Aquatics Unlimited: Articles: A Question of Balance
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A Question of Balance

for the week of 7/15/99

It's interesting to note that three of the fastest-growing areas of fishkeeping - saltwater reef, planted aquariums, and ponds - all rely on some sort of equilibrium between plant and animal life. Rather than trusting wholly on chemicals and gadgetry, these systems attempt to allow animal life to feed plant, and plant life to filter animal waste. These systems are not truly "balanced", since foods are added and water is filtered and exchanged, but their success is largely attributable to the interaction of flora and fauna.

Many plants, few fish. It often becomes apparent that it takes a heavy load of plants to remove the waste of even a few fish. A 500 gallon pond half covered in plants probably consumes the waste of only a dozen 6" fish. Or a 120 gallon reef full of live corals with symbiotic algae might only keep up with the waste output of 3 small fish.

Encouraging plant growth. Only healthy, actively growing plants remove waste, so encouraging their growth with intense lighting, carbon dioxide supplementation and trace element addition can dramatically increase the number of fish kept.

The result of imbalance is most often algae growth. If the plants cannot keep up with the waste production of the fish, the excess waste becomes fertilizer for unwanted algae. A limited growth of algae is expected in most aquariums or ponds - and can hopefully be controlled by the addition of grazers - but rapid, thick growth generally means too many fish (or overfeeding) for the amount of plants maintained.

"Tip of the week" appeared regularly in 1999 and 2000.

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