When Should I Dose Iron in My Planted Aquarium?
Aquatic plants need a special mix of building blocks in order to grow and live. Macronutrients (like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous) are nutrients that plants consume in large quantities, where as micronutrients (like iron and boron) are nutrients that plants consume in trace amounts. Many all-in-one liquid fertilizers like Easy Green already contain iron (Fe), so when is it necessary to dose additional iron in your planted tank?
Are my aquarium plants in need of more iron?
Plants use iron to make chlorophyll. This is a green pigment that absorbs light and makes energy. In general, plants that are fast-growing or need bright lighting use lots of energy. To get more energy, plants often need supplemental iron in order to produce more chlorophyll. Adding more iron to your aquarium will result in a healthier plant growth and vibrant colors.
Are my aquarium plants iron deficient? Iron cannot move freely from one part of the plant to the other. If your aquarium lacks iron, you will notice that the newer leaves of your plant may appear yellow or pale due to insufficient chlorine. Old leaves, however, still retain their vibrant colors.
Plants that lack iron may display yellowing or paleness on their newest leaves with leaf veins that remain darker in color.
Red plants require iron. Iron is primarily used to produce green chlorophyll pigment, not red pigment. Red plants such as scarlet temple and Ammannia gracis may need extra iron, since they are high-light plants that consume higher amounts of nutrients. Scientists are studying the function of red-leafed plant red pigments. These plants have higher levels of red chlorophyll than green chlorophyll. The red pigment can protect the leaves from excessive light energy. Also, less chlorophyll is required to capture light photons. For the aquarium hobby, we recommend a combination of high light, carbon dioxide (CO2) injection, and good nutrient dosing (including iron) to enhance the redness of your plants.
Certain red plants may cause the topmost leaves to turn pink, red, or purple. The lower leaves, however, remain green.
Bottom line: if your planted aquarium isn’t displaying nutrient deficiencies and you aren’t trying to grow high light plants, you probably don’t need to add any extra iron beyond what comes in Easy Green fertilizer. You also don’t require supplemental iron If you are using well water or iron-enriched substrate that already contains excess iron. If your tank is requiring more iron than the current supply, you can read on.
How Often Do I Add Iron To My Aquarium?
Easy Iron is our iron supplement for enhanced plant growth that is completely safe for aquarium fish, shrimp, and snails. It contains a highly concentrated blend of iron derived from ferrous gluconate, iron DTPA, and iron EDTA. Iron is utilized quite rapidly in aquariums, so we recommend dosing 1 pump (1 ml) of Easy Iron per 10 gallons of water approximately 1-3 times a week as desired. Each pump contains 0.26 ppm iron and a whole bottle can treat up to 5,000 galallons of water.
If in doubt, begin with a low dosage for two weeks and gradually increase the dose over time. There have been reports of an increase in filamentous and hair algae due to excessive iron. A few articles on planted tanks recommend that you aim for an iron level of between 0.1 and 0.5 ppm in your aquarium water.
Why doesn’t Easy Green contain more iron? Easy Green fertilizer does already contain iron, but in trace amounts that are appropriate for most planted aquariums. We created Easy Iron to be an additional product that can be used when needed.
If you are having problems with your live aquatic plants and they do not appear to be caused by a lack of iron, check out our full article that describes other plant nutrient deficiencies to see if any of the symptoms match. Have fun with your tank and be sure to enjoy the outdoors every day.