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[APD] Re: substrate eH investigation [technical, long]

Steve wrote:

> A few years ago, I believe I gave Karen some C blassii which I think she
> might have shared with Neil Frank. I don't know if either have been
> successful in getting the large specimens. I seem to recall Neil saying
> something about not having red under leaf with other C blassii samples he
> had. Perhaps there are differences in the C cordata cultivars. Karen,

Long ago I stopped trying to grow plants as large as possible.  In fact,
quite the opposite, my goal is to encourage healthy CONTROLLED growth. I no
longer keep C. blassii for a couple of reasons.  First, I am not fond of the
look of plants with leaves on very long petioles.  ven though the color of
C. blassii is lovely, it is just too big for my tanks. (and they are not
small tanks... they range from 75G-125G)  There are many plants that I enjoy
working with, and I don't have room for them all.  So unless a plant is
either rare enough that I feel duty-bound to maintain it, or becomes one of
my favorites, I tend to have a progression of plants through my tanks.

Second, I have moved away from using pots in most instances, since I can
grow most plants very nicely without the substrate ammendments I needed
before I was willing to add N&P directly to the water column.  Pots are
cumbersome to position in a display tank in a way that they don't show.
Granted, it can be done, but I'm into "easy" these days.<g>  Without pots,
it's just too hard to keep C. blassii under control.  It's a real weed.  It
has the annoying habit of sending a runner completely across the tank, where
it will smash against the wall of the tank and then grow up. Since the
directions it will head in are completely unpredictable, it is a hard plant
to use in an aquascape.  I tend to gravitate more to the Crypts that grow in
slowly expanding "clumps" rather than those that send out long runners.

> I've moved away from fast growing plants primarily into Crypts,
> ferns (Bolbitus, Java) & Anubias but its trickier maintaining high fish
> bio-loads with those slow plants.

I actually have not found it so.  I have a 75G tank where most of the plants
are slow growth species... Anubias, several mosses, several ferns and
Crypts.  The fish population includes 8 large P. denisonii, a large
Synodonits angelicus, a full grown striped raphael that I brought back from
Brazil in '99, a swarm of Odessa barbs that get thinned out from time to
time and sent to the pet store, and a few other miscellaneous fish.  The
tank has fairly low light levels (Less than 2WPG) BUT I do supplement CO2,
though at a low level via Hagen yeast reactors (2 changed out in alternate
weeks).  The tank is healthy, with good green growth, and even less algae
than in my higher light/growth systems.  I think the trick to keeping
macronutrients under control in this tank is that there are two faster
growing species.  There is a Nymphaea 'zenkeri'  which is actually very well
behaved in this growth limiting setting...still bright red, but smaller
leaves, and slower growth.  There is also a water sprite.  This is an older
plant, and I prune it back hard and regularly, but leave the older, woody
stems and roots to regrow.  I think these two are responsible for keeping P
down.  I actually still have to supplement N.

I have had trouble with N. 'Zenkeri' in higher growth tanks... It gets too
big too fast if you feed heavily, but outcompetes fast growing stem plants
if you don't.  In this slow growth tank, the other plants seem to be able to
get what they need without the 'Zenkeri' interfereing.

> Soil substrates aren't automatically bad for newbies; its just a different
> regime & I'm beginning to understand that it needs to change over time.

I still disagree with you there, as I have all along.  Soil substrates have
too many variables, and too many ways to screw things up.  I STILL feel
strongly that novices should start with the least complicated, most
fool-proof "system" possible. (let's face it, when you have people who will
put a OPF on a tank with the motor on the inside, how hard is it to make a
mistake with soil! ;-)  The simplest solution used to be gravel/laterite.
Now Flourite wins hands down.

I am fully aware that many experienced aquarist, some of whom I have a great
deal of respect for, prefer soil substrates.  But IMO, they are not the best
(or even a good) option for the first-time aquatic gardener. (but you've
known that was my stand all along ;-)


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