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In the planning stages for an experiment -- thoughts?


ShawneeRiver

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I'm very interested in plants and their role in the aquarium. We say that fast-growing plants adsorb nitrate, but how much? How much do anubias adsorb? I want to know.

So I'm thinking about doing a long-term experiment comparing a tank with plants to a tank with no plants. My biggest personal challenge is that I have to make space in the home for the tanks. Please read my idea and give feedback. I don't want to go through this unless the experiment sounds like it will be beneficial.

My plan is to buy two identical 3 to 5 gallon tank kits with decent lighting. Right now, I'm leaning toward these: http://www.petsmart....%26amp%3B+Bowls I'd put an apple or mystery snail in each tank. In one tank, there would be no plants. In the other tank, I would add various plants. I would test the parameters of both tanks weekly to see if there are differences. I'd also like to test oxygen levels if that's not too difficult or expensive. I would try different plants for two months at a time -- one month dosing with fertilizers and a month with just the plant. :)

Only one tank would have a plant, and I would be looking at the impact of the plant on water quality, not the growth of the plant. I would also watch the growth of the snails, but I'm mostly curious if plants really help with nitrates or the other things we test for.

My questions are, is a single apple/mystery snail enough of a bioload in a 5.5 gallon tank? More space is better, but if the snails' load isn't enough to warrant a weekly water change, then I don't know if I could detect differences in parameters. Would a 3 gallon tank be better? Would a different animal be better? I would probably run the 5.5 with a slightly low water level.

I'm very interested in hearing your thoughts and advice on this. Thanks!! :)

Edited by ShawneeRiver
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great idea shawn :) I have no idea if an apple snail would be enough bioload or not (I want to say it wouldn't be, but that is a total guess). What you could do though is a fishless experiment and just add ammonia to the tanks and let nitrates build up. That way you would be able to control the ammonia and you would know that the ammonia in each tank is exactly the same etc. This would be an easy way to get good nitrate build up without worrying about anything living in there. But then of course you couldn't look at the snail growth.

EDIT: but then of course you would have to think about nutrients for the plants.... hmmmm

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I thought dosing ammonia, tithra. I think straight ammonia it would be more controlled, but I wonder if it's as realistic. It doesn't account for any organic waste, and I don't know what that element contributes.

Also, truthfully, it sounds more boring. I would definitely feed the snails, but I could see losing interest in dumping in the ammonia every day. This is a hobby, so fun is a factor.

I think one snail would be a close bioload match between the tanks, if they they produce enough waste.

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Maybe you should try a snail and just see how the bioload is and go from there. This in itself would be a worthy experiment, I would love to know just how much bioload a snail adds to the tank!

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Yes you could add fake plants for sure.

What are you going to feed the critters? And will the tanks have filters?

The hardest part about this is that you're only going to have one of each type of tank, so it will be very hard to say if any results you see are actually caused by the plants, or just some other random variable (e.g. snail that produces more waste than the other, slightly more sunlight in one, temperature differences, etc.).

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Yes you could add fake plants for sure.

What are you going to feed the critters? And will the tanks have filters?

The hardest part about this is that you're only going to have one of each type of tank, so it will be very hard to say if any results you see are actually caused by the plants, or just some other random variable (e.g. snail that produces more waste than the other, slightly more sunlight in one, temperature differences, etc.).

I would feed them whatever they eat, as long as an equal amount goes in each tank. Apparently, apple snails eat flake food and veggies. And I would definitely have filters. Both kits will come with the same filter.

I know it would be impossible to measure all variables. I thought about swapping the tanks periodically to see if the same results would hold true. Maybe I could do that with each plant, although that's a long time to test one anubias.

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I just had a thought......

Could you take water from one of your fish tanks that has nitrates (measure it), then put it in the two smaller tanks - one with plants, one without. No need to have any critters in there. Then measure the nitrate each day to see if there's a depletion. It would be a better controlled experiment than having two different snails/fish producing potentially different levels of waste.

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The thing I am interesed with this is to see which plants absorb the nitrates really well. I don't care about exact amounts, just stuff that is useful to know for people with nitrate problems. So i think how your experiment is planned will work just fine

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Haley, the standard advice is that the faster the plant grows, the more nitrate it is using. But I want to know if that's true and if anubias or slow growers do anything.

Chrissy, that would work. I wouldn't need a filter or even a big tank for that, but I would need a light. It's not scientific, but the idea of an empty tank of old water sitting around doesn't thrill me. ;)

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Science is often boring compared to the alternatives ;)

You could even do it with buckets, no need to buy a tank. You could suspend a light over them.......I'm purely thinking science fair-type project here, nothing to do with aesthetics. It's just that the more variables you can eliminate, the more likely your results are to be meaningful. But as a purely fun experiment, bettas could work too ;)

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Have you thought about downsizing the tanks and maybe doing four 2 gals instead of two 5s? I mean ideally you'd have more than one of each tank so you could establish a mean (although 2 tanks isn't much of a data pool either lol). It sounds like a fun experiment but the scientist in me always like to see things on a bigger scale because in the end the results will be more accurate.

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Since it will probably be in my living room, aesthetics do matter. My husband lives here too. :) Also, safety is an issue. A bucket of water -- even a lidless bowl -- probably would not work out with a 5-year-old, 9-year-old and a puppy. :o It would great to do it completely right with multiple tanks and a bigger scale, but that simply is not realistic without the space to put those things.

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I don't know if this would work for you, but if you're still doing 5 gallons tanks you could try 2-3 neons in each tank. They're small and I would think would be ok in that size tank. That should give you enough bio-load too.

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My thoughts lead to this idea. Not the most enjoyable method and too small scale to be truly scientific would be too get 3 small containers, 2 liter pop bottles washed and tops cut off comes to mind, and some form of liquid nitrate. Apparently plant fertizilers may well contain nitrates in a consistent ratio. Fill each bottle about 3/4 full of water. Maybe tap water de-chlorinated. In one, place a quick growing plant, anacharis comes to mind. In another place the anubias and no plant in the third. In each bottle put in a identical amount of the nitrate source. Test each plant at least daily and compare results.

One run to zero nitrates would probably give a rough guess, multiple runs would present a better view. Sounds like an interesting experiment that could lead to loads of variants to more effectively plan tank planting

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That wouldn't work, I'm afraid. I could give them proper lighting, and if the tanks or bowls don't have lighting, I don't think the planted one would grow.

Also, although I would be testing for primarily nitrate, I would like to create a "real" environment to see what happens. There are other things in the water besides nitrate that could affect plant growth. Plants need more than nitrate to grow. And if the plants don't grow because they are missing other things that are normal aquarium byproducts, then my results would be off.

Truthfully, there are too many varibles to control. So I think trying to set up two small real aquariums to compare still could yield some interesting -- if not highly scientific -- results.

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