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hiya! my name's lex. I work as an aquatic specialist at an awesome independent pet store in oregon. we have both fresh & salt, but I pretty much get to play with plants all day. I recently got put in charge of 'scaping one of the show tanks, so I'm pretty excited... and also a little nervous, aha. performance anxiety and all.

a LOT of customers come in wanting to set up planted tanks... which is one of my favorite parts of my job. glad to see that planted setups are very in fashion nowadays~ we carry the full AquaVitro line now, but we also carry Nilocg's NPK + M custom mix & dry fertilizer salts for the more enterprising hobbyist. I mix the custom ferts for the store's planted tanks, which has definitely caused some power-leveling lmao.... not wanting to kill everything is a great motivator for expensive research...

um.... personally I've been doing planted tanks for about a year and I'm still learning but after reading through a good chunk of Tom Barr's articles and experimenting with my own fertilizers and EI dosing and whatnot, I'm starting to feel pretty confident. I can successfully grow just about anything so I'll take that as a good sign...

ahah, sorry this intro is so long. I'll tell you a quick customer horror story to make up for it:

a mother and her very belligerent son came into the store all confident and purchased an $80 porcupine puffer. the next day they come in and tell my they want "the yellow one" (yellow tang), the "green things" (chromies), a "nemo", and "the big black one with the spots" (marine betta!!). obviously something is up so I inquire about their tank size, etc. I ask the kid if he has live rock and he just yells WE HAVE ROCKS. I point to our live rock and ask if it looks like this. again, he yells WE HAVE ROCKS. like, literally yells.

I find out the puffer is an uncycled, brand spankin new 55g Tetra Guaranteed Success Kit. yes, the freshwater one. after this conversation they bring me a water sample a few hours later. I test it and the results are 2ppm NH3, 0ppm NO2 (thank god) and 10ppm NO3 (for those unfamiliar with SW, nitrate is above 5ppm is dangerous). their salinity is 1.029 (extremely high), and the water is separating in a weird way in the test tube. the puffer is somehow still alive. round 2 of questioning commences.

I give them their test results and ask if they've ever had fish before. the mother says "no. and what's ammonia?" she also tells me they've been mixing their own saltwater (!!!) but it's OK because they add the "drop things" to their TAP WATER. the son is having a fit because HE JUST WANTS A PUFFER OKAY. I ask about the rock and if they can show me what they have so we take a trip to our substrate aisle.

the kid has the puffer on blue & white petco aquarium gravel. that's what he was claiming was his "live rock". I tell them they need sand and actual live rock. like, at least 75lbs of it. the mother litERALLY ASKS ME WHY SALTWATER FISH NEED SAND. I explain that saltwater fish need sand for proper biological filtration.......... because they come from the ocean....... which is entirely.... sand......

so. they agree to return the puffer for a full refund and I lend them a bucket. they return a little later and I process their return and start drip-acclimating this poor puffpuff. they are looking at the freshwater planted showtanks and when I walk by they flag me down for a second. the mother points to one of them.

"We have these types of plants in the tank, but they're not doing so well???"
 
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