Re: 250 gallon planted tank

Don Hutton wrote about a 250 gallon FW plant tank he's thinking of
setting up. The lighting and CO2 sounds fine. I won't comment on the
other questions since I think you'll get better advice from others
on numbers of SAEs, laterite and UG heating requirements but I'll
address the plants in a 30" tank. I have a 28" 75 gallon so I've
had experience with these deep tanks.

The problem with using Hygrophila species and many types of fast
growing stem plants is that they have a strategy for growing very
fast to compete with algaes. The lower leaves often develop spots,
holes and then drop off. These is particularly true for H. stricta
and the other large leaved varieties as well as the Ludwigias which
are somewhat slower growing. Bacopa and the Rotala species also
suffer from this problem so using long stem plants in a deep tank
is not a good strategy in my opinion. This growing strategy helps
the plants to compete effectively with algae in their natural
growing environment but produces unsightly looking plants if
they are allowed to grow to 30" without pruning. Pruning is very
important for fast growing stem plants and this can be a hassle
in a armpit deep tank. :-)

If you are able to use cooler temperatures and a fertile substrate
I would recommend Aponogeton madagascariensis for a deep tank. Some
information I have seems to indicate that this plant prefers cooler
temps than tropical. This is a beautiful plant that can only be
displayed properly in a large tank. It may not be ideal for an initial
planting however.

I would suggest several types of Crypts in the foreground. C. wendtii
brown and green varieties are easiest to find and hardy. I'd also
recommend C. balansae which can grow very long, lovely leaves in a
fertile substrate.

You can grow some magnificent sized Echinodorus amazonicus or blehrii
in a tank this size. Absolutely, I think you should have at least one
specimen of these if not more. Swords are very common but they are also
a very good plant to have in an aquarium because they are adaptable
and they require little maintenance. Don't shy away from this one
just because it seems ordinary.

I wouldn't go for E. cordifolius again. This plant is better suited
for ponds since it quickly develops large emergent leaves and 
wants a huge amount of space. This plant can also rapidly use
up all the nutrients that it's roots can reach and would need
regular additions of a fertilizer designed for pond plants
which is a plug of slow dissolving fertilizer pellets designed
to be inserted into the soil near the roots every 3-4 months.

I would recommend several clumps of Rotala macrandra as larger background
plants. Under good conditions it grows rapidly and make excellent
contrast with green plants. Let it grow to 6", then top all the
stems to make them branch. Top it again when it reaches 10" or
so and then you'll need to regularly trim the tops about 6" - 8" below
the surface. If you don't do that, the lower leaves will look ratty
and it won't branch. It also wants to grow across the surface of the
tank and that's not displaying it the way you want.

You can use Aponogeton crispus as some nice contrast. It grows quite
tall and is attractive and requires very little maintenance.

One of my favourites is Alternanthera reineckii but it's difficult
to get it established and wants strong lighting. (I use MH) This
plant is beautiful but again, top it to encourage branching.

I like Lobelia cardinalis if you can get enough of it to create a
small grouping, it makes a very nice green contrast with the round
leaves. It is very slow growing and tall plants may drop lower
leaves and show roots. It does not do well with topping but this
is the only method to propagate unless you grow it in a flower pot
out of the water. This plant also benefits greatly from a fertile

Hygrophila polysperma (the Tropica Sunset variegated variety) 
can make a very nice looking bunch especially with regular
pruning. It grows much more slowly than regular H. poly
and isn't as invasive.

For starting the tank up, I'd plant all of the plants you intend
to keep long term into the substrate but use floating plants
like Elodea, Ceratophylum and Salvinia to start and compete with
the algae. Later on discard these plants. It's easy to keep a
few small pieces if you decide you want to set up a new tank
or for small breeding tanks. You can even keep specimens in
a jar with soil and water in a sunny window and thus avoid
the need to clear the tank of these rapid growers on a weekly

It's also worth it to ensure that your plants are absolutely
free of hair and thread algaes. In a deep tank it is impossible
to keep thread algae off the plants effectively and it thrives
under good conditions for plants. If you can't bring yourself
to bleach sterilize new plants, then at least inspect them
closely and bleach those which have _any_ filamentous algaes.

I'd advise you to start with as many plants as you can get
initially. The best source (IMHO) for plants is people on this
mailing list who are growing their own successfully. For example,
here in Vancouver, a group of us share plants freely and we have
a very large assortment. Crypts and Swords are the slowest to
propagate but we're building up numbers of those too!

Good luck. If you follow the Optimum Aquarium guide carefully
you should have no problems. Start with CO2 from day one since
you have strong lighting and it will prevent problems with
brush algae which is hard to avoid unless you bleach your
plants using the 1:19 bleach to water for 2-4 minutes method
described in the FAQ.

Steve in Vancouver BC