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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello - I set up a 5.5 gallon a couple months ago, and I've recently noticed some odd deficiencies showing up on several plant species. please take a look at my pictures, let me know what I'm doing wrong. This is pretty frustrating, I have been reading every thread on here for months, and i thought i was finally getting the hang of keeping a planted tank.

Tank Specs:
5.5 gallon
Zoomed 501 canister filter, recently added a Rio 50 powerhead with spray bar for better circulation.
pressurized CO2 injected into impeller of Zoomed filter, greenish-yellow showing on drop checker with 4 dKH standard.
76°, recently had temperature fluctuations due to 2 bad heaters in a row. Temp is now pretty constant.
2 X 27 watt CFL desk lamps - 9 hours
Eco-Complete substrate
KH -4 GH - ?
Dosing EI - 1/32 tsp. KNO3, 1/64 tsp. KH2PO4 X 3 days/week
1 ml. Flourish, 1 ml. Flourish Iron, 1 ml. Excel X3 days/week
50% water change X 1 week

The HM, Rotala Indica and Mayaca Fluviatilis are showing the most prominent stunting, but not on all the stems, some seem to grow in just fine. The Bacopa Caroliniana and Didiplis Diandra are also showing signs. About the only plants now showing signs are the HC, dwarf hairgrass and Tonina Fluviatilis I have in there. I have tried planting Rotala Wallichi in the tank twice, both times it refused to grow - i still have a couple stems in there, but it just gets covered in dark green algae. It is putting out roots, but thats about it.
Pics:






Sorry for picture quality, I borrowed a DLSR to take pics, and I have no idea how to use it correctly.

Thank you for any insight/help you can offer.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the info HeyPK. I looked at your pictures on the deficiency page, and what I'm seeing in my HM looks a lot like what happened to yours.
I'm just curious, why would I be showing a boron deficiency if I added 3 ml./week of TE?(flourish)
The label states it has boron, and I thought EI was supposed to leave an excess of nutrients in the water column for this exact reason. :confused:
How would I go about fixing the deficiency? I read a little about adding boric acid, but I do not own a gram scale. I do have CSM-B that I haven't used yet, and from what i read here the CSM-B has roughly 2.5 times as much boron - would that be enough to address the deficiency?

In regards to the other possible deficiencies, I do not add calcium, and stopped adding MgSO4 after reading this thread. These forums have great information most of the time, but some of it is so contradictory it makes my eye twitch. I just try to follow those who have had good success and have healthy tanks filled with hard to grow species.
Should I keep adding Ca and Mg? I have Toninas in the tank, and my tap water is very soft - pH 6.8, kH -1 gH - 1.
I'm adding 3 ml./week of Flourish Iron on top of the Flourish, is there really a chance of a fe deficiency?

I'm sorry for all the questions, and I really appreciate the help.
 

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Flourish TE does have calcium. i had problems similar to yours but it was fixed when i switched from homemade ferts to Flourish TE. maybe dose a little more trace?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Is there such a thing as dosing too much trace? Say, bump my dosing up to 3 ml every other day, for a total of 9ml/week? Would this address the boron/calcium/iron deficiency, without leading to other toxicity from too much of the other elements?
 

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why would I be showing a boron deficiency if I added 3 ml./week of TE?(flourish)
The label states it has boron, and I thought EI was supposed to leave an excess of nutrients in the water column for this exact reason.
How would I go about fixing the deficiency? I read a little about adding boric acid, but I do not own a gram scale. I do have CSM-B that I haven't used yet, and from what i read here the CSM-B has roughly 2.5 times as much boron - would that be enough to address the deficiency?
I change water very infrequently, and I use a micronutrient mixture that is supposed to have the "right" proportion of boron, but I find that, with good growth and removal of trimmings, the plants develop boron deficiency in 4 to 6 months. So, then I add 1 ml/liter of the 0.1 molar boron, and they recover and grow for longer than 6 months without need of further micronutrients, except iron. They just seem to need more boron than the other micronutrients except iron. I wil try to remember to get the weight at school of a level 1/4 teaspoon of boric acid. From that one can figure out how much water to add to make 0.1 molar boric acid. Pester me with a PM or two, because I will probably forget to do that.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thank you HeyPK, I appreciate it.
Out of curiosity, what micro mix has the "right" proportion of boron? TMG?(or whatever they changed the name to.) My flourish is running out quickly, and I would like to use whatever is best for the plants.
Would the Plantex CSM+B work in the meantime to address the deficiency?
 

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This is not a commercial mixture. It has the following formula (1):
Salt-----------------------------------mg/liter of stock solution-------------------------element ppm
KCl--------------------------------------------3728----------------------------------------Cl---1.77
H3BO3----------------------------------------1546-----------------------------------------BO---0.27
MnSO4.H20-----------------------------------845------------------------------------------Mn---0.27
ZnSO4.7H2O---------------------------------575-------------------------------------------Zn---0.13
CuSO4.5H20----------------------------------125-------------------------------------------Cu---0.03
(NH4)6MO7O24.4H2O------------------------18.4-------------------------------------------MO---0.01

(1) Johnson, C.M., P.R. Stout, T.C. Broyer, and A.B. Carlton, 1957. Comparative chlorine requirements of different plant species. Plant Soil, 8: 337-353.

It probably wouldn't hurt to double the boron concentration.
 

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My feeling is that this could be caused by excess potassium.

Excessive potassium results in magnesium deficiency.

When you add potent chemicals into your tank at a regular rate, you should check periodically for build up.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
It probably wouldn't hurt to double the boron concentration.
Not trying to be slow, but I feel like I'm not on the sage page - I apologize.
Is that in regards to the trace formula you provided, or in regards to doubling my trace? I doubled the amount of trace put in this week, and am now experiencing an algal bloom, with growth improving on the R. Rotundifola, but still very noticable deformations continuing on new growth of the H. Micranthemoides and the Mayaca.

Do I need to increase my GH? My tap readings are kH -1, gH - 1. In tank - kH -4, gH - 6.

It feels like something in this tank is very not right, and I'm getting frustrated trying to figure out what to do to bring it into balance. Any suggestions would be most welcome.
Thanks again.
 

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I think you are adding too much Flourish

If your tap is kH 1, gH 1 and your tank is kH 4, gH 6, you have a high buildup of stuff in your tank. If you start with 1 gH and now you have 6 gH something is out of control.

I think you are adding too much Flourish. For your tank size you shouldn't be using more than 1 ml per week. This is probably the source of all that Ca/Mg that is increasing your gH.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Re: I think you are adding too much Flourish

If your tap is kH 1, gH 1 and your tank is kH 4, gH 6, you have a high buildup of stuff in your tank. If you start with 1 gH and now you have 6 gH something is out of control.

I think you are adding too much Flourish. For your tank size you shouldn't be using more than 1 ml per week. This is probably the source of all that Ca/Mg that is increasing your gH.
You could be right. I'm using eco-complete as a substrate, and I've seen that kind of buffering with ec before. Given their recent problems with calcium carbonate making it into their substrate, I would be inclined to think that the rise in KH and GH is due to the substrate.

Out of curiosity, what is it in Flourish you think might add kH? I was under the assumption that kH was related to carbonates, and to my knowledge, Flourish contains no carbonates. As for it raising my gH - 2 ml flourish in 5 gallons of water adds .11 ppm Mg and .14 ppm Ca. Even at 3 x week, I don't think its possible.(source) I would literally have to dump the whole bottle in to get enough trace to affect my gH to that level.
 

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too much light!

I didn't say that Flourish was the source of your increased kH. As far as increasing gH your estimate is not right. Flourish is .14% Ca not .14ppm.
2 ml x .14g/100ml = .0028g Ca = 2.8 mg Ca
2.8 mg x 100/40 = 7 mg CaCO3
2 ml x .11g/100 = .0022g Mg = 2.2 mg. Mg
2.2mg Mg x 39/24 = 3.6 mg. Ca
3.6 mg. 100/40 = 9 mg. CaCO3
9 + 7 = 16 mg. CaCO3 in 2 ml of Flourish
16 x 3 time a week = 48 mg. CaCO3
48mg. / 5.5 gal/3.78 L/gal = 2.3ppm
Since 1 deg. gH is about 15 ppm this level of build up is not the source of your increase in gH.

:exclaim: But I just noticed something else! You are using 2 x 27 watt CFL's that 54 watts in a 5.5 gal tank that is almost 10 watts/ gal!!! Even if you shut down one light you are still over 4 watts/gal. That seems way too high for me.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Re: too much light!

I didn't say that Flourish was the source of your increased kH. As far as increasing gH your estimate is not right. Flourish is .14% Ca not .14ppm.
2 ml x .14g/100ml = .0028g Ca = 2.8 mg Ca
2.8 mg x 100/40 = 7 mg CaCO3
2 ml x .11g/100 = .0022g Mg = 2.2 mg. Mg
2.2mg Mg x 39/24 = 3.6 mg. Ca
3.6 mg. 100/40 = 9 mg. CaCO3
9 + 7 = 16 mg. CaCO3 in 2 ml of Flourish
16 x 3 time a week = 48 mg. CaCO3
48mg. / 5.5 gal/3.78 L/gal = 2.3ppm
Since 1 deg. gH is about 15 ppm this level of build up is not the source of your increase in gH.

:exclaim: But I just noticed something else! You are using 2 x 27 watt CFL's that 54 watts in a 5.5 gal tank that is almost 10 watts/ gal!!! Even if you shut down one light you are still over 4 watts/gal. That seems way too high for me.
Everything I've read has stated the watts per gallon idea goes out the window with tanks below 10 gallons. These are desk lamps, with no reflector to speak of, and are 6 inches above the water. I started with one lamp, and although 4 watt per gallon sounds like a lot, it did not cover the length of the tank, and the light penetration was not great. I think we can agree, 4 watts/gal. of AHS or T5 light is quite a bit different from 4 watts/gal. cheap Home Depot desk lamp light.
I agree, it is not optimum for this tank, but if you have any suggestions for lights for a 16" aquarium, I'd love to hear it! The only other light I've seen is a Catalina Aquarium 24watt, which is a bit pricey.

As for the Flourish... I'm still confused where you are getting the CaCO3 from. The calcium in Flourish is derived from CaCl2.
Please check out the link in my previous post, as it gave me the .1399 ppm reading, from 2 ml flourish in 20 liters of water. If it's inaccurate, I would like to know, I use it often.
I think you thought I was reading the guaranteed analysis off of the Flourish label, which is also .14%. :confused:
 

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Re: too much light!

As for the Flourish... I'm still confused where you are getting the CaCO3 from. The calcium in Flourish is derived from CaCl2.
There is no CO3 in Flourish and there is no CaCO3 in Mg.

Unfortunately, gH is defined in terms of equivalents of CaCO3. That means one mole of Ca is equivalent to one mole of CaCO3 in terms of hardness. Likewise, one mole of Mg is equivalent to one mole of CaCO3 in terms of hardness.

Now the fert friend calculator gives the correct amount of Ca in terms of ppm but this is not in hardness units. Hardness units are in milligrams of CaCO3 (equivalents) / Liter or ppm of CaCO3 (equivalents).

Here is the correct calculation:
.14ppm x 100/40 (this converts Ca into CaCO3) x 3 (time per week) = 1.05ppm

The mg portion doubles the hardness (in terms of CaCO3)

This is why building your own fertilizing plan can get you in trouble you need to know a lot of chemistry.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Ray, thank you for explaining, I appreciate it.

As for building my own fertilizer plan, I agree wholeheartedly that it is an easy way to get into trouble quickly. But I think there are plans that exist (EI, PPS-PRO, ADA line) that have been created for people that do not have a thorough grasp of chemistry, and do not require one for a healthy, balanced system.
Which is why I've been trying to stick to the EI plan as closely as possible. As I understand it, the entire system is based off of excess nutrients allowing plants to grow unhindered, with a large water change to reset the system weekly. The system also relies on the ability to tell when plants are requiring more or less of a specific nutrient, which is where i feel that I'm falling down, so to speak.

Have I made a mistake?
 

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:confused:
I’m really not sure you can tell that a plant is missing some nutrient just by looking at it. I regularly test my water for NO3, PO4 and K. I’m considering getting test kits for Fe and CO2.

As far as the light level in your tank, I’m a little confused. I don’t understand why you feel 10 watts per gal is not way to high? I’m really not a plant expert but it seems to me that plant growth is associated with the light level at the surface of the plant. Since the amount of light is an inverse square law, a one watt bulb over a 10” deep aquarium will give 4 x as much light as the exact same bulb over a 20” aquarium. That means smaller aquarium should require less light than their larger counterparts.

How far from the surface of your tank is your lighting. If it is within a few inches the amount of light at the surface of your tank is phenomenal!

Why don’t you try moving the lights father away from the top of the tank? Here is something to try: Estimate the distance from the light to the bottom of your tank divide this distance in half and move the light that far away from the tank. This will reduce the light level at the bottom of your tank to about 4 watts per gal and the light level at the top will be dramatically reduced (maybe by a factor of over 100) but still over 4 watts per gal.

BTW it is better to have more powerful lights further from your tank than to have less powerful lights closer. This will result in a more evenly distributed light intensity from top to bottom.
 

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I don't understand why small tanks need more watts per gallon than large tanks, but it is certainly true. I have 40 watts of screw in CFL bulbs on a ten gallon tank, and the light level is in the low light range, not nearly in the high light range. One explanation I have heard is that small bulbs are just less efficient than large bulbs, so the watts from small tank sized bulbs are less effective than those from large tank sized bulbs. I also had a 27 watt PC light, the famous Home Depot desk lamp, over a 2.5 gallon nano tank, and that was low light, judging by the plants growth. That desk lamp was barely two inches above the water, too.

This is an area where some research and good application of theory could generate very useful information.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I wanted to post an update, as I think I successfully addressed whatever was causing my deficiency symptoms. I probably should have been a little more precise with testing different strategies separately, but instead I used more of a carpet-bomb approach of trying several things at once. (I blame bigals.com for having good prices and free shipping.)
1. Added a GH booster, to address any Ca, Mg, or Fe related issues.
2. Switched to Tropica Plant Nutrition as a micro, increased dose slightly to 1 ml/gallon/week to address any Boron problems.
3.Swapped out the 2 27w desk lamps for a Current Nova 2x24w T5HO light.(same amount of light, better spectrum and more even output.)
4. Added a small (Rio 50) powerhead for better flow and more even co2 distribution.

As a result, The algae that was taking over is also starting to recede, and most of my plants started to improve instantly, with all new growth coming in fast and healthy.
I say most, as the beautiful Toninas I received from ashappard are still melting away. Though I think that has far more to do with the high KH from the leaking Eco than a nutrient imbalance.

Thanks to everyone for all the help!
 

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Slowly dwindling CO2 is the problem. I've been replicating the stunting problem for a while now to the point I can mark it on the calendar. It usually occurs right before a mild increase in green algae. My dosing & water supply has been rock solid. Here's what I've found to be the problems:

-Low bubble rate
-Plants get overgrown and decrease circulation
-Filter output decreases causing problems if using it to either dissolve CO2 or distribute CO2 via water flow, or if it serves as the sole water circulation device

It happens every time, particularly the water circulation issue. I've yet to find any evidence that it's related to a nutrient deficiency.
 
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