Picture of Peat fiber
Peat can be quite usefull to create
a suitable environment for many fish.
What is peat
Peat are the remains of swamp plants, leaves, trees, braches, and other plant material. To get these materials to decompose completely, oxygen is required. In swamps, oxygen is limited, and decomposition halts at a certain stage, leaving partly decomposed materials lying on the bottom of the swamp. Over the years this layer grows constantly, and this is what we call peat.
Why is peat usefull for aquariums?
Peat can be usefull for the hobby in many different ways. Peat has a few characteristics that enable us to mimic circumstances that occur in the natural habitat of some of our aquarium fish. If peat is brought in contact with water it will start leeching tannins and H+ ions into the water. Tannins are beneficial since they inhibit bacteria growth, and the H+ ions will turn our mostly alkaline tap water slowly into slightly acidic water. The GH is reduced, since the KH will be broken down first, and peat also has a limited ability to extract dissolved solids from the water, reducing the DH by a degree or two. In English, hard alkaline tap water will be changed into suitable aquariumwater by using peat. If you plan on keeping Lake Malawi cichlids, or livebearers, the sentence above may cause you to frown, since it's complete non-sense from your point of view. But for most fish neutral to slighly acidic water, low to medium hard, is the best way to keep them.
What kind of peat can I use?
Most aquariumbooks, if they have a section about
peat, will tell you that not every kind of peat is suitable to use.
Usually, the information halts there, and you're just left with questions
about peat. The first peat that shouldn't be used is the kind you can
find in garden centers, since often fertilizers have been added to it,
to benefit plant growth. Other stuff that may have been added are fungicides
and pH buffers. All very suitable for the plants in the garden, but
completely wrong for use in our tanks. You should look for natural peat,
without additions of any kind. Often you can find these in the pond
section in large packages, but they can also be found next to the other
bags with garden soil. Then there is the confusion between Spagnum peat
moss, and spagnum peat. The moss is still the plant, not or hardly decomposed,
the second is peat from a swamp,
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