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If you are new to Planted Tanks you should read this

Discussion in 'General Aquascaping and Planted Tank Discussions' started by ghostsword, Jun 23, 2011.

  1. ghostsword

    ghostsword Aspiring Aquascaper Staff Member

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    Having a planted tank is not as hard it may seem, but it may take a while to get all the information needed to master the art of growing plants.

    We all have to start somewhere, so the article "A beginer perspective" is the perfect start.

    Whatever problems you may be facing, you were not the first one, and there are always a solution.


    AquaScaping World Magazine - A Beginner's Perspective

    Now, one of the failures of many planted tanks are the lack of fertilisers, CO2 and too much light.

    Plants are living things, they need food, nourishment and care. By dosing the water collumn with nutrients you are giving your plants, and fish, all they need to thrive and display their beauty.

    It is scary when you start, it may seem a lot to understand, but read the the EI method article below, and you will be on a very good standing to master it.

    AquaScaping World Magazine - Estimative Index Fertilization Method

    Now, CO2, a silent killer if misused, but it is very hard to keep a planted tank without it. You need to understand how to use it correctly, no mistakes on this one. You dose too much and you will kill all your fish and shrimp. The plants will not die from a overdosing, but the fish and shrimp will.

    One of the best articles about CO2, and how to set it up, is the one below:
    AquaScaping World Magazine - Pressurized C02 Injection Systems

    You do not need to have CO2 to keep a planted tank, you can keep ferns, crypts, mosses and some other plants on a non co2 tank, but you would need to be more disciplined to do so.

    The article by Aziz Dhanani will show you how to setup a low tech aquarium.
    http://www.aquascapingworld.com/magazine/May-2008/Magazine/El-Natural-Vs-Tom-Barr-s-Low-Tech.html

    How to prevent algae? That is one of the main questions we hear on the forum. Algae is opportunistic, and will thrive where plants would not. Too much light is an issue, but so is unstable CO2 and bad flow (dead spots on the tank).

    The tested and tried methods to keep algae at bay are all discused on the article below:
    AquaScaping World Magazine - Methods to Prevent Algae
    AquaScaping World Magazine - Dissolved Organic Compounds Explained
     
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  2. John N.

    John N. Administrator Staff Member

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    Solid information. This is going to be a sticky.

    -John N.
     
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  3. Mike8491

    Mike8491 New Member

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    As a person starting in this great hobby I really appreciate this info!

    Thanks,
    Mitchael
     
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  4. jasonperry

    jasonperry Aspiring Aquascaper

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    (y) wel all i can very helpful :)
     
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  5. niko

    niko New Member

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    For anyone new it would be very useful to understand that EI is not the only way to run a planted tank. It is also the least logical but because of its creator's (Tom Barr, "plantbrain" here and on other forums) ubiquitous vocal presence on the internet and because of lack of good information or disinterest to find good information EI has become pretty popular.

    The first thing to know about running an algae free planted tank is that we need to provide food for the plants but this same food happens to cause algae growth. There is a "sweet spot" for the amount of Nitrate, Phosphate, and CO2. When these 3 are in a certain proportion the blue or green algae still grows but with major difficulties. The plants on the other hand do well. This "sweet spot" is called " the Redfield ratio". The ratio is more or less 10:1. This seems pretty simple but practically things are not that easy.

    This is a very good written article about the Redfield ratio:
    http://buddendo.home.xs4all.nl/aquarium/redfield_eng.htm

    The Redfield ratio is not a cure for all because many things influence the two numbers (N: P). It is both pretty pointless and risky to try to maintain a given ratio of Nitrate: Phosphate by dosing fertilizers in the water and hoping that everything else will fall in place. EI does exactly that. A clean tank full of healthy plants can be maintained that way but what you are doing is you, yourself, constantly take care of the things that influence the ratio. Big mandatory water changes are one of them. You are constantly fighting against the natural processes in your own tank. When Phosphate is added in excess you are really playing with danger. Many people will eventually drop the ball, fail to maintain the tanks in this artificial condition and end up having big problems very quickly. EI does not talk about proper fertilization, water flow, filtration factors, and many more things that provide both the planted tank balance and its stability. It's assumed that you know them all. If you like to feel that you, yourself, are running the planted tank, feeding the plants, changing water and so on EI is for you. You can achieve explosive plant growth and feel great about your planted tank skills. There are also a lot of people that will gladly discuss EI with you and you can join a community of similar minded folk. Different people like different sides of this hobby.

    Here is a brief explanation of how ADA and the Dutch manage the fertilization of planted tanks. The information below pertains only to Nitrate and Phosphate.
    [Both ADA and the Dutch take much care of many other things that keep a planted tank clean and extremely stable. You can find information about them on the internet (filtration volume and filtration media, water flow rate and flow pattern, substrate choice, fish food choice in relation to the nutrients available for the plants, light intensity periodization, CO2-levels, O2-levels, magnetic interference and beneficial effects, dynamics of the utilization of fertilizers, nutrients limiting the plants' growth allowing controll over the tank maintenance, how CO2 affects nutrient intake and filtration).]

    In an ADA aquarium the AquaSoil substrate provides the Nitrate. The Phosphate is minimal. Testing the water shows minimal Nitrate (about 1 ppm) and no Phosphate. The active engineered substrate ("AquaSoil") plays a critical role. The liquid fertilizers are partly meant to be soaked up by the AquaSoil and maintain its longevity. The plants get all the Nitrate they want from the substrate (only when they need it). So the Nitrate portion of the Redfield ratio is infinite (but not in the water). The Phosphate in the water is below 0.05 ppm (very low). So the Nitrate and Phosphate are available to the plants but not available to the algae. The main point in all these Japanese acrobatics is that the Phosphate is always kept extremely low and serves a two-fold purpose:

    1. To limit the plant growth so the tank is manageable
    2. Should any algae appears bringing the growth to a halt is only a single water change away

    In Dutch tanks the Redfield ratio is being managed without added fertilizers (but CO2 is added). This is a more Natural way to run a planted aquarium than ADA's Nature Aquarium method. It is an integrated approach by combining the following:
    1. The fish food choice(different foods supply different ratio of Nitrate to Phosphate)
    2. The available Carbon
    3. The filter media choice
    4. The flow rate through the filter
    5. The size of the aquarium substrate particles

    The last 3 are not that big of a mistery. They have to do with the way the biofilter works. There are microorganisms that do different things in the biofilter - some make Nitrate, some make Ammonia, some break down organics (which can soak up a lot of Phosphate), and there are other clowns too. Basically the biofilter provides all the tools to manage the nutrient exchange inside the tank. A great website to read about all this is:
    http://members.multimania.nl/brieneoord/aqua/startpag.html
     
  6. youjettisonme

    youjettisonme Aspiring Aquascaper

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    Hey Niko.... Nice little cheap shot about your fellow member Tom:

    " It is also the least logical but because of its creator's (Tom Barr, "plantbrain" here and on other forums) ubiquitous vocal presence on the internet and because of lack of good information or disinterest to find good information EI has become pretty popular."

    I notice you like to take little cheap shots in lots of your posts. They are never appreciated by me, and further, I am guessing that others find this behavior equally tasteless. I was all ready to soak in this post, hoping to learn something new about my fertilization regimen, but instead I get turned off almost immediately by the need for you to put down others rather than just state your case in a more straight forward manner.

    It matters little how knowledgeable you may or may not be about all things aquarium if you can't at least distinguish yourself as someone who's willing to be gracious and hospitable toward your peers. That said, I doubt you consider many on these boards to be your peers. It's often hard to look across the table at someone when you're forced to squint through the clouds.
     
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  7. niko

    niko New Member

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    Is my post about a single things that is not true?

    Re-read the post with a neutral voice. It will help you focus on what's being said instead of how you think it's being said.
     
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  8. youjettisonme

    youjettisonme Aspiring Aquascaper

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    There is no need to re-read your post. You made this post personal almost instantly by calling Tom out by both name and username, thereby making it personal. You could have written the exact same post, and it would have stood up just fine all on its own, without making it personal. People can hide behind the "but it's all true!" logical fallacy all they want, but even an excess of truth does not negate any measure of rudeness. I can spend all my days whispering rude truths in people's ears if I liked. I could tell a handicapped boy.... "You're retarded," and it may be all true, but why would I tell him that?

    As for the merits of your science above, I am not familiar enough with your fertilization canon to respond with due colloquialism, but I am sure that Tom, as you've called him out by name, will have something to lend to the conversation. I will point out that saying that EI is the "least logical" because of Tom's presence does not make any sense on its face. Tom can be the most outspoken person on all the interwebs, but that lends no credence to its relative logic compared to any other dosing method.

    "Many people will eventually drop the ball, fail to maintain the tanks in this artificial condition and end up having big problems very quickly."

    Is this not true of any aquarium for almost any person? No matter what type of neglect you offer up, it will come at the expense of the health of your tank in the long run.

    In any case, some of this post was pretty interesting, and thanks for the links. I would have loved it if you could have explored the nuances of keeping the post entirely classy in this case however as it might have made it easier for me to digest.
     
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  9. ghostsword

    ghostsword Aspiring Aquascaper Staff Member

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    Why is EI the least logical?

    What happens on a river during the rain seasons? Are the minerals limited? Would mother nature say "let me not leach more minerals in case there is algae?" :)

    Do you believe that minerals cause algae?

    Do you know how much nutrients are on a ADA substrate? When ADA says that the phosphate is minimal, how is it measured?

    On a fish tank there are a lot of variables, and you should find what works for you. For me, lots of ferts, lots and lots, 5 hours light, and 50% water change to get rid of some of the waste generated by plants and fish. I can skip a whole week in dosing, as long as light is low, and there is enough co2 on the tank the plants will sustain themselves from what is left on the water and soil.

    Do an experiment, let some poor nutrient water stand on the sun and see what will happen. :)
     
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  10. ghostsword

    ghostsword Aspiring Aquascaper Staff Member

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    And dude, Tom Barr rocks, just because you do not understand how it works it is not cool to put it down.. :)
     
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  11. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

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    Niko, how do you account for Liebeg's law of the minimum? This is what makes ratio's irrelevant. Algae is not limited by nutrients at least at levels plants are able to grow.

    There is definitely more than one way to skin a cat, but I prefer the easy way.

    EI does not "hope everything falls in place". It provides non-limiting nutrients so the aquarist can focus on other factors such as CO2 and light. It is not the end all to everything in the hobby and is only the fertilizing component of a well run tank. I don't believe Tom has ever advocated it as the final solution to all problems.
     
  12. WabiKasuH20Fall

    WabiKasuH20Fall Aspiring Aquascaper

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    Niko lay off the hater-aid man that stuff is bad for you... TB is Mas Chingon! Look it up...


    From the mud grows a Lotus~
    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk.
     
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  13. plantbrain

    plantbrain Aspiring Aquascaper

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    quote="niko, post: 71049, member: 11656"]Is my post about a single things that is not true?

    Re-read the post with a neutral voice. It will help you focus on what's being said instead of how you think it's being said.[/quote]

    Niko, please explain how it is not a personal??

    The 1st sentence is a non sequitur:ROFLMAO:

    Thus that would suggest it has to be something else other than logic, objective debate etc.

    I strongly advocate holistic approaches, it's rare I suggest EI without adding elements of light/sediment and CO2 to the mix. And I've long suggested using modifications of EI to suit specific goals of each individual.
    However, the facts.........suggest that excess N, P, K, Fe etc.....do not encourage algae, independent of other factors, that's been demonstrated for nearly 2 decades now.
    You may claim otherwise, but that would be ignoring reality.

    EI will be non limiting for even the highest light/CO2 levels...........then it stands to reason that less light etc, will also be... non limiting.
    Thus dosing less..........should be non limiting as well for the majority of aquariums as well. Simply modifying EI by progressively slow reduction over time and then bumping back up once a negative effect is seem in the ants is what I've suggested for many years.
    Even still.............dosing at the full rate does not induce algae, nor harms fish, nor even high grade shrimps or brood production (CO2/Excel are more detrimental). With shrimp, you can measure brood production as a non lethal dose response metric.

    My manzigumi 70 Gal tank now gets once a month water changes, about 1/2 or so, takes about 15 min and clean the prefilter, drink some tea while that is going on.
    My 120 get 1-2x a week water change, most due to the lego like switcharoos I'm doing exploring contrast and different plant species and make a mess. So it's more for clean up than anything to do with nutrient management.
    ADA also suggest similar large frequent water changes.

    Still, my 60p gets no water changes.
    Plain sand.

    So there's 3 examples over a wide range of routines, none of which are really EI strictly, but EI was/is not meant to be so strictly applied at those dosing routines/50% weekly water changes. You can play around with Wet's modeling cal to see where you land and what is an acceptable range or error.
    You can test and calibrate the kits and see where they land you as well. But with large water changes, there's little need to test, something most hobbyists do not do. That is a fact as well, and nagging them into testing is a failed approach IME. I've tried. It's easier to get them to do water changes since they tend to accept it more as good house cleaning. Amano seems to have the same opinion. ADG also suggest and does large frequent water changes as well as a rule.
    3 independent folks all suggesting this over long periods or time and experience.

    Maybe we all are wrong and you are right? Could be.
    Still, the primary focus for new folks is really what is their goal? Dosing is actually 3-4th down on the line up. Light/CO2, design, filtration, fish, tank size, their amount of labor expectations etc.........then dosing perhaps.
    Their goal is very different from my goal, so knowing several methods is very useful to help a wide range of people, not just one method. Most methods are not really that different from one another either.

    All use water changes if things get out of whack.
    All dose something and all dose something "somewhere"(water or the sediment or both).

    What is different is the amount mostly.

    Some tanks might have:
    a matrix like Tropica's CO2 and light matrix here:
    [​IMG]

    This covers all the methods and has a roughly 20X different in the rates of growth. So we would expect a wide range, say 20X of uptake differences between the various light and CO2 methods used in the hobby. You can scale the dosing pretty well using this matrix.
    Few measure CO2 very well and few measure light at all. This issues causes many to become nutrocentric since it's the only thing that they can "test", but nutrients as we can see from the above, are not the main drivers of plant growth or demand.
    The above test that Ole and Troels' did used non limiting nutrients. This makes nutrients independent from CO2 and light, this way they can focus on light and CO2.
    This allows the aquarist to test other factors like light or CO2 objectively. And we all have to tweak and test a little to get things right...........it is not the methods that fail, we know they work because there are examples.............it is us that fail and blame the methods.
     
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  14. plantbrain

    plantbrain Aspiring Aquascaper

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    This in incorrect, that is the atomic ratio, the mass ratio is more like 7:1. Mass ratio analysis show this in a wide range of studies in open water systems, but there is variation site to site.
    We can strongly limit growth with N or P in a planted tank. This has dependency on things like light and CO2, which is why they use a non limit protocol for methods when studying ligth or CO2(Ole and Troel's test above).
    So if you had good CO2/light balance, adding more or less or altering these ratios would not have much effect.
    If you assumed the cO2 was good, but had a slightly lower range than you assumed, then limiting PO4 would decrease the limition for CO2. PMDD used this hypothesis and approach.
    It was falsified however for controlling algae, it still grows plants fairly well, but not as fast as say EI. This does not invalidate the method for growing plants however(PMDD clearly could grow plants well), it only falsified the hypothesis about algae.

    I've never stated this, this is non factual.
    The dosing can be modified and observation of the plants can be used, lower light can be used and less dosing and slow everything down usign the start of all plant growth(and algae for that matter) light, then perhaps CO2 or not, Excel or not etc............then at the end.........modify the dosing. This is the logical biochemical pathway.
    I've got a dozen articles advocating this going back several years.

    What is "natural" about a tiny glass box with 100% or more coverage of plants, tons of fish and someone to maintain it?
    This is not nature, this is aquaculture/horticulture. It's like saying all the farms outside Dallas TX are "nature".

    ADA's tap water has 0.5ppm of PO4 and they do frequent large water changes, why is that then?
    Look it up. How much PO4 is in the sediment on ADA AS?

    I know because I actually tested for it and sent it a 3rd independent party. It's loaded and will last for years. Most/many aquatic sediments are.

    Again, it's a method of dosing, it's not a compete method for every possible goal under the sun, that's why I have different articles on different methods, rather than just one.
    What is proper fertilization? what does that even mean? You make mention of many feel good buzz words, but offer little support for them.
    I suggest folks modify their dosing to suit their goals, EI cannot be all things to all people, and I've never once state that.
    In many cases, EI may be inappropriate. I do not use strict EI, nor have I ever suggested folks be strict about it to begin with.
    These are rather poor assumptions on your part.

    I certainly agree.

    Wait ........you lamblast EI for not addressing filtration, flow, other issues, but ask for us to look up that stuff below??? Really?



    This is non factual and a very poor assumption. Simply because it does not leach into the water does not mean it is not available to the plant roots. Sediment test measure plant extractable N and P. There is little NO3 because clay does not bind well and in fact, few things bind NO3.........which is why it can end up in aquifers etc and in lakes and rivers etc in the water column. NH4 will however. New ADA AS is WELL KNOWN to produce a lot of NH4 in the water column.
    As bacteria start to colonize, the levels drops, and with large frequent water changes.......is removed and converted to NO3. the internal NH4 locked inside the grains provides the longer term N source, for about 1-2 years. Afterwards, like most all wetland soils, N is limiting. But but then, the tank is well grown in, the aquarist is seasoned and can add KNo3 etc if they want similar growth or some tear the tank down and replace the soil. Most ADA vendors and shops replace the soil and redo their tanks in this same time span. Rice paddy soil is very similar to ADA AS, rice farmers add NH4 to the soil as liquid ammonia right before they flood the fields. They do not need nor add PO4, there's plenty in the clay soils. I'd say at least for 10 years supply for most nutrients other...than N for ADA AS.

    It's good stuff, I use it and like it.

    If you limit plant growth, should it NOT start with light? Since less light also limits algae more effectively?
    then go to CO2 and then perhaps to PO4?

    Growth is light=> CO2=> nutrients. not nutrients=> CO2=> light.

    This is the basics of how a plant grows, you are here trying to tell me that I have this backwards and have no logic?
    hehe

    Really?

    Sounds like ADA marketing, not objectively discussing things.
     
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  15. plantbrain

    plantbrain Aspiring Aquascaper

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    I might make a mistake and be wrong, but it's up to the poster to show this objectively and with facts, not hyperbole or belief, or ADA marketing.

    I think it's best to start out with a general philosophy and states this upfront, Diana Walstad makes her case well for non CO2 natural approaches far better than ADA or the dutch site claims.
    She has a specific goal in mind. Some criticize her/her tank's examples as being wreck or a jumble, but it's not the method's fault. It's that more that like the ADA like horticulture lack the patience, so they use the ferts/sediments, CO2 more light etc.

    My non CO2 tank that gets nothing but fish food:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I think Niko does understand how EI works...............but does not understand why ADA and Dutch methods do work.

    they all work for remarkably similar reasons, the rates of growth are different, the light, the location of the ferts........but plantas all grow for the same reasons, what changes is the rate.

    Knowing this, the question that should be asked is "how best to control the rates of growth to have a best management practice for you", not me, not you Luis, not Niko......but for the newbie.
    ADA offers a pre made system, cost a lot, but it's nice. At least it is available. All my own personal tanks have either an ADA tank or similar, similar for the stands(better than ADA), similar for the lights(better than ADA), ADA AS except in the non CO2 tank(no need since the roots are not in the sediment).
    I'm hardly anti ADA:rolleyes:
    But I dose a good 5ppm 2-3x a week to this tanks without issue for the CO2 enriched 120 and 180, the 70 gets very little dosing, simply does not need it. the goal is different there, I want a nice green lawn and not more growth. So i did frequent water changes and dosed a lot, cranked the light up etc, now.......I turn the light down, turn the CO2 down a tad, and then dose maybe 1/5th of what I was. You can view them in the gallery here for references.
    But never place anyone on a pedestal, ask them the tough questions instead.(y)

    I see folks asking tough questions about EI on line frequently, but few have this same skepticism with ADA and the advice they often suggest to do large weekly water changes much like EI.
    Why is that? Offer some support, not parroting of marketing statements. *I get ADA's AJ also FYI:cool:
     
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  16. mihaim

    mihaim New Member

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    I failed so much in the past years because of tech, it makes me laugh when I see you folks argue all day about methods of adding ferts. Neither are wrong if they provide the minimum for plant growth. I prefer to add what I have at hand being ADA, PPS, EI etc. do one or two large water changes a week to reset everything and forget about tests, goals and nutrients excess that never triggers algae, improperly chosen hardware, wrongly arranged hardscape and plants, lack of maintenance triggers them, these are the things experienced folks should focus on: how to chose the filter, light, how to setup the flow pattern and CO2 injection, how to mix plants etc. :)
     
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  17. jimi

    jimi New Member

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    Can I just ask a really simple queston. On the EI tutorial above, when it talks about adding an 1/8 and 1/2 tsp of whichever nutrient does that mean dry straight out of the bag or mixed into a solution and then 1/8 or 1/2 tsp of that? This is something that has not been made very clear anywehre I look so I am not sure if I am dosing correctly

    Thanks Guys
    Jimi
     
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  18. Garuf

    Garuf Moderator Staff Member

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    Dry from the bag.
    When dealing with small fractions of a dose, it works best to times the number of teaspoons by the ammount of days then times it by a number of weeks, usually 4 then add these to a known amount of water that will give the daily dose.

    I personally don't think that article is clear enough and this link contains more useful information on use.
    http://www.theplantedtank.co.uk/EI.htm

    The number of ml per dose is indicative, if you want to dose more so it's easier to measure out then remember to increase the size of the whole mix.
     
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  19. jimi

    jimi New Member

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    So i could just dose dry then and save myself all the mixing regime
     
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  20. Garuf

    Garuf Moderator Staff Member

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    Yeah, a lot of people do. Depends on the tank size for practicalities. :)
     

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