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I have read a few articles here and there. And some people say topsoil is great for planted aquariums. Now my question is, isn't this going to create a big mud puddle? are there any tips and steps to set it up in the aquarium. I was going to mix it with silica sand. 1/4 topsoil, 3/4 is silica sand. Does anyone here know how to set it up? without making it muddy?

Would plants grow well with just silica sand? or maybe topsoil itself be good? I need something that works, doesn't require so much money, makes plants healthy, and give a natural look.

Got any ideas?
 

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Although I have never tried it or even heard of anyone using it in an aquarium, I would think that it would just be a muddy mess, and would never settle, resulting in muddy water all the time.
But maybe there is some better experience out there?...
 

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I used loam based compost in my nano tank. 1" layer of soil, with some crushed coral, sprinkled through then a 1" of play sand on top.

I used a loam based compost with NO additives (for me John Innes No3) just make sure it doesnt contain additives as they will play **** with causing algae and so on
 

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I know it is obvious, but I'll say it anyway: you definately shouldn't have fish that dig.

Most of the heavily planted tanks you've seen have tetras or other mid/upper water fish.
The fish they use are mainly for plant nutrients and live movement.
Plants are the main event in those tanks and fish are secondary.

I'm sure there is a proper procedure and steps you should take putting it all together.
Consider also, when you put in plants or replace them, it stirrs (mixes) up the sand and soil...
Better do some more research in a planted tank forum.

Don't forget to come back here to get great advice from these guys about cichlid tanks.
:)
Alicem
 

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could you put a layer of eggcrate between the mud layer and the sand/gravel layer to prevent diggers from getting down to the mud layer? The plant roots would have no trouble getting through the egg crate and it may even help them stay planted.
 

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I just set up a 10g with soil substrate. The key to avoid a mud puddle is to cover the dirt with a layer of sand or gravel. I used some pea gravel I had in the garage, it was $4 for a 50lb bag, since the tank will be planted it doesn't matter if gravel is difficult to clean since I won't be cleaning the gravel. I put in about 1" of dirt from the yard and 1" of gravel then slowly added water. It looked like a mud puddle for about 3 days then started clearing up. I rinsed the filter pad daily to help it trap as much of the sediment as possible and now after about 10 days the water is as clear as any of my other tanks.

One thing to watch out for is soil releasing ammonia into the water. Some people say with a soil substrate you don't need to cycle the tank because there is already bacteria in the soil, I've read a steady .25-.50ppm ammonia, I haven't seen nitrite and nitrate is increasing so I know ammonia is being processed, but it's being released just slightly faster than it can be consumed by the bacteria in the tank now. Supposedly boiling the soil first will reduce the amount of ammonia released into the water, it seems silly to boil dirt though, I'll just wait it out and let the bacteria do its thing.
 

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I used soil as a substrate in a 10 gallon as well and will be doing the same in my new 55. I used about 1.5" of soil and covered it with about .5-.75" of sand. I used a plate when I filled it and had no problem with mud at all. It also fully cycled in two days.
 

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cool... now what type of fish do you recoment and how do you put a plant in there? without making a mess?
 

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Use any non-digging fish, and plant as usual, followed with a large water change to remove excess nutrients stirred up from the water column.
 

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so when u get the plant.. u just simply dig it in or is ther a special way to do it?
 

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The goal is to get the stem of the plant into the sand or gravel covering the soil without disturbing the soil, for example if you have 1.5" of sand on top of the soil, only push the stem 1" into the gravel. I've seen speculation that when the roots grow through a little bit of sand or gravel to get to the soil it makes the plants more robust somehow. I put about $50 worth of plants into my aquarium last week and didn't stir up too much mud.
 

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mhh very interesting.. Would there be a video of a planted tank like this i havent found one on youtube.. so i would like to see yours please if it is possible
Victor
P.S -- Please a photo or something wanting to do somthing like this is in my 10 gallon tank
 

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There isn't much to see in a picture of a soil substrate tank, but I'll be a nice guy and show a picture, a video wouldn't show anything different.



There is about an inch of soil covered by about an inch of pea gravel, the roots of the plants are just covered with the gravel, eventually they will grow down into the dirt.

There is a book called Ecology of the PLanted Aquarium: A Practical Manual and Scientific Treatise for the Home Aquarist by Diana Walstad. I've never read it, but I intend to check it out of the fish club library when it is available, it's pretty much the bible of soil based planted tanks. There is a lot of discussion on aquatic plant central in the natural tanks forum about the very topic. If you can't get a copy of the book I'd do some reading there to understand the ecology of a planted tank.

In a nut shell Diana recommends around 2 watts of light supplemented with natural sunshine. The tanks should be planted heavily and stocked with fish immediately after planting, as mentioned above there is little need to cycle a natural tank because there is already ammonia and bacteria in the soil. Diana suggests using some floating plants to suck up nutrients and to diffuse some of the light, I haven't read the book so I'm not real clear on the suggestions for filtration and circulation, I feel like it's never a bad idea to have a HOB to catch some of the floating solid waste and give circulation, in the tank pictured I have a cheap HOB filter from Wal Mart rated for a 10g tank, I'd probably have gone with a larger filter if the tank wasn't planted with a soil substrate. Some suggest that water changes can be made as infrequently as once every 6 months although I don't think I'll be so cavalier in my own tank's maintenance, unless the fish show signs of stress I probably will stretch water changes out to 1 month instead of the 7-10 days for my other tanks.

edit: I just checked youtube for the key word Walstad and found a couple videos right off, they don't show much about setup though. Other key words to try are "natural planted aquarium" and "El Natural aquarium." I should probably cite my inspiration as well:
http://www.stephanies-mustang.com/betta/
Stephanie is a member of our local fish club who generously gave me a huge bag full of plants that got me started in the whole planted tank thing. Look at her links for "natural plant tank" and "plant tank 2."
 

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wow thank you so much for the information... and tell stephanie AWESOME tanks i wish i could have a fish room later on in my life... and her website has really helped me and you to kornphlake. I thank you and her when my JD fry outgrow the 10 gallon tank.. its gonna be a planted tank is a 10 gallon too small?
 

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I feel like 10g tanks make good planted tanks because they are small enough you don't have to invest hundreds of dollars on the initial planting. In my experiance the biggest key to sucess with a planted tank is getting the tank planted heavily to start out. For the first several weeks the tank isn't very stable, even in an established tank nutrients are released from the substrate into the water when it is disturbed during planting. You'll probably use more lighting than they have ever used on a non planted tank, plant density may affect the circulation of water in the tank... there are several factors that cause an imbalance in the tank for the first several weeks, if the tank isn't fully cycled that adds more instability. Having a lot of fast growing plants will act like a shock absorber and reduce the amount of instability and limit the effects. Packing a 55g tank with plants sufficent to stabilize a tank would be about 4x more expensive than buying plants for a 10g tank.

The downsides I see to 10g tanks (owning 2 myself) is that it can be difficult to get the polished aqascape look you see in books, plants don't seem to like the dimensions of a 10g well with the exception of a few dwarf species, most plants will out grow and overrun a 10g pretty easily. I've had a battle in the first tank I setup with Rotala, Ludwigia, Java Fern, cryptocorynes, java moss some star grass and Valisineria because the plants grow so fast and so big it starts looking like a mess after a month of growth and I've got to prune everything back and let it start growing again, there is only about a week out of the month where the tank looks like I want it to between the "needs to fill in a bit" and the "aquatic jungle" stages. Some of that is because of the species of plants I've got in the tank, some is because of my poor artistic eye but I feel like a lot is due to the size of the tank.

Here are a few pictures that hopefully illustrate the stages of a 10g tank:
needs to fill in

approaching the jungle stage
 

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i like both of the pictures... now when the plants get too big do u just cut them or is there a special way?
 

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I can usually trim the tops off the stem plants 2-3 times after that the lower portions of the plants start to loose the leaves because there isn't much light available with all the leaves up top. At that point I trim the top parts that have nice looking leaves and replace the lower parts of the plants with the trimmings, then I sit back and wait for it to fill out again.

The Crypts seem to regulate themselves pretty well, actually since I switched to higher lighting and CO2 they pretty much just grow leaves 2-3" long then wilt away, the Java Fern has been getting pretty huge, I've started clipping off the largest leaves to keep it under control. With the val I just cut it down when it starts blocking the water flow which encourages it to send out runners, once the runners are established I pull up the older parts and move the younger shoots into their place.

Honestly I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to pruning, I pretty much just attack the tank with scissors and try to keep the best looking portions of the plant without making too big of a mess.
 

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:lol: yea thats what i would do.. But i thank you for your information and one more question what can i put in a 10 gallon planted tank what fish?
 

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I've got 11 pristella or x-ray tetras and a clown pleco in one of my 10g tanks and in the other I have 6 young Ameca Splendens and an apistograma agassizzi that is being punished for bad behavior. There is a cookie cutter for 10g cichlid tanks but not many cichlids will do well in a tank that small. You can fit a dozen or so tetras, barbs, guppies, or any other fish that doesn't grow more than about 1". I've seen some pretty stunning livebearer tanks as well pick 3-4 of a single species and let them breed, The key there is to remove the juveniles before the tank is overcrowded which can be a challenge of it's own.

My personal bias is toward SA community tanks, if I had another 10g to setup I'd get a half dozen tetras, maybe rummynoses, 4 otocinclus, and 3 pygmy corydoras. That would make for a pretty heavily stocked tank with 3 sets of highly social fish.
 
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