Plants suddenly in poor health
In the past 6 days, all of the plants in my tank began shrinking. It is completely inexplicable to me. Here is a photobucket slideshow that shows the plants on 2 different dates, March 6 and March 12 (the title shows which 2 days are March 6). Image hosting, free photo sharing & video sharing at Photobucket
If that link doesn't work, please let me know.
St. Elmo's Fire Sword (probably died because I buried the rhizome in an effort to keep it from floating up. Also an Echinodorus species))
Vesuvius (Echinodorus Angustifolia)
Tank size: 29 gallons
Lighting: AquaticLife T5 dual bulb system, 2x24. I am retired and home all day, so the lights are on all day.
Substrate: 3 gallons of the aquariumplants.com's brand for freshwater tanks.
Fertilizer: aquariumplants.com TOTAL substrate pellets
Water hardness: Soft. Softened through a residential water softener which doesn't add salt to the water supply. It was 17 GH but is now softer but IDK how soft.
Temperature: Consistently 72 to 76.
Livestock: 8 diamond tetras, 8 harlequin rasboras, 10 neon tetras, 2 large true Siamese Algae eaters (who are always nibbling algae off the plants and frequently unroot them), 1 dwarf gourami, 1 male betta, and 2 ghost shrimp.
The tank is probably overfiltered with a filter with 2 Biowheels rated for a tank up to 70 gallons, so there is probably too much aeration, and I am really fidgety in the tank, and I fiddle around in there too much, moving plants around, etc.
I am completely at a loss. I called aquariumplants.com and they sold me a water hardness testing kit which I think will be totally useless, but whatever.
The only thing I told them that was wrong was that in further researching my lighting system, the catalog says: "Includes one 6000K and one 650nm Roseate T5 HO bulb ideal for plant color and growth".
Are those bulbs inappropriate? If I buy different ones, might things improve?
I had placed an order last weekend for a lot more plants for a new tank I'm setting up, and I would like to figure this out before all of these plants die AND those plants die, so I am very open to suggestion.
For example this is a 5500k rated daylight bulb. It produces light in blue, green and red spectrum. Notice the spike at 550 nm of the green light spectrum. That is the main type of light this bulb is outputting which is basically useless for plants and they reflect green light:
You want something closer to this (although you don't want this because it is beyond bright):
I'm not saying this is your problem because I don't have enough experience to understand or know exactly what happened but I did notice that from your post. Hopefully someone with some more experience can come on here and help you out. I am sorry about your plants and I hope they get better! I like your tank otherwise, that is one nice Sunset Gourami! Love those fish!
I did just notice on the amazon.com link you posted to your lights, one single comments (the only review) of a customer having similar issues with their plants....
Well, I believe I'm seeing algae that may be choking the leaves. Are you using CO2 and fertilizers? Because with a dual T5HO fixture on a 29 gallon you are most certainly at the high light level which requires it. Plants will photosynthesize until they run out of a nutrient, then they stop. However, algae isn't so picky.
A typical low tech setup (no CO2) would use either a single, or dual T8 fixture and a light duration of no more than 8 hours a day with a dose of a liquid fertilizer once a week.
Hi Granberry, and welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.:-D
Having seen the photos, I think I know what's wrong. It is a combination of two prime issues.
First is the light, which as others have mentioned is quite intense. Plants photosynthesize when the light is of sufficient intensity to drive photosynthesis and provided all 17 nutrients they need are available. If this balance is met, the plants will photosynthesize full out, until something is no longer available. This brings me to the nutrients.
According to their website, the pellets contain all nutrients. So does their substrate. They don't mention it, but in one of my plant forums it was mentioned that this substrate may soften the water. As you mentioned having soft water, this i suspect is the second problem, GH. I have this problem myself, with my tap water near zero in GH, and that means a significant lack of calcium in particular. I've no idea how much calcium is in these two products, but most plant fertilizers contain insufficient calcium, magnesium and sometimes potassium for plants, since the manufacturers assume most people have medium hard or harder water. Their mentioning of a hardness kit causes me to assume they are thinking much the same--you have insufficient calcium.
Calcium is an essential macro-nutrient for all life, and no less for plants. When it is insufficient, some plants take up more iron and this causes an excess which then kills the leaf and the plant. And I am seeing evidence of that in your photos. I went through much the same.
So, how to get this resolved. If you did get the hardness kit, measure you tank water GH. Also test the source water, both before it enters the softener and after. It may be that you can use the pre-softener water and solve this problem. But I need to see the numbers before suggesting you do this.
The substrate and the pellets both contain iron, probably much more than needed. I wouldn't suggest changing the substrate, not yet anyway, but not using the pellets as well is advisable. With an enriched substrate one should not need to add substrate fertilizers. Liquid yes, but not substrate.
And I take it you are not using a liquid fertilizer, so this is a third suggestion. I would not use aquariumplants liquid because i don't know what's in it, and there suggestion that if algae appears it should be discontinued worries me. I won't go into all that. Two liquid ferts are good: Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement and Brightwell Aquatics' MultiFlorin. There may be others I am not aware of, but I use the Flourish and having checked into the Brightwell I would consider it OK too.
Carbon. Another essential macro-nutrient, needed as CO2 (carbon dioxide) by most aquarium plants, though some will take it as bicarbonates if they can't get sufficient CO2. With your soft water this is not possible, so a further carbon deficiency. I see no mention of this being added, and thus I would suspect CO2 is your limiting growth factor. I mentioned at the start that plants stop photosynthesis when something is no longer available, and in your situation--as indeed in most non-CO2 tanks, it is CO2 that first runs out. It should be light that limits. So here I come back to the light. Reduce the intensity if you can (can you use one tube, or must both be lit?), but certainly reduce the duration.
This post is getting long, so i think I will leave it here until we have the GH numbers, and we can continue then. Hope this is of some help in understanding things. You might want to have a read of the 4-part article "A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium" at the head of this section; I wrote it and it should put everything in perspective for you.
I did order the hardness kit, but I think I will get the tank water and before/after water softener system water measured before that arrives. I think my husband can have those done by a friend tomorrow as well as have him pick up the Seachem Flourish or other product you mentioned.
I will take your advice on the lights (I think I can pull out one bulb) and I will be back with the GH readings as soon as I know them. I have a little renewed hope now for my second tank...even if I lose these, maybe that tank will fare better knowing more about the water chemistry.
Thank you all very much!
Water before it goes through softener: 25 drops into the API GH test vials
Water straight from tap: Went straight from transparent to green
Water from tank: Went straight from transparent to green.
So would it be best for me to use about half unsoftened water and half softened? Plus the liquid fertilizer? In the past few days since I've been posting, I've been using the light a lot less. I don't think some of these plants will make it. There's a little new green growth but a lot of what was yellowing is now tan. But my new plants came for my SE Asia biotope tank, so I will still have plants to spread around.
is water sprite a good plant because i have been cosidering getting it formy tank and didnt know if it grows well in moterate ligjht
It will take a bit of experimenting to find the right balance, but I would aim for roughly 1/3 of the initial hardness pre-softener. Try mixing 1 part pre-softener with 2 parts post-softener water and see what GH that gives. Something between maybe 7-8 as the lowest and 10-12 as the upper limit. Anything within this range would work with the soft water fish that were mentioned in your initial post, and I would myself aim for the lower range (7-8 dGH) for the fish. This should work for most plants too. You could have some lovely swords (Echinodorus species), crypts, Aponogeton in substrate rooted plants. Wisteria being a stem plant should manage, but it is difficult to say. Being a fast growing plant, as most stem plants are, more light and nutrients might be needed; you can try it and see. Water Sprite as a floating plant would thrive.
A basic comprehensive fertilizer like Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement dosed once a week should be sufficient. This will ensure the trace elements are provided.
Ask any questions you may have going through this, several of us have experience with water chemistry and plants and I now others as well as myself would be more than happy to offer suggestions and advice where we can.
This is my absolute favourite floating plant; It will reproduce rapidly, the leaves will spread to shde the tank which allows the fish to take on their finest colouration, fish will browse the dangling roots for food, fry can hid in them, the roots release a lot of oxygen into the water, and assimilate a lot of nutrients including ammonia...an all-round excellent aquarium plant.
A few days later (it's a pain in the neck to traipse to the well to gather the unsoftened water), we took out 10 gallons of my 29-gallon tank and replaced it with 10 gallons of unsoftened water. After doing so, the water changed color after 9 drops.
I had moved all the plants from the 29-gallon to the smaller tank (didn't plant them, just plopped them in), and then added liquid fertilizer to the small tank and moved the light to where it would shine indirectly on the smaller tank. I'm going out of town for a few days, but I'm hopeful that when I come back the plants will be healthy and I can spread the plants out over both tanks in the final form.
The advice I've gotten from this board has been invaluable! I would have continued losing plants forever I guess because I wouldn't have ever figured things out on my own. Thanks again!
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