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nacho 05-23-2010 06:13 PM

Java ferns browning and becoming transparent
Hi everyone,

About three weeks ago, I bought two java ferns and an Anubias gigantea plant for my 10-gallon. Now I realize the anubias might be a tad large for the tank, but whatever. Oops :)

My two java ferns are very brown and most definitely dying. The tank is currently undergoing a fishless cycle, which means that there are not many nutrients in there. Could the lack of nutrients be a problem?

I use Coralife lighting: 2 10W bulbs, which means the tank gets 2W per gallon. I also wonder if keeping the light on for approximately 6 hours is too much for a low-light plant like the java fern.

Here's how the plants looked a few days after I bought them:

I don't have a picture of them now, but the majority of the leaves are brown.

Any help for my plants would be greatly appreciated.

- nacho

Byron 05-23-2010 07:45 PM

It might help to see a photo, but even without I would suggest the problem is too much light plus insufficient nutrients. These two aspects are very closely related. In order to photosynthesize (which is how plants grow) they need light and nutrients to balance; if either of these is insufficient, they slow down to the point of stopping growth, and if this continues the plant begins to die.

Having said that, Anubias is also low light, moreso in my experience than Java Fern. However, being a very slow grower, its nutrient requirement is less. I'm surmising, but it may "survive" better than JF. It also does not appreciate light, and may develop yellow leaves in direct light. My Anubias always does better with floating plants to shade it.

You will need some nutrient fertilizer, and for these plants a liquid is the best. I would recommend Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement for the Planted Aquarium, or Nutrafin's Plant-Gro or the Aqueon Plant Food. I use Flourish.

If it were me, as you have plants I would forget the fishless cycle and put in a fish. Replace the dying plants first though, they will only make things worse. Live plants use ammonia/ammonium produced by the fish, and in a 10g with one small fish, a few plants would easily handle the ammonia and the tank would cycle itself.

Light is important for two aspects, intensity (brightness) and duration. Reducing or increasing one does not compensate for a deficiency in the other. I would not go with less than 6 hours; in fact I would increase it to 8, but add the fertilizer and fish.


nacho 05-23-2010 08:08 PM

I just took a picture of the ferns and the anubias.
Notice the yellow/torn baby leaf on the anubias.

Should I just add a fish in at this point? I am going to buy a betta fish for the tank, and perhaps a few ghost shrimp too.

My water test results from yesterday (below) show that my nitrites are high. I am expecting the nitrates to go up soon and hopefully the ammonia and nitrite will be zero when that happens.
[pH: >7.6
ammonia (NH3): ~0 ppm
nitrite (NO2-): >5.0 ppm
nitrate (NO3-): 6 ppm]

I specifically bought these two plants because the LFS person told me they don't really need fertilizer...several Internet sources say the same thing. I suppose I will get the fertilizers, though. I really want my plants to be happy.

Byron 05-23-2010 08:40 PM

Remember that we usually put plants in tanks with fish, and fish provide nutrients; their waste is broken down in the substrate by bacteria and becomes nutrients, the fish food contains minerals that are nutrients for the plants, etc. Without this going on, the plants don't have any food (nutrients), so you need to provide some. And now that I see the photos, this is the issue; I've had the same when I had this plant in my old amphibian vivarium, I had to add liquid fertilizer as there were no fish. I think this will help.

The Anubias is looking OK, but it shouldn't be planted in the substrate, it will rot. The rhizome should be attached to a piece of rock or wood using some cotton thread (black is invisible), and in time the roots will attach themselves to the rock/wood. Same as the Java Fern.

What fish do you plan on putting in the aquarium?


nacho 05-23-2010 08:46 PM

So good to know. Thanks. This info would have been useful earlier on :]

1 betta fish and 5 ghost shrimp is the stocking plan. I hope the fertilizer will do the trick. Thanks so much for your help!

Byron 05-24-2010 12:35 PM

You're welcome. My suggestion would be to get the fertilizer (I previously reccomended good ones) and if the plants are growing, add the betta. You will have no problem with a cycle.


nacho 06-02-2010 03:00 PM

Just wanted to let you know that the fertilizers are working and the ferns are sprouting new leaves (three of them between the two plants!). Thanks again!

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