My plants keep dying


Hello, everyone! I'm having some major trouble with my plants and I was hoping y'all might be able to help. Basically, my plants keep dying in similar ways, but in separate tanks with separate parameters and no warning at all. I have two tanks, so I'll handle the issues in them separately.

Tank 1 - low tech
Size: 29g
Ammonia 0, Nitrites 0, Nitrates 20 (I think - I don't test ammonia and nitrite super regularly)
pH 7, GH? but probably between 2.5-4, KH 1.5
Tank fauna: 8 small cherry barbs (new as of this weekend) and a lot of young ramshorn snails
Tank flora: 1 dying java fern and its sprouts, assorted floaters
Water change schedule: 3-4 gallons a week, sometimes with freshly buffered RO and sometimes with water from my other tank
Years established: it's been ages, I honestly don't remember
Lighting: low (basic TopFin LED strip)
Substrate: sand and gravel mix
Ferts: Flourish Comprehensive once a week and the odd Osmocote root tab

Firstly, in my quarantine tank, my ancient mother Java Fern has started inexplicably dying, which I'm really sad about. I'm very attached to this plant. I've had this tank established for years, but I did very little maintenance on it until last fall, when I stopped neglecting it and started refurbishing. The Java Fern has lived in it for years and flourished, and I can probably owe to its water cleansing abilities that my fish are still around. Last October or so, I bought an Anubias and a water wisteria and added them to this tank - the Anubias died of what I assume was anubias rot within days, while the wisteria initially flourished before melting from the stems up and transitioning to an emersed leaf form before turning entirely to brown mush. These seemed unrelated - anubias rot just happens, and I think the wisteria's death was due to poor lighting, since the light in this tank is a simple aquarium light - but then, a few months ago, the Java Fern started losing leaves at a heightened rate. It yellows or browns in patches and completely falls apart. The rhizome also appears to have rotted and split in two different places, turning into brown fibers. This alarmed me, because it looks similar to the symptoms the wisteria and the anubias experienced. So far, nothing I am doing can halt the pace of the decline, and I can't figure out what changed to trigger this. Previously, when the wisteria was alive, I used Osmocote more frequently, so maybe the removal of Osmocote caused this? I tried re-fertilizing with more Osmocote, but all it did was spike nitrates, I didn't see a difference in the plant growth. I've attached a couple pictures, but it's kind of hard to see because of the way the leaves totally shed and die when they start yellowing or browning.


Tank 2 - low tech
Size: 50g, though it's closer to 40-something because it's not all the way full
Ammonia 0, Nitrites 0, Nitrates <15 (I think - I don't test ammonia and nitrite super regularly)
pH 6.7, GH 3.5, KH 2.5
Tank fauna: 1 pearl gourami, 2 yoyo loaches, 4 java loaches
Tank flora: 1 Anubias, 3 Vallisneria, Cabomba virginiana, Bacopa carolinana, flame moss, a few struggling Dwarf Sag, Rotala rotundifolia, Ammania senegalensis, assorted floaters
Water change schedule: 5-7 gallons a week, with fresh and buffered RO (I was doing more before COVID made it harder to get to my LFS for RO)
Years established: 0.5 (started January)
Lighting: medium? (Beamworks DA FSPEC LED - supposedly on 7 hours a day, though I sometimes forget and it runs over)
Substrate: sand
Ferts: Flourish Comprehensive once a week, Osmocote in the sand, Equilibrium (if you count that as fertilizer and not buffer)

This tank is a lot newer, but my struggles are about the same: every plant I put in here seems to eventually start dying off. All of them turn yellow and brown and melt from the bottom up. Initially, I think this was because the tannins from my driftwood blocked a fair portion of the light from reaching the bottom, killing off the medium-light plants. This held up when I added the newer plants back in late Feb (the Cabomba, Vallisneria, Anubias, and flame moss), as initially they seemed to be doing much better: however, the Cabomba has recently begun yellowing from the bottom up itself, and as of today, I noticed some of the leaves on the Anubias turning brown and yellow. They go yellow all the way up and down the stem, as well as over the leaf itself, and the leaf looks eaten away at and degraded. I can't tell what the problem is - it doesn't look quite like the Anubias disease on my previous Anubias, but it's still worrying and I'm very frustrated with all this.


It's possible that if this is all some kind of disease, equipment carried between the tanks caused cross-contamination, though I try my best to keep QT tank materials out of the main tank and wash them thoroughly if they come anywhere near it. If this keeps up, I won't have any plants left in a couple weeks. I'm stressed and I can't figure out what the cause of this is, and I don't have enough money to just throw new ferts and lighting at the problem until it resolves itself. I love my plants, and I don't know why they flourish for months before dying abruptly and swiftly. Anyone have any ideas?

Thank you!


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First before I start let me say this, I am far from an expert on planted aquariums. But I have a planted aquarium that as been up and running now for two years, and no thanks to me the only to species of plants in it are still alive. I want say they are thriving, but they are alive. 1- Anubis, and 4 - Amazon Sword. I have been using two types of fertilizers, API Leaf Zone (Which in truth is a useless waste of money), and Thrive root capsules (Which is great and worth the money).

So let me ask you this, do you have much in the way of algae in your tank? My tank is full of algae, I have to fight this stuff continually and that is with algae eating inhabitants. Algae is proof of nutrients for plants in the water, which all plant live needs. My tank has way to much nutrient, that is why the algae.

Nutrients for plants is a must, and several times here I have read about plants dying and the person uses Flourish. I am not saying anything bad about Flourish, but I am saying it is not working for you. It is not providing the nutrients your plants need in your tank. So switch to something else, Thrive has a hold range of aquarium plan fertilizers.

Your ph at 7 is neutral, being that is not alkaline or acidic. I believe this is what RO does to water removes all the trace elements that are in the water that make it acidic or alkaline. ph does two things for plants. The trace elements are what many plants need. Some trace elements help plants absorb more nutrients.

Each plant has its own ph and nutrient requirements in order to survive. So you will need to do your research on each plant to see what it requires. Some plants needs the ph of the water to be acidic and some need ph alkaline.

It could be all you need is the right fertilizer. This will take some time to figure out and it will be trial and error.
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