Re: Balance = Steady State

Subject: Re: Balance and lighting


> Daffy-nition:
>   "STEADY-STATE" is the eventual stabilization of our aquatic
>   systems, where the system evidences constant observable
>   behavior as a result of constant input factors.
> Deviation from the established biological definition:
>   The aquarium hobby must directly factor in non-natural
>   and other directly controlled constant inputs, such as 
>   air pumps, light, nutrients, water changes, etc.  These
>   are not factored inputs in determining "steady state"
>   for natural systems.

I like this.  It clearly defines what is going on, and is simple 
enough to explain to a novice.

> Of course, according to this definition, our systems have an 
> enormous number of potential "steady states" (many more than
> in the "real world".  A "steady state" in the natural world 
> is largely non-determinate because:


>   Unlike the natural world, the aquarist is fully able to selec
>   exactly what those constant fixed inputs are.  Unlike the
>   natural world, we determine artificially and exactly the
>   CO2 ppm, lumens amount and duration, nutrient levels, fresh
>   water changes, etc.

That's as it should be.  For a tank to be enjoyable, it is up to 
the individual hobbyist to decide how much they want to put into 
it.  I have a friend who spawns Rainbows in 5 gallon buckets in 
his fishroom with filters made from peanut butter jars, and a big 
bunch of Water Sprite Floating on the top.  Not very aesthetically 
pleasing to me, but it _is_ a "steady state" system by this 
> - --------------------------------------------------------------
> >} >In this sense, you certainly can have "too much"
> >} >of any of them [light, CO2, nutrients, etc].
> Re-phrased:  
>   "You can force a state-change (away from the desired state) by
>    providing additional inputs of any of these factors [light, 
>    CO2, nutrients, etc.]"

I can buy that.
> > It would seem based on existing evidence that I am suffering 
> > the dreaded "out of balance" problem on my 180gal show tank. 
> Re-phrased:
>   "It would seem based on existing evidence that I am suffering
>    from an undesirable [steady] state in my 180gal show tank."
>   * or *
>   "I am not happy with the results I get with the inputs I 
>    provide."
>   NOTE:  If the system is in flux, call it a "dynamic state".
>     If you observe the system at a plateau (no change with
>     time), it's a "steady state".

Here's where we run into problems.  Not so much with your 
terminology, as with a novice's understanding.  It has been my 
experience that the novice aquatic gardener is not sure when (or 
if) they have achieved a "steady state".  Additionally, there are 
"dynamic states" that can be considered "normal" that tend to 
panic the beginner, such as the transient algae blooms that many 
tanks experience before they reach a "steady state".  

The hardest things to teach the novice are observation and 
patience.  I guess the point we need to get across is that our job 
as aquarists is to manage "dynamic states".  

At least in my experience, even the best aquarium doesn't remain 
"steady state" without planned intervention.  An example of this 
the ground cover in one of my tanks.  It was initially planted 
with E. tennelus, and a few small patches of Lillaeopsis.  During 
a heat wave, the E. tennelus died back, and the Lillaeopsis 
advanced to take its place.  I allowed this change because I liked 
the Lillaeopsis better.  Now, C. blassii has been sending runners 
out of its corner and is aggressively invading the Lillaeopsis.  I 
have systematically removed these runners, since I _don't_ want 
large C. blassii plants in the front of my tank.  

While as a whole, I would consider my tank to be "steady state" in 
that the amount of CO2, trace elements, fish food, water changes 
etc. remains essentially the same on a day to day basis, and has 
for several years.  At the same time, there is the constant 
"tweaking" to keep various species where _I_ decide they should 
stay.  So from this perspective, the tank is almost continually in 
a "dynamic state".
I guess the bottom line is that we can change the WORDS we are 
using, (and I see some merit to doing that) but the CONCEPT 
remains the same.  "Recipes" have only limited usefulness, since 
if you change _any_ of the ingredients, the result will change. 
The concept we need to get across to the novice is the _dynamic_ 
nature of the system.  To really do well with planted tanks, you 
have to understand _why_ you are making the changes you've decided 
to make, and what effect those changes have on other parts of the 

Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Assoc.
Boston, MA