>...an appalling ignorance of basic chemistry have left almost
>everyone in the dark, hoping to find a set of conditions that lets
>them keep a half-way decent looking aquarium.
Well stated! There is a dizzying array of misinformation among
aquarists (and the aquarium industry) on water chemistry. Many people
believe their tap water is unfit for use in their tanks, but cannot
explain why (yet, they bathe, drink, and cook with it). Others simply
assume their tap water is unfit, but their opinion is based on
heresay, rather than the actual parameters.
It's easy to understand why there is so much confusion--most aquarium
books have only a cursory section on water chemistry, and some are
just plain wrong! Also, chemistry is not a popular subject with
Plants and fish are very resilient and have can thrive under a wide
range of environmental conditions. Most problems seem to occur when a
chemical is absent (e.g., K or Fe), rather than present. I always
tell people that keeping a successful aquarium is more about keeping
water, rather than keeping plants or fish. If the water in your tank
has the appropriate nutrients at the appropriate concentrations, then
healthy plants (and fish) will naturally follow.