View Full Version : Plant Brains

02-20-2011, 07:30 PM
O.K. plant brains,what do you think is the best and easiest fertilizer to use on a co2 tank with high light???It seems like I am having no luck at all with my plants after my battle with cancer, I have a good bit of menory loss due to chemo and radiation so this old man needs some help..I went from the one who brought the giant sword plants to the auction to not being able to keep any thing alive...I am in the process of setting up 4 new tanks and looking for some plants..One will be a co2 tank with good lighting and one will be no co2 with fair lighting and the other two will be low light...Thanks for any help Donny

02-20-2011, 08:41 PM
I am in no way a 'plant brain'...I think Ken holds that title here..lol

I use Seachems Flourish Tabs. I just push one down near the roots of each of my plants every so often when the 125g was a planted tank with co2...I never really had any algae issues using them...I try and stay away from anything that adds phosphates to the tank. Not sure if it's the right thing to do but when that tank was set up and established everything thrived.

I moved my plants to the 220g...(have a pic posted under the tank section)...I am waiting for my line to come in for my FX5 so I can take my diffuser off off the 125 and move the co2 over to the 220g...

I am anxious to see what responses you get with the great ?s you asked from some people that actually know planted tanks way better than I do.

(Hope you are feeling better after your treatment & things are looking up for you :)

02-21-2011, 09:06 AM
While I have a brain, and it is mostly filled with plant matter, I don't know if I am a "Plant Brain" per se. In addition, it seems as if I also wonder what is the right fertilizer, and how much to use. But here is what I use. It seems to mostly work.

For fertilizer, I use Poor Man's Dosing Drops. You can read about it on the internet. The information on the internet tells you to change the concentrations of ingredients "according to the needs of the plants". That's assuming you know what the plant's needs are! What has worked for me is this: In 1.25 cups of water I mix 1 TBS of Plantex CSM+B, 2.5 TBS of MgSO4 (Epsom Salts), 2 tsp of K2SO4 (Potassium Sulfate) and 1 tsp KNO3 (Potasium Nitrate). You can make more or less, this amount lasts me about 2 or 3 weeks, I think. They say if it hangs around too long it will get moldy, but I deplete this amount before that has happened. I add about 1 ml per 10 gallons of water daily (maybe I miss one day a week?) in high tech tanks. In low tech tanks, I add about .5 ml per 10 gallons, and only when the plants look pale (more pale than usual) which can range from once a day in newly established tanks, as little as once a week in others, to none at all. I have found that to be the difficult part, determining when the plants look hungry (mine don't swim to the top of the tank and follow you around like the fish do). I reduce the amount of fertilizer if black algae looking crud begins to cover plant leaves.

They say you need root fertilizers for rosette plants, but I don't usually use root tabs. When I do, I use Jungle Labs 'Plant Food Tabs PLUS Iron'. It was inexpensive, and has iron. I will use one to three tabs per plant, depending on the size of the plant (maybe one tab for a 6" plant). I only use them if the plants seem weak, and only if I remember. I last used some about 4 months ago in one tank. I believe the fish probably provide all the necessary root fertilizer these plants need, as the plants never look like they need fertilizer, and I don't use root tabs often. I seem to be in a more constant battle adjusting the amount of fish to the amount of plants, which results in different fertilizer needs.

My 'low tech' tanks have about 2 watts per gallon, no cO2. The amount of fertilizer they get varies drastically, yet they all seem to have good plant growth. Not as good as the high tech tanks though. Low tech doesn't grow as fast, nor do the plants seem to be as robust. Still, they grow fast enough to keep me busy, and robust enough to fill a Pot-O-Plants or another tank.

I added additional KNO3 to my fertilizer mixture once (on the advice of a wise and excellent plant person) but all it seemed to do was make more algae grow in my tanks. So I cut it back. I once added iron, but it seemed to make the black beard algae erupt in a cacophony of reproduction. Haven't added it since. I used to have too much phosphate, and eventually got rid of it. I checked the water once and saw no phosphate, so I added a little (having read that the plants need phosphate), but that seemed to be followed by an outbreak of algae (bearing in mind an outbreak would be like a 1000% increase, but since there were only 3 strings of algae to begin with it wasn't the end of the world). So I haven't added phosphate since (except what is in fish food).

I hope this helps some. Let me know if you have some other questions, as I have 4 more answers.

02-21-2011, 05:05 PM
Let me have the 4 other answers........Thanks Donny

02-21-2011, 06:33 PM
While I have a brain, and it is mostly filled with plant matter, I don't know if I am a "Plant Brain" per se. In addition, it seems as if I also wonder what is the right fertilizer, and how much to use. But here is what I use. It seems to mostly work.

A picture of ken's brain. Note the absence of any bba!

02-21-2011, 07:38 PM
LOL, wasn't he in the second Hellboy movie?

Holy Samosa
02-21-2011, 10:17 PM
I think best one-stop-shop for breaking down the major strategies for plant dosing is Greg Watson's "Guide to Dosing Strategies" available here:

Yes, it *does* cost $4.95, but it does a great job of thoroughly yet succinctly explaining dosing methodologies and plant nutrition plus 100% of the money is donated to support various aquaria-related causes. (I seem to recall there being a way to get the money for your own club...) In my opinion, it's definitely worth it (and I'm a cheap skate).

Personally, I use Tom Barr's Estimative Index (EI) method with low cost dry fertilizers from http://www.aquariumfertilizer.com/. The basic idea of EI is you dose all essential macro and micro nutrients in excess of your plants needs throughout the week so that your plants growth is never limited by any missing nutrient. Evidence suggests that algae typically takes hold in an established planted tank only if plants are limited by a nutrient or CO2. At the end of the week you do a large (50% or so) water change to reset the water chemistry and ensure that unconsumed nutrients never build up to excessive levels.

You can read all about Estimative Index here:

Even if you don't go with the whole EI method, I highly recommend buying generic dry fertilizers from http://www.aquariumfertilizer.com/ or other low cost source. For probably $20-25, you can get enough macro and micronutrient fertilizers to last a heavily planted 50 gallon tank about two years of near daily fertilizing. Way cheaper, plus you have total control of the nutrients going into your tank.


Holy Samosa
02-21-2011, 11:50 PM
So I just hit up aquariumfertilizers.com and realized that the long list of products may be daunting for the uninitiated, so here's a simple list of what to buy to meet the needs of pretty much any plant under the sun:

For your macro nutrients (Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium or NPK):
* Potassium Nitrate - provides N and and some K
* Mono Potassium Phosphate - provides P and some K

For your micronutrients:
* Plantex CSM + Boron

An especially with our soft water, I also use a bit of "Barr's GH Booster" (provides more K, Ca and Mg)

You can see that I dose all the macos and micros, including nitrates and phosphates.

They've changed the prices and quantities a bit since I last ordered, but the Plantex would last a 50 gallon heavily planted high tech tank 5+ years, the Mono potassium phosphate and GH booster maybe 3 years and the potassium nitrate at least a year and a half. (rough guesses here).

Also, as for root tabs and substrate fertilization: it doesn't hurt with heavy root feeders, but the evidence seems pretty compelling that most anything can be grown with great success providing nutrients via the water column alone. Substrate fertilization does give you more leeway for slacking on water column fertilization, though.