Mistakes & Milestones: My transition from tupperware to a planted tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 04-11-2018, 03:15 PM Thread Starter
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Mistakes & Milestones: My transition from tupperware to a planted tank

I've thought about doing this for some time and worried about posting in the "Journals" section as it's a far cry from many of the awesome scapes that you'll find throughout this section. My reason for doing this is because as you'll see, I'm still a noob at this planted tank thing and when I searched the 'web and this forum, it appeared that EVERYONE was so far ahead of me! I'm not a chemist, and I don't have the $$$ to buy in to many of the systems that are available. But, I can grow into, and learn about things as cross over those mistakes & milestones.

My plan here is two-fold.

1. Learning how to keep a planted tank that works for me and my interests. I've learned a lot from this forum so far, and I've got a lot to learn. Hopefully there will be more milestones than mistakes, but that brings me to my other reason for doing this.

2. That others might learn from my mistakes, and also understand that they are NOT alone when feeling a bit overwhelmed by the fact that they don't have the periodic table memorized. We can learn, together.

The Basics:
I had a 30 gallon tall for a few years. I much rather watch it, than most of the stuff on TV right now. I've got seven (7) Black Skirt Tetras, four (4) Platys and a Giant Danio. The filter assembly started leaking around the pump and the light fizzled out on the 30 tall, so I started shopping. I soon found out that I could get a 29 gallon starter kit that was shorter, but fit my stand better, for about the same price as buying just a cheap light and pump. So, I decided to go with the starter kit.

It has seven sets of LEDs to illuminate the tank and they are pretty bright. Then, I thought about keeping some live plants in the tank...
I wondered if the LEDs would be bright enough to keep the live plant(s), so I figured that the best way to find out would be to put a plant in it! I purchased a Radican Sword at the LFS and waited it out.

I didn't know about fertilizing or anything so, the sword melted like a glob of butter on a black '49 Buick's hood in downtown Houston on June 12th. I read up on some liquid fertilizers and decided to start treating with SeaChem's Flourish. I started to see some new leaves coming on, so in hopes that we were on an upward trend, I rode home with some new Hornwort.

Boy, will THAT stuff make a mess. Looks like someone scared a Christmas tree inside my tank!

I get all that cleaned up and I've got one strand that was holding on. So, it's showing signs of growth, albeit slow growth. As is one of the pitfalls of so many hobbies, any positive response is met with more opportunities for instant gratification. AKA, more plants!

As a testament to this fine forum, I won a ROAK from @Doogy262. In that, there was a schlode of Vals, and in his words, i included some extras I had, a couple small crypts, and AR with some stems...

They were gorgeous! Super long and colors like nobody's business. Then, they met my dimly-lit tank operated by a dimly-lit enthusiast.

Doogy said that he dosed them daily with Excel. My LFS has CO2 Booster, which after looking online, I come to understand that they are similar? I've been dosing 3mL daily and they are starting to shoot off and start new growth. That tells me I must be doing something right! But, as we all know, the vortex is strong and I'm feeling myself getting sucked in...

As stated, I've got the OEM LEDs that came with my starter kit. I looked online for any information about how much light they put out, but everyone has been asking the same question, "Will they grow plants?" Well, yes, they will. Along with algea. I've come to understand that there's a difference between pouring light on your plants for proper photosynthesis and dribbling light on them for extended periods of time to sustain life. Algea seems to really enjoy the latter.

I'm looking at upgrading to a Current USA Satellite Plus Pro light after much research and late night reconnaissance. I think it fits my needs (as well as the plants). I stopped by the LFS and the gentleman that I spoke with was VERY enthusiastic about planted tanks. I mainly was asking if they knew of any fish clubs nearby that might have a PAR meter. I was thinking of checking the PAR before removing the LEDs so that I might finally be able to answer the question of how much light these LEDs produce, especially at the bottom of a 29 gallon planted tank.

Life got a few good hits in on my over the past two years, but things seem to be spinning in the right direction now, so I'm looking at getting that Satellite Plus Pro in the near future. In the meantime, here are a few pics of the tank from somewhat start to finish. I'll do that in a couple of posts with pics and explanations. Hope you like where this is going, and remember, I'm transitioning from an artificial world, in a starter kit 29 gallon tank. I'm learning, and hopefully will be able to answer someone's questions with this thread. Avoid my mistakes, and rejoice with my milestones!

Here's how it started, with one Radican Sword and a dream.



Bump: I found out real quick, that this guy didn't like to leave my plants alone!

Bump: I know that the blue gravel may turn some folks aside. But it's been in my tank for a while and it does brighten up the tank. I looked around for a piece of driftwood or something to help break up the landscape and came across this stump. Sure, it's not a re-purposed twig or other artifact suffering from years of weathering, but I liked it.


Soon after, I got some Vals (Jungle) from Doogy

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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 04-11-2018, 03:48 PM
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Hi Andy,Glad you liked the plants and your tank is looking great,the color of the gravel background and deco. is for your enjoyment so don't worry about that.I have been in the hobby for 40 yrs. the last 5+ with planted.When I started I had to much light not enough ferts no co2 and enough algae to fill a swimming pool. TPT has stirred in the right direction many times and trial and error is one way of learning.The one problem you may face is getting hooked on planted tanks and being forced to look for more room for bigger tanks{you can always get rid of the sofa}so welcome and ask questions even the stupid ones need an answer..Ed
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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 04-11-2018, 11:42 PM
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I’m on the learning journey too!

Started a 10 gallon late January and then my friends and partner helped upgrade me to a 55. So far so good.

I’m using flourescent bulbs so far.

Trying to keep it simple with dirt substrate.

Haven’t had any algae problems yet (knock on wood). Using fairly low light, no ferts.

Good luck!!
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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 12:47 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Doogy and Shay!

It's been a learning experience so far, and I'll post up a few more photos to help get everyone up to speed. For those that know all this stuff, feel free to turn this thread off for a few months until I wind up knowing enough to have a gorgeous, planted tank! For everyone else, here's another step in what it took for me to get there!

I have been slowly removing all the tupperware plants and sorting out where the live plants should be. I shuffled the plants a little and noted that each time, they took a little bit to acclimate to the new surroundings. I assumed that disturbing the substrate removed some of the nutrients that were dispersed throughout the new landscape, plus, the roots were not as spread out as they had been before. So, it took a while (week or so) to see any headway. But it was noticable, albeit slow headway.



With the crayfish gone, the plants started to stay where I put them. This allowed them to finally build a root system. First point to note, if you're going to freshly plant a tank, don't do it with a crayfish! I hear there are some that don't disturb plants, but I can assure you that mine wasn't one of them!

Keen eyed readers will note that there's some Mondo Grass in the left foreground. I like it, but found out after the fact that it isn't really a submerge-able plant. They say it goes away after a few months. Mine is still there, so we'll see.

Also, Doogy, that reddish plant that is center front is one that came with the RAOK shipment. Do you know what that is called? I keep thinking it's an S. Repens, but I don't know that for sure. I'm pretty sure that it would appreciate a little more lighting though, right? Here's a closer picture. Sorry for the bad picture. I'll try to get more when a "soft focus" doesn't benefit the tank's appearance so much.



As you can see, the leaves are pretty shriveled up, which combined with the darker color, I would imagine indicates that the plant could use some more light. It IS shooting a lot of roots down into the substrate at many of the nodes up through the stem. I'm assuming that this is a positive sign, yes?

If everyone can forgive my low-brow attempt at figuring out if more light would benefit the plants, red one included, I'll share my technique. In trying to figure out PAR, Lumens, light spectrum and whatnot, I've read that those spiral florescent bulbs throw the proper lighting that provides for photosynthesis. I happen to have one in my drop light. So, in the name of science, I decided to try pouring a little more light on the plants to see if there's any noted improvement. I don't see this thing hard-wired into the living room, but if it shows improvement...

Plus, I plan on getting a designated light that works for planted tanks, as I noted above. Facepalms and ghastly sighs aside, here's the non-scientific experiment.



As you can see, it's set on "Bake" for the (S. Repens?) red plant. I put it on there for around three hours a day and carry it over to the Cabomba for a few hours. I think both are showing signs of growth. I know the smaller stem plant behind the red plant is really digging it, as the top two rows of leaves is a new growth and a totally different shade of green. I think the Cabomba is growing as well, and the tops seem to be opening up more. In preparation for growth?



Anyways, here is how the tank looks currently. Everything looks like it is acclimated to their location and appear to be growing. There are smaller sprouts on each of the stemmed plants and I'm not sure if it's due to plant growth or not, but I noted that the water is super-clear today. Now, I know that lots of folks use most of the alphabet when talking about water quality, and I plan on delving into that realm very soon. Many places have the API kits with the tray full of various bottles for testing. Is this a consideration for someone such as myself or would the thirty or so odd dollars be better spent on another brand/kit?

Thoughts?

Thanks for reading!
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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 05:04 AM
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I think the test strips work well for a beginner.

I like my test strips because they measure hardness (GH) and carbonate hardness (KH) both of which are important for fish and plants. GH and KH also have a bearing on mineral content in the water which has an effect on plants.The test strips also measure pH Low pH = acidic, High pH = basic. Many tropical fish like soft water and low pH. African cichlids are known for preferring hard water and higher pH. 7.0 is neutral pH and is the measure of pure water. Big changes in any of these parameters can be very stressful for fish.

The other letters you need to pay attention to are nitrogen based which are byproducts of decomposition of organic matter. These relate to the nitrogen cycle. Ammonia NH3, Nitrite NO2, Nitrate NO3.

I have the API test kit too. It is a lot more accurate, but also takes a lot more time to conduct, and for my purposes, I don't feel like there's much of a benefit over the test strips. That kit does not measure hardness.

This is really simplified but hopefully helps
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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 05:08 AM
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Nice write up and looking forward to reading about your progress. The red plant from Doogy262 is Ludwigia Repens (Rubin). I actually won a ROAK from him a little over a year ago, it was extremely generous.

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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 11:50 AM Thread Starter
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Shay,

Thank you very much for that information. It does help, most likely because it IS in a very simplified form. Many times, beginners are much like a small fry, trying to navigate some pretty turbulent waters. We all know we must walk before we can run, but when we see everyone else running we try. Sometimes it works, but there is still a LOT of benefit in walking. I knew about the nitrogen cycle and fish, but basically kept to a "let it balance out" mentality. I understand that it is more crucial to KEEP that balance with plants. I'll start checking water parameters before changing too much to see how nature is doing in my artificial environment, and then what/if I need to do to help it balance.

Here's some good, bad, and ugly of my tank right now.

This is a couple of pics of the Ludwigia Repens (Rubin) from Doogy. Thank you for identifying it sdwind!





And, one of the stems and a Val from Doogy. The Val is an entirely new growth from a rhizome off of one of the big Vals behind it. =)



Some gratuitous Anacharis



And, of course, some Algae that I supplied via long-term, insufficient lighting



The algae is only growing on those plants that are directly under the LEDs, and only closer to the top. This, I assume, is because of their lower lighting ability? Maybe I should take a picture of the LEDs on the lid, to document what I have and where I started from. You know, for posterity.
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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 01:55 PM
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The red plant looks more like Alternanthera Reineckii than Ludwigia Repens 'Rubin' to me. The leaves are longer and more pointed. It is a bit hard to tell in its current state.


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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 04:17 PM
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While I did include a few small Ludwegia Reds those are Alternanthera Reineckii and single stems of of ar mini
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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 04-12-2018, 04:21 PM
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I was lucky to have a background in chemistry before I started this.

Nitrates are used by plants for their growth. They are added to the water by fish or the breakdown of food.

There are a lot of other minerals and compounds necessary for plants as well. All of your plants will be getting nutrients out of the water column. In order for them to outcompete the algae, you may need to look at that.

Light is what you have the most direct control over.

More light=more growth=more nutrients needed

It’s a delicate balance 🙂
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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old 04-15-2018, 12:06 PM Thread Starter
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I do believe that I am on the right track. The "Water Changes" thread got me thinking about the water quality in my 29 gallon tank. So, I broke down and got a dip-stick test kit from Tetra. The reason I checked out the water changes thread was because I hadn't been doing water changes. At all...

So I check my numbers, and as you can imagine, things were out of whack. I have not changed my water and the tank has been running for months. I've included some more plants over the past few weeks, but have not added any new fish/livestock.



Here are my initial findings.

Ph=8
Kh=120-180
GH=300+ ppm
Nitrite (NO2)=1ppm
Nitrate (NO3)=200+ ppm

I swapped out approximately 30% of the water (6 gallons) with filtered, bottled water. I don't know the parameters of the new water yet, but I can get a test strip and find out. I do know that our tap water is really bad. That's why we have bottled water.

Here's after the water swap:

Ph=7
Kh=80-120
GH=300+ ppm
Nitrite=.5 ppm
Nitrate=200+ ppm

I did a test of the bottled (replacement) water and our tap water to get a better idea of the quality of each. I'm going to be using the bottled water to do water changes and keep track of the improvements in the tank.

What I found:

From the Tap:
Ph=7.2
KH=120-180
Chlorine=2.0
GH=300
Nitrite (NO2)= 0-.5 (hard to differentiate)
Nitrate (NO3)=20

Drinking (Bottled) Water:
Ph=6.8
KH=0
Chlorine = 0-.5
GH= 0
NO2 = 0
NO3 = 0-10

There were some questions about the accuracy of the Tetra test strips and, it didn't have a test for ammonia. So, when I found out that the ammonia test was almost half the price of the complete API test kit, I decided to get the whole kit and not have to purchase MORE stuff down the road. I guess this is one area where it pays to pay up front.

I'll likely use the test strips for double-checking the bottled water that I'll be using for water changes and, it'll be interesting to do a back-to-back test of the API kit and the test strip to see how accurate things really are/aren't.

On a happier note, the Alternanthera Reineckii seems to be enjoying the recent water change and additional lighting. It has regained some color and has some new growth at the base of the stem. The new leaves look NICE! I'll try and get a picture and re-post.
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post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old 04-16-2018, 02:24 AM Thread Starter
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A pic of my new growth and a photo of the LEDs that came with the tank. There are seven "pods" of three LEDs each. I've been told that they're likely .5w LEDs but I don't know. I really want to get that Current USA light!

In other news, I checked ammonia using the API kit. It says .25 ppm. I just did my second 20% water change to help bring down the Nitrates, which are still pegged on the test strip. I'm using the bottled water, as we can get 5 gallon jugs filled for $1.75. The display says it is run through an activated carbon filter, then a micron filter, then Reverse Osmosis, and then a post carbon filter and finally under ultraviolet light. That is the bottled water from the test listed above.

Here is a photo of the LEDs.


And a photo of the Alternanthera Reineckii growth. You can see the little Wisteria(?) growing up right behind the AR.
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post #13 of 23 (permalink) Old 04-17-2018, 11:17 PM Thread Starter
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Well, I went and did it!

Purchased a Current USA Satellite Plus Pro! A LFS had one cheaper than I could get one on Amazon, so I bit the bullet. I can say that there's a LOT more light in the tank now. And, I like being able to regulate the light as well. I toyed with the lightning and cloud setting to see what they did, and then went back to the timer setting.

If there was one thing I'd ask for as an improvement, it would be the ability to split the "Daylight" timer to shut down to "moonlight" around the middle of the day. As it is, you can only program one "on" and one "off". So, if the light comes on in the morning and runs for 7 hours straight, then it's shutting off about the same time as I'm clocking out. I'd like to be able to run it a little later at night AND have the lights on when I get up in the morning. I know, splitting hairs... But it would be nice. I've already thought that if I bought ANOTHER light, I could schedule that one to be the "morning" and the other to be the "evening" light. Not sure I'd do that though.

I trimmed the top of the tank lid that came with my tank so that the Satellite Plus Pro resides in a slot and shines through the lid. Plenty of room for the light and I was still able to keep the original LEDs, should I want to use them at any point.

I still have high nitrates, but the nitrites are now at zero (according to the test strips). I'll start using the API kit soon. But I'm still doing frequent water changes to try and get that number lower. Still over 300. I know, too high!

I noticed something today when I looked at the tank. It appeared that the one Tiger Val was pearling! I didn't expect that! I've got the light turned down to around 40 percent on the white LEDs and the RGB are around 60-75 percent. I wondered how much more light this thing would kick out. Apparently a LOT more! I actually read where some folks said it wasn't enough. I can say, for my tank, it's plenty.

So, IS this pearling? I run the light for around 7 hours. Will keep an eye on algae blooms and keep changing water to get things into sync. The Alternanthera Reineckii seems to really dig the new light. I could see an occasional bubble coming up from it as well.

So far, I'm glad I got the light and I think my plants are too.

Here's the video.

https://youtu.be/DqIBHpUfAY8

Sorry, it was shot with a cell phone. Hope you like it!
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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-16-2018, 01:10 AM Thread Starter
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Update...

Well, the light is working! I've seen several clues that the Satellite is kicking out more light than the lid-mounted ones. First, Black Beard Algae (BBA) formed almost overnight. And on the other side of the coin, I needed to do some trimming of my plants.

First, the down side. I was running the light at about 46 percent for around 7 hours. That is when the BBA kicked in with a vengeance. Now, I read somewhere, perhaps on this forum, that algae takes longer to photosynthesize than plants? So I started wondering if a higher intensity but for a shorter photoperiod might be better for the plants and not help the BBA. I backed off the light to about 5 hours and upped the intensity to 96% over time. The BBA growth has slowed considerably and the plants are growing.

I also read that increasing CO2 helps, and while I don't have a CO2 system, I have been dosing CO2-booster from API. I think it's the same as Excel? Also, I've been dosing Flourish to give the plants something to grow on. I did some 50-60 percent water changes to help get the Nitrates down, and with the growth of the plants, I think they're starting to help control Nitrates. Nittrites are always at 0 and Nitrates are around 40. Still swapping water to bring it down.

I pulled out the stump and let it dry out well, then used a brush to swipe off the BBA hat had accumulated on the stump. I can't do that with the plants, so I've been trimming back the affected leaves to help rid the tank, since it doesn't seem to be growing that much anymore since I cut back the time under the light. I can still use the OEM lights for viewing whenever I want.

I also put in a few ghost shrimp to help clean up a little bit and there's now some snails roving around inside the tank. I'm careful not to over-feed the fish so as not to have a snail bloom. So far, so good. IF they get plentiful, I'll just trap em with a plastic jug and some cucumber or something. Overall, the plant is starting to look more like a "system" and less like an elementary school classroom project.

The Vals that I got from Doogy are really taking hold. They're spreading and growing new shoots. They've filled in great behind the stump, just that they're not tall enough to see yet from behind it. The ones near the pump inlet have grown across the top of the tank and are now touching the other side. The Cabomba (left side) is really starting to fill in. I don't see much root growth, but it sure is popping off-shoots and bushing out.

The Barcopa is growing up past the BBA stage and the Anacharis has already been trimmed and moved once. It's starting to grow shoots off of the stem so it should fill in nicely. Overall, I think we're getting there, but I have a ways to go to match some of these tanks on here. I'm just happy to see growth of plants! Hope you like it so far!
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post #15 of 23 (permalink) Old 05-27-2018, 09:03 PM Thread Starter
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5-27-18 Update

Been proceeding with the Mistakes & Milestones.



Its amazing how addictive plant growth can be! I've noted they were growing in a previous post, then, something clicked. I thought, "If a little is good..." I think we've all been there, or will be- right?



I started thinking to myself, perhaps a little more light would help. And a little more...and more. Of course, if you're uppin' the light, then you have to increase the ferts and CO2, right? So, I'm dosing pretty heavy into the tank, and I noted that the water was getting "hazy" and the plants weren't growing any more. The ghost shrimp were still chewin' on the algae and the snails were putterin' around, apparently happily. But, the water was hazy.



I did a search on the web about it, as it seemed to only be noticeable with the lights way up. I figured I'd throttle back a bit and see if the water quality would stabilize. I kept up with the CO2 booster, as I understand that this is helping with the BBA, but stopped the daily Flourish. It appears that the plants are using the excess nutrients and the water is clearing up nicely. They're even starting to pearl again. I've read about over-fertilization in various threads along with the exacting, excruciating preciseness that some go to to keep immaculate water parameters.



I'm not there, but I see how this hobby can suck you in to that level. Lol.


The plants are growing in nicely and I've included a Ludwigia Repens (I think) to the mix. It has started changing to red on the tops of the plant, I believe due to the sufficient amount of light and the Cabomba is growing nicely. It's almost ready for its second clipping. The Vals have taken on a nice, copper tone with leopard spots and spread out throughout the center of the tank.



I'm still trying to find the magic formula to make the Radican Sword and Doogy's AR happy. I've moved the Radican Sword more directly under the lights and it has started new growth, but they don't grow up, only out, and stay short. The AR has some new growth toward the bottom of the stem, and it has new growth sporadically at the top, but it's not growing at the same rate as the Cabomba, Vals or Bacopa. Honestly, it's not nearly as nice as when I got it from Doogy262. I'd like to fix that, so if anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears.



I've started making my own root tabs with Osmocote + and putting them in the substrate. Other than the fish, the only thing left from the original tank set up is the substrate. I'm debating on whether to replace it with pool filter sand or leave it be and start another tank! (You called it @Doogy262 !) I have another 30 gallon tank that I could use some of the clippings from this tank when the time comes. I've got a few mad scientist ideas if I go that route. Will have to wait and see.



Anyways, here's the latest pics. Hope you like 'em!
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