Capping dirt with sand - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-13-2013, 06:49 PM Thread Starter
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Capping dirt with sand

Hi all,

I am a big advocate for dirting all of my tanks. Unfortunately, I often run into an issue with carpeting plants that have a tough time spreading through the gravel I use. In my next setup I want to grow a glosso carpet and I heard that having a loose substrate will help promote growth. With that in mind I want to cap my dirt with black flourite sand for the CEC. I am afraid to do this, though, for two reasons: it will prevent my soil from being aerated and it may mix with my dirt over time. Can anyone provide some experiences they've had with sand caps? Does it really pose a problem with dirt? Am I going to have a mixed mess of soil and sand after a year? Or should I stop whining and go for it. Feel free to suggest any other (black) fine substrates you've successfully used to cap dirt. I plan on making this my first larger high tech aquarium in a long time but I think spending hundreds of dollars on aquasoil isn't what I want to do after I spend the money on lights, the tank, stand, filters, etc.. Thanks!
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-13-2013, 07:20 PM
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Anaerobic soil just happens under water, plants can aerate the substrate on their own.. No CEC, but blasting grit is super cheap...

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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-22-2013, 02:37 AM
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I decided to dirt my 5 gal tank. I used miracle gro organic choice potting mix, I only did and inch deep and left about a fingers width from all the sides in the tank so when I placed the sand in the tank you wouldn't see the dirt layer and sand on top. I used aquarium sand that I bought at my LFS and just rinsed it out and capped over the dirt about 2 inches and worked a sloped upwards toward the back of the tank. It was pretty easy but time consuming but worth it. I see very good growth now. Plating was fairly easy as I have a planting kit which makes it easy to plant everything. To clean it I use a small siphon and just whirl over where ever it's dirty and then it gets sucked into the siphon. Here is a pic so you can see for yourself
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-22-2013, 03:04 AM
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Before I tore down my 5 gallon to restart it, I had used peat moss instead of an organic potting mix and capped it with black fluorite sand. After about 2 years, the peat had broken down quite a bit. Anyways, I had no problem separating the sand from the soil. Just drain the tank completely, remove the plants, and scoop out the sand. If the sand is dirty, give it a few rinses and you should be able to remove all the dirt and recover about 90% of the original sand. You shouldn't have a mixing of the layers unless you're grabbing handfuls of dirt and soil and mixing them as you're aquascaping. As for anaerobic conditions, they shouldn't be a problem with flourite sand and dirt which is my current setup. Plant roots will aerate the soil layer if you plant heavily. The only bubbles that come out of the substrate for me are CO2 bubbles.

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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-22-2013, 04:31 AM
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I wouldnt call fluorite black sand a loose substrate. I have a dwarf hairgrass carpet in mine, and it sends its runners out above the surface of the substrate, I assume because its too tight to grow into.

Its also over dirt, and quite thick, 1.5 inches of dirt, 3 inches of fluorite black sand, and I get no gas pockets, Ive tried poking around to find them. I have about 500 malaysian trumpet snails though.

Also just fyi while were were talking about carpets in diff types of substrates, I put a few clumps of the hairgrass in some fluval stratum in my ebi, and it spreads much better, and grows thicker and taller. I also put some clumps into a home depot sand over dirt tank, and it doesnt grow at all. That one might be due to low lighting though.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-22-2013, 12:24 PM
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Can anyone provide some experiences they've had with sand caps?


Does it really pose a problem with dirt?

Am I going to have a mixed mess of soil and sand after a year?

Or should I stop whining and go for it.

Feel free to suggest any other (black) fine substrates you've successfully used to cap dirt.

Black Diamond Blasting Grit about $8 for a 40# bag
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