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post #1 of 9 Old 03-11-2012, 09:31 PM Thread Starter
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Soil for planted aquarium

Is this an OK soil for a planted tank substrate w gravel on top? It does have those little white balls of plant food.. Oh, and it has decent sized chunks of clay in it.

Walmart.com: Gardener's Pride All-Purpose Potting Soil, 4 Qts: Garden Center

Also, my friend told me to add the water before putting the dirt in -- The water is like, pure mud. Will this go down, or did my friend tell me wrong? >.<

Thank you!
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post #2 of 9 Old 03-11-2012, 11:47 PM
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Im not sure that I would use regular potting soil in an aquarium that is to have fish in it, not without knowing ALL of the specific ingredients. However, in any loose or silty substrate (dirt, sand, some of the planted aquarium substrates) you NEED to add the substrate first, and fill gently, or like you found out your water will turn to mud.

Personally, ive tried a couple different substrates, plain gravel is always the go-to for me.


give it a few days, if it doesnt go down, take it out and add the dirt first. Im thinking those little white balls are actually an absorbent... They suck up water to help keep the soil moist longer. They also keep the soil loose so it doesnt pack down too tight. They will absorb and release nutrients that are in the water/soil, but not provide any on their own. A note... alot of commercial potting soils arent dirt at all. They are mainly peat moss and those white balls (often vermiculite or something similar) and maybe clay or dirt as a filler. The peat in them will lower your ph. and if you use it as a substrate, lower the ph ALOT. I would steer clear to be honest, but maybe someone else with experience has a different opinion.

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Last edited by beetlebz; 03-11-2012 at 11:54 PM.
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post #3 of 9 Old 03-12-2012, 12:18 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beetlebz View Post
Im not sure that I would use regular potting soil in an aquarium that is to have fish in it, not without knowing ALL of the specific ingredients. However, in any loose or silty substrate (dirt, sand, some of the planted aquarium substrates) you NEED to add the substrate first, and fill gently, or like you found out your water will turn to mud.

Personally, ive tried a couple different substrates, plain gravel is always the go-to for me.


give it a few days, if it doesnt go down, take it out and add the dirt first. Im thinking those little white balls are actually an absorbent... They suck up water to help keep the soil moist longer. They also keep the soil loose so it doesnt pack down too tight. They will absorb and release nutrients that are in the water/soil, but not provide any on their own. A note... alot of commercial potting soils arent dirt at all. They are mainly peat moss and those white balls (often vermiculite or something similar) and maybe clay or dirt as a filler. The peat in them will lower your ph. and if you use it as a substrate, lower the ph ALOT. I would steer clear to be honest, but maybe someone else with experience has a different opinion.
Ah, thank you for the input. :)
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post #4 of 9 Old 03-12-2012, 01:14 PM
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Never use fertilized garden soils in an aquarium. Aside from the issue of there being some nutrients in them that are not necessary for aquatic plants, the fertilizers can cause real problems. Without going into all the details, it can kill fish and plants.

Pure organic soil can work, about 1 inch max, with 1-2 inches of fine gravel on top. But this has pros and cons, and unless you are a very experienced aquarist I would not go down this road.

Planted tanks can be very successful and beautiful with plain sand or fine gravel substrates, or if you don't mind spending considerably more money, an enriched substrate. There is a ton of info on all this here on the forum, just ask any of us.

I would remove everything in your tank, clean it with plain water, and then select your choice of a dark sand or fine gravel.

And, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.

Byron.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #5 of 9 Old 03-12-2012, 06:47 PM
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What byron is talking about is what most garden centers call 'top soil'. Potting soil is the stuff thats mostly peat, and often fertilizers. just throwing that in because I know different stuff is called different things in different places. And be weary of top soil for sale at new construction lots, because you dont know what the ground was treated with before they dug it up.

but again, i <3 gravel.

Dedicated, converted, lowes / home depot bulb buyer!
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post #6 of 9 Old 03-12-2012, 07:26 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Byron View Post
Never use fertilized garden soils in an aquarium. Aside from the issue of there being some nutrients in them that are not necessary for aquatic plants, the fertilizers can cause real problems. Without going into all the details, it can kill fish and plants.

Pure organic soil can work, about 1 inch max, with 1-2 inches of fine gravel on top. But this has pros and cons, and unless you are a very experienced aquarist I would not go down this road.

Planted tanks can be very successful and beautiful with plain sand or fine gravel substrates, or if you don't mind spending considerably more money, an enriched substrate. There is a ton of info on all this here on the forum, just ask any of us.

I would remove everything in your tank, clean it with plain water, and then select your choice of a dark sand or fine gravel.

And, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.

Byron.
Alright, thank you! See, I went down the soil-road because my friend (sigh..) told me, "You're never going to get anywhere with just gravel! It's best to imitate nature blah blah." LOL.

I'm a total newbie to plants, but I breed guppies so I figured, ya know, why not? Sounded fun to have plants in a tank haha but I think I'll put it all on hold until I have some RELIABLE information (I'll just read threads on here.)
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post #7 of 9 Old 03-12-2012, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Sasa View Post
Alright, thank you! See, I went down the soil-road because my friend (sigh..) told me, "You're never going to get anywhere with just gravel! It's best to imitate nature blah blah." LOL.

I'm a total newbie to plants, but I breed guppies so I figured, ya know, why not? Sounded fun to have plants in a tank haha but I think I'll put it all on hold until I have some RELIABLE information (I'll just read threads on here.)
I know what you're saying. I have read articles by a couple of highly-knowledgeable authors whom I very highly respect saying you cannot grow plants with sand or gravel--well, my tanks have been thriving for 20 years with plain gravel, and I'm not hallucinating it.

Soil can obviously work, but it carries risks and in my view minimal benefit (if indeed any) and for someone just starting out with a planted tank, make it simple. It is more likely to succeed, and give you satisfaction. And that is very important.

Have a read of the 4-part "A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium" at the head of this section. It may provide you with a comprehensive background. And never hesitate to post questions.

Byron.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #8 of 9 Old 03-13-2012, 02:39 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, I'll have a look! Thanks! :D
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post #9 of 9 Old 03-14-2012, 03:47 PM
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One technique that I'm using now (I've used and experimented with soil substrates) is go out to a rural area (away from farms and roads) with a shovel, and dig about a foot deep. Then just grab a little soil (I use about 1/3 a cup for a ten-gallon tank)

Add half the gravel you're going to use, and add the soil. Add water (just a little, to moisten the gravel/soil mixture and make it mix evenly)

Then add your other gravel on top (at least an inch), and fill.

I don't think that the nutrients in soil are even the biggest benefit... It's the wide variety of bacteria and fungi that's important, for producing CO2 and converting nitrate to nitrogen gas.

I say gravel, but I really mean fine gravel... Something like Estes Ultra Reef sand (in black of course) or play sand.

I have a couple topics I wrote, but I've sort of moved on from that procedure... I only add peat to the substrate if I want a 'blackwater' tank. I just dig a little up. You could use topsoil (the cheapest brand possible- it's simply dirt), buy why bother when soil is free?

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^^ genius
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Soil Substrates Guide:
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