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RE:Fish load

                40 gallon tank -36"x16"x17"
>                      3 w/g light, could add more
>                pressurized canister co2  w/controller
>                Eheim 2224 canister filter (  150 gph flow rate)
>                unfertilized Flourite gravel (could supplement it, none yet)
>                r/o source water
>                For the sake of simplicity, can we assume good management of 
>all                                         parameters for a phosphate 
>limiting approach?,
>                                    and water change -25%, once every two 
>                Feeding approach: to keep fish full bodied- but streamlined - 
>                                     say -light feeding, twice a day, all 
>eaten quickly-
>                7 med. Rummy Nose Tetras-    1 1/4" - 1 3/4"  (tip to tail)
>                5 med. Glo-Lite tetras-    1 1/4"
>    Is this a level that would generally require a heavy population of fast 
>plants to stay ahead of excess phosphate?  

No.  The key is to get a good overall balance. Unless you have very high PO4
's coming in from your tap(mine's 1.12ppm) or are overfeeding your fish etc.
Check your tap water conditions.
But you'll need to have the PH/KH/CO2 going well. If that's in line and you
are adding Trace elements etc, feeding the fish, perhaps adding some K+
(either KNO3 or K2SO4 depending on if you need the NO3 or not) you will not
have worry about PO4. My tanks and a number of other folks tanks out here
love to eat PO4's and do it quite fast. Getting the CO2 going good/light and
all that's left is nutrients and maintenance. The nutrients will get sucked
out fast if you have these other items going well.

Or, a moderate load of slower 

I have a crypt tank that fall into your tank's levels if not slower, so yes.

Could the tank be largely a hairgrass carpet tank, say two thirds, 
>with the rest java fern and swords? 

Yes. Swords and hairgrass are fast growers.
>    I've seen more examples of Amano tanks than any others,and he keeps much 
>heavier loads under his specific conditions.  But I suspect that most keep 
>their fish load below that.

All of those tanks he does are possible on the long term.
I did not believe that when I first saw them but now I think otherwise.
I think this is low fish load but fine. You shouldn't have too much problems
at all. I would add an algae eater or two though. Maybe a SAE or a few
shrimps along with it. They would help for sure.
Tom Barr