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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 38 gallon low tech thats been set up for a month and a half and it's going ok but plants aren't growing.

I have 23 fish 14 small tetras 3 dwarf cichlids and 6 corydoras catfish.

For a filter I'm running a ehiem ecco 2236. For lighting I'm using finnex planted + 24/7.

For a substrate I'm using floramax red which is similar to flourite.

The tank is full of crypts anubias tiger lilly wisteria s. repens and floating plants frogbit and duckweed. I have a large mass of plants.

The s. repens is doing well. I have about 10 plants of crypts spiralis that are slowly melting. My other crypts are donig well. The wisteria isn't growing at all. The new leaves coming in on my anubias are deformed and part of the new leaves are transparent.

It's been 12 days since my last water change.

I had a small amount of blue green algae on the glass and some green spot algae on the glass also.

I've been trying to stay away from ferts. Being low tech I wanted to try something with less maintenance.

Anyone else going the non water change route? and no ferts with success?
 

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Hi wantsome,

If it were me I would put 1/2 a Flourish Tab near the base of each crytocoryne that is giving you trouble, that should perk them up you should only need to do once. For the blue-green algae (BGA) I dose 1 teaspoon of Hydrogen Peroxide 3% Solution (drug / grocery store) per 3 gallons daily for about a week and it clears up. Also if it has been awhile since you cleaned your filter now is the time, also any loose mulm / detritus in the tank needs to leave with the next water change. Typically BGA shows up in my tanks if I have not been diligent about my maintenance. As for green spot algae (GSA) and green dust algae (GDA) I have yet to find a definitive cause or cure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Ok I'll go with water changes. I have some seachem root tabs but the last time I tried them I got a major algae outbreak. I think it's because my substrate wasn't deep enough and I used too many. I used like five tabs in my tank. The plants grew well but so did the algae. My crypt mass isn't really thick. Maybe I'll try 1/4 of a tab in 3 areas of my tank and see how it goes.
 

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Ok I'll go with water changes. I have some seachem root tabs but the last time I tried them I got a major algae outbreak. I think it's because my substrate wasn't deep enough and I used too many. I used like five tabs in my tank. The plants grew well but so did the algae. My crypt mass isn't really thick. Maybe I'll try 1/4 of a tab in 3 areas of my tank and see how it goes.
Hi wantsome,

Those Flourish Tabs are H-A-R-D. I use a slot head screwdriver and a hammer on a hard surface to break them.
 

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Another thing too... There are some plants that just won't grow in your tank. I had a hard time with Ludwigia Cuba, Rotala Walichi, and AR mini.... Other difficult high light plants would be thriving and algae free, but those 3 wouldn't grow for me.. I feel like a lot of it has to do with the water chemistry and elements that are in the water naturally. Not sure if I'm way off here, but I believe it to be true.
 

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There is a no water change method of running a tank called the "Walstad tank".
That is a proven method of running a tank without water changes.
Very low maintenance in that one. It relies on the fert effects of the mulm and Detrius
collecting in the sub and eventually becoming nutrients for the plants.
If you put a plant out in your yard it has almost unlimited nutrients. But if you place
that same plant in a pot then you need to add nutrients or the plant will die
eventually as it will use up all of the nutrients in the pot. Same thing/w an aquarium.
Either use a tried and proven method of not doing water changes or adding ferts
or do water changes and add ferts. But just putting some plants into what almost
amounts to a sterile environment is just killing them slowly.
 

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OK I have no hands on experience, but gladly share what I have read and my interpretation:

Doing water changes adds CO2 back to a CO2 limited tank.
Plants and algae both can and do adapt to low CO2 environments and induce genes to make enzymes that concentrate CO2 around Rubisco, the CO2 fixing enzyme. When we add the CO2 at higher levels back, this causes the plants and algae to destroy the low CO2 enzymes and start growing without of them since they no longer need them to fix CO2 form the KH ( the -HCO3).
Why keep all this machinery around if you no longer need it? Doing weekly water changes "fools" the plants and helps encourage algae more. Algae are faster to respond to low CO2 than plants.
Above from Barr, he also said the grow under non-CO2, low light method would be 5-10 times slower.

So my take on your situation is:
1. Things ain't too good, just that plants aren't growing fast enough for ya.
2. Your fish load is quite high, have you measured water quality? with that fish load, nitrate kinda high?
3. Plants
3. Balancing act when it comes to low-tech would be just enough light to match the fish produced CO2 and nutrient (ie waste).
4. I suspect you may have too much nutrient in the water column, but no enough CO2 or light to balance them off.

I am the lazy sort, I don't take pride or have joy changing water, hose and all, or buying CO2, adjusting the CO2, dosing, experiment more dising. I gladly trade growth rate and low fish load for time sitting on my fat butt and watch the tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for all the advice. I thought adding more fish would create more waste for the plants. My nitrates are running on the low side around 10ppm. I was thinking I didn't have adequate biological filtration and enough water flow from my filter. I was going to add another one I have on hand. My filter is only 200 gph. I'm only getting a turnover rate of about 5 times an hour. I read it was best to be around 10x an hour. I was also thinking the low nitrates might be contributing to the blue green algae. From my experience it thrives in higher light conditions with low nitrates. It's a bacteria that is capable of producing it's own nitrogen. I'm suspecting I don't have enough biological filtration to produce enough nitrates. It might also be that some of my plants have a nitrogen deficiency.

I added half a root tab to one area of the tank to see how it goes. I'm going to set up the extra filter and do a water change tomorrow. I'll see how it goes from there. Then give it a week or so to see what happens.

I just wasn't happy with my growth rate of certain plants and didn't understand why the spiralis was melting. The reason I asked about water changes is because of the Tom Barr article. I was wondering what peoples opinions are on the non water change method. I understand about the plants living in low co2 environment but I was kind of at a loss with what I should do with my set up. I'm not sure if I'm doing things right. I'm still learning after all these years. I guess it's all about trial and error. That's why I like low tech so much it's very forgiving when you make errors.
 

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In her book, Walstad makes the same statement several times:
"I feed the tank, not the fish"

So, her stated approach of "no fetrs" is not 100% accurate.

If your tank is cycled, then you have all the biological filtration it needs. The bacteria colony increases and shrinks based on the available nutrients (ammonia and nitrites). Therefore, I think you are on the wrong path here.

The basic formula is: Energy (light) + building blocks (nutrients) = plant growth.

Finnex produces enough light to grow a lot of plants, unless the surface is covered with floaters like duck weed. The floaters also consume a lot of nutrients.

My personal take: feed your tank.
 

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Fish food contains all the nutrients the plants need to grow slowly, but has low levels of some nutrients. The element in lowest supply will limit the growth of the plants (if the light is not already the limiting factor).
Per Diana Walstad's concepts, think of fish food as fertilizer. Add enough fertilizer to keep the SYSTEM happy- microorganisms and macroorganisms.

What is 'fish waste'? It is digested fish food.
If you had ZERO fish in the tank, but still added fish food you could grow microorganisms and plants just fine. You do not need 'fish waste'. Fish are just a macroorganism that begins the decomposition process that turns fish food into fertilizer.

Fish food supplies a good amount of N, P, and most traces.
Fish food is low in K, Ca, Mg and Fe.
Water changes usually supply enough Ca and Mg, if the water has a GH of at least 3 German degrees of hardness.
If you feed enough fish food to the system to supply the K and Fe you might be over feeding N, P and most traces.
Therefore, you might try this:
Supplement with just a little K and Fe (something like Leaf Zone, or a fertilizer series like Flourish where each element is bottled separately).

One of the less emphasized concepts in Diana Walstad's book is that each system is different. In one area your water might contain an excess of something, or be deficient in something. In another tank you might be using a different substrate that perhaps locks up certain elements. One set up might be closer to a window, so the ambient light, added to the tank light is higher than the tank right next to it (away from the window) so the plants have the need for more fertilizers.
Get to know your system(s) and you may figure out that the 'no ferts'/ 'no water change' method can come very close to working, but not quite. You will need to supply the elements that are in shortest supply.

A monthly water change that includes some plant pruning, cleaning the filter and some vacuuming of the largest debris may be just enough maintenance for some of these tanks. Might not be much (10-20%), but this new water is also bringing in more calcium, magnesium and some other minerals. Think of it like fertilizer!

"Low Tech" does not mean "Hands Off".
It means having to do less to the tank on a daily basis. Each system still has its needs. You just do not have to 'do something' on a daily basis.
Find out what it needs, and supply that in a long range solution (such as slowly dissolving root tablets).
 

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I've been in the hobby for 50~ years, but only recently planted my 60g tank. I've also been an organic vegetable gardener for 30+ years. It's interesting the many that ignore organics in favor of chemicals in the aquarium. However, the aquarium is a closed system with an inert substrate so we need to blend organics with chemicals for the best results. We also need to manage tank maintenance (filters and water changes) a bit differently than the non-planted tank....but low tech doe not mean no tech. We need water changes to replenish much needed minerals and trace elements used by fish and plants....and add additives at times in order to maintain balance.
As previously stated, good fish food becomes fish waste and fish/plant waste is excellent organic fertilizer. However we may need to augment with some fertilizer and/or trace elements to maintain the system. The key is to 'listen' to the plants and the fish to provide the best environment for them.
 

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A tank is not a totaly closed system: there is still evaporation, there is still gas exchange, and water still has the innate ability to absorb anything, including your household dust. Floating and emergent plants act as an additional bridge between inside and outside.

Knowing your specific environment and what's in your water is one of the keys to "no fetts, no water changes" - you still have to top off the tank. Having harder water helps: the top offs bring in Ca and Mg. Having a whole house water softener helps if you are using potasium. Knowing the plants is another key: where Java Fern will slowly thrive, say, Ambulia will quickly die.

As stated above, watch and learn the environment, including the specific tank and then figure out how to get from here to where you want it to be. No tank is the same, there is no cookbook, and that is exactly why most of us are still in this hobby and still learning.
 
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