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Re: soil substrate OR gravel and laterite?

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?


The more you read about substrates the more confused you are likely to
be. Some people push certain DIY substrates that IMO are just unsuitable
for planted tanks. Not because they won't grow plants but just because
they are so much more difficult to manage.

I really, really dislike straight soil substrates, kitty litter and
vermiculite and the various combinations of these things. They are messy
for aquascaping and often do not have enough porosity to keep plant
roots from rotting. I also think that nutrient control is much more
difficult. It is the easiest thing in the world to just dump the
necessary nutrients in the water column. It is not so easy when you are
trying to figure out what might be needed when a lot of the nutrients
come from the substrate. The initial setup leads to a lot of algae if
there is any significant amount of organic material in the soil. Digging
fish are pretty much a disaster with these sorts of substrates.

I really like onyx, coarse sand and laterite, and small amounts of soil
and coarse sand for a substrate. When I say small amounts I mean like no
more than a pound of dry soil per 20 gallons of tank. I don't see any
practical difference in performance with these three substrates. Maybe
if I was a better plant grower I would see a difference but the tank
that works the best for me is the soil/sand tank. I have also tried
Turface but just my luck I got a contaminated batch and it didn't work
out. Like most people though I thought it was a little too light anyway.
I am sticking with soil/sand from now on. It is cheap and performs well.
I like large tanks and deep substrates and the cost of some of those
Seachem substrates is more than I can handle. Over $400 Can. for a 120
gallon tank. I have a 48" x 22" x 96" tank in the works and believe me I
am not going to use Fluorite for the substrate.