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The Tom Barr Way (longish)
I've been reading many of the skeptical comments about Tom's ways, and I
know that they are not commonly prescribed methods. Perhaps I should
mention some things about my own experiences..
This is all from a 55 gallon I recently changed around.
I pulled up the majority of the plants, and did a lot of trimming,
rearranging, I rebuilt some terraces, lots of messy stuff. The result
was that the substrate was disturbed quite a bit and the water was very
dirty. So, lots of water changes and [here's the kicker] cleaned the
filters and replaced a bunch of old carbon with some new floss. The
carbon was very old and had long ago become nothing more than a
biological filter. Well, a big chunk of my bio filter was just tossed
out..... you guessed it, ammonia spike and tons of green water!
Well, this didn't sink in and I was caught off guard by this. I checked
nitrates (I hadn't in quite a while) they were up to almost 30 ppm!
Yikes, so I upped the dosage of K and traces and started DAILY 50% water
changes. Nitrates would be back the next day. Then I got to thinking
about my filters and I put everything together, the loss of a lot of bio
media, the ammonia spike and the green water. So, I added bio balls to
both filters, added a small amount of carbon to help get N under control
and waited. I continued to change water daily and monitor levels. The
GW and the plants sunk the nitrates down to 0 and then I started dosing
KNO3. Nitrates held steady, GW was slowly removed by the water changes,
plant growth exploded....
The water was now crystal clear and now I was thinking... (uh-oh). I
had a lousy dry-tab phosphate test kit, but even without a kit, I knew
phosphates were sinking fast my red plants were fading and plant growth
had slowed considerably. So I started thinking about where I could find
a source of phosphates. Then I thought about something. I had a box of
'Miracle Grow Bloom Booster' -- 52% phosphates!! -- hmm, what about the
rest of it -- 10% soluble potash, that's fine -- trace amounts of boron,
copper, chelated iron, chelated manganese, all good things -- 10% total
N...derived from ammoniacal nitrogen!! DAMN!!! Well, wait a minute, I
was confident that my biofiltration could handle a spike in ammonia [I
had done some huge prunings without any GW returning] so why not test my
theory here... so, in goes a pinch of 'Bloom Booster'.
Green water..... nope.
Ammonia spike... nope.
Bright reds..... Yes!
Insane growth... Yes!
Now, my macros were in line. Time to look at my micros. I have always
used Earth Juice Micro Blast as a micro nutrient source, but I got to
thinking about the low levels of iron it has. I had been adding the
occasional bit of Seachem Iron, but still was keeping iron levels very
low. I slowly started upping this. I eventually doubled my micros and
started adding more Iron. I keep the levels steady at around .5 ppm
(yes, that's right).
So, here's my test results about 2 hours after dosing. Many of you may
bulge your eyes at this or scoff, but come look at the tank and see it
Nitrate: 15 - 20 ppm -- usually back to 5-10 ppm in 2 days if I let
Phosphate: 2 ppm -- drops quickly though
Potassium: no test kit -- I add about 5 ppm a day
Iron: .5 ppm in the water column (I also have laterite in the
My water has been crystal clear for months now and the only visible
algae is when you put your nose on the glass and notice the tiny green
spots. Many people will tell you to limit this, or limit that, but why
not just give the plants what they want. Learn to 'listen' to your
plants. Limit what you want, I just keep my plants [and myself] happy.
nwwise01 at netzero_net
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