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.
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)
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"? ;)