Anthony123

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Hi,
I've been trying to grow plants in my 20-gallon tank (no fish) for a couple of months now and I haven't really succeeded. I would very much like some assistance if that's possible? I've put a thick layer of Flourite Red as my nutrient gravel as well as having inserted a couple of root tabs. I fertilise the water with 10ml of Aquadrip Plant Plus once a week, and 2ml of liquid carbon (Brand: Easylife, Easy Carbon) daily. I use 2 UV fluorescent tubes that are meant for planted aquariums and replaced them with new ones last month.

I have a Jungle val like plant at the front of the tank that seems the be growing really slowly and appears to have thin pale green leaves that are slightly transparent. Although it has tried to propagate around the tank.

I tried growing Ambulia towards the back of the tank, but it had similar symptoms to the jungle val of not rooting well, slow growth (or no growth), and pale leaves.

Towards the centre of the tank, I've been trying to grow Bacopa Caroliniana. It seems to actually be growing at a decent speed, which makes me happy, but then I find out the roots and lower stem have melted and died. I also think the new leaves are slightly lighter in colour than the older leaves from when I brought it home.

I also have what I think is a Red Tiger Lotus that also is slow-growing, but doing better than some of the other plants.

I do have a narrow leaf Java Fern that seems to be growing very well, with lots of healthy new growth. I did have two micro leaf Anubiases, but after a couple of weeks since first putting them in, well.......................... they died.

And to top it all off I have a large population of snails, white bugs that like zipping across the glass and driftwood, and worms on the glass that like disguising themselves as white marks that trick me into thinking I can wipe them off on the outside of the tank (until they move).

I've attached some images. If anyone knows how to solve any of these issues, please reply to this thread. Thank you for reading,
Anthony.
 

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xxBarneyxx

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I have had a lot of planted tanks but my knowledge on specific plants is actually pretty poor. I tend to just chuck it in and see what happens. Hopefully someone can give you some species specific advice for what you have.

First I would say, ditch the "Liquid Carbon". There is no such thing as liquid carbon at standard room temp/pressure and the chemical contained within it is pretty nasty. At best it will help destroy algae but in my opinion it doesn't do anything useful past that and is potentially doing more harm than good.

2 UV fluorescent tubes

Exactly what lights/tubes are you using? Plant lights typically wont be UV. Normally they will be full spectrum and around the 7500K colour temp mark.

Regarding ferts. I tried to look up aquadrip plant plus but couldn't find anything. Could you maybe take a photo of its contents so we can see what is in it and see if there is anything lacking? Also same for your root tabs?

Additionally what type of water are you using for your tank (tap water, well water, etc?) and what are the parameters like.

All that being said though. If these plants that are in the photo have been in for a couple of months and look like this I would say you aren't doing too bad. They may not have rapid growth but they don't look like they are dying either. To me they look pretty healthy. I think a fair amount of your plants are relatively slow growing anyway and often you can get some die off at the start while plants get established.

If I was you I would keep it how it is and pick up some fast growing stem plants to add to the tank.

My suggestions would be maybe:
Hornwart,
Rotala Rotundifolia
Hygrophila polysperma

These are all pretty tolerant of any halfway compatible conditions and grow fast.
 
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Anthony123

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I have had a lot of planted tanks but my knowledge on specific plants is actually pretty poor. I tend to just chuck it in and see what happens. Hopefully someone can give you some species specific advice for what you have.

First I would say, ditch the "Liquid Carbon". There is no such thing as liquid carbon at standard room temp/pressure and the chemical contained within it is pretty nasty. At best it will help destroy algae but in my opinion it doesn't do anything useful past that and is potentially doing more harm than good.



Exactly what lights/tubes are you using? Plant lights typically wont be UV. Normally they will be full spectrum and around the 7500K colour temp mark.

Regarding ferts. I tried to look up aquadrip plant plus but couldn't find anything. Could you maybe take a photo of its contents so we can see what is in it and see if there is anything lacking? Also same for your root tabs?

Additionally what type of water are you using for your tank (tap water, well water, etc?) and what are the parameters like.

All that being said though. If these plants that are in the photo have been in for a couple of months and look like this I would say you aren't doing too bad. They may not have rapid growth but they don't look like they are dying either. To me they look pretty healthy. I think a fair amount of your plants are relatively slow growing anyway and often you can get some die off at the start while plants get established.

If I was you I would keep it how it is and pick up some fast growing stem plants to add to the tank.

My suggestions would be maybe:
Hornwart,
Rotala Rotundifolia
Hygrophila polysperma

These are all pretty tolerant of any halfway compatible conditions and grow fast.
Thanks for replying. I wondered why I wasn't getting any algae for these past months, I guess it was the "Liquid Carbon." I'll see what happens when I discard it.
Regarding the lighting, they are 18 Watt Aqua One Sunlight/Tropical PL lamps. The description of these says they have a 14K red light and 7.1K white light (I have no clue what this means). I've got an Aqua One 620 tank, which isn't really flexible in terms of switching to other branded equipment.

I got the name slightly wrong of the fert. It's called "Aquadrip Plant food plus", I got recommended it by my local fish store. The root tabs were this cheaper Asian branded kind that I got off Amazon. I put two pictures of the tabs showing the packet and ingredients.

I'm from Surrey and normally use tap water for the tank. I don't know the water parameters off by heart so I just used a couple of test strips, which say that my GH is 180ppm, KH: 80ppm, pH: 7.0, and 0 NO3 and NO2. pH is 8.0 in the tank as I have seiryu stones, which I think up the alkalinity.
I think the Ambulia (the green hairy plant) is supposed to be very hardy and a super-fast grower. But it pretty much hasn't grown since I put it in, which leads me to think it's not sucking the nutrients from the ground, same could be said with the jungle val long thin leaf plant. I'll have a look at the plants you suggested. Thanks,
Anthony.
 

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Byron

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I agree mostly (maybe totally!) with post #2.

Stop using the so-called "carbon." This is glutaraldehyde, a highly toxic disinfectant. It will kill some plants outright, and Vallisneria seems particularly sensitive to this, so that is likely part of the problem. You do not need to be adding carbon in a low-tech or natural method planted tank, there will be sufficient once you have fish being fed.

TNC makes a good liquid fertilizer, called TNC Lite. You might want to consider changing to this. As for the plugs, I am rather surprised they are 15% nitrogen, this is not good. Without getting too scientific, nitrogen (nitrate probably) in the substrate is detrimental to aquatic plants, and once you have fish in the tank there will be no need for nitrogen. And phosphorus too for that matter, the fish foods will supply all you need. Seachem's Flourish Tabs are about the best substrate tabs you can get. One of these next to large plants like swords does make a huge difference. And when I had a red tiger lotus, it grew enormous with beautiful floating leaves, all due to a Flourish Tab inserted next to the tuber once every 2-3 months.

Light is probably not the issue here, judging from the photos.

I had Flourite in one of my tanks for two years, finally tossed it out. I did not see any real improvement over using liquid fertilizer and tabs. And, it is sharp, and not suited to any substrate fish. If you plan on having these (substrate fish), it would be best to change the substrate to inert sand.
 
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Anthony123

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I agree mostly (maybe totally!) with post #2.

Stop using the so-called "carbon." This is glutaraldehyde, a highly toxic disinfectant. It will kill some plants outright, and Vallisneria seems particularly sensitive to this, so that is likely part of the problem. You do not need to be adding carbon in a low-tech or natural method planted tank, there will be sufficient once you have fish being fed.

TNC makes a good liquid fertilizer, called TNC Lite. You might want to consider changing to this. As for the plugs, I am rather surprised they are 15% nitrogen, this is not good. Without getting too scientific, nitrogen (nitrate probably) in the substrate is detrimental to aquatic plants, and once you have fish in the tank there will be no need for nitrogen. And phosphorus too for that matter, the fish foods will supply all you need. Seachem's Flourish Tabs are about the best substrate tabs you can get. One of these next to large plants like swords does make a huge difference. And when I had a red tiger lotus, it grew enormous with beautiful floating leaves, all due to a Flourish Tab inserted next to the tuber once every 2-3 months.

Light is probably not the issue here, judging from the photos.

I had Flourite in one of my tanks for two years, finally tossed it out. I did not see any real improvement over using liquid fertilizer and tabs. And, it is sharp, and not suited to any substrate fish. If you plan on having these (substrate fish), it would be best to change the substrate to inert sand.
Thanks for informing me about the "Liquid Carbon." I'll probably not use it again after today.

Regarding fertilisation, I thought nitrogen and phosphorus were beneficial to plant structures. I don't know if it's the same case for aquatic plants though. I'll give the Seachem Flourish tabs a try, they were a bit pricy which was why I didn't buy them initially.

I reused the flourite red gravel from my previous attempt at creating a planted tank (which also failed). I didn't see much improvement in plant growth back then either. The Issues I have now were the same as my last attempt however, then I didn't use ferts and root plugs. I thought the flourite gravel was supposed to supply everlasting nutrients to the rooted plants?? That claim did sound a bit extreme though.

Anthony.
 

xxBarneyxx

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Nitrogen and phosphorus can be good for plants. It's a bit of a debatable point about adding more. Not sure why nitrogen in the substrate is bad for plants, hadn't seen this before. I'm not saying this is wrong or incorrect, my knowledge is a little outdated so would like to know the why of this myself.

In a lower tech planted tank though I agree that once you get fish in there you probably won't need to add a ton more.

As far as I'm aware fluorite in and of itself is inert so does nothing to aid plant growth. I "think" the idea is it absorbs excess nutrients and releases them back as needed but not sure on that. You can grow plants in sand though with the right ferts so it definitely isn't necessary.

I think your lights will be fine and from what I have seen the seachem flourish stuff is pretty highly rated so may be worth a try.
 

Byron

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I'll attempt to explain as asked.

To deal quickly with phosphorus, once you have fish being fed there is more than sufficient phosphorus from the fish foods to serve the needs of the plants. Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement does have phosphorus, but very, very little. The TNC Lite has none, which is why it is preferable. [Same holds for nitrogen.]

Aquatic plants do need nitrogen, obviously, but almost all aquatic plants we keep in aquaria prefer ammonium (ammonia) and will readily take this up from the water via the leaves. Only when ammonium is not sufficient in balance with other nutrients, and provided the light is sufficient to drive photosynthesis, will plants turn to nitrate. This is because plants (again aquatic, not terrestrial) have to change the nitrate back into ammonium, and this take energy. Once you have fish in the tank, ammonia will be available from the fishes' respiration, and from the breakdown of organics in the substrate. There is never a need to add more.

To answer the substrate nitrate/ammonium issue, a citation from Diana Walstad:

Hobbyists using fertilizer tablets for aquatic plants should understand the aquatic plant preference for​
leaf uptake of ammonium (as opposed to root uptake). In aquariums, fish-generated ammonium in the​
water can fulfill most N needs of plants. Moreover, any nitrogen added to substrates, such as in​
fertilizer tablets, can have bad and unintended consequences. For example, when I added nitrate​
containing fertilizers to a fresh soil substrate, the fish became sick from nitrite toxicity. (Soil bacteria​
had converted the nitrates to toxic nitrites, which then entered the overlying water.)​

All plants use the N from ammonium—not nitrates—to produce their amino acids and proteins. If a​
plant takes up nitrate, it must convert the nitrate to ammonium in an energy-requiring process called​
‘nitrate reduction.’​
 

xxBarneyxx

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@Byron thanks a lot for taking the time to write that up. I followed a lot of Walstads advice for my early tanks and this knowledge I had completely forgotten. Very much appreciate the refresher course!
 

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