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Soil

Contents:

  1. (F) Plants: Question on gravel choice and additives
    by jimh-at-ultra.com (Jim Hurley) (Mon, 19 Oct 92)
  2. Laterite ???? who, what, where, when & why
    by booth-at-hplvec.LVLD.HP.COM (George Booth) (Fri, 15 Oct 1993)
  3. floss + UGF = minimum maintenance aquarium
    by oleg-at-netcom.com (Oleg Kiselev) (Tue, 11 Jan 1994)
  4. floss + UGF = minimum maintenance aquarium
    by booth-at-hplvec.LVLD.HP.COM (George Booth) (Thu, 6 Jan 1994)
  5. DIY CO2 injection system instructions
    by uweb-at-hpbidrd1.bbn.hp.com (Uwe Behle) (Fri, 14 Jan 1994)
  6. DIY CO2 injection system instructions
    by booth-at-hplvec.LVLD.HP.COM (George Booth) (Tue, 18 Jan 1994)
  7. [F]{P} Soil Tests (incl. laterite)
    by Neil.Frank-at-launchpad.unc.edu (Neil Frank) (13 Feb 1995)
  8. Substitute for laterite?
    by Neil.Frank-at-launchpad.unc.edu (Neil Frank) (11 Feb 1995)
  9. Trying clay balls with FeSO4.
    by Kenneth J McNeil <mcnei002-at-maroon.tc.umn.edu> (Mon, 5 Jun 1995)
  10. Substrate material and heating.
    by Stephen.Pushak-at-hcsd.hac.com (Stephen Pushak) (Fri, 16 Jun 95)
  11. Re:Peat, tinting
    by nfrank-at-nando.net (Neil Frank) (Wed, 6 Sep 95)
  12. Flourite
    by "Sherlock W. Wong" <wong/dt.wdc.com> (Wed, 25 Mar 1998)
  13. Anaerobic gravel
    by Steve Pushak <teban/nospam.powersonic.bc.ca> (Mon, 13 Apr 1998)
  14. Effects of roots, sinking vermiculite
    by "Nick Miller" <millern/wave.co.nz> (Fri, 19 Jun 1998)
  15. steel wool (actually, about Ironite)
    by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com> (Sun, 11 Oct 1998)
  16. Muddy thoughts
    by krandall/world.std.com (Wed, 14 Oct 1998)
  17. Pumice contents
    by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com> (Fri, 12 Feb 1999)
  18. RE: Terralit
    by "James Purchase" <jpurch/interlog.com> (Thu, 14 Jan 1999)
  19. Terralit
    by krandall/world.std.com (Thu, 14 Jan 1999)
  20. Misconceptions regarding nutrient deficiencies, buffers and pH
    by Neil Frank <nfrank/mindspring.com> (Mon, 04 Jan 1999)
  21. NPK of Initial Sticks
    by Robert H <robertph/best.com> (Tue, 09 Feb 1999)
  22. Initial Sticks NPK
    by Harvey Schneider <harvsch/earthlink.net> (Wed, 10 Feb 1999)
  23. RE: Bleaching gravel
    by "Greenman" <bnbjohns/home.com> (Sat, 13 May 2000)
  24. Aging substrates
    by Karen Randall <krandall/world.std.com> (Fri, 07 Jul 2000)
  25. Hacks and attacks
    by "II, Thomas Barr" <tcbiii/earthlink.net> (Sat, 08 Jul 2000)

(F) Plants: Question on gravel choice and additives

by jimh-at-ultra.com (Jim Hurley)
Date: Mon, 19 Oct 92

In <71742-at-hydra.gatech.EDU> gt7969a-at-prism.gatech.EDU (DEPUY) writes:
[asks about types of gravel and additives for plant tank]

Here's what I did: mix boiled peat, Hilena D, and Duplarit in the
substrate with a little gravel. Hilena D is not peat, I don't know what
it is, but it looks like humus. Duplarit is laterite. This occupies the
bottom 1 1/2 - 2". The next layer is called 'coarse aquarium gravel'
(about 1/8" size)  1/2" - 1" thick. The next layer is about 1" of #2
mesh sandblasting sand. I get the coarse gravel for about $7 for 100
lbs. and the sand at about $5 for 100 lbs. at a building materials
place. That's also a good place to pick up slate, granite, and
decorative rocks. The whole substrate is about 4 to 5" in a 20g tank,
you could go to 5 or 6" in a 100g.

If the top sand layer isn't at least 1" thick or so, the gravel will
tend to mix, which is OK, but you won't have any visible sand after a
few water changes, so you may as well just mix them when you start.
Too much sand might compact tightly.

I get pretty good plant growth without CO2 injection from these tanks,
the best growth seems to be in the tanks with the deepest layers.
-- 
Jim Hurley --> jimh-at-ultra.com  ...!ames!ultra!jimh  (408) 922-0100
Ultra Network Technologies / 101 Daggett Drive / San Jose CA 95134

Laterite ???? who, what, where, when & why

by booth-at-hplvec.LVLD.HP.COM (George Booth)
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 1993
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria

In rec.aquaria, krosney-at-ccu.umanitoba.ca (William Krosney) writes:

    What is laterite, how do you use it and how well does it work?

Laterite is an iron-bearing clay that has been subjected to tropical 
weathering on a geological time scale, i.e., a looong time.  The best
laterite, IMHO, is from Sri Lanka, packaged by Dupla and is available 
from Daleco and Pet Warehouse. 

There are two forms, compacted balls and powder.  The balls are used
in tanks that are already set up and are simply placed around the bases
of plants.  The powder is mixed with the lower 1/3 of the gravel when
a new tank is set up. 

Besides supplying initial doses of iron to plant roots, the laterite
also attracts and chelates trace elements, holding them in a form
well suited to plant root adsorption.  This is the main advantage - 
a renewable source of nutrients in the substrate.  They are particularly
effective when used in conjunction with substrate heating coils.  The
coils create slow convection currents bringing fresh nutrients into 
the substrate and the extra heat helps the biological processes 
involved in adsorption. 

It works very well. 

NOTE: Besides Dupla, Aquarium Products also packages laterite.  Many 
*.aquaria users have noted poor results with this product - it seems
to cloud the water with fine red clay particles at the slightest 
provocation.  Dupla laterite settles out within minutes if it stirred
up.  Caveat emptor. 


=============================================================================
George L. Booth                   Founding Member, The Colorado Aquarium, Inc
booth-at-hplvec.lvld.hp.com           __          Aquatic Gardener's Association
Software Development Engineer     /  \  /\          Colorado Aquarium Society
Manufacturing Test Division    /\/    \/  \           Rainbowfish Study Group
Hewlett-Packard Company       /  \/\  /    \/\             Modern Aquascaping
Loveland, Colorado  _________/    \ \/      \ \___x__________________________
=============================================================================


floss + UGF = minimum maintenance aquarium

by oleg-at-netcom.com (Oleg Kiselev)
Date: Tue, 11 Jan 1994
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria

In article <2gsfup$4mu-at-tivoli.tivoli.com> steveb-at-chelm.uucp (Steve Benz) writes:
>I've certainly read it a zillion times and heard it a zillion times.

That doesn't necessarily make it true.  The story of female swordtails
(Xiphophorus helleri) turning into males has also been publishedd and told 
"a zillion times".  It is no less false for all that re-telling and
re-printing.

>I had a 55gal tank with a gravel/peat/potting-soil substrate (4" or so)
>*and* an undergravel filter driven by powerheads.  (Aquaclear 201's).

Sounds like a nasty thing to do to an aquarium.  Peat and the potting soil 
are *guarranteed* to decay and rot.  If you don't provide them enough oxygen
the rot will be anaerobic.  Placing that kind of a rot mix  onto a UGF is
likely to either make the rotting aerobic, or cause the by-proucts of
anaerobic decay to get flushed into the tank water.

>Fish started randomly dropping off...  No symptoms, other than signs
>of stress before they died.  The tank was lightly loaded (<20" of fish)
>and not overfed.  Removing stressed fish to a treatment tank sometimes
>was enough to cure the fish, but if I put it back, the symptoms always
>returned.

What *kinds* of symptoms?  Were the fish laboriously breathing at the
surface and gulping air (ammonia poisoning)?  Were the fish hanging near the
surface at weird angles and sucking the surface water (nitrite)?  Were they
scratching against rocks, skulked in the dark places and acted particularly
skittish and high-strung (nitrate)?  Was it oxygen shortage?  Or what?

>Usually that sort of thing points to a water quality issue.  The water
>was very soft (no shock there) but the Ph remained steady at 6.8, and
>no amonia showed on my meters.

Did you measure the nitrite and nitrate levels?  *If* the decay was aerobic,
then you had an equvalent of an enormous bio-load pumping ammonia into the 
bacterial beds, which in turn pumped out enormous amounts of nitrites and
then nitrates.

>Plant growth was luxuriant, to say the least, but having a fish die
>once a month didn't make me happy.

No wonder the plants loved it -- all that nitrogen and all that CO2 from 
the decaying peat and soil were a nutrient feast for them.

>I was wrong.  When I broke the tank down I discovered the anaerobic spot --
>directly under the largest plant in the tank (which was why I didn't find it
>when I was vaccuuming and poking.)  That plant, a thriving crispus, had
>a generous alotment of roots, many of which were mixed up in the anaerobic
>spot, so I'm dubious about George's implication that plant roots can
>prevent anaerobic bacteria.

... and your UGF was pumping all of that stuff right out into the tank.  
This is exactly why UGFs are not very good ideas in general, and are 
obviously a particularly lousy idea for the tanks with "exotic" substrates.

>So anyway, maybe I'm leaping to conclusions here.  All I can say is that
>fish died, and since I've gone back to plain gravel/UGF I haven't had
>the problem and I've never lost fish like that in my other tanks.

You did not explore the "exotic substrate"/no UGF option, however.

QED.
-- 
Oleg Kiselev at home			...use the header to find the path

floss + UGF = minimum maintenance aquarium

by booth-at-hplvec.LVLD.HP.COM (George Booth)
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 1994
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria

In rec.aquaria, steveb-at-chelm.uucp (Steve Benz) writes:

    Well, if you have no gravel you can do that, but in my experience, gravel
    without something to keep water moving through it leads directly to
    anaerobic bacteria growth which leads to dead fish.  I imagine you'd be
    okay if you had very course gravel, a very thin layer of gravel or no
    gravel at all, but other than that, how do you create a tank without some
    sort of ground water movement?

Two things leap to mind that would allow a plain gravel bottom without
using an UGF.  First, the often discussed substrate heating coils or
even under tank heating pads will create convection currents that 
will prevent anaerobic areas.  Second, in a well planted tank, the plant
roots will transport oxygen to the substrate.  Second and a half, if
the tank has Malaysian Trumpet snails, they will borrow in the gravel 
and keep it fresh.  

For example, our 100g discus tank has a plain gravel substrate (2-3mm
grain size), is well planted and has a stable population of MTS.  We
have had absolutely no problems with the substrate and the discus have
been thriving for 3 1/2 years. 

As a counter argument, Dr. Adey in _Dynamic_Aquaria_ makes a case for 
making the substrate anaerobic ON PURPOSE.  In nature, many organisms
are adapted to such an environment and Adey considers them beneficial 
links in the food chain in his micro/mesocosms.  In such a system, one
leaves the substrate strictly alone.  Any harmful byproducts such as 
hydrogen sulfide gas will reamin trapped in the substrate and not cause 
any problems.  Of course, mucking around with a gravel vac would be very
harmful in a situation like this.  Naturally, this type of thing is NOT
RECOMMENDED for the typical home aquarist. 

------
George

DIY CO2 injection system instructions

by uweb-at-hpbidrd1.bbn.hp.com (Uwe Behle)
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 1994
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria

George Booth (booth-at-hplvec.LVLD.HP.COM) wrote:
: In rec.aquaria, grn-at-alcove.apana.org.au (Geoffrey Newman) writes:

:     Trash that UG filter Thomas. They only ever worked for sustained
:     periods if they were vacuumed thoroughly and frequently and I imagine
:     your heavily planted tank makes that pretty much impossible.

: Trash that concept Geoffrey.  Heavily planted (and fast growing) 
: plant tanks NEED to have the plants removed periodically for trimming.
: Perfect time to gravel vac.  Plants that can't be removed (large
: Echinodorus, Crypts, etc) usually have massive root systems that 
: prevent much detritus from collecting so they can be left alone. 

: We have an 85g tank that has been massively planted and thriving 
: for 5 years.  Yes, periodic cleaning is a must.  No, it is 
: not pretty much impossible. 

George, what exactly happens if you don't clean? There is so much conflicting
information about whether to clean or not that I am not really sure was is
right and was is wrong. I myself have not cleaned a tank for a period of 
approximately one year without plant problems and have had a lot of problems
when I do the regular cleaning. About 70% of my gravel is covered with
the small Anubias (nana etc.) and E. tenellus, and it is extremely difficult 
to clean the gravel in those areas. The only way it works is to rip out all 
the plants, vacuum and then replant, which is a major trauma to the Anubias
(they take forever to root) and only works well for the stem plants (about 
20% of the area). 

It appears to me that the nitrate level has little to do with cleaning or not;
I find that if I feed very little for a few days, it drops from 10-20 ppm to
0-5ppm and stays there until I increase the amount of food.

So is the main reason for vacuuming the fear of algae or do you actually see 
damage to the plants?

--
Uwe


NAME	Uwe Behle, HP Boeblingen Instruments Division
EMAIL	uweb-at-hpbbn.bbn.hp.com (internet), df3du-at-db0sao.ampr.org (packet radio)

DIY CO2 injection system instructions

by booth-at-hplvec.LVLD.HP.COM (George Booth)
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 1994
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria

In rec.aquaria, uweb-at-hpbidrd1.bbn.hp.com (Uwe Behle) writes:

    George, what exactly happens if you don't clean? 

It is our feeling (perhaps unjustified) that keeping the gravel fairly 
clean helps keep nitrates down and prevents algae from getting a toehold.  
We sometimes notice more red algae growing on the anbias and a thorough 
cleaning seems to stop it.  We will pull up all the plants except for 
crypts and large Echinodorus.  

    I myself have not cleaned a tank for a period of 
    approximately one year without plant problems and have had a lot of 
    problems when I do the regular cleaning. 

But you have undergravel heating coils in those tanks, right?  Our
90g tank with the coils has only had a few areas cleaned once or twice 
and only when we've pulled up certain plants for trimming or whatever.  
Probably 75% of the gravel has never been cleaned in the two years 
it's been set up. Ah, the magic of substrate heating !

    ..., vacuum and then replant, which is a major trauma to the Anubias
    (they take forever to root) 

Our Anubias don't seem to mind at all - I think the roots are just a 
"holdfast".  Pulling them up never seems to slow them down or do any 
obvious damage.

    It appears to me that the nitrate level has little to do with cleaning 
    or not; I find that if I feed very little for a few days, it drops 
    from 10-20 ppm to 0-5ppm and stays there until I increase the amount 
    of food.

This is interesting.  I might try this in one of the tanks.

    So is the main reason for vacuuming the fear of algae or do you 
    actually see damage to the plants?

We fear algae AND we *think* we notice a general decline in the growth
of the plants.  We do a major cleaning every 6 months or so.  

-------
George

[F]{P} Soil Tests (incl. laterite)

by Neil.Frank-at-launchpad.unc.edu (Neil Frank)
Date: 13 Feb 1995
Newsgroup: alt.aquaria,rec.aquaria,sci.aquaria

In a recent post Shaji noted a similarity in Dupla laterite and
composted cow manure.  I carefully re-examined the test data
(which included replicate samples among many printouts) and
discovered a reporting error for two materials -- ***the Dupla
laterite was mislabled as a top soil, and visa versa.***
 
The complete results (with correct labeling) are now presented.
 
-----------------------------------------------------------------
    SOIL ANALYSES PROVIDED BY NC DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Code    Description                  Abbr.    Description
----------------------------------   ----------------------------
APL Aquarium Products laterite       HM%  Humic Matter, % by vol.
Lm  back yard loamy soil             W/V  weight per vol.
DL  Dupla Laterite                   CEC Cation exch. capacity
KL  Kitty Litter                     BS%  Base saturation, %CEC
    (i.e. Montmirillonite clay)      Ac   Acidity
PM  Peat Moss                        pH   Hydorgen-ion activity
TS1 Top soil (Black Kow brand)       P-I  Phosphorus Index
WD  Soil (from Winn Dixie)           K-I  Potassium Index
CM  Cow manure (black Kow)           Ca%  Calcium, % of CEC
TS2 top soil (black kow2)            Mg%  Magnesium, % of CEC
THD Tetra Initial D                  Mn-I Manganese Index
                                     Zn-I Zinc Index
                                     Cu-I Copper Index
                                     N    Nitrate nitrogen
 
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Soil HM% W/V CEC  BS%  Ac pH  P-I  K-I  Ca% Mg% Mn-I Zn-I Cu-I  N
-----------------------------------------------------------------
APL 0.0 0.96  3.6  89 0.4 6.4 009   12 58.7 28.5 51  041  182 004
 
Lm  0.5 0.76  5.8  66 2.0 5.3 005  38 46.5 15.8 625+  049  18  -
 
DL  0.2 0.95  7.6  90 0.8 6.3 008   88 65.6 18.1 625+ 242 318 008
 
PM  0.3 0.12  8.8  28 6.4 4.1 004    8 17.0 10.2 98  036   16 002
 
KL  0.0 0.55  9.4  36 6.0 4.4 042   58 13.8 19.5 68  133   60 001
 
TS1 0.7 0.75 10.2  61 4.0 5.0 007   6  52.8 6.8  28   011  12 044
 
WD  0.2 0.56 16.5 100 0.0 7.2 166+ 502 54.4 30.4 461 369  250  -
 
CM  0.2 1.01 26.6 100 0.0 7.5 166+ 502 71.7 18.9 309 999+ 256 161
 
TS2 0.9 0.78 32.6 100 0.0 7.0 166+ 502 76.9 15.4 171 999+ 544 294
 
THD 1.0 0.84 38.2  80 7.6 3.8 003  104 65.6 13.1 554  157 118 031
-----------------------------------------------------------------
 
The tested materials are presented in ascending order of cation
exchange capacity.  CEC tends to be high in clay and organic
soils.  Near the top of the list are the two laterites (AP and
Dupla), peat moss and kitty liter (a montmirillonite clay).  Also
included in this group is a loamy soil from my backyard; note the
similarities to the laterites. 
 
Some observations on the low CEC materials:
    * The CEC for the laterites are mostly Ca & Mg. The others
    are less basic. 
    * The Dupla laterite has high Mn, Zn and Cu and moderate
    amounts of K and a little bit of N. 
    * The AP variety has less K and N. 
    * The kitty liter has moderate amounts of P & K. 
    * Peat moss is low in Ca, Mg and other micronutrients.
 
The high CEC materials are cow manure, one of the top soils, a
cheap grocery store soil and Tetra Hilena D.  The first three are
relatively rich in NPK, Among these, the Tetra product has very
low pH, virtually no P, but moderate K and moderate N. The Tetra
product is different than all other materials and is likely a
mixture including peat moss.
 
Also shown is another sample of Black Cow brand top soil,
purchased previously.  It is dramatically different.  Although
its black color and its W/V are the same, the second sample has
many more nutrients and may in fact have toxic amounts of
micronutrients (e.g. Zn, Cu).  This highlights the potential
problem in using soils without testing and or experimentation.

-- 
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Launchpad is an experimental internet BBS. The views of its users do not 
necessarily represent those of UNC-Chapel Hill, OIT, or the SysOps.
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Substitute for laterite?

by Neil.Frank-at-launchpad.unc.edu (Neil Frank)
Date: 11 Feb 1995
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria

In article <3hb7j5$pcq-at-brtph500.bnr.ca>, Shaji Bhaskar <bhaskar-at-bnr.ca> wrote:
>In article <HoeschB.354.0008B3C1-at-fws.gov>, Bob Hoesch <HoeschB-at-fws.gov> wrote:
>>In article <3gj68b$3ro-at-geraldo.cc.utexas.edu> pkonshak-at-fiat.gslis.utexas.edu (Peter Konshak) writes:
>>>From: pkonshak-at-fiat.gslis.utexas.edu (Peter Konshak)
>>>Subject: Re: Substitute for laterite?
>>>Date: 30 Jan 1995 17:05:15 GMT
>>
>>>Tetra Hilena Initial D laterite can be purchased mail order from places 
>>>like MOPS (Mail Order Pet Shop) for only about $5/package, which is 
>>>supposed to be enough for a 55 gallon tank.
>>
>>Maybe I'm mistaken about this, but I don't believe that Hilena D and laterite 
>>are equivalent.  Laterite serves as a chelator for ions, 
>>and helps make these more available to the plants; it also may serve as an 
>>iron source. Hilena D is apparently a source of potash used to stimulate 
>>root growth. 
>
>Maybe Neil Frank will jump into this.  I saw the results of some
>analysis that the Agricultural Extension did for him.  The analysis
>compared Dupla laterite, AP laterite, cow manure, etc.  The analysis,
>as far as I remember, showed that Dupla laterite was high in Potassium
>as well.  The closest thing to dupla laterite was composted cow
>manure, I think.  Except, of course, for the Nitrogen level.

Good memory!  My test results for Dupla laterite show high Phosphorus 
as well as Potassium. Both values were at max scale and were the same
for "Black Cow" brand composted cow manure. The laterite, however, had
better CEC (cation exhange capacity), no big surprise. I have heard that
Dupla adds fertilizer to its laterite in order to help get a tank
started, so could this explain it.

If I get a chance,
I will type in the full report off line and then post it.
I have  various types of soil, kitty litter, peat moss, and the old
Aquarium Products brand of laterite.  Hmm, I could
use this as filler (I mean an article) for TAG :)


BTW, Hilena Initial D is definnitely different than laterite, both in 
appearance and in test results.  The most distinguishing feature is the
low pH (3.8), compared to 7.0 for the DUpla laterite. CEC is slightly
higher. It does have potassium, and low phosphorus. To me it looks like
it is peat moss and something that provides the extra K.

Neil 
-- 
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
Launchpad is an experimental internet BBS. The views of its users do not 
necessarily represent those of UNC-Chapel Hill, OIT, or the SysOps.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --


Trying clay balls with FeSO4.

by Kenneth J McNeil <mcnei002-at-maroon.tc.umn.edu>
Date: Mon, 5 Jun 1995

> As someone who wants to do things right but who's always ready to save
> a buck, I'm wondering whether it would work to buy plain undyed modeling
> clay and some ferric sulfate, mix the ferric sulfate in the clay, form
> it into little balls, let it dry, then plug them into the substrate?
>    What do you all thing (I mean think)?
> Steve Black
> blacks-at-rosnet.strose.edu

I tried your idea in my 45 gallon tank using chelated iron. What a mess. 
Clay in with 2" sand covered with fine gravel.  Everytime I pull a plant
up out of the substrate I get a big cloud of gray clay that stays
suspended in the water for days. I highy recommend not trying it.  The
plants in the tank are growing well though. 

Ken


Substrate material and heating.

by Stephen.Pushak-at-hcsd.hac.com (Stephen Pushak)
Date: Fri, 16 Jun 95

>      
>      Next...  As a substitute for laterite, will pottery clay work?  Anyone 
>      know the composition of it?  Just another thought.
Low iron concentration. Ok for CEC but vermiculite is probably better (IMHO :-)
Some clays contain carbonates and phosphates I think which are leached out
of tropical laterite. I'll let someone else comment on that. Vermiculite will also
have higher permeability and less trouble with compacted substrate difficult
for roots to penetrate. There was no comment yet on the use of charcoal which
was recommended in the TFH book. This may be a very worthy suggestion too.
It might permit other carbon reactions such as the malic acid one. I don't
know anything about malate or malic acid so I'm hoping someone can comment on 
it.

- - Steve


Re:Peat, tinting

by nfrank-at-nando.net (Neil Frank)
Date: Wed, 6 Sep 95


I have several peat tanks and I still think they provide a GREAT low tech
setup. They slightly color the water, but it is hardly noticeable in all of
my tanks except one in which I don't do any water changes and didn't cover
the peat with enough sand. 

Suggestions
   Limit the peat in the bottom half (50 /50, or less peat to sand ratio) 
   use clean sand in the upper half
   don't gravel wash the bottom
   don't use any any digging fish or creatures (malasian snails are OK)
   Boil or soak the peat to get it to stay submerged (boil if you are
impatient, not to sterilize; 
                                                      soaking in bucket will
take about a week) 

In my 3+ year old tank, the water is crystal clear. The fish love the acidic
environment;
 the catfish and dwarf cichlids are usually breeding. (Jason will soon add
some pictures of this tank to the AGA photo gallery) Peat also provides CO2
due to decompostion of organic matter and conversion from carbonates in
acidic environment. In the 8 mo. old tank, it still has a slight tint, but
it doesn't bother me. Ironically, my SAE grow the fastest in this tank
compared to all of my others. It must be the organic acids. Both of these
tanks get at least biweekly water changes. In the one without water changes,
the water is more tinted. But due to some small aquatic burrowing worms,
there is a 2 inch layer of peat on top of the sand.  However, the plants
don't mind one bit.

- --Neil

         Neil Frank, editor of The Aquatic Gardener
Visit the AGA home page at <http://blake.oit.unc.edu/~fish/aga/>

Flourite

by "Sherlock W. Wong" <wong/dt.wdc.com>
Date: Wed, 25 Mar 1998
To: APD

Kelly -

Laterite has the consistency of normal soil/dirt, and is clay
based, having lots of iron.

Flourite is also clay based, but it looks like normal
aquarium gravel. It is reddish-brown-black colored.

Each bag covers 217 in2 of area, 2 inches deep.
I needed around 2 1/2 bags for my 26 gallon 36in wide
tank. Your 120g tank will cost a fortune for the shipping
of the Flourite, let alone the cost of the Flourite itself.
Order more than you think you need, the gravel settles
and compacts.

According to Seachem, you don't need to use laterite
for your substrate, only Flourite. 

Search the archives for past postings on Flourite.

Seachem's web site on Flourish is:
http://www.seachem.com/fresh.html#anchor522439

On plastic plants, they look terrible!! Plus algae will quickly
make them even look worse.

Good Luck
Sherlock


Anaerobic gravel

by Steve Pushak <teban/nospam.powersonic.bc.ca>
Date: Mon, 13 Apr 1998
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria.freshwater.plants
To: msteitz/xmission.com

Jim wrote:
> 
> Does anybody know of a way, besides substrate heating ($$$), to keep a
> slight circulation through the gravel and prevent it from going anerobic
> and producing H2S, other than the tedious chore of going in with a fork
> or something a stirring a bit? (which disturbs the plants in the
> process). The problem is especially bad for me, because I used a bit
> much gravel when setting up.

A lot of misconceptions here and a sacred cow or two to be kicked! ;-)

1) substrate heating does not prevent a substrate from becoming
anaerobic. The circulation induced is very small and the increased
temperature may actually stimulate bacteria to consume more oxygen (or
other chemicals in the absence of oxygen) which causes the redox
potential to lower, not increase.

2) anaerobic is the normal condition which occurs when there is no
oxygen. It is actually beneficial under normal circumstances because it
allows the reduction of iron and magnesium. It also greatly enhances the
availability of phosphorus and nitrogen in the substrate.

3) a deep substrate especially with excessive organic material can
become overly "anaerobic". The proper terminology is that the tank has
an excessively low reduction-oxidation (redox) potential. At a very low
redox potential, sulphates are reduced to sulphides which are toxic.
Aquatic plants however are well adapted to this environment and carry
oxygen through their root channels. In order to keep things in balance,
you need to have a healthy tank full of growing plants and good light
with plenty of nutrients especially CO2. 

Summary, a deep gravel substrate is not really a problem. Increase the
lighting, CO2 and other nutrients and add more plants and you should
have no problems. When the plants are photosynthesizing well, you may
observe oxygen pearls forming which indicate that dissolved oxygen gas
is at saturation levels. A well oxygenated tank will never have a
problem with H2S. 

It is more likely that poorly managed tanks with inadequate aeration and
excessively high fish loads are actually suffering from too little
oxygen, buildup of ammonia, other toxins and from pH extremes, NOT from
H2S poisoning. H2S produced in the substrate is RAPIDLY oxidized to
sulphate in the presence of oxygen (which must be present for your fish
to be alive!!) as it diffuses through the upper layers of the substrate.

On the subject of Malaysian trumpet snails, I really doubt that they
significantly alter the oxygen levels of the substrate. I have lots and
they seldom burrow deeper than a few millimeters. Of course, how could I
see them any deeper, eh? I like them because they eat algae and don't
seem able to eat plant leaves. They are not as good algae eaters as pond
snails however pond snails can damage soft leaved plants in a show tank.
I like pond snails in breeding tanks where I don't care if they eat the
floating plants.

Steve Pushak teban-at-powersonic.bc.anti-spam.ca 

Visit "Steve's Aquatic Page" http://home.infinet.net/teban/
 for lots of pics, tips and links for aquatic gardening

Aquatic Gardeners Association


Effects of roots, sinking vermiculite

by "Nick Miller" <millern/wave.co.nz>
Date: Fri, 19 Jun 1998

As a newcomer to APD, I have been enjoying the various discussions.  
I have just been getting back into the aquarium hobby after several 
years out of it, and there have been a few changes!

Steve Pushak wrote
>I don't believe I said that the transpiration stream of submerged
>aquatics is responsible for aeration of the substrate. I have said at
>other times that the aerenchyma of stems and roots DOES provide oxygen
>in the substrate and that in some circumstances, plant roots could grow so
>densely over time that the reduction of iron would be greatly diminished.

A number of years ago, I was doing some post-grad research involving 
the rooted aquatic Lagarosiphon major (a significant aquatic weed in 
this country).  At one time I grew some plants of this in transparent 
plastic containers (disposable tumblers I think) and the zone of 
richly red-brown oxidised iron surrounding each root was very 
striking, especially against the blackish reduced sediments in which 
the plants were rooted.

This oxidised  zone was about 2 to three times as wide as the root, 
as I remember, so a dense root mass would have just the effect that 
Steve mentions.

On another theme, I read of the use of vermiculite as a medium for 
aquatic plants, and tried the recommended method of waterlogging it - 
repeated squeezing and kneading.  This seemed to be getting me 
nowhere, so I used lake sediment (there is a lake at the bottom of my 
garden) instead.  However, I subsequently tried placing a bowl full 
of very wet vermiculite in the microwave oven.  After a few minutes 
heating it came to the boil, the vermiculite expanded somewhat then 
started falling to the bottom of the water column.  Some still 
floated, and a second microwave treatment fixed that. 

Readers may care to try this approach.  Assuming that NZ vermiculite is 
the same as that elsewhere, it may save some trouble.  A week later, the 
vermiculite is still submerged, and I was able to remove the fines by 
washing it as if it was gravel, by using a gentle flow of water 
upwards through it.

Nick Miller
Rotorua, New Zealand


steel wool (actually, about Ironite)

by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com>
Date: Sun, 11 Oct 1998

On Sun, 11 Oct 1998, BlackNet Runner wrote:
 
> hmm, I once used steel wool for a source of iron.  Now I use a much
> better product that's called ironite (see www.ironite.com) I have a 25
> lbs bag on the porch.
> 

Ironite's been mentioned on the list a few times over the last few 
months.  It's a lawn & garden care product intended to supplement NPK 
fertilizers.  It does provide iron and other trace elements.

Ironite isn't made for the aquarium trade, but that isn't necessarily a
problem.  Some of us use - among other things - kitty litter, soil and
Plantex CSM (and similar products) that also aren't intended specifically
for aquarium use. 

> What convinced me that ironite is much better is a little experiment
> that I did.  I used 2 test tubes and filled both with tap water, in one
> I tested  just water by it self (for a basis of change), in the other I
> added 2 grains of ironite.  Results?? :) the ironite drove the iron
> level WAY high.  Now I use ironite in the tanks after measuring the iron
> levels.  These so called "plant fertilizers" that you get in the local
> shops are mostly bogus for iron usage.  They may contain iron but not
> enought for a densely planted tank, maybe for trace elements..

The iron in ironite isn't chelated.  That's why it spikes the test kit 
results.  An equal or even greater amount of chelated iron may not 
register at all on the usual iron test kits.  You would get the same 
result from copperas, which is agricultural grade ferrous sulfate.

Ironite is marketed in arid areas as much for acidifying soils as it is for 
adding trace elements.

The iron and other metals in Ironite is present as soluble sulfates and
sulfides (pyrite, in the case of iron).  The soluble iron will oxidize and
precipitate in a rather short time, possibly before the plants can use it. 
When it does oxidize it will also acidify the water.  The sulfides will
also break down.  The iron and sulfur content will be oxidized producing
acidic conditions and the iron will precipitate as the hydroxide.

The iron isn't necessarily unavailable to plants once it's precipitated, 
but it is at least less available. 

I suspect that in normal aquarium use you wouldn't be adding enough 
Ironite to effect your pH.  This may not be true if you use it as a 
substrate additive where it might lower the substrate pH.

Last spring the State of Washington issued a warning about toxic elements 
in Ironite.  The full text of their statement can be found at:

http://www.doh.wa.gov/Publicat/98_News/~98-075.html

There is some discussion on the web about concerns over Ironite, including
(I think) a reply by the manufacturer. 

Briefly, Ironite is made from mining mill tailings - usually a real grab
bag of heavy metals - so it actually contains more stuff than they claim
in their labeling.  In particular, the State claims that Ironite contains
levels of lead and arsenic that are potentially dangerous to humans. 

What does that mean to your aquarium?  I don't know.  The APD archives 
contain some testimonials to its safe use.  Personally, I wouldn't 
concider it.


Roger Miller

Muddy thoughts

by krandall/world.std.com
Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998

Olga Betts wrote:

>I wish to throw something out there for discussion. At a recent get
>together of fish and plant people the statement was made that aquatic
>plants should be given what they really grow in best and that was mud.

George wrote:

>I think all, er, most of us would agree that we get pretty darn good growth
>with the variety of substrates that we use, whether they be hideously
>expensive 
>Duplarit, dirt cheap kitty litter or anything in between. Assuming, of
>course, 
>that other basic plant requirements like lighting and nutrients are met. For 
>those of us who are successful with plants I think the biggest problem is
the 
>growth is *too* good, requiring more pruning than we would like. 

Olga knows my feelings on this subject, since the statement was made during
my talk in Seattle.  But I'll add my comments to Olga's and George's for
those on the list.  I mention in my talks that some people do use soil
substrates because that's a fact of life.  I even include photos of some
soil based tanks.   I'm not saying that no one has really beautiful tanks
with a soil substrate at large in a tank, but I haven't seen one yet.  The
two nicest soil substrate tanks I've seen have had all or almost all the
plants in pots. (and these two tanks are _very_ nice!)

I then go on to say that I personally _don't_ use soil substrates, and
after one experiment in that direction, have no intention of trying again.
Not that it is a dismal failure, but it's never been up to the standards of
my laterite substrate tanks.  It is soon to be replaced by a larger tank
anyway, and I'll return to the substrate system that has been fool proof
for me in many tanks over many years.

I _do_ occasionally use soil for some difficult plants, but I use it in
pots, just for those particular plants.  A little goes a long way.  As
George said, most of my plants do better in a "plain" laterite substrate
than I need them to do.<g>

I STRONGLY urge novice to stick to a commercial laterite substrate or one
of the other commercially available substrates. (I've seen very nice tanks
set up with the Sera substrate, and I'd love to see really nice tanks set
up with other commercial substrate additives)


Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Association

Pumice contents

by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com>
Date: Fri, 12 Feb 1999

On Fri, 12 Feb 1999, Robert H wrote:
>
> Not that I doubt what anybody said, but here is the information I got
> from Cornel universities Something to grow on WEB pages on Pumice: I
> also remember reading that Amano uses pumice or volcanic ash as his
> substrate.
[snip]
>
> Somebody fill in the blanks here!

I see no reason to get overly concerned with details of pumice.  I think
its main value lies in its light weight and porous texture.  But if you
insist, I'm usually willing to oblige:

According to my old igneous petrology text (Carmichael, Turner and
Verhoogen, 1974, McGraw-Hill) pumice is "...the glassy froth formed from
rapidly extruded magma, frequently of rhyolitic composition."  The average
composition of rhyolite expressed as the oxides is (same source):

SiO2	73.66%
TiO2	 0.22%
Al2O3	13.45%
Fe2O3	 1.25%
FeO	 0.75%
MnO	 0.03%
MgO	 0.32%
CaO	 1.13%
Na2O	 2.99%
K2O	 5.35%
P2O5	 0.07%
H2O	 0.78%

(This composition is an average for the rock type; there are many
variations)

There are some nutrients in this composition, but many, many other types
of rocks contain higher levels of iron, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus.
Potassium is higher in a rhyolitic rock than it is in most other kinds of
rock.

The nutrient content probably isn't important, because the nutrients are
tied up in the glass and in a few (usually tiny) crystals within the foam.
The nutrients are released only when the glass and minerals decompose and
that happens slowly.  Most of the pumice you will ever see has already
been around for a million years or more.  It's already a little decomposed
and the concentration of a lot of the readily leached components
(potassium in particular) will probably already be on the decline.

As long as you're willing to work with its light weight and light color
there's probably no problem using pumice as a substrate, but don't count
on its chemical composition being of much value to your plants.


Roger Miller


RE: Terralit

by "James Purchase" <jpurch/interlog.com>
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 1999

Dave is wondering about Terralit -

> I got hold of some Terralit cheap. Is it a fair assumption that
> this substrate additive is just a version of laterite and nothing
> more?

Dave, I've used Terralit in a number of tanks over the past few years. It is
a compound material, I wouldn't call it a "version of laterite". If you look
at it closely, you will see that it is composed of granules of at least four
different colors (of course, AB could just have added dye to give those
colors, but I somehow doubt that they do this). The rust colored particles
might be laterite, but then again they might be something else entirely.

It may _act_ in a fashion similar to laterite, i.e. as a binding site for
nutrients within the substrate. In fact, they do state on the box that this
is one function of Terralit. But it also contains a fertilizer component,
again clearly stated on the box (of course, no breakdown of the mineral
nutrients provided is given).

Terralit is one component of Aqualine Buschke's line of plant products, the
others being Terrapur cones (another substrate additive) and Floreal and
Ferreal (both liquid fertilizers). AB seems to have quite an extensive
product line but as they are distributed by Red Sea, information about it is
hard to get. Aqualine Buschke does not have a WWW site of it's own and Red
Sea has never responded to any of my enqiries about the product.

Aqualine Buschke is one of the lines which I intend to study in my tanks,
and hopefully compare it to Dupla and Seachem product lines. But as I've
said, I've used it and would use it again. I got good results when I used it
alone (that's a reference to my 120 gallon disaster tank, which I described
recently) and would use it again without hesitation.

Cheers,

James Purchase
Toronto


Terralit

by krandall/world.std.com
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 1999

David Whittaker wrote:

>I got hold of some Terralit cheap. Is it a fair assumption that
>this substrate additive is just a version of laterite and nothing
>more?

My understanding is that this is a man-made substance.  But I know several
people who have experience with laterite, and who have tried Terralit and
been satisfied with the results.


Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Association


Misconceptions regarding nutrient deficiencies, buffers and pH

by Neil Frank <nfrank/mindspring.com>
Date: Mon, 04 Jan 1999

>From: "James Purchase" <jpurch@interlog.com>
>Subject: Misconceptions regarding nutrient deficiencies, buffers and pH
>
>Adam Weingarten recently posted the following:
>
>> I have some severe nitrogen deficincies in my tank.  I have used tetra
>> Hilena Crypto, but since it contains phosphate the algae in my tank goes
>> crazy. I have read that KNO3 seems to be the most efficent method to
>> provide nitrogen.  So my question is where can I find it?  Is it sold
>> under any other names?
>
>The new label on Tetra Hilena Crypto, Tetra Initial Sticks, and Tetra Flora
>Pride all contain a series of numbers, XX - YY - ZZ, where XX is the
>percentage of N, YY is the percentage of P, and ZZ is the percentage of K.
>If I'm not mistaken, Crypto Tablets list P as 2, which is not a terribly
>large amount of Phosphate, especially as the tablets are meant to be
>inserted deeply into the substrate. If you are having an algae problem, I
>doubt that it is being caused by the amount of Phosphate in the Tetra
>product, at least if you are using it as it was designed to be used and in
>the quantity which is recommended.


Tetra cryto has always listed NPK (X-X-X). However, the last time I
checked, it did not have any P. I would be really surprised (and
dissapointed) if they made this change. 

 On the other hand, I think that without alot of heavy feeders or fast
growing plants, adding a fertilizer tablet with N and P _can_ cause an
algae problem, even if deposited deep in the substrate. I think the reason
we get away with it is that the plants suck up the nutrients before the
algae has a chance.  Too much P in a tablet or stick, without the benefit
of a slow release capsule, can and probably will get into the water column.
 ALthough I never tested for P concentrations, I have gotten green water
when I used too NPK fertilizer.

Neil


NPK of Initial Sticks

by Robert H <robertph/best.com>
Date: Tue, 09 Feb 1999

Perhaps some of you will find this interesting, this is from Tetra:

Date: Wed, 06 Jan 1999 13:25:23 -0500
                From: Consumer Relations <CONSUMER@tetra-fish.com> Add
to Address
                Book
                Subject: Re: Tetra Feedback
   
                The NPK is 1.35%, 18%, and 18%, according to some
old                notes I have, but I suspect it may have changed a
little.              Not much though.

Regards

Bob


Initial Sticks NPK

by Harvey Schneider <harvsch/earthlink.net>
Date: Wed, 10 Feb 1999

> Subject: Re: Tetra Feedback
>
> The NPK is 1.35%, 18%, and 18%, according to some
> old notes I have, but I suspect it may have changed a
> little. Not much though.
>
> Regards
>
> Bob
>

According to the box of Initial Sticks, sitting on my desk, the NPK is
1-0-25.
Regards
Harvey Schneider


RE: Bleaching gravel

by "Greenman" <bnbjohns/home.com>
Date: Sat, 13 May 2000

A neat trick I picked up for sterilizing soil can also be done in the oven.
It should work perfectly for what you want to do. You will need a few tin
cans, old pots and such that can go in the oven. Fill them with the gravel
you want to sterilize, and top each off with water. Set the oven for between
250 and 300 degrees. (500 degrees is not necessary and would in my oven be
downright dangerous to the life expectancy of our house.) Set the containers
in the oven and let them sit until the water has completely evaporated. This
will take a while, bit when done the gravel (or soil) will be completely
sterilized, since there is almost nothing which will survive the combination
of boiling and desication. You can do this in an old barrel over a fire or
whatever, but the point is to boil the water out of the saturated soil or
gravel.

Personally, I wouldn't bleach the gravel either, since if it is porous
enough to leave some excess chlorine bleach, it may also be porous enough to
leave spores of the algae in nooks and crannies. Boiling it out will
eliminate these regardles of whether or not the liquid touches the spores.

Brett Johnson
Green Man Gardens
bnbjohns@home.com


Aging substrates

by Karen Randall <krandall/world.std.com>
Date: Fri, 07 Jul 2000

Joe Hildreth wrote:

>On the subject of long term substrate slowing down after 12-18 months, I
>have notice the same thing in most of my tanks.  After many years of
>keeping plants in a soil based substrate, i know that if I replace the
>old substrate with new soil, the tank will be very robust for another
>year.  Currently, I am working with substrates that are 2 or more years
>old trying to keep things growing in an acceptable manner.
>
>I would appreciate hearing opinions on what has changed in older
>substrates and how we plant keepers can maintain an older substrate.

I have kept lots of tanks going, and with excellent growth for many years
without replacing substrates.  The current "oldest" is about 5 years old,
but I've had them going longer, it's just that I've recently (within the
last year) traded in several smaller tanks for two larger tanks.  

I have one newer tank set up with Seachem Flourite, and so far, I'm pleased
with the tank.  Time will tell how it ages.  But my "standard" tanks have
all been set up exactly the same way.  3" or more of approximately 1mm
gravel with laterite mixed into the bottom 1/3-1/2 of the substrate.  In my
older tanks I used Dupla laterite, and for the last several years have used
Substrate Gold with equal success and less cost.  I use little or no
substrate fertilization after initial set up. In the "old days" I used
Dupla fertilizers.  For that past several years (about 5, I think) I've
used exclusively TMG for trace element fertilization, supplemented with
KNO3 as needed.  My tap wat supplies a small amount of PO4 with water changes.

In my tanks, slowing of growth even when appropriate levels of light, CO2
and other nutrients are maintained has _always_ been a sign of too much
plant mass in the tank, and often that includes a heavily root-bound
substrate.  This is usually at about the 18 month mark, but can happen
earlier in a very high growth tank.  When it happens, I feel around in the
substrate with my fingers.  If I can't easily get into the substratea in
most areas of the tank, it's time for a major plant pull.  

This isn't "trimming", this is pulling up all plants in one area of the
tank by the roots, and thoughly gravel vacuuming that area of the tank.
Yes, you pull out some laterite, but lots is still left behind.  I usually
find that I can replant about 1/3 of the plant mass that I take out, and
the tank usually looks "full" as soon as I'm done... It's amazing how
quickly plants crowd a container when they are growing well.  One exception
is that I usually leave stands of Crypts in place and untouched unless they
are spreading into areas I don't want them in.  They seem to do better left
alone.  It makes a mess, but it's worth it.  You won't be able to see
through the tank when you get done, but at least using the brands of
laterite I work with, the tank will be back to normal clarity in the next
day or two.  The plants take off growing vigorously immediately, and the
tank looks much better than before it was "attacked".

Claus Christensen is the person who first suggested this to me, and his
advice was to do 1/3 of the tank every couple of months so as not to
disturb it TOO much at once.    Since I started doing this, I have gone to
doing 1/2 the tank with one water change, and the other half with another
water change about 2 weeks later.  I have had no problems with this at all,
either in terms of algae problems or stress to either plants or fish.  I
have even, on occassion, stripped out an entire tank and reset the plants
in one setting without having a problem, though this probably isn't the
best way to start.  I have never yet taken a tank apart specifically to
replace a substrate in all the years I've been keeping planted tanks... I'm
too lazy.  I find a way to keep them working.

One other word of caution... If you have any nocturnal catfish like striped
raphaels, make sure any dense stands of plants go into a bucket, and not
out on a table unattended for long periods... and DON'T start dividing
large plants with a knife until the fish are accounted for.  My 10 year old
raphael has ended up in the kitchen sink twice during these division
sessions... thankfully we do _not_ have a garbage disposal!<g>

Karen


Hacks and attacks

by "II, Thomas Barr" <tcbiii/earthlink.net>
Date: Sat, 08 Jul 2000

Karen wrote:
>In my tanks, slowing of growth even when appropriate levels of light, CO2
>and other nutrients are maintained has _always_ been a sign of too much
>plant mass in the tank, and often that includes a heavily root-bound
>substrate.  This is usually at about the 18 month mark, but can happen
>earlier in a very high growth tank.  When it happens, I feel around in the
>substrate with my fingers.  If I can't easily get into the substratea in
>most areas of the tank, it's time for a major plant pull.  

This is certainly one thing I tend to do quite often, much more than every
12-18 months in most tanks.

>This isn't "trimming", this is pulling up all plants in one area of the
>tank by the roots, and thoughly gravel vacuuming that area of the tank.
>Yes, you pull out some laterite, but lots is still left behind.  I usually
>find that I can replant about 1/3 of the plant mass that I take out, and
>the tank usually looks "full" as soon as I'm done... It's amazing how
>quickly plants crowd a container when they are growing well.  One exception
>is that I usually leave stands of Crypts in place and untouched unless they
>are spreading into areas I don't want them in.  They seem to do better left
>alone.  It makes a mess, but it's worth it.  You won't be able to see
>through the tank when you get done, but at least using the brands of
>laterite I work with, the tank will be back to normal clarity in the next
>day or two.  The plants take off growing vigorously immediately, and the
>tank looks much better than before it was "attacked".

I like to hack and attack also. After a few days or less, the tanks looks
very nice. I doesn't look AS NICE all the time if I picked at it but the
growth and health overall is better IMO. I also, like Karen- I would
imagine<g>, don't have the time to pick and fiddle with my tanks. Using
Crypts and other slow growers helps keep some of the substrate stable while
going after out of hand stem plants and reduces trim work (ugh). If you have
a fast growing tank, you know what I mean.
An interesting thing also about big hacks(not the coughing type here) is
being able to see how each species of plant responds to trimming
techniques/light changes. Growth rates of plants are better seen and noted
doing the big hack also. This will let you plan your tank out better the
next time since you can see how fast each plant can grow. One more thing
about it is it reduces the frequency of trims. Once a month is not bad for
most of the tanks but a few plants always beat this time frame and overgrow
for me. The flourite settles much faster than the laterite tanks.
>
>Claus Christensen is the person who first suggested this to me, and his
>advice was to do 1/3 of the tank every couple of months so as not to
>disturb it TOO much at once.  

I have been doing 30-50% for some time(years and years). Nice to know that
he suggest this also. So now I'm not as crazy as I thought<g>.

  Since I started doing this, I have gone to
>doing 1/2 the tank with one water change, and the other half with another
>water change about 2 weeks later.  I have had no problems with this at all,
>either in terms of algae problems or stress to either plants or fish.  I
>have even, on occassion, stripped out an entire tank and reset the plants
>in one setting without having a problem, though this probably isn't the
>best way to start. 

I have done this too and agree 100%. If someone does decide to get nutty and
redo the whole tank I would suggest a water change within a short time after
and remove 50% or so of the water and build up the nutrients back into your
tank's make up water. *IF* the tank is well managed and doing well, it
bounces back. I'll trim one day and the next do the water change, removing
any left over surface mulm, floating leaves, signs of algae etc. When I
maintain someone's tank often I have no choice but to do this. It's more
difficult to keep a nice tank when it's over somewhere else and you only get
to work on it every two weeks or so.

 I have never yet taken a tank apart specifically to
>replace a substrate in all the years I've been keeping planted tanks... I'm
>too lazy.  I find a way to keep them working.

I'm this way too. But I did recently remove some gravels to change over to
flourite. I'm happier now but I procrastinated like you won't believe! At
least I won't have to again now that the flourite is in place. 
>
>One other word of caution... If you have any nocturnal catfish like striped
>raphaels, make sure any dense stands of plants go into a bucket, and not
>out on a table unattended for long periods... and DON'T start dividing
>large plants with a knife until the fish are accounted for. 

Driftwood is very bad for this also. 
Regards, 
Tom Barr


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