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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all!

In the last year since I've had my 10 gallon tank set up, I've really enjoyed having a planted tank. My 10 gallon currently has a plain gravel substrate. I will likely be upgrading to a 30 gallon tank sometime in the next several months. When I do upgrade, I may consider trying something other than gravel for the substrate. I don't want something that will need to be replaced, and I don't want to spend a lot of $$ on it. I want something that is easy to maintain and simple to clean. The plants I have that will be moving to the 30 gallon tank include a couple varieties of java fern and anubias, bolbitis heudelotti, brazilian pennywort, marimo moss ball, rotala rotundifolia, dwarf sag, several varieties of water lily, and java moss. I have white cloud mountain minnows, zebra danios, leopard danios, and red cherry shrimp. After I've upgraded, I would like to get a small school (about 10) of some sort of dwarf cory (pygmaeus, hastatus, or habrosus).

What do you suggest? I had considered Ion Gravel (http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sponsors-power-seller-specials/148359-ion-plant-gravels.html). What do you think? It says it's similar to a certain well-known product, but I have no idea what that product is.

Is some kind of soil capped with sand or gravel better? If so, what kind of (inexpensive) soil do you recommend? Which is better to use as a cap: sand or gravel?

Info, opinions, and recommendations much appreciated!
 

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Pool filter sand is ideal as a substrate, because the particle size is just right, it doesn't affect the water parameters, and it can come in very nice natural colors. Plus, it is cheap. But, pool filter sand from one area of the country can be totally different in appearance from that from another area of the country - color is immaterial for a swimming pool filter material.

If you have the time and space to make it, mineralized topsoil is essentially free, and it is a very good nutrient filled substrate. You have to top it with something else, like pool filter sand, but other than that it is nearly perfect.
 

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Being new to tanking dirt subs can be tricky but very rewarding

for $25.00 Robert is selling one of the best aquarium tittles ever written in my opinion.
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/swap-n-shop/149312-autographed-book.html

I have a bunch of dirt tanks and capture most all the whats and how much along with pictures of the progress in my journals.
When it comes to NPT tanks several people have said reading them helped a bunch.

Hope to see you start a thread on your tank as you put it together.
 

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What do you suggest? I had considered Ion Gravel (http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sponsors-power-seller-specials/148359-ion-plant-gravels.html). What do you think? It says it's similar to a certain well-known product, but I have no idea what that product is.
I believe he's referring to Turface. Which is repackaged as several other products as well (Schultz Aquatic Plant Soil, PondCare, etc.)

Contains no nutrients of its own, but due to its high CEC it will absorb nutrients from the water, and release them to plant roots.

I have used Turface. It grows plants quite well, is very inexpensive, and never needs replacing. The only downside I can report is that it's rather light in weight. Also, while the natural color contains no dyes, the other colors do; and some report the dyes bleed into the water.

I am very interested in the Ion Brown when it comes out.

I don't know much about soil, but I get the impression it needs to be replaced on a regular basis.
 

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Or any pool supply store.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I've read that there are multiple sizes of pool sand and multiple types. Which types do you suggest? Does it come in different colors or just white? Also, is soil capped with sand easy to take care? Does it make a mess when trying to move plants? How long before the soil needs replaced or before I would need to use root tabs?
 

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this was copied from this tread;
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/low-tech-forum/86457-55-gallon-low-tech-soil-sub.html

More people seem to be deciding on dirt tanks rather than waiting for the soil to be mineralized, or going with dosing EI, high light and CO2 lately. I think this is cool :proud:.
Hopefully most are reading enough information first and thinking it through.

Two HUGE considerations doing this.
Using 'natural' soils READ the contents on your bag of dirt! I know it contains dirt,,, (duh),,,
but NO COW POO! Small amounts of chicken poo can work but no! no! moo! moo! :smile:.
Also remember PLZ that while natural tanks (dirt base) and seeded filters can be stocked from day one go lightly with your first stocking list. Dirt goes through changes going from dry to saturated (submerged) and the rate of break down on the organics changes too. Sometimes it can be more than the tank and fish can handle.
For the first couple of months whether you want to or not test your water. Every couple of days and be ready to change it if the soil burps (it can happen). You might have a tank like mine that ran straight through the issues quickly and was trouble free from then on. Lots of plants (including floaters), no hard scape to trap the soil gases, control the light (a big key to dodging algae), watch things and let the tank settle (month maybe two). The capping material needs to be small enough to contain the soil yet allow the gas exchange to occur.

That's the first trade off for not waiting for the dirt to finish the mineralization process. Attention starting out, more or less high maintenance in the beginning., Things can get busy if a bump in water parameters occurs. All the organic material and the bacteria that chew through it do give you free CO2 for a period of time. :bounce:

The second major trade off you make is that rooted plants are there to stay. Removing plants with a good root structure is a HUGE PITA. I had an Amazon Sword that had to go. Cutting around the root ball directly under it I killed the plant taking it out and left all the root runners in place. Thinning a field of crypts means a water change and repairing the cap adding more material. Soil tanks are a set it and forget it type of tanking (imo). If you like to change things around, re-scape, swap out plants then NPT is not for you. If you want to top off the tank when the water gets low, trim to make room for the fish to swim and not dose for months it might be what your looking for.

The tank in this thread is >2yrs. without regular dosing and it has never seen a root tab except from across the room going into another tank :smile:
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
wkndracer - thank you for your reply!

I am one that likes to move my plants and such around. Maybe it's just 'cuz I haven't yet found an arrangement that I really like, but for now it sounds like a soil tank isn't for me. What are the other alternatives? I know of Gravel and the Ion Gravel (link above). I do want plants and, therefore, need something that will be good for the plants, look nice, be easy to take care of, and not need to be replaced. Any suggestions and info would be greatly appreciated!
 

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Any inert substrate will work just fine. High CEC or not a very nice tank can be maintained. I believe in root feeding as well as water column dosing.

Using root tablet fertilizers (replaced every 3 months by adding new) I have tanks that are identical or very close to my dirt tanks in respect to plant results and moving plants is not a problem. I simply have to maintain a dosing schedule.

Pick something you like the look of or pick to a budget guideline are the choices in the broadest sense I guess.
 
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