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Response times in nutient uptake

I ran my tank water through a large amount of charcoal for several days in 
order to prepare for the addition of fish This is a tank that basically had 
no real fish load prior.

The nitrates fell to an unmeasurable level quite quickly and remained so for 
the past week and a half during which time the plants began to ... well, 
let's say they felt the effects, becoming quite pale, slow/no growth. 

After a week, when it looked like the fish were settled in OK, I added the 
normal dose of KNO3 along with K2SO4 and the traces. I left and returned an 
hour or so later to check and make sure things were OK with the fish.

Is it my imagination, or could those plants really have improved that much in 
that short a time frame? When I returned, I swear:  the plants were 
noticeably greener and even the reds seemed more vivid. I didn't even add P.

In one hour. 

Is that possible? Could nutrient uptake and whatever its subsequent 
involvement in coloration is occur that rapidly? Or am I just imagining 

Bob O.