I started talking about Elos test kits since 2007, when I used Salifert that didn’t satisfied me, then I spoke again last year when I used them as a measure of comparison with the OceanLife test kit, today, thanks to the purchase of the entire Elos test kit, as I do about every 6 months, I’m here to speak about them. Let’s start with the Elos Test of Alkalinity or KH.
This will be my first article about liquid fertilization. What I will write is according to all the tests that I have been done along these years of practice and not about what I did read over internet.
Fertilizing isn’t a scientific act that you should follow in a rigorous way; any aquarium is an aquarium and the conditions can be strictly different from one aquarium to another, even that we have used the same plants on them; light, CO2, general and carbonate hardness and soil could affect the liquid fertilization as well the way how your plants grows and consumes the nutrients.
Having a good and rich soil will reduce the doses of liquid fertilizer on water column because plants will be feed also from the roots and the availability of constant nutrients permits a good and healthy grow.
And if I didn’t use a rich soil, can I add some nutrients into the soil and renew it?
Yes, it is possible. In case of old substrate or it is possible to renew the soil adding some capsules of nutrients of ELOS TerraUno.
This will permits us to keep our planted aquarium with a small amount a liquid fertilization, quantity enough for the leaves have constant food during their photosynthesis. Plants metabolism could be normal to higher when exposed to high light and good quantity of carbon dioxide; but this subject will be explained on the 3rd part of this article.
The most important and complex nutrient for a planted aquarium is K (potassium). The non existence of a test for freshwater, turns this nutrient into a problem when used in a wrong way. Some problems that I have noticed using potassium, were in the past myths and related as a different source of problem.
Let’s see the case of the appearance of green dust algae.
Some people think that the problem is related to the lights; the use of bulbs dedicated to plants (pink bulbs) promotes the growing of these algae on glasses and hardscape… Are they right?! And about the lack of nutrients, could this cause this symptom? Bad or insufficient maintenance?
No, definitely not! The overdosing of Potassium is a big problem for all aquascapers and due my stubbornness, I just found the problem and how to control it.
If you dose K on the water and after 1 or 2 days you notice that your hardscape and/or glasses start getting green dust, it means that you add more potassium than plants need. In this case I suggest a water change in order to establish the balance of nutrients on water’s column and clean the glasses. The glasses will be your test for that! After, reduce the dose until the problem is solved, but try to keep it always on the water otherwise the other nutrients aren’t absorbed!
Green dust is an easy and fast way to notice that we are doing a bad liquid fertilization; if you don’t solve it and let it run like this, in a short time other algae will appear because excess of potassium will inhibit the assimilation of the other nutrients.
Phosphorous and Nitrates (NO3 and PO4):
There is a relation between both nutrients, if one doesn’t exist the other will not be assimilated by the plants; and if you don’t have K (potassium) none of both aren’t absorbed!
How it works the NPK (it is known by Nitrate – phosphorous – Potassium)?
• Nitrates and phosphorous are assimilated if potassium is present.
• Nitrates are absorbed if phosphorous is present and vice versa.
• In case of lack or excess of Potassium, nitrates and phosphorous aren’t assimilated.
Which values of N and P shall I keep on a planted aquarium?
Most of people likes to use the proportion of 10:1ppm (NO3:PO4), but since I’m not using different compounds (powders) to fertilize my aquariums, I’m really happy with the proportion used by ELOS on FASE2 or Planta2, that is the 5:1ppm. What I like most on these fertilizers is the way how the NO3 is released on the water. The PO4 is measure in few minutes after we dose but the NO3 not. The chemical reaction of these fertilizers with the water is different of other brands, the NO3 has a very slow release and available very slowly on the water and only after some hours you can measure it. This is absolutely amazing when we have invertebrates and fishes very sensible to NO3 and in the case of nitrogen cycle, you can simply start dosing since the plants are adapted. Usually the values of phosphorous are null during nitrogen cycle and the values of Nitrates are very high, the slow release of NO3 from the fertilizer will not affect and raise the current values of NO3, but the opposite because you’re adding phosphorous in the water and the plants start growing very fast and absorbing the NO3 available on the water faster, reducing the nitrogen cycle for a half time (when used good enzymatic bacteria)… sometimes even faster. This is why I fertilize my aquariums very soon and most of people don’t understand why!
Iron and trace elements:
Iron is very important for plants because helps to fix the nitrogen and chlorophyll production. In high demanding planted aquarium, iron should been dosed regularly because the plants during their photosynthesis will absorb the nutrients very fast and metabolism works faster than normal; if there is a lack of this nutrient plants will start getting chlorosis, the new leafs born yellow and the old leafs get even worse; they will be very weak and after a short time will die.
Trace elements are always associated on Iron fertilizer because they help the plants absorbing the Iron and the other nutrients.
ELOS Fase1 is composed by chelated irons (Fe-EDDHA, Fe-DTPA, Fe-EDDCHA) and micro elements (boron, zinc, molybdenum, manganese etc.) and can be used as unique liquid fertilizer in low demanding planted aquariums.
As potassium, there isn’t available on the market Iron tests for chelated Iron, so it means that any brand that supplies iron water’s test for measuring the iron that they produces, they are selling “shitty” products and Iron is not chelated. Fertilizing with no chelated iron is the same of polluting the water, that iron will not be absorbed by the plants and if you fertilize on the same time with phosphorous, the probability of get filamentous algae is of 90%.
Along these years I have tested a lot of liquid fertilizers and most of them are a waste of time and money. Some people are really happy with them because after dosing 30ml, 50ml, 100ml daily, they say that it is an amazing fertilizer because their plants are fantastic and without any kind of algae; but they don’t sit and think that they are spending money in one fertilizer with 95% of water… They are spending money in water!!!
What we should know about liquid fertilization?
Very simple… We need to divide the subject in 3 parts; measure the levels of nutrients choosing the right tests, use a good liquid fertilizer with nutrients required by plants and find the balance between nutrients vs CO2 and Lighting.
PART1: Choosing the right tests
What really makes me some confusion is when I talk with somebody about planted aquariums and maintenance, they refer that are using powders to fertilize their aquariums without knowing what are doing… They read somewhere that for keeping aquatic plants in aquarium need phosphorous, nitrates and potassium; basis nutrients as known by NPK. It is too scary listen those people saying that dose 20ml daily of each or even more, depending on the size of the aquarium… but the plants really need such quantity of liquid fertilizer? Unless the concentration of each liquid fertilizer is too small that can permits to add to the water’s column what I usually call of Water’s fertilizer; 98% of water with 2% of nutrients! But this is not a problem, the main problem is they are doing that without knowing the measures because they don’t use tests and when they have it, don’t have the right ones. Please don’t make confusion with NO2 and NO3, both began with the letters “NITR”, but one is Nitrites and other is Nitrates.
To keep a planted Aquarium you will need several tests like PO4 (phosphates), NO3 (nitrates), gH (general hardness), kH (carbonate hardness) and pH (acidity test).
Do we need all of them?!
If you want to keep and know what is happening with your aquarium, you should have them and not wait too long to make some tests when something really happens. Usually I compare this with insurances; people that have them are always complaining about the money that spend with them without taking any benefit, until someday when something happens, they regret for don’t have it or gave up because they didn’t need it.
Tests are more or less the same, we can have them for a long time without using them, but when the plants get algae, are doing meltdown or weak, some fishes start dieing… something is not right; and if you can take care of the problem as soon as possible, better for the healthy of your plants and fishes.
And what about strips tests, are they good?
The strips tests and even some drops tests aren’t too good… to have an idea of the measure values they are nice but not good because most of the time give us different values even when you do it 2 or 3 times in a row.
I remember one time that I was doing a maintenance at one planted aquarium that was full of algae and the test used gave nitrates always above 25ppm. I will not reveal the brand, but I can assure that I will never use or recommend that to a friend or customer. On that tank we have done several water changes waiting that NO3 get normal values or stay near of zero without success. We tested the tap water and the values of NO3 were really high, finally we discover the problem; it was the tap water… or not, because this is not the end of the story! This situation was so strange because the plants stopped growing and all the nutrients were there; The aquarium was well equipped with CO2 and Lighting, no visible reason for that. It was when I remembered to use a different test from other brand; surprisingly the water wasn’t NO3 at all!!!! Not satisfied, I used my own tests and the water of the aquarium and tap water were free of Nitrates… The plants were plenty of algae because of a lack of nutrient and not excess.
If this happened to me and I was using tests (the bad tests on the beginning), I really don’t understand how people can keep a planted aquarium without them.
You can see if a test is good or not when you do several tests in short period of time; if the results are different from one test to another, those tests are nice to have an idea but not good to have precise values. Having 10ppm of nitrates is not the same of having 20ppm.
The ELOS NO3 test Kit is precise and unique on the market. You can measure the nitrates of your aquarium in a scale of 1ppm~25ppm (1-2.5-5-10-25ppm); to do the test you only need to use 5ml of water into a vial, measure spoon of 0,15ml of Reagent A and 6 drops of Reagent B; very simple and easy!
Tests of gH and kH are really needed?
Any planted aquarium that uses argyle as a soil, wood and CO2 usually the water change a little bit his own properties. It become more soft and sometimes we have big surprises.
General hardness gH is what distinguish from soft to hard water, because the results of the hardness depends of the quantity of Magnesium and calcium dissolved on the water. Aquatic plants grow faster if we have soft water around 4~8º; the availability of calcium and magnesium are enough to avoid lack of nutrients and in case of lack, we can simply add Trace elements on the water to solve the problem. When the hardness is too hard, I’m not refering to values between 8~14º but even higher, this problem can be solved using RO Water (reverse osmosis) during water changes. I have been noticed that some plants likes a little bit hardness, in some situations raise the values to 10~15º will enhance the coloration and the way how the plants grow. Stem plants will grow or expand more on horizontal and will be kept for more time below the lighting, enhancing their colouration and get more reds. Increasing the hardness will also increase the difficult on keeping the planted aquarium, because if they don’t grow so fast as before, we need to control again the routine fertilization.
To raise the values of gH, I recommend the use of ELOS Rigenera because contains the right proportion of Calcium and Magnesium.
Carbonate hardness kH needs to be above 3º to have a stable aquarium, otherwise the water can be very acid and we have a big problem for plants and fishes because pH goes down very quickly and could pass from 7 to 4 without you noticed that. Some plants start doing meltdown and disappear from the aquarium; please don’t make confusion with cryptocorynes. This plant can simply do a meltdown when some parameters oscillate, don’t panic because in a few days (2 weeks) will born again. The general meltdown of some plants (not cryptocoryne) can result from the high acidity of the water. In case of you need to raise carbonate hardness of the water you can use Kh+ (buffer) slowly to avoid great oscillation of water’s parameter.