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Can't keep plants alive

Discussion in 'Advanced Strategies and Fertilization' started by brwaldbaum, Jun 9, 2005.

  1. brwaldbaum

    brwaldbaum Junior Poster

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    I posted this about a year ago in the aquabotanic forums:
    http://aquabotanicwetthumb.infopop.cc/eve/ubb.x/a/tpc/f/6606090712/m/672103864/r/672103864#672103864

    Roger Miller and others made some good suggestions, but the suggestions did not solve my problem. The last thing I tried was adding large amounts of Ca and Mg. This looked promising, but eventually my plants died.

    Here is a summary of my problem:

    "For 2 years, I have been trying to cultivate an aquatic garden without success. New plants start out well enough, but after a week or so, they begin to die. The growing tips of H polysperma shrivel and die; wisteria produces completely white, shriveled leaves; Vals and swords produce only colorless, transparent leaves; and pennywort leaves shrivel and become covered in algae. I can't even keep duckweed alive; it turns white and disappears. The weird thing is that all of these plants go to their death pearling! Any suggestions (aside from finding a new hobby)?

    Tank Parameters:

    65g, 128watts of cool white T8's

    pressurized CO2

    pH 6.7; KH=4

    Schultz aquatic plants soil with some potting soil (~2 cups)mixed in

    50% weekly water change

    Added at every water change:

    1 tsp KNO3
    1/4 tsp KH2PO4
    1 tsp MgSO4
    1.5 TBSP CaCl2 (my GH has always measured 0 as per AP test kit)
    trace mix

    I have used this regimen for 2 years, with some modifications.
    For example, I tried tripling the amount of macros for 5 weeks, but the plants still died. I tried increasing macros and traces; no good."

    Any suggestions?

    Thanks,

    Brian
     
  2. Roman

    Roman Lifetime Charter Member
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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    Did you get water report?

    Did you try to use water from other source?
     
  3. brwaldbaum

    brwaldbaum Junior Poster

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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    Roman: I got a water report from the local library; everything looked normal.
    No unusually high amounts of anything. I don't know if this is significant, but there is 10ppm of Na compared to 3 ppm Ca and 2 ppm Mg. I doubt that this would harm anything.

    As you mentioned, using an alternative water supply would be the next logical step, but I live in a very tiny apartment with no room for an RO unit, and I don't want to lug jugs of spring water from the supermarket.

    It just baffles me that I have this problem, as the water report seems perfectly normal.

    Thanks for the reply,

    Brian
     
  4. Roman

    Roman Lifetime Charter Member
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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    I have about 2,85 ppm of Na and about 80 ppm Ca and about 20 ppm Mg in my tap water. If you are adding Ca and Mg to have it enough and to have about 4:1 ratio, then I don't see problem there.

    As for alternative water supply I was thinking to get some water just to try for let say one month with it and that's enough to see the difference if there is something radicaly wrong with your water supply. I know you have 65g and that's a lot of water to change if you need to get it from far away, but I would try 50% w/c and after 14 days again 50% w/c and I would go with EI in this time or at least aim for levels recomended in EI. Of course you need to know parameters of this alternative water supply to start with.

    Otherwise I would go nuts after 2 years not finding the root of the of problem :eek:
    Only other solution I see if it's not water is to start from start and eliminating things one by one. Starting with lights, then CO2 (I don't see problems there), then I would go with plain 1-3 mm sand or gravel as you call it :D , no soil, that way you know there is nothing in it to worry about ;)
    Then you need your water report and check one by one macros N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S and then Iron and traces (you can get all chemicals and traces from Greg Watson). Add what's needed and if that's not working (it's working for hundreds and hundreds of people) then you have something in your water supply I would start to worry about :confused: .
     
  5. brwaldbaum

    brwaldbaum Junior Poster

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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    You're right. It's probably worth the effort to fill the tank once with different water. Afterwards, I could do smaller waterchanges, maybe 15 gallons per week, to save my lower back!

    Thanks,

    Brian
     
  6. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    I congratulate you for your perseverance. Most people would have gone to a rock tank by this time.

    You seem to be doing everything right and yet nothing is working. No one has mentioned the substrate as a potential problem. Possibly it is contaminated with a plant killing chemical. To test that theory, get a small 5 or 10 gallon aquarium, put a few easy-to-grow floating plants (hornwort, duckweed, water sprite) in it, add about 10 small, hardy fish to create fertilizer, give it some good light (for example, at least 20 wpg of 5000 - 6000 daylight tubes), including some sunshine if possible, and see what happens. If the plants die you will know that it is your water that is causing the problem; if they grow or at least survive you will have at least taken a step forward.

    To provide a control, put a few of the same plants in your big tank that you are using in the test tank.

    Good luck!

    Bill
     
  7. brwaldbaum

    brwaldbaum Junior Poster

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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    Good idea. I'll try it.

    Brian
     
  8. Cornhusker

    Cornhusker Guru Class Expert

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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    :) been there,done that! it seems that everytime someone has a plant problem it involves soil.i found that a good gravel substrate,like seachem's products,or ec are more than half the battle when starting up a new tank.these products are not cheap,but then this hobby like any other takes $$.tanks,lights and good filters are expensive,why use a iffey substrate that would be so hard to change later.we are not working with rocket science,but the right componets go a long way to setting up a successful tank.for me these good substrates have proven to be a good decision over and over.like the man said,try a small tank with a good substrate and your tap water and some cheap plants,and i think you will be pleasantly surprised. :) :) regards,cornhusker
     
  9. Roman

    Roman Lifetime Charter Member
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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    Yes, aquabillpers idea is easy to try. Why changing a lot of water when you can do one small 10g tank :)

    Small tank, no substrate, same water source as big one and if plants grow, then it's probably substrate. If they don't grow it must be water...
     
  10. brwaldbaum

    brwaldbaum Junior Poster

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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    I'm curious if anyone else has ever experienced such bizarre plant behavior. Cornhusker states that he had problems with soil, but has anyone using a non-enriched substrate had similar problems?

    I have some other observations. I don't know whether they represent normal behavior or are peculiar to my tank.

    a) When I bought my very first plant, anacharis, it turned to brown mush in under 4 days. At the time, I was using the usual 20 watt fluorescent bulb that came with the hood over a 30 gal tank. In addition, I was adding 1tsp/10gal of NaCl. I stopped adding NaCl and purchased more anacharis from the same store. This time, it lived roughly 3 weeks before the growing tip shriveled. Is this a normal response of plants to salt?

    b) With regards to the set up I described in my first post, I was, at one time, adding 1TBSP of NaHCO3 to 65 gallons. This greatly accelerated the rate at which plants died; my pearl weed started to fail within a week, and my rotala rotundifolia starting producing small, brown, shriveled leaves shortly thereafter. By stopping the addition of NaHCO3 and changing nothing else, I was able to get between 3 weeks to 2 months of life from my plants. Is this normal?

    Thanks,
    Brian
     
  11. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    The speed at which things seem to die with good CO2 etc is not good.

    Do this:
    Vacuum the substrate deeply.
    Do this in 2 stages, 1/2 one week, the other 1/2 in 3-7 days.

    Get it good, knock 60-80% of the water out fro the water change.
    Mix some similar colored sand, roughly 50% in with the APS. This will add some weight.

    You have plenty of organic matter already in the tank as it's 2 years old.

    Now, crank the CO2 up a tad more.
    Remove any dead organic matter, roots etc, clean filters etc.

    Routine:

    50% weekly water change

    add: SeaChem Equlibrium a teaspoon after the water change
    Add 1/2 teaspoon KNO3 2-3x a week
    Add 1/8 teaspoon KH2PO4 2-3x a week
    Add 10-15mls trace 2-3x a week

    Do this, all of it.

    Then see how the weeds grow for you.
    Make sure the CO2 is 30ppm during the entire lighting peroid.

    KH and GH should be 50ppm or high, (3 degrees+)

    This should do the trick.
    Adding salt(NaCl) to any plant willc ause issues and increase stress.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  12. brwaldbaum

    brwaldbaum Junior Poster

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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    I just replaced the substrate entirely. It's now a mix of quartz gravel and eco-complete.

    Thanks,

    Brian
     
  13. brwaldbaum

    brwaldbaum Junior Poster

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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    And I added a small amount of mulm/soil from the old substrate.

    Brian
     
  14. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    Good.

    Now follow the above routine.
    You'll need to do some work and keepo up on water changes and scrubbing any algae off you see.
    The tank should settle down in 3-4 weeks and grow well from here on.

    Soil is fine for the first few months, but afterwards things slow down.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  15. brwaldbaum

    brwaldbaum Junior Poster

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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    So far, the growing tips on some of my rotala rotundifolia have died, and a few of my ludwigia arcuata have developed transparent leaves. I'll let the tank go for a week or two before I assess the impact of the new substrate. If the plants fail, I'll try using bottled water. If that doesn't work, I'll give up and stop throwing my money away.

    Brian
     
  16. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    You've made a good start on fixing the problem.

    It takes a while for plants to recover from a bad environment, so if the ones you mentioned are failing it might not prove anything.

    Perhaps buy some new healthy, easy to grow, low light plants and see how they do.

    You are on your way!

    Bill
     
  17. brwaldbaum

    brwaldbaum Junior Poster

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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    They're all new plants.

    Brian
     
  18. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    Water changes weekly, make certain the CO2 is cranked up.
    The nutrients are a no brainer if you follow the above routine.

    The rest is CO2/maintenance.

    Light/CO2/nutrients, that's all they need to grow.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  19. brwaldbaum

    brwaldbaum Junior Poster

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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    Unfortunately, the new substrate doesn't seem to have solved my problem. I've lost about 1/4th of my rotala rotund., most of my ludwigia arcuata stems are rotting near the base, and every new leaf that my red tiger lotus puts out has holes in it. This behavior is consistent with my past experience. In particular, rotala rotundifolia has always been one of the 1st plants to perish.

    Of course, my ambulia is growing like gangbusters. I usually get about 6 good weeks before the growing tips die.

    I'm off to the grocery store to get bottled water.

    I appreciate everyone's advice.

    Thanks,

    Brian
     
  20. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    Re: Can't keep plants alive

    Here's another thing to consider: You have about 2 watts per gallon. That
    is generally considered to be the upper limit of low light. According to
    Tropica, the ludwiga requires "high to very high" light and the lotus and
    rotala, "medium to very high" light. It could simply be that you don't
    have enough light to grow the plants that you want to grow.

    Why not buy an assortment of low light plants and see how they work out?

    Good luck.

    Bill
     
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