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Re: Substrate problems

Alex has problems....
"I can not keep the soil layer from coming through the gravel layer.  The
soil layer slowly works it way up through the gravel and form little
mounds of soil.  I have been vacuuming the mounds away when I do a water
change, but within a week or two they are back."

I've seen this problem when I fiirst started using soils in aquariums. It
isn't fun and I believe that it is caused by using soil which is too high in
organic matter. Once you submerge any soil which contains organic matter it
goes through an initial period of instability, as the organic matter is
mineralized by soil bacteria. This process can release gas and the escaping
gas will bring some of the submerged soil through the gravel, messing up the

Walstad doesn't go into the solution but you can find a lot of information
on using soil on Steve Pushak's web site
(http://home.infinet.net/teban/index.html). The KRIB contains some
information from Paul Krombholz on a method called "Soil Soup"
(http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/Fertilizer/soil-soup.html), and this latter
bit is (IMO) critical in using soils in an aquarium. But it takes some
time - you have to prepare the soil, soak it, let it sit for a few weeks,
let it dry out, and THEN you can use it in an aquarium. This can take
upwards of a few months, but if you go this route you shouldn't experience
any of the problems you have noticed.

James Purchase