Osmocote and Surfactants

Netcode

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May 3, 2016
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I have recently added DYI root tabs into my tank, they are from a vendor and based on Osmocote. What specific version of Osmocote I am not sure of.


Soon after I added the root tabs, I had a massive build up of bubbles on the surface of my tank (I have an air filter and two filters rated for 70 gallons in a 60 gallon tank, so TONS of oxygen and air bubbles moving around).


I did some initial research and have confirmed that Scotts Osmocote contains wetting agents:


https://www.scottsaustralia.com.au/gardening-needs/lawn-care/Wetting-Agents-Water-Crystals/1560/


Wetting agents are surfactants to my knowledge, which are not good in aquariums. However, I have seen Mr. Barr speak to DYI root tabs with osmocote as a method of enhancing the substrate in aquariums.


I am looking for more information on this as I find the two rather conflicting, why would someone recommend something with a surfactant? Hoping to get to the bottom of this, in order to inform others, as well as calm my concerns over my own tank.


Thanks
 

Netcode

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May 3, 2016
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There may be different versions of Osmocote. Did you notice build up of air bubbles on the first few days after application? (when I say build up, I mean extreme build up on bubbles. Example: it was created at least 1 inch of bubbles across the entire surface of my tank)


I am 100% that the ones I am using contain a surfactant of some sort.
 
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Netcode

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May 3, 2016
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Here are some pictures of the surface of my water. It's a bubble bath!

IMG_20160616_165241.jpg


IMG_20160616_165208.jpg
 

rajkm

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I create my own with gel capusule and Osmocote plus. About 6-10 per capsule depending on size.


I burry one capsule per 4-5 square inches deep into the substrate which is about 1-2 inches.


Never seen anything like your tank pics
 

Netcode

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May 3, 2016
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Further to this I have found the MSDS and SDS sheets on the product.


MSDS: http://everris.us.com/sites/default/files/e903266_osmocote_plus_15-9-12_std_8-9m.pdf


SDS: http://everris.us.com/sites/default/files/g903266.pdf


If you take a look at the SDS sheet, it appears that it says it is "toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects", however I am unsure if this is referring to the ammonium nitrate or the product in general.


The MSDS sheet isn't all that clear and doesn't appear to list Hydraflo (the wetting agent as indicated on the scotts website) in the make up.


Maybe it is the polymer coating?


I need someone with some science background to chime in and hope that person exists on this forum.
 

burr740

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Ive used tons of the stuff, never had any problems.


And definitely nothing like that!!
 

Netcode

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May 3, 2016
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Nothing living in the tanks except plants and possible snails from plants (seems to be unavoidable with plants). And of course beneficial bacteria .


No kids.


Very careful with what goes on in and around my tank.


Some versions of Osmocote are confirmed to have surfactants (my main concern). They also have polymer coatings, which could also be causing it.


I have done a ton of reading on the net to try to find solid answers on the type of surfactants used in osmocote and specifically if my version has it (unsure as of right now). Some versions are confirmed to use the "hydroflo" wetting agent. I read up on hydroflo which is made by Solutions4Earth, and it indicates it is not toxic and biodegradable, but it still is a surfactant and I've always be told these are bad in aquariums.


Are polymer coatings bad? As I know for sure those are in osmocote.


​​​​​
 

burr740

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Did you buy the osmocote yourself or ready made tabs from someone else?
 

Netcode

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May 3, 2016
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Bought from someone online who has been making them for years. I have been in direct contact with the seller and he snapped a pic of the osmocote bag... I then went and pulled up the MSDS and SDS sheets on the product itself, as seen my above posts.


Bubbles still accumulating today.


Here is some more background information.... I received a load of plants, and was planting for 2ish hours. Filters were on, air bubbles were on. Once I was finished planting a took a little break. I then placed the root tabs into the substrate and turned off the filters to apply some filter media (brand new filter media) on the outside of the filter intakes to stop plant debris from being sucked up inside the filter. I basically just cut the media (foam inserts) in half and stuff the intake down inside. I then turned the filters back on and about 1 hour into bubbles started to accumulate. After about 2 hours I decided ok I am going to do a 50% water change. Immediately it started to bubble up again.


Keep in mind that I have two air stones (running from a pump rated for 60 gallon tank - Tetra Whisper) and two aquaclear 70's in a 60 gallon tank, I have TONS of bubbles as is. However they always use to pop before I put the osmocote root tabs in when they hit the surface. I keep going back to surfactant, that or the polymer coating.


Another note: I have double checked my ammonia levels to ensure my beneficial bacteria are not being harmed, and it appears ammonia is still being eaten up as I continue to add it and it continues to drop. This tells me that my BB are not being killed off, so that's a good thing.


Sorry for the long posts, but there are a lot of variables and information. I am trying to track it all very carefully.
 

burr740

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Or maybe there is no ammonia leaching to begin with?


I once started a 20 long with this much, which is a whopping amount.


18122384678_1ff42c380f_c.jpg



1/2" of sand, O+, couple more inches of sand on top.


Similar to your tank, had two Aquaclear 20s hanging on the back. No airstone. Good co2 and lots of pearling (aka bubbles going to the surface) There was never a surface film, it stayed crystal clear.


Assuming you have genuine Osmocote Plus, I really dont think it is the problem


20680800190_391eac34d3.jpg
 
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Netcode

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The note about ammonia, as I said, I continue to add it myself. Where I currently have no fish yet, I need to feed the BB.


​​I received a picture from the seller of the bag he had, he's using genuine osmocote.


That is a lot.. I only use six small capsules.


I'm pretty certain osmocote contains surfactants and polymer coatings, both which can effect the surface tension. Why it's showing up in my tank and not others, still remains a question. It also remains a question if it's even harmful or just a nuisance. There was nothing else added to the tank, just plants.


if you're thinking it is something else, what could it be? I've tried researching other issues, but nothing makes sense. Snails secreting oils? Most other articles say water quality, but besides the air bubbles mine is crystal clear and levels check out. Also I did a 50% water change after the bubbles first appeared and they immediately continued after.


Wish I was a scientist haha.


UPDATE: I just checked my pH and it is down to 6.4 all the way from 7.8. My tank has always been stable at 7.8. This is the first time I have checked pH since adding the osmocote two days ago. I also checked my KH which is now below 10ppm, when normally it sits around 40. So something is creating an acid and using up the KH. This may be totally unrelated though.
 
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Netcode

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May 3, 2016
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I made the decision to dig up all my plants and gravel and attempt to remove the osmocote. Let me tell you... pain in the ass. haha.


Anyways I removed quite a bit and I am fairly confident that I removed about 90%, I found all the clusters I put in.


After removing them I did 50% water change and tested parameters.


Water has been circulating for over an hour and the bubbles are significantly less. It was totally the osmocote.


pH is back up (naturally as the water change would bring it up since tap was higher than the tank was currently at)


KH is back up (same as above)


Ammonia at 0 as expected. I have added more ammonia, as mentioned above, no fish and trying to finish my cycle.


One thing to note: My glass top on the aquarium, when dried, was littered with crusty white spots (almost like dried salt). I have a picture and can upload if interested.


I will check back in 24 hours.


I am not sure why the osmocote was causing an issue in my tank, as I know this method has been used for like two decades now, but it appears to have been an issue in my tank.
 

Netcode

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May 3, 2016
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Jbs.. ammonia has no additives, it's been verified using MSDS from manufacturer. I have also been using it for 6 weeks prior to adding the osmocote and never had bubbles.


I just did a water test..


pH has dropped slightly. (This could be totally unrelated. Beneficial bacteria give off acid when converting and I have soft water as is... however I've never noticed the pH dropping before and I know my bacteria was converting ammonia as nitrites existed long before osmocote)


Ammonia back to zero - hard to tell if bacteria has been effected or not, as plants also will consume the ammonia. However my nitrites are still way off the charts and I've done two 50% water changes in the last 4 days, so I'm assuming the ammonia is still being converted by bacteria.


So many variables but one thing I can say for certain is that there are way less bubbles on my surface after removing the osmocote.
 

jbs47

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Well lets hope that does it...(removing the osmocote). Give it a week and let us see if situation improves. I had a problem with a scale developing on the aquarium glass when I tried a NH4 cycle. Cleaned glass with some difficulity and kept 10% of water to refill tank mixed with fresh water. Tank appeared to have cycled but something in my water seemed to have caused the problem. I use old, used filter floss to recycle now without a problem. Just my 2 cents worth...all tanks are different.
 

Netcode

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May 3, 2016
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Last night as I noticed the pH was dropping again. I used a pH meter to get a more accurate reading. pH was at 6.5. Confirmed tap is at 7.5. Also noted that Nitrates were sitting around 20ppm. So I have done a 50% water change.


After the water change the bubbles appear to be popping as they hit the surface more so than ever before. There is still some build up but I expected so. I went out and bought Seachem's Flourish Root Tabs. I feel better that I have something that is specifically built for aquariums. I know they aren't as "potent" but at this point I'd rather be safe considering how much money has been dumped into this tank. I am waiting on the pH to stable out before putting these tabs into the gravel.


I now seem to have a bit of a pond snail break out.


It seems that my issues are slowly disappearing after removing the osmocote. I guess that really ends the situation. Whatever the reasons.. I had issues with it and based on the results I have to say that I strongly believe osmocote has surfactants in it. Whether or not these are dangerous to fish remains to be undetermined, but with so much information out there on the internet about how they have negative effects makes me personally not want to use osmocote.


Crossing my fingers Seachem's product will do the trick.


AgSafe has an amazing product in my opinion based on the ingredients but I cannot source this in Canada. http://agritab.com/agsafeaquariumplantrootspikes.aspx


Cheers all!