MasterClass: Planted Tank Balancing & Nutrient Dosing


Hello everyone! Today we will talk about a very important question that in a planted tank, how can we achieve optimum balance. First we have to know what does it really mean by tank balance. In my opinion, optimum tank balance is where the plants are growing really well and there is no visible algae. In a planted tank, our main goal is good plant growth. In the words of Tom Barr, Take care of your plants, and algae will take care of itself. If the plants are growing really well in your tank, then they themselves will out-compete the algae. So, in a planted tank, our goal is to create such an environment where our plant growth is promoted very well and simultaneously, it will not create such an environment where algae can grow. One of the biggest reason for algae growth is high ammonia in the tank. That’s why, we will always need good filtration in our tank, we need good water flow, and we should have enough plants in the tank so that they can absorb ammonia. All these three things are very important to keep your tank algae-free. In a planted tank, to achieve good plant growth, there are many different factors involved. But today, I will only talk about nutrient dosing, which is one of the most important factor in my opinion. In a planted tank. the most important nutrients for better plant growth are: Nitrogen, Phosphate, Potassium and Iron. For dosing these nutrients, generally two different methods are used. One is the ADA method, and the other is Estimative Index (EI) method. First we will talk about the ADA method. The most important thing in ADA method, or the heart of the ADA method is nutrient-rich substrate or also called commercial soil. Commercial soil has a good amount of ammonia built-in to it, which is gradually released in your tank and this ammonia breaks down into nitrite and then into nitrate. So, you will always have plenty of nitrogen available in your tank which the plant can always use. In the ADA method, high levels of Potassium is maintained which is introduced to the tank by daily dosing. Also, Iron supplement is also used in the ADA method Weekly at least 3 times it is dosed into the tank to maintain Iron levels. Basically, in the ADA method, the nutrient levels are maintained at a lower level, specially Phosphate levels. In the ADA method, there is an abundance of Nitrogen for the plants from the commercial soil alone, and along with this, high levels of Potassium is maintained and comparatively less amount of Iron is used. So, in short, the ADA method is mainly dependent on commercial soil and a lean dosing regime is maintained so that there is just barely enough nutrients in the tank that the plants can absorb. Now let’s talk about the Estimative Index (EI) method. The EI dosing method was introduced by Tom Barr. The main concept of EI dosing is, there is always an abundance of nutrients in your tank so that the plants will never have deficiency of any nutrients. Generally, dry chemicals are used for EI dosing, like Potassium Nitrate (KNO3), Mono Potassium Phosphate (KH2PO4), etc. This way, in the planted tank, it is possible to dose a large amount of nutrients. and at a very little cost also. In the EI method, nitrogen, phosphate and potassium and also iron and other trace elements are dosed in larger amounts three times per week, so that there can never be any deficiency in the tank for plant growth. Every week, at least 50% water change is performed so that there is no excess build-up of any nutrients in the tank. In the EI method, since there is always an abundance of available nutrients, so you will only have to focus on tuning CO2 and light. The theory behind EI dosing method is, excess nutrients will never create algae in your tank. Rather, if there is not enough healthy plants in your tank, then these excess nutrients cannot be absorbed by anything else in your tank and that is why you will have leftover nutrients in your tank to support algae growth. So, in a well-balanced tank, even if there is excess nutrients in the water column, algae cannot grow in the tank, if there is a good amount of healthy plants in your tank. Both ADA method and EI method can be used to make an exceptionally beautiful planted tank; and there are a lot of great examples on the Internet. My personal opinion is, among these two ways, the EI method yields faster plant growth because here it is not possible to have any deficiency of nutrients in your tank for better plant growth. After examining both methods, I would like to present to you what I personally follow. First of all, there is no alternative to commercial soil. If you have commercial soil in your planted tank, that will support you enough with most of the nutrient needs. Even if your planted tank is not fully balanced, you can use Nitrogen and Potassium easily in your tank because Nitrogen and Potassium will never cause algae. If you are not using commercial soil and using garden soil, then you will have to dose more Nitrogen in the tank in comparison to a tank with commercial soil. Phosphate and Iron are very important to bring out the colors of your plants. But I would suggest to use from after at least 2-3 weeks of initial planting when the plants have started to grow roots in the soil then it is better to start dosing Phosphate and Iron Dosing before that may cause algae in your tank Some people believe that higher nitrate levels are harmful for the livestock in your tank. But if you look at Tom Barr you can see in his tank he is maintaining 50-80ppm nitrates in the tank and still breeding CRS So we can clearly understand from this that high nitrate is really not harmful for the livestock, unless it is at an extreme level. So the process I follow for a planted tank is, at first, I use EI dosing to ensure that there is nutrient deficiency in my tank. Then I will start to increase CO2 so that there is 30-35ppm CO2 in the tank, so I am also ensuring that there is no CO2 deficiency in my tank. Next, for lights, I will usually start off with medium light and will gradually increase the light intensity until i see little amount of algae in the tank. Then I will reduce the light a little bit so I will understand that I have enough light in my tank for adequate plant growth. Lastly, I would like to encourage you all to use dry fertilizers to follow the EI dosing method. The Potassium Nitrate, Monopotassium Phosphate or Potassium Sulfate used as dry fertilizers, are in no way any less than the commercial liquid fertilizers. Rather it will give you better results at a fraction of the price. In most cases, these dry fertilizers are not available in Bangladesh. But you can easily use a facebook group to bring them from Amazon or eBay. Even if you are importing these from abroad, for the maintenance of your planted tank, it will save you a lot and I will show an example. This is my 75 gallon planted tank. I use dry fertilizers and follow EI dosing method. For this, I used a facebook group and brought the dry fertilizers from eBay. I brought 2 lbs of Potassium Nitrate, 1/2 lb of Monopotassium Phosphate, 1/2 lb of Potassium Sulphate, and 1 lb of Plantex CSM+B For this, including shipping costs, my total cost was Tk. 7,650. But I can use this for at least 69 weeks or more than 17 months! Still I will have some elements like Potassium Nitrate, Monopotassium Phosphate, will be extra. But If I was to follow ADA method and used only Seachem Flourish and Seachem Flourish Trace, then in these 69 week, i would need 4 bottles of Flourish 250ml and 11 bottles of Flourish Trace 250ml. If I would have bought these for Tk. 1,200 per bottle, then in these 69 weeks my total cost would have been Tk. 18,000!!! Additionally if I use Seachem Potassium or Seachem Iron, then my total costs would have been even a lot more! In order to follow the EI dosing method, even if I brought these dry fertilizers from abroad, instead of locally buying Seachem Flourish and Seachem Flourish Trace and using them for dosing, my cost savings is almost 60% and I am also getting better results! Lastly, I would like to add some things. In Old Dhaka chemical stores, you can probably find Monopotassium phosphate or Potassium Sulphate. You will have to look for it. But Potassium Nitrate is a controlled substance in Bangladesh. You will not find it easily, if you can find at all. Also, you can use individual Seachem products like Seachem Nitrogen, Phosphorus or Potassium, to follow EI dosing method. But still, in comparison to using dry fertilizers, your costs will be extremely high. I hope that today’s video has helped you to better understand nutrient dosing in details in a planted tank. If you have any questions, please leave a comment I will try my best to answer them. To watch more videos like these and to learn about many more things, stay tuned to Aquartia. Subscribe and click on the notification bell. The you will instantly know about any new video as soon as it’s uploaded. Take care and thanks for watching!

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