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KNO3 experience, was Re: Java fern "melt" observations

On Fri, 4 Dec 1998 krandall at world_std.com wrote:
[Low nitrates causing Java Fern "meltdown"?]

I think I may be able to partly verify this in my own tank recently,
though slight variation:

Karen was giving a talk in Seattle and commented to me that my big planted
tank (http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/People/Darn/) looked nitrate
deficient... yellow leaves on anubias, not the greatest growth in the
world, etc.  I don't think the Java ferns were actually "melting" at the
time, but they were not spectacular either.

After blowing the dust off my LaMotte low-range nitrate kit and measuring
0 nitrates, I bought some stump remover and added several teaspoons of it
over the course of a few days, measuring before each new addition.  Plant
growth spurted in all plants (though, again I didn't notice whether the
Java fern grew).

About four days later, plant growth continued, but something was wrong...  
the leaves on my Ammania, Eichornia and other stem plants began to turn
translucent white, the Java fern stand (mostly 2nd Generation "Tropica")
turned completely brown, my riccia started to melt, etc.  General
Hardness and Alkalinity measured 0!  

I immediately added CaCO3 and MgCO3 to the tank (which I normally do on
water changes).  Within a day I saw new green growth on the stem plants,
so this clearly was the problem.  Once the tank was no longer nitrate
(and possibly potassium) limited, it sucked up all the other nutrients,
including the calcium and magnesium.  Achieving balance can be very tough
for me sometimes!

Oh, we were talking about Java ferns, right?  So after I finished
balancing the Ca and Mg, I saw immediate new growth of plantlets off the
brown leaves and new healthy green growth off the main rhizomes.  I'd say
the've made a complete recovery.

  - Erik

Erik Olson
erik at thekrib dot com