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adding substrate

Reid Kerr wrote:

> My question relates to the substrate.  Initially, the tank was set up as
> fish-only.  As such, my substrate currently consists of only about 1.5"
> of bare, small grained (2-3mm diameter) gravel.  I realize that this is
> probably inadequate, and have been looking at the plethora of soil
> recipes out there.  I know that, at the very least, I will need to add a
> greater depth of gravel.

You probably will at a minimum want to increase the substrate
depth to over 2 inches.

> How would you suggest I approach this?

The soil "recipes" are probably all out of reach unless you do a complete
tear down.

> I expect that given the current situation, my early success may not
> continue.

Probably true.  I've seen lots of reports of really nice initial plant
growth in new tanks, followed by a rapid decline.  If I try real hard I
can even remember that happening in mine.

> I would prefer not to
> break down the tank, and disrupt the current situation if possible.

If you setup is just 3 months old, then you really don't have that much to
lose with a tear down.  If you do it though, don't wash your existing
substrate clean or let it dry out.  Try to keep all of its contents (mulm
and so on) and all of its biological community active as you transfer it.
Leaving it unwashed may create a little mess, but that will be temporary.

> I
> know that the plants would probably recover quickly, but with my heavy
> fish load, I don't really want to take a chance on disrupting the
> biological filtration.  Adding any sort of clay seems impossible,
> without emptying the water and pulling up the gravel.
> Is there any relatively easy solution, or will I be forced to tear the
> tank up?

You can add new, washed sand to the tank without a teardown  If it isn't
washed pretty well then it will cloud the water for a while.

You can't add a clay layer without a tear-down.  But you can add clay or
laterite balls to the substrate around plants that seem to need it.  I've
also mixed cat litter with gravel and inserted that mix (with a plunger
fashioned from a large syringe) into the lower part of a substrate around
plants and that also seems to work.  You might be able to do the same
thing with peat or soil. There are also commercial substrate additives
that can be added after a tank is setup - check with your LFS.

Roger Miller