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Some attempted answers to several questions:

Some attempted answers to several questions:

Sherri asked:
>Hi! I was wondering if anyone knew of any soils that are safe to use in an
as a substrate for plants?? I am unable to purchase any laterite in my area.
If anyone could
tell me a brand name available at stores like Wal-mart, Canadian Tire,
etc... ? Would it be okay
to mix the soil into the gravel??

    Yikes! This sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.  Laterite is generally pretty easy
to get thru mail order; it's almost never available from local fish stores, in my
experience.  See That Fish Place, Pet Warehouse, Monolith Marine Monsters (on the
web), etc.

See the APD archives for long discussions on the use of soil in tanks.  The
summarized info that I have gleaned from this is that soil can be useful to grow some
plants such as Cryptocorynes and Echinodorus spp., but should be used with great
caution due to the real possibility of simply creating an organic soup (i.e. a
permanently green tank).  You would be better off using commercial laterite mixed
into the bottom third of the gravel, then topped with the rest (2/3) of the clean gravel
on top.  From personal experience, this works great to grow most anything, and only
needs the addition of extra clay balls, Jobes sticks, etc. about 6 months to one year
later and then only for certain species of plants.

Another question:
>I'm ready to take the CO2 plunge (I think!) and have spied a system called
CO2 Complet, by Aqualine Buschke.  I'm not that familiar with any
manufacturer of aquarium CO2 products.  I saw this system in That Fish
Place's catalog.  They do not mention the size of the canister, but the
whole setup is $279, ....

I would bet that the Aqualine Buschke line is good quality stuff.  However, this may be
more than you need to pay for the exact same equipment.  Again, I'd suggest
checking out the Monolith Marine Monsters web page for alternatives.  They sell one
with their own (m3) logo on it for under $200.  This is the one that I use and it works
great.  The price does not include the cannister, but in Calif., we have to "rent" those
anyway (for an initial $50 plus $20 per refill).  If you go with M3's version, don't use
their silicone tubing - it's too stiff to work well.  Get flexible silicone tubing from
somewhere else (I got it at PetCo).

Continued discussion on red plants:
>Is there someone with knowledge of both aquatic and tree
leaf chlorophyll which could add something here recognizing
that the Japanese maple desires shade to achieve its red?
For lack of understanding I am tempted to suggest perhaps the
requirements for red plants are species specific and we should
shy from general conclusions about  _all_  red plants.

This isn't my area of expertise, despite my botanical background.  With that said, I
can share a couple of things about red pigments in plants.  First of all, the person that
said that "perhaps the requirements for red plants are species specific" was certainly
correct.  Plus, all of the reasons for red pigmentation in plants are not fully
understood, like so many other things about plants.

One thing is for sure, the red you see in land plants is probably not related to the red
seen in true aquatics in the aquarium.  The red in the Rotala's we keep seems
almost certainly related to light intensity, in my experience.  Perhaps it is also
somewhat related to light quality, but I doubt this.

The red you see in the maple is a mystery to me; I'm sure somebody in horticulture
knows why it gets red in the shade.  I do know that the tropics is full of plants in the
understory (in the shade) with red _young_ leaves.  I've heard this is a biochemical
defense against insect predation (anthocyanins as defense chemicals).

Bottom line is: we can't make too many assumptions about the aquatics based on
what land plants are doing.

Roxanne Bittman