Thank you for your kind words. I will try to answer your questions:
Very nice growth since your last pic Regloh. I'm surprised you were able to find that lil oto for some snaps. I have 3 adult otos in my tank and I can never spot them when the lights are on. As for your layout, did you ever think about a low growing plant up front? Even the hygro would look nice in the midground as a bush but that requires constant pruning n replanting. I don't remember if you have pressurized CO2 or not.
It was pure luck that I found him... I was just staring at the tank and saw something very small move on a leaf... the first time I saw him (or her actually) I didn't have a camera nearby and by the time I had it the little guy was gone... These pictures were taken a few days later, but these are the only two times I have seen him.
I did have a low ground cover in the beginning, but I think I don't have adequate lighting to support the grassy stuff I had there. It also was completely algae infested so I mostly got rid of it. I have been thinking about a few low light plants like anubias or something like that.
I am not really happy with the light fixture I have. Its one of those Hagen dual T5HO strips. The two tubes are very close together in front of a single reflector. The light is not very evenly spead front to back in the tank, wich causes the plants to sort of grow towards the center. This blocks a lot of light for the foreground. I have been toying with the idea of a DIY LED fixture, but that's not going to happen anytime soon. I also think I want a canopy, wich would allow me to put in some DIY fluorescent fixtures. But that's also for another day.
I do run pressurized CO2 and dose IE. I actually have completed the controller I was talking about earlier in the thread, but I am still trying to program it. Any experts on PLC programming here?
Once I get this running, the dosing will happen automatically. I already bought the peristaltic pumps on the S&S
It's just a matter of hooking it all up and programming the darn thing.
Those plants look nice an lush.
How do you neutralize the soda ash?
The plants look much better at a distance
close up there are some blemishes, but I think my pleco had somthing to do with that. The vals actually always have a fair amount of decying leaves, that are a PITA to remove, so I slack a bit there. The growth rates are quite high. I CAN prune every week, but when I skip one week I HAVE to slash...or I have the Luwigia and the SS Hygro growing along the water surface.
I am still playing with my water preparation procedure, but basically I take down all of the kH (including the carbonate in the soda ash) with HCl, muriatic acid. When my pH is around 5.5 or 6, I bump it up with calcium carbonate, giving me both kH and gH. At the end I add epsom salt for Mg and Prime for declorination in case I have cloramine, with doesn't outgas in the 2-3 days that it takes to dissolve the CaCO3
The only drawback I see with this method is that I end up with some NaCl in the water, but most of the fish are pretty tolerant of some salinity. Some species actually prefer some salt. I actually havn't really done the research to see weather my fish can tolerate it, but I haven't seen any issues so far...