Newbie Questions, Pencilfish, Phosphate, Allergies

Subject: answering newbie questions

> If you are tired of answering the same question 1000 times, put 
> a FAQ.  What does FAQ stand for? If a question gets asked 1000 t
> it needs to be in the FAQ. 

The questions that most of us mind answering _are_ in the FAQ.  
Some people don't bother to do their home work.  If it's _not_ in 
the FAQ, this is the perfect place to discuss it.

> Then when one of these questions come
> along, there are only two possibities: a) quote from the FAQ (ni
> preferably),

It takes a lot of time to look something up in the FAQ and quote 
it.  People should read the FAQ _first_.

> or b) revise the FAQ so that next time the question
> be answered.

Remember that it's a lot of work writting and revising FAQ's.  The 
people who do it are VOLUNTEERS who have "real" jobs too.  I think 
they do an EXCELLENT job already!
> There is a plant FAQ. With a bit of love and attention, I'm sure
> could evolve into something even better. I'm sure the FAQ mainta
> would welcome new blood and enthusiasm.

If you'd like to devote some of your love and attention to 
improving the FAQ, I suspect TPTB would be happy to hear from you.

Subject: Re: Pencilfish

> I have a school of seven pencil fish in my 180 gallon planted
> tank.  They are sensitive and very docile.  I know mine have
> a preference for micro-pellets, and they have very small mouths
> They're great for plant tanks, moving in and out of vegetation i
> the upper-half and surface; but you must have a very 
> non-aggressive community.  

Yes, I forgot about the non-agressive fish part, since I don't 
keep anything but!<g>  In one tank, they are in with a few of the 
tiny Gouramis, and some Rummy Nose Tetras.  In the other tank, 
they are accompanied by a large school of Cardinals, and a group 
of L. dorsigera.  
> What do you feed yours, Karen?  I've never seen mine eat algae
> either.

I don't feed them differently from my other fish... Mostly OSI 
flake, sometimes HBH micropellets (but they sink to fast for the 
Pencils to get them all) live glass and blood worms (they can only 
take the tiniest ones, and frozen brine shrimp.

The group in the Paludarium (harrisoni) are really neat to watch 
from above.  Their mouths are so tiny that they actually take 
"bites" out of flake food, like someone eating a cookie.


Subject: Phosphate
> Karen Randall wrote:
> > I have OFTEN seen cyanobacteria present even with high nitrate
> > levels.
> Paul and I find that green algae predominates when nitrates are
> available.  However, cyanobacteria seem to thrive where nothing
> else can; if nitrates exceed 200ppm, or something else is killin
> green algae (perhaps the copper in your local water?), then the
> balance might shift back to the cyanobacteria.  I think that tra
> of cyanobacteria are always present in a tank, but that when lar
> quantities of the stuff are coating everything (as seems to be t
> case with Mr. Maladorno's tank), it's an indication that the pho
> levels are elevated but the nitrate levels are not.

I wasn't talking about in my own tanks.  The only time I've had a 
problem with cyanobacteria was several years ago when I introduced 
it into my paludarium with some Fontinalis.  It became a 
formidable problem to get rid of, because it had "hiding places" 
in the water fall, where is seemed to stay wet enough to persist 
in spite of antibiotic treatment.  The environment of the 
waterfall, with ready acess to the atmosphere, and strong water 
movement seemed to suit it too nicely.  I finally had to turn off 
the waterfall for a while, and "paint" the rocks with antibiotic 
solution for several days to solve the problem.

I agree that small amounts are often present in healthy tanks. 
(most often below the surface of the substrate, against the glass)

But I _still_ have encountered it _many_ times in tanks that have 
high phosphate _and_ nitrate levels.  I've also encountered it in 
tanks with low levels of both. (although this seems to be much 
less common)  Copper is not a problem in our whole area, just in 
my particular town.
> > In a tank 
> > containing Discus, I suspect that the possibility of nitrogen
> > deficiency is somewhere between slim and none.
> In a tank full of well-fed discus, the total amount of nitrogen
> entering the system is quite high, but the amount of phosphate i
> higher.  Therefore, the plants run out of nitrogen (or K or trac
> elements) before they run out of phosphate, and the free phospha
> what's making the algae grow. 

How can the plants have "run out" of nitrogen, if there are 
testable levels of nitrate free in the water?  There may be 
someone with Discus in a planted tank that has managed to keep the 
nitrate/phosphate levels _really_ low, but I haven't met them yet.

> It follows that you need to add e
> nutrients to help the plants consume the extra phosphate.  That'
> hypothesis anyway.  More details are found in our paper, which y
> (hopefully) reading "as we speak".  Of course, the whole approac
> apart if you don't have enough light to make use of all the avai
> phosphate, which can happen if you use phosphate buffers or get 
> carried away with the Pond Tabs.

It can happen for a number of reasons...as can the situation where 
not all nitrate is being used up.

I _have_ read your paper, and you've probably read my reply before 
you see this.  It is a very interesting paper, an I think it has a 
lot of validity.  But I think, too, that you have to look at all 
the variable in people's tanks.  If there's one thing I've learned 
in this hobby, it's that the words "always" and "never" are likely 
to be wrong.<g>  
> > My tanks show _no_ measureable nitrate (low range test kit) an
> > have tremendous grow with little algae.
> If you're adding exactly (or nearly so) the amount of N required
> plants to consume all the available P, you'll get good plant gro
> with very little algae, and nitrates will be unmeasurable.  Paul
> I recommend a slight excess of nitrates to ensure that nitrates 
> never be the factor limiting plant growth. 

I'm just very leery of suggesting that people add nitrate because 
I have had to much experience with people with high levels of both 
nitrate and phosphate.  There _are_ times that nitrate will become 
the limiting factor, but IMO, this is the exception rather than 
the rule.  
> Yes, Paul and I are sticking our necks out by recommending that
> nitrates sometimes need to be added to a tank.  Paul needs a sha
> anyway.

I hope they don't shave too close!!!<g>
> > Some 
> > people, with other parameters just right, get away with it, bu
> > I'm fairly certain that it doesn't contribute to good plant gr
> > as long as ammonium is available, and it _can_ cause algae 
> > problems.

> Nitrate by itself can't cause algae problems.  You need P (and K
> micronutrients) too.

Of course.  But as I said before _much_ more often than not, if an 
aquarist has one, they have the other.
Subject: Allergies from aquatic plants?

> 	Has anybody ever had allergic reactions from their plant 
> 	Over the last two weeks I've started getting asthma 
attacks whe
> 	I open the tank or, now, even go into the basement.
> 	My giant val just recently produced several flowers, which 
is t
> 	only thing that's changed in the tank over the last two 
> 	removed all of them I could find.  I am vigorously hoping 
> 	the source of the pollen!  Otherwise I'll have to move 
out, or
> 	get rid of the tank!
> 	SO, has anybody ever heard of allergic reactions to 
aquatic pla

I think some one can be allergic to almost anything, but before 
you assume it's the plants, I wan to ask if you use bloodworms, 
either live, frozen or dried.  This is one of the most common 
_bad_ allergens found in the average fishroom.  They can make some 
people very, very sick, and the allergy to them can come on very 
suddenly after handling them without trouble for years.

Another though that comes to mind as a fellow allergy/asthma 
sufferer, is your basement damp as a result of condensation from 
the fish tank(s)?  Another very common allergen is mold and