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Re: Non-standard aquarium methods
Lately, I haven't been spending as much time as I would like reading the
APD, but I couldn't resist this one. Then I got to read the last few weeks
of messages and decided to make a few other contributions. Alot of
interesting discussion on water chemistry, laterite, and other stuff that I
had to archive for future reference. But there was also alot of the normal
aquaritrivia and bickering.
My first post relates to the Quakenbush discussions. Many of you are still
missing the point about aquarium keeping! I think it is very naive to assume
that certain gadgets or methods are absolutely necessary or even important
for successful fish keeping or plant growing. (Let's put discus and other
special cases aside ;-^). Optional equipment clearly includes the use of
filters, lots of electric lighting and even the use of traditional
heaters....at least in the hands of an experienced aquarist.... and for
sure, undergravel heaters are not absolutely necessary and their need to
achieve the state of utopia is controversial at best (I had to throw that in
<g>). I think it is extremely presumptious to criticize something until one
tries for themself. I agree that documentation is critical and replication
of all conditions is important in order to describe a cook book approach.
Nevertheless, don't believe everything (anything? <g>) on face value that
you read in an aquarium book, aquarium magazine and especially on this list.
We are not talking about peer reviewed methods <g>. But at the same time,
keep an open mind and respect the views of others. Just because the
documentation is not complete, it doesn't mean that the ideas are faulty.
The point is that there are many ways to maintain an aquarium and many
reasons for doing so.
Part of the text of the earlier conversation is included for reference.
There appears to be a difference of opinion regarding the use of CO2,
------------------From: User116155 at aol_com--------------------------
>Date: Wed, 19 Mar 1997 14:22:10 -0500 (EST)
>Subject: Re: CO2 and water stability
>>Somewhere there is an unwritten book of things you should and
>>shouldn't do to have a successful aquarium. I quite often enjoy not
>>following these rules. Partly, I do it because I think somebody needs
>>to, partly because it's usually cheaper or more practical, and partly
>>because I enjoy swimming against the current.
>Just because you like swimming against the current doesn't mean we should
>follow in your footsteps. We might drown. <G> You have your way and other
>people have their ways. There may not be a one size fits all if you know
>what I mean.
>>I am the empiricist who uses the kitty litter as a substrate and
>>Osmocote for fertilizer in the kitty litter/ covered by sand.
>>Besides the kitty litter substrate, I don't inject CO2. Nothing wrong
>>with adding it, but I would have to buy sugar in 50 lb. bags to get all
>>my tanks hooked up to this.
>Thanks to this list I found out just what a big difference CO2 can make. I
>mix sugar water yeast and baking soda and it isn't disgusting at any stage.
> It's not hard to keep up with. It lasts me a good 4 weeks. I wouldn''t say
>that's such a big chore.
>>I believe it was Andrew who did a great job of explaining that even in
>>strong light extra CO2 is not needed.
>Once you have strong light I think CO2 becomes the limiting factor. I say
>this after putting on my empiricist hat.
>>The other debates concern water stability. In this case I may also be
>>in disagreement with Andrew as well as John.
>>I naturally get substantial pH swings in my low-tech methods. 6.2 in
>>the morning to 6.8 in late aft., give or take a little on both ends. I like
>to see these >swings because I consider it a quick sign thay I am
>>getting good CO2 production.
>That's a substantial pH shift in my eyes. If you would add CO2 I don't think
>you would get the swing in pH that you get now.
>>I also don't use heaters. Nothing against them, but just don't think
>>water temperature stability is a big deal, unless you are into
>>propagating specific fish or plants.
>You do have non-standard methods. I think I can safely say that most of us
>keep fish that need temperature stability.
>>I still get good growth on tropical plants like swords (but will admit it
>might be faster >with more heat, but I'm in no hurry) and on my fish farm we
>kept all kinds of fish
>>with out heaters and it gets quite cold in Fl. I have one tank with a very
>hot halogen >bulb that gives me about a 6-8 deg. temp. flux over 12 hrs. The
>point is, both plants >and fish can take a great deal of
>>change if done slow enough.
>That doesn't sound like something a responsible tropical fish farmer would
>do. How cold did it get? I don't think 12 hours is enough time for a 6-8
-----------------------------end of quote--------------------------
In general heaters and maintaining constant temperature are NOT necessary,
provided that the surrounding environment is 'room temperature' and
reasonably stable. We are not talking about cold basements, except for
temperate climate fish. Moreover, temperature fluctations are OK. In fact,
getting fish to breed often involves simulating a seasonal change by
intentionally lowering the water temperature. The one caution are the few
fish like clown loaches who are sensitive to sudden swings in temperature
and can succomb to ich.... this has happened to me and I now try to make
sure that the heaters are working in my clown loach tank during the
transitional month of Oct when my indoor home temperature drops from 80 to
70. I personally know many aquarists who do not use heaters.. some that
maintain the temperature in the fish room, but others who let their tanks
fluctuate. In fact, I maintain several of may tanks without heaters (my
house temperature ranges from 68 in winter to 80+ in summer). Fish can
tolerate fluctuations in temperature, pH, and water chemistry. Certainly,
Fish farmers don't heat their outdoor ponds, and except under extreme
temperatures, the fish survive. The important thing is to allow for gradual
change and to avoid extremes. Fish and especially plants are adaptable.
After reading this exchange, I reflected on some of the phases of an
aquarist. I think many of you will see where you are in the evolution of
your hobby. I assume you are beyond the first one or two stages!
*The inexperienced novice may not be aware of the rules and may not do
things by the book.This typifies the person who has a 10 gallon start up
kit, fills it with tap water, adds dechlor and plops in a couple angels,
some neons and a bunch of livebearers. After all the fish get sick, it is
back to the store for medicine and then more fish. Their first plant might
be anacharis which often becomes food for algae.
*The informed novice gets interested in doing things "right" and does things
in a more traditional way. He or she gets a fliter to hang on the back, buys
a stip light, etc., adds the fish slowly to allow nitrofication to establish
and probably achieves a trypical healthy community tank aquarium. A few
plants may be tried, but in the U.S., they are more likely to be plastic.
*The more experienced aquarist starts experimenting with gadgets and decides
that they don't all have to be purchased in an aquarium shop. He probably
has more than one tank, may get into fish breeding (by accident or design)
and eventually into something more challenging like breeding and raising
fish, maintaining a reef tank or more challenging still... growing plants. <g>
*The aquatic gardener, (i.e. the aquarist who develops an interest in
growing plants) will eventually use more lighting, discover CO2 injection,
add trace elements or even supplemental additions of macro nutrients.
- The first and perhaps most important discovery is that one strip light
(fluorescent) is not enough and a second strip light, a 2-bulb shop light or
supplemental window light is needed to grow many plants (other than java
fern, java moss, crypts and other plants that tolerate or do well with low
- Most will discover that plain sand or gravel is not the best way to
provide needed nutrients to plants and that they must wait for the tank to
establish (with sufficient mulm) or have to add something in it (laterite,
Hilena Initial D, plant tabs, whatever). Some will enjoy experimenting with
soil, vermiculite, kitty litter or worm poop. Depending on all the many
complex conditions in an aquarium, what appears to work for one person may
not work for another.
- This group includes people that have plants in their fish tanks or visa
versa. Some may not have any fish at all. In all cases, the tank will have
at least a moderate amount of greenery.
*The successful aquatic gardener discovers the correct balance of lighting,
nutrients, CO2, etc. to grow plants without uncontrolled algae. Many people
will accept moderate amounts of algae or will deal with it in different ways
(scraping glass, use of algae eaters, etc). Although many aquarists in this
group use a lot of equipment, this is not synomomous with success. I believe
that the successful plant tank aquarist falls into many categories and there
may be a further evolution in their hobby.
- Many plant enthusiasts feel that to be successful, plants need to be
growing at their maximum rate and that this is their definition of The
Optimum Aquarium. This often involves the use of lots of equipment (extra
bulbs, CO2 injection, maybe controllers, etc.) A measure of success is
sometimes described in terms of the amount of plants regularly sold to the
local shops. The amount of work associated with regular prunning is
described as fun, but the fact that it might be considered to be work by
others is often not recognized.
- Other plant enthusiasts rationalize the rapid growth of plants as a good
way to maintain high H2OQ and reduce the amount of algae. These tanks may
also be the home of happy fish, often breeding and raising their fry in the
safety and beauty of a heavily planted tank
- The most advanced of this group are those that have some control of their
tanks... e.g. they are able to adjust their aquarium conditions not only to
grow plants, but to grow the plants they want together (and/or maintaining
specific fishes for breeding or display) instead of merely settling for the
plants (or fishes) that seem to work for their conditions.
- A challenging form of gardening involves developing a maintaining picture
perfect aquascapes. In some cases, this can be very time consuming.
* Another category is the advanced aquatic gardener. Maybe it is someone who
already evolved through one or more of the above categories, but does not
have the time or desire to have a labor intensive aquarium. This aquarist
may choose to tone down their tank(s) so it does what they want with less
effort. It can include the person who knows how to grow a huge amazon sword
plant, but now wants it to NOT grow out of the tank. It can include the
person who wants to eliminate or reduce the weekly or biweekly trimming
associated with tank(s) that are not limited by CO2, nutrients or lighting.
Maybe the advanced hobbyist is trying to grow a specific species from a
particular group of plants (like Cryptocoryne) or just discover the
conditions that are essential for their optimum growth under water. It can
include someone who has lots of plant tanks, and he doesn't have the time to
have CO2 in all of them because of the extra maintenance involved. This
person may limit the number of "high tech" or "equipment supplemented" tanks
that they maintain. At some point, money also becomes an issue. With many
tanks, the electrical costs or equipment costs can become a significant
factor, so cut backs in appliances is considered. This can involve heaters.
In a home evironment, heaters are NOT generally essential for healthy fish
or plant tanks (The one caution are the few fish like clown loaches who are
sensitive to sudden swings in temperature and can succomb to ich.... this
has happened to me and I now try to make sure that the heaters are working
in my clown loach tank during the transitional month of Oct when my indoor
home temperature drops from 80 to 70. I personally know many aquarists who
do not use heaters.. some that maintain the temperature in the fish room,
but others who let their tanks fluctuate. In fact, I maintain several of may
tanks without heaters. Fish can tolerate fluctuations in temperature, pH,
and water chemistry. Certainly, Fish farmers don't heat their outdoor
ponds, and except under extreme temperatures, the fish survive. The
important thing is to allow for gradual change and to avoid extremes. Fish
and especially plants are adaptable. It can include the someone that is
always pushing the envelope, building upon the successes of others, or
developing new approaches to meet a special need. I agree that "one size
doesn't fit all."
Neil Frank Aquatic Gardeners Association Raleigh, NC
The Aquatic Gardener - journal of the AGA - now in its seventh year!!