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Re: Seachem Flourish Question

> This is primarily directed to Greg Morin, but I thought others might be
> interested in the answer. A friend of mine, who happens to own a 
> lfs, recently
> received a shipment of Seachem products. He called a Seachem 
> employee, identified
> only as Collin, to inquire about the ingredients in Flourish. Upon 
> hearing that
> Flourish contained little or no Nitrogen, Phosphorus, or Potassium, 
> he inquired
> where the plants were going to obtain these major nutrients. Specifically, I
> believe he was mostly interested in Nitrogen, since he was/is 
> having a mild cyano
> problem in his display tank, and I had mentioned that I thought 
> that it might be
> N limited. (tests later proved N levels to be very low) Collin 
> replied that he
> considered ideal nitrogen levels to be zero.
> My questions are:
>  1. Does Seachem believe that ideal N levels in a planted aquarium should be
> zero?
>  2. If not, where does Seachem expect N-P-K to be supplied from 
> since there is
> very little contained in either
>      Flourish or Flourish Tabs?

Let me first say that Colin is currently in training and while that 
is not an excuse I think this is why he missed a subtle distinction 
here that resulted in him giving correct albeit incomplete and a 
little misleading information. The distinction I'm referring to is 
between nitrate vs nitrogen and phosphate vs phosphorous. Flourish 
does not contain nitrate or phosphate per se, but it does supply a 
nitrogen source, the Nitrogen equivalent being 400 ppm in the bottle. 
Phosphorous is not available as free phosphate but as phosphate 
esters (100 ppm). Flourish does in fact contain potassium (600 ppm) 
but like with the iron, you wouldn't want to use Flourish as the sole 
source of potassium maintenance if the potassium is heavily utilized. 
While I can't comment on unannounced products, I can say that you can 
expect to see some products in the near future that will complement 
the current products and give the hobbyist more control over specific 
water parameters.

Now to directly answer your questions ;-)

1) I suspect Colin either said or meant "nitrate" and not "nitrogen" 
should be zero... although that is still a bit of an 
oversimplification. Obviously the plants need a source of nitrogen. 
Plants utilize ammonia preferentially over other sources of nitrogen. 
So optimally you would want your main source of nitrogen to be 
ammonia (from fish) and you would want this source utilized 
completely. In this case there would be no excess ammonia and thus a 
zero level of nitrate (because there is no excess ammonia to be 
converted to nitrite->nitrate). Thus an ideal set up would be one 
where the ammonia reading was 0 and the nitrate reading was 0. 
However, in practice this can be a "flying blind" approach because 
you will still have 0 readings if you don't have enough ammonia to 
satisfy the needs of the plants. So in practice you really do want to 
have a slight nitrate reading (under 10 mg/L should be perfectly safe 
for a planted tank). The excess tells you that the plants are getting 
all that they need and still have a slight amount left over.

2) Seachem supplies an NPK source in its Flourish, however the levels 
we set in the product are meant to complement the other natural 
sources (here I'm referring to P & N) of these elements. If you have 
even a few fish in your planted tank they should provide sufficient 
levels of nitrogen and phosphorous. One advantage with Flourish is 
that the nitrogen source is in the form of amino acids which are 
utilized as preferentially as ammonia is and even if the amino acids 
are broken down by bacteria, it is broken down in to ammonia first 
which can be utilized by the plants as well.  The amount of these 
constituents that we put in Flourish is enough to be of a benefit but 
not so much that if you have a number of fish you are not going to be 
adding an excess of N & P if you are using Flourish. If you have no 
fish at all and no other non plant species, then the amount of N & P 
in Flourish is probably not going to be sufficient (of course 
depending on the number and size of your plants)... in this case a 
good economical approach would be to either get a couple of 
inexpensive fish or add a bit of an ammonia solution (IMHO).

I had a question for you as well: Why did you think that the cyano 
problem might be attributable to low nitrate levels? By cyano I 
assume you mean the blue-green "algae"? According to Baensch Atlas 
volume 2 pg 162, the blue-green algae aka cyanobacteria can flourish 
in the following conditions:  strong sunlight, rotting substrate, 
excess feed, too few water changes, overfertilization or _high 
nitrate levels_. If you are having a cyanobacteria problem I suspect 
one of the other conditions to be the cause since you report that the 
nitrate levels are low.

-Greg Morin

P.S. Thank you for bringing this call to our attention... we will be 
clarifying this with Colin.

Gregory Morin, Ph.D.  ~~~~~~~Research Director~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Seachem Laboratories, Inc.      www.seachem.com     888-SEACHEM