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soil substrate


Those of you who add soil, manure, laterite or other additives to 
your substate, how do you keep it from getting on top of the 
substrate and in the water when removing plants? I have had a tank 
setup with  layers of soil and sandr. Everything was fine for about a 
year until I decided to thin the plants drastically (the tank was 
overrun by Valisneria). Now the soil is everywhere, under the sand, 
in the sand, and on top of it. I didn't want to tear down the tank 
completely, so I tried to remedy the situation by repeatedly 
siphoning out the fine soil particles. Later, I added an additional 
layer of fine gravel on top of the sand/soil mix. 

Any comments or suggestions?