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Re: Nothing under the gravel
> Date: Tue, 7 Apr 1998 14:28:21 -0400
> From: "Merrill Cohen" <amc2 at ix_netcom.com>
> I have several very attractive aquariums (IMO) that have been set up for
> over six years with NOTHING under the three inches of silica gravel. I
> keep lots of fish (not an overload) and the fish mulm goes down into the
> Why not let the waste of the fish be utilized instead of so many
> questionable substrates?
I have no trouble believing a substrate free of additives will support execllent
growth. When we had our UGF tank, it produced tons of lush growth. I even
suspect (but can't prove) that it supported better growth than our "high tech"
tanks for the majority of the plants we've kept.
However, there are three concerns with this approach:
1) How long does it take to get the tank to a state where it supports good
growth? I believe the aquarists of antiquity called this a "seasoned" tank (as
opposed to a "cycled" tank that has all the bacterial fauna in place). I
remember we had problems with the UGF tank at first, lo these many years ago.
After we started with CO2 and Dupla, it really took off. Or was it
coincidentally now properly seasoned?
There are many stories of people struggling with a tank for a good number of
months, only to have it suddenly snap into vibrant life. Was it the last thing
they tried (to be endlessly posted to UseNet as the "hot setup") or did the tank
finally settle in with the proper balance of fish waste #2 and plants?
With the modern day need for instant gratification, I think people are searching
for the "instant on" approach where plants will be growing robustly right from
the git-go. Many search for the magic formula, whether it's Alphabet Soup
substrates or Dollar Gobbling High Tech. Is the magic formula simply patience?
2) How difficult is it to "create the right balance" in the simple tank? I
would bet that I could not duplicate (not to be confused with the more expensive
Duplacate) my success with the UGF tank. Oh, I thought it might have been the
"slow flow" produced by just the right model and number of powerheads or the
"proper" fertilizers, CO2 and lights. I bet those helped, but I bet even more
that we had just the right number of fish and fed them just the right amount of
food and had just the right mix of plants and we struggled just long enough for
the system to be seasoned.
While it may be possible for someone to duplicate their own results, it may be
more problematical for others in different parts of the country to produce the
same results. Different local dirt, different tap water, different husbandry
skills, different expectations, etc.
3) How long will the right conditions exist? We had to do massive vacuuming of
the UGF tank every 6-9 months to keep things "stable". We would sense that
things were not up to snuff and pull all the plants up and vacuum like the
dickens. Then things were great for another 6-9 months. We had lots of fish
with hearty appettites. Maybe we overfed, causing perceived cycles.
Or was it the act of pulling up the plants, doing a thorough trimming ("tough
love") and replanting them that did the trick? Maybe alleopathic substances
were builing up around the roots (even with the UGF) and causing trouble.
I think our high tech tanks are much more stable than the UGF tank ever was. The
need for high tech may simply be a consequence of our desire to keep more fish
than we should. Clearly, Merrill is doing quite well with a simple, well
The high tech approach is [un]naturally better "balanced" since we actively do
the balancing by throwing money at the problem. WE control the pH, WE control
the nitrates, etc.