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Plant Coloration Strategies

Discussion in 'Advanced Strategies and Fertilization' started by cousinkenni, Nov 10, 2008.

  1. cousinkenni

    cousinkenni Prolific Poster

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    OK so I figured that this should be in the advanced strategies section because I hope that this thread will eventually be a strategy to bring out plant color.

    My favorite genus of plants is Rotala............. currently I have two 10g tanks devoted just to these plants. Both tanks have aquasoil as the substrate, use a drop checker to show CO2 levels and have 36watt AH supply light systems with 6700K bulbs. Additionally I use RO water on both tanks (50% WC weekly with 1/2 tsp GHbooster). The diferences between the tanks are the fertilization methods used and the filter. On tank number 1 I use a canister filter and ADA products and on tank number 2 I use EI dosing and a hang on back filter. I don't think the filter matters except that tank number two uses more bubles per second to maintain the proper CO2 level so the only difference between the tanks is truly the fertilization method used. For the record the aquasoil is several years old so I doubt it has any nutrients left in it (well at least in the ADA dosing side)......both tanks are fish free also so no nutrients go in except what I dose.

    So with all that stuff out of the way I would like to share my experience and follow with a few questions. Tank number one has super red plants and slower plant growth. Tank number two has way faster plant growth but alot of the plants show way less red / orange coloration. I assume this to be because I am severly limiting the nitrogen supply to the plants in tank number 1 (I only give the tank 2 pumps of Lights 3x weekly which equals about 1-2ppm weekly). This is most evident with the wallichii and the sp. colorata. In the nutrient limited tank 1, the colorata is super pink / red while in the EI tank the new growth is completely green while the older growth has some red coloration but not very intense (I will post photos sometime this week if I get a chance).

    So here is my question.......how can you increase red coloration of plants while still using the EI method????? Is this even possible?

    My assumtion(s) here (which could be completely wrong) is/are that red coloration is due to the accessory pigments that collect light and these pigments are produced to either 1) collect more light in lower lights systems (light limited) or 2) collect light when chlorophyll cannot be made (nutrient limited).

    If this is true is there any way besides either starving the plants or reducing light to trick the plants to produce more of these accessory pigments?

    Isn't it a myth that adding more iron will increase coloration?

    What about adding Ca or Mg.........would increasing GH help coloration?



    This was posted by tom a while back:

    "Not sure about individual coloration with respect to each , Mg and Ca.

    But with both, it seesm higher GH's seem to help.
    Likely due to enzymes that make the red colored pigments.

    In ADA soil and soft water, the plants are nice and grow well, but are pale.
    I get blood red color with less light and more GH."




    Thanks in advance for any help / discussion,

    Ken T.
     
  2. helgymatt

    helgymatt Guru Class Expert

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    This is an intriguing question. Good work with your little experiment! I don't have much too add, except that some of my plants are not nearly as red as I would like them to be. I am using E.I. Alternathera seems to always be red regardless, but plants like Ludwigia and Rotala do not want to show their best "redness" potential.

    I know I have seen really red plants in many tanks with E.I. I've seen Tom's plants many times....

    But, could it be true that some of these plants are not "bright" red in nature and they only turn "bright" red when they are nutrient limited? I have no experience to back this up at all!:rolleyes:

    And another question - you say tank 1 has more red than tank 2 and that tank 1 grows faster than tank 2. I have two thoughts.
    1. We know that plants will develop more red the closer they are to the light. Are you comparing the colors in the two tanks at the same distance from the light? Since tank 2 grows faster, I'm guessing it is closer to the light and still not as red?
    2. A thought question...will a faster growing plant show less redness than a slower growing one.

    Look forward to more discussion on this!
    Matt
     
  3. cousinkenni

    cousinkenni Prolific Poster

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    Hi Matt,

    First let me correct something that you posted. Tank 1 is nutrient limited and slower growing.....tank 2 uses EI and is faster growing.......maybe that was just a mistype on your part :)

    As for your thoughts:

    Thought 1) I do not know if plants turn more red the closer to the light they get.......that would indicate that the more light the plant gets the redder it gets which I personnally thought was a myth.....maybe someone else can answer that. I have never let the plants get to the top of the tank because I usually trim them to keep better circulation. Maybe that will be the next thing I do. I somehow doubt this will be the case, however I will let the the plants in the EI tank (tank 2) to grow all the way to the top in the next week or two to see if they becomoe more red. (good idea on your part). I can tell you that when the plants are towards the bottom of the tank and toward the middle of the tank the nutrient limited plants are way redder (is redder even a word????)

    Thought 2) I thought I read in a post by tom that new growth is usuall pale in faster growing plants......or maybe it was the other way around....I have been looking for that post for 2 days now and can't find it. I cannot answer that question.......I was hoping it would be brought up though and I thank you for reminding me about it............Tom any answers????

    Ken T.
     
  4. ccLansman

    ccLansman Guru Class Expert

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    i know myself and others would love to have some hard facts on this one. great thread! ill sticky it and check back for results.

    From reading around I have been told 2 things, don’t know if they are myth or fact regarding plant color.
    1) add extra trace as the iron is the leading cause of red coloration...
    2) add extra MG as it is a factor in the red pigmentation....
     
  5. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    One thing folks need to understand is that many folks in the distant past that had nice red color also had much less light, they could get away with less NO3, adding more light and leaving the NO3 low is not wise.

    Many seem to assume that more light = better reds.
    Then they do not scale things up appropriately with the NO3:rolleyes:

    You do not get to pick and chose like this.

    ADA has low light, they also have a large source of N from the sediments, so the water column low NO3/PO4 really do not matter;)

    Some folks seem to use the ADA as justification and others use old tank examples they have seen, or old timers who never tested their light/measured with PAR etc.
    I'd say 80-90% of the red color myths are centered around these issues above.

    Now as far a general concept: light colors can help your perception a great deal, eg, GE's 9325K bulbs really make the plants appear red.

    As far as chemicals, higher GH, good NO3, K, PO4, and heavy trace dosing(not just Fe alone) with produce better colors than leaner waters.

    So lower light, good higher GH, good consistent dosing, CO2 etc, color bulbs that highlight reds etc are a good rule of thumb. I'd say some sediment macro nutrients are good also.

    None of this includes limiting NO3 below 5ppm etc, and I've got some nice red colors in my tanks.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  6. helgymatt

    helgymatt Guru Class Expert

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    Tom, What do you consider a higher GH?
     
  7. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Say you have 1-2, adding 4 degrees is good.
    5-10 degrees is a good range nears as I can tell.
    But simply adding another 2 degrees via GH booster seems to do the trick.
    Quite a few folks have done this.

    GH is not the same as KH, low KH and a higher GH makes a nice combo.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  8. ccLansman

    ccLansman Guru Class Expert

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    Thanks for the info Tom, as always you are a goldmine of knowledge
     
  9. cousinkenni

    cousinkenni Prolific Poster

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    Since my GH is only 1-2 max I will increase it to 4 or more and see what happens. If more red colors come out then we can definitively say that a higher GH is better for coloration (at least I will believe it :) )

    I will let every one know in a few weeks.....I will increase the GH after this weeks' waterchange (this Sunday).

    Maybe I should take before and after photos......I will take some before photos tonight and maybe post them tomorrow.

    Anyone know how to post photos?????
     
  10. helgymatt

    helgymatt Guru Class Expert

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    Post photos with Photobucket.
    Photobucket.com - Its very simple to use.
     
  11. cousinkenni

    cousinkenni Prolific Poster

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    colorata photos

    OK so here are the photos.

    The first photo is from Tank 1 (the ADA, nutrient limited tank):

    [​IMG]

    This second image is from Tank 2 (the EI tank):

    [​IMG]

    The photos were taken with the same white balance (fluorescent) and no colorchanges were done in PS.....just some cropping and changing image size. The lighting on both tanks are 6700K made by the same company and use AH supply reflectors (basically the light source is the exact same as far as I know.......no scientific instruments used to measure however)

    These photos also do no justice to the plants themselves. The red is much more vibrant in Tank 1, and the green of the plants in Tank 2 is about the same colora as Rotala sp. green. Oh yeah, both plants are Rotala sp. colorata, just grown in different tanks under different nutrient conditions.

    These photos are just to show the current coloration differences. I will also try to post an after photo in a few weeks of the plants in Tank 2.........after I add more GH and if there actually is a color change.

    Ken T.

    Did I forget anything????
     
  12. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Yes, is the other tank with the same ADA AS as this one is?

    No two tanks are identical. I have tanks I take care exactly the same, dose the same etc, but often times that behave and act very differently even with the same lights, fish, plants etc.

    If you have high N in the sediment, you still have high N.
    If you have high N in the water column, you still have high N.

    Just because you cannot measure the water column N, does not imply the plant is limited or low on N.

    Sediment sources play a huge role.

    And we have not even discussed CO2 or light where each plant is located and without that, it's hard to say.

    The greener plant looks poor in terms of growth, nothing to do with color there.
    I have a Red Singapore Rotala variety using EI and ADA AS.
    It's sort of pale under the MH's, and nicer red under the PC's.
    But the light is 3x under the MH's and the plant grows much faster.

    Sediments are the same in both cases.
    Under 9325K GE bulbs, the plants grow even "redder".

    With good care, I've gotten the best reds using good GH, lower KH, ADA AS and EI for most red colored plants.

    You might tweak some more red out and sacrifice some growth rate with less N, but if you use ADA AS, you are not limiting N, plants still have access to it via the sediments.

    Slowing growth will also allow some species to develop color better because their rates of growth are correspondingly slower.

    They have more time to develop nice reds.

    This is why lower light tanks can have nicer red plants than higher light planted tanks. Also, it is easier to maintain a low residual NO3 level in plain sand sediments with lower light since less light -= less growth rates= easier to maintain a stable NO3 ppm residual.

    Still, while tempting, be very careful when comparing two tanks that you think are the same. Do not conclude more than you really are able based on the results and methods used.




    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  13. cousinkenni

    cousinkenni Prolific Poster

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    Hey Tom,

    In the EI tank I already dose what I would consider heavy dosing. I dose CSM+b plus extra iron (a mix that Greg used to sell pre-mixed and that I actually just recently emailed him about to find out what was in it because I am running out of it and need to make more..........that is unless you magically release your trace mix this week ;) ). sorry to go on a tangent there........I dose 1/16 tsp 3x weekly (dry) as well as 2ml Flourish 3x weekly. Would you consider this heavy micronutrient dosing????? If so the only 2 real variables, since all nutrients should be in excess (macros and micros), is the lighting amount and the GH. If I raise GH to your recommendations and the plants still do not become red than we can eliminate it down to the Light......in which case a 36W bulb with AHsupply reflector over a 10g tank would be too intense lighting to allow the reds to develop. Would you agree????

    Laters,

    KT
     
  14. cousinkenni

    cousinkenni Prolific Poster

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    Hi Tom,

    Actually and suprisingly yes....the ADA aquasoil is from the same bag so it is the same aquasoil.......both are about 2 1/2 years old......the differences being the method of dosing.

    You are correct however, I am assuming that the plants from tank 1 are nutrient limited.....I haven't actually tested it. I am basing this assumption on the fact that I sincerely belive that Aquasoil in no way shape or form has enough nutrients in it to grow plants for 2 1/2 years.

    A good test for this however would be to start EI dosing on Tank 1......if the plants start to grow green than we can once again assume (without testing) that it was due to nutrient limitation.

    The plants are both located directly under the light in the middle of the tanks. Your are correct however, I do not have a light meter so I do not know for sure that bothe lights are identical......they do however use the same bulb with the same reflector. I will admit however the bulb used in tank 2 is about 3 months older.

    As for the plant health....once again the photos do no justice. The plants in Tank 2 are way more healthy, never stunt or show twisted leaves and grow about 3-4 x faster. On the other hand the red plants in Tank 1 will stunt once in a while namely if I don't give them at least a few pumps of macros a few times a week. These plants grow extremely slow.

    For the record, I am not condoning the use of limiting nutrients to promote red coloration. I simply would like to know if there is a way to promote it without having to limit it.

    Ken T.

    P.S. If you look real closely in the photo of Tank 1, you can see some algae........a clear indication that the conditions in tank 2 are better ;)
     
  15. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Okay, so we can rule out the sediments for the most part.
    CO2?

    I'm not so sure.

    Most of the ferts are in excess, this is a lot of light on these tanks BTW.

    Here's the deal, I have Rotala also:)
    I dose EI and have no twisted tips.
    I have equal light and good CO2.
    I have ADA AS.

    I do not have twisted tips and extremely slowed growth.

    Now traces alone will not explain that, nor will NO3 high vs low now will it?
    NO3 at say 5-10ppm vs say 20-40-60-80ppm will not induce stunting in and of itself?

    That's sort of what you are suggesting here based on the above post.
    All I have to do to disprove that is show a few cases where this did not occur.

    This is no longer about color, the extreme slowed growth and twisted leaves tell a lot more and are things I can measure.

    Slowed growth and twisted leaves smells like CO2 and at high light, likely the case given everything you have said here.

    Also, you need to take cuttings from the same plant that are equal size etc and then replant in each tank. They need to be from the same starting point.
    Takes time for a new plant to adapt to a tank. Then you also can tell there's something else going on as there is algae in one tank but not the other.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  16. cousinkenni

    cousinkenni Prolific Poster

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    Hi Tom,

    I don't know if you understand what I am saying.

    What I am saying is that the tank to which I dose EI (tank 2) has no algae growth and great plant growth......NO TWISTED LEAVES. It only has less intense red coloration. I think this is due to one of two things.........Too much light, or too low GH. If a add more GH than it is because the light is too intense.

    The tank to which I limit NO3 (well actually all macros....Tank 1) has stunted leaves, algae, slower growth but is more red. I think this is due to nutrient limitation not CO2.

    CO2 should be the same......both have drop checkers that use the same 4KH solution and are both green.

    There are two simple tests that I can do........the first test would be to switch the tank (tank 1) that I believe to be nutrient limited over to EI......If I do this and the platns turn green well then that shows nutrient limitation is causing the red. The other test I can do is to increase the CO2 (that is if you believe the tank is not nutrient limited and the stuntinig and red coloration is due to CO2 rather than NO3 limitation).

    So tonight I will stop dosing ADA fertilizers on that tank (tank 1) and switch over to EI......If by early next week the plants that were red (in tank 1) turn green would you agree that they were nutrient limited??????
     
  17. helgymatt

    helgymatt Guru Class Expert

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    oohhh...the plot thickens;)
     
  18. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I think what is occurring are 2 fold.

    1. CO2. This can cause twisted stunted tips.
    2. Bottoming out the NO3, going too far for too long can cause twisted stunted plants that take longer to recover than CO2 issues.

    The Green plant pic has a deformed growth pattern, this is what I based that assessment on.

    The Red one looks healthy to me.

    If you limit all macros, then there's less you can say about one in particular.
    How do you know which is the most limiting? Are they really all equally limiting(extremely unlikely).

    I do NOT buy anyone's drop checker CO2 ppm's claims............. period.
    Not my own, not other folks.

    I've measured too much CO2 with far more responsive and precise equipment to not know the limitations with drop checkers.

    "Green" in one location, no notion of current, generally near the surface, 2 hour min response time, poor resolution with the color(how green? How blue?, How yellow?) can lead to huge differences in the range of CO2 ppm.

    I cannot say anything about comparing 2 plants in different systems without knowing more. This is not like falsification of algae blooms and PO4 dosing.

    That is relatively easy.

    You can set up a good test using sediment based sources and keep the water column fairly equal, but nutrients and CO2 are much harder systems to set up.

    I'd be more inclined to use the same tank and up the macros and then lower them over say 4-6 weeks to see differences. Then repeat this process several times(say 5-6 replicates) and try and keep the CO2 as high as I can without killing fish/gasping etc, do lots of water changes etc and keep on top of things.

    This means 4-6 weeks x 5-6 replicates= 20-30 weeks of work at minimum.
    This is not some small endeavor and you are going to have trouble doing it the way you suggest. Why do the work when you really cannot conclude much due to the methods?

    Yes, the suggestion above requires more/takes longer time, but you'll be able to say more. I've seen this topic perhaps 200X over the years. It's not something new.

    One thing I found in the past as did a few other folks was using roughly low light and then fattening up the plants at high levels, then lowering them slowly, get that color, then snap the pic and raise the macros(NO3) back up again.
    As the rate of growth was lower due to less light, the ability to keep and maintain a lower NO3 residual is much easier.

    I've told PPS folks this for years, if less ppm's in the water column as a residual is the goal, then use less light. This falls on deaf ears typically most just do not get it or seem to understand the basics with how a plant grows:rolleyes: Even in light of the ADA light data I provided recently.

    Several stores here do not add macros to the plant sales tanks and the tanks have this bleached whitish red color, but they also have decent 9235K color bulbs also on some to make them look better, even meat sales counters as a meat cutter at the Grocer uses such lighting to make the meat appear "redder".

    Adding sediment based nutrients helps some, keeps things from getting too low at more wider ranges of light intensities and acts as back up should things run out in the water column.

    But now you are not limiting things nearly as much.

    I think it would help you more if you considered less light also(like 2x 15W lights vs a 36 W PC).
    Just some thoughts.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  19. cousinkenni

    cousinkenni Prolific Poster

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    Hi Tom,

    Last night I added EI dosing to the tank that contained the red plants (Tank 1.....the "same tank" as you say). If the plants in this tank turn green then I will believe that the red coloration was due to limiting macros......however I will do several replicates using this same tank......I will try to see if I can turn the plants red again (assuming they turn green in the next few days) by limiting the macros again......and then give them macros and see if I can turn them green again. Maybe I will not repeat this 5-6 times becuase usually in science 3 replicates is good enough for a paper so I would think that it should be good enough for a forum. I will try to post photos along the way also to show everyone what is going on.

    About the light......yes I agree if I really cared about having red plants all the time I would decrease the lighting but:

    1) I don't really feel like going out to replace my current fixtures
    2) There would be no need to if I can just limit macros to turn them red for the photo ;)


    On a side note, maybe all this is just irrelevant anyway.....I still haven't added more GH to Tank 2 yet (the tank with the green plants).....maybe this will turn the green growing plants red. I will start this experiment on Sunday.


    Laters,

    KT
     
  20. Martin

    Martin Lifetime Charter Member
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    please don't hold out on an update... time has passed :)

    Forcing out red colors can be done by limiting nutrients. In particular NO3 & PO4.
    PO4 is the easist to do this with.

    High intensity lights also. A friend has a 100cm x 30 x 30 tank with 2x54Watts directly above the tank and he's getting wonderful colors.

    I look forward to hearing more on this.. Exciting!!
     
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