A planted tank success story

     This posting is intended for anyone who is pondering whether to fertilize 
     with CO2 and/or change their substrate.  I think my results will 
     re-demonstrate the effectiveness of these methods, which I obtained from 
     the Krib and the AGA archives.  Even though I am an experienced aquarist, 
     my knowledge has greatly expanded since I discovered these resources.  
     Thanks, everyone!
     For about three years I had a 90 gal planted tank with moderate success.  
     Here's the original setup, before I became enlightened by the Krib and 
     the AGA ;) (nostalgic grin)
     pH 7.4
     Hardness: 120 ppm CaCO3
     Nitrates:  typically unmeasureable
     Fertilization:  chelated iron regularly, DAI tablets quarterly 
     Lighting: 4 40W bulbs (2 Philips Agro-lights, 2 Philips colortone 50s) 
     Filtration: Eheim 2015 canister, Hagen Aquaclear 300
     Water changes: 15% per week
     Substrate: plain #3 sand with MTS
     CO2: none added
     Fish load: light--4 neons, 4 lemon tetras, 4 black tetras, 3 rams, 2 
     platys, 1 mean angel, 1 Corydoras, 1 Ancistris and 1 false SAE.
     Plants: Moderate to densely planted, depending on the pruning stage--Vals, 
     Sags, Crypts, Echinodorus, Rotala, and Hygrophila.
     Results:  Vals grew very well, requiring regular thinning.  They 
     dominated the tank.  Everything else did OK, but they were overshadowed 
     by the Vals and the tank was nowhere near where I wanted it to be.  I 
     noticed the tank would grow up to a particular plant density, then 
     growth would cease.  I had a running battle with algae, especially 
     Finally, I became inspired by the Krib, and fertilized with CO2.  I 
     started with a sugar-yeast system as an experiment, then graduated to a 
     20# cylinder.  The result--explosive growth of all species, including 
     those that grew slowly before.  My Vals grew so quickly they became a 
     nuisance, so I traded them (about 2 gallons worth; some were 30 inches 
     long) at a local aquarium shop for 10 species of new plants.  The look of 
     amazement on the employees was priceless ("You grew all THESE?") :)  
     Things were going well, until I added my usual dose of DAI tablets, which 
     resulted in an explosive hair algae bloom.  Dismayed, I turned to the 'net 
     for a solution, and found Jim Kelly's article on vermiculite/soil 
     substrates and Paul Sears/Kevin Conlin's article on algae control.
     I tore down my tank and added 4 inches of vermiculite/soil, overlaid with 
     1 inch of #3 sand, trimmed off the infested leaves (no bleach), replanted 
     and mixed PMDD while I waited.  
     It was about the 2nd week when it became obvious that my plants had rooted 
     into the soil/vermiculite (verified by peeking under the tank and seeing 
     roots).  The effect was unbelievable.  My chain swords, dwarf Sags and 
     Crypts started throwing off runners like crazy, making a lawn just like in 
     the books.  All plants grew rapidly with numerous, full leaves.  My 
     Ludwigia repens, L. palustris, scarlet temple, Rotala macranda, 
     Cryptocoryne becketti and red giant Hygro all became deeply red-colored, 
     and the new leaves of my E. radicans (from the Val trade) developed lovely 
     red veins.  My big ruffled sword bloomed, which had never happened before. 
     The algae has not returned.  I don't even have to clean the glass.  
     I now have the aquarium I have always wanted, landscaped and densely 
     planted with about 20 species of different colors, sizes, and textures.  
     Time spent for maintenance is about the same, but time spent fretting is 
     considerably less :) 
     It is great to watch the reaction of visitors when they spot my tank for 
     the first time.  Gaping mouths and bulging eyes are common, especially 
     when they realize "those plants aren't plastic"!  I took some "before" 
     photos about a month after the replanting, as a reference.  The employees 
     at the photo lab were agog.
     BTW, the fish are happy, too.  The platys, lemon tetras and black tetras 
     are gravid, and the rams appear to be nest-shopping.
     Luckily, we have good water here in Austin, Texas which is probably why I 
     got good results before.  Our water comes from the Colorado River, which 
     supports several native species including Bacopa, Ludwigia, Najas, 
     Vallisneria and Potomageton.  However, I would not have the exceptional 
     results that I now have without CO2, PMDD and vermiculite/soil, and I 
     encourage anyone to try them.  They really work.
     I know what you're thinking--"he's going to venture into MH lighting and 
     heating cables soon".  No!!!!  I already get incredible growth, and I am 
     afraid to get more.  Ever see "The Day of the Triffids"? ;)