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I just read Ivo Busko's letter (posted in this digest) replying to Dr.
Dave's historical sequence of plant-rearing issues in the hobby.
I agree with Ivo that the sequence of issues *isn't* just a sequence of
fads. On the other hand I don't think that it's a matter of increasing
technical advancement either; certainly not advancements taken from the
marine hobby. Like a lot of the rest of us, my tanks use lights and
ballasts that are built for general building maintenance and home or
commercial use. I use CO2 generated with yeast (ancient technology) that
was applied to planted tanks years before I started using it. The
chelated fertilizers we use are hydroponics products and/or garden
products that have been available for a long time. Their application to
the planted aquarium hobby and the subsequent advancement of the hobby has
been the contribution of hobbyists like Neil Frank, Karen Randall, Paul
Sears and Kevin Conlin who have found new uses for old and common tools.
I think the sequence of issues in the hobby reflects increasing
sophistication and ever growing-expectations on the part of the
Also I have to disagree a little with Dr. Dave over the sequence of
issues. I don't think that manipulating nitrogen or phosphorus was
an issue until after people started adding CO2. In a normal aquarium
without CO2 supplementation the nutrients added through fish feeding
uniformly exceed the amounts the plants can use; their manipulation and
control isn't even practically possible.
I've been through this sequence of issues myself. I discovered for myself
about 14 years ago that adding chelated iron to my sparsely planted fish
tank produced much more robust plant growth. I subsequently experimented
with sunlit lit tanks and different fertilizers with varying success and
found different aspects from each experiment that I thought might be mixed
and matched to improve my results. By the time I found the *.aquaria
newsgroups about 6 years ago I was well settled into the concept of the
natural aquarium. By then the value of CO2 seemed to be already settled
and people were boosting their lighting and trying hard to get the Sears
and Conlin approach to control their algae.
After a few months of reading the news groups I decided I would start
experimenting with some of those new (to me) ideas. Brighter artificial
lighting, DIY CO2, heavier and more consistent fertilizing, substrate
amendments and so on. I was worried that those experiments were going to
take me down a dead-end path to failure, so I proceded slowly and kept one
tank where I still used my old, established "natural" methods. That gave
me a fallback position, and it also provided a yardstick for comparison of
my new results.
I still have that tank and I keep it in it's original condition. It's a
dismal comparison to my other tanks. The contrast makes it obvious
that the progress of issues represents, not just changing fads while the
hobby marks time, but a real progress in our methods and our results.