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post #256 of 286 (permalink) Old 05-12-2019, 08:30 PM
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Ask Me Anything; help for beginners

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Originally Posted by Phil Edwards View Post
GDA...hmmm. Would you please tell me more about your tank? What're the lights, filter, CO2, ferts, etc? How often do you clean the tank vs. only removing/exchanging water? Pictures would be helpful as well.



Regards,

Phil


The tank is a 40 breeder. The light in the rear is a Fluval 3.0 and the foreground is covered by a Finnex Fugeray Planted+. At the substrate I measured the Fluval @ 114 PAR and the Finnex @ 65-70 PAR. The rear was covered by a Finnex 24/7 CC but thatís when the algae was at its worst. The reason why I increased the lighting is because I noticed there was significantly less algae on plants that were closer to the light getting blasted with PAR, and my pogostemon yatabeanus was shedding leaves like crazy. Since increasing the light intensity, the pogostemon has quit shedding its leaves.

I also increased micros and that seems to have helped, in conjunction with the higher light, new growth isnít getting much or any algae at all.

Photoperiod is 8 hours and, according to online calculators, co2 should be roughly 35-40 ppm when lights come on.

I perform a weekly 50% water change, removing any organic waste I can. Any leaves that have fallen off, leaves that donít look like theyíre doing well, getting as much detritus out of the java fern as I can. Filter is cleaned about once a month, SunSun 303b.

It seems like Iíve figured out how to keep new algae from growing on new growth, but if there was a way to eradicate the stuff thatís existing on the plants rather than thinning everything out, that would be awesome. Ironically it barely even grows on the glass now, only a very slight haze that I wipe off on water change day.

Here are some pictures.

You can see it pretty good on the java fern to the left.


And here pretty good on the bacopa.


Hereís what new growth is coming in like, alternanthera reineckii lilacina, pogostemon yatabeanus, and crypt undulata red in the shot.


Hereís an overall tank shot, in the front Iím trying to grow out some pogostemon helferi and a crypt flamingo, theyíre brand new and not in the best shape yet.


Macros are front loaded on water change day and micros are doses 3 times a week.

CSM+B is dosed to 0.2 ppm Fe and DTPA to 0.1 ppm Fe because my pH without co2 is 7.4 and dKH 5.

On water change day my nitrate is about 30-40 ppm (API kit is hard to distinguish) and phosphates about 2-3 ppm (darker than 2 but not quite as dark as 3).


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post #257 of 286 (permalink) Old 05-13-2019, 01:09 AM Thread Starter
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It looks to me like you've got things pretty much dialed in. Since the algae are on old leaves your best bets are to either a) remove all of the affected leaves and wait until it's time to trim or b) wait until it's time to trim and then replant the clean segments. Either way, the best thing you can do it maintain the regimen you have right now until the stems have grown a few more inches then trim and plant the clean stuff. Removing the algae covered leaves beforehand is up to you.
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post #258 of 286 (permalink) Old 05-13-2019, 01:39 AM
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It looks to me like you've got things pretty much dialed in. Since the algae are on old leaves your best bets are to either a) remove all of the affected leaves and wait until it's time to trim or b) wait until it's time to trim and then replant the clean segments. Either way, the best thing you can do it maintain the regimen you have right now until the stems have grown a few more inches then trim and plant the clean stuff. Removing the algae covered leaves beforehand is up to you.


Yeah thatís what I was thinking but maybe there was some hack lol.

The hardest part is thinning out the windelov java fern, itís gotten so bushy itís a challenge to prune down to the rhizome, and it took a long time for it to get to that point. Ah well, such is life.

Thanks for the reply!


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post #259 of 286 (permalink) Old 05-13-2019, 10:14 AM Thread Starter
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Yeah thatís what I was thinking but maybe there was some hack lol.
There is, it's hacking your plants down and using only the fresh and clean material. Sometimes algae will go away once the tank's environment improves, but most of the time trimming and/or removal is the best and quickest method. Unfortunately there aren't any real workarounds when it comes to things like this. Good husbandry practices are fundamental to making the solid foundation that tweakable things like light, CO2, and nutrition are built on.

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The hardest part is thinning out the windelov java fern, itís gotten so bushy itís a challenge to prune down to the rhizome, and it took a long time for it to get to that point. Ah well, such is life.

Thanks for the reply!
I hear ya, thinning ferns is sometimes detailed and time consuming work. If you want to clean it down to the rhizome, get some sturdy scissors and hack off all the fronds. Sometimes a good trim and thinning out the rhizome is needed and helps the plant out a lot. Yours is looking pretty thick, why don't you give it a go? An friend of mine used to say years ago that "Plants like scissors.". It's true. Thinning and trimming helps to improve circulation and can stimulate new and healthy regrowth. It also gives you the chance to clean up an area you may not have been able to get to easily before.

Regards,
Phil
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post #260 of 286 (permalink) Old 05-13-2019, 04:33 PM
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There is, it's hacking your plants down and using only the fresh and clean material. Sometimes algae will go away once the tank's environment improves, but most of the time trimming and/or removal is the best and quickest method. Unfortunately there aren't any real workarounds when it comes to things like this. Good husbandry practices are fundamental to making the solid foundation that tweakable things like light, CO2, and nutrition are built on.



I hear ya, thinning ferns is sometimes detailed and time consuming work. If you want to clean it down to the rhizome, get some sturdy scissors and hack off all the fronds. Sometimes a good trim and thinning out the rhizome is needed and helps the plant out a lot. Yours is looking pretty thick, why don't you give it a go? An friend of mine used to say years ago that "Plants like scissors.". It's true. Thinning and trimming helps to improve circulation and can stimulate new and healthy regrowth. It also gives you the chance to clean up an area you may not have been able to get to easily before.

Regards,
Phil
I can definitely attest to the cleaning part. Once a portion was thinned out a bit, I was able to get to some detritus that I didn't even know was there. During weekly water changes, I blast the rhizome area with a turkey baster to get as much out as I can, but when the rhizomes have grown into a mat, there's only so much that method can get out. Every week I've been thinning them out as much as I have patience for, but it gets to the point where you're just "done" when you have kids and a wife needing attention also. lol (In reality, the wife isn't bad at all, she understands and lets me work on the tank as much as I want, but the kids, especially the 2 year old, start getting really curious and want to be right in the way to get the best view).
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post #261 of 286 (permalink) Old 06-22-2019, 12:23 PM
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Hi Phil, need your expertise on some substrate decisions. Currently my tank is running 100% BDBS but I plan on switching over to a STS/Potting Mix/Sand Cap combo. [Journal Here]

I was wondering if you were to use this combo what would you do?
a) Layer the potting mix and STS

or

b) mix the potting mix and STS

if a), what would order would you choose to layers and do you think having mesh between layers would be a good idea? (to prevent any soil or sts from surfacing)

any other tips / warnings is also greatly appreciated


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Last edited by SingAlongWithTsing; 06-22-2019 at 12:27 PM. Reason: ...
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post #262 of 286 (permalink) Old 06-22-2019, 02:29 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by SingAlongWithTsing View Post
Hi Phil, need your expertise on some substrate decisions. Currently my tank is running 100% BDBS but I plan on switching over to a STS/Potting Mix/Sand Cap combo. [Journal Here]

I was wondering if you were to use this combo what would you do?
a) Layer the potting mix and STS

or

b) mix the potting mix and STS

if a), what would order would you choose to layers and do you think having mesh between layers would be a good idea? (to prevent any soil or sts from surfacing)

any other tips / warnings is also greatly appreciated
Heya Tsing,

I'd go with 70/30 soil/STS by volume. Mixing the STS in with the soil will help keep it from getting thick/dense and will help root penetration.

<additional contextual information> The thicker and more dense rich soils are the faster they become anaerobic and more strongly reducing they get. Some anaerobiosis is good as it helps mobilize some elements that are locked in otherwise inaccessible forms, but too much is harmful. Since roots are aerobic structures, the less strongly anaerobic/reducing the environment around them is the healthier they are and the less energy the plant needs to spend repairing/maintaining them. Iron is a good example of this. The normal +3 form found in soils is oxidized and insoluble. In reducing environments (aquatic and wetland soils, for example) it gets used as an electron acceptor in lieu of oxygen and is changed to +2, which is soluble and diffuses through the substrate. When it reaches the oxic zones around roots it changes back to +3 (insoluble) and can form a sheath around the roots. This is beneficial in that it helps protect them against toxic sulfides and methane, but it also inhibits P uptake by binding it where the roots can't get to it. In addition, the more easily oxygen can diffuse into the substrate the larger the oxic zone around the roots can be which creates an even larger barrier against harmful reduced compounds. I saw this countless times as a field scientist working with wetland soils, in research, and in my own aquariums with deep soil or substrates such as Amazonia. This is the big reason for using things like Power Sand (pumice) and lava rock under thick soil or soil-based substrates.</addition>

The STS itself will provide a good site for tiny roots to attach to as well. Make sure to get the mixture wet to the point where it's nice and cohesive; think cake icing. Put down at most 2 inches of the mixture then let it sit overnight to get a semi-dry skin before capping off with at least an inch of sand. The skin will help keep the sand from initially mixing with the soil and will help make setup a bit cleaner. If you have plans to use a thicker soil layer use a 50/50 or even 25/75 soil/STS mix as the base before adding the more soil-heavy mix on top.

If you want to get fancy-pants, make a dilute fertilizer solution (1/8 EI or 1/2 Thrive, etc) to add while wetting the soil mix. If you do this, make sure to run the tank for a week with the lights off to let things release before doing a big water change and planting. Adding things like root tabs or Osmocote to the soil mix will require a longer maturation period of at least two weeks. While lots of folks have had success with planting soil substrated tanks right off the bat, I prefer to let it sit as I lost an entire cohort of Vallisneria at the start of my study due to too-rich/immature substrate mixes.

Hope this helps. If you've got more questions I'll be here.

Last edited by Phil Edwards; 06-23-2019 at 01:25 PM. Reason: Added some contextual info
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post #263 of 286 (permalink) Old 06-22-2019, 04:52 PM
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Hello Phil,

I write to you with assistance requests on a couple topics. I have never had planted tank before. I have been doing a lot of reading and am finding everything very fascinating. Some of my equipment. I have a apex ph controller, and c02 regulator. I have 4 large LED panels accompanied with 2 4x54w t5 units. I just received some topic bulbs for the t5s. I have not checked par yet. I just added soil and did a large water change. My inhabitants at the moment are my Jardini and spanky (my bichir). I would like to have live breeder fish in the tank or sump below to raise for them both. I have purchased quite a few "easy" plants to start with.

My questions;

1. If I have used the seachem flourite clay and sand as substrate, what elements such as ie. iron should I be testing for on a regular basis?
2. My Ph sits at 7.7-7.9 usually. I have not ran the c02 yet all day with lights to see how it works as I have no plants in the tank yet. What #'s PH should I be shooting for? I have purchased some peat to try to lower the pH a little bit. I would like to be around 6.8-7 as I have read? I have seen the c02 chart contrasting PH/GH.
3. I have RO units and everything for them already. Should I use tap for top off or RO. I have been told to use tap .
4. I wish to have a no water change system, self sustaining with live breeders as much as possible. Is this possible?

Last edited by Maybe Plants?; 06-22-2019 at 05:16 PM. Reason: Added Emoji!
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post #264 of 286 (permalink) Old 06-23-2019, 01:23 AM
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Hi Phil, need your expertise on some substrate decisions. Currently my tank is running 100% BDBS but I plan on switching over to a STS/Potting Mix/Sand Cap combo.
Oh my I got the popcorn popping and am anxiously awaiting the next update!

This should be good!


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post #265 of 286 (permalink) Old 06-23-2019, 02:30 PM Thread Starter
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Hello Phil,

I write to you with assistance requests on a couple topics. I have never had planted tank before. I have been doing a lot of reading and am finding everything very fascinating. Some of my equipment. I have a apex ph controller, and c02 regulator. I have 4 large LED panels accompanied with 2 4x54w t5 units. I just received some topic bulbs for the t5s. I have not checked par yet. I just added soil and did a large water change. My inhabitants at the moment are my Jardini and spanky (my bichir). I would like to have live breeder fish in the tank or sump below to raise for them both. I have purchased quite a few "easy" plants to start with.

My questions;

1. If I have used the seachem flourite clay and sand as substrate, what elements such as ie. iron should I be testing for on a regular basis?
2. My Ph sits at 7.7-7.9 usually. I have not ran the c02 yet all day with lights to see how it works as I have no plants in the tank yet. What #'s PH should I be shooting for? I have purchased some peat to try to lower the pH a little bit. I would like to be around 6.8-7 as I have read? I have seen the c02 chart contrasting PH/GH.
3. I have RO units and everything for them already. Should I use tap for top off or RO. I have been told to use tap .
4. I wish to have a no water change system, self sustaining with live breeders as much as possible. Is this possible?
Hey, I just met you and call me crazy, but can I call you Maybe?

Joking aside and serious face time. In order to help you the most I'm going to be completely frank, please don't take it as being snarky or rude, I just want to be as clear and direct as possible. From what little info you've given it looks like you have a time bomb on your hands if you're not very careful and/or make changes soon. First things first, until we get you situated, only use enough light to see the fish and only then when you're there to see them. I'm working on incomplete information here, but it sounds like you've got waaaay too much light and a heavy nutrient load with the predatory fish and added soil.

I'm assuming you're talking about an Arrowana when you say Jardini. Is this correct? Going on the assumption that you're keeping an Arrowana and Bichir in your tank you're going to want to focus on the fish and go with what I call a Fish Tank With Plants rather than a Planted Tank With Fish. It may seem like semantics, but it's an important distinction; especially as someone who's new to keeping more than just one or two plants here and there. What we need to do is focus on making a good habitat for the fish first, then work on keeping plants that suit that environment. You've said that you've already bought "easy plants"; what are they? This is important info that will inform advice going forward.

I need some more information to go forward with:

1. How big is the tank and what are the dimensions?

2. If arranged together as a whole, do all of the lights cover the whole tank or do you have to stagger them to get full coverage? For example, I have a 48"x24" tank and have a T5 fixture that's 48x24, so all of the bulbs cover the whole tank as a single unit. If I have all of the bulbs on at once the fixture produces enough light to make the system incredibly unstable and one mistake away from crashing. This is something you absolutely need to avoid for reasons I'll go into later.

Pictures of the tank and lights will be very helpful with this.

3. How're you filtering the system? Again, pictures are helpful.

4. What do you mean, specifically, when you said you added soil?

Answers to your questions:
1. Flourite is, for all intents and purposes, inert. It's a mined material that may have at one time been clay but is now rock. Some of the minerals it contains may release in minute amounts, but not nearly enough to be considered, let alone tested for. That being said, I've used the original version in the past and think it's an excellent option if you wish to use it. Silica sand (pool filter and play sand) is completely inert and won't impact water quality.

2. Adding CO2 will reduce pH, so unless you specifically need to stay in a specific pH range don't add anything which will alter it. There are different philosophies and best practices regarding using CO2 in the hobby, but 99% of what you'll find here relates specifically to keeping systems that are heavily planted with plants which require high(er) CO2 inputs, not the type of tank we should be building for you. What you and I need to eventually focus on is figuring out what the appropriate amount of CO2 your system is going to need as it's not the same type of ecosystem as a heavily planted display. Having a good system to control CO2 injection will be very helpful and you've got that covered with the Apex.

Normally I'd say disregard the pH/KH/CO2 chart, but we're going to be well served by going back to basics with your system and that chart may have some use in this application. We'll look at that more in the future.

3. Using RO has many advantages so if you've got the system, by all means, use it.

4. No water change systems are BAD. DO YOUR WATER CHANGES. Proper husbandry practices are essential, no matter what sort of aquarium you're keeping and water changes are the fundamental basis of that.


Back to lighting. Light is the driver of your tank's metabolism. The more light input there is the faster photosynthetic organisms (plants and algae) are going to want to grow. Higher light equals higher inherent instability and higher time investment in the way of maintenance and miscellaneous upkeep. Large predatory fish put off a lot of waste which adds high amounts of compounds algae can use efficiently. The more light a tank like yours gets the faster algae will become an issue if you don't spend the time to keep on top of it. The addition of a nutrient rich substrate such as soil only compounds that.

That's probably enough for now. I think we've come to the point where it would be more appropriate for you to start a thread over in the Tank Journal section so we can have a more focused discussion of your tank going forward.

Regards,
Phil




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Oh my I got the popcorn popping and am anxiously awaiting the next update!

This should be good!
As long as there's butter. Popcorn is only a vector for butter.
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post #266 of 286 (permalink) Old 06-23-2019, 04:56 PM
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My inhabitants at the moment are my Jardini and spanky (my bichir).
I would like to have live breeder fish in the tank or sump below to raise for them both.
I wish to have a no water change system, self sustaining with live breeders as much as possible.
Is this possible?
Not to intrude here.
How big is this tank & sump?
Enough butter can be a vehicle for the popcorn!
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Growing is not that difficult.
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post #267 of 286 (permalink) Old 06-23-2019, 09:06 PM
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Hello crazy,

No time bomb is ticking at the moment. I have not turned on any lights or started any c02. I have a couple years experience in this water world we enjoy. I do not rush anything. At this time I have my Jardini in the tank (yes arowana) and just leds on low. My tank is 8x3x28 high. 420g. With a 100g sump below. I have in the tank 6 swords and a couple ferns, as well as about 6 nana i've had neglected in my sump for 6 months without barely any care that look great (haha maybe?). At the moment I have mesh blocks running behind my overfloads and then into 4 filter socks. I also have a small carbon reactor going at the moment. I think I need more red in my spectrum looking at some charts. Should I find a t5 with a mostly 600+ since I have the tropics and blues from my leds ? I also have water tanks and an automatic water change system available if if needed.
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post #268 of 286 (permalink) Old 06-23-2019, 10:19 PM Thread Starter
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Hello crazy,

No time bomb is ticking at the moment. I have not turned on any lights or started any c02. I have a couple years experience in this water world we enjoy. I do not rush anything. At this time I have my Jardini in the tank (yes arowana) and just leds on low. My tank is 8x3x28 high. 420g. With a 100g sump below. I have in the tank 6 swords and a couple ferns, as well as about 6 nana i've had neglected in my sump for 6 months without barely any care that look great (haha maybe?). At the moment I have mesh blocks running behind my overfloads and then into 4 filter socks. I also have a small carbon reactor going at the moment. I think I need more red in my spectrum looking at some charts. Should I find a t5 with a mostly 600+ since I have the tropics and blues from my leds ? I also have water tanks and an automatic water change system available if if needed.
Are you happy with the tank as it is? If so, we can probably just work on getting CO2 up and running. That alone will significantly benefit the plants. Keep in mind that a 520 gallon total volume system is going to require A LOT. A WHOLE LOT. A REALLY HUGE AMOUNT LOT of CO2. If I were going to try carbonating a system that big with a sump I'd be looking into investing in one of the canisters restaurants use for soda machines. No joke. I don't know what the next size down would be, 100lbs? A 20lb can lasts me about 5 months on a 90 gallon total volume system that's pretty gas efficient. You'll be looking at at least 20lbs a month, easy.

If you're looking for something a bit more then it'll take a bit more thought. Right now, forget all the charts and numbers and such that people are "suppose to have to ensure success". Your tank is a unique system and needs to be treated as such. If you want more red because you think it looks better, then go ahead. Otherwise, don't worry about it at this stage.

I respect that you have experience with fish keeping and it will serve you well going forward. However, it's important to keep in mind that a great deal of this side of the hobby is significantly different than standard fish/aquarium keeping when you start focusing on keeping plants vs. focusing on fish. The plants you mentioned will do just fine with modest light, CO2 addition, and possibly some traces under modest light conditions given the high NO3 and PO4 typical of predator tanks. Given everything you've said about your system I firmly believe that your best chance for success is to stick with the hardy and "easy" plants that don't require a lot of light as that will make things a lot easier and less expensive for you in the long run.

Go start up a journal, toss a bunch of detailed photos up there, and let's get to work setting you up for success with plants!

Regards,
Crazy
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post #269 of 286 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 12:25 AM
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Crazy,

I do strive to achieve a lot more with the tank. Arowana are suppose to enjoy water on the lower side of the PH scale from what I have read, I hope the c02 should be alright for him? Also hopefully with just him my n/p stay alright because of sheer volume. I can do water changes everyday if need be also. Does c02 have to have an exact range? Or would less c02 = slower growth rate? Right now I have the c02 plumbed into my return big return pump. I tested the c02 to make sure it worked, can see the c02 come out of the returns I think they look like micro bubbles. Is there a way to eliminate this? As far as tank size I can do whatever needs to be done I guess. By the way this tank is a center piece in my house. According to my wife it needs to look beautiful or its gone. So. There's only one option my friend.
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post #270 of 286 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 07:18 AM Thread Starter
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Crazy,

I do strive to achieve a lot more with the tank. Arowana are suppose to enjoy water on the lower side of the PH scale from what I have read, I hope the c02 should be alright for him? Also hopefully with just him my n/p stay alright because of sheer volume. I can do water changes everyday if need be also. Does c02 have to have an exact range? Or would less c02 = slower growth rate? Right now I have the c02 plumbed into my return big return pump. I tested the c02 to make sure it worked, can see the c02 come out of the returns I think they look like micro bubbles. Is there a way to eliminate this? As far as tank size I can do whatever needs to be done I guess. By the way this tank is a center piece in my house. According to my wife it needs to look beautiful or its gone. So. There's only one option my friend.
We can get that worked out. Go ahead and get the journal started and we'll get going.
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