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first planted tank questions

Discussion in 'CO2 Enrichment' started by jimmyb, Jan 31, 2007.

  1. jimmyb

    jimmyb Junior Poster

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    Hi Everyone,

    I have started a 20 Gal planted tank a few weeks ago. My first. I have some newbie questions so please forgive the uneducated. I have really enjoyed this forum this past month. I have learned a lot.
    Tank 20 Gal, bottle CO2, EI dosing, fully planted, Flora Base substrate, XP1 filter, 50% H2O weekly.

    1. I purchased my dosing chemicals from a local hydroponic store. NO3, KH2PO4 and trace. The trace specs are;
    EDTA Chelated Micronutrients: Iron 5%, Maganese 2%, Zinc .4%, Copper .10%
    DTPA chelated micronutrient: Iron 2%, Boron 1.3%, Molybedenum .06%, EDTA 42%, DTPA 13%. I have seen these trace specification elsewhere on the net so I know others are using them but I wanted to be sure they are appropriate. I dose 1/4 tsp 3-4 times a week. What I have noticed is the tank is very yellow and the (yes I know totally inaccurate) Iron test shows < 1.0.

    2. The old plant leaves are turning dark and I think dying, however there is new growth. Also many plants Cryptocoryne Beckettii and Ludwigia Repans are sprouting new roots from the stems. I presume this is just transplanting shock and is quite normal. ???

    3. Pearling: How important is it to see pearling. I have 2 x 65W CF but have been running 1x65w for 10 hour per day. There is some pearling on all plants. As a test I ran the other 65W for 4 or 5 hours one afternoon and could not believe how much pearling was going on. The water surface was covered with bubbles.

    Thanks for the help, Jim
     
  2. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    How do you measure how much CO2 you have in the water? If you try the drop checker method, see the threads here, you will be able to measure how much you have with some accuracy, and that should be 20-40 ppm every single day. The amount of trace mix you are dosing sounds much too high, which may be the reason for the yellowing of the water. You can't judge the dosage by measuring iron with a test kit. First, the test kits for iron aren't accurate, and second, the iron doesn't stay there to be measured for very long anyway. The plants quickly consume it, and a lot of it can precipitate out on the substrate.

    Stem plants grow aerial roots just because they like to, not as a result of any problem in the tank. You can trim those roots if the offend you, or plant lower growing plants in front to hide them, or just teach yourself to enjoy them. If you purchased your plants from a dealer they were probably grown emersed and not submersed, so the old leaves, for most such plants, will not survive long under water. The new leaves will survive.

    Pearling is interesting, and tells you the plants are in the process of growing vigorously enough to produce oxygen faster than it can be absorbed by the water. But, you can have a healthy tank of plants without seeing much pearling. However, you have so much excess light, I would expect you to always have pearling if you are providing enough of all of the nutrients. Why not just use one of those 65 watt bulbs, and save the other as a backup?
     
  3. MediaOne

    MediaOne Prolific Poster

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    I would like to say that I am using the same trace mix and I am concerned that it is too strong....

    I make my stock solution by putting two tablespoons in 500ml of water. I then dose 15ml - 3 times per week.

    A question for those of you more inclined than myself:

    Now that you can see the ingredients of this mix, am I dosing too much? Should I use another brand or type?

    Hey Tom - you seem like a big fan of TGM - should I just switch to that?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  4. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    You can, it does standardize things when comparing and is a good product I've used about 15 years.

    I'll get going and have a special trace mix that's dry like CMS, it'll be more $$, but still 20X cheaper than TMG as well as better.

    Summer though before I get to it.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  5. MediaOne

    MediaOne Prolific Poster

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    Any comments on if our trace is too strong?

    Thanks in advance,
     
  6. Frolicsome_Flora

    Frolicsome_Flora Guru Class Expert

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    Even if you were over dosing trace, your big weekly water changes as per EI would pretty much elliminate that problem. As far as Ive understood it so far, the hole idea of the large weekly water change, is to reset your levels.
     
  7. Laith

    Laith Lifetime Charter Member
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    I'm wondering about those copper levels in that trace mix (0.10%)...

    Flourish has 0.0001% Copper.

    TMG has 0.006% Copper.

    Not sure if 0.10% is a high level but Copper can be detrimental.
     
  8. MediaOne

    MediaOne Prolific Poster

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    To Ffrolicsome_flora:

    I understand how to accomplish EI and that large water changes help to reset our levels. But just like if we have too much Phosphate or too much Nitrate relative to each other with EI, large resetting water changes are not going to make the IMBALANCE go away.

    If my trace has too much Iron (or maybe even copper as was just suggested -- interesting) relative to other nutrients it might not be the best choice.

    Thanks everyone for the discussion... I am enjoying it...
     
  9. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    I haven't seen any convincing argument yet that there has to be a good ratio between any of the nutrients. It looks to me like we just have to have enough of each nutrient. At some point some of the nutrients are harmful when we really go overboard dosing too much, but, other than that, it doesn't look to me like it matters if you have less than 5 times as much nitrate than phosphate, for example. And, the same is true of CO2. We need to keep enough in the water, not some ratio vs some other nutrient. The light intensity seems to be the only variable that controls how much of each nutrient we need. So, I see the concept of having a balanced tank to mean having enough of all of the nutrients based on how much light and plant mass we have.
     
  10. MediaOne

    MediaOne Prolific Poster

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    I understand the Red Field Ratio to be an argument for having correct nutrient levels, relative to each other. I do notice however that the levels Barr suggests come in to conflict in that famous equation. How relevant that discussion is here on this board I don't know though.....

    I see what you are saying about having enough of each nutrient. But my understanding of EI dosing is that even if we have say Phosphate for example go much too high (5 points + lets call it) then we are liable to have spot algae. I consider algae growth of any kind to be an imbalance in the system.

    Is it then that we have a floor and a ceiling we must not cross with each nutrient, but other than that we are okay?

    I have another question. I am wondering about lowering the macro specs in my tank to the following:

    NO3 - 5 ppm (from 15)
    PO4 - 1 ppm (from 2)
    K+ - 20 ppm (same)

    As long as I keep them locked in then (I will dose every day), do you expect me to have absolutely no problems with growth? I understand it that I have less room for error if I go to zero on the nitrate etc.... but from what you are saying it is entirely possible. I would just closer to the "floor".
     
  11. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    If you keep the light intensity low enough you can use a lot less nutrients, but if you use our typical 2-3 watts per gallon I don't think you will have much success with plants with the low nutrient levels you mentioned. I haven't tried this, so I don't really know - I'm basing my belief on what I have been reading for the past two years.
     
  12. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    :rolleyes:
    No, the RR is an atomic ratio, not a mass ratio.
    You count atoms, not grams.

    N = 14 g/mol
    P = 30.97 g/mol

    30.97/14= 2.21

    16:1 by mass= 16/2.21= 7.2 :1 N:p by mass.
    7:1 is about what we add, converting to NO3: PO4, this is about 10:1.

    The RR is not wrong, the person(some Dutch guy claiming algae control using it) who made the assumptions about it most certainly is:)
    A small error caused a 2.2x difference
    Sort of like NASA's screw up using standard units vs metric ones.

    But when you discuss horticulture, not natural systems, nothing is allowed to become limiting in the first place!

    So that entire arguement is moot.

    Now your issue:
    The lowering will not help. Why should it?
    You have a wide range to work with, maintaining a range between say 10-20ppm NO3 is obviously much easier than maintaining a stable residual of 1-2ppm NO3?

    If a plant uses 3-4ppm per day(all other factors are non limiting), how might you do that? Dosing pump? Dosing 2-3x a day?

    It's not practical.
    Running out of a nutrients and having them become limiting for plant growth will cause more issues than having non limiting nutrient levels.

    Providing what plants need for non limiting growth(other than the light intensity) is the key to unfettered growth.

    You can have the best measure of NO3/PO4/K, play around till the cows come home with those in effort to outwit algae, but.........CO2 is much more dramatic and important in the scheme of things.

    About 95% of all algae issues are CO2 related.
    Even folks 5-10-30 years into this hobby burned themselves by making assumptions about CO2.

    Amano, myself, everyone.

    Providing non limiting nutrients for the plants is easy, maintaining good stable critical levels of CO2 at all times is much more problemtic.

    CO2 can go from 30ppm to 3 ppm in a hour in your tank. NO3? Say 30ppm to 3 ppm in maybe 8-10 days.

    1 hour vs 8-10 days?
    Now what about % plant biomass?

    1.5% for N dry weight biomass
    C = about 40-45% dry weight biomass.

    Which do you think will have a more dramatic impact on plant growth if one or the other is limited? What about short term limitation vs long term?

    I'll let you think about that.

    Algae are good at changes and CO2 and NH4 appear to be the main triggers.
    Non stable CO2 levels confuse the plant's uptake of CO2. Algae respond well top changes and often are signaled to bloom by such short term changes, it allows them to get a jump on other algae and compete their life cycles.

    There is no correlation between nutrient levels where good growth occurs in aquatic plant beds in tropical and subtropical shallow lakes where 30-50% or more vegetation cover is present (Bachmann et al, 1984,2004, 2006).

    Ratios alone do not tell you much other than if a limitation is occuring, we add nutrients, so that is poor argument(not you, the Dutch guy, unless you are the Dutch guy? :p ) given we never let limitations occur(hopefully).

    I think many find this revolutionary and are skeptical, but it's actually the other way around ironically. I focus on what makes a plant grow. That is the hobby we do, the horticulture plants and their gardening, not how to out wit algae or kill or control it.

    When the plants grow well, the algae do not.
    That is perhaps the strongest most universal observation that can be made in this hobby.

    I liken it to straving the elephant to kill the mice, both of which are herbivores(but in different ecological niches like algae and plants). Obviously, a small amount of food(nutrients) will still maintain the mice(algae), while the elephants(the much larger plants) will stave.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  13. MediaOne

    MediaOne Prolific Poster

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    I definitely can appreciate the impact carbon availability has on the plants within my aquarium. Let's talk about that for a minute because that is the most frustrating aspect of what I have read. I have been keeping marine aquariums for 15 years (commercially) so feel free to get as complicated as you like.

    Pearling - My tank looks like club soda by about 6 hours in to the photoperiod. I do see bubbles forming on the bottom sides of the leaves (on some plants) by 2-3 hours in to my light cycle. Should I see more activity than this?

    I did the kH/drop checker game and only discovered that I had more CO2 than what I had been aiming for. This was about 3 weeks ago. I was still getting algae keeping up with me over the week.... especially the GDA. On a newly calibrated probe I have my pH at 6.05 now and a dKH of 7 with a Salifert brand kit. My drop checker is bright yellow and my fish show absolutely no signs of stress. Still.... my algae comes. I understand that I should give the tank some more time (2 weeks) for the plants to get used to the carbon availability. My only remaining questions are ....

    Should I increase my CO2 yet again?

    I use a controller on my system so there is no chance of me going out of adjustment over time due to increases in plant biomass. I calibrate the probe once a month and understand this equipment pros/cons very well.

    I use an Eheim 2026 on my 90Gallon and I am concerned that ammonia might be playing a role. Ammonia level is "zero" on the kit, but trace amounts cannot be ruled out. I am considering adding more than the standard amount of biomedia and possible even a fluidized sand bed filter. I do not want NH4 complicating this issue...

    Thoughts?

    Thank you for your time and energy gentlemen!
     
  14. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Good, that means you know the buffering and alkalinity issues there.
    FW is simpler, it's just Bicarbonate we are concered with.
    But the test kits measure total alkalinity, SeaChem makes one that does not.
    Other methods can get at bicarbonate alk as well.
    I by pass the entire notion of test kits as you might have gathered, and use a reference solution based approach(EI is simply a partial Reference solution, you "estimate" the remainder and dose). See making a Kh reference solution, Greg Will likely sell it. It's NIST certified and easy to dilute into 3.5 liters worth of high accuracy solution that will last one tank about 26 years or so and you'll never measure KH again.

    Generally, that about right.
    Other methods of CO2 delivery can shorten the time there should you chose.
    The key is maintaining that stability/plant production rate.

    GDA, see the other thread here about that. Even folks with 5-30 years have issues, but we might be closing in on it.
    Still, nutrients alone will not cure GDA. That much we do realize.
    So CO2 is a candidate, but the CO2 addition and timing are also inmportant.
    This goes back to my respionse above to CO2 timing.

    I would suggest more filter and flow.
    Rather than adding more stuff on that one filter, try adding another filter.
    At least 300gph more of canister.

    You need more current.
    I'm not particularly fond of pH controllers.
    Nor is Amano.

    I do not like fish to have high chronic CO2 all night long, there's no need. There's also lower O2. During the day, the only time we need high CO2, the fish also have high O2 to make up for the high CO2 as well.

    Many are fooled into beliving stable pH is important in FW planted tanks. It's not and never was. pH changes due to solely CO2 are common, they are in tide pools as well. Yet in natural systems, they move 2-4 pH units without issues every day or in marine systems, sometimes 2 or more times a day depending on the tide levels.

    pH change due to increases/decreases of salts, like bakign soda, are lethal.
    But CO2 in/out of the blood is not the same as osmotic shock.
    When we do say 80% water changes etc, and replace with tap, the pH changes can be nearly 1 full unit, and fish are fine and have been for 20 years:)

    CO2 needs to be nice and high during the first few hours of the light cycle.
    You can turn it on high about 1 hour prior to the lights coming on.

    I think with the pH controller, you can still use it, simply plug it into a time that turns in on 1 hour before the lights come on and shut off about 30 minutes before the lights go off.

    I think the problem is not so much the pH controller here, as it is good mixing and flow through the CO2 reactor/diffusion method.

    You do not have good mixing with such low water flow if all you have is one filter on a 90 gal. Adding more current will help and mix the CO2 better.

    The time it takes for a CO2 system/reactor to response, the response time is a critical thing also. When the pH controller senses it needs to add more CO2 due to climbing pH, it takes some response time before it shuts off.

    You get this delay and then dip and it's always chasing this set point.
    If you have more flow and current in the tank, you will get better homogenous mixing and distribution of CO2.

    Thus your CO2 system will be more responsive and maintain a more stable CO2 level.

    That and good cleanign etc ought to cure the algae issues you might have.
    There might some minor light GDA after a week or two, but not like the plague folks talk about. After 2-3 weeks, it ought to go away.

    So add more current/another Ehiem, run the CO2 diffuser outlet so that it's very well mixed to all parts of the plant beds, change the pH controller to a timer based approach, crank uop the bubble rate as well so when it does throttle on, it adds lots of cO2 fast.

    This should further optimize the tank and make it cleaner.
    Note: when you have algae issues etc, poor growth, you should try doing larger % water changes. Clean really well. You can also do 2x a week changes till things settle down.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  15. MediaOne

    MediaOne Prolific Poster

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    Tom, thanks for the reply very much. I appreciate your efforts and this site indeed!

    I have addressed things in point form... please just give me your thoughts. I listen with keen scientific ears as always.

    1) I was debating purchasing a known standard solution instead of making one by weight at home here.... since you mentioned it I will go ahead and do that. Cheers.

    2) Delivery method of CO2 = ceramic diffuser placed at the bottom of my spray bar. The spray bar of course runs vertically down the back wall on the left side. The diffuser is just in front and right below such that the bubbles are carried along the back wall and about half way along the front with the current flow. I even bought a second diffuser to possibly split the gas flow and break it in to smaller bubbles. If this is something you think would be wise ... please advise.

    3) I have already read through the other GDA threads here and I am aware of your personal take on it. The only question I have here is when you say "CO2 addition and timing are also important" What are you talking about exactly here? I don't understand or am missing the mark somehow...

    4) CO2 controller. I know you are not a fan and neither is Amano ... let me say you can assume I have read almost everything you have wrote on this site ;) I have all of Amano's books etc. I however am a big fan. I have put two solenoids attached to my computer (actually a Neptune brand controller) so that I can control via pH and control via the light cycle. The computer allows me to control that second timer by either of time or the actual "on" flag of the main lights. It is set to turn on with the lights. Given your response (and actually I was debating this) I am going to set it to turn on about an hour before "lights on" so that it loads the water with a little more CO2.... and see how that plays out. At night the computer kills CO2 flow and turns on an air pump. I noticed a large difference in water clarity from doing this. The bacteria are much better able to deal with algae & plant matter that is breaking down. I recommend this to anyone. I have even gone as far as having a fan vent the room with a nearby window. The tank has excellent gas exchange at night, period.

    5) I thought I needed more flow and it is good to get your expert advice here. I am going to add a second canister filter... this was recommended to me also by a very experienced local hobbiest. He suggested that I load one canister with biological media and run a sponge on the intake. In this way I have a supply of bacteria that never get affected by cleaning the mechanical. I know all about this sort of thing and thought it was correct. Anyway I always thought that if you could have seen my tank you would say my flow is too low. I know how important flow is in the marine world for diffusion of gases etc. I will add more.

    6) CO2 response rate. I have the CO2 turn on a little before the actual set point I am aiming at so that I don't have "lag" time. It works well enough. Any ideas?

    I appreciate all the help you have given me and I always take in to consideration (if not practice) what you recommend.

    Good evening,

    Jeff
     
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