Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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redchigh 10-19-2010 01:18 PM

Guide to Setting Up a Soil Substrate Planted Aquarium- Part 2
Soil Substrates- Part 2
In her book, Ecology of the Planted Aquarium: A Practical Manual and Scientific Treatise for the Home Aquarist, Diana Walstad says the goal is to set up an ecosystem where "plants and fish balance each other's needs". In this type of tank, the plants are the water purifiers and filters. Rather than converting ammonia to nitrate, plants convert ammonia to plant mass, so there's no buildup of nitrate and pH doesn't drop over time. Plants also remove heavy metals from the water. Fish food, mulm and micronutrients from the soil feed the plants. Fish and bacteria produce carbon dioxide for the plants and the plants help produce oxygen for the fish. Only moderate lighting combined with sunlight is needed. A Walstad-type natural planted tank is low maintenance requiring only pruning of plants and infrequent partial water changes...
This topic explained how to set up a soil-substrate aquarium, and the risks/benefits of doing so. Part 1
This topic will show how I put it together, and will be an aquarium log.
Neccesary components:
Organic Choice potting soil
Aquarium substrate as a topping (sand or aquarium gravel. Nothing too big.)
Lighting fixture (I use 20-23 watts of cool white over my 10 gallons, and 15 watts over my 5 gallon. Indirect sunlight isn't your enemy with this type of setup.)

Optional components:
Powerhead driven sponge, Internal or canister filter (No airstones or splashing!)
Mineralised topsoil (10% or less of soil mixture)
Laterite, Flourite, or 100% natural clay ground up (10% or less of soil mixture if using clay, can use more if using laterite or flourite)
Liquid fertilisers

Step 1. Get a clean aquarium.

Step 2. (OPTIONAL) Add clay/laterite to the very back, or wherever your heavy feeders will be.

Step 3. Add Organic Choice potting soil to desired depth. (A maximum of 2 inches- less is better for most smaller tanks.)

Step 4. (OPTIONAL) Add thin layer of mineralised topsoil...

Wait- I want more soil...

Step 5. Add sand/gravel.

Step 6. (Optional) Hide edges.... (This technique only works with sand)
Using a card (credit card works, I used my library card), go between the glass and the substrate. When you pull the card out, sand will fill it in.

Step 7. Fill with water, slowly. I place my hand on the bottom of the tank and gently pour it in my hand. As the water level rises, you can keep your hand a few inches under the surface and pour faster... You'll know if you pour too fast- soil will float up where you disturbed the layers.

Step 8. Plant your plants. Like any other tank, pay attention to the plants needs... If a plant needs bright light, place it under the light. etc.



Other side

Whole display-

Calmwaters 10-19-2010 01:45 PM

I like the way you went step by step. I do have one question up top you said you need liquid fert is that correct? Should I be doseing florish in this tank as well as my others? I do have some floating water lettuce that may need it.

redchigh 10-19-2010 01:48 PM

It's in the optional category. I never have, but some do. I'd try it without it and dose if needed. Nutrients will leach out of the substrate to feed stem plants and floaters.

Water Parameters:

Ammonia 0
Nitrite (Didn't test)
Nitrate (Didn't test)
GH- 9 (I added chalk to bring this up.)
KH- 1.5

KH and GH should, ideally, both be over 7.

Everything is good so far... Guppies have exploded in population already though... I transfered 2 females to the tank.. I can see about 15-20 fry now hanging out above the cabomba. Apparently I need to bring the KH a little bit, but I'm not going to worry.

Calmwaters 10-19-2010 02:02 PM

Ok thanks for clearing that up for me.

SinCrisis 10-20-2010 01:11 PM

GH is hardness right? what kind of chalk? I need to boost my hardnes but ive tried eggshells which didnt seem to work :-/

redchigh 10-20-2010 01:26 PM

I used plain old chalk... Like you draw with.

Make sure it's white.... And just drop a stick in. They dissolve really slow..
Dolomite would work, but I can't find it locally. Chalk is cheap.

SinCrisis 10-20-2010 01:47 PM

ther arent any chemicals or anything in the chalk i need to worry about?

james7139 10-20-2010 09:45 PM

so wait you now have 2 tens?!?!?!?!?!? jealous much :-P

Caliban 10-21-2010 10:04 AM

Can you explain this mineralizing top soil thing one more time for the slow kids in the class? Is this only from top soil from your yard? If you buy top soil instead is it still required? I feel like you've answered this, but for some reason it's not sinking in.

Caliban 10-22-2010 11:45 AM

Think I need help...
Hello Everyone!
I decided to give a substrate planted tank a try with a 15 gallon tank. This tank is going to be used to recuperate a mistreated common goldfish this winter, so that next spring he can be released into a goldfish pond. I at first thought this would be rather straight forward, but I made the mistake of going shopping on too little sleep, and now I'm second guessing some of my decisions. I'd appreciate some input.

What I have:
15 Gallon tank with canopy and light strip on the way. I intend to use the light that comes with the strip. If I need to get a new bulb, I am having trouble finding an 18" bulb over 15 watts, so suggestions are welcome. As it stands, I intended to go with low light plants... more on that later, I guess. I can't have an open top tank with another form of light, because I have cats who would just loooove to swim with the fishes. I also have a heater, therm, test kits, etc. Normal fish gear.

For substrate I have:
CaribSea Midnight Black Floramax Premium Aquarium Substrate at PETCO
I actually bought this thinking it was flourite gravel, because it was next to the flourite.
PETCO Black Aquarium Gravel at PETCO
When I got this home, I began to think it was too big, but it has been the only dark gravel I have found. I can get tan, fine gravel. Should I ignore aesthetics and get the finer gravel?
I also have OC potting soil and store bought top soil I am mineralizing...assuming mineralizing is wetting it and letting it dry repeatedly.

For filtration/circulation, I intend to get:
the 20i
Tetra Whisper In-tank Filters at PETCO
do I need to do anything to the cartridge it comes with?

For plants, I planned on low light:
Low light plants package
and since my tank has strongly alkaline water I planned on some drift wood such as this:
Malaysian driftwood covered in Riccia Fluitans, sale, buy, information

I am uncertain about how much root structure the plants in that package have, but I intend to get MTS. However, nowhere local has MTS, so if anyone knows a good online resource for them or a seller on ebay who sells them, I'd appreciate it.

Assuming this goes as planned, will partial water changes effect the tank adversely? A goldfish, even one, is a very dirty fish, and I know this is not an adequate permanent home, which is why it's only temporary (He's about 3-4" now, living in a betta bowl where he has lived his whole life, and he will be in the new tank alone, as it is a smaller tank. I did not do this to him; I'm just trying to help him, and it's too cold, and I feel he is too weak to be released directly into the pond as he is.) Anyway, that is the reason for the question. If I am forced to do weakly partial changes to help the plants keep up with his waste, will this counter mind what I am trying to accomplish with the ecosystem? Ultimately, when the goldfish is re-homed, I want to have a neon tetra based community tank in the 15 gallon.

If you tell me that I am foolish to try a substrate planted tank for a wintered goldfish, I will bin the whole idea and just try to set him up a rush job tank to get him through the winter. Please, corrections and advice are welcome. I'm pretty new to fish and plant in general.

I don't want to derail the thread, so if people are more comfortable PMing me, I look forward to hearing from them.

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