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Thread: A basic and lengthy summary of Water Chemistry in The Planted Aquarium

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    Default A basic and lengthy summary of Water Chemistry in The Planted Aquarium

    As you all know, this is a huge topic and it is daunting for most people, new to the hobby or otherwise. I figured Iíd put together a bit of writing and see if I can explain it as best as possible, because I feel it is important for anyone who is just starting up or has been running a planted aquarium to understand what is going on, why things happen and what you need to do about them. Hopefully, this is helpful to those who donít quite get the intricacies of chemistry.

    Just a note on the order of things included here: I put it so that inexperienced people can start with the first section first, it will explain the basics, the second section will explain the nitrogen cycle in detail, the third section will be briefly on CO2 and Oxygen, the final section will be on plant nutrients. I guess it is ordered from most known to least known and if you know a section, donít bother reading it, I havenít added anything ground breaking or experimental, I simply recapped the basic chemistry in easy to grasp terms.

    Well, speaking of terms, first I guess we should start with basic terms.

    Basic Elements in the planted aquarium include- Iron (Fe), Magnesium (Mg), Boron (B), Copper (Cu), Manganese (Mn), Sulphur (S), Nitrogen (N), Hydrogen (H), Oxygen (O), Calcium (Ca), Potassium (K), Sodium (Na) ,Phosphorous (P) and of course Carbon (C), I may have missed a few which I will edit in later, but these are the ones that I can think of as most important.

    Ions- Charged form of an element or a compound (compounds being a series of elements bonded together in a fixed ratio). Ions can bond together to form Ionic Compounds. There are two types of ions Anions and Cations.

    Anion- A negatively charged ion, examples include Nitrates (NO3-), Phosphtes (PO4 3-), Nitrites (NO2-) and Sulphates (SO4 2-), Carbonate (CO3 2-)

    Cation- A Positively charged ion, normally a metal (Ammonium is an exception, there are others), Examples include Ca 2+, Fe 3+ Fe 2+ (both iron, but differing oxidation states, will get to this momentarily), Mg 2+, H+ (hydrogen is mostly thought of as a non metal, I am content to leave it this way as an exception to the rule) and ammonium is NH4+.

    Compounds- A chemically bonded species consisting of multiple different elements, can be ionic (Na + Cl - ), can be charged (SO4 2-, NO3 -), can be stable (H2O, O2, CO2) .

    Bonding Ė There are multiple different types of bonding that go on in an aquarium, however I will explain only Ionic Bonding. This is how ions come about. I will first use an example, elemental Magnesium isnít particularly stable, it will react with most things (air, water, acid, your fishes poo), it can however stabilise itself by donating its two electrons to another unstable compound, say sulphuric acid. You will never ever ever find Magnesium in its pure form in the aquarium, (call me if you do, Iíd like to see it :P), however you will find Magnesium Sulphate in just about every aquarium. This is a Magnesium cation bonded to a sulphate anion, it is stable and will dissolve in water due to being ionic (I can explain this more if someone wants, but this should be sufficient)

    OK, with that out of the way, I will have a crack at describing water parameters.

    pH is a measure of the acidity of the water. A pH of 7 is considered neutral. At this point, the acid causing H+ ions have equal concentration to the base causing OH- ions. Hangon, what Ďs an acid and a base?

    A substance is classed as acidic if it can ionise water by giving water a H+ ion, which will form H3O+, this however does not mean that any substance containing hydrogen will turn your water into a bubbling pool of acidic water, in fact most hydrogen containing substances are content to sit and do nothing. The compounds you have to worry about are called Acids, and they as a general rule, will contain a hydrogen that isnít bonded particularly well to the other part of the compound. Examples include H2SO4, which is 2 H + molecules bonded to an SO4 2- anion. This will disassociate (break up, separate, run freeeeee) in water which is what causes the water to become acidic, (this is what H+ ions in solution do, cause acidity).

    Bases, by definition accept a H+ ion from water, ionising it to be OH-. Common bases include, NaOH. The Na + (sodium in case you have forgotten) and the OH- disassociate. The OH- reacts with a H+ ion in the water to form H2O. When there is more OH- ions in the water than H+ ions, this is when you have a basic pH.

    (I may have lied to you about the Ďcurrentí defintions of bases and acids, but for our purposes, this is acceptable)

    Ok, cool, so we know what bases and acids are now, but how do they affect us?
    You know when you measure the pH of your tank, you get a number. This number could mean anything. Anything at all. But it doesnít. It relates to the concentration of H+ Ions in the water. Why do we measure H+ ions and not OH-, convention. A pH of 7 is considered neutral, the H+ ions have an equal concentration to the OH- ions, everyone is happy (fish too). Any pH that is under 7 is considered to be acidic, H+ concentration is greater than OH- concentration. Any pH that is over 7 is considered basic, OH- is greater than H+.

    The pH scale is logarithmic. This means that each number represents a concentration different to the previous by a factor of 10. For instance, pH 6 is 10 times more acidic than pH 7 (the H+ ions are 10 times the concentration). pH 5 is 100 times more acidic than pH 7 (fish arenít so happy anymore). pH3 we are talking pure vinegar (even people arenít happy anymore). pH 8, 10 times more basic than pH7 (most fish still happy). pH 10, 1000 times more basic (woah, what the hell are you putting in your water).

    When you add acids to bases, they react, neutralising , to a degree. Adding NaOH (strong base) to vinegar is a little like peeing on a house fire, the resulting product will be a basic salt, I guarantee it. Adding HCl (strong acid) to NaHCO3(weak base) will leave you with an acid (carbonic acid H2CO3) and a salt (NaCl, table salt, yum, kidding donít eat it, its mixed in with an acid). (HCl + NaHCO3 -> NaCl + H2CO3)

    How does this affect the aquarium. Well, the pH in your aquarium is dependant on a number of things. Ill try to explain some, but others will require a google search.

    Firstly, sources of bases in your aquarium. These include HCO3- (the hydrogen carbonate ion), this is due to dissolved minerals in your water like limestone (CaCO3 ) which will react with carbon dioxide in water (which is acidic, ill get to that I swear) to create the HCO3- ion. Plants also release the HCO3- ion when they are photosynthesising, this is a product of consuming CO2 (carbon dioxide) from the water column and releasing oxygen. There are countless other sources of OH- ions in your aquarium, these include shells, certain gravel, certain rocks, fish excretions (NH3 is a base) and tap water (thanks Sydney water). These arenít a problem in the aquarium, due to buffers (again, I will get onto that later) which prevent large pH changes.

    Acids, Acids are again, common in the aquarium. There are all kinds of organic acids that are present in the aquarium, these are metabolites of fish waste, secretions from soil, peat juice (for lack of a better word), present in food, put out by decaying plants, the list goes on. As a general rule, any kind of decaying organic matter will create some form of organic acid which could affect the pH of your aquarium. Another source of acidity in the aquarium is dissolved CO2, (CO2 + H2O -> H2CO3, H2CO3 -> H+ + HCO3-). Also, some tap waters are acidic.

    I will put a list of links to the major water supply quality tests at the end for anyone interested.

    Ok, so why is pH so important for your fish and plants. Various aquatic chemical mechanisms change vastly with differing pHís and the toxicity of certain metals and compounds changes with pH, what does this mean for a balanced and safe aquarium? Not much, if youíre aquarium is balanced donít stress, having a slightly acidic or slightly basic pH isnít the end of the world.

    If your pH is between 6 and 8, I see no problems with keeping fish. There is normally no reason to adjust your pH unless you are breeding specialist fish or are experienced. If your pH is a bit high, you can add peat to your water, this will soften the water (coming up soon) and lower the pH by releasing Humic Acids. If youíre pH is too low, add crushed coral, shell grit, dolomite, etc etc ( a quick google search will tell you what is and isnít viable).

    The most important thing about pH is to prevent wild pH swings, a mildly acidic or basic tank wont hurt your fish, but pH that changes continuously will stress them, will wreak havoc on your tank chemistry and will be a massive pain. Basically, when you are testing for pH you are testing to see if it is liveable for the fish, and you are testing to see if it is changing with time. If it is changing, your tank is unbalanced and you have to do something to rectify it, whether it be plant more plants, take out that big bubbling rock, again a quick google search can tell you exactly what needs to be done.

    As a general rule, donít use pH Down, or pH up to adjust your water whenever it is starting to shift, this is a bad way to control pH and a good way to have wild and random swinging pHís that will stress you and the fish out, instead address the issue at the cause.

    Naturally, in distilled water pH will swing quite rapidly for any number of reason, well, how do we prevent this? The answer is buffers. Which is the next topic.


    Buffers rely on a chemical system called equilibrium. Equlibriumís are reactions that will proceed both ways based on the concentrations of the reactants and the products. An example of a common aquarium buffer is the HCO3- system. Most buffers rely on a weak acid (or weak base) and a salt of the acid. Bicarbonate system isnít an exception. It relies on a few equilibrium equations:
    CO2 + H2O <-> H2CO3
    H2CO3 <-> H+ +HCO3-
    HCO3- <-> H+ + CO3 2-
    CaCO3 <-> Ca+ + CO3 2-
    Or as I borrowed from another website:
    Source : (found with Google Image Search, didnít ask for permission)

    The basis of this is that when you change one of the parts of the equilibrium, the others adjust so as to minimize the change. What this means in a very basic sense is that if you were to add acid to a solution buffered with CaCO3 and H2CO3, the pH change would be less than if you were to add it to an unbuffered solution. This allows the pH in aquariums to remain fairly stable despite the constantly changing H+ and OH- generated in the aquariums. This is handy, because during the day, plants generate HCO3- ions, but at night, they release CO2, this CaCO3 buffer prevents wildly swinging pH from day to night. This is the most basic buffer system in most aquariums, there are softwater aquariums with negligible amounts of CaCO3 dissolved in them, these utilize a different buffer system normally comprised of humic and other organic acids, I wont go into that because itís a big side topic. Diana Walstad has however, if anybody is keen to get her book (I have it, it is excellent).

    Before Moving on:
    Please note, this is a thousand times more complex than I have explained, so donít go adding straight dolomite or lime or anything of the sort to prevent pH changes. You will do more harm than good. Crushed shells, limestone, that kind of thing, is more acceptable, but research before doing so.

    Well, you may be wondering, where does this Calcium Carbonate come from?

    This brings us to the next topic


    There are two types of hardness, well, theres really not, let me try again, there are two measures of hardness. Hardness is I guess a hypothetical thing. The water isnít physically hard. Its still a liquid. God Iím funny. No? OkÖ I will continue. The two measures are KH and GH. KH stands for Carbonate Hardness (or Karbonate, If that will help you remember it) and GH stands for General Hardness.

    I am going to rely a little on Wikipedia here for certain numbers and reactions, so bear with me.

    Carbonate Hardness is a measure of the dissolved carbonate (CO3 2-) and (HCO3 - ) bicarbonate Ions in the water. It is measured in ppm which is equivalent to mg/L which isnít at all equivalent to one dKH, the conversion factor according to Wikipedia is one dKH is equivalent to Ď17.848 milligrams of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) per litre of water (17.848 ppm)í. Carbonate hardness due to being composed of Magnesium (Mg) and Calcium (Ca) and other multivalent (more than +1 charge) metals is expressed as if all the carbonates came solely from calcium. Similarly, bicarbonates are expressed as if they were equivalent concentration of carbonates.

    General Hardness is simply a measure of the concentration of multivalent metals in a litre of water, it is again expressed in a number equivalent to all the metal concentrations coming solely from CaCO3. It is expressed in ppm of Ca 2+ or dGH.

    Heres another goody straight off Wikipedia:

    All credit for this one goes to Wikipedia, I simply edited it and saved it as an image.

    OK, so the verdict on hardness is that hardness acts as a buffer to prevent pH changes. Hardness however, does also have the effect of increasing pH, the harder your water, the higher your pH. IT also means that it is incredibly difficult to lower your pH should you want to breed softwater species or grow specific plants. In order to lower your pH you have to adsorb the Ca and the Mg and the Carbonates out of the water first, this will soften your water and lower the pH slightly. Please note, softwater is more susceptible to water changes than harder water. A good method of lowering pH is peat, which will also remove Ca and Mg ions from the water and replace them with H+.

    Yay new Topic .

    Do I have to bother explaining? Reasearch the temperature for your plants/fish and set the heater on that setting. DONE.

    Ok, so far that is the basics of water parameters. This is the start of the Second Section . The nitrogen cycle.

    Nitrogen is the most abundant element in our atmosphere, consisting of around 70% of the air that we breathe and live in. So, what makes nitrogen so important. Well, N2 (diatomic nitrogen, the form found in the air) is possibly the most stable molecule around, it will not break down under most circumstances and it in its elemental form wont react with most things unless pushed (and by pushed I mean hundreds of degrees and thousands of pascals of pressure). So, why is it so important in the aquarium?

    Well, because nitrogen is so inert, of course plants and bacteria have found a way to break it down. Nitrogen is included in almost all biological molecules. This includes fish food.

    So, the fish eats the food. In its waste, it then excretes Ammonia. Fish waste isnít the only source of Ammonia, decaying plants and most decaying organic material will release ammonia. Remember the discussion on pH before and the particular line, pH changes how things work in the aquarium? Well, this is an example of that. Ammonia (NH2) is deadly to fish, it is also however a weak base, which will react with H+ ions to form Ammonium (NH3+) which isnít lethal to fish (it also isnít optimal, it is still in equilibrium with Ammonia and will more than happily revert at any given time). This reaction will only occur in acidic water however, so there needs to be another method of removing ammonia from the water.

    This is where the nitrogen cycle enters, hopefully youíve all heard about cycling. Wait you havenít? Ok, let me explain. Ammonia is introduced into the water column by some type of fish waste, bacteria on all the hard surfaces in the tank will process this ammonia, it will transform it into Nitrites (NO2-) through oxidisation. This bacteria isnít present in the tank unless it has been cycled correctly. This bacteria is also very important, like your fish, and so shouldnít be treated with chlorine or excessive changes of pH and temperature.
    The bacteria serves to turn the deadly Ammonia into Nitrites, and this will allow the bacteria to flourish and breed. ( Because this is processing the Ammonia it will cause the Ammonium to break up back into Ammonia and H+ to be processed) Ammonia levels in the aquarium go down, the number of bacteria stabilizes and voila, your tank is cycled, ready to have fish and work through more ammonia.
    Hang on a secÖ I mentioned Nitrites, guess what, they are also toxic to your fish, I lied, your tank isnít cycled. A second set of bacteria have to be established and will process the Nitrites by further oxidation into Nitrates. This bacteria like the original one will breed on all the hard porous surfaces of your tank.

    Hard porous surfaces, some people like to think is a euphemism for filters. Whilst not wrong, it can also be the minute and miniscule pores on your gravel, the biofilm that forms on your rocks, the nooks and crannies of the microscopic nature that form on your driftwood, the surface of your plants even the bodies of your fish. Even without a filter, (which I wouldnít attempt unless you were an expert), the bacteria will breed and multiply.

    So we are left with these nitrates. Guess what, nitrates are non toxic! YAY! Sort ofÖ Not reallyÖ No they really arenít. Nitrates like all waste in the aquarium can build up to toxic levels and kill your fish. This is why we perform water changes. This is why people advocate the use of plants.

    This is also where bioload comes in, if you have too many fish/too much waste breaking down/ or even too many pooping snails, the bacteria wont be able to keep up with the load, there simply isnít enough of them and your tank will quickly become an ammonia laden cess pit.

    Before I continue, I would like to add, Nitrates are an excellent source of food for plants, they help the plant grow and provide a good way to remove the Nitrates from the water column. Plants also will process Ammonia directly, so in conjunction with bacteria, will form an Ammonia fighting super team.

    Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide

    So far we have learnt that Carbon Dioxide will cause an aquarium to become acidic and that plants process it to form HCO3-. This is true. Plants however, also break up Carbon Dioxide molecules through a process known as Photosynthesis. This basically means that a plant will use energy from the sun (or the micro suns we like to call CFLís, Fluoros, LEDís etc), to break up CO2 into C and O2. This is beneficial for both the plants and the fish. The CO2 is toxic to fish at high concentrations. O2 is essential for life, this seems a pretty good trade off. It gets better though, the plants use the C (Carbon) that they have just scrubbed out of your water as a building block for their growth. The energy they get from photosynthesis allows them to develop Glucose and Cellulose Polymers out of the Carbon and to grow and make your aquarium beautiful.

    Bioload features here as well, if the bioload on your tank is too high, the plants (or atmosphere in an unplanted tank) wont be able to keep up enough dissolved oxygen for your fish to be happy and they will slowly but surely get ill and die.

    Also, plants at night time as I mentioned earlier no longer photosynthesise, instead the release CO2, just like fish and take in oxygen. Major problem if your tank is overstocked. Major problem if your tank is poorly buffered and canít stand the PH changes due to the increase in CO2 concentrations.

    Plants canít just use carbon to fuel their growth however, (imagine a large growing piece of graphite in your aquarium, fun hey!), they rely on other nutrients, such as the aforementioned Nitrates and more. Which leads us to the next section!

    Plant Nutrients!!!

    Ok, this is going to take a while and this is going to be huge. So ill put out some basics first.

    Plants need a variety of nutrients to grow. The basic building blocks for plants are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulphur, Carbon and of course Oxygen. These are called the macronutrients. There are also dozens, and I do mean dozens, of micro nutrients that plants need to grow well. Heres a few, Ca, Mg, Mn, B, Fe, Na etc etc etc.

    Ill do my best to explain.

    Firstly, lets tackle algae. Algae is caused by imbalances of these nutrients in the water column. Algae is more specialized than plants are (mostly due to the fact that there are over 8000 species of true algaes alone), which means that basically, there is an algae for every imbalance. Algae will compete with plants for the same nutrients, and if the nutrients arenít balanced, the algae will win. In a balanced aquarium, plants are better suited to outcompete algae, and you will be rewarded with a clean and clear tank. Now an example, If your tank has far too much bioavailable nitrogen floating around, you can bet that there will be an algae bloom that just loves to feed on nitrogen. Too much Silicates? The lovely brown diatom (which isnít even an algae) will quickly colonize and invade your tank. Well, why is this a problem? The algae is incredibly unsightly for a start. Secondly, the algae will contribute to your bioload (although during the day it will bubble off O2, at night, just like plants, it is a good old fashioned CO2 factory). Plants help prevent imbalances in your water chemistry, as does frequent water changes, a healthy feeding routine and if necessary specific fertilization/carbon/lighting control.

    OK. Onto Macronutrients.

    Youíre probably asking yourself, what is the best way to get Nitrogen for instance into the tank. Well, im not going to answer, there are dozens of ways and each tend to have their merits. Iíll explain 2.

    Natural planted tanks are a popular option with fishkeepers, these type of tanks rely on a soil based substrate to provide some Macro and most Micro nutrients to the plants. The other source of nutrient input to the tank is fish food, which will contain again, most of the Macro nutrients that plants need. Decaying organic matter in the soil will provide carbon, nitrates, phosphates and sulphates to the plants. This accounts for most of the macro nutrients that a plant will need. This type of tank will eventually deplete the soil, but for years, it will be a plant growing haven. Once the soil is depleted it can be replaced, it isnít particularly difficult. You can also supplement the soil with fertilizers, more on that next. Also, it is important not to forget that plants do need carbon to grow, the carbon can come from fish or it can be added, which again I will discuss next.

    The second type of tank is for lack of a better description, a fertilized tank. Where you rely on additional fertilizers in addition to fish waste and sometimes a soil based substrate. The fertilizers that you add will supply the plants with what they need in terms of macro and micro nutrients.
    What type of fertilizer do I need?
    Big question. Thereís a lot of debate about this, so ill just keep it basic. You need to provide for the plants any nitrates, phosphates and sulphates that they wont get from the fish food. If you are purchasing fertilizer, this will be premixed. If not, ill explain what you can do briefly.

    When you are supplying for instance, Phosphorous, to the plants, you donít give them the pure elemental Phosphorous, this is a nasty substance that will start burning when reacted with water, not the kind of thing to be playing with. So you need to give it to the plants in a stable form. This stable form also has to be bioavailable and soluble in water. These bits of information give us everything we need to go on to start mixing up our own fertilizers. Sort ofÖ

    Stable forms of the macronutrients include, K+, PO4 3-, SO4 2-, NO3 -, CO2, just to name a few. Now, we still cant put these in the tank. They simply donít exist (except CO2, that one does exist, causing climate change and all thatÖ yeah) . These first have to be produced from the elemental reactants. They are then reacted along a series of nasty steps and we arrive at our final product, Ionic Salts.

    When adding macronutrients to the aquarium, they are added as ionic salts. The exact concentrations of each fertilizer I am not going to go into, if you arenít capable of googling it, I wouldnít suggest making your own fertilizer. (I see have an awesome range already mixed for you). But if you are capable of googling it, you will find recipes like PMDD and you will find measures of the optimal levels for the individual nutrients in the water column.

    Some basic salts that are used for MacroNutrients and that are easily sourceable include:

    KNO3- Source of Potassium and Nitrates, Ebay it. Also, donít make the mistake I made and ask for it at Bunnings, itís generally not sold at shops because it is an ingredient in explosives (this is why we cant have nice things) and they give you dirty looks whilst explaining. Also, if you cant get a hold of it, it isnít the end of the world, the nitrogen cycle will supply you with the Nitrates and the Potassium is easily available elsewhere.
    K2SO4 Ė Source of Sulphates and Potassium, Ebay it. Also sold at garden centres as sulphate of potash or some crafty deviation of that.
    Phosphates Ė Most people donít bother adding, t***ater, fish poop, fish food, some rocks will do this for you, Phosphates are very, very rarely the limiting factor in plant growth

    These are all bioavailable and soluble forms of the macronutrients, which essentially means they will go right where you want them, straight to the plants that need them the most (or to the algae that has become rampant in your tank).

    Now, micronutrients. Micronutrients are a little more difficult to add. Without them, your plants will never grow, your tank is essentially a wonderland where all the little algal spores can frolic and play.

    Most people will use a premixed micronutrient mix for most things, you are more than welcome to mix one yourself, but terrestrial plant keepers have done it for you, and they are pretty happy with the result.

    The premixed micronutrient trace mix will consist of most of the trace/micronutrients you will need already combined into an ionic salt form. Pretty much ready to go into the aquarium. There are exceptions to this though.

    Calcium for instance, has a different concentration and different uses in the aquarium than it does in the terrestrial environment. Calcium along with Magnesium make up the hardness of the water, there are a multitude of available compounds which will dose these two into the water. Infact, most people class Calcium and Magnesium as macronutrients, however I refrain from doing this as they do not make up a large portion dry plant mass, and instead are present mainly in the water as buffers.

    CaCO3 Ė Crushed shell grit, crushed coral, Limestone all being good sources Ė Garden Supply, Pet Supply Shops
    CaSO4 Ė Gypsum, good source of calcium Ė Garden Supply
    MgSO4 Ė Magnesium Sulphate, a good source of magnesium and sulphur Ė Pharmacy, Woolies, Garden Supply
    CaMg(CO3)2 Ė Dolomite, Good source of Magnesium and Calcium and Carbonates, dissolves slowly though- Garden Supply

    The other trace nutrients that are vital for plant growth are Boron, Zinc, Copper, Iron, Molybdenum, Chloride (no not chlorine, chloride) and Manganese. These trace nutrients have varying levels of success in Ionic Salt Form, and it is often preferred to add them in a chelated form. You can chelate your own using various Chelating agents, or you can buy them premixed. Chelating basically makes the nutrients more bioavailable and more stable, because certain metals, like Fe (Iron) will react with water and quickly become insoluble. The Chelate keeps them in suspension where they can be used by plants. It also reduces the toxicity of certain metal ions because they are no longer reactive and wont bond to sites they shouldnít in your fishes body.

    Often the limiting factor on aquatic plant growth is CO2, which means that your fish simply cant provide enough CO2 for the plants to use up all the nutrients and as such, the plants will be out competed by algae, this is a common case and will usually require reduction of nutrients, reduction of light or CO2 supplementation. This can take the form of Compressed CO2, DIY CO2 and dissolved organic carbon supplementation. Dissolved organic carbon supplementation are products like Seachem Flourish excel, Dino Spit (available from Aquagreen) and if you are into DIY, apparently Glutaraldehyde mixes can provide plants with carbon.

    A couple of short things.

    Mixing your own fertilizer is for people that have a better grasp of chemistry in the aquarium and have test kits that allow them to monitor the nutrient levels.

    Dosing individual nutrients is even more difficult and should only be attempted by people that are certain they know what they are doing and are able to test the nutrient levels in the tank. There is a huge advantage in doing this though, as you can change fertilization based on the nutrient deficiency symptoms/test results.
    I donít know the ideal levels for nutrients, these have to be looked up on the forum or on Google as they will vary wildly for different types of plants, and mostly because I simply cant remember the standard accepted values (to be honest, not even sure if there are any accepted values).

    And there it is, I think I got everything. I will be editing this in the future.

    Hopefully this is helpful to someone. Also please, donít copy this to other forums, if I like the forum enough I may post it there eventually, but it took me over 5 hours to write, so id like it to stay in the one place. And clearly, i did miss some parts, i will edit this in the future and make it a bit easier to read and a bit more informative.



    Also i did remember something, i said i would post the major australian water quality test information at the end, which i forgot to do, so here it is now.

    Most of Western Australia (skip to page 47)
    Most of South Australia (skip to page 42)
    Northern Territory

    I know i missed a state, but Tasmania really doesn't like me, nor does Rural Queensland or New South Wales.
    Last edited by Graeme; 16-11-12 at 08:12 AM. Reason: Added new links from updated info

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    perth Western Australia


    Thank you very much you write this. This post will help lot people

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Benalla, Vic


    Thanks Chris - great effort!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Epping, NSW


    Great thread! Wish we had this when I just started my tank, would have saved me a lot of time doing my own research .

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Bombala NSW


    CHRIS ,......THANK YOU VERY MUCH. May take a few reads but I enjoyed and I will get my head around it in the end!! Very well written and ezy to understand.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    NSW Potts Point


    Hahaaah.......Well done Chris.
    There are very few places to find this sort of information.To a beginner,the chemistry is overwhelming
    Couldn't agree more about dosing single elements in a tank.This seems to be a practice limited to Aquarium and Hydroponics hobbyists.I ran a production nursery for 20 years and found that almost all growers start with a well balanced,complete fertiliser.This is cheaper,easier and helps target and diagnosis of nutrient problems.
    Thanks for busting your brain for 5 hours .....I know how hard it can be to explain in lay terms.
    Another problem for lfs owners is that people ask the wrong questions.My favourite was from a well known importer who must never be named on this forum.I'm sure he thought he was onto the Holy Grail when he asked me,"What is your view on the role of Ammonium in the planted aquarium?"
    He may as well have asked me,"Can you grow Pumpkins in hanging baskets?"
    Not bad for less than 20 posts, Chris.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Balga Perth West Aust


    Very well written
    I made it a sticky

    Thanks mr_c265
    Read this very helpful thread on BSS .
    No pictures on your BSS advert? Then be prepared for it to be deleted ( read the rules )

  8. #8


    I'm glad its useful! Thanks everyone for the praise! Thank you Graeme, im honored!

    If anyone spots anything glaringly wrong or anything that needs further explanation, let me know and ill edit it. I do have plans for other pieces of writing in the near future (i think substrates may be next on my list), so hopefully i keep contributing and helping out the community!

    Also i did remember something, i said i would post the major australian water quality test information at the end, which i forgot to do, so here it is now.

    Most of Western Australia (skip to page 47)
    Most of South Australia (skip to page 42)
    Northern Territory

    I know i missed a state, but Tasmania really doesn't like me, nor does Rural Queensland or New South Wales.
    Last edited by mr_c265; 16-11-12 at 07:57 AM. Reason: edited to include water quality info

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Somewhere in South Australia


    Superbly written Chris THX

    . ...Leigh

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Benalla, Vic


    For some reason I thought of this thread when I found this video today about chemical bonding.... LOL

    (My Border Collies approve. )

  11. #11


    Hahahaha, btwin, that video is genius! I actually tricked my girlfriend into learning about science today, this is possibly the greatest success story ever :P
    Back on topic, again thank you everyone and I was wondering if there is anything in particular like substrate chemistry or photosynthesis or the role of anaerobic and aerobic bacteria that i should try to explain next?
    I don't want to write something that nobody needs :P
    I have a new NPT (natural planted tank) that i am setting up and once i sort out a few hiccups (it is literally 80L of week old muddy water, stupidly used a hose to fill it) , hopefully ill be able to do a write up on the process as well. I have so much spare time over the next few months i don't know what im going to do with myself, i never thought i'd ever get to say that :P

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2012


    He he thank you, you pretty
    summarised my whole under graduate degree

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2013


    Superb info!! thanks for taking the time to educate us!

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    NSW Potts Point


    In the context of Chris' info I think this is a great time to say something important.
    Chris has made comments and suggestions for handling water in general.
    If you are reading advice from people in other countries,or,even cities,always keep in mind that their water supply is very likely different from yours.In London,the water is so hard that to simply adjust pH,the method may seem drastic if your own supply is soft.In the same way,climate will affect methods of breeding and culturing fish and plants etc.

  15. Default

    Hello from Greece, your information was super! Thanks you... i can not find forums like this in Greece (sorry for my English)

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