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Re: Balancing fish and plants

Hello Marci and all,

I share many of your reservations. I have six tanks (200+ gals) fairly
heavily stocked with S. American, African and Asian catfish, with many of
the fish in the 6-12" range. Many of these fish are expensive, when they can
be found at all. Except for two tanks with Rift Lake catfish, my water was
at about KH 2-3 and pH 6-6.8.

I have never killed and maimed as many fish as I have over the last year
while experimenting with CO2 injected planted tanks. Most of these fish
asphyxiated at night.

I don't think that removing carbon is a problem. Many experienced fish-only
hobbyists use no carbon. Neither should substrate fertilization be a

What I _have_ learned is that:

1) moderately soft and acidic water is incompatible with CO2 injection

2) in a heavily planted tank with constant CO2, the standard advice to
eliminate all surface agitation is lethal to many species of fish, at least
in the conditions I keep them in: moderately high stocking levels and large

Heavily planted tanks have many benefits: they can dramatically improve
water quality, they break up the space and create lots of territories and
hiding places for fish, and of course, they are esthetically pleasing for
the fish keeper. But especially when you are just starting out, proceed with
extreme caution! And remember that a lot of the advice you get on the APD is
directed at people who keep lightly stocked tanks with small fish, and may
need to be modified before it can be applied to tanks where the fish come
first, and plants second.

> Date: Sun, 26 Sep 1999 18:47:06 -0700
> From: Leonardo <cathouse at cdsnet_net>
> Subject: balancing fish and plants
> Hello All-
> I have been trying to learn how to run a planted aquarium.  I am a long
> time community tank keeper, but this is new.  And most of what I am
> learning is good for plants is just anathema to a fish-only keeper.
> Remove charcoal?  Are you NUTS?  That is my gut reaction.  But I did it.
> And I have been adding fertilizer, and I even dug up the bottom of an
> established tank and put in laterite and profile.  And I have tried to
> turn off the air, but that is one step farther than I can make myself go
> without panic attacks.
> My problem is that in the last day, I have lost 5 fish, for no apparent
> reason, and its after doing all the plant required things, and I can't
> get over the feeling its BECAUSE of the fertilizer, the lack of air, the
> odd things I have done! (like take out that charcoal)
> A small angel just sank, and died.  A dojo (probably not the usual
> inhabitant for a plant tank, but remember, this tank started life as a
> community tank) suddenly met his demise.  One minute, fine.  The next,
> he's on his side with wilted barbles, pink gills, one eye filmed over
> with an opaque coating, the other eye swollen and puffy, and unable to
> open all the way.  This, shortly after I bring home and deploy Tetra
> Initial Sticks.  So I stand there, and my guts roll, and I'm so
> suspicious that he got right into the tetra sticks, and one burned him.
> And I lost a dwarf neon rainbow just as suddenly.  One half of its head
> turned sulfur yellow.  No fuzz or deteriorating tissue.  Just all normal
> color in that area gone.  And then I feel convinced that it HAD to be
> because I turned off the air, and he had a stroke.  (don't laugh!)
> What I need is reassurance that the fish are capable of being in there
> without charcoal, lots of air movement, fertilizer, etc.  My instincts
> shriek against adding co2, lemme tell ya!  I just can't seem to unlearn
> all the old ways of fishkeeping. The old ideas are just confusing the
> new ones I am learning.
> Any advice?
> Thank you-
> Marci