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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
So, I'm about 6 weeks post GLA CO2 install on a moderately planted 45 gallon. I feel like things are going ok, but I'm still getting a decent build up of algae on the glass and on anubias leaves. Aquarium had been running for 1.5 years prior to the CO2 install.

What I'm struggling with is how to appropriately fertilize the tank. I feel like the algae I'm getting is due to a lack of correct fertilization. In the picture below, I had just put a plecostomus in for a week from my son's aquarium, but usually the top of the fake stone in the center is covered in the dark brown algae. For the first couple of weeks, I was alternating doses of Seachem Iron and Seachem Potassium daily. I was also adding Seachem Flourish 2x a week. However, while the plants seemed to be doing well, so was the algae. I was looking at PPS-Pro or EI from GLA but wanted some other opinions/tips before diving into it.

Any help/direction you could give me would be greatly appreciated. I used this site for virtually all of my planted tank knowledge. I had the aquarium up for about 9 months before getting some lights and real plants, then after coming across this site, I really got the itch. Overall I'm happy with my progress, but my LFS doesn't specialize in planted tanks, so I really have no one else to go to.

Finally, some more info on my tank. I have the Current Satellite LED+ light, two four hour photo periods (6-10Am, 4-8PM). Ph ~7.2 with pretty hard water (I don't have a tester for this, but tested once a long time ago and it came back quite high on both kH and gH). I do weekly water changes and really stay on top of stuff.

Thanks, sorry for the book :)
 

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Yeah, no problems with the CO2. Just need help on the fertilizer side.
Fertilizing is easy.
Mix two solutions, dose, maintain.

Mixing two solutions recipe is here.

Dose is daily 5 ml solution #1 macros and 10 drops solution #2 micros on 45 gallon aquarium.

Maintaining consistent levels is done with TDS or Conductivity meters. When meter reads tap ppm + 50 or tap µS + 100 then water change is due.
 

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I also was over thinking the whole dry fert step. I went the gla e.i. Dry kit method. Glad I did so far. Gives much more control over things as opposed to my prior method. Not to mention, saves a hundred bucks or so a year for me. Your problems may not be a nutrient though, so be warned going in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks a lot for your help Edward & Convict. I ordered the GLA PPS Pro kit, along with a TDS meter from Amazon. Really anxious to give it a go when everything gets here. I'll post an update in a week or two, or sooner if I'm having major issues :)

Thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
So I got my TDS meter yesterday and tested my aquarium and tap water. Haven't started PPS yet (stuff arrives today). My tap water tested at 330 ppm and aquarium water tested at 430 ppm. I just did a 50% water change on Saturday morning, so I'm confused by these readings. Water looks great so what gives?
 

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This is an important point to understand if you want to use a TDS meter.

TDS stands for total dissolved solids. It's not simply a measure of your nutrient levels. Fish waste increases TDS quite a lot. Hardscape items can also leach solids into the water. Plant decay, detritus in your filters, filter media itself, etc.

Provided you didn't dose anything your baseline leachability is 33ppm per day. That's quite a lot IMO but hey it is what it is.

Maybe Edward's TDS formula should be changed to something like,

When meter reads tap ppm + 50 - baseline leachability then water change is due.
 

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Everything dissolved has some increasing impact on TDS conductivity readings. We can look at it as a measure of cleanliness and purity. Demineralized and distilled water read almost zero.

I think we want to have as a baseline, tap water or re-mineralized RO water readings. On top of that the maximum fertilizer residue which I believe can be 20 ppm of NO3 worth of fertilizer package. I don’t see any reason to have more “stuff” in the water column. We can also call the stuff contaminants and pollutants.

Zorfox,
why do you think we need extra baseline leachability addition? How are unknown pollutants beneficial? Maybe I am missing something, please advise.
 

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Zorfox,
why do you think we need extra baseline leachability addition? How are unknown pollutants beneficial? Maybe I am missing something, please advise.
The extra "pollutants" generally aren't useful. However, to make a blanket statement that a water change is needed if the TDS is 50ppm over tap is erroneous IMO.

People are reading this information in an attempt to learn how to fertilize their plants. When you say to dose XYZ and change water at TDS ABC it implies that this is some sort of nutrient test. I realize you're aware it's not but the 14 year old trying to follow directions with his first tank doesn't.

Let's say a new user reads your information, case in point the OP. Let's assume he has no idea what PPM or TDS is. They start dosing and checking TDS and realize they will have to do water changes nearly every day. How long do you think that will last?

By adding leachability to the equation it would remove the gross errors that will occur. Is 30 ppm per day a lot of fish poop? You bet! Should there be more maintenance, less feeding, filters checks, etc.? No doubt. My point is that many beginners will follow advise blindly only to become discouraged.

We have to remember to be mindful that everyone does not have the full picture yet. Rephrasing procedures differently will certainly help eliminate a lot of frustration and more importantly confusion.
 

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I agree with you Zorfox, I need to explain things better.
Having up to twenty days of unused fertilizers in the water column is already a lot, isn’t it? The TDS conductivity is not very important to plants. It is for us to see what test kits don’t. If we don’t keep water column clean then fertilizers will not work. It is all about element ratios.

The vicious circle of adding more and more fertilizers in order to keep plants going while having something degrading the water is what I see as the most troubling cause of unhealthy plants and algae infestation for many years. See forums.

If keeping stable TDS conductivity requires daily water changes then something is terribly wrong with the aquarium. And that is the whole point.

So, hoping for the TDS to stop increasing by adding higher limit is not going to work. When something is degrading water column it will continue degrading. I agree with you, it may be maintenance, feedings, filters, … once the cause is identified and fixed then TDS will start decreasing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I feel like this discussion has gotten over my head a little bit. I'm an accountant and not a chemist :)

After doing additional reading around the forums and other sites, I've arrived at the conclusion that I should do what you indicated here when using a TDS meter that reads PPM. Then, I'm going to do a 10% water change and then take measurements for the next several days to see what they do without any ferts being added. In theory, the readings shouldn't increase by 33 ppm/day as Zorfox pointed out. I feed a reasonable amount once per day, have a very mild fish load, and don't have any hardscape that should be leaching into the water.

Assuming my numbers are in line, I can start with PPS Pro following the equation that you outlined in the link above where you change water once the aquarium water PPM exceeds tap with 10 drops of solution #1 macros in 1000 ml.
 

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Tap water 330 and tank water 430 a few days after a 50% water change means that the tank water was higher before the water change.
Yes, monitor the tank and see if the TDS changes through the week more than what can be explained by fish food.
If you top off with tap water TDS will go up.
If you add ferts TDS will go up.
If you have limestone or related stone or sand in the tank TDS will rise.
If you do larger water changes more frequently the TDS will match the tap closer. Extremely example: 100% water change will = tap water. Anything less will = something in between.
 

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That sounds like a good plan if you're interested in finding a realistic baseline for your tank.

Personally, I'd do a 50% water change and start dosing. You'll get a feel for how much TDS your tank is producing without being too exact. After all, the point of this is to grow plants not chase perfect numbers. You can still do weekly water changes to slowly reduce your TDS.

You can come close to what your tank is producing anyway. Each dose of Macro and Micro will add roughly 4.5 ppm to your total. Anything else is coming from your tank. In fact, a small part is being utilized by the plants.

Here's a simple formula if you want to know what the final TDS will be after a water change.

Tank ppm – ((Tank ppm – Tap ppm) * Water change percent * 0.01) = Final ppm

Example, your current numbers and a 50% water change,

430 – ((430 – 330) * 50 * 0.01 = 380 ppm


@ Edward,
I can't tell you how refreshing it is to have someone accept constructive criticism so well. Anymore, it seems people are trying to prove their own theories or knocking another. Sadly, few seem to realize the water somewhere in the middle is just right.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks for the additional input, I appreciate it. Because of family obligations, I wasn't able to do a big water change the other night. So I decided to start dosing and will just do my regularly scheduled water change this weekend. I will document my TDS before the water change, after water change, then daily before dosing. Should be interesting to see how it turns out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I'm a little late on this, but here's what I found:

4/25 before water change - 447 ppm
4/25 tap water measurement - 347
4/25 after ~50% water change - 404
4/26 - 412
4/27 - 419
4/28 - 424
4/29 - 434
4/30 - water change (forgot to take another measurement, but safe to assume it was 441-444)

I guess my conclusion from all of this is that my water change threshold is more like tap water +100. My fish are doing great, plant growth is going strong, and my algae is definitely being kept in check. In my mind, those are the three main objectives and I feel like I'm hitting all three. I just added a few more fish this past weekend, so it will be interesting to see how that affects things.

Finally, I realized during my testing during that week that the numbers on my tester would drop dramatically if I gave it ~30 seconds before taking that reading. I didn't know that at first, so that could be why my initial numbers were so high.
 

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In four weeks, when plants get used to the routine you can stop dosing for three days and see what the conductivity reading does. If the readings stop going up then you may be overdosing. If it is still going up then there is something dissolving, causing water deterioration.

What you are describing about the delayed conductivity readings is usually caused by electrodes being covered by impurities. This can be cleaned by leaving the meter in methyl alcohol or Vodka.

Thank you for the update.
 
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