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Mark Pan wrote:

>I think for us keeping planted tanks, feeding is actually a big issue. IMHO,
>most of us simply overfeed, not realising that we're literally adding
>phosphorus to our tanks. Isn't that contrary to what we want to achieve in a
>planted tank? 

Not really, phosphorus is an essential mineral, both for plants and
animals.  We simply want to avoid adding more than is needed, and can be
bound up in the plant and fish mass in the tank.

>I have a heavily planted 4-foot tank that is moderately stocked with 130
>plus fish, virtually all of them tetras from the axelrodi's to the simulans
>armstrongi's and a few species of hysebberon (or something like that). They
>are fed extremely sparingly, at most twice a week, with either frozen
>bloodworm or daphnia (for the smaller simulans).

<snip vacation feeding schedule>

>The tank is extremely clean and algae-free and the single Fluval is cleaned
>only when the output water slows to a crawl.

I guess my question would be why overstock the tank, and then underfeed the
fish?  The biggest 4' tank I've seen is the 4'x24"x24" 120G tank.  Even for
that size tank,130 plus fish sounds on the high side to me.  

My tanks, which I consider moderately stocked, but by your standards might
be lightly stocked are fed daily, and I have no algae problems.  While my
125G is only about 4 months old, and mostly contains smaller, younger fish.
my 70G has been set up and running with the same fish for more than 5 years
now.  Some of the fish in it are not not particularly small, (there is a
school of giant danios, a Synodontis angelicus and a striped raphael of
fair size, as well as a number of smaller fish)  and many are hearty
eaters.  I only feed once a day, (for convenience sake) but I feed heavily
when I do.  I watch to make sure that at least some is actually reaching
the bottom for my big catfish.  I _still_ have no algae problems in this
tank, and just barely detectable PO4 levels.  The tank is brightly lit with
6 4' T-8s, and has very strong growth.  

Like you, I am pathetic when it comes to filter maintenance,<g> and I'd
_like_ to do a 25% water change every couple of weeks, but this often slips
to a longer time period.  There is no significant difference in nitrate or
phosphate readings after theses changes anyway, since the plants use all
that is available.  I regularly supplement with KNO3, or the tank will
quickly become nitrate limited.  

>For me, I always think of how the fish would perform in the wild. Would it
>get food twice a day? Would they get food everyday? I reckon not.

You reckon incorrectly with these small fish.  What you say is true when
talking about large carnivors.  Small tetras graze almost continually.  A
better plan would be to keep a low concentration of live food feeding into
the tank continually from a refugium.  That's how they eat in the wild.

>So the only ones that survive are the toughest ones. 

Not really.  Do you really think a "tough" cardinal has much of an
advantage over a less tough one when faced by a fish tha can swallow it in
one gulp?  What the one that survies has is luck.  Tetras swim in large
groups simply because the predators can't get them ALL that way.  That's
how the species survives.  The survival of one individual makes not one
whit of difference to the species.

>In our tanks, even with my spare feeding regime, even the runts survive! 

Survive or thrive?  Top quality specimens with good size and color require
a good regular feeding regime.  Ask anyone who shows fish.  If all we want
to do is maintain them without killing them, we can go as far as the
extreme of keeping a goldfish in a fish bowl.  I know a 10 year old 3"
goldfish.  Is this a "good" way of keeping him, even if he's still alive
after 10 years?  personally, I don't think so.

>Think about it. By feeding our fish too much, we may be inadvertently
>feeding our algae blooms.

You are correct there, but "too much" is W-A-Y more than you are currently
feeding, except for the fact that your tank is overstocked.