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RE: Befuddled Novice

Rick Lindstrom recently posted some questions regarding his quest for
aquarium supplies in odd places. (Odd only in the sense that Home Depot is
not generally in the Aquarium market)

> 1) Lighting?? I haven't seen the use of halogen lighting addressed. A
> to Home Depot revealed that one can buy a low voltage halogen lighting
> setup that could be adapted for aquarium use (lawn lights) relatively
> cheaply.
> Is there a downside to halogen lighting? What am I missing?

Cost of electricity is one thing you are missing, as is the heat output of
halogen bulbs vs. their light output. If you want to give Home Depot your
business, get some Flourescent shop lights. They are cheap, will provide
more than enough light for your tank and you can choose the type of bulb you
want to give you a good spectum for your plants.

> 2) Substrates??? Home Depot sells bags of something called "Mini Brick
> Nuggets" that look for all the world just like the expensive stuff that
> comes in the bags labelled "Seachem Flourite". Nice red granulated stuff.
> I'm wondering about the use of this as a clay style substrate additive.
> thoughts?

I'm not familiar with the product but keep in mind that appearances can be
deceiving. It may or may not work, the only way to be sure is to buy a bag,
put some in a container with some distilled water and test the water for
chemical change after about a week. If there is anything leaching into the
water it should show up by then. Flourite DOES contain additional fertilizer
and is a beautiful substrate from an aesthetic point of view. If this other
product looks just as good, AND does not leach harmful substances into the
water, it MIGHT be O.K. The only way of knowing is to try it out. You can
always use a liquid fertilizer for your plants.

> 3)Fertilizer??? Also at Home Depot- Jobe's Tree Spikes, and another brand
> that is similar for about half the price. Something along the lines of
> 15-7-10, or thereabouts. I've read about breaking up Lilipons tabs to add
> to the substrate when setting up. Can't find those around here, so how
> about the tree spikes?

One of the biggest mistakes (IMHO) that novices make is to get too
experimental before they are really ready. There are loads of fertilizers
made SPECIFICALLY for aquarium use. Some are expensive, others less so, but
they ALL cost much less than a tank full of plants and fish. Until you
REALLY know what you are doing, it would be wiser to stick to using products
specifically designed for use in an aquarium.

The Jobe's spikes that are recommended by some (I believe that Karen Randall
uses them) are the ones designed for Ferns and Palms. They have a 16-2-6
nutrient ratio (N-P-K) and shouldn't cause algae blooms from excess
Phosphate. Remember also that Karen is one of the most experienced and
skilled participants in this hobby and she REALLY knows what she is doing. I
have used the Jobe's Fern and Palm spikes on both my houseplants and in an
aquarium. In MY experience, they work great on Boston Ferns and Swedish Ivy
in my hanging baskets, but I'm not overly impressed by their effect on my
aquarium plants. They were certainly not a "magic bullet" in my tank. But
while they didn't work magic, they certainly didn't do any damage.

So, assuming that the Mini Brick Nuggets from Home Depot will hold together
underwater and do not alter the chemistry of the water by leaching
substances into the water column, you could get away with using it together
with Jobes Fern & Palm Spikes.

But do try to stay away from the line of thought "it's half the price, so
I'll buy it", at least until you have a considerable amount of experience
under you belt. A tank full of plants and fish will cost you far more than a
bottle of good aquatic plant fertilizer and a bag of granite gravel. Once
you learn the basics, then you can afford to experiment.

Good luck.

James Purchase
Toronto, Ontario
jpurch at interlog_com