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Deep substrates and "problems"

Some posters seem concerned with possible problems which might be caused by
deep substrates and what might be growing down there in low oxygen zones.

I've _just_ finished re-doing my 130 gallon tank which had been set up for a
number of years with a deep substrate (between 4 - 7", depending upon the
area in the tank). I was never really happy with either the growth or the
problems I had with this particular set-up, and I laid my blame squarely on
the enthusiasm I had attacked the substrate issue with during the initial
set-up. This tank had Duplarit G, Redart clay, Terralit, Peat Moss and
probably several other substrate additives/ammendments placed in the lower
layers. It was like I cleaned out the cupboards and threw everything but the
kitchen sink in there. The tank had _major_ problems with all kinds of algae
and it was only by resorting to R/O water that I could overcome it - yet tap
water caused no problems in other tanks set up with "simpler" substrates and
similar maintenance schedules. Obviously, something was leaching out of the

During the past year, a stand of Crypts in the tank had grown and multiplied
until fully one half of the tank was composed of a thick jungle.

When I was preparing to break the tank down and re-do it, I made sure that I
waited for a mild day because I was expecting a stinking mess when I removed
the gravel, clay and other materials from the bottom of the tank. I even
went out and bought rubber gloves so that I wouldn't have to get my hands in
direct contact with it.

What I actually found however, surprised me. There was a sticky mess, to be
sure, caused by the many pounds of Redart clay I had used, but there was
absolutely NO smell, and the roots of the Crypts were distributed throughout
the substrate, fat, healthy and white. They extended down to the very lowest
levels, down into the mud.

The tank now has only Duplarit G under plain gravel (O.K., I used 4 bags of
flourite on top for "looks") but the new setup is just as thick.

James Purchase