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Stem plant cuttings falling apart

Discussion in 'Talk to Tom Barr' started by scottward, Apr 28, 2009.

  1. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Hi Tom. I have been working at correcting a problem for some time now but just can't seem to get anywhere. For some reason, when I take cuttings from my fast growing plants, within a few days the leaves on the cuttings start to droop and the plants stem becomes soft gradually causing the cutting to fall apart.

    I have been working through the different parameters of the tank to try to establish where the fault may be, i.e. a process of elimination. I am not fully understanding something in this process of elimination because I'm not getting anywhere.

    My tank contains Hygrophilia Polysperma, Hygrophilia Difformis, Ambulia Sessiflora, Vallisneria, Echinodorous Tenellus. The Vallisneria and Echinodorous is doing ok, and so far the H.Difformis is ok, but the cuttings from the H.Polysperma or the A.Sessiflora are the ones that are 'decomposing'.

    This is my thinking thus far (following the Light -> CO2 -> Macro Nutriets -> Micro Nutrients process):

    Light - My tank is 6' and contains about 400L (~100 Gallons) of water. Over the top I have 240W of NEC Tri-Phosphor tubes. Currently I only have half of the lights turned on, so only 120W over the tank. I decided to do this in an attempt to reduce any CO2 deficiencies that may be occuring and basically slow everything down a bit. In any case, starting with the light, I have eliminated it as a cause of this problem due to the simple fact that in the past I have been able to successfully grow these plants - like wildfire. At the time the plants were growing like wildfire, I was not using CO2 nor EI. Ok - so I have ruled out light.

    CO2 - I am using a RedSea Pro CO2 system, with the output from my bottle pumping directly into an Eheim 2217 canister intake. Every minute or so the outet from the filter sprays a whole heap of tiny bubbles of CO2 into the tank. I have a drop checker with 4dKh water in it at the other end of the tank and it is currently yellow - the bubbles in the bubble counter are very rapid. I have a small powerhead at the end of the tank circulating the water. I have ruled out CO2 deficiency as being the cause of this problem - as stated above - I was able to grow the plants well in the past without any CO2 and indeed plenty of beginners are also succesful with this plant - HOWEVER - my thinking is that whilst a CO2 defiency might not be the problem here, I'm thinking that the elevated CO2 level is placing a higher demand on the Macro -> Micro nutrients further downstream in the process. So I'm thinking that the CO2 is somehow the catalyst for a nutirent related problem downstream....

    Macro Nutrients - I dose 1 teaspoon of Potasium Nitrate and 1/4 teaspoon of Potasium Mono Phosphate on Sat/Mon/Wed. I took the standard dosing for a 20gallon tank, multiplied it by 5, and then rounded it down slightly. I understand that the whole point of the EI technique is to be able to easily rule out macros by over-dosing. I am certain that the macros therefore cannot be the problem and believe that the rate I am dosing should maintain sufficient levels of NPK.

    Micro Nutrients - I add 10mls of Flourish and 10mls of Flourish Iron on Sun/Tue/Thu. As far as I can tell, the problem is most likely some deficiency in one of these micro nutrients? Perhaps all I need to do is add more? But how much more?

    Some additional thoughts - the original stems that I purchased are doing ok. My substrate is 100% Seachem Flourish. I'm guessing that the reason they are doing ok is that because they already had an established root structure, they are able to pull micros out of the substrate. When I take a cutting, I'm thinking that the cutting cannot draw sufficient micro nutrients from the water column, because they don't exist, and cannot draw the nutrients from the substrate as root development has not yet taken place. As a result of this, the stem starts to rot and the plant leaves droop as the plant slowly dies. I also notice that the bottom rooted section of the plant survives, but does not rapidly put out new shoots and start to become bushy (as pruning is meant to do). I'm guessing that the plant really needs the water column nutrients to help it out.

    I want to hear what you think Tom before I go out and buy a whole heap of fertiliser and waste my money if in your experience you have seen this problem before and can advise what the cause could be.

    The only place I can get to it the micro nutrients. The plants are green enough so I don't think Iron is the problem - what else could it be?

    My tapwater GH is about 7 degrees, of which I assume is a reasonable composition of Ca/Mg. Tapwater KH is about 3 degrees. I use 100% tapwater and change 50% of the tank every Saturday before macro dosing; the usual practice.

    Would love to get to the bottom of this. I have had this problem ongoing for about 6 months now but can't determine the cause. I want my stem plants growing like wild fire again - they are - after all - meant to be easy!!!

    I will attach a photo.

    Scott.
     
  2. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Here is a general photo of the tank. I forgot to mention that the Echinodorous Tenellus is a bit washed out as I bleached it a few weeks ago to remove BBA. It hasn't quite recovered. Ignore it.

    DSC06002.jpg
     
  3. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Well, given that you are dosing ferts, have plenty of light, and that plants often melt when they have low Carbon..........sort leads to CO2.

    I've never been impressed with Redsea CO2 stuff.

    You might just try a power head and feed the CO2 into the intake and blast the mist all over to see. Be careful with CO2 and adjust carefully and slowly. You might try adding say 1/2 teaspoon of Epsom salt 2x a week also, that will rule out Mg issues in the GH.


    Also, keep the plants more trimmed. These are all fast growing weeds. As they grow, they will rapidly take over and beat up on the other species(mostly through CO2 uptake).

    The others will suffer and melt, the tops hopefully float somewhere else and start growing in a better place.

    Autofragmentation is the term use in Aquatic plant Ecology.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  4. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Hi Tom. Thanks for your reply, appreciate it.

    I don't understand this at all. I must have more Carbon in the water than the average beginner who does not use any form of CO2 enrichment yet still manages to grow the plant fine without any melting - I was one such aquarist - before I starting messing about with CO2 enrichment these stem plants would grow for me really well - or at least they wouldn't melt. I started using CO2 enrichment to improve growth. Can you explain how low Carbon can cause melting???

    I assume your talking about the reactor? Yeah, I found the reactor fairly fiddly and inefficient, so I removed it - I now just feed the CO2 line directly into the Eheim intake. The regulator, bubble counter etc works fine for me though.

    Again I'm confussed by this. Your advice seems focussed with my providing greater levels of CO2. I really don't understand this given that beginners grow this plant without any CO2 enrichment without the plants melting. My knowledge must be failing me, or I'm not cottoning on somewhere. Can you clarify? The outlet from the Eheim is near the powerhead and the powerhead does indeed blast the bubbles across the front of the tank.

    Ok. Will do. Can low Mg cause plants to melt?

    I am trimming them Tom! That's the whole reason for this thread - I trim them, replant the trimmings, and they rot! :) Incidentally before CO2 enrichment I had my tank packed with these plants and they always grew alongside each other, in close quarters, just fine. Maybe I should just turn the CO2 off!!!

    Yeah, they're not liking something and moving off to a better place...or at least they're trying to anyway.

    Thanks for the help Tom, really appreciate it. Please help me out some more with this - I'll take on your advice but I'd really like to understand the cause.

    Scott.
    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  5. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Re-reading your initial post, all that stands out is what seems to be low dosage of Flourish. I think you are dosing about half of what is normally used for that size tank. Seachem recommendations are for a low light, non-CO2 tank, as I recall, but most manufacturer's recommendations are about half of what we consider to be desirable.

    When you added CO2, you greatly increased the growth rate the plants could achieve, but, as Tom pointed out, the well established stem plants you have may be hogging the nutrients, including CO2, and starving the new stem cuttings. I would give this about a 30% probability of being the problem.

    Another possibility is the lighting. It looks like you are using T12 bulbs. If so, even the 240 watts may be marginal on that size tank, unless you have some pretty good reflectors above the bulbs. Years ago I had a similar size tank, a bit larger, with 8 - 40 watt T12 bulbs, and it grew plants, and algae, as if it were just a bit more than low light, possibly moderate lighting. I could grow vals as fast as possible, but many other plants just didn't make it. Since I had no idea how to fertilize at that time, and used a poor DIY CO2 system, my results are not comparable to yours. I would give this about a 10% chance of being the problem.
     
  6. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Hi VaughnH. Thanks for taking the time to read through my post and for your reply.

    Yeah, after stepping through the Light->CO2->Macros->Micros cycle I could, within my level of knowledge, rule out everything except the micros. I am basically just dosing the Flourish as per what's on the bottle. In keeping with the EI methodology, I guess that I should always ensure that there is an excess of micro nutrients in the tank at all times? Or does this only apply to macros? The Seachem Flourish bottle dosage comes out at about 1 mL per 50 litres, so, 8mls for my 400 litre tank - but I just dose 10mls 3x per week currently. Are you able to advise how much Seachem Flourish I should be dosing into 400 litres 3 times per week to ensure that micros are non-limiting? Should I double or even tripple this dosage?

    On the topic of micro nutrients, in K-Mart here in Australia they sell bags of trace element granules for gardening. The trace elements don't contain any urea or anything like that, just the usual trace elements. If I were to crush them up and mix them with water, could I use this as a much cheaper substitute for Flourish with a bit of experimentation? I guess the obvious thing here is that, not being a chemist, I wouldn't have as much control over how much to add. I should probably stick with the Flourish for the moment until I resolve the problem at hand though, I guess.

    When you say hogging the nutrients, I am assuming that you are referring specifically to micro nutrients? The macro nutrients couldn't possibly be being hoggged and runnining out as the macros are being dosed at non-limiting rates as per EI? Correct?

    Regarding the CO2, the water is slowly circulating about the tank, wouldn't this mean that there are equal amounts of CO2 distributed amongst the already established plants and the cuttings?

    I'm using T8's with glossy white reflectors. I have 8 of them, at 30watts each, over my tank. I currently have only 4 of them turned on (i.e. 2 rows), so I'm currently beaming 120 watts. I did this deliberately in an attempt to slow things down. I have successfully grown basic stem plants under 120 watts before without having any problems, which is why I have ruled out light as being the cause. Previously I had all of the tubes on and still had the problem with the stem plant cuttings falling apart. With all the lights on I was at ~2.4 wpg, 240 watts over a 100 gallon tank - and for larger tanks I know that the watts per gallon rule breaks down a bit so I figured my lighting level was acceptable. Anyway - the main reason I have ruled out the light is simply the fact that in the past without CO2 enrichment this level of lighting worked with these plants. I'm certain that the cause is further downstread - at this point I am questioning the micros as so far it's the only thing that makes sense within my limited, and somewhat confused, head! ;-)

    I have looked at all the nutrient deficiency charts, and there is nothing that explicitly indicates that lack of nutrient X causes plants to rot.

    Rather than making a whole bunch of changes to my tank at once, I'd rather just make one and see what happens so that I am isolating things. Based on your 30% above, I guess I should up the micros? Let me know how much by?

    Any idea as to what the other 60% could be? ;-)

    Thanks again, look forward to discussing with you guys some more,
    Scott.
     
  7. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    I would double the dosage, because for that size tank EI recommends a 20 ml dosage 3X per week, and most trace element mixes tend to have about the same concentration of elements per ml.

    I think I recall that Seachem lists the amounts of each nutrient in Flourish on their website. You can compare that to what is in a different mix to see how close they are. I think I would wait on that for now.

    Yes, correct.
    No, it doesn't do that. The plants consume a lot of CO2 in growing, so it is first come, first serve, for the plants. You need good water movement throughout the tank to be reasonably sure that all plants get a chance to use the CO2.

    My knowledge doesn't extend past the 40% barrier!
     
  8. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Ok. I'll dose 20mls 3x per week and see how that goes. Will micros be non limiting at this level, even if I were to have higher light? Or, if I were to turn all the lights back on, should I add even more than 20mls 3x per week? I'm assuming that the dosage you have informed me is non limiting for even the highest light levels.

    What about the Flourish Iron? I am currently dosing at only 10mls 3x per week - should I up this as well or will the plants pull enough iron as it is from the Flourite substrate?

    Scott.
     
  9. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Flourish already contains iron, probably enough in most cases. I'm not sure when you would need to dose Flourish Iron, nor how much. The EI dosing guidelines are set up to provide non-limiting amounts of all of the nutrients even for a high light tank, so you should be safe in assuming that you will have non-limiting nutrients if you follow it.

    Fluorite does have iron in it, but the iron is a constituent of the clay that has been fired to make the substrate, so I doubt that it is readily available to the plants. Seachem says it provides iron, so perhaps it does.

    If your tank is really heavily planted, and the plants are growing fast under high light, it might be good to increase the EI dosages by 50 - 100%. It wouldn't do any harm if you tried it.
     
  10. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I've never had rapid melting however due to low Traces........

    New lights with a few species, and CO2 are the only things that caused melt.
    Which are both related(light => CO2).
    I do not see the nutrients doing this.

    I've been all over with those and they really do not do this.

    I'd go back to CO2. Good cleaning, clean filter as well, etc.
    A few water changes will quickly tell you. If the plants seem to do better the day of the water change(most cases this will be true) and then melt after 2-4 days....then it's likely CO2.

    Try this and focus on it and you should see results one way or the other.

    Do it slowly though.

    Regards,
    Tom barr
     
  11. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    I'm not sure flourish provides enough iron. Looking at the site:
    Seachem. Flourish
    it only provides .32% iron by weight. Even if 1cc flourish weighs 3g, dosing 1mg/L of flourish would still fail to provide even 1ppm Fe. Add to that the issues with flourish using iron gluconate (we all know the article on thekrib I'm talking about) and it looks kind of grim IMO. Am I off by some factor of 10/100/1000? Is flourish higher density than I'm giving it credit?

    -Philosophos
     
  12. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Thanks for the help here VaughnH. I have ordered some more Flourish and will dose 20mls 3x per week. I will dose the Flourish Iron at the same rate for now, and see if there is any difference. I guess the most important thing here, if I am to at least rule out a micro nutrient problem, is to ensure that I am dosing in excess. By the way - can you send me the link to where the EI methodology dictates how to does the Seachem products at non-limiting levels? Where does it actually say that 20mls 3x per week is right for my tank? I didn't notice that anywhere? It would be a waste if I was still under dosing the micros.
     
  13. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Hi Tom. Thanks for your reply. I had already asked some questions about CO2 for which I haven't received any response. My question is a simple one. If your suggesting that CO2 is my problem - why are beginners able to grow these plants *without* CO2 enrichment?

    What you're saying just doesn't make sense. I am adding CO2 to my tank. Therefore, the level of CO2 in my tank must be better than somebody who doesn't inject CO2, yet they (those not using CO2) are able to grow these stems plants without them falling apart. How can my issue be CO2 then? As per my original writing, I'm thinking that the added CO2 is the catalyst for a problem further downstream... Please focus on clarifying this for me in your next reply, or point me to the write place where I can read and understand.

    Huh? What on earth does how clean my filter is have to do with this problem? ;-) Sorry, not trying to challenge everything you say, I appreciate your help a lot, I just don't get it.

    Water change doesn't make any difference at all. Plants look exactly the same no matter what.

    Also, with regards to the autofragmentation that you mentioned earlier, this also doesn't make sense. The stem cuttings are dying - the leaves droop, the stems become soft and squishy and gradually the plants completely disintegrates - there is absolutely no chance that this plant is simply breaking off in order to float away somewhere where the conditions are better and start growing there. Nope. These cuttings are a goner. ;-)
     
  14. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Just something else that I will quickly add. I tried adding a massive dose of Flourish the other night - about 40mls. I have notices that the tops of the ambulia have sprouted new healthy growth and some of the bases of the original H.polysperma has put out some new leaves. I haven't changed anything else.

    Oh - note that there are 2 further replies from me above this one.
     
  15. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Good obvious question.
    Answer: Because plants will adapt to a specific CO2 level. They do this at the enzyme level. Rubisco is the largest fraction of N and the most common enzyme in the world. It is the enzyme responsible for fixing CO2.

    If CO2 is low and stable, then the plant can adapt and put resources into more Rubsico.

    If the CO2 is high and stable, then it uses much less. This takes time to adjust and gear things up for plants. Moving back and forth between low and high CO2 gives poor results, and generally algae as well.

    Algae try and get this foothold in changes, plants also just stop growing and try other things to find a better place. Plants can and do adapt well to wide range of nutrients and CO2, but........these systems need stability.

    It's a huge investment for Rubsico by the plant and it's a large enzyme that's not particularly efficient either.

    They also will adapt and change their enzymes to suit other nutrients depending non their concentration. Read the Enzyme(one of the first 2-3 articles there) pdf under "Newsletter" for more back ground on this.
    Also , DIC.

    Cleaning filters affects flow and CO2 demand etc. This definitely affects things. Ask around. Cleaning in general helps get rid of any other organic matter laying around and keeps things tidy. Clogged filters = less flow. Cleaning CO2 diffusion equipment also helps improve efficacy.

    See above.

    Perhaps, but the CO2 is the only thing I've seen in 400 species and 20 years of keeping CO2 enriched aquariums.........that can do this. I go for the low picked fruit, not some obscure, unlikely problem. Those have never done well and never had resolve IME/IMO, both myself and for others. Sometimes someone thought the K2SO4 was KNO3.........stuff like that, but not with melting stems.

    Many folks have troubles with certain species in non CO2 and it's with CO2 mostly, some plants are much better at growing at very low levels of CO2 than others.

    So there are plenty of CO2 issues in the non CO2 planted tank.
    CO2 also accounts for about 90-95% of all algae related issues where CO2 gas is used.

    Ask other folks here, they had many of the same questions as yourself.
    And they soon realized later how important good CO2 and stable levels are.
    CO2 is hard to measure and it changes quickly/daily quite a bit if you turn it on/off at night/day.

    C in CO2 is 40-50% of the plant, Fe is about 0.01%

    Well, then do you have pics, some more info about the system, the species affected? Tap water......etc.........

    Plants might not grow well without NPK or micros..........but they rarely die off like this.

    CO2 is the only thing I've seen do this.
    I place plants in good CO2 enriched tanks and they all grow well.........all of them.....

    I place plants in my outdoor bucket without CO2 in sunlight, many do melt........
    Some last longer than others...........some don't.
    Don't feel rude asking questions that are on topic ever.
    Read the article in the newsletter also for more general knowledge.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  16. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Swords and Vals cannot autofragment well, and have root reserves to make it through lean times. H difformis is a fairly aggressive weed, but it too can melt, the others certainly melt easy.

    120 W might be some of it.

    The Red sea pro CO2 feed into the canister seems like a big issue here, for a 100 gal tank.........

    You might try an External reactor.
    Also, if the entire CO2 relies solely on the flow rate from the Filter........this is an issue.

    The other thing is to try a 200 gph to 300 gph powerhead and feed the CO2 into the suction side of the powerhead, then send the atomized CO2 mist the length of the tank at a slight downward angle.

    Cheap and easy to see.
    Try 240W, you might not have much light and this might have something to do with the melting also.

    Do this with the CO2 change.
    Give things a week.
    Then see.
    Clean that filter also, keep it clean and high flow.
    There are many threads here about the importance of flow and steady CO2.
    If the filter is the primary route that CO2 is added, if it's reduced by flow from 250 gph to 150gph, that's a huge change.........

    Also, Ehiems are over rated for their tank capacity in general. You have very little flow going through the CO2 delivery. If you have say 500gph, then a drop off of 100gph is going to have much less effect on a 100 gal tank. You have plenty of back up there.

    The extra powerhead will add more flow(you may not need more filtration, but adding more will never hurt, and generally helps.......) also, so give this a try to see.

    You can always add more KNO3, KH2PO4, GH booster, and Trace mix.
    Those are easy.

    But this is a larger issue.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  17. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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  18. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Hi Tom,

    Thanks very much for taking the time to write back to me. I really appreciate it and very carefully read (and re-read!) your reply.

    I think I am starting to understand what you mean about CO2 - tanks without CO2 injection have a low however *stable* level of CO2, whereas tanks that do have CO2 injection but with fluctutating levels just "confuses" the plants causing them to do badly.

    Just to get it out of the way, before we talk CO2 some more, can you just confirm that the 20mls x 3 for Flourish/Flourish Iron will provide non-limiting micros? These products are expensive so I don't want to waste them. I just want to absolutely rule out the nutrients so that I don't have to think about them again (be mindful of the fact that I will gradually bring my lights up to 240watts again).

    I originally thought that feeding the CO2 into the Eheim would prove to be an excellent way of dissolving the CO2 (recently cleaned it out BTW). My thinking (well, other peole have done this too of course) was that the CO2 would 'perculate' through the filter media, and in doing so dissolve completely. Even if the circulation in my tank was good, could the CO2 level still fluctate purely as a result of a fluctuating level at the filter output? Perhaps because of all the 'pathways' between where the CO2 goes in and the eventual filter output, there is great variability in the actually amount of CO2 that is disolved at any given point in time (i.e. a large bubble gets trapped in the course media here, a stream of fine bubbles get trapped here etc etc). Using your suggested powerhead approach would get around this I suppose - as the CO2 is immediately sprayed into the tank at a constant rate....

    This evening I got hold of an old TOTA 2200lph powerhead that I found and I put that in the tank. I pulled the CO2 tubing out of the Eheim intake and attached it to the air intake tube on the outlet of the powerhead. The powerhead is now blasting puffs of CO2 bubbles rapidly along the length of the tank and the plants are leaning to one side with the much improved current (is leaning ok?). I have attached a photo of how I have hooked up the powerhead (if you don't mind please look over what I have done and let me know if it looks ok).

    I have also zoomed in a bit on the H.Polysperma leaves and taken a very clear photo showing one of the melting cuttings. Perhaps under your expert eye you may notice something about the leaves that might provide additional clues.

    I have actually already a print out of the Enzyme article (thanks for the link all the same). I will re-read it tomorrow on the train on my way to work.

    What is the best way for me to switch from 120watts to 240 watts? Each strip of lights is connected to a seperate switch. Would it be ok if I just turn the 240watts straight on at lights out one night so that the next day they start up at the full 240? I should I stagger it a bit (i.e. turn on one extra strip adding 60watts one day, and then the other 60 watts the next day) ?

    I actually deliberately switched from 240 down to 120 to slow things down a bit. Could it possibly be better for me to stay at 120 for the time being? If I move up, could I possibly compound an already existing CO2 problem as with increasing the light I will also push the demand for CO2 up even higher? I will follow your advice to the letter here as I have no idea what's best.

    Regards,
    Scott.

    DSC06062.jpg

    DSC06066.jpg

    DSC06067.jpg
     
  19. Philosophos

    Philosophos Lifetime Charter Member
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    120w in a tank that big may be creating an insufficient light level, especially if those bulbs are old. Growing plants below 50 mmoles par is tricky. For what you've probably already spent on the plants and the aquarium, I'd say turn the other light on, and get some compressed CO2 going in there. CO2 can be done for around $200, but the refills are cheap and you can split the line for other aquariums. The melting you've got in those plants is something I've only ever experienced from low CO2 or low light.

    -Philosphos
     
  20. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

    Joined:
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    Local Time:
    11:24 AM
    Hi Philosophos.

    You obviously didn't read much of the thread. ;-)

    I have pressurised CO2 and I have the lights turned down deliberately at the moment.

    Thanks all the same for your reply.

    I'm just waiting to hear back from Tom about the best way to bring all the lights back on, if that is indeed the best way forward, and also for him to take a look at my latest CO2 injection rig, following his advice.

    Tom?

    Scott.
     

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