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Re: The Tom Barr Way

Nick Wise wrote:
"I've been reading many of the skeptical comments about Tom's ways, and I
know that they are not commonly prescribed methods....."

I don't really know if its fair to describe the comments as truly skeptical.
People (well, me anyway) are only looking to find out the basis for Tom's
recommendations. He described them to me here the other day. I have
absolutely _no_ reason to disblieve him and know that if he was just blowing
smoke, there would be people all over him to set the record straight.

Anyone who has been in the planted tank end of the hobby for long has
learned that there are certain "commonly prescribed methods" from your "fish
tank" days that you have to leave behind when you move (graduate???) to
planted tanks. There are also many ways to skin a cat and many approaches to
growing aquatic plants successfully.

A look through the archives will show that one of the biggest headaches of
many planted tank hobbyists (regardless of how long they have been involved)
is algae. Much angst, thought and ink has gone into devising ways of feeding
your plants while avoiding aglae. That was the whole idea behind the
Sears-Conlin paper (from my reading of it anyway). A lot of those methods
were devised during a time period when lighting and CO2 levels in the
average aquarium were lower, for a variety of reasons. Today light, as much
as you want, is easily and affordably available and many of the issues
surrounding the use of CO2 have been solved. People are routinely using more
technology (or maybe its just better technology) in the hobby. It only
stands to reason that approaches to plant nutrition might have to change to
keep in step. I feel that Tom's approach focuses more on making sure that
your plants are offered a banquet to make sure that they keep ahead of algae
than the older approach of giving everyone just enough to keep them from

I don't think that one approach is right and one approach is wrong - each
has its merits and each has its own balance point. It is up to each of us
individually to do what works for us, in our own tanks and under our own
conditions. Where people might get caught in a trap is when they try to pick
and choose portions from different philosophies. I learned this myself the
hard way a few years ago with substrates. A bit of this, a bit of that, and
a whole lot of something else.......it _had_ to work, I had covered _all_
the basis. I was wrong and I had major problems with that particular set-up
until I broke it down. Quite often, simpler is better.

During that same time period there had been much discussion online regarding
Steve Pushak's recommendations regarding soil substrates. There were almost
screaming matches here over the pros and cons of Steve's recommendations. I
decided to try following Steve's approach in one tank to see for myself how
it would work. Damned if that particular tank go like gangbusters - I was
very pleasantly surprised and I will never again be afraid to use a soil
substrate when and where it is appropriate. But I followed Steve's
recommendations to the letter until I had developed a feel for what was
going on in that particular tank.

Over the course of the next few months I will be setting up several new
tanks. I'm going to give Tom's higher nutrient approach a whirl and see how
it works for me.

James Purchase