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Newbies in aquatic plants

>I am something of a (self-proclaimed) expert on the husbandry of the
>fishes available to us as aquarists.  What I've been thinking upon
>lately is how we recommend to the newbie to stick to fishes that
>prefer his water chemistry, and (barring that) fishes that prefer a
>similar water chemistry.  I've seen it said many times that individual
>plants prefer specific water chemistries, but in the plant
>net.cultivation world, this concept hasn't seemed to make an impact.
>Wouldn't it be best for newbies to try to start planted tanks
>utilizing species that prefer similar conditions?  IME, this has been
>implied, but never explicitly stated.  IMO, the FAQ should explicitly
>state such information.

The problem is that often the parameters that make a specific tank suitable
for some species and not for others are not easy to test for.  In some
cases, it's not even clear exactly what the differences are, whether you
can test for it or not.  Take a look at the discussion about Glosso and
Lilaeopsis for example.  I think we have established that IN GENERAL,
Glosso does better in softer water, Lilaeopsis in harder water.  But there
are people who have spoken up who have done at least OK with Lilaeopsis in
softer water. (I don't think I've heard of anybody doing well with Glosso
in hard water)  

In many cases you can adjust things to make conditions more suitable.
There are many plants that thrive in fairly soft water without much help
from their owners.  A lot of these plants will also do fine in harder
water, but then need higher light levels and supplemental CO2.

Likewise, I've seen slow growing plants having a problem competing for
nutrients in a tank filled with many fast growing species.  The same plant
(for argument, let's say an Anubias) might do fine with a FEW of any of
those faster growing species in a tank that is more heavily weighted toward
slower growing plants.

There certainly are some generalities that can be made based on light
levels and whether the water is very hard or very soft.  But there will
also be LOTS of exceptions.  Any species lists that was put in the FAQ
would be fraught with the danger that people would take them too literally.
 I think the best we can do is advise people to uses some of the more
adaptable "fool proof" plants, and branch out slowly from there.

Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Association