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Old 11-11-2022, 10:06 PM   #1
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Sudden Java fern die off

Hello,

I am still relatively new at aquariums, especially planted ones.
I had a sudden die off of Java ferns. They are just planted in my stone substrate.
They were doing rather well for the past 3 years, even reproducing more plants from their tips. Suddenly, in the past 2 to 3 months, they started dying off and I have one left. They started browning and 3 plants lost all their leaves over a period of 3 months.

Any idea of what might cause this sudden die off?

Thanks!

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Old 11-12-2022, 01:59 AM   #2
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Can you post some pictures of the plants?
How long is the tank light on for?
What sort of light is on the tank?
Do you use a plant fertiliser (if yes, how often and how much)?
Do you gravel clean the substrate around the plants?

Java Fern should have the rhizome above the substrate. The roots can grow into the substrate but the rhizome should be above it. This is unlikely to be the cause because the plants have been in the tank for a few years, but it is something to check.

Dirty substrate, a sudden change in water chemistry (pH, GH, KH) or water quality (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate) can kill plants. Snails can attack plants at night if there is not enough food for the snails.

Check the water chemistry in the tank and tap water. Your water company might have changed their water source or modified what they put in it. You can contact your water company via their website and get a list of what is in the water.

If you have fluorescent light globes above the tank, these can lose colour spectrum over time and that can affect plants. Fluorescent globes should be changed once a year. You should change the fluoro starter for each globe too.

If you have LED lights, the colour spectrum of these do not change over time and are fine and do not need replacing.
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Old 11-12-2022, 03:55 AM   #3
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Thanks for taking the time to reply ��

I did check water chemistry-- no ammonia, nitrates were 10 and ph looked like it was about 7 ish. The ph definitely dropped because usually it runs about 7.5. I am attributing this to changes in my street water source because I haven't done anything differently....
I dose sparingly with seachem flourish - 1 ml every other week in a 10 g tank.
I've had the same formula for years and done well so I'm sad this happened ��.
I did my routine water change today--i usually do about a 30% change once a week. My other fish looks good, feeding vigorously, fins are perky.
I probably don't run my light as much as I should...maybe an hour or two a day when home from work. But, the tank does get some good filtered light all morning. It's an LED light.

Thanks for taking the time to read.
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Old 11-12-2022, 04:51 AM   #4
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Brown leafs like that could be an indicator of phosphate deficiency. Your nitrate is a bit low for healthy plant growth too.

Flourish essentially contains zero nitrogen (nitrate) or phosphate.

Lighting could also be an issue. Even if your tank is getting sunlight, if its sat at the back of room say 4m from a window, that's more than a 90% drop in light intensity compared to if it was adjacent to a window.
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Old 11-12-2022, 05:27 AM   #5
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Thanks for that tidbit.
One theory I had was that my tank was actually too clean...
Any advice on phosphate supplementation? Would it mess with any other parameters?
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Old 11-12-2022, 05:36 AM   #6
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If you live in a country that can get NA Thrive, its an all-in-one fertiliser that also contains an appreciable amount of nitrogen and phosphate. Aquarium Co op also does a similar product, but i cant remember the name. There will be others, tropica does one too.

They will increase your nitrate. I think a single dose of Thrive adds about 6ppm of nitrate.

Here in the UK, TNC Complete is an alternative to the fertilisers that are available in the US but not here.
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Old 11-12-2022, 08:05 AM   #7
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I wouldn't add phosphates unless you have bright light and lots of fast growing plants (Java Fern isn't a fast growing plant). Phosphates will cause algae problems unless everything is in balance.

I would increase the lighting times to 6-8 hours a day and monitor the plant and algae growth.
If you get lots of algae, decrease the lighting time by an hour and monitor over the next few weeks.
If you get no algae, increase lighting time by an hour and monitor for a couple of weeks.
If you get some (small patches) green algae on the glass, that is about right.

-----------

I would lift the Java fern and tie it gently to the rock. The plant will be able to send its roots into the substrate but the rhizome will stay above the gravel and you can gravel clean the tank without disturbing the roots.
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Old 11-13-2022, 03:12 AM   #8
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I didn’t have long term success with Java ferns myself. I tied them to rocks or other decor. Some escaped & lasted months freely floating in the tank.
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Old 12-04-2022, 04:52 PM   #9
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I think you hit the nail on the head when you suggested that my water source had changed... something caused a drop in pH. I haven't done anything different, same treatments. Normally, my tank runs around 7.5 but it dropped to 7. Now it's back to the baseline of 7.5. My city had to have done something different.

I also think my tank is too lightly stocked at the moment to support plant life. I don't really mind though... I'd rather see happy fish until things get stabilized.

Thank you for your help!!!
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Old 12-04-2022, 05:01 PM   #10
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I actually had great success with the Java ferns. They began reproducing and sending off babies... I actually replanted the babies and my tanks were full of them.

My problem is that I think my tank is too lightly stocked...nitrates stay around 10 and I don't think my tank is "dirty" enough to support the amount of plants I had going on.
Oh well...my fish are more important at the moment....such a balance!
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Old 12-04-2022, 11:30 PM   #11
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If you are concerned about lack of nutrients for the plants, get a liquid iron based aquarium plant fertiliser and use it at half strength. It will provide some nutrients but not too much and the slow growing plants will be able to use them.

I used Sera Florena but there are other brands too. Normally you have the iron (Fe) level at 1mg/L (1ppm), but for slow growing plants you have it at half that (0.5ppm).
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