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  1. #1

    Exclamation The Balanced Planted Tank


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    Understanding the balance is the key to any planted tank. Any successful planted tank will be a balanced tank. These are a couple of things that the hobbyist often hears about, but many do not understand them or their implications. The purpose of this article is to introduce the reader to the balance, explain why it is important, and how to achieve this balance.
    First, what does the balance consist of. The balance in question is the proper proportions of light, carbon dioxide, and nutrients. Plants require all three of these things in order to survive and grow. In order for the plants to take in the nutrients, there must be CO2 and light present. When any one of these three things is out of proportion there will be an outward sign to let the hobbyist know that something is not in balance. The amount of nutrients and CO2 required will be dictated by two things; lighting level and biomass of the plants, therefore, the appropriate levels for nutrients and CO2 will be different for every tank.
    This brings us to point number two; why the balance is important. Plants, unlike algae, need CO2 in order to photosynthesize, without the presence of CO2, the plants cannot take in the nutrients and thus it leaves them for algae to use. Likewise, if there are too many nutrients present for the amount of CO2 in the water, the plants will not be able to use it all up and some will be left for the algae. Light comes into play in that the more light there is, the faster many plants will photosynthesize. Because of this, there will be a greater demand for CO2 and nutrients. So as there is an increase in light, there must also be a proportionate increase in CO2 and nutrients. Just as each one of these elements can be too high, they can also be too low. If the lighting is too low then there will be an excess of CO2 and nutrients, and there will be dying plants. If nutrients are too low (as in 0), then the hobbyist will have a situation where there is nothing for the plants or for the algae. In a case such as this the hobbyist will get a nice thick green mat of cyanobacteria, also known as Blue Green Algae.
    So, how can this balance be achieved. This is something that will require the diligence of the hobbyist. First it is important to understand that the answer to plant problems is rarely a result of insufficient lighting. This issue, though, can be resolved simply by choosing plants that are appropriate for the light level. As for nutrients and CO2, these issues will require that the hobbyist watch the tank carefully, If algae starts to appear then either a decrease in nutrients or an increase in CO2 will be necessary. If there have been problems with nutrient deficiencies in the plants, the the answer must be to increase the CO2. If, however, there have been no nutrient problems in the tank then a reduction in dosing may be called for. There exists a couple of dangers in this portion of understanding the balance though. One of these dangers is the assumption that in order to achieve a balanced tank the hobbyist must dose nutrients and inject CO2. This, however is erroneous thinking. It is important to remember that the nutrient and CO2 levels are dependent on the biomass. If a tank has high lighting because of the types of plants that have been chosen, but there are only a very few plants, then there will not exist a need for as many nutrients. The plants have a maximum rate at which they can absorb the nutrients, and as a result, there are excess nutrients, they will be used by the algae. By the same token, in a lower lit tank, the levels of CO2 and nutrients will also need to stay low. In many cases the fish waste and the fish themselves will provide sufficient nutrients and CO2 for the plants. In a case such as this, the high tech approach to planted tanks is completely inappropriate and should not be used. This is the biggest danger that many aspiring planted tank hobbyists fall into, they learn about nutrient addition and CO2 injection and assume that it must be applied to all planted tanks period. Doing this shows a lack of understanding of how to balance a planted tank.
    When the hobbyist understands what the balance is and understands that the balance level for every planted tank is different then that hobbyist is well on their way to a successful planted tank. Understanding this balance will allow the hobbyist to keep the full spectrum of planted tanks, from very simple, to high tech. Understanding this balance will also save the hobbyist from hours of frustration resulting from the upward spiral of higher light leading to more nutrients leading to expensive CO2 equipment. So as a hobbyist, understand the balance, and enjoy a beautiful planted tank.
    Last edited by ILuvMyGoldBarb; 05-06-2008 at 11:35 PM.
    Considering a Marine Aquarium? A Breakdown of the Components, Live Rock, Cycling a Marine Tank

    "The capacity to learn is a gift; The ability to learn is a skill; The WILLINGNESS to learn is a choice." - Unknown

  2. #2

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    sticky!!!!!!!!!!

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by cocoa_pleco
    sticky!!!!!!!!!!
    YUP! Great post!

  4. #4

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    Thank you from a newbie plant keeper! Awesome post!
    Lindsay

  5. #5

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    Great write up! Very informative.
    As I get older I find myself thinking about the hereafter - I go into a room and then wonder what I'm here after.

    AC's Free Aquarium Ebook

  6. #6

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    Excellent write up GB! Yes, indeed sticky worthy! This needs to be at the TOP of the plants section!
    "My call sign is digital3... But you can call me Joda!"
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    55 gal. planted (Co2 Pressurized) - 1 Featherfin Syno, 2 Bolivian Rams, 2 SAEs, 3 Congo Tetras, 4 Long Fin Rosy Barbs, 6 Sunset Platys, 2 Lyre Tailed Swordtails, 3 Peppered Corys, 2 YoYo Loaches
    3 gal. planted nano (no Co2) - 1 spotted puffer, 3 Neon Tetras

  7. Default


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    ...Very nice...thank you for the great info..

  8. Default


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    Yup,what BG said.I was just getting ready to hit the submit button on a write up just like that!! Good post ILMGB very nice.

  9. Default


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    I dont totally agree with the above post. If you have low lighting you cant have an excess of co2 and nutrients that causes algae. You can never have an excess of anything, the only time having an excess becomes an issue is if you bottom out of something out... i.e. you have 2wpg light, lots of NPK but your co2 generator stops working and your co2 becomed 0.... this will cause algae.

    You can use EI dosing with low light and high co2 or low co2 and as long as you overdose your nutrients and dont bottom out on NPK or co2 then you will not have algae.

  10. #10

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    Excess co2 is not an issue in itself imo, but excess nutrients certainly are, just as the lack of one nutrient in particular is, imo. However I do not agree with overdosing ferts to be a viable solution to this.

    NPK dosing is designed to replace or replenish elements already found in the aquarium, which are depleted by the growing plants. The elements are already found in your tap water at varying concentrations, and thus users will always have varying results when trying to keep a tank algae free.

    What you are doing with overdosing ferts and using a 5x dose of excel every other day (saw this on another thread) is basically "burning" or "melting" away your algae problems by using the excel imo. It does not mean your tank is balanced. Since you are using a diy co2 source also, im willing to bet that if you stop dosing excel you will have algae out the whazoo. Thats because as I say, the excel isnt providing you with "extra co2", but rather melting the algae as it often does to other soft plants such as vals. Excel provides almost no carbon when compared to a diy co2 setup.

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