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Thread: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

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    Queen Bee carriej's Avatar


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    Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    So here I am to rescue all you silly little folks from asking what may be an embarrassing question.

    Let's just call it basic plant help/instruction/random FAQs. A few little tips and tricks for beginner plant keepers, maybe a few of you long term kids will learn something too. I can add to this at any time, and may choose to put new things in as I see fit. Like everything else I do, this information is purely from my head. It's not from a book, or from google or what have you. So.. People are BOUND to disagree with some things I say. I don't care. This is knowledge that has worked for me, and everything has their own way of doing things. This is mine.

    First question I get when people see my tank:
    Click here to enlarge

    "OMG! This is so awesome! I want my tank to look JUST LIKE THAT!"

    So I provide them with instructions, including a free baggie of plant clippings and send them on their merry way.

    And this is what happens.

    They get home, set up the plants, wait, and wait and wait...

    And if they are LUCKY.. Their tank looks like this :
    Click here to enlarge

    Not bad. Not bad at all really. I'm sure many have looked worse, this is a picture of my tank in the beginning.

    What's the key here folks? Well... I am about to tell you the secret to all your plant keeping woes.... THERE IS NO FREAKIN' SECRET!

    No, I do not have plant steroids and no, little magical creatures don't come and sprinkle their glittery little turds throughout the tank to make them grow... Nothing of the sort.

    Patience. It takes time. You have to wait. Stuff is going to die (sorry!), stuff is going to rot, fish are going to eat them, poop on them, break them, and abuse them and use them to their own advantage. Those dirty little demon fish are your worst enemy.

    You cannot have my tank. If I could somehow deliver it to you fully intact I would. In several days you would be calling me, crying... Wanting me to help you. Why? Because it doesn't matter. It's like everything else, you need to slowly learn and wean your way into things. The most important thing is to not get discouraged.

    Now, while that was all FUN and games and excitement.. I'm going to be serious for a bit (take advantage of it while it's here, folks).

    Now for the REAL answers

    Q - My plants keep dying, what do I do?

    A - I hate the word die. It means failure, it means it's the end of the world. If that's the case, I make miracles because I bring plants "back to life". Chances are from my experience, your plant isn't dead. It's either poorly adjusting or lacking something it needs. Some species of plants will completely melt when transported (crypts are bad for this) or moved, and people think they die and throw them out. If they just had of waited, the plant would have grew back.

    It might be failing and need help, but it might not be dead. If the entire plant looks like garbage, trim off the healthier bits and re plant them. A few things that come to mind are checking the plants light and nutrient requirements. Some plants are very hardy and will grow almost anywhere, while others are quite fragile. Or you can always post a picture and I can decide or you if it's salvageable.

    Or maybe it really is dead. In which case, throw it out and start again!

    Q - Do I need 34525762572.99$ superquad LED supergrow supreme lights?

    A - What? No. Anyway.. I am not a big light believer. Why? I grow plants that are supposed to be HIGH LIGHT, under medium light at best. There is nothing wrong with having lots of light, but I always recommend starting small. Buy a cheap light that will let you grow some plants, see if you like it first. Then move up the ladder. I upgraded my light three times since I started plant keeping, and I might go for one final upgrade into the zone of what one would call high light. It terrifies me. The more light you have, the more of everything else you need to keep up. You need to create a "zone" that your plants light with proper nutrients, CO2 (if you're going high light), and light. The higher the light, the bigger demand for Co2 and nutrients. It's really hard to find the sweet spot.


    Q - What about CO2.. Do I need that? YOU use it!

    A - Yes, I do use it. I like it. It makes my life much, much easier. However, while it is an important part of the ladder it's not required for every set up. If you're venturing into the higher light category I am going to say you need it though. However, you can enjoy a lovely low tech planted tank without Co2 with minimal maintenance. The only issue is because of lower lighting, you are also going to be limited to which plants you can keep, to an extent.

    Q - Can I use sand?

    A - What is it with new plant keepers and sand? The answer is yes, you can use sand. I have done it, I still do it. My main planted tanks do have special plant substrates (which make a massive difference) but you can use inert sand, and gravel. The only thing with sand is that you'll want to keep some kind of burrowing snail (mts work) to keep the sand moving, you don't want that stuff compacting around the roots. Sand also makes it harder for nutrients to get where they belong, since most special plant substrates are porous the water can travel through the rocks quite easily, this is not the case with sand. It might be a good idea to invest in some root tabs or something similar.

    Q - Do I need fertilizers?

    A - No. But you do need macros (N+K+P) and micros (EVERYTHING!.. kidding, you can usually buy micro formulations. Seachem makes one called "flourish" I believe. Some of these can be found naturally in your tap water, created from fish poop, and yadda yadda. I know people who don't do a darn thing and they have lovely plants. Me? Stop fertilizing, and I've got holes in everything. Obviously again, the higher light, higher growth tanks need more fertilizers, but the lower light tanks might not need any. You will notice deficiencies in your plants if they are lacking something. Deficiencies usually manifest as yellow leaves, curled up/twisted leaves, holes (pinholes) rotting leaves from the tips, etc etc... When you see these things, you've got to add something.


    Q - What happens when you don't achieve the right level of light/nutrients/co2? or you're not in the "zone"

    A - One word... ALGAE. Lots.Of.Algae.





    AQUARIUM PLANT TERMS & EQUIPMENT DEFINITIONS


    Macros: Macronutrients. The big three are Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. Fertilizers bought are generally KNO3 and KH2PO4. Magnesium and others are also considered macros.

    Micros and/or Traces: Micronutrients. Commonly called traces, contains many different nutrients. Most common are Iron, boron.. etc. Can easily all be dosed as one chemical, such as something like Plantex CSM+B.

    CO2 Regulator: Generally a dual gauge regulator (not always) which is used to control the amount of CO2 entering the tank. Most units also gauge PSI

    Bubble Counter: A small cylinder shaped attachment which is preferably connected to a dual gauge regulator. It is used to count the bubbles per second or BPS. Can be filled with water or mineral oil, the latter preferred.

    Solenoid: A very useful addition to a pressurized CO2 system. Is designed to be set up with a timer to automatically shut on/off the delivery of CO2 to the tank. This way you do not need to mess with the CO2 output, and Co2 will also not be accidentally left on/off etc..

    Drop Checker: A small generally globe shaped glass bulb that sits upside down inside the aquarium. It is filled with an indicator solution so one can accurately gauge the PPM of the CO2 in their aquarium and keep it in the appropriate range.

    Diffusers: Generally a bell shaped or ladder style CO2 attachment designed to either break up the CO2 gas or make it have a longer contact time with the aquarium water. Inline diffusers are considered one of the most effective.

    Emersed Form: Form of the plant which is grown OUTSIDE of water, however, roots are often submerged.

    Submersed Form: Form of the plant which has been grown SUBMERGED in water.

    Floating plants: Plants that are designed to float on the waters surface. Such as duckweed and frogbit.

    Non-Rooting plants: Plants that oftentimes DO have roots, but do not do well buried in substrate. Examples are the java fern family, and some mosses.

    Rooted or Stem plants: Plants that do better if their roots are buried in a substrate. Includes plants such as crypts, most hygros, vals, etc etc.. Most plants are stem plants.

    Full Spectrum lighting: A full spectrum light emulates natural light, which is what you want for planted aquariums. While multicolor LEDs are pretty neat, for plant growing it's best to stick to a natural light color.





    She Who Must Be Obeyed

  2. #2
    Moderator megaphoenix's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Very good Carrie. I was wondering, may one ask you questions through this thread or do you prefer them to start a new thread every time.
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    Queen Bee carriej's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Nope ask away here.. Good for learnings. I will move them up to the top in the main thread if they are something that people can learn from.
    She Who Must Be Obeyed

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    DIYFK member DavidNZ's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Great article!

    What would you say if some plants were growing algae and others are growing like mad?
    110L Turtle tank with 1 Red Eared Slider named Speedy. (Soon to be 400L tank!)
    130L Fish tank with 7 Neon Tetras, 4 Clown Loaches and 1 Bristlenose Pleco.

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    DIYFK member Wheatley81's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Maybe you can help me decide?

    I currently have a 10G planted tank and it has been good for the past few months (without an air pump or CO2) , I recently added more plants and I had to add an air pump to the tank over night as the plants were being greedy with the Oxygen but now the plants have slowed in growth and wish to give them a kick.

    I am guessing adding some CO2 during the day would be the best option and turn it off at night so the air pump can do its job? Which would be best a mini pressurised system or a DIY system? With the pressurised I'm guessing I can easily stop the flow?

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    Queen Bee carriej's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    David, algae on plants and not on others could be a few things. What type of plants are they? this is important, as some plants are low light plants, and need to be placed in areas where they won't receive as much light. Too much light, and you've got algae. Most important thing to is to figure out the type of plant and once you know it's needs, then you can go from there.

    Wheatley, you don't need an air pump. Plants use CO2 during the day, and minimal O2 at night. You've got it a little backwards. I would turn the bubbler off during the day, and turn it on at night, since at night is when O2 is lowest because the plants are using some of it. However, unless your fish are gasping, it's safe to omit the bubblers. I don't use any.

    On a 10 gallon tank a DIY system is a good place to start. DIY systems work well on tanks under 15 gallons. It's hard to keep it consistent, but some CO2 is better than none. If worst comes to worst, you could do DIY co2 in combination with dosing liquid carbon, such as using a product like Seachem flourish excel. You can buy a pressurized system if you like. It's definitely the most effective (and most expensive) method. And yes, with pressurized you can just turn it off. Mine runs on a solenoid (a must have, IMO) so I just have it on a timer to turn off. Kills the co2 delivery instantly. In the morning it turns on again.
    She Who Must Be Obeyed

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    DIYFK member Wheatley81's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Sorry might not of explained, the air pump is currently only on during the night as the fish seemed to be gasping for air in the morning and since adding the pump at night they are a lot happier. Since then the plants have started to slow and I would like to kick some life back in to them.

    I think I will start with the DIY and see how the plants go, then I may consider the use of pressurised for ease of use.

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    Moderator megaphoenix's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Wheatley81
    Sorry might not of explained, the air pump is currently only on during the night as the fish seemed to be gasping for air in the morning and since adding the pump at night they are a lot happier. Since then the plants have started to slow and I would like to kick some life back in to them.

    I think I will start with the DIY and see how the plants go, then I may consider the use of pressurised for ease of use.
    Wheatley81, there are some pressurized systems for sale that use cartridges that are very similar to the ones used in BB guns and if you want to go the pressurized system way, for a 10 gallon tank. I would look into them. I have been researching them and have found mixed reviews, but to be honest, with that size tank you would be wasting money on a big pressurized system like Carrie uses. This is not meant to discourage you but rather to make sure you know some of the options. If you decide on the DIY aproach and you need some advise, I would be more than happy to discuss this with you as that is what I am using at the moment.
    DIYFishkeepers.com, bringing the world together one tank at a time.

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    DIYFK member Wheatley81's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by megaphoenix
    Wheatley81, there are some pressurized systems for sale that use cartridges that are very similar to the ones used in BB guns and if you want to go the pressurized system way, for a 10 gallon tank. I would look into them. I have been researching them and have found mixed reviews, but to be honest, with that size tank you would be wasting money on a big pressurized system like Carrie uses. This is not meant to discourage you but rather to make sure you know some of the options. If you decide on the DIY aproach and you need some advise, I would be more than happy to discuss this with you as that is what I am using at the moment.
    Thanks mega, I have been looking at the following do you know much about it?
    Fluval CO2 Kit Mini Pressurised

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    Queen Bee carriej's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    I would not buy any of the auto systems that use cartridges. They don't work long enough before they need a refill (few weeks), and for the price you might as well buy yourself the real thing. Anyone I know who has bought one has regretted it, unfortunately.

    Here is the one you are speaking of :

    http://www.petsandponds.com/en/aquarium ... 24673.html

    While this system is much better than the ones that use powder mixes and god knows what, it's still not very efficient. The cartridges end up being costly and hard to find, and they "clog" and don't seem to be very efficient. The diffusion is also poor, so very little co2 is actually being diffused into the water. Plus, with a few times of buying the "disposable" cartridges, you could have saved enough money to buy the real thing.

    This system is better, it's the larger one, however.. all they have diffusing is a dinky little black ceramic ring :

    http://www.petsandponds.com/en/aquarium ... 24678.html

    However -- for the price of the set up (100$) and one pack of refills (50$) that 150$ could get you set up with pressurized CO2 the right way...





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    Moderator megaphoenix's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Carrie, I agree with you and if I am not mistaken that is the very same one I was talking about. I have not heard anything good about the Fluval you first showed. I agree also that a more stable and expensive setup is best but for a 10 gallon it may just be overkill. I am still searching the one that I was researching, but it does have a slightly better control of release with a pin valve and if I am not mistaken can be refilled with the same co2 cartridges that you can buy at sporting goods stores. To be perfectly fair, I like the DIY method when in use with smaller tanks (I use one on my 29 gallon) though there is no control over the amount being injected and making the concoction every month isn't that much of a chore either.

    Wheatley81, there are ways around having to necessarily using co2 and that lies in the plants that you pick. Carrie is correct in her assessment as far as the reliability of these small cartridge systems but the Fluval is not the way to go. I am currently trying to find the system that I have been looking at and will put the link here so that we may both hear Carrie's opinion. Don't tell anyone I said this but I do value Carrie's expertise in this part of the aquatics hobby.
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    Queen Bee carriej's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    However, I feel it's necessary to add that if you are not currently using some sort of carbon source at all, adding some would be beneficial. As mentioned before, seachem makes an excellent product called flourish excel. It is not expensive if you buy the large jug, and it will do a 10 gallon quite some time.
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    DIYFK member Squire7's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    I have a dumb question Click here to enlarge

    In the front right section of my tank I have bulk algae growing.. nowhere else in the tank. However that is the side that is closest to a door where the sunlight comes from. I'm running about 140W of lighting through two lights and the tank is 180litres and I have the eco complete substrate for my plants.. now i'm thinking too much light? Is this right? Do I need to cut back my lighting during the day?

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    Moderator megaphoenix's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Actually, you may need to provide shade for the section of your tank. It doesn't sound like the lighting is the issue as much as it is the sunlight hitting that one section. How long does the sunlight hit that one area of the tank?
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    Queen Bee carriej's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!



    First things first, what kind of algae is it? I see you say "bulk" but I am not sure what that means. Depending on the type of algae, there are different ways of battling it. If you could post a pic I could ID it for you, or if you already know you can post it and we can go from there.

    She Who Must Be Obeyed

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    DIYFK member DavidNZ's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    If the algae is growing in the place where the sun hits it, this is probably the cause, I have that too (only place for my tank is by the window) and I get spotted green algae on my glass (Carrie, I also suspect that could be the cause of the algae on the plants. I keep forgetting to take the pics :P )
    110L Turtle tank with 1 Red Eared Slider named Speedy. (Soon to be 400L tank!)
    130L Fish tank with 7 Neon Tetras, 4 Clown Loaches and 1 Bristlenose Pleco.

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    DIYFK member Squire7's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Ok I thought so. They won't be in that spot for much longer anyway so I guess I can live with cleaning it for a bit longer. Click here to enlarge

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    DIYFK member Wheatley81's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by carriej
    However, I feel it's necessary to add that if you are not currently using some sort of carbon source at all, adding some would be beneficial. As mentioned before, seachem makes an excellent product called flourish excel. It is not expensive if you buy the large jug, and it will do a 10 gallon quite some time.
    Yeah have been using Flourish for a while and it has been great, would deff recommend it for small tanks without CO2 but I think it is about time to give my plants some CO2. I will be adding a DIY system soon hopefully and if that works well I will move to a pressurised system.

    Mega any luck on finding the system?

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by megaphoenix
    Wheatley81, there are ways around having to necessarily using co2 and that lies in the plants that you pick. Carrie is correct in her assessment as far as the reliability of these small cartridge systems but the Fluval is not the way to go. I am currently trying to find the system that I have been looking at and will put the link here so that we may both hear Carrie's opinion. Don't tell anyone I said this but I do value Carrie's expertise in this part of the aquatics hobby.

  19. #19
    DIYFK member Wheatley81's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Squire7
    Ok I thought so. They won't be in that spot for much longer anyway so I guess I can live with cleaning it for a bit longer. Click here to enlarge
    Have you got any snails in your tank? I have just purchased 2 Porcupine Snails (Horned Nerite) and 2 Sakura Shrimp, these have been great at clearing any spots I had on my glass or plants. Thought I would try these after my Pleco got too big for the tank.

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by DavidNZ
    If the algae is growing in the place where the sun hits it, this is probably the cause, I have that too (only place for my tank is by the window) and I get spotted green algae on my glass (Carrie, I also suspect that could be the cause of the algae on the plants. I keep forgetting to take the pics :P )
    Moving from direct sunlight probably the best solution though Click here to enlarge

  20. #20
    Queen Bee carriej's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    I still wanna know what kind of algae it is... lol
    She Who Must Be Obeyed

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    Moderator megaphoenix's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    No sorry I was distracted from it by some other things going in the house. I did find this one but there is another that includes everything but take a look at this system.

    http://www.aquacave.com/pierce-co2-syst ... -2864.html
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  22. #22
    DIYFK member Wheatley81's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by megaphoenix
    No sorry I was distracted from it by some other things going in the house. I did find this one but there is another that includes everything but take a look at this system.

    http://www.aquacave.com/pierce-co2-syst ... -2864.html
    I have looked around for something similar to what you have sent and this seems to be the only one I can find and it includes everything:
    http://www.warehouse-aquatics.co.uk/...xpert-set.html

  23. #23
    Moderator megaphoenix's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Hey that is very similar to the one I am looking for. The only problem I have with the page is a lack of customer reviews, but that looks great for a smaller aquarium.
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    Queen Bee carriej's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    NOTE *******


    Added some common terms to the first post. If anyone has any questions or suggestions I'm all ears/eyes/what have you.


    Carrie
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    Moderator megaphoenix's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Thank you Carrie.
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    DIYFK member whitepanther93's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    I have a large amazon sword in my tank and the leaves were originally starting to turn transparent and disintegrate but now some some of the leave have turned pale. (still disintegrating) for fertilizers i use seachem flourish, and recently i put seachem tabs (just their brand of root tabs) and a bag of floramax gravel in. am i doing something wrong here. i keep getting the feeling i overdosed on ferts.

  27. #27
    Moderator megaphoenix's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Are you getting a bug algae bloom? What kind of lighting are you using? How old are the bulbs in your hood? Did you put salt in the water?
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    DIYFK member whitepanther93's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by megaphoenix
    Are you getting a bug algae bloom? What kind of lighting are you using? How old are the bulbs in your hood? Did you put salt in the water?
    Minimal algae, using an aqua sun t5 HO light (36") with 2 39 watt bulbs, and a second fixture with 20 watts (46 gallon tank) the bulbs are pretty much brand new they are from the same company as the lamp (zoo med) one bulb is called ultra sun and the other is called flora sun. the 20 what is just a regular florescent bulb (not sure of the type.) and there is no salt in the water.

  29. #29
    Moderator megaphoenix's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    How long has the substrate been in the tank? Doesn't it contain nutrients? You may be right about od'ing the ferts.
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    DIYFK member whitepanther93's Avatar


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    Re: Aquarium Plant FAQ - For Newbies .. With Pictures!!!!

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by megaphoenix
    How long has the substrate been in the tank? Doesn't it contain nutrients? You may be right about od'ing the ferts.
    the new gravel has only been there for a few days along with the root tabs
    if i am over dosing than what can i do?

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