The Estimative Index (EI) coined by Tom Barr is a straightforward method for providing nutrients for a planted tank. The idea behind EI is simply introducing an excess amount of nutrients within an aquarium, throughout the week. This excess of nutrients floods the water column and feeds the plants. This is an estimative method; measuring specific nutrient uptake rates is not necessary and no test kits are involved. EI provides a surplus of nutrients that helps to prevents plant deficiencies, and allows plant growth to out compete algae growth.
The process of which this is done is simple. Each day fertilizers are dosed, and the nutrients are absorbed by the plants. With this method being estimative, we can dose fertilizers according to general guidelines suited for our particular setup (see below). At the end of the week, one performs a 50% water change to ‘reset’ the nutrient load in the entire system. And then the entire dosing schedule is repeated.
The primary fertilizers are the macro nutrients - Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), Potassium (K), and the micro nutrients – trace elements (Plantex CSM+B, Flourish). Iron (Fe) can also be supplemented if necessary.
The Estimative Index method works best for a high light and well planted aquarium. However it is not limited to lower light setups, smaller quantities of fertilizers should be dosed in those instances. General Dosing Guideline for High Light and Well Planted Aquariums (wolfenxxx) 10- 20 Gallon Aquariums
+/- 1/8 tsp KN03 (N) 3x a week
+/- 1/32 tsp KH2P04 (P) 3x a week
+/- 1/32 tsp (2ml) Trace Elements 3x a week
50% weekly water change 20-40 Gallon Aquariums
+/- ¼ tsp KN03 3x a week
+/- 1/16 tsp KH2P04 3x a week
+/- 1/16 tsp (5ml) Trace Elements 3x a week
50% weekly water change 40-60 Gallon Aquariums
+/- 1/2 tsp KN03 3x a week
+/- 1/8 tsp KH2P04 3x a week
+/- 1/8 (10ml) Trace Elements 3x a week
50% weekly water change 60 – 80 Gallon Aquariums
+/- 3/4 tsp KN03 3x a week
+/- ¼ tsp KH2P04 3x a week
+/- ¼ tsp (20ml) Trace Elements 3x a week
50% weekly water change 100 - 125 Gallon Aquarium
+/- 1 1/2 tsp KN03 3x a week
+/- ½ tsp KH2P04 3x a week
+/- ½ tsp (30ml) Trace Elements 3x a week
50% weekly water change Example Dosing Regime for 29 Gallon: Note:
K2SO4 is not required for dosing unless you need the extra Potassium (K). This K is found in KN03 and KH2P04. Dosing these two according to above will yield sufficient K levels. Therefore, one will be fine dosing only KN03 and KH2P04, and Plantex. If one needs to increase their K levels with K2S04, add the same measured amount as KH2P04. For example, if one is dosing 1/2 tsp of KH2P04, then dose 1/2 tsp of K2S04.
In true regards to EI, added excess K is not detrimental in any event. EI target ranges
CO2 range 25-30 ppm
NO3 range 5-30 ppm
K+ range 10-30 ppm
PO4 range 1.0-2.0 ppm
Fe 0.2-0.5ppm or higher
GH range 3-5 degrees ~ 50ppm or higher
KH range 3-5
See APC’s Fertilator
for additional dosing guides for Fe, Ca, Mg, etc. Where to buy fertilizers? AquariumFertilizers.com
can provide you with the necessary chemicals for dry and liquid dosing of the above. For micro - trace elements, Plantex CSM+B, Seachem Flourish, and Tropica AquaCare are equivalent to each other. Drsfostersmith
for the Seachem and Tropica brands.
One Pound of each of Aquarium Fertilizer/Greg Watson's Chemicals will last at least 1 year:
Potassium Nitrate KN03
Monopotassium Phosphate KH2P04
Potassium Sulphate K2S04 (optional) Special Notes:
Providing optimal CO2 levels of at least 30 ppm are necessary for plants to prosper and out-compete algae. If algae issue arise, remove all visible algae and infected leaves. Recheck CO2 levels, and possibly reduce and adjust the lighting period. Direct dry dosing
into the tank is perfectly fine. Many dosing straight into the tank, or they dissolve each chemical in water before adding. Making a Liquid Stock
of Plantex CSM+B is more often mixed into a bulk liquid solution since some find it more convenient to dose their trace elements this way. The recipe for this solution is 1 tablespoon to 250ml water is equivalent to: 20 ml = 1/4 teaspoon of dry Plantex. This solution is stored in refrigerators to prevent mold from forming within the container. For making stock solutions for NPK refer here
for a resourceful conversion calculator. Small dosing teaspoons
(smidgen, dash, pinch) can be found at Linen & Things, Bed Bath and Beyond, Wal-Mart, dollar stores, eBay and other online retailers. To identify the specific measurements of your smidgen, dash, pinch set, a 1/8 tsp should fill a ¼ tsp in 2 tries, 1/16 tsp in 4 tries, and a 1/32 tsp in 8 tries. Stick to a good dosing regime and your plants will flourish!