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Re: SFBAAPS Interesting Tank Parameters

At 01:16 PM 8/5/99 -0700, Steve wrote:

>An intriguing case study to wet your appetites!...

>Now for the shocker:  Nitrates were over 50 ppm! (LaMotte Nitrate test
>kit) and phosphates were over 1 ppm (Hach low range phosphate test kit)!
>The aquarist said phosphates often measure 3 ppm with one of the
>hobbyist kits.  
>I asked about the history of the tank.  

Significant statement:

*****There were significant algae
>problems and the aquarist had changed out various species of stem plants
>to find plants that were suitable for the conditions.******

>So what do you think of these conditions (which I have never encountered

Ah Steve.  You've learned so much so fast that you skipped the baby stage.
You never crawled, you just got up and started running!<g>

What this person has accomplished is what most of us did before we knew
what we know now.  Observe and fiddle until you find plants that work well
under low-moderate light levels.  As long as the light levels are kept low,
it is perfectly possible to achieve a state of equilibrium in a planted
tank with high nitrate/phosphate levels.  The real problems start when
someone who has had a moderate amount of success this way decides that they
want to grow some higher light plant, (say R. macrandra) or they hear that
they "should" maintain a particular iron level in the tank.  

When they try to increase the light level on a tank like this, it's a
recipe for disaster.  Even increasing the iron level can bring on a huge
plague of red algae.  The "myths" that many of us started out with in
keeping planted tanks ("don't use too much light", "be careful of using too
much iron") were not made up out of thin air.  These increases _did_ cause
major problems in planted tanks that were balanced in another way.

I kept many tanks of this type in the "old days".  They were successful,
long term tanks with little algae, and beautiful plants, although the
number of species was somewhat limited.  I still keep _some_ tanks like
this.  Both of my kids have 10G tanks in their rooms.  Both are attractive
and full of healthy plants.  Both run on a single 15W bulb.  Neither ever
receive trace element supplementation, and I'd be ashamed to try to figure
out the frequency of water changes.  One has some platies in it, so the bio
load is not _too_ high.  But the other has a well-grown axolotl in it who
normally eats frozen krill, but will happily take down a goldfish when
given the opportunity.  I don't even want to guess at the nitrate level in
that tank!<g>

The trouble with trying to _teach_ people to manage a tank this way is that
unless you are very good at observing, guessing and fiddling, success is a
gamble.  Many people figured out this sort of balance quite naturally,
(Dorothy Reimer is a prime example... she didn't do a lot of "book
learning" to learn to grow plants.  She's got a great green thumb, a good
eye and a lot of common sense) others never got the hang of it.  With more
modern methods for managing a planted tank, if people will LISTEN and
LEARN, you can practically guarantee success.