Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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equatics 06-30-2013 11:29 PM

New to soil substrate - gathering information
Hi. I'm going to convert my 10g gravel planted tank to Scott's Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting mix and I'm looking for information about how to do it.

I plan to rinse and agitate the soil in water and break up soil clumps and take out sticks and other identiifiable organic matter and repeat several times before I put it in my tank.

- I need suggestions on a black cap that won't hurt cories even though my 10g is too small to put a school of cories in - I may upgrade to a bigger tank at some point.

I have 7 Pristella Tetras and some snails so I'm worried about ammonia leaching when I make the change. I'm hoping that a lot of fast-growing stems will do the trick.

I have got my lighting (2x 10w CFL Spiral Vertical "Brooder" metal reflectors) balanced to the point where the algae is giving up.

My tank has been up since April 18, 2012.

I think I need a lot more information and advice, so thank you for helping out.


JDM 07-04-2013 05:08 AM

Any particular reason that you want to do a soil substrate? If you are going with stem plants they really don't feed from the substrate so it would be a waste of effort for them. A sand bottom with root tabs for root feeding plants and a decent comprehensive liquid fertilizer is all that is needed.


fish monger 07-04-2013 07:58 AM

We have members who are well versed in the soil substrate. The initial set up can be time consuming. Some folks actually cycle the soil before using it and all aspects of the tank are geared toward that environment. It's not the same as just switching from gravel to sand. I put together a little test soil tank, but had no intention of adding fish. Additionally, I just basically changed the other changes. The resulting plant growth is nothing to brag about. It would be good if you could experiment in a spare container where you wouldn't have to worry about fish. That way, you could learn the timing and chemistry beforehand. In the interim, do your research here and in other respected sites.

JDM 07-04-2013 08:44 AM

I tried the wet soil cycle bit and had some spontaneous sprouts start but didn't have the patience or space to let it go much past that stage. Sort of too bad as I was curious to see what sort of aquatic plants were already inherent in my back yard soil... I couldn't tell from the shoots.

I still think that it is a lot more work than it is worth for a fish aquarium unless someone just wants to try it for the sake of trying it out. I would move stuff around in the tank too much to even be able to do it anyway.


Byron 07-04-2013 11:02 AM

As other members have mentioned, this method can certainly work but it is more involved because of the additional issues one has to deal with. I usually suggest that one become experienced with basic sand or fine gravel substrates in a planted tank, and when that is "mastered";-) consider soil if you still want to.


equatics 07-04-2013 11:22 AM


Originally Posted by JDM (Post 2468738)
Any particular reason that you want to do a soil substrate? If you are going with stem plants they really don't feed from the substrate so it would be a waste of effort for them. A sand bottom with root tabs for root feeding plants and a decent comprehensive liquid fertilizer is all that is needed.



I'm actually getting good root growth from the swords with my gravel - btw, any hints on how to separate daughter from mother plant? I think their roots are intertwined - the daughter is probably 6 months old. I just left it the way it was.

There are a lot of people talking about the soil substrate (with sand cap). They claim better growth (I think if the tank is already balanced) and unlimited ferts in the substrate (while they remain). Maybe also more kinds of bacteria so better breakdown of organic material.

The big drawback that I can see so far is leakage of soil through the cap, especially when moving plants around.

I really feel I must try it for myself. I am reading as much as I can find and trying to build a mental model of what's involved.


Byron 07-04-2013 11:35 AM

Good that you are doing thorough research. Being aware of the issues is important, and they are there as any of the soil advocates will tell you. Plants will grow well in any substrate, if they have sufficient light and nutrients. Redchigh has done a lot of experimenting with soil, he has a thread (or two) on the subject you might track down.

On the sword division, do you mean there is a second plant growing up from the rhizome? If this is a plant arising from the same rhizome, you separate them by cutting with a sharp knife. I have myself never seen this occur in an aquarium, in 25 years of many species of Echinodorus. When you buy them, there are often 2 or 3 plants together, so if this is what you have, just pull the smaller one up and replant.


ao 07-05-2013 09:30 PM

There's a good sticky on this written by a former moderator for betta fish keepers.
It's a sticky geare towards the most amateur of fish keepers, I think you may find it useful. I'm a soil tank advocate, even though I personally prefer non soil substrates for the ease of moving around plants in and out of my tanks alot. I've made a few tanks for my uncle where I prepared everything dry and sent the tank to him to fill himself. He stocks on the first day, we haven't lost a fish yet.
I do also recommend to visit the planted betta tank section, as a large of our members there have soil based tanks. link here:

As for black sand... petco black sand worked wellfor me. though you should soak it for a few days to make sure it all sinks. lol.

equatics 07-09-2013 02:53 AM

Anyone have pics of a 10g soil substrate planted tank to encourage me? Thank you :)

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