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Re: Hacks and attacks

Karen wrote:
>In my tanks, slowing of growth even when appropriate levels of light, CO2
>and other nutrients are maintained has _always_ been a sign of too much
>plant mass in the tank, and often that includes a heavily root-bound
>substrate.  This is usually at about the 18 month mark, but can happen
>earlier in a very high growth tank.  When it happens, I feel around in the
>substrate with my fingers.  If I can't easily get into the substratea in
>most areas of the tank, it's time for a major plant pull.  

This is certainly one thing I tend to do quite often, much more than every
12-18 months in most tanks.

>This isn't "trimming", this is pulling up all plants in one area of the
>tank by the roots, and thoughly gravel vacuuming that area of the tank.
>Yes, you pull out some laterite, but lots is still left behind.  I usually
>find that I can replant about 1/3 of the plant mass that I take out, and
>the tank usually looks "full" as soon as I'm done... It's amazing how
>quickly plants crowd a container when they are growing well.  One exception
>is that I usually leave stands of Crypts in place and untouched unless they
>are spreading into areas I don't want them in.  They seem to do better left
>alone.  It makes a mess, but it's worth it.  You won't be able to see
>through the tank when you get done, but at least using the brands of
>laterite I work with, the tank will be back to normal clarity in the next
>day or two.  The plants take off growing vigorously immediately, and the
>tank looks much better than before it was "attacked".

I like to hack and attack also. After a few days or less, the tanks looks
very nice. I doesn't look AS NICE all the time if I picked at it but the
growth and health overall is better IMO. I also, like Karen- I would
imagine<g>, don't have the time to pick and fiddle with my tanks. Using
Crypts and other slow growers helps keep some of the substrate stable while
going after out of hand stem plants and reduces trim work (ugh). If you have
a fast growing tank, you know what I mean.
An interesting thing also about big hacks(not the coughing type here) is
being able to see how each species of plant responds to trimming
techniques/light changes. Growth rates of plants are better seen and noted
doing the big hack also. This will let you plan your tank out better the
next time since you can see how fast each plant can grow. One more thing
about it is it reduces the frequency of trims. Once a month is not bad for
most of the tanks but a few plants always beat this time frame and overgrow
for me. The flourite settles much faster than the laterite tanks.
>Claus Christensen is the person who first suggested this to me, and his
>advice was to do 1/3 of the tank every couple of months so as not to
>disturb it TOO much at once.  

I have been doing 30-50% for some time(years and years). Nice to know that
he suggest this also. So now I'm not as crazy as I thought<g>.

  Since I started doing this, I have gone to
>doing 1/2 the tank with one water change, and the other half with another
>water change about 2 weeks later.  I have had no problems with this at all,
>either in terms of algae problems or stress to either plants or fish.  I
>have even, on occassion, stripped out an entire tank and reset the plants
>in one setting without having a problem, though this probably isn't the
>best way to start. 

I have done this too and agree 100%. If someone does decide to get nutty and
redo the whole tank I would suggest a water change within a short time after
and remove 50% or so of the water and build up the nutrients back into your
tank's make up water. *IF* the tank is well managed and doing well, it
bounces back. I'll trim one day and the next do the water change, removing
any left over surface mulm, floating leaves, signs of algae etc. When I
maintain someone's tank often I have no choice but to do this. It's more
difficult to keep a nice tank when it's over somewhere else and you only get
to work on it every two weeks or so.

 I have never yet taken a tank apart specifically to
>replace a substrate in all the years I've been keeping planted tanks... I'm
>too lazy.  I find a way to keep them working.

I'm this way too. But I did recently remove some gravels to change over to
flourite. I'm happier now but I procrastinated like you won't believe! At
least I won't have to again now that the flourite is in place. 
>One other word of caution... If you have any nocturnal catfish like striped
>raphaels, make sure any dense stands of plants go into a bucket, and not
>out on a table unattended for long periods... and DON'T start dividing
>large plants with a knife until the fish are accounted for. 

Driftwood is very bad for this also. 
Tom Barr