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Re: Profile vs pumice

James writes:

> Last September, you posted a few times about your efforts at making am
>  "Amano-style" substrate, using a mixture of pumice and peat. Did you
>  continue with that line of thought? I'd be interested in hearing how it 
>  (or is going).

It is going like gangbusters.  My 30-gallon tank using pmice, Fluval peat 
pellets and redart took about three months to get going.  I accedit this 
delay to a number of experiments with different hydroponic fertilizers.  When 
I switched to Natural Gold, plants that I thought were dead came back to 
life.  During a major redecoration last month it got broke down.  It had 60 
watts of Tritons, no CO2.  C. Wendtii red and C. lutea were propagating into 
little clumps, and were over 8 (20cm) inches long.  The spiral val was slowly 
forming a carpet.  Parrot's feather was growing at a really great speed.  I 
had to cut it into thirds about once a month.  I'm not sure parrot's feather 
really benefits much from substrates though.  E. tenellus took its time 
getting up and running, but was starting to spread out after each trimming of 
the parrots feather.  I think it suffered from light issues with the parrot's 
feather strung out across the top like that.  The temple plant seemed to 
struggle from the start, and the ends of the leaves were always kind of 
frayed.  The pH in this tank was always low, around 6.0.  In spite of the 
acidity, the MTS owned this tank, and sometimes I couldn't see past the front 

The 55-gallon got plain sphagnum peat and pyrophylittic clay, and got Natural 
gold from the start.  It uses one 40-watt Phillips Advantage 50, and one 
40-watt GE kitchen-and-bath.  Because there was no CO2 in either tank, I only 
dose with Natural Gold about every 4 days.  I set it up at the end of August, 
and I cleaned it out during the move last month.  What was sold to me as 
Crystal Val by AAG got to 42 inches long.  I was under the impression this 
was only supposed to reach twenty-something inches, but it was everywhere 
acorss the top of the tank.  I was cutting it back to the surface with 
scissors regularly for the first couple months, but stopped at thanksgiving 
time to see what would happen.  It just kept growing and growing.

Temple plants in this tank grew into huge bushes.  Funny, though,  the stems 
insisted on rotting off below the substrate, and it would stay in place by 
the roots that came down all over the place.  I have an A. Ulvaceous that 
came as a bulb in September.  It reached 36 inches and maintained around 20 
leaves.  Right around New Year's  I discovered a flower.  It shot up three 
more during January.  Apparently it won't self-pollinate, as I tryed the 
Q-tip routine a couple of times.

C. Blassii never went through melt-down, but reached 10 inches in length.  E. 
quadricostatus failed to get a grip, but one small plantlet survived.  I 
think it's biggest problem was that I planted it in the front of the tank, 
and the lighting was in the back.  The Apon and the vals were pretty much 
choking off its light.  When I pulled the tank apart and moved it last month, 
the val was so thick, it covered EVERYTHING.  The crypts and the temple 
plants were sticking up as best they could with the val in and around their 
leaves.  I salvaged three gallons of val, and left a dozen smallish plants to 
start over.

I'd say the experiment is successful, and I am thinking of trying some 
different plants.  Any suggestions on substrate feeders, and maybe a 
replacement for this crystal val, that will give the same look without making 
it impossible for the fish to get to their food?