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Re: Substrate, CO2!

     Hello Andy,
     I have been using the Kelly substrate in my 90 gal for a year and a 
     half now, with great success. 
     I suspect you may be able to get some loamy topsoil from a nursery, or 
     perhaps from a landscaper, esp one that sells sod.  I opted not to dig 
     a hole in my backyard, so I got a 40 pound sack of loamy topsoil for 
     $0.99, here in Austin.  You are correct that most bagged potting soils 
     are mostly organic--peat, shredded tree bark, or manure, although some 
     people use these materials with great success.
     Hoffmanns' 10 quarts for <$3 is a good price.  If you can, select the 
     verm with the smallest grain size--they usually are bagged with a 
     clear "window" so you can see the grains.  A smaller grain results in 
     greater contact with the plant roots, and better nutrient uptake.  I 
     believe the larger grains provide better drainage, but this is not 
     relevant to an aquarium.  I got verm with grains about 1-2 mm 
     A dry quart is slightly larger than a liquid quart--a dry quart is 
     1101 cubic centimeters, while a liquid quart is 946, i.e., a liquid 
     quart=0.859 dry quarts.  Don't ask me why.
     A wooden diffuser would work, but you won't get the fine bubbles like 
     you would in a saltwater aquarium.  It has to do with surface tension, 
     and because of all the dissolved salts in sea water you can make finer 
     bubbles.  This is why a protein skimmer doesn't work very well in 
     freshwater--the bubbles just aren't fine enough.  
     You will get better CO2 dissolution if you bubble the CO2 into an 
     inverted bell, or a canister filter, or any of the other designs that 
     are available.  I use the canister filter method.
     Hope this helps.