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Roger wrote:

>I'm not sure I want to keep dragging Karen into this, after all she's
>perfectly capable of speaking for herself.  

Ahhh, but you guys have been doing so well on your own.  For heavens sakes,
you're not even fighting with each other! ;-)  I haven't seen much to
strongly disagree with, and besides I've got a migraine.  I'm only reading
this because I've given up on sleeping. (for the moment) 

>Just the same, I recall a
>thread a couple years ago where she agreed that some people who undertake
>additions of potentially growth limiting nutrients *do* see initial
>explosive growth of algae

_Sometimes_  I think it depends on the type of algae you are trying to deal
with.  I don't think you'll see a marked increase in cyanobacteria, for
instance, when correcting a nitrogen deficiency.

>Algae do better under eutrophic and hypereutrophic conditions
>where total production rates are higher and dissolved nutrients are
>generally higher.  I can think of several specific mechanisms for that and
>some might actually be relevant to aquariums.

My problem, and the reason I've chosen until now to sit back and just see
what you guys had to say is that from what I can see, basically _all_ our
aquariums would qualify as eutrophic.  But UNLESS we keep nutrient levels
up there, our plants done' grow particularly well.  I don't know why this
is, and I don't know why we are able to maintain tanks in this condition
without excessive algae problems, but I'm sure it is so.  

I think that Steve P. hit on at least part of the answer, and that is that
we also tend to keep algae grazers in the tank.  But that's not the whole
answer either.  One of our tanks is a 10 gallon tank housing a large
axolotl.  The tank has a large but slow growing clump of Java Fern on one
end, and smaller slow growing clump of Bolbitis on the other end, and
Salvinia floating on the surface.  No CO2, small internal power filter that
gets changed when I feel guilty enough, (which is also when I do a water
change) Thin layer of pea-sized river gravel, no fertilizers of any sort.
Heck, there's not even a heater in the tank.  The axolotl eats about six
night crawlers and sometimes a feeder goldfish or two each week.  There is
some nutrient export in that every couple of weeks I do remove a few
handfuls of Salvinia.  I don't know what the nutrient levels are in the
tank, but I'd be willing to bet that my test kits don't go that high.  When
I remove the Salvinia, I usually also wipe a small amount of diatoms off
the glass.  There is NO other algae in the tank.  Why?  If you told me you
were going to set up a tank of this size, with an animal that large, I
would have said that if you wanted plants and not an algae farm you'd
better be prepared to do MAJOR water changes.  

Steve D wrote:

>> Test kits can be an invaluable aid to tank observation.

Roger wrote:

>I've got some successful, well-planted tanks that I've never used a test
>kit on.  I've got another that I haven't tested for anything in 5 years or
>so.  This is a hobby and I encourage you to spend your time in it in any
>way that gives you the greatest enjoyment.  You may find them invaluable;
>I find them mostly dispensible.  And yes, I do have test kits and I do
>occasionally use them.

I agree with both of you, and lean more heavily in Rogers direction.  I
have test kits, but use them for the most part diagnostically.  I don't go
to the Dr. for blood tests to tell me if I'm eating right.  I go for tests
only if I already think there's something wrong with me.  That's how I feel
about test kits.  Yes, Steve, I agree that if I walk in cold to diagnose a
problem in someone else's tank, test kits can give you a lot of useful
troubleshooting information very quickly.  But I also agree with Roger,
that in my own tanks, I use them very, very rarely.  In fact, most of the
times that I _have_ used them in the past few years is to confirm what my
eyes are already have been telling me, because I feel guilty if I can't
assign numbers to these things when reading or talking to someone on the APD.  

(I still have a big problem with the discrepancies I find between the need
for iron in my tanks vs. the very low test levels maintained by many people
on the list)

Steve wrote:

>> While it is true enough that if the growth is robust and healthy the
>> nutrient supply is fine, how do we know by visual observation alone
>> what the problem is if the tank is a wreck? 

Actually, I find I'm pretty good at that too.  I can usually make a pretty
good guess at what's going on between a visual inspection and questioning
the owner about maintenance practices.  But I do like the back-up of a few
test kits.  Particularly pH, KH, phosphate and nitrate.

Roger wrote:

>My preference is to get as much as possible from
>direct observation, and to test only occasionally.  This is certainly a
>different case from using test kits in the regular micro-management of a

I agree completely.  That said, I _don't_ think that Steve is one of those
who tries to micromanage with test kits.  I think he's just curious about
what's going on.  I _do_ think there are people on the list who take
testing too far.  But there are also people who jump on every single
bandwagon that comes along here.<g>

Roger wrote:

>As I recall, Tropica's plants are grown hydroponically.  It makes sense
>that the hydroponic solution would be similar in composition to soil pore
>water.  I'm not sure my fish want to live in a hydroponic solution so I
>try to restrict high nutrient levels to the substrate.

Tropica's SALES plants are grown hydroponically.  Believe me, Claus has
extensive experience with aquatic plants grown under "normal" aquarium
conditions, both in test tanks and as someone who has been an aquarist with
_planted_ tanks since he was 7 years old.  That's what makes Claus such a
wealth of information. (besides the fact that he's just a really nice guy)
He's knows aquatic plants and their culture from all perspectives.

There.  See, I added my $.02, and it didn't make a bit of difference.  I
don't know the answers any more than you guys do ;-)