Aquatic Plant Newbie in Need of Help

dsm7

New Member
Joined
Apr 2, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
0
Location
Texas
I've kept plants in my tanks forever, but have always struggled with rooted plants (despite the use of root tabs, potentially related to the fact that they haven't really taken root in my gravel substrate).

I'm trying to finally figure out what they need and what I've been doing wrong.

Any advice that the group can offer would be greatly appreciated!

  • Does anyone ever get conflicting test results on water quality tests? There are a couple measures that seem to vary between my API Master Test Kit, my Tetra 6-in-1 Test Strips, and my JNW Direct Aquarium 9-in-1 Test Strips.
  • Does anyone have a preference on C02 indicators/tests?
  • Based on guides I've seen on various plant appearances relative to possible nutrient deficiencies, I initially thought the issues I was seeing in my plants related to Iron, Phosphorous, and possibly C02. Based on what I'm seeing in these test results, between all my tanks, Iron is 0-5.0 and Phosphate is 0.25-0.5, while Nitrate is 0-20.0 depending on which test kit I use.
  • Can someone explain what my target should be between Phosphate/Phosphorous, Nitrate/Nitrogen, and Potassium?
 

Sgooosh

Fish Connoisseur
Tank of the Month!
Fish of the Month!
Joined
Dec 3, 2020
Messages
6,349
Reaction score
2,799
Location
United States
welcome!
API Master liquid kit is the most reliable so trust that one
plants don't need added co2 unless you want them to grow faster or have more color
what did you get for the api kit for the parameters?

i'm not very good with these chemicals but i'm sure someone more knowledgeable will jump on and help
 

anewbie

Fish Addict
Fish of the Month!
Joined
May 30, 2021
Messages
969
Reaction score
683
Location
usa
I've kept plants in my tanks forever, but have always struggled with rooted plants (despite the use of root tabs, potentially related to the fact that they haven't really taken root in my gravel substrate).

I'm trying to finally figure out what they need and what I've been doing wrong.

Any advice that the group can offer would be greatly appreciated!

  • Does anyone ever get conflicting test results on water quality tests? There are a couple measures that seem to vary between my API Master Test Kit, my Tetra 6-in-1 Test Strips, and my JNW Direct Aquarium 9-in-1 Test Strips.
  • Does anyone have a preference on C02 indicators/tests?
  • Based on guides I've seen on various plant appearances relative to possible nutrient deficiencies, I initially thought the issues I was seeing in my plants related to Iron, Phosphorous, and possibly C02. Based on what I'm seeing in these test results, between all my tanks, Iron is 0-5.0 and Phosphate is 0.25-0.5, while Nitrate is 0-20.0 depending on which test kit I use.
  • Can someone explain what my target should be between Phosphate/Phosphorous, Nitrate/Nitrogen, and Potassium?
I have only used API master test kit but from various forums I know all the tests give slightly different results (most claim the test strips are less accurate). The problem with all these test kits is they are colour based and none are going to be very exact (they are also subject - for example chemical drop size; age of chemicals (or strip); exact volume of water and so forth. I've not used any test kits to measure iron (I have measure phosphate and nitrate).

While the test kits do show variance you should not be seeing one kit show 0 for nitrate and another 20; I would expect variance to be with in 5 (but remember the exact number is hard to determine due to colour scale - there are digital tester (I forget the name but it is a fairly common unit) i do not know if it is more accurate but it gives a digital read out so you get an exact number. I've gotten decent plant growth in my tanks that have nitrate in the 0 to 3 range for long period of times (that range i have confirmed multiple ways with different kits).

For co2 i've given up on the liquid indicator - it reacts too slowly and i've had problem with too much co2 with it still showing mid green - I use ph drop. Basically i measure ph early in the morning before the co2 goes on and then again 2 hours and 4 hours after the co2 has been running - I target for somewhere between .5 and .8 drop - there is a table based on kh for max. you should target but i aim for about 70% or less than max (fishes come first). I use a smart switch to turn co2 on 30 minutes before lights go on and off when the lights go off.
-
To comment on the problem with roots et all that depends on plant species and substrate type. Plants like swords and crypts will develop large root systems; stems - more dependent on specific species - but truth been told i've grown most easy to grow plants without a substrate in a pail with strong light (50 watt 6500K flood light) and a few drops of fertilizer once a month. This includes things like swords, jungle val, crypts... nothing too difficult. A lot of the more difficult plants really do need rich substrate to do well (I use inert substrate which limits what i can grow; but stuff like Blyxa novo will readily grow.
 

Colin_T

Fish Guru
Joined
Jan 26, 2008
Messages
36,203
Reaction score
20,669
Location
Perth, WA
Can you post pictures of your tank, showing the tank and light?
What sort of light is on the tank?
How long is the light on for?
What plants do you have trouble with?
What fertiliser do you use and how often do you add it?
What CO2 do you use and is it on 24/7?
What is the pH, GH & KH of the water?
How often do you do water changes and how much do you change?

--------------------------
The 2 main reasons people fail to grow aquarium plants are:
1) trying to grow garden plants instead of true aquatic plants.
2) lack of light.

You can throw in all the nutrients, light and carbon dioxide (CO2) that you want, but if you have terrestrial plants in an aquarium, they will rot.

If you don't have enough light, aquatic plants will struggle and die.


--------------------------
AQUARIUM PLANTS 1.01

LIGHTING TIMES
Most aquarium plants like a bit of light and if you only have the light on for a couple of hours a day, they struggle. If the light doesn't have a high enough wattage they also struggle. Try having the tank lights on for 10-12 hours a day.

If you get lots of green algae then reduce the light by an hour a day and monitor the algae over the next 2 weeks.
If you don't get any green algae on the glass then increase the lighting period by an hour and monitor it.
If you get a small amount of algae then the lighting time is about right.

Some plants will close their leaves up when they have had sufficient light. Ambulia, Hygrophilas and a few others close their top set of leaves first, then the next set and so on down the stem. When you see this happening, wait an hour after the leaves have closed up against the stem and then turn lights off.


--------------------
TURNING LIGHTS ON AND OFF
Stress from tank lights coming on when the room is dark can be an issue. Fish don't have eyelids and don't tolerate going from complete dark to bright light (or vice versa) instantly.

In the morning open the curtains or turn the room light on at least 30 minutes (or more) before turning the tank light on. This will reduce the stress on the fish and they won't go from a dark tank to a bright tank instantly.

At night turn the room light on and then turn the tank light off. Wait at least 30 minutes (or more) before turning the room light out. This allows the fish to settle down for the night instead of going from a brightly lit tank to complete darkness instantly.

Try to have the lights on at the same time each day. Use a timer if possible.



--------------------
TWO LIGHT UNITS
If you have two light units on the tank, put them on timers and have one come on first, then an hour later the second one can come on. It will be less stressful for the fish.

In the evening, turn the first light off and wait an hour, then have the second light go out.

If the lights have a low, medium and high intensity setting, have them on low in the morning, then increase it to medium after a couple of hours, and then high for the main part of the day. In the evening, reverse this and have the medium setting for a few hours, then low. Then turn the lights off.


--------------------
LIST OF PLANTS TO TRY
Some good plants to try include Ambulia, Hygrophila polysperma, H. ruba/ rubra, Elodia (during summer, but don't buy it in winter because it falls apart), Hydrilla, common Amazon sword plant, narrow or twisted/ spiral Vallis, Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides/ cornuta).
The Water Sprite normally floats on the surface but can also be planted in the substrate. The other plants should be planted in the gravel.

Ambulia, H. polysperma, Elodia/ Hydrilla and Vallis are tall plants that do well along the back. Rotala macranda is a medium/ tallish red plant that usually does well.

H. ruba/ rubra is a medium height plant that looks good on the sides of the tank.

Cryptocorynes are small/ medium plants that are taller than pygmy chain swords but shorter than H. rubra. They also come in a range of colours, mostly different shades of green, brown or purplish red. Crypts are not the easiest plant to grow but can do well if they are healthy to begin with and are not disturbed after planting in the tank.

Most Amazon sword plants can get pretty big and are usually kept in the middle of the tank as a show piece. There is an Ozelot sword plant that has brown spots on green leaves, and a red ruffle sword plant (name may vary depending on where you live) with deep red leaves.

There is a pygmy chain sword plant that is small and does well in the front of the tank.


--------------------
TRUE AQUATIC VS MARSH/ TERRESTRIAL PLANTS
Lots of plants are sold as aquarium plants and most are marsh plants that do really well when their roots are in water and the rest of the plant is above water. Some marsh plants will do well underwater too.

Hair grass is not a true aquatic plant, neither is Anubias.

Some common marsh plants include Amazon sword plants, Cryptocorynes, Hygrophila sp, Rotala sp, Ludwigia sp, Bacopa sp. These plant do reasonably well underwater.

True aquatic plants include Ambulia, Cabomba, Hornwort, Elodia, Hydrilla and Vallis.

The main difference between marsh plants and true aquatic plants is the stem. True aquatics have a soft flexible stem with air bubbles in it. These bubbles help the plant float and remain buoyant in the water column.
Marsh plants have a rigid stem and these plants can remain standing upright when removed from water. Whereas true aquatic plants will fall over/ collapse when removed from water.


--------------------
IRON BASED PLANT FERTILISER
If you add an iron based aquarium plant fertiliser, it will help most aquarium plants do well. The liquid iron based aquarium plant fertilisers tend to be better than the tablet forms, although you can push the tablets under the roots of plants and that works well.

You use an iron (Fe) test kit to monitor iron levels and keep them at 1mg/l (1ppm).

I used Sera Florena liquid plant fertiliser but there are other brands too.


--------------------
CARBON DIOXIDE (CO2)
There is no point adding carbon dioxide (CO2) until you have the lights and nutrients worked out. Even then you don't need CO2 unless the tank is full of plants and only has a few small fish in.

There is plenty of CO2 in the average aquarium and it is produced by the fish and filter bacteria all day, every day. The plants also release CO2 at night when it is dark. And more CO2 gets into the tank from the atmosphere.

Don't use liquid CO2 supplements because they are made from toxic substances that harm fish, shrimp and snails.
 

anewbie

Fish Addict
Fish of the Month!
Joined
May 30, 2021
Messages
969
Reaction score
683
Location
usa
--------------------------
The 2 main reasons people fail to grow aquarium plants are:
1) trying to grow garden plants instead of true aquatic plants.
2) lack of light.

You can throw in all the nutrients, light and carbon dioxide (CO2) that you want, but if you have terrestrial plants in an aquarium, they will rot.

If you don't have enough light, aquatic plants will struggle and die.
Not to nit pick but i think this is a bit simplistic. There are a lot of nice aquatic plants that appeal to people because they have wonderful colour et all but require special treatment that inexperience people can't provide. Also some plants strongly prefer acidic water and other plants strongly prefer alkaline water and if you are lucky and purchase the plants not suitable for your growing conditions they will struggle and frequently simply not grow.

last but least there are a lot of plants are purchased in emersed form and 'die' when people plant them and then they are not patient enough to see the submersed form sprout... as they have already given up and rip the plant out of the tank.
 
Last edited:

Back in the fold

That One Guy
Joined
May 25, 2019
Messages
3,018
Reaction score
2,734
Location
Occupied Apsaalooke Nation Lands
The thing with rooted plants is it seems to always come down to the substrate. It needs to be fairly deep and old. I've read recently in Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazine that deep sand sometimes doesn't let the roots grow freely. Too dense. Maybe , maybe not. Not trying to goad the sand substrate fans here. In fact they've won me over and I'm a sand substrate guy now but maybe mixing in about 1/3 fine gravel might not be a bad idea. When I say old substrate I mean stuff that has had fish fertilizing it for at least a couple months. I don't use fertilizer tabs as all my tanks are small ( 20 gallons or less ) and it's just too much. Really, there are too many variables to pin it down to any one thing. Keep at it, you'll get there.
 

BkkprGal

Fish Fanatic
Joined
Feb 12, 2022
Messages
74
Reaction score
19
Location
Blue Ridge, Georgia
Not to nit pick but i think this is a bit simplistic. There are a lot of nice aquatic plants that appeal to people because they have wonderful colour et all but require special treatment that inexperience people can't provide. Also some plants strongly prefer acidic water and other plants strongly prefer alkaline water and if you are lucky and purchase the plants not suitable for your growing conditions they will struggle and frequently simply not grow.

last but least there are a lot of plants are purchased in emersed form and 'die' when people plant them and then they are not patient enough to see the submersed form sprout... as they have already given up and rip the plant out of the tank.
Some of us beginners need "simplistic". I think @Colin_T 's info is very helpful. It gives good overall information to help frame the whole "aquatic plant" game for those who don't know what were doing. It's then up to us to continue our online research and trial & error experiments to really see how these concepts come into play in our own aquariums.
 

Most reactions

trending

Members online

Top