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Discussion Starter #1
Wanted to share pictures from a recent visit to this wonderful store:

Aqua Forest Aquarium, San Francisco

Note that this is just the plant tanks. There were also plenty of show tanks in excellent health, tanks of fish and lots of regular and ADA branded accessories and tanks. But I was there for plants so that's what I photographed here.

One of the interesting things about buying plants here is that almost none of them are pre-bunched with metal weights. They are actually growing in soil in the tank. When you buy some, they get out scissors and cut fresh stems for you and bag them in heat-seal cellophane bags which travelled easily home on the plane with me.









 

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What a treat to see such healthy plants in a store display. You can really see the differences in growth habit, color and form when the plants are kept so well. I wish I was closer as I'd love to visit (and patronize) a store like that.
 

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Truly what a genuine aquascaping store should be all about! Not only do the owners share adequate knowledge and passion for the hobby/plants, they also keep the store really clean and well-stocked. In my opinion, plants kept this way will grow better and possess better quality. They also have some of the softest waters in the country, as if those things weren't enough already:p
 

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They also have some of the softest waters in the country, as if those things weren't enough already:p
unfortunately, we are all learning the hard way that water with ~0KH and ~0GH is not the best water for plants. most of us, including the guys at AF are now adding supplements to boost both KH and GH closer to the 3-5 range.

our water is soft, but many of us who live here and have been keeping tanks in SF for a while are beginning to think it may in fact be TOO soft.
 

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Yes, GH consists of Magnesium and Calcium, both important nutrients we don't dose separately in most fertilization regimes. It also affects osmotic pressure in the fish. A high concentration of something will tend to flow to a low concentration. So for fish that require certain levels of minerals in their bodies, having little or none in the water can cause it to draw those things out of the fish's body. Fish can adapt to improper water hardness, but it's not good for them. South African cichlids need GH of something like 12-18 and Kh of 10-14 or something tremendously high.

KH adds buffering potential to the water, meaning it increases the waters ability to resist changes in pH. This is important to avoid pH swings from other factors. Additionally, KH level is proportional to the amount of CO2 it takes to reach a particular pH. So if you use a pH controller to turn your CO2 injection system on and off, increasing KH will result in more CO2 being injected into the tank. Maintaining a KH of 4 and a pH around 6.6 will get you in the range of 30ppm of CO2. I don't have a link handy, but there are charts online you can use to determine CO2 concentration in the tank if you know KH and pH.

Michael
 

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How are the display tanks now? They were in a huge need of a trim when I was there last month, and they were in the process of revitalizing the large tank near the front display window....
 

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I guess balance really is the key to everything in life, including our tanks:p

But if I have to choose, I would still prefer soft over hard any day. Our water in Houston is on the opposite end of the scale and if we want soft water, we either have to buy them from LFS or consider getting an RO unit. I much rather add supplements like you do to make the water harder. But again, nothing is perfect in life........maybe we should all consider keeping Tropheus like Luis:p
 

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Yes, GH consists of Magnesium and Calcium, both important nutrients we don't dose separately in most fertilization regimes. It also affects osmotic pressure in the fish. A high concentration of something will tend to flow to a low concentration. So for fish that require certain levels of minerals in their bodies, having little or none in the water can cause it to draw those things out of the fish's body. Fish can adapt to improper water hardness, but it's not good for them. South African cichlids need GH of something like 12-18 and Kh of 10-14 or something tremendously high.

KH adds buffering potential to the water, meaning it increases the waters ability to resist changes in pH. This is important to avoid pH swings from other factors. Additionally, KH level is proportional to the amount of CO2 it takes to reach a particular pH. So if you use a pH controller to turn your CO2 injection system on and off, increasing KH will result in more CO2 being injected into the tank. Maintaining a KH of 4 and a pH around 6.6 will get you in the range of 30ppm of CO2. I don't have a link handy, but there are charts online you can use to determine CO2 concentration in the tank if you know KH and pH.

Michael
there is more going on here than just keeping the co2 at 30ppm, and all of the things you mention about Ca and Mg are related to fish. and besides, if it were that simple, any dummy with 2 test kits could keep amazing looking planted tanks. what we think is going on has something to do with water that has very low tds. im still formulating my hypothesis as to why, but it seems that water with low tds like water from Hetch Hetchy reservoir is also devoid of other nutrients, or something that effects the waters ability to maintain steady co2 levels good for plants.
keeping planted tanks in San Francisco is one of the greatest challenges ive ever had as an aquascaper. very difficult.

I guess balance really is the key to everything in life, including our tanks:p

But if I have to choose, I would still prefer soft over hard any day. Our water in Houston is on the opposite end of the scale and if we want soft water, we either have to buy them from LFS or consider getting an RO unit. I much rather add supplements like you do to make the water harder. But again, nothing is perfect in life........maybe we should all consider keeping Tropheus like Luis:p
i know what you mean here, its easier to add stuff to the water than take stuff out. But id still prefer water with about a KH and GH of about 5-7 year round right out of the tap. thats the way the water is in my office, and i can grow anything out here with very low co2 levels, and quite a bit of light with very little algae problems.
 

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Perhaps govnt over there is using one giant RO machine:confused: Just to give u an idea how hard our water is here in Houston. I tested the water in my tap and got around 13KH. Now all the crustaceans have no problems whatsoever with it. But it can be a pain to keep fish/plants that prefer softer water(ie tonina, erios).
 

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Hahaha, somehow that was not the first time we heard that;) But I can assure you it doesn't look as bad as it sounds.

I think it all comes down to what plants we wanna grow. For me, personally, I don't really use toninas or erios so the water isn't that much of an issue. With amazonia and other slight adjustments, we can get away with most of the plants, save those that are really hard-core softwater loving plants.
 

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I live in the bay area and the Aqua Forest Aquarium is one of my favorite places to go when I am in the city. In fact, my first visit there last fall was what inspired me to make the jump from having a low tech, low light fish tank with limited plant possibilities to higher lighting, good substrate, CO2 injection, and fertilizers for a greater selection of aquatic plants to choose from. The people there have been exceptionally helpful in getting me set up with everything that I needed. Both Aqua Forest in SF and the Albany Aquarium in the east bay are my frequent spots for anything aquaria-related.
 
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