Planted Tank Basics pt 3 -FERTILIZING & CO2-

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Big-Ken created the topic: Planted Tank Basics pt 3 -FERTILIZING & CO2-

-FERTILIZING & CO2-

Plants need nutrients to grow along with lighting and some form of carbon, these three things make up points on a triangle. To have a successful and healthy planted tank free of algae you need to balance these things with each other, if one is out of whack it hinders uptake of the others and the plants won't grow but algae will. Some algae actually starts from a lack of nutrients in the water this is due to an abundance of CO2 and lights, the plants will use everything to grow but once the nutrients run out if will stop absorbing CO2 and slow down its photosynthesis cycle leaving an abundance of CO2 and light for algae to use. The same goes for a lack of CO2, the plants will stop using the nutrients and slow down its photosynthesis cycle leaving all the nutrients and light for algae to use.

There are alot of diffrent fertilization methods and system but we are going to touch on the two major ones, EI (Estimative Index) dosing and Seachem liquid dosing.

EI dosing-
PROS- cheaper than liquid dosing, provides more well rounded nutrients in the water column at all times
CONS- can be easy to overdose, dry ferts need to be shipped in not at the LFS

The Estimative Index (EI) method was developed by Tom Barr is a method for providing nutrients for a planted tank. The idea behind EI is to dose an excess amount of nutrients throughout the week. This excess of nutrients floods the water column and feeds the plants. This is an estimative method no test kits are involved. EI provides a surplus of nutrients that helps to prevents plant deficiencies, and allows plant growth to out compete algae growth.

fertilizers are dosed, and the nutrients are absorbed by the plants. Since this is an estimated dosing, we can dose fertilizers using general guidelines for each setup (see below). At the end of the week you performs a 50% water change to ‘reset’ the tank for the next week. And then the entire dosing schedule is repeated.

This system uses the following:
Macro nutrients - Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), Potassium (K)
Micro nutrients – trace elements (Plantex CSM+B, Seachem Flourish)
*Iron (Fe) can also be supplemented if necessary

The Estimative Index method works best for a high light and well planted aquarium but it can be used in the low light low tech approach as well you just use less

These guides are for high/medium light well planted pressurized co2 setups for medium light excel/diy CO2 use the next size down, fertilization may not be needed in low light moderately stocked tanks. This is just a guide doses may need to be adjust according to plant needs

10- 20 Gallon Aquariums
+/- 1/8 tsp KN03 (N) 3x a week
+/- 1/32 tsp KH2P04 (P) 3x a week
+/- 1/32 tsp (2ml) Trace Elements 3x a week
50% weekly water change


20-40 Gallon Aquariums
+/- ¼ tsp KN03 3x a week
+/- 1/16 tsp KH2P04 3x a week
+/- 1/16 tsp (5ml) Trace Elements 3x a week
50% weekly water change


40-60 Gallon Aquariums
+/- 1/2 tsp KN03 3x a week
+/- 1/8 tsp KH2P04 3x a week
+/- 1/8 (10ml) Trace Elements 3x a week
50% weekly water change


60 – 80 Gallon Aquariums
+/- 3/4 tsp KN03 3x a week
+/- ¼ tsp KH2P04 3x a week
+/- ¼ tsp (20ml) Trace Elements 3x a week
50% weekly water change


100 - 125 Gallon Aquarium
+/- 1 1/2 tsp KN03 3x a week
+/- ½ tsp KH2P04 3x a week
+/- ½ tsp (30ml) Trace Elements 3x a week
50% weekly water change


EI target ranges
CO2 range 25-30 ppm
NO3 range 5-30 ppm
K+ range 10-30 ppm
PO4 range 1.0-2.0 ppm
Fe 0.2-0.5ppm or higher
GH range 3-5 degrees ~ 50ppm or higher
KH range 3-5

Source for dry ferts- www.aquariumfertilizer.com
they are sold by the pound, 1lb will last more than a year. I use a small container with tank water to dissolve my ferts before adding them to the tank




Seachem liquid-
PROS- easily obtainable at most LFS, very easy to use
CONS- can become very expensive

Seachem makes fertilizing very easy with there line of liquid fertilizers and they can be had at any LFS, there is not a whole lot to talk about with this since they make it so straight forward. Follow their recommended dosing and you'll be good


to save some money you can premix dry ferts to replace some of the Seachem macro-nutrients. The following dosing solutions will be practically the same strength as Seachem's macronutrient products according to the online calculators. You then go by Seachem's recommended dosing amounts on the calculator.

Dosing Solutions
- Add 62.2 grams or 11⅛ tsp of KNO3 to 500 mL of distilled water for F. Nitrogen Substitute
- Add 3.5 grams or ¾ tsp of KH2PO4 to 500 mL of distilled water for F. Phosphorus Substitute
- Add 51.0 grams or 8½ tsp of K2SO4 to 500 mL of distilled water for F. Potassium Substitute*

*(This amount approaches the maximum solubility of K2SO4 of 12 grams per 100 mL of distilled water. You will probably need to shake the container each time prior to dosing.)

Root Tabs-
if you are using an inert substrate (gravel or sand only) you will need to use root tabs for your heavy root feeding plants (crypts, swords, hygro, ect) seachem makes a flourish tab that works very well. Just make sure you push them nice a deep into the substrate at the base of the plants in need, they can cause algae issues if allowed to get into the water column




CO2/Carbon-
there are three choices when it comes to CO2/Carbon:
Pressurized CO2-
PROS- precise control over your CO2 injection, ease of use
CONS- very expensive to do properly, can kill all fish if goes wrong, limit surface aggitation
Seachem Excel-
PROS- easly obtainable at LSF, wont harm fish, can be used to control algae
CONS- expensive in larger tanks, must be added every day, some plants are sensitive to it
DIY CO2-
PROS- very cheap, effective in smaller tanks
CONS- no as effective in tanks larger than 40g, must make new mix every two weeks, if messed up can kill all fish

Pressurized CO2 system-
Uses a pressurized CO2 tank with a regulator to add precise amount of CO2 to your tank, kits cost anywhere from $150-$400 for the regulator, solenoid, hose, and diffuser. The tanks can be bought from welding supply houses for $120 then refilled for $20 or you can use pre-filled paintball tanks and use the correct adapter. You must limit the amount of surface agitation so as not to gas off all your CO2 rendering it pointless

Seachem Excel-
Is a carbon supplement that supplies the plant with the carbon needed for photosynthesis, its not as effective as CO2 gas but it works very well and is alot safer for your fish.

DIY CO2-
You probably have everything needed to make one at home right now, it uses a yeast and sugar mixture to produce CO2 which is delivered via airline hose to the tank and diffused. Its very cheap to make and maintain but it can be a PITA changing out the liquid every week or two. You must limit the amount of surface agitation even more so than with pressurized so as not to gas off all your CO2 rendering it pointless, also you need to run an air pump and airstone at night to gas off the CO2 because DIY cant be shut off and plants dont absorb CO2 at night they absorb O2 and this might cause dangerously low O2 saturation without the air pump.

This is a very good in depth write up on the science behind DIY CO2 and its applications to the planted tank, it also has a few designs- A Treatise on DIY CO2 Systems for Freshwater-Planted Aquaria


What ever you decided to do for you fertilization and CO2 i recommend you spend some time researching it before you try in the aquaria, if messed up most of these will result in the death of the fish and possibly the plants

This link contains a Diagram to diagnose plant deficiencys
infographics.myaquacalc.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/plant-deficiency-labeled2.jpg
Pictures of plant deficiencys
www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forumapc/aquarium-pictures/browseimages.php?c=12&userid=&t=
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cebosound replied the topic: Re: Planted Tank Basics pt 2 -FERTILIZING & CO2-

I think this is great info here on pt2.

but its a little over my head, and this is where i get a little turned off from the live plants.

i feel like if i am going to do something, i am going to do it right. and i am just not ready for all of the This stuff. :lol:

thanks for the info Ben. ;)

My YouTube Channel:http://www.youtube.com/user/cebosound1?blend=1&ob=0
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  • Big-Ken
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Big-Ken replied the topic: Re: Planted Tank Basics pt 2 -FERTILIZING & CO2-

cebosound wrote: I think this is great info here on pt2.

but its a little over my head, and this is where i get a little turned off from the live plants.

i feel like if i am going to do something, i am going to do it right. and i am just not ready for all of the This stuff. :lol:

thanks for the info Ben. ;)


I agree, I don't like to go into things half asses either. This is the one area I'm still trying to work out and get down pat that is half the reason I dont want to put the discus in that tank yet its just not stable yet
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  • ehall67
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ehall67 replied the topic: Re: Planted Tank Basics pt 2 -FERTILIZING & CO2-

Wow!! that through ( i like how broke down it was) I will def have to read through this a few time but I am going to book mark all of these until I am ready for my planted tank... another good one tho! thanks

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Big-Ken replied the topic: Re: Planted Tank Basics pt 2 -FERTILIZING & CO2-

I was hoping it would be useful for some of you and provide a decent jumping off point B) I feel Ive gotten a little ahead of myself though, I really should have gone over lighting and planting/aquascapeing first though I think I'm going to change this to pt 4 so it falls more in line with the actual steps of building a planted tank
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  • JasonR
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JasonR replied the topic: Re: Planted Tank Basics pt 4 -FERTILIZING & CO2-

Dude this is some serious sh!t! Nice job man! Now I'll one stop place to go to get info if I ever do a planted tank. :cheer:
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aus-car replied the topic: Re: Planted Tank Basics pt 3 -FERTILIZING & CO2-

Alot of good info there all in the one place. I'm about to embark on a 60 litre planted tank and it's all new to me having kept Oscars for so long ie no plants.
Iv'e got all the equipment, rocks co2 etc just waiting on the plants. I have been reading about giving carpeting plants like HC a kickstart growing them emersed for a while then putting them underwater, there is alot to learn for me yet.
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  • benmcfadden
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benmcfadden replied the topic: Re: Planted Tank Basics pt 3 -FERTILIZING & CO2-

Good work dude, get this as a sticky..

Haku, I knew your were good.
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cebosound replied the topic: Re: Planted Tank Basics pt 3 -FERTILIZING & CO2-

aus-car wrote: Alot of good info there all in the one place. I'm about to embark on a 60 litre planted tank and it's all new to me having kept Oscars for so long ie no plants.
Iv'e got all the equipment, rocks co2 etc just waiting on the plants. I have been reading about giving carpeting plants like HC a kickstart growing them emersed for a while then putting them underwater, there is alot to learn for me yet.

auscar, long time no see. how have your oscars been doing. i remember you had some great pics and videos. :cheer:

My YouTube Channel:http://www.youtube.com/user/cebosound1?blend=1&ob=0
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