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Aquarium Plants; Substrate, Ferts, CO2, Lighting, and other Factors. - by Carl Strohmeyer

AQUARIUM PLANTS: For healthy plants you will need;

3-4 watts per gallon is a VERY basic principle, there is a lot more that goes into the equation than this. A couple is the light spectrum and temperature; Photosynthesis takes place at the blue end and even more so at the red end of the Nanometer curve (420 nm blue and 670 nm red). A bulb in the 5500- 6700 K range is generally best for plants. The Lux that reaches the plants is also important.
For MUCH more about lighting, please see this article:
“AQUARIUM LIGHTING, Kelvin, Nanometers and more”
Generally around 12 hours per day is best, I recommend using a timer.

This is provided by a good sandy base and careful cleaning so as to not disturb this. The roots are support symbiotic bacteria that aid in Nitrate assimilation and other processes.
For healthy plants I suggest a substrate of #00 sand mixed with
Azoo Plant Grower Bed ADA Aquatic Substrates or maybe Eco Complete about 3-5 cm deep with a layer of #3 gravel on top about 2 cm deep. This combination works well for plant roots, ease of vacuuming the top layer ONLY (where plant roots are), and for better bio filtration. You can substitute Azoo Plant Grower Bed with a sandy top soil (although usually not as good a source of iron), by preparing the soil thus; Gather sandy top soil, add water with a 10/1 bleach solution, mix for a couple of minutes, then rinse (with a de-chlorinator for first rinse) until the water runs relatively clear. The sand that is left is what you mix with your plant roots, please note that although an inexpensive route to go, this ‘homemade plant substrate is not as good as Azoo Plant Grower Bed or ADA Aquatic Substrates.
Please be careful with some of the anecdotal advice floating around the internet as to Eco Complete (and many other aspects of plant care), although this is good product, the bacteria is more of a gimmick based not only on my experience but on my research as well

Transplant is an important consideration in keeping healthy aquarium plants.
The environment (pH, GH, KH, nutrient mix, light conditions, ECT) are not going to be similar in your aquarium as where his plant was uprooted (without much care I suspect too). Extreme shock and sterile gravel are going to play havoc with the initial transplant in to the aquarium. This shock can last a long period of time (this varies by plant, water environment, and transplant method), after this period the plant will eventually start to grow new leaves and begin to grow.

*BIO AVAILABLE CARBON (CO2) and a Proper gas exchange:
Reasonable surface agitation where gasses such as Oxygen and CO2 are added/ subtracted from the aquarium (although not violent of agitation) . You can add to the bio available carbon and CO2 levels through a product called , a CO2 generator, or by powdering some Ammo Carb (for carbon and Iron) into a fine powder and gently adding this with finger tips around the plants. The first two methods are more effective though.
This is where there is a lot of misunderstanding, the key is bio available. This why I find the Flourish Excel a useful product as this is bio-available organic carbon.

More About CO2 Units:

As for CO2 generators, there are many ways of going about this; a DIY, a store bought CO2 reactor, or a CO2 bottle unit such as the
Sanders Floramat CO2 Generator . For newbie’s (and even advanced aquatic plant hobbyists) I find the Sanders model the most foolproof.
I will also note that even though I have used CO2 generators, they are NOT essential (despite the common belief thrown around some plant forums), what they do is act as a fast forward for plant growth. I currently am using them (the Sanders Floramat) in my planted aquariums, I am also using are
Azoo Plant Grower Bed , Sea Chem Flourish Excel , Wonder Shells and natural fish wastes.

Before I seem against these units, I am not. I am against misinformation thought both for and also against. One argument against these CO2 units is that running CO2 on planted tanks is not “natural”. This is the same arguments against UV Sterilizers (which I can boldly say I have researched VERY extensively). The aquarium is a closed environment and in this environment it sometimes necessary to use artificial means to achieve certain results such as strong plant growth with CO2 units or disease prevention, healthy Redox, and “unnaturally clear” water with UV Sterilizers. Some plants such as Rotala macrandra are nearly impossible to grow without CO2 Units. CO2 Units also help with “flattening” plant growth within the aquarium where otherwise some plants grow only to the surface with thin stem to seek out CO2 in the air (although good agitation and
Sea Chem Flourish Excel will help here as well).

Of coarse there are dangers as well of diffusing too much CO2 into your aquarium, which can be dangerous to your fish, as levels over 25 ppm should be avoided!
3 ppm of CO2 is standard (as an established scientific fact), 10-25 ppm CO2 is considered optimum for the use of CO2 Units.

You can calculate CO2 levels (which can only be controlled by adding or subtracting CO2 produced by your CO2 unit, not by kH or pH) using this formula:
CO2 (in ppm) = 3 times KH (as measured in degrees of carbonate hardness ONLY, not Phosphates!) times a factor of 10 deviation (+ lower/ - higher) form a PH of 7.0. Example: a KH of 1 with a pH of 6.0 would produce a CO2 level of 30 (1 * 3 * 10 = 30). A KH of 1 with a pH of 8.0 would produce a CO2 level of .3 (1 * 3 * .10 = .3)
For conversion of KH; 17.9 ppm = 1 dKH.
Please note that the presence of ANY phosphates will make this calculation fail.

Plant nutrients include nitrogen and phosphorous from fish food and waste and potassium that we add through the addition of ferts. Some trace elements and iron in very
small amounts can help. The fertilizer can be added to the substrate, water
or both. Another nutrient, carbon comes from CO2 in the atmosphere (again I prefer
Sea Chem Flourish Excel).
You will need a Nitrate level between 15-40 ppm, iron (best in the soil, which is where the laterite helps), LOW phosphate levels to help plants compete better with algae, and many other trace elements that should be present from fish waste with a proper feeding regimen.
Some other nutrients can be supplied by products such as
Flourish, Plant Tabs or in the case of trace elements, Wonder Shells (which is what I use along with Flourish Excel and the Sanders Floramat).

Please be careful as to anecdotal and faddish advice in the care of aquatic plants and this is an area of aquarium keeping (along with reef keeping) that has a lot of advice floating around that is based more on opinion than facts or true research. This is also not to say this article is the only way to keep plants, that is my point there are many successful ways of keeping aquarium plants, just be careful of statements such as yeast based CO2 generators are the only way to go when in fact less glamorous methods such as Floramat works quite well (and is used by many in the aquarium maintenance community where it is more important uses economical methods that work over “popular” methods). Also nitrifying bacterial cultures do NOT survive in liquid form at room temperatures well at all. This why I know more in the Aquarium Service community that use Azoo Plant Grower Bed over Eco Complete as this is an un needed gimmick not to mention Azoo Plant Grower Bed is cleaner and more complete (although the complete statement itself in anecdotal based on mine and others in the service communities experience).

For my full article including pictures, more links, and a section about different aquatic plants, please follow this link: http://www.americanaquariumproducts.com/AquariumPlants.html

Professional aquarium maintenance experience since 1978 as the owner of one of the larger aquarium maintenance companies in LA, CA.

I have been in the hobby since 1969.



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