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Unbalanced planted tank... but why?

parotet

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12 Oct 2013
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Valencia, Spain
Hi from Spain

I need some help to understand the problem I have with my planted tank. As far as I have read, my tank is unbalanced but I don’t know the reason why. It was set up 5-6 weeks ago.
Here’s a summary of what I did and what makes me think that it is unbalanced.

Tank: 24 litres (20 real litres)
Filter: internal Eheim 220 litres/hour
Lighting: 7 watts LED (60 lumen/litre), 8 cm above water level, 22 cm water column
Photoperiod: first 3 weeks 6 hours, last 3 weeks 8 hours
Substrate: JBL Manado (aprox. 4 litres)
No CO2 added nor liquid carbon
Water changes: 50% twice a week with conditioned tap water (after the local water company, includes 8 ppm NO3, 2.5 ppm K, ph 7.5, hard water). No water tests, sorry.
Plant density: seen from above 75% of the tank is covered by plants
Plant species: background (Limnophila sessiliflora, Vallisneria nana, Rotala indica, Hygrophila difformis), midground (Echinodorus cordifolius, Java fern), foreground (Eleocharis mini, Sagittaria subulata, Hydrocotyle tripartita, 3 pieces of Java moss attached to a Mopani driftwood)
Fishes and invertebrates: 6 Endler males, 7-10 Neocaridina shrimps, 4 local shrimps (genus Dugastella). Feed with minimal amounts of dry food, once a week very small amounts of iced blood worms that disappear in seconds. No food remains.

At a local pet shop they suggested me to buy ADA Brighty K and I dosed 1 millilitre (normal dose for 20 litres) but just every 3 days (not daily). I recognize that during the last 2 weeks I increased the dose (every 2 days). Nothing else has been added.

The plants were planted from the very beginning, were doing very well and growing quickly at least the first 3 weeks, fishes look fine (introduced from 3rd week) and shrimps (introduced from 5th day) are breeding… BUT here are my problems:

1. the oldest leaf of one of the Echinodorus developed last week some brown patches (with yellowish band around) that covered finally the whole leave. Looks like typical K deficiency.

2. Limnophila sessiliflora and Hygrophila difformis look now a bit pale, especially the new leaves. Looks like a typical iron deficiency. Hydrocotile grows well but could show a darker green. Eleocharis mini doesn’t show any significant growth. The rest of the plants are doing well.

3. Some brownish/bronze colour coating algae began to appear covering the upper part of Limnophila and Hygrophilla leaves (very thin, like velvet…). The Limnophila leaves (especially in the middle of the stem) are “hanging downwards”… at the beginning the leaves were erected looking very healthy and fresh. These are the most visible algae in the tank, but…

4. looking with some detail, I can see some fuzz algae (some millimetres long) in the Vallisneria leaves and also on the Java moss (small hair algae with the same size as moss leaves but darker),and some very isolated thread algae.

5. when I came back from a 5-days trip (water therefore was changed only once this last week), I found 3 or 4 patches of greenish algae firmly fixed to the glass, really small, maybe 0.5 cm2 each. I could only get rid of them scraping the glass. What an algae collection! :( butb I have to admit that you have to watch really carefully to see most of them, but I don’t want them to overrun my tank.

So, what do you think could be the reason of my unbalanced planted tank? Too much light, too much plant biomass, lack of balanced fertilizing?

My opinion (but of course I’m not an expert, that is why I’m posting this thread) is that my problem has to do with unbalanced fertilization for the amount of lumen/litre I have, and some plants (probably with higher needs) are beginning to show deficiencies. Am I wrong?

If I am right, I know dry ferts are much more cheaper, but for a 20 litres tank prepared ferts (ADA, Tropica, Seachem, etc.) will be an acceptable option to me. ADA step series or Seachem Flourish are in my mind right now… but is it really the solution to my problem? I have calculated that adding Seachem Flourish to my tap water will suppose a NO3/Po4/K/Fe proportion of 10/1/4/0.5…. probably adding ADA Brighty K would increase K if needed. Unfortunately no info about what I really add using ADA Step 1 (yes, micro and Fe, that’s what the ADA catalogue says… but no exact quantities). I do not use any of the ADA substrates.

No problem to increase the male Endler population (if needed) for higher amounts of NO3 and PO4 in the tank, if this is my problem.
Dry ferts would be a second option, I know you will suggest me to do it, but in that case the price is not the problem (dosing with such commercial ferts would mean in my tank configuration a cost of 10-15€/year). Any benefit apart from the price?

Thank you in advance for your help!
(and sorry for my English, some things might sound strange for you…)
 

Iain Sutherland

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Hi, enchidorus dropped leaf is likely an emersed leaf from being grown out of water. Fear not remove it.
You need to add a comprehensive fertiliser on a daily basis to maintain good growth. Micros and macros, look at the tropica range.
The other algae issues are likely due to too much light, reduce lighting intensity and ensure no sunlight is hitting the tank.
Do this and maintain good cleanliness along with removing any visible algae and you will likely see a marked improvement.
All the best.
 

Alastair

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Just to add to iains post too, on a low tech such as yours, 2 50% water changes a week is pretty big so youll be causing some fluctuations in levels of co2 etc. Id opt for much smaller water changes, say ten per cent daily to lessen the drastic changes.
And like said a nice cheap trace mix too will help but on a tank that size youd need the smallest amount
 

ceg4048

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The OP has too much light and has received typical crap advice from people who just want to take his money.
There is no such thing as "unbalanced" tank. It is simply lacking in PO4 and Nitrogen.

Adding small weekly amounts of NO3 and PO4 via dry salts and reducing the light intensity by at least 50% will eliminate these problems.
K deficiencies are NEVER characterized by brown patches on leaves. That's a CO2 fault driven fundamentally by too much light.

Cheers,
 
M

Marcel G

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I would even dare to call ADA products as "fertilizers", because they contain only VERY limited amounts of nutrients. One and only exception is Brighty K, which adds 24 mg/L K in the recommended dose. Green Brighty Step 1 adds 0.03 mg/L Fe, and 0.01 mg/L K in the recommended dose. Green Brighty Lights adds 0.65 mg/L NO3, 0.1 mg/L NH4, 0.6 mg/L PO4, and 0.4 mg/L K. As you can see, if you don't use in combination with nutrient-rich substrate (like ADA Aqua Soil), then it's very poor source of nutrients for your plants.
 

NatureBoy

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I'd look first to a consistent source of CO2 for the given level of light very first of all. In the first few weeks plants were probably using energy reserves and the light provided to grow, then when the internal stores were used up coupled with the greater biomass (honeymoon period), you get a sudden crash / meltdown across all plants.

Address CO2 and other ferts, and you'll continue with the rate of growth you were enjoying in the first couple of weeks
 

parotet

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Thank you for the answers!!
I understand that my light level is too high and therefore my plants require CO2 and higher nutrient levels. As I cannot afford for the moment a good CO2 system (I prefer to wait rather than a DIY system), I will try to reduce the light levels and the nutrient demands. I'll dose NPK as suggested, yes, will probably go dry fert...
Please let me ask you some doubts I still have with this new configuration:

- adding weekly 40 ppm NO3, 3 ppm PO4, 20 ppm K, 0.5 ppm Fe would be ok or my plants won't consume that much? (I would divide the weekly dose by 7)
- weekly 50% water change would be too much? better to try 2 25% changes?
- do I have to take into account the 8 ppm NO3 and 2,5 ppm K from my tap water when making the calculations?
 

ceg4048

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If you are NOT enriching the tank with any carbon source then you do not need those levels of nutrition.

Barr's standard non-CO2 dosing goes something like this:

Add about 1/8 teaspoon of KNO3 per 20USG once a week or two.
Add about 1/32 teaspoon of KH2PO4 per 20USG once a week or two.
Add about 1/32 teaspoon Trace per 20USG once a week or two or, alternatively, about 1/4 teaspoon per 20USG of Seachem Equilibrium or other popular remineralizing agent once every week or two.

When you obtain a CO2 enrichment source then you need to return to the original high dosing values. Low CO2 means low demand for nutrients - but the lighting intensity is the prime factor that MUST be addressed. Floating plants or other obfuscation can be used if a dimmer is not available. If using a dimmable light source then the intensity should be restricted for the moment at least.

Also, I wouldn't really worry too much about the water changes. When you are fighting algae, water changes are important. So it's really important to do large and frequent water changes, and to clean the tank now. When the problems of Now are solved then you can reduce the water changes or use whatever scheme necessary to avoid problems due to water changes.

Cheers,
 

parotet

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It's a LED lighting system, so I supose a dimmer can be used... no idea about the price or availability in hardware shops. It would be plugged to the timer.
If chosing obfuscation what could be used? My tank has a covering glass that has not been used for the moment... will this 3 mm glass would stop a significant part of the light intensity or should I add any piece of material to reduce more? There was a 8 cm distance from the light to the wáter surface and now it has been doubled. I'll reduce from 8 to 7 or even 6 hours the photoperiod. I supose it would help to fight againts algae
 

parotet

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Sounds reasonable but will my Vallisneria melt? And what about Java Moss?
Will this change the dosing suggested for IE low techno tanks?
 

sa80mark

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Im the opposite of big clown I cant comment on vallis but my jave moss is in a 30l tank and is fine with liquid carbon at 3x recommended dose :)
 

tim

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Sounds reasonable but will my Vallisneria melt? And what about Java Moss?
Will this change the dosing suggested for IE low techno tanks?
Soon as you add liquid carbon the tank becomes high tech so you'll need to dose accordingly and carry out regular large water changes. I have double dosed a tank with Vallis and it was fine, doesn't always work though.
 

parotet

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Thank you all. Three days ago I reduced my light level, I began to dose liquid C, to add N, P and micro nutrients … and algae seem to have vanished! (I guess water changes every 3 days are also helping).

Another question. I still keep my brand new ADA Brighty K bottle and I obviously want to use it (because I paid quite a lot of money for it!).

I would even dare to call ADA products as "fertilizers", because they contain only VERY limited amounts of nutrients. One and only exception is Brighty K, which adds 24 mg/L K in the recommended dose

ardjuna, do you mean 24 mg of K in one liter of Brighty K? I supose you don't mean this, because it would mean adding just 0.024 mg to 20 litres (recommended dose 1 ml for 20 litres). I understand that when adding 1 ml in 20 litres you reach in these 20 litres a K concentration of 24 ppm. In other words ADA Brighty K is a 24000 ppm K+ fertilizer (or has a 2.4% of K+).

But on the other hand I've also read somewhere that ADA Brighty K adds 68000ppm of K+ (and 340ppm of Fe)... quite a significant difference.
 

ceg4048

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68000ppm K+ is the concentration of the bottle. Each pump of Brighty K is approximately 1ml of liquid, therefore, the K+ milligram content per pump action is 68,000 / 1000 = 68mg per pump action. The dilution of 20L of water yields=> 68mg/20L = 3.4ppm K+ per pump action.

These data are from laboratory analysis of the bottle contents.

Cheers,
 
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