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Swords and val grow quickly but my ludwigia* sucks, why?

Dec 16, 2022
88
96
Portland, OR
I loved the idea of getting a "rice paddy weed" because I figured surely this is the one plant that will thrive no matter what I do.

False! In fact it is the only plant that does practically nothing in my tank!

OTOH My swords grow giant new leaves daily, they are flowering too. my val is propagating very quickly. from these signs, it seems like plant life is generally finding what it needs in my aquarium unless that plant is the rotala.

I've tried aggressively pruning & replanting but the newly planted shoots just stagnate and eventually form algae

What have you found that is different about keeping this plant vs some of the other beginner plants I seem to have success with?

what "standard" wisdom have you read on the internet about rotala species, which proved to be totally false?
I'm aware that I'm often reading some very amatuer pontifications when i search with google.
 
What have you found that is different about keeping this plant vs some of the other beginner plants I seem to have success with?

what "standard" wisdom have you read on the internet about rotala species, which proved to be totally false?
I'm aware that I'm often reading some very amatuer pontifications when i search with google.
In general crypts/swords/vals are super easy and will grow great in a wide variety of parameters, from low light/low nutrients to high light/high nutrients.

Rotala are a different animal.

Much depends on the particular Rotala you are trying to grow. Some like Macranda's do well in high light rich fert environments, and some do better in rich substrate lean fert environments.

Which one are you trying to grow? What are you providing in regards to light, CO2, ferts, substrate, etc. Drilling down to the details is really the only way to diagnose, and pics help a great deal.
 
some details about my tank setup found here: Hello - Welcome, MrMuggles
I've since increased CO2 and pH came down closer to 6.7 but the other parameters are mostly same.

TBF I have no idea which rotala this is. The aquatic pet store said it was easy and equally tolerates either low-light or high light, which now seems like an obviously false statement to me. Maybe you can tell me which one, unfortunately there's not much left of it and probably does not resemble its normal self as it slowly fades: IMG_5942.jpeg
 
Ah thank you. then I believe my fertilization has been too lean. what do you know about the lighting needs of Ludwigia Repens? spruce pets says high or very high

I use GLA's dry mix EDTA fert package, mixed at the standard ratios, and applied using the PPS method at about 50% strength. I can try a stronger fertilizer regimen, that would make sense.
 
applied using the PPS method at about 50% strength
So basically your severly starving your plants right now. Try the regular Medium light dosing for PPS Pro. Off the GLA Website....

Medium Light:
PPS-Pro Macros, 1.0mL per 10g
PPS-Pro Micros, 0.5ml per 10g
Water change 50% 1x week. (I would up this to 2x per week)
This adds: 14ppm NO3, 1.4ppm PO4, 18ppm K, 1.4ppm Mg, 9.7ppm Fe

Take several hours and get in there with a toothbrush and clean everything you can. If you have any Cyano Algae at all please wear gloves while messing with it. It can cause burns and hives on skin.
 
I agree with @BigWave above. That plant is starving.

But before you go down that road you need to consider the big picture. If you stick with crypts/swords/ferns/etc. you can have a nice slow growing no drama tank. If you decide to start growing lots of stems then you need to study up and learn about how to grow them well. Just saying going to stems is a leap and requires more dedication and knowledge.

One other thing to consider is that you have cichlids in the tank. There is a reason you don't see many planted tanks with cichlids. They are known to uproot plants and eat them. So if you do learn how to grow stems this could become a real issue down the road.
 
If you decide to start growing lots of stems then you need to study up and learn about how to grow them well.
The funny part is I have studied for a good many hours/weeks/months, but the information I am able to find via internet is constantly conflicting and i have zero clarity right now. I need books.

As of a couple months ago I couldn't even get a sword to grow in this tank, so now that I am able to bring easy plants to decent health, yes I'm trying to transition to more difficult stem plants. In this effort I've added CO2

As far as the cichlids go, yes they dig, occasionally they do uproot a plant, or nibble fresh leaves, but it hasn't been the thing to prevent me from growing plants even as the fish near full size. I use small, flat river stones to protect root structures and it helps. My issues have been more around lighting/nutrients/water parameters.
 
So basically your severly starving your plants right now. Try the regular Medium light dosing for PPS Pro. Off the GLA Website....

Medium Light:
PPS-Pro Macros, 1.0mL per 10g
PPS-Pro Micros, 0.5ml per 10g
Water change 50% 1x week. (I would up this to 2x per week)
This adds: 14ppm NO3, 1.4ppm PO4, 18ppm K, 1.4ppm Mg, 9.7ppm Fe

Take several hours and get in there with a toothbrush and clean everything you can. If you have any Cyano Algae at all please wear gloves while messing with it. It can cause burns and hives on skin.

The GLA website page with instructions lays out multiple strategies for PPS, I'm not using the 50% weekly water change schedule, I'm using TDS readings to change water "as needed" as described further up in the instructions.

Should I change my approach? right now the TDS ranges translate to 20% water change once weekly for me
 
The GLA website page with instructions lays out multiple strategies for PPS, I'm not using the 50% weekly water change schedule, I'm using TDS readings to change water "as needed" as described further up in the instructions.

Should I change my approach? right now the TDS ranges translate to 20% water change once weekly for me
If you study the methods of the best plant growers out there you will notice that they most all perform large regular changes. Water changes remove all types of dissolved organics. While many focus on light/ferts/CO2, there is another aspect which is just as if not more important. Maintenance. An uber clean well maintained tank makes every single other thing easier.

Have you seen any tanks you would like to emulate? If so, take some time to study their methods. I don't think you will find many great tanks performing 20% water changes and dosing PPS.

Also I would not rely on the internet as there is loads of bad information out there. The easiest path to success is to study those that succeed.
 
Thanks for the tips! I will switch to larger and more frequent water changes, I really would prefer it anyway for the health of the fish, clearing out accumulated hormones in addition to other waste. I thought it would be difficult to keep Nitrogen in sufficient supply with such large weekly water changes, maybe my misunderstanding and/or a result of imprecise Nitrogen testing methods..
 
Thanks for the tips! I will switch to larger and more frequent water changes, I really would prefer it anyway for the health of the fish, clearing out accumulated hormones in addition to other waste. I thought it would be difficult to keep Nitrogen in sufficient supply with such large weekly water changes, maybe my misunderstanding and/or a result of imprecise Nitrogen testing methods..
You can keep any NO3 level you like with any size water changes. But to do so you need to understand accumulation and what effect water changes have on it. If you get things set up properly, you should rarely be testing.

Here is a link to a post in my build thread about accumulation.........Nutrient Accumulation .

I think the challenge is to strictly look at results in pictures too, some folks will dispense advice with confidence even though their tank and plants are pretty unimpressive!
LOL ain't that the truth. Many times someone new to the hobby has read a lot and can't wait to share all their new knowledge. Problem is many times they have little practical experience or success. But that usually doesn't slow the down. It's the way a lot of myths hang around in the hobby.
 
No better way to go IMO then big regular water changes. Unless your running a Walstad type tank which relies on waste build up to feed plants, dose generously and reset with water changes. In addition to removing water you should also be removing any algae-covered or deformed/dying leaves. All those leaves are doing is contributing to waste which produces toxins and will help sustain the algae issues. Large water changes will also keep leaf surfaces clean and will allow the plant to grow unobstructed. If your running co2, new leaves should generate quickly if everything else is in place.
 
it's funny, right after my last post here my Severum went on a rampage and ripped out several of the ludwigia plantings. I've never seen him work so hard at anything before.

Its as if he could hear me saying my cichlids haven't yet destroyed my plants and wanted to prove me wrong immediately.

He's the boss so it might be that stem plants are a no-go for me in general, he still never messes with grassy plants.
 
In addition to removing water you should also be removing any algae-covered or deformed/dying leaves. All those leaves are doing is contributing to waste which produces toxins and will help sustain the algae issues.
Maybe this is a good idea for some plants, but the last time I removed algae-covered leaves from my swords they were severely stunted. I did an A/B test where 3 swords were pruned and 3 swords were left with the algae-covered leaves. The pruned plants fared much worse and were stunted for a time afterward. I've had better luck by gentle work to scrub w/toothbrush.
 
Maybe this is a good idea for some plants, but the last time I removed algae-covered leaves from my swords they were severely stunted. I did an A/B test where 3 swords were pruned and 3 swords were left with the algae-covered leaves. The pruned plants fared much worse and were stunted for a time afterward

Well, looking at your pics there is alot of algae. No plant is going to grow well with algae covered leaves and it's not helping with water quality. I've personally never seen a plant that can't be trimmed. If it's not going to put out new leaves after trimming than the plant is just a placeholder for algae.
 
Ah I see well now we're onto a different topic that is also confusing to me. I've had people say more than once "algae is always present, learn to live with it" and this mantra felt suitable to me so I adopted it. Trying to remove every last bit of algae was seemingly less a good use of my time, and the results spoke for themselves (not good). So I'm focusing on plant health as the primary goal rather than complete algae eradication.

Anyway, my severum has decided for us that the discussion about stem plants is now ending. I won't be allowed to grow them
 
Ah I see well now we're onto a different topic that is also confusing to me. I've had people say more than once "algae is always present, learn to live with it" and this mantra felt suitable to me so I adopted it. Trying to remove every last bit of algae was seemingly less a good use of my time, and the results spoke for themselves (not good). So I'm focusing on plant health as the primary goal rather than complete algae eradication.

Anyway, my severum has decided for us that the discussion about stem plants is now ending. I won't be allowed to grow them

I would agree that algae is very often present, but not to the point where it interferes with plant growth and appears on leaves. That is definitely not a given. The plants need an environment to grow without the additional challenge of algae interfering with uptake.

I've actually spent a number of years setting up tanks without stems. Many of my setups have just ferns, buces, crypts and mosses. You can have a really nice tank without stems, but the idea is the same. Good co2, extremely clean conditions and sufficient ferts and the plants will much better for it.
 
daily dosing is already causing what appears to be too much accumulation of macros, my Nitrate test (although un-calibrated) is getting very hot very fast. My TDS is also reading even higher now even tho I just did a 50% water change a couple days ago.

Algae looks worse than ever despite scrubbing plants and decor on an ongoing basis. there's a ton that is just impossible to reach in this deep tank.

I now believe my lighting is totally inadequate when the intensity is set to 50% or below, as it had been. meanwhile nutrients were actually accumulating in OVERabundance. This is a pretty deep tank, 24 inches, and the lights are mounted an additional 10-12 inches above it.

The last time I felt like I saw the plants growing faster than algae was when I had the lights up higher, until about 2 weeks ago when I lowered intensity.

Realized this: I have absolutely nothing to compare to for gauging intensity or PAR value, I am flying completely blind when it comes to intensity.

So I try to let the plants tell me: plants produce no pearling at lower light levels, but can be seen spewing streams of O2 as soon as I bump to 70% or more. At this point I can also begin to measure a consistent TDS drop from morning to evening as resources are consumed.

So to me it seems like raising light intensity is crucial to helping plants win in my tank.
 
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