PhytaGen M1

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Complete Trace Elements supplement for planted aquaria with medium-low Vegetal Metabolism

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PhytaGen M1 is a complete trace elements supplement for freshwater aquaria.

It provides the aquatic ecosystem with all and only the trace elements that are indispensable or useful for the wellbeing and growth of aquarium plants.
In particular Iron, Manganese, Boron, Zinc, Copper, Molybdenum are supplied in the optimal shapes and ratios.

PhytaGen M1 DOES NOT contain unnecessary and / or harmful elements such as Vanadium, Lithium, Rubidium, Cobalt, Tin, Nickel etc.

The use of PhytaGen M1 is recommended in the cultivation of aquatic plants in aquariums with low Vegetal Metabolism (aquariums not characterized by a particular abundance of rapidly growing plants).

This can happen for various reasons; mainly due to lack of CO2 and lighting.
In these circumstances the growth of plants is also hampered by the unavailability of iron due to the average pH higher than in tanks with regular administration of CO2.

PhytaGen M1 tries to overcome this difficulty with a composition specifically designed to allow a good growth of aquatic plants even in these circumstances.
In fact, with PhytaGen M1, Iron is supplied bound to various aminocarboxylic chelators with excellent stability against high pH; this is what ensures stability and prolonged release, ensuring constant availability in water for several days. The substances present also actively participate in the gradual reduction of trivalent to divalent iron in proportion to the light irradiation; thus ensuring the plants a constant supply of adequate quantities of iron easily assimilated.

Also all the other trace elements present are supplied in various forms, in order to guarantee the best bioavailability, a correct use by the plants and a balanced and protracted presence over time.

The high degree of chelation with which the elements are protected makes PhytaGen M1:

• Keep its structure intact (without changes or precipitation) up to pH 7.2 (in water properly rebuilt with PhytaGen S1 Planta).

• Not affected by interactions with other substances (eg phosphates) that can cause unwanted reactions and synthesis of insoluble compounds.

• Both at normal doses, absolutely harmless for invertebrates possibly present in the tank.


PhytaGen M1 contains:
Iron: 1.5 mg / ml (1.5 grams / liter),
as well as Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Boron and Molybdenum in balanced ratios with it.
Iron, Manganese, Zinc and Copper are chelated with EDDHSA, DTPA and EDTA.

Field of use:

PhytaGen M1 has been developed to be used and give the best results in environmental conditions considered typical and ideal for an aquarium with a medium-low Vegetal Metabolism (medium-low VM; see details into the tab: "usage").

That is an aquarium where the cultivation of particularly demanding plants and their fastest growth is not a priority. 

In these cases usually the illumination is less intense and the CO2 dosage is lower, resulting in a higher pH.

In particular, it has been designed to work at best with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5 (ideally 6.8-7.2), medium light intensity and Redox potential of about 350 mV (clean and well-maintained tank).


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Trace elements (also called Micro elements or Oligo elements) are part of the series of mineral elements essential for plant life.

The plants need lower quantities of Trace Elements than of the so-called Macroelements (Potassium, Nitrogen, Phosphorus), but they are not less important than the latter.

On the contrary, problems with aquatic plants occur in cultivation systems (such as home aquariums) mainly due to nutritional imbalances related to trace elements.
This is due to the particular water chemistry of some of them, the ease in reacting with different substances that prevents their absorption by plants and their tendency to modify their chemical-physical state until they become insoluble and precipitate.

Essential trace elements and their role in plant physiology

The trace elements currently considered indispensable and their functions in plant biology can be summarized as follows:

• Iron: Synthesis of chlorophyll, proteins, reduction of nitrates, enzymatic function.
• Manganese: Photosynthesis and protein synthesis, enzymatic function
• Boron: Transport of sugars and correct activity of vegetative and root tips.
• Zinc: hormonal synthesis (auxins), respiration, Phosphorus absorption, Nitrogen metabolism.
• Copper: Carbohydrate formation, photosynthesis (chloroplast constituent), enzymatic function.
• Molybdenum: Functioning of the enzymes necessary for the reduction of nitrates, formation of amino acids.

Few other trace elements are of any importance for certain plants and / or in certain situations.
These are:
• Nickel; Cobalt; Silicon;
Without going into details of the individual Trace Elements, it should be noted that their usefulness for aquatic plants normally cultivated is basically negligible.

On the other hand, some of them can give rise to problems.
For example:

• Cobalt is an essential trace element for the noxious Cyanobacteria and its unwanted presence can be the basis of a proliferation of the latter

• Silicon is an essential trace element for Diatoms (siliceous algae) and its unintended presence can be the basis of a proliferation of these annoying algae.

Symptoms of trace elements imbalances

The problems related to trace elements occur mainly on young leaves with a series of often very pronounced symptoms.

The plants may have pale leaves, discolored especially between the veins (chlorosis intervale), thin until they become transparent and die; apical leaves of small size and with various problems to the leaf blade, which can therefore appear narrow and pointed and / or present various distortions until appear curled up; apical leaves of reduced size (even very small); internodes very shortened to make it appear that the last verticilli of apical leaves depart from the same point.

In all cases slow and stunted growth is present.

What has been said, in a slightly more detailed way for each individual element, can be summarized as follows:

• Iron:
Problems at the vegetative apices with pale and discolored leaves but usually about normal size.
No distortion ever present.

• Manganese:
Problems with vegetative apices with discolored leaves; very similar to the Iron deficiency.
Often the leaves appear of a typical iridescent color changing the angle of observation from perpendicular to tangent the leaf blade.

• Boron:
Problems at the vegetative apex with pale, small and distorted leaves with more evident problems starting from the tips (necrosis); shortened internodes.
Stunted roots.

• Zinc:
Problems at the vegetative apices with pale leaves (chlorosis intervale), small and especially narrow.
Problems with the leaf blade especially at the side edges.
Very short internodes.
The leaves can be distorted.

• Copper:
Problems at the vegetative apices with leaves with light chlorosis and slightly smaller.
The internode length is not generally impacted.
Often the leaves suffer from severe malformations of the leaf blade.

• Molybdenum:
Problems predominantly with the mature parts of the plant.
Symptoms are very similar to nitrogen deficiency. In fact, the lack of Molybdenum prevents the reduction of Nitrates and consequently the absorption of Nitrogen when this is supplied in the form of Nitrate.
Leaf malformations are sometimes possible.

What is said above, however, is only general, since not all plants react in the same way and with the same intensity to nutritional imbalances caused by trace elements.
This therefore prevents being more precise, as the symptoms should be detailed for each individual species of plant.

Genesis of PhytaGen M1

This formula represents the arrival point of about 15 years of studies related to:
• Nutritional needs related to iron and microelements of aquatic plant organisms.
• The chemistry in water of the elements and compounds involved.

Our search for the ideal formulation can be considered divided into two distinct and consequential phases:

1 - Analysis in/of the natural habitats
In the initial phase we first built our references, based on (as well as on the review of the scarce available scientific literature) on multiple analyzes carried out in various natural biotopes in Europe, Asia and America, using the most modern and accurate instrumentation, such as spectrophotometers and X-ray mass spectrometers (EDX).
These analyzes, carried out both on the plants and on the water of the selected biotopes, allowed:

a) The evaluation of the mineral composition of many of the most known species of aquarium plants coming directly from their natural habitat, versus their visible health status;

b) The evaluation of the mineral balance of the waters of origin, versus the visible health status of the ecosystem and of the plants present.

The subsequent statistical analysis of the accumulated data, with analysis of the variance (ANOVA) and the correlation between the data related to the plants and those related to the waters to which they belong, has allowed to extrapolate an optimal average composition valid for all the plant species currently known in aquariophilia and the corresponding ion balance ideal for culture water.

These are important data to start with and to compare with in the next phase.

2 - Analysis in cultivation
Starting from the references obtained in the first phase of analysis of the ideal parameters in natural habitats, we then proceeded with the second phase of study and testing aimed at obtaining and maintaining the above ideal parameters in an artificial and closed environment (our cultivation in hydroponics, submersion and micropropagation).

All the related formulation and testing activities were guided by computer simulations carried out using the most reliable chemical speciation software (Geochem, Minteq etc.).
This made it possible to evaluate the composition of nutritive solutions in function not simply of the concentrations of the elements of interest (often misleading in these areas), but also and especially as a function of their "Free Ion Activity"1.
The formulations thus designed were then tested in the most varied scenarios2 in our cultivation plants.

The results obtained were finally assessed and verified both visually and again by analyzing the water and plant tissues as already described for the first phase, comparing them to our references.

The product of this work is a microelements integrator that fully guarantees the nutritional needs of aquatic plants and allows the perfect growth even of the most demanding species in the conditions highlighted in the directions of use.

The unit of measurement used to quantify the presence in water of chemical species is normally the concentration (generally expressed in milligrams on liter => mg/l).
In particular circumstances, however, this parameter is less accurate and useful than expected.

This happens when, due to particular dissolved substances, the interactions between the chemical species present are no longer negligible and, because of these interactions, a certain percentage of them is "blocked" and unable to perform its normal chemical-biological roles .
This happens for example when so-called "chelating" or "complexing agents" are dissolved in water; typical case with iron and / or microelements.

In these situations, rather than considering Concentration, it is necessary to refer to the so-called "Free Ionic Activity".
This expresses the part of the concentration of the chemical species in question that is not linked to other compounds and is therefore free to take part in the chemical-physical reactions of our interest and available to be absorbed by plants.

In extreme cases, the chelators can keep the element in question so firmly bound as to make it unavailable to the plants.

In this situation the Free Ionic activity can be extremely low and the plants go into deficiency, despite the knowledge of concentration alone would make us think that this trace element is present in adequate quantity.

Free Ionic Activity changes depending on the concentration of trace elements, the concentration of chelating and complexing agents and their type.
This parameter can not be directly measured, but can be estimated through complex calculations, after knowledge of all the above data and generally only carried out by the computer through the use of particular software.

It should be pointed out that different environmental parameters play a fundamental role in the stability in water of the compounds and of the chemical species involved.
With prevalence of pH, light irradiation and Redox potential.

The analyzes carried out have therefore been extended to the variation of the most important environmental factors and consequently the formulation of PhytaGen M1 was carried out taking into account not only the needs of aquatic plants, but also the types of aquariums nowadays prevalent among enthusiasts.

Phytagen M1 should be dosed as a single weekly administration, as needed for bringing Iron concentration to the set target level.
The dosage must take into account the fact that 1 ml of PhytaGen M1 in 10 liters of water increases the iron by 0.15 mg/l.
Maintaining the chosen target values should take place on the basis of measurements carried out using a colorimetric test.

Choise of Iron target level

Iron target value varies depending on the amount of vegetables present in the tank and their growth rate (influenced by the amount of light, CO2 and other nutrients).
Later we are going to summarize this parameter with the term "Vegetal Metabolism" (abbreviated as VM) and we will exemplify distinguishing between:

• High VM: high nutrient consumption; due to the presence of many rapidly growing plants.
• Medium VM: average nutrient consumption; due to a reasonable presence of plants and / or their average rapid growth
• Low VM: low nutrient consumption; due to the presence of a few plants and / or a low growth rate.

Obviously all the intermediate gradations remain possible.

As a function of Plant Metabolism, Alxyon recommends using the following target values ​​for Iron:

Medium VM: 0.45 mg/l of Iron from PhytaGen M1 = 3 ml/10 liters
• Low MV: 0.3 mg/l of Iron from PhytaGen M1 = 2 ml/10 liters

Dosing Procedure

The correct dosing procedure is as follows:

Perform the recommended water change (20-25% of the total).

• Introduce the new water remineralized with the salt mix PhytaGen S1 Planta.

After waiting for the salts to be fully dissolved and the water to be perfectly clear, measure pH and wait for it to return below 7.2 (IMPORTANT!)

Measure Iron concentration in water.

Dose the amount of PhytaGen M1 necessary to bring Iron back to the target level set according to the VM of the tank.

Once the layout of the tank and the growth speed of the plants are stable, we can assume with good approximation that the consumption of the tank stays constant and we can dose the already known amount with no need for measuring Iron concentration (although this remains highly recommendable).

By way of example, based on our experience, we report the following possible consumption:

Medium VM: 0.30 mg / l of Iron from PhytaGen M1 per week
• Low VM: 0.2 mg / l of iron from PhytaGen M1 per week

Based on these estimated consumption, the dosage can be estimated without the need for measuring iron;
But, as said above, the recommendation of Alxyon is to behave as detailed into the dosing procedure above.

For example:
In general, for an aquarium with a fairly good plant amount and growth (Medium VM) it is advisable to dose the first week 3 ml every 10 liters
(30 ml x 100 liters) of aquarium water.
This dose brings iron to 0.45 mg/l.
From the week onwards, the dosage will be done according to the consumption of the tank;
that is as needed for bring back/keep iron concentration at 0.45 mg/l.

In order to obtain the best results it is very important to use PhytaGen M1 starting from a water with an optimal chemical composition in relation to the macro and meso-elements; such as that obtained by replenishing demineralized water (from osmosis or resins) through PhytaGen S1 Planta salt mix and PhytaGen N1 and PhytaGen P1 supplements.

Please find hereafter a dosage calculator to be used on mobile phones.
Just select the relevant product (M1, M2, N1, P1, S1) from the top tabs, insert the data requested and the program will calculate the amount of product to be dosed.

What is the optimal concentration of Iron or other trace elements in the aquarium.

This question can not have a unequivocal answer.

As explained when talking about Free Ion Activity, concentration is often not the best parameter to evaluate the biological availability of a trace element dissolved in water.
In particular, this is particularly true when it comes to chelated trace elements.

In this case, as we have seen, concentration does not make much sense unless it is accompanied by the relevant Free Ion Activity.

What has already been explained in relation to the latter also makes us understand how it is not possible to compare the interactions of oligoelements simply basing on the concentration of the latter, but should be considered instead the Free Ion Activity.
Something which is actually impossible for the hobbist.

So... how can the latter be oriented in the dosage?
First of all we need to base ourselves on the manufacturer's indications.

The type of product and its description can obviously give us some valid suggestions.
If it is a supplement of trace elements chelated with synthetic chelants (generally quite strong) we will have to increase significantly dosage compared to supplements in which the trace elements are chelated (or simply complexed) with much chelating natural chelators.

In these cases the difference in the concentrations of the nutrients in the water will serve to ensure that the Free Ion Activities are comparable.
Thus, a dosage of Iron in a concentration of 0.1 mg / l of a supplement with iron chelated by weak natural compounds (amino acids, gluconic acid etc.) will have on the plants an effect equal to a higher dosage (eg 0 , 5 mg / l) of Iron chelated with stronger synthetic chelants.

With the difference generally that in this last case, being the Iron present in greater quantity, it will remain present for a longer period in water.

On the basis of what is seen, it is therefore understandable that it is not possible to say in general and once and for all what should be an adequate concentration of iron to keep in water.

Depending on the types of chelating agents present and their quantity there could be situations in which the plants show deficiency even with iron concentrations equal to 1 mg/l.
When, on the other hand, they may show signs of toxicity with iron concentrations of 0.2 mg/l, if this is administered in the absence of chelating agents (for example as Sulfate or Chloride).

In general, just to get an idea, with the presently available supplements on the market, the concentration to be kept preferably is between about 0.2 and about 1 mg/l.
As mentioned, always depending on the composition of the product and its chelants.

Using mixes of different products.

According to all the above, it is easy to understand how it is generally a bad idea to move away from the manufacturer's instructions and mix different products, although similar.
In particular if products from different companies (for example a company's iron supplement with one of another company's trace elements).

In fact, mixing these products inevitably means altering the relationships between nutritive and chelating elements, as well as probably the types of the latter.
And this, as seen, alters the Free Ion Activities of the various trace elements and profoundly modifies the characteristics of the starting products (according to which these products have been designed).

The impact that the final product will have on aquatic plants therefore becomes absolutely unpredictable.

The advice is therefore always to rely on a single manufacturer and follow the nutritional protocol proposed by this letter.

Chelated or not chelated.

It is often asked whether it is preferable to use chelated or non-chelated oligoelements (free or mildly complexed with various natural molecules).

In general, the ideal solution would be to recreate what happens in nature, with a constant administration of very small quantities of trace elements complexed with natural organic substances; ideally introduced into the tank through the use of metering pumps.

In the absence of technological solutions such as metering pumps, however, the dosage of free or mildly complexed trace elements is unfortunately more difficult because, as said, these compounds, once introduced into water, withstand little in the starting chemical form.

In particular, iron, if not adequately protected with rather strong chelators, quickly gives rise to insoluble compounds that make it unavailable and cause it to precipitate.

It would be useless and dangerous to introduce larger quantities, considering the toxicity of many of these elements to the free state.
In these cases we try to obviate by manually dosing small quantities of these elements very often; generally daily; ideally, also several times a day.

Excellent results can be obtained, but it is generally a sub-optimal case compared to dosing pumps.
In any case, as it is easy to imagine, this is a method that obliges the enthusiast to a considerable effort.

On the other hand, a much simpler strategy to follow is that of administering these elements through chelated formulations that allow the introduction of higher quantities of elements adequately protected from the chelator by damaging phenomena of oxidation, precipitation, etc.

But chelators are generally "whimsical" substances, which are very affected by various environmental parameters (we have already said about pH, irradiation and Redox potential).
In this type of products the minimization of risks and the maximization of the advantages are extremely dependent on the capacity of formulation of the producer.

With the right conditions and in the correct environmental situations, the administration of chelated elements is very advantageous.
The greater amount administered and the chelated form allow the enthusiast to relax by carrying out a weekly (or even bi-monthly) dosage and to the plants to enjoy the constant presence in the water of the elements indispensable to them.

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