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Re: Ruth's tank

> Now here may be the real cause.  The substrate is lousy - just gravel. 
> Remember I had this tank with plastic decorations for a long time.  How
> can I get fertilizer UNDER the gravel?

A gravel substrate probably isn't a problem.  They're pretty inert and
actually fairly fertile after they're a few years old, but most of us
don't have the time to wait for the substrate to age that long. 

In the absence of CO2 injection, bacterial nitrification is the main 
thing in a tank that could pull the pH down.  In most cases our water has 
enough buffer in it so that regular water changes keep the pH in a 
reasonable range.

If your water is poorly buffered, then the built-up organic stuff in your
substrate might contain enough acids to overcome the buffering capacity of
the water and, along with the effect from nitrification, to pull the pH
down.  If that's the case, then you can fix it with a fairly routine

If all else fails, you can add baking soda to boost the buffering 
capacity of your water.

You can get fertilizer under the gravel by inserting plant tabs or
fertilizer spikes into it.  If there is a UGF plate down there you can
inject dissolved fertilizer into the space under the filter plate, or you
can just circulate water through the UGF. 

Roger Miller