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RE: Newbie

>Hi everyone,
>I've been lurking for about a month now and thought I'd finally come out and 
>say hi, ask a few questions. 

Hello from all of us!

I've been reading all the faqs and archives but 
>a few things still confuse me. First of all, my aquarium is 30gal, set up a 
>month ago with one bunch of anacharis, one A. ulvaceous, and two 
>microswords... not very interesting I know but I wanted to learn more before 
>I bought a lot of plants. There are also 5 zebra danios. Everyone looks 
>healthy, but when I had my water tested yeaterday the ammonia, nitrite and 
>nitrate were all above safe levels. Any ideas how this could happen? 

Possible from old decaying plants(?) plus your tank hasn't cycled yet. Add
old dirty vacummed tank water from someone's tank to help get this process
going. Do a water change. Generally adding  lots of plants is what you want
to do to stop any algae from taking over. Are these plants growing? Add some
fast growing stem plants at first to help get rid of waste too. 

>guys at the store really couldn't tell me anything. What they did say that 
>_really_ confused me is that the pH, which was 7.6, should be 8.2 because 
>that is what the local tap water is. Is that correct? 

If you do water changes.....but tanks often acidify if you don't. You can
have peat in there that will lower your ph and soften the water. Test error
is also possible. I'm not certain what the Ph is for SJ area but the Ph
sometimes varies.......especially with all this rain we have been having.
Water treatment plants often struggle when the rains come to maintain
alkalinity levels. This could be the deal too. They are having a fairly
acidic rainfall adding to the supply and it requires a very large amount of
buffers to raise the ph up in a 10 million gallons per day operation! This
cost lots of money and time to maintain. Some plants just blend some 1/2 way
to cut cost and some just ride it out until the biggest portion of the rainy
season is over.
Not always an easy call. The pipes and pumps need protection after all. 

Everything I've read 
>so far indicates the pH should be 6.5-7.5, not dependent on the local water. 
>I hope one of you can answer this for me because now I am just totally 

You want to use CO2 to acidify your water and drop your ph to about 6.8-7.0.

>My final question: I looked at a CO2 injector on Arizona Aquatic's website 
>the other day which uses tablets and is very affordable. ($35) It's called 
>the Bioplast Nutriflex system. I'm not ready to spend a lot of money on a 
>CO2 system, so this sounded good. Has anyone used it with good results?

DIY Yeast works better IMO. Clean it out and change it every 10-14 days and
it will work very well. Adding to your tank can be done by simply bubbling
the output from your brew into a small powerhead intake. This will grind up
the bubbles and mist your plants with CO2. Place it (the powerhead) down low
in the tank and find a small one , say a Rio 90 model or add the out put to
the tank filter's intake. Make sure the contents do not get sucked out into
the tank. A Rigid plastic  apple juice bottle does a great job for a
container. Cost 2$ plus you get to drink the juice! 
>Thanks for any info you can provide and my apologies if any of this has been 
>covered before...
>San Jose, CA

Well your close enough to be coming to the SFBAAPS plant society meetings!
Do come down!
We always welcome new folks that have an interest in plants. Learn from
other's experiences instead of going through years of pain! We have several
newbies that have super duper tanks and are growing plants like crazy. Mr
Rubin's been at it not long yet he has a great tank. There's also the
PCCA(cichlids) in San Jose but there are a few plant people there. SFAS has
me and a few others and a monthly auction full of plants. You also might
consider reading Aquarium Plant's Manual by Barron's. It's about 5$ and
worth it. Read it and try to understand most of the info.
Read up on setting up new tanks for cheap on the KRIB. Look into CO2 using
the yeast method unless you just have to have the Bioplast stuff. You'll
likely get a gas tank later but for now it is a good method. Have fun.
Tom Barr