My Experience with APT Complete and APT Fix in Low
By Sarah Tetlow
Picture the scene, you’re gazing at your tank, admiring how your new aquascape is starting to fill out and how the plants are starting to grow and look lush and suddenly you see it, that little black tuft on the end of a leaf. Suddenly you notice another, and another! They are everywhere, little evil tufts spreading slowly throughout your plants and suddenly, horror strikes, as you spy a patch of green dust algae on the glass in the place you couldn’t quite reach with your blade. You stare in dismay, but it only lasts a few min before you calm down and remember that your order for the new APT Fix by the 2hr Aquarist is on its way to you…
This is how I felt 2 months ago when my newly cleaned and re-scaped tanks started to go haywire. Blackbeard algae started to appear all over the java fern and driftwood in my largest tank, while green dust algae slowly accumulated on the glass of all my tanks until I had lovely green boxes on my shelf instead of sparkling fish tanks. At the same time, I had noticed that my plants had started to look a bit dejected and pale and weren’t growing as well as they could be. I stared at them, annoyed, thinking of all the time spent adding various fertilizers with a stupid little syringe, which clearly wasn’t paying off, and just when I felt utterly hopeless, the magicians behind the advert algorithms on Instagram worked their magic and an advert for the 2hr Aquarist APT Fix appeared on my feed. I started researching it and discovered two things – firstly, this appeared to be exactly what I needed to fix my algae problem while still being safe for the fish and invertebrates, and secondly, the 2hr Aquarist also makes a fertilizer called APT Complete which appeared to be a single pump bottle containing everything the plants need. The more I researched the more my head filled with dreams of healthy, lush, algae free plants. The question was how to get a hold of these two products? Again, it appeared the algorithm magicians were listening to my thoughts because lo and behold, there appeared a post by Epic Aquatics announcing that they are going to be bringing in the APT range of products at some point in the future. All I had to do was be patient…
But that’s not who I am, so the furious researching continued, eventually leading me to the Instagram page of my latest follower, @easyscapeza. His timing couldn’t have been more perfect as I scoured the site and spied the Epic Aquatics products lined up in rows. I immediately contacted the man behind the page, who I later would learn was Travis, and asked whether he would be getting the APT range of products and if so, could I dibs a bottle of APT Fix and a bottle of APT Complete. I explained my situation and in a completely different turn of events, Travis mentioned that he had already gotten a sample or two of the products and was looking for tanks to test them on. After much discussion, we decided that my tanks would make a good experimental project to see how APT Fix faired up against blackbeard algae and green dust algae in various low tech tanks and, at the same time, whether the APT complete was all it’s cracked up to be.
In high tech, thickly planted tanks, the healthy fast growing plant mass usually outcompetes the algae for nutrients thanks to the high light, nutrient rich aquasoil and injected CO2 on offer. Unfortunately, there is an entire population of novice aquascapers, like myself, who are unwilling to invest in such expensive and complicated setups and make do with low light, inert gravel and a lack of CO2. The plants in these kinds of setups are usually slow growing and CO2 limited and the macro nutrients need to be dosed in the water column which makes them more available to algae. The bottom line is that low tech tanks can be tricky to get the balance right and are usually far more prone to getting various types of algae than high tech setups.
It is for this exact reason that we decided to test these products on my tanks. I had read all the reviews of both products but the one thing I noticed was that most of the reviews and pictures came from high tech setups where the change in plant health was obvious and quick. This is why we decided that we wanted to find out how these products faired in regular low tech tanks, without the added benefits of aquasoil and injected CO2, to give an idea of the results that should be expected by the general population of novice, low tech aquascapers like myself.
Since I had 8 tanks, we devised a method that would allow us to test both products while still having some “control tanks”, where I didn’t change anything, to compare to. All the tanks had similar plants and varying stages of algae. The experiment ran for 2 months and involved 3 x control tanks, 2 x APT Complete tanks, 2 x APT Fix tanks and 1 tank where both APT products were tested. In the control tanks and APT Fix tanks, my normal fertilization regime was followed. In the 3 control tanks Seachem Excel was used but avoided in tanks testing the APT products so as not to skew their results. Considering these were low tech tanks, I wasn’t expecting any overnight miracles due to the growth rate of the plants but I was pleasantly surprised with the results. Of the tanks being tested with APT Fix, only one had blackbeard algae while all three had green dust algae on the glass.
APT Fix Results
Tank 1 – Blackbeard algae and green dust algae
According to the instructions, this is best administered by spot dosing not water column dosing, but the scientist in me wanted to try anyway. I dosed the water column with APT Fix every day for a week. By day 7 there was still no noticeable difference in the blackbeard algae (BBA) although it appeared the green dust algae (GDA) wasn’t progressing as quickly as before. I then swapped to spot dosing the BBA where I turned off the filter and squirted the APT Fix directly onto a patch of BBA and GDA and then waited 10 min before turning the filter back on. By day 14 I started to notice the BBA changing to a purple-ish grey colour and the patch of wood it was on also started fading. By day 17 the BBA was completely dead and grey in the area I had been spot dosing. The GDA didn’t appear to be spreading any further but still covered the glass.
Tank 2 and 3 – Green dust algae
Since these tanks just had GDA covering the glass, I decided to stick to column dosing. In the first few days there seemed to be no effect on the GDA but after a week I noticed that it was no longer spreading. I had been expecting the APT Fix to remove the GDA but that didn’t appear to be happening. However, after a week had passed, I suddenly noticed that the big patch of GDA behind the heater that I had been watching had miraculously disappeared. I wiped down the tank walls and continued to dose APT Fix in the water column and for the next week it appeared that the GDA wasn’t coming back.
At this point I was a bit confused because the GDA had stopped and then disappeared in tanks 2 and 3 while tank one was still covered in it. Suddenly it hit me that all my tanks have otocinclus catfish except tank 1. I briefly wondered whether they could’ve messed up the experiment and if it had actually been them that got rid of the GDA but otos don’t eat GDA when it’s living. That left only the logical answer – the APT Fix had killed the GDA (which was what I saw when it stopped spreading) and because the cellular structure of the algae was destroyed, the otos were able to eat it and had cleaned the glass of all the GDA, something they would not have been able to do without the APT killing the algae first. This also explained why the glass was still covered in tank 1 because there were no algae eaters to remove the dead algae. I decided to test my theory and wiped a strip of glass clean in tank 1. I continued to dose in the water column and after a week the strip I had cleaned was still algae-free.
Therefore, the overall result was that it took approximately 10 days of water column dosing APT Fix to kill the GDA on the glass while having no effect on the BBA, and 5 days of spot dosing the BBA for it to start to die off. In both cases, APT Fix did not remove the dead algae and therefore some sort of algae eaters would be needed. At the time of writing this article, a month has passed since I stopped dosing APT Fix. In tanks 2 and 3, the GDA seems to grow very slowly or not at all, while in tank 1 it seems to have come back like before. The dead BBA finally got eaten by my fish but the sections I did not dose remain the same. That is proof that using an algaecide like APT Fix works but it is not a permanent solution, and the underlying problem needs to be fixed to prevent the algae coming back. During the time that I dosed APT Fix, I carefully watched my fish and invertebrates and there were no noticeable side effects which made sense because according to research, the composition of APT Fix is far safer for livestock than alternatives such as Seachem Excel.
APT Complete Results
When I started using the APT Complete I wasn’t sure what I was expecting so I was pleasantly surprised by the results in the end. Since my tanks are low tech, I knew that it would take quite a while to see new results as the growth is quite slow. For 5 days of every week I dosed the three APT Complete tanks to give the full weekly dosage as per the instructions. After the first week I noticed very slight changes on the fastest growing plants, namely the cabomba and ludwigia rubin whose new growth was starting to look slightly healthier (and redder in the case of the latter). However, the rest of the plants such as the staurogyne repens and java fern showed no improvements.
By the end of week 2, there was some definite healthier new growth on the fastest growing plants and even the slow growers were starting to look a little healthier. The ludwigia was gaining its red colour compared to the lower green leaves and a few new shoots of marsilia hirsuta had started to poke out the gravel. The moss as well was starting to look a little greener and not so brown or stalk-like.
After week three I started to notice an interesting difference in the tanks being dosed with APT Complete vs the ones being dosed with my alternative fertilizer. It appeared that the lower growth on the faster growing plants in the APT tanks was maintaining its healthy appearance whereas the lower growth in the other tanks was decaying while the tops stayed healthy. This gave the APT tanks a healthier overall look while the other tanks started to look stalky and bare on the bottom level. This did not seem to affect the slower growing plants which seemed to keep their healthy lower leaves. The water lettuce in the APT tanks was also growing faster than the others and required more frequent removal. In the alternative fertilizer tanks that were not being used to test APT Fix, Seachem Excel was used to boost the fertilizers and provide a liquid carbon source. However despite this, the APT Complete tanks with no Excel still came out on top health-wise.
However, the real surprise came at the end of the 4th week when I decided to look back at the photos. When you watch your tanks every day it is hard to notice changes so when I compared the photos from day 1 vs day 28 I could see a significant difference in health. The main differences were in the faster growing plants which was to be expected as they show nutrient deficiencies more quickly than the slow growers. The tanks that were being dosed with APT showed significantly healthier plants, particularly in their top sections than the other tanks. Despite all three tanks having similar plants and being dosed the same, the tank that came out on top was the tank in which I was dosing APT Complete as well as APT Fix. The entire tank was much greener and more algae free than when I started out and I was shocked at how ragged and brown my plants had looked before. It seems that both APT products plus a three-man team of otocinclus catfish is definitely the winning combination.
Overall, I was extremely pleased with the APT Complete and despite not expecting miracles, this product definitely came through on top. I had done so much research on it before starting and looked at endless photos of bright green and dark red planted tanks that I had to remind myself that I will not achieve that with the low lighting and lack of CO2 way that I currently run my tanks. However despite this, I am pleased to say that overall my plants definitely improved their health and colour, even over the short 4 weeks that I tested the product, since it usually takes longer to notice proper results. My low tech tanks are now well on their way to being the best versions of themselves that they could be. I also noticed that I had achieved the same result in one month of using APT Complete as roughly 3 months of using my alternate fertilizer so clearly this is one lekker product! I will absolutely be purchasing some more bottles of both the APT Fix and the APT complete (and APT zero when I get my ADA Amazonia tanks up and running) and I will not be looking back! I am very happy that these products worked so well in my low tech tanks and therefore they are a great choice for beginner and advanced aquascapers alike. Thank you to Easyscape for giving me an opportunity to test these products and I can safely say that I am an APT product convert!
Sarah is a qualified Chemical Engineer, Programmer, one of our favourite community members and avid lover of Betta fish. She is the Administrator for the Betta Association of South Africa forum and you can find her on her instagram page here.