Dry start - ammonia advice

Simon Cole

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I am about to 'dry start' a mixed array of plants. I am planting into layers of Amazonia malaya, Tropica soil, Tropica substrate, and black basalt. I am getting very concerned that my Bucephalandra specimens ('mini needle leaves' and 'Tropica red') will either melt during the emersed stage, or that there will be an ammonia spike when the tank is flooded. So here is my question:

Does the 'dry start method' reduce the likelihood of an ammonia spike?
How long should plants be grown in this stage to reduce the impact of ammonia?
Would it be better to skip this method all together?
 

Mihai Varban

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You forget ammonia is plant food. It's toxic for fish and inverts yes. Once you fill er up, you'll be going through quite a few water changes before u add fish.
 

Edvet

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Not sure wether Buce''s will be suited to DSM (depending where they come from, environmental wise (submerged or emersed growth).
 

zozo

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Does the 'dry start method' reduce the likelihood of an ammonia spike?
How long should plants be grown in this stage to reduce the impact of ammonia?
Both are hard to say.. Tho plants can take up Ammonia directly as nitrogen source. The bacteria responsible to convert ammonia and nitrite are more abundantly present in oxygen rich invironments. Thus in a dry start you will definitively have benefits from this side.

First you need to get the plants to grow, than how fast they grow is very depended on the species and the light intensity, light periode they recieve and the period of the intire drystart. SInce there excists no lamp that can compete with the sun/natural light. Plants will always grow slower under artificial light. Bottom line for a dry start the more light you can give the better. :).

Imho, even doing a 4 month dry start it still is advisable to check for ammonia after a flood for at least a few weeks before adding livestock.

Because it is simply very hard to say how much of it is left in the substrate. I know for example ADA substrates contain quite a lot of it. Tho if i remember correctly ADA Malaya is a leaner fertilized substrate than the ADA Amazonia.
 

Tim Harrison

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Does the 'dry start method' reduce the likelihood of an ammonia spike?
Well there will still be one but it probably won't be so large and last as long.
How long should plants be grown in this stage to reduce the impact of ammonia?
Not really the reason for doing DSM. There will always be an ammonia spike whilst soil transitions to sediment once submerged.
Would it be better to skip this method all together?
Really up to you, there are + and - . I've done it just for the Craic and the learning experience. See the bit below.
I am getting very concerned that my Bucephalandra specimens ('mini needle leaves' and 'Tropica red') will either melt during the emersed stage
If they've been grown emersed, they will be fine, so long as the tank is sealed and humidity is kept reasonably high.

On the DSM...
It is possible to give your plants a head start by using the DSM (dry start method). It simply involves growing plants in a wet substrate for 2-6 weeks before the aquarium is flooded. This allows plants to use the aerial advantage to become firmly established. In addition, whilst plant roots are growing in they oxygenate the rhizosphere which accelerates the bacterial driven processes of tank cycling and substrate mineralisation, and makes conditions more favourable for plant growth.


The DSM has the added advantage of being algae free (no water), and of being less labour intensive. For instance, there are no water changes and nutrient dosing isn’t necessary, although fertiliser can be added to the substrate to help establish a lawn quicker. Foliar feeding with a dilute nutrient solution can also help, but if the solution is too concentrated it may burn plant leaves; I use 3 mls of TNC Complete per litre of water. But when all said and done, the key to a successful dry start is very high humidity, so all that’s really required is regular misting and a tank cover; clingfilm usually suffices. This ensures the plants leaves don’t dry out and provides ideal conditions for growth.

The methodology is usually as follows...

1. Add water to a level just below the surface of the substrate; don't let the water level raise above the top of the substrate, which can happen with daily misting.
2. Keep the tank sealed, but let fresh air in for 5 minutes every day to replace the old stagnant air, this may help prevent mould.
3. Spray and mist the plants.
4. Reseal.
5. Repeat daily for between 2 - 6 weeks during which time your lawn should become fully established, and then flood.


Nevertheless, the DSM is not without its downside. Looking at a tank devoid of water for several weeks can stretch delayed gratification to its limits. The humid conditions also favour mould growth, which can becoming a problem. Also, many plants don’t necessarily make the transition from emergent to immersed growth very well, particularly in a low-energy system.



 

Simon Cole

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Thanks for the detailed response my friends. Tim - thank you for your good explanation. I have never tried it - I'm up for giving it a go on my next set up ( I gave it a miss this time around but I have to do another aquarium shortly), and I may even enrich the atmosphere with some carbon dioxide. I guess that I was very nervous about melting bucephalandra. They never seem to do that well in my newer aquariums, so I was kind of presuming that they did not like the cycling conditions. I had no idea that some varieties resist submergence.
 
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