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Discussion Starter #1
I will soon be setting up a soil substrate aquarium. It will be my first attempt done in a 5 gallon tank. I have a question or two.

I've been reading up on this subject, and I ran across something that said Trumpet Snails are essential to help keep the substrate aerobic. With such a small tank, would a TS have sufficient soil and space to burrow to gain his food / nutrients?

Would there be another way to keep the soil base aerobic, like using less potting soil and a larger grain cap... say 1 inch of top soil and 1 inch of large grain cap?

There seems to be a lot of different ideas about what to use for a cap. The 2-3mm grain size seems to be a good choice. Where on earth would I find something like that? I assume the gravel at the LFS isn't the way to go.

I am having a hard time finding the answer to this question. Starting dry, I am not clear what this will do, nor what plants to use for that process. What would be the benefit of starting off this way?

Thanks in advance.
 

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They aren't essential but they certainly can help out! Yes, they would have enough soil to run around in and be fine. I had MTS in my non-soil based planted tank and they were happy enough to burrow around in the sand!

I have been unhappy with the sand cap in my 20 gallon, substrate is only 2 inches thick, maybe a little bit more in areas and I've been having lots of bubbles and this is in a tank that isn't terribly old. They aren't harmful as of yet but it is ridiculous, I wish I chose to do something with a larger grain size on that tank although I'm not sure if it makes much a difference in the end. I did have a 3 gallon NPT soil based with gravel on top and never had these issues!

But you can poke the soil as I do with my tweezers or a chop stick.

As for starting dry, are you going to misting the plants? You could start off a great carpet of something like Baby Tears, dwarf hairgrass, glosso, and more since they have a great supply of co2 if you start dry and then acclimate them to underwater as you fill the tank. I think that's what you're asking about anyway, let me know if I'm totally off the track lol.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
They aren't essential but they certainly can help out! Yes, they would have enough soil to run around in and be fine. I had MTS in my non-soil based planted tank and they were happy enough to burrow around in the sand!

I have been unhappy with the sand cap in my 20 gallon, substrate is only 2 inches thick, maybe a little bit more in areas and I've been having lots of bubbles and this is in a tank that isn't terribly old. They aren't harmful as of yet but it is ridiculous, I wish I chose to do something with a larger grain size on that tank although I'm not sure if it makes much a difference in the end. I did have a 3 gallon NPT soil based with gravel on top and never had these issues!

But you can poke the soil as I do with my tweezers or a chop stick.

As for starting dry, are you going to misting the plants? You could start off a great carpet of something like Baby Tears, dwarf hairgrass, glosso, and more since they have a great supply of co2 if you start dry and then acclimate them to underwater as you fill the tank. I think that's what you're asking about anyway, let me know if I'm totally off the track lol.
This is all a new area for me, so to a degree, I am not even sure what the right questions are :)

As for dry, that's good to know about the carpet. Hadn't even crossed my mind really. What I was really kind of wondering about is if the plants grow with a plentiful CO2 supply, as they pull that down into the roots, oxygenating the soil, if that had some benefit to the soil and eco-system once water is added.

That's also why I asked about keeping the soil aerobic. Will this type of thing, meaning letting the plants grow dry or above the water level, serve to aerate the soil?
 

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I'm not sure that it would aerate the soil to the point that you would need it to but I'm not that advanced in this area to know. I've never done a dry start myself however I've done enough reading to know how to do it and why it's done (mostly just to get a good start with the carpet plants. Usually done with Iwagumi aquascapes since it's all carpet for the most part).
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Sorry about that. I do tend to ask those kinds of questions :)

Something I haven't read anything about is using RO water with a soil tank. Do you reconstitute it the same as you would for other substrate aquaria?
 

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Oh no worries! Maybe someone else can answer it though! It's just too deep for me to answer is all ^_^ And I would assume so but I've never had to use RO/DI water. Perhaps amphirion can answer those questions!
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Been doing some more reading on the subject. Sand pretty much guarantees the soil will not only go anaerobic at some point, but also deplete over time. The gravel cap allows the underlying bacteria in the soil water contact, enabling both plants and bacteria to perform their functions (including nitrification), creating a balanced eco-system that more or less replenishes itself over time.

There's alot involved, and I probably left a few things out because the process is so dynamic, involving fish, plants substrate and bacteria working together. And being a noob regarding soil based substrate, I think I only have a loose understanding of what this is all about.

I am far from a complete understanding here, and certainly would not wish to pass myself as an expert because I read a few things. My mind is completely open to learn from a continuing discussion.

So, the question remains where on earth would I find a gavel cap with 2-3mm grain size?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Why do you need specifically that size? I used a gravel that was roughly 3-5mm and it was perfect actually. Any benefits to have specifically 2-3mm?
<br/><br>honestly, I don't know if there's any benefit. Just a one track mind because the book I read suggested that size.I don't guess its matters too much if its in the ballpark.
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Discussion Starter #10

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Discussion Starter #12
lol... I was looking at ordinary aquarium gravel. When I find one that doesn't affect the PH and has the close to right size, that's the one I will use.

Lots of luck finding organic potting soil without ferts or peat moss. All with either nitrate, phosphate or ammonium based ferts (potassium, magnessium, calcium... Ammonium nitrate or other nitrogen based ferts). All are good for plants; however, would there not be ammonia, nitrate and phosphate released into the water?

Not sure if you can read these below, but these are the ingredients in the Pike Nursery organic potting soil. Would this be OK, more beneficial in some ways, than the other potting soils that don't have it?

Also, with the partial peat composition, will that affect the water PH? Will buffering the water protect it from the Peat influence?
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Well... answered my own questions for the most part. Really should look things up before I post a question :)

In any event, the funky spelled things are all parts of a mushroom compost. Don't think that would be terribly well suited for aquarium use. Plus, this particular soil has a silicate based filler mixed in. I assume that even with a soil based tank, well planted and with good emergent growth from the plants, diatomes can still be an issue. That rules out a great many potting soils.

Also missed that the ferts in the organic soils are natural, not chemical.

As for the peat in the soil, it likely will affect the water PH. I am going to do a couple of test bottles with plain RO water and reconstituted RO water to see how much of an influence it will play. Just can't get around the fact that the soil will be acidic, but from what I have read, after a couple of months, the soil will shift towards being neutral or slightly alkaline.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Can I cap the soil with Flourite gravel? The size of the grains is perfect and the clay will greatly assist in controlling turbidity. Anyone see a problem here?
 

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I don't know what size it is but from what I see it should be fine. I've done sand, FloraMax and regular sized gravel and never had issues with any of them except for the sand and the substrate becoming anaerobic so that was no good. The FloraMax and Gravel were both great though! The FloraMax is rather light so it doesn't hold the plants down too well without enough depth but once they become rooted it can be difficult to get them out lol.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Here is the soil I picked out. Will this do the trick? Unlike the other soil, though, this one has no calcium, magnesium or potassium ferts. I can't help but wonder if that makes a difference. Plants need all of these things. Just not sure if I picked the right stuff.
 

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Yup! that's the stuff I use ^_^ mostly because it has no ferts in it and is safe for your fish. It will lower your pH as it still leaches some tannins but it shouldn't effect it so much that it has an adverse effect on your tank! But that's the stuff that is most frequently used as you don't have to fully sift it like other soils, you can pretty much just dump it into the tank and take out the larger chunks of wood and call it a day!
 

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Why are you saying there is no Potassium? I purchased few bags last year (gave up the idea to use it in my tank) and it has 0.10-0.05-0.05. Did they change the composition? Does it say something like..."potash" or K2O ?
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Why are you saying there is no Potassium? I purchased few bags last year (gave up the idea to use it in my tank) and it has 0.10-0.05-0.05. Did they change the composition? Does it say something like..."potash" or K2O ?
No. I'm sorry. This is so new to me I don't really know what I am looking at. Been reading and re-reading the book covering the Halsted method to try to fill in the blanks.
 

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Sorry, I just don't get it. What's wrong with common aquarium gravel? I have never used this type of fertilizer. The only problems i see with normal gravel is PH will naturally shift lower over time. Easiest way to counter that is to add some dolomite or oyster shells into the gravel and they will buffer the water so you never have a acidic spike. However this will also eliminate some of the lower ph fish types.

Are you sure you want a 5 gal? My 10 gal only supports 2 plants along with the plastic rocks.

Oh, for the anaerobic, weekly water changes with hitting the gravel with a suction device or stirring stick should work well.

Besides MS, you might consider a small catfish, they stir up the top level fairly well.
 
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