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Re: dirty substrates

Hey gang

Rich wrote:
>>Reading through some old issues of The Aquatic
Gardener, I found lots of suggestions to use potting
soil covered with a little gravel as a good planted
aquarium substrate.  On this list and it's archives I
haven't heard much of that approach, and many books
I've looked at have suggested gravel & laterite.  Has
using a soil substrate gone out of fashion, or have
people fund that gravel & laterite is better?<<

Rich, soil is a great way to grow plants if you don't
want to fiddle with trivial things like CO2 and other
water column ferts. It will really only work at low
lighting values, and will produce decent growth if
you're patient and skilled enough to produce an
engaging aquascape the first try.

As for the recomendation of potting with soil, that
came at a time when folks were afraid of putting
things like Nitrate, Phosphate, and Iron into the
water column for fear of algae. It's a good strategy
and has its appropriate times for use, but is a dated
idea, really.

If growing plants is your main goal, and you want to
try soil, then you should check out Diana Walstad's
book "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium". It takes you
through a detailed method on how to use soil properly
and safely.

This is the hard way IMO, and supposed to be "Low
Tech". For the time it takes you to find suitable
soil, and prepare it properly, you could've just
bought some Flourite, or Onyx by SeaChem that work
great. These are "High Tech";). Laterite produces
great results as well, but is a little messier than
the other products I metioned. Laterite was the
substrate of choice in this hobby for a long time, but
now *seems* to be giving way to tidier substrates that
do the same thing. (please no hate mail laterite

Soil is pretty much out of the question if you want to
aquascape at all. It's just too messy. Furthermore, as
JoAnn pointed out, the risk for the substrate turning
sour just isn't worth the effort for me. *Furthermore*
(hehe), if you're going to be using water column
ferts, the substrate isn't nearly as critical. Find
the most *convenient* one for you and it'll be fine.

You should still check out "Ecology of the Planted
Aquarium", though.

Good luck,
John Wheeler


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