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Re: nothing under the substrate or a newbie's first plantedaquarium

>Date: Mon, 13 Apr 1998 09:42:35 -0500
>From: "Harry" <harryvdb at dbtech_net>
>Subject: Re: nothing under the substrate or a newbie's first planted
<big snip>
>Is there somewhere a recommendation for a newbie's first tank that is
>somewhat agreed upon by the "planted aquarium experts" that I have missed?
>I, for one, have no problem "practicing" for  period of time (a month, a
>year, or whatever) in order to "do it right", but I do want to know what
>do in order to "do it right".

I think your best bet would be to pick one of the many methods that you've
read about and go with it.  There are just too many ways to "do it right",
depending on what "right" is for you.  With some methods, your tank will
mature faster than with other methods.  With some methods, it may be six
months or longer before you have your algae under control and your plants
growing well.

Many of us will recommend that you start out with fast growing plants, and
in order to fully utilize their ability to strip excess nutrients from the
water, you can add CO2 injection.  CO2 is not necessary, it just boosts one
of the nutrients that plants need to grow rapidly.  Several of the "do it
right" methods strongly recommend CO2.  

Many of us will also recommend that you don't stock your tank too heavily
with fish ever, and that you stock it very lightly at first, using only
algae-eating species such as ottocinclus, platies, mollies, ameca
splendens, Jordanella, SAE's, etc...  Snails are also recommended, but your
choice on whether or not to use them will depend on whether or not you want
to look at them, and on if you want to look at the damage they can do to
unhealthy plant leaves.

Some of us start out with a sterile environment and plants quarantined and
dipped in a 20:1 water to bleach solution to prevent the introduction of
filamentous algaes to their tanks.  This method can prevent near and far
term headaches with hair algae outbreaks.  It does not prevent
cyanobacteria or unicellular algae blooms, but they can happen anyways, and
can be dealt with appropriately when/if they happen.

Some of us use PMDD (Poor Man's Dosing Drops) designed by Paul Sears and
Kevin Conlin of this list.  This fertilizer routine is designed to, by
experimentation, produce the appropriate mix of nutrients for the plants in
your tank, based on your tank's needs.  Different tanks need different PMDD
mixes depending on fish load, water supply, light, CO2, etc.  PMDD tries to
provide enough K plus trace elements to allow the plants to completely
utilize the available N and P.  If there is more P than N that the plants
can use, nitrogen is added to allow the plants to use all of the P.
Occasionally, you'll run into a tank that doesn't have enough P, and the
owner will have to add phosphorus.  Some of us use Osmocote pellets mixed
in the substrate for fertilizer, relying on a dense clay substrate such as
kitty litter to help sequester the fertilizer until it can be captured by
the plants roots.  Some of us use the Dupla regimen, including laterite,
Duplaplant 24 drops, and Duplaplant tablets, as well as heating cables to
keep the substrate fresh.  Some of us use soil, vermiculite, peat, and all
sorts of other substrate additives, because we've found yet another method
that works for us.  Some of us rely on fish food as the sole fertilizer in
our tanks.  Many tanks will do well if just left alone for a few months and
allowed to sort themselves out, although once they've sorted themselves
out, you will probably need to start fertilizing/feeding or something will
eventually start to die.

Some of us use metal halide lighting, some use VHO fluorescent, some use
normal fluorescent, some use compact or power-compact fluorescent, some use
mercury vapor, some use incandescent, and some use sunlight.  Some use
wide-spectrum lighting in order to hit the plants most efficient energy
capture spectra, while others use lighting that transmits mainly in the
visible spectra.  Some of us use intense lighting, with as much as
5w/gallon of metal halide or fluorescent, while others use fairly dim
lighting, including 60w incandescent spotlights.

Some of us have aimed our methods at maximizing ultra-lush growth, and/or
at being able to house fish with our plants that produce more waste than
others.  Some of us have aimed our methods at achieving a nearly balanced
ecosystem that rarely requires intervention of any type.  Yet others of us,
and probably the majority, make trade-offs between cost, maintenence, fish
load, etc. to achieve the desired effect in our tanks.  (I actually fall at
one of the extremes, but it's only one of many methods that works, and my
method takes quite a while to mature a tank.)

It's easiest to pick a particular method that you want to go with and go
with it, although some of the above possibilities, such as bleach treatment
and CO2, can be used with any method.

I hope this helps.  I don't intend to try and tell you which way to go,
because there are so many ways to "do it right".  I also don't intend to
leave any of the tried-and-true methods out, but my memory just isn't good
enough to remember everything at this moment (that's why others are here to
respond too ;-).   

David W. Webb in sunny, warm McKinney, TX.  http://www.dallas.net/~dwebb