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Easy way to "test" and breakdown of what to test.

Sanderguy777

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I've been reading through a few threads talking about water test kits and the science behind them. I honestly don't understand about half of what the "science types" say, though I think I get the general meaning.

I use test strips because they are easy, and the one time I used the api master kit, I'll admit, I returned it immediately. I'm NOT chemist material. Warnings about dissolving skin and cancer, and the fact that the tests took like 5 min per parameter, was enough to tell me that that was NOT a field I would enjoy!

Anyway, Darrel mentioned in the following thread that the "duckweed test" is a good alternative for test strips since the plant growth is based on what chemicals are in the water, and any algae that grows is because of some imbalance (generally, though I haven't heard of any accepted chemical cause of BBA).


When you combine all these strands you get the "Duckweed index". You use the conductivity meter to give you a datum for your tank water, you have large gas exchange surfaces to constantly replenish/out gas gases and you use the health and colour of a floating plant (takes CO2 availability out of the equation) to estimate the nutrient status of your tank, and when nutrients need to be applied.

It isn't perfect but it works.

cheers Darrel

Does any plant that has access to the atmosphere work, or does it depend on the plant being specifically designed for floating and using atmospheric gasses for development? For instance, if I used a "floating" pogostemin stollatus octopus stem, will I get the same results as if I use a generally equal mass of salvinia or duckweed?

How does the conductivity of water affect plants and animals (I'm sure there is a doctoral dissertation in there somewhere, but I need a layman's breakdown of it. What chemicals cause it, how are they used by plants/fish/inverts, etc). What does it tell me about the aquarium?

I know this is a really big subject, that probably takes many classes and several degrees to cover in any detail, but I know it is valuable info, and I would like to understand WHY this and that work in the aquarium.
Hopefully, this can be of some help to someone down the line.
Thanks
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Does any plant that has access to the atmosphere work, or does it depend on the plant being specifically designed for floating and using atmospheric gasses for development? For instance, if I used a "floating" pogostemin stollatus octopus stem, will I get the same results as if I use a generally equal mass of salvinia or duckweed?
Floating is just more convenient. At the most basic level any plant that has access to the atmosphere will do, and you just watch the size and colour of the leaves. When growth slows and/or the leaves become smaller, or less green than they were, you add nutrients. Once growth has re-started you go back to watching and waiting.

I started with Lesser Duckweed (Lemna minor), because it is used in waste water remediation, but it doesn't like soft water (however much nitrogen it gets)., and it won't grow at very low nutrient levels. Eventually I found a "Duckweed" that didn't have these drawbacks , <"and it was Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum)">.

Ideally it would be a rooted emergent plant like <"Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus)"> one with <"lots of aerenchyma"> ("internal plumbing") and <"extensive radial oxygen loss"> (basically a root that leaks oxygen and carbohydrates into <"the rhizosphere"> (the substrate zone surrounding the root) ).

Aerenchyma2.jpg

Aerenchyma : by User:Bb143143 - Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, File:Aerenchyma2.JPG - Wikimedia Commons
How does the conductivity of water affect plants and animals (I'm sure there is a doctoral dissertation in there somewhere, but I need a layman's breakdown of it. What chemicals cause it, how are they used by plants/fish/inverts, etc). What does it tell me about the aquarium?
Electrical conductivity is just a measure of the amount of ions and it is those ions that conduct electricity. Usually, in fresh water, the major ions are calcium (Ca++) and bicarbonate (HCO3-), because of this a conductivity level of approx. 650 microS (400 ppm TDS) indicates that the water is hard (both dKH and dGH) and fully saturated with calcium carbonate (CaCO3). If you get DI water (H2O) it is an electrical insulator and doesn't conduct electricity. Rainwater is pretty near distilled water and has very little conductivity, it is "soft" water. If we have other salts (like <"sodium chloride in seawater">) this relationship breaks down.
I know this is a really big subject, that probably takes many classes and several degrees to cover in any detail, but I know it is valuable info, and I would like to understand WHY this and that work in the aquarium.
Yes, there are a lot of "moving bits", but the real difficulty is trying to work out which bits are important. A lot of companies sell products that they know don't help with aquarium keeping, often as solutions to problems that they know don't really exist.

Have a look at <"Bedside Aquarium">.

cheers Darrel
 

Tim Harrison

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I know this is a really big subject, that probably takes many classes and several degrees to cover in any detail, but I know it is valuable info, and I would like to understand WHY this and that work in the aquarium.
Over all it's not really that complicated. I mean it can be if you want it to be. But there's a degree of knowledge that's useful and anything more complex is subject to the law of diminishing returns. That is as far as a basic understanding of this hobby is concerned.
Anyway, Darrel mentioned in the following thread that the "duckweed test" is a good alternative for test strips since the plant growth is based on what chemicals are in the water, and any algae that grows is because of some imbalance (generally, though I haven't heard of any accepted chemical cause of BBA).
That's really the key, observation of plants. It's a knack that can take time to learn, but once you get the hang of it things start to make more sense. Our plants will tell us what's needed.

Darrel's Duck Weed Index is useful if you just want minimal plant growth. Nutrients are added when the floating plants start to show signs of deficiency, no testing needed. It's a lean dosing method that I think is suited to low-energy set ups where change happens relatively slowly.

Then there are eutrophic dosing methods like Estimative Index, or EI for short. Its central premise is that fertz are ruled out as a limiting factor to plant growth, because they are always added in excess. Plants will therefore have the potential to grow relatively quickly. It's a method most often used in high light, CO2 injected tanks, where change can occur relatively rapidly.

That said EI can be fine tuned as well. Incrementally reduce the dose until your plants start to show signs of deficiency and then increase the dose back to the level immediately proceeding the last. Still no testing needed. Different nutrient deficiencies will effect plants differently, but there is no need to test or be a plant whisperer to figure out which nutrient is limiting, it's far simpler to just up the entire dose of all nutrients.

Balance just means ensuring all the parameters are in sync; CO2, light and nutrients. Imbalance usually comes from folk using too much light. But that's easy to control these days with dimmable LEDs. The hard bit is dialling the CO2 in correctly and establishing adequate flow and distribution. A system that isn't in balance usually succumbs to algae to some degree or other. And the type of algae will also reveal a great deal about why your tank is out of balance; so again no testing needed.

Lack of appropriate tank maintenance can also play a part. Organic build up can encourage algae, so regular and substantial water changes to reduce solid and dissolved organic waste, are common in the planted tank world especially high-energy injected tanks. Another reason why testing isn't really needed since tank parameters are frequently reset as a result, usually weekly.
How does the conductivity of water affect plants and animals (I'm sure there is a doctoral dissertation in there somewhere, but I need a layman's breakdown of it. What chemicals cause it, how are they used by plants/fish/inverts, etc). What does it tell me about the aquarium?
Short answer is, TDS won't increase if your tank is reset weekly through a substantial water change, at least 50% in a high-energy tank, less in a low-energy system. So again testing isn't needed.

Some of us can get a bit lazy once our tanks become established and biologically stable, neglecting more than a few water changes and just topping up evaporative loss. Meanwhile, TDS can gradually climb, especially in hard water areas from the build up of calcium and magnesium, for instance. But in a well planted and mature tank there is still a fair bit of wriggle room and critters will usually be fine. That is if the tank isn't over stocked and is well filtered etc.

In fact most plants and critters are fine in hard water, even so called soft water species. Many fish are now captive bred in hard water anyway and so couldn't give a monkey's. The only time it can become a problem is if you're trying to keep and/or breed wild caught soft water species.

The upshot is that testing isn't really required in a planted tank, especially if it's well managed. Which is just as well since hobby grade test kits ain't that accurate and will have you chasing your tail and wasting your money on corrective measures that aren't necessary and don't really work anyway.
 

Sanderguy777

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Ok, so as an example, I have a 60g established guppy tank. I probably have close to 100 guppies (about 20 adults, and 60 or 80 fry between 1 day old, ⅜" long, and month+ old, ⅝" long fry).
I have what I consider a good amount of plants (pogostemin stollatus octopus, Java fern, Java moss, salvinia minima, jungle val, and Christmas moss, anubius).
I dose one 1ml squirt of Easy Green a day (is this a good all round fert, or is there something better around the $10/500ml price?).

How much growth should I look for in the plants. How do I measure it, and do I do it every day, or once a week?
Is there a comprehensithread on the EI method?

By the way, the photo is the 60g. The val is new, so it looks pretty bad...
 

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rebel

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How much growth should I look for in the plants. How do I measure it, and do I do it every day, or once a week?
This is a good question and can only come with practice (ie daily observation) and experience.

Watch for growth and any appearance of algae on older leaves. I usually reduce light a little if there is algae.
 

Big G

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This might sound a bit strange but I’ll pick out a particular, preferably newly sprouted leaf/frond from a plant I know should (and has) grown at a discernible rate in my tank. A rotala rotundifolia or Siamensis 53b for me. Every time I do my check of the tank each day I’ll give that node a glance. Has it put on mass? Is it healthy mass? Is the pigmentation changing? etc. Imho the more time I get to know the plants and layout, the more, on that inspection each day, I can see changes at the leaf level in that plant. I couldn’t say I know every strand of my mosses but, for example, I note the changes in fast growers like my H.Tripartita Japan, a mid grower (for me in a given tank) like R.Rotundifolia and a slow grower like Bucephilandra Needle Leaf. Any changes to the pace and quality is a heads up. It’s a dynamic system to me so some changes could be just a response to say, a change in total biomass, a growing critter population, less ambient daylight hitting the tank in winter, erratics in fertilisation etc. so more of a shift in homeostasis than imbalance as such. Sometimes it might be more profound.

For example my H.T. Japan is starting to show holes in its older growth more quickly at the moment. So are a few of the Siamensis leaves. It’s a heads up. I’m pretty new here so I’ll have a stab at trying to reason it out, perhaps gently test my best theory with the default being, ‘Do nothing and change nothing for a bit where possible’, observe further and failing that and if the issue becomes acute, hope I can get a steer from someone on UKAPS.

Didn’t think I would end up in such granular focus but it just sort of happened somewhere in the middle of watching the shrimp scamper about. I find it quite meditative and it’s no more or less than any hobby gardener probably does anyway.

All the best

Bg
 

Tim Harrison

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I've rewritten part of my response above. I somehow managed to conflate The Duck Weed Index with EI; sorry Darrel @dw1305 please feel free to correct and amend. In my defense it was very late when I wrote it :p

I think the point is that the rate of growth isn't as important as algae free healthy growth, which is what most of us aim for. Again that's all about finding the balance between all parameters and in particular light, CO2 flow and distribution and nutrients.

If you want relatively slow growth go the low-energy route with relatively low light. Light drives photosynthesis which in turn will dictate how much CO2 and nutrients the plants will require. Low light equals low nutrient input and CO2 requirement. High light equals high nutrient and CO2 input.

But like any type of gardening you need to choose the plants that will best suit the situation. For instance, low-energy tanks work best with "easy" plants, those that can be relatively slow growing and can tolerate low light and low CO2 conc. Conversely, the advantage of CO2 injection is that it allows you to grow pretty much anything, in particular high light and CO2 demanding species. But growth rate will accordingly be relatively quick.

Is there a comprehensithread on the EI method?
Take a look at this EI Dosing Using Dry Salts. It's in the Tutorials section where you'll find loads more info on growing a planted tank.
 

Sanderguy777

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Ok, then I'll start looking at the leaves tomorrow.

I noticed that the salvinia in my 60g is totally dying. The leaves and stuff are see through, and I think it is just dead matter at this point. The issue is, I can't think of anything I changed that might have killed it. I've been fertilizing the same, not feeding as much (but wouldn't think that would matter much), and I turned the light down from 8hrs a day, to 7 (because of algae growth).
Any ideas? Maybe the combination of less food and less light killed off the salvinia?

Edit : all this has happened over the last week, while I was setting up a 55g with new fish (it was already established, I just swapped fish). So I guess I didn't notice the effects of it all...
 

Sanderguy777

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Update, so I had forgot to mention that the tank had a platy with what I thought was a bacterial infection. (White fuzzy mass on the fin and gill, and red inner gills)

I treated the tank with furan-2, and just today saw a thread blaming plant die back on furan 2. Is that what happened to my salvinia minima?
 

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