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I want it easy, If I have to pay for easy that is fine. Life must go on.
So you're hiring someone? ADG?

A central theme to this thread and many others is lack of consensus on what works, even amongst us non-jetsetting types. We haven't even made it to the why part yet. I believe the hobby will grow exponentially if we ever do manage to piece together a reliable cookbook, but there has been very little interest from the scientific community, to date.
 

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Hiring someone, Nope. I'm just going to use the ada stuff. All of it. Mostly all of it. There seems to be a system that works. ADA. Many won't buy it because they think they are being taken advantage of. Snake oil and stuff. We love to play the victim here.

If I lived in DFW and ADG wold come scape my humble 60p for an additional $200 with the purchase of the ada system, I would pay it. Not worrying about sourcing plants that are quality and free from algae, no paypal blah, blahs and shipping all over the web, seems worth it.
 

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lanceduffy, I've spent hundreds on ADA equipment and Aquasoil over the years, and have tried lots of other substrates, DIY and commercial. I agree that ADA is the best of them in granule size, consistency, ability to hold down plants, ability to start a tank right, etc. That said, if what you're looking for is an idiot-proof system that cannot fail, it does not exist. Heck, even within the ADA Aquasoil product line, I've experienced large inconsistencies from year-to-year. I'm still working on my last bags of the old stuff, so I haven't tried the new line of Amazonia which is supposed to improve product quality/consistency, so maybe they've figured it out. Either way, good luck to you!
 

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Most of the LFS in New York (I'm sure elsewhere as well) survive based on their installs. Almost all of these installs are saltwater. They move a disproportionate amount of livestock, product and of course employee time to these accounts.

If knowledge is king it doesn't exist here. These customers know pretty much nothing about there saltwater setups. It's simply based on wanting something in their homes and are willing to pay through the nose for it. This does not exist in planted tanks. It's just not at all 'practical' for someone to show a picture of an Amano Setup and say I want that in my home. It's just a completely different level of maintenance, especially if someone is paying large dollars for a large showpiece setup. I should add that this isn't absolute, but in general. There are setups that can be maintained with less maintenance compared to others, but in all Saltwater setups don't change as much since there is no plant issues.
 

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I guess what I ignore is that I have paid my dues. I have researched, learned and practiced enough to be able to run a tank a few different ways. Through this practice, I have learned what to look out for and do a good job over 90% of the time.

I keep on these forums because I want to know more and I am always looking for something better. It sounds like people are saying that there is nothing better and you can't just throw money at the problem.

For now I am going to bow out of this discussion.
 

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Interesting discussions. Some rambling thoughts...

I have never kept a salt water (reef) tank, and I know next to nothing about them, so I am going to ask a few 'stupid questions' here regarding them. How do they compare to planted tanks, as far as ease of maintenance, and time to reach maturity/stability? Are there as many 'methods' to reef tanks as there are to planted? (PPS, EI, Sub-zero, Walstead, etc)

Basically, ime, planted tanks do require a fairly high amount of dedication, especially at start up, to reach an equilibrium and a mature state. Looking at Niko's sub-zero, you're looking at minimum, a 2 mo time frame where you're doing water changes every 2-3 days. How many people have the time, and dedication to devote to that?

I love finding out the 'why' and 'hows' of the mechanism to obtaining the desired result. But I certainly don't have the time to devote to it myself. I can see why folks just want to know how to do it, without necessarily wanting to understand the why you do it. Though knowing the 'why' gives you a much greater ability to correct problems when they occur.

If your neighbor, who has never kept any kind of aquarium before, comes over and sees your beautifully planted, scaped tank, and says to you '...gee I love it! I want to set one up. What do I need to have a similar one?' What would you tell them? Would you keep it to a simple '...do this and this and this...' or would you go into an in depth discussion of methods/substrates/lighting, etc?

As I said, just some rambling thoughts...
 

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Some key differences between a Planted Aquascape and a Reef in terms of spending big money.

-Once you understand the science the Planted is still more maintenance due to plant growth. The Reef setup is fairly static compared to planted. I don't know how practical it is to have the masses keep a well-scaped aquascape 'well-scaped'

-Key player with Planted is the plants (overall scape) with the Reef it's still the fish. I don't know if people are so willing to spend big dollars around plants.

-I do think (I believe Nowherman6 said it) that setting up a reef is like bringing a Caribbean vacation into your home. Many more can relate to that feeling than going to Ichetucknee Springs State Park in Florida to see aquatic plants in their natural environment.

Having knowledge and growing healthy plants is not enough to have one spend large money for planted. As mentioned most LFS survive by installing expensive saltwater setups and most of those customers know nothing about running the tank. To truly have a perfectly scaped tank for the long-term takes true dedication and passion. Not everyone who sees a photo contest pic would have that.
 

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Interesting discussions. Some rambling thoughts...

I have never kept a salt water (reef) tank, and I know next to nothing about them, so I am going to ask a few 'stupid questions' here regarding them. How do they compare to planted tanks, as far as ease of maintenance, and time to reach maturity/stability? Are there as many 'methods' to reef tanks as there are to planted? (PPS, EI, Sub-zero, Walstead, etc)
Two completely different leagues. Even with a room full of automation equipment, [nice] reef tanks are a ton of work. The hours spent just cleaning glass and maintaining sandbeds would drop jaws around here. This is why it's rare to see a reef hobbyist with more than 1 tank at a time whereas freshwater hobbyists will commonly juggle half a dozen.

As for maturity, we're talking about 2 different scales again. Growth rates vary of course, but it takes years for a reef tank to really fill in and look mature. Compare that to most planted aquariums where it's rare for an aquascape to even make it to the 1 year mark. Instead of a few inches of plant growth every couple weeks, many corals typically grow a few inches every 6 months (or longer). Do yourself a favor and check out this thread with 4 years worth of full tank shots.

At one time, there were at least half a dozen competing methods to running a reef tank. Now that a lot of the mystery has been uncovered, most have converged into a single model. Lots of light, high flow (but low velocity), big skimmer, no phosphate, heavy feeding, and calcium/alk supplementation. There are some variations, but those are the basics. A notable holdout is the Zeovit system which still has some support over in Europe, but is viewed with a lot of skepticism by US hobbyists.

I love finding out the 'why' and 'hows' of the mechanism to obtaining the desired result. But I certainly don't have the time to devote to it myself. I can see why folks just want to know how to do it, without necessarily wanting to understand the why you do it. Though knowing the 'why' gives you a much greater ability to correct problems when they occur.
This is the prevailing attitude of most hobbyists. Time and financial constraints are a big reason that many hobbyists end up on the freshwater side of the fence. But until we have more people aggressively pursuing the "why," this hobby will continue to stagnate. We need to snag a few motivated individuals before the reef hobby grabs them.

Reefs require lots of resources, but the hobby stills enjoys such popularity because there is well established A + B = C formula for success. In contrast, how demotivating is nuisance algae for us? How much of that downer is due to the physical labor required and how much of it is mental as we go through perpetual trial and error? How many times are we going to try excel, the algae eater dartboard, guess how much CO2, or the pull a nutrient lever game?

If your neighbor, who has never kept any kind of aquarium before, comes over and sees your beautifully planted, scaped tank, and says to you '...gee I love it! I want to set one up. What do I need to have a similar one?' What would you tell them? Would you keep it to a simple '...do this and this and this...' or would you go into an in depth discussion of methods/substrates/lighting, etc?
I tell them that banging their head against a wall while tearing up $100 bills and flooding their basement would probably be a better hobby :).
 

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This is a tough discussion to have since one's idea of a planted tank is so different. If we are truly talking about a showcase aquascape with a multitude of plants finely trimmed. And the ability to keep everything in proportion etc, there is no comparison, between the maintenance of said tank and a reef tank. Also we are talking about a different type of maintenance. Pretty much anyone can clean glass, replace sandbeds do a water change and add chemicals. Not everyone can scape a tank to perfection and keep it looking that way long-term.
 

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Hey, first post here. Good thread.

As far as the topic of expanding the hobby in the US goes, it seems that in the posts in this thread, expansion often = more participants . I think that it'll remain a niche hobby relative to fish-only FW, SW, etc., but that doesn't prevent expansion of the hobby itself. Greater communication, cooperation, education, agreement on equipment/methods/etc. among existing hobbyists can grow the hobby just as much as encouraging more people to participate in the hobby would. Anyone agree/disagree?

I'm not suggesting one big drum circle or anything -- just that a hobby doesn't necessarily need to be adding participants to be advancing itself.
 

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So from all this talk we can safely conclude that if we know more about how to start and run a planted tank we, as a whole, can actually come up with simple steps to do it. Like ADA has done.

The problems that I saw with EI and PPS over the years is that dumb people mess their tank up and then are inclined to blame the method they chose. It all turns into too much discussion about details and the big picture is completely lost. To my knowledge I'm the only one to openly say why exactly I find the EI and PPS, the two most popular methods to run a planted tank, are a pretty bad idea. Such discussions are non-existent or are very superficial.

So we stand where we were back in 2002 as far as knowledge is concerned. I kid you not- just a tiny bit further. With just a little more understanding about light maybe (staggered light periods). Everything else - substrate, filtration, optimal CO2 levels, O2 at night, flow pattern, flow rate, what the heck happens in the substrate - are all superficially discussed every so often and never connected into a coherent method. We still argue if Fluorite or EcoComplete are better than AquaSoil. And how many people actually aerate their tanks at night AND know why they are doing it? I can go like that forever, you get the point.

I really hope that a few people will bunch together and come up with a reasonable approach that takes into an account all factors we know of at the moment. It does need to be simple. It does have to have quite a few photographs proving that the aproach works. It will take time to accept. But if we don't try we will be where we are now for who knows how long.

--Nikolay
 

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.. To my knowledge I'm the only one to openly say why exactly I find the EI and PPS, the two most popular methods to run a planted tank, are a pretty bad idea. Such discussions are non-existent or are very superficial.--Nikolay
Niko my friend. Why say its a bad idea if it works for many people? There are two many different methods of success that a woven into one's lifestyle to say whether one system is a bad idea or not.
 

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Money and the Hobby: Noticeable difference between our perceived difference in attitudes towards investing in SW versus FW planted tanks in the US.

That I think is the OP main theme here.

My comments based on my experience and thoughts after reading this thread thoroughly (found it last night):

There are different relations between expensive [equipment] investment and good results [balanced system] between both worlds.

For a Reef tank that correlation is pretty much straight forward: to a certain point money can buy success here much more easily than in planted tanks.

I think we can agree on that but those of us that have tried both (reef and planted) are likely to see this clearer.

Both systems are in more than one way different ball games.

I haven't read any paper on this yet but I suspect that a higher Social-Economic-Status is likely a strong predictor of the possibility of someone keeping a Reef Tank (independently of keeping or not a Planted Tank).

The opposite might likely be true: Lower Social-Economic-Status probably includes more persons keeping planted tanks than Reef tanks.

The Social-Economic-Status may therefore explain, in part, why we see some resistance to invest in equipment and rare plants, as well as the need to go DIY.

As organisms we live our lives according to context (unless we have a severe personality disorder) between two opposite extremes: Survival versus Life-Enhacement.

At Survival we strive to minimize our losses while at Life-Enhancement we strive to increase our well-being.

Things are not black and white here but consider that spending 300 to 500 usd in a nice high tech CO2 System isn't the same than spending 3,000 usd on an all rimless Starfire-Glass tank. There are degrees of spending flexibility in planted tanks that may not be there for Reef tanks.

Someone in the lower end of the SES might succeed in keeping a nice looking "El Natural" or even a nice low tech/light EI with DIY CO2 and get much more beautiful results than someone, at the same SES level attempting a FOWLR tank. Reef tanks are not truly possible to obtain while on a very limited budget.

Maybe some of us entered into planted tanks while still in "Survival" mode (in SES terms) and kept that attitude while succeeding in life and having the blessing/opportunity of living in "Life-Enhancement" mode.

I don't know many planted tank enthusiast willing to pay 500 usd for a small Bucephalandra sp; I know a few of us that probably will.

Reef enthusiast don't sit until someone "grow" corals and prices drop; I keep seeing a tendency in the opposite direction in the planted tank enthusiasts.

The "industry" and the "society" also play a role. Access to Reef gadgets is most times as easy as walking in a store or going online for US hobbyist, all you need is the money to purchase. Try to get T5HO at 8,000K in the US today (I ended purchasing mine online in Europe).

Same thing happens with livestock: a wide array of Corals, Inverts and Fish for Reef Tanks is easier to find than that Eriocaulon or Cryptocoryne sp. I truly want.

It's a cycle feeding itself: Market has two sides in the equation, the provider/seller and the consumer/buyer. Planted tanks seem to be in "stall" in the US.

Here is the core of the OP question: What explains the difference in investment attitude (tendency to go cheap) in planted tanks in the US and how do we change this reality?

It's mind baffling and the SES part of the equation falls short here unless there are truly only a few planted tank keepers with solvency and/or there are also few willing to invest (time and money) figuring how things work out in a planted tank.

That phenomena doesn't seem to happen in Europe and Asia. To some extent the same US reality is happening in my dear Caribbean half-Island.

I visited only one LFS in Berlin a couple of years ago. I was in awe with the fish varieties for both SW and FW; the aquatic plants area was a paradise; the readily available equipment for planted tanks was similar to SW.

I live in a Third World Country, where SES differences are gross. It's sometimes heart-braking for me noticing the motivation for planted (and SW) tanks in decent persons (some with college degree) with an income so small that I feel nothing but admiration mixed with pain; I don't see myself going through the difficult financial situation they are enduring and at the same time strive for a planted tank yet there they are, determined to get that savings that in a few months would put pressurized CO2 in their tank(s) even if it will work with an old single stage regulator for a good while.

Then there's our understanding of biology: Most macrophytes (terrestrial, amphibian and aquatic plants) biology and physiology is less understood today than Corals/Inverts/Fish.

Besides a few exceptions like the Barr Report (in the paid member's section) information is scarce, vague, contradictory as for what really happens in our planted tanks. I use Google translator like Niko does yet it's obvious how imperfect that tool is.

Most Reef keepers end having a nice refractometer yet how many planted tank keepers end purchasing a nice PAR meter?

Simple question, complex answer...

Pepetj
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Niko my friend. Why say its a bad idea if it works for many people? There are two many different methods of success that a woven into one's lifestyle to say whether one system is a bad idea or not.
House, my friend.

What, I'm trying to do here is help everybody. Because we know so little.

I could post 3 topics that will show that very well.

1. What do you know about ADA's approach to running a planted tank.
2. What do you know about a specific piece of equipment that they use.
3. How do you fight algae.

Topic #2 is here actually:
http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forumapc/equipment/79671-question-knock-off-lily-pipes-vs.html

And so far the answers show complete disregard for the 2 of the 3 things that make ADA's Lily pipe special. (At least I learned someting I didn't know - that CalAqua's glassware is more rigid.) I have the feeling that we like Lily pipes because of the way they look and because Amano sold us something we see as "cool". That's ok, except that it keeps us where we are in our knowledge.

The fact that we know very little is nothing new. We still don't have very good advice for every newbie that shows up. Especially when algae hits them. I hate to think that 20 years from now we will be where we are now when it comes to battling algae. Look at this guy's tanks:
http://bubblesaquarium.com/Aquascape/Aquascape_Gallery2010.htm
And look at what he does to his water:
http://bubblesaquarium.com/Aquascape/Gallery2010/Gallery2010_1_Infinite.htm

Note the "Filter media". Note the "Water maintenance". Note the "CO2" (at 3bps in a 60 gal. tank!).
Now note the stem plant's health. Mindblowing to say the least.
Where are his nutrients? We don't even know what he does and why he does it! With stem plants our best take is "Fertilize the water and control everything through chemicals."

So, here's a good quote:

"The problem with most failing businesses is not that their owners don't know enough about finance, marketing, management, and operations... those things are easy enough to learn... but that they spend their time and energy defending what they think they know. My experience has shown me that the people who are exceptionally good in business aren't so because of what they know but because of their insatiable need to know more." Michael Gerber

We have settled comfortably in what we do. And progress is much slower than it could be. With all the resources we have in the US we got to be Number 1 in knowlege about planted tanks. But we are far behind. That will not change until we continue to defend what we think we know. That's why I wrote the subZero post in such a critical way and emphasising what is wrong with all 3 "methods". That's why many of my posts provoke. Because we need more knowledge.

So we can make things simple.

--Nikolay
 

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Wow! Pepetj, being a psychology professional gave us a very valuable opinion!

Correct me if I'm wrong but despite SES and other factors I do believe that if we, as a whole, have a way to not worry about algae and a few other issues then most likely we will start creating aquascapes at least similar to Bubbles:
http://bubblesaquarium.com/Aquascape/Aquascape_Gallery2010.htm

Then I do believe this hobby will have a very fast and positive development. And the perception + money will fall in place.

It seems to me that if we find proven ways to manage/supress algae the planted tank hobby will experience a true Rennaisance.

This could be as easy as a small website showing 10-20 tanks setup over the course of 1 year. And how algae showed up and was dealt with swiftly + how when introduced intentionally it dies off.

Basically if we had knowledge the hobby can be different within 1 year. How exciting is that?

--Nikolay
 

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The thing that stands out to me about the tanks maintained by Bubbles Aquariums are what we consider insane amounts of light and what seems like very low CO2 levels. The one linked by Niko has over 300 watts of T5HO on a 120cm tank with a CO2 bubble rate of 3 bps. Also noticed they use some sort of bacteria fortifying additives with each water change.
 

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Read his article about the Nitrogen Cycle under "Knowledge". That may answer why he uses bacteria after a water change. Besides - Amano does it and suggest it too.

One thing I noticed is that in 2007 Bubbles was adding NPK and using N and P removers at the same time. By 2010 that apparently changed.

And the other strange thing is his belief in all that Plocher Energy system mumbo-jumbo. Tourmaline, Penac P, Penac W. Metal coins under the substrate...I just hate that stuff because I know everything! Can't he just adjust his nutrients and be done with it? Geez!

<For the occasional reader that does not know my sense of humor - the last paragraph above contains iSarcasm™ >

--Nikolay
 

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I can't find Nutrafin's WasteControl DSMS yet in Hagen's FAQ they state that this product decompose solid waste: "waste are reduced to their lowest components by the bacteria team". The info is still vague (reduced as in ion/cation exchange?) but makes me wonder if:

We may have two sources here capable of providing at least N and P to the water column in more than one way from these added heterotrophic bacteria: as byproduct while alive as well as once dead; how relevant or not this "probable" nutrient source is we just don't know.

Leaching nutrients from the substrate into the water column from the "mumbo-jumbo" stuff is another variable that we may consider.

I do figure that the massive death of heterotrophic bacteria in Cycle should provide more nutrients to the plants through the water column.

Add fish waste and uneaten fish food to the equation and we may have enough to provide at least slow-growth; N and P removers keep the levels on the low side constantly and as long as its probable periods of depletion doesn't "dry out" plant's reserves it shouldn't affect overall plant health other than its growth rate.

I have a problem with 3 bps of CO2. It tells me nothing as for how much bioavailable carbon ends up in the water column. We need to measure it to actually know (I mean with calibrated instrument which is prohibitive). The absence of algae suggest CO2 is not a limiting factor here unless... despite being limited the huge amount of heterotrophic bacteria kept alive in this tank outcompetes algae or maybe another explanation I haven't considered... yet (we are on the hunt for those aren't we?)

This discussion may seem to be off-topic but unless we understand all the facts we remain working with unproved hypothesis if not total ignorance.

Fairly good level of knowledge of how things work allow Reef Keeping with minimal risk; the cost of equipment that solve the problems we understand may be expensive or not; in Reef keeping they usually are so SW fellows must invest or forget about it; in FW planted tank we are still figuring things out and I agree, until we do -at least to the extent of keeping algae as a negligible nuisance- we have little room of changing things, at least in the US market.

Pepetj
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One of my dearest live plants provider/seller, David, has a nice business in the US; he sets up beautiful planted tanks and rent them with maintenance routine, like Bubbles is doing in Hong Kong.

Check his website:http://displariums.com/

He's a member of APC by the way; it would be interesting to learn from his experience.

Pepetj
Santo Domingo
 

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Appreciate what your trying to do, but I still feel these are the main obstacles that need to be overcome before we can say something about controlling algae.

Some key differences between a Planted Aquascape and a Reef in terms of spending big money.

-Once you understand the science the Planted is still more maintenance due to plant growth. The Reef setup is fairly static compared to planted. I don't know how practical it is to have the masses keep a well-scaped aquascape 'well-scaped'

-Key player with Planted is the plants (overall scape) with the Reef it's still the fish. I don't know if people are so willing to spend big dollars around plants.

-I do think (I believe Nowherman6 said it) that setting up a reef is like bringing a Caribbean vacation into your home. Many more can relate to that feeling than going to Ichetucknee Springs State Park in Florida to see aquatic plants in their natural environment.
Having knowledge and growing healthy plants is not enough to have one spend large money for planted. As mentioned most LFS survive by installing expensive saltwater setups and most of those customers know nothing about running the tank. To truly have a perfectly scaped tank for the long-term takes true dedication and passion. Not everyone who sees a photo contest pic would have that.

The 'household' names in this hobby like Amano, Knott, etc. have IMO a much deeper sense of passion for the hobby than a typical planted tank aquarist might have. They are also professionals and image is everything as is Bubbles Aquarium. No doubt those tanks are gorgeous, but many would require way too much maintenance even with all algae issues controlled for most to deal with effectively.
 
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