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The Eternal Substrate Questions

AlecF

Member
Joined
15 Sep 2021
Messages
94
Location
Edinburgh
I'm a newbie planning a 60 litre cube which I'd describe as a native version of a blackwater, with a vague nod to Amazon biotope, but taking into account all the usual comments about the amazon having few plants in the main rivers, etc. I am using beech leaves and lots of twigs as the main source of tannin, and a medium planting consisting of new grasses, Helanthium tennellum and Potamageton Gayi, and lots of Amazon frogbit which is mature. I will add some of the wood from an existing established tank, along with 2 small stones, and an established sponge filter. I have an Eheim pick up as well which will have been running in my established tank for 2 weeks. The lights will be Chihiros A Seria 401 for a 40cm tank. This will mainly have pencil fish and Cory, when it's ready. I understand my planting will be light compared to some. My first tank is well stocked and I wanted to make something more minimal. My main questions are the familiar substate issues. I know there are various opinions. I'm just keen not to make a huge error. My existing tank has done well, but it's planting is more expansive. I want this tank to be more minimal and wood based. My plan/questions
1. A scattering of posh wajababy/Kuidamos pumice thick grey gravel, which they wonderfully call 'Player Baby Filtration material', with some Chinese white zeolite balls supplied for a cheap Finnex filter that broke within 3 days of arrival (take note). These are to ensure aeration. The pumice seems approved by people generally.
Question: I assume zeolite is safe as a bottom material
2. Mineralised soil the half-way way: John Innes No 3, washed, attempted to dry but it's not warm enough, so, baked in oven instead, washed again, baked again. Sieved to remove the larger bits. I accept this is a compromise.
3. A few handfuls of bits of beech leaves that have been soaked, as a compost.
4. Mixed in with 20% sphagnum moss, 20% clay powder, a little sand, 60% mineralised soil.
Question: Do I need dolomite as well? None of my plants are that demanding. Is my mix OK?
4. Topping, a layer of sand (Aquasand, worked well in my first tank)
5. In terms of planting, do plants carry much bacteria? I could add a pot of limnophilia sessi. to get things started off and then remove when it's cycled?
Gentle advice welcome. Note, I am not seeking to make a perfect amano style tank, just a minimal blackwater with wood and a few fish. I do have a concern that the tank is deep (40cm), so I hope the plants do OK.
 

foxfish

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Joined
11 Oct 2009
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4,908
Location
Guernsey
Well I dont think we have ever come across anyone giving so much attention and thought to their substrate and I have no idea if it will make any difference compared to using a more traditional soil based comercial product but, it sound like you are having fun!
Certainly trying to grow just a few plants compared to a fully planted tank is not generally so successful and might be your main issue.
 

dw1305

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UKAPS Team
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7 Apr 2008
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nr Bath

MichaelJ

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Joined
9 Feb 2021
Messages
907
Location
Minnesota, USA
. A scattering of posh wajababy/Kuidamos pumice thick grey gravel, which they wonderfully call 'Player Baby Filtration material', with some Chinese white zeolite balls supplied for a cheap Finnex filter that broke within 3 days of arrival (take note). These are to ensure aeration. The pumice seems approved by people generally.
Question: I assume zeolite is safe as a bottom material
2. Mineralised soil the half-way way: John Innes No 3, washed, attempted to dry but it's not warm enough, so, baked in oven instead, washed again, baked again. Sieved to remove the larger bits. I accept this is a compromise.
3. A few handfuls of bits of beech leaves that have been soaked, as a compost.
4. Mixed in with 20% sphagnum moss, 20% clay powder, a little sand, 60% mineralised soil.

Hi @AlecF It almost sounds like an exquisite French cuisine :) I can't really offer any advice, except to make sure none of the "ingredients" will leach unwanted compounds into the water column. As for zeolite, it can be beneficial for ammonia removal, which may be a good thing in scarcely planted fish tank, but the effect seems to be short-term. I would go with more plants as suggested above.

Can't wait to see pictures of your tank btw!

Cheers,
Michael
 

AlecF

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Thread starter
Joined
15 Sep 2021
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94
Location
Edinburgh
Thanks everyone. If it was a posh meal then I messed up the tomato sauce. The soil felt good, but I had an incredibly frustrating time getting sand delivered, going for aqua sand, which I've used before, the parcel just refused to deliver, then trying some black "sand" dennerle stuff which I didn't put down as I found so many bad reviews, and finally ordering roman sand, which I used out of impatience, and it's like sugar. the plants won't easily stick in it, as they do with the aqua sand, and it looks just too white. The leaf litter makes such a contrast, and doesn't look good on it. The tank cycled fast as I added wood and a filter from an existing tank. So far no ammonia problems. But it frustrates me how hard it is to find a good sand. I can't get to shops as I have Long Covid. I think I may tear it up, replace the sand, hope that the substate isn't too disturbed, and that if I am fast the cycle will hold. Curse my own impatience, but I had plants dying because the sand was delayed so many times. I like cories so I don't like to use gravel. The roman stuff doesn't;t feel like sand at all. I read on lots of thread here but so many people are looking for aquascape substrates, and with the soil I've made I don't need that. The aqua sand product has worked well in my other tank. It holds the plant roots and is very easy to plant into.
 

AlecF

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15 Sep 2021
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94
Location
Edinburgh
@dw1305 yes, the whole surface has an amazon floater, with the roots blending with its roots. I'm planting more grasses. I think I have to redo the whole scape, but I hope if I take the sand out I can keep the soil in place, as I used a plastic divider.
 

AlecF

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Thread starter
Joined
15 Sep 2021
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94
Location
Edinburgh
Sorry, I meant the roots of the floating plants blend with the grasses.
 

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