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Re: UndergraverHeater -- Getting to the bottom

 As George says
> they promote heating cables as a way to maintain an aquarium in a manner
> that is suitable for good growth of all plants for an extended period of
> time.  In the book I believe they mention that one of their first test
> aquariums (10,000 liters) for their method developed an irreversible
> problem that required it to be dismantled after 11 years.  They used
> heating cables and the longevity problem went away.  That seems to be
> pretty much consistent with George's experience.  After reading the
> posts here for a couple of years now I think it would be would fair to
> say that the method is pretty much the same for everybody:  control the
> feeding, macro and micro nutrients, sufficient lighting, proper levels
> of KH and CO2, good circulation, a well maintained filter, and start
> with a bunch of plants.  It sounds like there is some minor (?)
> disagreement about substrate heating cables.  I have yet to try the
> heating cables, but I hope to soon.  After all if they do provide for
> long term health of the tank, better to find out now than several years
> down the road when I have to tear it down and start all over.

> My question is really for those who posted saying they had tried them
> and saw no real benefit, and anyone else out there who might have an
> opinion.  Do most of you guys tear down your tanks every few years or
> stir them up constantly and never see the end of tank syndrome Horst
> Kipper did in the 2,500+ gallon tank?  Or have any of you gotten through
> that extended period Kipper and Horst mention as their stumbling block?
But has anyone, except
> George that I am aware of, really tried this the way Dupla proposed?
> What got me thinking about this was Scott's comment on his tank.  Scott
> mentioned:
> "My tanks have excess heat during most months of the year due to room
> temps and lights, so my cable only ran during about 4 or 5 months of the
> year, and then, only during the evening."

I use the new Dupla Thermik heaters, built in transformer, 24 volts stepped
down, with the complete method Dupla talks about in the book on only two of
my twelve aquariums. They are by far the most stable of all. (no algae, very
little gravel vacuuming, no nitrate spikes on setup)

> In the section on heating and in one of the appendices of "The Optimum
> Aquarium" (OA) they specifically mention the need to correctly ventilate
> the lighting so that it does not add heat to the tank which would
> naturally keep the cables from coming on.  They also mention using a
> very low wattage cable so that they are on most of the time to provide a
> more constant and gentle flow ("as slow as possible").  There is also
> say this low of a wattage heater might necessitate the addition of a
> secondary heater cable or another heater to provide auxiliary heating
> during the colder months of the year.

In the summer it is enough heat in the aquarium in and by itself. In the
winter the auxilary heater does run.

> Scott continued:
> "Its occasional use seemed to push up into the water column stuff from
> the gravel that "collected" during the off periods".
> Isn't that what it is supposed to do?  I thought that the idea was to
> get that stuff (Dupla calls "decayed matter") up into the column where
> it could be dealt with by the wet/dry filter.  The OA book says that the
> reasoning behind heating cables in the substrate was to overcome what
> they hypothesized was the cause of the failure of their first test
> aquarium after 11 years of operation.

The mulm, leaves, etc. decomposes very rapidly in these two tanks and takes
longer in the tanks without cables.

> "One of the possible reasons for the natural end of the first fresh
> water period (my note: it was originally a salt tank), of the aquarium
> after 11 years, was that the substrate had become too dense over the
> course of time, and had developed a substrate layer which could no
> longer be penetrated by the plant roots.  Decayed material (food and
> plant remnants) settled between the rougher gravel and was mineralized
> by bacteria.  Finally this had the same effect as natural cement, and
> baked the substrate layer together as if it were concrete."
> Has anyone else seen this?  Obviously in a 2500 gallon tank (6.1 x 2.0
> x.0.8-1.1 meters) you are not going to be doing a lot of messing around
> (or at least not enough to stir up very much of the substrate), which
> over the years might be conducive to things cementing up pretty good.
> OA also mentions the use of 2-3mm gravel in conjunction with the heating
> cables as a way of preventing the stuff from getting down there in the
> first place.  Without the cables being on most of the time I do not see
> how the settling of decaying matter would be prevented.

The cables are on 24/7 in these tanks.

> I am sure that Dupla would like to sell a lot more sets of heater
> cables, transformers and controllers and that there are lots of ways to
> DIY a similarly functioning setup.  It is obvious that George Booth's
> method produces good results and apparently has kept his tank(s)
> producing good growth for many years.  I have a small army of MTS in my
> 10 gallon that, judging by the numbers of them I occasionally see, must
> be stirring the substrate up something awful.  And my unfortunate
> occasional neglect has necessitated a few re-plantings, but this tank
> has only been going about 18 months.  Yes you can vacuum, but I have not
> figured out a way to get deep cleaning without messing up roots,
> particularly with Gloss everywhere.
> Has anyone else really tried the Dupla technique regarding heating
> cables (well ventilated lighting and low wattage cables) and seen
> similar results over time?  Maybe James Purchase's idea to do some
> quantitative measurements would be a good idea although that sounds like
> a lot of work for a long time for perhaps a little bit of information
> that may only be useful to a few:  heater cables will keep your tank
> running well for many years.  After all, as it has been said over and
> over in the APD, the big stuff (CO2, light, nutrients, etc.) is well
> known.  And perhaps most of you have the time to mess around with your
> tanks a lot in a manner that prevents this natural cementation.

I have used Tropica Master Grow and many others but it is much easier to do
daily traces and add additionals with water changes with Dupla. PMDD would
work as well, IMO. If the substrate heater makes nutrients available more
readily to the roots, wouldn't that promote somewhat better growth in
certain plants like sword plants that are heavy root feeders?

> Though it might not be the best method, perhaps some indication of the
> validity of the heater cable method could be determined by making these
> measurements on several tanks (with and without heater cables) that have
> been in operation for extended periods and compare the results with some
> allowance given for differing substrates.  It does not take a biology
> pro like most of you here to realize that there is a lot of room for
> error here but could it possible show anything without having to go
> through the extended test that would be required to duplicate the Dupla
> tank?

Everyone uses different substrates, layers, sizes. I followed the Dupla
instructions that really almost mirrored the Dennerle instructions even
though if you read them they vary in some detail. If an experiment was done,
it would have one substrate layer and be of a certain tank size. Shouldn't
we then use other sizes and layers as well? And will all those tank sizes
and differing layers yield the same results? (larger tanks are inherently
more stable than smaller tanks) And shouldn't we then make this a fifteen
year experiment to determine the long term benefits before we decide to use
these in our own tanks? My point being that aside from being called
religious and passionate about heating cables, I reiterate, the fact that
George Booth said he had long term stability with them was enough for me to
try them. If I waited for scientific results on heating cables I would be
too darn (substituted word) old to enjoy the results. Don Matakis