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Peat for Soft water fish?

Discussion in 'Fish' started by janey, Nov 6, 2014.

  1. janey

    janey Aspiring Aquascaper

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    My water is hard, ph 7.8. Although I know Betta fish can do okay in a ph up to 8, I really want to optimise my fishes water. I have read that fin rot seems to be more prevalent in hard water, something I want to avoid at all costs!

    Also, I constantly battle thick lime scale deposits on the glass & filters - it builds up within days & makes my tanks look pants.:( I feel like it is ruining the hobby for me :mad: - so much time being meticulous about scaping a tank, and then white splodges and thick scaly build up everywhere. Made worse by the fact that I have spraybars on all the tanks, so water splashes on the glass. :rolleyes:

    So what are my options?

    I bought some peat balls wrapped in mesh, off e-bay -the man that sells them says put them in the tank filter area.

    They are really good quality peat, lovely rich stuff that must be loaded with humic & fulvic acids etc, but will peat help with the limescale build up?

    Will peat cause too much of a fluctuating ph ?
    For example, what happens when I do water changes and top ups with the hard water, will this cause issues, or do fish adjust to the use of natural water softeners? The instructions for the balls say to just squeeze them a little at every water change. It seems easy enough but is it safe?

    I could go 50% RO (bought from the LFS)with 50% tap water but it is quite costly and the hassle/space factor of keeping the mix in containers ...mmmm, I'm just not sure.:confused:
    Does anyone else do this & is it worth doing in your opinion?
     
  2. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Janey,

    You have some good questions. I'll start with some basics about aquarium water chemistry. Hard water is essentially water that has a high dissolved mineral content. I'm sure you know that the lime scale comes from these minerals being left behind as the water evaporates. Adding peat makes water more acidic, but you cannot remove something by adding something (in most basic aquarium care....chemistry is another story). Essentially the acids from the peat will not remove these dissolved minerals and alter the waters GH or KH. The only way to remove the minerals is with RO water. I generally advise not fighting the water dragon and to work with the tap you have. Companies market all kinds of things to consumers who want to reduce KH and GH, but the chemical additives are a bad idea and a good way to get fluctuating water parameters.

    Adding the peat will not destabilize your water. KH (which is generally higher in hard water) acts as a buffer. It interacts with the acids preventing a change in pH. The higher buffering capacity the higher acid would be required to lower the pH. This comes with a limit, however. Once you reach the buffering capacity limit additional acid can cause a rapid decrease in pH. Tanks with low KH are vulnerable to rapid and dangerous pH swings.

    A word about pH. pH is really (in aquarium use) an indirect measure of other things like dissolved CO2 or other acids. pH swings themselves aren't terribly harmful if gradual and do not involve rapid changes in the level of dissolved ions. Dissolved ions are used by fish to osmoregulate, rapid changes can kill fish. So when people say my pH dropped and it killed my fish...that isn't really the cause. What happened was there was a rapid loss of ions used for osmoregulation. The chemicals sold by stores are bases and acids that can cause these types of shifts in the ion balance...this is why I recommend avoiding them. I have a 1 degree (1o fold) decrease in pH daily with my CO2 injection, no harm to fish. In that case its a measure of a dissolved acid and does not reflect an alteration in ion balance.

    So long story short, the peat moss or indian almond leaves are great for bettas (I prefer the leaves). The hard water isn't a big deal for them, but if you want to change that you will need to cut your tap with RO. The peat won't change your water hardness, it will reduce the pH by adding more acid...but won't remove dissolved minerals. Calling peat a water softener is misleading. Low pH's are associated with acidic water because acidic water generally has lower buffering capacity but its not the acids making the water soft, it is the lack of dissolved minerals. The peat won't cause too much of a pH swing, your hard water has a good buffering capacity...just don't overdo it. I hope that answers your questions.
     
  3. keithgh

    keithgh Moderator Staff Member

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    Janey

    I see Shawn has summed it up very clearly for you.

    I would go for the leaves but very slowly and that is all unless the fish start reacting to the leaves.

    The other option ask your LFS or where you bought the Betta what they are doing regarding the water.

    Keith:):)
     
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  4. janey

    janey Aspiring Aquascaper

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    Shawn & Keith thank you so much, I very much value both your experience and wisdom. I am on a HUGE learning curve and have researched and read masses of things about fishkeeping since my imported bettas pushed me well over the edge of my extremely limited knowledge! What could I do?? - 7 of the most adorable:love: little boogers and I am their lifeline!!!! :eek:o_O:eek: The responsibility hit me very hard - but only after the fact of course!

    Shawn - for the first time I could really wrap my head around things after reading your post. I don't know how, because I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but everything you said just made complete and utter sense. What a brilliant answer to my questions.(y) Please consider writing a book!
    I feel like I can work out my PH issues now - such a relief!

    You also answered things I have been mulling - like how in nature leaves fall into the water and how that must affect the PH parameters sometimes - and yet the fish adapt and continue to thrive. So how come people keep saying ph fluctuations kill fish:confused:??? Now I know!:D

    Just one last question - if I decide to cut the tap water with RO, losing some of the buffering capacity, would it be safe to still use a little peat in the water? Should I try to factor that into the percentage of RO I use... mmmmm... is there even a way one could factor it in ?

    Would measuring KH enable one to ensure that one keeps the buffering capacity intact? If so how often would one test for it?

    I kind of like the idea of the humic/fulvic acids in the water - think it would benefit the fish & plants.

    Keith my LFS are very much for using RO & tapwater as a mix in our area.
    I needed to think on it as the idea of lugging the huge 25l bottles of it that they sell back home is a bit scary (it's half my bodyweight!:eek:) - but just to get the limescale manageable might be worth the effort.

    I do use Indian Almond leaves and the fish seem to really enjoy it.:) It does not seem to alter my ph though - maybe I don't use enough of them to see this effect. I have one little chap who goes quite spare if I remove his leaf.:rolleyes: I steam curl the leaf into a tube shape over bamboo especially for him (the others don't mind how their leaves look!) because he is a very shy/insecure little fellow and he hides out in it. I love how when I call him he peeks out at me - we are slowly developing a measure of trust at last!:)

    I thought I might try my hand at making an IAL extract for them from the leaves. I use banana leaves at times as well. I have heard of people using rooibos tea - I have not yet tried it. I grew up on the tea and it has a gorgeous reddish colour, I think it would look wonderful in a bio-type sort of tank. We used it as a tonic for digestive issues so I wonder if it might not be good for Betta's with gut related issues such as swim bladder. That might be pushing it though!:p:D
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2014
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  5. keithgh

    keithgh Moderator Staff Member

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    Janey

    Simply for health reason I now store my water in 8lt water containers, is there any reason you could not buy two 8lt water containers that would divide the load up 8x8x9 that would make it a lot easier to carry.

    If you have to walk get a 4 wheel shopping jeep or an old pram, I used an old pram for ages when I was collecting my sea water for my marine tank.

    Keith:):)
     
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  6. janey

    janey Aspiring Aquascaper

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    Keith why didn't I think of that! Viola - problem solved, thanks!(y):D You did make me chuckle at the thought of you pushing a load of seawater in the pram. Only a fish fanatic would be so committed! :LOL:

    The blokes at the LFS are a bunch of true gentlemen & I know they'd help me get it to the car, it was getting it out that worried me as quite a long walk up the drive.
     
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  7. keithgh

    keithgh Moderator Staff Member

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    Jeney

    The pier I used to go was very long it was either make some thing or long walks up and down the pier.

    When I was off shore fishing from the same pier I converted an old pusher to carry my gear and catch back to the car.

    Try the opp shops they are bound to have some that are too old/damaged to sell.

    Remember it must fold up.

    Keith:):)
     
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  8. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

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    For keeping bettas and adding some things like peat moss, indian almond leaves, tea, etc. I don't think you need to be too concerned about measuring your KH. It will be very challenging to overcome the buffering capacity as these aren't strong acids. Even if you do, it may take heaps of the stuff to make it harmful to fish that are quite adapted to living in tepid slow flowing waters. I really wouldn't worry about it. If you do really want to measure your KH it is important the get a quality kit. To give you an idea how important i think testing water parameters regularly is...i purchased a nice kit over a year ago and have yet to use it :p Our greatest tool as aquarists is our observation. Learn to observe healthy behavior and recognize signs of stress. I say the same thing for folks with plants. Learn to see what good growth is and recognize the signs of a problem early rather than stressing about measuring and quantifying your CO2 levels or fert levels. The kits available to hobbyists aren't that great. They are not calibrated and are subjective leading to errors. LaMotte is the kit I purchased for testing KH. (I've been meaning to do a post on measuring and estimating CO2 using it and pH for a while....) Like I said, i haven't even used it.

    Are you interested in breeding your bettas or simply keep them happy and healthy? The leaves or peat moss will accomplish the happy and healthy part. You may need softer water to breed them.

    Check out www.seriouslyfish.com My favorite go to site for info on any fish.
     
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  9. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

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    Also, are you planning to do some nice little aquascapes for your bettas? This is ASW after all and you should share your setups in a journal ;)
     
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  10. janey

    janey Aspiring Aquascaper

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    Hi Shawn

    Thanks for your help & the great link. :) Very interesting what you say about tests. I initially went through packs of strip tests ( daily! - compulsive obsessive style!:oops:) before I realized if I kept the water good and clean and watched my fish closely, I'd know if I really needed to test. It was good to read your thoughts on it and made me feel like I am getting on track somewhat.

    I do hope to breed with them but only once I get females in, a community tank set up for them and a proper set up sorted for all the fry!

    I am definitely planning some nice little aquascapes.:)

    I recently decided to try an experiment in two divided 30L tanks I've just cycled for some of the younger fish.
    Plan to move them out later on into bigger tanks.

    I made up wabi kusa balls - 4 of them out of stuffed filter bag material with gravel and media, added aquasoil, bonsai peat clay and a fert pill, made the ball & tied (mainly) java & anubias onto it. Then I tied on the moss and left them to stand. Then I decided one of them needed to be reworked:rolleyes: so I pulled it out and the stench was soooo vile!!!!:sick: It was very anaerobic indeed. I was a bit gutted to say the least! :(

    So it's back to the drawing board!

    I remade one of them a few days ago - removed all the soil & clay and have just used gravel, biofilter media and a fert capsule as the core. I'll see how it does. Fingers crossed it works - if so I will dismantle the other wabi's and rework the lot. Deep joy!

    I'm not using any substrate per se - other than cobbles the ubiquitous moss balls and just a wee smattering of gravel that I can push around easily if need be. Reason is that when there are so many tanks, it's easier to vac the bottom. Also allows me to monitor the poop situation!:LOL:

    I notice that they love perching places high up in the tank. They drape themselves on anything high up & like to snooze where they can grab a little air on and off. So I will use lots of wood to create some elevated interest for them.

    Plants that I can root in gravel bags and mount on wood and pebbles are what I plan to use. Lots of them!
    Plus some nice floating plants.

    Problem is I seem to go into a java fern, bolibitis, moss & anubias loop all the time. :rolleyes:

    I have sanded wood for days it seems, so they don't rip their delicate fins. I've steamed some pieces and manipulated them into forms I like - it's a lot of work but I have a vision. Just getting there is a long hard walk!

    I long for some grass like interest but being substrate-less certainly has it's limitations. I really struggle to create interest and focal points out of the low tech sort of plants, things can get lost in a mass of java-ery anubias leaf!

    I want the ease but I also want the aesthetic side to prevail somehow.
    It's way WAY more challenging than I thought it would be.

    Any ideas for other easy-ish mounting plants?

    Oh! I did recently treat myself to two Bucephalandras (p?). I have kind of fallen for them already in a big way. :D
    Hope to buy more of them but gads they cost don't they!:eek:

    I 'll add a few on and off. I worry that as the flow in the tanks is not strong the bucephs won't thrive. But if they do...I already know what I want for christmas!:p:)

    I long to journal but time is not being kind to me at the moment! However, I'll post up some pics once I have completed the scapes.:)
     
  11. keithgh

    keithgh Moderator Staff Member

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    janey

    This is where I will say a big NONO

    To get the best scape you can do with what you have, my suggestion would be make a few rough sketches plus what hardscape bits and pieces you have.

    The rough sketches are then improved to make a workable sketch.

    From there after the workable sketch you can start making a mock up tank usually sand and a cardboard box no front.

    As you can see its a step by step process to a very good aquascape with plenty of help along the way.

    Keith:):)
     
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  12. janey

    janey Aspiring Aquascaper

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    I so knew you'd say that Keith! Even as I wrote it I was thinking Keith will spot this shimmy-out!:p:LOL:
    I'm forever fighting time & desperation is my second name.:rolleyes:
    I have to get the fish into better waters asap. Some are in tanks but others are still housed in buckets right now and the daily w/changes eat my day and tire me out. And everyday they look at me with pleading eyes and ask when their new homes will be ready, because they are tired of the bucket life too!;)

    At last some tanks are filter ready after several glitches cycling & the smelly 'fully submersed' wabi kusa disaster.

    The wood is prepped. I'm in the process of tying moss, riccia & plants to it.
    Meantime there are 12 24L tanks not yet set up on the racking. The house looks like a tsunami has hit it!
    The tsunami is called 'Janeys disorganisation'.:rolleyes::oops::sick:
    Even the very, ever patient hubby is starting to stress, understandably....but the pressure to get done is intense.:unsure:(n)

    I'm kind of getting why many betta keepers & breeders opt for small barracks systems where the fish live in empty tiny vases/compartments.
    I admit I used to detest the very thought, until I too entered Betta world. I still don't like it - and it's not for me. Still I have had to compromise & I feel compromise is unfortunately the name of the game for me right now.

    Keeping them individually housed is truly a logistical nightmare, a whole different game to community tanks. Space is limited for most keepers/breeders. Housing them beautifully in scaped tanks, is even more of a challenge. The cost of everything is almost prohibitive for the ordinary person. But that said they do look so beautiful with a bit of swimming space to stretch out in.
    And they so love plants too, investigating each & every one, it's time & money well spent imo.!:)

    Also on the rack is an empty 4 foot tank that will be used for housing the girls in a community set-up - when I get around to cycling it and buying them.
    And a larger tank with 2 35L bays for the biggest chaps. Waiting.....taunting me!:eek::rolleyes:o_O

    Given all the above, it's going to have to be a middle road approach else it'll be next christmas before we see any order. :eek::eek:
    As it is - even if I give each 24L tank only two days to complete *gulp!* - things are running into weeks.
    My mind is the sketchbook, luckily for me I have the ability to visualise things in 3-D (art has been a good training).;)
    What if I kind of set up the tanks with what I have and post pic's and then tweak like crazy!?
     
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  13. keithgh

    keithgh Moderator Staff Member

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    Janey

    I work on the rule what's the hurry (think twice then think again) by doing that there is a far less chance of making mistakes and in the end it takes far less time to complete and get a good job done, with few or no major problems along the way.

    At one LFS many years ago I say one Betta in a 4ft display tank he looked very healthy and enjoying his life.

    In another LFS they had all their male Bettas in with the suitable fish for sale (one Betta per tank) again all very healthy looking.

    Over the years I think I have read and heard every reason why Bettas should not be kept in small jar like containers but many LFS still say its the thing to do.

    Keith:):)
     
  14. janey

    janey Aspiring Aquascaper

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    Keith

    My LFS has them in with other fish too! Not sure I would be so brave, but it depends on temperament. The other day was in there and a fish I had been watching for a while had no tail left. I thought it was virulent rot - but it turns out another Betta fish further down the row had abseiled over the partitions and ended up in his tank attacking him violently. He was a mess poor chap!

    Some of my Bettas are very placid - and one in particular has never flared, not ever. He lives in a tank next to his crowntail brother who is the exact opposite - a little killing machine! Every so often I remove the screen so they can see each other. The crowntail goes mental - flaring and almost throwing himself at the glass between them!:eek:
    Meanwhile the gentle fellow stands his ground but does not flare at all. He just looks at the next door antics with an expression of utter amazement - lol!
    Then when he has had enough he goes to have a nosey at his plants. Totally unfazed.

    It's still the norm here to put Bettas in tiny teeny tanks. I had my boys in biggish containers when I first got them but after the first week or so, of lugging the water to them and not coping I decided to downgrade. They had 5L containers from then on & to my amazement they seemed happy enough. I felt guilty as all hell though!:oops: But I think it was just me - I really can't get to grips with the little container thing. I could never keep them in a vase or such containers for long. Currently some of them are in large buckets - thing is I hate not being able to see them other than from the top!
    I need those tanks sorted!

    That said some people keep them very successfully in tiny vases. The trick here has to be daily water changes and scrub outs of the container every 2nd/3rd day. It's no fun and I think if someone was lax - even for a day it could lead to big health problems fast.

    On the other hand, I have seen Bettas a couple of times in large filthy tanks huddled in the corners behind the plastic plants with fin rot and neon nipped tails:rolleyes:....got to say I'd rather a much smaller tank with pristine optimal water, quality diet and real plants than that!

    But all in all I like them to be able to fly through the water even a little bit! They are too magnificent not to be seen in full flight, fins flashing in the light. :)

    For my bunch - I'm going middle of the road as space is short. The tanks are not big by any manner, but they are not midget sized either. I'm trying to do it based on a combo of size & activity level/temperament. Bigger tanks generally for the bigger lads, with one exception - a curious youngster I have who is Mr Active pants himself. He will get more space.:)
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2014
  15. keithgh

    keithgh Moderator Staff Member

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    Janey

    Sounds like you are well into Bettas now when does the breeding start?

    I had a HOB filter when I had a Betta in the 45lt tank I lost two simply because they jumped out of the narrow gap at the back of the tank.

    Keith:):)
     
  16. janey

    janey Aspiring Aquascaper

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    I am indeed smitten by them Keith - I have a terrible soft spot for the species!:)

    I'd love to breed I have some beautiful quality fish & and an outstanding copper male that I'm pretty sure could win a prize at a show but ..the logistics and space needed are quite daunting. 100 plus babies in single containers - I'd need a serious water changing set up for them. And I will have to import halfmoon females - they are seldom seen here in the UK. So it might be a little while yet.

    Sorry to hear you lost those two Bettas. I wonder if you had Veiltails? - they are quite the leapers, along with the wild bettas! I have one VT who jumps to snatch his food out of my hand. He is well covered!

    The imported ones are half moons - lot's of heavy finnage weighs them down. They do jump but barely leave the water, bless them. Their forte is curiosity and the dire need to squeeze into small spaces.

    I so nearly lost one of my boys last week to drowning. It was just my luck that I found him wedged tightly behind the internal filter in the nick of time.
    When I pulled the filter out he floated to the surface and just lay there. He'd lost his colour and was pale. :( I was beside myself, I even thought how the heck does resuscitate a fish?! :p But after a few minutes and some heavy gulps of air he started to swim.
    He must have fought like crazy to get out because his gorgeous prize winner fins are tattered and torn now. He looks embarrassingly like the worst case ever of fish abuse!:rolleyes:

    I had to chuckle, because boy did he feel ever so sorry for himself, poor little thing. Eventually a bloodworm cheered him up somewhat though!:)

    I have stuffed filter foam behind all the filters now and triple checked that they are tight up against the sides - blooming death traps.:(

    I'm treating him with seachem stressguard and he gets a little diluted garlic juice in his food just to stave off the 'ever threat' of the dreaded fin rot.
    Today I noticed some fin growing back in nicely. Phew!:)
     
  17. keithgh

    keithgh Moderator Staff Member

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    janey

    What no "Kiss of life" before you returned him to the water.

    I would be thinking of changing the filter system HOB's are out because of the gap at the back of the tank.

    UGF easy to install and maintain and most important nothing to get caught up in.

    Keith:):)
     
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  18. janey

    janey Aspiring Aquascaper

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    LOL - I did contemplate the kiss of life but I lost my nerve! :p:LOL:

    I was just so happy to have him alive rubbished fins and all - still am!

    UGF sounds like a good way to filter the water, but I spent a fortune on the internal ones (well, for me!) and I like the fact that
    they have a little UV filter on them, so I can zap algae. Plus points - I can attach spraybars to them which the halfmoons like as the flow is not too strong.They work very well - water is crystal clear. Drawbacks - Just wish they would put a note on the box warning that fish could get caught behind them. They need cleaning out quite frequently.

    The manufacturers, Aquael, say the UV will kill some parasites too, I don't know if that is true as they are LED ones - but it gives me a sense of security. Possibly a false one!:p I'm a sucker for a gadget! :rolleyes:
    Also I am paranoid because the Betta forums are one long and terrible record of how many dreadfully sad diseases the fish get. I'm top of the list for prevention is better than cure & I will hit the UV so fast if I think there is a nasty in the water!
    Some say to it's due to interbreeding for so long in history, others feel it is environmental - I think it is probably a mix of several factors.
    Whatever it is, it makes me sad to read about so much distress to both fish and humans.
     
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  19. ShadowMac

    ShadowMac Moderator Staff Member

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    I want to mention that UV while a helpful tool in some situations is certainly not necessary to have a healthy aquarium(s). Good quarantine and fish keeping practices will serve you better.

    1) Quarantine all new plants or fish after completing a visual inspection (3-4 weeks probably best)
    2) clean and sterilize nets, tools, equipment before switching to other tanks. A 10 ppm solution of potassium permanganate (KMnO4) or even excel can accomplish this.
    3) a dilute bath of KMnO4 can also wash plants before adding them to quarantine or tanks (1-2 ppm)

    Admittedly, I do not take many of these precautions and the only thing that has occurred is introducing more snails to my tanks :p Overall healthy tanks and fish don't get sick. Additionally, your indian almond leaves act as a mild antiseptic themselves and prevent pathogens from causing havoc.
     
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  20. janey

    janey Aspiring Aquascaper

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    Thanks Shawn - it's good to wrap my head around such practises. I'm aiming for a healthy aquarium & hope I never have to use the UV feature on the filter but if I do it's at least there.

    Think I have read too many horror stories among breeders of Betta's - but then again I forget that breeding tanks are seldom a rich & varied biological environment as are well planted tanks. I did chuckle because I also forget to clean my plants sometimes before they go in the tanks & get lots of baby snails! But seeing as it is a new set up I will try to remember to do so right from the getgo!(y)
     

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