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Mesh soil substrate retainer, how fine can I go for plant roots?

Wookii

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13 Nov 2019
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Nottingham
Having had a number of issues with my current tank with the the particles from the nutrient rich bottom layer of my substrate migrating up through the silver sand to the surface, despite using a fairly fine plastic mesh, I am considering a more robust system from my next tank.

I plan to use solid shallow trays with a stainless steel mesh lid to keep the nutrient layer better locked in place. The question is, how fine can I go on the mesh whilst still allowing sufficient access to the plant roots? I am considering mesh that is around 1mm x 1mm holes, which should sufficiently retain the contents and prevent upward migration, but will this still allow roots to access the nutrient layer beneath? If it in some way prevents access to the roots, and uptake of the nutrients by the plants, it obviously destroys the objective of the nutrient layer.

295198782.jpg
 

Sarpijk

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11 Jan 2015
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I have successfully used plastic window mesh in the past in a tank full of crypts that had grown their roots through the little holes.
Having said that I have stopped using anything to retain the soil because it doesn't allow Malaysian trumpet snails churning the soil.
 

Wookii

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I have successfully used plastic window mesh in the past in a tank full of crypts that had grown their roots through the little holes.
Having said that I have stopped using anything to retain the soil because it doesn't allow Malaysian trumpet snails churning the soil.

Yeah, its a window mesh I'm using currently, this stuff from eBay:


It's good stuff, and I use it for a lot of things, but it's still managed to let small soil pieces through. I also found it really difficult to install, and hold back the entire substrate layer sufficiently before the sand was added. Hence why I am thinking of making modular 20mm deep substrate trays that I can fill outside the tank, and then place on the bottom of the tank. I work in stainless steel so fabricating what I need is straight forward enough, but my concern is just on the hole size for the upper most mesh, and the resultant root access.
 

ScareCrow

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28 Jan 2019
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That hole size would be fine in my opinion, I've used finer and found roots still got through. Whether you'll be able to get the plants back out without snapping most of the roots will be another thing (if that's of concern). In my garden lavenders have rooted through weed suppressant membrane. Their roots follow the weave of the fabric until they find a way through. Getting them back out roots intact is impossible.
 

hwscot

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15 Nov 2021
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Montrose
For bulbs in the garden, it took me a long time to get my head round planting them in pond pots, as most serious bulb-growers do, with the pot buried in the soil so there's maybe an inch or so over it. (they do that to enable plants grown in the open garden to have a tailored compost mix, and also so that they can lift the bulbs at a later date and not worry about not finding them all). I couldn't believe that plants could root freely through the mesh. (I just measured a pond pot, the mesh / slots are 2mm).
Experience taught me better. I've now got used to finding thick tree roots going through small drainage holes in regular pots. The root just grows thicker either side of the plastic opening.
My point being, the capacity of plant roots to get through tiny gaps no longer much surprises me. I'd be very surprised if most stuff we grow in aquariums couldn't get through a 1mm mesh. Most plants feed mainly from very fine feeder roots anyway, and they'll easily pass a 1mm mesh.
 

Tim Harrison

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Having had a number of issues with my current tank with the the particles from the nutrient rich bottom layer of my substrate migrating up through the silver sand to the surface, despite using a fairly fine plastic mesh, I am considering a more robust system from my next tank.

I plan to use solid shallow trays with a stainless steel mesh lid to keep the nutrient layer better locked in place. The question is, how fine can I go on the mesh whilst still allowing sufficient access to the plant roots? I am considering mesh that is around 1mm x 1mm holes, which should sufficiently retain the contents and prevent upward migration, but will this still allow roots to access the nutrient layer beneath? If it in some way prevents access to the roots, and uptake of the nutrients by the plants, it obviously destroys the objective of the nutrient layer.

295198782.jpg

I've always used this with good results. Maybe you already are?

Amazon product


Nevertheless, migration of finer soil particles is an occupational hazard with fine sand, especially if you like to move plants around.
I find 1:1 loam based compost and moss peat mix helps bind the finer soil particles as well.
 
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