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Soil substrates and algae

>Karen Randall wrote:

>> The one tank I have with a loose soil
>> substrate has been the bane of my existence.

Jason Miller wrote:

>I have a five gallon tank in my room with about one inch of soil mixed
>with coarse gravel under two inches of fine gravel.  I admit, I do have
>a bit of algae in my tank, but I think it is mostly due to excessive
>light (sunlight from south facing window is only light source).  THe
>plants have grown thick at the back (which is where the algae is
>present).  I fertilize with a few drops of Fluorite every day and I use
>NaHPO4 to lower the pH in my tap water (from pH over 8.2).  
>  The plants that grow the most are the water sprite planted across the
>back of the tank, but other plants that grow well are a sword (melon?)
>Apons. and Clorella (sp?).  Java fern also does well.
> According to what I've read on this list, this tank should be covered
>with algae!  I must be lucky I guess.

Actually, I never said anything about it being covered with algae.  It's
not.  The problems I've had seem to be ones of toxicity.  It is clear that
some people are very successful with some soils.  I've seen extremely
beautiful soil based tanks... The nicest I've seen personally are Neil
Franks.  But the soil I chose didn't work well for me.  If I didn't have
other tried and true successful alternatives  I suspect through trial and
error, I could find a soil that worked for me, and learn how to manage it
effectively.  Since I feel comfortable with my own methods, and grow more
plants than I have room for (without visible algae ;-) I don't feel the need.

As to your specific situation, yes, if this is your first tank, and your
first experience with soil substrate, I do think that a certain amount of
"luck" is involved.  If you've got some experience with soil substrates, I
would _hope_ that you'd learned to manage it, otherwise it doesn't make
much sense to stick with the method.

Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Association