Substrate Heaters, Photography, Algae Eaters, Substrate

Subject: Heaters in Substrate


> Let me start by thanking Karen and George for their helpful comments on m
> 20 gal setup, which I posted details
> of a couple of weeks ago. All plants are growing well with almost no alga
> (except a small amount on the glass).

Glad to help, and glad things are going well.
Subject: Photographing Tanks

> 3. Having set up my tank I would like to take some photos on a regular bas
> (say every week) so that I can record its development. Does anybody have a
> tips for photographing aquariums ? I imagine that it is not
> as easy as it looks!

Producing publication quality photos is a bit more complicated, but any 
camera can give you a decent record of overall changes in your tank.  It is 
easiest to photograph the tank with the tank lights on, but after dark with 
the room lights off, so there are no other lights reflected in the glass.  
Do an extra good job cleaning the glass, and when you think it's clean, do 
it once more.  Take the photo at an angle, so the flash bounces across the 
glass and away from the camera to avoid back flash.  Fill the frame with the 
tank if your camera will focus that close.  If it's a fixed focal length 
camera, you'll have to stay the minimum distance recommended in the 
instructions.  Unless you have very bright lighting on your tank, a strong 
flash and can manually set your F-stop and exposure, you'll probably get 
better results with either 400 or 1000 speed film.  The slower the film, the 
better quality photo, but the harder it is to get it exposed correctly!



Subject: Chinese algea eaters

> Hi,
> 	Are the chinese algea eaters good for control of algea in a
> planted tank?  I've seen the siamese algea eaters recommended before but
> have never seen 'em anywhere.  Local pet shop has some chinese, but I
> wasn't sure if they'd help.  thanks

Chinese algae eaters only eat algae when they're small (which doesn't last 
long).  Then they are aggressively territorial, prone to sucking slime coats 
off other fish, don't eat algae, and are nearly impossible to catch when you 
want to remove them from a planted tank.

Stick to Otocinclus, Peckoltia and Ancistrus.  George has mentioned another 
sucker mouthed catfish that works well for him, Farlowellas maybe?  Even 
"regular" Flying Foxes are _far_ preferable to Chinese Algae Eaters. (fondly 
known as "Slime Suckers)


> Anyway, I'm deciding what to do for substrate.  I've been following all th
> vermiculite discussion, and my question essentially boils down to this:
> Of the following list of substrates, which is the "safest", and which is
> likely to produce the "best" results:
> 	1) All gravel
> 	2) A Kelly-Pushak vermiculite/humus/gravel mix at the bottom, 
> 	   with plain gravel on top
> 	3) A mix of just gravel/vermiculite at the bottom, and plain gravel
> 	   on top.

I have to vote with George here.  Laterite is not _that_ expensive when you 
look at the overall cost of setting up a planted tank, and has been used 
with great success by many many people over a period of many years by this 
point.  Vermiculite use is still in the experimental stages from my 
perspective.  That's not to say it won't work, but I could not recommend it 
for a first time aquatic gardener.  

The use of humus too, can cause problems.  Some experienced aquatic 
gardeners use it quite successfully, but organic material in the substrate 
_can_ cause algae problems.  When you are trying to get your tank balanced 
for the first time is not the time, IMO, to use something that you _know_ 
can cause problems.

Plain gravel is only an alternative if you are only interested in a few very 
hardy plants that feed only from the water, not from the substrate.  That 
said, you could set a tank up with plain gravel and have a very attractive 
display with Java Moss, Java Fern and Water Sprite.

If you want to use a laterite product that is _much_ less expensive than 
Dupla's but still has a very good reputation, you can use Thiel Aquatech's 
laterite.  I know a number of people across the country successfully using 
this product.