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The Importance of Biomass in a Planted Tank

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by kazooless, Feb 27, 2007.

  1. kazooless

    kazooless Junior Poster

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    I thought I'd post this as a question. There are many hints towards a large biomass being important to a planted tank, including when it is just beginning.

    However, I'm having trouble finding the reasons why. Maybe those that know can talk about the reasons it is important as well as what happens when you have too little, what happens when you are using EI dosing, different levels of lighting, and high levels of CO2, but just a little bit of biomass to start with.

    If there is a good response, then maybe this will turn out to be a good link to send other newbies like me when the question is asked.

    Cheers!
     
  2. thatguy2012

    thatguy2012 Junior Poster

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    This is something I would like to hear more on, as I have a lightly planted large tank with high light and co2, just started the EI so well see how it works.
     
  3. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    More plants= less algae

    Less plants= more algae

    More plants= more O2
    More plants= less NH4
    More plants= better conditions for bacteria
    Happy bacteria= better cycling of all waste
    High plant biomass= dynamic surface= hard for algae to gain foothold
    High plant biomass= less light for algae
    More plant biomass= better root formation= better substrate cycling


    Disadvantages:
    Higher nutrient demand
    Higher CO2 demand
    More work/labor
    Cost more initially
    Less water movement

    *If needs are not met(CO2/light/nutrients) potential die of all the plant waste can result in rotting plant materials, less O2 and release of bound NH4
    * If proper pruning is not preformed and water currents are not in place, dead spots, low O2, progressively poorer growth will result.

    Case study:

    Obviously, at least to me, although few pay much credence to this issue: a tank with say 100% plant biomass by weight grows(say 100 grams dry weight) and becomes 2x as much(say 200 grams dry weight), the owner neglects pruning the tank, adds the same fertilizer routine as before, later, at week 3, he sees algae and poor plant growth.

    Most realize they need to prune.
    But few realize they need to add more CO2/nutrients.

    Either that or prune.
    Lighting becomes an issue as plants begin to compete heavily for light.
    Biomass growth slows down for that as well.

    So pruning maintains a stable uptake of nutrients, it's not just aesthetics like most will suggest, there is a basic physiology at work there as well.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  4. kazooless

    kazooless Junior Poster

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    Perfect

    This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks Tom! I'd like to see this (not my post, but your answer) in the articles or not yet created newbie section.
     
  5. thatguy2012

    thatguy2012 Junior Poster

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    Thats what I thought, now I just have to talk my wife into letting me buy MORE plants.:D sweet


    thanks again
     
  6. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    You are now a plant farmer, grow more plants if you want more plants, that's what a farmer's spouse would say.
    "After you do all the chores on my list":)

    That's why I'm still an old maid myself. Never found a good boss truthfully.

    Yes, I'll address the impact on algae and plant biomass.
    There is a lot of research based support for these observations is tropical and subtropical shallow lakes, as well as some northern lakes as well.

    30-50% surface area aquatic vegetation = no algae, gin clear water.
    Regardless of nutrient levels(except at very extremely low or very high).
    That's based on hundreds of lakes over a wide range of environmental conditions.

    So the theories I suggest on line here, also apply well to natural systems and states. Few aquarist do this type of approach/thinking.
    I do not know really, maybe I am the only one making much fuss about it? :rolleyes:

    Given the paucity of knowledge in the aquatic plant hobby, seems a bit odd to me.

    Greg and I are likely going to do some rework on the web site.
    I'll add a few things, remove some others.

    I'll be adding a nice newbie section.
    Basic articles etc.
    Then where to go next.

    This site is not really a newbie site, although many end up here and I turn no newbie away. Many folks avoid using brain cells and work, I am no different in many other matters.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  7. Laith

    Laith Lifetime Charter Member
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    I agree with the concept that more plant mass is better overall.

    However, I've always wondered how Amano and similar styles can be successful? Most of those tanks don't look like they have a lot of plant mass at all... in fact I'd call most of them sparse. So how do they do it? Do they start with lots of fast growing plant mass and then remove it, adjusting nutrients accordingly, once the tank has matured and stabilized?
     
  8. Bartman

    Bartman Prolific Poster

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    Tom, yes your site contains LOTS of great, technical information and so can be overwhelming for newbies. (I'll be happily reading through it all for years to come just trying to catch up. :D )

    The problem is that most of the "newbie sites" seem to be spreading outdated, incorrect information. Plus there's a TON of sites out there so that can be just as overwhelming.

    If I could have the money back from all the test kits that I was told were absolutely necessary and the plants that died from too little light and no ferts, then I could have another system all decked out and looking great with the EI method.

    What I'm saying is that even though this website is overwhelming if you don't have much experience in the field, it's still probably the best option for newbies. I wish I knew about this place back when I was first starting up my tanks. It would have save a lot of money, stress, and frustration.
     
  9. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    This has been a source of puzzlement for me too. It leads me to believe that most of the Amano like tanks we see photos of are photographed very soon after being set up. If not, then I am missing something and it is something important.
     
  10. kazooless

    kazooless Junior Poster

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    Newbie is just an easy term to use

    It's easier to just refer to myself as a newbie (and I am), but it's more convenience so you know where I'm coming from. However, regarding the "avoid the brain cells" issue, I've not done that. Part of the brain cells thing kicks in when you 'smartly' realize that reinventing the wheel is not 'smart.' I was thinking about your comments on biomass, and did a lot of searching, and came to a hypothesis. However, at that step, one either has to run some tests (which have taken you years to do) or to ask the questions. I submit that posting a question like this is actually "using my brain cells." :)

    Anyway, awesome site. I really appreciate it. I've read the EI article some 5 or 6 times and still catch on to new stuff. Usually, I don't have to have something explained to me more than once.

    Thanks,
     
  11. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Not repeating work that's already been done is smart.


    I like that myself, then it means great, I do not have to test that and can move on to something else. But that assumes what's been done is correct, it also assumes that test already done might not have any/much learning value, which I feel they do, you get new insight when you try out old test in a new light years later very often.
    But no sense in repeating most of the work involved.

    Do not make hypothesis you are not willing to test yourself:)
    That says you are volunteering to do the test:)

    While many have made the comments that they wished they'd come here or tried this out many years ago etc, I've helped folks and saved them money for well over a decade now(generally 100$'s and is many cases 1000$'s), finding the place/person that's good is generally a word of mouth type of thing.

    So simply referring friends etc will help.
    A book is in the works, likely summer of 2008 or so, maybe a little farther.
    That will help.

    Nagging the newbie sites or the outdated ones to update their information can help, many balk at the idea though.

    I am quite patient with folks that are "on the path" to solving issues.
    So no issue here asking, I am very willing to point folks to the right direction if more information/homework is required, but generally just give folks what they need to answer their question.

    So never be scared to ever ask a question about plants.
    Often times you can have a frustrating path indeed, I know that.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  12. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    No, they do a lot of water changes.
    2x a week generally and at leats that much for the first 2 months or so on any new tank set up. They reduce the lighting also. Generally only high light for a 2-3 hour block, the rest of the time, about 1-2w/gal at most.

    See some of my tanks, they are rather sparse, the flying fickle finger of fate is a very low biomass tank, yet is spotless clean, well fertilized and low bioloading.

    ADA tanks are often similar, lots of tending, lots of large water changes(what do you think that exports? generally sources of NH4/NH4 waste in the feces in the upper gravel layers)

    Such tanks are more sensitive to changes, but.......they are not that hard once the roots grow in well and the bacteria are cycling better, the roots amplify the cycling rates by adding O2 deep into the substrate and enhance bacterial growth significantly.

    Too many folks add a few sprigs of HC and expect a carpeting and do not do many water changes/crank the light etc.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  13. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    I have never, as far as I can remember, read a recommendation to do twice weekly water changes on a new tank, for a couple of months or so. Nor do I remember a recommendation to cut the lighting down for that long in the beginning. Shouldn't our general advice to people starting up a new tank include those steps? Even for heavily planted startup tanks? It seems to make good sense, but no one seems to have been recommending it.

    I know from my own experience, as well as from reading lots of forum writeups about new tank problems, that many if not most newly set up tanks get algae problems within a month. Would this expanded water change plus reduced light regime eliminate most of those beginning tank algae woes? Or is this only of benefit for Amano style plantings?
     
  14. IUnknown

    IUnknown Lifetime Members

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    The thing that helped me understand this the best from the post I've read is to think of the surface area. One little leaf on the stem of your plant offers surface area all over it for the bacteria. The more the plants grow the more that surface area goes up exponentially. In Amano's tanks, I think it is the fact that at least 75% of the floor is covered with plants. Healthy plants oversaturating the water with oxygen increases the bacterial colonies inside our canister filter aswell as everything that is growing on the leaves surface. NH4 has no chace to linger in these conditions.

    It would be intersting to keep the plants out of the equation. Inject oxygen in a plantless tank and see how much bacteria plays a role in getting rid of NH4 and keeping algae starved. Maybe stuff the tank with bioballs to replicate the surface area that the plants would provide.
     
  15. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Well, the NH4 is removed from the substrate via the roots, even if the material is inert, the fish waste is not.

    Bacteria can do the same but are less stable than roots that weave the gravel grains together and provide long distance transports as well as O2.

    Bacteria do not add O2.
    O2 gas tanks are not that pricey, nor are O2 regulators.
    Use a DO meter though.

    You can kill fish with too much O2 also.

    If you want some O2/NH4 support for algae blooms:
    SpringerLink - Journal Article

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  16. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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  17. BHornsey

    BHornsey Lifetime Charter Member
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    Hi Tom,

    Just a query but I thought the principle of EI was to provide a simple method to dose nutrients for any tank, to prevent anything from running out (plant deficiency) which I assumed to be regardless of bio-mass?

    I (finally!) understand that excess growth, driven by high light, causes problems for low growing plants; I've had a lot of bad experience with this, but this thread has caused me some thoughts.

    I had presumed that you dosed to a level to be sufficient for good growth. If uptake isn't high it wouldn't matter, plants use what they need and leave what they don't; levels won't become excessive as water changes reset the levels.
     
  18. detlef

    detlef Subscriber

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    On to the question why Amano tanks seem to be very successfull even when sparsely planted let me add to Tom's notions (lots of water changes and smart light management):

    Amano uses night time airation:
    Even if O2 does not solute well in water O2 injection with lily pipes might support the well being of filter bacteria

    He uses huge amounts of filter media:
    The ES filter series provides lots of space for filter media and bacteria to strive on (the smallest containing 6L at ~350L/hr turnover rate)

    He uses lots of carbon:
    It's critical using carbon during the start-up phase (NH4 binding)

    Best regards,
    Detlef
     
  19. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    No,
    But it's not that clear in the EI article to be honest.
    50% of the surface area and generally lots of faster growing plants, or else less lighting etc, can be used as you get closer to less biomass.

    It's not going to be a distinct % or biomass I think due to lighting, plant species and user issues.

    But more is generally better.
    Dense as you can go.

    To some degree.
    But.......consider this:

    A tank with 3x as much plant biomass vs the same tank, light etc, with the regular biomass.

    Now if you added say 40ppm per week of NO3, you might predict something like 2-3x as much uptake, thus the range would be between say 20-30ppm of NO3 with high biomass, with less? Maybe 50-70ppm.

    These are not critical though.
    What are critical issues?

    How do you think this same issues applies to NH4?
    More or less?
    Assume light/CO2 are the same.

    Now try this same issue with a set stable CO2 input(note this means that CO2 bubble mrate coming into the tank is the same throughout).
    What do you think would occur if you have say 35ppm of CO2 with regular biomass then increased it 3x?

    It would no longer be 35ppm would it?
    It would likely be less, much less, about 10-15ppm or so.

    Now how would NH4 uptake also be influenced knowing what you know about how carbon and nitrogen uptake regulate eachother as one becomes limiting?

    Would you expect less NH4 with 3x the biomass under a CO2 limitation at 10pppm of CO2? Most would say yes.

    I would not actually.
    With high CO2 with less biomass, you have intense uptake for those plants.
    With low and unstable CO2, the plant goes into shock and reduces, or "downregulates" NH4 uptake to match the carbon supply.


    So it depends on the various other confounding issues like CO2 and it's control over NH4 uptake etc as well.

    Cool huh?

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  20. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Yes!!
    All points that are very meaningful.
    I also suggest good amounts of filtration.
    I've never been one of those filterless plant tank folks.

    Never bought into that, the tanks have always been less stable and many report over time, that the tank goes sour. Many got GW algae.

    Read the prior post of mine for more about other factors.

    Sparse plantings are not that hard but many seem to have issues.

    Zeolite is very effective in place of AC.
    It makes good biomedia later.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
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