Peat, nutrient diffusion, Echinodorus, Vermiculite/Laterite
Subject: Re: Peat Alternatives
> > From: stevensj at calshp_cals.wisc.edu
> > I imagine that using dead leaves might be no less convenient than peat,
> > but they may make a better substrate which doesn't float around the tan
> > & get in your filters like peat does.
> What do people think about the appearance of such a substrate?
> Natural looking, of course, but *too* natural? I like a certain
> amount of artificial neatness in the aquarium.
While I am passionate about _learning_ about native biotopes, the more I
learn, the more I am convinced that most are not very "pretty". Like you, I
have come to appreciate the beauty of an aquatic "garden" for my display
tanks. I think that's one of the reasons Ammano's work appeals to me so
much. He uses plants and aquascaping to _suggest_ a natural setting as
opposed to trying (usually unsuccessfully) to recreate a biotope.
To each his own, I guess!<g>
Subject: Re: nutrient diffusion into substrate
> I think there are at least two issues. (1) Will the substrate go
> anaerobic without circulation intervention (passive diffusion is
> sufficient, no heat coils), and (2) will nutrients enter the
> substrate passively (through diffusion) in sufficient quantities
> to replenish those nutrients adsorbed?
> My opinion (my guess, really) is that (1) is "yes" for laterite, "no"
> for vermiculite, and (2) is "not relevant?" for laterite, "I don't
> know" for vermiculite.
> While diffusion may not be adequate for nutrients (I don't know),
> it surely must be for O2 (too many tanks on this list have
> substrates that have *not* gone anaerobic, even though no circulation
> method was employed).
Sorry Charley, (sorry, I couldn't resist<g>) but I've had tanks set up for
years _with_ laterite, and _without_ substrate heating and have not had any
problems with anaerobic substrate. It is my feeling that once the plants
have developed a good root system, _they_ move enough water through the
substrate to prevent anaerobic conditions.
This is _not_ necessarily that same as moving enough water to adequately
recharge the substrate with micronutrients. From the small amount of
experimenting I've done with substrate heating, I believe that it is
beneficial to plant growth. (if all other parameters for plant growth have
I have a hard time with the anaerobic substrate line, since I have yet to
see an anaerobic substrate in a well set up healthy planted tank without
organic material in the substrate. Here we seem to be in agreement.
> No, I don't want it to become a religeous war. I really want to
> get some input on whether the inherently porous nature of vermiculite
> will allow for old substrates to remain sufficiently oxygenated,
> and that in time, nutrient supplements can charge the high CEC
> potential of vermiculite to a point at least equalling laterite.
> In short, I *honestly* want to know that long-term, can vermiculite at
> least equal the effectiveness of laterite because of its higher
> CEC and more porous nature?
I think that until someone (better yet, a number of someones) set up side by
side duplicate tanks, one with laterite and one with vermiculite, and run
these tanks in the same manner for _at least several years_ we will not know
the answer to that question.
The problem with all of this is that so many methods work "OK". Most of us
find a method that works for us, and follow it as George suggest, with
"religious" fervor. Since few of us set up side by side tests and control
all other variables, it's hard to say what works "best". *THAT* in a
nutshell is what Dupla charges extra for ;-)
Subject: Re: Echinodorus problem
> I have a beautiful specimen of the "red mellon sword" echonidorus
> osiris red (I think) and it had been growing beautifully until I move
> it to the other side of the tank. Since then, the new leaves still
> look great, but the old leaves have become riddled with hundreds of
> 1mm holes--
> right before I did the big
> transplant when all the problems started. I have a feeling much of
> these problems relate to the increased light level in the tank....must
> have accelerated a dormant problem.
Making a number of change in a tank at the same time, (moving plants,
changing lighting, changing nutrient replacement routine) is never a good
idea. It becomes almost impossible to track down a specific problem. I
would suspect that you are seeing snail holes as the snails munch on dying
plant leaves caused by the changes that have taken place. The fact that the
new growth looks good is encouraging. I would keep things as stable as
possible, and wait for a while. Echinodorus are, for the most part, tough
plants. They should recover in time with good growth conditions.
In the future, if at all possible, try to make only one change at a time!
> Subject: Re: vermiculite, laterite and $$$
> Circulation thru the gravel may be desireable, but it is definitely NOT
> required. At least for the experienced aquatic gardener <g>. But, I am >
curious enough to want to try artificial circulation some day. I even have >
the cables and a transformer and some 7w heaters for the Randall system. I
> just need the time to set up the tanks.
In fairness, we should probably call this the "Christensen method". After
all, he talked _me_ into trying it!<g>
> BTW, I tried vermiculite not as a sponge to soak up nutrients, but as a
> substrate "conditioner," just like it is used in house plants - to open up
> the soil and keep it from compacting. I mixed the vermiculite with sand >
and peat in the lower half and used clean sand in the upper half. I wanted >
to create an O2 deficient environment.
As I've been reding this post, I've been thinking to myself why does it have
to be all or nothing? I would think some benefit might be gained by using
vermiculite _and_ a perhaps smaller than usual amount of laterite. The
nutrients in the laterite could serve as a non-organic "starter" until the
vermiculite has time to become charged with trace elements. In the mean
time, it helps keep the substrate open. I would think this could be
beneficial with or without susbtrate heating, as I've never heard _anyone_
suggest that a compacted substrate is a good idea ;-)
>The vermiculite/soil tank is getting torn down this weekend.
> Maybe I will try artificial circulation!
Why is that tank being torn down? How long has it been set up? Let us know
how the roots look, and the condition of the substrate. Inquiring minds
want to know!<g>
Re: Problem Form Idea
When I was over on Fishnet, we had a "Check Up Form" that people could fill
out and submit if they were having a problem with their planted tank. That
way we could help them without playing 20 questions.
What do people think of doing the same kind of thing here? We could either
put it in the FAQ, or maybe ask Erik if it could be stored in "The Krib". I
don't mind helping people trouble shoot, but if I can run through the whole
tank set up at once, rather than getting the info piecemeal, it's usually a
We could either have people post the answers here, or some of us could take
turns handling them through E-mail. What do you all think?