I'm not sure what happened... I tried to post a bit on my substrate last night, but it seems to have disappeared.
So, let's try this again.
I wanted to do a post on the substrate, because I have a lot going on here. I am following - in broad terms - the Walstad method, outlined in Diana Walstad's book "The Ecology of the Planted Aquarium", which is a worthwhile read for anyone who wants to better understand what, biologically and chemically, is happening in their tanks.
To that end, I am using a soil substrate, capped with sand, and a very thin layer of Flourite in parts to provide some texture and "rockiness" to the substrate.
The downside to the Walstad method is that it tends to not like hardscape that much, because of the effect it has on compacting the sand. So, hardscape is normally put in first, then the soil around it, then the cap. I have found that I lose a lot of height that way, and that the soil doesn't cap all that well around the hardscape, and you wind up with a bit of a mess.
So, to combat that, I created three areas that were going to hold my supporting stones, and, for those areas, I am placed gravel all the way to the bottom. The stones then sit on the gravel (which withstands compaction better than sand and soil). The end structure is like a three-pillared Stonehenge-like structure.
I also left the area at the front of the tank as pure sand (no soil), to keep a beach sort of look.
The first image below is the 'plan' (you can see the three areas carved out for the gravel pillars, along with the beach line - which I subsequently adjusted to give more planting area).
The second image shows the finished hardscape, from a poor angle and with lots of reflection. Sorry about that... the planted tank pictures will show how the hardscape softens a bit, and better shows the structure. But that's the next post.
By the way... I am hosting images on Imgur... does anyone know how to have the pictures show up inline, rather than as thumbnails at the end of the post? Thanks in advance!