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Apon. Biovinianus & Driftwood

Here are some anecdotal experiences I though I'd share with the list 
given the recent threads on trouble with Apon. bulbs and treating wood 
for aquarium use.

In my first (reasonably) succesfull planted tank (20 Gallon, high), the 
centerpiece was a gorgeous A. Biovinianus that was putting out 20" 
leaves, some of them nearly 3" wide.  It got so big, that I decided to 
convert a a 29 Gallon tank that I had into a planted tank.  The first 
tank had little or no substrate fertilization, and I was only adding 
nutrients to the water column.  (Tetra's liquid initially, then 
SeaChem's)  I was also injecting DIY CO2, and using 2 15W flourescent 

When I began setting up the new tank, I realized that the gravel I was 
using for the old tank was contributing a lot of hardness to the water.  
Our Ann Arbor water comes out of the tap with a very low alkilinity (< 2 
degrees kH, tetra test kit) and pretty low hardness, less than 4 degrees, 
I beleive.  The water in the 20 Gallon consistently had a kH reading of 
at least 8.

So, I decided that I would find a new source for gravel that was inert 
and would not change the water hardness.  I added laterite to the 
substrate in the new tank, and used essentially the same parameters as 
the old tank.  But when I transferred that one glorius A. Biovinianus to 
the new tank, it promptly died.  I was so dissapointed.  

Since then, I have learned quite a bit more about water chemistry and 
plant nutrition, and my impression is that the gravel I used for the new 
tank was devoid of any mineral nutrients.  The Apon. plants that I've 
tried to grow in there have never survived, and I think that it's 
essentially due to the water being too soft.

I can't give any firm numbers here, but I think that Apons prefer much 
harder water than I was giving them.  I'd appreciate it if anyone could 
corraborate (or refute) this claim with published data.

So, for those of you with Apon bulbs that seem to have gone into 
remission, check your hardness, and maybe try adding some lime or other 
calcium/magnesium source to the substrate.


Now, on to the topic of driftwood.  I have seen a lot of people recommend 
boiling the wood to purify it - but it's pretty hard to boil any but the 
smallest pieces of wood.  For larger pieces, I soak them in a plastic tub 
for several weeks.  First, soak in a dilute bleach solution for about a 
week, and then soak in fresh water for three or 4 weeks, changing the 
water at least once a week.  

After this process, the wood will sink pretty well.  It will look a 
little white from the bleach, but my experience has been that it will 
eventually regain a more natural color.  Especially if you've got some 
pl*cos in there to rasp it.  It will also discolor the water for a while 
- evidence that there are still plenty of tannins in it even after all 

Hope this helps somebody,
Steve in Ann Arbor