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Plant Filter: Yes Igor, Dr. Frankenfish is at it again! ;-)

Hi All!

After a few months of research, I decided not to go with a "traditional"
planted aquarium. I felt that I have too many "sand slingers" in my 80
gallon tank to complete the substrate the way I needed. Yeah, I could
have fooled around with plastic mesh and the like, or used clay pots,
but I ultimately decided to go in a different direction. My primary
concern here, is to provide the best environment possible for *my fish*.
I'm not a "plants-first person" at this time, although that may change.
:-) About a week ago, in lieu of a planted aquarium, I finally set up my
FPF (Floating Plant Filter). Initially, I was going to use a combination
of terrestrial and aquatic plants, but I like the idea of using floating
plants better. The idea for this filter came from an article by Lee
Newman in Aquarium Fish Magazine (July or June? '97). Lee converted his
wet-dry filter into a Plant Filter using emergent Brazilian Swords. I'm
using (sampling & experimenting with) a variety of floating pond plants
in my version of this filter: Azolla, Salvinia, Duck Weed, Dwarf Water
Lilly, Water Hyacinth. (Initially, I just wanted to use Azolla and
Salvinia, but the all-too-kind salesperson insisted on giving me a
sampling of the others -- $5.00 for the whole thing! :-) These plants
very nearly cover the full surface of the water in the filter. The
filter is made from a 36" X 18" X 18" Rubbermaid container. This
replaced the wet-dry "box" with it's bioballs. I kept the wet-dry
skimmer, prefilter, hoses, and return pump. (I placed the return pump in
a breeder net to keep it from sucking up plants). In the filter are two
circular, compact fluorescent bulbs (each has a 150 watt output, using
30 watts -- Lights of America, Model 2630). They are slightly suspended
(1/2") over a 24" length of plexiglas. The plexiglas is there to: 1)
provide the bulbs some protection from moisture; 2) help prevent excess
evaporation, and; 3) guard the floating plants from the heat of the
bulbs (although heat from these bulbs is admittedly minimal). I try to
maintain the water level about 3" below the plexiglas. After some fancy
cutting by a friend in his workshop, I had a plastic hood for the
lights. I painted the inside of the cover flat white. It really adds a
good deal more light intensity for the plants. After I got the FPF
running I added a few minor safeguards. I figured why not. I added 7
Hornwort plants and Ivy to the aquarium itself (only the roots of the
Ivy are submerged). I thought these might help water quality until the
filter gets fully established. I expected an ammonia spike the next day
after switching filters. I've tested for ammonia everyday for 5 days. So
far it's been zero! :-) I've ordered a FW nitrate test kit from "That
Fish Place" -- I can't get any locally. I'm anxious to see how much
nitrate is in the tank!

I'm making this post for a couple of reasons: 1) IMHO it would be good
for the archives to have a reference for plant filters, and; 2) To see
if anybody can give me some advice on how I might achieve long-term
success with these plants. This was a *very enjoyable* project! I had a
great deal of fun "messing around with ideas" and bouncing them off you
folks on the APD and some fellow fish friends. Thanks to all! Special
thanks to Jeff Dietsch for all his help. :-)

Walter B. Klockers
In Western Washington, where it snowed last night! We expect more
tomorrow! 5" here so far! Bbbbbbbrrrrrrr!