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I got started in the 50's when, at the age of 13, I got a tank, gravel, some Vallisneria and some guppies. The guppies did fine, but the plants died back. The book by Innis said that the gravel should be washed well. Perhaps I had not washed it enough. I washed and washed. The plants died and died. I was hooked.

I found out that the plants did a little better with less light. They were next to a south-facing window, and the plants looked better if I papered over the side facing the window. My first big breakthrough was when I tried soil. Huge improvement in the plants. Another breakthrough was when I tried using Daphnia to combat green water. I tried separating the Daphnia from my goldfish with a cheese cloth barrier It worked until the cheese cloth rotted and the goldfish broke through and ate the Daphnia. I later tried tanks with Daphnia and snails and no fish.

I went to college and experimented on growing aquatic plants. In graduate school I did research on tissue levels of Nitrogen and Phosphorus in aquatic plants as a measure of availability of these nutrients in the water. I got almost-steriile, algae-free cultures of about 7 species going for the experiments. I also continued to experiment with growing aquatic plants in non-sterile aquarium set-ups. Had some really nasty hair algae problems, including staghorn, Cladophora, and, the algae from Hell, Oedogonium. I worked out a method of killing the hair algae using 5% liquid bleach, and, since that time, have had hair algae-free tanks with only occasoinal re-infestations due to carelessness on my part about bleaching new plants. I took a course in plant nutrition. and got a master's degree at the University of Wisconsin.

Went to Tufts for the PhD and worked on preying mantids. Continued to play with aquatic plants. Got interested in crypts. I tried making Daphnia cages with glass frames covered with nylon window curtain material. The material separated the fish from the Daphnia successfully, but released something that slowly killed the plants. It took me 2 years to figure out that the curtain material was the cause of the plants getting sick.

I got a job teaching Biology at Tougaloo College in central Mississippi. I read somewhere that CO2 additions stimulated plant growth, but I didn't want to mess with yeast and sugar CO2 production. I thought of breathing into a plastic bag and pumping the air (about 4% CO2) directly into the tank. It worked very well, and I have used that method ever since. Nobody else to my knowledge has ever tried it. I had some fantastic growth of Crypts and other plants and was bringing hundreds of crypts to the LFS.

For a long time since those early days in Mississippi I have not been able to repeat those fantastic growth experiences. All my plants became much more finicky and I lost some species. I had poor luck getting new species started that I had acquired in trade or purchased. Finally, after about 8 years, I found the cause of my problems---plastic. I was growing many of my aquarium plants in plastic trays from microwave dinners. I was also growing a lot of species emersed in soda pop bottles. Both kinds of plastic were more or less hurting the plants. Some species were much less affected than others.

Now I am in the process of getting rid of the plastic and using only glass trays and glass containers for my emersed plants. I am starting to get great growth again. I am getting more and more heavily into Cryptocoryne and am the moderator of the Crypt Nuts forum.

I got into aquarium plants when there was almost no useful information on how to grow them. Soil, they said, would cause disasters. Stick with clean gravel, they said, and let the fish wastes provide all the needed nutrients. HAH!! Were they out of it! It has been a long struggle, but I loved every minute of it. There have been those moments when I thought that I had solved every problem and that my plants would grow perfectly from then on. Always, these times have been quickly followed by the inevitable let-down when new problems cropped up. Still, I have made progress, and I enjoy the process. Some time when I have solved nearly all the problems I might get into aquascaping, but now I am still into just growing species successfully. The collector's bug has bitten me badly, and I want all the species of aquarium plants in the world, especially all the crypts. Unfortunately, my eyes are a lot bigger than my tank space. I should be grading final exams now.
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