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Substrate richness/riskiness order

>I made out this list of common substrate combinations that I've heard of and
>tried to order them in what I would call richness/riskiness order (riskiness
>in the sense that there is a higher potential of algae outbreak due to the
>higher immediate nutrient content).  
>Thinking about it for a bit, I'm not so sure anymore about some of the later 
>ones, and I'd like some comments on [1]: a better ordering, [2] other
>options that don't fall into the ones already listed, and [3] a
>of the 10 substrates listed into a smaller set.

>1)  simple mid-grain-size sand/gravel (3" of substrate depth or so)

I'd put this high on the likelihood of algae scale since the plants will
probably not be growing very well.

>2)  pot each of your difficult plants (specialized substrate for each)

This is not very risky, and the problem is easily removed if necessary, but
there is more potential for problems than with a laterite substrate.

>3)  add laterite balls (purchased or made from "substrate gold" or red
>	modeling clay)
>4)  mix laterite into bottom 1/3 of substrate (same sources as above)

There is no difference in "risk" with either method in terms of algae.
Laterite is free of organic material, so will not, by itself encourage
algae.  Of course, if you are careless, you _can_ turn your water red, at
least for a while.  Also, art clay might or might not contain toxic
quantities of aluminum and/or other contanimants that could affect fish and
plants.  Buyer beware.

>5)  either mix a small amount of peat into laterite layer (above) or sprinkle
>	a thin layer over the laterite layer before covering with rest of sand
>6)  mix a loamy soil (backyard, garden center) instead of peat as in (5)
>7)  mix earthworm castings instead of/in addition to peat as is (5)

All of these have the potential for very good growth, and the potential for
serious algae (and other) problems.  Best used by experienced aquatic

>8)  replace sand/gravel from above mixes with river mud
>9)  replace sand/gravel from above mixes with loamy soil/mud
>10) replace sand/gravel from above mixes with rich soil/mud

I don't know anyone who uses mud of any kind without a "cap" of gravel or
sand.  To do so is risky in the extreme.  Theuse of aquatic mud should be
approached with great caution due to the possibility of introducing aquatic

Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Association