11-20-2012, 02:37 PM
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If you go soil, you have to cover it or you'll get a huge mess on your hands.
Soil isn't necessary though, most don't use it. It can offer some initial benefits but I personally don't see the need to go down that road, my tanks have all been fine in sand or gravel. Sand is better for some plants though.
Using peat to lower pH wouldn't be something I recommend. Eventually it 'runs out' of tannins and then you're in the situation of having to replace it. Plus if your KH is high, it won't do anything anyways.
Better to mix tap water with RO/DI to get your GH, KH, and pH down to a lower starting value. If your KH is low enough, the pH will drop on its own from the natural biological processes in the tank. For example, my tap water is 7.6 for pH, but the KH is between 1 and 2 dKH so all of my tanks sit at a 6.4 pH without me having to add anything at all.