Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
Allow the soil to soak, organic matter takes time to sink.
You can use warmer water, that soaks into the soil faster. Tap-hot is fine.
Yes, anything you can identify (leaf, stick) remove it.
Once it is well soaked put it in the tank, arrange hills and valleys, driftwood (also soaked until it sinks) rocks, ceramic merpeople...
Plant before adding water- mist the plants a lot.
Cap it, gently tucking the capping material close around the plants.
Put a plate or plastic bag over the substrate and fill slowly (no more than 1 gallon per minute), allowing the water to flow over the edge of the plate into the substrate.