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Re: Hard water and fertilization


Jim Spencer wrote:

>  Merrill wrote
> > I really don't want to "open a can of worms" or really start a thread, but
> I think discussion threads are a big part of what this forum is all 
> about.

This seems like another installment of the ongoing "high tech .vs. low 
tech .vs. no tech" thread.  If Merril doesn't want responsibility for 
starting it, then maybe we can look back to about APD V.1 #1 and find the 
responsible party.

> > The next problem causing agent is fertilization.  In the aquarium,
> > providing you have fish, the only time you might need fertilization is when
> > starting a planted aquarium and only a few fish. 
> Certainly fish provide fertilization for our plants but how many 
> fish we keep varies greatly.  Some keep a small number of fish and 
> their plants need some nitrate added while others keep so many 
> fish they need a trickle filter to help reduce the nitrate level.  

Well, trickle filters may not do much to reduce nitrate levels. 

Fish-keeping supplies our plants with varying amounts of fertilizer and
we use varying amounts of fertilizer to achieve different rates and types
of growth.  I doubt that our plants need the additional fertilizer so much 
as we need to see the effects of their getting fertilized.  In the 
absence of added fertilizer, most plants and algae will simply grow 
more slowly - some change their colors or growth habits and some will 
fail to compete.  The added fertilizer also allows us to achieve effects in 
a couple months that otherwise might take a year or more to attain.

> > Why do we try to make this so difficult and technical?  Let's try to make
> > it easier for hobbyists to be successful.  I have done it the easy way for
> > many years and that's why I'm still in it. 

I suspect that Merrill's success is a tribute to his patience as well as 
to his knowledge of plant culture.

>                                              I don't think there is 
> any question that this success is primarily related to applying a 
> little science to the art of keeping  a planted aquarium.  Apparently 
> over many years Merrill has perfected the art of keeping  planted 
> aquariums and has aquariums without algae problems and he is giving 
> plants away weekly.

I don't know if the (increasing?) popularity of aquatic plants indicates a
higher success rate than we previously enjoyed, or whether the fickle wind
of fashion is blowing our way.  In either case, I think the technical 
approach allows a novice plant keeper to achieve early, consistent 
results.  That approach also provides us with a lexicon of pat answers that 
may not be entirely correct.

I have planted tanks at a variety of "tech-levels" and get some of my best
growth in tanks without fertilization.  Those tanks work very well because
they are *old*.  It might be possible to build a fabulous substrate and 
achieve immediate, low-tech success, but otherwise this level of growth 
probably requires fertilization and careful attention to details.

> > Everyone doesn't have to be a scientist or chemist to have a gorgeous 
aquarium. Takashi Amano is 
> >not a scientist or chemist and he has gorgeous aquariums because 
> >he's an artist that cares to have it as a beautiful work of art.
> Testing your water doesn't require a degree in chemistry and my guess 
> is that Amano tests his water. 

Certainly it isn't the water testing that creates Amano's beautiful zen 
landscapes.  They are pure artistry.  Amano measuring water parameters in 
his aquariums is like Rodin measuring temperature in the foundry 
furnace.  The technology is incidental to the art.

It wasn't Amano's stunning tanks that inspired me to grow aquatic plants -
it was the beautiful (black and white!) photos of planted tanks in the
"Encyclopedia of Tropical Fish" by Axelrod and Vorderwinkler, which was
first published in 1957.  Those tanks almost certainly were low-tech or
no-tech by our standards.  I just pulled out my copy of the 11th edition
(1968) to remind myself and yes, those tanks are as impressive now as they
ever were! 

> > We can do it simpler and better all the time without all the high tech
> > equipment; but if that is what you like, great!  Do it! 

I am a devoted fan of low-tech and no-tech aquaria, and I've achieved some
success without fertilizers and without chemical testing.  But without
fertilizing and the necessary testing I haven't (yet) been able to get the 
kind of consistent success that I want.  I want to reach the point where 
the effort to achieve and maintain healthy plants is secondary to the 
effort necessary to present a beautiful composition.  Technology seems to 

> > But so many hobbyists are having so much trouble as I lurk through APD, 
I just 
> >had to post this.
> You must be reading a different APD than I am. What  I see a great 
> number of people being very successful at keeping a planted aquarium. 
> It is what encouraged me to start and I'm sure it has encouraged many
> other to do the same.

This is partly because APD is a forum where people who have problems can
come for solutions.  Like Mr. Spencer, I wouldn't take the incidents of
problems to be a sign of consistent failure - rather the existence of APD
itself is a sign of consistent success.  But, like Merrill, I think that
the advice on this list sometimes leans too strongly on glib answers based
on the technical formulae. 

> Jim Spencer   Sayre, PA
> jrs at cyber-quest_com
> ************************

Thank you both for your thoughtful letters.

Roger Miller