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Re: LFS vs APD wisdom -- Walstad explains it all.

Kirk Melton said:

> Hi all...  there is  a local fish store near where I live
> that preaches a 
> lot of stuff  regarding plant care.  A lot of what they
> preach is NOT in 
> line with what I have read on the internet and on APD. 
> All of their 
> display tanks (as well as the ones they sell out of) have
> conventional 
> powerhead driven UGFs, 

I think the problem with UGFs is compaction due to
accumualation of detritus/fish waste.  What's the fish
load.  I don't think anyone said it couldn't be done, but
there are easier ways to go if you want to have a lot of

> have plenty of surface agitation

Water circulation is important and bubbles are not a bad
idea if you're not trying to add CO2.  If you are injecting
CO2, you'll drive a lot of it off with surface agitation. 
But if you're not adding it, you won't drive off the the

> due to bubbles 
> rising, have compact fluorescent lighting (not against
> APD wisdom), no 
> gravel supplementations,  

Not directly but the UGFs are bring water is in the water
column quickly into the substrate.

> and NO CO2 injection.  

Nobody I recall on APD said you had to have CO2. Tom and
others have championed tanks without CO2. Last I heard he
has some as to others, including me fwiw). 
Non-CO2-injected tanks, even with plenty of other
nutirents, can't make use of as much light as injected ones
-- but many plants are happy without making use of more
light.  Lots and lots of stuff can grow well in what I call
a slow grow tank, they just grow more slowly than in an
injected, fast grow tank.

Each style of tank has it's virtues or drawbacks, depending
on what you want from the tank.

> The
> growth is always lush, 
> and well kept.  They have a variety of plants growing on
> rocks and 
> driftwood, as well as amazon swords which constantly
> bloom, the most 
> beautiful crypt balansae I have seen, a carpet of
> microswords, some 
> beautiful red melon swords, and many others.  And, no, I
> don't think they 
> are changing out the plants every few weeks.  This is  an
> old established 
> tank - but, they just broke it down and re-did it about 6
> months ago.  

Periodic breakdowns are one way to overcome the compaction
problem with UGF setups.  Very thorough and deep vacuuming
is another but it can be disruptive to root feeders.  Very
few fish is another. No UGF and lots of plants is another

> I 
> was in the store today and the assistant manager was
> telling a woman there 
> who could not get plants to grow in her tank to buy an
> airpump and stone to 
> put aerate the water, which would stimulate plant growth

There are more effective ways to get gas exchange with the
atmosphere than blowing bubbles, but that is often an
inexpensive way to do it.  It;s the water movement that
improves gas exchange, not so much the bubbles themselves.

> -- the asst. 
> manager has been there for over 8 years now, and this
> store has been in 
> business for over 20, and the owner preaches the same
> thing -- UGF and 
> plenty of aeration for plant growth.  They DO add
> Flourish and Flourish 
> Trace & Iron a few times a week to all tanks.  

I add ferts to my slow grow tanks too, and do water

> Why is
> this working for 
> them, but it would never work for me?  

I'm sure it can.  Slow grows are easier to set up, imo,
than fast grow tanks.  Certainly cheaper to set up.  But
they take more patience.  My fast grow tanks are like
talented pets that act up every now and then.  My slow
grows are always very well behaved.  When growth is slower,
if things start turning the wrong way, you have lots of
time to make corrections (less ferts, time to prune, etc.)
before things get very far off.  In a fast grow, it's more
like every few days or at least every week to keep things
looking nice.

> I have to inject
> CO2 and keep my 
> water surface virtually still to get results.  

Some setups are more tempermental than others -- each
situation can vary a lot from the next.  I have fewer and
smaller issues with algae in my slow grow tanks than in my
fast grow tanks.  You don't have to have water perfect calm
to maintain CO2 levels, you just have to add more CO2 if
you are driving it off faster.  There's a pretty wide range
you can work within in.  Anyway, minimizing rapid water-air
mixing (such as surface agitation) doesn't mean lack of
currents (not that you said it did) -- you rely onwater
currnets to carry nutrients to the plant leaves.  If the
water doesn't move, the plant leaves can't feed.

I jsut switched from a canister to a wet/dry on one tank
and my CO2 levels dropped from 30 ppm at dawn to 20 ppm.  I
can turn up the CO2 injection rate or I can turn down the
water flow on the wet/dry to raise that 20 ppm closer to 30
ppm.  I can take the lid off the wet/dry sump and off of
the overflow box and push that 20 ppm down to about 10 ppm
or less -- but of course, I don't *want* to do that, I'm
just making a point about the relationship.

> What's the
> rationale for 
> these suggestions by the LFS?

Well, I'm not an expert, but I think there is enough above
for you to formulate an answer to this.

> I almost jumped out of my
> skin when she was 
> telling the customer to do this.

Personally, I wouldn't recommend UGFs, especially for
beginners -- I think there are easier ways to go.  I'd
rather have fish and breakdown a cansiter than breakdown a
substrate or have to vacuum deeply and often and I think
the same is true for most beginners.

Diana Walstad's excellent book, _Ecology of the Planted
Aquarium_, is a great source for info on how planted
aquaria work.  While Ms. Walstad prefers less high-tech
aquarium set ups, the info she presents is applicable to
planted aquaria in general, including those with added CO2.
If you are interested in the basics behind the different
ways to do wet gardening, I recommend this book to you. 
You can find it at the better bookstores on-line, including


or you can order it at your local bookstore if they don't
already have it.

2 cents and a penny back,
Scott H.

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