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Re: Home Made Laterite

Charlie Lear asks:

"My tank is 15 gallon, three months old, overstocked with fish and I've been
through the Newbie Algae Explosion, a couple of Ich Plagues and the Great
Plant Die-Off."
"I'll also take the opportunity to rebuild the tank with proper substrate
and fertiliser, put in a CO2 yeastburner and lay the tank out better.  Hope
the fish can put up with living in a trash can for a day."
"So many questions, but I love nice aquaria and I'm determined to make mine
a good one."

Sounds like you are just beginning your "plant experience".......

I'm sure that you are going to receive much detailed advice concerning all
sorts of complicated possibilities for you to consider, but I'd like to
suggest that you keep things simple. It will dramatically increase your
chances of success and lessen your stress level (and that of your fish).

- You have a 15 gallon tank which you say is overstocked with fish. I don't
know which species of fish you have nor how extreme the overstocking is, but
I'd suggest that if you want a stable, easily maintained community type tank
which incorporates a lot of plants that you consider selling/donating some
of those extra fish to more suitable homes. A 15 gallon tank is relatively
small and in the hands of a lot of people they can be rather unstable
(especially if overstocked with fish). The fish and the food you give them
is a rich source of plant nutrients (once the fish waste and uneaten food is
mineralized) and it can make it hard for an inexperienced person to judge
just how much more (if anything) the plants need for proper growth.

- Make sure that the fish species you do decide to keep are "plant
friendly". You don't want goldfish, oscars or other boiserous "rowdies"
swimming thru your miniature jungle. You can find more into on the KRIB.

- Substrate composition and fertilizer options get discussed here ad
nauseum. There are as many opinions and options as there are list members.
Since you are apparently new to growing plants, I'd suggest that you keep it
simple.....VERY simple. While things like home made clay balls, ground up
vermiculite, osmocote and a whole raft of other possibilities _can_ work,
they are more likely to cause you grief unless they are used judiciously.
Remember that a 15 gallon tank is not very big, and a lot of small mistakes
can easily add up to a huge disaster.

- Since you live in Australia, and I believe that Dupla products are
available there, I would suggest that perhaps Dupla Duplarit K might be the
simplest, most foolproof way to crank up the substrate of your tank. You
won't need more than one box for a 15 gallon tank so it won't cost too much
money. Messing around with home made alternatives could easily end up
costing a lot more when you realize the cost of vermiculite, osmocote and
clay will add up to more than the cost of a simple box of Duplarit K. Dupla
has a bad rep in the U.S. for being overly expensive but nobody can argue
over the results that many people all over the world (George Booth among
them) have from using their products and following their recommendations.

- There are other alternative commercial sources for laterite - check the
KRIB for details. I'm recommending that, at least for this initial tank, you
stick with products designed for aquarium use - once you have learned the
basics, then you can investigate alternatives later on.

- You could also use Seachem Flourite as a substrate, either alone or mixed
up to 50% with plain gravel. In this case, you wouldn't need any other
substrate "additives". With a 15 gallon tank, one or two bags of flourite
would do nicely and not cost you an arm and a leg, and Flourite is well
regarded here on the APD, with many of us being very happy users of the
product. It also helps that Dr. Greg Morin of Seachem is a list member and
always very helpful with advice on how best to use his company's products.
As another current thread highlights, it is important to support reputable
companies with good products and great customer service - Seachem is one of
these companies.

- For water column fertilization, I would suggest that you stick to a
formula that was designed for use in aquariums with aquatic plants (Osmocote
isn't designed for that purpose). While it is _possible_ to use other types
of fertilizers, for your first "go" at this, it is more important that you
use somethng that it pretty foolproof...... like Duplaplant, Seachem's
Flourish or Tropica Mastergrow. Again, a 15 gallong tank won't require much,
so buying a known brand with a long record of proven success will be easier
on both your nerves and your pocketbook.

- Try to keep things simple, at least at first. A planted tank can be a
source of much joy and pride. Resisting the urge to constantly "tinker" can
be difficult, but it can pay off in less aggrivation.

Good luck.

James Purchase