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Old 03/24/2014, 05:57 PM   #26
Secondsbest
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Nice thread! I too am starting a manatee grass biotope, but mine is a 29 gallon RDSB sump for a 75 gallon reef tank. I went with a 2 inch thick layer of ~5mm crushed shell at the bottom to fight anoxic conditions, a 4 inch thick middle layer of ~1mm arogonite sand for the root structures, and a 1 inch layer of sugar fine oolitic on top to keep detritus from clogging the system too quickly. For initial nutrients, I've placed a very few small pieces of plant spikes. Since this sump is a settling tank for a larger system, I believe no further fertilization will be required. ASW replaces many micro nutrients with each water change, and macro will come from display waste. I was able to seed the sand with a few cups from another display, plus i seeded with sand i collected from a manatee grass bed. I too am considering bio balls, but I'm going to wait and see how my nitrate settles after my cycle matures. If my display macro algae limits nitrate, I'll just add bio balls upstream the sand bed. The only thing I've learned so far, on this setup, is that I should have waited to add the grass. if I use the strong light that the grasses need, pest algae and diatoms explode due to the nutrient rich new tank water. If I dimm the light, the grass yellows out and dies back. I'm only about a month in, and I've lost half the height of my grasses. Luckily, the roots I've checked are still pearly white. I would recommend adding the first grasses after your tank has had a few months to mature.


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Old 03/24/2014, 07:19 PM   #27
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Thanks, SecondsBest for sharing your experience. You said you were about a month in right? Is your display tank the same age, or is your seagrass sump the only new element? What do you think is the source of nutrients in your "nutrient rich new tank water"? The substrate? The display tank? I was planning to plant heavily with seagrass from the start to outcompete the algae. Do you think this is a mistake? It seems to me if there are excess nutrients in the water, why not plant early? If you don't, then there is nothing to compete with the algae.

I'd appreciate any other thoughts you have. And I look forward to hearing your results when you implement the bio balls!

It'd be great to avoid that early algae phase. But is it really possible? Even when I planted heavily in my freshwater tanks I still got algae while the plants got established. I'm guessing this happened because I may have added fish too soon and/or I covered the eco-complete with only a light layer of gravel, allowing nutrients to easily enter the bulk water. I hope to avoid those mistakes with this tank.

I've read that seagrasses get the majority of their nutrients through their roots, just like terrestrial plants. I'm going to try to confine most of the nutrients to the substrate and keep the water nutrient-poor. Also, per discussion earlier in this thread, I'm going to start with a less nutrient rich substrate than I had originally planned. Wish me luck!

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!


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Old 03/24/2014, 08:12 PM   #28
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This 75 gallon display tank, and the 29 gallon sump, are new. I also have a 20 gallon down stream of the 29. The 20 has a shallow sand bed of about 15 pounds oolitic, plus 20 pounds of reef ruble, all established for six months on another tank setup. The 20 also contains my skimmer plus the evicted tenants from my other tank. For the display, I put in 100 pounds dry rock, and then I added 10 pounds live rock from my other tank. The display is bare bottom. I consider the water nutrient rich because I had heavily stocked the display with macro algae I collected locally. By heavily, I mean a 5gallon buckets worth. It was also packed with thousands of inverts. A good part of this died off, kick starting my new tank cycle. I then removed most of the macro algae, leaving some specimens, plus all the inverts to establish. At the one month point, my parameters for the nitrogen cycle are all good (all undetectable, including nitrate), but I'm sure the dry rock needs more time to establish. Green film, red hair, and diatoms are growing faster than my macros. Grass stems have died back, but the rhizomes are growing. From my experience, this is just a continuing part of a new tank cycle, and I would rather not worry about nursing the grass while I did nutrient export. I think your plans are still workable, but I wouldn't expect explosive macro algae or grass growth up front. That may be more evident for you since you don't have cured live rock or sand in the works. As for the bio balls, I will only add them if I don't see grass and macro growth, and if nitrates remain undetectable; otherwise, I prefer to keep nitrates low for the corals that I will add to the display in another month or so.


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Old 03/24/2014, 10:03 PM   #29
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Tell us a bit about the two buckets of mix to make mangroves. I have always wanted to do a mangrove edge tank but thought I would use bent PVC pipe and make then look more real with a bit of that sculpting mix.


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Old 03/24/2014, 10:13 PM   #30
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Great info Secondbest, thanks. I see how you are going through your new tank situation with a heavy nutrient load - a tricky situation!

I hope to avoid the nutrient heavy water in the beginning by not adding fish or curing live rock in the tank. So this tank will be a bit different than a new reef tank or fish only setup. I agree I shouldn't expect explosive seagrass growth at first. I've just got to be patient.

I really learned a lot from the "Old Favorites" threads. Some of those grass and macro folks had little to no fish loads, so they were dosing nutrients, which of course seems insane to reef keepers! Adjusting the ratio of nitrate to phosphate is pretty mind-blowing stuff. Have your read any of those threads?

Since you said you have near zero nitrate, but still nutrient-heavy water, maybe your N to P ratio is off. Maybe you should consider cranking up the nitrate factory to help your plants export the phosphate.


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Old 03/24/2014, 10:32 PM   #31
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Well, JPF, one is the resin, one is the hardener. You mix them at a one to one ratio to get the clay, then you sculpt. Since I've never used it before I don't have much else to tell at this point. Once I get my hands dirty, I should have more to say about it. I look forward to sharing the experience!

I think using PVC should work well. I'm probably going to replace my plastic bottles with PVC myself to get a sturdier structure.

I'm figuring it out as I go. With all my design constraints (fitting a powerhead inside it, getting it under my hood), my project is much more complicated than just sculpting the root. But I like a challenge and the more I fool with it, the closer I come to finishing this thing.

So I want to get it right the first time, so I don't have to do it again!


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Old 03/24/2014, 10:34 PM   #32
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Oh, also, I started a new thread on my fake mangrove root in the DYI section.


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Old 03/25/2014, 08:32 AM   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Hoaster View Post
It'd be great to avoid that early algae phase. But is it really possible? Even when I planted heavily in my freshwater tanks I still got algae while the plants got established. I'm guessing this happened because I may have added fish too soon and/or I covered the eco-complete with only a light layer of gravel, allowing nutrients to easily enter the bulk water. I hope to avoid those mistakes with this tank.

I've read that seagrasses get the majority of their nutrients through their roots, just like terrestrial plants. I'm going to try to confine most of the nutrients to the substrate and keep the water nutrient-poor. Also, per discussion earlier in this thread, I'm going to start with a less nutrient rich substrate than I had originally planned. Wish me luck!

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!
I would suggest that you try carbon dosing in order to 'kick start' the plants.Rather than nitrate dosing or allowing nitrate to build up.


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Seagrass,Mother nature's way of organic carbon dosing.

"Nitrification is controlled primarily by 02 and nitrogen as ammonium supply,
while denitrification is controlled by nitrate and organic carbon supply" Seagrasses 2006

Life on earth depends on plants-without plants,no life.Alf Jacob Nilsen

Current Tank Info: 125 DT,135 grass fuge/sump;75g seagrass/seahorse tank 70 fuge/sump
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Old 03/25/2014, 09:50 AM   #34
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Thanks, 3d-Reef, I will. I have a CO2 setup for my freshwater planted tank, which I originally bought for my calcium reactor for my reef tank.

I don't plan to add nitrate until my seagrass gets nitrate limited. This shouldn't happen until some time after my sand bed matures and/or I add fish (and feed them) and phosphate levels rise, throwing the N to P ratio out of balance.

I've been thinking about how to make my old trickle filter adjustable. As the seagrass gets established, I expect it's ability to uptake nitrate will grow. It would be cool to make the trickle tower 'modular', so I could add height and bio balls as needed.


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Old 03/25/2014, 12:27 PM   #35
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It may need inorganic C after it has become established...I was suggesting dosing organic C until does become established.Like what happens in an older seagrass bed.The grass provides OC to the bacteria,in turn the bacteria release P too the plants,and denitrification of N03.


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Seagrass,Mother nature's way of organic carbon dosing.

"Nitrification is controlled primarily by 02 and nitrogen as ammonium supply,
while denitrification is controlled by nitrate and organic carbon supply" Seagrasses 2006

Life on earth depends on plants-without plants,no life.Alf Jacob Nilsen

Current Tank Info: 125 DT,135 grass fuge/sump;75g seagrass/seahorse tank 70 fuge/sump
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Old 03/25/2014, 12:51 PM   #36
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What would you suggest I dose as a good source of organic carbon? Or maybe something I could include in the substrate from the start?


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Current Tank Info: 180g Seagrass-Mangrove Mudbank Lagoon
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Old 03/25/2014, 08:12 PM   #37
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About two and a half years ago I completely tore down the grass tank one week and set it back up the next weekend with new sand(above ratio). I used plain 'ole white vinegar for dosing.Dosing to the water column does make it's way down into the substrate to an extent.
With in two months I had new shoots coming up.


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Seagrass,Mother nature's way of organic carbon dosing.

"Nitrification is controlled primarily by 02 and nitrogen as ammonium supply,
while denitrification is controlled by nitrate and organic carbon supply" Seagrasses 2006

Life on earth depends on plants-without plants,no life.Alf Jacob Nilsen

Current Tank Info: 125 DT,135 grass fuge/sump;75g seagrass/seahorse tank 70 fuge/sump
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Old 03/25/2014, 10:37 PM   #38
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Thanks, 3d-Reef. Oh yeah, vinegar! I've read a good bit about the carbon-dosing craze. A very interesting concept-and proven to work if done right. I had thought about applying the concept to feeding sponges and gorgonians and possibly flame scallops, instead of exporting the excess bacteria with a skimmer.

I had not thought of carbon dosing (other than CO2) for my grass. So you think it would help establish the beneficial bacteria that assists the roots with nutrient uptake? Did you dose vinegar right after you re-set up you grass tank? Did you use a skimmer for export?


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Current Tank Info: 180g Seagrass-Mangrove Mudbank Lagoon

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Old 03/26/2014, 07:46 AM   #39
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Well...if you think about it.An establish grass bed produces two things during photosynthesis.Oxygen and sugars (organic carbon).
When you transplant plants there is a time when they are in shock.During this time frame they have to use up stored carbohydrates to convert No3 into a useable form (NH3). With the help of bacteria of course.

My thought was to supply the organic carbon so the reserves would not be used up too fast so the plant won't slowly die over a couple of months and it would also help get the bacteria to become established.
Does that make sense?


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Seagrass,Mother nature's way of organic carbon dosing.

"Nitrification is controlled primarily by 02 and nitrogen as ammonium supply,
while denitrification is controlled by nitrate and organic carbon supply" Seagrasses 2006

Life on earth depends on plants-without plants,no life.Alf Jacob Nilsen

Current Tank Info: 125 DT,135 grass fuge/sump;75g seagrass/seahorse tank 70 fuge/sump
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Old 03/26/2014, 08:17 AM   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Hoaster View Post
Thanks, 3d-Reef. Oh yeah, vinegar! I've read a good bit about the carbon-dosing craze. A very interesting concept-and proven to work if done right. I had thought about applying the concept to feeding sponges and gorgonians and possibly flame scallops, instead of exporting the excess bacteria with a skimmer.

I had not thought of carbon dosing (other than CO2) for my grass. So you think it would help establish the beneficial bacteria that assists the roots with nutrient uptake? Did you dose vinegar right after you re-set up you grass tank? Did you use a skimmer for export?
Yeah,I started dosing vinegar a few days after I set it back up.Yes I do run a skimmer for export of the excess.


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Seagrass,Mother nature's way of organic carbon dosing.

"Nitrification is controlled primarily by 02 and nitrogen as ammonium supply,
while denitrification is controlled by nitrate and organic carbon supply" Seagrasses 2006

Life on earth depends on plants-without plants,no life.Alf Jacob Nilsen

Current Tank Info: 125 DT,135 grass fuge/sump;75g seagrass/seahorse tank 70 fuge/sump
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Old 03/26/2014, 04:22 PM   #41
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You mentioned a few posts back that once you build the substrate the nutrients that are in it are there for life so you plan to just manipulate the nutrients in the water column.

As a former planted tank person I think this may be a mistake. First, nutrients do move back and forth between the water column and the sand bed. But more important, if your seagrass is used to getting nutrients from the sediments then forcing it to compete with nutrients only in the water column is probably a bad idea.

In the water column, all sorts of micro and macro algae can get at the nutrients, probably easier than the sea grass can. To help the sea grass outcompete these undesirables, you need to help them out by feeding the roots.

One thing that planted tank people do is put nutrients into clear gell caps (the sort of thing health food stores carry) and then push them into the substrate near the roots of the plant they want to feed. I think you should consider something like this.

Thanks,
Rod


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Old 03/26/2014, 06:21 PM   #42
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HoustonHobby, I agree. I think that was someone else who posted about feeding the water rather than the substrate. I want my water as nutrient poor as is practical for this application.

Basically I want to start this tank doing everything I can to favor the seagrasses and starve the algae and cyanobacteria. I want to confine the nutrients to the substrate as best I can. I like your idea of using gelatin caps to fertilize the roots. Sort of like the plant tabs, but you're able to custom-taylor the nutrients you want in there.

I'm going to set up a refugium as well with chaeto and ulva to help soak excess nutrients.

I am currently a freshwater plant person myself, with a 240 gallon tank with metal halide lighting, CO2, and a whole lot of plants! As I've been planning this new tank, I've been letting the plants get out of hand!

As I said back in the beginning of this thread, this tank started as a reef tank, then I changed over to FW planted. Now I want to combine what I've learned on the reef side and the FW planted side to make this SW seagrass dominated tank.

Here's a pic of my current tank, left 2/3s of it.



I appreciate your thoughts. Keep 'um coming!


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Current Tank Info: 180g Seagrass-Mangrove Mudbank Lagoon
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Old 03/26/2014, 09:34 PM   #43
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You obviously have the talent for this. None of my planted tanks ever looked that good. Thanks for the pic.


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Old 03/26/2014, 10:14 PM   #44
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Wow thanks, HoustonHobby for the compliment! You made my day.

By the way, what did you put in the gel caps for your plants?


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Old 03/27/2014, 07:34 AM   #45
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Seagrasses out compete algae by recycling what little nutrients that are available to them.The less there is in the substrate...the less there is too leach out into the water column.
The plants already uptake from the water column.It's how they compete with algae.By sucking the nutrients down below what algae can survive.

If you put in more nutrients than what the plants need to recycle.Your only going to feed the algae/cyano.
Just saying.


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Seagrass,Mother nature's way of organic carbon dosing.

"Nitrification is controlled primarily by 02 and nitrogen as ammonium supply,
while denitrification is controlled by nitrate and organic carbon supply" Seagrasses 2006

Life on earth depends on plants-without plants,no life.Alf Jacob Nilsen

Current Tank Info: 125 DT,135 grass fuge/sump;75g seagrass/seahorse tank 70 fuge/sump
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Old 03/27/2014, 08:29 AM   #46
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I never made caps of my own. I bought them already made from a guy on the plantedtanks forum who made them up for fresh water. I have no idea if salt water formulas would be different but I doubt it. I bought dry ferts from some place I can't remember but it is an easy google. I used them to dose the water column but you could put them in caps easily. I got gell caps from amazon prime and use them myself for medical purposes.


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Old 03/27/2014, 10:55 AM   #47
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Thanks 3D-Reef. That really is the key I think. How much nutrients to provide the seagrass at startup, to give them a head start without giving algae what it wants. It seems to me that putting the nutrients deep in the sand bed, while minimizing water column nutrients is a good solution. I agree that they will leach out into the water, but hopefully that will take some time, and give the seagrass a head start.

You said before, once you put something in the sandbed, it's there until you break down the tank. I get your point but on the other hand, I've added heavy nutrient input to my freshwater planted tank substrate, using plant tabs. The plants suck them up and grow like weeds, then slow down as the tabs get used up. I pushed them down about 5 inches deep, and I did not notice any uptick in algae production in the tank. I'm sure some leached out, but overall the strategy worked. My plants outcompeted the algae.

I realize of course these are different plants, but I know that plants will use nutrients that are available to them, even if they are adapted to nutrient-poor conditions. Diana Walstad did some experiments that proved this pretty convincingly. Her book "The Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" is excellent.

I do agree with you that putting too much of my aged eco-complete in there would be a mistake. I'm just going to have to (re)read all I can find about seagrass substrates in nature and come up with my own secret sauce. If I recall, some exist in nutrient-poor substrates and some in nutrient-rich ones.

I think our biggest difference of opinion is on the seagrass' ability to take up nutrients from the water column. Here's my point of view: these are higher plants with separate components that do different things. Basically, the roots take up nutrients and the leaves photosynthesize. They are not macroalgae, which are much simpler plants that do get most of their nutrients from the water column. So in my opinion, feeding the roots and not the bulk water is the best way to favor the seagrass.


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Current Tank Info: 180g Seagrass-Mangrove Mudbank Lagoon
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Old 03/27/2014, 04:26 PM   #48
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I'm just going to start thinking out loud here...as someone with ZERO firsthand experience growing seagrass, but is coming from a similar place as you (FW planted tanks) and is trying to start a seagrass tank. I'm also a "soil scientist" with specific interests in aquatic/wetland systems, so I have some theoretical background as well.

Even the fine ecocomplete is supposed to be around 0.5-3 mm, which actually may be a bit coarser than what you could see in a typical seagrass bed (depending on the location, you'd obviously want to focus on the Carib. areas). I'm honestly not sure how much of a difference it would make, but you probably wouldn't want to overdo it compared to some finer grains.

Regarding the nutrient issue, yes, "higher order plants" have roots for a reason but when it comes to aquatic plants that doesn't mean it's their exclusive means of nutrient uptake. The aquatic environment is different than the terrestrial, where water conservation is at a premium.

Interesting article I found with a quick (emphasis on quick) Google search: http://www.int-res.com/articles/meps/134/m134p195.pdf

Pesky kinetics aside, it seems that (for this particular species and location at least) leaf uptake is oftentimes needed because the availability of nutrients in the soil is a bit more complex and not always sufficient. Of course, this does ignore 1) root tabs that are placed strategically will likely better target root uptake over what's just there in the bulk soil and 2) the fact that I'm sure this system is NOT algae free

I do understand the concerns with dosing nutrients that are accidentally available for unwanted algal/bacterial growth...but at the same time water column dosing is, at least in my opinion, far easier to quantify and monitor because water chemistry is a bit more straightforward than soils...and that's particularly true when you look at what methodology is available for hobbyists. I'm sure you're also familiar with many dosing strategies in the FW world that advocate for "overdosing" the water column, and I've seen algae-free tanks using that method as well. But usually those are essentially tanks on steroids, pumping out huge growth rates with high light and carbon supplementation...

Me? I always get algae, no matter what it seems...I've resigned to that fact despite the fact that I can spew all this theory without anything to really show for it. I think it's an interesting topic, for sure...people will be "debating" nutrients and aquariums forever

In any case, I'm following what you're doing with this setup, whichever route you take, because I'm jealous you get to do this on a much, MUCH bigger scale than I...


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Old 03/27/2014, 05:47 PM   #49
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jpappy789, it's funny because I was just reading articles online, and the one you mentioned was one of them. It seems seagrasses are adaptable to varying conditions, allowing them to use their leaves for nutrient uptake if they are more bioavailable in the water than the sediments.

I also reread some chapters in Diana Walstad's book "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" and found some tidbits I'd forgotten. She is referring to fresh water plants, so I don't know whether these assessments are also true for salt water seagrasses. Paraphrased, "Aquatic plants, unlike terrestrial ones, prefer ammonia to nitrate. They have to convert nitrate to ammonia at a significant energy cost. Aquatic plants prefer to uptake phosphorus from the substrate via their roots. They prefer to uptake potassium and ammonium through the water via their leaves".

What would really be helpful for me is info pertaining particularly to manatee grass, which is what I want to grow. I guess it's back to the internet!

I agree it's fun to go on about scientific theory, but the proof is in the pudding! I will keep researching, but I still think that at startup, I want to favor substrate nutrients over water nutrients. After the grass gets established (assuming I don't kill it), I will experiment with dosing the water vs the substrate, using the gel caps and different nutrient formulas.

I don't want so much to 'overdrive' plant production as 'coddle' them when first planted. From my experience with fresh water planted tanks, I see this as the most challenging phase. Over time I want them to settle into an equilibrium with the conditions in my tank. Eventually, I should be able to determine which nutrients are limiting growth and dose those.

It's ironic that such a relaxing hobby as aquarium keeping can turn you into an amateur scientist! I wish I'd more attention in school…


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Old 03/27/2014, 10:28 PM   #50
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I believe Ms. Walstad is correct about NH4 vs NO3...generally the former is preferred in N assimilation depending on what's available.


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