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Nutrient Deficiency

Contents:

  1. Nutrient Deficiency Symptoms
    by nfrank-at-parsifal.nando.net (Neil Frank) (Sun, 25 Jun 95)
  2. Call for observations: Deficiency/toxicity symptoms
    by krombhol/teclink.net (Paul Krombholz) (Fri, 6 Feb 1998)
  3. Nitrate addition
    by krandall/world.std.com (Tue, 08 Dec 1998)
  4. Nitrate addition
    by Neil Frank <nfrank/mindspring.com> (Wed, 09 Dec 1998)
  5. General hardness
    by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com> (Sat, 6 Feb 1999)

Nutrient Deficiency Symptoms

by nfrank-at-parsifal.nando.net (Neil Frank)
Date: Sun, 25 Jun 95

>Michael Irlbeck writes:
>
>Anybody know of specific symptoms or signs to look for when suspecting macro 
>nutrient deficiency?
>

Here is a table I adapted from Jacobsen, Niels. AQUARIUM PLANTS (1979). Blandford Press Ltd.

It extends the information recently provided on the digest by David Whittaker about mobile and immobile elements.

Other useful information can be obtained from Krombholz, Paul. "Mineral Nutrition of Aquatic Plants, Part 1" THE AQUATIC GARDENER (1993), V6 n5.

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY IN AQUATIC PLANTS
Element Leaves to first
show deficiency
Symptom
Nitrogen Old Leaves turn yellowish (*)
Phosphorus Old Premature leaf fall-off
Similar to nitrogen deficiency
Calcium New Damage and die off of growing points
Yellowish leaf edges
Magnesium Old Yellow spots (*)
Potassium Old Yellow areas, then withering of leaf edges and tips
Sulfur New Similar to nitrogen deficiency
Iron New Leaves turn yellow
Greenish nerves enclosing yellow leaf tissue
First seen in fast growing plants
Manganese (**) Dead yellowish tissue between leaf nerves
Copper (**) Dead leaf tips and withered edges
Zinc Old Yellowish areas between nerves, Starting at leaf tip and edges
Boron New Dead shoot tips, new side shoots also die
Molybdenum Old Yellow spots between leaf nerves, then brownish areas along edges.
Inhibited flowering

(*) The plants may also become reddish from the presence of the red pigment anthocyanin.

(**) Although Jacobsen does not differentiate between new and old leaves, David Whittacker reports from a hydoponics book that boron, calcium, copper, iron, manganese and sulfur are immobile elements and whose deficiencies affect new leaves.


Call for observations: Deficiency/toxicity symptoms

by krombhol/teclink.net (Paul Krombholz)
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 1998

>From Pete and Kellie Schmidt <petes-at-nas.com>, Feb 5:

>
>I have been looking (unsuccessfully) for an article that lists target
>ranges, minimum / maximum concentrations for major / minor / trace elements
>and their deficiency / toxicity symptoms.
>
>I would like to compile as much information as I can on the topic, and "get
>it in the archives" at the Krib, APD and possibly TAG under an easy to find
>topic heading.
>
>The only "compiled"  info I have located on symptoms is in the Krib archive:
>[address deleted... it's this article! - Editor]
>
>I am hoping to elaborate on the table by including observations, comments
>and hopefully even pictures by fellow APD'ers
>
>I have several references for hydroponic (terrestrial plant) nutrient
>concentration max/mins and deficiency/toxicity symptoms, and I'm curious to
>observe the parallels with aquatic plants.
>
>SO... here's the request:
>
>1. If you have observed deficiency or toxicity symptoms or you have
>information on nutrient target, maximum or  minimum  concentrations,  Please
>send them to me (email) and I will compile and post the results.
>
>2. If you have pictures of symptomatic plants, I'll try to get them into the
>article as well.
>
>3. If someone has already done this, please let me know and I'll try to
>ensure that the information can be found (Advanced Newbie FAQ Deflector
>Shield comming on line <g>)

Steve Pushak, Dave Huebert, and I are members of the AGA Technical Advisory
Committee, headed by Diana Walstad. This is a provisional committee of the
Aquatic Gardener's Association.  The four of us have been talking along
similar lines, and we agree with you that there is a need for more pictures
of deficiency symptoms of various essential nutrients in aquatic plants and
also a need to establish recommended ranges of concentrations of nutrients
in aquarium water.  We have recently been working up a number of
experiments that we would like to see people do on substrates, nutrient
deficiencies, green water, etc.  We hope to have  descriptions of these
experiments published in one of the future editions of The Aquatic Gardener
with hopes that we can find people willing and able to do them.

In the meantime, anyone wanting to do anything along these lines does not
have to wait, but can contact Diana, myself, or Steve.  Be prepared to get
involved in a lot of discussion about how best to do the experiment.

I am the photo editor of TAG and would love to get any photos of deficiency
symptoms where it is pretty well known what the deficiency is; for example,
adding the element cured the symptoms.  Ideally, it would be nice to have
pictures of mild deficiency symptoms as well as severe deficiency symptoms.
Color slides would be best.  I would like to get, for AGA, a collection of
digitized images of deficiency symptoms that we could use in articles on
deficiencies and possibly post on the TAG web page.  If we could accomplish
this, it would be of great value to aquatic gardeners.

in a post to Dave Huebert I made an attempt to add to or modify the
deficiency symptoms in you saw in the Krib archive.  The modifications are
based on my own observations, and are by no means the last word:

Here are my changes:

Nitrogen-----------entire plant turns yellow green, and the older leaves become
                   more yellowish than the younger.  Older leaves do not die
                   unless deficiency is extreme (almost never seen in aquaria).

Phosphorus---------Plant stops growing and becomes darker green or stays green.
                   Some species may become purple with excess anthocyanin
                   pigments building up. Other species do not produce excess
                   anthocyanins and just stay green and small.

Calcium------------ (1) mild deficiency---Smaller, distorted new leaf growth.
                    Reduced leaf tissue, with the central vein persisting.
                    Leaves often cupped, rather than flat.   (2)moderate
                    deficiency---Often sudden bends or twisting of leaf, which
                    is now much reduced in size.  White streaks or white edges
                    in new growth.  Roots are stubby and twisted.  Root
tips may
                    die.   Leaves of Vallisneria are strongly crinkled as
though
                    they have tried to grow and got jammed in a small space.
                    (3) severe deficiency---New growth almost entirely white.
                    Leaves are tiny deformed stumps.  Growing points for both
                    shoot and root die.

Magnesium-----------In dicots---Yellowing of older leaves that starts from the
                    egdes inwards.  The midrib may remain green while the edges
                    are yellowed or whitish and dying (I don't know what this
                    deficiency looks like in monocots like Vallisneria, but it
                    should involve death of the older leaves. )

Potassium-----------Small dead areas appear in older leaves.  These can start
                    like little pinpoints and grow.  In some species, like
                    Ceratopteris, the older leaves stay green while the little
                    dead spots grow.  The new leaves are reduced in size and
                    leaf area, looking a bit 'singed'.  In other species the
                    older leaves can turn yellow before they die, but they do
                    not have green persisting along the major veins as in
                    magnesium deficiency.

Iron----------------Reduced chlorophyll in new growth.  Leaves and stem are
                    about the same shade.  Growing tips of Ceratophyllum become
                    pinkish and then white.  Eigeria densa tips become greenish
                    yellow to yellow with the leaves small and clasped close to
                    the stem.  The new leaves of swords are smaller with
patches
                    or broad streaks extending lengthwise that are more pale
                    than the rest of the leaf (in mild deficiency).  In more
                    severe deficiency in most plants chlorophyll is lacking
                    completely in the new growth which soon dies.

Boron---------------Very similar to calcium deficiency.  New growth is
                    distorted and smaller, and then the growing tips of both
                    roots and shoots die.  In mild deficiency in Crypts, the
                    leaves are cupped and the roots are shorter and distorted.





Paul Krombholz, in soggy central Mississippi.


Nitrate addition

by krandall/world.std.com
Date: Tue, 08 Dec 1998

Susan Romano wrote:

>Interesting observations from Steve regarding calcium deficiencies, Karen
>concerning  potassium nitrate and Eric about CaCO3 and MgCO3. Interesting
>for me because I can't seem to grow java fern at all. I have great success
>with another fern,  Bolbitis heudelotii with only CO2, Flourish fertilizer
>and light. My nitrate level is undetectable with my Tetra nitrate test kit.
>It might appear that  Bolbitis heudelotii(why no common name as she types
>furiously), a rhizome typical plant,  can possibly make due with little
>nitrate as I assume that the other elements are covered in my
>fertilizer(all other plants are doing great). Calcium I add by daily
>scraping a little of a Aquarium Pharmaceuticals vitamin/mineral pyramid
>into the tank. The Bolbitis grows like gangbusters on very little nitrate
>it seems, as it receives no assistance via the substrate. I have even had
>good results from Bolbitis  with no CO2. 

I also keep B. heudelotii and another species of Bolbitis (not heteroclita
- - this one is another African, and more similar to heudelotii) in several
tanks, and it grows very well for me. (to the point of being invasive at
times<g>)  I do not happen to have any in this tank that suffered neglect
and in which the Javas melted, so I'm not sure whether the Bolbitis would
have been affected or not.

>Also, after reading Karen's post I
>wondered why she needed to add any nitrate to a neglected tank. In my
>experience when I neglect the tank,(stuff happens), the nitrate really
>shoots up. So does the green algae. Please excuse me now while I go change
>some water.

While I agree with you that it is _much_ more common for tanks to have to
much in the way of macronutrients than too little, it is not always the
case.  Many of us who have high light/strong growth tanks need to
supplement nitrate from time to time.  

I don't recommend doing this unless you are _SURE_ that the plants really
_are_ nitrogen deficient.  If you suspect a nitrogen deficiency, this it
the procedure I would suggest:

1. Observe the plants.  Are the OLDER leaves deteriorating too quickly?
Are the OLDER leaves turning yellow, while new growth, although normal in
color and shape is smaller than previous growth?

2. Make _sure_ there is no measurable nitrate in the tank using a good
quality _low range_ test kit.

Only if both of the above are true should you consider adding
macronutrients to a tank.  If you are pretty sure you have a macronutrient
deficiency, the safest way to test your theory is by inserting small pieces
of a low phosphate slow release terrestrial plant fertilizer around the
roots of affected plants.  (I have successfully used Jobes Plant Sticks for
Ferns and Palms) 

If you want to be more daring, you can add KNO3 directly to the water.  Use
very small amounts and don't raise the nitrate level above 5 ppm. (I use
even less)  Watch your plants.  If you have algae problems after this
treatment, you may have guessed wrong, or you may have high PO4 levels in
spite of the low nitrate.  But if the plants are using nitrate well, your
levels will soon back to insignificant if you don't add more.  If the
plants respond positively, you should see increased growth and a slowing of
the loss of older leaves quite quickly. (within a week or so)  

After a while, you'll get a feel for when you need to add nitrate just by
watching your plants.  I tend to err on the cautious side though, and test
to make sure that my observations agree with the test results before adding
more.  It is _much_ easier to increase nitrate levels than it is to solve
algae problems if you add too much!  If you are not running a CO2 injected
high light tank, with low-moderate fish load, the chances are _very_ slim
that your plants are nitrogen limited.


Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Association


Nitrate addition

by Neil Frank <nfrank/mindspring.com>
Date: Wed, 09 Dec 1998

>Date: Tue, 08 Dec 1998 09:33:11 -0500
>From: krandall@world.std.com
>Subject: Nitrate addition
>>Also, after reading Karen's post I
>>wondered why she needed to add any nitrate to a neglected tank. In my
>>experience when I neglect the tank,(stuff happens), the nitrate really
>>shoots up. So does the green algae. Please excuse me now while I go change
>>some water.
>
>While I agree with you that it is _much_ more common for tanks to have to
>much in the way of macronutrients than too little, it is not always the
>case.  Many of us who have high light/strong growth tanks need to
>supplement nitrate from time to time.  
>

Since my tanks are neglected most of the time <g>, I can really relate to
this thread.  Because I keep a low fish load in almost all of my aquaria,
including those w. added CO2, those tanks always have low nitrates. When I
neglect them, they are likely to miss their biweekly water change. My tap
water contains 2 ppm of Nitrogen. Some of this comes from the ammonium
released from the chloramine. Therefore, my plants get some of their
nitogen supply from the periodic water change.

Usually, this nitrogen plus the amount from fish food, animal waste
products and recyled vegetation is enough to maintain my desired plant
growth. When I am looking to get higher growth, or to respond to N
deficiency expecially in heavy feeders like Echinodorus, I add nitrates. (I
once tried to add ammonium directly, but do not recommend this. Too much
and a toxic situation can occur, even with low pH). The easy to obtain form
of nitrates is Sodium  Nitrate (Nitrate of Soda). Years ago, I bought my 2
pound bag (lifetime supply) for 3 bucks at garden section of the hardware
store. (The quality is more than adequate for aquariums. I have been using
it for almost 10 years).  As many of you have already noted, KNO3 is not
easiest to obtain material... also, it is more expensive than nitrate of
soda. KNO3 is only better if (a) you already have it on hand because it is
part of your normal fertilizing regime (e.g. PMDD) or (b) you use
commercial fertilizer and it DOES NOT contain potassium (K). IMHO, there is
no need to specifically add more K without the complete complement of other
elements that are routinely added with your plant fertilizer. If Karen is
using Tropica Master Grow, the K is provided in proper portion to the trace
elements. Neglecting the weekly fertlizer or bi-weekly water change is MUCH
more likely to cause deficiency with trace elements than K. 


Here is a comparison of the Nitrogen from NaNO3 and KNO3:

Compound		Weight (g) 	   Analyte	    Concentration (ppm)
			per 1/4 tsp.   		    of 1/4 t in 50 gallons
- ----------------------------------------------------------------------
sodium nitrate		1.8       	NO3-		7.0
NaNO3                                N+          1.5
(Nitrate of Soda)

Potassium nitrate 	1.4   	NO3-		4.5
KNO3						N+          1.0
(Salt Peter)	            

>I don't recommend doing this unless you are _SURE_ that the plants really
>_are_ nitrogen deficient.  If you suspect a nitrogen deficiency, this it
>the procedure I would suggest:
>
>1. Observe the plants.  Are the OLDER leaves deteriorating too quickly?
>Are the OLDER leaves turning yellow, while new growth, although normal in
>color and shape is smaller than previous growth?


Another indicator is duckweed. I seem to always have at least a few
floaters in my tanks and when the duck weed is NOT spreading  or is
chlorotic, I think about N. If I am doing my routine fertilization and
feeding the fish, I am pretty sure I have an N deficiency. In the extreme
example -if the tank is getting fertilizer with K and I am NOT feeding the
fish and the substrate has been undisturbed, then P may also be deficient.
P is also needed for water feeders like ferns and in my described (albeit
unusual) situation, it can also lead to a meltdown.

>
>2. Make _sure_ there is no measurable nitrate in the tank using a good
>quality _low range_ test kit.
>


After you test your tank once for nitrates once or twice and find that the
concentration is always less than a few ppm (say 1-5), and you are
periodically removing plants from the tank, then you can be pretty darn
sure that the nitrates are still low. This is a "feel" than you can develop
for your tank.

>Only if both of the above are true should you consider adding
>macronutrients to a tank.  If you are pretty sure you have a macronutrient
>deficiency, the safest way to test your theory is by inserting small pieces
>of a low phosphate slow release terrestrial plant fertilizer around the
>roots of affected plants.  (I have successfully used Jobes Plant Sticks for
>Ferns and Palms) 


>
>If you want to be more daring, you can add KNO3 directly to the water.  

I guess I am much more daring than Karen.:-) IMHO, it is MUCH safer to add
a 1/8 t of Nitrate of Soda (or KNO3) to 50 gal of water than a small piece
of jobes stick. The former will raise N less than 1ppm and may be less than
a water change. OTOH, the stick can release its water soluble phosphates
into the water and this can feed algae more than a small amount of nitrogen
alone. With a little practice, you will see that in a tank without a lot of
visible algae, even more N can be added without causing algae because the
plants will quickly suck it up. In fact, adding the N will cause the algae
to recede (one of the principles of PMDD). One must be careful to not over
do it or a deficiency can occur in another element... or your plants will
start growing faster than you wish:-) So, balance is needed and the N must
not be added in proportions that for example exceed the ratios in PMDD.
When I want that extra oomph from my plant growth, I add a small amount of
Nitrates with my addition of commercial fertilizer. But I need to be
prepared for the extra work during the monthly trimming.:-)

Neil


General hardness

by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com>
Date: Sat, 6 Feb 1999

On Friday, 5 Feb, 1999 Alex Pastor axked what the lowest Gh is that will
still support healthy plant life in an aquarium.

My tap water carries about 21 ppm (just over 1 degree) of total hardness
according the the city and my test kits read 2 degrees.

I've had likely calcium deficiencies in two Echinodorus spp. (osiris and
bleheri/amazonicus) and in Val.  The main symptom is deformed new growth.  
Boron deficiency is reported to cause the same symptoms, but my tap water
carries quite a bit of boron.  I've never (before, anyway) had problems
with any of our common stem plants - even Egeria densa which is reputed to
be a "hard water" plant grows well.  I've got a couple odd looking new
leaves on a giant hygrophilla; hence the paranthetic reservation above.

I figure this puts 21 ppm total hardness (1-2 degrees) near the
minimum where all of our plants will grow without problems.  But there's a
catch or two.

1)  All of my deficiency problems appear in one tank.  I can transplant
affected plants into another tank and the symptoms will disappear.  Even
in the problem tank, plants don't consistently show symptoms.  Val in
particular has grown very well in the past and only recently (after I
added new substrate material) has it had problems.  All of my tanks get
the same 15% water change per week and I use tap water in all of them, so
the different behaviors are something of a mystery.

2)  I imagine there some RO users and some folks up in the Pacific
northwest who are growing the same plants in water with even less general
hardness.  The amount of sodium in the water may alter the minimum amount
of hardness necessary for good growth.  On a guess, low sodium
concentrations might allow plants to stay healthy at lower total hardness
levels.  I have relatively high sodium concentrations in my tap water.
The nature and age of the substrate may also play some role.

This has probably been my single most tenacious problem growing plants, so
I am

Roger Miller
eagerly anticipating further discussion. 


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