Re: Aquatic Plants Digest V2 #78


I don't know much about Magnum (a brand not sold in the UK, or perhaps by
another name?) but I do use both Fluval and Eheim filters. My personal
preference has always been for the Fluval, but not by much, and Eheim
filters are perfectly useable.

The difference I find is that only the Fluval comes with filter-media
compartments, so you can change one media without having to burrow through
the others. I believe they all come with three compartments (I have the 103
and 303 models). So the best, I think, is a coarse prefilter in the bottom
(like Siporax, gravel or similar); a bilogical or chemical filter in the
middle (fine gravel works fine, but you can use carbon, peat or whatever;
and filter wool last of all to scrub the water and also do some biological
filtration. I also find the Fluval less prone to getting air blockages when
being primed.

The Eheims tend to be rather more powerful for the same size, but are
noticeably noisier (a bad thing if the tank is in a bedroom). The
filtration media is all dumped into a veritable bucket. So if you need to
mix carbon, peat and other different media you tend to wind up with a
hotch-potch after a few months. This makes it awkward to change the carbon
but leave the other media alone. Also, fibres from filter wool seem to work
loose and end up in the tank. In terms of reliability, their is probably
nothing in it. Eheim also produce a wide-range of add on goodies, to
increase the functionality of the filter. Some models include
heater-thermostats, which work well and improve the look of a display tank,
or one with violent cichlids, terrapins (freshwater "turtles") and so on.

Both Fluval and Eheim are expensive compared to other brands: in my
experience with some of these other filters, the premium is justified in
terms of reliability, customer support, and spare-part acquisition. Fluvals
are a little cheaper than Eheims (at least in the UK).

The hang-on filters are rarely ever used in the UK or Europe. They seem a
very American product. As far as I can see, they represent poor value for
money: the volume of filter media is low, they are noisey, and they cannot
cope with high sediment loads. You are wise to move on from them.

Air-powered foam filters are useful in places. Stillwater fish, like
Anabantids, appreciate them, as do small fry. With a well planted, and well
lit, aquarium, the plants may be able to remove the need for heavy
filtration. In which case, foam filters would be ideal. Tetras and placid
cichlids like Angels would appreciate such a tank. Could I also recommend
Festivums (Mesonauta 'Cichlasoma' festivum)? As well as being companions of
Angels in the wild, they are still water fish and tolerate low-oxygen
levels well.

Kribensis might not be an ideal choice. They burrow when breeding, not
much, but since they breed continuosly, the cumulative impact can be
significant. They also like well aerated water. They are also aggressive
(not dangerously, but enough to stress angelfish). Apistogramma cacatuoides
would be a fine and hardy alternative. Also, some of the Crenicara
(Chequer-Board cichlids) do well with Angels.

Angels happily eat neons and glowlights. I would plumb for Emporer tetras
(Nematobrycon palmeri) and Bleeding hearts (Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma);
which are a step up in size. The former are purple, cream and blue; the
latter a pink and black mix with a red heart-spot. Neither fin-nip.

I'm sure that some might argue this - but Carbon Dioxide injection with
heavy filtration is a waste of time. The filter will dissapate the gas long
before the plants use it. Save your money. Plants do best with minimal
surface agitation. While this doesn't rule out powered or canister filters,
you might want to think about whether simple air-powered sponges would be
adequate. But spraybars or jet-returns would be unwelcome attachments. Of
course, if you lower the agitation, less oxygen will get in, and you must
keep fewer fish (or ones with lesser oxygen demands).

I use laterite and fine gravel, mixed well, to about 2 or three inches.
Then covered with silver sand. This looks good and allows fish to burrow.
Plants root quickly in sand. Undertank heating mats are a definite plus,
and not too expensive. The thermals they produce circulates the water in
the sediment and prevents anaerobic decay. Forget undergravel filtration.
Plants dislike it.

The pH of the tank is relatively unimportant for most plants, as is
hardness. Lighting and nutrients are FAR more important. Just avoid
extremes. The gravel you have bought sounds to be inappropriate. It has
lime in it, and will increase the pH and hardness. You can check by adding
acid (e.g vinegar) to the sand. If there is fizzing or bubbling, then the
sand contains lime and is of no use to you.

Carbon dioxide, peat and adding soft water will have NO effect if this is
the case. A pH of 7.5 is fine for a community tank, but 8.0 is way too
high. Each increase in the pH scale, e.g. from 1.0 to 2.0, is a factor of
ten. The scale is logarithmic. So 8.0 is about three times more alkaline
than 7.5.

You are more likely to have too little light than too much. Use four tubes,
and the brand I find the very best is Triton. Although a little more
expensive, they last much longer and are twice as bright. With most tubes,
you throw them away after six-months, when they have lost half their power.
Tritons do not need changing until they blow, which is over two years!
Grow-Lux are of NO value. Ditto Blue Moon. Both have a place for displaying
fish, but neither produce a useful spectrum for freshwater plants. Also,
fit reflectors to the tubes, if you can; or simply fix aluminium foil
inside the hood.

The plants will soon grow and shade the tank. So don't worry if it looks a
bit stark to start with!

Good starter plants are Vallisneria gigantea, Ceratophyllum, Anubias
barteri, many Cryptocorynes and water lillies. All of these will live for

Sorry this is so long, but I hope the information is useful!

Best wishes,


From  Neale Monks' Macintosh PowerBook, at...

Department of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum, London, SW7 5BD
Internet: N.Monks at nhm_ac.uk, Telephone: 0171-938-9007