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Potting soil for substrate
>Does anyone have experiences using potting soil as a substrate?
I second (or 3d or 4th) the recommendation to get and read Walstad's
"Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" before starting out and also Steve
Pushak's articles on soil
My first soil substrate tank was a small one, 7 gallons, that I set up at
my office. I wanted something easy that might not need the kind of
maintenance and doses of this that and the next thing that the ones I'd
already set up (laterite and then Flourite) required. After reading
everything I could, I set it up per Walstad but had a DIY CO2 bottle
running to it for the first couple of months. That little aquarium was so
successful I set up a new 28-gallon bow front the same way, and now have
ripped out what was in my other aquariums (a 10 and a 20) and set them up
the same way.
The 7 and the 28 have never had any algae problems at all. The other 2
have a little, probably because the plants that went in them had been
plants with some algae from the tanks in their previous
incarnations. Instead of dosing this that and the next thing constantly, I
add some of Steve's recommended fertilizer mix every few water changes, and
it's great. The 7-gallon has 2 watts per gallon of regular flourestcent
light. The 28-gallon has 2.3 watts per gallon of compact flourescent.
The only problem at all with this kind of setup is that you can't move
things around lightly because the soil does come up when you uproot
things. So I find myself leaning to fewer stem plants and ones like limno
that don't put out as extensive of a root system in between toppings, and I
do have a wide mouth vacuum device so that when I get too ambitious, it
will suck up the soil that comes to the top without clogging on dirt
particles. Also have a lot of crypts and small swords, but I started these
tanks with lots of limno and the 7 gallon had hygro in the beginning. The
one major rearranging I did of the 7-gallon when I got rid of the hygro
made the tank so dirty I had to move the fish to a temporary container for
a couple of hours till things settled enough for me to vacuum up the
settled soil and the filter took out enough of the rest the water was
reasonable again. I don't know if that much suspended soil would be bad
for the fish, but it seemed like it would.
If you like to tinker and rearrange this is not the way to go. If you like
to get things set up in a way that pleases you and leave it alone and just
look at it a lot, you will probably like a soil substrate tank.
The fish in these tanks have also been quite healthy and I've lost less
than when I had other kinds of substrates.
mailto:oconnel4 at ix_netcom.com