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[APD] Re: why not fertilize a new tank right away?? -- late to the bait
I'll rise to the bait also, thinking that it might have been set for me as
I've been promoting that lack of ferts at the start on forums recently.
I followed Chuck Gadd's advice in planting a new tank when I set up the 30
gallon tank in the elementary school last winter. That advice, in a nutshell
and IIRC, is to plant, add lights and CO2, and no ferts for a few weeks,
then algae eaters with no fish food, then fish and fish food and finally
ferts when apparently needed. I think I actually added Flourish rather early
in the second week or so and added substrate fertilizers soon after, after I
noticed the wisteria (or water sprite?) was surrounded by a cloud of roots
emerging from the gravel, apparently in search of the nutrients that the
washed flourite/gravel mix did not contain. I had no algae at all until I
added the Flourish so I backed off and used less the next week and the tank
has been almost totally algae free (this summer with low ferts and no water
changes being the obvious exception.) Because of this good expereince, I
have pointed others to that source and heartily recommended following that
All my other new tanks at home were set up, planted, and fertilized from the
start and I recall a long period of various sorts of algae in most of
them... no, make that in all of them excluding the one which was just moving
an existing planted tank's entire contents into a bigger tank.
My theory of why this was so, coming from experience with terresterial
plants, is that plants can experience shock at transplanting and if they are
not actively growing it would be a mistake to add fertilizers which would
then be consumed by algae. In the garden, this transplanting shock is
probably due to root damage, leading to poor water uptake and wilting which
may be irreversable -- clearly not a problem in the fish tank.
But for the new tank that is stocked with newly bought plants, many being
emersed grown, the move from air to water may be a shock. I dunno, is there
some sort of alteration of gas and water transport that has to be rearranged
as a plant goes from above water to below water? The plant experts may know.
What I saw in my new tanks that the emersed grown leaves got algae and
decayed in the first few weeks. I snipped and clipped until the poor things
were so close to bald that I had to stop. Maybe it was just the fertillizers
that I was adding were going unused by those decaying leaves and so the
algae grew to fill the breach, or the algae was working to consume the
leaves themselves as the decay released nutrients they could scavenge. In
addition, many of the submersed grown plants had broken leaves and such from
mailing, just too many to trim them all. Even the plants moved from my own
tanks suffered a lot of root damage as they were pulled up. Anyhow, I can
see plenty of opportunities for the growth of the newly planted plant to be
set back a bit.
So, the question is, if the plants are not growing yet should you be
fertilizing yet? Or do you need to at least cut back the ferts to allow for
the lower growth rates, since ferts without active growth ought to equal
algae? I have certainly heard from time to time of folks who have done a
harsh pruning and seen an algae bloom, apparently due to the now excess
ferts in the water after the large removal of biomass from the tank. Your
advice seems to be go for half-doses of ferts and then rapidly go full
strength to get the plants up and growing. It reminds me just a bit of being
told to shift into second and give it some gas, as a novice I needed a
bigger lag time to be sure I was actually ready to release the clutch.
After carefully reading your post, I wonder if maybe it was the lack of mulm
and peat in my new tanks that made the difference and led to the algae at
the start, for the tank set up following Chuck's advice did have a bit of
concentrated mulm added below the gravel while all the new tanks at home
were cleaned Flourite. I've have come to the idea that mulm is simply
aquatic humus, which in the garden is a physical place for the elements from
fertilizers to reside until plants consume them, a sort of sponge to hold
nutrients. So, perhaps the new tank with mulm and peat will have the ability
to hold some excess nutrients without creating an alage outbreak while the
new tank with only new gravel or Flourite won't have that absorbing buffer.
My simple analogy may be in error.
As for the biomass of roots in the unfertilized tank, I can say that in the
tank I set up, I was astonished at the visible roots around the wisteria.
Really, it was a cloud of brown roots the size of a half a volleyball, more
from the gravel than from the stems. They went away after I began adding
fertilizers, but I didn't keep notes on this tank so I can't say how it
happened exactly. It would seem that a plant would grow extensive roots in
search of nutrients if there were not nutrients available from the leaves.
This would be useful for a tank that was not going to have a lot of water
column ferts. And if nutrients were easily available then roots would be
for anchorage only or as a backup system for nutrients, at least in plants
that could process nutrients that arrive without whatever processes occur in
Date: Thu, 14 Oct 2004 08:37:22 -0700 (PDT)
From: Thomas Barr <tcbiii at yahoo_com>
Subject: [APD] Re: why not fertilize a new tank right away??
To: aquatic-plants at actwin_com
If plants have the same growth rate without roots(when the water column is
non limiting), how can they benefit a new tank with roots? While roots are
produced regardless of where the nutrients are, a simple method I did for
about 10 years with plants can help. RFUG's(Reverse flow UG's, see
archives) basically remove the nutrients from the substrate and place it
in the water column.
So this type of substrate has no nutrient content(the sand is 2-3mm
silica, nothing added less some mulm mixed in that did not get blown out).
While 90% of the plants thrives, there were some differences in a variety
of species. These did better with Flourite and other no flow systems, and
the heating cables did the same as the RFUG overall.
So back to the question: why not fertilize from the very __start__ of a
John suggested roots are good/better and I have stated that it does not
make a difference in the start up.
Whether or not you have fertilizer in the water column is an issue. I
think you will get more, not *less root growth*, if you add fertilizer to
both regions(water column and a little in the gravel-mulm, leonardite,
peat, bacteria, soil, etc) or just the water column, I've got many years
growing tanks where the nutrients are in different regions and also both
So I would have to say fertilizing the water column is a good idea from
day one of a new tank. If root formation is really that critical in a CO2
enriched tank that has a non limiting water column, why doesn't this
causes issues when we replant?
Do we see algae due to less roots/more established roots?
What are we waiting for when we start up a new tank?
Generally bacteria. But if the plants are given what they need to grow
well, then what role do the bacteria play? Why do we not see cycling in a
planted tank? The plants remove all the NH4. Mulm and peat take care of
the reduction and bacteria in a new tank.
Plants take care of the NH4, so..........what is left?
Will roots grow at faster rate/more biomass in ANY significant way without
water column fert's in the first month vs adding fert's?
I doubt it.
The best thing I can figure is the roots add O2 and metabolites for
certain species of plant friendly bacteria.
But we need less O2 _initially_ since the bacterial layers have not yet
formed(hence the addition of peat and a little bit with the mulm-or soil
etc, basically any organic matter), less O2 will help reduce trace metals,
you do not want too much or too little reduction for optimal conditions.
So I think we can rule out O2(in older tanks with more mulm and detrital
matter, this would play a more significant role) in a new set up(unless
you added a lot of organic matter, eg soil).
So it gets back to the bacteria.
Well, how important are they and how significant do you think bacteria
might be if the roots grew a little faster the first 4 weeks? Would this
I doubt it.
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