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[APD] RE: Which would you choose? (substrate)

Hi Cameron,

I use a soil-based substreate on my native North
American plants.  I also have a tank with Turface and
and aquatic plant substrate (a 3-foot, 35-gal tank). 
I think this second tank may be similar to the "pond
soil" that you have available.  Is it made of a baked
clay?  Turface (sold here as a soil conditioner for
clay soils) is made of clay pellets baked hard, and
looks like red kitty-litter.  The aquatic plant
substrate I have is essentially the same thing, but
with much finer particles.  I suppose the color of
what is available in your area could be different
because clay comes in different colors.  One way to
examine it if you can - put some water in with the
"pond soil" and see if it mushes at all, or if it
stays hard like sand.

I don't like my Turface/aquatic soil tank.  I am going
to tear it down this weekend after 2 years.  My soil
tanks are doing so much better.  I have two soil

1)   3/4 vermiculite, 1/4 soil on the bottom, with
Turface on top for aexthetics and water clarity
(keeping the soil on the bottom)  (This tank was
modeled after Jim Kelly?s advice, minus the
fertilizer).  Tank is generally ignored and gets great

2)  Wetland soil (real soil) only.  No top substrate. 
No fish, but plenty of natural hitchhikers in the soil
(this is a tank of experiment leftovers that I ignore)

I am getting great growth out of these two tanks, and
lousy growth out of the Turface tank.  Granted, I
don?t mess with checking water quality parameters
every day, nor do I do anything else every day.  I did
try CO2, and the tank has fish.  I?m positive that I
could get it to grow like some folks here do, but I
don?t have the desire or time (or $) to mess with it
that much (I?m a grad student, and let?s face it ?
should hurry up and finish school).  Note ? My
definition of great growth is plants are healthy and
looking great.  I?m sure I could get them to grow
faster, and pearl, and all those neat things that
other people here seem to do, but I really just want
nice looking tanks.  

Also, the Turface/aquatic plant soil is light and
fluffy and really doesn?t hold the plants down well.

I also have high phosphates in my tap water.  Every
time I am lazy and use this instead of going to the
lab and getting DI water, I get a green water bloom in
this tank.  I don?t in the other tanks.  Apparently,
phosphorus anions are attracted to the cations that
are bound to the hummus and clay in the soil.

So, now I am going to try 3/4 topsoil (from the bag
from the garden center ? note it isn?t potting soil)
and 1/4 vermiculite, with a coarse sand cover.  We
will see what happens.

So, to recap a really long ramble:  If it were me, I?d
check what the ?pond soil? was made of.  If it isn?t
really soil, I?d go with the vermiculite and clay in
your back yard, or topsoil if you can get it.  Or if
you can?t get it I might do a little test tank with
potting soil that doesn?t have too much peat or any
fertilizers.  Then I?d put a coarse sand over the top
to make it look pretty.  A test tank can even be done
in a clear bucket (with enough light) for a couple
months.  It won't shake out all the kinks, but might
give you an idea of what might happen.

Also, I think it helps to know a little about where
your plants come from.  Not all plants like the same
conditions or soil.

I?m sure other people here will have other ways, too. 
It?s all how you like it.

-Laura (aka nativeplanter)

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