Lobelia cardinalis dark spotting/patching?

Discussion in 'Plant Help' started by JBFUK, 14 Jan 2020.

  1. JBFUK

    JBFUK Newly Registered

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    Hi all,

    I'm wondering whether anyone can advise what's up with one of my plants, I believe it's 'Lobelia Cardinalis'. Seems to be growing 'ok' but I'm seeing this dark patching/mottling on lower leaves. I don't think it's algae as I have two siamese algae eaters in the tank who are very industrious and would have gobbled it up in an instant, no algae built-up elsewhere in the tank either.

    Water parameters -

    • 32L of water in a 40L tank.

    • Lowtech CO2; Soda bottle Acid/bicarb mixer, basic diffuser on solenoid control, set reasonably low, comes on 2 hours before lights, drop checker usually dark green at lights on, lime green later in the the day. Cautious about going too hard and killing the fish/shrimp. Tank is not super densely planted.

    • RO water mixed with Seachem Equilibrium and Alkaline/Acid buffers - GH ~10d, KH ~8d, PH 6.9-7.5

    • Using Seachem Flourish, Iron, Potassium, Excel. Flourish 0.3ml twice per week, Iron 0.4ml twice per week, Potassium 0.64ml once per week, Excel 0.4ml once per week.

    • TDS generally between 800-900.


    I'm been cautious with the fert dosing as I don't want to over do it initially and create new problems. I was previously using Tropica general fert as per the bottle but the plants were looking unhappy, yellowing, pinholes etc - Lobelia was probably the only one that was looking 'ok' just not growing much. You can still see some yellowing on the 'Cryptocoryne x willisii' in the attached photo but it seems to be greening up gradually.

    I've been dosing as above for about 2 weeks, plants have generally been looking healthier and growing more than before.

    So what are peoples thoughts on the Lobelia cardinalis? Perhaps it was previously quite yellow due to lack of nutrients and it's now greening up but I had understood that it should have quite a light green colour.

    Any advice appreciated.


    IMG_0029.JPG
     
  2. JBFUK

    JBFUK Newly Registered

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    A bit of searching around and looking at various pictures makes me think this could be spot algae, possibly caused by a lack of phosphorus? I'm not sure why the algae eaters and amano shrimp wouldn't be eating it unless this is a type of algae they don't like.

    Have ordered some Seachem phosphorus and will start dosing with a half dose, as I'm doing with the other products.
     
  3. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

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    Hi all,
    I think it is definitely algal. It may be Green-spot Algae, or it might even be the very start of Black Brush Algae (BBA).
    Those are some interesting numbers, and that is a lot of TDS, particularly since you started with the "blank slate" of RO water.

    You don't need the pH buffers, have a look at <"TDS and remin. RO water"> for some more discussion. Also because of where you live you can, almost certainly, just cut your RO water with ~10% tap water to give you some dGH/dKH hardness.

    You only need about 4 dGH/dKH, and chalky (CaCO3) tap water supplies dGH/dKH at 1:1. If you have a planted tank, even when you don't add CO2, pH can be a lot more variable than it is in a non-planted tank, so I tend to prefer conductivity (TDS) as a measure, have a look at <"conductivity datum"> links.
    They are going to get a bit big really quickly, how do you feel about snails? I like them, but I know they aren't to every-ones tastes and they will graze a lot of different algae.
    That would be my guess.
    Plants need all 14 of the essential nutrients, <"just in widely differing amounts">.

    cheers Darrel
     
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  4. JBFUK

    JBFUK Newly Registered

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    Thanks for your info Darrel.

    My tap water (based on API GH/KH drop tests) is GH 18 and KH 12. I'd understood that if I wanted to get to my desired figures of around 6 dKH and 6-8dGH then I'd be looking at roughly a 50/50 RO water and tap water mix. These targets are the figures many places state as being optimal for the type of fish I want to keep. If I want to get it spot on then probably slightly less than 50% tap water and then some Alkaline buffer to bump up the KH without affecting the GH.

    The reason I decided to just go for full RO with the Seachem minerals/buffers was that other than softening the water, a secondary reason for going with RO water was to eliminate what seems to be a high level of nitrates in my tap water. Being completely new to this it took me a little while to work out - the tank seemed to be cycled but even after a large water change I was getting high nitrate readings. Then I actually tested my tap water and it appears that all of the nitrates that were showing up in my tests were coming directly from the tap water (was reading around 20-30ppm).

    Yes the TDS does seem really high doesn't it!?! I thought the same when mixed up a batch of water the first time - given that my very hard tap water gives a reading of around 250... It's mostly coming from the Seachem Equilibrium and Alkaline/Acid buffers. The Equilibrium product sets GH while I believe the buffers are used to set the KH rather than to adjust the PH. You can and do target a desired PH when deciding what ratio of Alkaline/Acid buffers to use, so I target 7.0, but I understand the actual value in the tank fluctuates depending on many variable factors. When I mixed my first few batches of water up I was so surprised by how high the TDS was reading that I posted on the Seachem support forums to find out what I was doing wrong. They said not to take to much notice of the TDS so long as my drop tests were indicating the desired GH/KH figures - they suggested I should get those to the levels I want and then take the TDS of that mix as a baseline for reference.

    A fresh batch of water with buffers but no nutrients added comes in at around 550ppm, so the nutrients are adding ~350ppm. I don't know whether this is reasonable? Perhaps I should I reduce the frequency at which I'm dosing?

    I agree on the Algae eaters potentially getting too big for the tank. I had a bit of an algae outbreak before xmas. I didn't have a solenoid/timer on my CO2 setup and had to unexpectedly spend a couple of days away from home during which time the CO2 was off. When I got back there were various different types of algae all over the tank. I cleaned what I could from the glass, filter etc but couldn't clean it out of the moss, plants and gravel. I read about the algae eaters but was concerned about their potential growth. The local fish shop said if they get too big for the tank I can take them back and exchange for smaller ones or something else. They are still quite small so I don't think it'll be an issue for a while. They are really industrious and cleared up all of the remaining algae in less than a week.

    Really don't like snails but I do have a couple of small Amano shrimp in the tank too.

    My lights are on a bit longer than they should be as I want to be able to enjoy the tank with the lights on for a while in the evenings. I have both the supplied 4.8w white LED strip plus a 7.2w white/blue LED strip that I've added. To try to balance this I have periods of reduced intensity:
    • 0800 - 30 minute sunrise to 50%
    • 1000 - ramp up to 100%
    • 1700 - ramp down to 70%
    • 2030 - 30 minute sunset
    • Moonlight on all night - significantly reduced output by wrapping most of the LED tube in tape.
     
  5. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

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    Hi all,
    The EU limit for NO3 is 50 ppm, and it is quite likely that you will have values somewhere near that, but it's back to one of the advantages of planted tanks, NO3 levels fall over time, rather than rising, so having some nitrate in your tap water isn't a problem.
    You will have hard, nitrate rich water, just because of where you live. Pretty much all of S. and E. England gets tap water that originated in chalk aquifers, which is subsequently affected by eutrophication. You should be able to get accurate water figures from your water supplier.
    You honestly don't need the buffer. If you did want to add dKH on its own (and I'm pretty sure you don't need to) potassium bicarbonate (KHCO3) or potassium carbonate (K2CO3) are cheap and easy to obtain, there are details in <"How do you re-mineralize your RO">.
    I'll be honest, Seachem sell some good products, but they are also not very good at explaining how, or why, their products work, sometimes to the extent that their answers could be construed as <"obscuring the truth">. In terms of the TDS, that is getting to the levels where I would be worried. If you look at the natural environment your tank water is quite a lot "saltier" <"than Lake Tanganyika">. You can convert ppm TDS values to electrical conductivity in microS by multiplying 1.56, so your 900ppm TDS value is ~1400 microS.

    The simple answer is that in all water, with more than a trace of carbonate hardness, the pH is somewhere in the region of pH8, this is because of the <"carbonate ~ CO2 ~ pH equilibrium">. All that changes is, as the water becomes softer, the pH becomes more and more variable. <"You will never have "stable pH"> in heavily vegetated water, but this happens in natural fresh water as well as in the aquarium and it isn't an issue. Have a look at <"oh Wise ones..."> for a more complete discussion.

    cheers Darrel
     
  6. JBFUK

    JBFUK Newly Registered

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    Wow so much more to learn and gain experience with. It's difficult because every source of information seems to advise differently - all I want is to have a pretty aquarium with some healthy plants and fish, not to become a chemist :arghh:

    I will read the threads you linked to in detail; I did read the particular posts you linked to previously but seems I need to read the full threads to fully understand the issues.

    The thing that concerns me about the tap water is that a lot of sources on fish information advise that nitrates should not be allowed to rise above 20-25ppm. It's all very well that the plants will gradually absorb some but even then that doesn't do the fish any favours every time I do a water change (I would say I have a fish tank with live plants rather than a heavily vegetated aquascaped tank with a few fish). When I was just using treated tap water (plus tropica fert) the nitrates weren't reducing, the plants weren't growing and were yellowing/getting pinholes, the water was never crystal clear, I lost several fish/shrimp and could see no reason other than high nitrate readings. Since moving over to my current regime the water is clearer, plants are growing and fish/shrimp seem healthy.

    Suppose I could use a much smaller amount of tap water to keep the nitrates down. It still concerns me that there would be a gradual buildup of other contaminates so I'd potentially have to do more frequent water changes which ideally I'd like to keep to 20% every two weeks as it's a big hassle. I'd then still need to add something to bump up the GH/KH to levels recommended for the fish and shrimp, then the baseline PH increases to levels not recommended for the fish so something else to decrease that. Seems like at this point I'd have come full circle back to where I am now :rolleyes:

    Perhaps there are other remineralising products that raise the TDS less? I notice new posts on the Seachem forums raising the same concerns over high TDS that I have had. Perhaps this is just a bad product..

    As I said seems like there is much more to learn. Glad that I'm finding this stuff out now before I get my larger 125L tank up and running. I'm just starting to hardscape that after gathering all of the parts - filter, CO2 setup, substrates etc. I do have some Seachem Purigen to use in the filter for that tank so perhaps that will help take out some of the nitrates introduced through tap water...
     
    Last edited: 15 Jan 2020
  7. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

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    Hi all,
    That is a lot of added TDS. We don't know exactly what the dissolved solids are, electrical conductivity is just a method for estimating all the ions in solution.

    I don't add CO2, and I'm not worried about optimal plant growth, so I don't regularly add nutrients, but others will use regular dosing. Have a look at <"Why add fertilisers...."> and links. This is the approach I use at the moment.
    cheers Darrel
     
  8. Conort2

    Conort2 Member

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    Don’t worry about the nitrates in your tap water, they won’t hurt your fish and will be beneficial for the plants. Keep using RO by all means but I wouldn’t worry about adding all the buffers, just mix with a little tap like Daryl has mentioned. I believe green aqua recommend a TDS of around 140, mine sits around 400 but I just use tap. If you’re going to use RO you might aswell get some benefit out of it and get that tds lower.

    what fish/shrimp are you keeping in this aquarium by the way?

    cheers

    Conor
     
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  9. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

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    Hi all,
    I think that is what we all want, but there is a huge industry based on selling people test kits, buffers etc. and these vendors often use science to <"obscure and confuse"> the customer.

    Have a look at <"Perfect water for plant growth (hypothetically at least)"> and <"Bedside Aquarium">. I just want people to have successful aquariums, with happy, healthy fish, and I know that planted aquariums are the most important factor in obtaining that.
    This one comes up quite a lot, in fish health terms you need to differentiate between nitrate as the "smoking gun" of previously high levels of toxic ammonia (NH3) and nitrite (NO2-) and the toxicity of NO3- itself. Have a look at <"A simple continuous....">, @Edvet , who posts in that thread is a vet.

    cheers Darrel
     
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  10. JBFUK

    JBFUK Newly Registered

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    Hey Conor,

    That's interesting I was expecting similarly lower figures for TDS once I started using RO water. I was shocked by the high readings once I dosed with the remineralising products. Would a target of 140 be a baseline to aim for before adding ferts? I'd like to get the 40L tank to a good stable place before I put water and plants in to my larger tank. It has settled down quite nicely over the past month but this aspect is still a challenge. It looks like I'm going to have to do a few experiments with mixing different ratios of RO and tap water and then seeing what type of balance of GH/KH/Nitrate I can strike.

    At the moment my 40L tank is overpopulated (made the mistake of taking my wife to the fish shop) but as I have a largish filter established it seems to be stable in terms of measuring 0ppm ammonia/nitrite and very low nitrate (~5ppm). I have one bamboo shrimp, 3 small amano shrimp, two baby siamese algae eaters, an oto, ten neon tetras, one rummy nose and one ram. The algae eaters and amano shrimp are more recent additions to clean up the algae bloom that I had; based on advice from the LFS. Previously I had three otos and two rummy nose but one of the rummy nose and two of the otos died which is what led me to start investigating the water quality and move to using RO water.

    I plan on transferring some of these to the 125L once it's cycled - probably the algae eaters and rummy. I would also like to keep some different fish in the larger tank. Possibly a small group of Golden Rams or Apistogramma/Dwarf Cichlids along with community fish. I find the Rams/Cichlids interesting fish to watch as they are quite intelligent as opposed to the community fish which just swim around with their mouths open. I believe all of these like soft and slightly acidic water hence wanting to continue using RO water to some extent.
     
    Last edited: 15 Jan 2020
  11. Conort2

    Conort2 Member

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    I believe it is a TDS of 140 before ferts, I may be wrong though!

    obviously as you know that is too many fish for a 40L. I know you said you want to keep water changes on the low side of 20percent but for now you will have to keep up larger changes of at least 50percent once a week, id day do it twice or more actually. 40L will take no time at all to do a water change on.

    In regards to the fish dying, otos notoriously come in to shops in bad condition and a lot die. This may have been nothing down to you or your water. The rummy noses then could have died as a consequence of the deaths, ammonia spike etc. Sometimes fish just die too, one runny nose without any obvious symptoms just could’ve died, been in bad condition already when you bought it etc. If there appears to be no outward symptoms or obvious issues sometimes the best thing to do is just increase water changes and wait it outa bit. We can sometimes over complicate things, I have done it myself on many occasions!

    cheers

    conor
     
  12. JBFUK

    JBFUK Newly Registered

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    Hmm, so initially I'd read that the nitrate readings could be used to evaluate when a water change is required, and so long as nitrate levels are not rising and stay below 20ppm no significant water change is required. Of course other sources say do at least a 50% water change every week regardless of any parameters - seems some people just enjoy changing water! Another one of those topics that seem to have various different definitions of what's correct based on peoples opinions and experiences rather than one universal scientific truth.

    Other fish seem healthy, two of the neons have small white growths on their bottom lips but these haven't changed over 6 weeks and haven't spread to the others. Apparently neons are prone to this. Based on what people have said on fish forums, best to leave them be and observe rather than medicating the whole tank which could have a negative impact on the other livestock.

    Until now I have been doing 10-15L changes every Saturday. That's ~30-50% (32L of water in the tank). I skipped it this past weekend as the nitrates were measuring low and water was clear. Was hoping to move to a fortnightly change :(

    I'll do a 10L change tonight. Just mixed up 12L of 50:50 RO and tap water and warming it up. TDS reads 145ppm (my RODI water reads TDS of 2 which I guess is within the errors of the cheap TDS pen). So that seems about right. I will measure the GH/KH and Nitrate tonight before I do the change. I expect GH-9 KH-6 based on previous tests of tap water. I won't do a larger change as I imagine a big swing in TDS would be bad for the fish (osmosis etc). It'll probably already be quite a significant change with 30% of the water being swapped out even if the GH/KH are going to be about the same.
     
  13. Conort2

    Conort2 Member

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    I wouldn’t use test kits to evaluate whether you need to do a water change or not, they’re notoriously in accurate and you’ll end up wasting a load of money. Also clarity of the water won’t tell you much either unless you have a bacterial bloom. The water can be as clear as anything but be loaded with ammonia. As many water changes as you can do would be best but obviously that isn’t practical so at least once a week would be good.

    Neons often are of poor quality and have issues such as what you mentioned, however keep an eye on them to make sure the symptoms do not worsen or spread to other fish.

    cheers

    conor
     
  14. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

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    Hi all,
    If you don't have plants NO3 levels will rise (as a result of the microbial oxidation of NH3/NH4+ and NO2-) and can only be depleted by <"anaerobic denitrification">, or water changes, this is why you often <"see this graph">.
    [​IMG]
    But this isn't true for us, plants very efficiently deplete all forms of fixed nitrogen (<"biologically fixed nitrogen"> is the nitrogen that isn't N2 gas).
    I'm a <"regular water changer">, but only about 10% a day. It is really easy in small tanks, it is either one or two six pint milk cartons of water a day. Re-used milk bottles are good as water containers, they last for ages and if they end up with a lot of algae in them or start to leak etc, you can just re-cycle them, knowing that you have extended their working life.

    One advantage of doing regular water changes is that it does away with the need for water testing. Water testing is a <"lot more problematic"> that most forums etc acknowledge, and one of the <"difficult ions is NO3-">.
    They are sickly things, others will be more able to advise you on a best course of action.

    cheers Darrel
     
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  15. JBFUK

    JBFUK Newly Registered

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    Right so I just tested the 50:50 mix.

    GH 9
    KH 6.5-7
    PH 7.8
    Nitrate 10-20ppm

    The colours on the test chart for nitrate for 10 and 20ppm look exactly the same to me, have attached a photo, what do you think?

    If this nitrate level is truly not bad for the fish then I'm reasonably happy with the results, I just wish the Ph were lower. From what I've read the ideal range for most of these fish is 6.5-7.0 particularly if you want there to be a chance of them breeding. I understand the Ph fluctuates and CO2 will reduce the Ph, but it seems like a long way off. I'd have been happier with a starting point of 7.0-7.2; could I still use some of the acid buffer I have to tweak this?


    IMG_0036.JPG
     
  16. JBFUK

    JBFUK Newly Registered

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    Yes it seems so, I won't be moving any of them to the new tank and I'll probably avoid in future in favour of cardinals or another type of tetra.
     
  17. sparkyweasel

    sparkyweasel Member

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    The easy way to do that is to bin your test kits, buffers etc. :)
    50/50 RO/tapwater will be fine, and easy to do.

    Nitrate kits, even if they gave you meaningful information, won't tell you when you need a water change, changes dilute all the other animal and plant waste products that you can't test for.

    Dwarf cichlids vary a lot in their requirements, and adaptability. Apistogramma cacatuoides, Nannacara anomala, and Kribensis spring to mind as species that will thrive and breed in hard water. They are all beautiful and interesting, although Nannacaras might not look it in the shop,as they need to settle in to a nice home to look their best.
    There's lots of good advice from the posters above, and remember; they are not trying to sell you anything. :)
     
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  18. JBFUK

    JBFUK Newly Registered

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    So, I changed out 10L for the 50:50 mix earlier. Also dosed ferts as usual; I don't want to change lots of things at once or I won't know what's having an effect.

    Checked a few hours later, TDS down to around 700, PH was at 7.1 (this was an hour after CO2 shuts off). Pretty good so I'll stick with this. Will do another 10L change on Saturday.

    The only bad thing I've noticed is the water clarity. It has a whitish haze to it now - this is similar to the haze I had initially when I was just using treated tap water. After switching to RO only it was crystal clear. I'll give it some time to settle down but not sure what causes this and how to eliminate it? Have taken a photo but the haze doesn't seem to show up.

    IMG_0037.JPG
     
  19. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

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    Hi all,
    I used to keep Apistogramma cacatuoides and they are a good one for harder water.
    If you want to <"breed Rams"> you need the water really warm, acid and pretty soft.

    If you start with RO, you would probably need to add a small amount of weak acids, just Oak leaf litter will drop the pH low enough. Have a look at <"All the leaves are brown">.
    I use a <"conductivity datum"> and the <"Duckweed Index"> for tank management, it cuts down a lot of mucking about.

    cheers Darrel
     
  20. JBFUK

    JBFUK Newly Registered

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    Still have this discolouration on the leaves (has spread a bit on the same plant). I don't think it's algae, when I did a water change over the weekend I tried to rub it off one of the leaves and it wouldn't budge, seems more like a problem within the leaf itself, more like it's decaying.
     

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