A Guide To Getting Plants To Turn Red Or More Colorful

Vishaquatics
Member
HI FishLore,

Over the years, I've seen many myths as to how to get your plants to turn red or more colorful. As someone with years of experience, I've had the chance to find out what really works and what doesn't for getting red plants. Below is a list of methods you can and CANNOT use to get your plants to become more colorful.

1) Extremely High Light and Certain Light Colors:
This tip works universally across all plant species. It is also the most effective tip out of all of the tips. High light, will cause plants to turn the most amazing colors. I grow my plants in natural, unfiltered, direct sunlight which causes them to turn amazing colors. Even my water wisteria (Hygrophila difformis) was able to turn slightly red under intense light. Higher light will automatically enhance red, pink, purple, or orange colors because it causes increased photosynthetic activity. If you use a fluorescent or LED light, using red and blue lights will also cause the colors to appear more vivid and rich. This is because plants will better absorb red and blue waves on the light spectrum for photosynthesis.

2) Pressurized CO2 Injection:
The injection of CO2 is almost mandatory when using very high light sources. Additionally, the CO2 injection really helps plants to grow and enhances their color. This is because plants only show their brightest and best colors when they are in optimal health. CO2 injection helps plants to reach their best health.

3) Nitrate Limitation:
This is a touchy subject. I do NOT recommend this method unless you have a pressurized CO2 system and really know what you're doing. This method also only works for a select few species including Limnophila aromatica, Rotala rotundifolia, Rotala h'ra, Ludwigia arcuata, Ludwigia brevipes but does not work for other species such as Ludiwigia palustris or Ludwigia glandulosa. Plants turn red when starved of nitrate as a light stress response to the ridiculously low levels of nitrate. To achieve this red, aI'm for less than 5-7ppm nitrate. Most experts recommend less than 5ppm, or even as low as 0.5ppm nitrate, but this is a VERY risky method. Nitrogen is so, so important to healthy plant growth. In order to supplement nitrogen in a form other than nitrate, the options are very limited. The most common nitrogen source other than nitrate is ammonia, which is very risky. This stuff is the very thing that causes algae so it must be used with extreme caution and precision to ensure that your plants don't become algae infested, especially considering their weakened state due to stress from a lack of nitrate. I've done this a few times, and the reds were amazing, but I don't like putting the plants in this type of state. The balance of the tank is very fragile in this type of dosing schedule.

4) Basic Plant Husbandry:
Plants don't need much to really thrive, but they do need things. They need a good light source, constant supply of nutrients (including CO2), and a clean tank. Keeping up with water changes, removing dead matter, and keeping up with fertilization all contribute to healthier plants, which equates to more colorful plants.

5) Myth: You Need Iron for Red Plants
This is BY FAR the most common misconception when it comes to red plants. I constantly see this parroted blindly across many forums. Yes, iron is necessary for healthy plant growth and pigment formation, but when supplied in adequate amounts, the difference in color is marginal at best. Unless you have a severe iron deficiency and your leaves are almost white, you will not notice any better coloration if you up your iron dosing. I also don't recommend over dosing iron because it is a micronutrient and overdosing micros can become a slippery slope quickly with nutrient toxicities.

And now for some pictures to show some proof of colorful plants:
Ludwigia Ovalis

IMG_1311.JPG


Ludwigia Palustris (MinI Super Red)

IMG_7008.JPG

I've gotten this plant to turn more red as of a few weeks ago due to increased exposure to direct sunlight, but I currently do not have a good picture of it.

Ludwigia Glandulosa

IMG_6216.JPG


Water Wisteria Turning Red

IMG_9838.JPG

 
-Mak-
Member
Vishaquatics (Koiman) said:
Myth: You Need Iron for Red Plants
This is BY FAR the most common misconception when it comes to red plants. I constantly see this parroted blindly across many forums. Yes, iron is necessary for healthy plant growth and pigment formation, but when supplied in adequate amounts, the difference in color is marginal at best. Unless you have a severe iron deficiency and your leaves are almost white, you will not notice any better coloration if you up your iron dosing. I also don't recommend over dosing iron because it is a micronutrient and overdosing micros can become a slippery slope quickly with nutrient toxicities.
Thank you, just because iron can be red it doesn’t mean that it turns plants red!
 
Bryangar
Member
Yup! I agree. Thanks for clearing it up. You also get ‘naturally’ red plants that get red no matter their environment (ie red tiger lotus, dwarf aquarium lily and barclaya longifolia)
 
aussieJJDude
Member
I'd like to know how you're growing plants in sunlight without it turning into an algaefarm! Tried multiple times, always leads to algae.
 
  • Thread Starter
Vishaquatics
Member
aussieJJDude said:
I'd like to know how you're growing plants in sunlight without it turning into an algaefarm! Tried multiple times, always leads to algae.
Secret is pressurized CO2 and EI dosing. Maybe that’ll be my next guide
 

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