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Two years!

It took two years of experience both good and bad to assimilate enough about 
nutrition and get to the point where I finally feel like I've got some kind 
of a handle on this beast. I'm a long way from where I want to be, but I 
finally feel I've turned the corner now and there's no looking back.

and how do I know this? 

My plants tell me. One can look at them and read from their colors just as 
clearly - heck, much more clearly than one of LaMotte's "comparators". Much 
prettier too. 

I tell you - the Epiphany was that Tom Barr's "PO4 Epistle to the Phosphate 
Limited". Phosphate was the final piece to this puzzle. There's no need to 
avoid it entirely at all -- and it's addition, in the correct quantities, 
makes everything else work like it should.

Everything looks so much better since I started adding PO4 a week ago and the 
kicker is that the tank is sucking down N like crazy now. It didn't look that 
bad in the first place either. That's the scary part. 

Even the BBA is dying off. Yes! 

I found a little colony under one leaf of C. pontederifolia that came in from 
Asia and contrary to what I had always read, and from my previous personal 
experiences as well, I was able to detach it rather easily -- almost like it 
was weaker. Didn't make so much as a mark on the leaf either and hasn't come 
back at all. I think it's truly dying!

I also believe iron, which I had avoided to the point of deficiency in the 
past, had much to do with this overall improvement. Everytime I added iron 
before, back when I wasn't also adding the PO4 (like two weeks ago), I'd get 
a noticeable increase in algae of all types: GS, GW, and any BBA present 
would not only spread but reproduce it seemed. Now, when I add iron in the 
presence of . 2 and now up to . 5 ppm of orthophosphate - no algae increases 
and the plant colors are all intensifying dramatically.

 Some Anubias and others were clearly iron deficient but are greening up 
nicely now and, get this: enlarging overall. I don't just mean they are 
putting out new leads and leaves, even though they are. I mean the plant 
itself is bulking up overall, like someone was pumping it up with air. Ja!

The Reds! So much more intense now even though I use Flourite as a substrate. 
Ditto, orange and yellows. I even kicked the Mg up a notch too since I was 
able to increase everything else: 1/2 tsp to 75 gal tank.

SO: in summary for those who wish to know:

75 gal tank with 220 watts of A&H PC's at 5300K (4 X 55W) 12 hr photoperiod,
Flourite and Turface substrate
Pressure CO2 system running 24/7, no controllers, solenoids, etc., with micro 
airline fed into sump return filter 
Sump system with minimal biological filtration - no wet/dry.
UV sterilizer
Vortex D1 diatom running full time
Water returned to substrate level via underwater "spray bar" across back wall
Heavily planted tank with 9 SAE's, 2 FFF and 13 M. praecox aka "Dwarf Neon 

This tank now consumes 1/4 tsp KNO3 every 2 days and I need to find a good 
iron test kit to really quantify things. The reds and greens are a good 
indicator, but... 

It all was made possible by PO4 and Tom Barr's constant nagging and reminding 
to the point where I finally listened. 

Tom Barr, preaching the gospel of plant nutrition; a voice in the wilderness 
urging us, the sometimes doubtful, always suspicious, yet ever curious 
disbelievers and all unknowing, to change our ways and limitations -- 
nutrient and otherwise. 

Thanks Tom!

Bob Olesen
West Palm Beach