Echinodorus bleheri - slow growth

jaypeecee

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Hi Folks,

My E. bleheri is growing very slowly. Generally, it is in good condition. The new leaves are a lush green but I was hoping for faster growth. The tank is brightly lit but, sadly, I have no measured PAR readings. I use CO2 injection to achieve a CO2 concentration of 25 - 30ppm. I have Seachem Flourish root tabs at the base of all the plants. Although some of the older leaves on the E. bleheri develop tiny black patches, there are no holes in the leaves. Currently, I only add Flourish Trace to the water column. In the same tank, I have E. spectra, which grows very well indeed - dark green leaves (red initially). Its leaves are long (30cm) and plentiful unlike the E. bleheri whose leaves are short (15 - 20cm) and few in numbers. There is good water circulation throughout this 130 litre tank.

I am wondering if the E. bleheri is nitrogen deficient. I do have Flourish Nitrogen so I could start using it again. I stopped because I was concerned that, along with phosphates, it was contributing to algae outbreaks.

Does anyone have any suggestions? BTW, has anyone ever tried injecting liquid fertilizers directly into the substrate at the base of plants?

Thanks in advance.

JPC
 
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Do you have any pictures? The key points you have made are...

The tank is brightly lit

nitrogen deficient

I stopped because I was concerned that, along with phosphates, it was contributing to algae outbreaks.

In most cases with a brightly lit tank you will need to add extra nitrogen, poor growth can be caused by a lack of it. Plants will uptake from the roots but in the main will absorb through the leaves. A lot of people fertilise the water column only and have no issues. Nitrate and Phosphate won't cause algae, not having enough can cause the plant to deteriorate which then results in algae. There's no real point in injecting ferts into the substrate, they'll just end up in the water column anyway. I would start adding the Nitrogen again mate and monitor for improvement. Hungry plants like swords will get through a fair bit of nitrogen.
 

jaypeecee

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Hi AWB,

Thanks for your reply.

I have great difficulty in accepting that nitrate and phosphate in the water column don't contribute to algae. In combination with light, this is what algae needs to flourish, isn't it? I used to have a problem with a variety of algae but when I stopped adding nitrate and phosphate to the water column, the algae disappeared. That was no coincidence. But, I am happy to try adding nitrogen only (no phosphate) in the form of nitrate again. I plan to do that today and will report back within the next few days.

JPC
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
I have great difficulty in accepting that nitrate and phosphate in the water column don't contribute to algae. In combination with light, this is what algae needs to flourish, isn't it?
All plants grow better with more nutrients. There isn't really any difference between the green algae and your aquarium plants, <"they are all plants">, just the <"plants you want" and the "plants you don't">.

Have a look at <"GSA and phosphates.."> and the linked <"Open University pages on Eutrophication">, which is where this schematic came from.

s216_1_042i.jpg

"Figure 3.5 Probability plot of two stable states in shallow freshwater ecosystems. Over a broad range of phosphorus concentrations in the eutrophic-hypertrophic range, either state may potentially occur. However, once established, that state promotes processes that result in it becoming stabilized, and switches between the two states are only rarely observed".

Rather than the regular addition of nutrients, I use <"a different approach">. I have a floating plant (usually <"Limnobium laevigatum">) and ,<"heavy planting"> of <"easy" plants"> in the tanks. I just watch the <"growth and leaf colour of the floating plant"> (so not CO2, or light, limited), all the time the leaves are green and the plant growing (how ever slowly) I don't add any nutrients (other than whatever arrives via water changes).

When plant growth (or leaf colour) deteriorates I add some nutrients, once growth has resumed it is back to observing and waiting.

cheers Darrel
 
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jaypeecee

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Hi Darrel,

From Figure 3.5, at a phosphorus concentration of less than 0.025mg/l, the probability of phytoplankton dominance is zero. Does this equate to 0.075mg/l phosphate? And, for the purpose of what we're discussing here, can I read 'algae' for 'phytoplankton'? I use the JBL phosphate sensitive test kit but perhaps you consider this unreliable?

JPC
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
i love @dw1305 posts, so informative...
Thank-you, I always hope they help, but I'm never entirely sure.

These subject areas are part of my <"day-job">, so I have a lot of the information to hand.

The "Duckweed Index" just came out of research on the <"phytoremediation of waste water using Lemna minor">. I subsequently found that a lot of my discoveries had already published in aquarium books by ,"Diana Walstad and Horst & Kipper">, none of it was originally my work or idea.

My original premise was that if you can use dilution, phytoremediation and bioassay methods to reduce and monitor the pollution level in very polluted water, you can use the same approach to improve the quality of less polluted water.

One great advantage of this approach is that it doesn't rely on water testing etc. you just have to have a floating plant and watch it.

cheers Darrel
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
From Figure 3.5, at a phosphorus concentration of less than 0.025mg/l, the probability of phytoplankton dominance is zero. Does this equate to 0.075mg/l phosphate?
It should do ("divide by 0.326"), the phosphate in the water will be one form of orthophosphate (PO4---).
And, for the purpose of what we're discussing here, can I read 'algae' for 'phytoplankton'?
Phytoplankton is algae, you would usually just look at water clarity o give you an idea of phytoplankton density, you can use spectrophotometry to give you a chlorophyll values (basically how green the water is), or in low sediment situations a secchi disc should give you a ball park figure.
I use the JBL phosphate sensitive test kit but perhaps you consider this unreliable?
You can test for phosphate a lot more easily than for most other nutrients, because a lot of phosphorus compounds are <"both coloured and insoluble">. We use spectrophotometry: "ammonium vanadomolybdate color development method, analyzed using UV Vis at 430nm" for water samples, I don't normally test the tank water.

Problems often come because people don't dilute their samples with DI water, ideally you want to keep diluting the sample (with known volumes of water) until you get no detectable PO4---. You also get problems with contamination.

I'm not familiar with the JBL test kit but it should work.

cheers Darrel
 

jaypeecee

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Many thanks, Darrel.

That's good news about the 0.075mg/l phosphate figure as the JBL phosphate test kit can measure down to this level. Interestingly, JBL consider 0.075mg/l to be borderline between OK and not OK. So it looks as though they are well-informed! Their test kit results in shades of blue being formed so you probably would have an idea of what chemistry method they are using. Thanks also for clarifying that phytoplankton is algae.

JPC
 

jaypeecee

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There's no real point in injecting ferts into the substrate, they'll just end up in the water column anyway.

Hi AWB,

As there is virtually no water movement in the substrate at a depth of 5 - 7cm, my hunch is that the ferts would slowly diffuse around the plant roots. So, only a small amount would end up in the water column. But, of course, I may be completely wrong. Clearly, it wouldn't be a good idea to inject fertilizer directly from the bottle - it would need to be diluted but, to what extent, would require some experimentation.

JPC
 
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As there is virtually no water movement in the substrate at a depth of 5 - 7cm, my hunch is that the ferts would slowly diffuse around the plant roots. So, only a small amount would end up in the water column. But, of course, I may be completely wrong. Clearly, it wouldn't be a good idea to inject fertilizer directly from the bottle - it would need to be diluted but, to what extent, would require some experimentation.

It might mate, usually tabs slow release so the roots get the opportunity , with liquid ferts they're going to mix with the aquarium water pretty instantly in much the same way as warm water and cold water would quickly level out into slightly cooler water than it was before.

That's good news about the 0.075mg/l phosphate figure as the JBL phosphate test kit can measure down to this level. Interestingly, JBL consider 0.075mg/l to be borderline between OK and not OK.

I wish it was that simple, I don't think it's as clear cut that at this level of po4 you will get plants and that level you will get algae otherwise most of the tanks in here running EI would just have algae. As Darrel explained, plants and algae are roses of a different colour, both will thrive under the same conditions as they have the same needs as each other the main difference being algae aren't as fussy. It's been shown many times and repeatable that high po4 does not cause algae in a planted tank. The EI people dose 1 to 3ppm daily so unless their plants are using that much po4 they get under the threshold everyday then theoretically we would all be scaping algae. It's a contentious issue around these here parts :D Many a discussion about when is enough too much, EI eutrophic dosing is itself essentially about dosing more nutrients than one could possibly need, but it works.

There's other factors to take into account with algae the two mainly being plant health and tank hygiene. Even with healthy plants algae can still get a grip if people don't keep on top of lowering excess organics which algae thrive off, regular water changes, hoovering of the substrate and filter cleaning tend to keep organics down to a level where plants out compete algae for the available nutrients. That is of course as long as the plants are healthy in the first place, when plants aren't healthy it tends to be because something is missing as oppose to too much of something. It's been demonstrated many times that even dosing ridiculous amounts of fertiliser didn't cause algae, sometimes deliberate and sometimes by accident.

You have to look at plants in the same way as a jigsaw. All the pieces need to be there in so far as all the traces and the macros and if you use it enough co2. Take one of the pieces away and you don't end up with a completed jigsaw. The plant might struggle by a bit but it won't be thriving and when they thrive the out compete algae. In your particular case there's something not right with the plant "My E. bleheri is growing very slowly" which usually means something is missing OR it's a plant that just does grow slowly like many of them do regardless of what you feed them. That might be the case with yours as the other plants in the tank don't seem affected which is where Darrels duck weed index comes in. Fast growing non co2 limited plants right next to your lighting tend to show deficiency up first. It's like an early warning system and one which I personally subscribe to but I'm not an aquascaper.

The other option is the plant is a heavy feeder and does best with a lot of nutrients in which case there might be "something" missing. As you only dose traces that leaves, magnesium, pottasium, nitrate and phosphate. It's just a case of finding which one or maybe even all 4 it might be. Easiest place to start would be the Magnesium in the form of Epsom salts, it won't take much. If you have KNO3 that would be the next thing to try which covers some potassium and nitrate, in the case of slow growth nitrate is up there in the offenders list. Either way buddy when you're looking for something that's missing taking other things away won't help. at least you can tick them off the list of possibilities. EI works by ticking off all the possibilities and just leaves you with co2.

Happy Hunting :)
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Their test kit results in shades of blue being formed so you probably would have an idea of what chemistry method they are using.
That would be what I expected it is the <"molybdenum blue"> method.
You have to look at plants in the same way as a jigsaw. All the pieces need to be there in so far as all the traces and the macros and if you use it enough co2. Take one of the pieces away and you don't end up with a completed jigsaw. The plant might struggle by a bit but it won't be thriving and when they thrive the out compete algae.
I like that "jigsaw" analogy.

cheers Darrel
 
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I like that "jigsaw" analogy.

I try my best mate. :) I find when getting getting bogged down with ions and cations there's always a simpler way of looking at it that even I can understand. It keeps me sane.
 
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I think the biggest difference between Eutrophic dosing systems like EI and natural water bodies becoming eutrophic would be that they both experience accelerated growth but in natural water bodies there isn't someone going in once a week to give them a good clip out and remove all the decaying leaves etc. In much the same way if we left our tanks unattended for a long period and just left it to mother nature they would end up being stagnant algae infested bogs as well. The higher nutrients just speed up the process in nature, we don't give it a chance in our tanks.
 

jaypeecee

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In your particular case there's something not right with the plant "My E. bleheri is growing very slowly" which usually means something is missing OR it's a plant that just does grow slowly like many of them do regardless of what you feed them.

As you only dose traces that leaves, magnesium, pottasium, nitrate and phosphate. It's just a case of finding which one or maybe even all 4 it might be. Easiest place to start would be the Magnesium in the form of Epsom salts, it won't take much. If you have KNO3 that would be the next thing to try which covers some potassium and nitrate, in the case of slow growth nitrate is up there in the offenders list.

Hi AWB,

As E. bleheri can grow to 50cm, I conclude that something is missing. I use RO water in my tanks, which I re-mineralize using Tropic Marin Re-Mineral Tropic. This contains magnesium. I also have Flourish Nitrogen, which contains potassium nitrate and urea. According to Seachem, the manufacturer:

"It provides nitrogen in both the nitrate form and the plant–preferred ammonium form. However, no free ammonia is released because the ammonium in Flourish Nitrogen™ is complexed and unavailable until utilized by the plants. Ammonium becomes available after conversion of urea (carbamide). Flourish Nitrogen™ also provides nitrate for those plants that can readily utilize nitrate as well".

So, I plan to start using Flourish Nitrogen again.

JPC
 
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As E. bleheri can grow to 50cm, I conclude that something is missing.

I was thinking the same mate. Not over familiar with the plant but I think sword species tend to be hungry feeders. I would definitely add the Nitrogen again although tend to find using an all in one fert works out better. At least you know you're covered for everything. Sometimes you find the re-mineralise stuff is missing certain things.
 

jaypeecee

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Hi Folks,

Two months down the line and I'm still at a loss to know why I've got the slowest growing E. bleheri on the planet! I initially tried adding Flourish Nitrogen + Flourish Trace for about a month - to no avail. I've improved CO2 circulation in the tank with an Eheim StreamON+ circulator. The E. chrileni is prolific as is the E. spectra. I thought E. bleheri was supposed to be an 'easy' plant to grow. During the last fortnight, I've added two Flourish Tabs* in the substrate close to the base of this plant. No obvious improvement. If anything, the plant is getting worse - small amounts of BBA is present on the edges of the older leaves. What should I try next?

BTW, I don't appear to have included as yet the water KH and GH, which are 4.5dH and 9.5dH, respectively. Conductivity is 470 microSiemens/cm. Nitrate is 15 - 30ppm. Phosphate is less than 0.02ppm.

Thanks in advance.

JPC :arghh:

* For nutrient breakdown, see https://www.seachem.com/flourish-tabs.php.
 
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