New tank status and questions...

> From: Mike Bateman <vandi at well_com>
> I also suspect that my nifty gee-wiz Mandrin skimmer/prefilter will
> become an algae refuge with no convenient way to clean it.  The skimmer
> cup can be removed and cleaned but the funky U-channel will likely be a
> pain in the <ehem>. I'll probably ignore it unless I'm having company
> over. :)

If it can be removed from the tank, a soak in a 4:1 water/bleach
mixture will get rid of the algae very nicely. 
> My tank characteristics are currently as follows.
> pH: 6.4-6.9

Does pH vary that much or is that measurement uncertainty? 

> Q: Would it be smarter for me to add more plants or let the ones I have
> fill in the spaces.

I would try lot's of different plants to see which ones like your

> I left the runner floating and now almost all
> of those buds are now 2" tall babies with tons of roots.
> Q: Will those eventually dislodge from the runner or do I need to
> physically separate them?  Once these babies have roots on them is it ok
> to just plant them?

I'm sure nature has a way of taking care of this, but the process is
probably too slow for us aquarists.  When the babies have nicely
formed roots (2" or so), hack them off and plant them. 
> I also have a rather ugly little plant that was labled as Dragon's
> Tongue.  It appears to be growing and looks to be reaching for the sky.
> It has also managed tp maintain its red-purplish coloration.

Alternanthera reineckii or one of it's variants, most likely. 

> The H. polysperma that was rather small to begin with has doubled its
> size but seems to be spreading out horizontally.
> Q: Is this to be expected under high light conditions (380w of VHO
> lighting)?

Yes.  Some stem plants like Ludwigia sp. and some Hygrophilas will do
that.  Probably to maximuze light availability. 
Q: How closely do folks follow the Dupla dosing recommendations?  

Start with the recommended dosage and then adjust for your conditions.
Try to maintain around 0.1 ppm of iron and all the rest of the trace
elements should be in proper proportion.  Of course, if the brand you
use does not HAVE the right proportions to start with, you're out
of luck.  This works for Dupla but won't work for fertilizers that are
mostly iron. 

> As you can see from my iron levels I don't feel like I need to
> be adding anymore right away.

If you used laterite, you will have higher levels of iron to start
with.  Don't cut back too much on the fertilizer because that will
also reduce the other trace elements.  It's kind of a balancing act at
first, with no clear instructions about what to do. 

> Q: Isn't GH a measurement of the total hardness (Calcium & Magnesium)?
> No one at Lamotte is at all familiar with the term GH.  They do have a
> hardness kit that measures total hardness.

In aquarium usage, GH is ca + mg hardness and KH is carbonate hardness
(one component of alkalinity).  Differnet hardness terms mean
different things in different fields.  I've seen 'total hardness'
as some combination of GH + KH.  I prefer the El Cheapo Tetra GH & KH
test kits. They seem to do a good job, especially when using the
KH/pH/CO2 tables.  Note that the KH kit actually measures alkalinity
which should be close to true KH unless you're dumping extra chemicals
in the water.  Our Lamotte alkalinity test results never seem to match
the Tetra KH test results, but the Tetra results seem to match the
tables.  Go figure ...

> It turns out I purchased the wrong kit initially which would explain my
> less than accurate readings.  I tried to mix RO water with tap to obtain
> the desired hardness, but when measured, the hardness came out too low.
> My water has a Total hardness of around 280ppm.  I figure if I mix 2
> parts RO to 1 part tap, I should have a hardness of around 90ppm.  The
> Lamotte Kit measured 60ppm.  My kit is actually Calcium hardness only.
> Lamotte does have a Total Hardness kit which I intend to purchase the
> refill for since the rest of the kit is the same.
> Q: Would this explain the difference in my readings?


Lamotte has a kit that measures total hardness AND calcium hardness.
Subtracting calcium from total gives you magnesium, which might be nice
to know (we're going to do this sometime in the future).