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Re: Newbie Designs and disrespected substrates
- To: aquatic-plants at actwin_com
- Subject: Re: Newbie Designs and disrespected substrates
- From: Roger Miller <roger at spinn_net>
- Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 20:29:46 -0600
In reply to Chris, Arthur wrote:
> The most bang for your buck, by far, will be to
> purchase a co2 system.
> 1. light
> 2. co2
> 3. ferts
> 4. algae consumers
> 5. substrate
and Dennis responded:
> Just out of curiosity, why does substrate seem to always come last? After
> reading here a couple of months, I get the impression that substrate is just
> something to hold the plants in place.
I will remove algae consumers from the list, as they are a usually an
insignificant problem to find or afford, and their role in some tanks is
Plants are oddly missing from the list. Chis could spend several hundred
dollars planting out a 120 gallon tank, so perhaps the plants themselves
should go on the list. In even the simplest tanks, nonalgae-eating fish are
so important to maintaining the plants that I think they should just be
grouped together. I'll call the plants and fish grouped together the
Sometimes people -- for good reasons or bad -- want to replace their
low-cost, easy to get tap water with something else. In that case, then
water has to go on the list too. Water treatment systems necessary to
support a 120 gallon tank can cost a lot of money and/or be difficult to find
and assemble. That isn't a general case so I'll leave it off the list, but
it is something to keep in mind.
The list then includes (in alphabetical order) CO2, Ferts, Light, Occupants
and Substrate. Depending on your priorities and the methods you tend to use,
the list can be ordered several different ways. The list can even be
shortened. It's all up to the aquarist.
The ultimate low tech tank gets enough natural light to grow plants. For
that tank the list is very short:
Quite a few plants are not rooted in a substrate, so substrate gets second
Any other tank must be provided with light. There is no aquarium where
plants will grow without light. For the next step into artificial life
support the list becomes:
A good substrate plus usual fish feeding can supply the plants with
nutrients, so fertilizer is optional and isn't needed in many tanks. If the
light on this kind of setup is very bright then thorough aeration becomes
essential. Without good aeration the CO2 level in a brightly lit tank will
drop to 0 and the pH will go to 9 or more. Those are hostile conditions for
many plants and some animals.
If the aquarist wants more growth out of the tank, but isn't very interested
in aquascaping then the light must be brighter and CO2 might be added.
Assuming that the aquarist uses a fertile substrate the list now becomes:
CO2 is secondary in this setup. The aquarist might use DIY CO2, never really
worry about the CO2 levels and regularly let the CO2 generator run flat. A
lot of the CO2 and nutrients in a setup like this can be provided by the fish
If the aquarist is interested in aquascaping or is in the habit of moving
things around a lot then a fertile substrate isn't practical and the whole
list gets shuffled by the need to supply CO2 and nutrients without the help
of a fertile substrate. In that case the list becomes:
That looks a lot more like Arthur's list.
In my experience, approaches that are intermediate between these last two
lists don't work very well. The combination of an infertile substrate with
low or erratic CO2 levels and limited fertilization mostly gives you algae
and nutrient-deficient plants.
Often people will use an infertile substrate even when they don't intend to
aquascape or move plants around all the time. Often that's just because
better advice wasn't available when they were setting things up. If that
happens then a UGF can be used to get and keep some fertility in the
So take your pick. I guess the substrate can be as important or unimportant
as you want it to be.