A Brief Introduction
I'm the Skeptical Aquarist. I've been a beginner at keeping apartment-sized freshwater tropical fishes in planted aquaria for over fifty years, and on the whole it's been successful, in a modest way. I was fascinated in the fifth grade by the concept of the "balanced aquarium" as it was then understood: the fish respire carbon dioxide, which the plants take up, producing oxygen for the fishes. Well, that much is true, as far as it goes, but there's so much more going on in the planted aquarium, and I hope in the pages that follow I can explain it clearly, with plenty of links to dependable and detailed accounts available elsewhere on the Internet.
My tanks are all planted, with undemanding plants, and I intend them to be good-looking, since they're all pretty much on view. The fishes I describe are limited to those I have experience with. New York City's tapwater comes from the granitic highlands of the Catskills, merely filtered and chlorinated, but with some orthophosphate added. It's very soft, chloramine-free and free of agricultural run-off, and its rare quality has made me a lazy aquarist perhaps. My water has led me to keep the forest fishes from peaty waters in South America and Southeast Asia and ignore the fishes from hard alkaline waters, like livebearers, Central American cichlids and the mbuna of Lake Malawi. I have no basement for ranks of spawning tanks, and a 200-gallon tank would very likely drop through my 120-year-old floors.
The Skeptical Aquarist went online in 2002. Everything I've been overhearing since, remarks that you've all posted about the site at forums here and there, has been hearteningly positive! Thank you all for that! So now I've updated and expanded it in 2011, and chased down the web links that have shifted over the years and regretfully eliminated those that are well and truly gone. And there are even beginning to be some illustrations, thanks mostly to generous and handy friends. Anything you see here will be from my own aquaria.
I 'm still counting on you to tell the difference between what I relate to you from my reading and what comes from my own experience and perhaps to filter out some of the opinions I've formed over the years. What's good practice in my water, after all, may not be best in yours. So, keep your own skeptical guard up, and form your own informed opinions!
The Skeptical Aquarist