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Indicator Plants

JPog

Active Member
Founding Member
Nov 2, 2022
262
482
New York
I know everyone loves their fancy (and accurate) testing kits, but plants are good indicators of what's going on in your water as well. Which one sticks out in your mind and why? For me it's Alternanthera reineckii. This plant very easily develops algae on older leaves. If the plant looks healthy otherwise, I step up maintenance.

For a natural lighting estimate I like Blyxa japonica, as it develops nice colors under strong light and grows well, but stays green under medium.
 
Hi, over long periods of time I have monitored my plants under several different dosing schemes and maintenance regimes.

Here are an example of some of my observations.

Ludwigia pantanal: sensitive to boron. Too much and leaves will curl downwards and do loops. Too little and the plants will grow very small leaves slowly.

Bacopa colorata
An excellent indicator of light, under highlight I gets copper pink and under lower light it remains green.

Tonina fluviatilis, syngonanthus giant
Very good indicators to iron levels, they will become very pale with white leaves if iron levels are insufficient or unavailable.

Tonina fluviatilis
Excellent indicator of nitrogen levels as well, old leaves become translucent between veins.


Eriocaulon quinquangulare
Excellent indicator of co2. Requires perfect co2 and flow and Can melt within 24 hours. Prefers co2 over 1pH drop.

Bucephalandra
Intolerant to higher levels of nh4/urea. 1ppm equivalent N weekly is the upper limit.

As for a few plant I haven't figured out yet....

Cuphea anagalloidea, rotala wallichii, ammannia pedicellata, rotala macrandra.
 
Hi, over long periods of time I have monitored my plants under several different dosing schemes and maintenance regimes.

Here are an example of some of my observations.

Ludwigia pantanal: sensitive to boron. Too much and leaves will curl downwards and do loops. Too little and the plants will grow very small leaves slowly.

Bacopa colorata
An excellent indicator of light, under highlight I gets copper pink and under lower light it remains green.

Tonina fluviatilis, syngonanthus giant
Very good indicators to iron levels, they will become very pale with white leaves if iron levels are insufficient or unavailable.

Tonina fluviatilis
Excellent indicator of nitrogen levels as well, old leaves become translucent between veins.


Eriocaulon quinquangulare
Excellent indicator of co2. Requires perfect co2 and flow and Can melt within 24 hours. Prefers co2 over 1pH drop.

Bucephalandra
Intolerant to higher levels of nh4/urea. 1ppm equivalent N weekly is the upper limit.

As for a few plant I haven't figured out yet....

Cuphea anagalloidea, rotala wallichii, ammannia pedicellata, rotala macrandra.

That's a good list. On the Buce, is that your experience from dosing or from active/additives in substrates.
 
I know everyone loves their fancy (and accurate) testing kits, but plants are good indicators of what's going on in your water as well. Which one sticks out in your mind and why? For me it's Alternanthera reineckii. This plant very easily develops algae on older leaves. If the plant looks healthy otherwise, I step up maintenance.

For a natural lighting estimate I like Blyxa japonica, as it develops nice colors under strong light and grows well, but stays green under medium.
Great topic. I've often talked about "listening" to your plants, and that is exactly what this is about. If you watch closely you can pick up on small changes that can have meaning.

When I think of indicator plants I think of ones that can change quickly. Pantanal is an obvious one. Can be pouting one day and the in full glory the next day. Too lean and tops get small. Too rich.......well there is no too rich for Pantanal! Too little light and nodes become further apart and stems get thinner. Too little CO2 and leaves turn down. Reacts very quickly to parameter changes. Rotala Macranda Variegated and L. Cuba are others. Can change in hours if something is off, and also bounce back quickly when happy.

If those three are juicy looking then everything else is probably pretty happy too.

And then there are some that don't seem to care about much. For me any Syngo, Rotala SG, Cabomba Furcata, and Myrio Roraima among others. Something has to be pretty far off for them to show much change.

Ludwigia pantanal: sensitive to boron. Too much and leaves will curl downwards and do loops. Too little and the plants will grow very small leaves slowly.

Bacopa colorata
An excellent indicator of light, under highlight I gets copper pink and under lower light it remains green.

Tonina fluviatilis, syngonanthus giant
Very good indicators to iron levels, they will become very pale with white leaves if iron levels are insufficient or unavailable.

Tonina fluviatilis
Excellent indicator of nitrogen levels as well, old leaves become translucent between veins.


Eriocaulon quinquangulare
Excellent indicator of co2. Requires perfect co2 and flow and Can melt within 24 hours. Prefers co2 over 1pH drop.

Bucephalandra
Intolerant to higher levels of nh4/urea. 1ppm equivalent N weekly is the upper limit.

Excellent post. But of course you know the next questions.

Pantanal...how much Boron is high or low?

Tonina....How much iron is optimum? How much NO3 is optimum?

On a side note IMO Boron is the micro with the most narrowest band that works well. That is too much can affect many plants (Macranda Variegated very sensitive), and too little can also have negative effect on many species.
 
Pantanal...how much Boron is high or low
This depends on many factors. In my tank atleast I can dose higher boron in sand than with soil. Not sure what's happening. My gut would tell me the opposite is true but I've tested it numerous times.
It also depends on how soft your water is i.e. co3, Mg, Ca content. I think K to an extent as well.
Currently I'm using very softwater with sand. ~30ppm TDs and 0.003ppm B weekly seems to be the sweet spot.
most narrowest band that works well.
Yes definitely. If you have many mitigating factors for boron toxicity, high GH, co3, Mg, you can get away with more.
Tonina....How much iron is optimum? How much NO3 is optimum?
Iron again, very much depends on the make up of your water, GH, co3 (very big impact) and perhaps other nutrients. Currently again I am only dosing 0.015ppm of Fe EDTA weekly. And tops seems well coloured.
How much NO3 is optimum?
For tonina with soil 1ppm N is sufficient and keeps the plant growing well. With sand I would say under my conditions+high light 1.5~2N is closer to sufficient.
L. Cuba are others.
Interesting. For me this plant never really showed much issues. It grows moderately slow however. IMG_20230125_211247.jpg

I will try find some pictures of my pantanal under excessive boron, but my friend macek also seems to have experienced the same issues regarding boron and pantanal.
 
Hi, over long periods of time I have monitored my plants under several different dosing schemes and maintenance regimes.

Here are an example of some of my observations.

Ludwigia pantanal: sensitive to boron. Too much and leaves will curl downwards and do loops. Too little and the plants will grow very small leaves slowly.

Bacopa colorata
An excellent indicator of light, under highlight I gets copper pink and under lower light it remains green.

Tonina fluviatilis, syngonanthus giant
Very good indicators to iron levels, they will become very pale with white leaves if iron levels are insufficient or unavailable.

Tonina fluviatilis
Excellent indicator of nitrogen levels as well, old leaves become translucent between veins.


Eriocaulon quinquangulare
Excellent indicator of co2. Requires perfect co2 and flow and Can melt within 24 hours. Prefers co2 over 1pH drop.

Bucephalandra
Intolerant to higher levels of nh4/urea. 1ppm equivalent N weekly is the upper limit.

As for a few plant I haven't figured out yet....

Cuphea anagalloidea, rotala wallichii, ammannia pedicellata, rotala macrandra.
Question, how does z wong get his buce ghost to grow soo well and dose the way he does? I’m having fits with my ghost (it’s too expensive to not get it right) I dose APT C 5ml daily down from 12.5 ml 3x weekly
 
Question, how does z wong get his buce ghost to grow soo well and dose the way he does? I’m having fits with my ghost (it’s too expensive to not get it right) I dose APT C 5ml daily down from 12.5 ml 3x weekly
He uses rich substrate so I guess they're tolerant of ammonia in substrate and even prefer it. I think if youre copying his dosing, substrate and co2 you're set up well.
 
Any of the Marselia sp aka dwarf 4 leaf clover are great indicators of PO4. They eat it like candy and will loose their luster without it. Also watch for Green Spot algae along with this. If it shows up your bottoming out for sure. Ive had tanks fully carpeted with the stuff and it would eat upwards of 5ppm PO4 daily.
Depending upon the type of N source (eg N-NO3, N-NH4, N-NH2) your dosing and amount of it Hygro P is a great indicator plant it will litteraly change colors from pinkish to brown.
Any of the fine needle leafed plants are great indicators of Fe.
The all round winner I would have to say is Ludgwia Pantanal. It shows many different colors depending upon how much N your dosing. It can range from almost whitish pink to dark deep red, or even orange.
 
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