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Re: Questions, questions

Jonathon Peakall wrote:

> 1) I hear a lot about substrates on the group. I have medium gravel
> currently. Will this suck? I have no ambition to keep very difficult
> plants, and would rather not tear the tank down. How critical is this?

If this is a new substrate, then it will do your plants little good.  If
it's an old substrate left over from an older tank setup (with mulm and
all) then you're actually in pretty good shape.

How critical this is depends on what you're growing and how you fertilize.
Floating and surface-attached plants like java ferns aren't effected by
the substrate.  Some plants (many stems, for instance) may grow well in a
bare substrate with good water column fertilizer; anubias may also fall
into this category. Strongly rooted plants like cryptocorynes and
echinodorus probably won't do well in a bare gravel substrate.

If you have a clean gravel substrate then the old advice from Rataj and
Horeman might apply.  They advise that you should start a new tank using
robust plants with nutrient stores in a good rhizome.  A year or so later
the substrate should be mature enough to support more demanding plants.

There are some things you can do to help a clean gravel substrate.  Search
the archives with the term "clay ball" and see what you get.

> 2) About a week after I set up the tank, algae bloomed in a big way. My
> LFS recommended a algaecide, and like an idiot, I listened to them (I
> live in a really small town, and the LFS is notorious). Not only did it
> cloud the water, but it burned the crap out of some of the leaves.
> Before I added the dread stuff, the plants would bubble nicely after the
> lights were on for a couple of hours. Now, more than a week later, I
> don't see much activity. I have been filtering with carbon, and adding
> trace and aqua flora.

Carbon removes your trace nutrients, so you might want to pull the carbon
out of your filter.

> 3) It sounds like Jobs for substrate feeding, but is their a consensus
> for a liquid fert/trace choice? I would really rather have one liquid to
> add, and want to set up a doser.

Jobes spikes work well in a mature gravel substrate, but I'm not sure
about a new, bare substrate.  Tropica Master Grow and Seachem's Flourish
are both widely used on this list.  There are other options as well.  Once
you have things going a little longer you might want to look into PMDD
(see the Krib for info on PMDD).

> 4) Even though I limed the plants I put in there, I see snails. They are
> small with whitish/clear shells. Should I go to war? There are currently
> no fish in the tank, so I have a free hand.

Snails shouldn't be much of a problem.

> 5) Do most agree that keeping phosphates as the limiting nutrient is a
> sound anti-algae policy?

That is common advice.  Diana Walstad advocates using iron as the limiting
nutrient.  I don't know that you actually need to go out of your way to
force one or the other to be limiting.  I don't worry much about it, and
my tanks are in pretty good shape.

> It makes me laugh to think how much more time and money I have invested
> in plants. Way more than fish. Fish are easy!

Get those plants growing and you may get more value in trade from your LFS
then you have spent on plants and fertilizers to start with.

Roger Miller