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Thread: Estimative Index Fertilisation (EI): Quick How To Guide

  1. #1
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    Default Estimative Index Fertilisation (EI): Quick How To Guide

    I’ve put together a quick how-to guide on mixing and dosing dry fertilisers for folks who'd like to give EI a go. This is not to debate the validity of EI dosing, or recommend it over anything else. I’m just a guy who can follow a recipe.... Whoopdeedoo. Please let me know if any corrections are needed and I’ll update the info.


    The EI Method



    EI is a good entry point for those starting out using DIY ferts as it’s pretty easy to follow, doesn’t require water testing and has been proven effective. Testing isn’t required as any excess nutrients are removed via a weekly 50% water change to reset the system. This ensures that nutrients can never build up and cause problems, so long as you follow the directions and don't miss water changes.

    Check out this link from the Barr Report. It gives a basic overview of EI dosing, including the concept of non-limiting nutrients. This is often enough info to get started.

    It’s really not as tricky as it may seem at first, but don't feel bad if it's still a little overwhelming at this point. It likely feels that way for everyone until they've read over a few times and memorised the basics. Hopefully I've captured some key info for you below and made it a bit simpler to understand, more like following a recipe. I've tried to add some extra info on the little things that stumped me while I was learning EI also.

    The EI method works best for CO2 enriched, medium to high-light, well-planted aquariums. It’s not limited to high-light setups, smaller quantities of fertiliser can be dosed if low light and no CO2 is used. Also, the frequency may be reduced to 1-2x per week (as recommended in the link). Two doses is better as micronutrients can quickly become ineffective.

    In medium-high light aquariums, EI requires CO2 concentrations of around 30ppm (or a little more) to work most effectively. CO2 is a big discussion in itself so I'll have to leave that out of this guide.

    In time many change their dosing regimen to suit their specific setup, eg. Providing less nitrate or more iron for a particular plant, or more phosphate to prevent green spot algae etc. This is usually done by noting plant/algae growth and making small adjustments to nutrient levels over time. Some still test to be more accurate with nutrient levels, but unfortunately hobbyist test-kits can be too inaccurate for this purpose. Instead it's generally advised to simply provide a non-limiting amount of nutrients so that you can forget about testing and put more effort into light/CO2.


    The Ingredients


    Plants require Macronutrients and Micronutrients from fertilisers for growth. In the hobby they're simply referred to as 'Macros' and 'Micros'. As the names suggest, Macros are the nutrients that plants need in large amounts and Micros are only required in small amounts.

    The Macros are: Nitrate (NO3), Phosphate (PO4) and Potassium (K).

    The Micros are: Iron (Fe), manganese, boron, copper, chlorine, zinc, molybdenum and other elements that plants need in tiny amounts.

    There's no need to learn all of the micros if you don't want to, you'll likely only ever need to adjust your Iron dosing.

    It doesn't matter which dosing regimen you follow, EI, PPS, MCL etc, the ingredients in the recipe will nearly always be the same. Handy because you only need to learn the main ingredients once in order follow any method you like.

    Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg) and Sulfur (S) are also macronutrients that plants require, but these are not often dosed with fertilisers as tap water contains enough of these nutrients already. If the tap water is very soft, these nutrients may need to be added at water changes by using a GH buffer, or by adding marble chips, crushed coral, dolomite etc to the filter or substrate.

    A General Hardness or "GH" test kit can give a rough idea of how much Ca and Mg you have, or you can access the Water Quality Report from your water provider. Hobbyists often aim for 2-8GH which should provide enough Ca, Mg and S for plants.

    Here are the nutrient target ranges in parts per million (ppm) for EI Dosing:

    Nitrate (NO3) range 20-30 ppm
    Potassium (K) range 15-30 ppm
    Phosphate (PO4) range 2-6 ppm
    Iron (Fe) range 0.5-1ppm (or higher in some cases)


    **It's important to note that these are equivalent weekly doses. For example, to achieve 20-30ppm nitrate you would dose 7.5ppm nitrate 3-4x per week.

    So, you will need to source the following dry fertilisers for EI :

    - KNO3 (Monopotassium nitrate)
    - KH2PO4 (Monopotassium phosphate)
    - Chelated Micronutrient Mix (contains iron and the other essential micros like molybdenum etc.) Popular mixes include Rexolin APN or Aquagreen's Micronutrient Mix.

    ** You don’t need to buy potassium (K) separately, as KNO3 and KH2PO4 adds enough K for EI Dosing.
    ** Warning about Aquasoils: When first used these soils tend to leach nutrients into the water column. Consult with the soil retailer, search old threads or start a new thread here for advice on fertilising when the soil is new.

    Where do I buy dry fertilisers from? Aquagreen (forum sponsor) sell some, you can also buy from eBay or online, or from hydroponics stores.

    Dry fertilisers are very cheap! For a small investment you will likely have enough to last many years.


    Dosing


    Dosing dry powders is pretty easy, you just add rough teaspoon measures of dry fertiliser straight into the tank. It can be difficult to tell the difference between 1/16 and 1/32 teaspoon though if you're dosing a smaller tank. For my smaller tank I prefer solutions to make measuring easier. You can also buy kitchen measuring spoons in 1/32 teaspoon size if solutions aren't your thing.

    Generally it's advised to dose Macros and Micros on separate days. The Iron (Fe) in Micros and the Phosphate (PO4) in Macros can react and form a new compound that plants cannot use. By dosing on separate days you are preventing this somewhat, but reaction between these two elements can still be unavoidable.

    Here is the general dosing guideline for high-light and well-planted aquariums:

    35-70 Litre Aquariums
    +/- 1/8 tsp KNO3 (N) 3x a week
    +/- 1/32 tsp KH2PO4 (P) 3x a week
    +/- 1/32 tsp Trace Elements 3x a week
    50% weekly water change

    70-150 Litre Aquariums
    +/- tsp KN03 3x a week
    +/- 1/16 tsp KH2P04 3x a week
    +/- 1/16 tsp Trace Elements 3x a week
    50% weekly water change

    150-225 Litre Aquariums
    +/- 1/2 tsp KN03 3x a week
    +/- 1/8 tsp KH2P04 3x a week
    +/- 1/8 tsp Trace Elements 3x a week
    50% weekly water change

    225 – 300 Litre Aquariums
    +/- 3/4 tsp KN03 3x a week
    +/- 3/16 tsp KH2P04 3x a week
    +/- tsp Trace 3x a week
    50% weekly water change

    300 - 475 Litre Aquariums
    +/- 1 1/2 tsp KN03 3x a week
    +/- tsp KH2P04 3x a week
    +/- tsp Trace 3x a week
    50% weekly water change


    Making solutions



    If you want to make solutions instead of dry dosing, you can use a fert calculator like http://rotalabutterfly.com or http://www.aquariumcalculators.com/

    Don’t make the solutions too concentrated if you can avoid it. I prefer to dose 5ml of solution per 100L, but apparently you can go as low as 3ml/100L if you like. Always use distilled/deionised/demineralised water or RO water to make solutions.

    If you just want to get started making solutions without using the calculators, here are some quick recipes:

    Bottle size:
    500ml
    Dosage: 5ml/100L, 3-4x per week = Full EI dose for high-light CO2 injected tanks.

    Nitrate: Add 122 grams of KNO3, then make up to 500ml with distilled water. Each 5ml dose in 100L will yield approx 7.5ppm nitrate.
    Phosphate: Add 18 grams of KH2PO4, then make up to 500ml with distilled water. Each 5ml dose in 100L will yield approx 1.3ppm phosphate.
    Potassium: Note - KNO3 & KH2PO4 already contain enough potassium for EI dosing, but here's the recipe anyway.. Add 167 grams K2SO4, then make up to 500ml with distilled water. Each 5ml dose in 100L will yield approx 7.5ppm potassium.

    Micros: Add 33 grams of Chelated Micronutrient Mix, then make up to 500ml with distilled water. Each 5ml dose in 100L will yield approx 0.25ppm Iron.


    That’s it from me. Best of luck with your ferting! Please tell me if I should add/change anything.

    Cheers,
    GR1
    Last edited by GR1KTR; 07-09-16 at 11:25 PM.

  2. #2
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    Epic write-up

    Deserves a sticky somewhere
    [insert witty aquarium-related phrase]

    Forest Eden 110L - http://www.aquariumlife.com.au/showthread.php/63352-Forest-Eden-110L

  3. #3
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    Nice one



    +1 for sticky
    Last edited by TyS; 27-02-14 at 06:06 AM.

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    Brilliant write up Glenn , since myself converting to EI the results have been outstanding .
    Hey mods make this one a sticky .

    Cheers
    Brad.

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    Thanks! Glad you found it helpful

  6. #6
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    It's going to be of great help. Awesome compilation of useful data.
    +1 for sticky.

  7. #7
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    More EI related resources if you'd like to read a little further:

    http://www.barrreport.com/forum/barr...-for-test-kits
    Last edited by GR1KTR; 07-12-15 at 08:24 PM.

  8. #8
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    This is the most straight forward EI guide ever, thank you. I have some EI fert from a swap with another person, i am using up my commercial fertiliser than i will be heading into EI (though it has black earth in it, need to ascertain adjustment for fertile sub).

    My tank's GH is 12 (kH = 5). it has stone in it that increases hardness. Can i skip the gh booster? or should you always use it?

    And 50% water changes, Ive been doing 2 x 25% water changes per week (i.e. about every three days). It this as effective as resetting the tank as a single 50% change? If large water changes are not doable, are smaller water changes that add to 50% a week just as effective at resetting the nutrient level? (say 3 x 16.666% changes etc).

    EDIT: Think i found my own water change answer using this.

    2 x 25% weekly water changes are ok, but say daily 8% water changes may result in significant nutrient buildup if no plant uptake.
    Last edited by Edgar; 27-03-14 at 07:42 PM.

  9. #9
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    My tank's GH is 12 (kH = 5). it has stone in it that increases hardness. Can i skip the gh booster? or should you always use it?
    Is 12GH before or after you add GH booster? If your tap water has that value, there'd likely be plenty of Ca + Mg so no need to add any more through a GH booster. 5KH is about right too. Folks commonly aim for a KH between 2-6. Looks like you're doing well. Some don't add KH booster at all and have good results. There's a bit of a debate happening in aquarium land about KH at the moment. I keep mine about 2KH and haven't noted any problems.

    2 x 25% weekly water changes are ok, but say daily 8% water changes may result in significant nutrient buildup if no plant uptake
    Glad you found the "ferts vs time" projector useful. I've used it too in the past with success.

    I say stick to a 50% WC once per week. 2 WCs per week becomes painful after a while. You can test nitrate levels across the week to get an idea of plant uptake, and use this info to drive WCs. Keep it simple

  10. #10
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    Interesting thread on the Barr Report re: CO2 and EI dosing versus CO2 in ADA setups.

    http://www.barrreport.com/showthread...ch-Co2-with-EI

  11. #11
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    wow

    this is a bit easier to understand! thanks
    im currently looking at about 5 threads on here and the barr report to get my dosing for EI
    the principle is easy and i can understand that
    trying to get what ferts to use ( which are kn03 and kh2po4 and some micros)
    the mix i get of kno3 and kh2po4 can that be made into a solution? or only 1 of them ?
    and since kno3 is corrosive what bottles can i use? acid proof? which would mean softdrink/PET bottles be no good?
    Wets calc is great as i tells me how much of ONLY 1 of them not mixed
    and plugging in some figures of a 2ltr container and 50ml doses gives me a ratio of 5:1
    and grubs post has a ratio of 6:1?
    i guess i can try them out and see how i go ?

    also have read that it can go mouldy if not kept in the fridge or a preservative used
    since i will NOT be keeping it in the fridge what preservative do i use?

    cheers
    Last edited by disco frank; 28-07-14 at 11:00 PM.
    my 6 x 2 x 2.5

    http://www.aquariumlife.com.au/showthread.php/57768-Disco-s-new-6-x-2-x-2-5

  12. #12
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    Frank, I use my old seachem bottles . I put Potassium Nitrate and Mono Patassium Phosphate into one solution and my trace and iron into another (most people dont use extra iron i do for my red plants) Im still tweaking with a formula that suits my needs Just work out on the calc how much of the 3 ingredients you need to give you a daily e i dose pore the kno3 and the kh2po4 into 1 bottle and macros (and iron if needed) into the other bottle dose on alternate days . I dont keep mine in the fridge or with preservatives just keep it under your tank in a cabinet a cool dark dry place . I have heard of people putting glut in to act as a fungicide but i wouldnt bother.

  13. #13
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    cool thanks brad!
    I figured out the trace goes in 1 bottle and then the others in another, just was not sure if i could mix them both in solution which you have answered i can
    i might try the 5:1 ratio 1st and go from there

    I dont have any seachem bottles
    I might ask dave @aquagreen and see if it would be safe for the softdrink bottles as i have some DIY co2 caps that fit on them that i attach tubing too
    this way i can use my autodoser :P ( LAZY ) and i can easily tweak the amounts needed
    they wont be in the cupboard they will be in the open so will do what i did with with my Dino pee and paint the bottle black with a small strip on 1 side to see the quantity left

    the glu i can add some dino SPIT yes?
    my 6 x 2 x 2.5

    http://www.aquariumlife.com.au/showthread.php/57768-Disco-s-new-6-x-2-x-2-5

  14. #14
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    well written Glenn, I know you have said it but I cant stress how important the weekly water change is.
    I missed it once, and my tank starting growing Black Beard Algae.

  15. #15
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    While dosing EI, when should I use my K2SO4 and MgSO4?

    I wish i didn't deliberately fail chemistry in high school now...

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