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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I work at a pet store, as a few of you may recall, and I'm in charge of a few of the display tanks there. One of them, a 65 gallon, doesn't have tons of algae or anything, but the plants have kinda stalled out. The only plant that does anything is a green tiger lotus... everyone else just kinda sits there. I realize that's not the biggest curse in the world, but I'm a little leery of plants that aren't growing. It creeps me out. :)

This tank has 2 96 Watt PCs, pressurized CO2 at about 30 ppm, 3" Eco-Complete, and gets tested for CO2 and NO3 levels about three times a week to make sure everything is staying stable. I dose with KNO3 to keep the nitrate levels at 5-10 ppm. I also dose about 10-15 mL of Flourish three or four times a week.

I noticed last week that my NO3 levels weren't dipping as quickly as they used to. That tank usually "eats" about 2ppm of NO3 a day, but lately, it's been eating about 1ppm every few days. The hairgrass, after being thinned out a huge amount, hasn't really started growing back, either.

Here's the list of plants in the tank:
Red Tiger Lotus
Green Tiger Lotus
Myriophyllum simulans
Lysimachia nummularia (I think)
Eleocharis acicularis
Crinum natans "aquaticum"
Aponogeton ulvaceus

I do water changes with reconsituted RO using Equilibrium and Acid/Alkaline buffer every week or two and have noticed during this stagnant period that I get a huge burst of growth (4"-6") from the Myriophyllum immediately afterward, but it stops again a day later.

I suspect it's a nutrient issue, but that's where my question is... I'm not sure which nutrient. The only clue I have is in the Lysimachia; it has blackish spots on some of the lower leaves and it's been sending out side roots more than usual. I've heard side roots are usually a potassium problem, but with the steady KNO3 I add, I wouldn't think it would be an issue...

Sorry about the long post... if anyone is still awake, please give me ideas you might have about what I can do. Keep in mind that this is a store display and I'm supposed to be using Flourish products because those are the ones we sell. The KNO3 dosing issue was a HUGE issue and I don't really want to start any new battles...
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I didn't think potassium would be an issue in this case. Equilibrium is FULL of it... like 65 ppm for every 3 degrees of hardnessit adds. I considered that for a while, but with that much K (I keep the tank at 6 deg of GH) plus the K that the tank gets from KNO3, I don't know if it would really be an issue. I guess I could throw some Flourish Potassium in there, but the stuff is pretty weak compared to the dosage I do with weekly water changes.

I'll see if we have Flourish Trace... not sure because we suggest using Equilibrium and that has a really balanced list of nutrients included. If we do carry it, I'll give it a try, anyway. The trace thing could be a possibility, considering that big growth spurt I get at each water change.

I am almost completely positive that there's no phosphate in Acid/Alkaline Buffer; it's another Seachem product and I think I remember reading that on the label. I'll find out for sure tomorrow by asking my manager... Steve knows everything about Seachem. :)

I know for sure my testing solutions are fine. We test water for free at the store I work for so we go through a few bottles of each test a week, at the minimum. In fact, every time I test KH, I'm using a relatively new bottle because it gets used really quickly (big saltwater store, so it gets used by both disciplines). The only test kit that is used strictly on the 65 is the nitrate test kit and that's only been open for three weeks now.

I was considering the possibility of the phosphorous levels being low because the NO3 levels have been on the high side (around 10 ppm) and not going down like they used to. We do carry Flourish Phosphorous, so I can give it a try. I think I'll try that one first, actually... I had a feeling that's what it was, but I didn't want to say anything until I heard other responses.

Thanks for replying, guys. If anyone else has anything to add, please do so. I'd really appreciate it...
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I'm using RO because that's what my boss wants me to use... we sell a lot of it at the store, especially for people with well water, so it's best if I don't rock that boat too much. :) It's not straight RO; I use about 15% tapwater to bring the RO up to temperature, so it's not completely sterile. KH also varies a lot out of the tap at the store, so it's nice to keep it predictable. I wouldn't mind using straight tapwater like I do at home, but I'm trying to play by the rules.

I'm using Flourish, usually about 10mL, three or four times a week.

I'm almost completely sure Seachem endorses the use of both Acid and Alkaline buffer with RO to get the KH at a stable level... I remember my manager telling me that they told him the ratio that we recommend at the store. When I mix them, the KH stays stable for way longer than just the use of Alkaline buffer. I keep the KH at 4 dH, GH at 6, CO2 concentration at about 25 ppm.

I think I'm giving you guys the wrong idea about this tank... it's going well, I was just surprised to see the plants slow a bit. There's absolutely no hair algae and the plants are pearling like crazy. I have a couple "Riccia toupees" on the top of the driftwood I forgot to mention and they're having some fun about three hours after the lights turn on in the morning and stay covered in bubbles all day long. The lotuses are sending up streams of bubbles in several places, as well. I was worried because the Myriophyllum only grows after water changes and the hairgrass hasn't filled in much lately.

A few days ago, I added about 3mL of Flourish Phosphorous to the tank after my usual 50% water change. The plants looked even more vivid than usual the next day and of course had that growth spurt they always do... I added more PO4 the next day and my NO3 levels actually went down by 4 ppm. I'm going to continue the PO4 in small amounts, according to how quickly the tank eats NO3, and make sure I keep up on Flourish addition, in case the plants are hungry for trace elements. With that big jump in NO3, however, I'm thinking it's a phosphate issue.

I guess my questions are more of a quest for nutrition info than a "help me because the tank looks like heck" post, but thanks for all the replies anyway... this is a pretty cool discussion.

My boss told me that he has a bunch of articles that our Seachem rep sent us (probably the same ones on their website, actually) Once I have time to read those, I'll let you guys know if there's anything pertaining to the questions we've raised here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for the replies, guys.

I'm still confused. Why is it a problem to use the Acid/Alkaline Buffer concoction? When I mix it to 4 dKH, it makes the pH of the solution 7.6, which is pretty much what a KH of 4 will have out of the tap. I've been doing it that way forever and it's really never been a problem. Again, it "holds" way better than just Alkaline buffer and Seachem actually lists the mixtures you can use on the side of the bottle. I know the "I've always done it this way" argument is really weak, but I guess I'm just trying to understand why I should change something that seems so stable. Keep in mind that these products are different from other buffers on the market...

I'm also confused about what part of my method is difficult for people to understand. I've been "in charge" of helping out the more advanced plant people for a while now and no one has a hard time with this. There are people using the methods that I learned from the store that have had their tanks set up for five or ten years. I don't think that anything in how we do things at the store is really all that bad... I'm not sure what you're referring to when you say that people aren't going to want to keep it up.

I'm not being defensive here, guys, and I don't wanna start a flame war. I just want to be clear on stuff, especially since I keep getting such a strong opinion... what you guys think may be the same thing that a customer is thinking, although I haven't had any complaints yet and the people I deal with for the bigger setups have a really good relationship with me.

BTW, I really do believe it was the PO4 now. The tank ate another 4 ppm of NO3 in the last two days, just from adding 5mL of Flourish Phosphorous to the tank. I haven't changed anything else in my dosing habits.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I came back from my weekend at the AGA to find the tank doing very well. Another 6 ppm of NO3 were gone, thank goodness (avg of 2 a day) and the plants are pearling like there's no tomorrow.

I'll get pics of the tank in the next week or so. I have to wait until someone else can take them because I can't find the docking station for my camera. :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Hey Tom, thanks for the advice about where to get the phosphate. I can use that at home, but at the store, I need to stick to manufactured aquarium products as much as I can, though, so until it becomes very expensive to do so, I gotta stick with the Flourish Phosphorous. It seems to work pretty well and it's not my checkbook that the money's coming out of, so I'd better play by the rules for now. I did notice how weak the solution is, so I'm upping it as I go to play around with growth rates.

I think I should explain the Acid/Alkaline buffer thing again. I'm not adding it to drive the pH down; like you said, that's what the CO2 is for. In fact, at a 1:2 ratio with the Alkaline Buffer, it doesn't really affect the pH of the water much, if at all.

The reason that it gets mixed in, however, has to do with the stability of the KH. When I use only Alkaline Buffer, it takes a lot more to bump the KH to 4 degrees. That level doesn't stay for long in the aquarium, either; it falls about 1 degree every week or so. It shouldn't be an issue since I do weekly water changes on the tank, but other people have had major issues using only the Alkaline Buffer with RO water. The products are designed to be used together and we see fewer problems with customers who use both, so I need to continue my methods in that respect.

Again, thanks for the reply...
-Sarah
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Here's a pic of the entire tank, finally. I've been using Flourish Phosphorus for the last couple weeks and haven't seen a ton of new growth, but I can tell the plants are doing better, at least.

A couple Mondays ago, I caved and totally redesigned the tank because I didn't like the way it looked before... ditched the troublesome Myriophyllum and tried dwarf sag for a foreground plant in place of the hairgrass. The Aponogeton was getting way too big and shading out everyone else, so he was evicted, as well. Anyway, here's a pic of the new tank... not going through much NO3, but everything looks a whole lot better with the addition of the PO4.

 
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