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Which plants to use fert tabs on?


29 Jan 2008
Athens, Greece
Only been into this hobby for 2 months so still learning.

I have a 120L tank with:
Echinodorus "Jaguar"
Cryptocoryne Wendtii "Mi Oya"
Anubias Nana
Vallisneria Spiralis
Valisneria americana
Microsorum pteropus "Windelov"
Cabomba caroliniana
Bacopa caroliniana
Eustaralis stellata

Plus some other new ones that i have no idea on the names.

I have a 30w T8 light, no CO2.
Initially i filled the tank to around 2cm of rough gravel substrate, after learning a little more i realised that this would not be good for my Corydoras, so bought some finer gravel more like very rough sand.
As i had fish inside i didn't remove the old gravel i just pored the new gravel/sand on top.
That's my substrate :)

For around 4 weeks now i have been dosing 5ml of Kent Freshwater plant and Kent Freshwater Pro Plant once a week.
http://www.aquaessentials.co.uk/index.p ... cts_id=275
http://www.aquaessentials.co.uk/index.p ... cts_id=276

After reading various reports i bought some 4 days ago and am dosing 5ml daily of that.

I also bought some Seachem Flourish tabs
http://www.aquaessentials.co.uk/index.p ... cts_id=308

My admittedly very limited understanding is that some pants take their nutrients from their leaves others from their roots.
Is this correct?
If so which plants need the tabs more than the others?
If not could someone please explain or point to towards a source that explains why not.

Just about all of our plants feed from both the substrate and the water column. Because these are aquatic plants their modified structure enables them to uptake nutrients more quickly from the water. Ideally, it would be better to have both an enriched substrate (such as AS, EcoComplete, Flourite or even potting soil+sand) and water column dosing.

I've often seen where some plants are described as "Heavy root feeders" which I consider absurd. You'll normally see this description attributed to plants which, if lifted from the substrate can be seen to have very elaborate root structures. Plants such as Amazon swords or Crypts often are described in this way. What I find absurd about this description is that one can grow these same plants very successfully with heavy water column dosing and a completely inert substrate. Equally, plants that are described as "water column feeders" do better when planted in a rich substrate in addition to the water column dosing. In fact, there are some very fast growing stems such as Ludwigia and Hygrophila which throw out loads of "aerial" roots.

Barr's hypothesis is that roots can have multi-functional roles. For example, many plants are found in nature in or near flowing streams, or are subject to seasonal flooding which , if not deeply rooted would be washed away. It therefore may be a mistake to assume that just because a plant develops a large root structure it necessarily relates to "heavy root feeding".

If you want to maximize growth and health then a high tech tank with high lights, enriched substrate, heavy dosing and CO2 injection is required, however, a low tech tank such as you have will do fine without all the pitfalls of high tech as long as the water column is supplemented with NPK and traces regularly. I don't see where root tabs help and I'm not a fan of tabs at all. I feel it is a waste of money as the debris that settles into the substrate provides enough for the roots. I would use the money saved from not buying root tabs and use it to buy Excel/Carbolife for example to supplement the carbon which will achieve much better results than any root tab can accomplish. In a low tech tank plants are more likely to be gasping for CO2 rather than scrounging for nutrients in the substrate.

Yet again ceg i really appreciate your help thanks :)

For something that seemed so simple when i bought my tank, it's turned into a whole new adventure, yet with the advice here and your well explained answers it's a very enjoyable diversion :)

I will be going more hi-tech with stronger lamps and after your great advice in the other thread i started i'll also be going CO2.

As my current substrate is a mix match of various colours and sizes, i was planning on changing it anyways.

The plan was to temporally relocate the fish and plants into a cool box together with the filters in and outlets running.

I then intended on removing the on "stuck on the side" filter and changing out the substrate.
I've heard that by hanging a netted bag of the old substrate on the side of the tank for a few days it really helps prevent an ammonia/nitrite spike.

Will AS, EcoComplete or Flourite leach anything into my water enough to cause discomfort to my fish?

Hi Mark,
Glad to hear that you find the data on the site useful. :D

A more elegant and proven solution when replacing the substrate is to collect the ugly brown mulm from the old substrate. Use some tank water and wash out the mulm from the old substrate into a container. The substrate is it's own world with all kinds of critters (and vermin.) It all starts with the bacteria collected with this mulm. Mix the mulm well into the new substrate and you will have kicked started the new substrate, which otherwise would have taken weeks to build up this bacterial population.

If not properly washed, the AS and Flourite will make the water cloudy but this is not toxic, merely ugly for a few days. The EcoComplete comes with it's own bacteria priming liquid so it doesn't have to be washed. The water will still cloud though, but no big deal. All three substrate you mentioned will do a go job and are sure to be better than the substrate you have now. AS is my favorite primarily because of the way it feels when I stick my hands into it, velvety smooth. The other two scrape my hand and tiny slivers get under my fingernails. No contest, however AS does leach small amounts of ammonia into the water column - not enough to be toxic but enough to cause algae if you are add bright lights straight away. Perform at least 2 50% water changes per week for the first few weeks and you will minimize this problem.

Make sure to add a lot of plants after the substrate replacement. This will also help to minimize toxic ammonia buildup. After the new substrate you can add CO2. The very last thing on the agenda should be adding higher lighting. When you have gotten comfortable with the other new elements you can then slowly increase the lighting.

There's no end of useful stuff on t'net forums especially.
Problem is though generally you have to wade through 75% of the crap before you start getting good info.

The problem for beginners like meself though is we don't really have enough knowledge to filter out the crap from the good stuff.

This site though is by far the best i've come across, it gives clear concise info and advice from people that know what they're talking about.

But then again being a Brit expat it might just be that i'm biased towards a UK based forum :lol:

Is there a decent write up anywhere on this ugly brown mulm, what it looks like and how to separate it from the substrate?

gixer said:
Is there a decent write up anywhere on this ugly brown mulm, what it looks like and how to separate it from the substrate?

You've got two fairly easy options IMO.
When I was setting up my new tank I used the mulm that had collected in the base of my Ehiem filter on another tank. All I did was decant the water off and that left me with fairly concentrated mulm.
Or you can use a gravel cleaner to get all the mulm out of an established substrate. Syphon it into a bucket and try to get all the dirtiest spots to get a good load! ;) Then leave the bucket to settle and again decant the water off to leave more concentrated mulm.
Funny you should mention "heavy root feeders", Clive, as I have had my doubts about this phrase, too.

My 60cm has just been rescaped, and I have made a point of planting some crypts in Aqua Soil, and some in to inert sand. I suspect the plants in the Aqua Soil will do better, but I also suspect the ones in inert sand will thrive due to the EI dosing I carry out.