PREAMBLE: i would like to have a 90gal-125gal planted lo-tech soil substrate tank with an overcoating of natural creek gravel (i actually get it from a creek using a colander) that houses dojo loaches. Thanks for getting this topic started leafshapedheart! i have been reading this forum daily for a month now and it is time to join. you are actually the first person to start a thread on gravel tidies and soil substrate. after a week of research on loaches, soil substrates, burrowing substrates and gravel tidies, i have come up with a few ideas. they are tailored to my needs, but could give you some direction. keep in mind that this is my thought process; i have not kept a planted tank (yet) and have never seen a gravel tidy. everyone, please comment, criticize and correct me as you feel necessary... yes, this is my fist post.
DOJO LOACH- like every other fish that naturally burrows for protection, it will overturn, disturb, and uproot everything it can. something that burrows is not afraid of tight spaces, and will infiltrate every crevice it can. unlike all the rest, my dojo loves me.
PLANTS- first decide if you want 'hi-tech' or 'lo-tech'. this will determine what kind of plants you can grow. a hi-tech tank can support plants that can draw nutrients from the substrate and the water column. lo-tech usually favors plants with strong root systems that draw their nutrients mostly from the substrate. if you chose lo-tech, you should use a soil substrate and you MUST defend the roots of the plant because if they are damaged it can not feed. in a hi-tech tank you can choose to use plants that are able to draw nutrients from the water column, which means, that if they get dug up, they will probably be fine, but the dojo will still make a huge mess. if you do chose the hi-tech tank, then using a single sand-based substrate, with water column nutrient-absorbing plants, will be fine. that is, if you don't mind replanting constantly.i reviewed your profile and it sounds like you would prefer the lo-tech style.
TIDY-a gravel tidy appears to be mainly a European thing (or at least the Brits are the only ones putting it on the net). their original use was to keep under gravel filters from sucking up gravel and becoming clogged. the other uses that i have actually found info on are: limiting the burrowing of cichlidS (the site did not mention plants) and dividing substrates in saltwater aquariums (again, nothing to do with fresh water plants). this is the only info i found on tidies and plants: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWsubwebi...achfdgfaqs.htm
i don't agree with using a tidy with plants in a lo-tech set up. (not sure about my thoughts on a gravel tidy and hi-tech.) all of the pictures and descriptions i have found have shown a gravel tidy to be a somewhat dense (but loosely woven) fibrous filter. it will defiantly be an impenetrable barrier for the dojo, but i think it will also affect the plant's roots. are you familiar with pulling a weed out of landscaping cloth? the roots spread quickly on the surface of the cloth, but rarely penetrate it. there are two main reasons for this: traveling along the surface of the cloth offers less resistance to the roots than growing in the soil (its just easy) and the roots that do penetrate the soil can't gather much nutrients because the cloth limits the aerobic growth of bacteria. hence, the plant grows very quickly by throwing out lots of roots to suck up the nutrients from the mulch, but usually weaken and die because the few roots that do penetrate the cloth can not always get the trace micro-nutrients from the very anaerobic soil below. these weeds THRIVE for a short period, usually until the point that they try to reproduce, then just kind of mutate and die. the tidy gives the low surface resistance on the bottom of top layer of substrate and limits the gas/water flow through the substrate. this is just an analogy, of course, but the balance of anaerobic and aerobic bacteria on terrestrial land is just as important as it is in an aquatic setting.
SUBSTRATE-the (very) natural substrate i use is about 2-5mm. this should be good for burrowing but due to its irregularly shape, only a medium-sized dojo (approx 5in or 12.5 cm) can burrow in it. if yours works, then stick with it. i like mine; it looks natural. i plan on using this recipe for the soil substrate: http://gwapa.org/wordpress/articles/...oil-substrate/
and placing a barrier between it and my natural gravel. natural gravel has a 'good' cation exchange capacity (CEC) compared to epoxy gravel (according to Walstad's book), but i plan on adding a little ADA substrate just to up the ante. i have no clue which layer it should go in (yet). adding clay to the soil substrate acts as a flocculating agent. meaning the soil will settle faster. if the rest of my post is totally worthless to you, at least you know how to make the cleanup faster.
BARRIER- i don't like the aforementioned tidy. i have been exploring ideas on what to use. i would love something that only limits root growth as much as my least resistive substrate layer. here, my choices are limited. i want something that sinks, that can stop a dojo, that is nontoxic, and does NOT limit the natural level of fluidic flow between the substrates. what i have determined will NOT WORK: anything aluminum or galvanized (poisonous), anything steel (supposably usable by plants in an anaerobic environment, but it has to be to be toxic at this level. will someone supply a link?) and anything that can not be VERY firmly secured. DON'T KNOW if it will work: tulle (in the bridal section of the craft store), the 'el cheapo' blue AC filters, plastic coated metal mesh, plastic cross-stitch mesh, anything at all.
any naturally burrowing fish will shove itself into the smallest, most impossible holes at a moment's notice. i feel (without qualitative proof) that a dojo less that 4in or 10cm can probably fit trough a hole that would eventually choke the roots of a thriving plant. i would love to find a plastic sinking mesh that is spaced at least 1/4in or 7mm. i feel it is better to keep a adolescent dojo, or older, who can't get through a tiny hole, as apposed to using a fine mesh that would eventually choke the plants with age.
SECURING THE BARRIER- no clue, haven't found the barrier that i want yet.
LIGHTING- all DIY- planed ONOD at 2 or 2 1/2 WPG https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/pl...ting-odno.html
and moon lighting http://www.kaotica.com/frag/diy/moonlight/
with an optical-grade polycarbonate cover between the lights and water to minimize spectral loss. more research is need to find the proper cover, but i despise constant evaporative water loss.http://www.omnexus.com/tc/polycarbon...ptical-clarity
i know that was long. ok, everyone, please comment, criticize and correct me as you feel necessary. it is required for my progress on this issue of... stuff.
P.S. do i get a reward for most commas, used, in, a, single, post?