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Re: Small planted tank

Several people have posted suggestions as to which plants might do best in a
smaller tank, so I'm going to concentrate on some technical details.

Substrate - Sherri has a 5.5 gallon tank. In such a small volume, the actual
depth of the substrate will be limited and the physical action of planting
and uprooting plants over time has a tendancy to bring any material in the
lower area of the substrate bed to the surface (and thus in direct contact
with the water column). Due to this, I don't recommend that people
experiment with exotic substrates in smaller tanks - the possibility of
fouling the water column is too great. Laterite, which is non-toxic to fish
but can impart a reddish/brownish tinge to the water for a while if it gets
caught up in the water column, is iffy in a substrate under 3" in depth.
Layered substrates (i.e. soil, kitty litter, etc.) are also kind of
pointless - the layering is going to disappear over time as you plant and
re-plant, as there just isn't enough depth in the substrate bed. By far the
best solution in a small tank is something like Seachem's Flourite or Onyx,
either one used as the sole substrate material. Those peat moss blocks that
Sherri mentioned could also be used, as they tend to hold together over
time, but aren't really necessary.

Several companies make pellets or blocks which are impregnated with
fertilizer for use in the substrate (I'm thinking of something like Flourish
Tabs). A few of these (don't go overboard, its only a small tank) could be
used to good effect and they won't crumble and fall apart (like home made
clay balls would).

I also don't like the cheaper alternatives commonly used - i.e. Clay Soil
Conditioner, Profile, etc. in smaller tanks as they just doesn't have the
density or the weight to hold plants in place when the absolute depth of the
substrate bed is not great. Plants have a tendancy to pull free from a low
density substrate bed.

Many people consider Flourite to be expensive so they try to shave pennies
(or dollars) by looking for a cheaper alternative. Face it, in a tiny tank,
you'll probably only need one bag of the stuff, and it will last
forever.....spend the bucks and do it right in the beginning. And even if
you can't find it locally, for the amount needed in a small tank its not
going to break the bank to have a bag shipped thru the mail by one of the
larger online dealers.

James Purchase