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Re: ADA system: my speculations (very long msg.)

Luca writes:

>  From my trouble in controlling my new little tank, this message has just 
>  become a simple collection of considerations of the ADAŽ system as my 
>  interpretation sees it.

And I will respond based on my own limited experience

>  4 main points will be stressed here:
>  - - substrate
>  - - filtration media
>  - - fertilizers
>  - - general dynamic
>  substrate:
>  in my little tank I used Power Sand Special S (450ml), just because in 
>  Italy only this one is available. If I had to choose, I'd prefer Power 
>  just because I was told that it's less rich in nutrients than Special 
>  version (here ADA support can answer precisely). Apart from this, Power 
>  Sand is an ORGANIC fertilizer substrate, made mainly by pumice and peat. 

It is pumice, peat, and "a nutrieint rich clay", according to the official 
ADA propaganda.  I built a substrate based on this info, using pumice gravel, 
peat, and a couple different clays.  In the first tests I used Fluval peat 
pellets and redart clay.  In the second set-up I used regular nursery-style 
sphagnum and pyrophylittic clay.

The pumice is not organic at all, nor is the clay component.  The peat 
certainly is, but I cannot say for certain that it is breaking down.

>It should be evident to me that, apart from trace-elements (does it contain 
>  any? ADA can tell us!), Power Sand is very rich in nitrogen and phosphorus.

Maybe, from the peat, but again, I don't really think there is a lot of peat 
break-down going on in my tanks.  It leached humics and tannins for a while, 
but that has slowed considerably.

>  I stressed on "organic" word because there must be some sense in choosing 
>  an ORGANIC fertilizer instead of a mineral one. For sure it's more 
>  difficult to deal with an organic fertilizer (it would be interesting to 
>  know the C/N ratio), but it's "live" and can be easily and quickly 
>  by bacteria which will transform organic compounds in inorganic ones which 
>  will dissolve in water column.

In eastern Canada, where it is harvested, and also in Western NY, where I 
grew up, peat bogs will hold the stuff for years without it breaking down.  
The peat breaking down doesn't seem to be an objective in its choice for 
inclusion.  I think it has more to do with the catalytic action it has in 
making iron form compounds that can be utilized, if I remember what I gleaned 
form Steve Pushak's site. 

> Hence - in my speculation - the necessity to 
>  add BACTER 100 and CLEAR SUPER that are bacteria (nitrogen will be their 
>  meal) and activated carbon, which can easily adsorb JUST ORGANIC compounds 
>  till will be colonized by bacteria themselves.
>  What's wrong? it's the dosage!? Indeed the dosage depends on the plants we 
>  choose, the light and CO2 but, respecting the ADA suggested dose the tank 
>  simply goes out of control! No way! So something is missing here!... My 
>  tank speciments can be read below at the end of message, but comparing my 
>  dosage with that used by ADA in AJ vol. 33 (english version, or Nē36 
>  japanese version), I used half the dosage but still I have algae happily 
>  growing (with the same amount of light, with the same time of light, and 
>  fishes!) in it.
The problem may be your carbon.  Most types leech out phosphorus, which can 
trigger the algae.
>  filtration media:
>  ADA goes for a biological filtering but mainly uses activated carbon and 
>  rely on it. In the past (old AJ issues) activated carbon were used only on 
>  the first stage of tank setup then it should be replaced by Bamboo 
>  (a far less agressive carbon), but nowadays activated carbon is a common 
>  filter media in all setups. ADA claims that a filter loaded with activated 
>  carbon makes the tank more easy to control. Why? Well, unfortunately ADA 
>  doesn't tell how often the carbon must be replaced; in other words ADA 
>  doesn't tell if the activated carbon have only an adsorbative short-term 
>  function or a long-term biological function.
>  Anyhow why activated carbon? Once again - I think - the answer should be 
>  the substrate fertilizer: ORGANIC -> just the compounds activated carbon 
>  can easily remove! 

Wouldn't it just be easier to find a substrate component that breaks down 
slower?  Or maybe use less of it?

What's in the substrate is only for plants root, and 
>  what seeps into the water must be removed quickly! how? activated carbon, 
>  and frequent water changes. Under this hyphotesis it's clear that 
>  carbon has only an adsorbative function.
>  fertilizers:
>  here again there is a close interaction. BRIGHTY STEP I contains almost no 
>  iron and it's suggested for the 1st 3 months of setup! 3 months of no 
>  No way! Hence ECA, organic acid with iron and manganese (probably a 
>  gluconate)... here again: organic -> it will disappear quickly! (No matter 
>  how expensive it is!!!), if plants lose their turn, they won't eat! 
>  Bacteria and carbon will eat the rest for them! :)
>  Then after 3 long months, BRIGHTY STEP 2: why? Once again - I think - just 
>  because the chelated iron which is in STEP 2 will last longer than the 
>  weakly chelated iron of ECA ... so it's better to use STEP 2 when possibly 
>  the Power Sand has finished leeching nutrients into the water column.

The clay from the power sand, if chosen correctly, should provide all the 
iron necessary.
>  general dynamic:
>  well.. things go complicated here. Let's say that the most of planted 
>  function in a phosphate limited dynamic. You keep N-K at a sufficient 
>  so that all the P available is uptaken by plants, and dose the trace 
>  elements to have photosynthesis activity that guarantees all the uptaken 
>  N-P-K to be 'burnt' by plants. Simple. (all my devotion to Paul Sears! :-) 
>  Does ADA work this way too? Perhaps. But maybe - just maybe -in some cases 
>  it works in a different way: iron limited. Probably when there is slighty 
>  too much solid fertilizer, and the tank cannot work in a phoshate limited 
>  way because both N and P are not limited, one way (with filtration, and 
>  the other things I wrote before) to prevent an algae bloom is to limit the 
>  presence of iron in the water column. BRIGHTY STEP I is extremely low in 
>  iron and can help in this situation. ECA can help too because it can be 
>  supplied on spot just when new buds are whitering, after all it won't last 
>  long in the water because it's not actually chelated, but rather
>  complexed to another organic molecule and the unused part will precipitate 
>  soon (taking away with itself some phosphorus). Activated carbon will take 
>  also a little part in taking trace elements too.
>  This way (if it's really applicable) of conducting a planted tank might be 
>  MUCH more difficult - I guess - than the "common" way of controlling it by 
>  phosphate limitation.
My "Poor Man's Amano Substrate" tanks are functioning well.  I use Natural 
Gold as the only fertilizer additive.  There are fish, to be sure, and enough 
to pump Nitrogen into the system.  I was using Job's spikes for a while, but 
now they don't seem to be needed.  Algae is limited, but I have SAEs and Otos.

It sounds unnecessarily complex to use all that stuff.  And I quit using 
carbon decades ago.  

If you like all that tinkering, go for it.  Myself, I'm in it to have fun, 
not drive myself crazy.

Bob Dixon
Cichlid Trader List Administrator