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Just joining

I have been watching the conversations here and on other forums for the last
2 months as well as reviewing a lot of the past material in the archives. I
would like to start joining the conversations but first here are my tank
conditions (20Gal starter to get a handle on things first):

Tap: 10dKH, 11dGH, ph=8.2, very little in terms of trace elements, no
nitrates or phosphates (EPCOR keeps track of the water quality monthly on
http://www.epcor-group.com/pages/Water/WaterQuality/WaterQuality.html )

Tank: 10dKH, 14dGH (rises from 11dGH then stabilizes, gravel must have some
limestone or dolomitic traces. The hardness is from 70ppm Ca and 18ppm Mg),
pH=6.8-7.6 (depending on DIY yeast CO2), 25 deg C, sand substrate with
laterite in lower third, 40W fluorescent, mechanical filter only
(QuickFilter), 25% water change every 2 weeks. That's it, nothing to
complicated about the setup. Tank was quite densly planted with Amazon
plants primarily (working towards a South American biotope tank in a few
months) right from day one (2 months back that is). Light fish load of
0.5cm/liter with average feeding.

And now to the good stuff. Started the tank with RootTabs in the substrate
and LeafZone fertilizer added weekly according to manuf. instructions (Aqua.
Pharmaceuticals). According to the information filed with WSDA there isn't
much in this product besides the 3% K and 0.1% Fe that is listed on the
bottle. Plants started showing some life after the first week and fast
growers like Hygrophila (my only plant not from SA) and Heteranthera
zosterifolia came in quite strong (not to mention Pistia). Fish were not
added until about 3 weeks later. Algae showed up and then dissapeared but
only the expected ones like spot, thread, hair and staghorn. This last one
was a bit of a problem since it really took a liking to my Echinodorus
plants for a while. Since this was my first planted tank I went to the
extreme and did a heck of a lot of measurements in time to try and monitor
the processes at play (if anybody wants a copy of my charts just ask. I went
through three CO2 brews and you can see the cycles quite nicely). The first
thing I can say is that I never saw ANY ammonia, nitrite or nitrate, EVER.
This is not very suprizing considering the high plant/low fish load. And
this brings up the first question: I would assume that there is almost no
biological filter being established since the plants will use up all the
available ammonia (inhibiting the growth of bacteria). I would also think
that this condition can persist indefenitely unless the system gets a major
disturbance (like more fish). Is this a bad condition to have in the tank or
is it actually beneficial (don't have the bacteria compeeting with the

Over the last two months some plants did better then others. E. barthii, H.
polysperma, H. zosterifolia did very well (E. barthii throws 1 leaf a week
and they're huge). A. reineckii started off well but lately the leaves
started yellowing and the new growth on some stems is small and distorted (B
deficiency expected on top of N). E. bleheri did so-so and it perked up only
after it got a Jobe under its roots. L. brasiliensis formed a nice carpet
already but the one that did absolutely nothing is E. martii. 2 months and
not a peep yet.

The one mystery is Fe (I mean the lack of it). I have been adding the
fertilizer religiously and it doesn't even register on the scale (Hagen kit
which has 0.1ppm resolution). There is also laterite that should increase
the Fe and in such N deficient conditions I doubt the plants would use it
all up. I got frustrated with this and decided to go PMDD (also because I
was trying to run some tests on LeafZone solutions and I can't get my
measurements to correlate with the manufacturer's claims. Shouldn't 0.1% Fe
mean 1000ppm? I get exactly 100ppm instead. Or am I missing something?).

I have started adding PMDD with KNO3 four days ago and I can't believe the
difference (already). E. bleheri has taken off, new leaves on A. reineckii
already look better, etc. It's too early too tell how it will work out but
it should be fun (and finally my math works for the different
concentrations). Oh, I didn't mention PO4, it bopped between 0 - 0.2ppm with
a bloom of staghorn algae in the latter case (I actually find this algae
quite decorative believe it or not...).

That's it for now. I appologize for the rather lengthy intro but I wanted to
put my future comments into perspective and you now all know my experimental
base (rather limited I admit). In the meantime, Happy growing!!

Adrian Banica

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.