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Old 08-25-2015, 06:35 PM   #1
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Surprising things I learned.

I learned some really cool things from reading Diana Walstad's book The Ecology of The Planted Aquarium. Some of the ones that surprised me were:

1. Ammonia is toxic to plants above 3 ppm. I always just thought it was plant food.

2. Calcium and DOC can both Bind Heavy Metals but Blue light can release it again. This is why using Saltwater bulbs with more blue in them can sometimes cause algae outbreaks in freshwater tanks. They release all the bound Iron.

3. Marine plants grow way faster then freshwater plants. If CO2 was the issue they would go slower or the same because CO2 diffuses through water slower then air. They grow faster because they can switch to getting carbon from alkalinity instead of CO2. Sea water is way higher in alkalinity. Many hard freshwater species can do this trick too.

4. Contrary to popular opinion, 0.1 ppm Phosphate is more then enough for algae and plants to grow. Algae grows very slow at 0.03 ppm and Algae cannot grow at 0.02 ppm.

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Old 08-25-2015, 10:12 PM   #2
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It is a great book. Many of her theories are disputed (you'll probably hear some disputes here) but they're good to consider.

The ammonia toxicity depends on temp and ph, for fish, because that changes the "type" of ammonia. I suspect the same may be true for plants but dunno.


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Old 08-25-2015, 10:30 PM   #3
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I have her book. Honestly a lot of the chemistry was over my head but I still got a lot of info out of it.

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Old 08-26-2015, 09:38 AM   #4
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It is a great book. Many of her theories are disputed (you'll probably hear some disputes here) but they're good to consider.

The ammonia toxicity depends on temp and ph, for fish, because that changes the "type" of ammonia. I suspect the same may be true for plants but dunno.


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That is an excellent point. 10 points for Gryffindor.
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Old 08-26-2015, 09:40 AM   #5
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I have her book. Honestly a lot of the chemistry was over my head but I still got a lot of info out of it.

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It took me a many years to even understand basic chemistry and some of her stuff kind of flies over me too. Don't feel bad. Thankfully she also has an English explanation for most of it too The letters from the people who write to her are the best.
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Old 08-26-2015, 01:49 PM   #6
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I started but never finished reading the book about 4 years ago. I appreciate that you condensed some of the points. Now that I am more familiar with the principles of planted tanks, I might be able to take away more info. Thanks.
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Old 08-26-2015, 03:39 PM   #7
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Surprising things I learned.

A lot of her work is based on experiments that either she has conducted herself or has cited from other papers. I don't want to write too many because I feel like I would be doing the book a disservice but here are some other interesting points made in the book:

1) some plants found in naturally soft water do better in hard water.
2) cool white tubes in one experiment grow plants better because (hypothesise) water and DOC absorb most of the red and blue light leaving mainly yellow light in natural waters.
3) excess iron may have a major role in the formation of algae.
4) on average lakes and rivers contain 6ppm DOC.
5) DOC binds heavy metals.
6) most plants studies take up ammonia exclusively. Only when ammonia is unavailable do plants take up nitrate.


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Old 08-26-2015, 04:11 PM   #8
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I too found it difficult to read. I think it's interesting that her second book is about pressure cookers!
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Old 08-26-2015, 06:07 PM   #9
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A lot of her work is based on experiments that either she has conducted herself or has cited from other papers. I don't want to write too many because I feel like I would be doing the book a disservice but here are some other interesting points made in the book:

1) some plants found in naturally soft water do better in hard water.
2) cool white tubes in one experiment grow plants better because (hypothesise) water and DOC absorb most of the red and blue light leaving mainly yellow light in natural waters.
3) excess iron may have a major role in the formation of algae.
4) on average lakes and rivers contain 6ppm DOC.
5) DOC binds heavy metals.
6) most plants studies take up ammonia exclusively. Only when ammonia is unavailable do plants take up nitrate.


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+1 The Iron issue I always kind of ignored but it is defiantly on my nutrient radar now.
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Old 08-28-2015, 01:42 AM   #10
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HMM Ammonia being toxic to plants over 3ppm.. Thats complete nonsense..


Dont believe everything you read.


You wanna see a planted tank that had 8PPM+ ammonia in the tank for 2 months ? I changed the substrate and removed my undergravel filter in my 27g hexagon a few years back and my ammonia spiked to 8ppm probly higher as thats as far as api's test goes.. And it didnt kill my plants, in fact plants i couldnt get to grow very well grew like weeds and grew with the most beautiful red/orange colors.. Last pic is when i did the substrate change just to show you what the plants looked like before the ammonia. I had to keep my fish in a 2g bucket for a long time and then another tank before i put them back in. Then i took these pics. The ammonia didnt do anything to my plants except make them explode in growth and color.


Plants dont like nitrates and in fact they expend almost more energy to even use nitrates as a food source.. Thats why when i see people who claim to have planted tanks with 0ppm nitrate.. Yeaa maybe if you have 3 fish in a 100g planted tank, but other then that plants honestly dont use nitrates.. They did a study on this and had controlled envirnments where they had the same plants in uncycled envirments and put the same dosages of ammonia and nitrates.. And the one with ammonia soaked it up and grew fast and the one with nitrates barely touched it and looked poor




She is right about excess Iron though you wanna see proof ? The first picture is when i started using floramax original substrate.. It has magnetic rocks in it and causes high iron in the tank, and me along with other people who have this substrate saw an explosion in this wierd hair slimy brown algae that can get 2 feet + in length.. I got rid of it or got it under control by using siamese algae eaters.. they tore it up.



I honestly didnt need a scientist or this Diana lady to tell me what i already knew.. I observed all this myself, and anytime i bring it up on these forums or other forums people dismiss me, but hey i only preach what i have seen happen right in front of my face

P.S the other pics after the first one are the ammonia pics











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Old 08-28-2015, 05:15 AM   #11
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HMM Ammonia being toxic to plants over 3ppm.. Thats nonsense

You wanna see a planted tank that had 8PPM+ ammonia in the tank for 2 months ? I changed the substrate and removed my undergravel filter in my 27g hexagon a few years back and my ammonia spiked to 8ppm probly higher as thats as far as api's test goes.. And it didnt kill my plants, in fact plants i couldnt get to grow very well grew like weeds and grew with the most beautiful red/orange colors.. Last pic is when i did the substrate change just to show you what the plants looked like before the ammonia. I had to keep my fish in a 2g bucket for a long time and then another tank before i put them back in. Then i took these pics. The ammonia didnt do anything to my plants except make them explode in growth and color.

Plants dont like nitrates and in fact they expend almost more energy to even use nitrates as a food source.. Thats why when i see people who claim to have planted tanks with 0ppm nitrate.. Yeaa maybe if you have 3 fish in a 100g planted tank, but other then that plants honestly dont use nitrates.. They did a study on this and had controlled envirnments where they had the same plants in uncycled envirments and put the same dosages of ammonia and nitrates.. And the one with ammonia soaked it up and grew fast and the one with nitrates barely touched it and looked poor

She is right about excess Iron though you wanna see proof ?

The ammonia toxicity was species dependent and it is the nh3 that is the toxic part. This is because nh3 is a gas and so doesn't have an electrical charge. Plants cannot regulate it because it diffuses freely which is why other forms of gases are said to be toxic (HNO2, H2S) since ammonium NH4+ has an electrical charge the plant can regulate its uptake. Also plants can protect themselves from NH3 combing it with a H+ ion immediately turning in to the non toxic form or it can be used immediately to synthesise proteins be combining NH3 with stored carbohydrates to form amino acids. Therefore plants that have large stores of carbohydrates can deal with ammonia better than a carbohydrate depleted plant. Your test result of 8ppm is also measuring both ammonia and ammonium by the way.

Have you considered that those who have 0ppm nitrates have 0ppm nitrates because the plants are immediately using ammonia before the bacteria have a chance to convert it through to nitrate? If ammonia is that scarce that it is being consumed as rapidly as it is being made available it would make sense that any small amount of ammonia converted to nitrate by the bacteria would be drawn upon as a source of nitrogen.




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Old 08-28-2015, 07:07 AM   #12
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The ammonia toxicity was species dependent and it is the nh3 that is the toxic part. This is because nh3 is a gas and so doesn't have an electrical charge. Plants cannot regulate it because it diffuses freely which is why other forms of gases are said to be toxic (HNO2, H2S) since ammonium NH4+ has an electrical charge the plant can regulate its uptake. Also plants can protect themselves from NH3 combing it with a H+ ion immediately turning in to the non toxic form or it can be used immediately to synthesise proteins be combining NH3 with stored carbohydrates to form amino acids. Therefore plants that have large stores of carbohydrates can deal with ammonia better than a carbohydrate depleted plant. Your test result of 8ppm is also measuring both ammonia and ammonium by the way.

Have you considered that those who have 0ppm nitrates have 0ppm nitrates because the plants are immediately using ammonia before the bacteria have a chance to convert it through to nitrate? If ammonia is that scarce that it is being consumed as rapidly as it is being made available it would make sense that any small amount of ammonia converted to nitrate by the bacteria would be drawn upon as a source of nitrogen.




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Didnt i just say if they have no nitrates its because they probly have 3 fish in a large tank and sparcly feed them ? Meaning no ammonia.
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Old 08-28-2015, 08:04 AM   #13
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Didnt i just say if they have no nitrates its because they probly have 3 fish in a large tank and sparcly feed them ? Meaning no ammonia.

You can have 0ppm nitrates in a moderately stocked smaller tank if you have enough plants. You said honestly plants don't use nitrates but they do.


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Old 08-28-2015, 08:30 AM   #14
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You can have 0ppm nitrates in a moderately stocked smaller tank if you have enough plants. You said honestly plants don't use nitrates but they do.


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Terrestrial plants more readily use nitrate than aquatic plants. Mainly due to symbiotic relationships with nitrogen fixers in the roots of the plants.

Aquatic plants do use nitrate it just takes longer to do so.

That being said bacteria work faster than plants. As long as your PH is above the minimum for the nitrogen cycle plants are absorbing various forms or nitrogen as bacteria work.

With plant toxicity to ammonia the university of California performed studies on ammonia and retardation of growth by studying plant mitochondria. In dry form the the effect was much higher than the effect of gaseous ammonia. Where
3.3 x 10-3 over 5 hours caused a 78% drop in plant respiration. In gaseous form the same a concentration of 1.6 x10-3 caused a 23% decline. These amounts were higher than we currently keep in our aquariums this was a study on the effects of agricultural run off.


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Old 08-28-2015, 01:42 PM   #15
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Terrestrial plants more readily use nitrate than aquatic plants. Mainly due to symbiotic relationships with nitrogen fixers in the roots of the plants.

Aquatic plants do use nitrate it just takes longer to do so.

That being said bacteria work faster than plants. As long as your PH is above the minimum for the nitrogen cycle plants are absorbing various forms or nitrogen as bacteria work.

With plant toxicity to ammonia the university of California performed studies on ammonia and retardation of growth by studying plant mitochondria. In dry form the the effect was much higher than the effect of gaseous ammonia. Where
3.3 x 10-3 over 5 hours caused a 78% drop in plant respiration. In gaseous form the same a concentration of 1.6 x10-3 caused a 23% decline. These amounts were higher than we currently keep in our aquariums this was a study on the effects of agricultural run off.


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Interesting. I'm just quoting from the book and Diana's and others experiments. The ammonia toxicity was really species dependant and the toxicity levels were very sporadic.


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