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A Nagging Question Reguarding Soil

Discussion in 'CO2 Enrichment' started by JDowns, Dec 9, 2008.

  1. JDowns

    JDowns Lifetime Charter Member
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    With an inert substrate and dosing non-limiting nutrients via the water-column, or AS and non-limiting nutrients, without fear of inducing algae. Why with a mineralized soil is there a fear of dosing nutrients?

    Is it the method of mineralization? Is there to high a OM content?

    Now when I setup my small tank for soil mineralization I followed a different recipe and tweaked things gleaning multiple points of advice. I dose once a week in a low light no CO2 environment and don't see any algae. I also don't fear the nutrients causing algae, I've dosed in excess of EI with AS and didn't get algae. So where in lies the true problem?

    I only ask so we can learn what the root cause is and possibly move forward in a more educated manner.

    I took multiple methods and combined / experimented. I boiled biohumus and removed any floating material. I then followed a routine of soaking and drying the material mixed with a ratio of 3:1 ZeoSand/Turface and Castings. I then mixed in potash, clay, and dolomite and capped the material with ZeoSand. I dose weekly to keep Riccia healthy. I haven't once had any problems with algae, not even a GW or diatoms outbreak. Now I also heeded advise to seed the soil with mulm from another filter.

    Now there are many ways, methods, and trains of thought to the process. But I don't understand the fear of dosing nutrients. If we can dose elevated levels of nutrients with AS as a substrate and not worry about algae as a result. Then why with these methods?
     
  2. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    There is more than one reason for using mineralized topsoil, and not having to dose fertilizers is only one of them, and for only some people. It used to be widely believed that keeping the nutrients in the substrate and out of the water would eliminate algae problems - that may be what drives that one group. I am trying it in a 10 gallon tank, no fertilizers, Excel, and low light (I think it is low light).

    I'm interested in the use of Zeosand too. Have you seen anything to discourage you from using it in the substrate? What size tank and how much light are you using for that tank?
     
  3. JDowns

    JDowns Lifetime Charter Member
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    I used Zeosand per Tom's recommendation.

    Only down side was that it is truely a pain to rinse. I ended up getting a 5 gallon painters screen from HD and washing it through that. Made it much easier. Its very light, so planting small items like Glosso, HC, etc may be difficult. But because it is light it doesn't sink and mix into the bottom layer.

    29 gallon. 36w PC for 8 hours. Temps are kept low 68-70F. Overfiltrated with a Marineland C360.

    I top off weekly from my 150g EI tank. About 1-2 gallons from evaporation. I also dose a pinch here and there every few weeks if the non rooting plants pout. Otherwise no wc. Low fish load with 6 Honey Gourami's and a small shrimp experiment.

    This shot was at around four months. Tank is nearing six months now.

    [​IMG]

    My question is why the fear over dosing nutrients? Is it the nutrients as the underlying cause of the algae, or a byproduct of the soil mixture. Determining the cause is what I'm interested in, not necessarily the reasons for having a mineralized soil.

    If we can eliminate the fear of dosing this might make things easier on people. You could dose small amounts without the fear while plants establish good roots. Or if you have a finicky plant that would benefit from water column dosing you then have the freedom to dose small amounts.

    I'm also interested in the why. I plan on next spring tearing down the 150g and using the same type of recipe, but with CO2 injection and higher light. I plan on maintaining EI but slowly backing down dosing until I see a negative effect. So the why is selfishly important also. :p
     
  4. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Thank you for the information about using the Zeosand. I used it a couple of times in a 10 gallon tank without success, but with very inadequate lighting.

    I am almost sure the fervor that we see on TPT about using mineralized topsoil with no water column fertilizing is from the belief that this is a way to avoid algae. People still intuitively believe that algae can start from having too much fertilizing.
     
  5. tedr108

    tedr108 Lifetime Charter Member
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    JDowns:

    Would you mind telling me what the low foreground plant is? I can't really make it out. I have the same setup (29G w/ 36w of lighting) and would be interested in that plant for my tank.
     
  6. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Belief is not fact nor supports results.
    Folks that do not add ferts to the water column also have algae issues, always have, see the last 60 years of aquarium keeping:rolleyes:

    I dose the water column, as have the folks using ADA, PMDD, PPS, EI, etc.............this works.......

    And without any algae.

    Folks get algae not due to high nutrients(be specific, say which nutrient so folks can either confirm or not), more from poor CO2, light combinations.
    If they are no longer playing around with dosing liquids, there is always a % that are terrible at that, they get tunnel vision and think everything is related to dosing.

    Take that away, they are left with......CO2 and light.

    If they do the same focus with EI etc, then they have the same results.
    This is not a why based on the method, rather, based on the person's habits etc.
    The other large factor is that they often limit some other nutrient...........and have no way to measure whether there is enough in the sediment, it may or may not be present, they NEVER test whether or not that is occuring.

    So......if you limit say a nutrient........it can limit the CO2 demand, something folks often have lots of troubles with.

    It might be that they are just not very good at adding CO2, and have absolutely nothing to do with........nutrints in the water column.

    This is a very old arguement about nutrients in the water column, however, it has been falsified hundreds if not thousands of times the world over:rolleyes:
    Still, these groups come along and cling to their bad assumptions/conclusions, never testing them or seeing the poor logic behind them.

    I'm not saying the method does not work, I'm say their reasons for why it does are very very flawed, they want to argue one thing and claim it supports the other, you CANNOT do that, a least not with a straight face or with your brain fully functioning.

    I suggest adding both sediment and water column ferts and do so myself. This gives a back up source of nutrients(more total nutients) and clearly works wonderfully.

    I use EI+ ADA AS.

    I have no algae issues unless they are CO2 related. Never have.........
    This works by using both locations.

    Those nutrient leach up and also out of plants, you are not limiting anything, you just cannot test it with the cheap test methods available, so they make lousy assumptions if they succeed in one method and fail with another.

    It's not the method that fails, it's the people using it.
    I and many others have used soil going back many many years, these trends come and go.

    This is not a new thing.

    Unlike the past and with this group, I actually try to grow algae to confirm algae cause, not just assume whatever sounds nice. That is yet another Achilles Heel with their argument.

    But sadly, they keep going back to the same old thing and parrot it all over again, they brought nothing new to the table, their success does not support their claim, they have to test whether or not algae is induced in the water column fes and which ones, they have NEVER done this.

    I get a bit irritated with Parrots, been there, done that several times.
    It's clear they bought into that without any real testing and clear thought.

    So they deserve a good lashing for pushing an old myth on new folks.
    Some keep saying crap like this"there might be something to be said for these old methods, we should look at them again and challenge EI folks".

    Sure thing, but you need to do so with decent logic to start with, not wishful thinking and poor test methods:rolleyes:

    Good lord.



    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  7. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Are you speaking about non CO2 tanks only?
    The non CO2 method that uses the water column in that article works very well and is easy, but the same arguement applies.
    These non CO2 soil based tanks are not nutrient limited, they are mostly light and CO2 limited.

    They are not even close to being "natural", they have 50X less light(20-80 micmol vs 1500-2000 for outside noon day sun). Makes a huge difference:cool:

    So CO2 demand is slow (moderately limiting to mildly so), nutrient draw is also very slow. So the sediment is easy to do for a long term supply, should last years. But you can add once a week nutrients+ fish load/waste and do it without any sediment ferts at all.

    Adding both is still the wisest approach.

    If you look at the PO4 and NO3, often it is higher with respect to P than N, ask yourself why that might be(also the case in CA wetlands).

    =>
    Soil sediments denitrify, they remove the NO3 as N2 gas, there is no such PO4 gas phase component. So PO4 increases while the N becomes fairly limiting.
    Then they get BGA when this happens.
    And wonder why........

    If you have a lot of organic mulm, dirty filters etc, then you have plenty of denitrification likely as well.

    A little care will take care of it though.
    Adding some KNO3 also helps, along with K2SO4/GH booster etc.
    Adding some PO4 will not hurt either.

    Growth is slow, but easy to manage, the same is true for the ferts, adding just a bit once a week or two takes the strain off.

    The algae are not limited any more than they are in a CO2 enriched tank as far as nutrients are concerned. They do not have the CO2 issue and high light though..............so that, not the nutrients, is typically the issue in both cases.

    This explains both the CO2 and Non CO2 methods using the same theory. No one else has reconciled that model.......... to date I know of and can explain it.

    Rates of growth, uptake, light, cO2 change, but not the basic underlying causes and processes.

    New sediments with high organic matter take a bit of time to settle down, so oxidation of the excess Organic carbon fraction and the NH4, allows the system to start off better and with a better host of the bacteria you want.

    BTW, the DSM works great for the non CO2 tank, starts off great without any mineralization issues andit fully rooted and cycled.

    You can also get those harder to establish species going real well, switch to Excel if desired etc also.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  8. JDowns

    JDowns Lifetime Charter Member
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    There is a little bit of everything. Mostly HM and Riccia. There is some E. Tennellus Micro starting to spread, some X-Mas moss, and some Dwarf Hair Grass. The Riccia has smothered alot of it and needs to be thinned out.
     
  9. JDowns

    JDowns Lifetime Charter Member
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    I guess what I'm trying to get at is what caused individuals to get "algae fear" from dosing with mineralized soils. Where is the flaw in the methodology / process.

    I understand the non-Co2 approach. Its been a great learning experience and probably my favorite tank.

    Is it wise to cut the soil with a higher ratio of sand to limit the amount of OM (somewhat rhetorical question, since Tom has answered this numerous times on various sites over the years)? Or is the flaw in the mineralization process in not removing more OM, or the soil being used.

    I see a correlation sorta. If you fail to keep up on filter maintanence and an excess buildup occurs. Are you likely to see an algae outbreak (been there ... done that. Cleaning the filter corrected the situation)? So more material has built up than bacteria can process, could this be the same in the soil? I'm failing to see the process that is linked? Which is more or less my questioning. I understand nutrients aren't the underlying causation of an algae outbreak. You are just limiting a necessary nutrient in the wc inhibiting the algae. So false assumptions are made, without correcting the underlying cause. Which is the lesson I'm trying to learn. Its one thing to have success following good advice, its another to understand why.

    Also with biohumus. Is the addition of clay, dolomite, and potash necessary? Most products already have a composition content including all the nutrients you would gather from their addition. I don't remember the exact %'s from the product I used. I would need to go buy another bag at the nursery.
     
  10. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    The mineralizing process that is being adopted with so much enthusiasm on The Planted Tank is that reported by AaronT. He found a combination of treatment of the topsoil, and adding more stuff, that worked well for him. I don't know how we can say that every single detail of that process is important for getting Aaron's results. It is like when we add more light, add better fertilizing, add Dr. Joe's miracle tablets, and get faster plant growth. We can believe that those 3 things all have to be done to replicate our success. (Maybe Dr. Joe really does have miracle tablets).

    When I just recently tried my version of Aaron's method, modified to fit the materials I had available, I used river silt from a bank of silt next to the American River, which has a lot of clay in it, I added some topsoil from the flower bed next to my condo, and did the water soak, sun dry cycle 3 times, resulting in a soil with no smell at all, whether wet or dry. Then, not wanting to buy 10 pounds of dolomite, I substituted a cuttlebone sold for birds to chew on, and not wanting to buy a 5 pound box of Muriate of Potash, I substituted a salt substitute which is virtually 100% KCl, the same stuff in a little tiny shaker. I added no clay because my soil looks like about 50% clay as it is.

    As I see it, I followed Aaron's method, and I expect it to work very well.
     
  11. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Mostly from poor mineralization, if you leach the NH4 and excess OM, then there's no reason to be "fearful" about using it, some folks pull up their plants all the time and make a mess. Likely not a good method for them.
    Then those same folks run around saying it's a bad method and gave them algae without ever knowing why they got it, and others did not.

    This is true with every method, you can get algae with every method, and you can have good results. It's not the method, it's the user.


    You can, I've suggested folks do this to reduce the messiness.
    You still ahve the same total with or without the sand cut. Sand adds more weight and makes uprooting easier.

    The mineralization is less to do with removing OM, as it is getting the NH4 out.
    NH4 is the important one, OM will cause low O2 levels if you pull a bunch up all at once, and we really do not need that much really.
    Bound N is good/best in clay layers, that's what is in ADA AS.

    Yes, that's why they mineralize it first, then add it later, the bacteria process the NH4 that's easily available and able to leach in large amounts into the water column, leaving the harder to leach N for long term root extraction.

    You can do this with water and a shallo tray and say 2-4 weeks, or boil the sediment as suggested by several Brazilian folks years with good, the same results, Aaron is not the first person in any way to suggest or do this. Or you can bake the soil for about 1 hour. Earth worm castings where all the rage a few year back, they got boiled for say 10 min and then you'd use them, some folks used Cactus compost etc and do a similar thing in the UK etc.

    They are, but which nutrient is important, NH4? CO2? Or too much light?
    Not the ones they seem to claim all the frigging time:cool: : PO4 and NO3.

    But which nutrient is really being limited in the Water column?
    And does that really limit algae?

    I have the same results when I dose nutrientsto the water column as Aaron does, or the folks in Brazil or ADA etc. If not better.......

    Here's a reason Amano told me to use Power sand and why I should use it: "It has power" Those are his words with a direct serious question, it was obvious it was nothing but a joke answer and he was not going to answer you, same for most questions anyone had.

    No, these are not needed, required. They can help, clay is not a bad thing, I use delta mud/clay it works great and is pretty much like the ADA AS. ADA AS has more NH4 and bit more peat, it's not mineralized(takes about 1 month typically, and ADa tells you to wait till then add fish etc.)

    Potash is just K2SO4...........now all plants take this nutrient via the leaves/from the water column, it has no organically bound forms. So you might as well add it to the water column, same for Ca,Mg etc, which is the source for Dolomite.

    I think the important thing here is to see that nutrients can be added from the sediment, but also from the water column, with adding them in both locations is the best solution and benefits all plant types,gets the most out of each and every location.

    We know, that both sources are able to supply nutrients to aquatic plants, we see both in natural systems.

    Now when you discuss algae, this is another thing entirely.
    Keep that discussion separate.

    There's algae.
    There's growing plants.

    Unless you are able to test and grow algae, you cannot discuss the causes, only correlations. We also do not have light data for Aaron's tanks, nor many folks, we do not know what they did in the past, most folks get better with CO2, and dosing as they evolve, so they might had bad experiences in the past that might not be there if they went back and looked at it again.

    I always get tickled when folks claim that not dosing prevents algae.
    They really do not understand algae at all if they say such things.

    Proving that algae is limited is extremely difficult, and something not one aquarists to date has ever shown with confidence.

    I can show that nutrient dosing to the water colum, the typical things we dose, does not cause algae, nor "excess ferts". And that's all I need to do to make my case, they have to show a much harder claim.

    None of them ever have bothered to do that.
    But they seem to think correlation and dismissing the results allows them to argue what they believe, not what the results suggest:rolleyes:

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  12. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Regarding mineralization and the Dry start method..............use a NH4 based terrestrial fert for this if you use non enriched organic materials like soils.


    So with sand, flourite etc, use Miracle Grow fertilizer etc. Add a fair amount, till you get about 5-10ppm of NH4. In 1 month, it'll be NO3, so need to fret.

    I'd still add peat and some mulm to start it off good.
    Peat is a good source of OM, but does not rot as fast as soil, when you flood soils, they slow down their decomposition(eg Rice fields), and sequesters Carbon(reduced organi matter). They do this here in CA on the Rice fields now/winter. This maintains the soil and slows the loss of soil.

    If you drain these peaty wetland soils and grow crops without flooding them, they quickly are degraded and you end uposing soil, like in the Delta here, the islands are 15-20 ft below sealevel after growing food for the last 150 years. They built levies to prevent the seawater from coming in.

    It's weird, seeing the water avove and the fields below. Very strange.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  13. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Well, you can also say the same thing about water column dosing, it need not be a particular method that you do, we all do variations to some degree, the same is true for sediments.............you can add or delete some things without too much issue in most cases or add a bit of this, a little less of that and get similar results.

    Often folks do not take the same care etc of their tanks, they do everything identical(in their best estimation anyway), yet have more issues with one tank.
    They might be tempted to ascribe blame in some variation they added to the sediment, or the water column or the flow, or the plant species they chose.

    But simple stat's tells us it could be any of these, but folks want to say it's the one thing they changes based on one example only. Also, a nice scape does not imply a method is great nor cannot be improved upon and nor better understood than what the owner suggest/says.

    Many have had nice tanks in the past and claimed the wrong reasons/conclusion for their success:p

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  14. JDowns

    JDowns Lifetime Charter Member
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    I stopped by the nursery this morning to check the product name.

    Wormgold Plus. The Plus variety has the added rock minerals that bumps the calcium and magnesium values up. Otherwise there's plain old Wormgold.

    I'm trying to find the link that had the analysis of the soil. I can imagine that would vary from batch to batch, but was a decent ballpark.

    Great all this discussion has me eyeing the changover on a early timetable.

    20 Dry Quart bags btw run 16.99 locally. Zeobest ZeoSand ran about the same price for a 25lb bag. So while it may be more expensive then plain topsoil and sand. There are other benefits.
     
  15. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Sounds good to me.
    Just make sure it is well mineralized prior to use. Also,if you use some clay, make sure to fold it back on itself with the other parts many many times!

    I think most of the folks using the soil and no ferts have had some algae issues, likely from CO2 or other issues, but they are wrong about it limiting algae.
    I also saw that many use a lot less light, not higher light.

    Light and CO2 play into a method and it's success and without knowing that, folks can have issues trying to do the method.

    I think one thing is not to fall into the trap...................that you are limiting algae this way, you are using lower light, good CO2 and a source of nutrients.

    The question is not whether a method will work or not, the question is how to best improve a method. So adding water column ferts along with sediment ferts hedges the bets the best.

    This extends the life of the sediment and buffers and dosing limitings you might error on in the water column. So together they complement eachother.
    I get sick and tired of folks with tunnel vision claiming all sorts of unsupported Horse manure and not thinking wisely. They play this stupid "either or" game and have no concept about how to put this stuff togather. Then they go out and confuse more folks and "parrot".

    It's makes common sense to add the water column along with the sediment.
    We already know and have a long history of examples showing that CO2, NH4, high light, not enough plants, basic maintenance and pruning cause the issues, NOT "excess" nutrients(non specific at that) are the root causes and path to solutions.

    We have already seen that.
    If it was not the case, then every EI tank woud be an algae farm, but that is not the case. Anyone arguing this point must address such results, if not, they must suspend common sense and logic and rely only on belief and twisting thing, personal attacks and ho hums.

    Their claims do not answer any of that with respect to the water column.
    They want to ignore that and ignore the light,(sometimes the CO2 when they have issues) and get the tunnel vision with nutrients.

    You do not really gain that much by not doing some liquid ferts, takes 10 seconds:rolleyes: and I feed my fish and get more out of the sediment.

    Bottom line is that combining locations of nutrients(more total nutrients) helps more than either of the parts. Also, you can speed the mineralization up by boiling or baking and then add some mulm from th old tank asap afterwards(wait till it cools off) and it should be ready to go in a few days.

    I have the delta clay mud here which is ideal, so this process is much simpler for me. I use it for 1000's of plants here. So I have to fully understand all of this and how it relates, each cycle etc for each nutrient.

    The thing to note is how much OM% the soil has.
    You can also fold some layers into clays.

    If you want some delta clay, I might start selling it.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  16. JDowns

    JDowns Lifetime Charter Member
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    I'm trying a different brand this time. I purchased ZeoBest instead. Was a longer drive but I like the color better. More of a dirt tan. It also appears to be heavier and stickier.

    I used a five gallon bucket, drill half inch holes around the base an inch apart. Use a paint strainer net, fill half way, and rinse. Was very quick to rinse this way. Good advice from the pool supply guy.

    Took my less than a half hour to fully rinse 75lbs.
     
  17. JDowns

    JDowns Lifetime Charter Member
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    Well my old turkey pot is taking one for the team again.

    I sent an email to the products techical department to see if I can get a analysis of the worm casting. Not to hopeful, but you never know. This batch seems more sandy than in the past. But this is the version with "rock minerals" added. Extremely fine mixture, I'm not sure any screening would be needed or helpful since it would just fall right through.

    I plan on keeping about a five gallon buckets worth of soil from the tank as it is to mix with the new soil in the tank at setup. This should help seed the substrate.
     
  18. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    This is kind of late in the thread, but I want to add that I keep low light, topsoil-based planted tanks and I water column dose as required. I have no fear of algae at all.

    But water column dosing in any environment will cause algae IF the aquarium does not have enough plants to make use of the nutrients. That is just about axiomatic by now, but it is still worth repeating.

    Bill
     
  19. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    How is having not enough plants to make use of the nutrients differ from dosing to excess per EI with a tank full of plants? Don't both involve having more nutrients in the tank than the plants are using? I know you have been convinced that you are correct for some time now, but I am still having trouble understanding the logic.
     
  20. tedr108

    tedr108 Lifetime Charter Member
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    That's always been a little confusing for me, too, Hoppy. My take, which is probably only partially correct:

    Starting point: If you do not have excess nutrients, you have deficiencies. There is no way we can get the nutrients just right with our tools. So, even the non-CO2 tanks have excess nutrients, if fertilized correctly.

    1) Non-CO2 tank... I believe that, for the most part, the plants out-compete the algae in this low-light environment -- the plants grab the nutrients before the algae can utilize it. This is the reason to get a large biomass of plants. However, sooner or later, I believe that algae will get a foothold somewhere somehow if a) you don't occasionally allow the nutrients to get used up (Tom recommends an occasional time period with no fertilizer to allow the nutrients to be depeleted) or b) you don't do some type of water changes. I also believe a "c)" here might be the use of algae eaters -- I think Tom puts some in his non-CO2s (I have shrimp and otos in mine) -- perhaps algae would be there in small quantities if not for algae eaters. [I personally have a 20G non-CO2 (with only a Flourite substrate) with no algae anywhere. I haven't done a water change in about 3 months, since I started it. Occasionally, I will get a spot on the glass here or there (the hard algae, whatever it is) -- my nerite snails come a scrape it off within a day and then I won't see it again for quite a while. I had thread algae for a few weeks while the tank was cycling and just starting -- I no longer get that. Again, my algae eaters are living off of something -- I just don't ever see it.]

    2) EI tank -- again, a good biomass of plants helps a lot here. I also believe that the big 50% weekly water changes are the big algae butt-kicker.
     
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