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Niko, Niko, Niko, when are you going to see the light and become a true-believing Walstadian? We have what your soul seeks: stable, good looking planted aquaria with healthy fish and low maintenance.

I am being facetious of course, but only partly. As an example, lately I have been swamped with work, and my tanks are grossly neglected. No water changes for months, filters never cleaned, fish fed cheap dry food and nothing else. There is algae on the glass, and stems that need to be trimmed. But if I swipe a razor blade over the front glass, the tanks still look presentable, and the fish are spawning.

Come to the promised land! There will be no Kool-Aid.
 

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Hahaha, facetious or not, it's true. Perhaps this forum isn't representive for the average American aquarist, but I feel Walstad tanks are quite popular in the USA compared to Europe. Is that right?

Perhaps a non CO2 ADA tank is the more something for Niko. Very stable (if lower light is used) and still the neat design I always missed with Walstad tanks.

Here another Dutch in yo' face, this time from a woman:
 

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Hahaha, facetious or not, it's true. Perhaps this forum isn't representive for the average American aquarist, but I feel Walstad tanks are quite popular in the USA compared to Europe. Is that right?
Honestly, I don't know. From my limited experience, most of what I call "serious beginners" drink the CO2 and high light Kool-Aid, with predictable results. Many other beginners are terrified of the idea of putting soil in an aquarium--it's dirty, it's messy, it's too much work, won't it bring horrible bugs into my aquarium?, won't it be muddy?, how do you keep it clean? Yes, terrified of soil, but perfectly fine with putting the toxic preservative and carcinogen gulteraldehyde into the water every day.

Sorry for the rant.
 

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Although I'm more of the high tech side, I totally agree with you!

Ps. I bought 3 gallon glutaraldehyde in the same way once. I now only use it for cleaning diffusors etc.
 

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Honestly, I don't know. From my limited experience, most of what I call "serious beginners" drink the CO2 and high light Kool-Aid, with predictable results. Many other beginners are terrified of the idea of putting soil in an aquarium--it's dirty, it's messy, it's too much work, won't it bring horrible bugs into my aquarium?, won't it be muddy?, how do you keep it clean? Yes, terrified of soil, but perfectly fine with putting the toxic preservative and carcinogen gulteraldehyde into the water every day.

Sorry for the rant.
I drank the **** out of that kool-aid. Drank it like a kid on a hot summer day in Texas. Everywhere I read said the same thing, out compete the algae. Now I can't wait to tear my tank apart and get topsoil and Malaysian snails in there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Jeffy,
Maybe you won't believe that but I too did not expect to see the words "EI" and "Dutch" in one topic. I did not start this thread to bash EI. This whole EI, dry start, and so on give me a headache so for some time now I avoid even thinking about all that.

I did not expect to hear that Dutch aquarists use EI. I hoped to dig out and hear interesting information about tank setup, maintenance, stability, plant health. Well, there isn't such thing.

I did not understand one thing - how did they run good looking tanks before 2006 when EI was "invented". I guess they supplied everything needed but didn't know what to call it or maybe didn't know what they were doing. So virtually everybody around the world that had a good planted tank before 2006 was using EI because the plants had everything to grow well - nothing missing. EI existed before EI. See, only that is enough to give you a headache. And there is more but I'm not going to waste my time with any of it.

I had this ideal in my head that Dutch aquarists had 40+ years to figure out how to run the tank as a system. I thought there were clear cut guidelines for the setup and maintenance. Reality hit with Yo-han's matter-of-fact post about how things actually are. There is no Holy Grail in Holland either.

What the article that I linked to shows is that we can do anything we want with this hobby. And we have done what we, people, always do - take a good idea, chop it up into many separate pieces and get all passionate about it. Fans, products, emotions, contests - all the wonderful drama. I thought that in this hobby the highest level are the Dutch, then Amano, then El Natural, then everybody that loved to grow plants every which way. That imaginary scale is based on the understanding how a tank works. Well, right now it seems that Amano wins, hands down. But in the USA he is not god himself any more. Here we go again - divide and join camps. I bet you, Jeffy, think that I am in my own "I hate EI" camp. What if you try to see me as belonging to the camp "How can we make this better?". Look at all my posts - where have I not gone to make people ask questions?

But you know, a Mexican friend of mine once told me: Lock up a donkey in a barn with a piano. Twenty years later open the barn. Will the donkey play the piano? What do you think, Jeffy? I seem to think that yes, he/she will play the piano. Look at all my posts. No matter how I sound at the end of the day I believe in people.

Michael,
That is exactly what I have been thinking lately - how to "enhance" a soil tank. The smart way, not for a show or a photograph.

Yo-han,
So where is the Dutch hobby headed to? Picture contests?
 

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Hahaha, facetious or not, it's true. Perhaps this forum isn't representive for the average American aquarist, but I feel Walstad tanks are quite popular in the USA compared to Europe. Is that right?

Perhaps a non CO2 ADA tank is the more something for Niko. Very stable (if lower light is used) and still the neat design I always missed with Walstad tanks.

Here another Dutch in yo' face, this time from a woman:
wow
 

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It actually sounds like Dutch and Amano do the same thing. They both carefully monitor their fert levels and adjust as the tank shows its needs.

Most peoples understanding of EI is "max the ferts, dont measure anything, and use 50% water changes to prevent poisoning the fish"

I see them as very different.
 

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I'm a bit disappointed, but well "keep calm and move on".
I was in the "Dutch" van, a way to grow nice plants without crazy fertilizing... I was wrong, and the information you find doesn't mention anything about their soil or any dosing. Reality is that Dutch combine two things that I really hate: high maintnance and plant trimming.

My way to think is that we should try to replicate nature instead of manipulate and accelerate it.
I try to replicate nature just a bit more high tech than el natural or walstad.

I gave my wife's grandfather a 5 G fluval little tank, it has aquasoil and no dosing at all. My 92 years old grandfather takes care of it, all he does is top the tank with water and eventually clean the glass. 4 years with no problem.

I believe in CO2 and lights, but I hate high maintnance. I figured my own way to dose CO2 with high lights low fertilization and low maintnance. I will write about it as soon I get to a computer, typing on a cellphone is killing me.
 

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I did not expect to hear that Dutch aquarists use EI. I hoped to dig out and hear interesting information about tank setup, maintenance, stability, plant health. Well, there isn't such thing.

I did not understand one thing - how did they run good looking tanks before 2006 when EI was "invented". I guess they supplied everything needed but didn't know what to call it or maybe didn't know what they were doing. So virtually everybody around the world that had a good planted tank before 2006 was using EI because the plants had everything to grow well - nothing missing. EI existed before EI. See, only that is enough to give you a headache. And there is more but I'm not going to waste my time with any of it.

I had this ideal in my head that Dutch aquarists had 40+ years to figure out how to run the tank as a system. I thought there were clear cut guidelines for the setup and maintenance. Reality hit with Yo-han's matter-of-fact post about how things actually are. There is no Holy Grail in Holland either.

Yo-han,
So where is the Dutch hobby headed to? Picture contests?
First of, most people don't do EI, only a very small group. What I said was that most people use Redfield Ratio and often in high ratios. So what is different from EI. Dutch did this well before 2006 and even Tom Barr knows this and admits it. He never said he invented using high NPK. The only thing he 'invented' was the max dosage plants can use.

So I wouldn't want to say Dutch use EI. They use something similar with lots of measuring a usually smaller (and/or fewer) water changes. By testing every week you know how much your tank uses. After a while stability comes from knowing your tank. Second, most Dutch on the top, monitor their tanks very closely and dose a lot on experience. Yellow tips -> iron, yellow bottom leaves -> nitrate, etc. But the average Dutch tank you see is certainly no low maintenance;)

About the contest. This will remain the same for years. But there are getting more and more categories. There are a few biotope styles and even a reef category. The question is now, can they do all the extra house visits for a nature style category. And second, most nature style enthousiasts are probably no members of an aquarium club. So they are considering a photo contest indeed.

I'm a bit disappointed, but well "keep calm and move on".
I was in the "Dutch" van, a way to grow nice plants without crazy fertilizing... I was wrong, and the information you find doesn't mention anything about their soil or any dosing.
The reason why you find no information about how the tanks are kept is because Dutch style is a style, not a fertilization method. Some run it ADA style, with Amazonia soil, some use iron nails in the bottom with river clay, other use gravel with water column dosing (EI/RR or just by feel). But with the AGA Dutch style contest you'll get more info about the tanks in English;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 · (Edited)
...I believe in CO2 and lights, but I hate high maintnance. I figured my own way to dose CO2 with high lights low fertilization and low maintnance. I will write about it as soon I get to a computer, typing on a cellphone is killing me.
I am very interested to hear about that. Since yesterday I've been thinking of compiling all the observations and experiences that we all have had that can actually form a "best practices" document. Here it is, hopefully a beginning of something good. I typed everything using dashes so it is easy to add new items where they fit best:

======================================================================================================================================
- The tank needs to be gradually led to full establishment. This involves working with all factors - light, nutrients, filtration setup.

-The tank needs to receive the least possible interventions. The goal is to allow natural processes to develop, take over, and be replaced by others. Interference in this natural flow of processes prevents the tank from establishing itself as a stable system of many parts working together.

- The animals in the tank should be part of the processing of the substances in a smart way. Example: [Amano shrimp]+[dwarf shrimp]+[large snails]+[smaller snails]+[otos] make a visible difference in the mulm reduction compared to a tank that has them all but one.

- Exposure to air eradicates algae for many weeks. This does not happen every time but it is good practice to keep in mind (it was employed by ADG).

- The best, most stable way, to keep algae at bay or non-existent is with a lean water column. That does not mean that plants need to starve.

- Plants can adapt to process very high dosage of fertilizers extremely quickly IF they are gradually brought up to this point. That fast processing can assure optimal nutrition while keeping the water column lean and the tank algae free.

- Tap water is a big unknown in the modern world. Do not assume that your tap water is "ok". Tap water within a big metroplex area is very different in different neighbourhoods.

- The most practical,but wasteful and effort-requiring, method is to use reconstituted RO or DI water. This eliminates the introduction of substances that are in the tap water that can severely affect the tank's proper functioning. Example: dissolved organics, hormones, medications, pesticides.

- Light works best if it is very strong for a short period of time. A non-CO2 tank stays very healthy with 2-3 hours of extremely strong light (4-5 wpg) if the rest of the light period is low viewing light.

- Shading of plans (taller plants shade shorter ones) is a much bigger issue than it seems. A PAR meter shows that the plants get a bewildering array of light values within the same tank. Example: The tank's glass reflects light. Often the light is strong in the middle, less toward the glass, and strong very close to the glass.

- The need for big water changes introduces a lot of disturbance in the tank's processes. It indicates an unstable system.

- Seasons affect the plants in the tank. This could be as simple as the sun hitting the tank differently during this particular season. But keep in mind that all terrestrial house plants "know" when a bad weather is coming and stop taking in water 2 to 7 days earlier. This is not due to atmospheric pressure changes or any other obvious factor. The aquatic plants also have such mechanisms to respond to environment changes.

- Seasons affect the algae in the tank too.

- Algae have been on Earth way longer than plants. Algae are not an enemy but part of the ecosystem. Most natural bodies of water that have aquatic plants also have algae living in the same place. A planted tank tries to alter this state of affairs prevalent in Nature. The processes that take place in the tank determine the success and stability of that attempt.

- Fish food choice is a big factor in controlling the tank's well being. This is beyond Ammonia, Nitrate and Phosphate.

- The tank may look perfectly clean but it can house too many invisible, impossible to filter out mechanically, dissolved organics. It is only through proper processing that these substances are altered or eliminated. This processing is not something that can be forced or rushed.

- Unaccounted substances in the tank (example: dissolved organics, visible mulm) can act very unpredictably - bonding or releasing other substances (waste, nutrients). The goal should be to keep these "unknowns" to a minimum.

- The filter media needs to match the tank's development stage.

- The filter should be maintained in a state of continuous optimal operation. That does not mean frequent cleaning. It mean minimal maintenance because of smart setup, proper choice of medias, size, and flow.

- A biofilter removes many more substances than Ammonia.

- An external filter is not needed in a well established planted aquarium. But it acts as an insurance in case something sudden happens to the microorganisms in the tank.

- The microorganisms in the biofilter are not only bacteria.

- The microorganisms in the filter go through a period of active species and population changes in the beginning of the tank's life. That process should not be interfered with.

- The tank needs to be seen as an object of both visible and invisible creatures that all require very careful care. The microorganisms take first priority because their well being and the powerful processes they make happen determines the success, constant instability, or complete failure of the tank.

- Keeping parameters at certain values make sense only if the big picture is setup right. Example: Redfield ratio will not fix a dirty, algae ridden tank.

- Different fish species produce different amount and form of waste. Example: Cardinal tetras do not produce hard waste. The liquid waste they produce is relatively easier to process because it is liquid and reacts faster/easier.

- Plants can grow very well in both high and low light levels. It all depends on the combination of other factors.

- Certain plants are used as ongoing, reliable, indicators of the available nutrients and included in the aquascape for that purpose too.

- A rule to keep the plants fed and the algae starved in the most stable, predictable, and repairable way is "Hide the nutrients". This does not mean absence of nutrients. It means making them unavailable both physically (example: layer of soil under an inert gravel cap) and logistically (plants consume the nutrients before algae can get to them). The later is possible only if the tank has been established gradually and the plant's internal systems have adapted to process nutrients extremely efficiently.

- There are no "high" and "low" levels of nutrients for the algae. Both plants and algae can make use of minor concentrations of nutrients IF other factors are in place.

======================================================================================================================================

If we are to continue that list it would be best for it to be moved in it's own thread.
 

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Jeffy,
Maybe you won't believe that but I too did not expect to see the words "EI" and "Dutch" in one topic. I did not start this thread to bash EI. This whole EI, dry start, and so on give me a headache so for some time now I avoid even thinking about all that.

I did not expect to hear that Dutch aquarists use EI. I hoped to dig out and hear interesting information about tank setup, maintenance, stability, plant health. Well, there isn't such thing.

I did not understand one thing - how did they run good looking tanks before 2006 when EI was "invented". I guess they supplied everything needed but didn't know what to call it or maybe didn't know what they were doing. So virtually everybody around the world that had a good planted tank before 2006 was using EI because the plants had everything to grow well - nothing missing. EI existed before EI. See, only that is enough to give you a headache. And there is more but I'm not going to waste my time with any of it.

I had this ideal in my head that Dutch aquarists had 40+ years to figure out how to run the tank as a system. I thought there were clear cut guidelines for the setup and maintenance. Reality hit with Yo-han's matter-of-fact post about how things actually are. There is no Holy Grail in Holland either.
Although this topic has clearly deviated from the original intent of 'look at these cool dutch style planted aquariums!', the underlying question is very clear - how the hell do you grow great plants?

Here's my personal take on all of this, esp. as it relates to the dutch style of maintenance (which is clearly thought of here as the pinnacle of how to grow great plants since large, carefully arranged plant groupings is the goal of dutch style planted aquariums).

First of all, let's remember two things: (1) The potential growth rate of plants is controlled by the amount of light they receive and (2) If plants are deficient of anything, then they will only grow until they run out of the limiting nutrient. It doesn't matter what that nutrient is, whether it is K, Ca, Mg, C as CO2, N as NO3-, P as PO4---, Fe(++ or +++), etc. The concept of excess nutrients is irrelevant here.

Second of all, let's think about the concept of the two main fertilization methods - PPS-Pro & EI. I can't remember where i have this posted before, but here's what i remember off the top of my head... If we break down the numbers of PPS-Pro, it recommends we dose the following on a daily basis (i'm ignoring Mg):

Code:
1.0 ppm NO3-
0.1 ppm PO4---
1.3 ppm K
0.1 ppm Fe (or Trace)
If we break down the numbers for EI, it recommends we dose the following (roughly) on a daily basis:

Code:
~4 ppm NO3-
~1 ppm PO4---
~3 ppm K
~0.5 ppm Fe (or Trace)
If we look at the amount of nutrients dosed in the EI fertilization regime, do they not look like the values in the PPS-Pro formula if they were multiplied by ~3-4? One major difference is the NO3- to PO4--- ratio (10:1 vs 4:1). The ratio of NO3- to PO4--- is based roughly on the Redfield ratio. Seachem recommends dosing @ a ratio of 5:1. I think we need to remember that the Redfield ratio is a GUIDE and not set in stone. If you pay attention to your planted aquarium, you will find you need to adjust the ratio of NO3- to PO4--- accordingly (as in the formation of algae).

Here is what i'm getting at. If you measure the nutrients of your tank on two consecutive days (without adding fertilizer), then the difference between those values is the nutrient uptake. That's the amount of nutrients you should be adding on a daily basis since that's what the plants are using. THAT'S THE WAY YOU FERTILIZE YOUR TANK! In the dutch style of planted aquariums, you are making many measurements of the nutrients to determine if your fertilization regime is adequate for the nutrient demands of the tank AND ADJUST AS NECESSARY. This is what Yo-Han is saying - If the nutrient needs of PPS-Pro are inadequate (we're using PPS-Pro as the base nutrient dosing amount), they double or triple or quadruple the amount of fertilizer they need. If they find one of the components is being used faster than the others, they adjust accordingly (My experience is that the PO4--- is too low so i dose a 5:1 NO3-:pO4---).

In a similar vein, if we consider PPS-Pro to be the base fertilization regime, then EI can be considered the highest fertilization regime (highest as in amount of fertilizer added, not highest as in the 'best'). It has been shown that there is a point where you cannot get plants to grow any faster with the addition of more light (~150 par). If this is considered to have the fastest growth rate, then EI is designed to keep up with the nutrient demands of plants growing in this amount of light (which is entirely possible if you have a 4 or 6+ bulb T5HO light fixture on your aquarium). (The other thing about EI is that it is based off of the addition of nutrients in the solid state - that's my main gripe with the method... that and the people who don't think and blindly follow it because they don't know any better...)

This is probably the point that most people don't think about or understand: EI is an upgraded (or increased dosage) of PPS-Pro (with more PO4---). The only way to know EXACTLY how much nutrients you need to add (using the Redfield ratio as a basis or starting point) is the measure your nutrient uptake and adjust accordingly. That's (IMHO) the best way to fertilize your tank, but of course you can't write that up in a neat sticky and have a complete newbie understand that. Only by observing your plants and measuring your nutrient levels and adjusting accordingly can you have a world class tank - dutch style or otherwise.
 

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Only by observing your plants and measuring your nutrient levels and adjusting accordingly can you have a world class tank - dutch style or otherwise.
:attention....... EI says you NEVER need to measure nutrients.:attention

If you're measureing... then you aren't using EI. Thats the whole reason you're maximizing the dosing, so you know without measureing that you have enough.
 

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:attention....... EI says you NEVER need to measure nutrients.:attention

If you're measureing... then you aren't using EI. Thats the whole reason you're maximizing the dosing, so you know without measureing that you have enough.
The fact that you don't need to measure nutrients doesn't mean that you shouldn't. It simply says that you don't need to measure nutrient levels (which is also why you need to add the large weekly water changes into your routine as well).

That said, you do make a very important point. The point of this post was to show how Dutch Style aquariums are awesome and don't use EI. Those aquarists know better than to blindly follow some fertilization method by measuring nutrient values in their tanks and adjusting accordingly.

Here is a quote from Tom Barr's article in TAG (Vol 19, Issue 3 July-September 2006) "The Estimative Index - What is it?" (emphasis added):

Code:
The Estimative Index (EI) is a simple method of dosing nutrients for any tank without using 
test kits. The aquarist doses nutrients frequently to prevent any nutrient from running out (plant 
deficiency) and performs large weekly water changes to prevent buildup (plant inhibition).... 
[b]The aquarist may still test if desired, and add less or more fertilizers to suit an individual tank.[/b]
EI makes problem solving and experimentation fast and easy.
That last point is something that a lot of people miss. If you were to ask him in person, Tom Barr makes a point of stating that EI was developed to be flexible with regards to the amount of nutrients you add. Again, though, most people miss that point and follow it rigidly. Perhaps that's more of the problem than anything else? That people don't know how to think for themselves and solve their own aquarium problems? (Hmm... that never happens, now does it...)
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
No. I started this thread to put whatever information I find about Dutch tanks' setup and maintenance. The thread went somewhere where I never thought it'd go.

If I knew that these lush Dutch tanks where run half blind I'd make some kind of joke about it in the very beginning. You know my style.


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Maybe another 'secret' or at least a great help is that the Dutch tapwater is probably the best in the world. Not to brag or something, but the entire country has 0 PO4, and between 0 - 5 ppm NO3. Organics almost undetectable. There is no chloramine or anything in the tap, and vritually no heavy metals or anything. The only 'problem' is the amount of limestone. With KH=4 as the lowest, but most area's are around KH=15. Still, you can use water straight from the tap. For example, I always run a hose.straight from the shower and never added anything (antichlor or something) to it. Plants and fish love it;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
Ah, here we go again - clean water is important. And as we like to think lately - clean of dissolved organics, not just N or P. To me that is the main underlying reason why some people have a green aquatic plant thumb. Or they are more aware than most others of the importance of actually clean water. It must have been around 2004 when an extremely meticulous aquascaper told me half secretly he made sure organics do not pollute his tanks. To me that meant mechanical filtration and water changes. To someone else clean water may mean to not interfere with the tank every few days. Bottom line is - if we ever want any real insight on the setup and maintenance of a planted tank we better have clear, agreed upon views on the basics. It looks like the Dutch don't have much to say about it other than "just get in and drive". Only ADA has put out some kind of standard start up procedure, but you really got to be starry eyed to believe that if you buy all the recommended stuff they sell your tanks will be fine from the get go every time.

So where does one start? The water of course. It should not introduce any unknowns. At least not the unknowns we know about. Here's a funny: To start a tank full of lush vegetation it is best to start off with Dutch quality water. This is particularly relevant in our day and age and we can not deny it.


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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
Jeffy, what is the problem with adding dry ferts to the tank? To me that is actually a good thing. In the process of solubilization the ions seem to somehow act a little different than old, worn out, tired ions of the same kind. In a way that is very beneficial to the.plants. Try putting some Dolomitic rocks in the tank and crank up the CO2. See what many plants do in the resulting opalescent broth. Then clear up the water and start adding Mg and Ca solutions in any ratio you like. Plant will not do what they did in the opalescent mess. That could be a result of the rocks' composition I had, but I could replicate similar insane growth only with stems, super clear water, and tons of light and ferts added daily. No explanation how the plants did what they did in water that was so white from the liquified rock that I could not see 3" beyond the front glass. Add a thick layer of greyish foam on top and you can see how much light was hitting the plants. A month later I took a big tub of clippings.to the store and they gave me $40 on the spot. the plants where not just a big pile but also amazing quality. Since then I believe that there is something about the process of solubilization, hence my question to you.


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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
The water being clean may sound like a good starting point but truth is we all know that is not everything.

First off it is about the substances in that tap water. Some are ok as it seems. Some are not ok. But which is which is hard to say. And then we all know people that have clean health tanks and barely do anything to their tap water. I am far from believing their tap water is perfect. So to me it is all, once again, in HOW the tank's different parts operate together as a system.

This morning I got a brand new TDS meter. Stuck it in RO/DI water and showed a perfect 0.00. My RO/DI system is only a week old. The waste water that this system produces out of my tap water is 360.

So I go on to check TDS in all 3 of my tanks. 340, 440, and 670.

I also checked some fancy drinking water I have - imported from New Zealand, completely natural, totally hippie. TDS of 55. Could be because it was very cold, straight from the fridge. I will double check.

Tap water here is 270.

How is all that exciting? Well, guess which one is the cleanest, most stable tank. Guess which one receives basically zero maintenance and barely any flow going. Yes, you are right - the one that has TDS of 670. It is the ugliest of all 3 because of on going neglect. But it is the cleanest and most stable one. That makes me believe that letting the tank be and do its own thing is an important thing that most of us miss.
 

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So I go on to check TDS in all 3 of my tanks. 340, 440, and 670. [snip] Tap water here is 270. [snip] How is all that exciting? Well, guess which one is the cleanest, most stable tank. Guess which one receives basically zero maintenance and barely any flow going. Yes, you are right - the one that has TDS of 670. It is the ugliest of all 3 because of on going neglect. But it is the cleanest and most stable one. That makes me believe that letting the tank be and do its own thing is an important thing that most of us miss.
Pictures, niko! Remember, here on the Internet: "No pictures? It didn't happen!" :D
 
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