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Re: Questions

>Question 1:  This evening I put some "Redneck Laterite" in the
substrate.  I used to live in Huntsville, AL and had a friend send me up
a couple of lbs of the reddest clay rich dirt he could find.  I smushed
them into 1" balls and tucked them in the substrate near the base of my
plants.  Will this help my plants?  I refuse to believe that Laterite is
the only way to go.
I am also a former Huntsvillian, and I have used the clay to good
effect.  I found some dark red, exposed clay and bagged up a few pounds
on my last visit.  It may actually be laterite; I can't say for sure,
but I can say that I can find the balls I have pressed into the
substrate by letting the dwarf sags run wild for about two months and
noting where the largest colonies form.  Invariably when I pull them out
there is a red cloud. 

The first time I used it, I was concerned about it fogging up the tank,
and the fact that there were some roots in it.  So I boiled it.  I got a
large amount of rust-red water, the clay broke into tiny pieces, and the
roots floated out.  Then I, after letting it cool, made it into balls
and dried it before putting it in the tank.  I am bolder now, and just
break off a small chunk now and then when I see a plant that is slowing
down.  I have not had any trouble with it staying in suspension when it
is stirred up.  The red cloud that comes with uprooting a plant
dissipates in 5 minutes or less. 

Two caveats: 1) The location your friend got it from is most likely not
the one I got mine from.  So you could have different soil, or it could
be contaminated with some of the rich brew of chemicals cotton growers
are so fond of.  Be cautious.
2) As with everything else, moderation is the key.  (Excuse me while I
step up onto this soap box...  Thanks.) Too many of the people here,
especially beginners, seem to want a tank where the plants grow so fast
they'll blow the top right off the aquarium, and they want it NOW!!! 
Usually it is the algae that will do this.  Take things slow, especially
in the fertilizer area, and I suspect you will have a stable tank
faster.  (Stepping down now.)

Steve Garinger