Is there a table or test to determine how much fertilizer and what to maintain proper fert levels. I am not talking about the fert calculators in the stickies but how to know what and how much of a certain kind to dose.
Aquatic plants require a range of macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients in order to photosynthesize (grow). Some of these will be available from the fish food (uneaten food breaks down, eaten food also breaks down and is discarded by the fish), some in tap water depending upon the hardness, and some can come from enriched substrates if you happen to have a plant substrate like eco-complete, laterite, etc. But in most cases it is necessary to add a fertilizer in order to provide all of the nutrients that plants require.
The nutrients must also be in balance. If an important nutrient is lacking, it can prevent plants from growing even though everything else may be present. Similarly, if any nutrient is in excess of what the plant needs, the plant may have difficulty growing because some nutrients in excess can inhibit the plant's ability to take up certain other nutrients. Sometimes plants can store excess nutrients, up to a point. But as this is all fairly complex, the safest route is to use a comprehensive (comlete) fertilizer. My personal preference is Seachem's "Flourish Comprehensive Supplement for the Planted Aquarium" but I have also previously used the Kent Freshwater Plant Supplement with good results. There may be others I have not tried, but these two do work. It is not wise to dose with individual nutrients like iron because the plants need all of them in balance; and symptoms of nutrient deficiency can be the same even though different nutrients may be lacking. A comprehensive balanced fertilizer is the best way to go.
You also have to be careful not to overdose; excess of nutrients beyond what the plants in the aquarium can use in relation to the available light and CO2 (carbon dioxide) will cause algae to take control. My method when I set up a planted tank is to use the Flourish Comprehensive once a week after the weekly partial water change, and observe the plants for a few weeks. If new leaf growth starts yellowing or browning or getting holes, etc., I increase the liquid fertilizer to twice a week. I said new leaf growth for a reason: plants recently put into a tank will often lose their existing leaves due to different water parameters, being moved, or whatever, so it is the new leaf growth that must be monitored.
The light, available CO2 and nutrients must be in balance.
Can you acclimate a plant in the same manner that you would a fish to reduce the shock to them. would this help deminish the loss of original leaves?
Don't think plants would benefit from the type of acclimation we do with fish but with that said,, It's always a good idea to rinse all plants before placing them in your aquarium to remove as much as is possible in the way of snails,snail eggs,and or possible parasites. Many places that sell plants keep them in plant ONLY tanks, but others perhaps don't.
1077 has a good point, to rinse plants off before planting them.
The loss of leaves on newly-acquired plants can be due to a couple of things, both unavoidable. First, some plants are sensitive to any change in their environment; the species of Cryptocoryne are notorious for "melting" when there are changes in the water parameters or quality. They can withstand replanting better if the water is near identical; when I moved several years ago, I pulled the plants out of my 90g and 115g tanks, and laid them in a spare tank with enough water to just cover them. They remained in this tank for 2 days before I got the main tanks set up again after the move. To my surprise, the majority of crypts did not melt. I assume this was due to the water being identical in pH and hardness. A year later, the water board decided to raise the pH of the tap water from 6 to 7 and I did the usual weekly partial water change without knowing this. Within two days all the crypts in both tanks had melted into a pile of mush. And since then, I have had meltdowns result from any change in water parameters, including temperature. The crypt roots usually remain alive, and new leaves will generally appear, sometimes within a week or two, sometimes months. But other plants are generally not this sensitive unless the difference in hardness, pH or temperature is significant.
Some medications can affect plants, and usually loss of leaves is the result. I used Maracyn to combat columnaris a few months back, and after about a week I noticed the pygmy chain swords did a meltdown, and the large red-leaf swords also lost their leaves; the large green swords were less affected. They all bounced back within 3-4 weeks. But obviously something in the Maracyn affects plants. Another member on this forum had the same experience. Changing fertilizers, or changing the frequency, can affect some plants.
Lastly, it is common for plants bought from the fish store to lose their leaves if they are relatively new from the supplier. Many of the plants we have in our aquaria are not true aquatic plants but are bog plants in nature. Almost all the swords (Echinodorus species) are bog plants, and many of the crypts. In their natural habitat, they live in marsh or bog conditions, the roots constantly under water throughout the year but the leaves grow in the air (emersed) during the "dry" season; when the rains come the rivers in Amazonia and parts of SE Asia flood the forests and the plants are then submersed for six months. Most of these "amphibious" plants do quite well permanently submersed, although they will not flower unless thy have a period of emersed growth as they do in nature. The leaf forms are sometimes quite different between those that form above water (emersed) and those that form underwater (submersed), both in shape (the most obvious difference) and texture, and sometimes in colour. These aquatic plants are generally raised emersed, not submersed, because it is quicker and less expensive. Thus, when you plant them in the aquarium, the emersed leaves will die off and the new leaf growth will be the aquatic form and frequently quite different in appearance. This is obviously perfectly normal and not a cause for concern; the plant is simply adapting to the sumersed form, and it will remain in that form in the aquarium for many years. I have an Echinodorus macrophyllus in my 115g that is 12 years old, and I have four daughter plants from the last flower spike it produced in May.
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