Info Before You Buy Flourish And Ferts In General

Discussion in 'Plant Fertilizers' started by -Mak-, Apr 10, 2017.

  1. -Mak-

    -Mak-Fishlore VIPMember

    I'd like to start off by saying Seachem is a very good, very reputable company that contributes a lot to this hobby. This post is not intended to criticize them or say they're a bad company or tell everybody to stop buying their fertilizers. It's purpose is to simply make people aware of what is in the ferts they buy. Everything stated here is based off my own opinion and research of plant nutrient requirements. Seachem, please don't sue me lol

    So: Plant fertilizers can bring a lot of confusion to the planted tank beginner. So can lighting and CO2, but I think ferts get a little less attention than those two. The reason I am focusing on flourish here is because commonly people recommend it to others willy nilly without considering their tank conditions.

    Plants need two types of nutrients: macros and micros.
    Macros are required in higher amounts than micros, hence the names.

    Macros consist of:

    Nitrogen (N)
    Phosphorus (P)
    Potassium (K)

    Micros consist of:

    (Others, but in very small amounts, likely already in your tap water)

    The main problem one could possibly run across with using only flourish and flourish root tabs, and even flourite substrate, is that none contain high amounts of macro nutrients, especially the main three NPK macros (nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium, aka NPK). They have nice amounts of micro nutrients, and if you compare the percentage of macros to micros it'll seem like they are similar. Yes, they are similar, and that is a problem for some because macros are required in much higher amounts than micros.

    Right off seachem's website:

    Flourish analysis:
    Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 3.46.03 PM.png

    Flourish tabs analysis:
    Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 3.46.57 PM.png

    Flourite analysis:
    Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 3.48.40 PM.png

    As you can see, flourish has 0.007% nitrogen and 0.01% phosphate, which is virtually nothing compared to what plants can and will take up. It has slightly higher amounts of potassium at 0.37%. Flourish tabs have more of each, though all under 0.3%, but is slow releasing and still does not nearly total to what plants could use. Flourite has no macros except magnesium.

    Now, seachem does make nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium ferts in higher amounts, all in separate bottles. This can be one way to cover all of your important NPK nutients. Here is seachem's dosing chart for all of their plant products:

    And in fact, upon emailing Seachem to ask about flourish, the representative told me that flourish is not actually meant to be a complete supplement, but to provide a baseline of nutrients in base levels. They explained that, due to different levels in different aquariums, a fertilizer that is "all in one" could result in difficiencies in one or more nutrient in the NPK ratio (IMO this can easily be avoided with the EI method, see bottom of this post for more info). They added that for proper NPK dosing, they have the separate bottles like I mentioned.

    NPK dosing is sometimes falsely believed to cause algae. There seems to be the belief that fish will supply all that the plants need, and adding too much nitrate and phosphate will cause algae. A little bit of research into this reveals that this is untrue. If you have a balanced tank, extra ferts (within reason) will not cause algae, which is precisely the reason why there are not algae blooms happening everyday in aquariums that recieve daily ferts in high amounts. It also has to do with the life stages of algae and how different stages require different nutrients. A lot of the time, the reason for algae is not excess nutrients, but too much light, too little CO2, and in fact too little nutrients. Basically, give your plants all they need to outcompete algae and let light be the only limiting factor. If one uses extra ferts via the EI method, a 50% water change at the end of the week is done to "reset" the nutrients and prevent an overload. You can get a little more in depth and analyze the ratio of various nutrients to each other, but giving more than enough to eliminate possibility of deficiency is the gist of it. To do the opposite and limit nitrates and phosphates is harmful. You can never eliminate all the nutrients in a tank. By the time you are able to starve algae of all nutrients, your plants are long gone.
    See post #3: How specifically does EI method prevent Algae? - The Planted Tank Forum
    And: Algae and Nutrient Deficiencies - The Planted Tank Forum
    And also: Diatoms: For the new aquarist and debate thread - The Planted Tank Forum

    In low light tanks plants do not grow as much, and therefore fish can sometimes supply all that is needed. However, I am still seeing people asking about why their plants have deficencies in their low tech tanks. Unfortunately, most people cannot easily measure how much of the other nutrients are in their water, so we must solely go off nitrogen in this case, and liquid tests aren't extremely accurate either. (API has a phosphate test, whether it is worth it or not is up to you). But deficiency is not hard to spot, if your plants have yellow, brown, or stunted growth, compare your plants to a dificiency chart to see if they are lacking nutrients.

    Another important consideration when choosing a fertilizer is the growth rate of plants. Light dictates that to a large extent, but even in a low light tank there can be a large range of growth rate. For example, anubias and most hygrophilas are considered low light plants, yet hygrophilas have the ability to grow much faster than anubias. They will need more nutrients.

    Can you get away with using only flourish in a less than fully stocked or a medium to high light tank? In my opinion, not without the plants eventually developing deficiencies and encountering slow/weak growth. This will widely vary on many other things such as substrate choice and even water hardness, so the key here is knowing what your tank's conditions are and researching the fertilizer that will best suit your plants' needs. For people afraid of poisoning your fish or adding too many "chemicals," there isn't anything to worry about. The compounds we add are just minerals and metals, some of which can be found in low amounts in tap water. You'd have to actively try to overdose most ferts to harm fish, and as far as I know, the only fert that can kill fish is liquid CO2, which is made from an industrial chemical.

    To sum it up, flourish is an excellent source of micros and has a large variety of nutrients, just not macros in high amounts. It might be enough for you if you have a low tech tank and if you're sure that your fish can cover the rest. If you see macro deficiencies, or your plants are not growing as much as they should be compared to your light and CO2 levels, you might want to consider additional fertilizer as needed. If things are working well with flourish, great, by no means do you need to run out and buy some more ferts.
    For people who have not yet bought any fertilizer, do lots and lots and lots of research on what exactly you are trying to acheive in your tank and what fertilizer will best help you get there. Read the nutrient analysis of whatever fert you're about to buy so you know what you're getting.

    As for me, I did buy a bottle of flourish to use in my own tank. I didn't see any difference from when I was going without it and my plants started to show magnesium deficiency. I switched to Nilocg's Thrive, which is designed to be an EI method liquid fert, and also their GH booster to add extra magnesium.
    Plant growth picked up, and the deficiency went away. Thrive lists an analysis of:
    N 3%, P 0.8%, K 9.4%, Fe 0.47%, Mg 0.062%, Cu 0.009%, B 0.023%, Co, 0.0002%, Mn 0.06%, Mo 0.0018%, Zn 0.016%.
    Here the NPKs come in much higher amounts than the micros. You probably don't need this "intense" of a fert in a low tech tank, in moderation it can't hurt though.

    The issue with ALL liquid fertilizers is you cannot change the composition of the fertilizer to better suit your tank's needs. That's where dry ferts are useful (and much cheaper). However, for the majority of people who are not running aquariums with particular needs, liquid fertilizers will do the job.

    EI reseach if you're interested:

    EI dosing by Tom Barr
    The Estimative Index of Dosing, or No Need for Test Kits - Aquarium Plants - Barr Report

    Non CO2 methods by Tom Barr

    Edit on January 8th, 2018: I've made a short video analysis of some of the common fertilizers on the market, including some mentioned in this post. Hopefully if you're still unsure about what to buy, this will help summarize the nutrient content of each fert.

    Last edited: Aug 2, 2018
  2. Tanks and Plants

    Tanks and PlantsWell Known MemberMember

    I think you forgot to mention a very important part of EI dosing. I like EI dosing and use it myself, but to me the biggest draw back is that weekly water changes of 50% is recommended and if you have multiple tanks that can add up to a lot of water.

    As quoted by Tom Barr:

    "There is no hard and fast rule here when dosing or doing 50% weekly water changes. This method can be applied to water changes once a month or once every two weeks, better more consistent results will be obtained when doing 50% weekly water changes, but a well run tank can go longer without a water change. The aquarist can note plant health and dose slightly less as they gain experience of their individual tank's needs. As they get a feel for the dosing they can tailor the tank's needs further."

    I also have used Seachems dosing chart and it worked out for me as well. And the benefits is that you don't have to do 50%water changes. I did weekly 20-30% water changes and I didn't have any algae growth.
    BUT the drawback to this is that you need to buy each single bottle of their Ferts and it does cost some $$$.

    Overall @Mak this was a VERY informative thread and i could not have done better myself.
    This thread will help a lot of people especially people who want to understand Planted tanks a little more.

  3. OP

    -Mak-Fishlore VIPMember

    Thank you for the reminder! A lot of people do 50% water changes each week, especially in small tanks planted or not, but yep that's an important part of EI, I'll add that :)

    I've seen the dosing chart, and I like how they include all of their products. My tanks are very small so I can't see myself ever even using up each bottle of their ferts, but for large tanks it's very helpful. Though dry ferts are so much cheaper for large tanks in the long run.

    Thanks again!
  4. Chris 23

    Chris 23New MemberMember

    Nice this was very helpful
  5. jenmur

    jenmurFishlore VIPMember

    I like this. I am starting to do research for my community tank I'm gonna set up because I want live plants
  6. OP

    -Mak-Fishlore VIPMember

    Glad to help!

    Live plants are great. The wealth of information out there can sometimes overwhelm you, but my biggest tip is to do tons of research before you invest in anything. Do research, and when you think you can't possibly research anything else, research some more. I think I could have saved myself quite a bit of money if I had done that the first time around :)
  7. jenmur

    jenmurFishlore VIPMember

    I'm trying to! I just posted in here asking for help about fertilizers and things I've heard. I mean I have an Anubias in my betta tank but he takes care of that. But I know I gotta help my fish out in the community tank!
  8. Cricket lynn mclean

    Cricket lynn mcleanWell Known MemberMember

    Do you have a post that expands on dry ferts?
  9. toolman

    toolmanWell Known MemberMember

    Another option for planted tanks is pps-pro. While far from an expert I use DIY pps-pro from NilocG, comes premeasured in a packet for macros and one for micros. Your first order there's a option for two bottles and you just mix the packets with 500ml ro water.

    Anyone interested in planted tanks I would recommend checking out their website, lots of good information on the different methods and their products.
  10. jenmur

    jenmurFishlore VIPMember

    Do you have to use RO water? I just look up NilocG on google?
  11. toolman

    toolmanWell Known MemberMember

    Bottle says ro or di water, just buy a gallon of distilled water you only need 500ml per bottle and it will last months. I use it in all 4 if my tanks 75,55,40, & 10,thats 19 ml per day.Lol
  12. OP

    -Mak-Fishlore VIPMember

    No, sorry! I don't think I have enough knowledge on dry ferts to write a guide yet, but I'm sure many others on here do.
  13. Cricket lynn mclean

    Cricket lynn mcleanWell Known MemberMember

    Thanks mak
    @toolman you?
    Just saw you posted above :)
  14. Cricket lynn mclean

    Cricket lynn mcleanWell Known MemberMember

    How often are you dosing thrive? Also what does that percentage mean? Is it like vitamins? a percent of the daily recommended?
  15. jenmur

    jenmurFishlore VIPMember

    Ah ok. Thanks
  16. Discusluv

    DiscusluvWell Known MemberMember

    I think I will look into this. After dosing for a month between two tanks with Seachem's Potassium, Iron, and Comprehensive I can see that this method is going to be expensive. Especially when I start dosing on the planted 180 gallon I am going to be setting up shortly.
  17. OP

    -Mak-Fishlore VIPMember

    I'm assuming it's the % of liquid that isn't water, or it is a dissolved solid.
  18. toolman

    toolmanWell Known MemberMember

    I use the NilocG DIY pps-pro because it's premeasured and easy. Dry salts can be mixed with water or I have even heard of people adding them directly to the tank, but they have to be measured with a scale. However if you want to use them they have some advantages. 1)they're even less expensive, several yrs worth for less than $50.
    2)they're very versatile, come in several different compounds so you can add more if one or another.

    I don't know a lot more about them, would suggest you research the internet (NilocG, Greenleaf, other plant sellers also sell ferts). Will pm some links when I get time later this evening.

    @ashenwelt is very knowledgeable maybe he will see this and have some info to add.

    Did you research the DIY pps-pro from NilocG, I use it on 4 tanks. It's dry ferts premeasured, a little more $ but easy.
  19. toolman

    toolmanWell Known MemberMember

    For some dry salts work better. I didn't want to have to be a chemist and measure the different compounds to get the right mix, but I believe NilocG also has the compounds. Will pass on some other places to get them when I find the information.
  20. OnTheFly

    OnTheFlyWell Known MemberMember

    I am using NILCOG PPS but measuring out the dries. In any event it is good stuff and very economical.