Fertilizers, Test Kits and More
When we think of a planted aquarium, the first image that probably pops into our heads is of a lush green tank that just mesmerizes anyone who lays eyes on it. However, it takes a lot of care and careful monitoring to ensure the proper growth of aquarium plants. One of the primary components of stellar plant growth is chemical nutrients and today we will try to understand this facet of planted aquariums a bit better.
The important nutrients – Macro and Micro:
Just like fish, plants need a varied and balanced diet but instead of pellets or flakes, they need chemicals. They require some in large quantities and some in small quantities. The chemicals required in large quantities are known as macronutrients and consists of CO2, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. CO2 is an important component of photosynthesis while the rest help in the cell development and growth of the plant. Apart from these chemicals, plants require other nutrients in small quantities. There are known as micronutrients and consists of iron, boron, and magnesium.
Here is a summary of macro and micro chemicals and how much is needed for good plant growth:
CO2 = 20 – 30 mg/l
Nitrogen = 10 – 25 mg/l in the form of nitrates
Potassium = 5 – 10 mg/l
Phosphorus = 0.1 – 1 mg/l in the form of phosphates
Iron = 0.05 – 0.1 mg/l
Magnesium = Trace
Boron = Trace
Testing for these chemicals:
These chemicals are very important for proper plant growth but they have to be present in the right quantities and that is where testing comes in. This is also one aspect many beginners tend to avoid as it is perceived as complicated and too much work. It used to be so in the past but with the advent of testing kits available at pretty much every good LFS, accurate testing and care of plants in aquariums have become well within the reach of everyone. However, there is a lack of good know-how regarding this stuff so we will explain it as best as possible.
Testing for CO2:
CO2 is something that can fluctuate quickly and as such has to be monitored continuously. There are plenty of high-quality drop-checkers with an inbuilt indicator fluid available. You can attach these CO2 drop checkers side of your aquarium. The chemical in the drop checker will either be blue (not enough CO2 in the aquarium), green (CO2 level is just right) or yellow (CO2 level is too high.
Testing for nitrogen and phosphorus:
Nitrogen can be present in water in the form of ammonia, ammonium, nitrites, or nitrates. The first three can be harmful to fish and therefore should not be present at all. It is nitrates that plants can use and are relatively safe for fish. The concentration of these chemicals do not change rapidly and only need to be monitored occasionally which means that a testing kit is good enough. Again, accurate testing strips are available and you should aim for 10 to 25 mg/l of nitrates while ensuring that there are no nitrites or ammonia. If it is too low then use some nitrate fertilizer and if it is too high then do a partial water change. Similarly, testing strips are available for phosphate which is the source of phosphorus and aim for between 0.1 to 1 mg/l. Potassium can also be tested in the same way and the necessary quantity of potassium is 5 to 10 mg/l.
Iron, magnesium, and boron:
All these are usually available in regular tap water and regular water changes will replenish them. Iron is something you will need to check and testing kits are available for that. Ensure values between 0.05 to 0.1 mg/l. Magnesium and boron do not need to be checked. Just use a good quality fertilizer for planted aquariums and all these micronutrients should be available in adequate quantities.
I’ve purchased and I’m using this fertilizer in my planted 10 gallon tank. So far, so good. The plants are healthy and growing. I’ll need to used it more quite a while longer before I can recommend it.
Fertilizers, test kits and more…
Probably as boring as it sounds but check it out anyway just so you can say, “Been there, Done That.”
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