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Re: Aquatic Plants Digest V4 #265

Having lurked on this list for a while, I have a few questions I'd like 
to ask as well as some comments.

Firstly I should mention my situation; I have a couple of large tanks, a 
300lt (80g) and a 500lt (130g). I have a reasonable amount of money to 
burn on this project and I want to do it well. Having said that, I also 
want to keep SA cichlids (dwarfs and maybe discus), so the want the 
water to be quite acidic, in the region of pH 6.0-6.5, soft (5-10Gh) and 
on the warm side. I am in the process of installing a fully automatic 
CO2 system which will be a Tunze pH meter operating a solenoid valve on 
a large (beer fizzing) CO2 bottle. I am also installing under-gravel 
heating elements (I've recently found a cheap supply for us Europeans if 
anybody wants to know, mail me off-list)   and will be using an RO 
filter - the water here is liquid rock - more about this anon.

First question; can anybody tell me what a degree F is in real world 
water hardness measurements. A friend gave me a Dupla water hardness 
test kit and it gives me the result in degrees F, I know that the water 
is hard because it comes out at 50-60 F. I don't want to spend more 
money on another test kit as this one's almost new, I just don't know 
what it's telling me!

Second problem/question; I want to be able to allow the plants to grow 
out of the tank and am about to commission a custom hood to allow this 
to happen. It will be about 40cm tall  to allow even water hyacinth to 
strut it's stuff (I need a hood because my computer's in the same room 
so I need to control humidity). My first question is whether anybody has 
experience of Westron wonderlites? I have read nice things about them on 
the Krib and am in the process of specially importing some as I cannot 
justify the prices that "normal" MH lights cost. I have heard that the 
colour of MH lighting can be a little unpleasant with a planted tank and 
was wondering if it would be a good idea to try to incorporate a couple 
of fluorescent tubes as well, the extra cost and design time would make 
this undesirable but it can be done. The plan goes something like this 
(apologies for my drawings)
		   g				g
		   g				g
		   g				g
pppppppppppppppppppp				gg
pp    fluorescent				gg
p						g

p is plastic and g glass.

This is intended to fit snugly inside the top of the aquarium. Do you 
think that this is worth the extra money and time?

Third question; What _is _ fluorite? I keep hearing about it on these 
listing but haven't seen it here in Spain. Does it increase the hardness 
of the water? Is it available in Europe? I think I remember something 
called fluorite from building materials but that's probably not the same 
( I think it's some sort of insulation material). Can I get it here? If 
not, this leads on to my next question,

Fourth question; I have a cheap (free) supply of a high-iron clay, could 
I use this as a substrate, layer it with peat, and top it off with a 
dark sand (peat for acidity and I like the tea-like colour, clay as an 
provider and anion/cation exchange medium soft acidic water sand to cap 
it off). Does anybody have any experience with something like this?

I'd love to be able to get Lamotte test kits but can't find a supplier 
here, does anybody have anything to say about JBL? These appear to be 
the most readily available, what are they like? The other ones that are 
available are by Dupla, any comments?

I'm going to plant _heavy_ with fast growing plants and then add more 
interesting plants when it's all established.

Any comments would be appreciated, I don't mind spending the money, but 
wasting it goes against the grain;-)