New Gravel, Plants Dying
I recently made some significant changes to my tank, including changing out the gravel. I had the standard light brown gravel and have been unsatisfied with the way it looks for some time. So I purchased some black gravel (I think it is dolomite). I also added two large pieces of driftwood to the tank to give it a more natural look.
Now suddenly, my perfectly healthy plants' leaves are rotting en masse. I checked the Ph tonight and it has not changed at all.
I am afraid that I may have introduced too many changes to the water. My platys and neons are doing just fine and for that I am glad (I think I own the only white and black platys in all of Beijing). It is just the plants that are having trouble.
Unfortunately I live in China and while my Chinese is decent, it is not really good enough to get good advice from the fish stores.
Well, tonight I took all of my plants out and rinsed them in tap water (there was a lot of gravel dust on them). I also pinched off all of the rotting leaves (about half of the leaves had to go). I am afraid that all of my tank experience has been in China, so I do not know the English names of my plants. But they are very sturdy and hard to kill. They have spade-shaped leaves and exotic, spiny stalks and roots.
What can I do?
This can be difficult to answer because of so many variables. I would not think a new substrate would be that much of a difference, so something else is probably hapening as well, which may or may not be connected.
First, I wouldn't expect black gravel to be dolomite. Dolomite is a calcium-based gravel that is white, used in marine tanks and rift lake cichlid tanks and sometimes for livebearers because it naturally raises the pH and hardness of the water. You do not want dolomite gravel in a planted aquarium. But as you say your pH has not changed from before, the gravel is probably not dolomite. What is the pH exactly, as this could be part of the problem regardless?
If you could find a photo online of your plant species and attach it, it would help identify it. Also, what type of light is over the tank? Be specific...fluorescent or other, name and wattage on the tube/bulb. And how long is it on each day? And are you adding any liquid fertilizer, and if yes, which one and how much/often?
I'm assuming nothing else changed except the gravel? You mention that the PH hasn't changed. Is that compared to the PH of the water with the old gravel or just from one day to the next with the new gravel? What was the PH reading? I'm concerned that the plants have gravel dust on them. Was the gravel pre-rinsed before it was added to the tank. If not, maybe cleaning the plants will help. Also are you adding fertilizers at all?
Full list of Changes
Thanks for such a quick reply. I would like to answer some of the questions, since I was not specific enough in my first post.
I have had what they call a 60 liter tank for two years. That's how big they say it is. My online convert says that that is about 16 gallons. It is just about the standard size for beginners. And I suppose because of the water here in Beijing, it took an extra long time to cycle it, about 4 months. But I got it cycled and it has been good water for fish and plants for over 1.5 years.
They Ph has never changed over the years. It has remained at a steady 5.5 to 6 for the last two years. Nothing seems to change that.
I looked online and it looks like my plants a kind of anubias; either anubias nana "narrowleaf" or Anubias Coffeefolia. Anubias Coffeefolia (Anubias barteri v. ‘Coffeefolia’) They are extremely hard to kill and look exotic so I have had these particular plants in the tank for almost four months and all five of the plants have been perfectly healthy. ...until last week, when I changed the gravel, and suddenly, within a week, half of the leaves on all of the plants are turning mushy or develop brown, dry looking edges that move inward until the leaf withers. Last year I had several others of this same kind of plant and they were in the tank for about six months with absolutely no problems until we went home to the States for fives months and had to start over. So I am sure my plants' condition is as a result of the changes from this week.
The light in the tank is a Sunsun brand, 15w, 220v, 15hz white bulb. The tank is also a Sunsun brand. One of the two lights burned out over 1 1/2 years ago. I did not start adding the anudias plants until after the one burned out, and I have never had trouble with plants before, so the remaining one has been suffucient up til now. As for florescent or not, all I know is that when I flick the switch it comes on immediately. So I guess it is NOT florescent.
As for fertilizer, I weekly add a Malaysian brand "Sonye." It has some English and some Chinese on it, so I assume it really IS from Malaysia and not some pirated scam. Also, I always buy from the same people, and I trust them. (The gravel came from a new store where I did not know the people--I know, bad idea).
So here is the full list of the changes, major and minor, that I made:
As for the gravel, I said "dolomite" but I really have no idea what kind it is. The bag it came in does not even have Chinese characters on it.
It look obsidion-ish to me, though--shiny, black. The girls who sold it (and I do mean "girls," perhaps 18 or 20) said that it is very good for plants. (Of course, sometimes if you ask a leading question in Chinese, they will answer with the answer they think you want to hear). Still, if it is some kind of obsidion gravel, it should be very good for plants--right?
I DID rinse the gravel first, but only once. It may not have been enough. Two days ago, I pulled all of the plants out, pinched off the bad leaves, and rinsed the dust off. And you definitely COULD see a thin layer of shiny dust on them. Right now, the leaves that remain all look better than the previous dying ones. But this morning, I see a two or three with small, brown edges developing.
When I was changing the gravel, I took the plants out of the water and laid them on top of the tank for probably a couple of hours. Would that have something to do with it?
Also for a couple of days, the water level was about two inches too low, so the filter was splashing water in. This would have increased the oxygen level significantly. Would too much oxygen for a few days have caused it?
Also, the overall hue of the tank has changed signficantly. The whole reason I got the black gravel was to change the look of the tank. The tank is now significantlly darker because there is no reflection off the much-lighter, light brown gravel. Are the plants getting less light from below now because of that and that is what is causing it? Again, I have one bulb that is burned out. It could easily be replaced.
Also, the driftwood... Because I wanted a more natural look in the tank, I took out the plastic "driftwood" piece and put it two REAL pieces of wood. They stand upright from the bottom to the top and take up about 1/7 or 1/8 of the tank's space. I intend to cut them down by about 1/5, but don't know where the Chinese version of Home Depot is, so I can't find a saw. They ARE rather large right now, and I know real wood changes the water. Still, real wood changes the water SLOWLY, not immediately.
Also, confession time--I added a little of our upright drinking water dispenser's water (you know the large upright kinds with the large upside-down bottles of water like in offices). I needed to top off the tank to get the splashing down, so I added some drinking water so I would not have to wait 24 hours for the chlorine to evaporate out of the tap water (actually after almost four years in Beijing, I still cannot confirm that there actually IS chlorine in our tap water. Nobody drinks it and it does not smell like chlorine). As for the drinking water addition, however, I added only about 1/25 or 1/30 of the overall water. Might that have made a diffence?
Found Gravel Name
I just got back from one of the big fish stores here in Beijing and I went to one of the stalls with a person who has known me for a couple of years. I asked about the gravel and she told me its Chinese name. My iPod dictionary translates the gravel as "carborundum" or "emery." She also told me that it is not particularly good for plants, but not bad. It is somewhere in the middle.
This is not easy to resolve, but a few suggestions. The pH should not be a problem, plants prefer acidic water, and as long as it is consistent (or relatively so) should be fine. I assume you've tested the pH of the tank after the new substrate and it has not changed from what it was previously?
Anubias is a low-light plant, quite hardy although a very slow grower. The browning leaves I suspect are lack of nutrients. But if the fertilizer is the same you've ben using, this doesn't sound like the problem.
The light may be worn out. If the light is a tube rather than a screw-in bulb, it is fluorescent; the newer fixtures are instant start. Fluorescent tubes lose their instensity quite a bit after 3 months, and continue to lessen. Most recommend replacing the tubes every 12 months. They still light, but the intensity of the light emitted is so much weakened that the plants can't obtain sufficient light.
The "dust" seems to be from th new gravel; some gravel is very bad for this. Washing it over and over in a pail is all you can do. Once it settles, vacuum it out during the partial water change.
Plants being out of water might affect the existing leaves but not new ones since. Nevertheless, they should be kept in water or at least moist if they have to come out of the tank.
I really don't know about the carborundum gravel; it is defined as an abrasive for polishing. As a last resort, you might want to remove it and put the other back in, and wait a few weks to see if the plants respond. That would certainly answer the question of it being the gravel or not.
Thanks so much! I will give each of these a try.
It has been a week or so now, and I have taken some of the suggestions above. But I would just like to confirm my analysis.
I have upped my addition of fertilizer to twice per week. Since carborundum IS an abrasive, mostly used for polishing, it is very unlikely that it makes good soil for fish tanks.
I vacuumed out significant amounts of dust with my last water partial water change.
So the plants seem to be doing better, although they are still browning just a little around the edges of 1/3 of the leaves.
I have NOT yet changed out the burned out light bulb. They ARE florescent and as you suggested, the intensity may not be enough since the one is burned out and the second is two years old now.
But before I change the bulbs, should I get two of them, white, pink, or blue? I was thinking of getting two whites. But I also have java moss growing on some tall driftwood at the top of the tank and I want to be careful with that. Isn't java moss a low-light plant that would get fried since it is growing right at the top.
What do you suggest for lighting?
Also, I am thinking of mixing some dark-colored gravel in with the carborundum. What kind would you suggest?
For light, a full spectrum tube with a kelvin rating around 6500K is best, both for plant growth and appearance (natural colour rendition). Good tubes like Nutrafin's Life-Glo, Zoo Med's Ultra Sun, Phillips Daylight Deluxe will all work (I use these myself), and the Phillips is the cheapest. They all have ratings around 6500K and sufficient blue and red for the plants plus green to balance nicely.
I don't know where in China you can get any of these, so can't help there.
Thanks, Byron. I will look for a different substrate. Also, as for lighting, I can look for those brands. In China they sometimes sell the brand of bulbs that are made here (although this is not always true). If not I should be able to find them or a decent equivalent with the same specs.
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