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Re: 'Optimum'

I'm enjoying this thread immensely.  It's sort of a departure from the
standard fare of objective, technical questions.  Here's my list --

1.  A outlet for creativity.  An opportunity to create, to get my hands
dirty, to indulge my aesthetic impulses, and to feel pride in my

2.  A relaxation tool.  After a tough day at the cubicle, I generally
walk in the door, drop my bag and keys, and then sit on the couch and
relax while I enjoy my tank.  

3.  A pleasant environment for my fish.  This is actually part of #2. 
By providing a planted environment, and doing regular maintenance which
I enjoy, I avoid all of the guilt associated with caring for other
pets.  No barking to be walked, no scratching to be fed, no pleading
looks to be let out of the cage...  Happy pets make me happy, and pets
without urgent needs make me even happier.

4.  A learning experience.  An enjoyable way to indulge my brain.  No
papers or finals, but a chance to learn and explore in my own little

Practically speaking, this means that I want:
(I guess this is sort of a sub-list)

1.  Healthy plants.  The sense of satisfaction that comes from knowing
that I figured out how to meet a plant's needs, and that I can provide
it, and that I have reaped the rewards of dedicating myself to a

2.  Moderate to high growth.  I really enjoy trimming my plants, and I
get frustrated with plants that don't grow noticeably.  I don't want a
static tank.

3.  A clean substrate.  I remodel my tank every few months, to indulge a
new design impulse, or to regain balance after I've gotten rid of a
plant that I no longer enjoy.

4.  A range of plant types.  Stem plants, rosettes, red colors... easy,
difficult... an occasional new plant that I've never seen before, to
experiment with.

5.  Little surface disturbance.  Greater freedom to plant according to
my aesthetic whim, unfettered by the filter's circulation flow.

6.  Low risk.  I'm extremely risk-aversive, and I hesitate to experiment
with exotic equipment or substrate mixes that I don't understand.  This
also means that I'll spend more for convenience, or for the security
that comes from relying on a manufacturer's expertise.  And I'll
continue to do so, buying bulbs that are labeled for plants, and gravel
mixes from a pet store, until I'm comfortable that I have absorbed
enough information to make an educated choice.  

7.  Controlled costs.  Although anyone who wasn't in the hobby, and
looked at my bank statement, would laugh at this observation.  I guess
it partly comes down to risk, and making educated choices.  I'll more
readily spend $200 on a bunch of apistos (yes, we've acquired a lot of
them lately.  Damn having a local importer!) than save the money for
fancy equipment.  That's partly because I like instant gratification,
but also partly because it's a calculated risk.  I know how pleased I'll
be with the new apistos, but I'm sketchy on the real importance of the
CO2 reactor.

Alysoun McLaughlin
Wheaton, Maryland
Where I just learned that Karen Randall will be speaking to the Potomac
Valley Aquarium Society in a few months, and I'll really looking forward
to it!