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    • It is a place where you can make long-term friends in the planted aquarium hobby and have long, multi-day talks on specific subjects.
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Remembering the history of the planted aquarium hobby - a series


Staff member
Founding Member
  • Oct 29, 2022
    Miami, FL
    I thought it would be nice to document some of the more interesting history of the planted aquarium hobby in the US. History from other places is welcomed.

    Let me start with a story one of the first flame fests I recall regarding our hobby.

    On October 20, 2008, Gerry Skau would send an email to the Aquatic Plant Digest (APD) that would be the equivalent of throwing a match into a dried out forest. It was an innocent two line email:

    Wow-it's good to see all of the traffic back on the list.

    Now-does anyone know what color clear water in a white bucket would be?

    This simple question ignited a flame war on the APD where even the most mild-mannered plant geek was taking out the flame throwers.

    If you have time to burn, you can learn more about it and kick it old school here: https://fins.actwin.com/aquatic-plants/month.200810/msg00119.html
    Hopefully some of you clicked through and looked at the thread. It takes some work but I think it's worth it. Amazing how brilliant minds can disagree, fiercely, on the color of water in a while bucket.

    Anyway! Moving on to another topic.

    Unlike many of you, I was NOT brought into the hobby by pictures from Takashi Amano's beautiful aquascaping. I was enthralled by the book, The Optimum Aquarium by Dupla. I wish I still had my copy of it.

    While some (or most) of the ideas Dupla espoused in the book are either no longer applicable or not true, it was life changing for me. The science, the technology and the beauty of the aquariums was out of this world. Many of us from back them would drool over the Dupla equipment that was completely out of reach (costwise) for most of us. There was one hobbyist (George Booth) that did invest in a full Dupla "high tech" tank and it was amazing. I was so envious!

    That being said, Dupla was an early promoter of adding a daily fertilizer to the aquarium. It was mostly due to the fact that iron would not last very long in the aquarium environment due to the chelates used back then. To compensate, they came out with a product called Dupla Drops. It's funny that the company, now in new hands, still produces the product.

    Back then, they didn't list the ingredients so we didn't really know what was in them until an enterprising or just curious hobbyist in the US decided to send them for testing and came up with the contents. He then posted the ingredients so people could roll their own version of it. Obviously, this was much cheaper than the actual German product so it was originally called "Poor Man's Dupla Drops" or PMDD. You may have seen the word PMDD used online. This is the origins.

    Appreciating that using the name Dupla could bring on some legal trouble, PMDD was quickly converted to mean "Poor Man's Daily Drops" or "Poor Man's Dosing Drops".

    PMDD was taken by Paul Sears and Kevin Conlin and a recipe was created that was based on their, now famous, paper - Control of Algae in Planted Aquaria. Some like Steve Turner improved on the formula.

    To some extent, @plantbrain took some of the concepts being employed back then for fertilizing and simplified it through testing and the understanding that a large, weekly water change could allow for heavier nutrient concentrations design to give plants enough of what they needed to grow healthy. He also took us away from the focus on phosphate limitation and to a more holistic understanding of how to feed our plants.

    Good times! We now don't even think about fertilizer as it's so easily available and complete. Perhaps we're thinking more about micro nutrients today. I don't know that people realize how hard it was back then as we were developing our understanding.