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Root tabs and/or liquid ferts

Aqua360

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Having recently been reading into root tabs, what are people's experience/opinion on their use?

2 tanks I'm running have no epiphytes, would it be advisable to do root tabs only, or in conjunction with ferts?

I've also heard tropica tabs leave unsightly remnants, do seachem tabs or equivalent suffer the same problem?

I've always used ferts only, but curious to see if I'm missing out
 

erwin123

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As I have very old substrate, I have also been experimenting with root tabs.
I'm currently using Aquario Neo Tabs and JBL Ferropol Root but they have a lot less nutrients than the equivalent osmocote, for example, standard Osmocote has 15/15/15% NPK while JBL has 2.1/3.5/5% and Neo has 1.91/0.64/1.27% Or am I reading it wrongly?

I have just ordered an Osmocote clone with the intention of using them sparingly (due to their Ammonia and Copper content) and will adapt the guidance in 2hr aquarist: How to use osmocote for substrate in planted aquarium. I am hoping that it will help my Ludwigia Sphaerocarpa...
 
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erwin123

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1637144420499.png


This is the Osmocote clone that I'm experimenting with (I infer its an osmocote clone as it states that release is dependent on temperature - i.e. temperature affects release rate unlike competing delivery systems like nutricote). I simply picked whatever had the lowest copper (this is 0.025% Cu lower than 0.05% in other formulations I looked at).

Anyway, its an experiment, and I restricted the number I added by only adding them next to the stems of the more difficult plants. I'll report back if anything good/bad happens....
 

tiger15

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All aquatic plants can uptake nutrients from the foliage, so they can be fed exclusively from the water column. Plants with heavy root system such as Sword and Crypt were perceived as heavy root feeder, but in reality, their extensive roots are used to anchor in fast moving stream bed. It wont hurt to feed plants with root tabs, except that it's hard to get even distribution and control the release rate. Water column dosing is more controllable, precise and quantifiable.

I grow my plants in inert substrate and dose only in the water column, so essentially I grow my plants hydroponically. I don't use root tabs, except occasionally I threw in a few Osmocote tabs as vacation slow release fertilizer.
 

erwin123

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All aquatic plants can uptake nutrients from the foliage, so they can be fed exclusively from the water column. Plants with heavy root system such as Sword and Crypt were perceived as heavy root feeder, but in reality, their extensive roots are used to anchor in fast moving stream bed. It wont hurt to feed plants with root tabs, except that it's hard to get even distribution and control the release rate. Water column dosing is more controllable, precise and quantifiable.

I grow my plants in inert substrate and dose only in the water column, so essentially I grow my plants hydroponically. I don't use root tabs, except occasionally I threw in a few Osmocote tabs as vacation slow release fertilizer.

You have no disagreement from me on that.

But after reading all 55 pages of the Rotala Kill Tank thread by Vin Kutty in Barr Report and being inspired by it, I'm going to give "starxcote" (osmocote) a shot. ISome of the conclusions in the Rotala Kill Tank thread actually echo some of the observations I've read in the 2hr aquarist website, but that should be no surprise as I understand that Vin and Dennis know each other and the 2hr aquarist site features one of Vin's aquascapes.

I have 3 target plants that I want to test osmocote on (though certainly not the amount used in the Rotala Kill Tank).

  • L. Senegelansis .Vin Kutty and Dennis in 2hr aquarist both say that this benefits from root feeding (2hr aquarist does not sell root tabs/substrate enhancers - so if they say 'please use something that is not my product' it might be credible)
  • L. Sphaerocarpa (so little is written about it, I don't know what it needs, so I guess osmocote is worth a shot - I had to uproot a stem to cut and replant, found its roots wrapped around a root tab...)
  • A.Pedicatella (various comments about Ammanias preferring root feeding)
 
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MichaelJ

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Having recently been reading into root tabs, what are people's experience/opinion on their use?
I used to be big on root tabs (Tropica, Seachem and Planted Aquarium Concepts). I've stopped using them though. Now, and for a long time, I have only been relying on water-column dosing in abundance for my two densely planted tanks. My substrate is inert as well. I haven't noticed any adverse effect on my so-called heavy root feeders (Anubias, Swords, Crypts) - as a matter of fact they are all growing as good as they ever have. I do think there are some merit to popping in some tabs in a new tank if you have inert substrate to give the substrate a nutrient boost. But in the long run, water column dosing should be sufficient.

2 tanks I'm running have no epiphytes, would it be advisable to do root tabs only, or in conjunction with ferts?
I can't imagine any adverse effect from doing both, but I would mainly rely on the water column dosing when the tank is mature. Its much easier as well, and so many more options for column dosing vs. pre-made tabs.

I've also heard tropica tabs leave unsightly remnants, do seachem tabs or equivalent suffer the same problem?
I never experienced this... The tropica capsules have a tendency to float if they are not deep enough into the substrate and they can break apart... the Seachem and Concepts ones won't.

Cheers,
Michael
 
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ceg4048

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Having recently been reading into root tabs, what are people's experience/opinion on their use?

2 tanks I'm running have no epiphytes, would it be advisable to do root tabs only, or in conjunction with ferts?

I've also heard tropica tabs leave unsightly remnants, do seachem tabs or equivalent suffer the same problem?

I've always used ferts only, but curious to see if I'm missing out

As mentioned by the other posters, there is no requirement for root tabs if you intend to dose the water column. Since plants uptake nutrients from either location you can either use an nutritious substrate, such as ADA Aquasoil or insert nutrients into the substrate such as Osmocote/clone or homemade versions.
Its always nice to have a nutritious substrate as you can be lazy or forget to dose the water column occasionally. This is also good if you are away for a while, such as going on holiday etc.

Cheers,
 

Happi

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I have yet to see a plant not growing well under water Colum dosing only, the good results those guys are seeing from root tabs very well is a result of nutrients leaching from the root tabs into the water. Ammonium/Urea being the major player for good over all growth of those plants which they claim are hard to grow. I bet if you added some NH4/Urea to your dosing, plant like Ludwigia senegalensis should have no problem growing. I use to grow these plants under Urea and trimmed them every week.
I do like Vin and his work but even he himself have said that the results he got are hypothesis.

Video can be found here if you have access to it:


Edit: I believe they are referring to ammania senegalensis and other species as well, these guys were grown under higher dosing using NH4NO3, this is a experimental tank. you can see there is some damage to leaves but the growth was good overall.

Screenshot_20211120-165409_Gallery.jpg
Screenshot_20211120-165443_Gallery.jpg
 
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MichaelJ

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I have yet to see a plant not growing well under water Colum dosing only, the good results those guys are seeing from root tabs very well is a result of nutrients leaching from the root tabs into the water.
Hi @Happi I've had the exact same experience. I do think it might be beneficial to "prime" inert substrate with tabs...however, it might be that, like you said, that they are just ending up leaching into the water column.

Cheers,
Michael
 

Aqua360

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Btw just an update on this, not sure if directly responsible; but I've had a wave of shrimp deaths coinciding with the tropica root tabs floating from beneath the surface.

Can't say conclusively it's the root tabs, but I think lesson learned, if it ain't broke (water column dosing), don't fix it :(
 

erwin123

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I have yet to see a plant not growing well under water Colum dosing only, the good results those guys are seeing from root tabs very well is a result of nutrients leaching from the root tabs into the water. Ammonium/Urea being the major player for good over all growth of those plants which they claim are hard to grow. I bet if you added some NH4/Urea to your dosing, plant like Ludwigia senegalensis should have no problem growing. I use to grow these plants under Urea and trimmed them every week.
I do like Vin and his work but even he himself have said that the results he got are hypothesis.
Thanks, I have no strong views on the mechanics of how osmocote works, whether it feeds the roots of plants or just enters the water column. More important to me is to test out whether osmocote has any effect in my tank and on plants like Sengelansis. If it does, great, because I guess I'm the type of hobbyist that constantly has to 'tinker' and experiment :)
  • its really cheap (compared to 'aquarium' root tabs)
  • simple to use - I followed 2hr aquarist instruction and used a tweezer to strategically insert single pellets rather than the other methods of filling up a gelatin capsule or even freezing them in ice. Probably simpler than direct NH4/Urea dosing for a beginner like me.
  • lasts a few months (i.e. I don't have to constantly insert osmocote into the substrate)

Regarding which Senegelansis, Vin has a post about L. Senegelansis liking Osmocote.

IMG-5399.jpg

1637457957794.png
 

Happi

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Hi @Happi I've had the exact same experience. I do think it might be beneficial to "prime" inert substrate with tabs...however, it might be that, like you said, that they are just ending up leaching into the water column.

Cheers,
Michael
That is Correct, I once measured Ammonia and NO3 levels and they were maxing out the test kits after multiple water changes. plus, I don't fully believe in root feeding at all, aquatic plant were meant to uptake from the water Colum. root feeding seems to be beneficial to some plants but the assumption is that its working because it is in the root under the substrate but no one ever think about that it could leach into the water as well. there is plenty of movement by O2 in the substrate and the water is actually moving around quite allot in the substrate, especially under granules type soil or substrate such as aqua soil. based on this theory root tabs are not very effective if they were added under the sand type substrate.
 

Happi

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Courtneybst

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simple to use - I followed 2hr aquarist instruction and used a tweezer to strategically insert single pellets
I read about this recently. Did you find this ok to do when filled with water? The balls didn't start to dissolve or escape your tweezers?

I was thinking this could be useful for when a scape is fully grown in and as trying to insert a capsule into a dense carpet or bush is impractical.
 

erwin123

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I read about this recently. Did you find this ok to do when filled with water? The balls didn't start to dissolve or escape your tweezers?

I was thinking this could be useful for when a scape is fully grown in and as trying to insert a capsule into a dense carpet or bush is impractical.
Yes, the balls don't appear to start dissolving/disintegrating in water the moment you put them in.

For good measure, I tested my nitrate levels 48 hours after I finished inserting the osmocote and there was no discernible change in the colour of the test result.
 

Happi

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It will take a while for them to start releasing the nutrients, water has to fully go through those hard shells. I would test every week to see if you notice jump in nh3/nh4 and no3 reading. It also depends on how much root tabs you are using.
 

tiger15

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That is Correct, I once measured Ammonia and NO3 levels and they were maxing out the test kits after multiple water changes. plus, I don't fully believe in root feeding at all, aquatic plant were meant to uptake from the water Colum. root feeding seems to be beneficial to some plants but the assumption is that its working because it is in the root under the substrate but no one ever think about that it could leach into the water as well. there is plenty of movement by O2 in the substrate and the water is actually moving around quite allot in the substrate, especially under granules type soil or substrate such as aqua soil. based on this theory root tabs are not very effective if they were added under the sand type substrate.
There is not much water movement in the substrate unless you have an undergravel filter to create a hydraulic gradient. However, there is soluble nutrients movement down concentration gradient by diffusion, that is, from root tab to the water column or from the water column to the root zone depending on which side is more concentrated. So whether you dose the water column or insert root tabs, nutrients will distribute to both the water column and root zone. The difference between the two is that water column dosing is instantly available, whereas root tab nutrients are slowly available to plants by diffusion through the semi permeable capsule.

I watch the Rotala Kill Tank video with interest but skepticism. Vin's research narrowly focused on a few Rotala species that I've never heard of or are known to be difficult. If he chose easy Rotala such as R. Rotundifoliar, they will never get stunt. Also his conclusion is contradictory to his findings in that high kH is the primary factor of stunt stems, not heavy or lean dosing of the water column.

 

Happi

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@tiger15 over here I could stunt the plants regardless of what the KH is depending on how and what I dose. Vin also have gathered data from others and he also asked me about my KH as well. I usually keep the KH at 0-1 DKH. it is true that plant will do better in lower KH/PH and stunt less but again this doesn't Prove that all the stunting is due to high KH and nothing to do with Nutrients. for example: many people struggled with plant like Rotala Wallachi even at low KH/PH and I would always suggest them to reduce the NO3 and dose little Urea and watch it grow like weed.

the above picture I posted about those two difficult plants are under somewhat higher dosing, but the dosing was based on several different chemicals and ratio, if those chemicals and ratio were changed, the result was different. I would still consider these tests to be hypothesis, but the result were very consistent every time. I strongly believe the entire hobby is hypothesis based and we don't have all the answers yet but hopefully we will get there one day. am sure you have already seen another hypothesis regarding Mg:K ratio at 2:1 to solve the stunting issue, so far people reported that it works well but is it the ratio or is it something else, no one truly knows the science behind it.
 

erwin123

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Thanks for the AGA video - neat summary of the 55 page Rotala Kill Tank thread.
One of the things I am trying to address is L. Sphaerocarpa gradually shedding its lower leaves (yellowing/holes) even though the new growth is fine. I believe I've eliminated CO2 as an issue because I have a CO2 diffuser next to it as well as my Rotala Floridas (which are super sensitive to poor CO2) to act as 'canary in a coal mine'. pH drop on lights on is a steady 1.1-1.2

As to why I don't want to just pump up the water column fertilisation - I also have Ammannia Pedicatella 'Golden' in the tank, which is also referred to in Vin's video as a difficult plant and I've heard from hobbyists who grow this that it prefers 'leaner' water column fertilisation.

So that leaves some sort of mobile nutrient deficiency that I hope osmocote will help with.

Anyway, I hope to report on this in a few weeks - whether the Sphaerocarpa is keeping its lower leaves or still shedding them after osmocote was introduced.
 
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Ria95

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Btw just an update on this, not sure if directly responsible; but I've had a wave of shrimp deaths coinciding with the tropica root tabs floating from beneath the surface.

Can't say conclusively it's the root tabs, but I think lesson learned, if it ain't broke (water column dosing), don't fix it :(
I would say it's very likely. In my experience Tropica root tabs are also very rich in ammonia and quick to release it, a little less but similar to osmocote. The gel capsule is there only to help you put the grains in the substrate. It will quickly dissolve ( 1-2 days). The grains take longer to release their nutrients but do release a lot more during the first few months compared to afterwards.

The lack of answer to Burr's question and the relative lack of key water values in the referenced thread should raise some questions. Highly suspect that in the end the very rich substrate fertilization ended up as very rich water column fertilization as previously hinted. The main difference is that the substrate is a hard to measure, hard to adjust and reset black box. We know that ammonia, potassium and phosphate are leached through the substrate. Here is an experiment showing that with osmocote IntuitiveAqua.net | Knowledge Experience Intuition
 
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