ADA’s new Green Brighty Series adopts the new grouping approach by major components, instead of the conventional STEP 1-3 based on the elapsed time from the initial set-up of aquarium and Special LIGHTS/SHADE depending on sun/shade plants. This is to ensure the nutrients are applied appropriately depending on the condition of aquatic plants. Here, we introduce how to use ADA new liquid fertilizers.
■ Concept of liquid fertilizers in Nature Aquarium
Growing healthy and beautiful aquatic plants is an essential part of Nature Aquarium. In the time prior to the establishment of the current Nature Aquarium style, it was difficult to grow healthy, thriving aquatic plants and the hobbyists struggled in long term maintenance of aquatic plants in aquariums. Some factors which made it possible to grow healthy, thriving plants in the early days of Nature Aquarium included the presence of Power Sand (substrate additives) and the Green Brighty Series (liquid fertilizer), in addition to sufficiently bright lighting systems and CO2 systems. Among several functions of Power Sand, the one which has the most impact on plant growth is the function as a source of nutrient supply. Power Sand, a substrate additive which is spread at the very bottom of the substrate, contains rich organic and inorganic nutrients. With Power Sand, aquatic plants even grow on a substrate mainly made of sand or ceramics containing no nutrients.
Meanwhile, aquatic plants which spread leaves in water actively take up nutrients not only through roots but also through the surface of leaves. Using such characteristics of aquatic plants, the liquid fertilizer Green Brighty Series effectively supplies nutrients to the plants in aquarium. The basic concept of liquid fertilizers in Nature Aquarium is to supply insufficient nutrients from substrate. While nitrogen and phosphate are mainly supplied from the substrate made of Power Sand and Aqua Soil, potassium and trace elements (minerals), which tend to be deficient in the tank, are supplied by application of liquid fertilizers to the aquarium. When nitrogen supply decreases due to aging of substrate or when more trace elements (especially iron) are required as aquatic plants grow thick, these nutrients are supplemented with liquid fertilizers rich in nitrogen and iron. Supplementing deficient nutrients is also beneficial for prevention of algae, as it promotes aquatic plants’ intake of nitrogen and phosphate which can trigger algae. Applying liquid fertilizers is effective for good health of aquatic plants as well as maintenance of beautiful aquascape.
■ Choice of potassium-supplying liquid fertilizers based on water quality
Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are required in a relatively large quantity compared with other nutrients vital for aquatic plants. They also have a significant influence on plant growth. Among these three nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus are seldom in short supply in Nature Aquarium as they are supplied from the substrate made of Power Sand and Aqua Soil and also from fish droppings and unconsumed fish food. Rather, these nutrients are often in excess and lead to algae in the tank. The third vital nutrient, potassium, is usually in chronic deficiency in aquarium. The lack of potassium can be covered by applying Brighty K which supplies potassium and helps good plant growth. Potassium supplementation also helps prevent algae growth by promoting the plants’ intake of nitrogen and phosphate which trigger algae.
However, Brighty K is an alkaline fertilizer and the pH and carbonate hardness (KH) of aquarium water rise immediately after this product is applied. Some aquatic plants (such as stem plants from South America) may not grow well in the aquarium water with high pH and KH levels caused by Brighty K. Also, the tap water is alkaline in some areas/regions and unfit for the use of Brighty K. As a solution, Green Brighty Neutral K has been developed. As its name suggests, this product is neutral and will not increase the pH and KH levels of aquarium water. When the tap water is alkaline, you can use Aqua Soil for substrate, apply new Aqua Conditioner Soft Water during water change, and apply Neutral K for potassium supply. This approach helps healthy growth of many aquatic plants that prefer mildly acidic water.
Meanwhile, Green Brighty K has an additional feature of enhancing the buffering capacity of water and prevents decline in pH of aquarium water. Some aquatic plants such as Hemianthus micranthemoides do not grow well if pH/KH level is too low. Brighty K is more suitable rather than Brighty Neutral K when KH of tap water is low. Choose Brighty K or Neutral K depending on the tap water quality and aquatic plant species. Do take note that the new Brightly K is made from different compositions and no longer has the effect of removing residual chlorine, although the name is the same as the previous product.
■ Importance of nitrogen in growth of aquatic plants
Nitrogen is the most demanded nutrient amongst all the nutrients essential for plant growth. In fact, plant growth rate and leaf color greatly vary depending on the amount of nitrogen supplied. In Nature Aquarium, nitrogen is supplied from Power Sand, Aqua Soil and fish droppings and is seldom deficient to the extent that poor plant growth takes place during the initial aquarium set-up period. Yet, supplying an additional amount of nitrogen during such a period can boost plant growth. On the other hand, in aquarium more than one year old or with extremely fewer fish to the amount of plants, the plants sometimes develop symptoms such as poor growth and faded leaf color.
Unlike conventional type of Green Brighty Special LIGHTS and SHADE which could be a cause of algae due to its phosphate content, the new Green Brighty Nitrogen, which only contains nitrogen compound in a form easily absorbable by aquatic plants, does not cause algae much as long as it is applied at the appropriate dosage.
Besides the ordinary use of applying directly to the aquarium, Green Brighty Nitrogen can also be sprayed directly onto the substrate surface to seep it into Aqua Soil and other substrate materials during the aquarium set-up. Although this approach is available only for soil-type substrate which can retain the sprayed nitrogen, it can drastically boost the growth of many aquatic plants including foreground plants that is sensitive to the nitrogen amount contained in the substrate, such as Glossostigma. Standard spraying amount of Green Brighty Nitrogen is 50ml for 30×30 cm substrate. After spraying, let it stand for about 15-30 minutes so that Green Brighty Nitrogen can seep sufficiently into Aqua Soil.
■ Supplying phosphate to aquarium is a double-edged sword
Among all the nutrients, aquatic plants usually respond to phosphate the most. However, phosphate can trigger algal blooms once it is supplied even slightly more than the amount needed by plants. That is why all the lineups of the new Green Brighty Series are phosphate-free. Nature Aquarium supplies phosphate from Power Sand in the substrate so that not much of it will be released into the water. Fortunately, Aqua Soil absorbs phosphate due to the properties of its base soil and most of the phosphate is retained within the substrate. Once the substrate surface is covered by aquatic plants, the phosphate leached out of the substrate soil will be quickly taken up by the plants, and the phosphate in water will always run out. By maintaining this state, even if phosphate is leached out of fish droppings or unconsumed fish food, the aquatic plants will promptly take it up through their leaves and this will prevent algae growth. In the event that algal bloom is caused by excessive phosphate as a result of excessive fish or fish food, the application of new Aqua Conditioner Clear Water can be a solution. Clear Water absorbs phosphate and inhibits algae growth. Keeping the phosphate level as low as possible is a key to maintaining beautiful planted aquarium.
■ Significance of daily application of liquid fertilizers
Basically, liquid fertilizers are applied daily in Nature Aquarium. Although aquatic plants will not wilt quickly despite not applying liquid fertilizers, it will greatly affect the leaf color of aquatic plants.
The recommended combination of new liquid fertilizers for daily use in the phase of plant growth is: 1) either one of Green Brighty K or Green Brighty Neutral K supplying potassium; and 2) Green Brighty Mineral supplying trace elements (for the aquariums having the standard substrate using Power Sand and Aqua Soil). Green Brighty Mineral is equivalent to Green Brighty STEP 1 in the previous series, containing a balanced blend of trace elements essential for healthy plant growth, such as iron (Fe), sulfur (S) and manganese (Mn) (the concentration is different from Green Brighty STEP 1).
An important point in trace elements supplementation is to always supply trace elements required by aquatic plants even at a very low concentration. The trace elements supplied to aquarium water are swiftly taken up through the surface of plant leaves. But if plenty of trace elements are supplied at a time, they are usually bonded to other substances or absorbed by filter media and eventually go to waste. Hence, it is effective to supply an appropriate amount of trace elements every day.
When aquatic plants thrive in aquarium after two to three months from the initial set-up, add Green Brighty Iron to the above combinations to supply iron which is highly demanded by aquatic plants for good plant growth and enhanced leaf color (especially for red stem plants). Please note that Green Brighty Iron is designed specifically for iron supplementation. It can deliver better effectiveness if it is applied together with Green Brighty Mineral. For the aquarium which is six months or one year old with less nitrogen contents within the substrate, it is recommended to apply Green Brighty Nitrogen in addition to other fertilizers to maintain healthy plant growth for a long time.
Spraying Green Brighty Nitrogen onto the substrate (during aquarium set-up)
(From Aqua Journal #258)