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re: Heating cables & plant growth

HooHah! Another one!

>From: Dwight <boukmn at mindspring_com>
>Date: Tue, 04 Jul 2000 05:26:28 -0400
>This one is directed to those who use substrate heating cables.  I've
>noticed a growth tendency of some planted tanks with 10-15 different
>species to suddenly slow down and STOP!  Usually after being in opperation
>for over a year.  Nurient supplimentation has a negligable effect, Bulbs
>still bright enough to grow glossostigma, water changes reinstituted.
>Always had Co2 and still does.  No algae.  But the tank will only return to
>a tiny fraction of its former productivity.  Assuming all of the above were
>done correctly; has anyone had this experience?

Bingo. We had an "Almost Optimum Aquarium" (everything but heating coils) set up 
for a few years and experienced the same symptoms after 18 months.  Besides 
slower growth we also began to have algae problems (higher temperature discus 
tank). Vacuuming gravel, replanting, etc would help for a short time but nothing 
brought it back to its original state. 

A year after we started the AOA, we did a fully Optimum Aquarium with high 
wattage heating cables (250 watt Dupla cables in a 90 gallon tank).  This tank 
was super productive and perfectly stable for over 4 years. 

>Has anyone had this experience while using electric heating cables (the
>REAL ones not the "hot water" ones)?  

Interestingly enough, we tore the AOA tank down after two years and installed 
"low wattage" cables. We used Dupla 100 watt cables in a 100 gallon tank (again, 
higher temp discus tank). That worked OK for awhile but then began to exhibit 
the same problems. 

>If you have heating cables, have you
>ever been able to maintain vigorous growth indefinately w/o a major
>substrate overhaul?

In 1995, we remodeled the house and had to tear down and resetup three large 
tanks.  At that time, we put 200 watt cables in the discus tank, 150 watt cables 
in another 100 gallon tank (lower temp for Rainbows) and moved the 250 watt 
cables to a new 120 galllon tank.  All three tanks have been running perfectly 
since then (just about 5 years now). 

Lesson: You need a certain heat density in the substrate to be effective and 
that will vary with ambient water temperature.  From our experience, 20-25 watts 
per square foot of substrate area seems about right (use the higher end for 
warmer tanks). 

For more details on our experience, check out the "Super Show Tank" articles 
archived in The Krib.  The part summarizing our experience with heating coils 
and longevity is at 

... or something like that. 

George Booth in Ft. Collins, Colorado (booth at frii_com)