08-10-2011, 09:18 AM
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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..