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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi!
I currently have a 20 liter/5 gallon low tech planted aquarium with an inert substrate, tropica fertilizer capsules, tropica premium liquid fertilizer and some red cherry shrimp. This is my first aquarium as I decided to start small to see if I like it enough to get a bigger one. I've had the tank for a while now and really want to get a bigger one (thinking 55 liter/15 gallon as I don't have that much space) in addition to my first one, so that I can have more plants and do a more ambitious aquascape. I won't have any CO2 injection and mostly easy plants with a few medium ones. I would like to have cherry shrimp in that tank as well, and I'm a bit unsure about what substrate to use.

I would like to have some kind of soil that is good for the plants, but I'm not sure how the shrimps will do with the buffering etc that most soils seem to have. I find the fertilizer capsules a bit cumbersome to use so it would be nice to get away from that if possible. I've heard that most soils that lower the pH also buffers it in a way that it stays at a certain value, and that this pH value can be found on the product, but I've never found any such specific information about what pH the soil will target for the water?

These are my current water values from the tap:
pH - 7.5-8
KH - 2-3
GH - around 7
TDS - Don't know

My KH is already quite low so I guess that will go to 0 with an active substrate? Will that cause pH swings, because I've read a lot of contradicting information about whether or not low KH causes dramatic swing in pH? And would the low KH hurt the Neocaridina shrimp or would they be fine?
I'm also nervous that the pH will drop below 6.5, as Neocaridina generally aren't recommended in water that is more acidic than that. And I don't know if I can test it somehow without setting up the whole tank and then hoping for the best? Or is there soils that guarantee no drops below that?

What do you think about this, can I have an active substrate with my current water values and still have happy cherry shrimp in there? Or should I consider a different solution, and in that case what would you recommend?
 

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If you dont want to deal with the PH/GH buffering substrates you might consider an actual dirt tank. As in organic miracle-gro soil you'd buy for gardening. This does not have the same PH lowering effect and still has nutrients, but does need to be managed for ammonia and nitrite/nitrate release with a lot of water changes early on. Look at threads here on "dirted tank" or "walstad method" to see if thats something that appeals to you. The other advantage of dirted tanks is they are super cheap to set up $10 for 5 lbs, vs $42 for a small bag of aquasoil. Also look at dry start method if dirt is what you try.

Your parameters are ideal for neos at the moment. Lowered KH wont hurt them but you'd need to supplement calcium in their food. They may breed less at lower PH, but they are pretty durable and probably wont die off necessarily from being kept in slightly lower ph conditions (6.5 -7). Managing the transition to those alternate conditions would be the tricky part.

I think you should get the second tank and try your new substrate choice there, if you like the results you can transfer the shrimp and reboot your original one. If you dont like it, you wasted $10 on dirt and some plants/time. :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
If you dont want to deal with the PH/GH buffering substrates you might consider an actual dirt tank. As in organic miracle-gro soil you'd buy for gardening. This does not have the same PH lowering effect and still has nutrients, but does need to be managed for ammonia and nitrite/nitrate release with a lot of water changes early on. Look at threads here on "dirted tank" or "walstad method" to see if thats something that appeals to you. The other advantage of dirted tanks is they are super cheap to set up $10 for 5 lbs, vs $42 for a small bag of aquasoil. Also look at dry start method if dirt is what you try.

Your parameters are ideal for neos at the moment. Lowered KH wont hurt them but you'd need to supplement calcium in their food. They may breed less at lower PH, but they are pretty durable and probably wont die off necessarily from being kept in slightly lower ph conditions (6.5 -7). Managing the transition to those alternate conditions would be the tricky part.

I think you should get the second tank and try your new substrate choice there, if you like the results you can transfer the shrimp and reboot your original one. If you dont like it, you wasted $10 on dirt and some plants/time. :D
Thank you, I'll take a look at the dirt tank setup and see if that's something that might work for me! :)

Do you know if there is any kind of aqua soil that doesn't buffer the KH and pH? Somebody mentioned that in a Youtube video but I haven't found anything like that.

Does soil buffer GH as well, or only pH and KH? Because as I've understood it the KH doesn't matter that much to the shrimp (other than keeping the pH stable?) but the GH/minerals does, so is that what you mean when you say that I'd need to supplement calcium then?

Do you know if aquasoils usually have a target pH that they keep the water at, or can they go lower if there isn't enough KH buffer etc? And what then would be the general pH value that soils target?

Yeah, I guess doing that would be an option, and in case I don't like it maybe I could save the plants in a bucket or something if I switch the substrate quite quickly?

Would it be possible to put some soil and tap water in a glass and see what happens with the parameters? Or doesn't that make sense as the water volume, filtration and plants would be so different?

When you say that they probably will breed less at a lower pH, would you say that's like not breeding at all or just not as much? I'm not planning on selling them so I don't need them to reproduce a lot, but having some new generations to refresh to colony would still be nice (and not having to buy a ton initially to get a good population size). But I guess that might be hard to tell without testing?
 
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