EI "light" for the less techical aspects of the Estimative index

Tom Barr

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Overview
The Estimative Index (EI) is a straightforward method for providing nutrients for a planted tank. The idea behind EI is simply introducing an excess amount of nutrients within an aquarium, throughout the week. This excess of nutrients floods the water column and feeds the plants. This is an estimative method; measuring specific nutrient uptake rates is not necessary and no test kits are involved. EI provides a surplus of nutrients that helps to prevents plant deficiencies, and allows plant growth unhendered. Most algae releated issues are due to plant deficiencies rather than excess nutrient levels(Ammonium/NH4 + is the exception).

Basically you add a slight excess of nutrients to prevent anything from running out, then do a large water change at the end of the week to prevent anything from building up. This allows you to maintain a range of nutrients without ever using a test kit.

The water change generally takes about the same amount of time once you haul out the hoses etc do the water change so the time and work difference between a 25 % and 50% water change is fairly small.

The process of which this is done is simple. Each day (or 2-3x a week, weekly for low light tanks) fertilizers are dosed, and the nutrients are absorbed by the plants. With this method being estimative, we can dose fertilizers according to general guidelines suited for our particular setup (see below for regime). At the end of the week, one performs a 50% water change to ‘reset’ the nutrient load in the entire system. And then the entire dosing regime is repeated. The hobbyists can do larger(which will afford more accuracy) or smaller water change routines, but 50% is just guide line.

The primary fertilizers are the macro nutrients - Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), Potassium (K), and the micro nutrients – trace elements (Plantex CSM+B, Flourish, Tropica Master Grow-TMG). Iron (Fe) can also be supplemented if necessary.

The Estimative Index method works best for a high light and well planted aquarium. However it is not limited to higher light setups, smaller quantities of fertilizers can be dosed if low light is used. Also, the frequency may be reduced to 1-2x a week at low light(1.5-2w/gal).

General Dosing Guideline for High Light and well planted aquariums.

10- 20 Gallon Aquariums
+/- 1/8 tsp KNO3 (N) 3x a week
+/- 1/32 tsp KH2PO4 (P) 3x a week
+/- 1/32 tsp K2SO4 (K) 3x a week
+/- 1/32 tsp (2ml) Trace Elements 3x a week
50% weekly water change


20-40 Gallon Aquariums
+/- ¼ tsp KN03 3x a week
+/- 1/16 tsp KH2P04 3x a week
+/- 1/16 tsp K2S04 3x a week
+/- 1/16 tsp (5ml) Trace Elements 3x a week
50% weekly water change


40-60 Gallon Aquariums
+/- 1/2 tsp KN03 3x a week
+/- 1/8 tsp KH2P04 3x a week
+/- 1/8 tsp K2S04 3x a week
+/- 1/8 (10ml) Trace Elements 3x a week
50% weekly water change


60 – 80 Gallon Aquariums
+/- 3/4 tsp KN03 3x a week
+/- 3/16 tsp KH2P04 3x a week
+/- 1/4 tsp K2S04 3x a week
+/- ¼ tsp (15ml) Trace 3x a week
50% weekly water change


100 - 125 Gallon Aquarium
+/- 1 1/2 tsp KN03 3x a week
+/- ½ tsp KH2P04 3x a week
+/- ½ tsp K2S04 3x a week
+/- ½ tsp (30ml) Trace 3x a week
50% weekly water change

Example Dosing Regime for 29 Gallon:
See attached file.



EI target ranges
CO2 range 20-30 ppm
NO3 range 5-30 ppm
K+ range 10-30 ppm
PO4 range 1.0-2.0 ppm
Fe 0.2-0.5ppm or higher
GH range 3-5 degrees ~ 50ppm or higher
KH range 3-5

See dosing calculators for additional dosing guides for Fe, etc.

Where to buy fertilizers?
www.gregwatson.com can provide you with the necessary chemicals for dry and liquid dosing of the above. For micro - trace elements, Plantex CSM+B, Seachem Flourish, and Tropica Master Grow (TMG) are equivalent to each other. www.bigalsonline.com for the Seachem and TMG brands.

1 lb of each for Greg Watson Chemicals will last at least 1 year:

Plantex CSM+B
Potassium Nitrate KN03
Monopotassium Phosphate KH2PO4
Potassium Sulphate K2S04

Special Notes:

Providing optimal CO2 levels of at least 30 ppm are necessary for plants to prosper. If algae issue arise, remove all visible algae and infected leaves. Recheck CO2 levels, and possibly reduce and adjust the lighting period.

Direct dry dosing into the tank is perfectly fine. Many dose straight into, or they dissolve each daily amounts in water before adding. Plantex CSM+B is often mixed into solution for liquid dosing. 1 tablespoon to 250ml water is equivalent to: 20 ml = 1/4 teaspoon of dry Plantex. This solution is stored in refrigerators to prevent mold from forming within the container. HCL can be added to prevent the mold.

Small dosing teaspoons (smidgen, dash, pinch) can be found at Linen & Things, Bed Bath and Beyond, Wal-Mart, dollar stores, eBay and other online retailers. To identify the specific measurements of your smidgen, dash, pinch set, a 1/8 tsp should fill a ¼ tsp in 2 tries, 1/16 tsp in 4 tries, and a 1/32 tsp in 8 tries.


Sticking to a good dosing regime will make your plants flourish, and keep you delighted! If you seek more in depth discussion about EI, there are two other articles here.

John N and Tom Barr
 

Martin

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Re: EI "light" for the less techical aspects of the Estimative index

Nice and simple!

You still recommend adding K2SO4, even though you claim it is unneeded if you add KNO3 ?
 

rrguymon

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Re: EI "light" for the less techical aspects of the Estimative index

Symbiot said:
Nice and simple!

You still recommend adding K2SO4, even though you claim it is unneeded if you add KNO3 ?


Same, I stopped dosing it a few months ago based on what I think Tom wrote a few times. Every thing seems fine with out dosing it too.

Rick
 

quenton

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Re: EI "light" for the less techical aspects of the Estimative index

My calculations show that of the 30ppm I am aiming for for Potassium, 23 come from my KNO3 -- so I still dose a bit of K2SO4. My calcs come out pretty much like tom's note here -- I have about 80g (2 tanks, I dose them together) and about 3/4tsp of KNO3, and 1/8 of K2SO4 -- so I suspect one could survive without the K2SO4 -- but I have it, so I figure I might as well.
 

detlef

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Re: EI "light" for the less techical aspects of the Estimative index

Hi Tom,

according to the intensive discussions about Ca and Mg I'm missing some hints here how hight they should be. Saying GH 3-5° seems to be not sufficient. Also, it makes a big difference if you have a spoon piled up with any dry fertilizer or a so so filled. Advice is needed here for the beginner.

Regards,
Detlef
 

Martin

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Re: EI "light" for the less techical aspects of the Estimative index

detlef said:
Hi Tom,

according to the intensive discussions about Ca and Mg I'm missing some hints here how hight they should be. Saying GH 3-5° seems to be not sufficient. Also, it makes a big difference if you have a spoon piled up with any dry fertilizer or a so so filled. Advice is needed here for the beginner.

Regards,
Detlef

Spoon measures are measured with a "filled to the rim, and no more" in mind.

You could add some of Tom's gH booster, bought from your friendly neighbourhood Fert Gangster, Greg Watson.
 

Tom Barr

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Re: EI "light" for the less techical aspects of the Estimative index

In order to fully analyze GH, one needs to test for Ca and Mg individually.

Rather than doing this, simply adding enough Ca and Mg ibn a balanced form such as Gh booster, or SeaChem Eq will do the job.

As we know from other nutrients like PO4, adding more Mg and Ca (at least within a reasonable range to provide non limiting Ca/Mg for a week's growth time frame under high light) will not harm any plant we know about.

Tonia's etc are with another 1-2 degrees worth of GH.

Main thing is to not run out of Ca or Mg which is easy enough using the simple EI concept of dosing more than you need without fearing the excess nutrients. I kniow Ca++ can be over a very wide range without issues and only if you go over maybe 10-20ppm of Mg will only one or two plants might not like it(Tonia belem was the only plant that responded negatively in my test, R wallichii, nor other tonia's had any issue at 10ppm, who knows if it was defintiely Mg though? It was only correlation)

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

Tom Barr

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Re: EI "light" for the less techical aspects of the Estimative index

detlef said:
Hi Tom,

according to the intensive discussions about Ca and Mg I'm missing some hints here how hight they should be. Saying GH 3-5° seems to be not sufficient. Also, it makes a big difference if you have a spoon piled up with any dry fertilizer or a so so filled. Advice is needed here for the beginner.

Regards,
Detlef

I'm not sure how high they should be, they can be anywhere for say 10ppm to 450ppm for Ca++.


Mg seems to be fine at lower end, not sure if there is a high ceiling for Mg, some claim so, I've not found anything conclusive with any plant to date.
I've had some fair rock hard GH's over the years. Mg wise hard to say though. Most did not look at those.
But I never had issues either...........maybe all luck, somehow I tend to doubt it.

Adding a little Mg and having a GH of 3 or more ought to address most issues.You can add a little CaSO4/CaCl2 if you want to rule out low Ca.

Or simply raise the GH by about 1-2 degrees with the Gh boosters and not worry or deal with it.

TMG also has some K+/Mg as well.

Regards,
Tom Barr