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  1. #1

    Default Caring for your live plants - Nutrition

    0 Not allowed!
    Get to know your aquatic plants like you get to know your fish…watch its growth, coloring and read about its needs in a book or reliable internet site. I am going to try and outline the needs and deficiency’s here as simple as possible.

    The Major nutrients needed for plant growth are carbon, nitrogen, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and sulfur.

    As with everything in life though it is about balance and finding what you need for your individual tank as every tank is different add to that the fact that many of those substances are toxic to the plants & fish in very high amounts – eeeek!!!

    I am one of the first to agree that it all seems scary & frightening as there is a lot of information to take in at the beginning but once you have found that beautiful balance it is just a case of throwing in the right amount of the right nutrients every week with your water change – easy peasy!

    So where do we start…
    Too little nutrition and the plants suffer and too much nutrition you get an algae outbreak – but not every tank needs added nutrition to sustain healthy plants. Every tank already has small amounts of the needed nutrition on its own. The nutrients in your tap water and in your tank substrate make up what you already have.

    1st Rule - check your set up and lighting and chose your plants from there as this can stop a lot of heartache from the word go...there are hundreds of aquatic plants available so definitely some for each tank set up.

    If you put a high light plant in a low light tank no amount of nutrition is going to turn it into an amazing plant and vice versa….stick a low light plant in a high light tank straight under the lighting and it is just doomed to be covered in algae in no time and may even suffer leaf burn.

    Remember to check the plants preferred pH range also when looking for your tank and match it to yours.

    2nd Rule - don’t spend hundreds on special substrates – check your chosen plants needs but basically all that plants need are a not too compact substrate (anaerobic) which allows the nutrients to get to the plants easier.

    Yes I am going against what the advertisers tell you LOL All that specialized substrates do are allow the nutrients to chelate more (Chelators - These are organic “coatings” that keep the nutrients from binding with other substances which the plants cannot access. Plants break down and use these chelators, the Bacteria in your tank also release small amounts of the nutrient into the water over a period of time)

    Most bottled nutrients or tabs have chelating agents in them so I don’t see the point in doubling up. Upside of specialist substrate is that you may need less nutrient supplements over time but I would like to add that peat & humic acid are natural chelators so if you put a little of either (really just a little bit) if your tank that is not meant to be a High PH tank you have a wonderful and cheap way of cutting the costs of nutrients also.
    Last edited by Fishalicious; 10-31-2008 at 07:18 PM.
    My own Fish Blog
    Small Fish for Small Tanks

    'The measure of kindness is that you are kind without measure'

  2. #2


    1 Not allowed!
    3rd Rule -Check where your plants get their nutrition as every plant is different.

    Heavy root feeders such as Echinodorus, Cryptocoryne or Anubias spp. Don’t really care about the liquid ferts….for these use root tabs.

    Most stem plants & floating plants are leaf feeding so love the liquid stuff but a root tab here and there can also help them a lot.

    4th Rule – Before throwing any ferts in check the bottle/packaging.

    Good companies will list all the goodies on the packaging – Nitrates & Phosphates are a no-no!!! Instead check it has supplemental potassium and possibly magnesium as well as other trace elements.

    You can make it as complicated or as easy as you like… some companies bring out a separate bottle for each supplement and others have good all round in one supplement.

    Don’t always stick to the dosing on the packaging!! Every tank is different – a 10 Gallon tank with 2 plants is going to need a lot less than a 10 Gallon heavily planted set up.

    Use common sense…. The companies go by the average… if you only have a few plants use less if your tank is overflowing with plants use more or spread it over 2 times a week.

    5th Rule – Don’t start throwing in nutrients like a mad professor… when you first add the plants don’t do anything other than maybe a few root tabs here and there!!!

    Watch them for a while – a lot of them will be fine. If they do start to wither away don’t panic – plants are strong and pick up really quickly again.

    It is a lot easier to add what is needed rather than start cutting things out (which the plants may need) and you end up in a vicious cycle.

    Plants take a little while to bounce back after a change as with everything in the aquatic world it is about patience. If you do start to add something give it a good month or two before abandoning it and trying something new or adding something else. Usually at the way the plant is withering you can tell what it is lacking.
    Last edited by Fishalicious; 10-31-2008 at 12:10 PM.
    My own Fish Blog
    Small Fish for Small Tanks

    'The measure of kindness is that you are kind without measure'

  3. #3


    1 Not allowed!
    6th Rule – Don’t panic if your newly purchased plant starts to change color or wither away.
    Most plants need to adjust to the new water and substrate they are being put in. Many aquatic plants are also grown out of water so need a period of time to adjust to being underwater in which time they can first wither away or dramatically change in appearance. Some High Tech LFS’s have recently been keeping aquatic plants in CO2 tanks – if you don’t have a tank with CO2 then the plants have to adjust.

    7th Rule - Low Light tank: If you have a low light tank and suitable low light plants your regular water changes and fish feeding are probably giving your plants all they need – if you add nutrients algae can take over as that is all you are feeding. Usually the only problems that arise are iron or magnesium.

    8th Rule - The higher the light the quicker the plant growth the more nutrients the plants need – simple huh?

    If you are adding CO2 or/and have high lights the chances are very high that you really need to use a schedule of dosing every week to keep up with the plants demands.

    9th Rule – Don’t make it all so complicated for yourself… relax and take your time with plant choice, nutrition etc. Your plants are your guide – if it isn’t broke don’t try to fix it. It is not a science and if I can do it so can you!

    10th Rule - Fish come first - plants last!!! Don't do anything that could harm your fish in any way in the name of having a beautiful planted tank.
    Last edited by Fishalicious; 10-31-2008 at 01:02 PM.
    My own Fish Blog
    Small Fish for Small Tanks

    'The measure of kindness is that you are kind without measure'

  4. #4


    1 Not allowed!
    So on to the deficiencies remember many symptoms are possible..these are only indications of what could be going wrong but are a good guide to start with to track down the problem.

    Carbon dioxide deficiency – small leaves, very slow growth, white deposits on leaves.

    Nitrogen deficiency – Old leaves turn yellow and in very high light tanks reddish. Leaves die off very quickly.

    Phosphorus deficiency – Very similar to Nitrogen deficiency with leaves dying off Small dead areas appear on the leaves. Leaves can turn dark green and stunted growth.

    Potassium deficiency – Yellow spots, withering tips on older leaves. Pinholes also appear and slowly enlarge

    Calcium deficiency – deformed new leaf growth (bent, cupped, curved). Damage and die off of growing points. Yellow margins.

    Magnesium deficiency - Yellow spots on old leaves. Often appears similar to iron deficiency since mg deficiency prevents a plant from properly using iron. Yellowing of old leaves starting from edges while major veins remain green

    Sulphur – yellowing of new leaves or reddish in very high light set ups. Similar to Nitrogen deficiency.

    Iron deficiency - Leaves grow in pale or yellow, Greenish nerves enclosing yellow leaf tissue. First seen in fast growing plants and the leaves can look transparent.

    Manganese deficiency - in new leaves yellow areas between veins, while the veins themselves remain green. The tissue between the veins then dies, producing elongated holes in the leaves. These symptoms can also be seen in the presence of excess iron because this condition can block the uptake of manganese.

    Copper deficiency — The tips of the new leaves die and margins wither. Excess copper will kill a number of plants, including Vallisneria, Ludwigia, Sagittaria and others.

    Zinc deficiency — On old leaves yellow areas appear between the veins, on the margins and at the leaf tip on older leaves.

    Boron deficiency — In new leaves growth tips die. The plant produces side shoots, but these also die quickly. Similar to Calcium.

    Molybdenum deficiency — Yellow spots between veins on old leaves first. This is followed by brown areas along leaf margins. Flowering is inhibited.
    Last edited by Fishalicious; 10-31-2008 at 12:13 PM.
    My own Fish Blog
    Small Fish for Small Tanks

    'The measure of kindness is that you are kind without measure'

  5. #5


    0 Not allowed!
    Nice and timely post!! Just in time to answer my questions I wrote to myself in my blog as to why my plants currently look appropriately scary right now (a hallowe'en tank with no effort or planning LOL). I love the deficiency list.

    I have started dosing with dry ferts using the EI method and will see how my plants do. Thanks again!

  6. #6


    0 Not allowed!
    An excellent article fishalicious! Should be put in the article section and stickied in the forum! I will want to have this to refer to in the future.
    75 Gallon Malawi

    35 Gallon Juvie Demasoni

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Living in Victoria, Canada; Born in Mexico City

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    My neons and other fishies thank you for your help!! - fishymommy For the good health of your plants and their strong growth! - W_Oz have a guppy, lol, we have about 60 fry - labnjab ahh you need more gifts!! - The Red Severum Why have I never gave you a gift?! - Tolley 
    Thanks for all! - saurjusa I'm getting myself a school of these guys!!! lol! - Alfcea You need a bigger school! - The Red Severum Have a gift my friend - Tolley Thought you could use something new. - oldhead 


    0 Not allowed!
    Wow! Thanks! I will definitely be using your info a lot!... Thanks!

    (...and BTW, I really like your Halloween avatar!!)
    By Alfredo Franco-Cea
    30 gallon tank -- low light -- tannin stained water
    FAUNA: 7 zebra danios; 5 neon tetras; one male green swordtail; 2 female adult platies (plus fry); 6 bleeding heart tetras; 6 false rummy nose tetras
    FLORA: Anubias, Java Moss, Ceratophyllum, Java Fern, Windeløv's Fern

  8. #8


    0 Not allowed!
    Very good writeup Jess. Well thought out and well presented.

    One little caveat though. On Rule 3. All aquatic plants can take up nutrients through either their roots or their leaves. While some can take them easier through their roots then they can through their leaves, they will take the nutrients from where they are most easily obtained.
    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

  9. #9


    0 Not allowed!
    Thanks peeps xxxxx

    Ooooh the finicky ILMGB LOL I didn't say they don't take up nutrients...I said they have preferences - worded ' don't really care for liquid ferts' You just like arguing with me too much as you know you get a whipping
    My own Fish Blog
    Small Fish for Small Tanks

    'The measure of kindness is that you are kind without measure'

  10. Default

    0 Not allowed!
    LOL, Jess, you are too funny.
    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

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