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[APD] Re: Substrates - fertilization


You are right, it is impossible to tell unless more is known about this
person's setup. What I mis-interpreted was the statement that "substrate
fertilization is not required because you have a flourite substrate", I took
that as a general statement which I feel is incorrect or not something
written in stone. I also used some wording that was incorrect in my previous
posts, when I said I agree about high light tanks not requiring
fertilization I should have said besides what the Flourish substrate
provides. And when I said liquid ferts in reply to SH I should have said
fertilizing the water column....... well that's what I meant :-)

I think Robert however explained the method I use better than I was able to.
I don't add jobes sticks or other macros to the substrate, I dose these in
the water where I can easily test for them and maintain certain levels.
Dosing traces on the other hand, I have always found a little more tricky,
at times I see deficiencies in certain plants that lead me to believe a
trace element is to blame, but increasing my trace mix dosage brings my iron
level a little on the high side and I get an increase in dust algae at
times. I then add some flourish tabs in the substrate and the problem goes
away. I'm not saying that there is a big problem at all, I just notice  a
better quality of growth when I use these tabs in the substrate along with
the regular "Tom Barr" method of dosing only the water column. I guess I'm
just not as good with dosing my micros by eye than I am with measurable
macros, or I should seek a trace mix that contains less iron in relation to
the other elements...

I also believe in preferences that plants may have as to where to get
certain nutrients from, not because I know anything about plant uptake :-)
but because I've been told and have read the same thing over and over for
many years. My own experiences have shown me that in many cases, keeping
certain nutrients under the substrate seem to either work better or be less
critical/dangerous when it comes to maintaining certain levels. I guess it's
also been easier for me to follow some basic precautions with the substrate
rather than careful dosing of the water column. I only pull plants out
before a large water change and I am very careful to wiggle them out so to
not bring anything up into the water column, never had green water nor
problems doing it this way. I simply make the nutrients available in both
places and let the plants choose where to get them.

When it comes to low light tanks, I have my own tried and tested method I've
been using for more than 10 years, as I'm sure we all do! Not trying to say
that one method is better than the other, I'm one of the one's who have had
success growing plants using this "old" method of keeping nutrients (mostly
traces) in the substrate. I guess if something isn't broken why fix it....
Besides having replaced my iron rich substrates or semi-soil substrates with
flourite in the last couple of years, nothing much has changed in my methods
of keeping low light planted tanks for some time.

"My plants are just fine. If they look all pretty like amano's Pics, I tend
not worry.
I am good with the water column, this is perhaps a better place to start
for some new folks.
They certainly can see results faster with this method.

Simple, step wise is better than adding all sorts of stuff blindly to the

Well, first of all I'm sure your plants would look just as good as Amanos'
regardless of the method you used :-)
I don't think I'm blindly adding all sorts of stuff to the substrate, nor
would I suggest anyone to do so. I think when it comes to dosing traces, you
are just as blind in the water column as you are in the substrate. It's true
that if we do run into an overdosing problem, a large water change will
easily correct the problem if it was added to the water rather than having
to vacuum everything out of the substrate. But I have yet to run into any
issues with fertilizing the substrate, on the other hand I have accidentally
messed up dosing the water column in the past and like you said, you see
faster results this way, including faster development of problems when you
screw something up. So in the end I do a little of both and have found it to
be a little more forgiving this way, perhaps as you say Flourite will absorb
these elements from the water and therefore it will become pointless to add
more to it, perhaps as my flourite substrates age more I will start to see
this occurring and will need to adjust my methods. In a brand new flourish
substrate however I consider a little peat moss, mulm and crushed up
flourish tabs in the lowest layer to work wonders.

I don't mean to contradict your methods, which by the way have helped me
considerably in the last couple of years since I started keeping high light
tanks. I just didn't think the original statement was accurate, ...actually
I still don't :-)  But you know I have a lot of respect for you and your
advice, including gratitude for the help you have provided me, I know your
methods work and I accept that there are different methods for obtaining
good results. In my case I have adopted mostly your methods for high light
tanks and integrated them into my old methods for keeping low light tanks,
so far so good, perhaps in the future I will adopt better ways.

Thanks, and best wishes to all for the holidays!
Giancarlo Podio


> Tom Barr replied:
> >>I plan on using Flourish Tabs as fertilizer supplement
> >Why? You alrerady have a flourite based, this is all you'll need.
> >Adding more nutrients to the substrate will not force plants to grow
> faster.
> Tom,
> What do you mean by this?

Don't need more.
Realize I give advice to specific folks, not in general.I often will not
suggest things on purpose.
I also will not cover every possible senario in one post, we need to hear
back from them first in this case.

I have a good notion of where this substrate "mania" is going.
How? I've had it myself.

> Flourite to my knowledge doesn't contain anything
> other than iron,

Which is the main role that adds one of the few significant nutrients to a
This means the tank, no matter how well run with the water column, still
needs iron in the substrate for good growth and health of the plants.
Some plants do fine without any, but perhaps 1/3 do significantly better
with iron there.

I can't see how having a flourite substrate eliminates the
> need to fertilize it.

Easy, I have healthy plants, adding jobes, tabs whatever....does not help
improve the growth significantly and later creates a vile mess under the
This person is new and is trying to cover all the bases, they are into it:)

I have not added anything to flourite in many years, non CO2 or CO2 plant

> I agree that in high light tanks substrate
> fertilization is not as important and can be done without,

Well, not with iron, I would not try to do a tank without iron in the
substrate. I've had pure inert substrates for many years.
I know the effects of tabs, jobes etc.

however for low
> light tanks without CO2 I find substrate fertilization to be a very
> important element.

Okay, but now you have switched gears. We do not know if this person has
CO2 or not, I asked and will adjust my advice as I see fit when we find out.
We do not know whether this person has CO2 or not.
But....I'm willing to bet based off all the stuff they have, that CO2 will
be part of the rotuine.

I use flourish tabs in both low and high light tanks and
> all of them have a flourite substrate. I can easily see differences in
> growth in my high light tank when the flourish tabs are getting depleted,
> I've tried to not use them at all and adjusted my liquid ferts to
> but in general I find that the plants are doing better with the tabs than
> without.

My plants are just fine. If they look all pretty like amano's Pics, I tend
not worry.
I am good with the water column, this is perhaps a better place to start
for some new folks.
They certainly can see results faster with this method.

Simple, step wise is better than adding all sorts of stuff blindly to the

> But my point is not to fertilize the substrate or not, different things
> for different people :-)

At issue is WHY a method works or not. Going back and forth between CO2/non
CO2 is mute till we hear back.
We need to determine what method this person wants to use and their goals

 ...But what's Flourite got to do with this? There
> is more than iron in Flourish Tabs and Flourite, to my knowledge, doesn't
> contain anything other than iron (besides what it absorbs from it's
> surroundings)."

Well it's got plenty of anaerobic and aerobic sites to bind, organic
detritual matter, it builds up over time is becomes more a good sink for
nutrients of all kinds.
Generally I do niot think the Flourish tabs will harm anything, but most
folks have less need for them.
If you have a big old sword, adding one under there may help some.

> Are you simply referring to iron levels?

Generally Fe and Mn.

> Thanks
> Giancarlo Podio

Tom Barr

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