Chemistry comments

     >...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.