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Re: Soil brand for Diane Walstead's style tank?

David, I'm sure that you will get some recommendations but it might be hard
to find a particular brand of pre-mixed potting soil in very wide
distribution. They tend to be local or at most regional in distribution due
to the cost of shipping. But there are certain things you can look for on
the label that you should stay away from - chief among them would be perlite
(it floats) and compost/manure (it is way too rich and can lead to all sorts
of problems). Most bagged "soils" are in reality soil-less mixes which are
peat based and they are usually far too rich in nutrients for the close
confines of an aquarium substrate

Is there a specific reason why you can't or don't want to use natural soil?
I live in the middle of Toronto, a city of several million people surrounded
by farmland and industry and I never thought that I'd be able to find
suitable natural soil here (uncontaminated by agriculture or industrial
run-off). But after a bit of research on the Internet I found not one, but
two suitable locations within walking distance of my apartment that yielded
suitable material. I'd also suggest that you read Steve Pushak's excellent
material on building a soil substrate - it worked very well for me.

As a final plug for natural soils and against pre-packaged mixes, I do have
some experience with the latter. Last summer I was attempting to grow some
aquatics from seed and used a pre-packaged mix in several of the flats. In
every flat that used commercial potting "soil" under the sand, I experienced
almost total failure due to the explosive growth of a slimy bacterial bloom
which I attributed to the presence of way too much organic material in the
"soil". The only way I was able to save any seedlings from those flats was
to pick them out using tweezers and then transplant them into a pure mineral
substrate, with no organic material.

Prepackaged "soils" may be great for growing tomatoes or geraniums, but they
aren't a very good idea for use in an aquarium.

James Purchase