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Substrate, CO2!

Hello all,

I have been subscribed to the list a few weeks now, and am ready to ask a
few questions about my future plant tank!  It's a 55 Gallon, currently is
setup to hold a few of my tetras that were getting picked on.  But I've seen
some of the beautiful pictures of peoples' plant tanks on the internet, read
a bunch of stuff, and decided that plants are the way to go.  So here are a
few questions I have!:

Substrate:  I would like to follow Jim Kelly's substrate method.  Slight
problem -- the recipe calls for sand, vermiculite, and backyard soil.  I
live in Florida, and thus the recipe would translate to sand, verm., and
sand!  Is there an alternative to backyard soil?  I was thinking about that
red-clay imitation laterite stuff (because of all the minerals...but what
about the CEC?), mail-order loam (HA! :-), bagged topsoil (organic...doesn't
it rot?), manure (also organic), or something else that y'all suggest.  I'm
open-minded...maybe I should just skip mixing in something else with the
verm!?!  Speaking of verm., the local stores sell three types of verm.:
Hoffman's 10 dry quarts for US$2.99, Hoffman's Horticultural 10 dry quarts
for US$2.67, and Hyponex 8 quarts for US$1.99.  I really don't have much
money, so I am a miser. ;)  Should I check at a nursery or garden store for
cheaper prices?  I leaning towards the Hoffman's Horticultural because it is
cheapest.  And a lady at the store recomended Hoffman's brand over Hyponex.
But I don't have any idea what the difference is between a dry quart and a
normal quart.  Any ideas?

CO2:  I'm going to put together a manual co2 system.  I was thinking of
using a wooden air diffuser as the reactor.  Would this work?  Would the
bubbles be fine enough?  How about an limewood airstone...any advatages or
disadvantages?  And about the regulator and needle-valve...I would like to
use Jamil Zainasheff's heavy-duty needle-valve.  I forgot the model
number...anyone remember?  Any other updates on it?


Andy Dilbert
ixtapa at geocities_com
http://www.geocities.com/Baja/2820/   <---not done yet!!