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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, I would like to try this method of soil capped with sand/gravel. I would like to try it in my 10g tank. At this point I am still not too sure if I should try TopSoil or Miracle Gro Potting soil.

As far as capping the soil, what would be better? sand or gravel? How about the thickness of the soil and the cap? I was cleaning up my sand substrate (2 inches) about a week ago, it seemed pretty good and hard to move around.

Any suggestion and Opinion would be appreciated.

Thanks.
 

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Well despite what others may say. I used miracle gro organic mix with a sand and gravel cap. Gving my root plants more wiggle room.
 

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You should put at a maximum 1.5"-2" layer of dirt. And make sure you soak the dirt for at least two weeks before putting it in your tank or adding water. Put moist soil into the bottom and let settle for a day or two. Add a cap about half the amount of your dirt layer and let settle overnight. Add plants and ornamentals and finally add water. I put a coffee cup in and pour into that so as not to disturb the substrate.
 

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just posted this the other day

There are tradeoffs to using it and I feel like I covered most of them in this thread.
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/low-tech-forum/86457-55-gallon-low-tech-soil-sub.html

Included is the transition timeline and parameters on the tank as it aged as well. Use potting mix not soil as the soils all have cow manure.
It's use requires a proper capping material and an understanding of do's and don't with regards to scape changes.

Since setting the tank in this thread >2yrs ago I've done several more and now use 2" firmly pressed and measured without problems. Cap should be 1" and hang on to spare capping materials for touch up of thin spots for a long tanking journey and many trimmings, this tank will last a long time. :smile:
 

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Well, I would like to try this method of soil capped with sand/gravel. I would like to try it in my 10g tank. At this point I am still not too sure if I should try TopSoil or Miracle Gro Potting soil.

As far as capping the soil, what would be better? sand or gravel? How about the thickness of the soil and the cap? I was cleaning up my sand substrate (2 inches) about a week ago, it seemed pretty good and hard to move around.
You may want to read Diana Walstad's book "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium". She recommends 1 to 1.5 inch of soil covered by 1 to 1.5 inch of fairly small gravel (2-4 mm). Gravel is safer because sand may seal the soil layer making it too anaerobic.

I use top soil and do NOT pre-soak it - just use it right out of the bag. Lay down a soil layer, put the plants in, top with gravel. Then add water and plenty of floating plants like duck weed, hornwort, etc. Within 24-hours, add fish.
 

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You may want to read Diana Walstad's book "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium". She recommends 1 to 1.5 inch of soil covered by 1 to 1.5 inch of fairly small gravel (2-4 mm). Gravel is safer because sand may seal the soil layer making it too anaerobic.

I use top soil and do NOT pre-soak it - just use it right out of the bag. Lay down a soil layer, put the plants in, top with gravel. Then add water and plenty of floating plants like duck weed, hornwort, etc. Within 24-hours, add fish.
Diana Walstad's method is specifically for low light tanks, and it includes more than just choosing a substrate and light. Mineralized topsoil is for any tank, from low to high light.
 

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Diana Walstad's method is specifically for low light tanks, and it includes more than just choosing a substrate and light. Mineralized topsoil is for any tank, from low to high light.
True enough of the Walstad method as a whole Hoppy but very surprised to see you post that simply regarding the soil (NPT) aka organics and all.
Low tech only? I think not, there are plenty of running examples that include CO2, higher lighting levels along with modified water column dosing.
We are not talking about whats required though. There is a benefit to doing the extra work, granted that becomes a personal choice, but I am confident and many others are that there is a benefit though.
OK but beyond avoiding the transition stage and parameters shifts that occur within the first month exactly what would define these benefits?
Looked but have not found.

Living is learning.

edit: OP sorry for the tread jack
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
thank you for everyone's response. I appreciate it.

You may want to read Diana Walstad's book "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium". She recommends 1 to 1.5 inch of soil covered by 1 to 1.5 inch of fairly small gravel (2-4 mm). Gravel is safer because sand may seal the soil layer making it too anaerobic.

I use top soil and do NOT pre-soak it - just use it right out of the bag. Lay down a soil layer, put the plants in, top with gravel. Then add water and plenty of floating plants like duck weed, hornwort, etc. Within 24-hours, add fish.
Thank you for your reply. So you put the soil, then plant, then gravel. Isn't that hard to cap off the soil with plants on it? What's the advantage of adding "plenty" of floating plants?

onth exactly what would define these benefits?
Looked but have not found.

Living is learning.

edit: OP sorry for the tread jack
No too worry. I actually like to hear and see different people point of view. I might learn from it.
 

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Thank you for your reply. So you put the soil, then plant, then gravel. Isn't that hard to cap off the soil with plants on it? What's the advantage of adding "plenty" of floating plants?
Floaters have what D. Walstad referenced to as the aerial advantage.
They gain CO2 directly from the air so are less CO2 limited and also get all they're nutrients from the water column polishing out NO3 and PO4. My tank logs contain page after page of recorded tests that have little or no nitrate and phosphate registering yet plant growth was very good to great on the systems.

zdnet's order of assembly differs from mine in that I set the whole base including the cap then add the plants using planting tweezers to push them through seating them.

Regarding the cap, I have over and again recommended 1" layers and stated I do not care for gravel or river rock. The round materials don't contain the base materials as well as sand or fractured materials do in my experience. Directly related back to being only a 1" layer I'm sure.

But that 1" layer has also given me results without any trapped gas failures on a tank to date.

No too worry. I actually like to hear and see different people point of view. I might learn from it.
Thank you, I'll keep adding if I think it will help then.
Just fine tune your BS filter and you'll do great LOL.
Reading a claim try to validate that position before believing 'web news'
 

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if you are looking to do dirt, I'd recommend Miracle Organic Choice Potting Mix 1.5" deep with a sand or small grained pea gravel cap of 1.5" deep

The depth can be varied some but I would not go more than 2-2.5" inches deep on the dirt and no more than 2 or 3 inches deep on a pea gravel cap.

There are several methods to gaining elevation and topography when using dirt/caps and still avoid anaerobic situations.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Regarding the cap, I have over and again recommended 1" layers and stated I do not care for gravel or river rock. The round materials don't contain the base materials as well as sand or fractured materials do in my experience. Directly related back to being only a 1" layer I'm sure.

But that 1" layer has also given me results without any trapped gas failures on a tank to date.
So are you saying that you have some tanks caps with sand? I really thought that sand would be better to hold the soil down. But the anaerobic issue does make sense.

There are several methods to gaining elevation and topography when using dirt/caps and still avoid anaerobic situations.
Thanks. So is there any methods for sand?
 

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We are not talking about whats required though. There is a benefit to doing the extra work, granted that becomes a personal choice, but I am confident and many others are that there is a benefit though.
Keep in mind that some people would rather not having to go through the messy process of mineralizing soil. They may even stay away from trying soil altogether if they think that they have to mineralize it.

Pointing out that mineralization is not required is a reminder that there are much simpler ways of using soil. It is not a situation of either all or nothing.
 

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Thank you for your reply. So you put the soil, then plant, then gravel. Isn't that hard to cap off the soil with plants on it? What's the advantage of adding "plenty" of floating plants?
You are welcome. What problem do you anticipate on capping off the soil?

I use top soil right out of its bag. After laying down the soil layer, I add plants. As I add a plant, I put in a little bit of gravels around it to cover up the surrounding soil. After all the plants have been placed, I add gravels to cover up the rest of the soil layer. Then I continue to add enough gravels for the required depth. Finally, I add water.

Floating plant is crucial for preventing algae outbreak during the initial set up. While submerged rooted plants are taking their time to adjust to their new environment, algae outbreak can happen _unless_ there are plenty of floating plants. Floating plants go to work immediately. They compete very well against algae for the nutrients found in the water. By making sure that every new tank has a lot of floating plants, I never had to deal with algae outbreak. There is absolutely no need to mineralize the soil.

Diana's book "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" has the chapter "The Aerial Advantage". It explains the various factors that lead to the very important role of floating plants.
 

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Floating plant is crucial for preventing algae outbreak during the initial set up. While submerged rooted plants are taking their time to adjust to their new environment, algae outbreak can happen _unless_ there are plenty of floating plants. Floating plants go to work immediately. They compete very well against algae for the nutrients found in the water. By making sure that every new tank has a lot of floating plants, I never had to deal with algae outbreak. There is absolutely no need to mineralize the soil.

Diana's book "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" has the chapter "The Aerial Advantage". It explains the various factors that lead to the very important role of floating plants.
While I lack the experience or scientific knowledge to make any promises to other people I have had a similar experience to yours in regards to floating plants and avoid algae outbreaks. Granted I am usually more interested in something quick and effective rather than something pretty but tossing a jumble of floating plants in a tank seems to REALLY put a dent both in algae outbreaks and in nitrogen cycle related water quality issues.

The great thing about the floaters (especially in a soil based tank) is that they are easily and cleanly removed when the tank stabilizes (although I still keep floaters I just thin them out and get rid of the tangled up jumbled ones).
 

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Hi, I just set up a tank (29G) like this. My brief observations:

I used 1" of organic potting mix with 1" of pool filter sand on top. Two inches doesn't sound like a lot but in practice it is plenty deep enough and minimizes the chance of any anaerobic conditions. I don't know how big a risk that is but no need to use more than necessary.

I didn't mineralize my soil, but I did give it a quick soak and then forgot about it for a month while it dried (real life got in the way). My gut feeling is that mineralizing soil is a waste of time, but there is some merit to either opening up the bag to let it air out or (better) pouring it into your tank to the right depth, wetting it and then waiting a day. That probably greatly reduces the initial burst of ammonia and subsequent algae.

I have no floating plants, just because the package I ended up buying from the SnS forum here didn't have any and I was flexible. I do have wisteria which is an excellent fast grower, and I cut a few plantlets from my spider plant and taped them off the back of the tank so the roots are submerged. They're growing insanely fast. I swear I can leave the house for a few hours and come back and the roots are longer.

To answer your question, I put down the soil first and added just enough water so that it almost pooled on the surface. Then I smoothed it out flat, then poured sand on top and smoothed that out, and then filled water to about 6", and then I planted afterwards. This worked fine, but some tweezers or hemostats would have been helpful. I think I would do it the same way again.

I have fairly low lighting (at 12hrs/day) and a heater. That's it. No filtration, no water movement. My water is clear and I have had no algae issues at all. I did have a surface slick that showed up around day 2 or 3, but I have seen Diana Walstad say this is completely harmless and probably a result of the lack of water movement. I siphoned it off every other day. As my plants have started to show growth (we're now on day 8), the slick has dissipated and not returned. I put in a single male crowntail Betta splendens at day 5 and he looks happy as a clam. He's been eating the apartment's fruitfly population with vigor.

I have done exactly one partial water change (about 20%) in the first 8 days. My water was quite clear after the initial planting (I was careful) so I didn't bother with the normal water change.

All in all I'm absolutely thrilled with the results so far. If you have any questions about how I did things I'll happily elaborate.

Cheers!
 

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So are you saying that you have some tanks caps with sand? I really thought that sand would be better to hold the soil down. But the anaerobic issue does make sense.
I have one tank MGOPM capped with black sand. Full 3" substrate.
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/low-tech-forum/143352-another-npt-ds-dirt-tank.html

Another two that use mixtures.
One that is Eco Complete 30%, black sand70% Shallow substrate 2"
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/tank-journals-photo-album/145835-racers-1st-40-breeder.html

This two tank thread contains a tank of composite layers.
Cap is sand 50%, Flourite original 50%
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/t...bum/131940-stainless-2-story-56k-warning.html

Can you explain the 'anaerobic issue' as that comment has me confused in this post.

i wonder often if anyone reviews a thread when revisiting to comment on a topic?
D. Walstad's reference to the aerial advantage and floaters polishing the water was covered in post 12.
Light energy drives algae more than any other factor in a single element. Floaters filter and control light.
 

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If your considering capping with Eco complete I would be careful. I used it in my 10g(check sig for link) and I noticed that alot of gas bubbles come get released anytime I slightly disturb sub or touch the wood in my tank. I think this is happening because Eco complete has a mixture of 1-6mm gravel and the finer pieces settle below the larger ones. I'm not sure of the long term effects of that. I would suggest trying any inert fine gravel between 2-3mm. I used peace river gravel from Carib sea in my 3.5 and I don't notice too many gas bubbles being released. Plants are doing well except for some green crypts that melted away. But the rest of my plants are really healthy. hope that helps.
 
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