Walstad soil/sand-cap problem - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-18-2013, 03:38 AM Thread Starter
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Walstad soil/sand-cap problem

Hi all-

A few photos here: http://imgur.com/a/Wba87

I just set this up Saturday afternoon with the intention of following the Walstad method. It's a 46G bowfront tank with about 15 species of flora and no fauna as of yet - I want to get the plants established before I cycle the tank for fish. I used organic potting soil as the base layer and then used about 3/8-1/2 inch of black sand as the cap. I used less than the recommended inch of gravel as Walstad recommended using less - she writes that sand could "suffocate" the soil so less is needed.

As you can see, a lot of the sand cap has gotten shifted around or worked into the soil. Did I not use enough? Is it worth it to rip it up and redo the substrate now, while it's still new? Or can I just leave it? Should I add more sand, or at this point use gravel or something completely different?

Thanks in advance. ^_^
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-18-2013, 02:38 PM
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I would drain the tank, remove the plants, add a full inch of sand or fine gravel, and replant/refill the tank. If you don't you may have difficulty ever getting clear water. I would also make sure that if all of the sand/gravel settles into the lower areas there will still be sand/gravel over all of the soil in the higher areas.

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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-18-2013, 08:30 PM
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You may be able to add a bit more of the cap without draining and dismantling the tank. You'll want to be careful not to bury the plants, but someone used to post a vid of using a plastic soda/water bottle to add substrate to a full tank. Most of the cloudiness remained in the bottle.

The set up looks nice, it should look great once the plants grow in.

I don't think there's any reason why you cant get the plants established and start cycling the tank at the same time. If nothing else, you could start at a lower ppm, and gradually ramp it up to the recommended level (3-5ish) as the biofiltration gets established.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-20-2013, 01:00 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the advice! I've had someone else recommend draining the water and just adding more substrate - not removing the plants. I'm pretty excited by the bottle method to add substrate to a full tank, though - but I guess if there's ever a time to rip it all up, it's now.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-20-2013, 04:18 AM
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Re: Walstad soil/sand-cap problem

Don't rip it up, just add cap as needed. And with the walstad method, you can add fish an hour or so after planting, as the plants start eating up ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites immediately.

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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-22-2013, 11:35 AM
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Do you have to cap with the walstad method??

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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-22-2013, 12:13 PM
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"Walstad recommended using less - she writes that sand could "suffocate" the soil so less is needed."

Of course I did NOTwrite a book but I think that's silly. I and a many here use about 1" cap of sand over 2" of dirt and have healthily successful tanks.

Turn off your filter and just add the sand. If you cover any plant crowns like Crypts or Swords just gently wiggle them up in the substrate until they are level with the substrate surface.

Best of luck with your new tank

Last edited by DogFish; 02-22-2013 at 03:25 PM. Reason: sp
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-22-2013, 01:43 PM
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You really don't need a cap at all. I have a couple mud bottom tanks with no cap and they haven't given me any problems. And as someone else stated you can add a cap without draining the tank. Prerinse the cap material and just pour it in cup by cup - I find doing this in a filled tank acutally help distribute the cap evenly around plants.
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-25-2013, 02:46 AM Thread Starter
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Update! http://imgur.com/tV8sf3s

This weekend I got more sand and put it in cup by cup after I rinsed it. It looks better! It's also nice to see just the little difference that one week has made in the plants.

Thanks to everyone for their advice. I'll be back for more, I'm sure.
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