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aquarium kid 03-01-2014 12:10 PM

Need some help, plants deteriorating in my first planted tank
Hey everyone

About two weeks ago I set up my first planted tank but now things seem to be deteriorating. My specs are as follows.

Tank: 46 gallon bow front
Filter: Emperor biowheel 280 and 400 filled with sponge, bio media, and some purigen.
Lighting: 36" Finnex ray II DS 7000k 9 hours a day
Substrate: Very Fine mineralized topsoil with a light sprinkle muriate of potash and osmocote plus underneath. Capped with RedFlint brand Sand.
Flora: Java moss, Crypt leuta, Ludwigia Repens, Giant hygro(corymbosa I think), and a mystery apontogen bulb from pet smart, and an anubias. (Note; Everything but the apontogen I grew out emmersed.)
Water parameters: Unknown at the moment, going to test as after posting this.

The plants seemed to do well for the first week or so and might have even had a little new growth. Recently they seem to be developing pale new growth and the old growth seems to be week and coated in a some sort of brown slime algae which is now overtaking the glass too. The anubias seems fine and put up a new leaf and the apotogen just flowered and the moss seems alright. Everything else seems to be unhealthy, especially the ludwigia.

Sorry about the crappy pictures.

Thanks in advance, any help is greatly appreciated.

Zapins 03-01-2014 12:45 PM

Re: Need some help, plants deteriorating in my first planted tank
aquarium kid - this is iron deficiency. Pale new growth and a stopping of plant growth. The older leaves are brown due to diatoms which tend to show up in newly setup tanks.

Perhaps the soil you started with did not have a lot of iron to begin with. You'll have to add an iron supplement, Iron chelate 10% with DTPA is a good one which can be bought from: or you can use another iron supplement if you have one. Use about 0.2 ppm iron to help the plants recover. can help you calculate how many grams, spoons, mL etc of any iron supplement you have to add to get 0.2 ppm.

Scroll down to Iron Deficiencies on my new DeficiencyFinder database site and you can see examples of other iron deficient species. Click on any of them for a more detailed description:

Also, it you wouldn't mind and want to help me expand the database I could definitely use close up good quality (big) pictures of your iron deficient Ludwigia. Close up detailed shots of just one stem, along with some ludwigia next to some of your other plants would be great (showing that not all plants develop iron deficiency symptoms at the same time).

As you can see from the database I don't have many Ludwigia species yet and your photo would be very helpful. You can email the photos to me or PM me and I'll give you full credit for the photo (PM me for my email address).

aquarium kid 03-01-2014 01:12 PM

Re: Need some help, plants deteriorating in my first planted tank
Did my tests and this what I got.

Nitrate:20 possible more, (Will be doing a water change to bring this down)
Ph:8.2 maybe, test kit is hard to read
Kh:9 dkh
Gg:11 dkh

Thanks for the quick reply Zapins. I did use redart clay in the initial setup so the plants must be using iron like crazy. Could I use CSM+B for the iron source? I already have that on hand and would like to avoid buying more ferts if possible.

The tank has been setup for years and was just two weeks ago torn down and setup again for the plants. Since the tanks not new where is the silicate that the diatoms use coming from? Could something else be causing it?

I will try to take some Higher quality pictures tonight.

Thanks again for the replies.

Zapins 03-01-2014 02:38 PM

Re: Need some help, plants deteriorating in my first planted tank
You can use CSM+B to dose iron, it supplies iron in EDTA chelated form which lasts a decent amount of time in the tank (though less than DTPA chelated).

The problem with using clay for supplying nutrients is clay tends to hang onto nutrients rather than give them up. The particles that make up clay are also so small and compacted that plant roots cannot properly dig through it to access the nutrients inside. Also, iron that is red (in the red clay) is in Fe3+ form, which is generally unusable by plants which need Fe2+. Soil bacteria can covert the 3+ to 2+ and so can plants, but neither bacteria or plant roots live in clay, so the nutrients stay locked away. Based on these characteristics clay offers very little benefit.

I'd warrant a guess that the silicates probably came from the soil, or perhaps the newly setup tank simple hasn't developed ways of reducing silicates effectively yet (maybe there is a species of bacteria that takes care of this?). Usually silicates get used up after a few weeks of setting up a new tank so I'd imagine the diatoms should go away soon. They also don't like bright lighting which tends to make them burrow into the substrate.

I suspect that the soil you started with didn't have a high iron content to begin with, which brand did you use?

aquarium kid 03-01-2014 02:58 PM

Re: Need some help, plants deteriorating in my first planted tank
The soil I used came from my cabin. I collected from a pile of what we belive to be old broken down leaves pulled from the lake about 6 years ago. The pile seemed to be very broken down and had a sandy texture even before minerlizing.

If I use the CSM+B how often should I dose? Should I still target .2 ppm?

niko 03-01-2014 03:10 PM

Re: Need some help, plants deteriorating in my first planted tank
You are better off not trying to run after numbers. Yes, add Iron, because Zapins is the best person to ask about a defficiency. But make sure you watch the plants first. Do not look at numbers first.

Zapins 03-01-2014 03:13 PM

Re: Need some help, plants deteriorating in my first planted tank
Hmm yep, thats probably why the plants are a bit iron deficient. No worries though it isn't too much of a problem, regular CSM+B dosing will keep your plants looking good.

I'd start off with once or twice a week at 0.2 ppm each dose.

Since the plants are currently iron deficient I'd start off by giving a 0.4 ppm dose of CSM+B to let them recover a bit, then you can dose once or twice a week (twice is probably better).

Thanks niko :) I agree, in general plant symptoms are always better indicators than test kits.

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