Soil can encourage algae and can contain dangerous chemicals they do make aquarium soil.
I can go to PetCo, or I can go to the really crappy local pet store that treats their animals worse than PetCo... Closest true LFS is an hour away, and I haven't been there yet. I really don't want to go just to find out it's a disappointment. Special soil's too expensive to ship for me.
Organic potting soil is fine :)
I say go for it! The ziplock idea should be fine, I think. OFL says she puts her fish in the tank immediately. As long as you have the right lights to support the NPT, I think it's a worthwhile project :)
It's MiracleGro Organic Potting Soil. I didn't want to risk it, so I got the stuff that Walstad herself used with her bowls. Figured if the microbiologist/planted tank goddess says it's okay, it's probably okay.
Light's just the stock that comes on the Aqueon 8, which is strong enough to support a small coral reef, nevermind a few Hygros that have been loving it so far. They've doubled in size over the past month.
Go for it! Your tank is very nice btw.
i wouldnt top the dirt with gravel, you are apt to get a lot of floaters and a murky tank.
I actually "washed" the dirt for my bowl, which turned out pretty well. It was a messy process, and unfortunately, I had to do it all in my room. I mixed the dirt well with lots of water in my empty 2.5, let it settle out, took the top floaters out, and scooped out the remaining soft, lovely silt at the bottom. Repeated several times til I had what I needed. Granted, I haven't had any moving inhabitants in my bowl yet to stir anything up, but the water is crystal clear and free of floaters a week and a half in.
Thanks for the advice guys! I'll have to find the time to do it, but I think I might give it a go. I'll keep you posted!