Sunday, November 1, 2015

Plants of the Month: September 2015

Every month I will be rating the quality of the plants in all my tanks and who is the most valuable plant (MVP) for the month. The criteria are the following:

1. Are the stems leggy?
2. Are the leaves broad and compact?
3. Is it an algae magnet?
4. are the old/bottom leaves holding up or melting?
5. is the color vibrant? red plants red? purple plants purple? green plants green?
6. any presence of leaf holes or melting anywhere?
7. too much root growth along the stems?
8. is it very invasive in growth pattern?
9. are leaves curling? bottom, new, or all?
10.  when trimmed, how many new stalks grow out? or is there no new growth?
11. does it perl during photosynthesis?
12. does it grow thick and lush?

Ratings will be based on plants performance for the month. For this month, here are the list starting with the best plant.

1. Alternanthera Reinickii Mini
I finally figured out how to make plants such as this to turn red. A combination of iron, traces, and correct light wavelength certain does the job. I never seen this so red before, let alone in my tank! With its color standing out, it earn the right to be the top plant of the month!

2. Ammannia Sp. Bonsai (Rotala Indica)
This to me should have been the winning plant of the month if its tips had turned brown or red. Unfortunately it's a little too green at the moment. Regardless, it has grown compact, thick, vibrant, and organized. This is a plant that must be in any aquascape out there.

3. Limnophila Hippuroides
It does not grow fast compared to other stem plants. But it does not grow slow either. It is a huge plant but not too big for my tank. It will however need to occupy the whole left mound of the tank but that's fine. It's beauty gives it permission to do so. I also like that the older, bottom leaves are not rotting due to lack of light exposure. I've seen this plant look really bad in LFS's where older leaves just melt. The top leaves are growing more compact and purple even. I expect this plant to be the best in the tank someday.

4. Hydrocotyle Tripartita Japan
Many times did I fail in growing  this plant. It grows, but look very unhealthy. Leaves curl, too much root growth along the stems, and gets covered by GDA and look like a mess. It's a totally different story this time. It just explodes in growth and very invasive. There are barely any curling leaves and no roots growing along the stems. I think this plant loves a lot of calcium and probably phosphate. The high amount of fertilizer dosing likely help get this plant grow really well this time.

5. Micranthemum Monte Carlo
It has grown to at least an inch thick in just a month. That's a good growth. In my previous tanks, it took me a much longer than that to be able to carpet the whole lawn. This time, it happened probably in just two weeks so this is a progression in terms on growing this plant. I will try to see how thick I can grow this until it starts to kill off bottom leaves.

6. Eleocharis Sp. Mini
It was not in my list of plants to use when I was still shopping for plants. I only noticed and realized that I can probably try this when I saw one. I thought at that time I will buy glosso. Fortunately I changed my mind then and bought this instead. good decision. I now know that this is an easy carpet plant to care for. it also grows thick, lush, and naturally messy. I plan to move this in the new living room tank as its primary carpet plant

7. Pogostemon Helferi Downoi
This plant is the slowest grower in the tank. It grows upwards though so it might not be getting enough CO2. Or maybe the tank is too deep for it? I will try to plant some of these in the new, shallow tank and observe the difference. In any case, I am happy that I'm able to grow these plants without issue. I was concerned from the beginning when I got this plant as it has this reputation of being a difficult plant to grow.

8. Hygrophila Araguaia
I don't have issues with its growth rate or quality. it also crawls nicely and there were no melting leaves at all. Leaves turn dark brown (in a good way) when exposed to red spectrum lights (giesemann super flora). What I don't like is its size and messy growing habit. it is just everywhere and clumping together and sticking as close as it can to the soil. to me, it's an eye sore. Perhaps there's a nice layout that this plant fits in but it's certainly not this tank. So the plan is to move this out and try planting in the other (new) tank soon.

9. Ludwigia Sp. Guinea
This is a beautiful plant. I didn't know this plant before until I found it in when I was shopping for tissue cultured plants. It's a good decision to pick this up. It is not a demanding plant and can grow really good red and green mix in the leaves. It grow very leggy using EVO LED light which was mixed with the T5HO's. Now that I am using T5HO's exclusively, it grows more compact and wider leaves.

10. Rotala Macrandra
It has the reputation as one of the hardest plant to grow but that's not the issue I have with it. In fact I find its growth rate a little too fast. The problem was the quality of growth. It grew "stemmy" and distance between leaf nodes is very high. Leaves are thin and long, a direct contrast to the thick, wide, and short leaves I see on the internet. Color is pale yellow and just a hint of red. I'm suspecting it was due to exposure from Green Element EVO LED light. I was using it along with the T5 light during the first two weeks. It seems that It has very strong PAR and forces the plant to grow too fast while not being able to provide enough CO2. since I removed the LED and increase the distance of T5 from plants to reduce intensity and increase spread, the plant grow more compact and wider and shorter leaves. The color is still yellow though so that's another issue I have to address in the future.

11. Ludwigia Inclinata Curly
There were no issues with growing this plant, but it does not look very attractive to me. I guess this plant is suited for much larger tanks. It has thin, long, and twisted leaves and I'm not sure how to grow them to be more compact. As easy it is to grow them, I will have to remove them to give space to other plants more suited in the tank.

12. Proserpinaca Palustris
I have very high expectation with this plant. It was to me the most beautiful plant among the 12 species in the tank. It grew fast, but the quality is way below what I expected. It suffered with the same "stemmy" issue as rotala macrandra. It is also very green. I only start to see new growth turning orange when I switched the light to Giesemann (super flora and tropic). After trimming, new growth is still slightly green but more compact now. I guess that EVO LED is not really meant to turn plants red... or maybe I'm not using it right.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

PPM - Parts Per Million in Planted Tanks - An Idiot's Guide

PPM stands for parts per million, or parts per million parts.
It means 1 ppm is one part of a unit per 1 million part of the same unit.
If you substitute "part" with "gram" then you can say one gram of unit per 1 million gram of the same unit - 1g/Mg
Now you can also translate it into one milligram of unit per 1 thousand gram of the same unit - 1mg/kg

It's the same right?
Are you still with me? I hope so.

In aquarium world we are dealing with volume of water. Fresh water specifically in planted tanks.
We also know that 1L of fresh water is equal to 1Kg of fresh water. Google "Water Density"  if you are confused.
Now we can also replace our formula for PPM with fresh water volume

1mg/Kg = 1mg/L correct?

Therefore we can conclude that 1mg/L = PPM in fresh water planted tanks. Got it?

Now why does it matter in measuring fertilizers in planted tanks? Because using this unit allows us to specify dosage concentration regardless of the size of our tank.

Say Monte Carlo plant need 10mg/L of potassium everyday to thrive. Now if a person has 100L tank, you don't have to tell him how much exactly in grams of potassium he needs to dose. He can calculate it himself. for 100L of tank, need to dose 10mG * 100 which is 1g. if the tank size is 50L, then it's 500mg. At the end of the day, the PPM remains the same - 10mg/L. cute?

I hope this helps.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Day 16 "Lullaby": Good Growth, Ammonia Levels Still High

Good growth on all plants
Light intensity is cranked up on the second week in order to determine which plants require high light and which ones doesn't.
L. guinea, R. macrandra, and P. palustris grew very fast. Their colors are still far from what i expect them to be but that's fine for now. I will deal with quality once everything in the tank is established, hopefully soon. L. guinea and P. palustris are quite leggy, L. Guinea the most. Perhaps these two are best placed in area where there's less light.
Limnophila H. and L. Curly growth is slower than the other three but they look healthy and lush. I guess they belong to high light category and will take note of that when plants are reorganized.
All carpet plants are growing fast. Monte carlo has mostly covered the area it was planted. hairgrass is being hairgrass. I cannot believe I ignored hairgrass for a long time! It seems to be the easiest carpet plant out there to grow.

Light source to be set to low/medium and will use T5HO
I want slow growth. This helps me control the tank much easier. I will also use T5HO because it has the best spread and lower PAR than most LED's. I can also easily choose bulbs with specific wavelength with ease. That's impossible with LED's unless i invest in an expensive one with programmable spectrum, but that's not going to happen.

Ludwigia Guinea on "Leggy" stems
EVO LED is placed on stem plant side while T5x4 is on the carpet side. I noticed L. guinea is growing with long stem length between leaf nodes, "Leggy". This is a sign that it's getting too much light and is stressed.

So there's two ways I can go from here.
1. Increase CO2 injection.
2. Decrease light intensity on stem plants.

Increase CO2 injection
I'm not sure if injecting more CO2 will make it grow more compact. I don't see trapped bubbles on its leaves during photosynthesis but pearling is not really a good reference to check if a plant is getting enough CO2 or not, I think.
It's placed side by side with Rotala Macrandra and the R. Macranda seems to be doing fine, more compact, and produces a lot of bubbles from pearling so it's hard to say that L. Guinea is not getting enough. Maybe L. Guinea just need a lot more CO2? Do various plant species have different CO2 uptake? It probably depends on their typical growth rate?
My CO2 injection is pretty high already, about 5 bubbles per second. However, how much is actually dissolved and staying long enough in the water for plants to take is unknown. I just "eyeball" the plants right now to see if they are getting enough. Drop checker is green but it's placed below the output lily pipe where CO2 is coming out (I'm using reactor). that I assume is the spot with the least CO2 concentration. Should I even increase CO2 injection for the checker to hit close to yellow and observe L. Guinea's response? It's easy to do now since there's no fish yet but then again, long term, how?

Decrease light intensity on stem plants
I would expect L. Guinea to calm down on growth and be more compact. What about R. Macranda? It seems so happy with the high light. And the Limnophila as well, growing slow and compact with the high light. Will they suffer? I would assume no, but I will definitely observe their reaction. I think the CO2 they are getting is more than enough as they seem to be quite happy right now.
I find lowering light intensity is the better option right now. I don't want the stem plants to be growing too quickly anyway as they will be hard to maintain. Also, fluctuations in other areas will be much harder to handle.

Plan to transfer hairgrass and Araguaia 
Tank needs more space for the stem plants to grow so decided to move these two plants out. I reset the "Metaphor" tank for rescape and will move it there.

To install the second canister filter (Eheim 2213) next week
This is the plan from the beginning, to run two canister filters. I will install Seachem Purigen in this filter. It was supposed to be last weekend but had problems with coarse mesh so postponed.

CO2 injection and Fertilization
nutrient dosing has been high from the beginning but this does not show any problems at all. If any, the plants grow very fast with the least amount of melting from transition. CO2 has been fluctuating and is my fault. I have been fiddling around with the controller in finding the most efficient amount to inject. drop checker is always close to dark green so I thought I'm not injecting enough. However, plants are growing and pearling is a lot. I guess if i stick to low/medium light this will not be an issue.

Day 188 "Metaphor": Final Day, Shutting down

I decided to shut this tank down and do a major "rescape" on it. It's progressing well and was hoping that i'll be able to bring it to its previous lush and green state. However, I end up using the tank to keep my three discus fish temporarily. They were supposed to move to the new "Lullaby" tank but I later changed plans and decided to use that as a "farm" tank for stem plants.

It was very hard to clean up the tank from algae and bring back the plants in their best shape while keeping up with discus' feeding. The amount of organic matter from fish feces and food left over is just too much to control. The effort is just too much. It seems so much easier to just get rid of the plants and plant new batches. But if I were to do that, I might as well do a "rescape" right? So that's where this idea comes.

The only regret I have is that I was hoping this will run for a year, as that was the original goal. But it does not mean it's a failure. I learned a lot with this tank, particularly the layout consideration, flow, consistency on everything from nutrients, to CO2, to light. All these knowledge I gathered and i'm now bringing forward with the "lullaby" tank.

I had a very good start with "lullaby" and at less than two weeks there's an amazing growth and everything seems to be working according to plan. I guess the effort in sterilizing everything and choosing to use the best affordable stuff helps. That said, I will implement the same actions in the "rescape" plan.

I also have to give up these lovely discus fish. As much as I love them and enjoyed raising them, this is not yet the right time for me to have discus fish. I find it hard to mix discus with a planted tank that you plan on growing challenging plants. The amount of dirt they generate due to their extreme demand from eating is just hard to contain in a planted tank. This makes it very hard for me to control water parameters making the tank less ideal for plant growth.

The idea of investing on a big tank solely for the discus fish was in my mind but apparently, my wife is not really fond of that. So that plan has to be scratched for now. In any case, it was a short but good experience raising these three beautiful discus and what I learn will surely be handy when the time for keeping discus come.

So there you go, watch out for the new tank soon!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Day 1 "Lullaby": It's up and Running!

The bedroom tank is now operational!

Here's the list of plants
Micranthemum 'Monte Carlo'
Hygrophila 'Araguaia'
Pogostemon Helferi 'Downoi'
Proserpinaca Palustris
Alternanthera Reinickii 'Mini'
Ludwigia Inclinata 'Curly'
Ammannia Sp. Bonsai
Limnophila Hippuroides
Rotala Macrandra
Hydrocotyle Tripartita 'Japan'
Eleocharis Sp. 'Mini'
Ludwigia Sp. Guinea

CO2 injection is via in-line reactor connected to EHEIM 2215 outlet pipe. It is upgraded to an EHEIM 2217 impeller so it's a little stronger than typical 2215.

Light Source To Be Replaced

Light is a combination of Green Element EVO LED 3Wx16 7500K-10000K and Odyssea 4x24W T5HO with 6500K and 7500K bulbs. These light sources are temporary only.
I will change it later to a 6 bulb T5HO that is combination of 15000K, 10000K, and 6500K bulbs. I'm looking into Geisemann T5HO's. They have great bulbs for planted tanks with awesome spectrum. I might also use ATI for the purple (15000K) one. Geisemann though has something similar as well and their spectrum look the same. Of course I will lift it up higher than usual as 6 bulbs is obviously too powerful. I just want the spread so 6 bulbs is a good thing.

Adding a second filter and address the issue on gas exchange
I also plan to install another canister filter. I have an EHEIM 2213 which should be fine but it's used in the discus tank right now. I'm thinking of installing an in-line diffuser and inject O2 via aerator which will run during the night. Then my spare lily pipe will be used to add surface agitation. As of the moment, gas exchange is bad. There's literally no surface agitation and this must be addressed soon.

Friday, August 7, 2015

"Lullaby" Tank Preview

This is our new bedroom tank! 

Here's the detail of the new tank called "Lullaby":

60x45x45 cm, 8mm Thick
Crystal Glass, Low-Iron

Koke Stones

Water Conditioning:
EHEIM 2215 Canister Filter
Ocean Free Surf Clear Surface Skimmer

Leilih 3L CO2 Aluminum Cylinder
Up-Aqua Dual Gauge Solenoid Regulator
ISTA Mix Max CO2 Reactor

Odyssea Green Element EVO LED 3Wx16 7500K/10000K
Odyssea QUAD 4x24W T5HO 6500K/7500K

More Pictures:

Monday, August 3, 2015

Day 168 "Metaphor": Blyxa Japonica Removed, Ludwigia Red Added, Monte Carlo Recovering Nicely

I continue to dose high amounts of KH2PO4 but test kit shows I'm still shows 0.5 mg/L at best. There's been consistent improvement with plants so that's good. Maybe I should consider reducing it next week, probably around 10-15 mg/L.

Trace and Iron Dosing
I measured Fe before dosing anything in one afternoon and I got 0 mg/L. Then I dosed 4 drops of Rexolin APN liquid which is approximately 0.2mg/L of its powder form. With that dosage, I should get at least 0.1 mg/L if my bottle concentration is 100g/120mL. I measured and indeed found 0.1 mg/L! It might be true after all that the concentration of this bottle is as accurate as it says.
However, when I dosed 0.4 mg/L, I'm able to measure only 0.1 mg/L in the tank. Is the soil absorbing excess Fe to limit it to 0.1 mg/L just like phosphates being limited to 0.5 mg/L?

Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo carpet has gone through major trimming last week. I left the back lawn untouched. It is growing well without a problem. After a week it grew nicely. It's still a few more weeks to go before the lawn gets thick and lush but it's on its way there. No more new growth in bad shape.
There's very few older leaves that melted but it's not so bad, still will keep a look at them. Some very old leaves are not as healthy. Their color is dark green. Are they just really healthy? Were they covered by top leaves and are deprived of light? Are they covered by GSA? Not sure... Any ways, here are some pictures.

Middle front starting to grow nicely

Right front corner growing nicely as well

Back lawn spreading

Ammannia Bonsai
Not sure what happened in this plant. There were 4 original stalks planted. About a week or more It has established itself and growth is slow but good. Then I trimmed and replant. Now, all trimmings are gone, and the original 4 are dying... it's in the corner of the tank with poor circulation and CO2 so there's that.
What's interesting is I planted one stalk from the original pack in the Discus (Low-tech) tank. It's growing fine but very slow. I rather not touch it though.

Ammannia Bonsai melted for some reason so I put some MC trimmings in their spot instead
Blyxa Japonica Removed
As planned, I removed this plant in order to give room for Staurogyne Repens and AR mini. Those two are the plants that I'm not able to grow consistently nice. This time, I'm placing them in the best spot to grow.

Ludwigia Red Added
These are trimmings from my an old plant in the  Discus (Low-tech) tank. It's in bad shape and I'm hoping it recovers here and grow well.

And finally, the tank's latest shot...