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post #1 of 133 (permalink) Old 10-30-2011, 05:08 PM Thread Starter
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Types of fertilization methods to discuss

EDIT: I have updated my thread title and also added this disclaimer: I am a hobbyist and my posts should be taken with a grain of salt. It is my attempt to have a pleasant discussion on the whys and hows of fertilization. Not us versus them mentality. Sorry if this was not clear and caused confusion.


I've been doing a lot of research the past year or so on the methods of fertilization. There seem to be a few main thoughts:

1. Closely follow a method you decided to use, be loyal to this method but without really understanding it, defend it until you are exhausted and created enemies.
2. Fertlize more than the plants will ever need, reset the tank as needed.
3. Fertilize based on what the plants need not a bit more.
4. Substrates are the key, water column dosing isn't necessary.
5. Fertilization methods? What are those? Who cares? My plants grow great without anything but sunlight and guppies.
6. Fully comprehend your tanks needs from filtration to fertilization. Approach each tank in a rhythmic manner.

For instance, in the Western culture, the approach is often found to be more is better: high water nutrients, high co2. Yet, in Eastern cultures it often the opposite: high nutrients in the substrate, little to none in the water and low, manageable co2. Polar opposites as if they were magnets flipped pushing away from one another. I find this extremely amusing as it just goes to show we still have a long way to go in this hobby and it is constantly changing.

Which is your position and why? If you don't know why and just followed what everyone else told you is best, isn't it time to find out why that is? I thought this would be a fun topic to bring up for discussion for all members. Now remember to argue for your side but not to attack the other side as can often happens in this subject of the hobby.

Without Algae, death of mankind would be inevitable.

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Last edited by sewingalot; 10-31-2011 at 04:52 PM. Reason: Clarifying the title in order to hopefully encourage positive discussion. ;)
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post #2 of 133 (permalink) Old 10-30-2011, 05:22 PM
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I follow the thirsty tomato plant method. If it looks unhappy, I analize what I think its wanting and try to get it to perk its leaves back up. With so many variables and styles of tanks, with all of the different varieties of plants, my opinion is that there isnt any, or will ever be any set in stone rule of fertilization. I wait for my tank to find its balance and do as little as possible to disturb it. Only when my plants show signs of "the thirst tomato plant"

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post #3 of 133 (permalink) Old 10-30-2011, 11:13 PM
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I adhere more to the 'Eastern' fertilizer philosophy, although I still dose macros and micros. I dose TPN 3x weekly, N/K 2x weekly, and P 1x weekly. N is dosed to approx 10 ppm and P is about 0.75 ppm. Water change is only once every 2 weeks.

I stumbled onto this regime because my schedule is crazy right now. I'm glad though, because it seems far superior to everything else I've tried in terms of dosing.

I've always been a big believer in rich substrates, hence why I shell out $27 per 9 liter bag of aquasoil.
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post #4 of 133 (permalink) Old 10-31-2011, 02:28 AM
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Originally Posted by sewingalot View Post
1. Closely follow a method you decided to use, be loyal to this method but without really understanding it, defend it until you are exhausted and created enemies.
Amen.

I follow the Western approach. There are a few issues with it:

1) More nutrients, more CO2, and less light is the answer to everything. Simply browbeat any problem into submission; rather than trying to isolate and understand the cause, then correct it with a more targeted approach.

2) That answer is often a kneejerk reaction, given by people who don't even bother to read the specifics of your setup. As an example, at one point I was told this for three months, and my protests that it wasn't working led only to circular arguments. When in fact I had plenty of nutrients and CO2, and my only problem was that I had insufficient light to grow healthy plants; even though I repeatedly gave my lighting specs for everyone to see.

3) And if that answer ultimately fails you, and you try to seek other answers or discover something new, you too must be browbeaten into submission. With people regurgitating the same dogma, that anyone in the hobby for a few years had heard hundreds of times, until any productive discussion is impossible. I think at this point some of the same folks who made the biggest breakthroughs and initially helped us advance, are now only holding back advancement through their aggressive posting tactics. I've been self-censoring on this forum for years now. There are things I do that I never mention, and others that I only bring up when feeling particularly adventurous.

The Eastern approach of root-feeding seems superior in many respects. It's only logical the plants will like it more, and the algae like it less. Though I can only speak from limited experience here, what keeps me away from it is:

1) Ironically, I hate terrestrial gardening, and anything that resembles it too closely. Making mudpies for a month (MTS) is not my idea of a good time. Neither is digging in my substrate to add ferts or other amendments. Playing with dry or liquid ferts and tests reminds me only of chemistry, which I like. I suppose I'm a bit weird.

2) Ready-to-use substrates, like Aquasoil and such, lose performance with time, or break down and become messy. Others start messy. All substrates can become depleted. Soil can become anaerobic. Layers become hopelessly mixed. I prefer to redo my tank when I choose, and spend reasonable amounts of time with my tanks every day; rather than having my substrate dictate large, unexpected demands on my time or wallet, which may lead to rapid deterioration if I ignore.

3) When I do have time and inclination, I like to rescape, adjust parameters, and experiment far too much to be practical for these kinds of substrates.

4) I also like high light tanks, and fast growing stem plants, as I believe they contribute much to providing a healthier enviroment for fish. But they require frequent trims. With water column ferts, they're still getting nutrients when you cut their roots off, and they just keep on going with little effect. Although I haven't tried it, I doubt the same applies with substrate ferts only.

5) This approach attracts the naturopaths, homeopaths, conspiracy theorists, and every other kind of irrational and superstitious people. Just a few can ruin any discussion. Not much different than the Western zealots really, but they at least pretend to be grounded in science.
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post #5 of 133 (permalink) Old 10-31-2011, 04:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sewingalot View Post
I've been doing a lot of research the past year or so on the methods of fertilization. There seem to be a few main thoughts:

1. Closely follow a method you decided to use, be loyal to this method but without really understanding it, defend it until you are exhausted and created enemies.
2. Fertlize more than the plants will ever need, reset the tank as needed.
3. Fertilize based on what the plants need not a bit more.
4. Substrates are the key, water column dosing isn't necessary.
5. Fertilization methods? What are those? Who cares? My plants grow great without anything but sunlight and guppies.
6. Fully comprehend your tanks needs from filtration to fertilization. Approach each tank in a rhythmic manner.

For instance, in the Western culture, the approach is often found to be more is better: high water nutrients, high co2. Yet, in Eastern cultures it often the opposite: high nutrients in the substrate, little to none in the water and low, manageable co2. Polar opposites as if they were magnets flipped pushing away from one another. I find this extremely amusing as it just goes to show we still have a long way to go in this hobby and it is constantly changing.

Which is your position and why? If you don't know why and just followed what everyone else told you is best, isn't it time to find out why that is? I thought this would be a fun topic to bring up for discussion for all members. Now remember to argue for your side but not to attack the other side as can often happens in this subject of the hobby.
Agriculture/Horticulture is a Science and there's no west vs east muckery involved. You cannot argue with Liebig's law, that is why it is a "scientific law". All the Commercial Aquatic Plant Growers in each country all use similar methods...........but labor cost define most of the differences there, NOT culture. Hobbyists are the one's that get this confused, not the researchers or commercial growers.

As long as the plants grow, hobbyists do not care...........and few ever bother to really test methods and master each one.

I do not see this as a east vs west thing at all, I see folks everywhere having the same old problems and they have them for the last 15 years or so I've been helping folks. I see these same views in the East and the West. I've been active on forums for a decade in both locations. Some approaches to scaping perhaps.........but little else.

But, I suggest folks to try different methods, and I take my own advice too, I have non CO2 no enriched sediments, some tanks have plain sand and CO2.........some high lots of stems, others mostly ferns and slower growing........

I've manged to master each. Hard to help a wide range of folks if all you are is a one trick pony.




Regards,
Tom Barr
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post #6 of 133 (permalink) Old 10-31-2011, 06:42 AM
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This is true. A one trick pony is a tough candidate for teaching others. I second trying out different styles. There are simply too many varieties of plants to nail down a set rule or instructions of how to run your own tank without doing it yourself. Different plants like different scenarios and you cant really pin "East" vs. "West" other than a personal preference for what you are trying to achive.

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post #7 of 133 (permalink) Old 10-31-2011, 04:50 PM Thread Starter
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Liebig's law can be argued, just as any law in science can. A law is a law only until there is overwhelming evidence to disprove it like the Titius–Bode law was disproven. Any method can and SHOULD be discussed if it elightens others to advance or at least come to an understanding as to why they follow the method they do, not "it works, why question it?" There was a time that cigarettes were perscribed by doctors as a health supplement. It took nearly 50 years to show they were wrong. What if we all just stopped questioning the hobby and just let the few that proclaimed to be wise and knowing run the logistics for us? I am sorry, but I am not about to pick up a sign or my pitchfork and slay the ogres because I don't agree with the masses. I question things and will always question. Why do we need to be censured for bringing up silly discussions? What harm does it cause to question?

Perhaps it is my fault for saying Eastern versus Western. The point of this thread is to get others thinking outside the box. Dark Cobra has the right idea. What I meant by East vs. West could have easily been worded as light vs. dark, rich vs. poor, manual vs. standard, etc: basically different approaches to the hobby. I am interested in discussing the philosphy of planted tanks, the why behind the methods. Not the same old "I don't agree with your idea, so let's all dismiss it" approach. Seriously, what if this was discussed 15 years ago and already determined and mastered by others? I really don't care about that silliness.

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post #8 of 133 (permalink) Old 10-31-2011, 05:14 PM
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I somewhat agree with the unfortunate split in the hobby from East to West, but not along the lines that Sara has presented. I see it more in the equipment being used, the availability of different plants, substrates, components, etc. But this is for a different discussion.

All and all, I found from my experience that Liebig's law is a valid pedestal for this hobby to lean against.

Too many times we see people using "manufactured substrates", premixed ferts saying dose this for this, techy light fixtures banging insane lights,etc. Too many "pre-packaged" goods can sometimes, in my personal opinion, disconnect to many variables in our aquariums.

Fertilization is something always debated. The law of minimums was proven to me over my experiences and I hold true to it.

I use MTS substrates, and I dose the water column on top of it. I also run low CO2 infusion and have 208 watt T5 HO that are running for a good portion of the day. You can kick and scream and say, why do you dose if you use MTS substrates? Why are do you run lean on your CO2? Guess why? It works for ME. I found the balance that works and until it implodes, I am running with it.

I am no "testing" kinda guy. In fact, I don't even own a test kit. I go with whats working.

Dose, don't dose, its up to the hobbyist. Understanding what your plants need to grow is the important factor. They need nutrients and light (I lump CO2 in nutrients). Limiting one is the limiting factor.

I applaud discussion, and certainly things should be questioned. But I also think that reality is something that can't be lost site of. Plants need light and food. End of story. Up the lights, up the nutrients. Low light, less nutrient demand. Whether the "excess" is the root cause of "other problems" I can't prove or disprove.


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post #9 of 133 (permalink) Old 10-31-2011, 06:04 PM
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You could throw a lot of science on the different fert methods, etc, and I'm sure there is much to learn, but whether it's east vs west or high/low light and tech the human element is one variable that affects all setups.

Personally I' have always dosed my tanks to excess and for the same reason I am 90% off stems I just don't have the time to do all the trimming and/or worry about something running out. If your relying on the substrate and dosing a minimal amount as the substrate depletes then you are probably needing to spend more time monitoring things on a daily basis. Personally I would not be in this hobby any more if I had to test every parameter and worry about something being to far out of range. By dosing in excess, religiously changing water it eliminates the two largest obstacles to success, plant deficiencies and organic build up. But even if this is done the one thing you can't graph is someone's dedication to their setup. Professional companies, long-time hobbyists generally have a more steadfast commitment since there is more at stake and this would affect the level of their success compared to a typical hobbyist under the same parameters.

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post #10 of 133 (permalink) Old 11-01-2011, 10:28 AM
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+1 to Liebig's law. But it only defines the minimum limit for nutrients. What about the maximum?

All living things also have limits in the amount of a nutrient they can reject if unneeded, which is sometimes also dependent on the ratio between two or more interacting nutrients.

Some say it's impossible to reach these limits for plants in an aquarium with any sensible dosing regimen. And mention hydroponic solutions as an example of how high you can go.

But in hydroponics, only the roots are submersed in the solution; not the leaves. You can also foliar feed terrestrial plants by spraying their leaves with ferts, but with a more dilute solution. Otherwise, burns, stunting, and other injuries are possible.

Terrestrial plants get their nutrients from the soil. Their roots are designed to be the source of nutrient intake, or rejection if necessary. No need for them to have developed the ability to handle excessive nutrient levels absorbed through leaves, as it simply doesn't happen in nature.

Aquatic plants will have developed different abilities, according to the environment they came from. With some 400+ different plants in the hobby, from diverse environments, we can't expect all of them to grow equally well under the same conditions.

We can provide an environment that works for most plants, most of the time. Linking this back to hydroponics, you can use Hoagland's hydroponic solution for aquatic plants. But when used for this, it's recommended to dilute it to 1/4 or 1/5 of it's hydroponic strength. Why not use it full strength, 1/2, or even 1/3? I don't really know. But I have some trust in whoever came up that recommendation to have a good reason.

At 1/4 dilution, Hoagland's is 55ppm N, 8ppm P, 59ppm K; just to name the macros. We can exceed those using standard EI recommendations, given certain other factors; like fish load, plant type and load, lighting, etc. Some of these factors are highly objective, and will be interpreted differently by everyone.

So it is absolutely no surprise to me that a few people encounter problems, that can only be addressed by nutrient reduction. NOT limitation.

I understand that Sewingalot's intention for this thread was to discuss the hobby, rather than the hobbyists; both of which I critiqued as harshly in my first post as I felt necessary to adequately describe my thoughts. I regret having to go there, but to me the hobby and hobbyists are inseparable.

My biggest disappointment with this hobby is that any method is too often considered infallible by those who support it. Any failure or anomalous observation is blamed on hobbyist error. While this is actually true most of the time, and a healthy skepticism is necessary to filter these out; I do not believe it's true all the time. For that minority, they have to deal with a brick wall of resistance from the community. These special cases are the ones that properly investigated, rather than summarily dismissed, will advance our hobby.
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post #11 of 133 (permalink) Old 11-01-2011, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by DarkCobra View Post

All living things also have limits in the amount of a nutrient they can reject if unneeded, which is sometimes also dependent on the ratio between two or more interacting nutrients.


Aquatic plants will have developed different abilities, according to the environment they came from. With some 400+ different plants in the hobby, from diverse environments, we can't expect all of them to grow equally well under the same conditions.


So it is absolutely no surprise to me that a few people encounter problems, that can only be addressed by nutrient reduction. NOT limitation.
I totally agree. Aquarium plants come from a diverse array of habitats and naturally have different needs. In terms of nutrients though, most of them inhabit waterways with very low nutrient concentrations/conductivity. The most variable factors are Ca/Mg and CO2 concentration and even the highest natural concentrations are lower than what we maintain in our tanks. Meanwhile, the concentration all other macros/micros is very, very low.

I think it would be good for the hobby if people focused less on nutrients and more on other cultural requirements, like water pH, temperature and substrate composition In other horticultural hobbies, these factors are obsessed over, while planted tank hobbyists rarely give them much thought.
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post #12 of 133 (permalink) Old 11-01-2011, 05:42 PM
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For instance, in the Western culture, the approach is often found to be more is better: high water nutrients, high co2. Yet, in Eastern cultures it often the opposite: high nutrients in the substrate, little to none in the water and low, manageable co2. Polar opposites as if they were magnets flipped pushing away from one another. I find this extremely amusing as it just goes to show we still have a long way to go in this hobby and it is constantly changing.
I agree with this east/west distinction and think it's entirely applicable concerning the disparate methods used by asian and american hobbyists.

Asian hobbyists more or less follow the ADA playbook- aquasoil and powersand substrate, heavy dosing of K and micros, N and P is taken care of by the fauna, 30% weekly water change, and low co2 concentrations.

Although aquasoil seems to be the norm amongst american hobbyist with high tech tanks, most of us wind up dosing way more N and P than asians ever seem to maintain in their tanks. Americans also seem to combat algae by dosing MORE N and P, instead of less, which I believe in anathema to the 'Eastern' methods.

The thing I find most odd is that although asian hobbyists dose less ferts and inject less co2, they use wayyyyy more light and in general have healthier looking plants and less algae issues than americans.
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post #13 of 133 (permalink) Old 11-01-2011, 11:26 PM
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Someone told me about this thread because for some time on APC I've been having a (mostly) monologue about how fertilizing the water makes very little sense and yet most people in the US do exactly that.

So here are some "things that make you go "hmmm"..."

1. ADA, ADG, Bubbles, Oliver Knott do not fertlize the water. Why do we insist doing it then? Here get an eyefull:

Amano, watch in High Definition if you can. How he does it - look below, item 3:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0dQrSu2VSg

ADG. If you think that they drive their head all around Houston to dump fertilizers in their tanks you are mistaken:
http://aquariumdesigngroup.com

Bubbles. Uses resins to remove N and P. How is it that the stem plants in this tank of his are beyond beautiful then?:
http://bubblesaquarium.com/Aquascape...1_Infinite.htm
And the rest of the galleries:
http://bubblesaquarium.com/Aquascape...t%20PageF1.htm

Oliver Knott. He will not tell you how he does things. He's a salesman, nothing else. But he does not dump fertilizers in his water either:
http://www.pbase.com/plantella


2. Most of the time we like to have too many different plants in a glass box. This glass box is not a real lake or a river. So to keep the plants alive we need to... get away from what Nature does. Sounds reasonable, I guess. What does not sound reasonable is why do we try to go against Nature.

Our tanks are not a river. Our tanks are different. Tom Barr has told us that according to all his scientific insight we must have high concentrations of chemicals. Because it makes plants grow.

I wonder what Amano really thinks of dumping spoons of dry ferts in his tanks. What he thinks of EI. Or PPS. I guess if asked he would diplomatically get away with the popular "there different ways of doing things...". Yes indeed. I agree 100%. And some are guaranteed to bring you algae sooner or later.

As I harp on about the same thing all over again (Rich substrate + Clean water + Good filtration) I really see how easy it is to see that dumping dry chemicals in a glass box with a few gallons of water makes little sense.

3. I can sit and write down exactly how the ADA system works. This information is not clearly available in English and no "pro" aquacaping outfit cares to publish it on an orderly manner. The system makes a lot of sense and we all know what kind of tanks it produces.

As a result of lack of knowledge most of us have started to do things that are simply funny. I too have an EI tank. 6 or so years old. The algae is minor and ever-present. In the past I've had an EI tank with zero algae. As all of them - as soon as I stop maintaining it it goes bad. The EI tanks that are stable have not developed because of EI.

:::
So here it is; I'm not going to post or look at this thread after I submit my post. I don't want to listen to Tom Barr or anybody's hostile/explanatory comments to what I just posted. Take it or leave it. I know what I'm talking about and sadly the people that know what's what in this hobby do not post on any of the aquascaping forums. I wish they did - even in the style I just did. My hope is to make some people think, that's all. I'm not attacking anything else but lack of common sense. Moderators can delete this post if they see fit, no problem.

--Nikolay
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post #14 of 133 (permalink) Old 11-01-2011, 11:51 PM
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I do what works for me: EI. Logical or not, it's a pretty guaranteed method that doesn't take extra "thought." I have better things to think about.
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post #15 of 133 (permalink) Old 11-02-2011, 02:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by niko View Post
Someone told me about this thread because for some time on APC I've been having a (mostly) monologue about how fertilizing the water makes very little sense and yet most people in the US do exactly that.

So here are some "things that make you go "hmmm"..."

1. ADA, ADG, Bubbles, Oliver Knott do not fertlize the water. Why do we insist doing it then? Here get an eyefull:

Amano, watch in High Definition if you can. How he does it - look below, item 3:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0dQrSu2VSg

ADG. If you think that they drive their head all around Houston to dump fertilizers in their tanks you are mistaken:
http://aquariumdesigngroup.com

Bubbles. Uses resins to remove N and P. How is it that the stem plants in this tank of his are beyond beautiful then?:
http://bubblesaquarium.com/Aquascape...1_Infinite.htm
And the rest of the galleries:
http://bubblesaquarium.com/Aquascape...t%20PageF1.htm

Oliver Knott. He will not tell you how he does things. He's a salesman, nothing else. But he does not dump fertilizers in his water either:
http://www.pbase.com/plantella


2. Most of the time we like to have too many different plants in a glass box. This glass box is not a real lake or a river. So to keep the plants alive we need to... get away from what Nature does. Sounds reasonable, I guess. What does not sound reasonable is why do we try to go against Nature.

Our tanks are not a river. Our tanks are different. Tom Barr has told us that according to all his scientific insight we must have high concentrations of chemicals. Because it makes plants grow.

I wonder what Amano really thinks of dumping spoons of dry ferts in his tanks. What he thinks of EI. Or PPS. I guess if asked he would diplomatically get away with the popular "there different ways of doing things...". Yes indeed. I agree 100%. And some are guaranteed to bring you algae sooner or later.

As I harp on about the same thing all over again (Rich substrate + Clean water + Good filtration) I really see how easy it is to see that dumping dry chemicals in a glass box with a few gallons of water makes little sense.

3. I can sit and write down exactly how the ADA system works. This information is not clearly available in English and no "pro" aquacaping outfit cares to publish it on an orderly manner. The system makes a lot of sense and we all know what kind of tanks it produces.

As a result of lack of knowledge most of us have started to do things that are simply funny. I too have an EI tank. 6 or so years old. The algae is minor and ever-present. In the past I've had an EI tank with zero algae. As all of them - as soon as I stop maintaining it it goes bad. The EI tanks that are stable have not developed because of EI.

:::
So here it is; I'm not going to post or look at this thread after I submit my post. I don't want to listen to Tom Barr or anybody's hostile/explanatory comments to what I just posted. Take it or leave it. I know what I'm talking about and sadly the people that know what's what in this hobby do not post on any of the aquascaping forums. I wish they did - even in the style I just did. My hope is to make some people think, that's all. I'm not attacking anything else but lack of common sense. Moderators can delete this post if they see fit, no problem.

--Nikolay
I know you don't plan to check back on this thread, but I still have to say this: you tell us repeatedly that dumping ferts into the water makes little to no sense, but you never once explained exactly why. I'd like to hear why. It's hard to give credit (though it may be due) to your post when you harp on something over and over but never really counterargue any point. I've heard from Tom why we dose EI, but I have not heard a 'why not" from you; just that it doesn't make sense and there are examples of people who don't do it. I'd be interested in hearing the reasoning so that I can look at it from your point of view, because I can't do that just from reading that post. I can sum up your whole post into one sentence: "EI doesn't make sense." I'm hoping to hear you elaborate, although sadly, since you aren't checking, we'll never get it, so it sounds like a terribly incomplete argument to me that I can take little from. And I'm not some EI zealot trying to harp on you at all. I'm trying to understand your viewpoint, but you have provided me with nothing to do so.

-VeeSe

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