I recently set up a 75g planted tank using Soilmaster Select Charcoal colored substrate.
I thought I would share some pics during the substrate set up.
The Soilmaster was $13 for a 50lb bag. 50lbs was plenty to make a 3-4" depth in a 75g tank.
Soilmaster Select is used mainly as a sports field conditioner. It is a soil conditioner
similar to Turface or Shultz Aquatic Plant Soil but comes in a charcoal color and has a
high iron content and CEC. The addition of mulm and peat will quickly get bacteria going
in the substrate.
The tank in the pictures was setup on the 6th of November. A friend, Rob, set up a 75g on the
4th or 5th using the same procedure. Rob added some of 3M's black "T" Grade Color Quartz Sand on
top of his Soilmaster for a nice black look.
In setting up a planted tank, a dusting of dry peat is used as the bottom layer in CO2 injected
tanks. Notice you can still see the orange warning label and the glass through the peat. Up to an
inch of presoaked peat can be used in non CO2 enriched tanks. If you plan on adding the presoaked peat
in a non CO2 inject tank, you must make sure to cap it with a "heavy" substrate such as sand. The
Soilmaster is not heavy/dense enough and the pH will cause the pH to drop quite a bit
Then, I placed some Soilmaster on top of the dry peat to keep the peat from floating and then
added some mulm from my other tanks. The dark lines are from the mulm addition.
The rest of the Soilmaster was then added and roughly graded from low in the front to high in the back.
Next, the tank was partially filled. I took my time filling since I did not rinse the Soilmaster
prior to putting it in the tank. Since the Soilmaster seems to be hydroscopic, the initial 5g of fill
water was fertilized with KNO3, and KH2PO4 prior to adding it to the tank. I was my hopes that the
Soilmaster would absorb some of the fertilizers mixed in the water.
Upon filling, I thought the water would be cloudier than this but it wasn't too bad. Those of you who
have used Flourite know how bad that stuff is even after rinsing many, many times. There is a small
Anubias barteri v. nana and Hygrophila difformis (Water Wisteria) in there for perspective on the
Since it wasn't very cloudy, I filled the tank and added the plants. These are mostly fast growers
with the exception of the Java Ferns and will be removed within the next month or two. They will
simply grow to fast and require weekly and sometimes twice weekly trimming.
Here are some pics of the tank on the 13th. It initially had 120w of T-12 lights over it.
Those were removed and three Shoplights were added on the 13th to increase the light level
over the tank. It now has six T-8 tubes over it for a total of 192 watts of light. These are
not overdriven yet and depending on plant growth, they may not be overdriven.
Sorry for the bad pics, but it is an initial set up and the plants and 'scape will change soon enough.
I don't know how long I can stand to trim all of these fast growers
Hopefully this will be of help if anyone decides to set up a planted tank in the near future and
wants to give the Soilmaster a try.
This article was written by Matpat.