A soil substrate is probably the most difficult to do correctly. Styrofoam isn't toxic, but it does float ... very, very, very well. So you may be cleaning that up for a long time, and as it tries to escape from under the sand cause the soil to come up too and muddy the water. Most people recommend an organic soil to ensure it has nothing added to it.
Now, if the only reason you want soil is for plants... I'd research it some more. Lots of people around here, myself included, do not use soil with planted tanks. Lots do also though. It does have nutrients, but that's not necessary if you use a liquid fertilizer and/or root tabs depending on the plants.
Okay, it was just an idea I was thinking of doing.
I should tell my friend (who got me hooked on fish keeping) im changing all my tanks to dirt or bare bottom to see her reaction. Shes gonna spazz at me What are besties for? lol
I don't know your level of experience, but a soil substrate is the most difficult substrate to set up and run without issues. And it is not something recommended for quarantine tanks.
The styrofoam in the terrestial potting soil is to keep the soil aerated and maintain good water flow so the soil doesn't become clogged and rot the plant roots. This is beneficial in potted house plants.
People have mixed feelings on that, however a bare tank will be stressful on fish as they won't have anywhere to hide and take cover.
Some people like to keep the bottom bare so they can see the fish poop, as it can be an indicator of parasites. I know Byron has sand in his and fully plants it. The downside to that method is if medications are needed, several can wipe out the plants. That isn't an issue though if you can just take cuttings from the established tank to re-plant the QT tank after treatment is completed.
I have two uses for a "quarantine" tank, and handle them differently.
For my new fish acquisitions, I use a planted 20g with about an inch of sand; this tank is permanently running with weekly water changes, Flourish Comp weekly, and it has snails. The water parameters match all my tanks, so the new fish are immediately introduced (with appropriate acclimatization of course) to their new environment, as much as can be done. Every tank is obviously different from the next. Most of my fish acquisitions over 15 years have been healthy. Now and then ich perhaps, but aside from once or twice, nothing else. So introducing the new fish, which are obviously severely stressed, to a stable planted tank with some decor is my preference. They stay in this 3 to 4 weeks, and i am now feeding them for the first week with an anti-protozoan food.
I also have a bare 10g which I use if treatment of a particular fish is needed. No substrate, just a sponge filter and heater. No light; and the tank is on the bottom shelf so it is naturally dark. I do have an artificial bit of tree root that can be scrubbed and boiled after treatment when necessary, and this provides some sense of security. This decor was introduced after my last use of the QT to treat a Congo Tetra with pop-eye. In the bare tank, he was obviously highly stressed; twice or more he literally swam full tilt into the end wall when I opened the top to administer the medication. This gave him a fungused mouth, more trouble.:roll: The root decor should help with this in future.
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