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Pick A Method


  1. Aquatic Plants Digest V2 #1018
    by krandall/ (Wed, 15 Oct 1997)
  2. laterire, clay litter or both?
    by Steve Pushak <teban/> (Tue, 31 Mar 1998)
  3. Comparing fertiliser systems
    by "James Purchase" <jpurch/> (Thu, 26 Nov 1998)
  4. Hybrid substrates
    by James Purchase <jpurch/> (Sun, 10 Jan 1999)
  5. (No Title)
    by ()

Aquatic Plants Digest V2 #1018

by krandall/
Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997

Subject: Re: bleaching & substrate experiments

>George wrote:
>> I guess the first question is: are you consistent in your approach
>> to the tanks? I think substrate is a classic case.
>> How many cases have we read about where someone
>> has an elaborate layering of everything under the sun and then has
>> algae or nutrient problems?

Steve wrote:
>This deserves a response. I don't know if George is referring to my
>substrate experiments or not but his comments might be construed that
>way. I engage in substrate experiments in order to discover better and
>cheaper methods for growing plants. I have repeatedly said that I'm not
>endorsing some of these additives for beginners and so what George is
>saying is good advise. 

Well, no one would ever accuse George of beating around the bush ;-) but I
really don't think the comment was directed at you, Steve.  We all know
what you do, and your reasons.  You think through what you want to
accomplish with a substrate mix, and give it a try.  I think what George is
refering to is the beginners who read a little of what everone has said,
don't really understand any of it, and then decide they're going to through
some of this and a little of that into the substrate and just hope for the

I think that George's advice to find a "guru" who's style you like and
stick with him (her<g>) is _EXCELLENT_.  There are many accomplished
aquatic gardeners on this list, yourself included.  But we all have
different styles, different methods and different goals.  many of us have
proven that our methods produce beautiful tanks that are reproduceable and
sustainable.  I've helped enough people with enough different water
chemistries to success that I'm am confident in my approach.  George feels
the same about his, Dan Q his, and you yours.  BUT if soemone willy nilly
started mixing different aspects of those four approaches with no basic
understanding of what they were doing, they'd have a mess!  

Not to pick on Macon, but he is a perfect case in point.  I spoke to Macon
on the phone quite extensively way back when.  But he was suffering from
sensory overload with all the different approaches available here.  I saw
from his posts as time went on that he was trying the "a little of this and
a little of that" approach.  He's told us of the results and his

I'm _positive_ that I could get him straightened out, if he stuck with my
approach.  I'm sure George could get him off on the right foot as well.
You could do the same, although I'm sure you wouldn't start him off with
one of your experimental substrate mixes.  But he may never get it right if
he doesn't stick with a single cohesive method to start with.  There's
plenty of time for experimentation _AFTER_ you have achieved some initial

As far as helping beginners on the newsgroup is concerned, I do my share
with the FISHNET newbies.  Someone else will have to handle the rec.aquaria

Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Association

laterire, clay litter or both?

by Steve Pushak <teban/>
Date: Tue, 31 Mar 1998
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria.freshwater.plants

T. Young wrote:
> Which is better, a laterite/sand, clay (kitty litter)/sand, or both?
> Anyone with experience with one or both of these?

The problem is that "better" needs to be defined. 

If your goal is to reduce the effort of maintenance, The Optimum
Aquarium approach is probably best. This includes laterite and the other
10 golden rules as outlined by Dupla. You will probably go high-tech all
the way and cost is not a concern.

If your goal is to grow large plants very fast and you are prepared to
deal with any problems, then you may choose a _relatively_ fertile
substrate. You may choose to grow the plants hydroponically or emersed
even since this is the situation for commercial growers. Note that high
growth rates and large plants may cause you problems since you're going
to have to do a lot of trimming and big plants sometimes don't fit well
into small aquariums. A Sword plant can easily outgrow small or medium
sized aquariums! Also fertile systems are more prone to algae problems;

If your goal is to minimize costs you have several choices and you
wouldn't necessarily rule out laterite because its not that expensive
compared to the other items you'll need (CO2 injection, lighting...)
Going low cost probably means going low-tech. One approach is using peat
in the substrate as a source of CO2 and to stabilize the pH and taking
advantage of screened sunlight or indirect natural light.

If you are experienced and you're looking to grow some of the more
difficult plants like Crypts and you'd like to eliminate as much of the
daily maintenance as possible, then you might choose my approach. OTOH,
George's approach or TOA approach is also designed to reduce daily
maintenance and grow a wide range of plants.

If you are a beginner and you want a safe, easy way to grow plants, you
should probably stick with a single approach. Check out George Booth's
home page or my home page or look up Karen Randall's postings in the APD
archives. All three of us have tried to create systems suitable for
beginners. Mine is probably the most complicated of the three. Both
George and Karen have helped scores of newbies to setup first-time
successful planted tanks.
Steve Pushak 

Visit "Steve's Aquatic Page"
 for lots of pics, tips and links for aquatic gardening

Aquatic Gardeners Association

Comparing fertiliser systems

by "James Purchase" <jpurch/>
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 1998

Happy Thanksgiving to all the American list members.

Greg Moran wrote, during a discussion of the merits/demerits of gluconate vs
EDTA based Iron supplements:

> >No I don't think they _have_ to do that in order to decide they like our
> >product... I just meant that from a _scientific_ standpoint that
> is going
> >to be the most objective way for one to decide which is "best" for them.

To which Karen replied:

> I'm sure _you_ know that this wouldn't be a valid scientific test
> either...
> >From the minute the tanks are set up, they begin to diverge, and
> will never
> be "exactly" the same again.

I can understand the fact that every tank, once set up, becomes unique and
that there are many factors which contribute to it's health and condition. I
also understand the basic premise of the "scientific method" whereby only
one variable is changed in a properly designed experiment.

The product ranges we are dealing with here, from a number of different
manufacturers, are supposedly designed to provide all necessary plant
nutrients in a form and quantity required for good growth. Different
manufacturers choose to provide certain nutrients in various forms and
sometimes in different product types. For example, Dupla provides Potassium
in Duplaplant, their fertiliser tablets (info from the archives, from a
study conducted by George Booth several years ago), while Amano's ADA
products provide the same element in Brighty K, a water conditioner (from
their Web-site: Brighty K is specifically designed to provide for potassium
(K) supplementation and neutralising chlorine).

So, comparing one water conditioner to another as isolated products makes no
sense. Similar conclusions can probably be drawn for most individual
products, depending upon how much divergence there is between manufacturers
in deciding how to formulate their product lines.

But the product lines are designed and intended to be used in a
complimentary fashion - Dupla really recommends that you use their products
together to achieve maximum benefit, as does ADA and Seachem, Dennerele,
etc. Commercial considerations aside, this does tend to make sense -
especially so since we, as consumers, do not have access to independent and
unbiased chemical analysis of each product from each line. Isolated
instances exist where a hobbyist has had one or two products analysed and
has put the information online but nowhere have I seen a comprehensive
series of tests conducted on competing product lines. Lacking this physical
data, the only way we as aquarists can compare these different lines of
products is to use them (as they were designed) in actual aquariums.

If one tank is set up using Dupla's products and another is set up using,
for example, Aqualine Buschke products (substitute Amano, Seachem or any
other full-line range here, as you wish), and both tanks are maintained in
the same fashion and followed closely for a year, is there nothing of value
(scientific or otherwise) which can be drawn from a comparison of the two
systems at the end of that time?

Surely any gross deficiencies or excesses, if they exist, would become
visible within that time frame. Even with the unique nature of indivdual
tanks, if one product line failed to provide sufficient Magnesium
(substitute the essential element of your choice here) then over the course
of a year surely that deficiency would manifest itself in that particular
tank. I realise that diagnosing nutrient deficiencies can be problematic but
even if one was unable to pinpoint just exactly which nutrient was in short
supply (or excess, as the case may be), an observer would be able to say if
one product line was meeting the plant's needs as well as another product
line. At least for THAT particular aquarist, in THOSE particular tanks. And
would nothing be gained from such a study which could be of use to other
aquarists in THEIR tanks, under THEIR own unique circumstances?

Or are we forever doomed to be shooting in the dark and chanting the Dupla
mantra? (excuse me for that, I mean no disrespect for their products or for
anybody who uses them, as I have, happily, for several years).

Discussions of pKa's for different materials is fine for the technical, but
most list members are more practical than technical and a "practical"
comparison of one "system" to another "system" is surely more useful to us
as hobbyists. Several well respected list members have expressed (what seems
to me) scepticism over the validity (at least the scientific validity) of
such a test. Would anyone like to comment on HOW (or even IF) different
product lines can be compared in a manner which would meet the requirements
of "science" while at the same time be understandable and useful to us as


James Purchase
Toronto, Ontario

Hybrid substrates

by James Purchase <jpurch/>
Date: Sun, 10 Jan 1999

Justin Collins is wondering about the substrate in his new tank -

> At the risk of setting off substrate wars round XXXXXVI, I'll ask this question.  I'm assembling the stuff to set up my new 100 gallon, which will have CO2 injection, substrate heating cables, 280w of VHO (to be upgraded to 350w of suspended halides within a year, most
> likely), and a well sealed sump (I'm going to experiment with having very little biological filtration.  If it doesn't work out I'll use a small wet/dry).  My question is about the substrate.  Now this may be the worst idea anyone has ever had, but I have 1000 grams of
> Duplarit G I plan to use in the bottom 1/3, as per instructions, and I am wondering if any benefit can be gained by mixing in a small amount of peat and/or worm castings.  Not nearly enough to qualify it as a soil substrate, but enough to add more nutrient value and CEC that
> the plants can access.  Any thoughts?

Yes Justin, I have some thoughts on your substrate plan - most of them negative, but based upon personal experience.

A little over two years ago, I set up a new 120 gallon tank. It has 525 watts of 5,000K Metal Halide lighting and very good filtration and circulation from an Eheim 2260 (overkill, but I had it in the closet). I had read "The Optimum Aquarium", the KRIB, the FAQ's, and
everything else I could get my hands on. I had also used Dupla products in the past with excellent results, and had also used peat and other materials in my substrates with generally good results. But I wanted "something different", "something better". I fell into the trap of
"if x, y and z are good on their own, then x+y+z must be fantastic!" My substrate consisted of Sera Peat Granules, Dupla Duplarit G, and Aqualine Buschke Terralit all mixed with gravel as the lower 1.5" level of the substrate. I had placed an epoxy coated heating manifold on the
bottom of the tank before I added this rich lower layer. This was all covered with from 2" to 4" of plain granite gravel.

Aside from problems with the Metal Halide ballasts (I'll never buy Energy Saver Unlimited pendants again), the tank had and continues to have problems with a lot of plants due I feel to a too rich substrate. A lot of plants just _won't_  grow in this tank, while I can manage to
grow them quite well in other tanks with simpler substrates. Those that won't grow just tend to rot off at the gravel level. The tank has also had a lot of algae problems, even though I use R/O water.

I'm rapidly coming around to a personal conviction that the KISS principal is every bit as important to success in this hobby as Dupla's 10 Golden Rules are. I'm faced with the prospect of removing almost 350 lbs of gravel from this tank and re-washing it and then having to
re-set the whole thing again, this time using Duplarit G at Dupla's recommended rate. No more complex substrates for me, at least not in a large tank which is a focal point in my living room.

Incidentally, the heating manifold will be going into the recycling bin (it's epoxy coated copper, and no, there is no leaching of copper from the manifold - I test constantly for copper in the water and in the substrate using a LaMotte Copper Test Kit and have never gotten a
positive reading) - I was able to measure a definate heat gradient in the substrate using the manifold, but could never see any positive effect on either plant growth or tank stability. The design of the manifold closely followed one which was described several years ago in an
article in AFM.

I'd recommend that you use Duplarit G alone (or Terralit, again alone) in the bottom 1/3 of your substrate. All the talk about increased CEC seems to be more conjecture than fact, at least to my mind.

As for your decision to go with minimal biological filtration, I can't argue with that - a well planted tank can deal with a moderate fish load all by itself. But I would recommend that you have very good water circulation in the tank. The pump in my Eheim 2260 is rated at 2280
L/hr and produces one heck of a current, but I have it split thru two separate inputs into the tank and I found that the circulation in the six foot long tank was not sufficient, especially as the canister loaded with detritus. I now have an auxillary Eheim 2252 Power Pack
filter unit in the tank (1200 L/hr) and the leaves of the plants which DO grow well in this tank (and a lot of plants do quite nicely) are in constant motion, waving gently back and forth in the current. The fish seem happier with the increased current in the tank as well,
schooling in tighter formation and constantly on the move, with better colours and larger appetites The fish do breed constantly, so they must be happy..

> The second substrate question I have is that in my 60 gallon I am using a 50/50 mix of Seachem's Flourite and gravel.  I am wondering if there would be any problems with my reusing this, mixed with the laterite, as the bottom layer of the new substrate.  I don't want to have
> to go out and buy entirely new gravel, but I'm willing to if this would be a bad idea.

Seachem Flourite is probably one of the most attractive substrates I have ever used. I have a 20 Gal. tank set up using Flourite as the sole substrate material and plant growth in this tank is phenomenal. Everything I have tried in this tank so far has grown extremely well. I
doubt that there is anything wrong with re-using this substrate, so long as you rinse it well to remove detritus first. But I wouldn't restrict it's use to the lower layer - Flourite is too pretty to be hidden, depending of course on your personal preference and what you have it
mixed with. There are gravels available which are close in color and size to Flourite and a mixture should be fine. As far as I know, Seachem does not add fertilizer to the material which Flourite is made of, and Greg Morin could possibly enlighten us more on this. But from the
results which I have observed in my own tanks, this calcined clay substrate material is more than capable of growing beautiful plants all by itself, without anything additional in the substrate like laterite or peat.

(No Title)


James Purchase
Toronto, Ontario

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