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Excel and water changes

jlm

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Finally, my new Rio 125 is ready and waiting for the first shipment of plants - any day now. However, it turns out that the SeaChem Flourish Excel that I was planning to use in a low-maintenance setup needs water changes, or so I gather from this forum, which throws a spanner in the works. If this is true, why exactly does Excel require water changes, and to what extent can one do without them?

Intended setup:

Rio 125
2x28 T5 tubes
Flourite
Tropica Aquacare Plant Nutrition+
SeaChem Flourish Excel
Root tabs
No water changes
Loads of tolerant, easy-grow plants
A few shrimp and small fish such as white cloud or tetras

Thanks for any advice!
 

ceg4048

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Hi,
Both Excel and Easycabo are broken down internally to produce CO2. Enriching the plants with CO2 results in higher growth rates. Higher growth rates result in higher organic waste production rate which becomes toxic. In a non enriched tank the growth rates are much lower so the waste production rate is also much lower. This allows time for the waste to be broken down and to be recycled.

Liquid carbon products don't supply as much CO2 as gas injection so the growth rates are not as manic. Depending on the dosing scheme you can get by with less water changes, but eliminating water changes altogether is not really a good idea. What you might be able to do is to start off with the Excel dosing to get the plants going and then gradually reduce the Excel to zero. At that point the water changes can cease.

Cheers,
 

jlm

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ceg4048 said:
What you might be able to do is to start off with the Excel dosing to get the plants going and then gradually reduce the Excel to zero. At that point the water changes can cease.

Thanks for that, ceg4048. If I'm getting you right, you imply that Excel = water changes needed, but ferts only (TPN+) = no water changes are always needed. I suppose my question really is: what in Excel makes it necessary to carry out WC, but not if one uses non-carbon fertilizers?

On the other hand, wouldn’t it be enough to stop all dosing (ferts, co2) for some time (say, a week) to compensate for any accumulation of baddies due to lack of WC? Instead of doing water changes, what about dosing nothing for a week or so… wouldn't the plants use up any excess, I wonder.

The plants will be delivered tomorrow! The experiment begins...
 

plantbrain

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I think you can go either way here.
Water changes(WC) or not.

You might consider more initially, say once a week for 1-2 months, then reduced to 1x a month.
1x a month ought to be fine and not much work.

With time and skill, you should go longer.
Particularly if you use sediment rich nutrients, and then dose light to the water column 2x a week or so(say 1/8th EI).

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

jlm

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plantbrain said:
I think you can go either way here.
Water changes(WC) or not.

Thanks! So co2 fluctuations due to WC aren't that important? I thought they were considered as a likely cause of algal growth, esp. in low tech/maintenance aquariums...

Someone in another forum (steveninaster at www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk) has suggested that "If you are worried about adding co2 in your water change just leave the water to stand for a few hours for the gasses to come out of solution. The additional co2 added isnt that great when diluted in your existing tank water and I find it hard to believe algae would benefit much by a short increase." Does this make any sense? Chlorine does 'evaporate' this way, so perhaps so would co2. If so, water changes could be done without risking algae problems!

Another thing that intrigues me is whether it would be enough to stop all dosing (ferts, co2) for a short time (say, a week) to compensate for any accumulation of baddies due to lack of WC? Instead of doing water changes, what about dosing nothing for a week or so… to give the plants a chance to finish with whatever's left in the water column?

On the other hand, if WC are a matter of personal choice and not a strict necessity, the inevitable question is: why add chores that one can do without, particularly when the objective is minimal maintenance? Just wondering!
 

ceg4048

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jlm said:
ceg4048 said:
What you might be able to do is to start off with the Excel dosing to get the plants going and then gradually reduce the Excel to zero. At that point the water changes can cease.
Thanks for that, ceg4048. If I'm getting you right, you imply that Excel = water changes needed, but ferts only (TPN+) = no water changes are always needed. I suppose my question really is: what in Excel makes it necessary to carry out WC, but not if one uses non-carbon fertilizers?
Well I think you have missed something fundamental here; Carbon is THE element upon which all life on the planet is based. Carbon is what makes plants grow. It's what makes us grow. What happens when you burn a log? That black stuff? It's carbon. Just try and stop eating carbon based products, like bread, rice, wheat, nuts, fruit, potatoes, milk and so forth. You'll realize in a hurry how important Carbon is for growth. The other elements are used to functionally modify and diversify the carbon molecules of which living tissues are constructed. So adding more Carbon means that the mechanism of growth is accelerated and by default, more NPK is required. Carbon uptake creates a demand for other nutrients. If you are not enriching the carbon in the tank then the plants adapt to a low carbon diet, which means low growth rates and low nutrient requirements.

jlm said:
On the other hand, wouldn’t it be enough to stop all dosing (ferts, co2) for some time (say, a week) to compensate for any accumulation of baddies due to lack of WC? Instead of doing water changes, what about dosing nothing for a week or so… wouldn't the plants use up any excess, I wonder.
So then why bother dosing in the first place? Why not just go non-Carbon enriched? Although, tThe good thing about Excel is that it has algecidal properties. Whatever you dose, the plants then adapt to. When you stop that regime it causes hiccups in growth rates and this typically results in algae. You might get away with this for a while but as plant mass increases you could run into trouble.

Water Change is not strictly a matter of personal choice. It's a matter of damage control. If you produce high waste you should remove it. If the waste production rate is low enough, the system has time to recycle. The organic waste molecules are highly complex and require time to be broken down. Tthe non-enriched systems do not dump loads of waste into the tank at a rate that threatens toxic buildup, and the light is low enough to not exacerbate the situation. On the contrary, avoiding water changes in a high light highly enriched system can be fatal.

I think what Tom was implying is that Excel by itself is not as effective as gas injection and it has these algecidal properties, so growth rates, and therefore waste production rates are not terribly high (compared to gas injection) and there is sufficient margin of error that either way might work. I don't think he was implying unilaterally that water changes are strictly optional, only that the regime you propose to operate under is on the border between necessary and not necessary.

Cheers,
 

jlm

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I see, thank you. So suppossing that one wants to simplify maintenance to a minimum doing away with most of the water changes (but still get some growth), the way to go would be to use soil or root tabs only, and perhaps dose just a bit of water column fertilizers as well, but limiting the Excel to small amounts if at all, and definitely using no co2 whatsoever?

In this simplified setup I imagine that it would help to reduce the fish/invertebrates to a minimum, but the plants need not be limited in quantity? Light would also be low, below 2wpg.

As far as I understand, this is the setup that would require the less amount of work - I am just a little concerned about dosing even small amounts of TPN+ and root tabs with no wc. But I suspect that if I keep the dosing below the recommended levels, especially with regards to Excel (if I use it at all) I should have no problems. In the past I have given up on aquariums due to lack of plant growth, but I simply do not have the time for carrying out frequent water changes. The plants will be delivered tomorrow, I believe, fingers crossed!
 
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jlm said:
I see, thank you. So suppossing that one wants to simplify maintenance to a minimum doing away with most of the water changes (but still get some growth), the way to go would be to use soil or root tabs only, and perhaps dose just a bit of water column fertilizers as well, but limiting the Excel to small amounts if at all, and definitely using no co2 whatsoever?

In this simplified setup I imagine that it would help to reduce the fish/invertebrates to a minimum, but the plants need not be limited in quantity? Light would also be low, below 2wpg.

As far as I understand, this is the setup that would require the less amount of work - I am just a little concerned about dosing even small amounts of TPN+ and root tabs with no wc. But I suspect that if I keep the dosing below the recommended levels, especially with regards to Excel (if I use it at all) I should have no problems. In the past I have given up on aquariums due to lack of plant growth, but I simply do not have the time for carrying out frequent water changes. The plants will be delivered tomorrow, I believe, fingers crossed!

there are many other options for substrate other than just root tabs or soil. look into the different types of substrate you can get.
and i would say not "perhaps" but "definitely" add ferts. you really don't want to try and keep the "dosing below the recommended levels".
why are you worried about dosing the water column?

i notice the lighting is 2wpg of T5 which is pretty high and doubtfull you could get away with not having carbon supplementation unless you had floating plants or rooted ones growing to shade the surface.
 

ceg4048

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jlm said:
I see, thank you. So suppossing that one wants to simplify maintenance to a minimum doing away with most of the water changes (but still get some growth), the way to go would be to use soil or root tabs only, and perhaps dose just a bit of water column fertilizers as well, but limiting the Excel to small amounts if at all, and definitely using no co2 whatsoever?
Well, as Plantbrain pointed out, by limiting the amounts of Excel dosing you might be able to get away with no changes and still have better growth than doing the non-CO2 approach. If water column dosing is too tedious then it would be better to use an enriched substrate like Aquasoil. I personally can't fathom why dosing should be considered tedious. I can dose my tank in under 2 minutes using individual powders. If using TPN+ or premixed powder solution, it can easily be done in under 30 seconds. What's the big deal?

jlm said:
In this simplified setup I imagine that it would help to reduce the fish/invertebrates to a minimum, but the plants need not be limited in quantity? Light would also be low, below 2wpg.
Light should definitely be low but I see no reason to limit the fish to minimum, assuming that the plant mass is high.

jlm said:
As far as I understand, this is the setup that would require the less amount of work - I am just a little concerned about dosing even small amounts of TPN+ and root tabs with no wc. But I suspect that if I keep the dosing below the recommended levels, especially with regards to Excel (if I use it at all) I should have no problems. In the past I have given up on aquariums due to lack of plant growth, but I simply do not have the time for carrying out frequent water changes. The plants will be delivered tomorrow, I believe, fingers crossed!
The least amount of work is with no Excel, period. The nutrient level will be less critical if this is the case, but if you're not dosing Excel then you only need to dose the water column twice or thrice a month. I'm sure I'm missing something but I don't understand why dosing small amounts of TPN+ would be something to fear. I mean, TPN+ isn't made of cyanide or anything like that. Your biggest fear ought to be overfeeding. Can you explain the nature of your fear?

Cheers,
 

jlm

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ceg4048 said:
Light should definitely be low but I see no reason to limit the fish to minimum, assuming that the plant mass is high.

I mean, TPN+ isn't made of cyanide or anything like that. Your biggest fear ought to be overfeeding. Can you explain the nature of your fear?
Cheers,

The algae! The algae!

Regarding the reason for being concerned about dosing TPN+ without WC is that this Tropica product has N and P in it in addition to the usual ferts, so if I am going to have some fish/invertebrates in the tank at a later stage I would better be very careful about the dosing and the stock levels: I am sooo concerned about the algae threat...

The light is 2x28 T5 tubes, the standard with Rio 125. As you say, baron von bubba, I'll add some floating plants just in case this is a bit on the high side for a lo tech tank.

The plants should have arrived by now, but as it happens there is an intermittent Royal Mail strike going on, so who knows how many days delay there'll be - I hope the lettuces survive the shipping!
 

jlm

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chrisr01 said:
Hi jlm
jlm said:
I am just a little concerned about dosing even small amounts of TPN+ and root tabs with no wc.
Why?
I have 2 lo tech tanks which get dosed once a week and the water hasn't been changed for 6 months. No ill effects to plants or fish :D .

Chris

Hi chrisr01,
What ferts are you using? As per my previous comment, I fear TPN+ may be too strong if combined with the organic contribution of fish/invertebrates, resulting in the unmentionable algae growth. I think it is meant to be used in plant-only aquariums?
 

ceg4048

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Oh... well, it might interest you to know that nutrients don't cause algae. I'm afraid you've been labouring under a misconception which seems to be common. If you want to understand the root causes of algae then you should study this sticky: Good algae article

As noted, overfeeding, overlighting, organic waste buildup, poor application of CO2 and a few other issues, such as insufficient N and P cause algae.

Cheers,
 

Superman

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As ceg has mentioned, if you're worrying about dosing ferts then don't be. You'll be causing more problems by not dosing enough than dosing too much.

Dosing too little can cause plants to be un-healthy, they then leech ammonia into the tank which will cause algae outbreaks.
If you're dosing enough then plants will be healthy, that means there is no difficiency and no ammonia produced from the plants from decay.

Many dose way over the top, so that the amount of ferts within the water, is non-limiting. That is, there's always more than enough for the plants to flourish.

I understand you're concerns as many people thing that ferts cause algae, yes ferts will feed the algae, but if you make sure that algae never starts by having healthy plants, co2, flow and light at the right balance, then there won't be any algae to feed off the ferts.

Don't be frightend to dose ferts.
 

jlm

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ceg4048 said:
Oh... well, it might interest you to know that nutrients don't cause algae. I'm afraid you've been labouring under a misconception which seems to be common. If you want to understand the root causes of algae then you should study this sticky: Good algae article

As noted, overfeeding, overlighting, organic waste buildup, poor application of CO2 and a few other issues, such as insufficient N and P cause algae.

Cheers,

Hi ceg4048, I have read all your very informed recommendations about algae, from which I have learned loads, and yes the conclusion is that the cause is more complex than the general assumption that it is due to nutrient excess, ie it is a question of balance of the many parameters involved. However, you'll agree (and Superman, thanks for your input) that it doesn't help if a major manufacturer such as Tropica includes paragraphs such as these in their TPN+ directions leaflet: ‘Start with half dosage to avoid undesireable algae growth.’
‘Adjust the dosage to plant absorption rates to avoid undesirable algae growth. Where signs of algae growth develop, reduce the dosage by 50% and increase water changing frequency by 50%.’
 

Superman

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jlm said:
Tropica includes paragraphs such as these in their TPN+ directions leaflet: ‘Start with half dosage to avoid undesireable algae growth.’
‘Adjust the dosage to plant absorption rates to avoid undesirable algae growth. Where signs of algae growth develop, reduce the dosage by 50% and increase water changing frequency by 50%.’

In some ways, that could be correct:

What you have to remember is that plants take some time to adjust in new setups. For example, most shop bought plants will have been grown out of the water and so plants (such as crypts) have to lose those leaves and grow the underwater ones. That decay, will leech ammonia into the water to help kick start algae. If you're then feeding way in excess (at that moment in time) for plant growth, with usual light levels and ammonia will cause a right algae mess in there. Therefore, they are suggesting that if you reduce the TPN+ dose, you are therefore, limiting the alage. I guess that's right, but there'll still be algae in there.

The best way for new setups is to reduce the lights to 5 hours for a month or so, to limit the fuel to the algae and the slowly increase it when plants show signs of settling into the new setup (ie new growth).

In my tanks, if I see algae, it's telling me that I'm not dosing enough, injecting enough co2 or not cleaned the filter enough - NOT that I'm dosing too much.
 

JamesC

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jlm said:
However, you'll agree (and Superman, thanks for your input) that it doesn't help if a major manufacturer such as Tropica includes paragraphs such as these in their TPN+ directions leaflet: ‘Start with half dosage to avoid undesireable algae growth.’
‘Adjust the dosage to plant absorption rates to avoid undesirable algae growth. Where signs of algae growth develop, reduce the dosage by 50% and increase water changing frequency by 50%.’
Tropica's recommendation is good and should be followed. If you try and dose EI levels of TPN+ you will most likely run into trouble as it contains ammonium as a source of N. The most that should be dosed of TPN+ is twice the recommended amount and only then in a fully planted tank.

As long as you don't have massive lighting then TPN+ is a great dosing solution. Just take a look at the many tanks that only use TPN+ and see how lush and healty they are.

James
 

CeeJay

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Hi jlm
jlm said:
Hi chrisr01,
What ferts are you using? As per my previous comment, I fear TPN+ may be too strong if combined with the organic contribution of fish/invertebrates, resulting in the unmentionable algae growth. I think it is meant to be used in plant-only aquariums?

I mix up my own dry ferts. Down to about 40% of EI levels at the mo.
As you may have sussed from the replies of others, dosing ferts is not something to worry about, even overdosing on occassions will not cause you or your fish any problems. You will have more problems if you underdose, that's for sure ;)

Chris.
 

jlm

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Superman said:
The best way for new setups is to reduce the lights to 5 hours for a month or so, to limit the fuel to the algae and the slowly increase it when plants show signs of settling into the new setup (ie new growth).

If what is wanted is plant growth from the start, would't reducing the light period prevent this growth? My feeling is that the plants must be given exactly what they need from the beginning to give algae no chance of developing: recommended dosing, 10 hours of light (a TWO-HOUR BREAK is recommended to discourage algae) and pruning. But then my experience in setting up aquariums is very limited!

Another thing regarding water changes that someone suggested is letting tap water sit for a few hours so the co2 evaporates to prevent co2 fluctuations which can trigger algae. Can this be the solution to doing water changes in lo-tech fishtanks?

Postal strike still on - three days in transit now. The plants must be having quite a party in their packaging :sick:
 

Superman

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From my experiance, newly planted plants take a few weeks to settle in. In that period they don't grow as fast as when they're settled in.
That way, they don't need as much light energy as they would when they're growing at their full potential.
I've learnt to be cautious when planting a tank from the start as if you get it wrong, you could be left with an algae mess which takes a while to clear.

Remember, after planting you'll be learning to provide sufficient ferts, co2 and flow and so chucking a load of light at the tank when the balance isn't right, could be asking for trouble.

My best advice to anyone planting a tank without any experiance is to take their time, see how things go and especially with the lighting.

Many see the finished articles which quote that they run 10 hours of light, but they forget to realise at the start that would of been much lower until the aquarium balance is established.
 

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