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Water Hardness increasing

More on Chlayne's hardness problem...

> Thank you for responding to my post.  I do 25% water changes
> weekly and no I
> do not add anything to my tank except plant fertilizer (Sera) and chlorine
> remover (AmQuel).  You are probably right about the gravel.  Now that I
> think about it I have picked small pieces of shell out of it a couple of
> times.  I am not exactly sure what kind I got but I had been
> raising African
> Cichlids at the time so who knows.  Maybe it's time to try some
> Laterite or
> something.  I just really hate to pull out all my plants.

If as you've said that you have picked out shell fragments from your gravel,
then the increase in hardness IS being caused by your substrate.

Now, as to growing plants in it.... how are your plants growing right now?
Not ALL plants require soft water conditions - some will grow quite happily
in hard water (Sagittaria, Java Fern, Ricca, and Java Moss, are ones which
come to mind). A planted aquarium is much like a perennial border in the
garden - not everything available will grow in a particular situation, it's
up to you to determine what conditions you can provide and then choose
plants accordingly.

If your plants are growing O.K. (albiet slowly), then the addition of CO2
and more light will probably increase their growth rate. For substrate
enhancement, you could use a number of things - homemade clay balls (take a
few cups of powdered clay and add a bit of water to make a stiff paster.
Roll it up into 1" balls, place on a cookie sheet and bake in an oven for an
hour {hey, I'm serious, it works}), Duplarit K balls, Terrapur cones, I'm
sure that there are others.... If your tank has been set up for any length
of time, the substrate will contain a lot of mulm and be able to provide
quite a few nutrients of it's own - the substrate additives will only round
out the diet.

But if replacing the substrate is the route you choose, make sure that you
get something like quartz or crushed granite to replace what you have - both
minerals are inert in water and won't cause any problems. Just make sure
that it is not too "sharp" (rounded corners are better) so as not to damage
delicate plant roots.

Good luck.

James Purchase
Toronto, Ontario