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@dwalstad — those were my updated assumptions. Especially after doing more research and hearing your great explanation of CaCO3.

But honestly, with my tap water, if all I have to do is add some sodium bicarbonate and the occasional wonder shell, then I can’t complain much. (Also yes, I immediately checked my baking soda after reading this thread the other day. Luckily, I had the correct product).

I’ll still continue with this experiment though. It’s fun to share with you guys, and it’s a great resource to have on hand.
 

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Discussion Starter · #62 ·
I don't think there's any way of getting around the fact that you will have to add bicarbonate separately. You see, the main goal of the Wonder Shell is to provide hardwater nutrients Ca, Mg, K, etc. The only way Wonder Shell can dissolve tough CaCO3 is to include an acid ingredient. However, once you add acid, you convert bicarbonates to CO2. That reduces the KH--or at least does not increase it.

Thus, you must add the bicarbonate separately. A simple addition of Baking Soda will bring KH up.

Kristen has brought up the fact that not all commercial Baking Sodas are alike. Thus, you need to find a Baking Soda that is relatively pure Sodium Bicarbonate. (See earlier posts on this thread.)
Okay, thanks! That makes sense. I will find one that is pure. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #63 ·
I haven't put in the baking soda yet. I just haven't gotten around to buying it.

My KH is now at 20, which is better but still low. My pH is at 6.5, which I think is pretty good for a betta fish. My hardness is still at 180. I haven't put in any more wonder shell because of the continued water hardness. At this point I've just been topping the tank off.

All my plants are doing great, except for the floaters. They all die eventually. None of my bottom plants are really hitting the surface, and I know they should be. They are close, but I think they are slow growing. The fish store recommended fertilizer for the floaters, but of course I'm trying to avoid it. I don't have room to plant any more plants in the soil, but it's expensive to keep replacing the floaters! My betta likes them, though.
 

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Are your parameters still -0- across the board? I'm wondering whether you actually have enough ammonia/ammonium to keep your floaters happy? How often do you feed your livestock?
 

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All my plants are doing great, except for the floaters. They all die eventually. None of my bottom plants are really hitting the surface, and I know they should be. They are close, but I think they are slow growing. The fish store recommended fertilizer for the floaters, but of course I'm trying to avoid it. I don't have room to plant any more plants in the soil, but it's expensive to keep replacing the floaters! My betta likes them, though.
You could try adding iron for the floating plants. Mine were not doing well for a long time, until I started adding Seachem iron. Now I add it multiple times a week and it keeps them happy and growing. I guess all my iron was in the soil, but not entering the water column at a rate that satisfied the floaters. The symptoms when I don't add iron is small, yellowish new growth. May not be the same issue you're experiencing, but could be worth a try!
 

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In general, iron is the missing nutrient for floating plants. Iron is insoluble in the overlying water, because it is quickly converted to iron oxides (rust). While rooted plants are fine with the substrate's soluble iron, floating plants cannot use rust in the water. Thus, if you are having trouble with floating plants, add either chelated iron or a micronutrient fertilizer. (Most micronutrient fertilizers contain chelated iron.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #67 ·
Are your parameters still -0- across the board? I'm wondering whether you actually have enough ammonia/ammonium to keep your floaters happy? How often do you feed your livestock?
I forgot to say that my nitrates have always been at zero! That's why the fish store recommended the fertilizer. I feed my fish and snails (livestock lol) once per day. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #68 ·
In general, iron is the missing nutrient for floating plants. Iron is insoluble in the overlying water, because it is quickly converted to iron oxides (rust). While rooted plants are fine with the substrate's soluble iron, floating plants cannot use rust in the water. Thus, if you are having trouble with floating plants, add either chelated iron or a micronutrient fertilizer. (Most micronutrient fertilizers contain chelated iron.)
Great! I do some cleanup weekly, so I can add iron then. They recommended adding this weekly, which I see has iron in it:

 

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Hi there!
I love your tank it looks lovely!

I just read that you are having trouble with your floaters, I had trouble with mine mosquito fee due to the lighting, I have 1 LED light and a 15w CFL bulb over my tank and it caused the mosquito fern to start turning red and brown. If you have no luck with fertiliser or if it’s giving you algae, you can try lowering the light to see if it might help since it helped with mine. In australia, the soil is a lot more mineralised so I can’t comment on any deficiencies but it might be good to have a few solutions to try out over time.

For you pH fluctuation, that’s very normal with a planted tank. As plants photosynthesis, they strip the water of CO2 and in turn increases the pH of your tank so if you see an increase in pH from morning to night then it might just be that. Kh will definitely help with the fluctuation.

As for your testing and constantly getting zeros, I had a similar problem when I used test strips since I thought it was a easy fix, but it turns out they are not too accurate. Test strips are essentially fibre pads soaked in colour changing chemicals, every time you dip them for a little longer or you shake off the water a little harder, then can take some of the colour with it making it harder for you to determine. That was my problem with kh and gh and I kept on adding until I brought a liquid test and it showed my kh and gh to be way higher than my strip readings :eek:! If you can, you may want to invest in a liquid test like the API kh and gh since you will be able to see the point of change and will give you a piece of mind.

I am also new to this and it’s all very stressful since you can’t see the changes with your eyes and you are constantly thinking if you are doing the right thing. But your tanks looks absolutely amazing and you should give yourself a pat on the back for keeping up with all the changes!
 

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Discussion Starter · #70 ·
Hi there!
I love your tank it looks lovely!

I just read that you are having trouble with your floaters, I had trouble with mine mosquito fee due to the lighting, I have 1 LED light and a 15w CFL bulb over my tank and it caused the mosquito fern to start turning red and brown. If you have no luck with fertiliser or if it’s giving you algae, you can try lowering the light to see if it might help since it helped with mine. In australia, the soil is a lot more mineralised so I can’t comment on any deficiencies but it might be good to have a few solutions to try out over time.

For you pH fluctuation, that’s very normal with a planted tank. As plants photosynthesis, they strip the water of CO2 and in turn increases the pH of your tank so if you see an increase in pH from morning to night then it might just be that. Kh will definitely help with the fluctuation.

As for your testing and constantly getting zeros, I had a similar problem when I used test strips since I thought it was a easy fix, but it turns out they are not too accurate. Test strips are essentially fibre pads soaked in colour changing chemicals, every time you dip them for a little longer or you shake off the water a little harder, then can take some of the colour with it making it harder for you to determine. That was my problem with kh and gh and I kept on adding until I brought a liquid test and it showed my kh and gh to be way higher than my strip readings :eek:! If you can, you may want to invest in a liquid test like the API kh and gh since you will be able to see the point of change and will give you a piece of mind.

I am also new to this and it’s all very stressful since you can’t see the changes with your eyes and you are constantly thinking if you are doing the right thing. But your tanks looks absolutely amazing and you should give yourself a pat on the back for keeping up with all the changes!
I'll keep that in mind about the lighting!

That's interesting about the test strips. It is really hard to tell the difference in the color pinks on the test strips, at least. I would be happy to see a higher KH and a lower GH number.

Thanks for the compliments on the tank. :) It's been a fun journey, and I love seeing my betta swimming around enjoying it.
 

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Hi Kristen,
If you plan on dosing fertilizers in your tank you might want to try dry fertilizers and make your own solution. I've purchased from this company before and have been very happy with their products. With the size of your tank and the amount you'd be dosing, one bag would likely last you for years. Much cheaper in the long run, especially if you want to add more tanks. You can either get the chelated iron or a micronutrient mix which contains chelated iron.
Nutritrace CSM + Boron – Aquarium Fertilizer
Iron chelate 10% with DTPA 8oz – Aquarium Fertilizer
 

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I haven't put in the baking soda yet. I just haven't gotten around to buying it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #75 ·
I've been adding a squirt of fertilizer every weekend at night. The floaters are no longer dying (they are growing), and the water stats are looking better!

Nitrates 0
Nitrites 0
pH 7
KH 40
GH 180 (still high)

I haven't added more wonder shell to my tank since my GH is still at 180 and I haven't done any huge water changes. I'm wondering if my mystery snail needs more calcium by now.

I haven't run out of my test strips yet, but when I do I'll get the liquid test kit. So far I've found the test strips to be consistent at least.
 

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I've been adding a squirt of fertilizer every weekend at night. The floaters are no longer dying (they are growing), and the water stats are looking better!
Sounds about right. Once your floating plants started growing, they took up the nitrogen.
What kind of fertilizer did you use. Does it contain iron (Fe)?
If the GH is 180 and their shells are normal (not soft), you don't need to worry about calcium. A GH of 180 indicates water with plentiful hardness. You can thank your Wonder Shells.
 

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Discussion Starter · #77 ·
Sounds about right. Once your floating plants started growing, they took up the nitrogen.
What kind of fertilizer did you use. Does it contain iron (Fe)?
If the GH is 180 and their shells are normal (not soft), you don't need to worry about calcium. A GH of 180 indicates water with plentiful hardness. You can thank your Wonder Shells.
Thank you! I really appreciate your help.

I'm using this fertilizer because my fish store recommended it, but it's really expensive. I don't really want to mix my own, though. :) It does have iron in it: Tropica Specialised fertiliser - liquid fertiliser for planted tanks - Tropica Aquarium Plants

Yay for the wonder shells! My snails' shells are not soft.

I think I have a really nice ecosystem going. My fish is happy!
 

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Discussion Starter · #78 ·
The green fertilizer I've been adding is turning my tank walls and plants bright green. The tank looks worse for wear with the fertilizer, but if I don't add the fertilizer then the floaters die. I'm not sure that my other plants even do well with the fertilizer. My fish really likes the floaters, though. Maybe I should try a different kind?
 

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The green fertilizer I've been adding is turning my tank walls and plants bright green. The tank looks worse for wear with the fertilizer, but if I don't add the fertilizer then the floaters die. I'm not sure that my other plants even do well with the fertilizer. My fish really likes the floaters, though. Maybe I should try a different kind?
The Tropica product, you earlier linked to, looks like an all-purpose fertilizer. It contains N and P along with the iron. You don't need N and P if you are feeding your fish well.

In 2019, I purchased 100 g of Fe-EDTA powder from a German company. This powder will last forever if kept dry. I paid $16 total for it 2 years ago and doesn't look like price has gone up. Just a pinch (0.1 grams?/10 gal tank), mixed with a little water beforehand and added in late evening, is all I add when my floating plants look sad.

I'm betting that all your floating plants need is iron. If so, a pure, powdered, chelated form is the cheapest and most effective way to go.
 

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Discussion Starter · #80 ·
The Tropica product, you earlier linked to, looks like an all-purpose fertilizer. It contains N and P along with the iron. You don't need N and P if you are feeding your fish well.

In 2019, I purchased 100 g of Fe-EDTA powder from a German company. This powder will last forever if kept dry. I paid $16 total for it 2 years ago and doesn't look like price has gone up. Just a pinch (0.1 grams?/10 gal tank), mixed with a little water beforehand and added in late evening, is all I add when my floating plants look sad.

I'm betting that all your floating plants need is iron. If so, a pure, powdered, chelated form is the cheapest and most effective way to go.
Great, thank you! I finally got all that green stuff out of my tank - yuck. I think you have to live in Germany to buy the product you listed above? Will either of the following work? Another member posted them a while back as an alternative:

Nutritrace CSM + Boron – Aquarium Fertilizer
Iron chelate 10% with DTPA 8oz – Aquarium Fertilizer
 
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