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Plant deficency? Use of softened water?

Discussion in 'Aquatic Plant Fertilization' started by Mikaila31, Dec 26, 2009.

  1. Mikaila31

    Mikaila31 Junior Poster

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    This is my second stop as I would like a second opinion on this.

    I've been having issues with my 55gal hi-tech planted tank. Pressurized CO2, 2wpg of 9,325K, eco-complete substrate. I dose EI KSO4, KH2PO4, CSM+B, Nitrate out of tap is 20ppm. Stocking in tank is usual small tetras, some BN plecos, and two adult caecilians. Nitrate is about 40ppm in tank. I have KNO3 but didn't think I needed it.

    I've been having some deficency(I think) for awhile now. About 4 months ago my stargrass up and died. There was a bunch of it in the tank, it won't grow for me at all anymore. All other plants seem fine and grow pretty much like they always do. (crypts, H.polysperms, vals, pennywort, java moss) Most show some minor deficiencies though. I can't quite figure what.

    The other forum I went to APC.com didn't seem to like the fact that I use softened water on the tank. All our tap water goes through a water softener. I know how a softener works, but I never really though about how it would effect the plants. I've always used the softened water though, and the tank use to be happy. So I'm kinda confused by this. I'm thinking I've got a pretty major calcium deficiency, I wouldn't be surprised if there is Mg++ deficiency with that. Both of these due to the softener.

    It was also mentioned that the extra Na in the water would effect the K uptake of the plants. How major is this? It seemed like a big deal, but the softener doesn't add that much extra salt to the water as far as I know. I guess what I'm asking is how dependent is K uptake on the sodium levels in the water for freshwater plants?

    Do you even agree with this? Look at pics. Do you think it is Ca and Mg deficiency or something else?

    Solutions:
    1-By passing the softener: I can only get unheated water doing this. I think I can manage doing this if I can mix boiling tap water to warm up the freezing cold well water before I add it to the tank. Let buckets sit around to warm up to room temp isn't an option for me.

    2- Fertilizing Ca and Mg. I have epsom salts on hand, plaster of paris and lime stone were recomeneded for calcium. I haven't figure out dosing for these yet. I also have some Tums :p

    3- using a sodium free water softener. KCl was suggested.

    4- none of theses?:confused:

    Thanks for any help!

    [​IMG]

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  2. jonny_ftm

    jonny_ftm Guru Class Expert

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    Hi,

    If you dose EI as you say, then issues could be also CO2. You don't say anything on how you inject it (diffuser?), the flow, drop checker tint... Often, when you dose EI, CO2 is the last culprit. Believe me, more than you can ever think.

    Finally, a home softner is a very bad idea. It injects Na in water in an important ammount indeed. Na is not very good for plants and soft water livings. It is always recommended to never use such a device

    Also, not letting water rest can cause chlorine issues. If bacteria in soil are not healthy, plants won't be too

    I see here 3 points on which you should really focus, CO2 being the first to rule out, and Na being the second to correct urgently in my opinion
     
  3. nipat

    nipat Guru Class Expert

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    Seems Ca (and/or Mg) deficiency to me, because there are corrosions on snail shells
    and yellowing of old leaves ( http://www.jhbunn.co.uk/index.php/technical/deficiency-doctor/86-magnesium-deficiency ).
    Just a thought though, I've never experienced these deficiencies myself.

    On the other hand, my Stargrass (easy to grow but hard to make it happy) looked like yours.
    I think in my case, it was the lacking of Fe. I tested it by upping the dosage of micros (gradually to 3x if I remember it right)
    and saw the problem go away. Then I reduced the dosage of micros to normal but upped
    the Fe to 3x. The problem did not return.

    I don't use softener but my water is soft so I weekly dose 1/2 tsp of CaS04 and 1/4 tsp of MgSO4.
    (which is about 3x from what recommended for 20 gallon tank—to please shrimps, mollies,
    and Vallisneria—not sure if it's needed, but see no ill effects from doing that).
     
    #3 nipat, Dec 27, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 27, 2009
  4. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    Ya, sodium would do most of that. The BBA makes me think CO2 as well.

    Calcium may help the issue to a small degree; it's more of a treatment than a cure, and won't get rid of the underlying issue.

    Could we get a look at any tests you have for your well water before desalination? Bypassing would be a good way to go. An insulated plastic barrel with a good heater in it would be perfect for changing the water if you have room for it. If this is an option for you, chances are good that all or most of the calcium and magnesium will be provided through the well water.

    Star grass is hard to grow under high current; it gets ugly fast. It's a bit picky about CO2 imbalances as well. I find it very easy to grow star grass under low tech conditions rather than high.
     
  5. Mikaila31

    Mikaila31 Junior Poster

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    CO2 is injected at 2 BPS and I use a drop checker to determine proper CO2 concentrations. A ceramic/glass diffuser is used. I've never let the water sit before adding it to the tank. Since its well water I don't think chlorine is an issue. I can test it with the spa/pool kit we have if needed.

    the softened and unsoftened well water are actually very similar in what tests I do.

    Unsoftened water

    My tests:

    kH- 7 degrees

    pH- 7.6

    Lab tests:

    Nitrate- Nitrogen: 5.6mg/L (I believe this is equal to 25ppm of nitrate)

    we ocassionally fail bacteria tests- I blame them on the person who takes samples though. My mom takes samples from the weirdest places. Faucets we never drink from and some we never ever even use. Then is all surprised when the fail the test. I doubt this is important as far as a aquarium is concerned

    Older tests from 2004( I have no idea if these will help or not but thought I would include them)

    http://www.co.saint-croix.wi.us/Departments/LandWater/DrinkingWater/Hudson/hudson.htm

    Go to the bacteria one, my house is the one upper center on the map that failed the bacteria test.
     
    #5 Mikaila31, Dec 27, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 27, 2009
  6. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Softened water is made to reduce the Ca Mg ions(your GH), not the KH.....the KH actually will go up or stay the same.
    They add baking soda to laundry to help the soap, never Ca or Mg which reduces the activity of soap on dirty cloths.

    You trade Na+ for Ca and Mg.

    Na+ at high levels if pretty nasty.
    No freshwater plants really like it and there's enough trace amounts in the water to supply any deamnds.

    If you can by pass the softening, I'd do that.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  7. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    Ya, odds are most of what's being tested for in those bacteria tests are going to be present in a fish tank anyhow.

    Nothing looks dangerous outside of the copper levels being on the high side for shrimp and more sensitive fish. You may want to try prefiltering your water directly from the well through carbon, maybe supplement a little flourish comprehensive if you end up with weird micro deficiencies from it.
     
  8. jonny_ftm

    jonny_ftm Guru Class Expert

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    Like Tom confirmed my first post, I'll advice you strongly to start by bypassing the softner. I only saw catastrophic results from people using them, both on plants and fish
     
  9. captain_bu

    captain_bu Prolific Poster

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    What is considered a high level of Na?
     
  10. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Less is likely better in most all cases.

    Certainly less than the softener output.
    Stick with the well water and buy a carbon prefilter for the drinking water, and a UV.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  11. Mikaila31

    Mikaila31 Junior Poster

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    I did a 50% water change yesterday using 90% unsoftened water. I boiled some tap water to bring up the temp of the unsoftened water. I have lots of cherry shrimp, so I will keep an eye on them with the copper levels. They haven't had issues breeding so far. I will pick up another GH test kit soon, mine got used up a long time ago.

    I'm a college student still living at home, so the softener isn't under my control. I would be happy if it wasn't there, but I doubt that will ever happen. I did manage to talk my dad out of getting a RO system for drinking water. As far as I know drinking RO is a bad idea unless you add minerals and nutrients back into it after you take them out. I'm fine with drinking the softened water or the straight well water.

    Come summer I should be able to setup a bin of water outside and let it warm up that way. Inside is not an option, because I don't want to listen to the complaining. Trust me there will be complaining.
     
  12. jonny_ftm

    jonny_ftm Guru Class Expert

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    It could be a good idea to turn it to a low tech then...

    You could still use CO2 for stability, but you could really gain on water changes, since it is your main problem
     
  13. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    I would've welcomed the RO personally. Perfectly soft water is great to have around any time you like, just toss in a little well water now and then.
     
  14. jonny_ftm

    jonny_ftm Guru Class Expert

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    If he can't afford heating it, then no way for RO as it will be very cold out of the tap
     
  15. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    That's a problem regardless of whether it's from RO or the well. Boiling has been mentioned, as well as setting it outside.

    Personally I'd just put up a post asking for heaters with shot thermostats that are stuck on. If there's a point in the house higher than the tank that a reservoir can be placed, it's just a matter of filling it then siphoning as needed.
     
  16. Mikaila31

    Mikaila31 Junior Poster

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    No reservoir/bin of water can be placed in the house, thats the issue. I'll be out of the house in hopefully a year and will be off the softened well water. I'll be on city water, so will have to start using dechloro for the first time..... Lets hope I don't forget. Till then its buckets of 48 degree well water to which I add boiling water till its room temp. I'm not sure how much colder RO would be, I actually though it would be warmer.... I'm ok with doing buckets and adding boiling water. I've been using buckets for a long time. Parents took away the only sink I could attach a hose too. They said they were "remodeling" but turns out they were removing because there is no new sink.

    Once its summer there is a nice elevated area I can set a bin up outside. Till then theres only snow.
     
  17. jonny_ftm

    jonny_ftm Guru Class Expert

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    Hi,

    That's why I suggested moving to low tech, rare water changes if possible. Only topping with distilled if open tank.
     
  18. Mikaila31

    Mikaila31 Junior Poster

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    well I figured it is time to give this a second shot, because it seems I did not fully resolve my issues:(. I've been using the unsoftened water for exactly 2 months with 50% weekly waterchanges. I have been dosing P, K, CSM+B, and Mg as well. Umm... I've been experimenting around with Tums for the last two weeks. Usually adding one tablet ofter each waterchange. I'm still kinda unsure on the results of this, as far as plants go they either helped a little or not at all. They did seem to help the cherry shrimp and snails though.

    I'm going to include another tank in here, which is my 20gal high. It gets the same care as my 55gal, but has a little more light. It also has its own issues, that for some reason do not show up in the 55gal. Both these tanks normally have CO2, both are down due to different reasons. This has been unhelpful for the most part. I have BBA in both tanks now, were it was only in the 20gal before.

    Unhappy plants from the 20gal. The older leave on my pennywort disintegrate really fast now. This could be carbon issues though. I use the pennywort to reduce the light since I have no CO2 right now and this tank has 2.75wpg.
    [​IMG]

    H. polysperma is getting all these holes in it on the lower leaves. Its stems also seem kinda brittle, I tend to accidentally break them a lot.
    [​IMG]

    tiger lotus that for reasons unknown to me is sending up deformed leaves, usually with the tip rounding in on its self. May be a fluke because the tiger lotus on the otherside of the tank is not doing this :confused:.
    [​IMG]

    The star grass is growing back now, so at least I'm doing something right, as far as the stargrass is concerned.....
    [​IMG]

    So what do you think I should do now? :confused:


    On the good side I think I finally found some real Ca to dose. I was sitting through the most "exciting" 2 hour fractional distillation in O. chem lab. So I started going through all the different stuff they always have out on the benches, and low and behold CaCl2! How many gram of this stuff do I need for like 2 weeks worth of dosing? If it proves helpful I will order some.
     
    #18 Mikaila31, Feb 26, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 26, 2010
  19. jonny_ftm

    jonny_ftm Guru Class Expert

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    H. Polysperma shows this easily when too high light while low CO2
    With your 2.75wpg and no CO2, the answer is clear in my opinion: you need to lower light to 1-1.5wpg or inject CO2
     
  20. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    x2

    Right on the money there jonny_ftm; my hygro did exactly this with too much light and low CO2.
     
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