I have to admit, my aquarium plants are doing awful. And when I change things to try and make it better, then seem to do worse instead. I've done plenty of reading on fish-forums, asking advice, talking to the fish guy at the shop. Now looking back on my own blog here to see what I did and what effect it had. There's a lag, I keep looking for results too quick when the plants take two to three weeks to show a response to changes. Main thing is: I kept cutting the lights back. Giving less ferts. Because people told me with low-tech setup you don't need so much, you'll get algae. But you also need healthy plants, and mine are obviously not getting enough of something. I had moved my photoperiod from 12 to 10 to 8 to 6 hours, and things are worse than ever. I used to be feeding the micronutrients a half cap a week, then went to less, had put in root tabs, then vaccumed them out (looking for a snail, cleaning up ich).
So now I am going to try the opposite tack. Giving back the nutrients to the plants, that I had been trying to deprive algae of. Maybe it wasn't algae I was seeing on my plants at all, causing brown stems, but simply dying foliage. I have the original T8 17 watt full spectrum light back on there, I'm going to increase the photoperiod now- bumped to 8 hours today. I'm going to give the main tank 2 ml micronutrients, the small one 1ml once a week. Continue dosing the potassium once a week as well. If they start to look better, I'll increase the light period more, maybe up the micro dose or add more root tabs (I still only have half the recommended amount in there). Keep increasing light/nutrients until I see algae bloom again, and then I'll know to stop at that point or cut back a little.
Because right now there's no algae on any glass (yay MTS) and the splotches on leaves don't rub off either, so I'm pretty sure that's a sign of starving plants, not growing algae. I feel like I've been pretty stupid about this whole live-plant attempt, but hope its still salvageable and my aponos aren't going to die completely. Other thing I've realize is I did this low-tech approach wrong. And thus took the advice online wrong. The method for planted tanks that allows you to not feed ferts is to put a nutrient-rich substrate in first, then cap with sand or fine gravel- so the plants have macros to feed on in the substrate, and micros from the fish waste. Without that nutrient-rich bed, I do have to feed the water column and plant tabs, or my plants slowly starve. Bah.