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Re: Spot feeding, clay balls, etc.

Aquatic Plants Digest wrote:             
> Date: Mon, 21 Dec 1998 03:41:26 -0800
> From: Steve Pushak <teban at powersonic_bc.ca>
> Subject: Re:  spot feeding pellet formula for Amazon Swords
> Bill Terburg <terburg at familychest_com> wrote:
> > Karen, you are correct in your assertion that I'm making spot feeding
> > pellets with Phosphorus. Actually the pellets that I'm using for spot
> > feeding the swords I make using on part Blackleaf brand trace mix and
> > one part Osmocot tablet.  The Osmocot tablet as it comes from the garden
> > center does contain phoshoric acid, P2O3.  However, because I'm
> > inserting the pellets that I make directly into the substrate relatively
> > little of the phosphorus makes it into the water column and algal blooms
> > are not a big problem.  Because algal growth is not a great concern your
> > observation that I'm over fertilizing the swords may well be correct.
> > Before I started substrate "spot feeding" the main way that I knew that
> > I was over fertilizing was a "algal bloom", now it's more difficult to
> > know.   In fact the only way I can really tell now is by observing
> > deficiencies.  For example, my plants show no signs of iron deficiency
> > but yet I never show any iron when testing the free water.   It would be
> > interesting to know if anyone has found a way to determine nutrient
> > levels in substrates?
> > - --
> > Bill Terburg
> > Plantguild
> > Email: terburg at familychest_com
> > Web:   http://www.familychest.com/plantguild/
> I don't think its as important to precisely control iron in the
> substrate as it is when adding it in the water. Excess iron fertilizer
> in the water can create real algae problems but this is not a problem in
> the substrate at all. For the newcomers to the list, I recommend that
> you browse the articles on my website, http://home.infinet.net/teban/ to
> learn about substrates. You do NOT need to use the plant fertilizer
> products sold in aquarium stores at all.
> Use the clay fertilizer pellets (or balls) mainly on slow growing plants
> like Crypts and Anubias. I've had HUGE Aponogetons and Sword plants when
> using clay balls. For most of the other plants, just use plain clay
> pellets/balls or use soil or clay to ensure adequate iron and trace
> minerals right in the substrate.
> If you are starting with small plants and want to grow them up to large
> sizes to sell them, then clay pellets or balls are an excellent
> advantage. Instead of waiting a year or two for a small Amazon Sword
> plant to reach the monster size, HUGE plants can be grown in a matter of
> a few months. Of course, one has to provide the other growth factors
> such as: strong water circulation, strong lighting, adequate minerals
> like calcium, potassium and magnesium in the water and probably a small
> amount of CO2. Good circulation is very important as this is the NUMBER
> ONE factor in allowing your plants to access the CO2 dissolved in the
> water. It also helps to prevent blue green algae (cyanobacteria) as more
> than one aquarist has noted!
> Steve Pushak                              Vancouver, BC, CANADA

Steve,  Thanks for your good advice.  We really agree that commercial
aquarium fertilizers are really costly, and often just don't hit the
mark.  The problem is that you often get to much of one nutrient while
trying to get enough of another with the resulting algal blooms and
other associated problems.  When the proportions of nutrients in a
fertilizer are established by a manufacturer, no matter how skilled they
make be, the results are often disappointing and frustrating because the
aquarist cannot change the formula, only the amount he decides to use. 
Also, he can't change the poor results, but rather only the level of
poor results he's willing to tolerate by using more or less of the
preparation.  We really think you're on the right track when you suggest
that people "roll their own" as far a fertilizer is concerned, and clay
makes it even better and naturalistic.  We also believe that substrate
spot feeding is in many ways better that water table fertilization.  As
you've often pointed out, most plants can absorb many nutrients through
their leaves.   And so it is easy to fertilize by dosing the water
column.  We've decided however, that at least for us, the most
naturalistic approach to fertilization is substrate fertilization.  From
what we can see the natural environs of tropical rooted aquatic plants
often consists of rich substrates and slow flowing leached out waters. 
This is good for the higher plants and not so good for algae.  We see
adding fertilizer to the water table as an open invitation to an
un-natural algal bloom.   As you've suggested, nowadays it's possible to
build a natural substrate to begin with or add clay balls, pellets or
pelleted clay and fertilizer blends directly to an existing
Bill Terburg
Email: terburg at familychest_com
Web:   http://www.familychest.com/plantguild/