Small Soil Substrate Tank Questions - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 37 Old 05-20-2014, 10:58 AM Thread Starter
Small Soil Substrate Tank Questions

I will soon be setting up a soil substrate aquarium. It will be my first attempt done in a 5 gallon tank. I have a question or two.

I've been reading up on this subject, and I ran across something that said Trumpet Snails are essential to help keep the substrate aerobic. With such a small tank, would a TS have sufficient soil and space to burrow to gain his food / nutrients?

Would there be another way to keep the soil base aerobic, like using less potting soil and a larger grain cap... say 1 inch of top soil and 1 inch of large grain cap?

There seems to be a lot of different ideas about what to use for a cap. The 2-3mm grain size seems to be a good choice. Where on earth would I find something like that? I assume the gravel at the LFS isn't the way to go.

I am having a hard time finding the answer to this question. Starting dry, I am not clear what this will do, nor what plants to use for that process. What would be the benefit of starting off this way?

Thanks in advance.
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post #2 of 37 Old 05-20-2014, 11:08 AM
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They aren't essential but they certainly can help out! Yes, they would have enough soil to run around in and be fine. I had MTS in my non-soil based planted tank and they were happy enough to burrow around in the sand!

I have been unhappy with the sand cap in my 20 gallon, substrate is only 2 inches thick, maybe a little bit more in areas and I've been having lots of bubbles and this is in a tank that isn't terribly old. They aren't harmful as of yet but it is ridiculous, I wish I chose to do something with a larger grain size on that tank although I'm not sure if it makes much a difference in the end. I did have a 3 gallon NPT soil based with gravel on top and never had these issues!

But you can poke the soil as I do with my tweezers or a chop stick.

As for starting dry, are you going to misting the plants? You could start off a great carpet of something like Baby Tears, dwarf hairgrass, glosso, and more since they have a great supply of co2 if you start dry and then acclimate them to underwater as you fill the tank. I think that's what you're asking about anyway, let me know if I'm totally off the track lol.

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post #3 of 37 Old 05-20-2014, 02:52 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by lilnaugrim View Post
They aren't essential but they certainly can help out! Yes, they would have enough soil to run around in and be fine. I had MTS in my non-soil based planted tank and they were happy enough to burrow around in the sand!

I have been unhappy with the sand cap in my 20 gallon, substrate is only 2 inches thick, maybe a little bit more in areas and I've been having lots of bubbles and this is in a tank that isn't terribly old. They aren't harmful as of yet but it is ridiculous, I wish I chose to do something with a larger grain size on that tank although I'm not sure if it makes much a difference in the end. I did have a 3 gallon NPT soil based with gravel on top and never had these issues!

But you can poke the soil as I do with my tweezers or a chop stick.

As for starting dry, are you going to misting the plants? You could start off a great carpet of something like Baby Tears, dwarf hairgrass, glosso, and more since they have a great supply of co2 if you start dry and then acclimate them to underwater as you fill the tank. I think that's what you're asking about anyway, let me know if I'm totally off the track lol.
This is all a new area for me, so to a degree, I am not even sure what the right questions are

As for dry, that's good to know about the carpet. Hadn't even crossed my mind really. What I was really kind of wondering about is if the plants grow with a plentiful CO2 supply, as they pull that down into the roots, oxygenating the soil, if that had some benefit to the soil and eco-system once water is added.

That's also why I asked about keeping the soil aerobic. Will this type of thing, meaning letting the plants grow dry or above the water level, serve to aerate the soil?
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post #4 of 37 Old 05-20-2014, 03:44 PM
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I'm not sure that it would aerate the soil to the point that you would need it to but I'm not that advanced in this area to know. I've never done a dry start myself however I've done enough reading to know how to do it and why it's done (mostly just to get a good start with the carpet plants. Usually done with Iwagumi aquascapes since it's all carpet for the most part).

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post #5 of 37 Old 05-20-2014, 06:44 PM Thread Starter
Sorry about that. I do tend to ask those kinds of questions

Something I haven't read anything about is using RO water with a soil tank. Do you reconstitute it the same as you would for other substrate aquaria?
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post #6 of 37 Old 05-20-2014, 06:51 PM
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Oh no worries! Maybe someone else can answer it though! It's just too deep for me to answer is all ^_^ And I would assume so but I've never had to use RO/DI water. Perhaps amphirion can answer those questions!

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post #7 of 37 Old 05-21-2014, 10:53 AM Thread Starter
Been doing some more reading on the subject. Sand pretty much guarantees the soil will not only go anaerobic at some point, but also deplete over time. The gravel cap allows the underlying bacteria in the soil water contact, enabling both plants and bacteria to perform their functions (including nitrification), creating a balanced eco-system that more or less replenishes itself over time.

There's alot involved, and I probably left a few things out because the process is so dynamic, involving fish, plants substrate and bacteria working together. And being a noob regarding soil based substrate, I think I only have a loose understanding of what this is all about.

I am far from a complete understanding here, and certainly would not wish to pass myself as an expert because I read a few things. My mind is completely open to learn from a continuing discussion.

So, the question remains where on earth would I find a gavel cap with 2-3mm grain size?

Last edited by rpadgett37; 05-21-2014 at 10:57 AM.
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post #8 of 37 Old 05-21-2014, 11:11 AM
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Why do you need specifically that size? I used a gravel that was roughly 3-5mm and it was perfect actually. Any benefits to have specifically 2-3mm?

EDIT: I don't know if you can get it or not depending on your area but I found these: http://www.drsfostersmith.com/produc...2&pcatid=21412 Specifically "Peace River" is 1-2mm

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Leopards: 1:4 Hawkeye, Luna, Astrael, Dorian, Cullen

Last edited by lilnaugrim; 05-21-2014 at 11:19 AM.
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post #9 of 37 Old 05-21-2014, 11:30 AM Thread Starter
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Why do you need specifically that size? I used a gravel that was roughly 3-5mm and it was perfect actually. Any benefits to have specifically 2-3mm?
<br/><br>honestly, I don't know if there's any benefit. Just a one track mind because the book I read suggested that size.I don't guess its matters too much if its in the ballpark.
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post #10 of 37 Old 05-21-2014, 12:45 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by lilnaugrim View Post
Why do you need specifically that size? I used a gravel that was roughly 3-5mm and it was perfect actually. Any benefits to have specifically 2-3mm?

EDIT: I don't know if you can get it or not depending on your area but I found these: Freshwater Aquarium Substrate: CaribSea Instant Aquarium Tropical Aquarium Substrate Specifically &quot;Peace River&quot; is 1-2mm
lilnaugrim. What gravel did you use?
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