Trying to fix plant melt

So, the symptoms are losing leaves, holes in leaves and plant leaves that become ‘skeleton’  like, pale, transparent and seem to melt away and die. Sometimes only the root is left.

This is the first case of plant melt I’ve had – the same plants were fine in my old tank … so what has changed? I scoured the internet to find out what to do.

What causes plant melt?

Well first time round, I had no problems.

Putting plants underwater

Apparently plants that grow above the water (with only the roots below – called emmersed plants) can melt when they are put under water completely (immersed). It’s the shock of adapting to water / gas exchange / C02 levels and new soil. Some plants are more susceptible.  They try and shed their old leaves and grow new ones which are used to being under water.

Since my Cryptocoryne costata and Anubias were already in my other tank, this can’t be the reason.  I read that sometimes the new shoots take over and the plant recovers.

Natural death

Also, plants don’t live forever – they can die naturally after a few years! I have no idea how old my plants were when I bought them – so it might even be natural!

Could it be low CO2?

Plants feed on CO2 – it is absorbed during photosynthesis in the daylight. Well actually – they don’t feed on it – more like they use CO2 and other nutrients to turn it into sugar – which is their energy food. At night, plants release CO2.  I have a low tech tank – which means I don’t add CO2 gas to the water. Maybe there isn’t enough in the water, or too much?

So what causes low CO2?

  • lots of plants using it up too quickly? – It’s not heavily planted so maybe not this.
  • Low flow – circulation is lacking a bit in my tank as the spray bar from the filter is higher up and not pushing much water around. A plant will take up C02 better in a good flow. Plants are supposed to waft gently in the water – mine don’t so I can try and alter the angle as it’s on maximum as it is.
  • High aeration causing the plants to use more CO2? – I certainly pushed a lot of oxygen into it in the first few weeks. Water agitation can ‘gas off’ the CO2 as well.
  • Weak light – they can’t photosynthesis well and are in a state of stress …. or maybe too much light and they are absorbing a lot of CO2 but it’s not enough to meet their growing needs?

The light is certainly not as good in this tank because it is higher up – but the plants I chose are low light plants and not super fast growers – so not sure about this one. If they haven’t got enough light they can’t make food!

I could try and increase C02 in the tank – or at least stabilise it as it appears to be more often a lack of C02 in relation to the amount of light.

I could reduce the light so they don’t photosynthesis as much (if that is even true) – but I’m not happy with the low light as it is!! Oh what to do. My gut feeling is not enough light. Altering the period of ‘on time’ for the light won’t work – as it’s the intensity of the light that needs to change – if it’s not strong enough you could leave it on 24 hrs a day and it would not work!

Could it be the soil or water they don’t like?

  • Large water changes altering the stability – only done one small water change so far, so I don’t think they are dropping leaves in the hope that new ones will cope with the new water.
  • Lack of nutrients in the soil or roots not getting to the soil – this is possible as I had to trim the mass of roots on the Crypt before I replanted them – but I left a lot more on it than I had originally. It doesn’t explain the other plants though.

Light bulb syndrome

I use a fluorescent light – apparently after around 12 months they can still be on but not putting out the right light frequency – possible.



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