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Planted tank for Altums or Discus

>My thought was that I always had trouble before with algae because of
>the ammonia and nitrites and the fish I spoke of don't
>like it either (Altum angles, Discus and zebra or gold nugget plecos).
>As to the water movement.  I want good oxygen content
>for the fish.  Can I have both oxygen and CO2?  I understand that the
>plants will produce some oxygen in the day and I can
>limit the CO2 at night.

CO2 and O2 do not displace each other at the levels we want in an aquarium.
 Saturation in a typical tropical FW aquarium is a little over 8 mg/L. (it
will be a little less at the warmer temps in a discus tank)  My high growth
CO2 supplemented tanks run at about 11 mg/L O2 during the photo period, and
drop only to about 8 mg/L over night. (with the CO2 still running)  You'll
be hard pressed to maintain O2 levels near that in a non-planted tank, no
matter how you aerate it.

>You also were hesitant on the plecos - I understand the big herbivores
>but the zebra (aqualog L 46) and gold nugget plecos
>(L85, L177) are, despite what many think, more of a carnivore and should
>leave the plants alone 

I wasn't the one who suggested avoiding these two species.  I agree with
you.  I keep Gold Nugget Plecos in my tanks and they certainly do not
damage plants.  I wouldn't expect Zebras would either.  I personally prefer
the Gold Nuggets because they are less secretive... you'll see more of
them. (I think they're prettier too ;-)

>*    Give shading/hiding places for the Discus so they will feel secure
>- - the plants will give some of this too.

The plants can give _all_ of that if you do it right.

>*    What plants will not like the 82-84 C temp?

Most, as long as you meet their higher metabolism needs with more light,
CO2 and other nutrients.  I've never had a plant fail at 84F that I've done
well with in any of my cooler tanks.

>*    Is it better to start some of the swords small at high temp and let
>them grow into this environment?

Doesn't make any difference.  If you meet their needs they will do fine.

>*    You mentioned some plants for beginners - although I said I had
>killed a lot of plants, mostly I have stunted them, or let hair
>algae grow on them and occasionally I was successful.  I'm tired of
>plants like water Sprite (a weed!).  What would your next
>step up or two list be?

There are so many it's hard to know where to start.  Avoid red stem plants
and most of the "fluffy" plants while you're learning what you're doing.
You might want to visit the Tropica web site for ideas.  Remember that
what's "easy" for one person may be impossible for another, so
generalizations are hard to make.

I prefer insect larva if I'm going to feed live food.  During the summer,
mosquito larva is the easiest.  Kordon packages "sachets" of live glass
worms and blood worms.  These are a safer food source than black worms.
White worms are fine as "treat" food, as are fruit flies.  Earthworms can
be really messy if you need to chop them up to fit discus-sized mouths.

Aside from your own personal preference though, healthy discus are major
piglets.  They will not only survive, they will thrive on a combination of
frozen prepared discus food, frozen blood worms, glass worms, brine shrimp,
etc with a little dry pellet food thrown in from time to time. (most discus
go nuts over Tetra Bits) Mine could feel the vibration of the refrigerator
door opening, and would be begging at the feeding corner the minute they
"heard" the door open.

One important thing to remember when feeding frozen food in a planted tank
is to try to avoid letting all the "juice" (which is full of nutrients that
aren't going to make it into the fish anyway) go into the tank.  Place the
food on a piece of paper towel to thaw, and allow the juices to drain out.

I haven't had much experience with Altums, but as they are almost
invariably wild-caught, you're going to have much more trouble in terms of
potential parasite load, picky eating etc.  I know Merrill Cohen has a huge
one that he's had for several years.  Maybe he can comment.

Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Association