Re: soils w/o gravel on top and C. affinis

Paul Krombholz writes: 

>>  Actually, The presence or
absence of 1/2 inch to 1 inch of gravel on top of the soil doesn't seem to
matter much to the plants.<<

It sure would make things simpler if I did not have to add the top layer of
sand or gravel to my tanks without digging fishes. I know that the temporary
tinting from soil does not change with top layer of gravel or sand. Have you
noticed any difference in clouding of water when you pull up plants? I have
always used top layer of sand because I had been thinking that the top layer
of sand will help contain the soil when the plants are pulled up.

>>I have grown crypts and other plants in a 50:50 peat-soil mix which I
composted for several weeks.  Everything did quite well.  I also have had
some crypts in a 50:50 peat-soil mix which I did not compost,.....<<

I didn't know that you used peat-soil combinations. How do they compare to
the cowmanure-soil mixes with crypts or other plants. I still haven't tried
a peat-soil mix. As you know, I have several tanks going for many years with
peat only. 

BTW Paul, my latest affinis tank with the cm-soil is doing great. I have not
added any CO2 (yet).  Better than all my others with affinis, but too soon
to make any conclusions. (like you say, maybe because of composting??) These
plants are from the same source as yours (most likely the 'large variety' of
New leaf growth after a few weeks, but different shape leaf, larger with
wavy edges, but on shorter stem (so far). Upper leaf surface is also not
shiny as they were when I first planted them. Their owner did not use any
substrate additive, just fish poop. For many people, affinis is a very easy
plant and will grow great without anything special.
I have also noticed other color variations in affinis leaves in my other
tanks. In one tank under the exact same lighting, a different batch of
affinis are a very dark color - perhaps reddish (I am red-green color blind).

Has anyone noticed similar variations in affinis (or other crypts), due to: 
*variety of the plant (there is supposed to be a small and large variety);
*lighting (intensity, color, duration)or 
*use of CO2 or
*mix of nutrients. 

I must note that use of these rich substrates is not GENERALLY suggested for
beginners. There are more things that can happen which can be difficult for
a newbie to manage. Here are some other comments on my experiences with this
new 10 gallon affinis tank.
I did not pre-treat these plants with diluted bleach, so I had to add some
fish (endlers live bearers) to control small amount of green algae that the
snails could not keep up with. Green water developed next, so the fish came
out and daphnia went in. The water is crystal clear now and the other algae
is gone (i.e., I do not see it <g>). The fish will probably go back to help
supply a little CO2, ammonia and other recycled nutrients.

Neil Frank, TAG editor  Aquatic Gardeners Association       Raleigh, NC