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Bebbetufs problems or one step at a time!

I did converse by email with Bebbetufs about his problems. In this case,
I don't think we should assume that its a substrate problem although it
is a possibility that needs to be considered when the more basic
essentials are taken care of. Except for the mangrove roots (which may
also be a red herring) there is nothing really exceptional in his
substrate. The bottom layer is clay and the top layer is gravel. He also
used a commercial substrate additive which contained a small amount of
peat and some relatively inert minerals. This substrate is not high in
organic material and that would not cause the problems observed.

I think this is a situation where too many new things at once may be
confusing the real problem. In this case he has very soft water and he
has been pretreating it with peat which is removing the small amount of
calcium present in the tap water. This together with inadequate CO2 is
probably retarding plant growth. The strong lighting is encouraging his
algae growth. With strong lighting its very important to have all the
nutrients including DOC (CO2 in water) take care of. He also has a
filamentous algae so personally I would have started off by bleach
treating the new plants and disinfecting the tank and using new gravel

When trying out new things, its probably best to try things one step at
a time. 1) the new substrate and the new lights and CO2 2) peat treated
water 3) mangrove roots. I group three things in 1) because its
difficult to do those in isolation. Along with the lighting, we need to
manage the increased requirements for nutrients (CO2, calcium etc). The
same applies with fish 1) common fish (platys) + algae eaters 2) tetras,
anabantoids 3) discus; one step at a time. You sure want to get
everything else debugged before adding a pair of expensive discus!!

Steve P
Aquatic Gardeners Association