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Re: Non-standard aquarium methods

This is a followup to the <User116155 at aol_com>.... the mystery aquarist! 

>The problem with stories like this is that they are often somewhat dependent
>on "conditions" in the area of the user.  The stability of the tanks without
>tweaking alkalinity or adding CO2 may be due to an aspect of chemistry of
>your tap water, not 
>necessarily shared by readers around the country.  The fact that you get by
>without heaters may be because the temperature of your house is better
>regulated than some, or that the mean temperature is higher or lower.  Which
>one?  I don't know.  

Possibly because the temperature in my aquarium rooms doesn't fluctuate too
much. But, it can also be because I have experimentally determined that the
fish and plants do OK without the heaters. Unless you have tried it
yourself, you can only speculate that the heaters are needed.

Or that you keep fish that are pretty tolerant.  Live
>bearers are almost nuke-proof compared to discus. 

Actually some live bearers do not like the cold. But acceptable cooler
aquarium temps are not limited to livebearers. When I visited Tokyo last
year, I noticed that one of the best shops did not use heaters and their
tanks got into the high sixties at night. They kept a variety of fishes.

> The Dupla crowd has a set
>of standard methods from which to work.

I take it you live by those standards? This is fine... I still maintain that
they are just standards or more correctly: guidelines. They are excellent
guidelines, but they are not ABSOLUTE criteria.
Just as long as everyone realizes that if one strays away from TOA approach
or modifies parts of it, they can still claim success.

Repeat after me: There is more than one way to have a plant tank. There is
more than one way to have a plant tank.

>Plus you said you didn't use a heater. 

If you read my post, you would have noticed I said:
   I maintain SEVERAL of my tanks without heaters and said
'(my house temperature ranges from 68 in winter to 80+ in summer).'  This is
actually the highs... and already pointed out that the lows get to mid 60's
during the winter... but the tank temps do not drop as much.

I can understand this as you live in

Nope.  North Carolina. 

I live in the "warm" part of Canada on the West Coast. Even so, in
>winter the house temperature drops to 60 degrees or lower (furnace doesn't
>run all day and won't come on unless it gets down to 57). As my aquarium is
>near a window and our 50s house doesn't have double-paned windows I don't
>think the fish would be too healthy without a heater. My point is that
>while *you* can get away with not using a heater due to were you live, you
>shouldn't phrase it to sound as though a heater is an unnecessary, hi-tech
>frill for everyone.

I am sorry if you got that message. The point is that there is more than one
way to keep aquariums. 

And you should not say that a heater IS a necessary high tech frill for
everyone.<VBG> And I would only call it low tech.

> In fact, we had
>trouble with Robbie's fancy goldfish until we threw a heater in the tank
>set to keep the tank from dropping below 68F.

It is amazing how many people have trouble with Robbie's goldfish <g>

>>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. 
>To each her/his own. I think they are generally essential more for the fish
>than the plants. 

If that is true, how do you know that? Have you actually kept a tank without
a heater?

 It's much easier to heat your tank and get the temperature
>you want than to heat your house and get the temperature you want.  I like my
>tanks to be 77-78 and I can't do that without a heater.  I would rather use a
>heater than take the chance my fish could get sick. 

That's fine... a heater IS good insurance. Although insurance is smart, it
is NOT necessary. The same is true for filtration. Alot of people with
aquariums have filters. I have filters on many of mine, but most are without
them.... and the ones with cannister filters are filled with minimal
material that reduces their effectiveness for conversion of ammonia to
nitrate. I must concede, however, that the tanks with my most prized fish
have filters and do have reasonable temperature control. I also have life
and medical insurance.

 The cost of a heater
>which lasts for years is better and cheaper than having to buy medications if
>your fish get sick. I think there are more than a few fish like clown loaches
>who are sensitive to sudden swings in temperature and can succomb to ich.  

Clown loaches were the only ones that ever got sick for me under these
conditions. Which ones got ich for you when the temperature dropped 10
degrees within a 48-72 hours period?

>>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 think this should include a balanced temperature too unless maybe the tank
>only has plants in it. Even then there is a limit. Although I don't think all
>of this is necassary for success I think it does put you in the position to
>be more successful.  With a balance fish and plants have a better chance of
>being and staying healthy.  If you agree that's fine and if you disagree
>that's fine also.  

It is OK to include heating and filtration in the "etc." part of list of
correct balance items above. 

Concluding remarks: This dialog reveals how easy it is to get sucked into a
pissing contest. Hopefully the message is not totally lost: heaters are
desireable... for some fish are very important. Maybe the same is true for
plants, but honestly I have not given it much study outside the fairly
narrow range of conditions in MY aquaria and their LOCATIONS in my home.
Are heaters "absolutely" needed: I still say NO. But this is a subtle
distintion. And probably one that has already taken up too much discussion.

Neil Frank      Aquatic Gardeners Association         Raleigh, NC
      The Aquatic Gardener - journal of the AGA -  now in its seventh year!!