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Old 09-08-2012, 05:05 PM   #31
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Seems like a lot work to keep the parameters balanced. Wouldn't buy any expensive fish until you get the parameters balanced. If you get tired of it you could take most of it out and add river sand without taking all of the water out.

I got a 50lb bag of river sand from landscaping co for $3.
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Old 09-08-2012, 08:12 PM   #32
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So I'm assuming from the conversation that "pre-loading" the STS with ferts would help keep it from sucking up all the carbonates??

Any guidance on what ferts and how much to use for say 40 lb's. I actually have 80 lb but it's in 2 separate tubs waiting for me to put in my tank. Might as well load it up while it's just sitting there.
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Old 09-09-2012, 02:02 AM   #33
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All right, here are today's results:

Recap: Tank was started Aug 30.
88 gallon tank with Safe-T-Sorb (1 bag, 40 lbs) as substrate.
Large flat rocks (neutral with respect to GH, KH, pH or TDS changes) have been installed across the back of the tank. This has taken up some of the water volume. I will take a wild guess and say maybe 5 gallons? Maybe a bit more. I am going to use 8 gallons, just to make the math easier.

Initial fill was done this way:
STS dumped in dry.
Tank filled to about 6" with lots of stirring, then siphoned out.
Refilled the same, and again siphoned out. At that point I moved the substrate around and put some old pond tablets under it. The 'tablets' were falling apart and more more like sand-sized particles.
3rd fill was to the top of the tank.
Tap water, dechlor.
I started adding ammonia, testing and adding until I had 5 ppm. Perhaps a bit more.
I also dosed macros (KNO3, KH2PO4, K2SO4)
Plants include 1 Anubias, some Valisneria, Hornwort, Water Lettuce, Duckweed and Azolla.
Filters are 2 Fluval 404 canisters. with sponges, floss and bio media. They were used, but dry, I assume all the bacteria was dead. I thought there were no chemical media in there, but today I cleaned them and found 1 nylon stocking with some coral sand, perhaps 1/2 cup, and 2 stockings of peat moss, perhaps 1-1/2 cup total.

Next day I tested the KH. Way high. I assumed it was the pond tablets. Ammonia showing, and a trace of nitrite and nitrate. I assumed these last 2 were from the fertilizer, not nitrifying bacteria.

Over the following week I kept track of the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate to monitor the growth of the nitrifying bacteria.

At the end of the week (yesterday) I tested the KH. It had dropped almost to 0. pH was also very low (test goes down to 6.2) I have seen this before with Soil Master Select. I added 2 tablespoons of baking soda. (Per math in post above, that should raise the KH by 4 German degrees of hardness). It was late last night when I added it, so did not wait for it to circulate to re-test. I also tested the NO2. It was off the chart. This has been developing over time, suggesting to me the bacteria are getting going, rather than the sudden release from the fertilizer tablets. (The pond ferts don't have NO2, anyway)

Today:

Tested tank
KH test was the API test, but I used 10 ml of water. At 7 drops (3.5 degrees) the water was no longer blue, but I would not call it yellow. At 8 drops (4 degrees) the water really was yellow.
pH was 6.6 according to 2 different tests.
TDS 538 (I have been dosing EI macros and micros, the baking soda last night, and ammonia, and remember those tablets!)

Tap water:
KH was tested using the 10 ml method. At 5 drops it was that 'not really blue, not yet yellow' and another drop made it really yellow. So 3 degrees (Side note: this is lower than average for my tap water).
pH over 8 by all the tests I have, probably 8.4 (Side note: this is higher than usual, but I have seen it this high before. Water company adds sodium hydroxide to the water)
TDS 221 (About average)
Chlorine and ammonia in the tap water show just about 1 ppm, exactly what it almost always shows. Chloramine in the water.

So...
Drained the tank down until the water was lower than the top of the substrate, but perhaps still an inch or so in there.
Re-arranged the rocks. Added some more rocks (so I really will pretend the rocks and substrate take up 8 gallons of volume.) This caused a very small amount of clouding that settled very quickly.
Cleaned the filters. They had some silty stuff, from the substrate. I have sponges over the intake and they had some plant roots and dead Duckweed on them. I was not too aggressive cleaning them, more sloshing the media in the used tank water, not really squeezing them much at all.
Refilled. Hose was aimed over the rocks so it did not stir the substrate much at all, and the fill was almost perfectly clear. Not quite, but an hour of running the filters and it was clear.
The plants did not like the ammonia. Anubias was in very bad shape, but new growth showing. The Vals were soft at the last few inches of the leaves, but the crown, root and several inches of the leaves were fine. I am sure these will recover. Water Lettuce not affected. Duckweed and Azolla are reduced, but what is still there is either dead (a lot of duckweed) or thriving (both Duckweed and Azolla have green healthy leaves, but not many of them.). I have lost a lot of the Azolla, and I do not know where it is. Gone.
Hornwort probably won't come back.
Added dechlor (Sodium thiosulfate- does not lock up ammonia)
Added 2 tablespoons baking soda directly into the flow from the filters. Slowly. I think it dissolved almost instantly.
Trace minerals. I used Seachem Cichlid trace, intended for Rift Lake fish. I have used it before and seen almost no response from the tests. It does have a very low level of Ca and Mg, and has many of the trace minerals plants need.
Ammonia.

Tests done within a few minutes of filling:
KH 5 German degrees of hardness. Tap water about 3, added enough baking soda to make it closer to 7, but tested so soon it was probably not well distributed. Will test again tomorrow.
pH 7.8, tested with 2 different tests. Note that this is lower than the tap water that I just added. The test (API high range) was really different, and so obvious that it is not 'user error'. I read the results right. The other test (a lab quality pH strip) agreed.
TDS 270 (Higher than the tap water, but seeing all the stuff I added, I am not surprised.)
Ammonia 4 ppm.
Chlorine was neutralized right away, per 3 different tests done a few minutes apart.

Tests done about an hour after tank had been refilled, water circulating:
Nitrite: 5 ppm. Hm. Hm. mmmmmmmm. Maybe the last test where it was WAY off the chart was really WAY off the chart? Then even though I got rid of almost all, there was some clinging to the substrate, and is now in the water. Darn, I hoped it would be lower.
NO3: under 20 ppm.
pH 8.4 per 2 tests (Gosh, back up again- glad there are no fish in there!)
KH: This was tested with the strips, and showed higher than I would have thought, between 200-300 ppm (= 11-16 degrees) Hm. I wonder if the pond 'tablets' have dumped another dose into the water. They sure got stirred around when I put the rocks in.
GH = 100 ppm = 5.5 degrees. (All my other GH tests are old, no longer work, so this strip is the only way I have to test it)
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Old 09-09-2012, 03:13 PM   #34
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The carbonates being absorbed isn't a huge deal, as long as you don't allow the pH to crash drastically. As long as kH is 1-2 you will be fine. My kH out of tap is only 1, and I've never had any issues. When I first started with the sts, I simply added some baking soda for the first 3-4 water changes. Since then, it's been completely fine. The sts has a very high cec, so this behavior is expected. It's not all bad, either, because these minerals will be kept for the root systems in the substrate. Don't be afraid to use sts because of this. The fact this occurs makes the substrate VERY good.
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Old 09-09-2012, 06:30 PM   #35
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The high CEC is why I am going with something close to EI dosing even while I am cycling the tank. Get lots of ferts in there to load up the substrate.

I have run a lot of tanks with Soil Master Select, and have no problems with the low to zero KH and low pH. Once the system is cycled the bacteria can slow down and it is not a problem. It is just while trying to build up the population as quickly as possible that I want to maintain harder water, higher pH. Then it can crash, and that is fine with me. It will match most of my other tanks.
Then I can move the fish over. I will be putting my Filimentosa Barbs in the 88. They are somewhat plant-nippy, so I am researching plants that are OK with Goldfish under the assumption that they will be OK with the Barbs, too.

My long posts reporting what is going on can be summarized really quickly:

This substrate removes the KH, thus allowing the pH to drop.
This substrate has high CEC, so loading it with fertilizer is a good way to assure the plants have a good reserve.

What you do with these facts is up to you.
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Old 09-09-2012, 09:06 PM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trickerie View Post
The carbonates being absorbed isn't a huge deal, as long as you don't allow the pH to crash drastically. As long as kH is 1-2 you will be fine. My kH out of tap is only 1, and I've never had any issues. When I first started with the sts, I simply added some baking soda for the first 3-4 water changes. Since then, it's been completely fine. The sts has a very high cec, so this behavior is expected. It's not all bad, either, because these minerals will be kept for the root systems in the substrate. Don't be afraid to use sts because of this. The fact this occurs makes the substrate VERY good.
Thanks for the info. My Kh from tap is about 3dkh and the tank is about 2 so I should be ok. Ph is stable now at about 6.4. I just need to get some fresh baking soda.

It's not that I'm afraid of using the STS it's more I'm avoiding the time & work involved in changing it. LOL I've got to find several consecutive hours which has been hard here lately. Plus I've been waiting for my new driftwood to stay sunk so I can remove some of the rocks that's holding it down.

Now that the weather cooled a bit I'll try harder to get it done. That way the fish can stay outside in containers rather than having to find room in my house. I can use an outdoor extension cord to run my HOB &/or sponge filters in the tub(s). Then I won't have to worry about being in a hurry. I have a tendency to keep messing around with the plant arrangement so it seems to take me forever to get it just right.

I've got a low-tech, lowish light tank. I only use Excel, Comprehensive and Sulfate of Potash and some root tabs around my Sword. Don't really need NO3 in this tank as it's never below 30ppm. I could take my remaining root tabs & put them in there and add some Sulfate of Potash. How much of either would I use for 40lbs ??? Should I break up or crush the tabs? Sorry for so many questions but appreciate the help.
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Old 09-10-2012, 05:29 AM   #37
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I sure would not break up or crush the tablets.
Put the tablets on the floor of the tank before adding the substrate, or else press them in through the substrate until they touch the bottom. I would put 3-5 around the Sword depending on the size of the sword, and maybe space them about 6" apart if the tank is heavily planted, or 1-2 per plant if it is lightly planted.

K2SO4: I have only ever used it as a dry dose or wet as a water column fertilizer, never in setting up a tank. If you want to try it maybe a very light dusting on the floor of the tank, but still able to see through it. Part of the problem is that adding sulfur to the lower regions of the substrate might contribute to H2S that can happen with low oxygen areas. If you had a different source of K that might be a better option.

If the fish food is already keeping the NO3 close to 30 ppm then I also would not dose N or P. Fish food also seems to have enough phosphate, if it has enough N.

Today's test showed dropping KH, so I added baking soda, and rising NO2 and NO3. I may have to do another water change to get that NO2 lower. :-(
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Old 09-10-2012, 07:08 AM   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
I sure would not break up or crush the tablets.
Put the tablets on the floor of the tank before adding the substrate, or else press them in through the substrate until they touch the bottom. I would put 3-5 around the Sword depending on the size of the sword, and maybe space them about 6" apart if the tank is heavily planted, or 1-2 per plant if it is lightly planted.
I was really thinking about soaking the STS with the root tabs & potash prior to adding it to the tank. Or would it even be worth the effort? I thought maybe the root tabs & Potash would get sucked up by the STS and then be available through-out the tank benefiting all the plants. But that may not even be necessary since most of my plants are Cabomba, Water Sprite, Water Wisteria and just 1 Sword. I do have some Ludwigia glandulosa peruensis which I realize is a high light plant but I liked the way the leaves and plant looked so figured even if it turned green it'd still be good. It actually does have some red coloring to it so better than I expected. All seem to be doing pretty good with the exception of the sword.

Thanks for the info on how many to use around that sword. I definitely don't have enough in there right now so will have to add more. Maybe why it's only putting out new leaves but not growing up. I had to trim off about 4-5 of the 15" long leaves because the fish tore them up when my male was spawning. Would those ponds tablets be good for that? Or would the Osmocote caps be better. I'll need to buy more of something and of course looking for the cheapest option that works good. Guess I should have started a thread about this in the Ferts forum.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
K2SO4: I have only ever used it as a dry dose or wet as a water column fertilizer, never in setting up a tank. If you want to try it maybe a very light dusting on the floor of the tank, but still able to see through it. Part of the problem is that adding sulfur to the lower regions of the substrate might contribute to H2S that can happen with low oxygen areas. If you had a different source of K that might be a better option.
I've been using the Sulfate of Potash by just dropping it into the tank dry which I read was ok.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
If the fish food is already keeping the NO3 close to 30 ppm then I also would not dose N or P. Fish food also seems to have enough phosphate, if it has enough N.
Thanks for the confirmation of what I assumed. No need for me to dose either of those.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
Today's test showed dropping KH, so I added baking soda, and rising NO2 and NO3. I may have to do another water change to get that NO2 lower. :-(
Curious to see how long the KH will keep dropping. If you weren't trying to cycle the tank I guess I wouldn't be as much of a problem.
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Old 09-10-2012, 04:46 PM   #39
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It will keep dropping for a long time. Depends on how much baking soda I add. I was not being particularly diligent about adding baking soda to my Soil Master Select tanks, and that is still going on! (and it has been several years)
I agree, if I were not cycling the tank it would be no problem at all.

The other solution that worked in my Lake Tanganyikan tank is to blend coral sand with the substrate. Then it will not take the carbonates from the water column. I do have to prep the water with baking soda so it is right when I do a water change, but I do not have to dose more baking soda mid-week. The tank maintains the KH I set when I do a water change. I do not like the look of that, though. I like the darker substrate. Coral sand would look really bad blended with the nice color of the STS.

I might just pull one of the filters and cycle it in a bucket of water. No issue there with keeping the water parameters right. Just dose ammonia as needed.

I think the pond tablets (which were more broken up, not really tablets any more) are adding a lot of N to this tank. Nitrates are way higher than I am dosing via KNO3, and too high for the bacteria to be turning the ammonia into nitrate, yet. At about 1 week into the fishless cycle the NO2-->NO3 bacteria are just not that well developed.
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Old 09-20-2012, 07:45 AM   #40
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This past Sat afternoon on into early AM Sunday, I got around to changing my substrate to the STS. Figured I'd relate my experience in this same thread for anyone that might be interested. I really like the way this stuff looks!!! Think my fish like it better too. It took a few days but they appear to have gotten over being mad at me for all I put them through.

I'm not at all sure pre-rinsing did any good. Couldn't tell because on the first fill I tripped over the water hose causing it to spray right into the substrate. What a muddy looking mess that was. About what it looked like the first time I rinsed it. Drained and started over. On the 2nd fill my driftwood, which I tested before I drained the tank, decided to float which stirred up the substrate, moved some of the plants and after getting it back into position and anchored down .. well I ended up with another mess. Since the tank was close to being full I just finished filling and hoped the filter would clear it up. Being the impatient person I am, after 2 hrs and not looking much clearer I said the heck with it. Drained tank again and finally 3rd time was the charm. I've done some re-arranging of plants which stirs up the substrate and clouds the water a bit but at least it settles back quick and the filter clears the water quickly. Think I'd recommend doing it the way Diana did ... put substrate in tank, add some water, stir, remove muddy water, repeat and then fill. Much easier than trying to pre-rinse it in buckets/containers when using 40lbs of it.

I've had a bit of trouble getting some plants to stay put. My dwarf lily kept wanting to float so put some small stones around it to hold it down. So far, so good. My Sword doesn't have a lot of long roots, so it looks like it wants to float but so far it hasn't. Put a couple stones around it too just in case. A couple plants pop out occasionally but that's probably got more to do with big fish bumping them when chasing each other and not the substrate itself. Plus all plants were previously in too course a gravel which didn't help with growing good roots.

Having to watch my water params kind of close since things didn't quite go as planned. Probably going to end up having a mini-cycle. Tested ammonia today and didn't look quite 0 but not quite .25 either but looked higher than before. Will check it again tomorrow and if needed will do a water change.

Still waiting & watching for the KH to drop. Wondering if pre-soaking might have helped in that regard or maybe it's just too soon. Tested soon after filling and tested again today .. KH still holding at 2-3 degrees. Tap water also tests at 2-3 dkh. My PH dropped from 6.8 to 6.6 but 6.4 is usually what it reads a day or 2 before I do my weekly water change. My tap water tests at 6.4 immediately, then after sitting for 24hrs it's 6.8. GH reads same as always .. tap and tank both at 2 degrees and no change after 4 days. Just got some GH booster and will try to get that up just a bit.

All in all, even though things didn't quite go right it wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. Planning did help which made it go quicker, even if it didn't go exactly as I'd planned. Now I just hope it won't get too messy when my fish starts nest building. They should be done for the year now so I'll get to enjoy it until next spring.
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Old 09-25-2012, 01:39 PM   #41
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I absolutely love the STS. The one tank I used as a tester has long out performed all my other tanks. I'll be setting up two additional ones in the near future.

Here's another little tip for acquiring it. Check if they have any broken bags. I got two bags for $5 total. Between that and SMS, I have plenty of substrate for awhile.
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Old 09-26-2012, 11:42 AM   #42
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Can I speed up the carbonate absorption process by dumping in a lot of baking soda? I plan on pre-treating the STS in the 40g this way before adding plants and livestock. Also, about how long does it take for the STS to stop affecting the KH, GH, and pH? What happens to the carbonates that're absorbed? Are they ever released back into the water?
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Old 09-26-2012, 05:55 PM   #43
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So...question.

Im setting up a SA cichlid tank, and I want a dark substrate.

Saw a post where this stuff was black...is it?

Do you think it will work with fish that are moving the substrate around all the time?

Our pH hardness and alk is all slightly above what I would describe neutral, and well buffered to its current point.

If I run this for a few h2o changes will the negative effects go away?

Thanks
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Old 09-27-2012, 05:45 AM   #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by celaeno View Post
Can I speed up the carbonate absorption process by dumping in a lot of baking soda? I plan on pre-treating the STS in the 40g this way before adding plants and livestock. Also, about how long does it take for the STS to stop affecting the KH, GH, and pH? What happens to the carbonates that're absorbed? Are they ever released back into the water?
I don't know the answers to your questions, unfortunately. Was hoping someone a lot more knowledgeable would chime in to help you out.

I've seen people mention can keep sucking up the KH for several weeks to several months. ???

I haven't seen a drop in KH .. YET. It's only been about 11 days so still waiting to see if that happens. I soaked mine in rainwater for several weeks. Then drained the rainwater & because the rainwater was roof runoff, soaked, then rinsed it a bit with tap water ... we had a lot of very heavy rains before & during that time so was hoping not much bad roof stuff hurt it but rinsed some anyway just in case. Then it sat in containers for several more weeks until I got time to change the substrate so it dried out some. All that soaking time probably is what has kept the KH from dropping. I mean there's really not much difference between "soaking" it in the tank or buckets when no plants or livestock are involved.

As I said in my previous post, I wouldn't pre-rinse it if I had it to do over again. But since I was using the rainwater it didn't cost anything. Nor did it take much effort since the tub was tilted slightly to allow the rainwater to spillover with the muddy water.

When I first put it in I did add a bit of baking soda (I think it was 2 tsp in my 75 gal) immediately after filling the tank. My tap and tank both are 2-3 dKH so figured it probably needed it anyway. But I think instead I should have just waited to see what it would do. I ended up checking the KH every few days anyway. I haven't added anymore since. I do have some oyster shell grit in the filter though. I had it in there for at least a month before I changed my substrate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kingfisherfleshy View Post
So...question.

Im setting up a SA cichlid tank, and I want a dark substrate.

Saw a post where this stuff was black...is it?

Do you think it will work with fish that are moving the substrate around all the time?

Our pH hardness and alk is all slightly above what I would describe neutral, and well buffered to its current point.

If I run this for a few h2o changes will the negative effects go away?

Thanks
No this is NOT a black substrate. It's brownish, tan. On Page 1 of this thread there's a picture of it in Seattle Aquarist's tank: http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...ight=safetsorb


I accidentally scared my Bluegills last night when I came home early. They ALL took off like they was shot from a canon and stirred up the substrate a LOT. The particles settled back pretty quickly but the water stayed cloudy for a bit longer. I've been messing around in it re-arranging plants or rocks and it will stir up easily but again, it settles quickly and depending on how much mess I made might not even cloud the water. My fish stir it up quite often just chasing each other but that doesn't seem to make the water cloudy .. just can see the smaller particles rise and fall back down. But they're not really rooting around in it, more their powerful movements stir it up. Not sure what it would be like it they were rooting around in it ALL the time. I guess it might depend on the size of the fish, mine range from 4"-7".
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Old 09-28-2012, 05:29 AM   #45
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I do not know if there is a black substrate like this any more.
Soil Master Select, Charcoal is very close to black, but is not available.
Turface used to have a dark one, too, but the only colors I see at their site are gold, red and brown.

Of the colors currently available I like the soft tan and grey blend of STS. Looks very natural, and is reasonably dark, though certainly not black.

I found the KH was very quickly removed. Noticeable in the test results the next day (less than 24 hours) and zero by 48 hours (tap water KH is quite low).
Each time I add baking soda (enough to raise the KH by about 2 German degrees of hardness) it drops to zero in about 48 hours.

I suppose adding a lot of baking soda all at one time might do the trick, but I think I would look for other sources of carbonate, perhaps potassium bicarbonate.
When I add baking soda in small doses I am also doing water changes often enough to get rid of the excess sodium.

If there was any way to keep coral sand, oyster shell grit or limestone sand or fine gravel in larger quantities in the tank or filter, not let it blend with the substrate, I think that would be the best solution. Perhaps a second filter with a lot more of these materials. I am already running 2 filters on the 88 gallon tank, so I could sure put more of something in them, even if I have to reduce the amount of sponges in them.
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