The Soil Substrate or Dirted Planted Tank - A How to Guide

Tim Harrison

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Yeah no doubt, but I still don't think that particular product is suitable...but that's just my opinion. It might be worth it, but for the sake of a few extra quid...?
Like I said we used it under a rug and it did it's job very well, but eventually it started to break up...so I should imagine that when subjugated to aquarium conditions it's durability will be tested to the limit, and you'll be left with polyethylene pieces polluting the tank.
 

kadoxu

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I've used it in my current set up... no problems so far... but it was more as a glass protector under the rocks, not to hold the substrate in place.
 

risky

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However, a word of caution, local water chemistry can also play a role too; for instance peat can sometimes drastically reduce aquarium pH in soft water areas which in turn can lead to metal toxicity. But this can easily be remedied by adding a source of carbonate or bicarbonate such as powdered Dolomite to buffer the pH.
Hi Tim, thanks for the great guide. Here in my part of Ayrshire the water is soft (1.7 German degrees). Do you think I should be worried about the effect of using peat?
 

Tim Harrison

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Hi risky, thanks, and welcome to UKAPS.
I suppose it depends on what you hope to achieve. I guess if you're aiming for a blackwater biotope, then no, not really.
However, generally speaking I'd be inclined to used a substrate that contains more nutrients, especially so called hard water nutrients such as Ca and Mg.
As well as feeding your plants it may confer something of a buffering capacity to the tank water, which in turn might provide for more stable water conditions.
 

risky

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Hi risky, thanks, and welcome to UKAPS.
I suppose it depends on what you hope to achieve. I guess if you're aiming for a blackwater biotope, then no, not really.
However, generally speaking I'd be inclined to used a substrate that contains more nutrients, especially so called hard water nutrients such as Ca and Mg.
As well as feeding your plants it may confer something of a buffering capacity to the tank water, which in turn might provide for more stable water conditions.
Thanks, Tim. Ideally I want to have the least 'interference' with the water chemistry as possible. If that means I can run a dirted blackwater biotope and not have to 'worry' excessively about water chemistry than that's the route I'm inclined to go down. My concern with buffering the water is; would I need to monitor it constantly and calculate how much of various things to add in order to maintain stability? I notice in the original post you recommend powdered dolomite or John Innes No.3. Would they be suitable for what you are talking about here? I presume I would forgo the peat in favour of one of these things and mix it through the compost?
 
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Tim Harrison

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Water chemistry has never been my strong suit, and perhaps Darrel (@dw1305) might have something better to add.
Also, you're in a position that I've never had the good fortunate to be in...I've always lived in very hard water areas.
That said, I still don't think you need to be excessively concerned with water chemistry, either way.
Like I said, I would be more concerned about nutrient availability.
Therefore, I'd maybe go for something like Westland Aquatic Compost, which is loam based and has a decent nutrient content.
But if you intend to dose fertz the nutrient content of the soil wouldn't be that crucial either.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Here in my part of Ayrshire the water is soft (1.7 German degrees). Do you think I should be worried about the effect of using peat?
Peat should be fine, it is only the <"really white sphagnum peat"> from the top layers of peat bogs (ombrotrophic mires) that reduces alkalinity and pH.

It is a lot easier to add solutes to water than it is to take them away (have a look at the link to <"Apistogramma Forum"> thread for some details). Really soft water allows you to keep Parosphromenus, Apistogramma, wild Betta spp. etc that need soft water. <@Lindy> can advise you.
If that means I can run a dirted blackwater biotope and not have to 'worry' excessively about water chemistry than that's the route I'm inclined to go down.
You can just add a bit of <"oyster shell chick grit"> to raise dGH & dKH.

cheers Darrel
 

risky

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Water chemistry has never been my strong suit, and perhaps Darrel (@dw1305) might have something better to add.
Also, you're in a position that I've never had the good fortunate to be in...I've always lived in very hard water areas.
That said, I still don't think you need to be excessively concerned with water chemistry, either way.
Like I said, I would be more concerned about nutrient availability.
Therefore, I'd maybe go for something like Westland Aquatic Compost, which is loam based and has a decent nutrient content.
But if you intend to dose fertz the nutrient content of the soil wouldn't be that crucial either.
Fantastic.

Hi all,Peat should be fine, it is only the <"really white sphagnum peat"> from the top layers of peat bogs (ombrotrophic mires) that reduces alkalinity and pH.

It is a lot easier to add solutes to water than it is to take them away (have a look at the link to <"Apistogramma Forum"> thread for some details). Really soft water allows you to keep Parosphromenus, Apistogramma, wild Betta spp. etc that need soft water. <@Lindy> can advise you.You can just add a bit of <"oyster shell chick grit"> to raise dGH & dKH.

cheers Darrel
That's excellent, thanks. I have (albeit unsuccessfully) kept Apistogramma in the past.

I think I will go with Westland Organic with a pool sand cap. Now to figure out the scape and the planned inhabitants.
 

Sirkavu

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Hi Tim,

Sorry If I will repeat something already answer. Also, if this should go to another place in the forum, let me know.
First - Great threat!!!
After I read your threat, twice as I am a newbie in this :D, and just to be sure before I start, am I right to say that this is a good set up for my tropical fish tank?
Juwel Rio 180L
Aquatic Compost + Irish Moss Peat 1:1 - 2cm
Sand - 3cm at the front 5cm at the back (I would like some white sand, but I was told it's not good for the plants and filter, what would you suggest?)

I won't have CO2, but will get the nutrients and the TNC complete as you mentioned.

I was thinking on getting some of the following plants:
Hygrophila polysperma 'Rosanervig'
Heteranthera zosterifolia
Nymphoides hydrophylla 'Taiwan'
Hygrophila 'Araguaia'
Helanthium 'Vesuvius'
Echinodorus 'Reni'
Pogostemon erectus
Hydrocotyle tripartita
Ranunculus inundatus
Taxiphyllum 'Flame'

Monosolenium tenerum

I will have some bogwood as well and maybe few stones. Do you think I should have CO2 in the end?

Should I also get snails? I don't want to, but on a tank with many plants, I am just afraid hehe :D

Thank you :)
 

Tim Harrison

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If you want to go down the dirted tank route, then yes Aquatic compost and Irish moss peat will work well.
You can pretty much use any sand you like. Sand that has a grain size of around 2-3mm is best for reasons I've explained in the tutorial. White sand is fine, but it will show up dirt and algae.
In terms of plants I'd go for those on the Tropica "Easy" list http://tropica.com/en/plants/?tabIndex=1&alias=Easy at least to start with; they have low CO2 demand.
But if you really want to try and grow other plants besides, give it a go and see how they do.
Any additional carbon will be welcomed by your plants. Gas is best and most cost effective, but liquid carbon is better than none; it depends on the plants you want to grow and what you hope to achieve.
No you don't have to have snails, they're not essential to success, personally I'm not a big fan.
If you want critters to help with algae get shrimp, Amano shrimp are best but Cherries etc are good too, Oto catfish are also good for algae control; most use both.
 

Sirkavu

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If you want to go down the dirted tank route, then yes Aquatic compost and Irish moss peat will work well.
You can pretty much use any sand you like. Sand that has a grain size of around 2-3mm is best for reasons I've explained in the tutorial. White sand is fine, but it will show up dirt and algae.
Great, you convinced me not to go with white :D I think I will get this one. Not dark and not white. https://www.aquaessentials.co.uk/un...=545_532_280&zenid=j02utnr6q8b7864796kmu2n015
I was thinking, how do people have sand thinner than 2mm? I think I read somewhere to put the filter above the sand level? Is that correct? (Not that I will get, just curiosity hehe)
In terms of plants I'd go for those on the Tropica "Easy" list http://tropica.com/en/plants/?tabIndex=1&alias=Easy at least to start with; they have low CO2 demand.
But if you really want to try and grow other plants besides, give it a go and see how they do.
Any additional carbon will be welcomed by your plants. Gas is best and most cost effective, but liquid carbon is better than none; it depends on the plants you want to grow and what you hope to achieve.
Yeah will start with some easy plants and get CO2 so my tank starts in a good way. Will research about prices now ;)
No you don't have to have snails, they're not essential to success, personally I'm not a big fan.
If you want critters to help with algae get shrimp, Amano shrimp are best but Cherries etc are good too, Oto catfish are also good for algae control; most use both.
Ok. Once my tank stabilises I will get the shrimps to help with algae. :)
 

Tim Harrison

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Nice looking sand, very natural.
I think I read somewhere to put the filter above the sand level? Is that correct?
Not sure what you mean.
and get CO2 so my tank starts in a good way. Will research about prices now ;)
Try CO2 Art any of these will do https://www.co2art.eu/collections/complete-co2-systems
 

Sirkavu

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Hi @Tim Harrison .... so after trying to understand this new hobby better (tough but enjoying) I want to ask if I can instead go for ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia only?

As I have to replace my car windscreen - which will cost me a bit over £600, I wont be able to get the system you adviced this month. Can I use liquid and get the drop check? What do you advice?

Once you advice I will start a journal and see how I get on :d can't wait hehe

Thanks
 

Tim Harrison

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Sure, you can use AS Amazonia only.
LC will be fine, it's not as good as CO2 though but should still give you good results.
If you're just using LC there is no need for a drop checker. Just follow the instructions on the bottle.
 

AllieG

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I used a peat free soil because on the Walstad wiki it said to use Miracle-go peat free compost, and the steps here stating peat compost was better for retaining nutrients, so worried now how my tank will manage in the future
 

Tim Harrison

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I don't think you need to worry unduly, typically most composts have a high CEC and so absorb and hold nutrients in a form plant roots can utilise.
 
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