THE NATURAL AQUARIUM, 3 LIGHTING
Oh, do you live in a privileged age! LED lighting has come of age and fluorescents have also. Aquarium lighting is so easy now!
Plants need light. This is obvious unless you are growing saprophytes like mushrooms. Since the fish were fertilizing my plants and the plants were needed to take the ammonia out of the water, it seemed apparent I needed more plants.
This would also help with the buildup of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the tank. The plants need the carbon dioxide to grow, but the fish need oxygen. Carbon dioxide in solution is carboxylic acid when it picks up a hydrogen atom (CO2 + H → COOH) so this lowers the pH of the tank. Oxygen raises the pH of the tank partly by displacing the CO2.
At night plants give off CO2 in their dark cycle making the water more acid, and in the day, they make the water more alkali because they make oxygen. This cycle helps balance the bacteria in the tank and keep things in check. More light means more oxygen in the day and more CO2 at night, a stronger CO2 cycle. I suspect this helps the fish also but I’m not sure how.
So I made my own light fixture about 1997. (Don’t bother with this, they have better lighting now, but it worked well at the time.) I bought some sheet metal, and using common household items like a redwood patio table (as a break) and a hammer, pliers, and so on, I pounded out a metal box, ends and all and reduced two neon shop fixtures into the box so I had four neon tubes in a small area. Since my tank is just over four feet long, this worked.
The plants loved it.
LED technology has finally come up with lighting that can grow plants and also be white light. Over the last several years LED’s were only saturated light colors and so, to have an effective grow light it was made up of pink LED’s and blue LED’s. The new LED’s are 6500k (the frequency range of sunlight) and grow everything quite nicely while looking good also.
Things will continue to develop but definitely use LED lights in that range and then make other lighting choices to suit you.
Right now the LED’s are about the same price as a good aquarium light, I expect the price to drop and soon all aquarium, terrarium, paludarium lighting will be LED, affordable, and low energy use lighting.
But I digress from the journey. . .
Fossil Feet of Humans and Dinos
I fell asleep and had a dream.
The world was filled with dinosaurs, giant ferns, orchids, and other tropical plants hung off of the branches of the huge trees, plans grew on rocks and the rivers were filled with life, both fish and plants.
As I walked through the forest, I could see volcanoes in the distance spewing out millions of tons of molten rock and thousands of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere (volcanoes are the major source of CO2 into the environment). We were in a northern latitude but there was no ice, there were mastodons eating large volumes of plants which were, in mere weeks, quickly replaced by new growth, the temperature was in the mid-eighties on the Fahrenheit scale.
The world was thriving on the nutrients from that volcano. The ground was thick with detritus, and so were the rivers. The bottom of both were nearly black with decaying organic matter. The river ran colored, like tea, not a pristine blue. The moist detritus on the volcanic rock was slowly etching the rock away reducing it to mineral rich soils.
There is something I never thought I would see in my dream, Polar Bears with pterodactyls circling like vultures waiting to clean up the kill when the bears had finished. Yes, the Polar Bears lived through the tropical periods also. Even the water was warm. The oceans were warmer than I had experienced anywhere but in the tropics. The water drove the rains that helped nourish the living plants and deteriorate the dead ones.
Perhaps this was the mastodon found recently in an ice flow. Perhaps there were fossils I had seen in the museum of natural history. I didn’t know, but I didn’t much care. They were very real.
But, I thought, all of this is carbon. Everything is carbon based. Where did all the carbon come from? Volcanoes spew out tons of CO2, and so does the detritus I saw on the ground and in the water. In fact, marshes are one of the largest sources known, and because of the increased moisture there was, in my dream, increased rain. Small marshes filled with decaying plant materials were everywhere and they came in all sizes. But this is carbon recycled. All of the carbon in the plants and animals was only “fixed” into the organic forms needed for life by living things, none originated there. It was coming from the volcanoes.
I began to look around with a new set of eyes, ones that could see the carbon dioxide. The view of the volcano changed. I no longer saw it as a source of dust for the rain to nucleate on, rather as a source of CO2 for plants to grow on. Out of the marsh arose more CO2 in streams like rain rising from the water into the atmosphere. The CO2 was ten times what it is in your atmosphere today.
Plants absorbed this CO2 both in the water and CO2 in the air was taken up and the rich sunlight and water from the rain turned this into sugars, then starches and other fibrous compounds that make up the plants. Here was a thriving wilderness of plants and animals, it was Hawaii but with dinosaurs, it was Jurassic Park without the drama.
Suddenly I awoke. I looked out my window in San Diego and wondered where all that carbon was. A car passed by, and I thought, there is some of that carbon. The car burned petroleum made from the plants and animals not from my dream, but from the true earlier time when all of these things were true, when the world was warm, and not cold as it is now, when carbon ruled the air and life thrived as every drop of sunlight turned it into sugars yielding its excess oxygen molecule for the animals to thrive on.
But then I realized, this is only a small fraction of that life. The extreme majority of that was thousands of feet below the surface buried under billions of tons of rock. It exists as fossils and coal, as crude oil and as natural gas. So here we recycle again that energy from the sun captured by plants and tied up in using water and CO2 into the plant itself.
Then I wondered, how did all of that oil, coal, and fossil material become buried under so much rock?
Laguna Salada EarthquakeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Suddenly and with great prejudice
We have visited the site of the Earthquake in Baja, the 7.2 scale quake on Easter Day 2010 (pictures here). The ruptures from this quake displaced a few hundred yards of earth a maximum of about 2 meters, or a little more than 6.5 feet. In the image above we see only one of a series of small ruptures that crossed this river bed east of the lagoon.
Even the largest of quakes we have measured in recent history could not have done this. So, how did all those plants and animals become buried so deeply and suddenly that we have fossils, oil, and coal all over the world?
To say this logically requires a large catastrophe is an understatement.