All kinds of stuff

Subject: Before I buy ...

> I'm ready to get some plants for my /fish/ tank but I wanted a r
> check from all of you nice people ... :)
> The tank is a 55 gallon with between 2.5 and 3 inches of typical
> gravel.  The bottom inch has roughly 1 Kg of laterite (from Lagu
> in.  It is lit by two 40 watt fluourescents, and I am considerin
> more lighting. 
> I am considering the following plant species; please let me know
> have erred in judgement.

Good thing you checked first.  Otherwise you would have wasted 
lots of money.<g>

> Lilaeopsis novaezelandiae - 

needs lots of light to fill in well, although it will "hang on" 
with less light

> Ophiopigon japonica pussilus	dwarf mondo grass
> Ophiopigon japonica		mondo grass

Doesn't survive long term submerged
> Anubias nana	-

Great Choice

> Hygrophila difformis	- 

Another good choice.  If your light is sufficient it will grow 

> Spatyphyllum wallisii
> Syngonium a. variegatum	

Both are non-aquatics.
> Other than the carpeting species, I don't want anything to take 
> tank. I've selected these particular species because they are al
> available from the same vendor.  I will consider any suggestions
> to improve this plan, other than:
> * more light (I think I will do this eventually but I don't want
> * radical substrate change
> * substrate heating
> * CO2

Well basically, your willing to consider anything but the things 
that are likely to improve your set up ;-)

Seriously, You should do fine as long as you choose plants wisely. 
 But you are making a mistake avoiding fast growing plants.  Those 
are the ones that improve the environment for both your plants 
_and_ your fish, as well as providing spawning and hiding places 
for your fish.  It's _your_ job to make sure they don't take over.

You haven't given us any water values, so it's impossible to say 
for sure, but assuming reasonable pH/KH, fairly low levels of 
nitrate and phosphate, and no plant eating fish, here are some 
plants that will work better.  You can expand slowly from this 
"starter" list, and see what other things work well in your water.

Water Sprite (Ceratopteris sp.)
Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus)
Java Moss (Vesicularia dubyana)
Hygrophila sp.
Rotala rotundifolia
Aponogeton sp.
Anubias sp.

This selection gives you enough variety to set up a very beautiful 
tank, even if you never go beyond this list, and you are much more 
likely to succeed.  Remember, the heavir you plant from day one, 
the better your out come will be.
Valisneria sp.
Echinodorus sp.

Subject: PH and Fertilzers

> I have been using a fertilizer (FloraPride) with every water 
> change and I noticed my PH seems to rise after the water change. 
> Could the cause of this be the fertilizer? My tap water PH is 
> lower than the PH reading I'm getting from the tank so it can't 
> be the water I'm adding.

Are your testing the tap water directly for the tap or after 
allowing it to degas for 24 hours?  My tap water has a pH of abot 
6 when it is first drawn, and bounces up to about 8.5 after 
degassing.  This is not that uncommon.  I have not heard that 
Florapride will raise pH.

> Also will the use of sodium biphosphate to lower my PH cause an 
> increase in the algae growth?

Generally, at the light levels used in a planted tank, phosphate 
based buffers _will_ cause algae problems.

 Subject: CO2 injection/reactor
> I'm still planning my next tank.  Given my budget, I have to str
> the planning process.
> I will undoubtedly continue the DIY yeast CO2 with the next tank
> afford more at the moment, and besides, what's the big deal abou
> sugar, water, baking soda, and yeast every so often?  AND I have
> my home capable of becoming a ICBM.
> I'm thinking about going with a 70 or 75 gal (suggestions welcom
> filtered with a Magnum 350 with biowheel.  Since I won't have a 
> anymore, I won't be able to hook my CO2 up to the air intake of 
> powerhead.  My question:  if I go with bubblestones below the in
> Magnum, won't all the CO2 evaporate on the biowheel, with its la
> area?  My dilemma:  I have no problem with putting together a re
> (if I can find the plans back), but I really would rather avoid 
> big and ugly in my tank.

Why do you feel the need to use the biowheel on the tank?  Skip 
that and you've solved your problems.

> P.S.   If anyone has any thoughts about the Magnum 350+biowheel 
> of its adequacy for the bioload of a 70 or 75 gallon tank, I wou
> appreciate hearing from you.  I was taught that one filter/filtr
> method was never enough, so the prospect of only having this see
> weird!

I have been running my 70G planted tank on a 250 Magnum for 
_years_ (about 7 now) with a 350 Magnum as the sole form of 
filtration.  The filtration needs on a correctly executed planted 
tank are minimal.  I've had the filter off line for as long as 2 
weeks with _no_ adverse effects.  Actually, the filter itself is a 
redundant system if the tank is set up right!  

I _do_ have two extra power heads in my 70G.  The CO2 reactor is 
powered by the outflow of the canister filter, which cuts down on 
the current it creats, and also moves it way to the bottom of the 
tank.  Because the tank is _very_ densely planted, I feel that the 
extra water motion from the powerheads is beneficial.  That said, 
I didn't have any problems before I added the power heads 

 Subject: Water Changes

 As my header states this is my first post to this mail list
> I feel the need to ask a question that might raise some discussi
> great need for water change?  ( I am 22, and had keep fish when 
> younger, when the idea of water change was unspoken)

Ah, a mere youngster in our group ;-)

> It is my u
> that water changes are used to remove harmful toxins (ammonia, n
> nitrates) that may effect fish health (and to replace trace mine
> plant-people)  

You've got it partly right.  In a properly cycled fish tank, or in 
a properly set up planted tank, there should be _no_ measurable 
ammonia or nitrite to remove.  If nitrate (and phosphate) _does_ 
build up in a tank with a heavy ratio of fish to plants, these 
must be remove with water changes to avoid algae problems. But 
there are other substances that build up in tank water as well.  
Allelochemicals from the plants, and metabolites from the fish 
that we can't easily test for.  

Also, unless all top-up water is DI or distilled water, there will 
be a build up of whatever minerals/chemicals are in your local tap 
water supply as evaporation concentrates them.  How much a problem 
this is depends on your local tap water supply.

<snip comparison with reef tank>

> I am not suggesting no water changes, just reduced changes.  Of 
> believe this could only apply to moderate to well-planted aquari
> sure there are so holes in this theory, but hopeful we can discu

The answer is... it depends.  There are so many variables as to 
stocking density, amount and kinds of plants used, growth rate, 
tap water quality, feeding schedule, etc. That this is an area 
where the aquatic gardener has to use his judgement on how often 
water changes must be done.  Some people with very light fish 
populations find that they can go almost indefinitely without 
water changes.  People who keep Discus in planted tanks can become 
water change slaves <g>. (I speak from experience)

The _safest_ approach for the benning aquatic gardener is to do 
good size frequent water changes.  I usually recommend 25-30% 
weekly.  Once you are satisfied that the tank is stable, that 
algae is in check, and that nitrate and phosphate measurements are 
remaining low, you can begin to play around with longer periods 
between water changes, and smaller amount.  

It is always better to decrease the SIZE of your water changes 
before you decrease the frequency.  It is perfectly possible and 
unfortunately all too common for people to kill both fish and 
plants (notably Crypts) by doing a large water change after months 
of neglect.

 Subject: Opinions on current set-up

>      Here's my question:  I would like some opinions or suggesti
> semi-planted tank.

Semi-planted tanks are a very tough proposition.  

<snip description of tank>

The fact that you have measurable nitrite in the tank signifies a 
problem.  With or without plants, a properly sycled tank should 
have no measurable amounts of ammonia or nitrite.

Your nitrate level is also high for a planted tank. (It's higher 
than I would find acceptable in a fish only tank)

> My question is about the setup and lights. 
> Should I go to a overflow and trickle filter (I have read that p
> more readily use Ammonia, over Nitrates?)  I can do a sump (eith
> or trickle filter) no problem. 

This would definitely benefit your fish, but not your plants.  
However at it's current stocking level you are likely to have 
plant problems anyway.
> I want to try CO2, but would probably use cheap yeast method. My
> has a pH of 7.6+, KH of 3 and a GH of about 8.  As this is now a
> tank, I condition all water (before hand) with Spagnum moss, whi
> to about 7 and GH to about 4, KH stays the same for some reason(
> CO2, should I buffer KH and stop conditioning water?  I don't wa
> flux (Would changing two gallons a day work (say ~20% per week t
> of one 20% water change per week?) 

A pH of 7.6 is not a problem for Angels. (or your other fish 
either)  I'd can the peat.  IMO, your KH is OK too.  Obviously if 
your nitrate level is up to 30ppm, your water change schedule is 
not keeping up with what the animals produce.  You really need to 
reduce the fish load.  You probably need to do larger water 
changes too.  In my _lightly_ stocked tanks, I change 25-30% 
> Now for the lighting question,  110w is ~2 watts per gallon.  Ev
> have read says this is "low to medium light", yet I feel that I'
> myself and the fish.  Would a custom hood with 4 40w FL really b
> (Note: I work at night and leave the lights on during the day wh
> and I don't like to sleep in full  daylight)  This would raise i
> (~3 watts per gallon), is CO2 worth trying using only 110w now? 
> everybody says Tritron and Tri-Flux are brighter then other bran
> effects anything?)  (e.g. would two Tritrons be better then two 
> although same wattage?)

Your lighting is fine for now.  If you increase it, you are 
_asking_ for algae problems with your current fish load and 
nitrate level.  You didn't mention phosphate levels, but I'd be 
willing to bet that's right up there too.
> Most everything extra now, would be DIY (trickle filter, hood, e
> is a factor
> here.  So please don't recomment MH or anything similarly expens
> extra notes:  I feed heavy (since the Angelfish are breeders).  
> rather not drill the tank in anyway ( would use skimmer for ov

Your current setup is more than adequate for a very attractive 
planted tank.  But you need to decide what's important.  To pack 
in as many fish as possible, or to have a pleasing planted display 

If the former, forget the plants with the possible exception of 
some floating Water Sprite and/or Duck Weed for nutrient 
reduction, and some Java Fern and Java Moss for aesthetic  
purposes.  These are plants that will withstand a tremendous 
amount of abuse.  And get that wet/dry filter to help support the 
too high stocking level currently in your tank.

If you decide you _do_ want a beautiful planted community display 
tank, _drastically_ reduce your fish load. (probably by half) Do 
enough water changes to get your nitrate level down below 20ppm, 
preferably below 10ppm.  Then stick with your current lighting and 
ad your yeast reactor(s).  Plant heavily with fast growing plants. 
 (Lots of Water Sprite is still a good idea)  Now you can play 
with a number of moderate light species.  As you go, you may 
decide to add more light and a more serious CO2 system.  You will 
probably _not_ need any more filtration, because the tank will now 
be appropriately stocked.

BTW, you will find that when you tank is fully planted, it will 
_appear_ to be much less bright because of all the shade made by 
the taller plants.  It's amazing how much light a heavily planted 
tank can "suck up"!

> to move to Discus in a year or two, after I get all this plant-k
> down (but I won't rush it)

_PLEASE_ don't rush it!  With or without plants, Discus will not 
thrive under the conditions you are currently maintaining in this 


Subject: Trapa natans

I have recently become the owner of some Trapa natans.  I no 
nothing about it other than what I've read in the books.  Any one 
have any first-hand experience with this attractive native?

Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Assoc.
Boston, MA