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Nitrogen supplementation

>I believe that this is a common situation in planted tanks. In the past, I
>have suggested that Nitrates, possibly KNO3, be included as part of a
>commercially offered fertilizing regimen. 

I have no idea why people would want to buy something specifically packaged
and marketed for the aquarium trade (which automatically makes it more
expensive) when it is available on every hick town hardware store shelf for
about $6 per pound.  A pound goes a _very_ long way.

>Probably, it would be best if KNO3 was sold as a separate, add only when
necessary, supplement. 

I'd take out the "probably".  Otherwise I wouldn't argue with that statement.

>Many people seem to think that this is a  questionable idea. 

If I remember correctly, they thought the idea of a nitrogen supplement
being sold as a separate item in a manufacturer's line wouldn't fly.
Economically, it probably wouldn't, otherwise they'd probably already be
doing it.

>The main objection being that nitrates in the hands of inexperienced plant
growers, are going
>to lead to a horrendous algae outbreak. 

Maybe.  More likely, they're just not necessary.  Most novice tanks already
have high-ish nitrate levels.  Adding nitrate won't do anything positive.
At best, it won't help the plants because the tank is already limited
severly either by low light levels or by lack of adequate CO2 levels.  At
worst, it _will_ cause algae problems.

>Yet, I continue to hear reports of N limited tanks. 

On this group, yes.  Even the "newbies" who show up on the APD are better
informed about plants by far than the average aquarium owner, or even the
average member of the average aquarium society member.

When you consider how many people continue to post on this group having
inadvertently added phosphate to their tank via some product, or how many
time people want to dose their tanks with algae and snail killing
chemicals, or how many times people want to know if some garden NPK
fertilizer is a good alternative to that "expensive aquarium stuff", you
will start to realize how many people will misuse any product that is
available to them looking for a quick fix.<g>

By the time most people need to supplement nitrogen in their tanks, they
also have learned that it is available at the hardware store real cheap.
It's a lot harder to come up with a well balanced trace element source for
PMDD than it is to find KNO3, and people seem to be able to handle that
without much trouble. 

I speak at club meetings all the time.  I am occasionally delightfully
surprised by the depth of knowledge in a group, as I was this fall in San
Francisco, Seattle and Maryland.  But still, for every one of these
meetings I speak at, there are several where most people can't answer the
following questions:

* How much light do you have over your tank? (or even, Are they
incandescent or fluorescent bulbs?)

* Do you know your KH? nitrate? phosphate? levels? (most know their pH,
most will tell me their water is "hard" or "soft")

* Do you know what plant you have in your tank?

* Do you know if the plants are aquatic plants?

* Do you know whether your fish are herbivorous or not?

Don't laugh.  I don't.  This IS the reality of the hobby in this country at
this time.  Many of these people are extremely knowledgeable when it comes
to breeding fish. Some have reached high levels in their club's BAP.  Many
have been in the hobby for 10, 15, 30 years.  But it's still HARD to find
good information on aquatic plants,  particularly if you don't have a
computer and internet access.  Those of us who use the internet on a daily
basis may find it hard to believe, but there are _lots_ of people out there
who do not have access to the information we do... There are _lots_ of
people who don't even own computers.

(ehem... time to hand the soap box back to James<g>)

Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Association