taking the time to answer, and for the details! Do you suggest individual fertilizers (to be able to control dosage) or an all-in-one type product for macros (for simplicity)?
I suggest using both. I used to use Tropica Master Grow from Marine Depot. Then Tropica quit making it Marine Depot quit selling it and now it's called something else and is sold somewhere else. I really liked that stuff. A fertilizer is only as good as you think it is until you notice deficiencies in your plants and have to figure out what's missing. Then you try something new or dose extra individual fertilizer as you put it. Last week I had holes in leaves so I added Potassium. Last night at water change, I dosed 20 ppm Potassium in various forms to make sure I don't have another Potassium deficiency this week. Unless you want to learn how to calculate dosing individual salts, I would find an all-in-one that I really liked.

Otherwise:

KNO3 5,400 mg/tsp
K 38.66%
NO3 61.31%

K2SO4 6,400 mg/tsp
K2 44.86%

KH2PO4 5,600 mg/tsp
K 28.74%
PO4 69.83%

OK, follow me down this rabbit hole into the arcane art of dosing aquariums with individual salts. First, you estimate how much water is in your aquarium taking into account displacement. Mine is 66 liters after displacement. Second, multiply your desired target dose in mg/l by the estimated amount of water in liters in your tank. For example, 10 mg/l NO3 x 66 liters = 660 mg NO3. Third, you have to divide this amount by the percentage of NO3 in KNO3 which is 61.31%. So, 660 mg/l divided by 0.6131 = 1,076 mg of KNO3. There is 660 mg of NO3 in 1,076 mg of KNO3. That's the dose for 66 liters to get to 10 mg/l NO3 in the tank.

You can by a set of gram dosing spoons from Amazon to make dosing easier.

 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Your dosing schedule needs to be more frequent and dosage needs to be in line to provide nutrients. I think your Carbon is through Excel which also needs to be dosed daily.
Some of the plants may do well with out CO2 injection where as some would need them.
Hoping to stay low tech, I tried pick plants that don't require CO2 injection (as per Tropica website) but maybe I chose the wrong plants? The hottonia is definitely struggling!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The ludwigia suggest your light is a bit weak - usually stem plant will drop lower leaves if they don't get enough light. I get this problem a lot when they are crowded and the bottom are shaded.
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Excel is a useless source of carbon - only use it if you need to control algae - otherwise give your fish a break and stop using it.
I was wondering about that. The tank is beside a north facing window. It seems like the ludwigia is growing toward the window a bit and there's bottom growth on the side closest to the window, so that would seem to indicate that it needs more light. The light is what comes with the tank (10.8W, 2450 lumens LED) and the store employee said that's plenty for a planted tank as long as I don't choose plants that have high light requirements, but is that incorrect?
 

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Not sure - i tend to think in par - but in general hard to grow plants - esp if you add co2 - will require more light. I tend to lump all reddish plants into the hard to grow category but that is too simple since crypt wenditi bronze will do fine in lower light and some melon swords will grow abit slowly. What i can say is that my lights are significantly brighter - i switched my fluval plant 3.0 (which is a bit brighter) to a wrgb 2 (which is even brighter) on my low tech 29 and noticed that some very difficult plants like aflame swords perked up and started to actually grow. I can't comment on ludwigia specifically since i gave up on all ludwigia plants (too messy to constantly prune them) but i ahve some rotala h'ra which really requires a strongish light to produce a pleasing colour. Then again you do get some sunlight which is far stronger than any led light depending on how direct the light is. For most green stuff you really don't need a very strong light even with co2.
---

Having said all of this no matter how strong the light is if things get shaded it won't matter and the stem will drop leaves. That is the problem I am suffering in my 40B. It is packed tight and I can't decide how to trim it down.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I suggest using both. I used to use Tropica Master Grow from Marine Depot. Then Tropica quit making it Marine Depot quit selling it and now it's called something else and is sold somewhere else. I really liked that stuff. A fertilizer is only as good as you think it is until you notice deficiencies in your plants and have to figure out what's missing. Then you try something new or dose extra individual fertilizer as you put it. Last week I had holes in leaves so I added Potassium. Last night at water change, I dosed 20 ppm Potassium in various forms to make sure I don't have another Potassium deficiency this week. Unless you want to learn how to calculate dosing individual salts, I would find an all-in-one that I really liked.

Otherwise:

KNO3 5,400 mg/tsp
K 38.66%
NO3 61.31%

K2SO4 6,400 mg/tsp
K2 44.86%

KH2PO4 5,600 mg/tsp
K 28.74%
PO4 69.83%

OK, follow me down this rabbit hole into the arcane art of dosing aquariums with individual salts. First, you estimate how much water is in your aquarium taking into account displacement. Mine is 66 liters after displacement. Second, multiply your desired target dose in mg/l by the estimated amount of water in liters in your tank. For example, 10 mg/l NO3 x 66 liters = 660 mg NO3. Third, you have to divide this amount by the percentage of NO3 in KNO3 which is 61.31%. So, 660 mg/l divided by 0.6131 = 1,076 mg of KNO3. There is 660 mg of NO3 in 1,076 mg of KNO3. That's the dose for 66 liters to get to 10 mg/l NO3 in the tank.

You can by a set of gram dosing spoons from Amazon to make dosing easier.

Oh wow this is bringing back memories of highschool chemistry class! Thanks for breaking it down for me, I think I might be in over my head here, but willing to try learn. Also realizing that this stuff is pricey. If I can somehow balance ease of use, cost, and effectiveness that would be ideal. Will do some more searching online because my local aquarium source doesn't carry much and I'm in Canada so prefer to order from Canada to avoid ridiculous brokerage and customs charges at the border if ordering from the States.

I have a related question about water parameters, if it should go in another forum let me know and I can move it there...
I'm on well water and have access to two different wells. Both were tested at a lab recently so the water parameters should be accurate. Which one do you suggest I use for water changes, keeping in mind that there are shrimp in the tank too? Wondering if my issue of low GH/KH might be solved by using the hard water, but the pH is also higher from that well.

Well #1:
pH 8.7
GH 108 ppm
KH 121 ppm
TDS 171 ppm

Well #2:
pH 7.9
GH 82 ppm
KH unknown (not specified on this test)
TDS 92 ppm

Not sure how much detail is needed here. The water tests break down the amount of various elements too (eg. Well #1 Potassium is 4.4ppm, Well #2 Potassium is 4.62ppm) but I don't know if that info is helpful for this purpose.

I've been using Well #2 so far. I don't understand the science behind this because things are obviously changing inside the tank. At my latest 25% water change using Well #2 I tested the water the next day and pH stayed the same at 7.0, GH went from 20 before to 40 after, and KH went from 20 before to 30 after. I understand that Fluval Stratum lowers pH but how can GH be that low? Unless of course my testing is off. I'm using a new API Freshwater Kit and new Fluval KH/GH kit
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Not sure - i tend to think in par - but in general hard to grow plants - esp if you add co2 - will require more light. I tend to lump all reddish plants into the hard to grow category but that is too simple since crypt wenditi bronze will do fine in lower light and some melon swords will grow abit slowly. What i can say is that my lights are significantly brighter - i switched my fluval plant 3.0 (which is a bit brighter) to a wrgb 2 (which is even brighter) on my low tech 29 and noticed that some very difficult plants like aflame swords perked up and started to actually grow. I can't comment on ludwigia specifically since i gave up on all ludwigia plants (too messy to constantly prune them) but i ahve some rotala h'ra which really requires a strongish light to produce a pleasing colour. Then again you do get some sunlight which is far stronger than any led light depending on how direct the light is. For most green stuff you really don't need a very strong light even with co2.
---

Having said all of this no matter how strong the light is if things get shaded it won't matter and the stem will drop leaves. That is the problem I am suffering in my 40B. It is packed tight and I can't decide how to trim it down.
The plants that are struggling the most are tucked behind rocks so it could definitely be that they're too shaded
 

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Oh wow this is bringing back memories of highschool chemistry class! Thanks for breaking it down for me, I think I might be in over my head here, but willing to try learn. Also realizing that this stuff is pricey. If I can somehow balance ease of use, cost, and effectiveness that would be ideal. Will do some more searching online because my local aquarium source doesn't carry much and I'm in Canada so prefer to order from Canada to avoid ridiculous brokerage and customs charges at the border if ordering from the States.

I have a related question about water parameters, if it should go in another forum let me know and I can move it there...
I'm on well water and have access to two different wells. Both were tested at a lab recently so the water parameters should be accurate. Which one do you suggest I use for water changes, keeping in mind that there are shrimp in the tank too? Wondering if my issue of low GH/KH might be solved by using the hard water, but the pH is also higher from that well.

Well #1:
pH 8.7
GH 108 ppm
KH 121 ppm
TDS 171 ppm

Well #2:
pH 7.9
GH 82 ppm
KH unknown (not specified on this test)
TDS 92 ppm

Not sure how much detail is needed here. The water tests break down the amount of various elements too (eg. Well #1 Potassium is 4.4ppm, Well #2 Potassium is 4.62ppm) but I don't know if that info is helpful for this purpose.

I've been using Well #2 so far. I don't understand the science behind this because things are obviously changing inside the tank. At my latest 25% water change using Well #2 I tested the water the next day and pH stayed the same at 7.0, GH went from 20 before to 40 after, and KH went from 20 before to 30 after. I understand that Fluval Stratum lowers pH but how can GH be that low? Unless of course my testing is off. I'm using a new API Freshwater Kit and new Fluval KH/GH kit
I would use well #2 with GH booster. I don't understand what's going on with the GH. Add 40 ppm worth of GH booster. That should help.

CaSO4.2H2O
Ca 23.28%

MgSO4.7H2O
Mg 9.86%

Are you using an ion exchange resin? That would lower your GH.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I would use well #2 with GH booster. I don't understand what's going on with the GH. Add 40 ppm worth of GH booster. That should help.

CaSO4.2H2O
Ca 23.28%

MgSO4.7H2O
Mg 9.86%

Are you using an ion exchange resin? That would lower your GH.
So, it turns out I've been measuring KH and GH wrong. I watched a couple videos and I haven't been counting the first drop so all my KH and GH measurements are off by one drop. Sorry, didn't mean to waste your time! I just measured both wells using the correct method of counting, and my testing is on par with the lab results. Tank is currently at GH 60 and KH 40, so I should add 20 ppm worth of GH booster right? There's still a 20ppm difference between the tank and water source, but it's not as extreme as I first thought. I'm not using an ion exchange resin, am using filter floss and Fluval Biomax
 

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So, it turns out I've been measuring KH and GH wrong. I watched a couple videos and I haven't been counting the first drop so all my KH and GH measurements are off by one drop. Sorry, didn't mean to waste your time! I just measured both wells using the correct method of counting, and my testing is on par with the lab results. Tank is currently at GH 60 and KH 40, so I should add 20 ppm worth of GH booster right? There's still a 20ppm difference between the tank and water source, but it's not as extreme as I first thought. I'm not using an ion exchange resin, am using filter floss and Fluval Biomax
No, it wasn't a waste of time. I got something out of it. I hope you have too. Adding 20 ppm GH booster sounds like a good start. You'll get it all refined. Your test results matching the lab test results is a very good thing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
No, it wasn't a waste of time. I got something out of it. I hope you have too. Adding 20 ppm GH booster sounds like a good start. You'll get it all refined. Your test results matching the lab test results is a very good thing.
I'm learning lots, thanks for your help!
 
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