Planted Aquarium Fertilizer Guide, Fertilizer Dosing Calculator
DIY Aquarium Plant Fertilizer:
- Aquarium Nutrient Calculator (EI, PPS, and DIY fertilizer dosing calculator) (visit the creator's website here: Rotala Butterfly Nutrient Calculator)
- Plant Requirements, Nutrient Sources, Optimal Levels and Mobility, and DIY Daily Dose to Reach a Target
Planted Aquarium Fertilizer Dosing Systems/Methods:
- PPS-Pro (Perpetual Preservation System) (visit PPS-Pro founder's website here, it's loaded with information to make your aquarium a success)
- Estimative Index (EI)
How to dose PPS-Pro in your planted aquarium
- The PPS-Pro system has been fine tuned in the aquarium hobby for years and is one of the least expensive fertilizing systems; designed for a heavily planted aquarium with a reasonable fish population. The PPS system provides consistent daily dosing of all essential macronutrients and micronutrients; water changes are per your preference or per tank needs, and testing is minimal with this system as conductivity readings.
- Before you start, you will need a digital scale (preferably with 2 decimal places) to weigh the fertilizers and place them in the 500mL bottles
- It is recommended to sanitize your plastic bottles prior to starting. Refrigeration of prepared stock solutions is optional.
How to Prepare the PPS DIY Stock Solutions
- Use your digital scale to measure the dry fertilizers and place them accordingly in your Macros and Micros bottles (see below measurements in grams).
- Next, fill bottles with distilled or reverse osmosis (RO) water, up to the 500mL water level line. Screw on caps tightly and shake well. Allow solution to dissolve completely, this may take 24hrs. Warm water aids in quicker dissolution.
500mL Bottle 1 - Macros:
- K2SO4 - 29.3 grams
- KNO3 - 32.6 grams
- KH2PO4 - 2.9 grams
- MgSO4 - 20.2 grams
500mL Bottle 2 - Micros (TE - Trace Elements):
- GLA EDTA Micromix - 28.6 grams
How to dose PPS Macros and Micros daily in your aquarium
- The dosing recommendations outlined below are ideal for medium and high lighting aquarium conditions. For lower light aquariums, use half the recommended dose, and for very high light double the recommended dose.
- For dosing the PPS system with or without occasional water changes, follow the dosing schedule below. It is recommended to take occasional conductivity readings with a TDS meter to monitor NO3 levels and determine if a water change is needed (see info below).
Macros: daily dose of 1 mL* per 10 gallons or 40L of aquarium water. Dose daily, prior to your aquarium lights turning on, dose consistently. *(1ml = 20 drops)
Micros: daily dose of 0.5 mL or 10 drops per 10 gallons or 40L of aquarium water. Dose daily, prior to your aquarium lights turning on, dose consistently. (increase dose if pale new growth appears)
Total daily dose yields:
- 1ppm NO3
- 0.1ppm PO4
- 1.33ppm K
- 0.1ppm Mg
- 0.05ppm TE(trace elements)
What is the PPS-Pro conductivity TDS target range?
- Occasional monitoring of NO3 levels via conductivity readings with an inexpensive and easy TDS Meter is recommended with PPS-Pro system to adjust dosing accordingly and determine need for water change. Read all about testing with a TDS Meter on the founder’s website.
Water change IF ( aquarium µS ) > ( tap water + 100µS )
Example: take a tap water reading and add 100: (Tap water *300 µS + PPS-Pro 100 µS = 400 µS) ------->> take an aquarium water reading: If ( aquarium µS ) > 400, then water change
How to dose PPS-Pro with 50% weekly water changes
- For easy, worry-free dosing with/without TDS testing you can choose to do a 50% water change once per week, review the detailed dosing schedule below.
- dose PPS-Pro Macros and Micros at the same time daily for a week, then 50% water change once per week.
- PPS-Pro Macros, 0.5ml or 10 drops per 10 gallon or 40 L
- PPS-Pro Micros, 0.25ml or 5 drops per 10 gallon or 40 L
- Water change 50% once a week
- This limits water column nutrient levels to 7 ppm NO3, 0.7 ppm PO4, 9 ppm K, 0.7 ppm Mg, 0.35 ppm Fe(TE).
- PPS-Pro Macros, 1ml per 10 gallon or 40 L
- PPS-Pro Micros, 0.5ml per 10 gallon or 40 L
- Water change 50% once a week
- This limits water column nutrient levels to 14 ppm NO3, 1.4 ppm PO4, 18 ppm K, 1.4 ppm Mg, 0.7 ppm Fe(TE).
- PPS-Pro Macros, 2ml per 10 gallon or 40 L
- PPS-Pro Micros, 1ml per 10 gallon or 40 L
- Water change 50% once a week
- This limits water column nutrient levels to 28 ppm NO3, 2.8 ppm PO4, 36 ppm K, 2.8 ppm Mg, 1.4 ppm Fe(TE).
(1 ml = 20 drops)
How to dose Estimative Index / EI in your planted aquarium
- Estimative Index/EI is a planted aquarium fertilizing system based on routine high dosing of dry micro (M) and macro (NPK) nutrients. The underlying principle is to dose more nutrients weekly than the aquarium plants require. This ensure that nutrients are in adequate supply without plant deficiencies; and algae growth in the aquarium is properly controlled through a balance of fertilizing, high lighting and CO2 for proper nutrient absorption, a densely planted aquascape, and a stable CO2 supply (at 30ppm). During an EI dosing week, micros and macros are alternated daily for six days, followed by a 50% water change on Sundays to reset nutrient levels in the aquarium and remove excess nutrients.
- Test kits / nutrient testing of aquarium water is not required with the EI system, although it is recommended to monitor CO2 saturation in your aquarium with a CO2 drop checker to confirm its at optimal 30ppm CO2.
How to dose Estimative Index Aquarium Fertilizer System
- First, you will need a set of dedicated teaspoons for EI dosing of the dry fertilizer powders
- Follow our EI dosing chart below for the appropriate dose (in teaspoons/tsp) for your aquarium size (in gallons).
- Dose each three times per week for 6 days total. Dose the Micros and Macros on alternating days, for example: dose Macros on M,W,and F and dose Micros on T,TH,and Sat.
- Perform a 50% water change (or more as desired) on day seven (Sunday), weekly.
- KNO3 - 1/8 tsp
- kKH2PO4 - 1/32 tsp
- K2SO4 - 1/32 tsp
- MICROS - 1/32 tsp
- KNO3 - 1/4 tsp
- kKH2PO4 - 1/16 tsp
- K2SO4 - 1/16 tsp
- MICROS - 1/16 tsp
- KNO3 - 1/2 tsp
- kKH2PO4 - 1/8 tsp
- K2SO4 - 1/8 tsp
- MICROS - 1/8 tsp
- KNO3 - 3/4 tsp
- kKH2PO4 - 3/16 tsp
- K2SO4 - 1/4 tsp
- MICROS - 1/4 tsp
- KNO3 - 1 tsp + 1/2 tsp
- kKH2PO4 - 1/2 tsp
- K2SO4 - 1/2 tsp
- MICROS - 1/2 tsp
Weekly Target Ranges of Nutrients and CO2
- CO2 - 30ppm
- NO3 - 5-30ppm
- K - 10-30ppm
- PO4 - 1.0-3.0ppm
- Fe - 0.2-0.5ppm or higher
- GH range 3-5 degrees ~ 50ppm or higher
- KH range 3-5
Total daily dose in tsp/10gal yields (ppm): (dose each 3 times per week, alternating Macros and Micros)
To reach your target of 7.5ppm NO3 you will need to add 463 milligrams (equivalent to 1/16 tsp ) KNO3 to your 10gal aquarium to yield:
- NO3 7.5ppm
- N 1.69ppm
- K 4.73ppm
To reach your target of 7.5ppm K you will need to add 633 milligrams (equivalent to 1/16 tsp + 1/32 tsp ) K2SO4 to your 10gal aquarium to yield:
- K 7.5ppm
- S 3.08ppm
To reach your target of 1.3ppm PO4 you will need to add 90 milligrams (equivalent to 1/64 tsp ) K2HPO4 to your 10gal aquarium to yield:
- PO4 1.3ppm
- P 0.42ppm
- K 1.07ppm
To reach your target of 0.2ppm Fe you will need to add 116 milligrams (equivalent to 1/64 tsp ) GLA EDTA Micromix to your 10gal aquarium to yield:
- Fe 0.2ppm
- Mn 0.057ppm
- Cu 0.003ppm
- Mg 0.043ppm
- Zn 0.011ppm
- Mo 0.002ppm
- B 0.025ppm
- dGH 0.01
Plant Requirements, Nutrient Sources, Optimal Levels, and Mobility
- Non-mineral Nutrients - non-mineral nutrients directly vital to photosynthesis include: Hydrogen (H), Oxygen (O), and Carbon (C)
- Macronutrients - three primary macronutrients, mineral nutrients (NKP), are required by plants in significant quantity to grow healthy and control algae: Nitrogen (N), Potassium (K), and Phosphorous (P). Secondary macronutrients include: Magnesium (Mg), Calcium (Ca), and Sulfur (S).
- Micronutrients / Trace Elements (TE) - minerals vital to plant survival in trace quantities, include: Iron (Fe), Boron (B), Manganese (Mn), Zinc (Zn), Molybdenum (Mo), Copper (Cu), Nickel (Ni)
Optimal water column nutrient level / weekly target ranges (ppm) and Nutrient sources
- carbon (C) (source: CO2 injection) - 30ppm CO2
- nitrogen (N / as NO3, NH4+)(source: KNO3, fish waste, plant decay) - 5-10ppm, up to 30ppm for high light tanks (dose approx. 1ppm daily)
- phosphorus (P / as PO4)(source: KH2PO4, fish waste, plant decay, tap water) - 0.1 - 1ppm, up to 3ppm for high light tanks (dose at 1/10 nitrate level)(dose approx. 0.1ppm daily)(for tanks with less fish load, increase phosphorus dose)
- potassium (K / as K+) (source: K2SO4, KNO3, KH2PO4) - 5-20ppm (dose approx. 1.33ppm daily)
- magnesium (Mg / as Mg2+) (source: MgSO4, tap water, substrate) - 5-10ppm
- calcium (Ca / as Ca2+) (source: CaSO4, tap water, substrate) - 20-30ppm
- trace elements (Fe,Mn,B,Zn,Mo,Cu,Ni) (source: GLA Micromix, Miller's Microplex etc.) 0.05ppm - 0.2ppm* (dose depending on water changes and fertilizing system)
Nutrient Balance and Deficiencies, Nutrient Mobility
- excess Phosphorus can lead to reduced zinc uptake
- excess Potassium can reduce magnesium uptake and vice versa
- excess Calcium can cause boron or magnesium deficiencies
- dosing higher levels of NO3 and PO4 improves micro and macro nutrient balance, and decreases risk of metal toxicity if/when dosing higher concentrations of trace elements
- a deficiency or excess of nutrients in aquarium, and/or insufficient aquarium maintenance, and/or insufficient lighting and CO2 for proper nutrient absorption, may lead to toxicities and algae growth. When nutrient levels are optimal, when plants are healthy, and when the ecosystem is in proper balance (especially focused on nitrogen and phosphate balance; the addition of NO3/PO4 by fish waste, plant decay, and fertilizer in balance with its removal by water changes and plant uptake of NO3/PO4), then algae growth will be suppressed/eliminated.
- the leaf of a plant with nitrogen (N) deficiency yellows down the midvein/middle (chlorosis), starting at the tip and moving back towards the stem, new plant growth will reduce/slow with pale leaves and leaf loss
- the leaf of a plant with phosphorus (P) deficiency turns reddish or purple discoloration along the leaf margins/edges, accompanied by stunted growth of plant and roots, and vulnerability to increased algae
- the leaf of a plant with potassium (K) deficiency yellows along the leaf margins/edges and veins, and curling/crinkling of the leaves, holes may develop on older leaves
- the leaf of a plant with magnesium (Mg) deficiency will appear pale in older leaves, and growth rate will slow
- calcium deficiency will have pale new leaves, with slow growth rate and small crippled new growth, plant may become brittle and melt
The mobility of a nutrient in a plant determines where deficiency symptoms first appear:
Mobile: nutrients that are mobile will move to areas of new growth, and deficiency symptoms will first appear in older leaves. As new leaves develop, they will take nutrients from the older leaves for growth, leaving the older leaves deficient.
- nitrogen, phosphorus (somewhat mobile), potassium (very mobile), magnesium (somewhat mobile), sulfur
Immobile: nutrients that are immobile will not move to areas of new growth, so deficiency symptoms will appear in new growth. For immobile nutrients, the new leaves will appear deficient first, as the nutrients are immobile and cannot be transferred from the older leaves.
- calcium, boron, copper, iron, manganese, zinc, molybdenum
DIY Daily Dose (tsp) of Dry Nutrients - Dose to Reach a Target (ppm) (per 10 gallons)
To reach your target of 1ppm NO3 you will need to add 62 milligrams (equivalent to less than 1/64 tsp) KNO3 to your 10gal aquarium to yield:
- NO3 1ppm
- N 0.23ppm
- K 0.63ppm
To reach your target of 0.1ppm PO4 you will need to add 6.94 milligrams (equivalent to less than 1/64 tsp) K2HPO4 to your 10gal aquarium to yield:
- PO4 0.1ppm
- P 0.03ppm
- K 0.08ppm
To reach your target of 1.33ppm K you will need to add 112 milligrams (equivalent to 1/64 tsp ) K2SO4 to your 10gal aquarium to yield:
- K 1.33ppm
- S 0.55ppm
To reach your target of 0.05ppm Fe you will need to add 29 milligrams (equivalent to less than 1/64 tsp) GLA EDTA Micromix to your 10gal aquarium to yield:
- Fe 0.05ppm
- Mn 0.0143ppm
- Cu 0.0007ppm
- Mg 0.0107ppm
- Zn 0.0028ppm
- Mo 0.0004ppm
- B 0.0061ppm
- dGH 0.0025