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New to forums: Substrate won't grow my plants :(

Discussion in 'Substrate' started by cooledwhip, May 7, 2016.

  1. cooledwhip

    cooledwhip New Member

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    hey everyone. I am new here. I have a 20 gallon long aquascape that has seachem flourite in it. I do not like this substrate at all for the plants I am trying to grow. I agree it is an excellent substrate for swords and stuff, but not for what I am trying to grow.

    Plant list:
    Pearlweed, S. Repens, Ludwigia Red, Rotala Indica, Cryptocorne Wendtii, I plan on growing a glosso carpet which flourite has no chance of growing.

    My light is a single T5HO 23w. I don't dose ferts and I don't do CO2. I want a low tech tank with no co2, and try to avoid ferts. I want a super rich substrate to grow my plants. Is it my substrate that is lacking or my lighting? IMG_2481.JPG IMG_2481.JPG IMG_2483.JPG IMG_2481.JPG

    I mainly came here because I ran into a huge roadblock with my plants, because very few plants show signs of new growth. My rotala indica is the only one that shows signs of growth.

    The tank is 4 months old and already established, I am considering tearing it down and restarting with a new substrate because I just CANT grow plants well. I bought some root tabs about a couple days ago and still have seen no signs of growth. I came here to ask what a good substrate would be? I really want some corydoras/corycats.

    My current species list is: 3 dwarf neon rainbowfish, 3 endlers, a couple guppies and 2 panda platies. I know it's an odd mix but the guppies and platies were on sale. My FUTURE stocking plan is 5-6 rainbowfish, 4-5 cories, 4-5 endlers. Oh I also have a BN albino pleco.

    I really want to get a new substrate soon as possible. I uploaded some pictures of my ludwigia and how they just don't flourish. I look at other tanks online and they all have this thick overtaking green look on the plants, (or red in this case of ludwigia). My plants just don't have that. They aren't thick. Thanks
     

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  2. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

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    Hello and welcome to ASW,

    Generally I wouldn't say the problem is necessarily your substrate. Seachem fluorite is not a bad substrate. It provides lots of iron and other micro nutrients to the plant roots...and if it can grow swords it can grow stems.

    Growing plants requires more than just a nutrient rich substrate. You need to consider a carbon supply, fertilizing regimen, flow/filtration, lighting, and maintenance regimen. What type of filter are you running? what is its gph?

    With a substrate like Seachem fluorite it is important to also dose fertilizers to the water column as it does not provide any Macro (Potassium, Nitrogen, and Phosphorous) nutrients and may be light on some micro nutrients.

    Another point to consider, lots of the thick green lush tanks you are looking at online are running pressurized CO2. Regardless you will also need a carbon source for your tank. By my judgement you are in the low to medium light category. Your setup is more promising for things like cryptocorynes species, ferns like microsorum pteropus or bolbitus, and anubias. Some stems like hygrophilia species will also grow nicely without having to change much.

    If you want to grow a lot of stems and you want the pearl weed to stay low and dense you will need another T5 AND pressurized CO2.

    For now lets assume you have enough light.

    Before doing any upgrades, you could take a couple steps to see if things get better. 1) Add a carbon source. You can dose Seachem Excel or consider adding pressurized CO2. 2) Begin a regular fertilizing regimen covering the micro and macro nutrients 3) Consider regular water changes at least 20-50% weekly. Once you start this give it 3-4 weeks to see if there is improvement.
     
  3. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

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    Oh, and if you want to keep Cories, they appreciate sand substrates. You can do a divided substrate where you have a planting substrate in the back held back by rocks and sand in the front which is open for the fish to swim over and dig through.
     
  4. cooledwhip

    cooledwhip New Member

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    I have a pressurized CO2 setup which I tried using but I just get hair algae.

    Filter is a quietflow 20 from petsmart.

    I also have seachem excel and I tried that but I keep getting hair algae. more specifically BBA. I'll start it back up again maybe and underdose it. Also, these are my lights: (couldn't post a link, its a GrowBright 2 foot 1 lamp High output T5 from HTGsupply) not even designed for fish.

    With 6400k bulbs. Are the lights too weak? Also I do want cories so what I might do is get seachem flourite sand and layer that over the flourite.

    And like I said I am trying to grow GLOSSOSTIGMA and S. repens, as well as ludwigia red.
     
  5. keithgh

    keithgh Moderator Staff Member

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    cooledwhip

    Welcome to ASW over all it looks like you have tried various things and they did not work for you.

    Plants must have some form of fertilizer to grow very healthy.

    At a rough guess it looks like you have been getting your information from unreliable sources.

    My suggestion now would take notice of what the experienced plant growers here on ASW have to say.

    Keith:cat::cat:
     
  6. yudagas

    yudagas Aspiring Aquascaper

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    Seems like glossostigma is similar to HC Cuba, picky carpet plant. Why dont you try dsm it? As far as i know your will for not giving any fertilizer only gonna stay few year until the substrate and plant ask for nutrient. I think it only availabe if your tank is not on closed system, and it was grow on tank so seems like impossible to have no fert for it.

    Sent from my EG98 using Tapatalk
     
  7. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

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    So, first I think its important we clear up a few things you may have wrong about growing plants or getting algae
    Pressurized CO2 will not cause hair algae. If not being used well you can have unstable supply and poor plant growth which results in algae. Pressurized CO2 helps plants grow, which inhibits algae. Your hair algae is not from the pressurized CO2.

    Your experience using Seachem Excel may have happened, but the conclusions you drew from it are not correct. Here is why: Excel is actually an algae inhibitor, at higher doses it will kill brush algae like BBA. So at the very least it will not cause them to grow. BBA usually results from higher light and poor CO2 supply, or high organic build up and low plant density with poor growth.

    The basic principle to preventing algae is to grow plants well, not fight algae.

    You need to shift your thinking towards how can you grow your plants better. For this I recommend adding the pressurized CO2 system. Can you describe the system and how you use it? You need to add a regular fertilizing regimen that has a nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous source. You can make your own if you wish and we can help you learn how to do that or you can buy a commercial brand like the Seachem flourish or Aquavitro line. You didn't answer how often you change water or what your maintenance schedule looks like, could you please describe it? In general your troubles are not related to the substrate. The fluorite substrates aren't bad....they also aren't the best option either. They make another product called aquasolum which is a lot like ADA aquasoil. There are many plant substrates like that out there now and these provide more nutrients and reduce pH. Flourite doesn't offer sources of nitrogen or phosphorous (other plant substrates like aquasoil do, but it only lasts a few months as some of it is water soluble).

    For growing the glosso you are going to want pressurized CO2. You will probably want more light too. You will need the pressurized if you are going to increase your lighting. At the moment it is hard to say if you have enough light or not with your other problems. Looking at the pictures, you could be okay on the light side. If you plant the glosso and it grows vertically instead of hugging the substrate you may need more light.
     
  8. cooledwhip

    cooledwhip New Member

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    I don't have an exact schedule for changing water, I usually do a 25-50% change every week. I have been lacking recently and I will start changing more. How about a 50% every monday? That sounds good.

    My CO2 systems: I have a soda bottle DIY mix with sodium bicarbonate and water in one bottle, and citric acid and water in another. It works well and I get lots of CO2 and PSI from it. I then have a bubble thing that makes the bubbles tiny in the tnak

    I also have a paintball tank setup but that I don't like as it is way too heavy bc of the metal.

    For my CO2 should I leave it on all day and have a couple bubbles every like 6 seconds? Or should I just blast it with CO2 when I come home from school? I'm scared that it will accidentally shoot too much co2 in while I'm gone at school. When I used it I just got home from school and left it on for like 15 minutes.

    I do need a new bulb for my light, I have a 6400K right now, but I really do want to grow glosso. Like I said a 100000 times I have seachem flourish and excel. Thanks
     
  9. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

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    Well for the 100001 time you need more than standard flourish. You need flourish potassium, flourish nitrogen, flourish phosphorus, flourish iron, flourish micro. The standard basic flourish is okay for low light setups with slow growing plants. It will not be enough for fast growing stems in higher light setups

    sent from tapatalk on my phone so auto correct and other errors are bound to happen
     
  10. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

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    You also said you were not using excel.

    sent from tapatalk on my phone so auto correct and other errors are bound to happen
     
  11. cooledwhip

    cooledwhip New Member

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    sorry dude lol. IDK if it was you who recommended this to me: (I cant link it but its a guide to dry dosing. this is the recommended doses for a 20 gallon:
    +/- 1/8 tsp KN03(N) 3x a week
    +/- 1/32 tsp KH2P04 (P) 3x a week
    +/- 1/32 tsp (2ml) Trace Elements 3x a week
    50% weekly water change


    Would that work? I would do the 20 gallon measurements. I don't have access to all those currently but I can buy some online.

    I'll try and buy them online. I'll start dosing excel again, and for the CO2, could you guide me in the correct direction? I don't know how I should use the CO2 if I should keep d oing what I am doing or do the 1 bubble every 5 seconds thing. What would you recommend for ferts and co2?

    BTW your tanks are amazing. I sa wyour portfolio
     
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  12. Orlandog7

    Orlandog7 Aspiring Aquascaper

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  13. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

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    There are several issues with your CO2. The first and foremost being you didn't use it correctly. The second being DIY citric acid CO2 is not equivalent to pressurized CO2.

    CO2 must be started before the lights come on and continued throughout the light cycle so there is a stable steady supply. A brief spike in CO2 doesn't help plants grow. Algae is better able to take advantage of instability.

    I would recommend using the paintball system or at the very least using a flow control valve to get a good rate throughout the entire day. You should invest in a drop checker to monitor the CO2 levels

    sent from tapatalk on my phone so auto correct and other errors are bound to happen
     
  14. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

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    When I have some time I will outline things for you. But yes modifying those doses for a 20 gallon would be good.

    sent from tapatalk on my phone so auto correct and other errors are bound to happen
     
  15. cooledwhip

    cooledwhip New Member

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    Ok I know you are using tapatalk meaning you arent on your main computer. I can wait until you can get back on, I understand how frusterating it can be to reply on the cell phone.

    I do have a drop checker, it has never went green (or told me I have too much co2) tho. Is there a special part that I can buy that limits the amount of co2 that goes into the tank? The piece that connects the airline to the co2 does have a flow control valve. I can send more pics later.
     
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  16. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

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    @cooledwhip , Alright, lets work out a plan to move forward.

    1)CO2: So the reason your drop checker never went green is because you turned on the CO2 for about 15 minutes. Generally there is a delay in drop checker readings. It can lag behind what is actually in the water by as much as an hour. This is one of the limitations of a drop checker, but it is the best cheap guestimate we have and it serves its purpose well. Regardless of the system you use DIY citric or pressurized, you should turn it on one hour before lights come on.
      • Paintball system: Could you describe your paintball system. Hopefully it has a solenoid which would allow you to turn it on and off via an outlet timer. The goal is to adjust the bubble rate via a needle valve or flow control valve to get a rate that gives you a green drop checker by the time the light turns on and does not to the drop checker yellow by the time the light turns off. You can turn off the CO2 one hour before the lights go off. Being able to use outlet timers or a controller to run your CO2 and light ensures consistency, this is very important.
      • Citric acid system: If you are using this its better than nothing, but I'd say use that paintball system over this any day. You will need to get a flow control valve and a stop valve or ball valve. The flow control valve will allow you to set the bubble rate, the ball valve will allow you to turn it on and off without having to set the flow rate every day. Same timing for everything, just manual.

        Be sure to be home when setting up a CO2 system and letting it run. That way you can make sure your fish are not getting gassed. If fish are going to the surface or your drop checker turns yellow, you have too much CO2.

        Another note about drop checkers. When combined with atomizers/diffusers they can give a false positive or false high reading because bubbles directly enter the chamber. You need to fill the chamber with 4 dKH fluid and indicator solution (which is bromothymol blue) or you can purchase one that has the 4 dkh solution and indicator already in it . Try to place the indicator somewhere far from the CO2 source where bubbles are least likely to enter it. For me in most tanks that is right near the outlet and inlet of my canister filter.

    2)Your flow and filtration is probably a bit short with a small HOB. If you really want to grow plants well like you've seen online consider upgrading to a canister filter. The increased flow and filtration capacity is very helpful. An eheim 2213 would be enough. I used a 2215 on my 20 gallon when I ran it. If you cannot upgrade to a 20 gallon consider getting a small pump. You could inject your DIY CO2 into the intake to shred the bubbles and disperse them around your tank. You want water moving through all parts of your tank. You do not want to lay your plants down with flow, but you want to see a little movement out of their leaves.

    There is no need for chemical filtration in a planted aquarium. Plants can do that work for you. You do not need carbon or zeolite or any other chemical filtration media. Getting as much biomedia in is important. Biomedia is basically porous material with lots of surface area for bacteria to colonize.

    3)Fertilizing. The routine you outlined above is a good one. Dry dosing is fine, add the components separately. You do not want to mix iron and phosphate into the same container because they will precipitate out and be unavailable to the plants (they form a new compound and will not dissolve)Dry ferts are cheap. Check out www.greenleafaquariums.com and pick up the EI starter kit. You could also add some root tabs to the substrate every 4".

    4)lighting: At this point I am assuming you have enough light to do what you want. You need to take care of all the other stuff before we start to determine if you could use more light. If you do not and add more light, you will only get more problems and more algae.

    If you end up looking to get another light or for more light, I suggest the fluval aquasky. Good beginner LED for a reasonable price. I get good growth with the lower grade model the Fluval ecobright. Do not upgrade your light without pressurized CO2 and do not do so until you get the fertilizing routine down, the CO2 down, and better flow/filtration.

    Those are my recommendations. Good luck!
     
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  17. cooledwhip

    cooledwhip New Member

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    Ok thanks so much for all this information.

    I have uploaded some pictures of the Co2 system. I have the ceramic disc thing that distributes the bubbles. I would upgrade to a canister filter but; aren't they pretty expensive? I will be doing lots of garage saling this summer so I am bound to find more tanks. I already got a 20 tall for free (but it came with ugly AF frogs). Maybe that can be a fresh start tank for me.

    The Co2 system I have both have pin valves I believe, I mean I can adjust the flow but not to a super tiny degree to the point where it is x bubbles every few seconds. I can sorta do it, usually a bubble every 3 or 4 seconds. I'll stay home one day and see how much co2 it takes to turn the dropper yellow, then I will shut it off and know that is how long I should have it on for. Would I be able to use the CO2 only when I am at home? For example 3:30-7? Would that be enough?

    For the CO2 output where it comes out, I agree it would work maybe putting it IN the filter. I have a HOB like I said so maybe I can just put it in there. It would pass through the carbon pad thing, so would that eliminate the whole point of the Co2 or would it still be in the water?

    Fertilizing: I will do seachem excel every other day. For the EI materials, is this what you are talking about: http://greenleafaquariums.com/aquarium-fertilizers-supplements/micro-macro-fertilizers.html

    I have root tabs. They said they are good for another 4 months tho. BTW the drop checker I have for the CO2 is a fluval one, I forgot to mention that. If I also did the dry components and seachem excel would I just add one, then wait a bit then add the other so it doesn't form that unsoluble chemical?
     

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  18. keithgh

    keithgh Moderator Staff Member

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    cooledwhip

    All I can add is Shawn has given you some excellent information.

    Keith:cat::cat:
     
  19. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

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    I think it is important we correct a misunderstanding you seem to have with dosing CO2. CO2 is not like a fertilizer, so you can not dose it all at once and then turn it off. It is essentially how plants breath, so they need a continuous supply at a given concentration. You need to find a rate as I described: turned on one hour before the lights, makes the drop checker green (using 4 dkh water in the drop checker with indicator) by the time the lights turn on, then keeps it green without going yellow throughout the lighting period.

    CO2 and O2 pass between the waters boundary layer and if you stop dosing CO2 it will return to an equilibrium with the atmosphere and be around 7 ppm. You need it at 25-40 ppm. Do you understand what I'm saying?

    It looks like your paintball regulator does not have a solenoid and must be manually turned on like the citric acid DIY CO2.

    At this time, I think you aren't quite ready as a hobbyist to try and grow a carpet of glosso and higher light stems. Your equipment and experience will not help you accomplish that goal. My recommendation is to try and go for something easier. The plants I mentioned in my first post are your best bet. Look for hygrophilia species like hygrophilia difformis (water sprite) or hygrophilia corymbosa "compact", along with some cryptocoryne, anubias, and ferns. These should grow well in your setup and you can add whatever CO2 you like, but the system won't be entirely dependent upon the CO2 for good growth, making the system less likely to get algae.

    This isn't a bad place to start. It will help you learn. Work on getting a canister filter and then a better CO2 system. Frankly, I'd sell that paintball regulator because it really isn't much of an upgrade beyond the citric acid method. You aren't able to automate it, so you can still get instability....unless you are really good at turning it on every day before the lights come on, then leave it on throughout the day, and turn off one hour prior to lights turning off.

    Do you automate your lights? How long are they running? They should be on for no more than 10 hours at a time. I like to turn them on at 10 am and off at 8 pm. Avoiding ambient sunlight, particularly any direct sunlight to your tank is a good idea. A little story, I was out of town for work last week and my mother in law had opened a window across the room from my 30 cm cube. The sun shines right in the window, reflects off the wood floor and nails the tank squarely. After four days I came home to an algae mess. I know my CO2 was good because plant growth was good, but the added light grew algae like crazy...I tore it down and rescaped last night.
     
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  20. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

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    Your citric acid setup looks like it does have a flow control valve, so that is good. You could also put that onto the paintball system.
     

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