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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This will be a new discus planted tank display here in our gallery. I just completed the installation and have a few minor tweaks to make, and I'll post a full frontal shot. Until then, I thought this set-up journal might be of interest to some, as I get a lot of questions about discus planted tank formulas.

substrate:
Penac P
Penac W
Tourmaline BC
1- 18 liters Power Sand "Special" L
5- 9 liter Aqua Soil "Amazonia" normal type
1- 15kg BRIGHT SAND
1- 8kg BRIGHT SAND

Filtration:
Eheim 2260
10 liters BIO RIO
5 liters NA CARBON (will be removed when discus are added)
ADA Lily Pipe outflow (P-6 17mm)

Lighting:
Coralife fixture
3- 150 HQI ADA NA lamps 8,000K regular (4 hours per day)
4- 96 watt Coralife 10,000K power compact fluorescent (10 hours per day)

CO2:
via reactor

Plants:
Various Echinodorus species

First I establish the rock layout which will also form the barrier between the substrate and decorative sand. I find that in a large tank with a really deep substrate such as that used for heavily rooted plants such as Echinodorus, a more effective barrier is formed when the rocks are placed on the bottom glass.

The completed rock barrier.

Penac P is added to just the 2 planted sections. Yes-- I use Penac, no- I don't wear crystals or believe in unicorns. Nor do I want to engage the same old argument about Penac. I will answer questions though.

Penac W is added throughout-- even under the decorative sand.

Tourmaline BC is added in the planted sections.

Power Sand "Special" L -- 18 liter bag was spread eevenly between the 2 planted sections.

Aqua Soil "Amazonia" normal type is added. I used only five bages for this 225gallon tank-- one advantage of the 2 section style where less expensive sand is used over so much of the bottom. Normally a tank this size would use 9-10 9 liter bags of Aqua Soil.

ADA BRIGHT SAND is added. A 15kg and 8kg bag were used here, though I fell I will need to add 1 more 8kg bag to get a bit more depth so avalanching on Aqua Soil is less of a problem. So I really should have just used 2- 15kg bags from the start.

Ready to add the driftwood.

I wanted to keep it kind of spare as far as wood. I did not want to use up a lot of space with wood, but rather leave more room for the many Echinodorus species to really grow lush.

Ready to add water very slowly and begin adding plants. To keep the swords somewhat upright and know how the composition was going, I kept the water running while I added plants. Normally I totally dry-scape, but that's tough with big swords.



Still a little cloudy, should be clear by morning. I'll post a frontal shot then for a little better perspective of the layout.
 

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nice

looks real good so far...Jeff, did you learn about Penac from rubbing your crystal ball? heheh [smilie=l: ......btw: do you guys sell wood like that I need a small branchy piece for a 29 gallon ...itd be kinda cool if it stuck out the top a little bit
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks. Yeah-right about the Penac!
I may very well be offering some wood on a limited availability/basis shortly. We have a big shipment coming from ADA in March, + I just took delivery on a new style of very cool sinking wood that I have never had before. We have tons of it and may decide to sell some on-line. Of course APC will be the first to know if that happens.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Cool- yes will do. I will try and do lots of updates of this tank at various stages. I have the discus picked out already and they are so awesome I cannot wait to get them in there.
I don't know all the proper names, but swords include:
Amazon, uraguayensis, "Ruffle", ozelot, "red rubin", and "red melon".

The hardscape materials are all new in this tank (not from the previous layout if that was your question, David).
 

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Okay then, let me ask what you expect from using Penac P and W? I've already been reading through the thread on the same topic which was started by fishdude a while ago. But I really would like to know your own personal view on the subject. Do you have any own experience about how it might influence plant growth or what ever effect it might have? How much would you spread into a 20g?

Thanks and regards,
Detlef
 

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As a far as I know, I'm one, if not the only one, of the few people seeing if there are differences between using the Powersand vs Amazonia alone and with/out the penac/Toumaline or other items such as the liquid ferts.

I think most just go the extra distance, since they are buying one items already and add the complete line, much like George Booth did way back when Dupla came out in the USA 1986-1989. Later we found out George was not using Dupla lights of air conditioners for his home and tank:)

I really like ADA amazonia, I don't like the powersand. P and the T stuff, well, if you believe it works, go for it. Will, it hurt? No, do you need it? No. Does it do anything? Not that I could tell. I've already seen Dupla behavior in aquarist and used Dupla and am seeing the same thing here. But unlike those days, there are fewer folks trying to see what is significant and what is mere chaff. That is what drove PMDD and much of the plant hobby here in the USA.

I like Jeff's approach to the white sand/Soil division, simple and just place the rocks well and go from there. You can vac up any ADA soil that gets loose in the white sand so the longer term maintenance is relatively simple/easy.

Discus like large swords though, they will sink and rest within the leaves, and you need a 225 gallon tank to grow them in! haha, trees.

I will suggest and use ADA soils in future tanks certainly. Compare the price of them vs the flourite and Onyx sand, they are about equal if not a tad better, not too mention less messy/no rinsing needed. I found it have never caused any cloudiness either in the dozen or so set ups I've done with it.

But man, you need big tanks for these swords.
The indian reds and some of the other swords maybe used for smaller tanks or you can use some Crypts in their place.

Large tanks also would look good with large grounds of taller Crypts in this same type of hardscape.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

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Great start Jeff! It would look really awesome if you could use species from the Echinodorus genus to form a background, midground and foreground. :)

Has anyone ever created a successfull aquascape completely out of Swords?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
detlef- regarding Penac: I do not expect to see any profound difference from using it. My belief is there is a chance it provides some holistic benefits that cannot necessarily be scientifically measured or quantified. It doesn'y bother me to use it either way. Amano uses it, so I personally don't have a problem using on those grounds-- I don't think he would use it if it did "nothing", but I could be wrong-- and he could be wrong too. It certainly does not (or at least so far has not) hurt or hindered any growth in my tanks, so I add it and don't worry about it too much. That's me-- that's what I do. That in no way implies that that's what anyone else should do.

I am showing a step-by-step in this post, and that is one of my steps. You can take it or leave it when it comes to your own tanks/layouts. I am not trying to sell or push the stuff either. In fact, I do not have plans to keep much inventory of it beyond what I'll need for my own use. It can be special ordered and sent by air freight and be delivered in a matter of days if any one does want it. Honestly, and obviously- there's not a tremendous amount of interest in it and while I have sold some, definitely not a lot-- and that's just fine.

I will say when I add Penac to the water column once per month-- that next morning the water has a heightened clarity that is very noticeable. Not sure what that's all about, but it sure looks nice. It lasts about a week or until the next water change.

One other somewhat related story that I have hesitated to share for some time:
My wife's grandfather lives in the Texas Hillcountry and has his whole life (he's 84). He was in construction for decades and built many houses that required wells. He is one of these people that can locate water underground using a simple "Y" shaped branch from certain kinds of trees. They call it "witching" water. I have seen him do it, and it's pretty remarkable. Some do not believe it's possible, but -- what can you say when the guy finds a well/water source in the middle of a barren field of dust and brush?
Anyway, for his own house which is deep in the country, he located a water source, dug a well, and sure enough- that's where they get their water for the house. But the water is/was so excessively hard, that pipes and especially areas like around the hot water heater would quickly become covered in mineral deposits-- very difficult to clean. They just "dealt" with it for quite some time.
One day a man he met/knew in town -- German guy- told him about a device he could simply attach to the pipes that would remedy his problem. Of course, being a good old Texas country boy, he didn't put too much stock in such a claim, but tried it anyway. That product was a PenacKat. Now, trust me, grandpa had no idea what it was or any of the "controversy" around the Plocher system or any of that. He just bought this thing from this crazy German guy figuring he had little to lose -- + the guy was so adamant about the extent to which it would work.
During hurricane Rita here, my family had to evacuate to grandpas hillcountry home. We had several days to hang out and talk and when he told me this story I knew right away what device he had. He still knew nothing about it other than where it was and that it worked. The water from their tap is very clean and crisp and I had no problem drinking it-- and I am one of these "bottled water only" people. I grew up in the country myself with well water my whole life which in Texas is pretty awful stuff.
He took me to the 3 places around the house where he had PenacKats attached to pipes. I was so surprised that this old man way out in the Texas Hillcountry had this device, had a credible and totally innocent story behind it, and I could see, smell and taste the water myself-- and it was pristine. He had since turned-on no less than like 20 other people in town with wells and a lifetime of mineral deposit and other problems to the PenacKat, and according to him, all were just amazed.
All I can say to the character of my wife's grandfather is he is an honest man-- from the "greatest generation" and all (WWII vet, etc.) Just a good hearted country living gentleman with no stake in telling me lies or making false claims about this "metal thing he attached to his pipes at the suggestion of a crazy German man".
For what it's worth...that's my only first-hand account that is about as unbiased as I could ever imagine. I didn't rush out and get a PenacKat or anything, but I sure thought it was interesting.
 

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Jeff,

What will you be doing to this tank in terms of water changes in the first few weeks?

How are the first few weeks of a tank's life different if you use ADA substrates?

How long does it take for such a tank to stabilize compared to a non-ADA substrate tank?

What ADA (or other) liquid fertilizers will you use in the first few weeks and how much?

Is the planting of big Swords problematic in the lightweight AquaSoil?

Does the white sand get algae growing in it?


And to wrap it up...What is the meaning of life?...:D

--Nikolay
 

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The dimensions are 72" X 34" X 24".

Niko,

Water change schedule the first few weeks will be about 30-40% every 5 days or so. I often base this more on observation than a set schedule. Eventually it will simply be weekly.

In my experience, the most noteworthy thing about ADA substrate tanks in the first few weeks is the rapid growth. Generally, things just seem more stable faster. I have not had good results with Tom's water column dosing right away on a new layout. I wlways seem to have algae problems when I dose moderate to heavy in a new set-up-- and especially if I introduce macros so soon. I do not doubt that it works very well and for Tom and there is no doubt he knows what he is doing/talking about. It just did not work usually for me. ADA substrate has made the precarious start-up period alot easier for me to navigate.

I am not one to do any water teasting or any of that-- and I think ADA substrate is tailor-made for such individuals. So, specifically I couldn't say if the ADA tank "stabilizes" faster or not, but from sheer observation and minimalization of new tank "issues", it has proven a faster and easier situation for me.

I will just keep an eye for when to start dosing. With so many swords getting more from the substrate (I assume), I am not in a big hurry to dose the water column. That's just my style. I know some approach it differently.
Liquid ferts will likely be DIY/Greg Watson or just basic SeaChem since this tank is so big. The ADA ferts are great, but the dosing/bottles are geared toward smaller tanks (90 gallon and smaller).

Ok my wife just said it's time for dinner so I'll be back to finish these questions shortly...
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Ok- I wasn't able to get back on the computer from home last night so I finish Niko's questions from the office...

The planting of swords in the soil was a complete non-issue. Not even one problem and none have floated up. In some ways it's even easier the way the root mass places in the Aqua Soil-- it is less clumsy than other substrates I have used.

The sand will develop a little algae with time, but part of the maintenance regimen for me is to lightly stir it ( I like to use my pincettes) just before a water change. This turns it over, keeps it fresh, and prevents too much packing down of the fine sand. Once in a while I sprinkle a little fresh sand back on top.
 

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Hi Jeff,

many thanks for explaining en datail your approach towards the Penac product line and the story around the Penac Kat. I enjoyed reading through it very much since it demonstrated the somehow obscure impact on (hard) waters while scientifically this cannot be explained very well . It would be rather interesting to see somebody testing the additives and the P-Kat against a control.

My own experience with the admittedly smallest Kat has been negative so far, i.e. no less mineral deposits. But I will be checking the device (a bigger one this time of course) again in the near future attached to the filter hoses as well as to the pipe in my kitchen sink.

Many thanks again!

Best regards,
Detlef
 

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Water change schedule the first few weeks will be about 30-40% every 5 days or so. I often base this more on observation than a set schedule. Eventually it will simply be weekly. ...
What do you watch for during these first few weeks that tells you to do water changes or to slow down on them?

--Nikolay
 

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Discussion Starter #18
The usual suspects-- algae, water clarity. + a less indicative observation tool-- whether all the shrimp are "hiding" or not. When newly added shrimp suddenly retreat and you do not see even one out for a few days-- I kow something if "off", and it's not always a CO2 issue-- which is one thing can make shrimps act funny.
 

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Hi Jeff, I found I had an outbreak of diatoms using PS vs none in the EI + Amazonia. I've also seen this same algae in AquaForest's tanks.

I think folks will really come to love the white sand foregrounds more and more.

I think many are in danger of poo poing the white sand as too much mainteance, collects mulm etc but compared to what?
Plants require more work and froeground plants are problematic enough.
I've shown several folks in our local group how to tend these and set them up. Once folks see what little work and the ease of dealing with them, I think many will give them a try.

Have you tried EI, Mulm + ADA soils alone?

If not, give it a try.
I've given the full ADA method a try.

I have success, actually better, using the modified EI + ADa soil, so it seems to the soil is the main issue, not all the other products such as the powersand. That is simpler(adding just one product that will not mix and look tacky or ruin the look+mulm and lots of plants from day one) in the short and long run also.

It's simpler to add powersand? Does not seem so to me, you still need to dose "something", if you add another 1/4 teaspoon it's no big deal in addition to the traces, if you want to use stock solutions mixes, no big deal. It makes start ups easier? Sure, if you add enough plants to start with, add some mulm you never have any start up issues with ANY substrate set up. Not just flourite or ADA, even soil based substrate can make the claim.

This is certainly not exclusive to ADA's soils/powersands, this applies to any tank. Start up phases are important and adding enough plant biomass, some seed bacteria from the start is key to that. This was discussed in terms of algae in a sticky thread here already.

That knowledge helps everyone and gives you a good baseline to compare things to rather than guessing.

I do like the start up using the ADA soil and also the powersand, both certainly work. But when suggesting one thing works better than another, I can say adding plain sand also works well(there are plenty of examples and pictures to support that), but using flourite ADA soils etc does make it easier, the same logic applies to this also, the plants do _better_.
How good is good enough? Some feel non CO2 is the way to go and they make a very strong case for that also, no algae, no start up issues there also.

Nutrients are in both locations, not just the substrate.
I've never had issues with fertilizing the substrate, but the water column should also be fertilized as well to achieve the best growth.
This concept is supported by research studies on submersed plants from several wide ranging sources also. So it's just not me spouting.

I do not buy into the idea the water column induces the algae.
And in order for the ADA powersand issue to show that in the beginning or not, we should have algae in every tank.

Clearly that is not the case.

When starting up a planted tank, some things that can be generalized irrespective of the substrate type are: high plant density from the start, adding mulm, a little peat, good CO2/nutrients and staying on top of things for the first few weeks.

I think you might wonder why I am even discussing this: improving a method is something I do and enjoy. I've done this for non CO2 methods, PMDD, PPS, marine planted tanks, Dupla, and now ADA.

Adding lots of plants from day one, adding plenty of high stable CO2, adding mulm etc will help an ADA start up tank the same it will help any tank, this will increase the success of your clients, your tanks, anyone's tank for that matter.

There is a long pattern and it's helped folks do better and understand their options and why's. Ultimately this helps the hobby and is some what helping the brands in some cases, but not in others. I would not say powersand is worthless, far from that, but I do contend and have done this enough to know, that it's not needed to still gain the benefits of the ADA soils.

I like the soils, and I like the tank set up and the design presented.

The goal I have is much more helping folks with growing plants no matter what their method/choices, not brand alligence. Any tank can be improved and tweaked as can any method.

I just do not see any evidence those other items do any good. If I did, I'd say so. I'd love to see things that really significanntly help, but so far it's just the soil I've found in terms of plant health and growth.

I also understand if you are busy, have clients etc you do not have time to test all these different combos, and certainly not in their tanks! 100% success or else. You need something that works and teasing apart the parts that cause that effect is less important.

I'm definitely going to use ADA soils for the substrates in the new tanks I do in the future.

So there:) I'm not pounding on you or anyone that sells ADA, just saying what I've found and trying to support more use of the soils. They are cost/plant growth worthwhile and better than other products.

You may want to make sure you have more Soil available in stock if possible:)

Regards,
Tom Barr

www.BarrReport.com
 

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thanks for the tips on keeping the white sand clean... I plan to use white sand as a foreground as well as to separate 2 planted areas (much like what you have, Jeff) and I too have been told that white sand is too much of a pain to maintain to be worth using.

I am thankful that you and Tom believe it is worth it.

Now I just wish someone would distribute ADA here in Sydney AU since the Aquasoil price is very comparable to prices of Flourite and EcoComplete :)
 
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