What's Wrong With My Substrate (If Anything)?

jaypeecee

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Hi Folks,

I need help. I have an established planted tank with CO2 injection and custom build LED lighting. I have posted elsewhere on UKAPS about problems with E. bleheri. I am in the process of re-planting some areas of my tank. And that's because I've removed several plants because they were in a poor condition. I cannot get my head around the fact that some of my plants flourish while others do badly. I have so-called easy/average plants, mostly Echinodorus species/varieties.

Recently, I replaced an ailing E. bleheri with another E. bleheri. It got off to a great start producing a new leaf almost every day. Now, a few weeks later, its growth is almost non-existent. It is dark green and some BBA is starting to appear on the leaf edges. It has a Seachem Flourish Tab at its base and I have been adding Flourish Comprehensive to the water column every two to three days. CO2 is typically around 25ppm after stabilization. I have good water circulation - courtesy of a circulation streamer.

OK, that's the current setup. I may be clutching at straws here but I am wondering if the problem lies with the substrate. I have Tetra Complete topped with JBL Manado. Is it possible that something is amiss in the substrate? Pockets of rotting/anaerobic substrate in which the roots cannot grow? Insufficient aeration? How do I know if the substrate is in good health? Are there any simple tests that I can do to indicate problems down there in that invisible world? The equivalent of a soil test kit comes to mind.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

JPC
 

Zeus.

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Seachem Flourish Tab at its base and I have been adding Flourish Comprehensive
Which are both micro nutrients but what Macro nutrients are you using ? the name 'Flourish Comprehensive' is misleading IMO


quote from Seachem site for Flourish Comprehensive
Flourish™ is a comprehensive plant supplement for the natural freshwater aquarium. It contains a rich assortment of important micro elements, trace elements and other nutrients. These include calcium, magnesium, iron and other important elements that have been shown to be beneficial to aquatic plants. For macro element (NPK) fertilization, use Flourish Nitrogen™, Flourish Phosphorus™ or Flourish Potassium™ as needed.
Unquote

I would say your substrate is fine ATM
 

alto

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E bleheri isn’t terribly demanding, given suitable substrate nutrients it grows quite well even without added water column fertilizers (assuming some fish in the aquarium)

Seachem Flourish root tab
They contain essential trace elements, amino acids, and vitamins. They are rich in iron, manganese, magnesium, calcium, potassium, inositol, choline B12, biotin, and other factors that have been determined to be beneficial to aquatic plant roots. They contain no phosphate or nitrate
Yet if you watch Filipe Oliveira’s video, note the healthy growth despite no water column fertilizers or water changes during the first month post rescape (substrate is at least one year old before rescape, I’ve not watched the previous set up video recently and can’t recall if the substrate was already used when the Iwagumi was done)


It is possible for old substrate to become inhospitable to plant growth (I’ve observed this occasionally in the past, with older style substrates that compact - unlikely event with current Aquarium Soils which generally retain interstitial spaces between particles, even after years of use) but it’s unlikely that a basic soil test kit will offer suitable diagnostics
Sending a sample to a soil testing lab may provide some useful information, but discuss with tech support before sending anything in - less common tests may also be quite costly
 

alto

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Some tank photos would be helpful

I did a quick skim of your previous threads, I assume you’re now removing the sale point net pots from plants and placing plant directly in substrate?

 

jaypeecee

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Which are both micro nutrients but what Macro nutrients are you using ? the name 'Flourish Comprehensive' is misleading IMO


quote from Seachem site for Flourish Comprehensive
Flourish™ is a comprehensive plant supplement for the natural freshwater aquarium. It contains a rich assortment of important micro elements, trace elements and other nutrients. These include calcium, magnesium, iron and other important elements that have been shown to be beneficial to aquatic plants. For macro element (NPK) fertilization, use Flourish Nitrogen™, Flourish Phosphorus™ or Flourish Potassium™ as needed.
Unquote

I would say your substrate is fine ATM
Hi Zeus,

Thanks for your reply.

You are correct. Both the Seachem products I mentioned provide micro nutrients, not the macros. But the macros - N, P, K - are in adequate supply from the fish in the tank. In fairness, I failed to mention in my original post that the tank was home to fish. So, nitrate is pretty stable at 20 - 30ppm. Phosphate is typically 0.02 - 0.05ppm. Potassium hardly varies at around 15ppm. On the rare occasions when nitrate level drops, I supplement with Flourish Nitrogen. In this tank, I also have E. chrileni and E. spectre. And they are in excellent condition. That's why I started to suspect the substrate. What makes you say that the substrate is fine?

JPC
 

jaypeecee

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Do you have any MTS
images-1.jpg
to help with keeping the substrate healthy?
Hi Edvet,

I'm pleased that you asked this question for which the answer is - no. But I was starting to think it may be one way forward. I have hesitated about adding MTS for the obvious reason - I don't want them to take over my tank. I guess I could ensure that they are kept under control with the appropriate choice of loach, for example.

JPC
 

jaypeecee

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Some tank photos would be helpful

I did a quick skim of your previous threads, I assume you’re now removing the sale point net pots from plants and placing plant directly in substrate?

Hi alto,

Yes, I now remove the net pots and that includes the recent E. bleheri addition to the tank.

I will add some tank photos tomorrow.

JPC
 

jaypeecee

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E bleheri isn’t terribly demanding, given suitable substrate nutrients it grows quite well even without added water column fertilizers (assuming some fish in the aquarium)

Seachem Flourish root tab


Yet if you watch Filipe Oliveira’s video, note the healthy growth despite no water column fertilizers or water changes during the first month post rescape (substrate is at least one year old before rescape, I’ve not watched the previous set up video recently and can’t recall if the substrate was already used when the Iwagumi was done)


It is possible for old substrate to become inhospitable to plant growth (I’ve observed this occasionally in the past, with older style substrates that compact - unlikely event with current Aquarium Soils which generally retain interstitial spaces between particles, even after years of use) but it’s unlikely that a basic soil test kit will offer suitable diagnostics
Sending a sample to a soil testing lab may provide some useful information, but discuss with tech support before sending anything in - less common tests may also be quite costly
Hi alto,

So it would be possible to get the substrate tested by a soil testing lab? Would you care to suggest a few names?

JPC
 

jaypeecee

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jaypeecee

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OK, here are a few piccies. The first is E. spectre (with a bit of Anubias!), second is E.bleheri, third is E. bleheri close-up and fourth is E. bleheri with E. chrileni in the foreground. Sorry about the poor quality of these photos.


IMG_20190727_154459.jpg
IMG_20190727_154132.jpg
IMG_20190727_154607.jpg
IMG_20190727_155151.jpg
 

jaypeecee

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Looks like mechanical damage. Any pleco''s?
It doesn't look like mechanical damage to me so I'm interested to know why you suggest that. I have one Clown Pleco but he takes little interest in the plants. He prefers to rasp on driftwood, which is very much a characteristic of this species of pleco.
 

jaypeecee

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Hi Folks,

One of the things that my poor quality photos cannot convey is the very slow growth rate now compared to when this E. bleheri was first added to the tank three months ago. During this time, nothing has changed as regards CO2 injection, fertilization or photoperiod. And the other two species of Echinodorus continue to grow rapidly. Surely, it's got to be a problem at the roots of the E. bleheri? In other words - the substrate.

Is my logic flawed?

JPC
 

jaypeecee

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It is possible for old substrate to become inhospitable to plant growth (I’ve observed this occasionally in the past, with older style substrates that compact - unlikely event with current Aquarium Soils which generally retain interstitial spaces between particles, even after years of use) but it’s unlikely that a basic soil test kit will offer suitable diagnostics
Sending a sample to a soil testing lab may provide some useful information, but discuss with tech support before sending anything in - less common tests may also be quite costly
Hi alto,

I discovered the following article written by Takashi Amano many years ago:

http://www.tfhmagazine.com/details/articles/mastering-substrate-in-the-nature-aquarium.htm

I am now pretty sure that I have a substrate that, in parts, has "become inhospitable to plant growth". Rather than go to the expense of having a sample tested (and then what?), I feel that I need to take action. And that, unless I'm mistaken, means getting oxygen to the affected parts - indeed the whole of the substrate. For obvious reasons, I don't want to remove everything from the tank and start again. So, I need to revitalize the substrate in situ. I could go the natural route and try Malaysian Trumpet Snails or I could try injecting air from an air pump.

I need time to think...

JPC
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
I am now pretty sure that I have a substrate that, in parts, has "become inhospitable to plant growth".
unlikely event with current Aquarium Soils which generally retain interstitial spaces between particles, even after years of use) but it’s unlikely that a basic soil test kit will offer suitable diagnostics
I'm with @alto, I don't think the substrate has become compacted and anaerobic.

Echinodorus spp. have big, chunky roots and naturally grow in muddy substrates etc. They will have morphological and physiological adaptations to allow them to utilise oxygen poor substrates. For the soil testing you would need to sample the water in the interstitial spaces and get a REDOX value. There isn't any point in conventional soil testing, the preparation process is air drying and sieving through a 2mm sieve.
third is E. bleheri close-up
Looks like mechanical damage.
I have one Clown Pleco but he takes little interest in the plants.
That is definitely damage from your Panaqolus maccus. They are highly nocturnal and my experience, with both Ancistrus and Hypancistrus, is that Echinodorus bleheri is their preferred plant to nibble on
Do you have any MTS
I'm a snail fan as well.
I have hesitated about adding MTS for the obvious reason - I don't want them to take over my tank. I guess I could ensure that they are kept under control with the appropriate choice of loach, for example.
They are easy to remove with baiting at night. My personal experience is that they don't build up into huge numbers. If you did want to control them Assassin Snail (Clea helene) is probably your best bet. Clown Loaches are long-lived, social, potentially massive etc.
Both the Seachem products I mentioned provide micro nutrients, not the macros. But the macros - N, P, K - are in adequate supply from the fish in the tank. In fairness, I failed to mention in my original post that the tank was home to fish. So, nitrate is pretty stable at 20 - 30ppm. Phosphate is typically 0.02 - 0.05ppm. Potassium hardly varies at around 15ppm
I might try a complete fertiliser, just to see what happens.

cheers Darrel
 
Last edited:

jaypeecee

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Many thanks Darrel,

What a comprehensive reply! Excellent! Picking up on what I see as the key points you have raised...

[1] I'm unlikely to have an anaerobic substrate. Therefore no need for MTS.

[2] I should try a complete fertilizer. Any suggestions?

JPC
 

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