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Hi-Tech, Lo-Tech nonsense

Good Morning everyone,

Not meaning to walk on anyone's toes here (my feet aren't that big!), I've
been following the on-going debate over different methodologies for what
seems like forever. Sometimes though, its hard to find anything new due to
the high level of sarcasm which this topic seems to attract.

Quite some time ago I had a protracted series of e-mail conversations with
Steve Pushak concerning the possibility of running some controlled tests on
substrates. For a number of reasons, the tests never got underway but the
idea has stuck with me. A review of both this list and the commercial
marketplace shows that there is a lot of interest in the best way(s) of
obtaining good plant growth. Aquarists seem to have a lot of questions and
manufacturers offer a variety of solutions but nowhere can I see a
controlled comparative study of the different methodologies and a comparison
of the results obtained by following different paths to our common goal of
beautiful planted tanks.

I have recently (quite recently) gained enough strength to set up a number
of 20 gallon tanks, with more to come (as time and energy permit). My hope
is to set up tanks using Steve Pushak's soil substrate , Seachem's Flourite,
Dupla's Duplarit, and Aqualine Buschke's Terralit. So far, I have two tanks
running, one with Steve's layered subsoil, topsoil and gravel substrate and
using PMDD as a liquid fertilizer, and another tank using a Flourite
substrate and Flourish liquid fertilizer. Within each tank, I want to follow
the manufacturer's published guidelines as closely as possible (within
reason and as finances permit) and to use products from the same line in
each tank (i.e. one tank will use ONLY Dupla products and another will use
ONLY Seachem products, etc.). Hopefully, this will help determine the
completeness of the various lines of products and provide some information
as to the ease of use of each competing approach. Also, I hope to determine
if there is any qualitative differences between the varying approaches to
growing aquatic plants. (Curious minds want to know, or at least MY curious
mind wants to know.)

I am following the indiviual tank's progress in two ways - with photographs
and with regular water testing (using LaMotte and Hach test kits) and I
shall be setting up a Web site where the progress of the study may be
reviewed by anyone interested. I am not making any claims at this point in
time - hopefully, the results will speak for themselves. But I do have one
early observation of Steve's method - as noted on his web page, Steve states
that organic material in a substrate can act as a sponge for Calcium. At
least at this point in time (early though it may be) this seems to be at
work in the tank that I have set up following Steve's method. The Alkalinity
and Hardness of the soil based tank is much lower than the Flourite based
tank and the soil based tank also has a much lower pH than the Flourite
tank. Possibly, the peat moss which Steve recommends as an addition to his
style of substrate is causing the difference. Note that at this point in
time this is only an observation, not a conclusion.

I don't know if any of this will interest any of you - but if it does I'm
working as fast as I can on the website where you can follow the study's
progress and please feel free to e-mail me with your comments and


James Purchase
Toronto, Ontario
jpurch at interlog_com