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RE: balck substrate/CO2

>Roger and Andrew:  I switched over to Equilibrium from
>the RO Right to reconstitute my distilled water. 
>Sodium only comes from what is in the Floursih itself.
> I don't think there can be much sodium in the tank. 
>I wonder if there's anything funny about the distilled

I would doubt this has any thing to do with your issue.

>What's this about the balance between calcium and
>magnesium?  What should the ratio be? 

 Equilibrium does well as far as a ratio goes for these. Your Flourite has
Ca in it.
 Having heard
>all the postive things I've heard about Seachem
>products, I would think that the Equilibrium/Flourish
>mixture would give me the right proportions of

No, Kh is lacking still. Add Baking soda to raise it to 4 KH or so.

>The strange thing is, I had this same problem before
>under very different conditions.  I was using tap
>water and Kent plant suppliment with 50 watts of
>light.  Now, I'm using Seachem products with 90 watts
>of better lighting.  Before, my phosphates were very
>high, now they're very low.  I just don't get it.  

Plants are using more, your fish are being fed less? Were you adding some
other buffers?
More light=more nutrients being used typically.

>I was thinking aboout possible substrate causes.  My
>tank has an old undergravel filter plate covered with
>normal gravel and topped with flourite.  I noticed
>some blackish areas in the gravel, and stirred them

If you have a stinky rotten egg smell it would be a good idea just to
replace the gravel and add nothing but flourite or a little bit of sand etc
on the top and lose the UGF. That will completely solve any issue with the
gravel and eliminate that. Big job but your tank will do better.

>I have a bunch of burrowing snails,

These do not burrow that deep, maybe 2 inches at best.

 and the 
>healthy roots bring in oxygen to break up the dark
>areas, though some roots do sometimes show black
>areas.  A while back, I stirred up the gravel and a
>bunch of bubbles came up.  I wonder if any of it
>diffused into the water.  Could this be why some stems
>are fine when one RIGHT NEXT TO IT could be stunted?

Yes , it could be. Sounds like the plants are just not doing that well or
they are for a little while then dying back some here and there.
>The only other thing I can see in common with the
>older setup is that the co2 has been administered 24
>hours a day with a co2 bell.  My co2 level is pretty
>high, and I wonder if giving them that much around the
>clock is harmful at all, maybe giving some of them
>small leaves.  ? 

Small leaves will from a lack of .....not too much. CO2 can be very, very
high and not harm the plants, but it may kill your fish !! If you have fish
in there then it's not too high. Test the KH/PH and look up on the table.
Bells are good for small tanks but on this one you might consider another
method for getting your CO2 in there. Adding some KH and getting a hold of
the CO2 issue will help you more than you will ever believe.    

>Thanks guys, Cavan.

Tom Barr