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This is a discussion on Soil within the Beginner Planted Aquarium forums, part of the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium category; --> Soil has also never been an issue for me in terms of fish loss. Most of the shortcomings of soil are easily avoided. Compacting ...

Old 08-09-2011, 02:41 PM   #11
Soil has also never been an issue for me in terms of fish loss. Most of the shortcomings of soil are easily avoided.

Compacting and anaerobic pockets = countered by poking or MTS
Excess tannins in the water = water changes
Early toxin poisoning = havent seen it, but can be avoided via DSM
Stocking limitations = water changes

I know Redchigh had some issues with his tanks collapsing, but I am uncertain of the details if something additional attributed to his tank collapse. You may want to consider PMing him about it or if he sees this to offer his experience.

Like Mikaila, i add fish right away to all my soil setups except one where I ran it using DSM.
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Old 08-09-2011, 02:56 PM   #12
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If tanks collapse, it's usually in the first 6 months... It's never happens overnight either- so if you look for the symptoms and have a hospital tank, then you can start with fish immediately. (enough plants will keep ammonia 0)

believe my problems were related to the organic choice potting soil and not soaking/boiling it enough.
I've since switched to plain top soil that I dig out of my yard. I doubt it would affect ph as well though.

Remember, ph is easier to raise than it is to lower... Still wouldn't guarantee the ph would drop.

I wouldn't add fish to a tank any faster than you would to a new tank- don't add 15 tetras to a 10 gallon NPT on day one. Just do it slowly, and watch the parameters. I've also had tanks crash from my own interference....

The soil substrates will always go anaerobic on their own. You can either make sure they get stirred frequently, (and do water changes slightly more often due to nitrate buildup, like any other tank)

Or let the anaerobic areas do their own thing... MTS will help keep the substrate oxygenated, but at the same time, avoid anaerobic areas. These 'bad' areas are where nitrates are converted to nitrogen gas, and where a large percentage of the CO2 is produced.

Nutrients in soil tanks help the plants to get started- that's about it. Walstad feeds her fish "well", which would probably be heavily feedings in a non-soil substrate tank. She doesn't let the food pile up on the substrate of course, but she makes sure her fish produce lots of waste/nutrients.

Hmm. I think I covered most of it... I'll subscribe to this thread if you need anything.
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Old 08-09-2011, 06:42 PM   #13
Well, after reading all of your posts, i am a lot more confident in doing this now as an experiment.

My plan is to buy organic choice soil in the next couple weeks as i am doing a garden outside anyways so its not like im gonna be wasting a giant bag of it.

Mixing a little clay in the soil. ( lots of iron in soil)

Covering it in gravel.

Heavily planting the tank with hardy plants.

Then adding fish after a couple weeks of cycling. ( prob some neon tetra)
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Old 08-09-2011, 08:54 PM   #14
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since this is your first time you should definately get malaysian trumpet snails. while you wait for your tank to stabalize, they will prevent anaerobic pockets and act as indicators for the quality of the tank. if its too toxic for the snails then you know it will be too toxic for the fish
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Old 08-09-2011, 09:04 PM   #15
Where would I find these snalls? I'm not sure if my lfs has them.
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Old 08-09-2011, 09:16 PM   #16
lots of lfs will give them away for free as they are treated as pests. However, they offer way more benefits to the tank as long as the population is kept in control.
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Old 08-09-2011, 09:44 PM   #17
How would I keep the population in line? When there is too many pick some out and throw them away? And how many do I want?
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Old 08-09-2011, 10:05 PM   #18
I would not cycle the tank. Thats gonna cause more problems then its worth. Leave it fishless for a few days but still do daily 50% water changes to deal with the excessive nutrient release that will happen at first. Then stock with some fairly hardy fish. Start the fish load small and build it up slowly.

I wouldn't use any store bought soil either. Topsoil is free.
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Old 08-10-2011, 07:40 AM   #19
By topsoil do you mean go outside and dig? I would but in Florida we have sand no dirt.
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Old 08-10-2011, 09:18 AM   #20
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As I said, I prefer topsoil now. You can always go to wal-mart or similiar and buy the cheapest 'top soil' they have. The cheapest topsoils are exactly that- just topsoil. Don't buy 'fill dirt', since it's generally 'dead' dirt from much deeper.

If you use the Organic Choice or topsoil, be sure to sift it- remove all the twigs and everything, so you have a uniform consistancy. You can also 'mineralise' topsoil...

Mineralising just means you screen it, and spread it out on a tarp. Water it lightly with a hose, and let it dry thoroughly. Repeat this several times, and it will more or less prevent the nutrient flood that happens in the beginning.

In my personal experience, if you don't want to feed your fish regularly, you can get away with it- Soil tanks inevitably grow all types of microfauna.. Planaria, nematodes, cyclops, snails, etc- Your fish can scavenge sometimes. Unfortunately, you will need to dose a couple water-column fertilisers, since the nutrients won't be replaced.

If you feed your fish a couple times a day, then simply watch your plants. Nutrient deficiencies can still pop up (especially if you feed your fish only flake food), but if you post on here I can usually identify the common ones... The only ones that affect my soil tanks are potassium and trace (many trace elements have similiar symptoms- boron, calcium, and iron seem to be my main deficiencies when it comes to traces). I bought the raw materials- Potassium nitrate and Plantex CSM+B Both were incredibly cheap (potassium was $3/pound and CSM+B was $10/pound, and I only dose about 1/8th teaspoon of CSM+B and potassium nitrate once a week- A pound of each is nearly a lifetime supply.

Oh, and on the ph affects- if you want the tannins, you could, theoretically, add some peat or finely crushed oak leaves to the substrate, but the filter would probably be easier...

Didn't want to forget- another technique that I learned from Tom Barr was to make the change from soil base to gravel/sand topping more gradual... Like in layers..
Top layer- Gravel/Sand
Second Layer- 75% gravel/sand, 25% soil
Middle Layer- 50/50 mix
Fourth Layer- 75% soil, 25% gravel/sand
Soil Layer- 100% soil

Last edited by redchigh; 08-10-2011 at 09:21 AM..
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