new plant tank and a fertile substrate

Jenny Smith writes:
>          I think I am
> finally ready to begin purchasing equipment and supplies for my 29 gallon
> plant tank.  I have done a lot of shopping around and reading. 
> p of that would be a 1" layer of #16 sandblasting sand.  Also I would add
> Tetra Initial D sticks and the Tetra Crypto tablets.  I don't know if the
> peat will acidify the water or not.  I am trying to follow the rich
> substrate plan of Vinny Kutty, but I read a post by Jim Kelly saying peat
> and potting soil would decay under water.  Is this true?  I also might just
> add laterite if I feel like spending the money.  Would a regular red pottery
> clay be rich in Fe like laterite?

It looks like this might be your first attempt at a planted tank and
for this I don't recommend such a fertile substrate as you propose.
Instead, why not get ahold of some of the TAG back issues and follow
Diana Walstad's suggestion using a garden soil substrate covered with
gravel. It would be a good plan to submerge that soil a week or two
in advance of building the tank to get it to begin the process of

In regard to things decaying underwater, yes that is the normal
course of events. We must choose an appropriate amount of mineral
and organic material so that things remain in a dynamic balance.
Ordinary garden soil should have no more than 2% organic components
which is just fine. Once you instal the substrate in the tank
it's a good plan to leave the lights off for the first few days
(note NO FISH at all for the first few weeks) and completely change
the water at least once (perhaps several times). Also take
care not to introduce algae on the plants which you put into the
tank. If you can locate a friend who has an algae free tank it's
better to get plants there than to purchase them from an aquarium
store. If you can only get plants which have algae, you should
consider using the bleach method on them all before introducing
to the tank. This is a little bit hard on plants going into a
brand new tank too but well worth the effort.

Don't believe the folks who tell you that you can't avoid algaes.
That may be true for BG cyano bacteria and unicellular algae
which are ubiquitous everywhere but you can take precautions
against filament algaes and I feel that it is very important
when using the more fertile substrates with high proportions
of peat, potting soil, leaf mulch etc.

Red pottery clay is a good source of iron. It may have more
trace minerals than laterite so it should be used in compound
with some organic material such as your garden soil and perhaps
a little peat (no more than 5%) so that the organic material
will help prevent toxic effects from excessive amounts of
minerals upon initial submergence.

Good luck; it looks like you could use my work-in-progress
but it may take a few more weeks to complete and finish
reviews by fellow contributors and the experts.

 Steve Pushak - spush at hcsd_hac.com - Vancouver, BC, Canada

There are no signposts in the sky to show a man has passed that way
before. There are no channels marked. The flier breaks each second
into new uncharted seas. - Anne Morrow Lindbergh