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Re: Substrate, CO2!
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.