Root Tabs Or Liquid Fertilizer?

benjmin
  • #1
hI i'm new to planted aquariums and I want to provide the correct nutrient content to my plants. I currently have a few products seachem fourish excel, seachem root tabs, and i'm considering aquarium co-ops easy green.

could someone break down the difference between root tabs and liquid fertilizers?

thanks fish fam!
 
jacob thompson
  • #2
the liquid fertilizer is very good for free rooted plants that either float at the top of the water or are attached to driftwood like anubius. however this is not good for plants that are planted deep in the substrate since if you use sand the liquid would be able to get down their. root tabs are for planted plants like amazon swords and crypto that are planted in the ground and need the roots tab in order to get nutrients.
 
angelcraze
  • #3
I don't know if I'm breaking it down, but I use root tabs for my heavy root feeding plants. Stem plants benefit more from water column ferts.

Actually, I only use root tabs. If the stems don't grow well, I don't use them. I propagate what grows well in each tank. Every tank is different.
 
benjmin
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
the liquid fertilizer is very good for free rooted plants that either float at the top of the water or are attached to driftwood like anubius. however this is not good for plants that are planted deep in the substrate since if you use sand the liquid would be able to get down their. root tabs are for planted plants like amazon swords and crypto that are planted in the ground and need the roots tab in order to get nutrients.

so I have s repens, jungle val, and some crypts. would you recommend just using root tabs?


I don't know if I'm breaking it down, but I use root tabs for my heavy root feeding plants. Stem plants benefit more from water column ferts.

Actually, I only use root tabs. If the stems don't grow well, I don't use them. I propagate what grows well in each tank. Every tank is different.

what are water column plants? I know that jungle val are water column feeders but they're planted/ rooted? so it's just a little confusing haha
 
tocandesu
  • #5
Some info about both types from this helpful site:

There are two approaches to fertilization: dosing directly into the tank with liquid fertilizers (water column dosing approach) and using substrate based fertilizers (rootzone fertilization). Plants can take in nutrients through both routes, and there are advantages to having nutrients in both locations. I recommend a mix of both to cover all bases.

WATER COLUMN DOSING
This involves dosing liquid fertilizers directly into the water column. This involves measuring out a certain amount (for example, 10ml per 100litres of tank water) of liquid fertilizer and pouring it directly into the tank every couple of days. Its advantage is that it's very precise & consistent - we can measure down to the parts per million (ppm) of how much of a certain nutrient we want in the water and how regularly we add that amount. It's also easy to reset -by doing large water changes.

Plants take in nutrients from both their leaves as well as roots. The main disadvantage is that water column dosing must be done regularly. It is not like substrate feeding where you can place a root tab and it dissolves slowly over a few months.

Some elements are easily absorbed through foliage, such as potassium, so it makes sense to dose these through the water column. Certain ferts are more reactive(PO4, Fe) and may precipitate out of the water column after a period of time depending on your water chemistry. Reductive processes in the substrate zone make these more easily available to plants, so having these nutrients in the substrate zone makes sense.

SUBSTRATE FERTILIZATION
This works for rooted plants. The main advantage is that substrate fertilizers come mostly in slow release format ; using soil further captures nutrients and provide long term fertilization.

As the substrate traps the nutrients somewhat, it is also possible to dose a higher concentration of ferts than what we would be comfortable with in the water column.

The main disadvantage is that there is low precision - how much nutrient does a root tab hold and how long exact does it last? Does it release nutrients in a linear fashion ? Does it only work for plants in the immediate substrate zone? The answers are largely guesswork.

Even nutrient rich planted tank substrates such as commercial aquasoils become less potent over time (a few months), as water soluble nutrients leech out. Soils can sustain low tech tanks with slow growth rates for long periods, but most CO2 injected tanks have higher requirements.
In a nutshell. If you're running a low tech tank, root tabs would be enough. Once you're injecting CO2, you might want to consider liquid ferts.
 
benjmin
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Some info about both types from this helpful site:




In a nutshell. If you're running a low tech tank, root tabs would be enough. Once you're injecting CO2, you might want to consider liquid ferts.

that was actually really helpful thank you!
 
angelcraze
  • #7
what are water column plants? I know that jungle val are water column feeders but they're planted/ rooted? so it's just a little confusing haha
Sorry, I meant water column feeding plants. Plants that take most of their nutrients from the water column. Stem plants like hygrophila, stargrass, ludwigia, rotala and floating plants like water lettuce, frogbit. Also rhizome plants like java fern, bolbitis, anubias, but these don't really need additional ferts.

If you have jungle val, it would appreciate some root tabs.
 
Kevin Dennis
  • #8
Low tech tanks can require ferts in the water column as well.

Some brands of root tabs don't have much macro nutrients.
 
DoubleDutch
  • #9
Low tech tanks can require ferts in the water column as well.

Some brands of root tabs don't have much macro nutrients.
A lot of liquid ferts do neither !

the liquid fertilizer is very good for free rooted plants that either float at the top of the water or are attached to driftwood like anubius. however this is not good for plants that are planted deep in the substrate since if you use sand the liquid would be able to get down their. root tabs are for planted plants like amazon swords and crypto that are planted in the ground and need the roots tab in order to get nutrients.
Wanted to start a thread about this recently questioning this.

In my opinion water (with liquid ferts) should always be able to reach the roots (otherwise I'd expect them to start to rot cause of the shortage of oxygen).
If that is the case I expect liquids do te same thing as roottabs.

Is there any scientific proof I've got this wrong ?
 
Pescado_Verde
  • #10
Wanted to start a thread about this recently questioning this.

In my opinion water (with liquid ferts) should always be able to reach the roots (otherwise I'd expect them to start to rot cause of the shortage of oxygen).
If that is the case I expect liquids do te same thing as roottabs.

Is there any scientific proof I've got this wrong ?
Seems like I saw a post recently that suggested ferts in the water column vs. in the substrate didn't have any appreciable difference in plant growth. Might have been JoeH (?) guy from Canada or Minnowett(?) from down under. Whoever it was cited a study if I recall correctly but no link was given.
 
Kevin Dennis
  • #11
A lot of liquid ferts do neither !

That is true and is why a review of any fertilizer's contents before purchase is a good idea.
 
DoubleDutch
  • #12
Some of these macros are produced in the tank itself (nitrates phosfates). That's why a lot of ferts don't contain thes
That is true and is why a review of any fertilizer's contents before purchase is a good idea.
 
Kevin Dennis
  • #13
Some of these macros are produced in the tank itself (nitrates phosfates). That's why a lot of ferts don't contain thes

That is also true especially if you are heavily stocked.

If you are lightly stocked with a planted tank it is possible you may have too little nitrates and other macros for healthy plant growth.
 
DoubleDutch
  • #14
agree. that's why some brands have chosen to have these available seperately.
For instance : Easylife profito, nitro and fosfo.
That is also true especially if you are heavily stocked.

If you are lightly stocked with a planted tank it is possible you may have too little nitrates for healthy plant growth.
 
angelcraze
  • #15
Ok, very low tech here, but I let my stem plants and water column feeding plants use up the nutrients produced naturally in the tank. If I see a particular deficiency, I might dose that, but lately I just grow what wants to. I used to dose potassium since it's depleted so quickly, but I haven't seen holes in or yellowing leaves in a while. Tbh, I add water column feeding plants to use up the biproducts produced in the tank like nitrates.

As a test, I added a DIY root tab wrapped in pantyhose to the filter in my lightly stocked tanks that were starving for nutrients.
 
-Mak-
  • #16
Honestly both. Just be sure to read what nutrients are in the thing you’re buying, as mentioned above some root tabs and ferts from brands like seachem lack adequate amounts of macros. And macros don’t just consist of nitrates and phosphates which fish may produce, macros include calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sulfur, which fish don’t produce.
 
Fanuel
  • #17
Do I need to supply root tabs and fertilizer or just one of them. This is for a 20 gallon that has soil capped with sand. Also for my planted 10 gallon that has seachem flourite sand.
 
appcontrol
  • #18
Do I need to supply root tabs and fertilizer or just one of them. This is for a 20 gallon that has soil capped with sand. Also for my planted 10 gallon that has seachem flourite sand.
If it's soil new you don't need anithing extra. If it's old you can add toot tabs. Most of root tabs have only micro nutrients so you will need to add liquid makro nutrients.
 
Carbeo
  • #19
Which plants? There are some people say tend to call "root feeders". My vals and crypts must have root tabs to grow furiously, ime. But the wood bound java fern and anubius wouldnt get any benefit from that, so I still dose.
 
Fanuel
  • #20
Which plants? There are some people say tend to call "root feeders". My vals and crypts must have root tabs to grow furiously, ime. But the wood bound java fern and anubius wouldnt get any benefit from that, so I still dose.
Monte Carlo, Rotalla and I plan to add others.
 
Carbeo
  • #21
I'd opt for ferts in that case.
 
Fanuel
  • #22
Carbeo
  • #23
No root tabs needed?
If you are using a complete and balanced fertilizer regimen, I don't think the root tabs will add any value in this case. Of course, if someone comes along with a contrary experience that's fine and well too.
 
Fanuel
  • #24
If you are using a complete and balanced fertilizer regimen, I don't think the root tabs will add any value in this case. Of course, if someone comes along with a contrary experience that's fine and well too.
Okay thanks do you prefer pre-mixed fertilizers or do you mix them yourself?
 
Inactive User
  • #25
I find that most people utilise root tabs as an optional supplement to (but not a total replacement of) water column dosing.

I think it's important not to put too much stock into the idea of "heavy root feeders" or "heavy water column feeders". According to most planted tank authorities (e.g. Tom Barr, the developer of EI dosing), there is no such thing: plants will take up nutrients wherever they are.

What are the advantages to using root tabs? With a soil substrate (or anything else with a high Cation Exchange Capacity), the root tab nutrients can be bound to the substrate providing a sort of back-up in case your water column fert dosing is insufficient in one nutrient or another and/or your circulation is insufficient such that plants are in circulation deadzones.

What are the disadvantages? Not all root tabs are like. Flourish root tabs are micros, API root tabs are macros and iron (but no other micros). Best root tabs tend to be DIY Osmocote Plus pellets in a gelatin capsule. But they use ammoniacal nitrogen (NH3), so they have to be used sparingly to limit leaching of ammonia into the water column.

But honestly, Osmocote root tabs are cheap. Pre-made versions of them are being sold in packets of 100 for USD6 on eBay. Burying 1-2 per square foot and replacing every 3 months, 100 will last you for years.
 
Carbeo
  • #26
Okay thanks do you prefer pre-mixed fertilizers or do you mix them yourself?
Personally? A macro premix, micro premix and iron seperate. I used to use "all-in-one" and iron separate and liked that too though. I got the strong message that iron doesn't work in a mix. I'm not leveled up to making my own even though I'm sure it's more cost effective to buy the powdered forms. I barely made the transition to co2 last year.
 
Fanuel
  • #27
Personally? A macro premix, micro premix and iron seperate. I used to use "all-in-one" and iron separate and liked that too though. I got the strong message that iron doesn't work in a mix. I'm not leveled up to making my own even though I'm sure it's more cost effective to buy the powdered forms. I barely made the transition to co2 last year.
I just got my co2 setup pieced together recently. Tomorrow I’ll be putting in water and adding plants then running co2.
 
Inactive User
  • #28
I got the strong message that iron doesn't work in a mix.

It'll be fine if mixed with other micros. The main issue when mixing with iron (and zinc) with macros is that free iron will react with phosphate and precipitate out of the fert solution as ferric phosphate, which has very low bioavailability for plants.

Most iron ferts are chelated either with EDTA or DTPA. This generally minimises the reaction between the chelated iron and phosphate in the low concentrations that exist in planted tanks.

As for how some all-in-one products (like NilocG Thrive) combine the two in concentrated solutions? I suspect they add in some sort of stabiliser to prevent the degradation of the iron chelate (and the subsequent reaction between the escaped, free iron and phosphate).

But there's nothing wrong with using premixed solutions compared to dry ferts. NilocG Thrive (all in one) or their NPK+M (macros in one bottle, micros in another) solution are the probably among the better as they're more concentrated: more bang for your buck.

Dry ferts are better if you want to adjust for individual nutrients (a good idea with CO2). Dry ferts are much cheaper as well.

In addition, you can read the sticky 'A Beginner's Guide to Fertilisers' for more comprehensive information on fert dosing methods.
 
Fanuel
  • #29
It'll be fine if mixed with other micros. The main issue when mixing with iron (and zinc) with macros is that free iron will react with phosphate and precipitate out of the fert solution as ferric phosphate, which has very low bioavailability for plants.

Most iron ferts are chelated either with EDTA or DTPA. This generally minimises the reaction between the chelated iron and phosphate in the low concentrations that exist in planted tanks.

As for how some all-in-one products (like NilocG Thrive) combine the two in concentrated solutions? I suspect they add in some sort of stabiliser to prevent the degradation of the iron chelate (and the subsequent reaction between the escaped, free iron and phosphate).

But there's nothing wrong with using premixed solutions compared to dry ferts. NilocG Thrive (all in one) or their NPK+M (macros in one bottle, micros in another) solution are the probably among the better as they're more concentrated: more bang for your buck.

Dry ferts are better if you want to adjust for individual nutrients (a good idea with CO2). Dry ferts are much cheaper as well.
yea I’m gonna do some research on dry fert’s. It will probably be way easier to balance my tank if I can adjust what goes in.

It'll be fine if mixed with other micros. The main issue when mixing with iron (and zinc) with macros is that free iron will react with phosphate and precipitate out of the fert solution as ferric phosphate, which has very low bioavailability for plants.

Most iron ferts are chelated either with EDTA or DTPA. This generally minimises the reaction between the chelated iron and phosphate in the low concentrations that exist in planted tanks.

As for how some all-in-one products (like NilocG Thrive) combine the two in concentrated solutions? I suspect they add in some sort of stabiliser to prevent the degradation of the iron chelate (and the subsequent reaction between the escaped, free iron and phosphate).

But there's nothing wrong with using premixed solutions compared to dry ferts. NilocG Thrive (all in one) or their NPK+M (macros in one bottle, micros in another) solution are the probably among the better as they're more concentrated: more bang for your buck.

Dry ferts are better if you want to adjust for individual nutrients (a good idea with CO2). Dry ferts are much cheaper as well.

In addition, you can read the sticky 'A Beginner's Guide to Fertilisers' for more comprehensive information on fert dosing methods.
Is this picture all I would need to create my own fertilizer ?
 

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