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Re: Heck I'm lost

Scott Hieber wrote:

> Would anyone care to list the ways and then the tenets?

Robert H. listed the ways, but not the tenets.  I'm not going to touch

A few years ago we had a horde of competing "ways"; proponents of
different systems argued incessantly.  People who asked questions often
could only get answers if they stuck closely to one system or another,
and the useful answers came mostly from the few proponents of the

I hope that we graduated beyond that point, from cooked systems to
general principles that people could fit together on the basis of good
general knowledge to make a planted aquarium that they can enjoy.

A gardener who has gone beyond the most basic level knows that some
soils are acidic and some are alkaline, that dolomite powder can be
added to help acid soils and that peat and sulfur can be added to help
alkaline soils.  The gardener can make the right choice based on
knowledge of their soils, understanding of the principles and a sense of
how they want to do things.

Yes, there are some people who are going to get confused and make the
wrong choice, but that doesn't mean that all gardeners should fall back
on simple tenets and use systems that don't match their needs or produce
exactly the results they want.

> General
> principles like, "Don't feed your plants too much" and "Don't starve
> your plants" are wise to follow but are, generally speaking, too
> general to be, well, to be useful.  The questions that those principles
> beg is, "How much is too much, how much is starvation?"

And the answer is "choose your product, follow the directions, watch
your plants and adjust your method to meet their needs and your goals." 
It's the same way in every gardening hobby.

There are volumes of information available on how to set up plant tanks
and how to get started.  Pick one.  Where you go from there is up to
> Maybe the problem is
> trying to cover too many types of plants?  If you ask me how to grow
> prunus serrulata (a terrestrial tree), I can tell you what soil type
> works well, what works sort of okay, and what doesn't work.  How much
> and what kinds of fertilizer to put in to the soil, how much moisture
> to maintain in the soil, etc.

That approach generally cannot work in aquariums because we are
maintaining communities of plants -- frequently 15 or more different
plants in a single aquarium.  There's a limit to how far you can bend
over to suit the needs of an individual plant.  Some people do it with
potted plants, others do it with plant-specific substrate amendments. 
Maybe there are a few other methods.  But those methods are limited.  We
still have to treat the entire tank as an integrated system.

I think you have pinned down where the literature in our hobby needs to
go.  We are swamped with general articles on how to set up a planted
tank.  What can be said has been said.  Over and over.  The literature
now needs to address the needs of individual plants or genera, or plant
communities and to grow beyond the beginner level.  It needs to address
specific natural histories, culture methods and life histories in the
same way that the literature on aquarium fish address the origin, care
and breeding of individual species.  Once we're beyond basic
horticultural methods we can get into design and concept and put the
aquatic gardening hobby on the same plane with more traditional
gardening hobbies.

But we'll never get there with other peoples' systems and short sets of
simple tenets.

Roger Miller