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So many problems I don't know where to start!


31 Aug 2010
Bracknell, Berkshire
Erm... help. Please.

I've been trying to get plants to grow for over a year - and failed. My plants don't grow and I think I have about 4 different kinds of algae. The brown algae is the worst - it's everywhere and makes the tanks look dirty. (I have 2 with live plants.)

I have an arcadia classica with a tropical sunlight lamp and an aquastart 320 with whatever the standard is. Are these just no good? I also dose with API leafzone weekly and the 320 has eco complete.

Money is tight so expensive new lights and set-ups are out of the question. Is there anything I can do that won't break the bank?

Can you give us some more detail on the tank? Size, fish and how many, what gravel etc. you have, what filter you use, how often the tank and filter are cleaned (and how), and possibly tell us what plants you have?

Tank one is 30L, with natural pea gravel and an eheim pickup internal filter. Stock is one male betta and pygmy cories. It's been running about 18 months.

Tank two is 28L with eco complete and an aquaone internal filter. Stock is one male betta and a couple of shrimp. It's been running about 3 years, but only planted for about 18 months.

Water changes are done fortnightly, using a gravel vaccum, though I try to stay away from the roots. Filter pads are rinsed in old tank water every 2 months.

I'm afraid I have no idea what my plants are. I'll try and get some pictures up later if that helps.
It looks like API leaf zone only contains iron and potassium. Imagine an ideal human diet, you need good amounts of carbohydrate, protein and fat. Plants need potassium, phosphate and nitrates. You need a range of vitamins and minerals, not just iron, and so do plants. Plants also need a form of carbon like we do air. It usually comes from CO2 but they can utilise a chemical found in Seachem flourish excel/Easycarbo. I recommend feeding your plants!

If you take a clear picture of the tank we might be able to identify some plants. Some unscrupulous retailers will sell you non-aquatic plants, these obviously won't do so well. Hopefully we could also see if you have any of those in there.
This is tank one - I'm off to work soon, so I'll take tank two later.


See the problem? It's embarassing!

The first thing I would do is to remove any dead and decaying leaves from the tank, wipe the algae off the glass and equipment and do a 50% water change. I would then advise 25% water changes every week, and maybe clean your filter pads a little bit more often.

Then I would invest in a fertiliser like Tropica Plant Nutrition, alongside a bottle of Seachem Flourish Excel or Easy Carbo for the carbon source.

Rather than dosing once a week as the Tropica bottle suggests, I would divide that into 7 daily doses as it makes for a more even spread of nutrients during the week.

One key to avoiding algae is to keep things steady and stable. If you dose the correct amount of Tropica Plant Nutrition daily, provide enough carbon (using Flourish Excel for example) you should really be able to limit the algae growth and you should notice your plants becoming much healthier. Another thing to be sure of is that the flow from the filter is evenly distributing the water and these fertilisers to all areas of the tank.

If your plants are getting regular doses of Tropica Plant Nutrition, the right amount of Carbon from Flourish Excel or EasyCarbo, good distribution from the filter, regular lighting periods and regular maintenance, you will be on the right track.

I'm sure someone will chime in with a more thorough explanation!

I think Toms advice is pretty sound, he's got it spot on. Go with that and see how you do. I think your problems are caused from a lack of both nutrients and CO2 in combination with a dirty tank. I'd also cut the lighting down to 6 hours a day and don't be shy with the gravel cleaning and water changes. I'd even go so far as doing 50% water changes every other day/every third day until it sorts itself out.

Good luck :thumbup:
Thanks everyone. If I got easy carbo, could I use that in combination with the API leaf zone for now? I'd prefer to use up what I have before buying anything else if possible!

If it's any better, I also have a bottle of JBL plant food - they sent it to me after a problem with another product, so I've no experience with it.

I will increase the water changes too and cut the light time down. What sort of timeframe am I looking at before I see an improvement?
good advice so far, all i can chim in is that general better upkeep of the tank will go a long long way to your battle :thumbup:

good luck
How quickly you see changes will largely depend on how much time and effort you put in, and if you act upon the advice given.

What does the JBL product have in it? If it contains phosphate, nitrates, potassium and trace elements then great. From experience I don't think it would. If the label isn't helpful then try googling it.

PS You could always buy the dry powder ferts. You would need KH2PO4, KNO3 and Trace mix. If you want less hassle, more cost use TPN+. More hassle, less cost then use dry ferts.
I just had a look at JBL's website and none of them "...contain the algae nutrients phosphate and nitrate" [sic] :lol:
API Leaf Zone contains only Potassium Phosphate and some form of iron.
My advise would be to take your so-called "fertilisers", look at them, laugh at them, bin them!!!

Without carbon, nitrate, phosphates and potassium you plants WILL NOT GROW! Those are the main building blocks and in addition to that they need TRACE AMOUNTS of other minerals and metals (AKA. trace, micro or CSM+B)

So get yourself a good all-round fertiliser (e.g. Tropica Plant Nutrition+ , the one WITH nitrate and phosphate) or mix up a batch yourself:
All In One Solution

Depending on the strength of your lighting you might also have to add a carbon source (CO2 or Glutaraldehyde. Look trough our tutorial section for more indepth information ;)
Wow, why do they even sell these things? What a waste of money! Glad I didn't pay for the JBL one!

I'm going to Oxford tomorrow and there's apparently a pretty good aquatic shop there, so I'll see if they have a decent one that's within my budget. Because at this stage, I'm wasting money on replacing plants every couple of months!

I will be altering my maintinance routine too, as per the suggestions.
Just to warn you that Tropica sell two fertilisers 'Tropica plant nutrition' and 'Tropica plant nutrition +" buy the plus, regular doesn't have nitrates or phosphates in either. I know a few people have mentioned this but it is worth pointing out clearly as it is a very subtle difference on the packet, for a massive difference in content. If you mean the goldfish bowl, that is quite a good shop and also there is a Maidenhead Aquatics in the outskirts.

Re why do shops sell useless products, I'm sure Ceg would have some choice words to say about the matrix, but basically most shops will tell you that nitrates and phosphates cause algae. Just googled TPN+ for a rough price and I've found it £17.99 for 500mls here http://www.gardenandleisure.com/products/tropica_plantnutrition_plusliquid.html
How much you need depends on the size of the tank which I can't remember sorry. Maybe someone else could suggest how much to dose per day?
Just to be contradictory I have a Juwel Rekord - 110l running on 2x T8 lights and my plants grow happily (some slowly, others not so slowly) with no addition of nutrients. This is a typical "low tech" tank. I have low demanding plants in like Java Fern, Xmass Moss and Java Moss, I also have some off cuts of Hydrocotyle verticillata that seem to be doing already too.

The point that everyone is making is that to prevent algae attacks you need to create a balance between Light, and Nutrients (including Co2). Flow can also be important to make sure filtration is efficient and that all the nutrients are spread evenly and effectively around the tank.
Here's a bit of info from Tropica's website:
They recommend 5 mL per 50 L water weekly at water change. But once you get started I suggest watching your plants. They'll let you know if something's amiss.
And please note the "...if algae growth starts, PLANT NUTRITION+ liquid will promote this growth", so remove the infected leaves and do a 50% water change every time you change anything in the tank ;)
@ Lairewen - Hi, yes, if you can get to Shirley Aquatics in Yarnton (oxford) they have a good selection of plants, ferts etc. Though i thought their was a Maindenhead Aquatics or similar closer to you in Berkshire, i think Reading has a store.