Plant nutrients

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Aquatic plants need food in order to grow. They get this in the form of chemical nutrients in the water via their leaves or from the substrate via their roots.

There are seventeen elements that all plants require.


Elements Required by Plants with their quantity and where they get them from
Elements Nutrient Form Quantity Supplied via...
B (boron) BO33- Trace Fish food, PMDD
Cl (chlorine) Cl- Trace Fish food
Cu (copper) Cu2+ Trace Fish food, PMDD
Fe (iron) Fe2+,Fe3+ Trace Fish food, PMDD
Mn (manganese) Mn2+ Trace Fish food, PMDD
Mo (molybdenum) MoO42- Trace Fish food, PMDD
Ni (nickel) Ni2+ Trace Fish food
Zn (zinc) Zn2+ Trace Fish food, Fertiliser
C (carbon) CO2,HCO3- Major decaying matter, CO2 injection
Ca (calcium) Ca²+ Major Water hardness, substrate, shell fragments, GH Booster
H (hydrogen) H2O Major Water
K (potassium) K+ Major Fish food, Fertiliser
Mg (magnesium) Mg2+ Major Fish food, Fertiliser
N (nitrogen) NH2,NH4+,NO2-,NO3- Major decay of organic material, Fertiliser
O (oxygen) CO2,H2O Major Water, air
P (phosphorus) PO4- (Phosphate) Major Fish food, Fertiliser
S (sulphur) SO42- Major Fertiliser


'Fertiliser' is in the form of either commercial plant food,PMDD or The Estimative Index.

  • See PMDD for a list of low cost fertiliser suppliers.
  • With a Walstad tank adding fertilisers is usually not required.


Reference: Book by Diana Walstad - Ecology of the Planted Aquarium : Chapter 7. ISBN 0-9673773-1-5

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