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Re: nothing in the substrate

Merrill Cohen wrote:

> and Roxanne Bittman continues to allow for natural fertilization from the
> fish.  They are fertilizing your plants continually.  Additional
> fertilization is not necessary until you anticipate a problem.  However,
> that problem will not be heavy algae nor an unnatural situation where even
> the fish will not be comfortable. (Or, maybe that's not important to the
> "fertilizing hobbyists" in the group.)  Why look for trouble?!?  If
> anything, add the proper bacterial powdered products available today to
> hasten the breakdown of the waste of the fish and excess food!  Utilize and
> enjoy the fish as well!

If this reply places me solidly among the "fertilizing hobbyists" then so
be it.  For years I kept several tanks with bare gravel substrates, low
light and no fertilization beyond fish food, including no added CO2; I was
able to grow a few crypts and anubias barteri nana.  Occasionally
something else (apon's for instance) would flourish briefly and fade.

Then one day I added a chelated iron + potassium fertilizer at the
manufacturer's recommended dosage.  I got a little more growth, but more
importantly, I got more robust and more attractive growth than I'd ever
seen before.

So on the basis of that experience I continue to fertilize most of my
tanks with commercial preparations that include at a minimum chelated iron
and potassium.  And I fertilize some of the brighly lit tanks with CO2.

I still have two tanks that I don't fertilize at all.  Those tanks are
brightly lit and grow algae very well, but there seems to be only a small
number of plants that thrive in that setting.

As to the bacterial culture... An aquarium will only support a bacterial
population appropriate to the amount and kind of nutrients that are added
to and cycled through the tank.  Adding a culture to your tank at any time
subsequent to its startup is unlikely to get you any long-term benefit. If
you do want to culture a new tank, I'd suggest adding just a small amount
(a teaspoon, for instance) of fine grained, uncontaminated soil to the
substrate, and using the money you save on bacterial cultures to buy more
fish food.

For some time now I've been giving advise to planted-tank-keeper wannabe's
on the internet.  I don't advise people who are new to the hobby to try
growing aquatic plants in their first tank.  I think the hobbyist needs
experience with how aquariums work - some knowledge of how they respond to
changes in care and maintenance - before they take the step to growing
aquatic plants.

Similarly, I think if they do want to grow aquatic plants then it is
important to start with the simplest setup that works and move on to more
complex arrangments (e.g. DIY fertilizers and CO2, substrate additives or
very bright light) only after they have a first-hand sense of what they're
doing.  We see cases on this list all the time of people with little or no
prior experience trying to dive into the hobby using relatively advanced
methods and getting disappointing (if not disastrous) results.

"Nothing in the substrate" is a great way to start in this hobby, but you
have to expect more experienced hobbyists to move on to more complicated
arrangements when their experience suggests that it will improve their

Roger Miller